Buck 119

A shot of the Buck 119 from the Buck Knives website :

buck 119


The Buck 119 is made by stock removal currently out of 420HC stainless steel hardened to 58 HRC (different grades have been used in the past). It weighs 7.5 oz. (213 g.) with a six inch blade and an overall length of ten and a half inches. The blade is hollow ground with a clip point and has a Phenolic handle.

This Buck 119 was bought heavily used, there were hammer impacts along the spine above the blood groove and even on the guard which had left dents and chips. The edge was also chipped and dented (sub-millimeter) as well as roughly sharpened which heavily obscured the new in box edge profile. The tip was also lightly cracked off (sub-millimeter).

In regards to general design, the blade has a deep clip point which is 2.5 inches long and is 1.04 inches at its widest. The blade stock is 0.180" (~3/16") and the knife weighs 210 g with a balanced point 1.5 cm behind the guard (measured from the middle), and thus it is significantly handle heavy. The grip is nice and thick and fills the hand well.

The hollow grind is decently deep and high (0.67") considering the thickness of the steel and intended use of the knife. Specifically, behind the edge the steel is ~0.021" thick, moving back in 1/8" increments it is 0.033, 0.052, 0.082 and 0.115" thick respectively. For reference this is significantly thinner than the Green Beret, which measures 0.045", 0.065", 0.093" and 0.125" at the same points.

Concerning the existing edge geometry in detail, the angle was difficult to determine as the sharpening was somewhat smeared out, however it was approximately ground at 12-13 degrees per side and 0.021" thick behind the edge. A couple of test passes with a Sharpmaker set at 15 degrees immediately hit the edge creating a micro-bevel confirming the angle estimate.

No sheath came with the blade.

Stock testing

As the Buck 119 was bought used, the new in box sharpness could not be examined. All performance tests were done after the blade was sharpened and the upper portion of the guard removed.

Push cutting 3/8" hemp required 30-36 lbs through the tip. Pointing sections of hardwood dowel the Buck 119 was a powerful cutter, forming a one inch tip in 10.1 +/- 0.6 cuts. The thin and acute edge bit in well and the knife was comfortable in hand with a grip choked up over the guard.

With a 50 lbs push the Buck 119 sank 148 +/- 3 pages into a phone book, not particularity high penetration. However with a hard vertical stab the blade achieved a depth of 701 +/- 35 pages which is very high, especially from a penetration per mass ratio perspective which shows one of the advantages of the deep clip point.

However a disadvantage was quickly shown on the 2x4 digging ( performed during the last stages of the review). The point readily cracked off on a soft-medium density piece of lumber, with little to no ability to clear wood on a deep stab (half an inch of penetration). A large potion of the tip was lost, where the blade cracked the steel was 0.125" thick. The point was reground, and used to dig through a 2x4 with 31 +/- 7 stabs in 140 +/- 37 seconds.

With the very thick tip (0.150" thick, 13 degree distal taper), strength was no longer a problem, however the knife would tend to pop out when prying due to now far to thick heavy wedge design. Something more tapered, but still strong enough like the Green Beret tip profile is far more efficient. A pic of the reprofiled tip :

With a full grip, the Buck 119 had very low chopping ability, it basically had no power on the swing. With a two fingered grip around the end of the handle the performance increased to 15 +/- 3 % of the ability of the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet on scrap wood as well as felled 2-3" pine and spruce.


The Buck 119 is light in hand and thus works well in the kitchen for a "tactical" knife. It is easier to handle for example than something like the Camp Tramp. The guard however reduces the ability to work around a cutting board, and the blade profile is thicker of course than what is found on a true kitchen knife like the KX06 from Spyderco but it is many times better than something like the SOG SEAL 2000. The steel is well suited to kitchen use, showing no signs of corrosion even when left wet or exposed to fruit jucies for extended periods of time.

brush work

The largest downside of the Buck for woods work is that it has little chopping ability. For example chopping through 1x4 inch pine requires 26 +/- 3 chops, with a full grip. When the grip is shifted back on the handle to allow more power can be brought into the swing the number of chops is lowered to 17 +/ - 1. For comparison the Green Beret, which isn't a powerful chopper for its blade class, does the same in 9.3 +/- 3 and 6.3 +/- 3 chops respectively. An effective chopping blade will cut the same class of wood in 1-3 hits.

However, The Buck 119 is sturdy enough to be used with a baton if wood is needed to be cut. Batoning in general though is many to one times slower than using a decent chopping knife and thus to complement the abilities of the Buck 119, a larger blade or decent folding saw would be well appreciated in general like a Felco, or the Zeta from Tashiro Hardware.

