“Wind drove the rain at a flat angle, cutting almost parallel to the ground. The dust, which was dirt before the explosion, caked his boots and made the long, steep climb up the mountainside even more difficult. Body parts of enemies lay strewn about in haphazard piles, blown into clumps from the shockwave. He made his way further and further up the hillside until he reached the mountain’s zenith and there, buried up to his handle in the forehead of the Overlord lay his knife…the Busse Steel Heart. As he pulled it from the skull lightning flashed in the distance splitting the sky and illuminating the battlefield in pale white light for a brief second. He was triumphant.”
Okay, so maybe its not that crazy, but the Busse Nano Fusion Forsaken Steel Heart is as badass a knife as you will ever handle. The TM Hunt M-18 is bigger, but it is bigger for ostensibly practical reasons. The NFFSH is just nuts. Pretty much like every large Busse fixed blade. But it is so design focused on being big and nutty and over the top that it is really good at doing so. If you are the kind of person that loves cars that go 300 MPH, watches with dive ratings to 1000M, or likes watching videos of explosions in slow motion, this is the knife for you. In more than one way, the NFFSH is the fixed blade equivalent of pornography—gaudy, shocking, and 100% unnecessary. But in other ways, it is a damn good knife. Don’t let the bluster fool you…the NFFSH is quite well-designed with a lot of touches you will find on “serious” bushcraft blades. There is, of course, one manjor flaw with all Busses. We will get to that later.
Here is the product page for the Forsaken Steel Heart. The knife is a medium sized knife in the Busse line up, but a beast in any other company’s line up. The “forsaken” designation is an indication that it was a variant of the original Steel Heart design which, so far as I can tell, means that this knife has a clip point while the regular version had a drop point. There are a number of options, as with all Busses. This knife can be purchased with a coated or uncoated blade. The uncoated blade comes in two finishes, a cheaper basic finish, and the “competition grade” finish with a buffed steel and cool heavy grinds on the flats. It comes with a variety of handle materials and colors. Finally, and most importantly in terms of why I bought this one, it had two handle designs, one with a relatively normal handle (though still heavily contoured because this is a Busse) and another design that is smaller and even more heavily contoured called the Nano Fusion handle. In all, this was the fully decked out model—micarta handles, competition finish, and Nano Fusion handles. Or in Busse parlance NFFSH.
Here is my review sample (purchased after years and years of trying with my own money):
Twitter Review Summary: If alchemy is the process of making gold from other material, the Forsaken Steel Heart is the process of making steel from pure testosterone.
NOTE: Ordering from Busse is a difficult process. Furthermore, finding them on the secondary market is a process of burning money. Its not uncommon for a Busse to sell for 33%-50% more than it cost and they are already a pretty penny. First, Busse announces a new knife. Second, they open the ordering process, but it is not a lengthy period. Third, you wait for anywhere from 6 to 32 weeks, which is the knife equivalent of a restaurant that tells you they have a two hour wait. After that the knife arrives in a cardboard sleeve because, well, Busse doesn’t seem to like making sheathes.
There are a lot of things about Busse Knives that are comically overdone. They are as thick as a cutting board, the handles are as unsubtle and curvy as a female star of adult films, and blade finish is purposely coarse. But there are real design chops here. First, the knife’s balance, despite is massive size, is pretty spot on. Second, the handle really, really works. Third, the choil is great. Fourth, despite is crude appearance, the blade finish has zero impact on the cutting performance. This is comically overdone in the same way that a fully decked out Land Rover is sitting in a mall parking lot. As funny as that might be, there is no denying the blueprint for performance is still there.
Fit and Finish: 2
Every surface has been thought about, touched, and treated in some way. The full forward finger choil has been fully crowned. The pommel has been chamfered. The micarta has been rough hewn for grip. Over and over again the surfaces of the NFFSH have been thoughtfully considered. This, like every Busse I have handled, is exceedingly well made.
This brings me to an often ridiculed “feature” the “corrugated blade technology.” Some people, perhaps rightly, claim that this is simply Busse leaving in the machining marks from successive passes of a cutter head designed to hog away material on the main grind. Busse marketing sells this as a feature. I don’t know which account is correct, but what I do know is that the corrugations have no impact on performance and give the blade a unique look. The two large corrugations are just sweet looking and they are perfectly symmetrical. So whether this is tech or hype, I don’t care. They have no negative impact and do, in my opinion, improve the look of the knife. I imagine the two large corrugations also help with blade balance, which is a very important thing in a fixed blade.
Handle Design: 2
This is a giant knife. It is not the longest knife I have reviewed, that would be the TM Hunt M18, but it is one of the tallest. Here is a comparison between the NFFSH and my three other fixed blades:
From the top that is the Busse NFFSH, the Bark River Bravo 1 LT Rampless in 3V, the Krein TK-3 Whitetail, and the Ver Steeg Imp. As you can see, the NFFSH is huge. From the tip of the guard to the top of the spine, there is a good 2 inches or more of steel. And despite the contouring and shrinking promised by the nano fusion designation, this is an awful lot of steel in the hand. I have medium sized hands and while I have never had an issue with the NFFSH, I could see it being a problem for someone with even slightly smaller hands. As is, the handle is excellent, but beware—this is not a knife that is universally sized (for that, see the Krein’s handle).
