Knife classifications

I had a email today from someone asking me to explain knife classifications - what I mean by a camp knife.

So, always happy to oblige, enjoy.

Since mans earliest tools were made our species have always used cutting tool - originally knapped from flint the hand axe was the stone age swiss army knife. But time and technology changed things and we as a species went through the stone age, the bronze age and into the "as Conan might say" age of steel.

Our ability to manufacture steel has seen man develope a vast array of tools each with a specific role from weapons of war to farmers impliments, from eating irons (knife fork spon) to space ships.

Globally the event of steel saw a transformation in primitive peoples lives, but just as the people where tempered by their enviroment so their cutting tools where tempered to the roles they would be used for, from the leuku to the kukri, from the pen knife to the paring knife.

Time has seen the availablity of tools from around the world made available to us all and as such we, the decerning bushcrafter, can now choose the best tools for us.

Even Ray Mears, one of the earliest UK based writers on bushcraft, in his earliest book comments on how he uses a small home made carbon steel knife while hiking but a large modified MOD survival knife (wilkinson type d) and a pocket knife (opinel) for his base camp kit.

As such the classification of cutting tools works thus - (this is my version and not necessarily all instructors would agree with me but I know what works for me)

Pocket knife - UK legal penknife, ideally with a can and bottle opener as well as a decent cutting blade. Usually carried in the pocket and ideal for opening packets, peeling and preping food especially veggies and fruit.

Utility knife - (some call it a whittling knife) - this is the classic puukko of the Finnish. Blade should be approximately 4 inches or so - this would be the Woodlore style knife. Interestingly Ray Mears (again) says that with a knife of this size and a folding saw you can produce and do most things. This is potentially correct in the typical UK expedition style camp situation. Ultimately the utility knife should be a jack of all trades, capable of peeling fruit and veg while also being able to baton and split wood and carve spoons and triggers for traps.

Camp knife - this is a bigger knife, Leuku or similar. The camp knife is the bushmans version of the axe or hatchet. I know, I know if your going to the boreal north then a axe is better than a camp knife - but come on how many bushcrafters, especially UK ones, actually go into the boreal north? and if they do how many actually carry a full sized axe which is what they should carry? or do they carry their axes religiously as the great prophet told them too? Anyway the camp knife is a larger tool. This type/size of tool is more typical among native peoples than any other type - native people dont compromise on this and generally will carry/prefer a 7 plus inch blade - picture if you will a native man sat cross legged carving and in so doing holding his knife half way down the blade ..............a camp knife should be capable of doing all the tasks in camp from butchering game to hammering tent pegs. One thing a camp knife is handy for is lifting hot pots off the fire!

Neckers are generally utility sized.

Crook or crooked knives are spoon knives and like all carving tools are specialist and fall into the specialist catagory.

So hope thats clearer - ideally the bushcrafter will carry/own three tools - a pocket knife, a whittling knife and a camp knife.

Size shape and design will matter greatly but these are the catagories - axes and saws are handy but if you have the three types of knife you can live without them.

Last though as per the Ray Mears quote - if your going for a walk in the woods you really dont need to go armed better than the average viking warrior so leave the hardware at home and take a sensible UK legal pocket knife.
It was a long held common belief that a folding knife must be non-locking for this provision to apply. A Crown Court case (Harris v DPP), ruled (case law). A lock knife for all legal purposes, is the same as a fixed blade knife. A folding pocket knife must be readily foldable at all times. If it has a mechanism that prevents folding, it's a lock knife (or for legal purposes, a fixed blade) The Court of Appeal (REGINA - v - DESMOND GARCIA DEEGAN 1998) upheld the Harris ruling stating that "folding was held to mean non-locking". No leave to appeal was granted.


Perkunas said...

Hey,as you say "uk legal" ,does it mean that it cant have locking blade? thats something i have heard,but is there any other restrictions,like can it be automatic or have restricted blade lengths?

Survivall said...

UK law states under section 17 of the offensive weapons act that the tool needs to have a blade of less than 3 inches - there is a grey area over the locking part - I have asked Policemen who we have had on courses and some say yes some say no!

But I teach people to err on the side of caution - there for UK legal means a blade of less than 3 inches which doesnt lock. Which is fine for the tasks we use it for - and it also means it can be carried all the time thus making it familiar and in that also making it a much more useful tool as people will knows how to use it much better!