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View Full Version : Novice Knife/Hatchet advice.



JAK
2007-11-12, 09:15
I am in need of knife/hatchet advice, at a more novice level than other threads. I am looking a knife for Spring/Summer/Fall, and a Hatchet for winter, or perhaps something to do both. Up to now I have rarely needed a knife, and cut cordage or shoe laces when needed with a small pen-knife and/or lighter. Here is what I think I would be using it for:

1. Occassional field repairs/fabrication of clothing/gear/self. With the latter perhaps following a failed attempt at either of the former, or the following.

2. Occassionally, when squaw wood is not readily available, or when a somewhat larger drying or warming fire is needed, to help rip down into the dry layers of a fallen tree, or perhaps hack off a few limbs that might still be a little green. This would have come in handy this past summer at Tweedle-Dee Tweedle-Dum falls, as it was a rather pleasant yet soggy little hollow.

3. Occassionally to chop through some ice for water.

4. Perhaps to build a shelter, or a litter, or something similar, if ever needed,
and at least once each winter whether I need to or not.

5. Mayhaps to skin a grey squirrel, iffin I ever gits me one afore they gits me.

6. Something for rigging up primitive rabbit snares and traps, and skinning and dressing if I am ever successful. Other general purpose woodcrafting work.

Sound to me like a knife and a hatchet, but what form and weight to be looking for I am less than unsure. I am also curious about how to carry and care for them. I don't generally wear a belt, though I have occassionally found it useful to wear a belt of two or three spans of cordage. I have a good sharpening stone, though it is heavy. It has a fine side and a course side. Wondering if it is possible to cut an end off it for packing. So if any of you have any suggestions, or an old knife that might be deserving of perhaps not too fine a home, but at least one with good intentions, I would be interested. I have a hatchet now which seems to serve me well enough. I am considering a longer handle and grinding the blade down a bit. Curious what knife work can be done with a hatchet. Cheers.

oops56
2007-11-12, 09:38
Jak i know this is no help but i got this just to use for my bow stave to thin them out then use my draw knife not to strong for spitting wood. Just had to show it.:bath:

http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d52/oops62/th_hacket1.jpg (http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d52/oops62/hacket1.jpg)

Iceman
2007-11-12, 09:49
Hey oops, your are not thinking of using that on your keyboard are you?

JAK, I would recommend a tiny fiskars axe, and a quality brand fixed blade hunting type knive as a starter set. Relatively inexpensive way to start, and then you can upgrade later if you desire. You gotta start the collection somewhere!

oops56
2007-11-12, 10:15
Yep i just might use it on this key board. I got this big letter one so i could see it now the dam thing cant spell worth a dam.

SGT Rock
2007-11-12, 11:07
I haven't got one - but I hear the GB mini is a great choice.

JAK
2007-11-12, 14:00
Oops. That looks great. Did you make it from scratch? Plain carbon steel?
Would you call it a hatchet or an broad axe or a trade axe or something else?

Iceman, I will look into that fiskars axe a quality brand fixed blade hunting type knive. I have a reasonable hatchet, so will likely get a fixed blade hunting knife first. If I end up getting another later, like you say, no bother. Gotta start the collection somewhere!

Rock, is this the GB Mini?
Gränsfors Bruks Mini
http://www.britishblades.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16274

It is somewhat smaller than my small Canadian Tire hatchet, which weighs an even pound, but is likely superior, for reasons I know not. The top of the Gränsfors Bruks line (further down the link above) they all seem to be flat on top, and curved below. I am guessing this ensures when you are slashing limbs it pulls away somewhat, rather than potentially glancing towards your knee or thigh. Or perhaps its for throwing? Anyhow, the handle looks better also. I also like Oops's handle. Oops's small broad axe is considerably broader, which is perhaps why it is good for the work he does with it on staves before he uses the draw knife. A non-symetrical hatchet like the Gränsfors Bruks line might not be so able to be used as evenly. Does that seem about right?

One of the posts in the link above mentions the steel of the GB mini:

All the axes are hand-forged from what GB call “Special Swedish Steel.” (Cliff Stamp reckons this is something similar to L6).

Chemistry of L6 steel:
Carbon 0.65 - 0.75
Chromium 0.6 - 1.2
Manganese 0.25 - 0.8
Molybdenum 0.5 max
Nickel 1.25 - 2
Phosphorus 0.03 max
Silicon 0.5 max
Sulphur 0.03 max

From what I understand of plain carbon steels and alloy steels and stainless steels this is not too far off a plain medium/high carbon steel, except that the nickel is fairly significant. I understand this amount of nickel allows you to heat treat the steel more effectively, perhaps with just an oil quench. I would like to know how such a tool is heat treated. The nickle and chromium I think also help with corrossion, but not so much for it to be a stainless steel. The thing I like about potentially using a plain medium/high carbon steel, or perhaps just a little different, is that I could do some interesting things at home with carburizing and so forth, without having to learn too much before stuff that gets way to complicated and less fun.

