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The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

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The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  Paleolithic on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:19 pm

The Ulu is one of the knives used by the Inuit. I believe the word "Ulu" translates in one of the Inuit languages as "Woman's knife"

Don't let any preconceived notions on what is to be "manly" take away from the absolute utility of this skinning knife. In many primitive cultures, skinning, fleshing and tanning hides, gathering, food prep, and home building are all "women's work." That's right, all the very useful and very important things for staying alive. As far as I'm concerned, work is work and it needs to be done, doesn't matter by whom!

This is a modern version of the Inuit Ulu from Knives of Alaska and I couldn't be happier with it. It is chisel ground, 3-3/8" blade made of D2 tool steel, with a Rockwell of 58-60.



The Ulu excels in skinning and fleshing tasks as its incredibly sharp edge and unusual shape lends to an increased surface area which translates to better cutting of meat and skin. When using this to skin animals, I almost feel like I am unzipping them, it is that pleasant to use. I have used this knife to skin and flesh many furs now and it is an excellent tool to use for such and that was how it was used traditionally. It's rounded edge also makes fleshing for tanning easier withing worrying about putting a point through your hide.




There are two hangups that I have found with the knife. It is difficult to make an initial incision into an animal to begin skinning with it. It's almost more desirable to slit first with your belt knife and then use this for the rest, adding to weight and redundancy of tools in one's kit. It would be great if the knife had one pointy end to make that first cut. The second is that it is an awkward design and takes some getting used to. Once you've used it a few times and become acquainted to the strange shape of the handle and blade, it actually is fairly comfortable and pleasant to use.


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Post  Highlander20068 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:40 am

Those are very interesting knives, I know its called a skinner but the guillotine style blade looks like it is more suited for chopping, I haven't used it personally but it looks like it would be tough to make a good neck to belly cut with it, I would be very interested in seeing it skin something like a deer, It looks a little awkward to hold and actually skin with, but I may be wrong, what is your experience with it?

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Re: The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  Paleolithic on Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:28 am

All of your questions were answered in my original post.

As far as chopping, it is relatively poor at it. It is chisel ground. It functions as well as a stone hand axe when it comes to chopping, it's horribly light for chopping and does not do well at it.
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Post  Highlander20068 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:31 am

ahhh gotcha i didn't see your in between picture posts, its a very neat design, as far as defense it looks like it could open a gut pretty quickly if needed to in a pinch

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Re: The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  Paladin on Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:28 pm

Ulu's are fantastic tools! I've have a few that I bought back when I was stationed in Alaska. I still keep one in my hunting pack. They can be had for pretty reasonable prices, but word of warning to the potential buyer: most of the Ulu's you'll find online are "tourist-grade". You'll find poor quality Ulu's in virtually every gift-shop in Alaska. So, look hard at them before you buy. The Knives of Alaska version that Paleolithic has shown is one of the quality Ulu's...

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Re: The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  ParamilUSMC on Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:50 pm

So how much did this bad boy run ya and where did you buy it? I wouldn't mind trying that on beaver. Beaver is the one animal I despise fleshing, so the more you get when you skin them out the less work you have to do during the fleshing process. This maybe an interesting tool for just that?

How well/long does it hold its edge? I usually have to at least use two-three knives to skin out a large deer. Would this limit the amount of tools necessary to complete this task?

What about sharpening? Stone or file? My fleshing knife pretty much requires the use of a file to sharpen.
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Re: The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  Paleolithic on Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:47 pm

ParamilUSMC wrote:1)So how much did this bad boy run ya and where did you buy it? I wouldn't mind trying that on beaver. Beaver is the one animal I despise fleshing, so the more you get when you skin them out the less work you have to do during the fleshing process. This maybe an interesting tool for just that?

2)How well/long does it hold its edge? I usually have to at least use two-three knives to skin out a large deer. Would this limit the amount of tools necessary to complete this task?

3)What about sharpening? Stone or file? My fleshing knife pretty much requires the use of a file to sharpen.

I numbered your questions so I can have an easier time answering them.

1) This particular one goes from $40.00 to about $60.00 depending on where you shop. You can find the same model on ebay for the lower cost as well as from Knives of Alaska themselves. http://www.knivesofalaska.com/item.asp?id=169
In Inuit culture, these types of knives would be used to do everything you're asking: skinning, gutting, boning, fleshing. Its rounded shape helps prevent stabbing through your hide during stretching and fleshing.

2) So far I have gone through a x3 squirrel, 1x skunk, 1x porcupine, 1x perch, harvested numerous plants with it, plus tried to see how well it performed as a chopper on a Chaga conk with a single sharpening. It is still decently sharp and is about time for another sharpening. If you're willing to put up with getting to the flesh with the rounded edge through the hair, you can make your initial incision and gut it just like any other animal. Sometimes I have opted to use a small knife to make the initial cut and finish up on winter only because it's slightly faster and a little bit less of a pain in the butt.

3) It's chisel ground and you can choose what you want to do to sharpen it. I have not used a file except on axes. This is from Knives of Alaska's site explaining how to sharpen their Ulu:

"You cannot use one of the sharpening systems to set the angle the handle will not let you to set the blade up. Secure the blade on a hard flat surface such as a desk or table. Extend the edge of the ulu out past the edge of the table while keeping the handle flat and depressed firmly. Now take a sharpener such as our diamond coated steel or a whetstone and stroke the entire length of the blade with the steel or stone keeping the angle consistent with what was ground in at our factory. It may be a little awkward at first, but you will improve with practice. If you have ever sharpened a double-bitted axe it is a similar movement. The blade stays put and the stone or steel moves down the length of sharpened edge."


My experience with using high carbon steel blades like the Mora C1, is that I have only needed a single sharpening to skin, gut, and butcher a deer. I have not yet used the ulu on something as large as a deer but I do not doubt its effectiveness and capability of doing such a thing. I have not used stainless steel to do the same with a deer. My stainless steel stuff will go dull after a few squirrels without a doubt. May I ask if that is, by chance, what you're using, stainless or carbon?
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Re: The Ulu, Fantastic Skinner

Post  ParamilUSMC on Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:44 am

I use all steel blades. None of which are carbon. Kind of sounds like an axe sharpening stone might be the best route to go when sharpening after reading that. Sounds interesting though. I might pick one up just to try for next years trapping season. Thanks for the attention to my questions, much appreciated.
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