TOPS Tanimboca Puukko (Review)

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by CoolBreeze135, Sep 1, 2017.

  1. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Hey folks!

    I recently bought a TOPS Tanimboca Puukko, a new model for 2017. Since it is a recent release, there isn't an abundance of information on the internet yet. I thought I'd write up a review to help out any of you who may be interested in the knife. I've only owned the knife for 2 or 3 weeks, and haven't had the time to take it out into the woods. However, I already have an idea of how the knife feels and performs. I'll update this thread in the future as I get more experience with the blade, but I'll start with a general review broken up into categories. But first, a picture!

    20170817_153727748_iOS.jpg

    Intro:
    The Tanimboca Puukko was announced at SHOT 2017, and began to show up at online retailers this summer. It is a collaboration between TOPS and a guy named Goran Mihajlovic who lives in the Columbian jungle and makes traditional puukkos and other small fixed blades with obvious Scandinavian influence. I won't list all the specs here, as they are readily available online. However, I will discuss some of them in the appropriate sections.

    The Blade:

    At roughly 3.5'', the blade on this knife is a bit smaller than I am used to, which is one of the reasons I purchased this knife. I realized that most of the knife work I do in the woods is carving, fire prep (with very little batonning), and food prep. All of that work can be done with a smaller blade, which also has the perk of increased control and precision. It boils down to a matter of preference, but I think this will be a nice size for most tasks.

    Concerning the blade steel, we are all familiar with 1095 around here, as it is quite common in fixed blade knives and especially bushcraft knives. My somewhat controversial take on 1095 is that it is a rather low-end steel. Now, before anyone gets up in arms, let me clarify. Currently, in my opinion, the main thing that separates higher end from lower end steels is edge retention/wear resistance. 1095 does not score very well in that department. However, I don't consider this to be a knock against the knife overall. Every knife is a compromise somehow. 1095 has two main advantages: low price and ease of sharpening. At this point, my tastes lead me to pick edge retention over ease of sharpening, so 1095 isn't one of my favorites. However, I am happy to settle for 1095 when it saves me money. It's tough, and it doesn't bother me too much to touch up the edge often.

    The grind is the TOPS "modified scandi" grind, which is essentially a higher scandi grind with a considerable secondary bevel. In other words, it's really close to just being a saber grind. This is my first experience with a TOPS scandi, and I have found it to be a decent performer so far. With the addition of the secondary bevel, the scandi bite that we are all familiar with is diminished. Don't expect it to carve quite as well as a true scandi, but it still carves fairly well. Since it is made from 0.130" stock, it is pretty nice and slicey overall which I really appreciate. However, in their attempt to strengthen the scandi with the secondary bevel, they made the apex a little bit more obtuse than I would ideally love. It's a minor complaint, though. They just chose a little durability over a little finer edge. My personal stance is that a smaller knife can err on the side of thin, and this one holds back a little in favor of strength. In summary, the performance of the grind is more than sufficient for anything you want to throw at it, including some extent of hard use.

    The spine is a nice sharp 90 degree edge, and I think it is heat treated as well. This is something that is out of character for TOPS, but is a welcome feature in the bushcraft community. It adds a lot of function, and doesn't subtract much. I know some people like a rounded spine because they like to brace their thumb on the spine for various cuts. It you are one of those people, it would be really easy to polish the spine a bit and increase the comfort. If you are like me and prefer a sharp spine, then you'll be happy.

    I love the tumble finish on the blade, but I don't like all the laser engraving that TOPS insists on using. It's actually more tame on this knife than many of their models, though. That's more of a complaint with the company than this knife in particular.

    The Handle:

    I'll go ahead and let a spoiler out. The handle is excellent. The slabs are made from a natural canvas micarta that has a bead blasted or roughly finished texture. This is probably my favorite handle material, as it provides a much better grip than polished scales. The scales are nicely shaped and the corners have all been sanded to remove abrupt edges. The red liners (a toned-down brick red) are a really nice touch, and I like the extra thought that they represent. The girth of the handle is spot-on. When designing smaller blades, many manufacturers make the mistake of scaling down all proportions. In other words, they give a shorter knife a skinnier handle. This one does it right, though, and features full, hand-filling scales.

    The double tubes/lanyard holes in the front of the handle are rather pointless, in my opinion. However, they don't bother me either. There is one annoying feature of the scales, though. The fasteners are quite ugly. The choice of phillips, bugle-head screws with a gold finish is something that puzzles me about several TOPS models. Apparently, the reason for the choice in that all other fasteners they tested were prone to rust. I guess that's an understandable priority, but I feel like there had to be another option for fasteners that don't look like they were stolen from drawer pulls on kitchen cabinets.

