Author Topic: Fox Knives Panabus  (Read 2303 times)

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Offline theJman

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Fox Knives Panabus
« on: March 27, 2020, 04:26:48 PM »

I have 4 LT Wright knives, which up until recently was tied with Fox Knives as the company I owned the most from.  Fox now ekes ahead with my purchase of the Panabus making an even 5.  I like Fox because they think outside the box, and I'm a big fan of that.  My lineup consists of the Dipprasad, Parus, Bushman, Grand Trapper and now the Panabus.  Being different is not always good however as I have found some interesting design choices with their products, so despite my growing collection there are a few less than ideal aspects in their product line.  Guess nothing is perfect though.

Let me start this off by saying the Panabus is a one tool option (I can just imagine the reactions I'm getting from some of you now  ;)).  I'm a gear-light kind of guy; the less I carry the better I like it.  Travel light is my goal.  Because of that I want a knife to do everything, which I do realize is not possible but I keep looking at options that can come close nonetheless (at least close for the type of things I want my sole cutting tool to do).  I'll admit the Panabus is one bizarre looking knife; sheepsfoot design with a large finger choil and oddly sculpted handle suggest form-follows-function or a lunatic designer.  Maybe both.  The weather shined on me this past weekend so it was time to find out.  Crystal blue skies with temps in the low 50's and a slight breeze meant virus lock-down or not I was hitting the woods.  I decided to see what the Panabus could do.

My favorite spot among the precious few I have available to me is a flat plateau that sits on the side of a mountain - OK, so in NJ we only have tall hills - that mysteriously appears between some pretty rugged 45+ degree slopes that circle all around.  It's my little oasis.  Or "was" is probably a better choice of words.  We had little in the way of cold or snow this winter, but what we did have was wind.  A lot of it, and my spot paid the price.  Within a 100 yard radius of me I counted over 15 downed trees and I'm not talking about anything with wrist-thick trunks, most of these were 50+ feet tall.  There was probably the same amount snapped in half 20-30 feet up.  I couldn't even estimate the number of branches and limbs that suffered the same fate.  My spot is forever altered it seems.  I walked around for a good 30 minutes surveying the damage thinking "now what?" when it dawned on me; well, at least I get to test the chopping ability of the Panabus so let's have at it.

Now before anyone gets to thinking I was trying to be Paul Bunyan and whacked away at tree trunks I couldn't even get my arms around, I restricted my activities to something you might consider reasonable for a knife with a 6.7" blade; 2-3" in diameter.  Since I just mentioned one of the Panabus specs let me run down the rest of them...

    Blade steel: Bohler N690 stainless steel
    Hardness: HRC 58-60
    Blade Coating: Cerakote
    Handle: FORPRENE
    Blade length: 17 cm - 6.69"
    Overall length: 30 cm - 11.81"
    Blade thickness: 6 mm - 0.24"
    Weight: 340 gr - 11.99 oz

Wait, only 12 ounces for a 6.7" blade made from 1/4" stock?  How can that be?  It's effectively a FFG grind, which is the only reason I would even consider owning such a thick knife, so let's start the discussion with weight then.  The Panabus does not feel heavy or unwieldy despite the "sharpened prybar" piece of steel it's made from.  Quite the contrary actually, I used this thing hard for almost 8 hours that day and I didn't feel the least bit of hand fatigue.  I chopped and chopped and chopped for long durations; branches, limbs and poor little saplings torn up when something large crashed down on them.  You name it, I cut it.  Despite whacking away on many things my hands never got tired.  The blade shape, weight and overall sharpness of the Panabus proved up to the task.  That's a win.

Once I had gotten that out of my system it was time to start a fire, which means scraping tinder material and a feather stick or two.  This lead to my first "bad idea" design revelation of the Panabus; the jimping is too aggressive.  I don't wear gloves, never will.  Unless you're a stone mason you likely don't have sufficient calluses to keep your thumb intact.  Positioning my thumb further up the spine - between the two rows of jimping - did the trick when carving wood but I'm going to see what my Dremel can do to smooth down these saw teeth masquerading as jimping.  This would not be the last time I cursed the person who OKed that part of the design.

For striking a ferro rod the spine doesn't feel as though it would be sufficiently sharp to get good sparks but it worked pretty well.  Not great, but serviceable.  I was able to scrape enough cedar bark though to make a nice fluffy pile.  Some cutting performance was probably lost due to the blade coating.  I'm not a fan of that stuff no matter what steel is being used, so I'm very confused why Fox would even bother for the Panabus.  They're using Bohler N690 which appears to be similar to D2.  Why coat a stainless steel knife?  Makes no sense to me.  I might remove it in the future. I will say that after a day of heavy use it shows minimal wear and no sign of peeling/scraping off.

My typical MO is to make half a dozen tent pegs and at least two try stick but given all the repair and cleanup work I did that day it was only one peg and a single try stick.  This is the only picture I took, which was after I got home and not in the woods:

I don't bring a phone into the woods so those are the only pics.  I want to escape the trappings of modern society, which means the digital spy stays on the dresser, but I kinda know reviews without pictures are boring.  Maybe next time.  The kit you see on the sheath consists of a ferro rod, a 4-sided tungsten carbide knife sharpener/ferro rod scraper and about 50 feet of bank line.  I may change that, but for this day it's what I brought.

Knives with odd shapes have... well, odd sheaths.  I'm typically not a fan of nylon but this one is good.  It's made from heavy material and is well constructed, which in my opinion is mandatory for a field knife.  There is a smooth plastic liner to ensure the blade does not cut through the material.  It comes with two retention straps, one at the top of the handle and the other secures the top of the knife blade.  When tramping through the woods use at least the top of handle snap.  When you free that one the handle tips outward and catches on underbrush, trust me.  For most of the day I only used the top of handle snap and didn't have an issue.  Taking the knife out is a two-handed affair, but with the unique blade profile you probably already suspected that was going to be the case.  It goes in and out of the sheath pretty easily though, so no worries there.  One thing to note with nylon is it retains scents so mine - which is sitting right next to me as I write this - still smells like a campfire.  Your call on whether that's good or bad.

