Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks

Posted by: hikermor

Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/06/19 09:19 PM

I developed an interest in wilderness survival, preparedness, and Search and Rescue while in college in Arizona during the late 50's. One of my first sources of info was, and is, The Survival Book,by Paul Nesbitt, Alonzo W. Pond, and William H. Allen, 1959. Sixty years old, and based heavily on data and experiences from WWII, some of its recommendations are no longer relevant, but much remains true today, especially the significance of the will to survive and knowledge to guide the use of various tools and techniques.

One looks in vain for an extended discussion of the ideal survival knife, a subject which scrambles many electrons on the internet these days.

Their section on "Axes and knives," mostly discusses the care needed in using axes and says this only about knives - "A machete can be sharpened with only a file... (p.38).

Finally, in appendix 2, pages 327-328 (the final pages of the work), we find the following:

"The basic survival tool is the knife, preferably a machete or other large knife with a blade about 12 inches long, and with the point of balance in the blade, not in the handle. Bowie knives and Gurkha knives are satisfactory. A machete type knife can be used in lieu of an axe, as a knife, as a digging tool, or as a weapon.

A Boy Scout knife, or Swiss army knife, is also useful, but is no substitute for a machete."

No discussion of blade configuration, type of steel, or other issues discussed endlessly these days! I once used a machete to whittle my way through an eight inch pine log in Oaxaca, soon praying for a decent ax.

One other thing - a bit later "Many survivors
recommend carrying a pair of side-cutter pliers" -An early prediction of leatherman tools???

I EDC some sort of knife, at least one, and typically one type or another of L tool. I try to keep them sharp, whatever kind of steel they may be, and I do have a machete, rarely carried these days. So far, I have always managed to cut it.
Posted by: Ren

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/06/19 11:09 PM

Probably didn't have much choice on steel back in the day, it'd be simple medium to high carbon steel.

Regarding the side cutters, Joseph Rogers & Sons of Sheffield made multitools with cutters for Special Operations Executive during WWII.
Though I'd guess a pair of side cutters were more readily available to general public.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/06/19 11:47 PM

Knives and cutlery steels have come a long, long way just in the last few years. I can get a lot done with a folding knife if need be, but I'll agree that for bigger jobs a bigger blade is usually better.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/08/19 03:11 PM

Color me skeptical about all the new wonderful steels...Are there real, practical advances or are we subjected to marketing hype?

I know there are endless discussions about XYZ vs. 123 steels and their alleged properties. Here is a typical example:

I still have my grandfather's chef knife dating from ??? and a few I have purchased in the early 70s, as well as ones I have purchased more recently, including some with "name" steels (154CM and D2). They all seem to cut well, especially if maintained and sharpened occasionally.

Personally, I find a good session with my Sharpmaker and knives to be pleasant and relaxing.

What are real advantages of these new types of steel. I freely admit that cutting instruments today are much better than the flint hand axes carried by our ancestors, and probably superior to the steels available during the Dark Ages, but in terms of practical use, is there any significant difference among the plethora of steels available today. I am willing to be educated....
Posted by: TeacherRO

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/08/19 07:18 PM

"Best survival knife" is situation and skill dependent:

- Who are you?
- Where do you travel?
- What are your other limits and resources?
- What are your needs.

For a season in the Canadian Arctic I'd bring two knives, an axe and a saw. (Plus scissors)

For a weekend hike an small folder is sufficient.

For any sort of jungle or island scenario, I'd start with a machete.
Posted by: Taurus

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/08/19 08:48 PM

Superior steels tend to hold their edges longer, be rust and corrosion resistant and will have various degrees of hardness. (They will stand up to more abuse) Outside the hype thatís generally all there is to it. I have lower quality knives that can take an excellent edge but will get dull after cutting a few strips of cardboard. My Falkniven (laminated G10 IIRC) holds a razor edge and under normal use will hold it for a lot longer. When dressing game, filleting fish and doing general camp chores it makes a huge difference.
If you only carry and use a pocket knife for light use when hiking or EDC you wonít notice much of a difference honestly. I EDC a normal old Swiss Army knife and itís fine for light work. If you want your knife to chop without chipping, baton without bending, skin without constantly getting dull and never rust when you donít have time to wipe and oil it constantly then yes. The high end steel is worth every penny.

Ever pry something with a cheap Walmart screwdriver and have it snap? And then wish you just bought a good one from the get go? Same thing.

The downside is that the high end steel usually requires special sharpening stones.
Posted by: adam2

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/09/19 01:22 PM

It seems to me that discussions about survival and about survival equipment have changed a lot in say the last 25years.

Decades ago, much of the interest was in remote or wilderness survival, perhaps following shipwreck, plane crash, or some mishap on a planned trip to a remote location.
In such circumstances, a large strong knife and perhaps an axe as well are most valuable tools.

The general availability of modern communications has greatly reduced the chances of long term stranding in true wilderness.
A downed airliner is quickly located these days, as is a ship in distress.
Even small boats and aircraft often carry emergency locating beacons, as do many persons visiting remote or dangerous locations.

These days much of the talk about survival is about emergency events in more populated regions. Including
Snowed in in your own home.
Auto crash in bad weather.
Food shortages.
Utility failures.
Civil disorder and rioting.
Terrorist attacks.
Emp event or solar flare.
Talk of such events and the best supplies and equipment to stock forms a lot of the traffic on this and other forums.
A knife could be a useful tool, but in many cases, long life foods, water purification equipment, cash, batteries, and other tools are often more relevant.
And if a knife IS needed in say a food shortage or long blackout, a kitchen implement or workshop tool will often serve.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/09/19 04:50 PM

"The general availability of modern communications has greatly reduced the chances of long term stranding in true wilderness.
A downed airliner is quickly located these days, as is a ship in distress.
Even small boats and aircraft often carry emergency locating beacons, as do many persons visiting remote or dangerous locations."

While this is true to some degree, simplyknowing the location of an emergency does not mean one can reach and deal with the emergency. Consider the consequences o flash floods, sudden storms, rugged terrain, etc. All can significantly delay aid.

I am not sure, but I doubt that very many people venturing out into the wild carry and know how to use a PLB or similar device. Any stats, anyone?

There are many "survivalist" boards that deal with ShTF, TEOTWAWKI, etc. and they create a vast fantasy land where rioting erupts and social order disintegrates as soon as food stamps are not issued (literally!) and allied fantasies.

Meanwhile, people still get delayed, trapped, or injured in the woods, usually because of inexperience and improper preparation, sometimes with a bit of alcohol involved. From what I hear, my old SAR unit is far busier now that in the olden times. If you suffer a fatal 100 footfall, easy and quick communication is fairly irrelevant.

In my outdoor and SAR experience, a decent knife, most often a SAK, has been useful, but not nearly as critical as lighting a fire, finding water and rendering it drinkable,or sheltering from inclement weather. I have never felt that my cutlery was inadequate for the task at hand.

I would face the wilderness confidently with a Mora in hand, as well as a full size multitool (Wave or Skeletool). If frequency o sharpening is an issue, I am fine with the cheaper steels.
Posted by: Hanscom

Re: Survival then and now - Cutting Remarks - 02/22/19 04:49 PM

If I remember correctly the man who was involved with the creation of the Air Force survival school was a big fan of the 12 inch machete. His name escapes me.

Usable for cutting through a log, although an axe is way better. But an axe is of little use with tall grass and vines. A kukri would put more weight out toward the tip if chopping was important.