In general though, while saws handle felling well on small woods and excell at bucking, they are poor for limbing and gathering vegetation in general. For a lot of shelter and miscellaneous construction boughs are valuable building materials. The Buck 119 doesn't have the length and more importantly heft to limb out even small sticks economically. A saw isn't an competent choice here either, and a small hatchet or better yet long limbing blade can be many times to one more efficient.

However, with its thin and acute edge the Buck 119 proved to be a deft tool for carving woods While not in the same class as the Mora 2000, the Buck was much more adept than blades like the Green Beret. Specifically, comparing the two in carving up some soft pine, the Green Beret needed an average of 23.0 +/- 0.8 cuts to form a point, where the Buck 119 only needed 7-10 slices. This performance is reflected in the relative performance on the hardwood dowel as noted in the above.

For precision tip work, the knife was somewhat limited by its size. A much smaller knife is far easier to use, something like the narrow puukko is near optimal. There is also the issue of tip strength when digging/prying in thicker woods. The depth needs to be kept fairly shallow to avoid fracturing the tip.

However in general, its light weight and balance also made the Buck 119 more productive for extended light work than the larger and heavier chopping blades. It was much more efficient than the Camp Tramp for example in cleaning a few trout. Its tip profile, while not quite robust enough for deep prying in hardwoods unlike the Camp Tramp, is much stronger than the Mora 2000 and thus has benefit for such work, though again care needs to be taken to not over stress the tip.


With its thin edge and decently acute primary grind the Buck 119 worked well as a medium heavy utility knife. It is neutralin balance and thus has a low fatigue rate, and with a proper grit finish (coarse to fine) excelled at cutting woods, plastics, ropes, leathers, nylons and various fabrics. The only significant downside outside of chopping ability was the rather low prying ability.

Edge retention

The Buck 119 was used alongside the Green Beret to cut cardboard, checking with both a highly polished and somewhat coarse edge. In general it compared well and held its own matching the performenace of the Green Beret ( ref) .

The Buck 119 was used alongside the Green Beret to cut various metals with the initial edge as well as the slightly more acute modified edge. In general it compared well ( ref) . The edge took damage readily when cutting metals and other hard materials, but resisted gross damage strongly and thus could be brought back to functional performance with a little work with a file.

Prying and impacts

The knife was also locked in a vice, right behind the reground tip (one inch back) and bent until it broke. The blade snapped at a low angle, 15 +/- 2 degrees, with no permanent bend, load was 90 +/- 10 lbs. The knife was also subjected to a light hammer pop (estwing 22 oz, just wrist pop) which fractured the primary grind. The knife was again viced and locked and again broke at a low angle.

Ease of Sharpening

To reset the initial edge bevel and remove the damage, the blade was honed with a pseudo-file, a 100 grit AO sanding belt fixed to a strip of narrow hardwood. Due to the damage, an excessive burr formed which had to be cleaned off before the knife would take a crisp edge.

The burr was removed with a couple of passes at an obtuse angle which a coarse SiC waterstone. It took about five minutes to set the edge, which was then honed to a razor sharpness with a series of waterstones and finishing on CrO. The entire process took about ten minutes.

In general ease of sharpening was high. The blade readily took a push shaving sharpness freehand, readily above to push cut right into newsprint. Coarse edges could also be readily applied. The steel ground well with minimal burr formation.

The edge was later modified after hard impacts and repeated tests against other blades, the new profile left the edge 0.019-0.022" thick and ground at 9.2 +/- 0.2 degrees per side.


As the upper guard limits grip versatility significant (see the review of the Green Beret for details [ ref]), it was cut off with a hacksaw, and then finish ground with a bastard file and then some sandpaper. The modified Buck 119 :

With the above modification the handle was much more ergonomic and could be readily used in an overhand grip with only minor ergonomic issues.


This is a pretty standard hollow ground blade design, in general personal user preferences would pick a flat ground blade with more blade balance, but there are trade offs to consider with such choices. The only real obvious stand out is the lack of ductility. However given the blades past heavy user by the previous owner, the low fracture points could have been influenced by past history - though such breaks are common for stainless steels in general.

Comments and references

Comments can be emailed to : cliffstamp[REMOVE]@cutleryscience.com or by posting in the following thread :

More information can be obtained at the Buck knives website, and their discussion forum on Bladeforums.

Last updated : Wed Sep 1 01:56:12 NDT 2004
Originally written; Sat Jul 10 02:16:21 NDT 2004