Types of Knives
Bushcraft is more popular now than it has been. Packing your gear for a day out in the woods or going for a few days, Leaving behind all the hustle and bustle of the modern world, to be one with nature. Bushcraft is more than just setting up a tent and camping out for the night with all your gadgets, it’s being self-sufficient, knowing that you can survive out there and with minimal gear.
You will need a knife, or a few, but which ones or types. There are so many on the market, so it can be hard to make the right choice.
So here is some information to help you along. It is down to you in the end, but please read on to familiar yourself with the knives. You don’t want to buy one, just because that person said it was the best knife ever. It’s all about making the right choice, read some reviews on that knife (not just from the supplier, find some independent, honest reviews).
What would you use a bushcraft knife for? There are a few questions to ask yourself.
The function of the knife.
The tasks are you going to be using the knife for.
Are you going to need a knife for cutting rope, a bit of food or small tasks?
Or will you need the knife to do some bigger tasks, like splitting wood of preparing some game or carving some wood into camp tools.
The price you would like to pay.
There are budget to expensive knives. It is your choice, as they say ‘buy once, not twice’ But saying that, there are some quality knives out there that are really good, for less than £16.
The type of blade design.
So, blade length, thickness and the style of tang. The weight and the design. Bigger and thicker would look really nice, but quite impractical. What you need is a good all-rounder, that would do a few different jobs.
The best type of bevel on the blade would be a Scandinavian grind. It is good for nearly all tasks and it’s easier to sharpen.
The type of metal it’s made of.
You have a couple of choices. It will be deciding between Carbon and Stainless steel. Carbon is more high maintenance than stainless but is comparatively easy to re-sharpen and is great to use during carving projects. Stainless steel means just that, but it will stain if not look after properly.
I don't recommend Damascus steel knives. They may look awesome and nice to show off, but the blade will have been weakened by the pattern on them (they use acid to get the pattern) so when you need it the most it will fail you.
The handle design.
The way the handle feels in your hand is important as well. You don’t want an uncomfortable handle which will annoy you. You need to be with one with your knife, it’s like having an extension to your hand. If you can try before you buy, great.
The length of the blade.
I’ve seen so many knifes on the market that have a monster blade, looks good in a movie or for a collector’s item, but has no place in bushcraft. The blade needs to be manageable, for usage and for maintaining. Also think of the law.
The sheath types.
Now this is what most people forget about. You also need a good sheath to put your knife in, so it will protect you as well as the knife. There are many, like leather (you must clean and moisturise it, or it can fail. I had one that when mouldy because I forgot about it, that was a lesson learnt).
TPU (hard plastic) Which is very safe and good protection.
Nylon, a good all-rounder.
You can get sheaths that hold items as well, example being, fire steels, sharpening stones and small containers. Think of the weight added though.
Then there is caring for you knives.
You will need to clean them and dry them. So they will be ready the next time you need them. Also same with the sheath. Then sharpening them. I have a section for that to help you.
Now, here is some examples of different tasks you would use your knife for. Most of these you could use the same knife. It depends what type of knife you will get or have.
This is about using your knife to make a shelter or making your own camp tools. This can be, cutting saplings down or chopping up some twigs and some small logs. Chopping up larger logs and branches is something you will need to have some practice at. Going in guns blazing, trying to chop something bigger, can be dangerous if you do not use the right technique. You don’t want to hurt yourself. So, start with the manageable pieces of wood for now. Also splitting and battening wood using a knife, again, this needs practice.
Then you will have making tools for yourself, like stakes and wedges. Making a campfire crane for your pots over a fire. Then you will have carving spoons and cups. The list is quite long and I will be explaining some more techniques later when I add more information to the site.
When using a knife for your wood working, it is important to have to correct one that you feel comfortable with. It will be in your hand for long periods of time, so a strong edge is best, also with a scandi-grind, so it is easy to sharpen. Don’t forget the shape of the handle, an ergonomic one would be best for you.
Choosing a good bushcraft knife for survival tasks is very similar to choosing a regular survival knife. Choosing a knife that is full-tang is a important factor. This means that the thickness of the blade runs completely through the handle. This is a very strong construction that enables you to split wood. Having a knife that just has a pretty handle and only has the blade set into the handle a inch or so, would fail quite quickly, also quite dangerous, as you could injure yourself when using for certain tasks.
There are some knives for sale that look really impressive, with all the bells and whistles, example being: Bottle openers, extended serrated edges and hollow handles for putting some small gear in.
These are all useless. I will show some good examples below. But again, it is up to you what you buy, I just want to help you make the right choice.
When you will be preparing food, a thinner knife would be more practical. Trying to use a knife that you use for cutting wood or battening, for smaller, less intricate tasks, could be a bit overwhelming. Although it can be done of course.
There are pocket knives for fruit and veggies and some longer bladed knives for filleting fish.
A nice clean blade would be best for these tasks, as any with gadgets on the blade or funny looking shapes would get food stuck in and not so easy to clean.
Building a fire.
When you use a knife to build your fire, you will need a knife that has a strong construction and a solid spine. Especially if you and going to use it on a fire steel (ferro rod).
A nice solid 90-degree edge without using a serrated edge to strike the fire steel. Would be best if the knife was not coated with plastic or anything that would stop the edge making a spark.
Using a solid fixed blade is the main preference for nearly all bush crafters, but a folding pocket knife will have its uses, like food prep and wood work. One that locks would be my choice, so it doesn’t fold on to your fingers.
These are just a few of my knives that I use when I am out in the wilderness.
They are tried and tested and serve me well. It might surprise you that these where not expensive. I just reviewed them before I brought them. You don't need a £400 knife for bushcraft. I would say between £20 & £90, depending on the knife and what it will be used for.
Martiinni Lumberjack Carbon
Marttiini Full Tang
Elk Ridge Bushcraft
The blade is made of carbon steel that is perfect for carving and is easy to re-sharpen to its original sharpness. Remember to take proper care of your carbon steel knife: always dry the blade carefully after each use and oil the blade with unsalted oil on a regular basis.
The Companion is a popular knife, because, as the name suggests, it is such a reliable companion. It works well both as an introductory knife for the younger generation as well as for more experienced outdoor enthusiasts.
The blade of the Marttiini Full Knife is made of stainless chrome steel. The knife has been designed to be strong and durable. The handle scales are from Pakkawood. This material is extremely durable and hygienic. A heavy knife, nice in the hand, great for heavy duty tasks.
A basic bushcraft knife with a wide, high flat grind. It features a gentle dropped point with an integral finger guard. Full tang, this knife is suitable for a wide range of outdoor tasks. I have customised the handle with Paracord.
My little folding knife for cutting and cooking, with a Tanto blade. Made by TAC-FORCE. It was spring assisted, but due to the law change, I removed the spring. Not expensive, but tried and tested.