Yes, INFI is all it is cracked up to be. Whether it is a full on new recipe or merely an excellent heat treat, I don’t care. It does exactly what is advertised—it takes a thumping and remains virtually unblemished. And when you really push the steel, which I have done, it rolls instead of chips making edge restoration a less arduous task. The steel doesn’t corrode or tarnish at all, so far as my experience has shown and it sharpens wonderfully. I have run this next to my Bravo 1 with 3V and the differences are noticeable—3V chips more and tends to color more readily. If you are looking for a tough steel or a steel in a fixed blade that will take abuse INFI is the best on the market right now, with the one caveat that I have not handled Vanadis 4 Extra.
Blade Shape: 2
With a nice, but not cartoonish clip I am enamored with the NFFSH’s blade shape. It gives you a bit more piercing power than a drop point (because, well drop points were designed for the sole purpose of NOT piercing material) but without the silliness of a Bowie. Its sturdy and delivers a lot of steel to the tip of the knife and to the edge.
No one will mistake the NFFSH for a slicer, but despite the massively thick steel it can make precision cuts. Shown above is true hard use—making a nice pile of feathersticks. It can slice thanks in large part to the very tall blade which allows the stock thickness to be taken down to a decently thin edge. I appreciate the cutting bevel being tall and a bit convexish as it adds cutting power without sacrificing durability. Don’t be fooled—this isn’t a sharp prybar, it is actually a pretty damn good knife.
Sheath Carry: 0
Sheath Accessibility: 0
AND STILL NO SHEATH
The rough micarta is great for grip but it can wear a bit over time. Its not likely to create a hotspot, but it can give you small abrasions. More concerning in my time with the knife is the rear pommel. With its pronounced hook and saber like negative angle, it can smash into the back of your palm. Typically, I use this like the knob on a bat, leaning way into it in high impact cuts so that is not a problem, but if you are not doing that it can creat a hotspot. This is more a question of how to learn your knife versus a design flaw, but be aware.
Wolverine’s claws are slightly less durable. Honestly, short of focused and purposeful abuse I can’t think of a way to damage this knife. With massively thick, tough steel, full tang construction, and micarta handles, this thing will outlive you by a substantial margin.
Fidget Factor: low
This knife is just too big to fidget with. Sure, the curvy handle and substantial feel are great in the hand, but it is just too big to play with—find a flipper instead.
Fett Effect: high
The rough micarta and crosshatching on the blade flat makes for a very compelling knife and one that already looks a little bounty hunterish. Over time I can only imagine those things getting better.
Value: very low
At around $600 for a fixed blade with no sheath, value has long since fallen by the wayside. Busse is a brand for the most cultish of enthusiasts and is priced accordingly. The price for what is really a slab of steel and two slabs of micarta, all shaped, is pretty insane. When you throw in the complete and total lack of a sheath it is kind of insulting. Only the insane toughness and the truly unique look of these knives makes them even mildly palatable for the most dedicated collectors.
Don’t fool yourself—buying a Busse is never necessary. They are the most specialized of specialized tools and even then a good camp knife and hatchet would probably serve you better. But if you like knives enough to regularly read this site, then the Busse makes sense if you want to experience the absolute pinnacle of knife toughness. You don’t need one, I don’t need one, but having one is certainly quite fun. Chopping and smashing with reckless abandon is all the better when you have a Busse. This knife has been on my bucket list for nine years and now that I have one I am thrilled at how good it is.
Of all the quixotic Busse-specific choices, the lack of a sheath is really hard for me to swallow. Honestly, I don’t get it. Adding a good kydex number would be very easy, especially for knives made in as small a batches as Busses typically are. Until they come with sheathes, given the price, I just can’t recommend a Busse. It is a stellar knife, a great testament to just how skilled Jerry Busse is at designing and crafting blades, but a fixed blade without a sheath is like a folder without a handle—it is an incomplete and essentially useless tool as shipped. And so I come to this point—giving a product a great score but not recommending it. It has happened once before, with the Spy 007, but here the point is even more acute. Out of the box, you can’t really use or carry this knife. And that is unacceptable.
The Bravo 1’s sheath was terrible, but at least it had one. And so while they get the same score, I can’t recommend the NFFSH.
Quick note—there are a few folks that offer premade sheathes (i.e. sheaths that do not require you to send out your knife). I used one of those services and the sheath I got is incredible. It transforms the knife, but it also added another $80. At nearly $700 this is a mind bogglingly bad value, but one hell of a knife. If I weren’t reviewing gear or if I hadn’t lusted after a knife like this for years I would have never taken the plunge. Having done so, I am stunned at how nice the end result is, but I can’t justify the purchase under any rational criteria. If you are hard pressed, my nylon sock that came with the BK9 worked as a temporary sheath, but still, a sheath is at least half the design equation when it comes to a fixed blade and not providing one is a knife design mortal sin.
Overall Score: 16 out of 20; not recommended
While there are a lot of big knives, like the Ka Bar BK9 or the Bark River Bravo 3, they lack the style, panache, and steel that the NFFSH has. INFI is a true competitive advantage that outpaces every other steel focused on toughness and as such there is really no competition other than another Busse. Still, for all that, no sheath is a deal breaker for me.