THAT SPECIAL TOOL
By Steven E Stillwell
If you had to choose one survival tool, excluding weapons; what would it be? The television survival program, NAKED AND AFRAID is a good example, because the contestants can only bring one item. Some of the popular choices I’ve seen are machetes, knives, hatchets, Ferrocerium rods, aka fire-starters, pots for boiling water, and duct tape. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains, woods, desert and various settings, and narrowing it down, I’d have to pick a premium quality knife. The selections are numerous, and most often very personal and sentimental.
Buck, Boker, Case, Cold-Steel, Kershaw, K-bar, Mora, Puma, Uncle Henry-Old Timer, Solingen and Swiss army knives are some of the most popular brands sold at various outlets or in catalogs. These blades come in many shapes, sizes and configurations with various types of stainless, and carbon steels. Specific numerical designations such as 440 stainless or 1095 high carbon indicate the metallurgical content of each knife. The Rockwell test is one of the most commonly used standards to determine the hardness of different metals. A 440 blade has a heat-treated level of 58-60 HRC.
Speaking from experience, a full tang knife is more durable in the field, but a folding pocket knife is easier to tote, and you’re more likely to carry it with you at all times. Those who personally know me, often notice the Buck, model 110 folding knife that I always have on my belt. I’ve had this particular knife for approximately nine years, and I’ve cleaned more fish, deer, turkey and hogs than I can count the reason being, it’s always with me. Every morning when I get dressed, I slide the sheath onto my belt out of habit, because it’s an integral part of my wardrobe. If you’re curious, it’s made from 440 stainless steel.
MAINTAIN YOUR SURVIVAL GEAR. Taking care of your equipment is vital to your survival in the outdoors, and knowing how to clean, oil and sharpen your knife is part of this equation. Over the years, I’ve seen more sportsmen than I can count who have abused, chipped, or snapped their knife blades by using them improperly. Your knife isn’t a pry-bar, hammer, screwdriver, or digging implement, it’s a cutting tool, and it should be used accordingly. I cringe when I see someone thrusting their blade into the rocky soil. If you need to dig, use your knife to fashion a digging stick.
In a survival scenario, you can Bushcraft a lot of vital gear with your knife, such as cordage, spoons, forks, bows, snares, traps, and fishing poles, to name a few. The limits are endless, if you have a good imagination. THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE FURTHER YOU CAN GO.
FOCUS ON THE EDGE. DON’T MAR YOUR BLADE. Sharpening your knife isn’t a complicated process, but for some reason this skill seems to elude more sportsmen than I can count. Let’s keep it simple, by breaking this process down. If you have a dull blade, you need three types, or grades of sharpening stones; coarse, medium, and hard. A company known by the name of Smith’s, makes a nice one that’s called the Tri-stone, and all three levels of coarseness are integrated into one easy to use sharpening system that sits in a small stand. When you study the arrangement, it resembles a triangle. If your knife is extremely dull, start with the coarse stone, progress to the medium, and finish sharpening with the hard one. Proceed with caution, don’t scuff-up the entire blade, and only apply pressure to the edge of your knife. The proper method is to employ a 15-20 degree angle, and pretend like you’re slicing the stone while sharpening. The objective is to maintain a steady angle, using consistently uniform and equal strokes! If you apply three on one side, apply three on the other. IN OTHER WORDS, DON’T USE A LOPSIDED TECHNIQUE. When finished, a leather strop can be used to polish the microscopic burrs, using a reverse or backwards motion, focusing on the edge. The end result will be a razor sharp knife if you follow these instructions. DISCLAIMER; if you’re careless and cut yourself, it’s not my fault.
If you’re interested in survival, I invite you to listen to our podcast program, The Ouachita Bushcraft and Survival Show. You can also look us up on FaceBook, so feel free to join our exciting and interactive page today. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.