Different Knives for Different Purposes

There simply is not one bushcraft knife to rule them all, but we don’t want to make this confusing. If you really want to geek out on knives and go deep, there are many great resources for you. But the fact is, you will spend loads of time reading up on knife types, blade grinds, blade steels, coatings of those steels, handles types, handle materials, etc. The time that could be spent practicing your bushcraft skills. This is about choosing a knife that will competently accomplish all bushcraft tasks and not overcomplicate that selection process. If you want to become a knife maker, geek out, if you want to get better at bushcraft, make a decision, buy your knife and start practicing that craft.

6 Most Important Factors to Consider

1. Fixed Blade vs Folder?

2. What kind of tang?

3. Appropriate blade shape and grind?

4. What type of handle?

5.  Weight and Size?

6. What type Steel?

1. Fixed Blade vs Folder?

Fixed blade vs Folder- Pretty simple. Folding knives or automatic knives are not appropriate knives for bushcraft. While they are plenty capable of handling many small woodworking tasks they are not suitable for heavier duty tasks like batoning wood. They are far too likely to break and may injure you badly when they do. When you are buying a bushcraft knife, get a fixed blade.

2. What kind of tang?

There are many different kinds of knife tangs. It can be confusing due to multiple names used for the same tang. I quick list of 5 of the common tangs used in fixed blade knives are:

Tang Types:

1. Full Tang- the steel of the blade runs all the way through the handle and is the same thickness and width of the blade, at the hilt, as well.

2. Partial Tang- like full tang but it stops half way through the handle.

3. Stick Tang- many variations, but in general, this refers to a tang that is much skinnier than the blade and often only partially extends the length of the handle.

4. Tapered Tang- like a stick tang but starts out about as wide as the blade at the hilt and tapers down to be more narrow as it extends into the handle.

5. Skeletonized- like a full tang in length and width but with sections cut out of the middle portion to save on weight.

Full tang is arguably the best kind of tang to choose because it offers the highest durability of all types. The only downside is that it is heavier than other types because it has more steel. This shouldn’t deter you from getting a full tang because if you choose an appropriate size knife this factor will already be mitigated and a non-issue.

Stick tangs or partial tangs can be used as well but just do your research to make sure that there is a fair amount of steel running through the handle. The upside to a stick or partial tang will be a bit of weight savings since there is less steel throughout the handle.

3. Appropriate blade shape and grind?

Tons.

A short list of shapes: spear point, drop point, clip point, tanto, chisel, flat edge, sheep foot, etc, etc, etc.

The shape of the blade is often going to dictate what the knife is good for and its purpose. For example, a Tanto edge, named after the style of Japanese dagger that this shape’s point mimics is designed for maximum penetrating power. This makes sense for a dagger but is not your primary concern when looking for a Bushcraft knife. The same can be said with blade shapes that are associated with “Fantasy” knives; wavy patterns, extreme curves to the blades shape like found with a Karambit.

The two styles widely considered to be most appropriate for bushcraft tasks are spear point and drop point. Both points are well suited for drilling into wood and excel at finer detailed work. Stick with these two shapes and a straight fine edge (non-serrated) blade and you shouldn’t have any problems. None that you can blame on your knife at least…

Grinds

Not quite as numerous as blade shapes.

List: Flat grind, Scandi Grind, hollow grind, convex grind, sabre grind, full flat, chisel.

The grind is the angle and profile of the edge that is put on the blade.

Scandi Grind and a Flat Grind are two that we recommend because of cutting ability and strength. Our preference leans towards Scandi because it is arguably stronger and more durable than a standard flat grind. Both edge types strike a good balance between edge retention and maximum sharpness. The Scandi and the Flat Grind are easy to sharpen as well because of their simple edge profiles. If you bring along a Wet Stone or other sharpening tool you will be able to keep these razor sharp with a little practice and effort.

4. What type of handle?

Knives come with a wide variety of handle types and handle materials. The is part of the selection process is going to be a bit more personalized. The human hand comes in many different shapes and sizes and not every knife handle is going to be comfortable to work with for every person. A big guy with equally big hands will often need a knife with a chunkier handle in order to maintain a good grip and minimize grip fatigue when working. On the flip side, a person with much smaller hands would find some large knives and their corresponding large handles bulky and unwieldy.

Whenever possible you should try to get your hands on a knife before buying it so that you may feel the balance in your hand. Is it comfortable? Are there any glaring sticking points or weird spots that don’t agree with your grip? Probably not the knife for you. A good knife should feel like it is an extension of your hand.

The materials that handles are made of are just as numerous as the steels that knife blades are made of. Many options are completely suitable for bushcraft. Traditional bushcraft knives often have wood handles, Curly Birch is a common wood used in Swedish knife handles. Modern knives often use materials like Micarta or G10 scales for their handles. These synthetics offer great grip, super customizable handle shape, and size and don’t weight much. What’s even better is that they retain good grip even when wet or when grabbed with wet hands.

When weighing these factors always error on the side of comfortability in your hand.

5. Weight and Size?

You should choose a knife that is big enough to handle small wood processing tasks; batoning, light-chopping, shaving, etc. but not so large that it is clumsy when performing fine work, like drilling holes or making small notches. Rule of thumb, leave the Rambo-styled KaBar to the Marines. You don’t need a short-sword to accomplish most Bushcraft tasks. The tasks that would require a bigger knife are much easier accomplished with a hatchet or axe and you should have one of these as part of your kit. Generall, any knife longer than 6 inches is overkill for bushcraft.

Weight is a bit more flexible depending on the person. Obviously, the lighter the knife is, while still maintaining strength and durability, the better. Any advantages in chopping power that would be afforded by a heavier knife fall under the same logic we used for knife length. That’s what your axe is for.

6. What type of Steel?

This is the most complicated and in ways the most subjective part of choosing the knife for you. Most bushcraft knives are made out of some form of either Carbon or Stainless Steel. Where it gets complicated is that there are multitudes of different types of both these steels. One company might use stainless in their knives but the steel they use has a bit more Chromium, or another element, in it than another company that also uses “stainless steel” for their knives.

What makes it even more complicated is that two companies could use the exact same formula for their steel but treat the steel differently in the tempering process and you will get different performance from it. Knife blades are tempered and treated to achieve a certain hardness. This is measured on the Rockwell Scale of Hardness.

As a general rule of thumb, stainless steel is a great bet for a bushcraft knife. Stainless is very resistant to rust, it takes a good edge, and is generally not overly difficult to maintain an edge.

Carbon steel is also a favorite choice of bush-crafters. Carbon steel can take a wicked sharp edge, is easy to sharpen, but is more susceptible to rusting than stainless steel is. As a result, if you choose a carbon steel blade, you should also purchase knife oil or Tufcloth in order to keep the blade from rusting when out on extended trips. Also, make it a habit to always wipe your knife dry after use. Depending on the humidity and other climate conditions a carbon knife can rust very quickly if you don’t maintain it.

Our Recommendations

Cheap: (“Beaters” and daily practice blades)

MoraKniv Pro S 

Condor Tool and Knife Bushlore

Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty

Mid-Range: (Trusty, reliable adventure companions)

Morakniv Original 1

ESEE Camp Lore

Helle Eggen

High End: (The One’s Your Descendants Will fight over)

Spyderco Bushcraft G-10

Helle Temagami

Fiddleback Forge Duke

Karesuandokniven Norrsken Damask (Northern Lights Damask)

-Reputable Custom Knife- Just do your research and read reviews because these can get really expensive, really quick.

 

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