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what`s the best all-round bushcraft knife

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Its been my veiw that the tough / hard grades of SS are less rust restitant than than the table ware 440 , maybe there is a Super SS , that I have not seen in a knife , I am obviouly wrong in this .




Even if NOT , my comment on the cost of some of these wonders does stand , are main weapons are firearms , until we all get laser rifles , and I will take a firearm over any bladed weapon .


Opps , and even if it does rust , you know what , I bet that knife will still be OK to cut that which promotes growth and vigour , when you are long dead .


Later Chris


I think your not getting why we might carry a knife, it has nothing to do with weapons

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Its been my veiw that the tough / hard grades of SS are less rust restitant than than the table ware 440 , maybe there is a Super SS , that I have not seen in a knife , I am obviouly wrong in this .




Even if NOT , my comment on the cost of some of these wonders does stand , are main weapons are firearms , until we all get laser rifles , and I will take a firearm over any bladed weapon .


Opps , and even if it does rust , you know what , I bet that knife will still be OK to cut that which promotes growth and vigour , when you are long dead .


Later Chris


When one runs out of ammo, one wishes for a knife...hard to make shelter, light a fire, skin an animal, make a trap with a rifle :)





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I've owned and used an Alan Wood/Ray Mears 'Woodlore' knife for the last 14 years. It's a bit like Triggers broom now! It's had 2 new handles and a new sheath. :D


They start off with Birdseye Maple i believe, my first re-scale was with Buffalo horn, and i filed in a vine pattern to the spine.. Was nice, but then i got this piece of Arizona Desert Ironwood, and i Had to do it again!







Mate of mine saw it and wanted me to make hime one like it. As Browndog picked up earlier, i recommended a good quality stainless steel.


So, i fumbled this thing together with some 154CM stainless, some more of that Ironwood, and some Bog Oak liners. 154CM was developed for use in jet engines in the early '70's






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In response to the main question though, possibly the best knife I've ever had the pleasure of using was this:





It's a Stuart Mitchell 'Secare'. He sent it down for me to trial. I flogged the sh@t out of it battoning a load of kindling, then used it to skin and butcher 2 Fallow prickets for the bushcraft magazine Mayday gathering.


Didn't sharpen it once while i had it, and although it wouldn't quite shave hairs when i sent it back, it was still sharp. :)

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Any body used a berni garlands bushcraft knives there is a clip on you tube looks very good Web says price start just over £200 would that be average price for a quality knife

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I have a Stuart Mitchell, quality knife and holds a great edge. I also have a swing blade which is just as impressive for field use, but l have to admit the Stuart Mitchell is a thing of beauty.

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The bushcraft Knife

The knife is probably the most important piece of equipment in our armoury. With a knife, and accompanied by knowledge of bushcraft skills and the environment, there is little that can’t be accomplished. Building shelters, creating fire, sterilising water are all tasks that are made a simpler with aid of a knife.

There are so many knives out there, some of which ‘look cool’; designed to grab our attention, others sit quietly in the shadows, look very plain, and yet tick all the boxes.

The Anatomy of a Knife



Despite its looks, a knife is a complex piece of kit with many variations in design. These variations require careful consideration.



Key Elements of a Good Bushcraft Knife


Type of metal


There are many different metal technologies applied to knife construction. However two most common steels used in blade making are:


· high carbon steel

· stainless steel


Both have advantages and disadvantages.


Stainless steel


Stainless steel blades contain chromium which aid the blade in resistance to corrosion (hence ‘stainless’).


If you were fishing by the sea or worked in damp conditions a stainless blade may be a good choice as your tools would be more resistant to rust.


Stainless steel blades can be slightly harder to sharpen and depending on the metal type the edge retention may not last as long as high carbon steels (this applies more to older stainless technologies as chromium softens the blade).


The latest stainless blades e.g. RWL 34 can be exceptional and in some cases outperform high carbon blades.


High carbon steel


The steel considered ideal for a bushcraft blade is 1095 carbon steel meaning that it contains 0.95% carbon.


The higher the carbon content of a blade, the harder and tougher the blade will be, making the edge retention much greater.


The disadvantage of high carbon steel is that it can be brittle and susceptible to corrosion. Such blades are often coated to stop corrosion and require a regular coating of oil or lubrication to stop rust.


This shouldn’t put you off as maintenance of gear is a routine discipline in the field.


Fixed or Folding


There are some good folding knives on the market today. Perhaps the most useful for our purposes is the multi tool - a pair of pliers plus multiple blades can be very useful.


However our knife is going to be used for some fairly heavy duty tasks and folding knives are generally not tough enough to cope.


Fixed blade knives are generally preferred. However not all fixed blades are equal .....!




