What is the perfect bushcraft or survival knife? Does such a tool even exist?
Personally I'd say no - the old adage, "the best survival knife is the one you have with you when your surviving" still holds true - but as a serious outdoorsman we can always edge our bets and carry tools which will aid us.
(http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/trading/tools.htm) the Leatherman Wave is a excellent multi-tool and everybody who ventures into the wilds should carry similar.
But for strength, reliability and robust usage we need a good quality sheath knife of "sensible" proportions, after all lets remember the sioux legend of walks far women, she having escaped captivity with another tribe, was kitted out with just a knife and he native skills and managed to talk back to her people having to survive a long winter alone in the wilderness. Her skills enabled her to make shelter and fire, find food and water, feed and clothe herself all with just a knife.
Now I'm well aware many people make up for missing knowledge with kit, its a fact of life - were all "still learning" so our choice of knife may be critical here. I am also aware that there are those who believe "only" the most expensive custom knife will do or equally those who will swear by the excellent Clipper and seek no other tool .............. so be it.
But I wanted to test out the S1 more out of interest than needing a new knife, after all my F1 is a great tool and for most bushcraft tasks I had always liked the Mora no2. So why did the S1 catch my eye, well firstly I was looking at reviews of the Fallkniven range and found reviews and you tube footage for all the other Fallkniven range but this. Why was that I wondered?
Also I wanted to see if a knife claiming to be the best hunting and fishing knife, forest knife would live up to its claims and as no one else had tested it I couldnt help but do it!
First impressions, the weight and balance are good, the size of the handle isnt to big and sits well in the hand beign of a size thats comfortable to use for long periods yet not so large that the handle cant be manipulated in the hand for the various grips and grasps used in bushcraft. The false clip point isnt my idea of ideal but there is enough squared of spin for easy use with a fire steel. Metalogy (is that a word?) ....... I dont care about, it can be carbon or stainless steel - it could be Kryptonite for all I care, as long as it holds and takes a good edge and does the work thats all I'm interested in I'll leave other such matters to those with more home time than dirty time and draw queen owners.
The sheath, I ordered was the zytel sheath as I prefer the strength and ease of cleaning over the aesthetics of leather. I also whipped the sheath with para-cord and covered this in old bicycle inner tube making the sheath itself something of use rather than just a pretty carry case.
So, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, lets get the tool dirty ...............but before i did this I attached a thumb loop to the handle. The idea of the thumb loop is as it says, to go around the thumb and not as most people would do place the loop around the wrist. Why? Well is the tool is dropped the blade tends to swing away from you it also means if the tools dropped say with the user falling the blade can be caste aside much easier, also the thump loop places the paracord across the back of the hand this in turn added power when we use the knife for chopping "Leuku" style.
Before going bush I used the blade (straight out the packed) to carve a sunday joint of roast beef - peel some spuds and slice tomatoes and onions. All of which it did with ease so kitchen/food prep side of things are a doddle - not down to the serious stuff.
Splitting/batoning. The S1 has a good thick spine, this and the 5 inch blade, makes it ideal for batoning - I batoned through wrist thick seasoned Aspen, spruce and rowan with ease. The blade profile and tampered thickness also allowed me to baton through twisted wood (which would have bent or snapped a thinner knife like a clipper) it also allowed me to bulldoze the blade through knots. The false clip point wasnt a problem and I was more than happy with the tool in all batoning tests.
Chopping. Fallkniven themselves claim this tool only up to light chopping ........... which is? One of the comments a friend of mine makes detrimental to the F1 is "you cant make a stretcher with that" meaning chopping poles down. As a bushcrafter it'd be rare to need to fell anything thicker than wrist thick wood even for shelter building (need anything bigger take a axe!) so I found myself to standing but dead birchs slightly thicker than wrist thick - the term knife through butter sprang to mind as the tool went through them in seconds (remember the leuku style chopping with the thumb loop this is were it wins out every time adding power to the chop) again 100% happy with the tool
Carving spoons. The convex blade on the S1 is interesting, a flat single bevel has always been proclaimed as best especially by the many spin off school and instructors of Ray Mears and myself was included in - however thinking logically a convex blade is probably a more traditional and common profile after all when you sharpen your knife on a rock from the river its not gonna be flat and wear and tear would soon concave it .......... anyway in carving the spoon (aspen) I loved using the S1 it, if possible, actually made the task of carving easy. Comfortable in ever grasp I also found myself using the tip more - not sure why but it was the perfect section to use for fine work. Spoon blank was completed in 20 minutes and the knife excellent in all the cutting styles used.
Carving feather sticks. Here the only thing I found was that if I added to much pressure the feathers lifted flat and dull - but by using almost no effort I got wonderfully curly feathers - I think the convex edge won gold!
Fire steel - the spin is square for about an inch come out from the handle and like all the Fallkniven range this square spin section castes big hot sparks from the standard army fire steel.
Another point as an aside is whilst carrying out the above trials I was also canoeing and one day in strong winds and High waves had to leap out and drag the boat ashore - coming in through chest deep water the knife and sheath got soaked - but being made of the materials they are this mattered no a jot. Indeed when I eventually limped home cold and tired it was a simple matter to dry the blade and put the tool to bed - could I have dont this with a carbon steel and a leather sheath .............. oh course not!
In summary - depending on your taste the S1 is either a beauty or a beast to look upon. Personally I like the no nonesense military style lines but (I suspect) many a custom own will not after all thats why folks have custom jobs done. But looks arent a guide to how well a tool will perform and all I can say is that the S1 have performed EVERY task I put it to with comfortable ease - I'd score the S1 in use 9/10 (would have gotten 10/10 but the price lets it down) suffice to say the S1 is now my main knife with the A2 being my winter/arctic carry.
Want a tough, reliable workhorse? You wont do much better - but can do a lot worse than the S1.