What steel did you use Oops? How did you work it?

JAK
2007-11-12, 14:04
What is a large or thick enough knife to take a reasonable amount of abuse?
Or is there such a thing as reasonable abuse? Just don't want something to snap.

I will go with a fixed blade for sure. I've been eyeing some of our kitchen knives.

oops56
2007-11-12, 14:32
Its a very thin blade like a knife. Made by spezial FOX rostfrei
Model brevettato inox italy

Turk
2007-11-12, 18:33
Okay ............ some people here are going to have a field day on me here and go berserk. But I say ... bring it on. I fully stand behind my opinion on this.

Jak, I read your first post twice, and you described fully and almost verbatim all the reasons and criteria that made me decide to buy the Tom Brown Tracker Mini (T2). This is the smaller companion to the full scale Tom Brown Tracker made quite famous on a slew of forums.

There is no other knife more heavily discussed on bladeforums. Its the knife, that knife lovers, love to hate (the larger version). It is surprising how little commentary you find on the smaller version of the same knife.

If you haven't seen it ever, check it out on the TOPS website here:
http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?cPath=2&products_id=173&osCsid=a2c588254d4392b8226518819c220aac

A quick trip over to bladeforums or any big knife site will give you several hundred pages of people loving or hating the knife design.

Here is my super quick summary of why I love the mini version:

1. - The original version is one heck of a big knife. REAL big. Real heavy. I think Rock has one. Hopefully he will chime in on this. The mini version feels more like a regular size belt knife, or camp knife, weighs a heck of alot less, and
still has all the utility for a great many tasks. This knife design is basically the swiss army knife of survival.
You can check out the manual describing how to use each feature of the knife here:
http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/trackerknife/TrackerKnifeManual.pdf
This gives you a good overview of why it is shaped the way it is.

2. - I personally like things that do multiple tasks. I will take something that does several things "okay, or well" over individual things that do "one thing - very well". The best arguments against the knife are that people say: It doesn't saw as well as a real full size saw. it doesn't chop as well as a real hatchet. This is of course true. And when you look at the size and weight of the full size model, it is pretty evident that you could trade that weight for 2 tools. When I first held the T2 mini... it was a whole other story. For its size... I think its a great saw, and great chopper.

3. - Its everything you expect from a quality survival knife. 1095 carbon steel, easy to field sharpen, and able to take REAL abuse. I have absolutely no reservations about beating my full strength against the knife to split wood by batoning it to death. I have split 6" dia cedar with surprising ease using only a a stick to club with and the T2 mini. And I am talking real world scenarios. In the bush... after all day of hiking or paddling, dragging wood back to camp. For chopping and splitting, the little knife surprises me every time I use it.

4. - The saw is small, but such a great feature. if you need a full size saw, to do full scale sawing... then bring a damn saw. But you only have to flip the mini tracker knife over once, to appreciate the surprising utility of the
saw it has. For making camp furniture, notching chair backs, playing with traps and snares, carving bowls, or building a field stretcher... the T2 mini is more than up to the task. I absolutely love having the saw back.

Anyways. Those are my top 4. Others will flame me to death. But I just don't care. I LOVE MY TOM BROWN MINI TRACKER ! :biggrin: :adore: The GB Mini hatchet, is a great hatchet. But for the things you described doing in your
first post... I think you are after more knife and saw features, than sheer chopping ability. If that makes sense to you,
then this knife is well worth your consideration.
The T2 mini was MADE for practicing all the primitive skills you described in your first post. When I am base camping, I really enjoy learning and trying to do all those things you described (usually with a survival book with diagrams in my other hand)... and the T2 is a great knife for that.
I got mine on Ebay for 130 bucks CDN. + shipping + customs fees.



