Yasen’s All Purpose Knife - By James Morgan Ayres

Excellent review of one of my knives.

Last year I had the opportunity to meet a really interesting man, the author of many books and articles on knives and knifemaking James Morgan Ayres, and after reading one of his books Tactical knife I decided to make a knife prototype to meet the requirements of the of James's knife description in the book, a knife that fits the style of knives that I usually make. He called the knife Yasen's All Purpose Knife - APK.  After two months of use, James wrote a review of the knife. Special thanks to James and his wife Mary Lou Ayres, who took those wonderful photos during the review.


Yasen’s All Purpose Knife

It’s a good one, Yasen’s knife. Classic clip point design, good geometry, five inches of 1,2842 carbon steel with a full convex grind, proper heat treat, all the elements needed for a terrific blade. A little too large for urban carry, combined with a comfortable G10 handle and a Kydex sheath that rides comfortably on your belt, it’s a survival knife, field knife, utility knife - and a very good kitchen knife.


Over a period of two months I batoned Yasen’s knife through a stack of firewood, made a fire board and drill, a fish spear, and a rabbit stick. I cut up duck, beef and pork, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, sliced bread and cake. I also used it to cut up a stack of cardboard boxes and a pile of plastic bottles before taking them to the trash. It did everything well. An all purpose knife, good for anything that needs cutting, I think of it as Yasen’s APK.



With light batoning, the convex ground blade easily slipped through tough firewood that had been cured since last year. While splitting the shaft of a sapling to make a four pointed fishing spear the blade cut cleanly with full control, allowing me to separate the four points without breaking any of them. A Scandi ground blade with which I was comparing it cracked a sapling from the same stand and spit it too deep, making the shaft unusable. Cutting the shafts was much easier with Yasen’s knife than with the similar sized Scandi grind. Three quick snap cuts with the APK and I had a shaft to work with. The Scandi ground blade required press cuts and whittling to get a shaft, much more work, much more time, which could matter in a survival situation. The convex ground allowed full control when planing the fire board and drilling holes for the drill.



Yasen’s knife came hair shaving sharp. Usually, I touch up a blade as needed to keep a prime edge at all times. As an experiment I didn’t touch Yasen’s blade to stone, steel, or strop during the first three weeks I used it. At that time, after much batoning, woodwork and so on, the blade still had a working edge. Stropping it on a leather strap with a little rouge brought it back to hair shaving sharp in about ten minutes.



Medium sized knives, those with five inch blades are in many ways the most versatile of fixed blades. The USAF Survival Knife, for example, has a five inch blade, small enough to fit in an aviator’s vest, big enough to do serious work. After the nine or ten inch chef’s knife, most experienced chefs will choose the five inch bladed utility knife as the most useful kitchen knife. In the field big knives will get more work done faster than the medium sized knife, but the medium sized knife will most likely be on your belt, while the big blade is in your pack. Big blades are awkward to carry on your person, are so most don’t, except in the tropics where no experienced person will go into the bush without a machete, bolo, or parang. If he knows what he’s doing he will not set that big knife down anyplace - it is either in hand or in its sheath, which really is good practice for any woodsman. The knifemaker who wants to make all around knife has to do a balancing act between utility and size. A five-inch blade hits the sweet spot for many. A bit too big for urban carry, not really big enough to chop with, small enough for comfortable belt carry in the field, the five inch blade fulfils the ‘always have it with you’ rule of survival knives.



As I have written in many articles, and in my books, The Tactical Knife, and Survival Knives, using your tactical, survival, or bushcraft knife in the kitchen and for everyday cutting chores is the best way to build familiarity and handling skill with your knife. Use a knife everyday and it becomes like an extension of your hand. In the kitchen Yasen’s knife sliced potatoes and other root vegetable without cracking them, which thick blades and some Scandi grinds have a tendency to do. It sliced ripe tomatoes without squishing them, passing what I call the ‘killer tomato test.’



The balance point of Yasen’s APK is in the middle of the handle, which makes it feel a bit handle heavy. I prefer fixed blade knives in this size range to balance where the index finger meets the hilt. This makes the blade feel light and quick in hand, which I consider important for daily use, and especially for defence. But that’s just my preference. Many prefer a different balance point. The aforementioned USAF Survival Knife has a heavy steel pommel and is very handle heavy. This has not affected its use by thousands of aviators and soldiers over the past half-century.


During my field review of Yasen’s knife I compared it to three high quality factory knives, and to a custom by Wayne Goddard, a Mastersmith of the American Bladesmith Society. I’ve used Wayne’s knife as a standard of comparison for over fifteen years, during which time I’ve reviewed hundred of knives for magazines and books. Few knives can match Wayne’s knife in cutting ability, none have surpassed it. Yasen’s knife was a country mile ahead of the factory knives, and came in a close second to Wayne’s knife. For me, that’s as good as it gets.