View Full Version : Roselli Bearclaw and Grandmother

28-10-08, 03:05 PM
Several people here are interested in woodworky knives with a sort of utilitarian air to them. So, I thought I’d put these up for a look at. This is the Roselli Bearclaw and the Roselli Grandmother knife. The Bearclaw is mine and the Grandmother a mate’s, on loan.

http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/1-Roselli-both.jpg http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/roselli-both.jpg

I have to say that the reason that I really like these two pieces is that they are both pretty small, and me and small knives are like that. The Bearclaw is the larger of the two here, and made in Heimo Roselli's ‘wootz’ steel. And, I know there are complaints made about the stuff, but I reckon it is smashing. Very hard (like 62Rc.) and has a wonderful grain to it. It is very resistant to – well everything as far as I can make out – staining, wear, dinging etc. I have a few of these Roselli UHC pieces, and I have never had anything even resembling a chip. Which isn’t something I can say of other hard high carbon steels that I have given a hard life too – Moras especially.

http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/2-Roselli-both-blades.jpg http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/roselli-both-backs.jpg

The smaller one, the Grandmother, really is a small knife. 5 5/8” overall, with a 2 ” blade. The larger, the Bearclaw, also has a 2 ” blade, but the 4 ” handle means that it behaves very differently.

I should point out a few things. The Bearclaw costs about 62€ on the Toolshop.de site at the moment, just to give an indication. And, the Grandmother, 44€. They are made of different steels, UHC for the Bearclaw as mentioned, and an undetailed carbon steel for the grandmother. They are both forged. The finish on the UHC is crisp and sleek. On the Grandmother it is coarse. Similarly with the grinds. Whilst they are both in the category of excellent, that on the Bearclaw is superior. The blade on the Grandmother is more bellied that that on the Bearclaw, which looks for all the world like Roselli’s other smaller carver, the Carpenter, only with a bit taken out. Though the blade on the Bearclaw is nowhere a flat edge, the degree of belly is shallower near the handle, offering a bit of both worlds.

http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/3-roselli-grandnother.jpg http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/4-Roselli-Granm-in-hand.jpg

They are both a very useable 3mm thick, and the handles are in birch. The BEarclaw is in a finely grained, distinctively scented wood. The Grandmother in a more off-the-peg curly birch, with a familiar figure in it. They are both quite light knives – I’d say they are just right, because they happen to tickle my preferences. They feel strong and substantial, whilst not having the burden of the weightiness that can be sometimes distracting with micarta or other, denser handle materials. They feel, in fact, very ‘traditional’ for want of a better term.


The most obvious difference between the two is in not only the length of the handles, but the general apparent intentions of them. Longer, the one on the Bearclaw offers good purchase for a comfortable whole-handed grip and plenty of control in that. But, as stated in much of the promotional material, the aim of the knife is to provide an analogy for a claw, and is very well designed for manipulation with the finger tips. Very successful in this, it is. The knife never feels clumsy, awkward or like it is getting in its own way, no matter how fiddly the going gets. I sometimes think that a knife in the workshop is, for many tasks, an easy-to-hand, second best. It’ll do the job, but there is probably something around much better suited. Not so with the Bearclaw. This feels like a carefully designed tool.

The Grandmother is flexible certainly, more abitrary in its competences, more pragmatic. It seems happiest sitting in the palm. And, perhaps it falls more into the usual catch all utilitarian category. This said, it is no slouch in any department. I can’t imagine much that it couldn’t handle, and certainly it’s size gives it great advantages as daily pocket wear. The great advantage with both these knives and their handles lie in their swiftness and hand filling. It is here where, for example, BRKT's little knives often suffer, I find.

http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/6-roselli-bearclaw-in-hand.jpg http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/roselli-bearclaw-in-hand.jpg

Proportionally, the sabre grind (with micro-bevel) is nice and deep on both, starting relatively high up the towards the spine of the blade. This brings with it obvious advantages – preserving the strength of the grind, whilst also allowing for considerable fineness at the scale these knives will ordinarily be asked to operate.

http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/roselli-grandma-blade-only.jpg http://i184.photobucket.com/albums/x308/nodney1/roselli-bearclaw-blade-only.jpg

I like them both a lot. The Grandmother is perhaps more charming, friendlier than the Bearclaw in many ways (not just those suggested by the name). But they are both extremely useful knives. The Bearclaw is more expensive that the Grandmother, but there are good reasons for this. On the other hand, at certain levels of performance, they occupy very similar territories.

