Modularity and end-user customization is all the rage these days. Precision manufacturing has revolutionized much of the gun industry, but seldom has that level of DIY (design it yourself) functionality entered the other parts of the business, such as support gear and other outdoor stuff. Today we’re looking at some knives that offer the widest degree of user customization I’ve ever seen.

The Knife Connection (TKC) has been around for a while as a retailer of may of the knife world’s most well-known brands. I only happened upon them by happenstance when I saw a blog post on a gear site I visit from time to time and it wasn’t immediately apparent to me just what it was I was looking at.

I ended up clicking through and the TKC site had brands I recognized, but being more of a gun writer I shrugged it off as something I couldn’t really do much with for work…until I saw that they had a knife builder page. This peaked my curiosity.

The TKC Field Buddy series is at home in tough conditions.

I saw what they called the Field Buddy 5.5, a rather basic looking knife, but when I opened the knife builder, I was immediately stunned that I could pick out options ranging from grip scales to ferro rods. The builder screen updates with your choices so on can see how it would look in real time.

I have a bad habit of losing my gear in the field when I’m out hunting. As any hunter will know, you somehow never find your fired brass and you’re sh*t out of luck if you drop a flashlight or even your cell phone in the dark.

I hunt in rural areas and I’ve set a bloody knife down and lost it literally right next to me several times. It’s like the little knife goblins come out and rob you. That said, I also lost my rifle once after leaning it in against a tree when I had to go get a deer in thick brush, but luckily the goblins didn’t snag it from me.

The FB 5.5 in action. It is a perfect size for real-world work.

Point is, I needed something with high visibility to work with that didn’t scream Fudd, so I ended up putting together a Field Buddy 5.5 with blaze orange grips in an orange sheath. I also had the option to include a military type sheath system with a pouch that sandwiches the sheath itself, which makes carrying it super easy.

The accessories on the building menu are selective to the knife, so you have no risk of accidentally ordering the wrong size sheath or wrong grip panels. All in all, it was a very straightforward and pleasant experience that gave me satisfaction in ordering something that was tailored exactly to my needs.

There are many sheath options. I like the protection of the full covers, especially in bad weather.

The knives show up completely disassembled, but luckily include all the hardware to install the grips and assemble the sheath system. Assembly is easy and takes just a couple minutes.

I had my first field test in the early season last September, where I fully butchered two deer in a half hour each in the field without so much as needing to sharpen the edge. It was like a razor blade the entire time and the size of the handle was perfect for my hands. I have large hands and knives with small or narrow grips tend to make my hands cramp up during extended use.

The grips offer a fine texture that is great for field use as it is not overly aggressive.

The knife was eventually used to take down six deer over the course of the 2020 hunting season and it never needed anything more than a quick pass over a field sharpener. I will say that it probably didn’t need it because at the end of the late season in December it was still as sharp as day one.

The FB 6.5 is visibly thicker than the 5.5.

The blades of these knives are made of 1095 steel and are finished with a durable clear matte Cerakote finish. There is a slight texture to it, which can make it so that fat and blood can cake on a bit more than on a plain steel blade. You can remove the grips to fully clean the entire thing if you have a particularly successful hunt.

I set up my Field Buddy 5.5 primarily as a hunting knife and it does very well in that role. When I like something, I usually need to have two of them. I saw that TKC was coming out with the larger Field Buddy 6.5 and I pulled the trigger on it as quick as I could.

I am only so creative, so I ended up with the same type of sheath system, this time in OD green, but instead of plain OD grips I opted for the set with orange liners. I really like how it turned out.

The grip panels add a bit of personal flair you can’t get on factory knives.

This bigger knife hasn’t seen as much use, mostly because I don’t want to lose it in the dark, but it has been with me as a utility and camp knife when I’ve went out for small game and on walking hunts. The blade of the FB 6.5 is thicker than the 5.5, although it still features the same edge geometry and tip profile.

The blade is thick enough that it would be a good candidate for general use and even taking down small trees or branches for bushcrafting and making fires. I’m not a guy who likes to baton knives and split wood with them. That has its place, but it’s very hard on the blade.

The blades are nicely finished.

I am glad to see that more and more companies are offering on-site semi-custom services. SIG SAUER does this now with the P320 where you can build out a pistol as you like it on their website and your own configuration ships to you from the factory.

TKC has a truly wonderful setup here for knives and the choices are really up to you. If you don’t like my setups, you can go with red grips in a leather sheath or go stealthy black and grey on everything.

I need to say that TKC also carries grips for a number of popular ESEE and Ontario knives and these grips are a huge step up from the stock scales. ESEE makes great blades, but their grips have always been lacking to me, especially on the PR4, where they are just far too thin and have an odd texture. The paper-thin ESEE 3 linen grips are also not my favorite and TKC has wider and more ergonomic versions in a wide range of colors.

As a knife enthusiast I couldn’t be happier with the Field Buddy series. I can’t  believe how good these are for real field use and I have the satisfaction of being able to say I picked every feature on them.

16 COMMENTS

  1. 1095 is tough stuff, glad to hear it holds an edge too. easy to sharpen; inexpensive. it is not stainless at all. kabar/ becker use a version called crovan with some added vanadium which form small carbides for some extra edge life, in theory.
    this review has no stars which is fine, price might be good info, i’m sure it depends. if these are over a hondo there is better steel to be had. even d2 which is harder to sharpen is semi stainless.

  2. I miss the old THETRUTHABOUTKNIVES site that Robert Farago sold to this mob when he sold this site to them but they killed it.

    • indeed. david anderson is doing video reviews for knife center, has a podcast called knife perspective and makes knives under the nordsmith name. h. clay anders is editing knife magazine’s online presence. ttak was a zombie site for a while but is now gone.

  3. tkc brings up texas knife company first so go to “the knife connection.”
    not really much for choice beyond lots of grip possibilities.
    importantly, these are differentially heat treated (the edge will be harder than the spine, which is pretty neat although i don’t see a hamon line) by tops knives to 56-58 rockwell, a sweet spot for this steel.
    and they’re between 70 and 80 samolians.

  4. Curiosity is piqued, not peaked.

    Pique is (obviously) French, and it shares the same root as “prick” or “pick.” Peak isn’t an action; it’s simply the top of something. If you’re a hunter, or just have a pet dog or cat, you’re probably familiar with the way an animal pricks up its ears when something catches…piques…its interest.

    This has been your pedantic word nerd PSA for the day. We now return you to your regularly scheduled oohing and aahing over nifty knives.

  5. All my cheapie Mora Knives now have orange or neon green handles. It is a huge help not losing them.

    On some of my other knives, I’ve torn some 3/4 inch wide strips of orange duct tape and put it on the handles and the sheaths.

    A cammo or black knife is a terrible thing out in the woods.

  6. It may be dangerous to consume an animal not USDA inspected.
    Hard work and productivity, your government will supply you with what nourishment is needed.

    • Not at all. They may look similar initially, but there are many differences which are apparent upon use. The blades are made by TOPS Knives in Idaho, and the handles made by The Knife Connection in Ohio, and do not have anything to do with Rowan manufacturing.

      Both ESEE and Architect Knives produce excellent knives. Beyond the physical differences, the Architect brand offers customization of the knife setup on the product page, to a level that has never before been done in the knife industry. Check it out and see for yourself.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here