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Abe Elias

Replaceable Blade Knives: Options To Always Keep You Sharp

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In the field, these knives always help you keep your edge.

And now for a style of edged tool that brings its own brand of controversy most wherever it goes—the replaceable-blade knife. No, not the utility knives you see in a ton of kitchen junk drawers, tradesman’s tool bags and on garage workbenches, but the models made for hunting and possible EDC use.

The controversy tends to surface between the traditional knife-carrying crowd and those who appreciate convenience. As one who loves and teaches sharpening, I tend to leave the replacement blades for my utility knives. These days, however, they have made their way into many different knife styles.

I’m going to gauge how four of the latest replacement models cut and handle, and, most importantly in my mind, how easy it is to change a blade on each one.

Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5

Hogue’s Expel Scalpel
You get a sturdy full-tang design with Hogue’s Expel Scalpel. A tight-fitting cover with a split ring carries the blade. Country of origin: USA.

Right off the bat, you will notice the Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5 is some serious gear. The handle is a steel tang construction with textured G-10 scales in a blaze orange. The front bolster area is gimped, complete with a thumb ramp. Though the bolsters are screwed on the thumb ramp is not reversible, so sorry to all you southpaws out there. The handle is American made but the blade is marked England and #60. A #60 scalpel is used in dental surgery and postmortem work (it’s nice to know medical examiners wait for the person to expire before they start hacking into them with such a scalpel). Instead of stainless the blade is a high carbon steel. If you want to prolong the life of the Expel’s replacement blade, you can easily strop it.

Since it is an actual scalpel blade, that means you should be able to source multiples of them easy enough. I would go online and order. Since the pattern is used for postmortem work, that would raise fewer eyebrows. I did a quick check and was able to find a pack of 20 of the blades for around $10.

Hogue’s design for its replaceable blade knife uses the traditional blade mounting system. The best way to change the blade is with a pair of pliers. Doctors usually use a set of forceps. Handling wise the knife is quick and nimble. You hold it like a regular scalpel, with your index finger along the blade spine, and guide the edge. It comes with a zipped pouch and a plastic sleeve that fits over the blade. Having the textured G-10 scales and beefier handle contour enhances purchase. I like the design. It fits my hand well. I had perfect control over the edge. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this with me hunting and use it as a caping knife. I certainly will be packing it for pheasant hunting this fall to process the birds and clean up the gizzards.

Hogue Expel Scalpel 2.5 Specs
Overall Length: 7″
Closed Length: Not applicable
Blade Length: 2.5″
Handle material: Orange G-10
MSRP: $114.95

Coast 1919 Reserve Shift

Selection of blades for Coast 1919
The selection of blades Coast supplies with the 1919 is compatible with regular utility blades. From top: an attached regular utility blade, drop point and gut hook. Country of origin: China.

With the 1919 Reserve Shift, Coast has gone with more of a traditional utility folder design. Don’t let that fool you, though, because the knife does offer some innovations. Coast has patented both the blade changing arrangement—called the swap out system—as well as the blade storage system. Two of the three blade styles that come with the knife are customized: the spear tip and gut hook. The third is a regular utility pattern. The system is compatible with standard utility blades, which means you can buy other patterns such as serrated and a roofer’s hooked blades. I don’t know why the company bothered designing a gut hook, as a hooked utility blade would work just as well. The handle is a glass reinforced nylon with a textured rubber insert. The 1919 carries in a pouch sheath.

There are two locking systems. The primary is a linerlock and a double lock prevents the liner from moving to the side. A thumb stud provides ambidextrous one-hand opening. The stud is also part of the opening system. Depress the button on the stud, slide the stud down and the blade comes out.

The blade release system works well but, as far as innovation goes, it doesn’t draw a “wow” from me. Conversely, that Coast bothered to care about how easy it is for you to access the extra blade storage is impressive. It is a straightforward arrangement but, after all, what good is a replaceable-blade system if you can’t get at the extra blades?

Overall, the knife handles like any other utility folder, but the devil is in the details. All the little extras help it edge out the other similar designs. Best of all, except for the proprietary blades, you can pretty much walk into a Walmart and get a blade for the 1919.

