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Author Topic: Survival knife - what for?  (Read 22940 times)
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Ed Fowler
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« on: December 10, 2008, 06:01:28 PM »

We have all had to use knives in exigent circumstances and I feel it is time to discuss what we feel are some aspects of a survival knife that have proven to be absolutely essential.

As a kid I ran away from home and spent the winter in the high country. I had a knife and a 22 cal single pistol to feed me and my friend. We were staying in a summer cabin with no electricity, phone, or heat with the exception of a wood cook stove.

It snowed heavily and we got down to the bare essentials.

One aspect of the knife I had was used to cut a hole in 8 inches of ice in order to fish for brook trout in a frozen beaver pond. Using the knife as an ice pick, I was able to fish until we could catch no more.

This is one reason I figure a survival knife must have a strong tip.

How about some more thoughts?    

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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 06:20:07 PM »

A hollow handle is a must, as well as a sawback and a gut hook if possible. KIDDING. A good guard is essential, it is actuallly part of the whole, a well designed and usable handle is almost if not as important as a good blade. If you can't use it, you can't use it, period. Design is everything. It must be large enough for any task but still usable for delicate work. ( I am assuming this is a one knife scenario.) Chopping, slicing, removing splinters, etc.
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 10:23:38 PM »

  One thing that comes to mind is a small feature, but one I think is pretty important in a survival knife: a lanyard hole, and a strong lanyard.  Imagine if-- God forbid, you had accidentally dropped the knife into that hole in the ice!!  Gone for good!
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Bil_johnson
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2008, 11:14:31 AM »

I also think that a true survival knife should have a strong tip and a good guard (what if, God forbid) that in the middle of the ice removal process, you happen to notice a red color in the ice of your 'ice hole'. That deeply cut hand is going to take a long time to heal under the conditions you describe and the likelihood of that cut could have been dramatically reduced by a good guard. I also think a good steel (5160, 52100) with a well formed convex geometry (I think a hollow grind would simply be too delicate, as would a flat grind), once again under the conditions described. The knife should have a usb cable in its hollow handle, a built-in gps receiver and, of course, you should have remembered your laptop (just kidding).

bil_john
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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2008, 03:25:45 PM »

If I would dare to try what you did, that knife would be very important. I'd think it would need heavy testing under very similar circumstances. A good guard, plenty of practice with and without gloves, and make sure the heat treat and blade geometry stays predictable at very cold temps for extended times. I think I'd want a tough through tang with a sound metal grip cap for banging on something.

Probably lucky for me that I wouldn't try it,   Craig
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danbot
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2008, 06:01:11 PM »

  Something that just came to mind about survival situations:  At least you had the good sense to bring a knife with you.  I assume this running away was carried out with at least a little planning? 

  A story that was just recently in the news where I live was about a 13 or 14 year old boy who ran away from home after a fight with his parents over too much X-BOX video gaming.
Apparently he ran away with just the clothes on his back.  He was missing for two weeks before they found him out in the bush, near a river.  tragically he was found dead.

  I don't know if having a knife would have helped him or not.  You still need to know how to use it and what to use it for.  Unfortunately, I think most kids today (or adults for that matter) could not survive in the wilderness for long even if they had a knife and a gun.  Video games are a poor teacher of practical skills.

  With the way the world economies seem to be heading these days, I think we all better get a little more self reliant.  Self reliance is one of the most important things you can teach your children, and for a long time now it has been too neglected in our societies.
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2008, 07:26:38 PM »

Dan: you brought up one of the most significant aspects of survival, knowledge and skill.
We planned the run away for about 3 months.
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2008, 08:28:45 PM »

I think another must for a "survival knife" is that it has superior flexabilaty, for in extreme circumstances a broken blade is no good to anybody. 
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2008, 01:43:14 PM »

Ed. Loved the story, but ?and don?t you hate that word in a sentence? survival to me means that your caught with out planning for the situation. Such as being caught in the back country because of accident, or being put afoot because of bad weather, or just plain being lost..

 When we grew up in the 40s us boy?s my brothers and I spent a lot of time in the woods, Hunting, Playing or hiding out from our folks to keep from being put to work on the ranch. Subsequently we learned a lot of what now days are called bushcraft skills from Nabisco Shredded Wheat?s ? Injun-Uity Cards? that were used as dividers in there boxs. Straight Arrow with these cards taught my brothers and I all phases of American Indian lore, customs, and tactics.

 I?m getting away from the topic of what we think is accentual in a survival Knife ?I?m old and prone to ramble?. Ed in your book ?knife Talk on page 52 you show what I conceder the almost perfect survival knife. Carbon steel, 41/2 to 6? blade, a good guard and conferrable handle with a large butt cap. What you call Thumb ridges down here in the south we call match strikers, or flint strikers. Here in the south you?ll find quite a few back of the blade polished like that from boys starting fires with cat tail fuss, thistle pods, or dandelions seeds, you know gather up a hand full of fuss or a few cotton pods a rock, wad?em up in your hand strike whit the back of your carbon steel knife walla Fire and another young girl impressed.

Just my thoughts on the subject, and another way of killing the afternoon waiting for this rain to stop. You have a good one and I?ll talk at you later   Cheesy   
 
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2008, 04:32:32 PM »

I feel the blade must be stout and wide enough to dig in the dirt. An acquaintance running from the law hiked into the Owl Creek Mountains, high country and tough in the winter most of the time. The only tool he took with him was a home made knife made out of a truck spring. Not forged, but ground. It still had the bend of the spring in the blade. He went in in Dec. and did not come out until April. Gave him self to only to find that he was not wanted!!! Maybe felt a little guilty about something (?).

