Take it as you will; the AK can easily stand for Amanda Kaye or the TOPS A-Klub. Either way, both are blueprints of hard work. Most people know her from being on TV, appearing on Naked and Afraid on the Discovery channel. In the real world, Amanda sees herself as an adventurous mom who goes on five-day hikes with her kids up mountains and doesn’t bring enough calories, so they must forage for things.
Knife Designer Amanda Kaye
Native American survival techniques make Amanda Kaye tick. Amanda has been an avid hunter her entire life, coinciding with studying Native American primitive skills. As a child, Amanda’s family was very active in the reenactment community, especially with her parent’s Native American heritage. Living off the land has been second nature, and it’s who she is. She lives life and enjoys teaching her kids what she has learned.
“In reality, there is no such thing as a survival expert, there are 5 million ways to do everything, and no one does it the same way,” Kaye said. Amanda tells her students to practice until they get it right and then to keep practicing until they can’t get it wrong. Not just in gymnastics but in life. Amanda said, “Just get out there, have fun, and don’t worry about failing. If I can fail in front of millions and get back up, then you can get back up when no one sees!”
I always like to know what motivates people, how they end up with a particular design and why, so a Q&A session with Amanda was in order.
Q&A With Amanda Kaye
How did you come to work with TOPS Knives?
I’ve always piddled around with designing knives in my spare time, not thinking it would go anywhere. After meeting the guys at TOPS Knives via trade shows, I wanted to explore the possibilities. I knew their reputation in the knife world and was absolutely honored to design a knife for them. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.
What was the design inspiration behind the A-Klub?
The design idea was to major in being super functional and minor in badassness! The Native American Gunstock War Club used in battle was the blueprint for the basic shape. I wanted something practical to use in a survival situation but also for camping and hiking. I’m a huge hunter and I needed something to help with putting up tree stands and clearing out shooting lanes with the least amount of effort. Survival isn’t a two- or three-day thing; tools are needed to last, stay sharp and perform. The TOPS quality, along with its design, gives you maximum performance with minimum effort. Gotta maximize those calories!
What was the design process like with TOPS?
I sent a design to them several years ago and slowly worked towards making the perfect knife for not only survivalists but hunters and hikers as well. I guess thinking about it, TOPS was taking a chance with a woman designer. I’ve never considered that before.
What are your current goals?
My goals revolve around my family. My kids are the reason for everything, and my goal is to produce good people who are self-reliant. There are too many people in this world who require someone to take care of them.
This is a beast of a knife, both in appearance and ability. The overall length is 17.88 inches with a 12.38-inch blade and 12.13-inch cutting edge. The most outstanding feature of the A-Klub is the blade’s dramatic forward drop, much like a bolo or kukri knife. The heart of the knife is 1095 high carbon steel, which is 0.19 inches thick and tapers towards the tip. TOPS Knives has been using 1095 high carbon steel since the company’s start; some would say it’s their mainstay, although they have used several different types of steel through the years.
The blade has an Acid Rain finish that looks like a patina; however, it’s said to help mask any scuffs and wear marks from use, which I consider beauty marks. This finish is often loosely called a stonewashed finish. The effect is a product of tumbling the steel with abrasive materials. The Acid Rain also cuts down on the “bling” factor you get with a satin or polished blade and leaves the surface less reflective.
The handle on the A-Klub measures 5.5 inches long. The handle’s spine is nearly completely straight, with only a small amount of flare near the end. There is a deep finger groove on the belly of the handle that ends with a slight finger guard to prevent slipping. The rest of the handle belly curves in before flaring out at the butt. The end of the handle has a lanyard hole in the middle, and three bolts hold the scales together. This handle provides both comfort and durability.
The black Kydex sheath is waterproof, scratch-, stretch- and shrink-resistant. Not only is it waterproof, but it is incredibly durable and stable, meaning you can have it with you in various extreme situations, including humidity and saltwater. It is also going to stay unaffected by chemicals. Kydex doesn’t require any maintenance. This is perfect for a large outdoors knife like this because it weighs much less than leather.
