LT Wright Gary Wines Bushcrafter review by Padraig Croke
I have had the pleasure writing reviews for Knivesandtools for over two years now. In that time I have experimented with large survival knives like the Becker BK2 and the ESEE 6. I’ve looked at high-end blades such as the Fällkniven S1X and the Bark River Bushcrafter, and I’ve also used more specialized knives like the Lionsteel BestMan and the ESEE JG5. Some of them I have liked, some I have loved… others I didn’t gel with so well.
After giving all of these knives dirt time and writing for this website for so long, one would wonder how to keep up with creating original ideas and interesting articles for you the reader, without starting to sound like a broken record! The truth is, I believe the tool writes the article; each one as unique in its quirks and character as the next. Steel choices, shapes, hardness, materials and profiles give a blade its character, and my job has simply been to bring to light, in my own words, what my feelings are when interacting with these tools. With such variety and choice out there, I believe there is a perfect knife for everyone. I believe I have found such a knife for my own needs. The LT Wright Gary Wines Bushcrafter is simply my most favourite knives I have ever owned.
I assure you, I was hesitant to write those words, particularly after having given so many other knives praises through these articles, and of course I still stand by all of these! But I have finally found a knife I am completely comfortable with from the get-go. The simplicity of the blades profile, the choice of steel and the shape of the handle in my hand, are exactly what I have been looking for, and I didn’t even realise it!
This year has found me on some interesting adventures already. I have had the pleasure of being able to spend a couple of months in the Swedish Arctic to work with some people up there involved in adventure tourism. So it only felt fitting to bring the Gary Wines with me to really put it to the test. With conditions sometimes getting into the -40C territory, a sturdy blade is needed. When I was heading up, I imagined what types of knives would traditionally be used at this latitude, upwards of 66 degrees into the arctic circle. The people living in these regions, across Scandinavia, America and Russia, have always needed reliable tools that will not let them down. But before I get into sharing my experience, let's have a look at the company behind this knife, and the origins of its creation.
Based in Winterville, Ohio, the company that is LT Wright, like most, started from humble beginnings. LTs first knife, a kit knife, which he made for his father in 2003 for Christmas, earned him some notoriety amongst his dad’s friends. This led to more orders, and before long LT came under the tutelage of RW Wilson, a legendary knife maker in his own right, having spent the last 40 years honing his craft smithing custom tomahawks and knives. Fast forward to today, and many beautiful knives later, LT and his team of around six other craftsmen create knives that retain a standard of the utmost quality. Every blade is made by hand, from the heating to the grinder, and every blade is scrutinised before it is deemed suitable for sale. A history about the company on their website reveals a little more of this philosophy and their dedication to excellent craftsmanship.
Over the years, L.T. has put together a talented team of knife makers. L.T. oversees their work and takes pride in training each new team member. He enjoys assisting them as they progress in their knife making abilities. Their talent and dedication is integral to the success of the business. They take pride not only in their job, but also the end product. L.T.’s goal is for his crew to become better knife makers than he is. This is not just a job, it is a lifestyle.
LT knives are simply some of the finest blades on the market today, and their dedication to the craft is evident in the knife I now hold in my hand, The Gary Wines Bushcrafter.
Who is Gary Wines?
Gary Wines, based out of Sheffield in the UK, is renowned for his quality blades. Wines’ accolades are extremely impressive, having served in the 21 Special Air Service regiment at Duke of York’s Chelsea HQ Squadron as an armourer, and later in the private security industry, Wines also ranked as a colonel with the Saudi Arabian military royal protection unit. It’s not surprising then, that he has a personal relationship with some of the most specialized military divisions in the world. Combined with years of researching the tools used throughout military history, and his own relationship with the armed forces, he eventually started producing tools for military personnel himself. Wines’ first production was a knife specially designed for escape and evasion missions. The success of this knife led him to go on to produce a number of specialty knives for the military.
One should feel quite comfortable using a knife crafted by a man with this level of expertise and experience, and it’s abundantly evident in the LT Wright collaboration Bushcraft blade. It’s worth noting that Wines’ himself does have a Bushcraft model, which is somewhat similar to the newer model I have here, with some notable differences. The scales are rounded at the top, instead of the squared off version in LT Wrights, and the handle choices are Rosewood or Antler. As well as this, the cutting edge begins slightly further up the blade from the handle. However, the specs are almost identical besides these minor differences. I have not used one of his blades however, so I would not hazard to guess how they perform differently. How Wines ultimately ended up teaming with LT Wright seems to be for the purpose of bringing his knife models to the United States markets and allowing for this beautiful knife to be produced and distributed more widely for us all to enjoy.
