Anyone with an interest in bushcrafting knows the origin of the topic. Before it was camp craft it was necessary survival for those who came before us—like Horace Kephart. Which helps explain why the Kephart knife pattern is still a prolific design.
The AA Forge Mini Kephart Knife
While considering this article and the subject matter within—that of making a frog/fish gig in the field for survival—I felt that it only made sense to use a knife that bears design cues from the original Kephart knife. For that reason, I opted for a knife I enjoy using, the AA Forge Handcrafted Knives Mini Kephart, to demonstrate.
Over the years I have used AA Forge Handcradfted Knives and have been impressed with their level of craftsmanship. The Mini Kephart is one of the best examples of this that I can think of.
The Mini Kephart Details
As the name implies, the AA Forge Mini Kephart gets its design cues from its namesake, the Kephart knife. The Kephart knife derives its name from its designer, the late Horace Kephart.
Just slightly over 2 inches shorter than the original, the Mini Kephart comes in at 7.5 inches in overall length. Constructed of 80CrV2 high carbon steel, the blade flats feature a hammered finish for a more rustic look.
Keeping with the Kephart design, the 3.5-inch blade features a Kephart grind—basically a high convex grind with micro bevel—that is brought to a polished finish. The Kephart grind is known for a keen edge that is robust enough for hard use.
Although the profile pays homage to the original Kephart, there are some slight modifications that give it its own feel. The tip of the Mini Kephart is slightly more prominent than the original. This is due to a slightly less pronounced belly and drop at the point, starting farther back on the spine. However, the tip still centers beautifully with the handle for a clean spear-point profile—perfect for drilling and penetration.
The Mini Kephart in Hand
The 4-inch handle of the Mini Kephart fits my average size hands perfectly with very little handle to spare. Constructed of Ivory Paper Micarta, with Green Canvas Micarta liners and a walnut bolster, the two-tone handle of the Mini Kephart is held firmly in place with four copper pins and a copper lanyard tube, adding a whole extra level of aesthetics.
At 1-inch wide at its widest, the handle tapers down to .89 inches at the bolster. This provides for a hand-filling experience while reducing fatigue during extended use. The handle also features a front quillion (guard) that helps prevent the hand from sliding forward onto the blade. Starting at 1.02 inches tall at the bolster, the handle increases to 1.192 inches tall at the butt. This allows for a more secure grip, holding the knife firmly in place during draw cuts.
Perfect for shaving tinder and striking a ferro rod, the spine on the Mini Kephart maintains a 90-degree angle. Although a 90-degree angle has its benefits, there are also some drawbacks in certain situations. When bearing down on the spine for controlled cuts, it can tend to dig into the thumb a bit. As long as you are aware of it, you can take measures to mitigate the damage.
A Fitting Homage
A legend in the bushcraft community, Horace Kephart provided the world with a knife design that was so well thought out it is still being copied today. AA Forge managed to shrink the package down, while maintaining all of the functionality. Although I have been using AA Forge for a few years now, I think this is my personal favorite knife to come from them.
Being a personal fan of the Kephart knife, the AA Forge Mini Kephart is an honor to its namesake.
For more information, visit aaforge.com.
7 Steps to Make a Four-Pronged Frog Gig Pole
Constructing a frog/fish gig spans from basic skills to intricate details that require patience and a steady hand. But the end result can be rewarding and utilitarian in a real-life survival scenario.
1 – Find A Sapling
The first step is harvesting a round, roughly 6-foot in length (the length is up to you) limb approximately 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. Living in Michigan I really like to work with Maple because it can be easy to work with. You can easily find a limb that will do the trick, but if you need to harvest a sapling, please do so conscientiously.
When I need to harvest a sapling, I find a cluster of saplings—close together—and take one of those. When they are too close together, one (or more) will not survive as they continue to grow, and the dominant sapling overpowers the others. By harvesting one of these saplings, it will aid the dominant sapling in growing even stronger because it is not fighting for water or light.
2 – Get To Sharpening
Once you have selected your length of round, you need to sharpen the tip. While sharpening it, make sure not to sharpen it to a point, you will need some extra wood to work with, so make sure to leave it blunt. You will be refining the tips later in the process.
3 – Time To Split
Next, baton your knife gently down the center and split the wood in half, approximately 10 inches down. Then, turn the round and repeat that process so you have four equal prongs. They will most likely not be identical and that is ok—close is fine.
Keep in mind the size of frog or fish you plan to hunt with your gig, the farther down you split, the wider apart your prongs will be for larger frogs/fish. The shallower you split, the closer together the prongs will be for smaller frogs/fish.
4 – Wedge It
Once you have your prongs at the length you want them, take a couple small twigs and wedge them down in between the prongs to hold them open at your desired gap (again, determined by the size of the frog/fish you plan to harvest). You will do this in both splits.
5 – Add Strength
After you open your prongs to the desired gap, take some paracord or twine and wrap it around the gig at the base of your prongs to ensure that they do not split any farther down during use. I like to bring my wrap up and around the wedge twigs as well to hold them in place.
6 – Barb Carving
Now that your prongs are gapped at the distance you want and you have fortified them at the base, it is time to work on the barbs of your prongs. I start by placing an X where I want my barbs, to establish the shape of the barb. Don’t go too deep, because carving the barbs is fairly intricate work and if you slip you will cut it off at the depth of your X. I like to start shallow, so I have room to fix it if I slip. You will make it deeper as you go.
Once your X is positioned where you want it on all four prongs, use the tip of your knife and gently begin to whittle out the barb. Start down inside your prongs and work towards the tip, stopping at the X. Small knives will get right inside and provide a lot of control but you can do it with the tip of a larger knife. Just be careful and maintain solid control on your knife.
7 – Parting Pointers
Finally, now that your barbs are completed it is time to put the finishing touches on it by sharpening the tips and cleaning up the sides of the prongs if they got torn up while whittling inside those close quarters.
Once again, keep in mind that this is just a hunting tool—it doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to be functional. It is also likely that you will break off a tip or two during use, but that is ok. You can either fix it or make another one now that you know how.
AA Forge Mini Kephart Knife Specs
Blade Material: 80CrV2
Blade Length: 3.5 inches
Overall Length: 7.5 inches
Blade Thickness: 0.125 inches
Blade Finish: Hammer finish, polished primary bevel
Weight: 6.3 ounces
Handle Material: Ivory paper Micarta
Liners: Green canvas Micarta
Grind: Kephart Grind
Bolster: Figured walnut with copper hardware
MSRP: $240 to $300 (as seen in article)
This article was originally published in the American Frontiersman Summer 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email email@example.com.