This would be my distant second choice for the uses you described. Its pretty crazy. My friend has one, and I have used it a few times. Its something between a skinner, and a small hatchet. Very cool. The only thing I don't like about it, is the broad point. I just think its too broad. Of course others will argue, thats what a smaller pocket knife is for. Either way, this is also very cool. Bit heavy, which is why I went GB mini, and never looked back. But I have used it, and have to admit, it is very good for the specific tasks it was made for.
http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?cPath=2&products_id=19&osCsid=a2c588254d4392b8226518819c220aac

As a third place option, I have to give a very respectful nod to the Swamp Rat Camp tramp. If you check out youtube you will find some crazy videos for abuse testing that knife. I have seen a guy cut the hinges off a bronco by smashing the knife through the door hinge with a 5lb sledge hammer, and then immediately use the edge to cut through a stack of paper. Okay, you could tell the knife took some damage... but then the thing survived, AND held an edge where most knives would have bent or snapped, or turned to mush.There was some crazy guy cutting cinder blocks too, but I dont remember the details.
Swamp rat makes one hell of a knife. And ... the price reflects that. Personally I just put too much stock into having a saw-back, otherwise I would have the Camp Tramp.

JAK
2007-11-13, 08:21
Interesting. Amazing variety out there.
Those Japanese carpentry knives are pretty amazing.

JAK
2007-11-13, 08:34
Excellent recommendations and info Turk. Thanks.

dropkick
2007-11-13, 09:10
First off I want to say that I respect Turks' opinion on this subject even if most people say it's dim witted.
I don't support saying that, no matter if it might be true, because I respect him too much.
:aetsch:

Now to my opinion:

I like a knife to be a knife, a hatchet to be a hatchet, and a saw to be a saw.
Multi use is a fine thing, but for an item that is as important as a knife I want one that works well as a knife and not half assed at many things.
A good camp knife is already a multi use tool, and doesn't need all the frilly changes made to it like the Tracker has.

If I'm going out for long I carry a belt knife, a pocket knife, a hatchet, and a home made folding saw.

I always carry my pocket knife. On day hikes I also carry my hatchet in my day pack (a Fiskars). It weighs very little and has come in handy on more than one occasion.

If you aren't familiar with the use of a hatchet I would recommend carrying a saw in place of the hatchet, as you will be able to accomplish much more, quicker, and with much greater ease with the saw. Also it's safer.
-I grew up using both a hatchet and axe on a daily basis and still feel I could have more skill in their use. I also carry a few scars from both my bad aim and wood shrapnel (My Dad has a very strangely shaped big toe, as he split it instead of a log when he was a child).

My recommendation for a belt knife is the knife I would be carrying now if my original hunting knife hadn't been stolen (or lost) and I wasn't too cheap to spend the amount of money it would cost to replace it (inherited the first knife). This is the knife that I always think of when thinking of a hunting/camp knife.
Marbles Ideal (http://www.agrussell.com/knives/by_maker/l_through_r/marbles_outdoors/marbles_ideal_with_maple_burl.html)
This is a thicker bladed knife, so you can chop with it if you really need to and not damage the knife.

---I like a leather handle, but I don't know if they make them for this knife anymore.

As far as the stone goes, don't try to cut it you'll most likely end up destroying it. If you need something to keep the edge up while you're outdoors either buy a lightweight ceramic rod sharpener, a smaller stone, or just bring along some sand paper.
I normally just find a smooth rock (creeks and rivers are good for this) and use it to sharpen my blade if needed. That way I don't carry anything.

JAK
2007-11-13, 12:35
Thanks for that dropkick. I think it is essential that there to be a mental connection between the man and the tool. After all, that is what makes a tool a tool, as opposed to a mere object. Some ideas work for some but not for others. Thanks for the advice on the sharpening stone also. It is a good one, so I will keep it for home use. I'm sure there is some way to cut it, but I likely have neither the right tool nor the right technique. I'll wait until I do.

That Marbles Ideal look good. I like a leather handle also. I have to question the use of aluminum on the butt cap. I usually try and keep that away from steel. Perhaps its intended to be some sort of sacrificial anode in addition to being a weight saver.

Hollowdweller
2007-11-13, 13:40
Hi.

I can highly reccomend the Fallkniven F1 knife. It is stainless with a convex edge. It has a synthetic handle and the tang protrudes for use in hammering. The spine is wide so you can use it as a baton to split wood.

If you want something with a thinner blade a friend of mine that makes knives is making up a run of Bushcraft knives that should be really great outdoor knives and are reasonable. Check here

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=507316

As far as hatchets the Fiskars like Iceman talks about are highly spoken of and the Gransfors Bruks are great. The mini is really light. Their Wildlife hatchet is really too heavy for backpacking IMO but I have one and you'd be hard pressed to find a better chopper:adore:

Hollowdweller
2007-11-13, 13:50
Here's a review of the F1

http://www.bushcraftuk.com/reviews/tools/fallkniven-f1-knife.html

Here's some info on the fiskars

http://ramanon.com/forum/showthread.php?t=39504&highlight=fiskars

JAK
2007-11-13, 15:03
That F1 looks like what I first imagined for a knife. I might go a bit smaller on the knife if I take a hatchet with it, or go to something like Turk's T2 for both.

