Depending on where you live and by what method you hunt, deer season is underway. There are any number of blade patterns you could select for a skinning knife, but why are they shaped the way they are? What is the maker considering when he crafts a knife he calls a skinner? Let’s look at 20 examples of 5 types of skinners, plus an extra.
1. Bull-Nose Skinners
“The blunt tip in conjunction with the trailing point helps from punching through the hide,” noted Travis Fleming of Fleming Fabrications in North Texas about bull-nose skinners.
This set of bull-nose skinners were made for a father and son by Travis Fleming. The 4 1/2-inch blade is made out of CPM 154 stainless steel. The bolster is brass, and the antler handles were supplied by the son from the first buck he got with his dad. Overall length: 9 inches. Maker’s list price: $500/set. Contact Travis Flemming at email@example.com or on Facebook at Fleming’s Fabrications.
Josh Bryant of JB Custom Knives put it this way: “The bump and large drop at the tip are intended to go over guts without popping them.”
Josh Bryant’s Mini Green River Skinner is made with a 2 3/4-inch blade out of CPM 154 steel. The handle is made of dyed stabilized maple burl. Overall length is 6 inches. Maker’s list price: $180 with leather sheath made by the maker. Contact Josh Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at JB Custom Knives and on Instagram @jb_custom_knives.
“I like a skinner made with a CPM steel,” Mike Cleveland of Half Life Knives commented. “(It) keeps its edge longer and that means more game prepared before sharpening.” Mike added: “I prefer the fuller belly for its ability to cape around tight areas. I value that over the ability to stab in a skinner. With this style of blade you’ll finish ahead of those with a sharper point.”
Michael J. Cleveland of Half Life Knives uses CPM S90V to make the 3.85-inch blade on this skinner. The overall length is 8.5 inches. The handle is made of mammoth bone with Voodoo Resin bolsters. Maker’s list price: $650 with leather sheath. Contact Mike Cleveland at Half Life Knives on Facebook or at 405-627-6097.
2. Drop-Point Skinners
The drop-point skinner is one of the most, if not the most, popular skinning knife blade design. Within the drop-point category, however, there is plenty of individual styling.
When Raymon Hunt of 3H’s Knives LLC makes a skinner, he strives for “enough belly for caping, but with enough point to make opening the cavity easy without piercing the organs.” A skinner should be balanced and lightweight, he notes. “It is amazing how carrying a heavy knife along with a rifle on a six-hour stalk through the bush can wear you out.” Raymon added that comfort is important. There should be no areas on the handle that could produce hot spots.
Raymon Earl Hunt’s Nessmuk-style drop-point hunter has a forged 4-inch flat-ground blade made out of 1075 steel. The convex cutting edge is 3 1/2 inches, and the knife is 8 1/2 inches overall. The mortised handle is made with exhibition-grade desert ironwood with sterling silver pins and 416 stainless steel guard. Maker’s list price: $600 (includes sheath). Contact Info: Ramon Hunt at www.3hsknives.com, raymon.hunt@3hsknives and on Facebook at 3H’s Knives, LLC.
“I feel the most important parts of a good skinner are on edge-holding and the ability to be sharpened easily in the field,” Lane Ferrell of Farrell Custom Knives commented. He pointed out that comfort, not being too heavy and being balanced well, is essential “since some skinning jobs can take a while to finish.” He noted that a skinner “should also be small enough to be carried on a belt or in a pack, but large enough to get the job done effectively.”
Lane Ferrell’s Razorback model skinner has a 4.25-inch blade made with 1084 steel. The handle is Russian bog oak with red G10 liners and mosaic pins. Overall length is 8.75 inches. Price $275 with vegetable-tanned leather sheath with red stitching. Contact Lane Ferrell at email@example.com or Facebook at Ferrell Custom Knives.
“I do such a wide variety of skinners that it all depends on what the customer wants,” Spencer Aplin of STA Custom Knives noted. “Most people want a 3- to 4-inch drop-point. Then the second most requested is a trailing-point 4- to 5-inch blade.” And in Spencer’s experience, a whopping 99 percent want finger grooves.
