Habilis Bush Tools
photos: Chuck Pittman, Inc.
Like most true blue Americans, we love a grass roots success story. Starting from scratch and building a company is the American dream. This is the story behind Habilis Bush Tools and the couple, Steven and Penny Staten, who started the popular company. “I was born and raised in Dalton, Georgia and Penny’s family moved there when she was 11 years old.” Steven lends. “We met in 1998 when I stopped at a convenience store where she was working. Wanting to get to know her, I started shopping there every day I could, and pretty soon we started talking. Then I started going there a lot more often!” Those early sparks turned to a long-term relationship which took them down the path they’re on today. “I’m the designer and maker of all of the knives and Penny takes care of the business end, from booking events to bookkeeping.”
The Bushcraft movement, much of which centers around the use of a knife, started gaining a toehold in the US around 2006. The knife of choice at the time was the Scandinavian puukko, a fixed-blade primarily made for wood carving. By the time Steven and Penny entered the fray in 2010 Bushcraft devotees were starting to explore other knives, and the couple delivered with their first offering, the Habilis Bush Tool. This knife was much larger than the average puukko and its deep, humped blade was unlike anything the market had seen.
“I started making knives as a hobby in 2009,” Steven explains. “I had been looking for the perfect outdoor knife but was unable to find what I was looking for, so I decided to design and make a knife for myself, and this was the birth of the Bush Tool.” The Habilis Bush Tool — which was designed with features not seen on earlier Bushcraft knives — caught on quickly and gave Steven and Penny everything they needed to gain a firm toehold in the market.
The couple joke they started Habilis Bush Tools in a closet of their home, but this is not too far from the truth. “The original shop where all of the Habilis knives, tools, and Kydex were made for the first four years was a 70-year-old 8×9 foot storage building in our back yard,” laughed Steven. “In its final layout I had my large grinder, five drill presses, a band saw, a bench grinder, a Kydex press and an 8-foot work bench in this space. When all of the tools and benches were in place there was an open floor space of only 21/2′ by 41/2′. It was good to have so little space starting out, though, because it forced me to be efficient and not keep anything unnecessary.”
Growing The Line
Speaking to its strong design, the feature-laden Habilis Bush Tool remains a force in the Habilis line six years later. “The Bush Tool is, and has been, the to be a one-tool option for outdoor survival and Bushcraft,” explained Staten. “It has a continuously curved cutting edge and a tip in-line with the handle. The grind is a modified saber which is basically a Scandi grind with a secondary bevel. The blade is tall and the flat part of the blade can be used for hammering. The blade has a section at the tip we call the ‘anvil’ which improves the transfer of force when batoning to split wood. The back edge of the Bush Tool blade is squared to allow it to be used as a scraper and also has a notch for striking a ferro rod, directing sparks for easier fire starting.
“The Bush Tool’s handle has two thong hole openings allowing it to be attached to a straight wooden shaft to increase chopping capability, or it can be attached to an L-shaped stick to be used like a scythe for harvesting material for thatching or cordage. The handle also has a divot for use with a bow drill and an extended pommel used for scraping or hammering.”
Simply stated, the Habilis Bush Tool is an excellent, hard use multi-tasker.
The additions Steven and Penny have introduced to the Habilis Bush Tools line are every bit as diverse. As mentioned, the Bush Tool was one of the first larger knives introduced to the Bushcraft community. On its heels came an even bigger Habilis fixed-blade — the SRT (Self Reliance Tool) model. At 111/4″ overall with 3/16″ thick blade steel, the SRT is the Bush Tool on steroids.
If you want sleek, Habilis has sleek. The Wanderer, a 91/4″ drop point, is a hunting knife with Habilis’ knack for multi-purpose use, primed and ready for a wide range of field chores and game processing.
Need a small skinner? The Companion model, a compact 63/8″ fixer with an upswept 3″ clip point blade, is a great sidekick for modest chores and skinning small game. And if you need a paracord-wrapped harpoon (and who doesn’t?) made to double as a small knife, the Nomadic Hunter will fit the bill. Remove the paracord and use it to affix the long, thin blade to a wooden shaft and you’ve got a highly serviceable, heavy-duty spear.
Habilis offers their knives and tools with G10 composite scales in a wide variety of colors. The standard finish is corrosion-fighting gun-blued steel, easily retouched as it wears from use. Additionally there are options of handcrafted leather or Kydex sheaths. The blade spines on all knives are hard squared for throwing sparks off a firesteel and some models have notches on the backside to facilitate the same.
The Southern Touch
If you like a little Southern hospitality in your business dealings, the Statens deliver in spades. “Growing up I worked in my parents’ sporting goods store which taught me to take care of customers and also gave me a love for the outdoors,” said Steven. “Later I served a stint as a kitchen designer, which taught me to really pay attention to details and also got me started in CAD (Computer Aided Design). I enjoyed the design process so much I went back to college for Drafting and Design and studied manufacturing processes as well.”
Hang around the Habilis Bush Tool booth at a show and you’ll find out what many already know — the Statens are just plain good folks!
Habilis’ pricing is very hospitable as well. Their popular Bush Tool and behemoth SRT are priced at a very comfortable $199.00 and $229.00, respectively. The Wanderer sells for $119.00 and the small Companion just $99.00. These are great prices — make that grass roots prices — for outdoor knives with a lot of handcrafting. Ya’ll come!