Bushcraft Manifesto-Bladecraft: "
This is a continuation of my mini-bushcraft manual to hand out during classes. As you can tell the information is really basic. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. At the end of the manual I am going to include a bibliography with suggested books, websites and blogs. I would like to thank the retailers I mention in the article for there support and advice. Please take a moment to visit there sites and support their businesses.
The Knowledge: Bladecraft
The “perfect” knife for general outdoor use is a fixed blade belt knife with a 4” blade made of high carbon steel that has a Scandinavian grind (flat bevel). Large, stainless steel, hollow ground blades should be avoided; the reasons will be discussed shortly.
When choosing a knife it is important to understand the advantages of a “small” knife and the draw backs of a “large” knife. By “small” I mean a knife with a blade that is 5” or less in length, “large” knives in my opinion have blades 8” and over. With a small knife it is possible to do fine detail carving on projects like a netting needle as well as fell a 6” diameter tree (with a little knowledge). Many people like large knives so they don’t have to carry a knife and an axe, but the relatively lightweight of a large knife makes it a poor substitute for an axe, and the large blade makes fine carving difficult.
A high carbon steel blade has a few distinct advantages over stainless steel. The pros & cons of both steels are:
Stainless: It is difficult to sharpen because of its hardness.
Carbon: It is easy to sharpen while holding an edge.
Stainless: It is brittle and prone to breaking (especially in cold temperatures).
Carbon: Is relatively soft and is more likely to bend than it is to break. (this is important when batoning).
Stainless: Does not work well for throwing sparks to start fires.
Carbon: Works well with ferrocerium rods as well as a traditional flint/chert stone.
The grind, or bevel, of your knives is as important as the type of steel chosen. The two most common blade grinds are the Scandinavian grind, or flat bevel and hollow grind (pictured below).
1) Hollow Grind 2) Scandinavian Grind
(Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grind)
The advantages of a Scandinavian grind over hollow are ease in sharpening, lifespan of the blades edge, and overall blade strength.
When sharpening a blade with a Scandinavian grind the entire surface of the knife’s face is kept on the stone (you can sharpen one with your eyes closed). A hollow ground blade has to be held at a specific observed angle while sharpening (it is difficult to do by feel). Also because the face of the blade runs from the cutting edge to the spine a Scandinavian ground blade can be sharpened until the blade is gone. Because of the constant gradient of the face of a Scandinavian the overall blade strength is greater when compared to the “scooped out” face of the hollow ground.
Their are a wide array of knives that meet the qualifications that I have laid out here and happily many of them are C-H-E-A-P! The quintisential bushcraft knives are Frosts Moras. Frosts Moras come in several makes and models which run from as high as $20.00 a knife, to as low as $10.00 and are available from a variety of sellers online. Four of the best in the States are:
Wilderness Outfitters Archery
By carrying a fixed blade knife and a small folding saw, or a bow saw blade the versatility of the knife is greatly increased. With a saw you can cut larger diameter wood into desired lengths and then using your knife and a baton (stick) you can split the cut piece for firewood, kindling or carving. The type of saw you choose is based on both personal preference and the task you wish to use the saw for.
Different tooth designs on blades are made for cutting different type of wood (green wood versus dead wood). For dead wood a peg tooth design is preferred and for green weed wood it is best to have a raker tooth design.
(Retrieved form http://www.appropedia.org/images/3/38/P027B.GIF)
(Retrieved from www.midwestbushcraft.blogspot.com)
A buck saw blade can safely carried by coiling it up in the bottom of a billy can. When a saw is needed it can be removed and a simple buck saw frame can be fashioned from materials found in the woods. The saw pictured above is made with a raker-tooth blade, jute twine, and a grey dogwood frame.
The options I look for in a folding saw are:
Teeth cut on push AND pull.
Easy one handed open and close.
Blade locks open.
The advantage of teeth that cut on the push and pull more efficiently utilize your energy. I like my folding saw to have the option of one hand opening and closing for instances where I need to steady what I'm cutting. One instance where it has come in handy for me was cutting a tree top that was across a branch of a river I was paddling. I was able to hold the branch while steadying the canoe with one hand while opening the saw and cutting the branch with the other. The final option that a saw has to have (I guess it really isn't an 'option' per say then is it?) is a locking blade. For safety sake it is important that the blade can be locked in place to keep it from folding on your hands while you are using. The saw I use doesn't actually fold, rather the blade slides in and out of the handle. This is a little stronger design than a folding blade in my opinion and it is easy to open and lock using only one hand.