I have been doing some “outside of the box” thinking about hunting knife design. If you can put up with some background history of how I got to this way of thinking, I would like to explain my thoughts and ask for some opinions from some of the experienced hunters here. I may be way off base with my thoughts, or I may be on to something.
I have been making knives as a hobby for over 20 years and have been fortunate enough to use some of them on deer. As I use them I evaluate how they perform and then I go and tweak the design, or I then try something totally different.
Now I realize that just about any knife would work for field dressing and skinning a deer. You could even use a strait razor or box knife in a pinch. However the modern drop point skinner works very well for it's intended purpose. It does not work well for boning or butchering though, and most of the time is spent in the boning and butchering process. The field dressing and skinning can be done very quickly (just search You Tube) and hardly any mention is ever given to the boning knife. My thought is that there has to be a good design that works well for field dressing, skinning, boning and butchering a deer.
So let's start off with the first experience I had with processing an animal. My grandfather would use an Old Timer Sharp Finger for butchering cows. It did not hold a very good edge though. So I made my own version (the one below). The blade is four inches long by 1/8 inch thick and it is cut from a piece of one inch wide steel. It works well for skinning deer, but the swept up point kind of gets in the way for gutting and it's not too good for cutting around the anus. It is still very popular though and many people ask me to make them one, but it is just not my preference.
So then I tried a drop point blade. That is when I started noticing that the length to width ratio of the blade made a difference. For instance, I found that if a blade was under 3.5 inches and was an inch wide, I still felt as if I had control of the blade. With my for finger behind the spine of the knife, I could use the back of my hand and finger to push the stomach down and out of the way while opening a deer up. If the blade was any longer though, it felt like it was hard to control and was much more difficult to use. If the blade was ½ inch or less wide it could be four to five inches long and I could still pull up on the hide and slide the knife between the stomach and hide without having to push the stomach out of the way. The wide blades are also more difficult to make those sharp turns with, such as around the anus. The knife blade below was 4 inches long by 1 inch wide and a little too long for it's width. At least for my liking.
I originally made the knife below as a “bird and trout” knife, but I found it to be a great design for field dressing deer. It worked well for skinning as well. It is narrow enough to be maneuverable and the length wasn't too short. The only complaint was that it didn't work for boning or butchering. The blade was 1/8 of an inch thick so it was very stout.
The knife shown below was my last knife to finish. I used it on this year's deer. It worked quite well, but it is not my final revision. The blade is 1/16" thick by four inches long and had a fair amount of flex. It was a little too stiff and short for filleting some of the silver skin off of the larger cuts of meat. The blade shape worked quite well for skinning. The up-swept point wasn't too dramatic for gutting, but I did have to be extra careful not to puncture anything that I would regret. When opening up the hide on the legs, the point dug into the calf meat, but that is all hamburger anyways so I wasn't too concerned.
I guess I can only have four images per post, so I will have to show you my latest design in another posting.