The tang is the part of the knife that extends behind the blade and inserts or connects with the handle via a spike or tongue


There are a number of different knife tangs, their purpose being to form the part of the knife to which the handle is attached.


There are a range of different tang designs however for the purposes of our understanding we can concentrate on two groups:


· Full tang

· Hidden tang(s)


Full Tang blades are by far the toughest, simply because the knife and handle form a solid piece. The handle is constructed from two pads, known as scales, which are bolted (sometimes glued) to the blade much like the grips

on a pistol.


The full tang has stood the test of time and is the preferred design for bushcraft knives.


In contrast, the hidden tang is buried within the handle. For reasons we will explore later this is less suitable to our needs.


Length of Blade


Blade length and style are important aspects of a bushcraft knife. Our knife is a multi functional tool that will be expected to undertake a variety of tasks:


· Splitting logs and processing wood

· Intricate carving

· Skinning game

· Cutting cordage

· Striking a spark from a ferrocerium rod


With such a diverse range of tasks there is no perfect blade. A 7 inch blade may be an excellent wood splitter but overkill when trying to carve a spoon. Conversely a 3 inch blade makes all those intricate jobs (e.g. skinning and carving) easier but struggles to split logs.


One option is to carry two knives – for example a 3 inch ‘neck knife’ for the intricate work and a 6 inch blade for the heavy duty stuff.


Alternatively choose a good quality knife with a 4 inch blade as a ‘jack of all trades’ that will cope with all tasks adequately.


(If you are just starting out choose a 3 - 4 inch blade as it will do almost all jobs satisfactorily and you will find controlling the blade far easier. Blade control is important for safety).


Bevel, Edge and Grind


Serrated edge


Serrations on a knife blade provide a sawing function which can be useful. However with most designs the serrated edge takes up too much of the primary part of the knife.


A serrated edge on the spine of the blade is unsuitable as we use this part of the blade as the striking point when ‘battening’ (see cutting techniques).


Additionally serrated edges are harder to sharpen in the field. The perceived advantage of the serrated edge of easier cutting is matched by a well maintained ‘straight ‘edge which should be kept sharp and therefore just as capable at cutting.


Straight edge


A straight edge is preferred for a bush craft knife as it can be kept razor sharp (see sharpening) and is the most functional edge for most jobs in the field.




The bevel is the name given to the tapering of the blade (usually from the centre of the blade) to the edge. The shape of the bevel can vary and these variations are as a consequence of different types of ‘grind’.





Concave (or hollow) grind


A concave grind is commonly found on filleting knives.


Convex grind


A convex grind is ideal for chopping. It is typical of an axe blade.


V. (or flat) grind


Preferred for kitchen knives.


Scandinavian grind


This grind is ideal for the bushcraft knife. It is robust, easy to maintain and sharpen in the field.




Clip point


Found on the Bowie knife this kind of point provides good control. Occasionally the top curved section is sharp providing a second cutting surface. The disadvantage of the

clip point blade is that it's relatively sharp and narrow tip has a tendency to be weak and break easily.


Spear point


Found on daggers and fighting knives, this point is not dissimilar to the drop point but often lacks the depth and thickness that the bushcraft blade requires.


Drop point


Provides good control and with a big belly is tough - it is the ideal all rounder. This is recommended for a bushcraft knife


Tanto point


Commonly found on Japanese swords



Knife Handling




UK Knife Law


Under UK law it is illegal to:


· sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under 18

· carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less, e.g. a Swiss Army knife

· carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife

· use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife)


The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is 4 years in prison and a fine of £5,000.

Acceptable reasons for carrying a knife (Use caution - the police might have a different point of view)

Examples of ‘acceptable’ reasons to carry a knife in public can include:


· taking knives you use at work to and from work

· you’re taking knives to a gallery or museum to be exhibited

· the knife is going to be used for theatre, film, television, historical re-enactment or religious purposes (e.g. the kirpan some Sikhs carry)

· fishing

· bushcraft in the woods

However a court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.

Knives that are illegal

There is a complete ban on some knives – they are too detailed to list here but those typically used for bushcraft are not banned.




A good sheath protects both the knife and the carrier. Get into the habit of always returning the knife to its sheath (even mid-task) rather than laying it on the ground or placing it in a pocket



Passing a knife to someone safely


The safest way to pass a knife to someone is:


· Handle first

· Edge of blade up

· With spine of blade lying along the arm of the giver

Cutting Techniques


· Forehand grip – strongest grip

· Backhand grip – whittling or making cordage

· Chest lever – strong , good control

· Battening – using a mallet or stick to drive the blade into a log to split it – this puts a great deal of stress on a knife hence the preference for a full tang blade.


