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Old 01-15-2009, 07:01 AM
DaveRuhlig's Avatar
DaveRuhlig DaveRuhlig is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 840
Gut hook geometry

Ok guys I need some help. Let me start by saying I know there's been a lot of discussions about the usefullness/uselessness of gut hooks and there are some strong opinions that all they do is weaken the the knife. I used to share those same opinions - untill last week. For the first time I saw someone use a guthook the way it was intended and it was amazing. The guy was dressing a buck he has just killed and had it hanging - he made a small cut through the skin between the hind legs, stuck the gut hook in and pulled down to the neck. It split the skin like a zipper saving the edge of his blade from all of the dirt, hair, and tough skin. I've never made a gut hook so this got me thinking about the actual geometry. I've seen a million gut hooks on every style of knife you can think of, but I'm curious what is optimal?

What angle should the hook be at in relation to the spine?
Should both sides be ground or just one?
Should the leading edge be blunt, rounded, sharp?
How wide should the hook be?
How far forward on the blade to you go?
Should the back of the spine be level with the front or should the front be higher?

Any imput from you guys would be helpful!!


"The choice isn't between success and failure; it's between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity." - Keith Ferrazi
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Old 01-15-2009, 09:08 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Location: Wauconda, WA
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As you know, I'm not exactly a huge fan of gut hooks but I have made some and read about them and can throw in my two cents on the design.

All the questions about the position of the hook relative to the spine and the tip of the blade will depend on the size and design of the blade. Basically, it has to be placed so that when you are holding the knife upside down the hook can be effectively applied to the task at hand. To me, this is one of the largest problem areas with using a hook since most knives don't handle well upside down.

I ground only one side of the hook. My thoughts were that you're working on the spine where the steel is thick (especially if the blade is not tapered) so you don't have much room to develop a thin edge. A single zero ground edge will be sharper than anything else you can do on a short thick bevel.

The leading edge should be blunt and shaped in such a way as to not be able to snag or cut into anything. In a nutshell, that's almost the whole point of having a gut hook.

The hook should be wide enough to accept the thickness of the hide you plan to cut with it without having the hide bunch up. I think having it wider than the hide is thick will work too but maybe not as well. Having it too narrow will be a big problem.....


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Old 01-15-2009, 06:37 PM
cliff fendley cliff fendley is offline
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Location: LaGrange, Kentucky
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Did he cut the rib cage too with the gut hook? Must have been a huge gut hook if so. If not what did he accomplish?

The only gut hooks I've seen work half way are only sharpened on the one side so they cut on the under side of the hide. One of the things I hate about gut hooks is they usually get hair everywhere, if you cut only the inside of the hide you dont cut hair and get it everywhere. The trick to processing, keeping everything clean and that starts in the field, and the less loose hair on the hide the less you have floating around and getting on the meat when processing.

If I was going to make one I'd only sharpen the one side of it.

Your really not saving your blade though with a gut hook. If you field dress a deer properly the only cut you make on the outside with the main blade is the one he made anyway so your blade will not be in hair or dirt and a deer hide is not tough to cut.

Last edited by cliff fendley; 01-15-2009 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 01-16-2009, 08:49 AM
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DaveRuhlig DaveRuhlig is offline
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Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 840
Ray- Thanks a lot for the information. I agree the handle shape is one of the biggest issues to overcome - how can it be comfortable right side up and upside down... The broomstick handle is an option, but I think you lose the grip necessary for cleaning an animal... I'm thinking about a 1/4 inch width at the cutting edge - I don't think the deer and hogs down here require much more. As far as integrating it with the blade shape, I'm still up in the air. I like the look of the droppionts I've seen with the hook, but I think you comprimise too much of the blade strengh near the point. Maybe a Nessy with a hook??

Cliff - No, he did not cut the rib cage - just went through the skin all the way down the belly. What did he accomplish? Well, I guess from my perspective he saved the refined edge of his knife from cutting through all of that hair and skin. It just made the process of skinning that much faster. I should add that we don't usually gut deers. You can quarter them and take the back straps without ever opening the body cavity. There's really no rib meat in the little deer down here. I should also note he uses the same skinnig method for hogs which have much tougher skin, alot more hair, and tons of dirt.

I think I will go with sharpening one side as you both suggested, and maybe just end up making a set like Paul Moore just posted in the Display Case. Thanks for the input!


"The choice isn't between success and failure; it's between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity." - Keith Ferrazi
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Old 01-16-2009, 04:58 PM
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GHEzell GHEzell is offline
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I've made a grand total of 2 guthooks, but I ground (filed) from both sides. Either will work. I feel that removing material from both sides, having the edge centered instead of offset, may help protect the edge from accidental impacts, but it really doesn't make that much of a difference.

I like symmetry, I guess...

A good friend told me one time about forging "What is there not to like, you get to break all the rules you were told as a kid, don't play with that it is sharp, don't play with fire, and don't beat on that"
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:52 PM
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dbalfa dbalfa is offline
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Location: North Alabama
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From a deer hunter- now knife maker's perspective-

I Like Guthooks! I have used a Browning folding skinner with a guthook blade for years and can't remember how many deer I've dressed with it. The biggest thing it does (for all you naysayers out there ) is help keep you from cutting into the rumen accidentally but allow you to completely open the body cavity with one fell swoop. This can be a tremendous blessing when it's 20 degs and dark and you only have a small headlamp with which to do the work.

As far as weakening the blade- I can see how a poorly designed one might, but if you put the hook above what would normally be your blade profile anyway, you have actually added material to the blade, not taken away- right?

I've made a grand total of one guthook but will make more. I can say that you need to keep the hook area larger than you think the average hide would be. I would think 5/32 would be good or slightly larger. The next one I make will be larger hooked than my first.

I have a question Dave - Ya'll Florida crackers don't eat the tenderloins(Psoas minor) of your deer? Man, that is the best part of the animal! You gotta open that booger up and get those out! But if you bust the rumen - forget about it....hence all the more reason for a guthook


"..good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from poor judgement.." -Gary McMahan, a cowboy poet and good dancer.!/p...24112090995576
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:58 PM
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calharkins calharkins is offline
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The main purpose of a gut hook is to keep the stomach and intestines in one piece. Lacerations to the stomach or intestines produces a stench that will make you vomit. I wouldn't field dress a deer without one. Make sure that the spine of the knife above the hook is not sharpened.
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