    The addition of a bow drill divot is nice. As a friction fire nut, I appreciate the option. It doesn't detract anything. From my experience with bow drill divots in micarta, this will start to turn black after some use. It doesn't bother me, but if you like your knives to look pristine, then you should probably use something else as a bearing block.

    The Sheath:
    The Tanimboca puukko features a deep-carry pouch sheath that is very secure. It is made of thick, durable leather with a generous belt loop. As far as production knives go, this is one of the very best factory sheathes I have ever seen, especially for a $100 knife. Many (if not most) knives in this price range come with sheathes that are an afterthought. Not so in this case. My one tiny complaint is the embossed logo. I wish TOPS would stop worrying about branding everything, but this sheath is so good that I'm more than willing to overlook that.

    Conclusions:
    In summary, TOPS and Goran have together designed an excellent little knife. It is very utilitarian, which I appreciate. There aren't any frills. It was made to be a useful tool, and it does just that. The excellent handle and sheath make up for the cheaper (yet functional) steel choice. There are a couple goofy little things that TOPS does that I could do without, but they aren't a deal breaker by any means. The fit and finish on the knife is pretty great for the price point. There is one little cosmetic blemish on the blade that is only visible if the light hits it just right, but it doesn't bother me. This thing is a user. It's meant for cutting things and getting dirty. I plan to let it achieve that destiny.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
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  2. FIELDCRAFTLTC

    FIELDCRAFTLTC Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Great initial review, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed initial report.
     
  3. central joe

    central joe Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thank you for the post young fellar. joe
     
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  4. nograveconcern

    nograveconcern Guide Bushclass I

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    Looks nice and I like that it's thin with a high grind. Should be easy to turn it into a really nice convex.

    I'm wondering about those 2 tubes though. Does the handle come off? Why would they put 2 at the front and none at the back? Strange.
     
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  5. Youcantreadinthedark

    Youcantreadinthedark Amphibian. Supporter Bushclass I

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    The blade shape looks great; can you use the bow drill divot while the knife is in the sheath?
     
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  6. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I agree. It's puzzling. I haven't tried taking the handle off, so I'm not sure about that.

    Nope. It rides too deeply.
     
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  7. Prairiewolf

    Prairiewolf Supporter Supporter

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    I was kind of impressed when I saw this one for sale. However, I already have the "Scandi Trekker" from TOPS that is almost the same size blade and maybe a bit handier with the more trimmed down handle, so I think I'll pass on this one .
     
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  8. aaronu

    aaronu Armchair Bushcrafter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Really good write-up, sir. I'm looking forward to hearing how this does in the real world.

    I totally get your point about all the branding. I hate going around (in the woods or around town) feeling like a walking billboard. A simple maker's mark is more than enough. If the product is really that good, people will recognize it or ask about it.

    OTOH the sheath branding doesn't bother me. I'm left handed and would get another sheath anyway. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
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  9. FIELDCRAFTLTC

    FIELDCRAFTLTC Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Perhaps the two tubes near the hilt are designed for lashing points to make a make-shift spear?
     
  10. nograveconcern

    nograveconcern Guide Bushclass I

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    That's what I would assume, but why no lashing point at the butt?
     
  11. FIELDCRAFTLTC

    FIELDCRAFTLTC Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Good question, and one I too have pondered. Another question of the universe that may never be answered...!
     
  12. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic Supporter

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    Very nice thorough write up! I look forward to part 2: tanimboca in use!
     
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  13. VtBlackDog

    VtBlackDog Supporter Supporter

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    Do you sharpen. that grind by just stropping?
     
  14. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Yes. I keep all my knives sharp by stropping and occasionally honing on a ceramic rod.
     
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  15. charlesmc2

    charlesmc2 Scout

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    Interesting comment on steels. I am retired and live in a rural area. I use my knives 95% of the time for work purposes. Meaning there is risk of blade contacting unfriendly materials. I hate to mess up my 3V, S30V and so on blades. So guess who gets used. Yep, Mr 1095, etc carbon steel blades. Stilllike the others but that's how it works out.
     
  16. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I understand that sentiment. I used to baby my nicer knives, but decided that I'm not going to buy nice tools and then refrain from using them (for any reason, but especially for fear of messing them up). Clearly I am still content with 1095, but after using S30V and 3V I am a bit spoiled.
     
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  17. Schmittie

    Schmittie Scout

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    Thanks for this review. I’m surprised this knife hasn’t gotten more attention. I’m certainly interested. But I’d really like to know how it would hold up if that secondary bevel was ground off or blended in.....
     
