Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Essential Cutting Tools

Probably not going to discuss Kitchen Cutlery in this article, but when it comes to knives you can use in the field, don't overlook a large Chef's Knife, Carving Knife, Filet Knife, or any Paring designs...  Other than for fileting or oyster shucking (sp?) you want a heavy spine, and full length tang under the handle/grips for best all-around use.  Of the many kitchen knives we own, Chicago Cutlery's basic, oak slab handle chef's knives would prove most durable in the field.  So, just because you don't have a ton of money to spend on Outdoor Knives, don't think you have to go without.

Before leaving the topic of Kitchen Knives, I will say that over the years, I have found dozens of Excellent and As-New pieces of survival gear and general quality kitchen gear at Resale and Thrift Shops.  Got time to look?  The Salvation Army, Goodwill, AmVets, Purple Heart, Value Village, St. Vincent DePaul and all the independent shops and church ministry resales are full of stuff you can use.  Will probably do an article on how-to shop these valuable resources soon.

Knives at the Resale:  You'll find literally piles of donated kitchen flatware, knives, whisks, can-openers and gadgets galore at Resales.  For knives that will do Dual Duty you want a heavy tang and full-length handle.  You want to see steel running full length of the handle with handles riveted or screwed in place.  The heavier the steel on the back, the more durable the tool.  Thinner blades will slice more evenly, but for prying and hacking you want a .20" or thicker backbone/spine on that piece of steel.  You're looking for quality made gear, also smooth-edged blades will be easier to sharpen.  Japanese steel can be very good.  Stainless steel will be common, but regular carbon-steel will take a better edge and be easier to sharpen.  The USA made Old Hickory style traditional knives are usually carbon steel.  Some of the best knives we've found resaling have been Farberware.  Good cookware for sure, but their knives are pretty well made.  Have 2 that are partially serrated, part straight-blade; for general slicing knives they are very good.  Saw edge knives are great for slicing bread.  Paring knives are good for any fine job and come in a wide variety of blade tip styles.  Steak knives make pretty good all-around field knives.

Nice thing about buying Resale knives is most will be in excellent shape.  Most people seem to not know how to sharpen their cutlery, so maybe that is why these good kitchen tools were given away in the first place?  If you are paying $1 or maybe $2.50 for a quality knife, pretty hard to gripe about how it is just not "perfect for the job".  Don't overlook HD items like cleavers or real long bladed knives...  With a dremel tool or some form of grinder, even a hacksaw or plain chisel and file; you can Re-Shape a good piece of knife steel into just the tool or blade style you want.

I have bought outdoor knives at the resale, also axe blades, also gardening tools like pruning shears, and seen chainsaws from time-to-time.  Best place to buy a quality chainsaw like Stihl, Husqvarna, or Echo which all make Pro-Quality long-lasting tools, is gonna be a PawnShop.  Gotta know how to recognize a good condition tool, but most Pawnshops will give you 24hr moneyback.  Can save plenty money on nearly new tools.  Add a couple drops of acetone to old gas, if present and see if it doesn't start right away.  If the motor runs, the rest is easy...

There are plenty of websites, books, and videos on using knives in the outdoors.  Hood's Woods Hoodlums is a discussion forum that was attached to Ron Hood's website and there was plenty of discussion there about primitive survival skills in the bush and discussion about best outdoor knives etc.  I understand Ron died recently and his passing is a great loss to all who ever became even marginally acquainted with his work in Primitive Outdoor Living.  The Hoodlums forum is worth a read as are Ron and Karen Hood's other books and videos.   Plenty of discussion there as to how a Large Bowie blade or other large utility knife can form the basis for wilderness survival.