This knife is hand crafted to an 11 degree zero grind scandi edge, followed by a hard buff, in order to help with durability and to protect against rolling edges. There is a micro bevel which will aid in protecting the blade from chipping. This micro bevel is pretty much standard practice on modern bushcraft tools today, and it was something I really wanted to test when I headed to the arctic to really give this knife a run for its money, but we will get to that. At 59 HRC this O1 steel is hitting pretty much the optimal hardness, while still being easy to maintain. I have found O1 steel is one of my favourite steels when it comes to general purpose knives. Despite its propensity to rust if not taken care of due to the high carbon content, O1 is just so nice for traditional bushcraft blades. It will quickly take on a beautiful patina that will make your blade look like it gets some proper action. When I made the progression from my first Morakniv Companion knife to a handmade blade, it was made from O1 steel, and it’s all I had to work with for years. Perhaps this is why I love it, and I know how to work it and maintain its edge easily. They say a knife is not truly yours until you’ve had to sharpen it, and the Gary Wines will sharpen up beautifully for you with minimal effort.
The spine of the LT is scary! A seriously impressive 90 degree edge has been ground into the blade and will always produce perfect sparks with a ferro rod. But it’s also brilliant for scraping fatwood and bark material for getting your fire lit. Using the spine is always preferable to dulling your working edge if at all possible, and this spine is probably one of the nicest I’ve used. The only spine I can think of that’s perhaps even sharper is the Morakniv Garberg.
Apart from all the technical specs, which of course we all like to pour over, this knife also just looks beautiful. With an almost French trade profile, it works and glides in the hand with such effort, that it quickly becomes an extension of your hand, intuitively obeying your commands. There are no frills, and no surprises. In all positions, just like the handles, the blade will do what you want it to do. The tip is thin enough to get into small corners when performing intricate tasks, and the belly is such that slicing is a joy. I really cannot emphasize enough how comfortable this tool is. A real all-rounder.
The scales of this knife are made from micarta and use marine grade epoxy resin. Micarta has the advantage of being able to perform well whether wet or dry, and will remain grippy and secure in the hand. Originally I had wanted to try the matte green version of this knife. But due to the phenomenal demand for these blades on the Knivesandtools website, I went with the python scales. I must say I am glad it worked out as such, because the colour and texture, aesthetically speaking, is absolutely beautiful. Together with the brass and steel bolts, the combination makes for a stunning blade. I even went so far as to find a snake lanyard bead to complete the snake theme! I am in love with this knife.
The shape of the scales here is deceptively simple, and there are a few details worth mentioning, which you will notice when you hold it. The first thing I noticed was the complete lack of any hot spots or angles. Much like a carving knife, the symmetry here means that no matter what kind of grip you are employing, it is always suitable for the task, and will find a nook in your hand to sit perfectly. The handle for me personally is of a perfect thickness. One of the most comfortable I’ve held in fact, even while wearing my heavy outdoor gloves. As well as this, the lack of a pommel at the butt end allows for really comfortable chest lever cuts. Nothing digs into your chest, and the knife rolls with you. There is a slight swell in thickness towards the back, which will aid in chopping motion power. However the blade is probably too short for an action like this to be truly effective. I would not expect a bushcraft blade to be an effective chopper anyway. Leave that to the survival blades! All in all, the overall balance and ergonomics applied to this blade mean you can use it for long periods of time, with repeatable actions, without any fatigue or soreness in the hand. Feathersticks, pushcuts, full grip downward actions, chest levers and pull strokes… all easy and comfortable. Although the last of these may be a little painful if you’re not used to it, due to the impressive 90 degree spine.
The sheath has been made by JRE Industries. Using a different company, rather than making these in-house, leaves the details to be sweated out so it performs just as nicely as the blade does. Made from 8oz. vegetable tanned leather, the double stitch lines, and eyelet details instil in me a confidence that this sheath is made with care and attention. The incorporation of a fire steel loop is a nice detail, and I use it to carry an old 9.5 cm yew topped ferro rod I’ve been keeping for years. The LT Wright seemed like the right knife to carry it with, so now it has been incorporated into the set for me. There are additional eyelets on the bottom, for you to get creative and add whatever else you might want to carry. There are two carry options also, due to the fact that this sheath comes with a dangler included. This is necessary for accessing your knife when wearing longer jackets in cold conditions.
