Ontario Knife Company Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife Review

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The Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife was made by the Ontario Knife Company, which is a venerable, old, and well known knife entity that was founded in Naples, New York, in 1889 by three men: William B. Ensworth, Charles Albert Brace, and William Maudsley who derived the name of the company from Ontario County where Naples lived.

Their early knives were hand-manufactured on a water-powered grindstone and sold tinker style via a pushcart throughout the neighboring countryside.

Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife and the Ontario Company

Consequently, over the years, OKC has built its considerable reputation on a heritage of uncompromising craftsmanship, quality materials and components, and a steadfast commitment to its workforce. Therefore, today they produce one of the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, product lines in the modern cutlery industry.

For instance, the Blackbird SK-5 Survival Knife which was designed by well known outdoor survivalist Paul Sheiter is a prime example of Ontario Knife Company’s continuing commitment to excellence in knife design and manufacturing quality.

Ontario Black Bird SK-5 Knife w/ Sheath

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From the OKC web site: “A knife of sublime simplicity, the SK-5 will do nearly anything and stand up to nearly anything. It’s 5 – inch spear –point-flat-ground blade is made of stain-resisting 154 CM steel, tempered to Rockwell 58-60, which is on the hard side. It takes a razor edge and holds it forever. The tactical sheath is ballistic nylon with a hard liner. The generous handle is canvas Micarta, and it is an ergonomic masterpiece that will survive anything short of a nuclear blast.”

From the Blackbird Knives Designer:

“I believe the more complicated a product becomes, the more likely it is to fail when your life depends on it. For this reason, I designed The Blackbird SK-5 Knife to achieve maximum function delivered through pure simplicity. You won’t see gimmicks or gadgets on this knife…only the core essentials that provide the user with comfort and a sharp edge to handle the most demanding wilderness survival tasks.” – Paul Sheiter

Now, while I do agree with most of what both the designer and the manufacturer have to say about this knife, in my opinion, it is not one of the more aesthetically pleasing knife designs I have ever seen.

For instance, the black Micarta handle (looks like Rucarta to me) may be somewhat ergonomically shaped but, it lacks any artistry or imagination whatsoever (unlike some of the other survival knives I have reviewed on this site so far) and the spear point blade shape has always struck me as esoteric in a fixed-blade knife.

What can we say?

In fact, when I think of spear point blades, I automatically think of the official Boy Scouts of America folding knife which always features a spear point blade. But then, a knife doesn’t have to be pretty to be functional; it just has to work well and be there every time you need it.

On the other hand, that I do believe that the Blackbird SK-5 survival knife features a truly practical blade design (unlike some of the other survival knives I have reviewed on this site so far) and the entire knife and sheath are made from some of the best materials available for survival knife use. Although, it still doesn’t quite meet my personal standards for the best survival knife design ever invented; but, it does come very close.

Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife Specs

The blade of the Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife is crafted from 154CM stainless steel which is an American made, vacuum melted, steel that was originally designed to build fan blades for the turbines in jet engines which have to operate at very high speed and at red hot temperatures.

Consequently, due to this steel’s combination of hardness, toughness, and its superior resistance to corrosion, it attracted the attention of famous custom knife smith Bob Loveless (a contemporary of Bo Randall) in the early seventies who first experimented with, and then introduced, this steel for use in knife blades.

Since then, 154 CM has become the pinnacle choice of steel among custom knife smiths and it is highly respected for its ability to combine the properties of superior toughness, sharpness, edge-retaining ability, and resistance to corrosion which is rivaled only by the Japanese equivalent of this steel: ATS34.

In addition, the SK-5’s Spear Point blade, which measures 5″ in length and is ground from 1/8″ thick bar stock stainless steel, it has a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 (which is very hard), and it features a full-taper, flat-grind, with a straight, flat ground, edge and a passable design to the sweep, a center lined tip and a sharp edge along the spine.

Consequently, although the blade at 5″ in length and 1/8″ in thickness is excellent for general purpose work such as fine carving and preparing harvested game, it is way too short and too light to be an effective chopping tool.