The Bearclaw isn't going anywhere. My mate want’s me to buy his Grandmother off him, I think – and I think I probably will :D


A note on the sheaths: The quality of Roselli sheaths has be questioned in the past. It's not as if they have changed or anything. They are certainly lightweight, some might say insubstantial. I like them. The knives are light, the sheaths are light. There is symmetry. Also these are what, 30 and 50 items. You get what you pay for, certainly. And the consistent effectiveness of the knives might be where that particular production expense has gone. I wouldn't replace mine, unless it actually gave up the ghost, but I can see others might want to :)

tim evans
28-10-08, 06:08 PM
2 excellent working knives there, i've had Roselli's hunter model in UHC for a few years & it's a very good tool.

28-10-08, 08:10 PM
Thanks for this one. I have been looking at both of those...plus the Grandfather trying to decide if I need one.....or all:D

28-10-08, 08:18 PM
Thanks both

You are right about the Grandfather, Schwert. I gazed long and hard at it before getting the Beaarclaw. But I think in the end I found the exaggerated belly of it too much for what I want the thing for :) It looks like the tip of the Hunter blade put into a handle

28-10-08, 08:57 PM
I you hold that Bearclaw edge up for carving how comfortable is the handle? It looks like it could be near perfect.

These knives have a good look to them as woodcarvers but they are on the edge of being too thick I think.

Do you think the UHC is worth the coin?

Also how much work would it be to take off the secondary?

tim evans
28-10-08, 09:09 PM
UHC is a very hard steel i think it's up in RC63 range dunno if you'd be able to do much with it.On first sharpening it can get tiny chips on the very edge of the blade (on sharpmaker) i found that when i used a DMT fine hone these did not appear. The only knives i have had that arrived sharper than the Roselli are the 2 i have from Murray Carter, so no worries on that score.

28-10-08, 09:09 PM
Excellent review, Rob! Thanks a lot! :biggthump

Two beautiful little knives that seem to be worth every penny me thinks!
If I`d be in production knives that`d be 2 to buy immediately.

Some day I find a maker who does something similar?! :huh: :D :party11:

Sorry, unfortunately can`t rep you. :C Have to spred......

28-10-08, 09:44 PM
Cheers Ludi :):D

Tim makes a good point. When sharpening these UHC knives, I have found in the past that an absolute zero grind will chip - finely but noticeably. However, it only takes the most minute secondary to prevent this. The secondary that the UHC blades come with is almost not there. You see it as an effect of the light more than anything else.:) It didn't take me long to take the bevel on a carpenter to absolute zero with a flat diamond stone - but then I had to put the little secondary back on anyway

I think the UHC is worth the pennies :) But I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of UHC in one of the more conventional sloyd handles (like the Grandmother) - even though the standard UHC handle is very, very good.

28-10-08, 11:27 PM
I think I will leave both of these on my list for a bit....awfully hard to pick my favorite. The Bearclaw appeals to me more, but I don't like secondary bevels at all for a wood carver. My SBT carver has me totally spoiled.

29-10-08, 12:09 AM
Noddy, I have to say this is a very interesting and fun post. Lots of times people will do a side-by-side knife comparison and it is apples and oranges.

This one is much more like Mackintosh and Granny Smith....

29-10-08, 11:49 AM
Thanks for that, Schwert (and the other)

I think that if I had the time, your knowledge and skills - as well as knowledge of and access to a community of makers who are specifically attuned to the manufacture of bespoke carving tools like there is in the US, and to a lesser degree here (thinking of people like Ben Orford) - I think I would commission the tools you are looking for.

These aren't carvers, though they make a good job, and they have other kinds of more rugged and assertive task to bear in mind. Best of luck with the search, and looking forward to seeing what you come up with

29-10-08, 01:24 PM
I have the UHC carpenter but with a curly birch handle. I just love it. Always with me where ever I go.

I send the knife back to change the handle.