Heritage plays a large role in who we are. It influences how we act, what we do, and the things we carry. In 1899, Webster Marble, founder of Marble’s Knives, began creating hunting knives. Somehow, these knives became staples for everyone living and playing outdoors.
At a time where handle materials were relegated to bone and wood, Marble came up with the idea to stack leather washers on top of one another. He also offered his knives in a variety of sizes. This is what made his contributions to the knife world appealing to people from all walks of life. More people found more things to do with those knives.
Around 1915, Marble introduced his Woodcraft knife. The Woodcraft was a fat-bellied clip point blade belt knife, featuring his signature stacked leather handle. It was quickly adopted by hunters and trappers.
Then, in 1933, the Boy Scouts made the Woodcraft their official knife. In doing this, what was designed to be one of the most innovative big game processing knives of its time, became one of the most popular outdoor knives — for decades.
A lot of things have changed with Marble’s Knives since the “good old days” but one thing that has remained the same is their heritage. Their knives and tools are a representation of the great outdoors. The grit. The smell of pine trees and the bleating of elk standing in the distance on some foggy ridge. So, I guess it only makes sense that one of the grittiest modern knife manufacturers took on the task of recreating the Woodcraft knife for the modern age.
TOPS Knives is a giant in the industry. From hunting knives to everyday carry knives to tactical masterpieces, their contributions to the knife world, most notably the Tom Brown Tracker, have set the pace for other knife manufacturers pining to bring viable outdoor knives to market. I’ve been a fan of TOPS Knives for a while with its Ferret being gifted to me many moons ago by one of my closest friends. In my mind, if anyone was going to make a modernized version of the Woodcraft, it was going to be TOPS.
In short: The TOPS Woodcraft knife is a well-executed attempt at bringing an over 100-year-old knife into the modern world. If you take your time in the outdoors seriously, or if you’re a hunter looking for an effective tool to get the job done, then the Woodcraft has your name all over it.
- OAL 8.75”
- Blade length 4.38”
- Blade steel 1095 w. Midnight Bronze Cerakote
- Blade shape Clip point
- Grind Flat
- Hardness 56-58
- Sheath Right hand, brown leather
- Weight 7 oz. (blade only), 10.7 oz. (w/sheath)
- Price $235
- The overall modernization is nicely done
- Micarta handle scales
- Midnight bronze Cerakoting
- The sheath — wow!
- Not enough people know about Marble's Knives
- That's about it
TOPS Woodcraft Knife Full Review
Design and Features
The TOPS Woodcraft is made from 8.75 inches of Cerakoted 1095 steel. A staple for TOPS Knives, 1095 is a carbon steel that takes an incredibly sharp edge and is built for abuse. When not being used for knives, 1095 can be found in lawn mower blades as well as other cutting tools. Being that it’s Cerakoted for the Woodcraft, makes it highly corrosion- and abrasion-resistant.
Nearly similar in dimension to the original, TOPS opted for Micarta handle scales over the original stacked leather. This means increased durability and grip. Additionally, TOPS chose to add in a distinctive choil and spine jimping to ensure that their version of the Woodcraft will be easier to work with in all conditions.
The fat-bellied, upswept clip point blade is fantastic for processing game. But it’s also wicked universal, which makes it fun to use for all of your outdoor activities. The Scouts adopted this knife once before — maybe they’ll do it again?
The leather belt sheath, which is beautifully made, by the way, allows for the butt of the knife to sit below your waistline. This is great for anyone backpacking, as it won’t interfere with the hip belt of their pack.
I’m a sentimental guy and love the outdoors. I also have a whole lot of love for history. When I was first asked to review the Woodcraft, I was a little intimidated. I didn’t want to write a review that just sung the praises of this piece of modernized Americana. I wanted to take it at face value and see what it could do. Throw it at a tree, dig in the dirt with it.
When the knife arrived, I was really impressed with the fit and finish. A good choil and jimping on a belt knife are always welcome because it indicates that you can really use and abuse the knife. But, it’s the decision to Cerakote the blade steel and use Micarta scales that really pushes the Woodcraft into the 21st century.
Additionally, the leather sheath is great. Yes, I am left-handed and would have loved to have a left-hand sheath, but that’s not going to take away from the craftsmanship here within. As someone who’s made a lot of leather sheaths, as well as seen a lot of different ones from different manufacturers, it’s nice to see that TOPS spared no expenses on this one.
In the Field
When I was a teenager, I found my grandfather’s old belt knife in his workshop. He had passed away many moons before I was born, so this was like finding that pirate ship at the end of “The Goonies” for me. I carried that knife around our farm in a shitty little sheath I made and I felt connected. It was wicked spiritual, as if everything aligned and I was out there living like my grandfather did.
The Woodcraft gave me the same vibes, with a little less personal connection. I felt that by having it on my belt, I was a little more authentic of a person and could do a whole lot with one blade.
So I did.
One of my first adventures was a night hike at one of my local spots. It’s a 4-mile loop that can either be broken down to a mile and a half or blown out to a full 7 miles. Either path you choose, you’re going to end up using a knife for something.
Like all of the knives I test on the trail, I end up doing some sort of food prep with it. With the Woodcraft being designed to be a game processing knife, it’s probably no surprise that it did exceptionally well slicing up some steak, potatoes, and peppers for a fireside meal.
But, most of my experiences with the Woodcraft were around the house and in the yard. I no longer live on the family farm, and what I’ve got is only half an acre. But that’s half an acre in the woods in Connecticut, and that provides ample opportunity for a person like me with a well-suited knife.
Being that we’re transitioning from fall into winter, there was a lot of yard clean-up. Lots of plants that needed to be trimmed back and brush processed to bring to the fire pit. I found myself digging and chopping with the Woodcraft. Cutting up the rotting pumpkins and getting them into the ground so they could start to work their magic before the first freeze.
The Woodcraft became a reliable tool as well as an experience. Clip point knives are unique because they do a lot of stabbing, which is also great for boring holes. However, the fat belly on the Woodcraft allows for a lot more smooth and detailed slicing and cutting. This will no doubt be amazing if you’re a hunter removing a pelt from a kill. With a few sweeping motions, you’ll be able to make some serious headway.
As I said earlier, the leather sheath has a very nice drop to it where less than half an inch of the butt sticks out from it. This makes carrying the Woodcraft with or without a pack on really nice as it doesn’t bump into the hip belt, or get hung up in your shirt.
TOPS Woodcraft: Conclusion
Knives like the Woodcraft are a representation of some of the earliest days where the overall design of a knife was based on what it was going to be used for. That style of thinking is how we choose knives, packs, sleeping bags, etc., today. To see it being rethought with modern materials is fantastic.
When Webster Marble originally designed the Woodcraft, I doubt he knew he would be making a knife that would last over a century. So, it goes without saying that he would have no idea that a knife company inspired by his work would be retooling that knife all these years later. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy undertaking for TOPS, but they did a solid job with it.
The Woodcraft is currently sold out on the TOPS website, but it is available over at Blade HQ for $70 less than the original asking price. I am not sure why they’re letting it go for so little, but if you’re considering a new knife and are serious about the knife you carry — this is a steal.