Budget friendly bushcraft knife (elbow grease required)


April 29, 2014, 02:34 PM
So, in preparation for a northern Saskatchewan fly in canoe trip, Ive been on the search for a budget friendly, rugged work knife.
I didnt want to take sentimental favourites, as I have been warned that its easy to lose and damage tools on this sort of excursion.
I stumbled across a Condor Bushlore.
The knife was horribly finished (or unfinished as it were), but contained a solid backbone with which to work.
The knife sold, taxes included, for under $50.
It required about 8 hours of filing and sanding, shaping and sharpening, oiling and buffing.
There was a painted coating covering the flats of the blade that I removed by sanding.
I am tickled pink with how it turned out.
There are a few details I could have spent a little more effort on, but I think the finish is useable without being worried about regular use causing any damage.
If anyone has any field use with this blade, I would be happy to hear from you.

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Sam Cade
April 29, 2014, 04:52 PM
The knife was horribly finished (or unfinished as it were), but contained a solid backbone with which to work.

That is about par for the course for CTK.

What was the edge like?

One of the problems that Condor seems to constantly battle are overly obtuse (to the point of the knife being non functional) edges. It is frustrating that the Imacasa/Condor manufactured Marbles branded machetes ship just stupid sharp, so they could properly sharpen their knives if they chose to.

The knife sold, taxes included, for under $50

Buying a Condor is a bit like buying a sheath and getting a knife free sometimes. ;)

April 29, 2014, 04:55 PM
Should have bought a Mora. Ready to go right out of the box.

Sam Cade
April 29, 2014, 05:02 PM
Not much entertainment value in that though. ;)

April 29, 2014, 05:16 PM
8 hours? Sounds like someone needs a $6.00 coarse stone for Xmas. :)

Enjoy the trip. A $50.00 Condor would be my expensive knife.

April 29, 2014, 05:17 PM
Nice job on dressing up the Condor!

The question is whether Condor's heat treat is good enough to have made paying more for the knife than a perfect Mora worthwhile.;)

Sam Cade
April 29, 2014, 05:19 PM
8 hours?

I can totally believe it. Let me dig around my knife box to find a representative example.

April 29, 2014, 05:21 PM
I really like simple knives. My favorite is the Schrade Pro Hunter 1 PH1 the only problem is you need to use a brass cleaner and make sure it is an old USA version not the Chinese one for obvious reasons. I paid 35 for my first one but now they are starting to get a little more expensive.

Sam Cade
April 29, 2014, 05:37 PM
...and a typical Condor edge.

Looks like the bow of a Soviet icebreaker and is about as sharp.




On this.

Perfect for mixing cakebatter. Useless as a cutting implement.

April 29, 2014, 07:31 PM
The edge was reasonably straight, but too obtuse (I think that's the right word). The edge was also "sharp", but very convex and made it hard to shave nice ribbons from a green stick. The bulk of the actual shaping work was on the handle and tang(wasn't perfectly flush). Most of the time was spent on the sanding and polishing. 100,150, 240, 320, 400, 600, 12micron, 3 micron grit made the blade really come to life. The epoxy paint was covering some pretty coursely finished flats.
Then 6 coats of BLO and buffing in between.
I didt it while the wife zoned out on reality tv, so I was hardly "wasting" my time by comparison!
I do also like mora's. Probably the best knife in its class for the price, but this full exposed tang heavy bladed condor steps it up a notch. If the blade proves to hold an edge, I think it stacks up well against some semi custom jobs worth nearly 4 times the price.
I'm not sure about exact hardness. Advertised at 56-58, it was quite a job finishing the Scandi grind off with a 200,300, 400, 600diamond stone, so I think it might be on the higher end of the hardness scale. Almost too hard.
I finished off the Scandi grind with a 20 degree secondary bevel.
Now, countdown to the canoe trip to test this bugger out!

April 30, 2014, 03:10 AM
I think it stacks up well against some semi custom jobs worth nearly 4 times the price.
Anytime you spend hours customizing a knife, you rightly ought to like it much more than something off the shelf. That obtuse edge is a feature. It's a custom edge still in the wrapper.