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  18. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    More?
     
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  19. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I have used it a bit more, but not quite enough to give a good update. More to come in the future.
     
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  20. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Thank you.
     
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  21. Nakadnu

    Nakadnu OBSERVER Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I just sent an email to TOPs asking about the 2 lanyard holes and their placement. I will share their response when I receive one.
    The only thing I can think of, besides the spear idea as mentioned, is to wrap some cord through those holes for a makeshift guard.
     
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  22. Ascham

    Ascham Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Great review, I really like that knife and may have to find the funds to get it.
     
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  23. Nakadnu

    Nakadnu OBSERVER Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    TOPs reply in less than 24 hours. Impressive!

    Dear Mr.

    Thanks so much for your interest in TOPS Knives Tanimboca Puukko and for taking the time to send us your question. The holes are for weight reduction/balance and to secure the front part of the scales to the blade.

    Many thanks,
     
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  24. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    So hollow rivets.
     
  25. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    So I got one. Review seems spot on.

    If I wanted to use the scales as a bearing block, I would need to have the knife loose in the sheath or entirely out of it. Sharp knife.

    Main bevel is high for a Swedish or Norwegian knife, but not so high for a puukko, which TOPS calls this knife.

    Works good on wood for me. All business. No technical crap. Good grip on comfortable handle.

    Almost a puukko, as Finns think of their national knife. Close enough functionally.

    Seems like a deal.
     
  26. Nakadnu

    Nakadnu OBSERVER Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    This will most likely be my next knife purchase.
     
  27. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Just noticed that the screws are brass, the blade being low alloy steel.

    See: Galvanic or bimetallic corrosion.

    The Brits put copper plating on the bottoms of their warships way back when to keep marine worms from eating out the wood and weed from growing into the wood. In a surprisingly short time, galvanic corrosion turned the iron bolts holding the copper to paste. The cause was galvanic or "bimetallic" corrosion. Bolts of an alloy of copper had to be used.

    Unless there is a coating between the blade and the screws, the steel of the blade will act as an anode and dissolve in contact with the brass screws in the presence of salt water (sweat). "Galvanic Corrosion Couple between Steel and Brass The difference in corrosion potential between brass and steel is quite important. This difference can be estimated by a cursory examination of the galvanic series for these metals when exposed to humid environments."

    Maybe there is a coating.

    Plus, at least some of the knives made by hand by the designer, Goran, do NOT appear to have brass screws. They look like polished steel. Nothing like brass. And they really are used in the jungle. http://bushcraftglobal.com/tanimbocaknives/handmade-knives/
     
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  28. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Ok, I've used this knife on a couple more outings now, and I must say that it is an excellent little performer. My comments about handle comfort still hold true after a lot more use. Also, the grind is sufficiently thin for any work I need to do. It carves quite well, but also does food prep with ease. The spine is excellently squared and doesn't show any signs of rolling after a good bit of use. I've tried a few different smaller bushcraft knives in the 3.5'' blade range, and most of them felt too small in hand to be a main belt knife. This one is an exception. I quite like it and do not feel under equipped going into the woods with this as my only knife.

    IMG_3503.jpg

    IMG_4255.jpg

    IMG_3508.jpg

    IMG_4232.jpg
     
  29. CuriousLearner

    CuriousLearner Nemophilist Supporter

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    Thanks for this review. I wanted a PUUKKO for fishing that wouldn't intimidate others around me. This one looks sharp and non-threatening. I think this may be my next purchase as well. If I get it I'll let ya know.
     
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  30. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Most true puukot, not being black and being shortish in the blade (width of the palm traditionally) are more people friendly than the surplus Camillus MKII I started out with as my first sheath knife. That one got some big eyes. :53: I have had folks come up and tell me my puukko of the day looked like a "paring knife." Whatever rocks their boat.
     
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  31. Nic7364

    Nic7364 Tracker

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    Hello I am trying to decide between a kellam wolverine and this knife, how hard would it be to get rid of the secondary bevel? do you have any experience with the kellam? what would you pick? I am planning to pair it with a GB SFA and would use it for wood work and other bushcraft tasks. Sorry for the barrage of questions but I am having a difficult time choosing.
    Thanks,
    Nic
     
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  32. mtnoutdoors

    mtnoutdoors Prov 27:17 Supporter

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    Beautiful knife. Prov 27 : 17
     
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  33. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    The secondary bevel is there for a reason - to make the edge less prone to damage when used in the outdoors instead of a woodworking shop. That is why it is the rule, not the exception. For one thing, free-hand sharpening, what we had for thousands of years, tends to produce a convex secondary bevel.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018

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