When you need to cut something
There are countless types and brands of knives and edged tools. I will not tell anyone what to carry in the woods or what the best knife of all is.
I don`t know what the best knife is or even if it exist.
You have to decide yourself what type and brand that suits you.
I will however write about some of the knives that I own, and my experiences with them. Maybe that will be of some help when you decide what to carry yourself.
No matter what knife you buy, just be sure it is sharp.
A dull knife (and axe) is a dangerous tool. It slips easily and you have to use much more force when carving than with a sharp knife.
I carry a red DMT diamond hone when out hunting or fishing just in case my knife need a little touch up.
The folding knife.
I like the swiss army knife (SAK), particularly the large ones.
They are fairly cheap, durable and have most tools you will need in the woods (knife blade, saw and awl).
I have a Victorinox Forester (picture left) myself and I find it a very sturdy and good knife.
With the saw one could cut down trees about 8-9 cm thich.
The locking blade is also big plus (liner lock).
I now use it as a sidekick to my fixed blade when ever I’m out in the woods.
I also have a smaller one, a Wenger Hiker
(right). I’ve had it for over 25 years, and the only damage it has sustained is a cracked handle plate.
This was my everyday carry for 15 years.
I highly recommend these knives.
I also own several other folding knives, like Opinel and EKA, various autos and cheap chinese knock offs.
But, I don’t usually use folders with only one blade. I see no reason for it (I own some though).
I rather carry a fixed blade instead.
Don’t baton wood with your folder, it will most likely break.
That said I`ve actually used the VIC Forester to baton firewood and no harm was done, but I do not recommend it.
The Leatherman super tool (left).
I’ve used this as an everyday carry for some years and I think it’s a nice tool.
The only downside I’ve found is that it is made of rather soft steel.
I tried to cut a small nail with it and dented the wire cutter.
I think a tool of this size should at least be able to cut a small nail.
Other than that I’m very pleased with it.
It has become a little looser in its joints, but no more than I expected.
All in all a nice tool that I recommend.
The Gerber MP600 pro scout (right). This tool have some nice features.
I especially like the saw, which is replaceable (ordinary RemGrit® saw blade) , and the way the pliers are “stored” inside the tool.
I also like the easy locking mechanism of the tools.
The tool also have a small scissors.
The steel in this tool is also a tad too soft.
I tried cutting a small nail with this tool too, and the result was like that of the Leatherman, the wire cutter got dented.
The tool also lack an awl, and have a semi serrated blade which I hate.
The tool is cheaper than the Leatherman, but I will still take the Leatherman.
The tool is however not bad and it has earlier been my everyday carry tool.
Small Fixed blades
The traditional Norwegian knife (tollekniven) is fairly short, between 3-4 inch blade lengths, there are exceptions though. The Storhallingen left has a blade about 6 inches long.
The knife has a rat tang, could be all the way trough the handle or partially trough the handle, and usually no guard.
The handle is oval and usually made in the shape similar to that of a trout’s body. Handle material is usually wood, but horn, leather, birch bark and metal have also been used.
Many people think a knife without a hand guard is dangerous, and that the handle gets slippery while butchering game.
My experience is that a hand guard mostly get in the way when whittling and butchering game, and that blood from a large animal (moose) quickly gets sticky and don’t cause a problem with slippery handles.
When prying (if you absolutely need to do it) one hold the knife high on the handle with the handle end in ones palm. That way there is no chance of cut to the fingers.
After all, this handles have been used long before the Viking age.
There have been some accidents trough the times, but you will solve your fear of these handles by buying a knife with a hand guard.
Mora knives. The old red wood handled Mora is perhaps one of the best knives for the money.
It is sharp from the box, easy to sharpen when dull and so cheap that if one break it or loose it you just buy a new one.
I was hunting moose with a cook/butcher and he wouldn`t use anything else than this knife.
Mora also make modern variants of this knife. Either in carbon or stainless steel, but With plastic handles. This is found in most toolboxes in Scandinavia as they are cheap and expendable.
I usually use traditional knives, but I`ve used the Fallkniven F1 a lot, and this is one of my favourites.
The knife is very sturdy, has a full tang and non slip syntetic grip (the grip will get slippery if you got fat from a moose on it, trust me).
The knife has a lanyard hole on the back for those of you who use that, and the tang sticks out a bit in the end, making a surface to use a baton on when needed.
The 4 inch blade (laminated VG-10 steel) is convex ground and holds the edge very well.
The grip is a tad too small for those with big hands but for me it is almost perfect.
My knife came with a black leather sheath with a flap holding the knife in place, but other sheaths are available as well.
The F1 is a poor knife for whittling wood, but not so bad that you don`t can make a decent feather stick with it.
I`ve butchered a bull moose with it and this is tough work.
The hide is like sand paper. The knife performs well, but not better than my Helle Skarping. I had to hone it frequently.
