Sgian-Dubh Review

A Joe Gondek Sgian-Dubh.

I’ve wanted a sgian-dubh for quite some time, now, and I wanted that sgian-dubh to be unique.

Enter Joe Gondek.

Joe Gondek makes nice things. Joe is a historical re-enactor who made a sporran I previously reviewed. This time around, I’m reviewing a Joe Gondek sgian-dubh.

Sgian What?

Unless you’re familiar with kilts and Highland attire, you may not know what a sgian-dubh is. Don’t feel bad — I didn’t know at first, either.

The quick version: a sgian-dubh is a knife worn in one’s kilt hose, with only the top of the hilt visible.

Top of hilt, meet top of kilt hose. You look good together.

Why a Gondek Sgian-Dubh?

There are plenty of sgian-dubhs available for sale in shops and online…so why did I choose one made by Joe Gondek? Because…I like supporting people who make handmade things.

The Gondek sporran I mentioned above is so nicely constructed that it makes me want to wear the kilt out and about more. Based on the effort that went into the sporran, I knew the sgian-dubh would be nice.

Yep, it's a mighty nice thing!

The Sgian-Dubh

When the sgian-dubh arrived, I couldn’t wait to tear into the package. I smelled the sgian-dubh before I saw it; it turns out Joe stained the sheath just days before, so there was a bit of a shoe polish smell to things. No worries, though, because inside two days the smell was gone. (And I have a good sense of smell.)

I was immediately happy with the purchase. When I was younger, I collected knives. When my father gave me a nicer knife than my best, I knew that in his eyes, I had reached another level of maturity. Some people’s progress of growth is chronicled in pencil marks on the wall; mine is in the quality of knives I received as the years went by.

The best thing I can say about the sgian-dubh Joe Gondek made is it made me wish my father were alive, because he would have really liked it.

The Sheath

Safe and sound in its sheath.

One of my concerns was that removing and returning the sgian-dubh from the sheath would be an issue. With the slight bend in the hilt, I wondered if it would take an effort to put the knife back, but the removal and return are smooth.

Drawing the blade.

Blade out -- sheath still snug in my kilt hose.

Having never owned a sgian-dubh, I wasn’t sure if I would notice the knife in my kilt hose. I use garter ties with my kilt hose, and everything rides snug enough without any shifting. I don’t notice it’s there it rides so well.

The top of the sheath at the top of the kilt hose.

Showing where the sheath rides.

Using the Sgian-Dubh

I didn’t want a sgian-dubh simply for decorative purposes. If I’m out hiking with Cynthia and I want to take a break and slice an apple, I want a tool I can actually use.

To put the sgian-dubh to the test, I used it to slice disks off a lemon while making martinis over the weekend.

Slicing a disk from a lemon skin with the sgian-dubh.

The knife feels good in my hand. I’m a big guy and sometimes smaller knives just don’t feel right, but the slight bend in the hilt makes me wish all my paring knives were constructed the same way!

The blade moved through the lemon skin with just enough catch to allow control, but not so much that it took an effort to cut what I wanted.

An effortless cut!

Cynthia gave it a try and found the sgian-dubh to react well for her, too; in fact, she went back for a more intricate, turning cut and the knife reacted perfecty.

It’s a Keeper!

I haven’t found a thing about the Gondek sgian-dubh that didn’t meet my expectations. If anything, it’s even cooler than I hoped. It’s practical and unique. That, coupled with supporting somebody who makes sporrans, knives, and other things out of love for history and craft, and I couldn’t be happier with the purchase!

Note: Joe doesn’t have a website, but if you want to contact him about a sgian-dubh or sporran, you can find him at

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One Response to Sgian-Dubh Review

  1. Thank you for writing this review, Christopher! I know you’re incredibly busy and it took a while to get everything together. 🙂

    I’m very happy you’re so pleased with this sgian dubh. I know you don’t really need or want tons of kilts and accessories, so researching and finding the right items is very important to you. I enjoyed reading the part about your dad — I didn’t know that (I knew you had some of his knives). It was a sweet little story.

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