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History of the KE Bushie

by Kevin Estela March 09, 2018

History of the KE Bushie

There’s no secret, I love the KE Bushie. I should, it bears my initials and back in the mid to late 2000’s, Andy Roy made me the prototype of the knife that would eventually become one of his best sellers. The KE Bushie was originally designed for performance and Andy Roy was able to make it both functional and attractive for Fiddleback Forge collectors and users. The KE Bushie is not the first knife to share a name with a designer. Plenty of knives came before it and there seems to be a new knife “designed” daily. When I had the opportunity to submit a design to Andy for his consideration, I wanted it to be right. KE Bushie sales and the continued interest in the pattern are proof it is. Rather than exploiting what people think looks cool, I fell back on the design attributes of proven knives I used in my outdoors experience. The history of the KE Bushie is the culmination of the history of knives I carried over a decade of professional outdoors instruction and it was made with a  vision of what I felt a working knife should be.

 

How It Came To Be

Sometime in my mid teens, I started professionally teaching and guiding canoeing and kayaking with Mainstream Canoe in New Hartford, CT. I worked at this summer job until I was 26 and during that time, I carried many smaller belt knives while canoe camping. The most common was the Falkniven F1. Eventually, I picked up another summer position at the Wilderness Learning Center in Chateaugay, NY as a Journeyman Survival Instructor and eventually Lead Survival Instructor under Marty Simon. I worked there from 2007 until 2012 and carried the Bark River Knives Fox River that was the official school knife and sometimes I carried the Gossman Tusker Companion or Polaris. One other knife I drew inspiration from was my Steven Wade Cox Woodlore of Ray Mears fame.  I looked at all the characteristics of the knives I carried and wrote out a spreadsheet tracking their handle lengths, blade lengths, thicknesses, steels and so on. From this data, I determined average measurements. I determined most were of a given size and shape and this explains the 3.9” blade length. The process of averaging out what worked made sense to me. There was no need to reinvent the wheel or work outside of the successful knife designs of the past.  I took pen to paper within these parameters and drew up a basic sketch. This was eventually sent to Andy and what he came back with was pure beauty. It can be seen in this blog post with the white paper micarta handle. Andy sent me that Scandinavian grind prototype as well as a full-convex version. Years later, the KE Bushie is still one of Fiddleback Forge’s best sellers. 

 

What It’s Not

The KE Bushie is not a sharpened piece of steel resembling a crowbar and it is not a gimmick. There are no distinct features meant to attract attention like saw teeth, unnecessary holes drilled in the blade, or bizzare edge geometry. It is boring in how well it works and it doesn’t have any controversial design attributes. Far too often, knives are designed for the purpose of selling or they are made as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The KE Bushie is not a blade sold as something revolutionary but rather something that draws inspiration from many other successful patterns. 

The KE Bushie is not a fighting knife although with a little skill, it easily could be pressed into this role. It does share some similarities in blade shape with the knives I carry as a Filipino martial artist but when I came up with the design of the KE Bushie, I wasn’t aware the way I am now of what makes a knife ideal for combatives and self-defense. The Scandi grind KE Bushie is my preferred wood-working knife and the full-convex version is my general purpose belt knife for working with multiple mediums.

 

Why it is popular

As with all of Andy Roy’s knives, the minute you handle one, you realize the handle was given particular attention to make it comfortable in the hand. The blade length is ideal for a knife that is carried daily and not left behind. It won’t weigh you down like a large, thick-tang, fixed-blade knife and it cuts extremely well. The design has really caught on with the bushcraft community as a functional work of art. It is a knife people have commented about being able to use during a full day’s worth of carving and whittling with little hand fatigue. It’s also really comfortable in many different grip positions.  It is a knife collectors have mentioned they appreciate for all the wild and beautiful handle combinations the Fiddleback crew comes up with. 

The popularity of the KE Bushie has extended to an international level with knife sales to many foreign countries. I enjoy reading the reviews that come in from different knife forums and online sites. Even when there is a language barrier, so much can be learned from the photos taken and the satisfaction worn on each user’s face. I don’t need to know their language to know what they’re feeling. It blows my mind to think how a simple design made years ago has reached so many. I attribute it to pure performance and no fluff.

Now, the KE Bushie has an available optional sheath designed by Diomedes Industries with my input and feedback and it has an embossed Burning Star logo of Estela Wilderness Education. That is how I carry my KE Bushies into the field and I think Jason really made this sheath the finest on the market for this knife. I don’t put my name or logo on anything I don’t support and trust unconditionally and this sheath is no exception. 

 

Another design??

A common question I receive is, “Do you think you’ll design another Fiddleback Forge knife?” My response is always the same, “If Andy will let me.” A more complicated question is, “what design will compliment the KE Bushie best.” I never carry a single blade in the field and I always have neck knife or companion blade with me. I also carry a larger chopping knife for heavier-duty work. I could follow the same process of collecting design data from previous knives carried and submit a sketch of what would work best for me. Then again, if you have ever had the pleasure to handle a large cross section of Andy’s knives at BLADE show or in a private collection, you know there are many that already fit this companion role. Personally, I think the Hiking Buddy may be the best neck knife in his line and his spear-point machete is one of the best I’ve ever used in green vegetation and jungle environments. Until I’m offered a chance to give my input on another design, you have plenty of options to choose from.

What I’d like to know is what you would like to see me. I’d also like to see more of those KE Bushies out in the field. Let me know in the comments on this article and post your pictures to social media outlets with the hashtag #KEBushie. Thanks for all the great feedback over the years and please know it is an honor to be a part of this Fiddleback family. 




Kevin Estela
Kevin Estela

Author

Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor at Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin is a frequent contributing writer for publications such as RECOIL, Athlon Outdoors, and Beckett Media. He is a Sayoc Kali Associate Instructor Level 5, as well as a BJJ Purple Belt.



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