I didn`t worry about breaking the knife though.
Large fixed blades
The bigger knives have traditionally been used (in Norway) by the saami People (at least after the medieval times).
The big knife was excellent for cutting birch shoots and branches for bedding in the lavvu (tent) or goathi (sod house), and the heavier chores of butchering a reindeer.
Earlier I only carried a “big” knife when in the woods, together with a folding knife.
I used a 8 inch sami knife from Strømeng in Karasjok, and I still use it sometimes.
I got the knife from my father in 1984 and the knife is just awesome.
I used it to slice bread, chop firewood, gut fish, cut cordage and carving wood. I almost never used the folding knife.
I find the size of the 8 inch to be very versatile.
I`ve tried the 9 inch model, and it chops better but it is not as good for carving and smaller knife duties.
The knife is easy to sharpen and holds the edge well.
The weak spot is the sheath.
After much use I`ve managed to cut trough the leather on top of the sheath.
This is a problem when drawing and sheathing the knife.
No matter how careful you are it is bound to happen sooner or later.
The saami knives have a fairly thin blade and does not have the same chopping power as other knives of the same size, for instance a BK-9 or a small kukhri, but they are easy to carry.
The 8 inch weighs 370 grams and the 9 inch weighs 390 grams.
Homemade large saami knife
Last year (2012) I made a sami knife with a little thicker blade.
The only drawback of the Strømeng knife is that it is a little light for chopping heavier stuff, and I wanted a little heavier knife for chopping, but not one too heavy.
The blade is made by a local blade smith.
The blade is 21.5 centimetres (8.5 inches) long, and 4mm (1/6 inch) thick laminated steel.
I opted for a non-polished look, as I prefer it just for the aesthetic value.
The handle is moose antler, walnut with birch bark and leather spacers.
I quite pleased with the knifes performance, but have not used it as much as I hoped.
An axe is IMO not a necessity in the woods, but if you are going to do some serious chopping it is a nice item to have along.
In older times they regarded the axe very important though.
If your canoe capsize let the gun go but save the axe, is an old saying.
Best of all are a fairly large axe, like the Scandinavian forest axe type.
There are many companies that make such axes.
Granfors Bruk of Sweden are one of the more popular brands.
I have an old forest axe of unknown origin that I got from my grandfather, and the axe works like a charm.
Just be sure that the axe is as sharp as your knife.
Also check the grain of the handle.
The grain should preferably run parrallel to the axe head to minimise the chance of breaking it.
It is tiresome (and a bit dangerous) to lug about with an axe in your hand.
Make an edge protection for it and strap it to your rucksack.
For those who don`t want to carry the weight of a large axe (like me) a smaller axe (hatchet) or tomahawk may be the answer.
I have several small axes, one from Øyo (Speiderøks) wich works well enough, a couple of tomahawks I hardly use, and my favourite; The Gransfors Bruks Outdoors axe (picture left).
It is a small axe, about 500 grams, and 37 cm long.
The axe is light and doesn`t take up much room in your ruck, but it is heavy enough for both cutting and splitting firewood for the day/weekend trips.
I find the combo small Axe, small (5-6 inch blade) knife and a folding saw to be unbeatable for my use.
Using the axe
Be careful when using an axe.
It is easy to cut onself in the legs when using one.
I find the larger forest axes to be the safest to use.
They tend to hit ground before they hit you.
Look out for overhanging branches and be sure you have plenty of space to yield the axe.
When using a hatchet it is wise to sit on Your knees.
That way the Axe is more likely hit the ground before it hits you.
I have never cut myself with an axe.
Common sence is the key.
Steel and cold weather
Steel becomes brittle in strong cold.
If the temperature is -20 degrees Celsius or lower, and you chop hard wood you may brake off pieces from the edge.
When using an axe or knife in cold weather warm the blade by the fire before use.
I have actually broken a piece of the edge from a cheap bowie knife in less then -20 degrees.
Take care of your tools in cold weather.
An old bow saw is of course the best saw for cutting firewood, but it is not so convenient for hiking.
Smaller collapsible saws are a better choice.
The Sandvik Laplander is an excellent choice for day trips and hunting.
It is fairly cheap and very light.
It is easy to use and has a sharp blade which is replaceable.
I`ve had this saw for about 10 years and used it both for wood and butchering (sawing bone).
The blade still doesn`t need to be replaced.
The saw works on both push and draw.
Another saw I have is called Jaws pruning saw.
It cuts only on the draw motion.
The saw actually outcuts the Laplander, but the saw seems more flimsy.
Besides, the pin holding the blade lock fell out and the saw was useless (picture below right).
The pin is now replaced and peened on both sides.
This is my most used saw.
My latest buy was a Silky Bigboy. This is a serious saw. I will probably swap the Jaws pruning saw for this in wintertime.
The Bigboy cuts bigger logs and way faster than the smaller Jaws saw.