Slicing action works best. Following grain of the wood is easiest





· Think about the follow through – take care not to get yourself or others in the way

· When sitting down keep elbows on knees – this keeps a stable working platform

· Stop when tired

· Keep1st aid kit nearby


Care and Maintenance


· Blade needs to kept sharp – a dull blade is ineffective and dangerous

· High carbon steel is prone to rust - keep clean dry and lightly oiled

· Many wood saps stain and rust the blade – clean carefully after every use


Sharpening & Polishing


Sharpening is a skilled process that requires care and practice


· Use a ceramic or Japanese Wet Stone system - 800 to 6000 grades

· Lay blade on stone and tilt until bevel lies flat against the stone

· Working the blade away from you stroke the blade with the bevel flat against the stone

· Once a slight curl to the edge of the blade can be felt with finger or finger nail, reverse the side and repeat. There is no point continuing with the same grade of stone thereafter as you are only grinding away at the blade, rather honing the edge. Either stop at that point or choose a higher grade stone for a finer edge

· Flatten stone off using ‘dressing stone’ or equiv to prevent hollowing out thestone face


Alternatives include:


· Oil stones

· DC3 and DC4 or Spyderco ceramic stones

· Diamond stones

· Wet and Dry stuck onto a piece of wood

· Pebble from beach or river bank

· Gransfor puck

· Birch polypore fungi Piptoporus betulinus (or razor strop) - used when dried out

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Sorry if the above was a bit long winded

I didn't talk about polishing ....


Polishing can be done using a leather ‘belt’ style strop tied to a fixed object and pulled taught. Alternatively use a piece of leather ‘cloth’ on a hard flat surface and apply a polishing agent to the leather (e.g. ‘Starkie Blue’ – also known as Smurf poo!).


Take care to maintain a flat surface when stropping or polishing to avoid introducing a secondary bevel - a common mistake when beginners sharpen their knives




Once polished apply a coating of oil to blade and tang.


Types of oil include gun oil, vegetable oil, goose / bacon fat or food grade walnut oil


For a good/suitable knife you can pay anything from £12.00 (e.g mora) to a £650.00 custom jobbie


I have both


If I were to go for another I will choose one made from RWL 34 from either Frenchie ( http://www.customknivesandsticks.co.uk/)or Steve ( http://www.swc-handmade-knives.co.uk )

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There is a slight parallel here with the 'WIS' thread, you can achieve exactly the right result with a good basic knife - or you can have something a little 'better' aesthetically - i.e. as per the knife digger shows (very nice BTW!).


My real use of a knife these days is pretty limited to the odd deer - which I take a basic fixed blade carbon steel item given to me by a Norwegian fiend many years ago, but have accumulated a few knives along the way - if I'm honest no real use for but what the hell?




top to bottom:


Gene Ingram drop point, stainless S30V (purchased 2009)

Gerber Command, 440C blade (purchased early 80's)

Chris Reeve 'one piece' series knife - solid A2 steel (purchased late 80's)

S&W knife, stainless of some sort (purchased 1981)


Find these days that a good multitool in the pack etc. is used more.






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For me the best of both worlds material wise would be 1095 carbon steel with a tenifer treatment. It works very well on Glock slides and knives, however their knives are not ideal for branching and light chopping, which are two of my primary uses. Otherwise at the moment stuck with various powder coatings.


I have found having a firm idea of what I want a knife to do and how I want to carry it sets many of the parameters. For example in choosing an Esse 5, one of the main reasons was the sheath - kydex and very secure (able to lock the blade in), another reason was that it is h

eavy enough (16oz) for branching and light chopping and small enough for small of back carry ( ranger carry) if I am on a shoot where I need to stalk / crawl as crawling with a hip carried knife is a disaster for me - lost a Czech Uton that way. For me it works with my other belt kit, does not interfere with my 35L rucksack or rifle when slung.


I made one modification to the sheath - ditched the belt clip thing and attached a Safariland belt loop ( from a GLS pistol rig). Pics when new....looks a bit a bit different now but the plastic coating is holding up well so no rust issues.






I would say this is not a knife I like but works well for me.....what I would like is a Roach but for my application I would never carry it.




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I tried the new fangled Woodlore style when I came back to outdoors stuff (10yrs ago) as I had got detached by getting a job and running the treadmill of the rat race .


Found I had been doing it wrong and my locking SAK and Khukuri should be 4" fixed blade with a Scandi grind and a small axe with folding saw

Oh and its called Bushcraft ... doh


So after finding out how much £5 of tool steel and 50p of maple 10p brass cost in the hallowed configuration ( woodlore where going second hand for over £700 on eBay )

I decided to make my own. Took a few weeks as it was all hand tools

Finally finished it and ....meh really didn't like it to clunky to thick etc


So I designed my own which is much better but found o preceded to carry a 3/4 scale version of it as a neck knife and a bigger 8" camp blade basically going back to my SAK and Khukuri configuration.

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