That’s a neat pair of matching names. Knife makers, as opposed to the designers of other tools, can be perhaps forgiven for their propensity to give their products odd and sensational names. After all, a lot of skill and passion go into designing these things. Still, could you imagine a company producing a garden rake called the “Stray Leaf and Dog Poop Obliterator,” or a hammer with “Chiefest and Greatest of All Nail Pounders” as a moniker?
Yeah, it would be absurd. But I would probably still buy them.
Anyways, Outdoor Edge was gracious enough to send a Brush Demon and Wood Devil to me for evaluation. The Wood Devil is a solidly-built camp axe made out of 3Cr13 stainless steel and a comfortable rubberized TPR handle. My first impression—after I got it out of its almost-lethal plastic clamshell packaging—was that it was a well-crafted tool that I should be able to put to good use. When I turned my eyes on the Brush Demon, however, I knew that I had a bit of a challenge on my hands. To say the least, the Brush Demon is hard to classify. The folks at Outdoor Edge have it labeled as a “High-Speed Chopping Outdoor/Survival Tool.”
I’ll admit, that was hardly the first thought that came into my mind. In fact, it was something along the lines of “Sword! It’s a freaking sword!” Yeah that sounds about right.
First impressions were disappointing. The Brush Demon was clearly designed after the historical kopis, a cutting sword that was once used by the hoplites (citizen-soldiers) of ancient Greece. The profile of the blade has been obviously redesigned for use in the outdoors, and in my opinion, is more comparable to a machete or very large camp knife than the typical bushcraft or survival knife. The blade is thin enough to be considered machete-style, but the handle was ludicrously skinny at first glance. I anticipated that the Brush Demon was not going to be comfortable, and frankly, was a little bit too “mall ninja” for my taste. In fact, I remember making an off-hand remark that the knife probably belongs more in a Klingon-themed Star Trek convention than it did in the outdoors.
If you’ve glanced at the combined ratings above, then you probably guessed that I ended up eating my words.
- Type: Large blade/ Camp knife
- Blade length: 15.5 inches
- Overall length: 20 inches
- Weight: 22.4 ounces
- Blade material: 65Mn Carbon Steel
- Handle material: Non-slip rubberized TPR
- Retail price: $69.95
- Type: Camp axe
- Blade length: 4 inches
- Overall length: 9.9 inches
- Weight: 18 ounces
- Blade material: 3Cr13 stainless steel
- Handle material: Non-slip rubberized TPR with a red ABS core
- Retail price: $49.95
My enthusiasm for the Brush Demon perked up when I realized that the designer was none other than Jerry Hossom, who is notable for his kopis-influenced knives. Upon further research, I discovered that the material for the blade was 65Mn high carbon steel. I’ll admit, it is not a steel that I’m familiar with. If the internet is to be believed, 65Mn is an affordable steel that is about roughly comparable to 1065 carbon steel. Which is an excellent steel for—cough, cough, swords, cough—machetes.
To my surprise, the Brush Demon is an excellent chopper and all-around utility knife. Although it may be a little bit too big for some purposes, it is excellent for clearing trails or basic campsite management. I have mixed opinions on sword-sized camp knives. On a very basic level, there are excellent reasons why swords are not usually adapted to survival/bushcraft purposes. They’re too big, too unwieldy, and oh yeah, they’re meant to be fighting tools, not woodcraft tools. There have been a handful of large-blade designs that did perform admirably, such as the Cold Steel Gladius Machete. Others—like the Cold Steel Katana Machete—did not do as well.
The Brush Demon is shaping up to be one of the those that has succeeded. Hossom said that he modeled the knife after his Combat Kopis design, and it certainly shows. The Brush Demon is great at slicing and chopping, and the 65Mn steel appears to be adequately durable. The knife also has a very satisfying balance to it that many other machetes don’t. I don’t know how far the tang extends, but the knife does have a solid feeling about it.
On another note, the Brush Demon also has a very sharp tip and has excellent penetrating power. Survival knives are rarely judged either way for their piercing abilities, but it is good to know if you ever need to call upon this knife for self-defense.
As for the Wood Devil, I found it an exemplary little axe capable of handling any tasks that you could reasonably expect from an axe of its size. It does come with two flat hammer surfaces—on the rear of the axe-head and one the bottom of the handle—and from my experience with it, appears to be very durable. The four-inch cutting surface is more than adequate, and although I’m not especially excited about the 3Cr13 stainless steel, it seems to hold up quite nicely.
The Brush Demon’s handle is in the shape of a traditional kopis, where it curves in for greater retention. I’ve noticed that one of the chief complaints about the knife is from people who either don’t like the grip, or are bothered that they are unable to wrap both hands around it. That’s not a big concern for me. For a knife of this size, there are very few tasks that would require an extra hand, and I tend to like the design of the handle. Except, of course, for the fact that it’s too thin.
Surprisingly, however, I never experienced that chafing around the web of my hand that I expected. The handle absorbed the impact of blows very well and in the end, I didn’t even bother buying grip tape to fatten it up a bit.
As for the Wood Devil, you can never really complain about thermoplastic rubber. It is hard enough to be stable, yet spongy enough to be comfortable. I can never understand for the life of me why some companies are so attached to hard edges that cut into your fingers. If you make tools that are meant to be used, also make them practical.
I’m going to get the Wood Devil out of the way really quick. As a lightweight, compact axe, it is probably one of the most practical things you can bring into the woods. It’s a workhorse and it will do just about anything. Want to prepare some kindling? Done. Want to build a shelter? Done. Want to pound in some nails? Done and done.
The Brush Demon is a more specialized tool. Let’s face it, if you bring this knife with you to your next camping or hunting trip, odds are that you’ll raise some eyebrows. You’ll look pretty cool, but inevitably someone will ask you the question of “Hey, that’s pretty big ain’t it?” At which point what I would do is simply nod knowingly.
However, there are some situations in which the Brush Demon is suitable. It’s lightweight enough to be worth carrying around, and just robust enough for me to depend on it. If you need to fend off snakes, chop food, or clear brush, then I’d recommend this knife for doing so.
Looks like I won’t be taking anything to the Klingon convention this year. Both the Brush Demon and Wood Devil are excellent buys for their retail prices ($69.96 and $49.95, respectively) and are products that I would recommend buying. When discussing with fellow knife enthusiasts on bladeforums.com, Jerry Hossom elaborated on the many uses for the Brush Demon.
“I spent most of my Army years in the jungle hauling and using a machete and have some familiarity with the tool and its use. This design, which is based on my Combat Kopis, does indeed have a defensive capability that is meaningful and can be used against man or beast as needed. I make no apology for that, and based on the fact that many in the military have chosen to carry my Kopis for both its utilitarian and defensive capabilities, and with excellent feedback, I’m comfortable with the design,” he wrote.
“I’ve also been pleased with how well Outdoor Edge has executed the design, and more than any other knife company I’ve worked with they have consulted with me on virtually every detail of its construction… they are not a company focused on attracting the mall ninja crowd as many are,” he added.
Now I just have to save up if I want to be to afford one of his $1,000+ customs.
Images by Daniel Xu