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Von Gruff Knives

By Nik Maxwell

The knife would have to be the quintessential item in any hunter’s gear list – you simply can’t hit the hills without one. For many hunters, owning just one blade is not enough and you may often find that a hunter has several styles and makes at his disposal.


I’ve used plenty of brands over my hunting career including, Koh-I-Nor (I think that’s how it’s spelt?), Gerber, Victorinox, Buck, SVORD, Mercator and just recently, Von Gruff.


Von Gruff Knives are produced right here in the little southern town of Lawrence by master knife maker Garry Keown. Garry is your typical “back-yard” craftsman and his passion for knife building is evident by the sheer number of quality knives he produces.


Garry offers a wide variety of hand crafted knives; from small blades suitable for caping out a head skin to large bladed meat cleavers, kitchen set chef knives and 7” bowies.


As it happened, he contacted me earlier in the year to see if I would be interested in reviewing one of his knives, which we were, and after some discussion, he sent up the Hunter Skinner model.



Von Gruff’s Hunter Skinner is described as an all-purpose, full tang, drop point knife suitable for basic skinning and boning of your game animals.


The 1084 high carbon steel blade is 4” long and 3.2mm thick. It has a full flat grind and features a subtle drop point, useful when opening up a gut cavity. The steel is not stainless so expect some discolouration to appear as the metal is exposed to both the elements and blood. Gary explained to me that this staining is called a patina which is basically the staining and colouring, or discolouring, of the material.


Von Gruff Knives are produced right here in the little southern town of Lawrence by master knife maker Garry Keown.


The handle on the review model utilises a Jarrah bolster with Rimu handles and is fastened to the blade with four brass pins; two in the bolster and another two in the main handle section. It is very comfortable to hold, and the handle’s contour provides plenty of grip while permitting hand dexterity. Fit and finish are excellent and demonstrate Garry’s expertise and attention to detail.


The blade has Garry’s signature icon drilled into the side, which consists of three small dots in the shape of a triangle, similar to a Trinity symbol.


The sheaths are leather, dyed and hot waxed to protect them from wet weather when you’re hunting or fishing. As far as handles go, Garry has Acacia/Blackwood as standard, with options of Maple, Olivewood, Zebrawood, Walnut, Eucalyptus, Black Locust, (African) Tamboti, Oak, Rimu, Swamp Kauri, Jarrah and Matai.


Garry’s knife sheaths are constructed from thick leather and heavy grade nylon stitching.


There are also a few sets of buffalo horn and giraffe bone with canvas Micarta and paper Micarta. Garry also has 1mm thick inners that can be had under the handles as well. Bolsters can be done in buffalo horn, brass, Jarrah
or stainless.


Apart from hunting knives, Garry also has a range of fishing and fillet knives plus chef and table knives all in 12C27 stainless. The hunting knives can be done in stainless if desired.



My first opportunity to use the knife came about quickly. I used it to process both a chamois buck and a red stag I secured during my West Coast roar trip. From the chamois I took the back steaks, aged them for a couple of days, and then fried them on the MSR WindBurner cooker (see MSR WindBurner Cooking System review - Hayden Sturgeon, Jul/Aug 2018, Issue #167).


Nik’s Hunter Skinner features a jarrah bolster with rimu handles. Dressing out the back steaks from Nik’s West Coast chamois buck.


I have eaten chamois before and, in my opinion, I find the taste a little average! However, as it was midway through the trip and I had already consumed several Back Country Cuisine meals (which I generally enjoy!), it tasted pretty damn good, the splash of Lea & Perrins Worchester sauce did help though!


The Von Gruff Hunter Skinner is great example of good ol’ fashioned kiwi craftsmanship, combining quality materials and time proven design and production techniques.


On the last day of the trip I shot an old red stag and harvested the back steaks and boned out the back legs. The knife’s edge held well and only a few swipes through my Lansky Quick Fix Pocket Sharpener were required to keep it sharp enough to get the job done.



The Von Gruff Hunter Skinner is great example of good ol’ fashioned kiwi craftsmanship, combining quality materials and time proven design and production techniques. It has officially replaced my Gerber Freeman fixed blade knife (a wedding gift from my wife...!) and has found a home among my other essential hunting equipment.




For more information and prices visit:


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