The handle is a mixed bag.  FORPRENE (why does Fox use all capital letters for this stuff?) is comfortable, and even when my hands were sweating it felt secure.  The distinctive finger grooves didn't always align with my XL hands unfortunately.  If I ignored them and just held the knife the way I wanted to they were generally not an issue, it was only when I tried to position my fingers to align with them that I began to wonder what was the point.  My Parus has a similar handle, so Fox seems to believe in this design, but I'm not convinced it's ideal.  I did notice a few scraps and a tiny chip in the FORPRENE (no, I'm not shouting) after my day of fun, so long term durability is not something I can attest to at this point.

The belly shape and wide blade should make choking up to process game pretty easy but I wasn't able to test that because my snares came up empty (eerily, there was almost no small critters running around that day).  The Panabus does have an Ulu-esqe shape though, which suggests it might be pretty good for skinning.  I did try positioning my hand on the blade that way on several occasions to test my theory but the d@mn jimping kept telling me to back off.  Did I mention my Dremel yet?

I did food processing both before and after my day in the woods.  I the morning I made a pork roll, egg and cheese on an english muffin.  The entire meal was prepared using the Panabus, but realistically what I prepared was not really a huge challenge as there was little for a knife to do.  I was able to split the muffin easily enough, cut pork roll with no issue and slice a pat or two of butter without much fuss, but it's obviously not a chef's knife.  That evening I sliced up a pineapple and it did better than anticipated; i suspected its girth would prove more troublesome then it did.  For those two kitchen tasks the Panabus did what I needed.  It can likely perform most food prep tasks, albeit with some practice.

Fox includes a survival kit that is anything but an Altoids tin sized container.  Mine included a compass, candle, string saw, first aid supplies, pencil, sewing kit, whistle, mirror and other miscellaneous items.  None of them should be considered ultimate in any respect, but if you don't feel like building your own kit this one probably represents a good start.  It's MOLLE compatible and attaches to the front of the sheath.  For me it was a bit too bulky so it stayed home.

I used this knife nonstop for an entire day, both in the kitchen and the woods.  At times I showed no quarter, yet it seemed unperturbed.  Out of the box it was razor sharp and I did nothing to it before I began.  When the day was done the edge was not rolled or chipped and still quite usable.  I spent maybe 5 minutes with a strop and the Panabus was right back to where it was when new.  So, is this the elusive one tool option?  For me it could be.  I'm impressed with what it's capable of and how Fox designed this thing.  I need to do some customizing, like smoothing over the jimping and maybe removing the coating, but beyond that there's little else I would change.  The Panabus may become my go-to blade for the woods.  If you want a jack-of-all-trades that masters most of them check out this knife.

Offline wolfy

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Re: Fox Knives Panabus
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2020, 06:01:50 PM »
Not exactly my style, but a pretty darned good review! :thumbsup:    My biggest gripe would be the inability to get to the bottom of the peanut butter frustrating!  ???
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Offline theJman

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Re: Fox Knives Panabus
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2020, 07:20:26 PM »
You would need to cut the jar in half to get that last bit of peanut butter, but at least the Panabus could do it with ease.   ;)

Offline wsdstan

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Re: Fox Knives Panabus
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2020, 09:55:06 PM »
It is a good review of a knife that I wouldn't buy. The text was interesting enough to me to read it all and either more photos or a video of the knife in use would make it even better.

The only thing I did not like about it was when you wrote "At times I showed no quarter, yet it seemed unperturbed."  Last time I checked knives don't show perturbance.

I have a knife that is kind of similar in a broad view.  Sort of like a cousin.  It is a Russell 4s survival knife made by the company in Nova Scotia.  It has a bit better point for getting the last of the peanut butter and is very useful as an all around camp knife. 
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns  something he can learn in no other way. 
(Mark Twain)

Offline Moe M.

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Re: Fox Knives Panabus
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2020, 11:59:26 AM »
  Good review Jman,  your new knife looks like a tactical Nessmuk on steroids,  fair discloser,  I'm not a fan of anything tactical, nor a fan of big knives, and I've been woods bumming, hunting, fishing, and camping long enough to appreciate fine woods tools,  however I did own a Gossman WSK once that I greatly admired as a one tool option (if there is such an animal).
 Two things I can't abide in any knife I'd consider owning is jimping and blade coatings, most makers say the coatings are applied to keep the blade from rusting, the truth is the coatings are applied to cover up the lack of finishing, tooling marks and imperfections one the blades, as you will likely discover when you decide to remove it from your knife,  now that I've unloaded a good deal of negativity on your new knife,  please take it as the ravings of an geezer too set in his ways to change, and too brazen not to be honest.       
 However, what works me is not what works for everybody,  first off,  experience has taught me that small knives are not made for chopping and big knives are not made for cleaning small game and fish, and they aren't suited to most food prep chores, smaller knives (4-1/2" cutting edges) make easy carving,  big knives not so much.
 What works well for me is a two or three tool option, a medium sized fixed blade,  a small axe, and a good folding saw,  if the job requires more than that then a bow or buck saw is in order,  but I'm up here in New England, if I were in the swamps of LA. or Fla. I would likely be opting for a Machete and a good pocket knife.
 I'm not knocking your choice, I'm just offering another opinion, I would be seriously interested in hearing your after action report once you've had a few months of use from your one tool option.

 I wish you good luck and a lot of fun with it. 
In youth we learn,   with age we understand.