Hollow Handle Survival Knife Durability

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Sam Wilson, May 25, 2020.

  1. evilgreg

    evilgreg Why so serious? Gold Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    I'm definitely not the target market in any case; the knife I'd throw in a survival kit would be a Mora that weighs three or four ounces. I'm glad to see they can be plenty tough, for those that do want one, though.
    Sam Wilson likes this.
  2. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    After I posted that, I thought about it and the short hidden tang with a nut screwed onto it would be pretty strong.
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  3. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    My friend, I agree with you all day long. I'm not here to proselytize, just to show others what goes into these knives. Every knife is not for everyone, and I am very grateful that we have a massive selection of knives to scratch everyone's itch. Thank you for the respectful conversation.:):thumbsup::thumbsup:

  4. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    That is essentially what the Buckmaster employed, and it is extremely strong in that department. Some of it comes down to perspective. One way of looking at it is the longer the tang, the more leverage you have to break it. Imagine having a piece of hardened steel clamped into a vise, with only about an inch of tang exposed. About an inch of hardened steel. How would you begin to attempt to break it off, without power tools? Food for thought.


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  5. Twindog

    Twindog Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    I like your idea of the hollow handle being useful as redundant storage. I've never liked big, bulky sheaths to carry essential supplies.

    I haven't refined my thinking, but in general all I would need is a slim fire starter and a good-quality compass -- and even the compass would not be needed, except on cloudy nights, if you have a watch. Where I live water purification would not be a problem, but people in other areas might want a couple water-purification pills.

    You've shown that strength isn't a limiting factor on a HH, but what goes into knife-handle storage needs to be rethought. Sometimes less is more, especially if smaller storage means a more ergonomic handle. The Buckmaster 184 was heavy, rough and unwieldy.
    Sam Wilson likes this.
  6. Mr.Wizard


    Feb 28, 2015
    It seems like a nice feature but not at the expense of ergonomics. I would prefer some indexing to the handle like a flat down both sides.
    Sam Wilson likes this.
  7. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    Excellent points, and ones I have been working on for years myself. I have smaller and lighter HH knives that weigh in at 4-5 oz, and am working on a prototype right now, the L.I.T. knife, Lightweight Incendiary and Tinder. It is a small puukko blade with a dedicated firesteel in the hollow handle. I'll post it here when I get it finished in a few weeks.

    The SAFE knife pictured above is not exactly heavy, for a knife with a 4.75" long blade of 3/16" thick steel. There is also a pic of the B.U.S.H. Knife, a type of mid-tech I make with factory blades blanks and everything else done by me, to keep costs down.

    S.A.F.E. Knife, with steel plated aluminum buttcap:

    And B.U.S.H. Knife:

    Excellent feedback, Twindog. I appreciate it.:):thumbsup:


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  8. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    That's a good point, and I offer a micarta sleeve as an option, that does just such a thing. Interestingly, most people that are into hollow handle knives prefer the round tubular handle. Different strokes...:)

    Mr.Wizard likes this.
  9. not2sharp

    not2sharp Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 29, 1999
    The modern hollow handled knives first popped up during the pre-war years as match safe knives. Where a small hollow handle was intended to store matches. Then a couple of generations later we had the Randall model 18, which IIRC had been requested by a helicopter pilot, who wanted a place to store medical stimulants (military issued drug stash) to help in the event that he were forced down. It’s only during the 80s Rambo craze, that these knives get associated with fish hooks, fishing line, compasses, sewing kits and the other survival nonsense.

    MayHemAndHaw, GIRLYmann and .577NE like this.
  10. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    I've never cottoned to the idea of carrying essential survival gear in a knife handle. I'd rather have several packets of matches, fish line, hooks, etc. stashed in different places in case the knife got lost (I'd have a backup blade, too). Plus there's nowhere near enough room in the handle for really critical medical supplies like Scotch.
    Sam Wilson likes this.
  11. tltt


    May 1, 2008
    The original request to Randall in 1963 from George Ingraham -

    "I recently found a copy of your catalog here and began to cogitate on a knife especially designed for helicopter pilots and crew members here in Vietnam. Our problem is, in case of going down in the jungle, quite a large one as far as survival is concerned. Most of the men carry issue survival knives, various types of commercial knives, etc.

    An airman going down in the jungle here has the problem first of getting out of the aircraft, then of constructing shelter and finding water, possibly hand-to-hand combat, and finally of signaling rescue aircraft which come to search for him.

    I believe that the knife best suited to this task would be a somewhat radical modification of you Model 14 "Attack" Knife as follows:

    1. Into the top of the blade, saw teeth should be cut or filed, to cut aluminum, Plexiglass, etc., in freeing personnel from aircraft wreckage. I have seen one knife with this feature in the possession of an air force pilot here.
    2. The 1/4" brass guard could be extended to form a full half-circle to serve as a "knuckle duster" for close combat.
    3. The trickiest part of the modification would be the handle. I have illustrated the handle in the enclosure, and you will note that it features a screw-on butt plate, hollow handle of brass or copper pipe, silver-soldered or brazed to the tang of the knife blade. The compartments in the handle would be used for matches, water purification tablets, Dexedrine pills, and possibly Demerol tablets for severe burns, etc. Leather rings could be sandwiched in the usual manner for the grip.
    4. A sheath similar to the model C or the model C as illustrated should be used."

