KA-BAR’s Wrench Knife and other KA-BAR inspired oddities
by Roger Eckstine
My most recent purchase by way of the monthly flyer from A.G. Russell Knives was the Ka-Bar Forged Wrench Knife. Suggested retail price was $56.38 but A.G. Russell saved me about $15.00. Immediately recognizing its appeal I ordered three more Wrench Knives as gifts for my neighbors, all of whom are tradesman, retired but still passionate about working with their hands. The Ka-Bar Forged Wrench Knife looks very much like a 7-inch long adjustable wrench from Craftsman right down to the words “Drop Forged Steel” on the reverse, with the jaws end appearing as if it were hammered and ground to produce a simple drop point blade.
Knives that began life as tools or scrap iron were once quite commonplace. We all remember railroad spike knives and as recently as 2017 Southern Grind was offering machete-like fixed-blade knives fashioned from vintage crosscut saws. Several makers have made their names by repurposing scrap steel with perhaps Logan Pearce being the most famous for turning stainless steel wrenches into true works of art. If the appeal of knives made from reclaimed steel has been waning, the popularity of the concept as represented by the purpose-built Ka-Bar Wrench Knife is still going strong. In a time period wherein the company is experiencing near-record sales, reigned in only by a scarcity and/or increase in the cost of raw materials, the Forged Wrench knife is one of their top sellers.
While the Ka-Bar knife did not begin life as a tool once cast aside, its appearance is as genuine as it is endearing. In comparing the Forged Wrench Knife to the common hand tools it seeks to portray there are some significant differences. Most wrenches and tools such as a lineman’s pliers are much harder, tipping the Rockwell C scale for measuring hardness at 60 or greater. Modern Craftsman wrenches are made from chrome vanadium steel. The Wrench Knife was forged from 425 high carbon steel, rated between 56-58 on the Rockwell scale. Ka-Bar’s “sister” company, Schilling Forge, supplied the forging for the knife. Located in Syracuse, New York, about 170 miles southwest of Ka-Bar’s Olean, New York facility, Schilling Forge primarily produces medical grade supplies such as scissors and forceps, as well as high grade rigger’s equipment. The Wrench Knife is their one product that crosses over to Ka-Bar exclusively.
This article appears in the January 2022 issue of KNIFE Magazine. We are making it free to all by clicking the blue button below.