Help design the best fillet knife

Our next knife model

We have been gathering customer input for the last few months to help us decide what our next model should be. The last two shows we attended gave us the answer: virtually all the requests were for a filleting knife. With our west coast salmon season well underway, perhaps filleting is top of peoples’ minds, but it may also be that finding a good filleting knife is hard. Whatever the reasons, our next model will be a filleting knife targeted at small to medium sized fish. The problem with filleting knives tends to be that they are usually cheaply made out of a soft steel that may flex well but is painful to put and keep an edge on. There are likely other common pitfalls, which is why we want you to help design what we hope will be the best fillet knife you’ve ever used.

Basic specifications

North Arm fillet knife prototypeWe figure that the blade on this new knife should be somewhere in the 8″ range, plus or minus a bit. For steel we’ll use our standard CPM S35VN and the handle will be G10 composite and we’ll include a kydex sheath. But there are plenty of other parameters that we haven’t decided on, which we would like to involve our current and future customers in helping us specify.

The best fillet knife wish list

What do you look for in a fillet knife? What features and characteristics make it useful? What gets in the way? Standard parameters include:

  • thickness
  • flexibility/stiffness
  • bevel grind
  • length
  • tip shape and width
  • body width
  • curvature of cutting edge
  • handle orientation relative to blade
  • others?

We will be designing the new knife this Fall and will incorporate your suggestions wherever it makes sense. We will create a follow up post with a list of users and the suggestions they made that were worked into the final design. Use the comments area below to put forward your ideas. Our system asks for your email address but does not show it to other users. Looking forward to your input!

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7 Responses

  1. Peter Sole

    Does anyone make a filleting knife that has a blade stepped down from the handle to allow
    room for your fingers to grip the handle without interfering with the surface of the filleting table?
    I have seen one in use

    • John Gudmundson

      I am not aware of such a knife but if it exists there’d probably have to be right and left handed versions and even then might be a challenge to use. To give knuckle clearance, a raised cutting board would solve the problem I think you are referring to.

  2. Spencer

    I just went and looked at the Facebook photos. I think if you can adapt any of those designs to your manufacturing process you will have a winner. I’m very pleased to see more filleting knives of this quality on the market. As much as I don’t need another filleting knife, I may end up with one.

    Looks good.

  3. Spencer

    Hello,

    First of all, let me just preface this by saying I purchased a BRKT Kalahari Sportsman a few weeks ago so I am not in the market for another knife. I am hoping it is the last filleting knife I own (but at the rate I am accumulating knives it most likely won’t be). I admire what you are doing and could see myself as a future customer for some of your other knives.

    I am located in Saskatchewan so the way I use a filleting knife and what I prefer will likely differ from those on the coast using it to process larger fish. Also, I feel there is a gap in the market for filleting knives. It seems they go from the $30 cheap knives to $300 customs with VERY LITTLE left in between. I ordered my Kalahari Sportsman about six months ago because it seemed to be the next step above current offerings. I’ll touch on a few of the points I feel are important.

    I very much like the S35VN steel. It is the steel that all filleting knives should be made from. It will hold its edge much better than cheap stainless. In a filleting knife, I do not make any use of flexibility. As I understand it, generally a flexible blade is a soft blade that won’t hold its edge. The exception to this is going very thin. I poked around your website a bit and it seems to me that the process that you use will not allow you to go thin enough to maintain blade flexibility. I may be incorrect on this though.

    For the type of fish I fillet, A blade in the 6 to 7 inch range is ideal. The fish in Saskatchewan generally grow longer before they grow thick enough where a 6 inch blade becomes too short to do an effective job. When they do grow that big I generally release them. I know for some large salmon a 6 inch knife would be less than ideal to take the skin off. Again, I am not your primary market. It seems that if you design say a 9 inch knife though, it would be easy to modify into a 6 inch knife and have two models.

    The blade should be as thin as possible. The Kalahari is a bit thick at 0.085″. I think 0.06″ would be ideal. If your process allows you to go this thin you might be able to retain enough flexibility.

    I haven’t actually used this knife for filleting fish yet but I expect it to preform quite well. The blade height I think is a bit tall, and the blade is a bit too thick but I expect it to be the best knife I have ever used. I’m going fishing with it in a few weeks so if you want I can post my thoughts on it then.

    Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments on my response.

    Thanks,
    Spencer

    • John Gudmundson

      Hi Spencer,

      Thanks for your comments. Regarding thickness and flexibility of the blade, we are just now testing four early prototypes that we have hand ground. Thickness of these 4 is all in the .070 range max and early indications are that flexibility is pleasingly good. We have done one of the blades with 3 tempers to see if we get a noticeable increase in toughness from our normal 2 temper process. When we move to our production process where we CNC the bevel we will almost certainly face some challenges. But we already mill our Trillium paring knife down to .060″, so the thinness itself should not be a problem. We are starting with 20 degree total edge angle on 3 of the 4 prototypes and have ground one to 16 degrees for comparison purposes (slicing enhancement vs edge retention). Mike posted some pictures on our facebook page and I will post an update on our website this week. So stay tuned.

      John

  4. Gary Harris

    I like a traditionally curved blade and a fairly stiff one in an 8 ” (actually, I’d rather have a 9 or 10 inch blade). When filleting salmon and other large fish, I prefer to slice through the ribs and then remove them from the fillet once I have flipped it. On the knife I currently have (American Angler) the 1 1/2″ closest to the handle is serrated which makes cutting through the bones very easy. Needless to say a keen edge is of utmost importance and a I should be able to fillet a dozen coho without needing to hit the whet stone.

  5. Paul Moravec

    I have used a buck filet knife for years. Although it doesn’t keep an edge for long I like several things about it. It’s flexible steel blade, grippy soft rubber handle and the fact I can get it sharp enough to cut fish skin but not too sharp so as not to easily cut through fish bones.