Sam, the point of that knife looks to me around 35-40 degrees.

The Svord website relates a story about Bryan Baker's first customer taking his knife out of the store and immediately dropping it point first into the sidewalk. Upon examining the knife, he grunted his approval. I wasn't too impressed with this anecdote after unboxing and examining my first Svord, a Peasant. I estimated the edge angle of the tip to be around 55-60 degrees, at the time. And that's on a 3" pocket knife. I never measured the thickness of the secondary bevel, but my eyeball put it in the 50 mic range with maybe a 40 degree inclusive angle thru most of the blade. The edge didn't meet anywhere near the middle, but at least it was straight - and extraordinarily sharp, considering the edge angle.

Kit knives are fun, aren't they? :)

Fred Fuller
April 30, 2014, 10:57 AM
Hey, you made it your own. And it looks good, too. Hope it performs well for you, so it justifies all the attention you lavished on it!

How about an AAR when the shakedown is over? Plus an 'after' pic?

Mikee Loxxer
May 9, 2014, 02:45 PM
Interesting thread. Currently I'm trying to improve the edge on my Condor 5" Basic Bushcraft knife. For me it's become more of lesson in freehand sharpening than anything else.

May 9, 2014, 03:08 PM
How about an AAR when the shakedown is over? Plus an 'after' pic?

Fred, I think that 2nd pic IS the after pic.

May 11, 2014, 06:39 AM
Fred meant after the trip.

May 14, 2014, 02:00 PM
About 15 years ago I bought 4 knives from Condor. 2 were 7"Bowie's. The other 2 were matching folders. They all had Seki -City blades on them. I don't know what steel they used, but it is high grade steel. About 5 years ago I picked up a Condor 'Combat Machete ' . It was made in El Salvador. It is a short sword with a 12" blade. It is made of 420HC S.S.& has a nice rubber 1 hand grip . It came with a well made lather sheath. The edge on it was Straight & the correct shape for brush. & lite wood . It has a gray finish & looks fine for a brush knife . The knives are real works of art & I have kept them that way for my grandsons . The machete gets used & works great it's blade is scratched, but still looks fine! I recommend this company as they do make some fine blades! I wish all knife companys made as good knife sheaths as Condor provides w/ its blades!

Sam Cade
May 14, 2014, 02:28 PM
About 15 years ago I bought 4 knives from Condor.

That is a different Condor, Condor Sport Knives

Condor Tool and Knife is a house brand (targeted at rich americans) for IMACASA in El Salvador and has only been around for 8-9 years I think.

May 16, 2014, 08:49 AM
Yep, the Condor line from Blackjack is entirely different from Condor knives from El Slavador.

May 16, 2014, 09:29 AM
Should have bought a Mora. Ready to go right out of the box.

I wouldn't go as far to suggest that the OP "should" have bought a Mora. But certainly the cheapo Moras are excellent knives for bushcraft, and you don't have to cry if you lose it.

May 23, 2014, 08:54 AM
12/12 found me taking my own medicine - I ordered another Condor Bushlore and a Mora Companion - then total $43.34 with 'free' 2 day s/h. I intended on carrying the Mora in the Condor's sheath - a perfect fit - while I sharpened the Bushlore. oops! They are still in their own sheaths. After some strop time, the Bushlore became my gardening/yard knife for over a year. No longer 'cutting' printer paper, it is time now for the LN, and still razor sharp, Mora to ride in the Condor's sheath - while I re-edge the Bushlore - when I get to it, of course.

The Condor Bushlore is a great value.