I think I may have asked this before, but could a stone used to sharpen such a high carbon knife also be used to start a fire with one? Or would it make more sense to use a proper sharpening stone to sharpen it, and a proper ferrocerium firesteel to start a fire with it?

That Khukri and its variants look pretty nasty. Very effective I should think.

Hollowdweller
2007-11-13, 15:34
You know I don't know about the stone striking a spark or not.


With the F1 it has a convex edge so I usually use a mousepad or strop with wet dry sandpaper strip put on top to maintain the convex profile.

dropkick
2007-11-14, 02:40
In theory a sharpening stone should be able to strike sparks from a carbon steel knife, as the sparks you produce are actually metal shavings off the knife.
However most sharpening stones are too brittle to actually work well for this, plus you want a sharp edge on the "flint" and most stones wouldn't fracture right to produce a sharp edge.

It's a good skill to know, but in todays' world you would be better off carrying a Bic lighter.

If you really want to do it, I recommend getting one of those magnesium blocks with a ferro rod embeded in one side. You use it in conjunction with your knife (or a section of hacksaw blade).
The magnesium supplies a source of fuel that will burn even when wet and it burns hot. It's a good emergency tool.

Hollowdweller
2007-11-14, 14:55
I always bring the bic, but more often than not I just use the swedish army firesteel and scrape it with the spine of the knife. Also I usually bring a few cotton balls with a little vaseline or mineral oil worked into them for tinder.

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/cranberry5.jpg
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/2006_1010Image0085.jpg

JAK
2007-11-14, 15:51
Much to think about. Thanks all. I think I will get one of those magnesium/firesteels or plain firesteels, whichever I see first.

For my knife and hatchet: Stick with my hatchet for now. I will just grind down and clean up my hatchet a bit and post a pic. We have a small shop and lab here at the University. I can grind it, test its hardness, maybe heat treat it but then I would have to remove the handle, then sharpen it and post some pics. I will look around locally for a decent fixed blade knife not too expensive. I will use it and get a better feel for what I'm looking for. Post a pic. Then maybe get a better one from your recommendations. I would like to build my own eventually, but maybe first see what a real one feels like.

We are getting into exams now, so I can't play during Christmas break, but I will be getting out with Margaret every weekend and maybe post some pics of hatchet and kelly kettle and packs and stuff. Also Margaret's bow. Just a fibreglass one for now, but will build one some day. Cheers.

chezrad
2007-11-22, 09:19
I have been searching for a good carrying hatchet for many years. I have finally settled in a Wetterling 13H. It holds an edge better than most and costs a third of what a Grunfor sells for. It weighs a lttle over a pound. It is one of those quietly prized possesions.They range from $25 to $35.

Mutinousdoug
2007-11-24, 22:53
I have been searching for a good carrying hatchet for many years. I have finally settled in a Wetterling 13H. It holds an edge better than most and costs a third of what a Grunfor sells for. It weighs a lttle over a pound. It is one of those quietly prized possesions.They range from $25 to $35.
Another name Wetterling goes by is "SAW" (S.A. Wetterlings) in three rings on the blade. SAW is their swedish military and (earlier?) commercial brand, as best I can figure.
I just picked up A 1.75 lb one on Ebay that is an ordinary hatchet head that I intend to grind down to an acceptable weight before I haft it. It appears to be differentially heat treated but is much harder over-all than a Norlund or Plumb (pre-war Boy Scout) so the mod will be a bigger project than I had originally planned. ( I need more hacksaw blades or a Harbor Freight angle grinder to finish the job).

Take-a-knee
2007-11-25, 14:36
MDoug, maybe you could find someone with a plasma cutter to cut that hatchet head down, if you are going to requench it anyway, I don't think that would screw it up like an acetylene torch. A Plasma cutter makes a more locally concentrated heat (slag) and blows it out of the way with compressed air. You can spend a tidy sum on recip blades and grinding discs to shape something really hard.

