Hunting trip into the forest often ends up with nothing more than admiring the nature and contemplating beautiful views. Sometimes however the hunter is granted good fortune by St.Hubert making him able to shoot some prey. In most cases hunted and then gutted animal goes to collection centre (aquired game is owned by the administrator or a tennant of a hunting circuit ), but sometimes the huntsman would like to have a taste of what he has killed. In order to do that he needs to buy out the carcass, but what happens next?
First stage of processing the gutted animal is skinning- now we have gotten to the point of interest- how do you actually do it?
Now, obviously you can skin an animal with a piece of glass from a broken bottle, but here’s the rub, do we have to make our life harder? Of course much easier, more comfortable and faster way to do it is with a knife dedicated to such activity.
So here lies the question, what are the minimal requirements that such knife should fulfill?
Not too long- skinning should be done with very arched blade, on a small section, therefore in our (Polish) conditions 8cm. Long will be sufficient, but the length of the blade should be adjusted according to personal preferences and anatomy of the hand. One person will favor 3 cm of the blade, another will be uncomfortable skinning with a blade shorter than 8cm. With a longer edge, part of the blade would not be used, only increasing the weight of the blade itself. It is crucial because skinning is done for a longer period of time working mostly with your wrist using up and down motions. Therefore the shorter the edge the more control we have over the whole blade (for example try to write a letter holding the pencil 2cm from the tip and then try the same letter (the same sizes) but holding the pencil 15cm away from the tip , then you’ll know what I’m talking about). Another matter is thickness of the blade, when skinning there aren’t many overloads, so there is no need to use the steel thicker than 3mm (again we are talking about the weight of the blade itself ). The cut as high as possible - although the profile doesn’t have to be exactly as razor, but would be beneficial to be as close as possible. Skinning is a precise process and the most important parts are the ability to cut and how easy and quick you can sharpen the knife in the process. Obviously you cannot overdo it with the thickness of the blade, because sometimes while skinning we will encounter harder materials such as bones or cartilages and we don’t want the blade to be damaged during the process.
Type of steel- whilst skinning blade is working non-stop in higher humidity, so of course the steel should be stainless. Meanwhile the process of skinning is long enough and it would be worth to have a knife that doesn’t require sharpening. Unfortunately having the knife that is stainless and sharp simultaneously is almost impossible, unless we use powder steel, that results in very high price for a knife.
That’s why it’s worth to consider:
-it’s not worth investing in very expensive knife made with stainless powder steel – it’s better to consider much cheaper stainless steel, but with a long holding sharp edge- it’s not a problem to properly clean and oil the blade 2-3 times a year, good compromise here is steel D2,
2.If you plan to skin much more often
-if you don’t have time, you don’t like or your just too lazy to take care of the knife you should definitely consider investing in stainless powder steel blade tempered with a minimum 61HRC, the most popular steel types being M390, M398.
Tip of the blade- generally while skinning sharp tip is not that relevant but it’s worth having just for the convenience - sometimes you will need to go deeper into the crevices of the skin and if you are using knife equipped with a sharp tip there is no need to use another one.
The most important part that you need to consider is the line of both handle and the blade. The tip should be considerably elevated in comparison to the line of the handle looking from the side. The point here is to avoid bending the wrist, the hand should be working in the most comfortable, natural position. Moreover the handle should be covered with a material that even when its slathered with blood it won’t slip- this condition is usually fulfilled by most of the materials used to made handle such as wood, micarta, antlers. Additional contributing factor is that thin layer of blood dried down very quickly giving additional, porous layer that prevents the knife from slipping in your hand.
Concerning bolster, it isn’t quite necessary- whilst skinning most of the job is done by up and down wrist movement with a slight pull towards our torso. There are no strains during poking with a tip, that would require bolster blockade, however the head of the handle should be well fitted to provide secure grip while pulling blade towards you.
When choosing the right knife we should consider various factors. First of all how often are we going to skin (not only game). If you plan to do it occasionally (once in a year or once in a few years) you shouldn’t bother to spend a lot of money on a specified skinning knife. You can do it then even with a gutting knife. It will definitely last longer, be more tiresome, but it will be done once in a blue moon anyways. However if you are planning to do it more often that that then without a doubt you should invest in a good skinning knife- otherwise the process will always be very exhausting.
Same rule applies to the type of steel. If you plan to skin less often or you like to take care of the knife choose steel that isn’t stainless, but hard ( minimum of 61 HRC ). It’s true that after very skinning you have to thoroughly clean the knife, but it will repay you with long cutting time without sharpening.
It’s hard to judge if the handle that you buy via website will lie comfortably in your hand, however if you compare it to any knife that you have in your household that fits well in your palm then you have a high chance that a similar knife will fit just as well.
These informations are just overall guidelines that everyone should confront with your own predispositions and predilections and use to choose a knife that is best suited for your needs.
You can find professional skinning knives, refined in every detail.
Author: Mieszko Godlewski GARUCHI KNIVES