Question: I’m looking to purchase my first “real” knife and I’m wondering if anyone has any advice for which one to buy. I know there are a few different types of blades with hundreds of different styles, so I’m a little lost. If you can, please let me know your opinions. Thank you.
Answer: I’ll start you off at the very beginning as I’m sure many others out there have varied opinions on this. Everyone has their favorites, so I’ll leave brand names out of this (until the end). If you check into some of the top bushcraft publications, you’ll find that this is a common topic. I’ll share what I’ve learned about the subject below.
There are a few very basic considerations you want to look at when choosing a knife. First is length. If you find that your knife isn’t large enough to split small pieces of wood, you need a bigger one. If you find that it’s too large to perform fine carving or whittling, you need a smaller one. I have a few knifes that have blades that run anywhere between four and six inches. I think I like the six inch one the best.
The second area of consideration is to choose what you’d like the blade to be constructed of. It’s become commonplace for outdoor enthusiasts to lean towards high-carbon steel with a sharp back corner. This is because high-carbon steel works exceptionally well with ferro rods. Also, the 90° angle on the back of the blade ensures those sparks are formed. Don’t go with pretty beveled edges and slick coatings on the blades. Those things will only get in your way when the time comes.
One of the most important areas of consideration when it comes to choosing belt knives is whether or not it’s of “full tang” construction. If you’ve ever seen a knife where the metal from the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle, you know you’re looking at full tang design. Knives get the crap kicked out of them and when you’re banging on the backside of it or on the handle when trying to split wood, the last thing you’ll need is for the handle to fall off. And I don’t care how good the manufacturer says the knife is, if it’s not full tang, don’t even think about buying it. This type costs more than the others, but it’s worth it.
The last thing you’ll need to think about is what type of edge your potential knife will have. There are four popular grinds; Scandinavian, Hollow, Convex and Full Flat. Each of these edges has their pros and cons. The Scandinavian and Full Flat have thinner edges that are great for carving and the like, but are somewhat brittle when they get beat on. The Hollow grind is the thinnest of all, which is perfect for skinning and processing meat, but it’ll chip easily and you definitely don’t want to be splitting wood with this type of edge. The Convex is the wood splitter of the group because of it’s thicker edge, but don’t try carving with it. Also, you need to think about sharpening your knife in the field. Some edges are easier than others to sharpen. Personally, I’d go with the Full Flat edge because it sits somewhere in the middle and it’s pretty versatile.
I found a few links for you that discuss some very good knives. These are the favorites from a few years ago:
From what I can gather, these are the best bushcraft knives out there.
These knives where chosen by Gear Patrol:
– Spyderco Bushcraft
– Morakniv Bushcraft
– Helle Temagami
– Fallkniven F1
– L.T. Wright Bushcrafter HC
– CRKT Saker
– Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion (I love this one)
– Esee Knives Model 3
– Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter
– Condor Tool & Knife Bushlore
And these were chosen by Gear Hungry:
– Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion Bushcraft Knife
– Morakniv Carbon Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife
– Fallkniven F1 Bushcraft Knife
– Condor Walnut Handle Bushlore
– Benchmade – Bushcrafter 162
– Schrade SCHF36 Frontier Fixed Blade
– Morekniv Craftline Pro S
– Schrade SCHF9 Extreme Survival
– Buck Knives Selkirk
– Spyderco Bushcraft G-10 PlainEdge Knife
There’s also a lot more than goes into choosing the perfect knife, such as what type of material the handle is made of and whether or not the knife has a serrated edge. I encourage you to take a look at the sites I linked to here and then browse through each of the knives I listed. When you’re finished with that, I’m guessing you’ll be quite educated on the topic. Let me know what you pick as your favorite.