Friday, January 12, 2018


     There are tons of knife selections out there these days. Most of them aren't much good, but designed to look awesome and terrifying in combat. The fact is that for regular outdoor use, the functions of a good knife hasn't changed much over the last hundred years. American frontiersman Jim Bowie really developed the standard knife design for typical outdoor use. 

      1. The knife must be capable of holding a sharp edge for an extended period and not be affected by moisture. This includes outdoor uses like cleaning game, slicing fruits, salty sea-water, etc. Stainless and carbon-steel alloys are best. An experienced knife-maker once claimed to test a knife's hardness by slicing through a nail without bending it. 

      I've never tried that personally, but a blade hardness and thickness is vital. Hand-forged knives, though expensive, can usually combine the necessary hardening. It's always a discouraging thing to have a knife-blade break; in a survival situation it could become serious in a hurry.

     2. Related to the first point, the knife needs a sharp edge that can cut everything from bread to skinning game or cleaning fish. Even if you don't hunt or fish, you may need it for these purposes if lost or stranded. 

      3. Knife Handles: Commercial knife-makers invariably screw this up. First, the handles are usually not long enough. They do this to advertise a longer blade; but you need a handle of sufficient length to leverage the blade properly. The handle should be only slightly shorter than the blade.

      Handle material needs to be taken into consideration. Leather handles will rot if not regularly oiled. Plastic handles will crack, especially if used in very cold temperatures. In spite of what many manufacturers say, plastic handles are also inflammable. Horn or ivory is durable, but subject to breakage with hard use. Wood handles are best; provided they are made with a good hardwood. 

      4. Avoid knives that are hollow ground. These things inherently weaken a knife's structural integrity. 

       By all means too, avoid any knives with serrated upper edges, holes, or hooks on the upper edge. These are really gangland weapons designed to maim opponents and have no use in outdoors. That obviously goes for spiked or beaded handles too. Military weapons like the 'knuckle-duster' Trench Knife is a good defensive weapon in combat, but of little use in the outdoors. The same with spear-shaped blades like bayonets.  

      5. That said, you should also avoid or use very short tangs or hand-guards. If there is a slight taper in the handle or notch in the blade near it, you won't cut your fingers thrusting. 

       6. The blade should be at least 5 inches long. 

     Here is a photo of the outdoor knife that I regularly use. I purchased it about 5 years ago from the Garrett-Wade Company. This photo is taken from their website:

     These are made from a family-owned foundry in Italy and have olive-wood handles. It's actually stayed sharp since I bought it. The problem is, it isn't cheap: it now runs about $150. But certainly worth the price. 

      I noticed that Garrett-Wade offers a new Bowie Knife, which also looks good though I haven't tried it: 

     The handle looks a little thinner on this model; but is made of rose-wood. It's not stated where it is manufactured, but probably in China---the steel listed is one of the better and most popular Chinese grades of Stainless. The blade is 1/8-inch thick. The design itself is actually very good; it looks even a little better balanced than the Italian-made model. It sells for about half the cost of the other. 

       But these two are merely presented as examples. Shop around and find something of comparable use. In the outdoors, your knife is always your most valuable tool and worthy of special attention. 

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