February 28, 2015, 04:39 AM
Well, time for an update.
I pulled the Condor Bushlore out for a winter revitalization.
It's had a season of unforgiving use and I think I have enough experience to finally sound off about my opinion of this reasonably priced "tank" of a knife.
I think the word tank is a very appropriate metaphor.
It is heavily built and very tough. I have never worried about breaking it, but it is also not a finesse tool in any sense of imagination.
The knife has survived a wilderness trip where, as you could imagine, it was called upon to perform a variety of daily chores. It excelled in the brutish tasks like whacking branches from trees and skinning sticks and kindling, but it's ability to perform fine tasks like cleaning fish and preparing food was hampered by it's incredibly thick blade. The sheath is awesome, and was capable of securing the knife throughout a week of all the rigors included in a canoe trip.
It was also used through a season of camping where it provided the family a supply of marshmallow sticks and "arrows" for a greenstick bow.
The blade is very easy to sharpen, and maintains an edge as well as any carbon steel knife I own. Maybe better. Unfortunately, the same carbon steel is about as weather and element resistant as day old newspaper.
After a single evening of being left outside, the morning dew had wreaked havoc on the nice blade I had spent so much time polishing. I am fairly diligent about cleaning and oiling my tools, but nonetheless, after a summer of use the blade had a "patina" that made it appear ten times its actual age.
I know some people like this, but its not exactly what I'm after.
Pretty much the same goes for the brass pins. They look nice when shined up, but it doesnt seem to last very long before the tarnish starts to make it look old and uncared for.
All in all, I guess there was really no surprises at all. And that was the disappointing part. I was hoping to have "discovered" an affordable gem.
The knife has no real faults, other than being constructed of materials that simply have limitations and being designed a little on the clumsy side.
The tool was tough and reliable, but certainly not an all uses all star.
I had to spend an evening with an assortment of abrasives and oils to get the old girl looking new again, and I suppose thats a quality in its own right. It can be easily restored with a little elbow grease.
I will continue to use this knife as a general camping chore knife, kept in drawer in the trailer, but my search has not yet ended with respect to the perfect back country knife.
I'll include a couple pics to give y'all an idea of how this knife weathered the season.

February 28, 2015, 07:31 AM
Sounds as if you would prefer a knife in stainless steel for ease of maintenance. If that's the case, a Marttiini Lapp Knife (http://www.amazon.com/Marttiini-nickel-silver-ferrule-pommel/dp/B00LIHQ7WY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1425126404&sr=8-3&keywords=marttiini+lapp) would be a good choice. It's similar in size to your Condor, and just a bit more in price. Marttiini makes fine knives, generations of Americans have used them, mainly the fileting knives imported under the "Rapala" name.

February 28, 2015, 09:02 AM
Good job.

February 28, 2015, 02:42 PM
I do love that"nordic" style. I have often looked at knives like that and Helle and even the Mora's. My only hesitation is the lack of full exposed tang. I'm not sure this is as important as I once believed, but it has been a criteria of mine until now. As it turns out, I don't usually choose to use my knives in situations where they take that much abuse. (Those situations are when I get the chance to pull out my expensive Axe!)
In fact, this whole knife journey has been a learning experience. Experience being the optimal word. Many expectations I had were changed after field use.
I think you are right about the stainless. I wanted to give good old carbon steel a chance, just because of everything I have read with regards to ease of sharpening and bushcrafting, but the truth is that stainless is much more forgiving and requires much less maintenance on a tool that is designed to be used hard in adverse conditions.

March 3, 2015, 10:21 AM
Thank you for sharing your experience. I've been looking to get my "first" large woods blade and have been looking at the affordable Condors, like either the Hudson bay or the moonshine version but I think your experience with the steel will translate. But then I hear good things about the Schrades too. I was oogling over the ontarios and cold steel blades in the next $80-100 price range but I think until I get a better appreciation for what I want and need, I'll instead get one of these and a mora to abuse and practice on, and your experience reaffirms that I probably won't be disappointed with the durability and utility.

What did you use to reshape the grind? Is it doable with a stone or should an inexperienced user just have it done professionally?

