Stout, tough, easy-to-sharpen, and with a grip so comfortable you won’t want to let go, the Harsey Nessmuk from Spartan Blades is a true-performer fixed-blade

by Dexter Ewing; photos by Marty Stanfield Photography and Dexter Ewing

Fixed-blade fans, listen up! Spartan Blades has an amazing lineup. Most of the designs are tactically oriented, which makes sense given that the company was founded by a couple Special Forces veterans, Mark Carey and Curtis Iovito.

Enter knifemaker William “Bill” Harsey from Creswell, Oregon. Harsey is well known for his superb custom fixed-blades and now for his collaboration with Spartan Blades, which already yielded several first-class production tactical fixed-blades. Spartan’s new Harsey Nessmuk fixed-blade is Harsey’s take on the classic Nessmuk skinner blade, a design well known in outdoor circles. Finally…a heavy duty Spartan Harsey design geared towards the sportsman.

A part of Spartan’s Silver Line of mid-priced knives, the Spartan Harsey Nessmuk is made in the USA by Kabar in Olean, New York.

Starting with the blade, the Spartan Harsey Nessmuk employs tried and true 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, the same as what’s used in Kabar’s very capable and legendary USMC fighting knives. The blade measures 5 ⅛ inches long and is a little over ⅛ thick — 0.187 inches, to be exact. It is full flat ground for optimum cutting performance and is treated with a black epoxy coating to protect the blade from rust and corrosion.

The handle is all Harsey, for sure. It’s highly ergonomic and has several key features integrated into it, such as the palm swell to fill the hand nicely, lower forward hand guard for safety, oversized thumb rest traction notches for a non-slip thumb rest, and 3D contouring and texturing for optimum handle comfort. Grasp the handle and feel it melt right into your hand. Yes, this is a very well-engineered handle design. Simply put, this handle is one of the most comfortable you will ever experience in a fixed-blade. Two sets of Torx screws secure the handle slabs to the tang. The handle material is molded black fiberglass reinforced nylon. It is a great looking handle that almost has the appearance of G-10 or micarta.

Spartan Blades builds knives meant for hard use. Their Silver Line of knives is engineered just as meticulously as the top-of-the-line Gold Line, so you are getting a product that has a strong pedigree and USA manufacture.

Thick rubber hose is no match for the cutting power of the Spartan Harsey Nessmuk. The handle allows you to get a great grip and, therefore, to bear down on tough cutting jobs.

The Nessmuk is a knife that can be used in multiple ways, fulfilling more than one role on a camping or hunting trip. The blade’s belly allows the knife to be used as an effective food prep tool and a camp utility blade. While the shape itself is more reminiscent of a classic butcher knife than an actual Nessmuk shape, this doesn’t mean the knife is any less effective as an outdoor knife. The blade has proven to be an excellent slicer, effectively processing meats and vegetables. The flat grind of the blade tapers the cross section progressively, greatly improving the knife’s cutting performance.

The 1095CV steel is widely used in several of Kabar’s popular models, including the legendary USMC Fighting Utility knife. The metal is relatively inexpensive to acquire, holds an edge quite well, and is easy to resharpen in the field. In fact, one of the things that users report about this steel is that it can be effectively maintained without a lot of work. Most commercially available sharpeners can handle this steel well without great difficulty. If you are a steel snob, don’t be so quick to turn your nose up at 1095CV just because it is not stainless. It’s a highly respected steel that has proven itself over time.

Ergonomics is important on a fixed-blade handle to make it both comfortable as well as safe to use. The Harsey Nessmuk handle has features that make it both.

The handle of the Spartan Harsey Nessmuk is definitely one of the best handle designs that you will ever wrap your hand around. Bill Harsey’s hallmark is a highly ergonomic handle that not only does a great job at keeping your hand in place but also has all the right curves in the right places, and this translates to a handle that is exceptionally comfortable to hold even during extended cutting sessions.

The handle is the user interface of any knife. If a handle isn’t comfortable, the knife won’t be used regardless of how great the blade is. You will notice some handle designs are flat. This one isn’t. It has a rounded cross-section which allows it to conform to the user’s hand. The lower integral forward guard and the downturn of the rear of the handle and the flaring of the butt work in harmony to capture your hand in place, so there is no forward or rearward slippage. The 3D machining pattern creates not only an exciting visual effect but also a subtle texture that helps to improve grip quality. Five large traction notches do a great job at seating the user’s thumb without them feeling overly aggressive.

The Nessmuk-style blade is similar to a skinner, with a broad belly that is adaptable to many camp and cooking tasks.

In action, the Harsey Nessmuk is a hard-working fixed-blade for field or hunting use. It’s also a great food prep knife. The 1095 carbon steel is a blade steel that is preferred among enthusiasts who use their blades outdoors because of easy resharpening. And 1095 gets pretty sharp fast using simple sharpening tools. I like how the Nessmuk ‘s blade exhibits a generous belly for all slicing and cutting chores. The blade’s flat grind enables it to easily slice through meat and produce. The only thing I caution against is to pay attention to the cutting edge, which is the only part of the blade that is exposed to the elements. Rust can start there and travel up under the epoxy coating, so if you notice rust starting on the edge, it’s best to nip it in the bud. Because it’s not stainless, you will notice the edge discoloring due to use, and that is perfectly normal for a carbon steel blade.

Close up of the locking button that secures the Harsey Nessmuk inside its sheath. It is easily released by grabbing the handle and pushing up on the button with your thumb.

For carrying, the Harsey Nessmuk comes with a molded plastic sheath that has a lock integrated into it. It locks onto one of the forward traction notches of the handle’s thumb rest. The knife is locked into the sheath and cannot be accidentally dislodged even with the hardest shaking. To release the knife, use your thumb and press up on the button and it releases. To re-sheath, place the blade into the sheath and press down. You will hear an audible click as the lock engages. The sheath has a belt loop that is attached to the main portion of the sheath via four Phillips head screws. There is a Velcro strap that secures the handle to the sheath, preventing the handle from moving around on its own while you wear the knife. Overall, the sheath is well made and functional. It’s definitely not flimsy, which is good, and mimics the toughness of the knife it carries.

If you are looking for a fixed blade that will pull duty as a field knife, camp utility knife, or even a hunting knife, look no further than the Spartan Harsey Nessmuk. In general, the Nessmuk blade style is highly regarded in the outdoors world as being an effective design that covers quite the spectrum of use. I think this fixed-blade will serve you well. It’s rugged, made in the USA, and designed by one of the best knifemakers in this industry.


Dexter has been writing about knives for over 25 years. He currently serves as Field Editor for BLADE Magazine, and he runs a knife and tool sharpening service. Dexter has a passion for knives and knife collecting. His specialty is production (factory-made) knives and the trends and technology associated with them.

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