The Roach Belly was an 18th Century knife pattern used by British, French, and Colonial American traders of that era. Generally, the blade consisted of a straight-spine, acute point, and a pronounced curve, or belly, along the cutting edge. Cold Steel Knives makes a really inexpensive modern version that cuts like mad. Really!
I bought a Cold Steel Roach Belly for several reasons. I liked its sleek fighter looks. There is enough metal at the choil to act as a lower finger guard for serious work. The $12.95 price meant I could take it on a trip to Zion without worrying about losing it from my luggage. A 2.6 ounce weight made for extremely light carry in my hiking pack.
Roach Belly’s 4 1/2″ Krupps 4116 stainless steel blade can pass for a kitchen knife. And I have used it as such. The hollow grind has an effective edge geometry. It cuts meat, veggies, or cardboard equally well. A Rockwell hardness of 56-57 makes for ease of sharpening.
The rounded polypropylene handle of the knife sits nicely in the palm. Its material has small horizontal striations. Some have said it is a bit slick, but I do not find it objectionable. Like some of my Escrima sticks, a little paraffin on the surface adds grippiness. A lanyard hole is present on the end.
For twelve bucks, you do not get a wonder sheath of gizmo plastic and MOLLE/PALS compatible clicky-clips. CS’s Roach Belly sells with a very usable deep nylon pouch with a plain old 2 1/2″ belt loop. Your own needs will dictate whether you should make or buy an upscale sheath.
After trimming a flank steak for dinner one night, I attacked a cardboard box with my Roach. The Krupps steel remained sharp cut after cut until I became bored and hungry. It was not phased by either material. Well, there’s that hardwood aged 2 X 4 in the garage. Whack, whack, whack. This is a lightweight knife that would require a baton for making a substantial dent in thick strata.
The Roach Belly is pointy for piercing, but has plenty of edge for cutting. Knives that can double as a utility and defensive blade will attract my credit card numbers, whether the knives are fixed or folders. This knife has the blade length and ergonomics to perform many tasks.
I remember reading a magazine article a long time ago where the author advocated traveling abroad with a kitchen-style knife (in his Samsonite) that would attract little in the way of attention, but serve to provide protection if necessary. I thought of that article when I saw the Roach Belly. Check the applicable laws before packing your bags, though.
As I said, the Cold Steel Roach Belly is an unassuming knife in its nylon pouch sheath. If you desire a user that is superbly functional, yet expendable, then this is a great knife. You won’t put it in a display case, but you will unsheathed at a moment’s notice for your chores. I guess that is a rousing compliment.