I’ll be honest – I’m a little burned out on folding knives. But as I gain experience in the world of bushcraft, I’ve discovered a new passion for fixed blades. Steel Will decided to feed this flame, sending a complimentary Druid 205 model for testing and review. Here’s how it held up after several weekends of hiking, camping, and unwarranted abuse.
Dimensions! Everyone loves reading dimensions. But rather than my usual poetics, I’m gonna try listing them bullet-style below:
- Overall Length: 8.66”
- Blade Length: 3.94”
- Knife Weight: 4.94 oz
- Blade Width: 0.14”
Wow, much easier. As you can see, this is a medium-sized companion blade, on par with the standard offerings from Mora. The handle is composed of Steel Will’s Thermoplastic Elastomer (or TPE, as the cool kids say). Blade steel is a Chinese blend known as 9Cr18MoV, with a satin finish over its high flatgrind.
Aesthetically speaking, the Druid 205 is certainly a looker. I love the swedge at the fore of its drop point blade, and the apex-swell in its handle. The pommel curves nicely against my pinky finger, with the tip of the tang protruding ever so slightly from the aft. There’s also a lanyard tube for folks who are into that. Branding on both the steel and sheath is tasteful, too.
Speaking of the sheath, this is a good one. Steel Will’s leather is thick and well-stitched, providing excellent blade retention. I was initially skeptical due to the knife’s tight fit, but the natural materials have worn in nicely. I can now draw the Druid with a single hand, where initially I’d been forced to use two. The whole affair is secured to the belt via a riveted dangler which (as we’ll discuss below) may just be the best in my collection.
Two complaints keep this from getting a perfect score. First, the handle pattern bites my palm just a bit under heavy grippage. It’s worn down after continual use, but it’s a small nuisance out of the box. Then there’s the lack of purchase at the top of the blade spine. I’ll go into this a bit more below, but some jimping would provide a welcome bit of control for finer tasks. Overall, this is still an excellent ergonomic package.
4.5 stars out of 5
Before delving into the performance angle, I feel I should include a disclaimer. Really, guys – I did things to this knife that you simply shouldn’t do. But whether it was throwing it at a tree for “balance testing” or hammering it through a much-too-big log for “bushcraft,” the Druid 205 showed that it’s worthy of the name “Steel Will.” But don’t do these things to your companion knives, guys. That’s what hatchets are for.
Take the video below, for instance, showing me hammering through a log three times too big for the blade.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, lets get into specifics. This is perhaps the most pleasant knife I’ve carried in my outdoor travels. Not the best, mind you, nor the toughest. But it’s certainly become a favorite over its weeks of testing. The leather sheath provides the best ride of any blade in my collection, dangling effortlessly from the belt. Even the Mora Companions feature a slightly stiffer feel due to the rigid plastic of their sheaths. But this – Oh, it hangs perfectly. Uphill, downhill, or cross country, it’s a pleasure to have at my side.
The grip, as discussed above, is mostly good. It doesn’t lock into my palm in the same manner as the similarly-priced Gerber StrongArm, but the TPE handle provides plenty of security for medium duty tasks. The blade’s high flat grind helps it during food prep, though the stock is a bit thick for truly delicate slicing. This geometry is also fairly well suited for carving and fire-prep though, again, not as much so as a $15 Morakniv. The blade spine does feature an edge sharp enough to spark a ferro rod, however, something a stock Companion doesn’t do.
Let’s talk steel. This is my first experience with 9Cr18MoV, and I’m more impressed than I thought I’d be. It held a nice edge throughout testing, getting by with an occasion field strop. This is a very easy-to-maintain blade, perhaps even more so than the Gerber StrongArm.
Limitations? Hmmm, let’s see – It can baton, but I’d recommend you stick to kindling and very small logs. If a piece of wood is large enough to hit with a hatchet, use that instead. It also came sharp-ish from the factory, but not as hair-popping as the Cutjack Steel Will sent a few months back. As such, it performed only okay as a featherstick maker. Things got much better once I put a nicer edge on it. I’m also left wishing for some jimping on the blade spine, but perhaps it was left off to preserve the interior of the leather sheath.
After all the jackassery inflicted upon it, the Druid walked away with a few tiny chips in the blade and a barely-noticeable wobble in its handle. The cutting edge was corrected with a session on the Sharpmaker, and the movement between the grip and blade tang isn’t enough to cause concern. Would I be disappointed if this was a $100 knife? Yeah, but the Druid 205 costs $50. These flaws are my fault, not the knife’s.
4 stars out of 5
The Druid comes with a 30-day refund offer for folks who made their purchase through Steel Will’s website. After this, initial owners in the US receive lifetime coverage against manufacturer defects. But according to the company’s warranty page, abuse of the knife will void all protections.
Because, really, Steel Will knows what jerks like me do to their knives. As they say, “Most damage occurs when Steel Will knives are used for unsuitable tasks like prying, pounding, chiseling, and hammering.” Wow. It’s like they were watching me from the hills.
“We can send you screws,” they continue, “Pocketclips, torsion bars, safety lock sets, the pivot bolt and screws, and handle screws. We cannot send blades, handle scales, liners, etc. If you need a blade, more than one part, or parts other than those we can ship, please send your knife in for warranty service.”
Honestly, this is about the amount of coverage I’d expect from a $50 Chinese knife. It’ll take care of any fault on the manufacturer’s end, while leaving you to ponder how best to use the tool.
4.5 stars out of 5
Whatever else it may be, the Druid 205 is an incredible value. Its handle is good, the sheath is outstanding, and its carryability is second to none. Yes, Steel Will sent this to me free of charge. But I can honestly say it’s worth the price of admission.
If you’re looking to spend $50 on a companion knife (not a bushcraft knife), I’d be hard pressed to choose between this and the Gerber StrongArm. It really comes down to your use case. Are you planning to abuse the blade with batoning and other heavy tasks? Get the Gerber. But if your duty roster consists of food prep, material slicing, and occasional firecraft, I’d recommend the the Druid all day every day.
5 stars out of 5
This is a knife that took me a while to understand. Coming off a camping trip with the StrongArm, I wasn’t sure why I’d choose a more refined blade like the 205. But after several hikes and an overnight trip with the Druid, I get it now. While the Gerber features a more military/survival aesthetic, the modern feel and elegance of the Steel Will gives it a charm all its own. From the leather sheath to the graceful blade, this has become one of my favorite day-hike companions. And unlike the in-your-face StrongArm, the Druid will be far more welcome should you choose to venture into a touristy mountain town.
Alright, Steel Will, you’ve got me. If anyone needs me, I’ll be checking into some of their larger fixed blades.
Where to Buy
KnifeCenter (Rated 5 out of 5 over four customer reviews as of 9/25/17)
Amazon (Rated 4.1 out of 5 over four customer reviews as of 9/25/17)