Anyway he told me about his survival, he dug a pit large enough for him to sleep in (remember frozen ground) using the knife. He would keep a small fire going during the day and on extreme cold nights, cover the hot rocks with long grass and limbs, then crawl in to bed and cover himself with woven branches and grass at first, later with hides. Said he stayed warm all winter.  He used the old steel and flint (knife and rock) to build his original fire. He made traps and snares for food and blankets. He walked out the next spring in as good a shape as it went in. His story is legendary among those who know about him.

He was hair triggered and good with a knife. Told me that he could sneak up on a sleeping deer and cut its throat. I would not call him a liar.
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2008, 08:18:31 PM »

A "survival" is an all around tool meant to do everything it is called upon to do, maybe not the best at any one given task but versatile enough to keep you alive.

First it must be of enough size to handle heavier tasks such as cutting limbs to build a shelter and to be able to provide fuel for a fire. That might include splitting wood at some point.

A general survival knife will do a lot of kitchen duty and there fore it needs to have a blade that is also suitable for slicing.

digging and prying would mandate a stout point; but one that was also able to more delicate work of skinning.

Safety is a huge part of the design as any small injury in a survival situation could spell disaster; so a guard is mandatory. Ask Mr. Bowie if you do not believe me.

Now one of your preaching points Mr. Fowler is a comfortable handle. This is also a must. A handle that will not fatigue you during heavy use nor create blisters that can cripple you or lead to a disastrous infection.

Last thing to consider is the blade edge. I feel that the ONLY grind acceptable is a convex grind for its' durability and its' ability to do more tasks well than other grinds. Also when it comes to a blade edge the ability not only to hold an edge but also the ability to have an edge put back on in the field. could you imagine trying to put an edge back on a Buck knife with a river stone if needed to?  After spending quite a few hours talking with Kevin and doing quite a bit of research on the 52100 steel that you use I am beginning to think that it has just about the best  combination of edge holding ability and ease of sharpening for its' hardness.
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Harry Mathews
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2008, 09:50:09 PM »

A good friend of mine, Ed Smith, wrote a book back in the 70's about survival knives. We talked at length about the various design aspects of survival knives and the one aspect they all shared was the fact that it was the one you had with you when you needed to survive. If I have time to plan on carrying a specialized survival knife, I'll have a hatchet with me and some other stuff too. I have a hatchet close most of the time anyway. The knife I will have with me is a 5 inch clip point blade, flat ground and probably a stag handle. It will have a single guard and hole for a lanyard. Others might be better for surviving and probably are, but that is the one I will have when "it" hits the fan, because I like it and carry it. I have used the design for more years than I want to remember, cleaned everything from bluegills to elk, cut 4 inch diameter trees for shelters and made tooth picks. It is a knife I most often reach for when I am heading for the woods whether it is for a few hours or days. I know how the sheath is going to ride and that it won't dig into my side when I bend over. I also know the knife is going to be in the sheath when I need it. I can take it out with either hand and put it back. The ground doesn't freeze where I usually hunt and neither do the rivers and lakes. If I am going where they do, see the statement about the hatchet.

I trust the design because I have spent a lot of time with it over the years and done stuff I should not have with it. Michael Douglas got on to Val Kilmer in movie The Ghost and the Darkness for going into battle with an untested weapon. The same warning holds true here. You need to know the knife you carry and if you haven't spent enough time with it to trust it, then you need to have a back-up knife with you that you have.
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Harry Mathews
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« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2008, 11:11:13 PM »


Harry, I don't believe anyone could argue against what you say on this subject. I hope others have that special knife that they feel like they can count on.

The efficiency of a hatchet may make the difference if shelter must be made quickly or a hole dug to bury yourself  when a fire is approaching. To me a Brown Tracker knife is a cross between a knife and a hatchet. I'm more likely to want to carry it partly because it is less cumbersome and it can handle the heavier tasks without risking breaking my other knife. It's a strange looking thing, but easy enough to make one from an old lawnmower blade. They're too expensive otherwise.

You guys mention a lanyard. Probably as important as any other aspect when the loss of the knife could result in death. Some people can't stand to use one or forget to.

Call me paranoid and I'll answer. But, I like the idea of a quality knife hanging on a light chain around my neck. If I get into a situation like running through the woods naked, dodging bullets, for example (that's humor), I'll at least have something.

I've mentioned this before and it's a minor point. Although, I keep my blades as shiny as I can all the time, it's not just for ease of maintenance. I envision a situation where I may need a shiny surface to signal for help. Some claim to have started fires with a shiny blade as well. I'll have to try that.

Just some thoughts
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caknives
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2008, 09:52:51 AM »

That knife around your neck isn't just paranoia, it's a good idea as long as it on a ball chain so you can't be choked out with it. My uncle is a martial arts instructor and I can't tell you the number of times during sparing that I have punched that neck knife hanging right over his solar plexus. Saved him and hurt me, plus its handy if you operate in an untucked shirt enviroment.
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2008, 10:38:58 AM »

Lanyards: one thing you have to be careful about, the loop can hang up when you are sneaking or even walking through tight brush, the loop can catch and pull the knife out of your scabbard. Unless you are luck you have lost your knife.

A lanyard can also hang up when you are using the knife if you are just letting it hang, it should either be around your hand - wrist of off of the knife.

I suggest that you remove the lanyard when you don't need it.

Good thoughts - Keep then coming!
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