I do a fair amount of butchering, probably 10 whole animals a year from slaughter to retail cuts and lately I've been putting together a set of butchering knives with the goal of collecting a nice set and posting my thoughts here. Here are 4 boning knives that have been used on 5 pigs over that last few weeks.
From left to right, a Dexter, Silverthorn, Marko T's upswept and Marko's straight. They are all about the same length, from Marko's straight at 5.5" to the Silverthorn at 6.25". I don't know the steel on the Dexter but the Silverthorn is O1, Marko's upswept A2 and the straight is AEB-L. The first three are semi-stiff with the Dexter being the least stiff, Silverthorn stiffer and the upswept more stiff than the other two. The straight is not flexible at all.
Before I started collecting custom butchering knives I used Dexters and Victorinoxs, so the Dexter, which was my favorite of that bunch will act as sort of a baseline.
All knives were sharpened on a 1000 Chosera (thanks for the tip Chuckles) then stropped on leather. By far, the easiest to sharpen is Marko's upswept. He sent me a note saying that "this particular A2 has a very special heat treatment which allows it to sharpen easier without losing any of the benefits." I'm an average sharpener at best but I could get this blade noticeably sharper quicker than the others. Compared to the Dexter, it took half the time to get a better edge. The A2 was also significantly easier than the Silverthorn and took a better edge. Marko's AEB-L comes in second behind his A2. It must be noted that his knives are thinner than the others but that's not something I can quantify accurately.
Again, Marko's A2 stood out. I could go through half a pig, breaking down into primals (although I did use a breaking knife for some of that), skinning, boning out roasts, separating hocks and trotters, removing the aitch bone and the knife would still be plenty sharp while the Dexter would be rendered useless and the Silverthorn would be getting dull. I'm not comparing Marko's AEB-L knife here, more on that later.
A lot of tasks are asked of a boning knife besides boning, there's slicing, skinning, popping joints among others so blade shape, angle and handle, the ergonomics, I think are of importance but are also somewhat subjective.
Attachment 33581Attachment 33582
The Dexter's handle is the most comfortable in both a regular and pistol grip. It's large and fits my hand well. I also appreciate the larger finger guard. The slightly more rounded tip makes it better at skinning than the A2 or the Silverthorn. It's also lighter than the other two at 89 grams as opposed to 112. Slicing though is more uncomfortable because it is more upswept than those other two. Boning however is easier with the other two mostly because the other two get and stay sharper and cut better. One advantage of the Dexter is it's slightly increased flexibility.
Boning is really the Silverthorn's strength. With its shape, it's easy to get the point in and around bones and joints and it cuts well. I found that for skinning I would reach for another knife, that seems to be the trade-off. The handle is it's biggest weakness for me. In both a regular or pistol grip the knife isn't as secure in my hand, and I do like a finger-guard. Also because of the small handle, the angle of the knife in my hand increases and makes slicing awkward.
Marko's upswept knife is my favorite by a fair margin. It's really a wonderful knife. It cut the best, sliced the best, was just as good at boning as the Silverthorn, was good at skinning. The handle, while not quite as comfortable as the Dexter, is a very close second. The shape and angle of the blade in my hand, the ease with which it cuts made it feel like a Ferrari. I butchered these pigs with a couple other people and the unanimous favorite was Marko's A2.
The other Marko knife just isn't the right shape for boning but the one thing it does better than the others is skinning. As a matter of fact, it skins better than my skinning knife. It sails through fat and is nimble enough to skin around curves and dips. I used to like having only have two knives when butchering, a boning and breaking knife but I may just change my ways. It may take a while but I'm thinking my next review is going to be 10" bullnose butchers.