March 4, 2015, 01:20 AM
Very simple and easy to do yourself. Only requiring patience.
I simply used an assortment of "emery cloth" strips and a block of wood.
Any abrasive would be fine, but the emery cloth was readily available.
I started off with "course" and worked through 100,120,240,320,400,600,800. This might seem a little excessive, but my job gives me access to a machine shop with large rolls of the stuff.
A straight edge block to wrap the paper around and prevent "blurring" the edges was very helpful.
I started doing both sides of the bevel, then did both sides of the flats.
Alternating directions until scratch lines disappear.
Note, it's difficult to completely remove the scratches very near the handle scales.
Then a couple grades of files to flush off the handle with the tang and square the blade back, then again with the emery cloths on the tang and handles.
A couple of coats of Truoil on the handle makes the wood come to life.
As I said, very simple technically, just labour intensive.
Good luck with any project you try.
Post some pics of anything you give a shot and inspire us a bit.
(I know everyone says try a Mora, but the plastic handle doesn't do it for me. Wait until you hold a full tang knife with proper scales. The weight and balance feels amazing.)

March 4, 2015, 10:03 AM
Post some pics of anything you give a shot and inspire us a bit.
(I know everyone says try a Mora, but the plastic handle doesn't do it for me. Wait until you hold a full tang knife with proper scales. The weight and balance feels amazing.)
I've had one of these for over 40 years, still in use. Almost full tang (within 1 1/2" of end), nice hand filling rose wood scales, excellent 5" steel blade. Pricey for a Mora, but it's certainly stood the test of time.


March 9, 2015, 05:18 AM
50 dollar price range.... Becker gets the nod. All day. Check those out. For the price you can't beat a Becker for a full tang knife. 1095 steel.
Good thread though..... I preferred the patina... Thanks for sharing.

March 10, 2015, 05:10 PM
I swung by the becker website. I think prices may have gone up a bit. Most models were around 70 bucks.
I'm not a huge fan of the handles and bolts, but I love many of the custom jobs guys have been polishing and making their own scales for.
Speedo, it's funny you posted a picture of that knife.
I have a Frost's (Mora) filleting knife that I love and have used for years.
I was my father in laws.
Come to mention it, maybe it's time to spruce that one up!

March 12, 2015, 12:22 PM
For my self I settled on the condor Varan. I have to say although I'm sure it will perform well, I wish I could have justified a nicer knife like the becker or an Ontario, since I love the look of either micarta or g10 handles. The Varan handle has all the ergonomics of a 2 inch dowel rod.

I was really impressed with the standard Mora I picked up as well, blade is super shiny and scary sharp, and the handle is solid and grippy.

March 14, 2015, 09:47 PM
Ha! I suppose at least the wooden handle can be shaped a little.
Speedo, I actually got around to giving my Frost's that makeover.
It turned out awesome!

http://i1078.photobucket.com/albums/w489/squarepants33889/DSC03906_zpssbvoj5kd.jpg (http://s1078.photobucket.com/user/squarepants33889/media/DSC03906_zpssbvoj5kd.jpg.html)
http://i1078.photobucket.com/albums/w489/squarepants33889/DSC03910_zpsvn2cvcj7.jpg (http://s1078.photobucket.com/user/squarepants33889/media/DSC03910_zpsvn2cvcj7.jpg.html)

Hard to believe it's the same knife.

March 15, 2015, 09:12 AM
That's actually similar scales to what mine has. Very comfortable and hand filling. Nice job on the makeover! Looks like it's ready for several more decades of use. What did you use on the wood? My scales look like your "before" picture. lol

Gotta' love that excellent Swedish design and steel.

March 15, 2015, 12:55 PM
The handle was put through its paces with various grades of sandpaper.
Then a couple hand rubbed coats of mink oil (waterproofing for my boots) and left overnight sitting on the register of my forced air furnace (this warm air allowed the oil to sink right into the wood).
The finishing touch was three coats of Birchwood Casey Tru-oil knocked down between coats with 0000 steel wool.
I left the last coat shiny. I usually prefer the satin finish, but shiny just felt right this time.
Your right about this excellent Swedish steel. It's no wonder it stays sharp so long. It has to be the hardest filleting knife steel I've ever sharpened.
I used the Lansky Sharpening system and set a personal record for how long it took.

March 15, 2015, 07:05 PM
Great cleanup job on that filet knife.

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