This Spencer Aplin skinner has a 4-inch blade made of ELMAX Steel. The handle is made with stabilized myrtle burl. Maker’s list price $550 with padded zippered pouch. Hand-tooled and carved sheathes are available upon request at an additional cost. Contact Spencer Aplin at firstname.lastname@example.org,
www.stacustomknives.com or on Facebook at STA Custom Knives.
Chris Rowley made this 3.25-inch blade from pattern-welded 1084 and 15N20 steels. The overall length is 7.5 inches. Scales are by Voodoo Resins. Maker’s list price: $350 with Kydex sheath. Contact Chris Rowley at email@example.com and at Nomad Custom Knives and Tools group on Facebook.
Mike Jeffries of 2 Birds Metalworks made the smaller skinner in this set as a companion to the camp knife. “The slight fighter profile and small size make it excellent for thumb, as well as index, purchase for those internal and fine skinning tasks,” Mike noted.
This drop-point set was made with pattern-welded steel from Alabama Damascus Steel. The scales are made from dyed box-elder burl. The blade on the bottom knife is 3 inches, contributing to an overall length of just over 7 inches. Maker’s list price: $320 with leather sheath. Contact Mike Jefferies at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at
2Birds Metalworks and on Instagram @2birdsmetalworks.
The carbon content in the steel James McClendon used to make this skinner is approximately 1.27 percent. “Makes a most excellent knife,” James declared. “Those old files are getting harder to find.” James likes the “second-to-none on edge-holding–at least as simple-carbon steels go.” He added that the addition of a soft backdraw gives the blade toughness. “I just prefer a guard on a blade so sharp it could take a finger off with one slip. LOL. I also leave just a hint of the file teeth but not enough to hold contaminants.”
James McClendon made this 4-inch drop-point hunter/skinner out of a Black Diamond file. The bolt-through handle is made of stabilized stag. Overall length is 8 1/2 inches. Maker’s list price: $180 with sheath. Contact James McClendon at email@example.com.
Johnny Stout’s Rio Grande Skinner has a 3 3/4-inch blade made out of 154 CPM steel. Overall length is 8 inches. Handle is made from amber stag antler. Fluted bolsters are 416 stainless steel. Maker’s list price: $925 with custom Paul Long sheath with red full-quill ostrich inlay. Contact Johnny Stout at 830-606-4067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will Thompson put it this way: “The 3 1/4-inch blade is perfect to get around those places that you just can’t get to with a bigger blade. It’s ready to help you get those hams and backstraps to the ice.”
Will Thompson made this 3 1/4-inch drop-point blade out of 1095 carbon steel. The Plantstone handles are by Robert Belcher. Overall length is 6 7/8 inches. Maker’s list price: $120 with leather sheath. Contact Will Thompson at email@example.com or 910-385-6021.
Phill Bilkey’s Sambar Skinner has a 3.5-inch blade made of 1085 carbon steel. The handle material is Australian sambar antler with red G10 liners. $200 AUD with leather sheath. Contact: Southern Cross Custom Knives on Facebook.
Eric Pearson of Lake Effect Knifeworks made this 4.25-inch hollow-ground drop-point blade out of 1095 steel with hamon. Overall length 9 3/4 inches. The scales are big-leaf maple burl. Maker’s list price: $200-plus. Contact Eric Pearson at Lake Effect Knifeworks on Facebook.
3. Nessmuk-Style Skinners
Joe Elinburg in northeast Florida likes the Nessmuk pattern for a skinner. “The rounded point makes skinning easier with less chance of putting a hole in the hide if you’re going to save it for tanning,” he commented. “Also the swoop in the back of the blade makes a great finger rest for more control of the blade.”
This Mini Nessmuk Skinner is made by Joe Elinburg in northeast Florida out of 1095 high carbon steel. The 3-inch blade is convex ground. Overall length is 6 inches. Handle material is camaru. Maker’s list price: $90 with Kydex sheath with mounted metal belt clip. Contact Joe Elinburg at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jecustomknives on Instagram or call 904-962-0341.
4. Spear-Point Skinners
“I have always been a fan of spear-point skinners,” Jon Waltz commented. His son designed this model, and Jon made a few changes by adding the thumb ramp and expanding the belly. The deep finger guard and thumb ramp allow for full control of the blade. “The hollow grind makes for a extremely sharp cutting edge, and the large belly is great for slicing through flesh with precision,” Jon added.
