Old Timer knives

You can trust an Old Timer

Derek Nugent puts four new knives to the test

Whether as a fixed blade sheath option or a pocket-sized folder the humble knife is, or very much should be, a natural inclusion in every outdoors persons’ kit. To this end I was given the chance to assess a quartet of the latest offerings from the Old Timer line as provided by Australian importer Aussie Outback Supplies, a WA-based family business established in 1991 by Darren and Adrienne Spencer.

Over time their children Brayden and Therese have also transitioned into roles with the company which is now one of Australia’s largest wholesalers of knives and sharpening devices, offering a product line in excess of 1400 items across 20 different brands, including Old Timer, Sicut and Eze Sharp. Aussie Outback Supplies is also a specialist manufacturer of canvas and PVC products under the AOS brand for camping, hunting, fishing, 4WD, mining, agriculture and every other outdoor application imaginable. Some 95 per cent of these products are made in-house.

Old Timer knives

The brand is both well-known and widely respected in Australia, having been in the marketplace for 65 years. Established in the US in 1958 by Henry Baer as a product line by Schrade-Walden Cutlery Co, Old Timer espoused the credo ‘built for generations’ in blade-ware they described as being “timeless tools meant to be passed down”, an emphasis on quality which made heirlooms of their knives.

US manufacturing by the Imperial Schrade Corporation ceased in 2004 and moved to China though was recommenced just last year. Old Timer offers an extensive range of bladed products including field butchery kits, fixed-blade, folding and replaceable-blade knives with everything, regardless of point of origin, covered by a lifetime non-transferable ‘Generational Warranty’.

I received four items for review – a folder and sheath knife from both the new Heritage and Generational series – and immediately noticed several elements of commonality. Firstly the finish of each knife was uniformly refined with no obvious manufacturing marks or flaws, everything precisely machined and assembled. In particular the two pocket knives functioned flawlessly with mechanisms tight, crisp and very secure yet easy to operate. Secondly, straight out the box both were keenly edged and good to go, though the sheath knives while ‘factory’ sharp did need a touch-up to reach what I call ‘field’ sharp.

Thirdly the sheaths provided for the two fixed-blade knives were of robust construction with solid stitching and closure straps which were extremely tight and made for a reassuringly secure fit. There’s no chance of these blades coming adrift when negotiating close terrain and in both a visual and tactile sense, the first impression of all four was one of quality and quiet confidence.

Heritage series – Origin: China

These are part of Old Timers’ international range and are made from hard-wearing D2 steel, nickel silver guards/bolsters and laminate wooden handles. D2 is a semi-stainless tool steel, well regarded and widely used by knife manufacturers as it produces durable, robust and long-lasting blades with good resistance to corrosion and terrific edge-retention properties. It can take a bit of work to sharpen a D2 blade but, once done, it’ll hold its edge for longer with less need for frequent resharpening.

The Middleman pocket knife features three D2 blades in a 6cm clip point ideal for precision cuts, a 5cm sheepsfoot blade designed for slicing while minimizing potential for accidental piercing (originally used to trim the hooves of sheep) and a 4cm pen blade which is essentially a drop-point affair. It has an overall length of 19cm when fully opened yet only 8cm when closed and weighs around 50g with a grey/black laminate wooden handle and nickel silver hardware. The mechanism was robust if initially a tad stiff, though will no doubt ease with time and usage. The blades locked safely into place, did all I asked of them and responded well to resharpening using both a ceramic and diamond tapered rod. RRP $117.

The fixed blade sheath knife features a 12.5cm D2 drop-point blade, common in general purpose hunting knives. Its slightly convex spine curves down and away from the handle to form a V-shaped point where it meets the knife’s edge which results in an easily controllable point, dexterous tip, good depth of belly and impressive heel, all admirable qualities in a general purpose knife. It has a full tang which augments strength and durability and laminate wooden handle with textured grooves at key points for enhanced grip. This is a big solid affair at 26cm with a satisfying feel and heft to it, not a specialist blade but more an all-rounder. RRP $156.

Generational series – Origin: US

These represent a return to where it all began for Old Timer. The line uses premium materials including handcrafted chestnut bone handles, 1095HC steel and nickel silver bolsters. 1095HC is desirable for blade-ware and particularly larger, heavy duty fixed blade knives as it’s resistant to chipping, easy to sharpen and takes a very keen edge. It’s a versatile steel representing a practical compromise between corrosion resistance, edge retention and ease of sharpening.

The Trapper pocket knife has two 1095HC blades, a 7.6cm clip-point and identically sized spey-point which, with its flat sharp edge and curved tip, allows for easy cutting with a low risk of puncture (originally designed to castrate animals). This one has an overall length of 17cm open and 9cm closed and weighs around 80g. The mechanism is encased in a bone handle which is heavily textured for both aesthetic and practical purposes, while nickel silver bolsters complete the look. It has an extremely smooth mechanism and came razor sharp out of the box. RRP $232.

The Sharpfinger fixed blade is 18cm long and features a 9cm 1095HC steel trailing-point blade, essentially making it a specialist skinner and game-meat recovery tool. Such blades are so named for the way the concave spine curves up and away from the handle to produce an elevated tip and oversized belly that’s perfect for skinning, slicing and filleting. Being a meat hunter this is the type I favour and was my favourite of the four.

In this instance the compact size and ergonomics allows not only for long sweeping cuts, it also makes provision for the dexterous use of thumb and forefinger for more precise butchering work. It also has the all-important full tang which gives superior balance and durability. Like the Trapper, the handle is genuine bone with full-length texturing for both good looks and safe handling. The knife weighs only 106g and has a practical, business-like feel so was both inviting and satisfying to use. RRP $301.

The verdict

I’m a fairly pragmatic person who looks for appealing form, suitability for purpose and value for money in all my hunting accessories and in this respect can’t fault the fit, finish or performance of any of the Old Timer knives I tested. Due to seasonal constraints I didn’t use them in a full-blown hunting scenario, rather put them to use in a variety of outdoors and agricultural circumstances I deemed typical of their intended use.

Activities included cutting rope, opening fertilizer bags, trimming hose, stripping electrical wire, shaping leather, whittling, peeling fruit and prepping meat and veg for the camp oven and additionally in the case of the fixed blades, processing some venison I had to hand. In all instances the knives performed superbly, though ultimately the decision to acquire one will come down to your personal situation in three respects: What do you like in a knife, what’s your intended usage and what are you prepared to pay?

So does made in the US appeal more than made in China? Are you wedded to a particular steel and specific type of point? Do you have a specialist or more general purpose in mind for the knife and which price point suits you? Personally, I was more than satisfied with these Old Timer knives and, most tellingly, so were my hunting companions, some of whom I enlisted to help pass judgment.  None of them had a bad word to say and interestingly without prompting, all were unerringly and intuitively able to identify the US-made Generational line as pick of the litter.

So I’ll let one of them have the last say by way of recommendation and I quote: “Once you have these knives in your hands you’re just confident they ooze quality.” Enough said! More at aussieoutbacksupplies.com

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