While you can use a rock or heavy hardwood to pound on the spine of your  semi-custom Bowie, it makes more sense to use an axe, hand-axe, or a saw.  Pretty hard to beat a Swedish bow saw for price and speed of cutting.  With an axe you have a tool built specifically for chopping, but with the edge being so long, you can use an axe in other ways besides just as a chopper.  A hatchet works great when butchering large animals and for processing small wood into small fire portions.  Might want to carry a plastic wedge or two if you're going to be felling timber, or cut a wedge or two in the field.  Very handy when your chainsaw might get stuck as kerf narrows as the timber shifts on a cut...

Kydex is a very tough & durable plastic that shapes easily by heat application and can be molded for sheaths and blade protectors fairly easily (I'm told) by home hobbyist.  You want any exposed blade to be protected, to reduce danger to you or others.  Knives can be carried in a tool-roll arrangement.  Canvas or heavier material will work, just sew pockets for your various blades to fit in snugly and you'll find you can roll up your gear and tie it.  Great way to keep camp kitchen knives in one place.

In the field you can easily carry a sheath knife, but maybe not in town.  Always a help to have a pocketknife.  A medium sized Swiss Army Knife is an excellent all-around tool to carry.  I like the Super-Tinker which has scissors, file, Phillips screwdriver plus an awl and fine flathead blade.  Gerber and Leatherman multi-tools are also very useful.

A number of guys are into legal-carry defensive knives.  Thumb-assisted opening pocketknives, if equipped with a HD blade-lock may be an option.  In some states you can own automatic knives...  If I'm going to carry a tool to fight with, it will be a handgun.  No discussion here on knife fighting,  but maybe you need to investigate the option if you can't carry a pistol.

Rope saws are interesting, not too practical though.  Might be useful in a very tight situation.  The cutoff wheel on a full-size handheld grinder, a Foredom or Dremel hand tool is an extremely valuable resource.  Super for cutting hard steel, with a locking plier like a Vise-Grip, the cut-off wheel enables modifying hardware and shaping sheet steel or other metals.  The small, lightweight ones tend to break very easily, so keep a bunch on hand, but nothing beats one of these for fast shaping metal if you don't have an acetylene torch.

As far as a survival tool goes, the knife and all other specialty cutting tools are essentials to work safely and fast.  I urge you to evaluate your needs and begin looking at solutions.

As essential as your cutting tools are, you must be able to maintain the edges so they cut safely and quickly.  Chainsaws and other serrated edge cutters will need round, Swedish Files.  Must have the correct file radius to keep the saw cutters sharp, same way with other serrated edge blades.  Flat edge knives can be kept sharp with diamond hones, carborundum or Arkansas stones, and other hones.  For axes you want a file and round carborundum stone which keeps your fingers from the edge.  A grinding wheel and polishing buffer can also help fine-tune your edge.

Wood chisels also are edged tools that help in general carpentry.  Not really the scope here, but if you are assembling tools for outdoor living a variety of chisels and likely a plane or two will make your efforts more polished and professional in appearance.  Cold chisels for shaping steel and other metals also must be maintained.  A set of metal shears also works great if cutting sheetmetal or other light metals or heavy plastic.  Haven't talked about scissors.  A good set of outdoor scissors bound to be useful.  The cheap, orginal Fiskars with orange handle are a good all-around scissor.  Hard to beat gardening shears for cutting sappling size forest vegetation and doing it quietly.

One specialty tool will mention is the Nicholson Bow-Hack saw.   This is a 12" saw frame that takes both Swedish saw blades and hacksaw blades.  Compact enough to easily fit in a daypack, it is very versatile and affordable.

For outdoor knives, I own and use Gerber, Cold Steel, Blackie Collins, USAF Pilot's survival knife, and Victorinox Swiss Army knifes, Leatherman and Gerber multi-tools, plus Case, Buck, and a few customs.  Machetes of various sizes and Ghurka designs are also great for the versatility they enable.  Try Pawnshops for used outdoor quality knives, but know what you are buying and what the online wholesalers sell for.  Knives are an in-demand item so often are over-priced; from my experience.  Always offer 1/3 less than the asking price in a pawnshop...

No comments:

Post a Comment