For me, a knife’s aesthetic qualities always take a backseat to function. After all, tools are meant to be used rather than just admired. I found myself reluctant, however, when it came time to put the Silver Stag Deep Valley to the test. The pictures in this review do little to illustrate just how drop-dead gorgeous this knife is.
The Deep Valley may not tell you how to grow a mustache or drill you in an old-timey exercise routine, but it is one heck of a knife. When I first placed the order for this knife, I had little intention of treating it to field work. It’s partly due to an unjustified prejudice against stag-handle knives, but I thought anything this pretty couldn’t possibly last long. Kind of like an ice sculpture at a hockey game.
When I opened the box I was surprised by the immaculate fit and finish of the Deep Valley. Every facet of the Bowie says “craftsmanship,” and the fact is evident to anyone who sees it. The blade is polished to a mirror-shine and terminates in a flat gold guard where the antler begins. Rest assured, if you take this out to the woods, you will be getting a few jealous looks. It reminds me not too lightly of the old, silver-plated revolvers troops would gift their commanders at the end of a successful campaign.
So of course I took the knife out and used it to baton firewood.
Here are some specs:
- Blade length: six inches
- Blade edge: plain
- Point-clip point
- Blade material: D2 steel
- Handle material: stag antler
- Total length: 11.5 inches
- Blade color: silver/gray
- Knife type: fixed blade
- Country of origin: United States
The Deep Valley’s blade is probably one of the most exquisite renditions of D2 tool steel I have seen. Silver Stag must use a higher-than-average level of chromium in their blades because this blade shines like a mirror. As a high-use, heavy-wear steel, D2 by itself is a very respectable material. Although it may not be as sophisticated as some super-steels, D2 blades are reliable and less prone to rust than the comparable 5160, which is one of my favorite steels. With Silver Stag’s heat treatment, the Deep Valley’s blade scores an even 60 on the Rockwell scale of hardness. D2’s easy maintenance and edge-holding properties make it the premiere—if sometimes expensive—steel for custom knifemakers.
The blade came somewhat dull but sharpened up nicely after a few strokes on a water stone. As a classic design, few blade shapes are as widely replicated as the Bowie. The Deep Valley is a pleasure to use and can cut with the best of them. However, the biggest problem with this knife is that it is hidden-tang only. This does not come as a surprise, especially with the complete deer-antler handle obviously hiding the tang. It is also common for Bowie knives to be of hidden-tang construction, even though modern knife makers are moving towards more stable, longer blades.
A full tang has a host of advantages over a hidden tang, which by definition has less steel underneath the guard. This inherently makes me less comfortable with rough use such as batoning or heavy chopping. This line of thinking, it must be said, is mostly due to slight paranoia. One of my favorite knives, the venerable KA-BAR fighting knife, is also hidden-tang but can take a beating several leagues out of its price range. There same is true here, although I am loathe to scratch up that antler handle.
The craftsmanship of the sheath is as every bit as masterful as the knife itself. It is very hard to criticize a well-fashioned, thick-cut leather sheath. The Deep Valley’s scabbard is a snap design hand-laced with leather strips. On the reverse is stamped the Silver Stag logo and, proudly, “Made in the USA.”
It is definitely an eye-pleaser.
On an aesthetic level, the sheath manages to display distinction and timelessness while still remaining rugged. It’s like a well-aged whisky, although hopefully your single malt Laphroaig Islay doesn’t smell of oiled leather. On a practical level, the sheath is as durable as wrinkled, old donkey.
There are two Silver Stag sheath designs: a standard pouch and a snapping, hand-laced version. I would definitely make sure your knife ships with the laced version if you plan on buying Silver Stag knives.
Because the handle is antler, every Deep Valley will have an unique—if roughly similar—feel and shape to it. Thankfully, the deer who shed mine obliged with a very comfortable grip. The antler has been sanded down where it meets the palm and thumb, while the rest it is left relatively intact. The ridges provide good grip and traction and the “pommel” is a good counterweight to the blade. The handle is a little longer than it should be to facilitate the hidden tang, but otherwise it’s one of the better stag knives I’ve handled.
I’d feel guilty if I didn’t admit that I may have been more gentle on the Deep Valley during the rough testing phase then my other knives. I certainly did not throw it at any rocks, but it chewed up a decent amount of wood, rope, and frozen meat. The tip on this knife has very good penetrating ability and the rest of the Deep Valley is a capable slicer as well. The D2 holds a nice edge that I have yet to sharpen after the initial touch up.
It all comes back to the antler handle and the enclosed tang. For serious bushcraft and survival purposes, I would leave this knife at home. The sound of antler cracking is chilling, especially so when it’s from the only knife you carried with you into the depths of the Tongass National Forest. Stag-handle knives are not designed for the serious use that an ESEE or even a Buck Thug is made for. Otherwise, the Deep Valley easily outperforms many knives at its price range and above.
The Deep Valley would not be my first choice of knife to take into the field, but that’s only because I would be heartbroken if I ended up chipping the stag handle. The knife can perform and it can perform well. I had my doubts when Silver Stag boasted their knives as working tools, but these were just my prejudices against stag knives in general. I had always thought of antler handles to be clunky, awkward to hold, and generally turn good knives into bad souvenir pieces. I am pleased to have been proven wrong. The Deep Valley may look too good to be a workhorse, but it is more than capable.
For what it is, I consider the Deep Valley a ceremonial knife that is meant to be used and it does so with gusto—which is more than I can say for those silver-plated revolvers.
Images by Daniel Xu