Mutinousdoug
2007-11-25, 17:29
I was hoping not to have to do anything but saw/grind off the parts of the head I didn't want. Annealing and then differential re-tempering the thing is something I wasn't planning on learning how to do on an open fire.
I bought a "SuperBanko" (another good Swedish brand) hatchet at a swap meet last year and the only place that was too hard to hacksaw was the bit and about 1" back from the edge so I was able to re-profile it more like a tomahawk and lighten it up a little. That's what I expected to do with this SAW but its steel is much harder. I was able to take the corners off the pol but I got nowhere trying to cut a beard into it. After removing the rust and paint from the head and polishing them, you can see the grain line where it changes behind the bit. I don't know enough to say whether the bit is a different steel forged to the head or just a change in temper. It's about 2" back from the edge on the SAW head and a file bites into the steel behind the line and skips across the surface on the bit side. Hacksaw blade is immediately rooint on that side of the line. I'll probably use up a new file sharpening it when I'm satisfied with the weight.

Iceman
2007-11-25, 19:11
A Plasma cutter.......


SCHWING!! :egg:

I have been drooling over these for years! Need one really bad!!!

I should buy one and open a little side business to pay the thing off!

Take-a-knee
2007-11-25, 22:25
SCHWING!! :egg:

I have been drooling over these for years! Need one really bad!!!

I should buy one and open a little side business to pay the thing off!

The last time I checked they were way over a grand, I was thinking about making some targets from ballistic steel and then I researched and found out that you need a plasma cutter to cut that AR 500 steel without taking the temper out of it, sometimes you just have to pay the man with the right tools.

Amigi
2007-11-25, 22:29
I wish I knew more about metal working...

Iceman
2007-11-26, 01:30
Amigi, these plasma cutters are the cats meow! Cuts steel like cheese. TAK, yah, i mistakenly asked how much when playing with one, set up at a welding/gas shop I used to frequent. I do not make enough money! :bawling:

dropkick
2007-11-26, 18:52
I'd be a little worried about tempering (or re-tempering) an axe or hatchet.
You don't want it to be too hard as that leads to brittleness.

I've had chunks of steel fly off of tools before, and while I've never damaged myself that way I've heard horror stories about people who have.

JAK
2007-11-27, 02:28
I would agree, for something like a axe or hatchet to be very careful about brittleness. I just read this year also that when tempering after quenching, even if you reduce the hardness from the quench somewhat, you can still have something called... looking it up... here it is ... "Temper Embrittlement". It involves a shift in the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature, so you would have to be particularly carely when using the axe in colder weather, which is often when we use it most.

The best think for an axe that you suspect to be too brittle might be to anneal it, then maybe chop away at some wood to cold work its edge before sharpening it too much. Or perhaps an oil quench rather than a water quench. You could also cover the blade in clay, before oil quenching it, exposing just the edge so that it will be hardened more than the rest. Or maybe oil quench without the clay, but just the edge. Not really sure. Just throwing out some ideas.

Makes sense though to be weary of brittleness, especially in winter.

JAK
2007-11-27, 02:34
Here is an article on tempering embrittlement.
http://www.key-to-steel.com/Articles/Art102.htm

I think I might just anneal it and then see how it holds an edge.
I think I might be weary not to grind down the axe too much neither.

Thanks for the heads up on that dropkick.

JRiker
2008-01-13, 23:32
[QUOTE=dropkick;21657]

Now to my opinion:

I like a knife to be a knife, a hatchet to be a hatchet, and a saw to be a saw.
QUOTE]


couldn't agree more. i carry a homemade knife along with my gerber hatchet (lightweight and razor sharp, lasted for four years so far) and a cheap folding saw that has lasted four years as well.

chezrad
2008-01-14, 18:24
I like my little Wetterling hatchet so much I bought a Wetterling axe for myself for Christmas. It is a real beauty and holds a wickedly shard edge extremely well, just like the hatchet. Here is a web page with the axe.

http://www.eknifeworks.com/webapp/eCommerce/product.jsp?Mode=Text&SearchText=Wetterling&Search.x=0&Search.y=0&Search=1&SKU=SAW32H

My hatchet is here.

http://www.eknifeworks.com/webapp/eCommerce/product.jsp?Mode=Text&SearchText=Wetterling&Search.x=0&Search.y=0&Search=1&SKU=SAW13H

Hollowdweller
2008-01-15, 12:00
A few of mine

The reeves and the www.ragweedforge.com double bits
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/nessmukians.jpg

Gransfors Mini
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/axe3.jpg

GB Hunters, Firestone Belt Axe, Old Norlund, GB Mini
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/axes.jpg

Another of the mini better scale
http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c19/hollowdweller/gbmini.jpg

JAK
2008-01-15, 13:01
Very nice.
How do you treat the wood without it getting too slippery?

Hollowdweller
2008-01-15, 14:10
rub a little linseed in it and let it absorb