Story and Photos by Joshua Swanagon
You may remember back in March of 2020 when I introduced Kelly Frasier, of Jon Kelly Designs, in our “On The Edge” column. If you are anything like me and appreciated his work, you’ll be happy to know that wasn’t the last you will be seeing of Jon Kelly Designs, here on Knife & Gear Society.
Shortly after publishing that article Kelly reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in checking out one of his knives. Of course, my answer was “yes,” I am always interested in the chance to play with great knives.
Almost as if he had read my mind, he offered to send out the model that caught my eye the most—the Scout. I was very impressed with all of his knives, but for some reason the Scout just kept getting my attention as I wrote the column. I could never seem to scroll past it without stopping to admire it.
Now that I have had some time with it, it has become clear that great aesthetics are not the only thing this knife has going for it.
Let me explain.
Right off the bat it is hard to deny the obvious homage the Scout pays to the Loveless pattern. However, the Scout takes the pattern and adds some elegant nuances and modern materials, for a solid bushcraft user.
The Scout comes in with an 8-inch overall length, which is a good length for a companion bushcraft blade. The .156-inch thick 1095 blade stock features a distal taper on both the blade and full tang, adding to its elegant subtleties. The spine maintains the 90-degree edge, which is perfect for throwing sparks from a ferro rod but can wear on the thumb during extended tasks that require controlled push cuts.
The Scout is slightly handle heavy, with the balance just behind the first pin (at about the middle finger), giving good control over finer, controlled whittling and detail tasks. Although, I think I would have liked it slightly more forward—at about the index finger—for a more lively, well-rounded experience. But that comes down to personal preference. For a knife this size, a balance point a little farther back is good.
The 3.25-inch drop point blade features a high convex saber grind and includes a very keen edge. Although some consider the perfect bushcraft blade to fall between 4-5-inches, I personally find a 3.25-inch blade to be a little more spry and have no issues including a knife of this length in the bushcraft category.
The 4-3/16-inch handle features two-tone G-10 handle scales/guard that are contoured for very comfortable, extended use and showed no indication of hot spots or fatigue after hours of use. The green handle scales are held in place via two nickel silver pins and one black G-10 pin, while the black guard is held in place with one green G-10 pin—adding to the nicely done two tone look.
The black guard encompasses the tang on the bottom of the blade and remains open on the spine, for an exposed tang. The guard butts up nicely with the black G-10 liners, rounding out the beautiful presentation of the handle.
The butt rounds down and fits the palm perfectly for any kind of drilling chore that requires bearing down on the butt of the knife, as well as making a comfortable ramp for the thumb when using it to brace the knife for a reverse grip stab.
However, the butt drops to a point before rounding back up to the belly of the handle, which kind of digs into the palm when using it in the chest lever grip. It looks really great, but I personally would have preferred it to be slightly rounded for comfort.
The Scout comes with a solid pancake style molded Kydex sheath, with drain hole on one side, and includes a Spyderco G-Clip Sheath Mount. The sheath has a nice balance between holding the Scout snuggly in place—with no concern of the blade accidentally coming out unexpectedly—while remaining easy to retrieve when needed.
I have a good friend who is a complete psychopath and loves to camp in the winter—*cough* Reuben Bolieu—so much so that he is one of the few people I know that gets excited about winter camping.
I, on the other hand, am not a winter camping fan, nor am I a morning person. So, my idea of winter camping looks a little more like going to bed the first night and then finally crawling out of my warm, comfortable sleeping bag in May.
With that said, this has been a very crazy, stressful year—not to mention the constant busy schedule of an Editor—and I do like to at least get out into the woods for a little playtime. Even if it is only for a random day, here and there. But that is my time to get away from the masses and ignore my phone. I recently found a day to do just that and took advantage of it.
One of the first things I like to make when I am building camp, or just going to be out playing with a knife all day, is a camp hammer. A camp hammer makes everything easier, from batoning tasks to hammering stakes in the ground, and everything in between.
I started with a saw and cut about a third of the way into my round, all the way around. I then used a stick to baton the Scout, all the way around, down to the saw cut, splitting away the excess wood. Once I had the rough shape of my handle, I used the Scout to smooth it out and refine it for comfort.
Now that I had my hammer, I was able to use the Scout to harvest a small Maple sapling for various other little projects. I used the Scout and camp hammer to cut a pie in one side of the sapling and then moved to the opposite side to baton through to the pie.
As a side note, I choose saplings that are in clusters (close proximity), because as they grow, they will crowd each other and be competing for light and one will most likely struggle. This helps prevent that.
Once I had my sapling, I created a hook for my backpack by selecting a section of the sapling that had a small branch coming off the main trunk. I then used the camp hammer to baton the Scout through the round, cutting it to length, and the Scout went right through with one strike.
I followed up with two cross grain stop cuts (in the shape of an X) into the main round, allowing me to carve a notch into the wood. The notch allowed me to hang the pack hook from a tree (using some paracord) and get my pack out of the snow and up onto the hook.
Something I always consider when camping, or in the woods for any reason, is security. You never know what could suddenly wander into camp—I have had times when packs of coyotes have circled quite close to camp before finally moving on, and have had other times that a bear found its way into camp. So, I carved a quick, robust spear with a barb, which also involved some cross grain stop cuts.
Just because they are fun to make and involve a lot of different knife techniques, I like to work on try sticks when I just want to play with a knife. This time was no different. The Scout really handled well with all of the different cuts, stop cuts, whittling and cross grain batoning involved. It truly was a lot of fun to work with.
Finally, to see how well the edge held up, as well as check the edge geometry, I batoned a short round in half and then shaved a quick feather stick. The edge geometry was perfect for this, and even after everything I had done with it the edge was still very keen and produced some nice curls, which I was able to light with ease.
The 90-degree spine threw some very good sparks from my ferro rod as well. With the Scout and a ferro rod you will not be without the means to start a fire.
Aside from all of the above tasks I also used the Scout for other unceremonial chores, and although it has seen quite a bit of work the edge is still sharp enough that I can cleanly slice a page from a phone book. That is a testament to a good heat treat. I don’t even need to strop it yet.
Although it has been a bit since I have done an “On The Edge” column (something I need to remedy soon) one thing I really love about doing that column is finding really great makers that deserve attention. Jon Kelly Designs is a perfect example of that.
The Scout is an outstanding little bushcrafter and I was thrilled for the opportunity to take it out into the woods for a little playtime, it was a real pleasure to use. Although the Scout really caught my eye, his catalog contains many various designs that would appeal to most any backpacker/bushcrafter.
If you are in the market for a good field knife, do yourself a favor and take a look at Jon Kelly Designs, I have a feeling you just might find what you are looking for. K&G
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Blade Material: 1095 High CarbonBlade Length: 3.25 inchesOverall Length: 8 inchesBlade Thickness: 0.156 inch with distal taperWeight: 5.8 ouncesHandle Material: G-10Liners: G-10Grind: High convex saberSheath: Molded KydexMSRP: $325
Jon Kelly Designs(406) 249-6599www.JonKellyDesigns.com
Jon Kelly Designs
Joshua Swanagon has studied survival in both urban and wilderness environments in Colorado and Michigan for most of his life, while also adding experience in harsher terrains abroad. He utilizes his experience and years of diverse martial arts and combatives training and real world application as a self-defense/combatives instructor, published freelance writer and Field Editor for various magazines in the fields of knives, survival, self-defense and tactical subject matters. Joshua also brings with him his years of experience as Editor of, and Subject Matter Expert for, Knives Illustrated Magazine.
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