Thursday, February 17, 2011

bmatt’s bushcraft blades

Today in the News:  I'm currently consulting with a company who wants to start an online store geared towards outdoor enthusiasts and hardware buffs.  The company is a non-profit and the packaging and shipping of the items would be handled by developmentally disabled adults.  My question is, what would you like to see in an online store that is geared towards camping/hardware?  Are there any brands that are hard to find?  Brands that you think are under utilized?  A great item that they should consider selling?   The goal is to sell quality and low cost items and perhaps a few higher end items as well. Shoot me an email or comment below. .

bmatt returns today!  As always, a great article.  I have to stop myself from turning green with envy over his gear. :)

Link of the Day:

bmatt’s bushcraft blades

There are a lot of factors involved in selecting the blades one uses for bushcraft and camping, including personal preference, geographic location, season, tasks to be done etc. Over the past few years, I have tried many  combinations of knives, saws and axes (small, medium and large ones of each). After much testing and “philosophizing” with regard to what works best for me, what I like best and what I “need” or “don’t need”, it seems I have finally settled on a set of three (and sometimes four) blades for use in the boreal northern forest: a thin-bladed small knife, a thicker-bladed medium knife, a ¾ or boy’s axe and a 10” saw.

 I’m sure most of the jobs I do could be handled by an axe and one knife. Heck, just an axe alone could probably be pressed into service to do everything, but I am not a minimalist and don’t want to make things more difficult than they need to be. On the other hand, I try not to take what to me might be “unnecessary” blades into the outdoors. There are as many opinions on blades as there are people, so it’s up to each user to choose what’s best for them.

I’ll start with the tool I use most, the leuku/Saami knife with a 6” convex carbon steel blade made by Antti Mäkinen at YP Taonta. Traditional leukus are usually longer than the one I use, but since I don’t need the extra chopping power of those larger knives (I have the axe for that), I prefer a slightly shorter blade, which also allows for better control and handling. The reason why this knife is used most is because it is very versatile, without trying to be “one knife for everything”. Among other things, I have used it to make shavings for kindling, baton small logs for kindling, chop down and buck 3”-thick logs, slash-cut saplings and branches of more than 0.5” thick, slash-cut weeds and brush, carve a weenie-roasting stick, carve notches in sticks, strip bark, make a walking stick, make a digging stick, pry off pieces of fatwood, open food packages, cut cordage…you get the idea. There are many, many more things it can do as well (I plan on using it for some food prep from now on, for example). If I choke up on the handle, the balance is fantastic and I can do finer work. Choking down gives me a 9" reach from my hand to the tip of the blade. In short, this knife is a general-use tool that nicely fills the gap between my 3" knife and axe. It can handle smaller tasks reasonably well, in addition to heavier work like light chopping, brush cutting etc.

For fine cutting tasks for which the leuku is just too big/thick, I use my small knife, a 3” Finnish puukko knife with a Scandi (flat) grind with a micro-convex made by the same maker as the leuku. This knife has a much finer tip and thinner edge, which, combined with the short blade length and slim handle, make it ideal for fine whittling, drilling holes in wood, precise leather cutting, making very fine shavings, preparing food, cleaning fish etc. It is very light in weight and is a perfect companion knife to the leuku.

For heavier chopping, splitting and limbing, I use a 26” axe which I restored in 2010. It was forged by Gränsfors Bruks sometime between the 50’s and 70’s and sports a 2 lb. head. I had to clean up, reprofile and sharpen the head and also put on a new handle and make a sheath. I find this size axe to be perfect for my uses, as it is powerful, but not overly heavy or long (it fits nicely on the side of my backpack). I have bucked and split both green and seasoned trees from 1” to 8” in diameter, split various sizes of kindling and fuel wood for fires, limbed and cut lavvu poles to size for my shelter and other similar tasks.

Last, but not least, I may on occasion also carry a Fiskars 10” sliding saw for bucking logs up to 9” in diameter. It’s a lot less work to buck larger logs with the saw, though I don’t need to do it too often in a bushcraft setting.

As I said before, I could certainly get by with fewer tools, but I find that I get the most enjoyment and versatility out of these four. Now I think the only thing missing might be some crooked knives…

Thanks, bmatt!  I know everyone will enjoy this article.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel.....out.


  1. Can't read the black letters on grey background. Can you correct it?

  2. Plain tin cups/mugs. Cannot buy them for love or money here. Have not seen one for years. Stainless,aluminium,enameled yes, but plain tin no!

  3. The American/Finnish axe-freak keeps on haunting on this site i notice :)

    Well, the man knows whats he´s talkin´about.

  4. Hey Perkunas, who are you calling a......oh, I guess you're right. Maybe I should change my handle to "bmatt, an American/Finnish axe-freak". ;)

    Thanks for the comments.