    Randall's Response -

    "Well! I just couldn't resist the challenge you threw at me, especially since it got to keeping me awake nights. So!! I got my son on it too, and we worked Sunday bringing the #1 prototype of the "Ingraham-Randall Attack-Survival" knife into being, and here's yours, at no charge, the 1st of what may be quite a number of these knives, for I am now kind of enthusiastic over it and like the way it came out. Hope you do too.

    I was particularly glad to discover we could cut the sawteeth in once we set our minds to it. These aren't bad either, we took a garbage can lid and cut it out of it without phasing the teeth at all.

    Brass pipe, of course, too heavy for the "compartment handle" , So we finally dreamed up the stainless tubing. Then the problem of capping the end cropped up, since we were unable to thread said tubing and besides threading and making special threaded (watertight) cap too expensive, So! the crutch tip had to do it.

    It is now our idea that the user will wrap whatever material he desires around the metal part of the handle, to attain a desired slip-proof grip; I'd think it could be either cotton or nylon cord glued into place; leather strips; or easiest of all, just adhesive tape of one kind or another.

    Anyway! here's hoping you like the way "she" came out. I am sending you a 2nd one also for you to see how they will sell at $28.50, which is what we'll have to get for them."
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  12. The Whip

    The Whip

    Jan 28, 2007
    I very much appreciate this thread. I wasn't familiar with your work, Sam, and I'm glad to see a modern custom maker revisiting the hollow-handle genre. Your knives are very nice! I'm a fan of the classic lines myself, but I also admire your willingness to try new approaches, like Micarta grip sleeves and puukko blade shapes.

    I recognize that I was unduly influenced as a boy by a great movie called First Blood, but I don't care. I still think the use of a hollow-handled knife to store last-ditch survival supplies is an ingenious concept. I'm a big believer in redundancy when it comes to preparedness, and a well-crafted knife that retains additional materiel seems like a good idea, particularly as my knife is the last tool I'm likely to leave behind in pretty much any scenario I can envision.

    Also indigenous to my youth was a slew of magazine articles in which hollow-handled knives were lambasted for having notoriously weak blade/handle junctions. According to the conventional wisdom of the time, hollow handles were a gimmick that probably would fail you when you needed them most. Granted, the 1980s yielded a lot of junk clones/derivatives of those original Liles that truly weren't reliable. But I always wondered whether the magazine writers were giving the quality knives their due. As this thread demonstrates clearly, they weren't. Obviously, a well-constructed hollow-handled knife can take some serious abuse.

    Thanks for being willing to ruin a knife to prove a point, Sam! The lesson is not lost on me.

    GIRLYmann and Sam Wilson like this.
  13. afishhunter


    Oct 21, 2014
    The hollow handle knives I had way back when before there was an Internet always seemed to "magically" unscrew the nut that held the handle to blade.
    I think mine were all both cheap and inexpensive low to no quality no name made in Japan knife shaped objects though. That might have had something to do with them failing like that.
    I eventually gave up on them and got a Western L66 and a (mil surplus) Ontario 499 'Jet Pilot Survival Knife'.
    Maybe "someday" I'll splurge and get another of those Ontario 499's with the saw/fish scaler on the spine. :)
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  14. Cotherion


    Aug 7, 2007
    Your hollow handle and the blade connection didn't fail. It isn't an issue of it being hollow handled anymore. More the issue of the steel and not the handle in my opinion. :)
  15. MayHemAndHaw


    May 5, 2020
    So that's what those are for. Seems like a lot of trouble for a couple glorified nails. Does anybody have a photo of the knife or pins being used for this?

    "The saw tooth look was "in" so it was used for the prototypes. Several blade shapes were looked at as well as handle designs and pommels. The design for the guard and the anchor pins came from Qual-A-Tec's association with the Seal Teams. The desire was for a way to use the knife underwater to anchor the swimmers gear to a pier or other underwater anchor point."
  16. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    @The Whip Perfect post, Steve.:thumbsup: I think you summed it up very succinctly. My reasons and motivations for these knives are very similar, and I like to post this information to let others know there are still quality HH knives being made, and concepts being developed.

    I know not everyone is a fan, and there will always be detractors. That's fine by me, but I like to remind folks occasionally that they have some options in that arena. Also, these knives are just fun!:)

    Much appreciated, and I enjoyed your post. Thank you.


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  17. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 3, 2012
    Thank you, that was the plan.:) These knives are a lot of fun and are very useful in the right role. As much fun as the 80's were, they left us with a lot of cleanup in the image department of HH knives. I did this test early on to show that properly built HH knives are more than strong enough to use as a knife. Got some exercise in too, lol.

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