Seldom does a writer get to pick which knife he will review for an article. That is a decision made by the editors. However, as soon as I heard about the Simonich Raven Legacy being produced by Buck Knives, I practically begged to be the writer to review it. Fortunately for me, our editor gave in and assigned me the article. I think he just got tired of hearing me whine. Over the years of being associated with the industry, I’ve seen and tried a myriad of knives. Some were notable and some were not. But even more than the knives, it has been the people involved with the industry that have left the greatest impact on me. Most would say that the knife industry is like any other business, but I would disagree. The people involved set this industry apart from others. Rarely in this age do we see an industry that spans from major corporations down to small one-man shops. A new model by a known custom maker can draw the same attention as one being produced by the giants of the industry. One such maker was Rob Simonich. I am forced to use the past tense because of Rob’s death just under five years ago in an auto accident.
I was fortunate to be able to photograph several knives for him and looked forward to our conversations on the phone and occasional meetings at the various knife shows. To say he was entertaining to speak with would be a great understatement. To say he was one of the makers that led the industry would not be. Rob was one of the fi rst custom makers to partake in collaborations with the larger factories. He was always one of the fi rst to try the newer materials such as Talonite and S30V. Lastly, Rob was one of the first to bring about the concept of “Mid-Tech” production. Mid-Tech came about when custom makers incorporated the concept of having knives machine made to a point, with final assemble and finish being completed by the maker. This enabled custom makers to increase production and off er the buying public a well-made semi-custom knife at a reasonable price.
Rob’s first Mid-Tech knife, the Raven, was introduced at the 2002 Blade Show. It was also one of the first knives in the then-new material, S30V, by Crucible Steels. I actually had a chance to do a little hands-on testing with Rob on this knife. Until that time I was completely content to use knives of ATS-34. It was the gathering after the Blade Show, hosted by the Fennell family and Camillus Knives, that made the greatest impact on me. Until that time, I watched as factories introduced new models with fanfare. I also noted how some custom makers cradled their latest creations with care as they showed them to the buying public. Then along came Rob! At that gathering, I watched him beat, pound and generally abuse his knives. He pushed his Ravens to the breaking point. Rob wanted to know what they would take and he wanted to assure everyone that if you bought one of his knives, you were buying a tool that you could be proud to own. It was later at the gathering that Rob and I went for a short ride on an ATV across the Fennell farm. He was a Montana boy and always curious about the outdoors. He had not met the fire ants so common in the South and wanted to find them for himself. It was at the first mound that I saw him pull out his personal Raven and start digging. When he noticed the shocked look I was giving him, he informed me that he made “using” knives!
The following year it was the Urban Raven, a slightly smaller version of the Raven that won the “American Made Knife of the Year” award at the 2003 Blade Show. We lost a friend the following November when Rob died in an accident returning from a hunting trip.
Simonich Lives On!
Christine Simonich, Rob’s wife, has continued the Mid-Tech business she helped run from the beginning and this year she has joined with Buck Knives to introduce the Buck/Simonich Raven Legacy. The Legacy has a 5-inch blade and is a slight cross between the original Raven with its 7-inch blade and the Urban Raven with a 4-inch blade. The knife has a modified clip-point pattern with false edge along the majority of the spine. It has a full tang with G10 scales adorned with the Simonich Gunner Grip pattern. As is fitting, the knife is made of S30V and has the double integral guard of the Raven pattern. As one would expect from Buck Knives, the fit and finish would do Rob proud.
The Raven was designed as a combat/utility knife, patterned with the use and reputation of the USMC Fighting/Utility knife in mind. The Urban Raven brought the size down to facilitate concealment for a more urban use. The Raven Legacy is a nice compromise between the two and still maintains the combat/utility role of its parents.
I was somewhat torn between taking this knife out and really testing it or just having it sit on my desk to remind me of a friend. However, the best memorial to Rob would be to go out and enjoy the outdoors, by far his favorite pastime. Thanks to my wife, we don’t have a single fire ant mound around, so I decided to carry the knife for a while and just use it as an all-purpose tool. On an average day it doesn’t take long before you reach for a knife for one chore or another. The current power requirement of my photo lights can wear quickly on electrical plugs and changing them is one of those not so glorious jobs. Cutting three-strand electrical cords and trimming the insulation won’t break a blade, but it will test those super-fine edges. Let me start a chore in the studio and my wife will find one or two around the house.
First on her list was removing carpet from one of the bedrooms. Since our city limits what they will haul off, I had to slit the carpet into 4-foot rolls. Even pink carpet can be a tough trial for a knife, but after 36 feet of carpet, the edge showed no sign of dulling. After playing with pink carpet I needed to restore the manly image and head to the woods! Cutting a good walking stick and digging grubs out of an old log didn’t slow the pace of the Raven Legacy.
A Simonich knife can always be spotted at any distance. Rob had a bit of a flare when it came to the shape of his handle scales. But his handles always fit the hand well and the Buck Legacy is no different. The “golf ball” texture on the scales was Rob’s design and known as the “Gunner Grip.” It has been copied by many but not improved upon. Rob’s design will provide an outstanding grip in any weather, wet or dry. The small recesses allow any moisture to seep away from the hand to maintain a good purchase between skin and scale. Buck has done a good job of rounding the scales and exposing portions of the tang.
Rob had designed the Raven as a combat/utility knife and the Urban Raven for the same role but for more of the civilian market. The Legacy upholds that concept. No man will feel unarmed with the Legacy on his person. The strength is there and, being made by Buck, the quality is assured. As much as I looked, I couldn’t find a single enemy sentry as a test subject for the knife. There wasn’t a single concrete block or “55” Buick that needed skinning. However, I did use the knife on the average chores a man may face day to day. It is these mundane duties that enable a person to build up a faith in their tool. Given the time a man may need to defend himself, it is that faith that frees him to pay more attention to the task at hand.
To match the quality of the knife, Buck is supplying a hard-lined sheath of Nylon. As is common with this type of sheath, there are more ways to attach it to your gear than you will ever need. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I threaded it on my belt and was happy. The best compliment you can give to a sheath is that it holds the knife where it is supposed to be. Even though after a few moments you forget you have the knife on your belt, it is always in position when needed.
I could go on and on discussing Rob and his knives. Whenever two of his friends meet, we will reminisce. Thanks to Buck Knives, there is the proper memorial to him. Having known Rob Simonich, the best memorial would be to go to the woods and use the knife. I know he would have.