Top 6 Tactical Pens of 2013 (Part 1) Review: Condor's Rodan, Part 1 Product Spotlight: Spyderco's Street Bowie Review: Buck Knives' Reaper Bush Knife, Part 1 Knifemaker Spotlight: Ben Seward

Knife Maker Spotlight: Tony Bose

In the world of knife making, how do you know when you’re doing well? You could use the price your knives bring as a sign of success. You might measure by the number of knives you sell. But if you’re a true craftsman and artist, the best measure is the quality of your product. Longtime knife maker Tony Bose is at the legendary level by any criteria.

A folder by custom knife maker Tony Bose

This Tony Bose stag-handled saddlehorn brought more than $5,000 at auction three years ago. It would likely bring even more today. Photo by J. Bruce Voyles

What sets Tony apart from the hobbyist knife maker is a combination of passion and attention to detail, qualities that are obvious from his knife making technique.

“When you do something [to a knife] make it obvious you meant to do it,” Tony says. “Be purposeful and consistent in your actions and have a style with a purpose.” Tony practices what he preaches; his knives feature trademark crisp lines, solid construction and clean presentation.

Tony’s knife making process is painstakingly detailed — you can’t rush perfection, as the most skilled knife makers know. It takes him three days to finish one slip joint, and he obsessively cleans out each pivot hole and pin hole after performing an operation. He doesn’t trust the cleanliness of his own bench, so as he works on each piece, he places it on a clean paper towel to avoid any chance of dirt scratching the parts.

Tony’s construction is traditional. He pins all his pins, rather than counting on glues and epoxies to hold them together.

On the handle material, he follows a step-by-step process. First, he drills all his holes, and then reams them to the full depth with a 2-degree reamer, after which he reams them again at the top. On the second reaming he uses a 10-degree reamer to ensure the pin is able to physically hold the scales in place and the body together.

At 10 degrees, there’s enough swell to hold the knife tightly together and yet not put too much pressure on the frame or incur a cracked circumference on the pin head. The body of the pin swells to fill the rest of the hole, making it impossible for the parts to separate even if something were to compromise part of the pin head.
Tony uses a jeweler’s loupe at every step to inspect the swelling of the pin, his hand rubbing, grinding and the joints on his handle material.

Knife Maker Tony Bose in his workshop

Using a straight edge wrapped in micro-fiber paper, Tony slowly and methodically runs the handle of each folder using peanut oil to create a slur. Photo by Abe Elias

Achieving a crisp grind line is not something Tony leaves to chance. He hand rubs the finish on the entire knife, and hand sands even the scales with a micro-fiber polishing cloth lubricated with peanut oil.

An example of this knife maker’s attention to detail: While shaping the ivory handle on a knife he was making, he periodically put the pieces of ivory to his lips. “Ivory is very sensitive, so you don’t want to overheat it. I touch it to my lips so I can accurately gauge the temperature,” he said. His care for that ivory was the same as a mother checking her child for a fever.

It’s because of this level of care in his process that Tony produces such outstanding knives, and he rightfully takes great pride in his work. “You’re not just putting a product out there,” he says, “you’re presenting something that represents you.”

Story by Abe Elias

Review: Buck’s Reaper Bush Knife, Part 1

The Reaper, the latest from Buck Knives, certainly earns its menacing name. But this modern tactical survival knife, based on the 100-year-old “bush knife” design, is highly practical, too.

Reaper Bush Knife

The Buck Reaper is advertised as a must for serious adventurers and rescue teams, and designed for demanding conditions.

The Reaper is made from virtually indestructible materials, according to Buck. The tang and blade are black traction coated, and the full-tang blade and textured handle help make the 11-inch knife an effective survival tool, Buck says.

We took a close look at the Buck Reaper to see if it would live up to the advertising from two angles: those of custom knifemaker Paul Granger and field reviewer Mark Allen Prince.



According to Granger, the handle is a highpoint of this knife. It has a nice “grippy” surface plus a palm swell in its middle, designed for the user’s hand.

Buck Knives indicates that there are two handle design choices for the Reaper—Reaper Black Camo or a Viper Snakeskin pattern. Granger likes the handle’s wrap design, saying it’s pure aesthetics and a thing of beauty.

The Reaper’s handle is comfortable in any grip handling position. The butt end of it flares outward—a well-grounded, logical feature that guards against having the knife fly out of the user’s hand when swinging it. The butt tang extends beyond the handle material a little bit; helping to guard against damage to the handle material should the butt be used to break glass or other strikes. The handle is made of injection-molded nylon. The guard is adequate.

Granger would have had the lanyard holes at the butt of the handle made with chamfer so that the rough edges of the holes would not wear on a lanyard cord.


This blade is a drop point, with a hollow grind. It was sharp out of the box.

Jimping (perpendicular grooves on the tang) where the handle meets the guard area of the knife and on the spine of the blade just adjacent to the guard area work well. The limited swedge, or false edge on top of the blade at its point, is advantageous for good penetration. Some knife owners sharpen such swedges.

Granger measured the blade at 5/32-inch thick and tested its hardness on the Rockwell C Scale as 57HRC. It’s a stout blade with fine geometry, should cut easily and its coating looks good. It should take a lot of sharpening before it gets thick.

The blade measures 6 3/4 inches, is made of 420HC steel bearing a non-reflective coating. 420HC is a good stainless steel that is made of the following steel components: chromium, manganese, silicon and sulphur.

Carbon increases hardness and resistance to wear, improving edge retention. Chromium increases hardness, strength, toughness and resistance to corrosion and wear. A content of 12-14 percent of chromium classifies cutlery steel as stainless. Manganese increases hardenability, strength and wear resistance by removing oxygen from molten steel. Silicon also increases strength and removes oxygen from molten steel. Sulphur increases machinability.


While Buck Knives certainly has produced some fine sheaths in their history, this nylon sheath is adequate but not impressive. It has a plastic liner that’s sturdy, with a minor attaching flaw that Buck Knives is evaluating. Granger felt the setup could be better. There’s also a drain hole in the liner but not in the sheath.


Granger found one unfortunate weakness with the design of the blade area, in the finger groove part of the guard that runs into the cutting edge of the blade. When he grabbed the knife tightly with his trigger finger forward of the guard, his finger was not clear of the blade’s edge. For him, the finger cutout was too small, but might not be for a user with smaller hands or thinner fingers. He would enlarge the cutout to 1 inch.

As it is, if the knife’s user choked up or used this finger cutout when doing certain types of cutting, an average-sized hand would risk a cut on the finger. This would be especially true if the user was wearing gloves because the thickness of the glove between the finger and the guard would move the finger even closer toward the cutting edge. Granger nicked his finger demonstrating this. Other than this feature, the Reaper a good knife.

So how does the Reaper hold up in action? Our reviewer puts it to the test in Part 2.

Story by Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis, photo courtesy of Buck Knives