Cutting Tools .......a review

Over the last 20 years I have had many many cutting tools. Financially I've spent thousands of pounds on them ..........money which could have been better spent elsewhere (I'm not a collector)

Having read a brilliant piece on the blog of one of my oldest friends (Andy Grahams see links) I thought I'd rewrite or amalgumate several posts I've written over the years on the cutting tool thread.

Firstly, lets ponder who needs a knife - or more correctly, are the 90% of outdoors folks ( hikers. climbers, campers, fishermen, riders and ramblers ect) who live quite happily with just a swiss army knife or a multitool better skilled or wrong when compared to the 10% (bushcraft and survivalists) who need to carry a pocket knife, a sheath knife and saw and a axe??

Secondly, let ponder a few ideas on combo's that I have found to work and why!

So what makes the 10 percent so different? Primarily the only difference is wood - or the utilisation of it - hence for this single item we need a special knife, saw and Axe - dont we?

Well yes and no - for awhile now I've gotten by quite happily with a leatherman wave and a small forest axe. Indeed Les Stroud, the Survivorman, makes a point of using just a multitool. I can use these to do almost everything - certainly everything I would need a tool for to preserve life. But I have to admit carving wood for spoons and such isnt such a pleasure and while I have completely butchered a deer and carved a new axe handle with a leatherman I wouldnt recommend it - a fixed blade scandi style knife would be better (but how often do you skin a deer or carve a axe handle?) A axe even strapped to a rucksack raises less eye brows than a sheath knife and a multitool can be worn almost daily even here in blighty!

All that said I would still rather have a multitool, a sheath knife and a axe .............the key is the sheath knife as this makes carving easier - Puukko, is a Finnish names and a corruption of the word Carving - so a Puukko is a carving knife.

Which brings us onto Combo's - George Washingdon Sears AKA Nessmuk, the great grandaddy upon which many pin their wilderness asperations used a trinity of cutting tools - a double bited hatchet, a sheath knife (the nessmuk knife - which I believe to be a broken down butcher knife) and a folding pocket knife. If we read the greatmans writings we soon learn that the axe was used for fire wood prep and a little butchering - the Nessmuk knife was for skinning and game prep (although he does mention eating his beans with it too?) and the pocket knife was used for food prep and whittling ect .............. obviously a tried and tested combo which worked for him - but how many of you will ever skin a elk? Nessmuk while a great outdoorsman was primarily a hunter - not a bushcrafter or survivor - and I bet you pound to a pinch of pooh if Nessmuk were alive today he'd have a multitool too!

"Ah but the great Ray Mears ALSO uses a combo of sheath knife, SFA (Small Forest Axe) and a folding saw" - I hear you say and rightly so. Without a doubt this combo is copied by almost every bushcraft instructor in the country and every aspiring woodlore wannabee - and why? Because it works?? Or because its percieved to work by those with less experience?

A good four inch sheath knife will carve beauiful and useful objects (so will a multitool but less comfortably), the axe will help in the firewood and shelter construction and the saw means we can process wood for utility, use safely without needing to worry or understand any elaberate knife skills ............a good trio?

But say we needed to strip out the cables of a downed plane to make snares - or free up a frozen spark plug on our snowgo?? Would a woodlore knife or SFA be much use?

I know lets carry 4 cutting tools .......... but errrrrrrr isnt that over kill?

Another thought, in the frozen north (and Lincs a short while ago) where reindeer meat is the staple a longer Leuku (butcher) knife is most common - as with the mountain men - this knife was a combo in itself part hatchet, part butcher knife and part fighting knife - a wilderness knife! Favoured by such well travelled folks as Lars Morsen, the saami and most native peoples around the world a bigger camp knife is possibily more useful than a small one. The saami and many scandinavian outdoors men often carry both a Puukko and a Leuku on the same belt or sheath this combo ticks many boxes!!

Lastly ponder old Les Hiddens, the bushtuckerman, his cutting tools were a small pocket knife something like a stockman and a bombproof old army Golok ........ no fancy saw or knife in site!! This is a fact I've also found with all genuine outdoors folk who live and work in the wilderness their choice of tools are usually more practical and less aesthetical.

But you and I dear reader, well we arent famous 19th Century hunters or 21st century TV presenters so what should we carry??

Well personally I say carry what you like as long as you can use it - dont model yourself on Nessmuk or Ray Mears or Les Stroud - let your experience and your skill dictate! But equally dont end up walking around better armed than the average viking raider ......... you'll look stupid and bring ridicule upon yourself and your peers!

For me my perminent travel companion is my Leatherman wave, this goes everywhere with me now - if I am out over night I will add a scandi forest axe for fire wood prep. If I am travelling or running courses where I need to do fine carving then a scandi style knife is carried (I have a cracker made for me by a friend) - in my base camp bag as a back up or for when I dont have the axe I carry my Saami double hunter - although if it wasnt so stupidly expensive I'd recommend the Fallkniven A2!

Ultimately people my point is think for yourself - dont just copy Nessmuk or Ray Mears because you lack knowledge or skill. More importantly regardless of which cutting tool you choose learn to use it properly - 100% effeciency is your goal for in the right hands any cutting tool will produce the goods!!

And if you think about this - if you practice using your tools and you understand what you need or want them for you will realise two things.

Firstly, no one tool is good for everything but secondly and more importantly the knife and axe you have are as good as the £200 ones your looking at online or at the gathering/fair/market - understand that and how to use your tools and you'll save yourself time and a lot of money!!


Perkunas said...

hey again.

there where you talk about combos having a leuku and puukko in one same sheath,those are great,and it wouldnt be bad thing,to add even a small pocket on the backside,for sharpening stone,and one loop for firesteel,in the seam of the sheath...i think :)

it would be heavier but hey whos carrying combo like this ( i do occasionally too ) wont mind if the weight is added by some 50 grams.

and one thing,my friends dad is genuine sami,and i asked him one time that do they have special name for that smaller knife,and now i checked it again,and it is called there as "Niklu". Its strange,as nowadays many guys,especially ex-cons and ones that live near our capitol city, call all knives as "keklu" which aint far from "niklu" when pronounced here,you will hear the closeness of the words:)

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of the big knife/small knife combo. The few remaining people who need bush skills to live daily use big knives. I find that a knife that is used for cutting and carving should be quite small with a blade of 8-9 cm. I like them slender and not bulky so they can be used with dexterity. Also, if I am to spend time making it sharp, I don't like walloping it into a piece of wood. Instead, the big knife is a choppy whacky thing. It can be lighter than the axe and yet more versatile, taking on jobs such as butchering large game.
All in, the combination is lighter and more versatile and more wilderness living than spooncraft.
One thing I cant get my head round is why people insist on a scandi grind ( because of the benefits in wood carving) on knives with thick and broad blades making it really bad at wood carving!

Anonymous said...

I think the wilderness community needs to establish the difference between survival and wilderness living.A lot of the combos are designed for wilderness living meaning to be out in the bush for extended periods of time.Survival Knife is a tool that helps you survive until rescue or you reach safety.Some Bush rats live out in the bush for several months.Military only use fix blade knife for survival as they are waiting to be rescued .