In addition, while the full taper, flat grind, edge bevel with a flat ground edge is an excellent choice for slicing tasks since it is easy to sharpen to a razor-like edge. And it carves though material with a minimum of resistance, it is also much weaker than a flat grind with a lower edge bevel. And thus, this type of blade grind should be restricted to light chopping jobs only; especially with a Rockwell hardness of 58 to 60.

More detail about the Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife

On the other hand, the minuscule choil and the non-existent ricasso do place the back end of the edge of the blade as close as possible to the single quillion which results in the user being able to gain as much leverage as possible when carving.

Also, the design of the sweep from the edge to the tip leaves quite a bit to be desired as a skinning tool. There again, when I actually take a close look at the tip of the edge of this knife, I honestly cannot identify what, if anything, needs to be adjusted but, the fact is, I simply do not like the shape of the sweep on this knife for the purpose of the skinning game.

Plus, I personally find the Spear Point blade shape to be a little too strange for my taste. But I also agree with the designer’s reason for using a center lined tip since. Whenever you are attempting to drill a hole with the tip of your knife blade, a non-center lined blade tip causes the side of the hole to “fan out”.

However, when you attempt to drill the same hole with a center lined blade tip, the hole turns out perfectly round. One feature about this knife design that I do like though is the sharp, perfectly perpendicular, edge along the spine of the blade which is specifically designed to aid in striking a spark from “flint-and-steel” type fire starters.

In addition, the full tang hilt is coved with two, black, Micarta (Rucarta?) slabs which not only provide an excellent gripping surface but are literally impervious to changes in temperature, moisture, and chemicals.

For those of you who not familiar with this material, it is made from several layers of resin impregnated linen (Micarta) or canvas (Rucarta) which is then heated and pressed to form a non-conductive, insulating, material for the electrical industry which just happens to also make excellent knife handles.

Also, the perimeter of the Micarta handle on this knife is rounded to provide a comfortable grip and is secured to the knife tang with stainless steel Allen screws. Therefore, the Micarta slabs could, theoretically at least, be easily removed in order to mount the knife into the end of a stick to create a spear.

Last, the Blackbird SK-5 comes with a MOLLE compatible nylon sheath that features a rigid protective insert. The sheath also features a belt loop so that it may be worn on the hip in the traditional belt mount configuration.

Some conclusions about the Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife

So, the Ontario Knife Company’s Blackbird SK-5 Survival Knife is obviously well designed and is made from top choice materials for an outdoor specific knife.

In my opinion, however, it leaves a bit to be desired as a true survival knife since it is both too short and too light to be an effective chopping tool. And that is a property that I consider to be essential for a true survival knife.

Also, I am not particularly enamored of this design as a hunting knife which is another essential task for any dedicated survival sessions. Therefore, while I would certainly consider the Blackbird SK-5 as a partner to a larger knife, there are other dedicated survival knife designs we like much better that you can see here.

Products similar to the Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife

CELTIBERO BUSHCRAFT Full Tang J&V knife with Micarta Black handle

CELTIBERO BUSHCRAFT Full Tang J&V knife with Micarta Black handle

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Coming from Spain, this survival knife has a stainless steel blade with a hardness of 56/58 HRC.

Its overall size is 8.66 inches, with the Blade occupying 4.33 of those inches. The blade’s thickness of 4 mm with a width of 1.37 inches makes it resilient for most survival situations where you need a knife.

Furthermore, the leather sheath protects it from the elements when it’s not in use and conceals it in a delightful manner. Overall, it’s a knife worth taking a look into, especially given the tremendously low price tag.

Kratos ZF5 Hunting Knife

Kratos ZF5 Hunting Knife

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This tremendously gorgeous survival knife has a 7-inch fixed blade with a firm non-slip rubber handle.

Made from a high-quality type of stainless steel, this knife is durable and can maintain a sharp edge over extended periods of time. While the sheath is made out of nylon, it still looks stylish and fits the rest of the knife’s color scheme.

Plus that the sheath also includes a clip-on loop that allows you to attach it to your belt. All of this makes it easy to carry and a worthy knife for survival situations.

Final Thoughts on the Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife

The Blackbird SK-5 Wilderness Knife is an impeccable tool to have apart from your primary cutting knife.

It’s good for tasks involving cutting twigs, ropes, and other items that you might need to craft survival gear or tools.

The Out sider

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