With all that being said, and after a month or so of using this knife around the canoe centre where I work, I wanted to bring it with me to the Arctic and really let it come into its own. I had already used it enough to know it fit me well, and so I confidently brought only this blade to accompany me for the two months. The only other tools I brought with me were a small forest axe, a Silky, a Spyderco Double Stuff pocket sharpener, and some Tormek paste for stropping. There is something liberating about keeping such a small set of tools with me, having been used to that old tyranny of choice on trips as to which blade to bring. Now I had no choice but to work with the LT.
The company I am currently working with up here is a tourism company who run a tentipi camp next to the frozen lake of Gunnarsbyträsket. A typical day here can include snow shoes, snowmobiling across the frozen lands, hiking, swimming in ice pools, cooking on the fire and chilling out in the large tipi tents. The daily tasks required of me are as varied and random as you could imagine, and the LT is always with me. I’ve had to chip away ice on frozen chains with it. I’ve sliced open countless bags of firewood, not to mention batonning down the frozen logs to smaller parts to light the fire. Feathersticks are made, birch bark is scraped, meat and vegetables are cut up… basically any and all camp activities. I’m ashamed to say I have even had to use the knife as a screwdriver… but let’s not talk about that.
It is so cold up here that your blade will become frosty and sticky within a few minutes. Steel surfaces are not your friend in these conditions. Wood is also frozen solid, as all the moisture is turned to ice. These factors make things a little tricker than I would normally be used to. For example, it is difficult to perform any tasks with the knife that involve choking up or holding the steel of the blade, because my gloved hands will simply stick to the blade! Also the added strain put on the knife from somewhat harder materials, such as frozen wood, can mean your edge is going to dull faster than normal. Thankfully I have my double stuff stone with me whenever a quick top up is needed. Gloves are always required up here, as your fingertips will freeze after just a few mins of working without them on, reducing your dexterity to almost zero. So it is important for me that this knife is comfortable to use with thicker gloves. I actually wear 3 layers of hand protection up here. A thin merino liner is worn under a thick wool glove, followed by a tough leather one over that. When on the snowmobile, driving at just 30km/h in -25C will bring the wind chill down to a whopping -48C! A surefire way to get frostbite. And so sometimes mittens have to be worn also. This all makes for a very clumsy hand. With the LT, the handle is chunky enough to still work well, although I do sometimes have to remove a layer of protection to safely use it.
Another factor to consider is knife accessibility! The cold weather means that you’re wearing many layers of clothing that reduce your mobility and flexibility when working and walking. The dangler that is included on the LT sheath helped here, due to the fact that it enabled my knife to sit lower down my leg when secured to my belt. My parka is quite long and the ability to access my knife was important. This may seem obvious to many, but it is worth noting here I think. Easily reaching for your knife without fumbling, and more importantly, being able to put it back again safely when not in use, are important factors to consider when you are choosing a carry method for your blade.
With all that being said, what I was looking for in this blade, in the true sense of a Bushcraft blade, was an all-rounder for camp tasks. Capable of performing both tough jobs and intricate ones. These tasks dull your blade, and so a good bushcraft knife also has to be easy to maintain in the field. It has to work with gloved hands and still be nimble and ergonomic. As I stated above, I believe this to be one of the finest tools I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. I still have another month up here in Swedish Lapland, and I don’t suppose I’m going to ever regret having this knife with me. If you don’t have one… get one. Hands down!
Padraig Croke is an avid bushcraft and outdoor enthusiast, spoon carver and hiker. He is the co-host of The Trial by Fire Podcast, a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to all things bushcraft and outdoors. He is also an admin at the Living to Learn online community and lead designer of The Bushcraft Journal Magazine.
In the Trial by Fire Podcast, Padraig Croke and Joe Price discuss all things buscraft and outdoor. You can find all episodes on TrialByFire, and all of them are available by searching for 'The Trial by Fire Podcast' on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher. And do follow @thetrialbyfirepodcast on Instagram.
Thanks Padraig for this awesome review!