Putting It To Work
When I first received the TOPS A-Klub, it was early winter when most people would grab an axe or hatchet for the heavy lifting required in a winter camp. I am a hatchet, axe and tomahawk fan, but big knives were my first love. There is a place for long blades in the forest during winter, especially if they have some heft, like a kukri or the A-Klub.
Over the course of several winter camp trips, the A-Klub was put through the gauntlet, chopping and splitting wood, amongst other things. Chopping wood for a winter campfire isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. Whether it be with a hatchet or a large chopping knife, I try not to chop anything larger than the wrist or thicker than a bicep. Anything more substantial than that is called fuel and either fed in from one end or placed over the top. The A-Klub chopped standing deadwood of the appropriate size for the tool as if it were a hatchet or a more prominent chopping tool. The design of the forward curve packs more chopping power and adds leverage.
Feeling it is believing; the difference between a straight-bladed knife and a weight-forward chopper is undeniable. Like the Gunstock War Club, its design concentrates tremendous force on a small target. Curved blades bite hard and continue through the material with a guillotine effect. Needless to say, the A-Klub chops!
Splitting, like chopping huge amounts of wood, isn’t always needed. Smaller wood can build a fire up just as easily. However, when materials are wet, that’s a different story altogether. Again, utilizing wrist-to-bicep-thick wood, the A-Klub was tasked to split it a few ways. Long blades can benefit significantly from the help of a baton (maul) to precisely split with the utmost safety, compared to traditional splitting with a log standing vertical and bringing the blade down to make the split.
Another splitting technique the A-Klub excelled at was a hatchet and axe technique. Using a solid wood platform, the wood and knife rest parallel. The blade is stuck into the front end of the wood, and they both come down together with force. The hands pull away from one another, making the wood split. The last splitting technique is for smaller-diameter wood making kindling. The knife is clutched in an icepick grip, and the sharp point is stuck into a stick while the other hand supports it. The knife hand comes down on the wooden support surface while the support hand moves the stick, so it splits into small slivers, making kindling.
The TOPS A-Klub is not exactly a finesse knife for carving intricate crafts; it has a reckless nature for brute work. I enjoy doing small knife work with big blades. With wet, snowy, slushy wood being the theme, fine tinder needed to be made with the A-Klub. Using a brute of a knife as a conventional fixed blade to make feather sticks is a delusion. It’s front-heavy and cumbersome; however, there are solutions.
A sizeable, curved blade like the A-Klub begs use as a drawknife. Pushing the edge into broomstick-thick dry wood and drawing up produced long, thin curls for the start of the fire-building process. Another great way to get thin, curly, fluffy feathers is to stab the tip of the A-Klub into a wooden log and hold it securely with one hand while the other uses sticks to draw back against the sharp edge. This method is light years ahead of using it as a conventional fixed blade knife as far as control goes.
The A-Klub is an advanced cutting machine designed by Amanda and perfectly executed by TOPS Knives. For hard use in all terrain and all weather, the A-Klub is more than capable. Besides, it’s a TOPS knife, bet your life on it! For more information, visit topsknives.com.
SPECIFICATIONS: TOPS Knives A-Klub
- Overall Length: 17.9 inches
- Overall Weight: 23.8 ounces (33 ounces w/sheath)
- Blade: 12.4 inches
- Cutting Edge: 12.1 inches
- Blade Thickness: .19 inches
- Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
- Blade Finish: Acid Rain
- Handle Material: Green canvas micarta
- Sheath Material: Black Kydex (Dangler)
- MSRP: $350
THE WINNING STEEL RECIPE
Known for their differentially heat-treated 1095 high carbon steel with a Rockwell hardness of 56-58, it’s no wonder TOPS Knives relies on it. This steel comes on knives commonly used hard, designed to take a beating. 1095 has a carbon content of .95%, which hardens the steel and reduces the amount of wear that a blade will experience. In general, 1095 carbon steel will not be brittle, which is one of the reasons that it can take such a beating. TOPS 1095 high carbon steel holds its edge for long periods and is also easy to sharpen—a walking contradiction! —Reuben Bolieu
This article originally appeared in the October-November 2022 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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