John Waltz of Edge7 Custom Knives calls this model the 24/7 Skinner. The Hex resin scales are custom made. Overall length is 7 inches. The 3-inch hollow-ground blade on this particular one is made of CPM D2 steel, but now is made in PSF27 steel. Available finishes include acid etched, sandblasted and stonewashed. Makers list price: $275 and up with leather or Kydex sheath with combat loop. Contact John Waltz through www.edge7customknives.com.
Denny Furey of Furey’s Urban Combat Knives Unlimited uses NJ Steel Baron 1095 steel to make his Sukina, which is Japanese for skinner. Overall length is 7.75 inches with a 3.25-inch blade with a dark blued polished finish. The handle scales are
Rob Carper Innovations (RCI) stabilized, dyed spalted maple. Maker’s list price: $175 with Kydex sheath with belt attachments. Contact Denny Furey at Furey’s Urban Combat Knives Unlimited on Facebook.
5. Trailing-Point Skinners
Trailing-point skinners excel for skinning small game, and are probably the second most popular skinning knife blade design behind drop-points.
“I believe that the finger groove and the thinned spot between it and the spine allows for easier indexing when trying to be precise while skinning raccoons or fox,” commented Tyler Freund of Freund’s Custom Knives. “One can simply pinch the knife between their thumb and finger. Much like you would a scalpel.” In addition, “the thin tip and thin steel lets the user make less intrusive cuts and more precise cuts around the wrists and ankles of the coon,” Tyler explained. He feels this would be more challenging with a bigger-bellied or thicker-bladed knife. “The knife has just enough belly in it that you can draw the knife and skin efficiently once you’ve gotten around the ribs,” he concluded.
Tyler Freund made this small-game skinner for a local trapper. The 3-inch trailing-point blade is made out of Vegas Forge’s raindrop-patterned steel, and the maker added file work along the spine. The handle is bone Micarta paired with Mike Sakmar mokume-gane. The knife is 7 1/4 inches overall. Maker’s list price: $350. Contact Tyler Freund at Freund’s Custom Knives on Facebook or on Instagram @tylerfreund08.
Bryce Love’s trailing-point skinner has a 5-inch acid-etched stonewashed blade made out of 1095 steel. Overall length is 9 inches. The handle is made from curled cherry. Maker’s list price: $140. Contact Bryce Love on Facebook at 50Cal Forge or email@example.com.
“This skinner has a short blade with pointed tip to reach into tight areas when skinning and caping,” Scooter Davis of Rough Run Forge explained about his Shrade-Sharpfinger-like knife. “The recess on the spine serves as a finger rest, allowing you to choke up forward on the knife for more control.”
Scooter Davis made this Shrade-Sharpfinger-style skinner with a 2 1/2-inch hollow-ground blade forged from 52100 steel. The scales are prickly pear cactus fastened with stainless steel corby pins. Maker’s list price: $175 with leather sheath. Contact Scooter Davis at Rough Run Forge on Facebook or call 540-560-1672.
Although not a traditional trailing-point blade shape, an upswept point is still evident. Richard Darby’s customer said you can make long sweeping cuts with this big-bellied blade design, as well as flesh with it. “Plus it gives a longer cutting edge for the length of the blade,” Richard noted.
Richard Darby’s big belly skinner has a 4.5-inch blade of 1095 steel with hamon. Overall length is 9 inches. The handle is made with flame masur birch from JHue Custom Sales. Maker’s list price: $150. Contact Richard Darby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you skin, the idea is to pull the skin back and make sweeping slices like you would when using an ulu, but it’s not an ulu, Matthew Nolan from Angry Beaver Knives explained. “The whole handle fits in your hand while grasping the blade with thumb and pointer finger…more blade…angles…equals more slicing…and it fits nice in the hand for sweeping strokes.”
Matthew Nolan’s Dear Beaver deer skinner is made out of 15N20 or 1095 steels. The overall length is 5 to 6 inches, depending on the hand size of the customer. The scales are Dustin Smith lace maple burl at Simply Scales. Maker’s list price: $225 with Kydex only sheath. Contact Matthew Nolan at Angry Beaver Knives at Spcfs3725@gmail.com or at 518-791-2551.
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