About a year and a half ago I bought the Condor Nessmuk, after reading the book ‘Woodcraft and Camping’ by George W. ‘Nessmuk’ Sears. The book is written in a time when knowing your way in the woods was a vital skill. In his book Nessmuk describes the gear he used on his adventures in America’s wilderness regions, in such an inspiring way that I wanted to try it out for myself. Upon reading ‘Woodcraft and Camping’, I went on a search to find a knife that met his description as good as possible. That is when I bought the Condor Nessmuk, and decided to use it extensively for the one and a half year that would come next. This post describes my experiences on using this knife.
George Washington Sears was a writer for the Forest and Stream magazine in the 1880’s and an early conservationist. He wrote under the name ‘Nessmuk’ and was well known for ultra lightweight canoeing. The name ‘Nessmuk’ did come from a Native American friend, and it is told that he was fascinated by these Indigenous people, which left him curious for forest life and adventures.
In his book, Nessmuk describes three tools that complement each other, this trio of tools is known this date as the ‘Nessmuk Trio’. The book described that any fixed blade will do as part of the trio, but I wanted a knife that would be as close as I could get, to the one he had used. Next to the fixed blade knife, an axe and folding knife make the trio complete, however I only will be focusing on the knife for this review.
The Condor Nessmuk
As for the specification on the size and materials used, I kindly refer you back to the rest of the internet, more than enough can be found on this particular knife, as well as in depth information on the materials. Often knife reviews blather about what kind of steel is been used, and if, and how long it will hold an edge. For me, personally, these factors are of no importance. I do not need a knife that will never wear down, that will stay sharp after splitting a tree into pieces. Neither do I need a knife that will shave my arms, legs of cut paper into pieces. There are other pieces of equipment that will serve that purpose, in my opinion.
That being out of the way, I want to share with you my experiences during my one and a half year using this knife. To put it simply; I like it a lot. After using it as my main knife for quite some time, it will be difficult to find a better blade that will meet my needs. The somewhat strangely shaped blade, gives you a wide range of options for handling it. Whether you are using the really nice handle or chocking it up at the upper part of the blade, it gives you perfect control for doing all sorts of tasks. For example, cutting conventional, thumb steering, chocking up, scraping a ferro rod, scraping wood, cutting veggies with the belly shaped blade, using it as a spatula or spoon, drilling holes, battoning, carving notches etc.
What I like the most about this knife, is that it doesn’t feel awkward doing any of these mentioned tasks. Whether it’s cutting veggies, or making pointy sticks to fight vampires, it all feels completely normal. This year and a half of using the knife, I used it for all the task in which I needed a knife, and didn’t use if for tasks that are, in my opinion, not suitable to perform with a knife like this Condor Nessmuk. I am quite fond of my hairy arms, so no need to use the blade as a razor, and for heftier tasks, like felling a tree, an axe comes into play.
As for maintenance, I simply used everything I had at hand to sharpen the blade. Conventional sharpening stones, stones found on the beach and even a metal file. For the finishing touches, I used my leather belt to strop the knife.
In a way, I guess, the knife reminds me of the knife my grandfather used when I was a kid. Back then they only used one kitchen knife, for all kind of tasks. Whether it was peeling potatoes, cutting veggies, preparing fish or taking apart a chicken, that one knife was always involved. It was made of carbon steel, but never had any signs of rust, no matter how many times it got in contact with (salt) water. Why? Because they used it every single day. Sharpening it outside on the brick kitchen wall, until there was no knife left.
For me, having this knife with me, it feels I have so much more than just a bushcraft knife: It is my jack of all trades. Nessmuk was right when he said, “A word as to knife, or knives. These are of prime necessity, and should be of the best, both to shape and temper.”, and Condor did a really good job with their interpretation of this blade. As for 2018 I am planning to use a different knife, so I can write another long term review next year. But I can honestly say that I will miss this versatile Condor Nessmuk knife every now and then.
Johan & Sanne
Feel free to share a comment, advice, question or your thoughts on this subject. They are always much appreciated!