Coast 1919 Reserve Shift Specs
Overall Length: 6.875″
Closed Length: 4.375″
Blade Length: 2.5″
Handle material: Glass reinforced nylon w/textured rubber inlay
MSRP: $39.99

Havalon Piranta Bolt

thumb disc on the Havalon Bolt’s blade holder
Note the thumb disc on the Havalon Bolt’s blade holder, which makes ambidextrous opening possible. Also, the bright orange ABS handle on this replaceable blade knife makes it more likely you will find the knife if you ever set it down. Country of origin: handle made in Taiwan and the blades are made in India.

The Havalon Piranta Bolt is a blend between the Coast 1919 and the Hogue Expel Scalpel. The Bolt uses a #60 surgical blade like the Expel Scalpel, though Havalon’s is marked 60A and listed as stainless steel. The blade opens via an ambidextrous thumb disc and locks via a linerlock like the 1919.

A belt carry case houses 12 extra blades. If you only occasionally stropped your blades instead of changing them out, you would have a ton of cutting time. The handle is a bright orange ABS plastic with a textured rubber insert. It feels blocky in the hand. Using ABS plastic keeps the knife lightweight. Between the lightweight feel of the plastic and the lack of contouring, it is not a comfortable grip. The small, trim-profile pocket clip is stronger than it looks.

Havalon gets innovative as far as providing a blade-replacing tool. When changing a scalpel blade, normally you take a set of forceps or a pliers and lift up the back end and push the blade forward. Havalon’s little clamshell-style tool closes around the blade so the edge is not exposed. Snap the tool closed and the rear of the blade bends upward, enabling you to pull the blade off the holder. It worked every time I tried it and it didn’t damage the blade. I was even able to reinstall the same blade. An issue is that there is no place to store the tool in the pouch and, due to its size, would be easy to misplace/lose.

Havalon Piranta Bolt Specs
Overall Length: 7.375″
Closed Length: 4.5″
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle material: ABS plastic w/rubber inlay
MSRP: $54.99

Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2

Kershaw fixed-blade handle
Kershaw also includes a fixed-blade handle with its replaceable blade knife’s kit. It’s lightweight and the texture and profile offer plenty of purchase power.

The Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2 is another replaceable model that uses a #60 scalpel blade. (I’m starting to feel like a few of these companies had a meeting and I wasn’t invited.) The RBK 2 comes with 14 extra blades in a carry case and one on the knife. A pocket in the belt pouch holds the carry case. A cool feature of the case is a slash pocket for the knife, making it easier to get a purchase on the handle for deployment.

Speaking of the handle, it’s glass filled nylon with rubber overlay. It’s listed as black and tan but looks more like black and green. If I had to pick something Kershaw should have had more foresight about, it’s the color. Green and black pretty much screams “lose me” for a hunting knife. On the other hand, for caping the #60 scalpel blades should do the trick. Also, Kershaw did a great job contouring the handle so it’s easy and comfortable to hold. The blade opens ambidextrously via the double thumb stud and secures via a linerlock. There is no pocket clip, though there is a hole for a lanyard.

Kershaw really put its thinking cap on when it comes to tool-less blade removal. A liner lifts the rear of the scalpel blade, enabling you to slide the blade off. However, I would still play it safe and grab the blade with, say, a pair of pliers. During use I never had an issue with the removal liner being bumped, but I will wait and see. I must say, Kershaw impressed me with this one.

Kershaw LoneRock RBK 2 Specs
Overall Length: 7.2″
Closed Length: 4.4″
Blade Length: 2.8″
Handle material: Glass filled nylon w/rubber overlay
MSRP: $47.99

Points To Ponder

Replaceable-blade knives add to the depth of edged tools available in the cutlery world. As with all knives, they have their place. They have already experienced some popularity among certain trades and professions. If you like to sharpen, remember that even a replaceable blade can be touched up at times.

Check Out More Outdoor Knives And Tools:

Condor K-Tact Kukri Review: New Old School

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With the K-Tact Kukri, Condor goes both old school and modern.

As with all knives, the steel is only as strong as the hand that wields it—and perhaps with no knife is this so true as the kukri.

The kukri—aka khukuri—has a reputation so legendary that even some non-knife enthusiasts recognize the knife when they see one. To understand how the kukri got its reputation, let’s examine the people who used it and help grow the legend.

Kukri History

You can’t mention the kukri without mentioning the hand behind the blade: the Gurkhas. The history of the Gurkhas dates back several centuries to the small mountainous kingdom of Gorkha, located in what is now central Nepal. In the early 19th century, the British East India Company was expanding through the Indian subcontinent and faced challenges from local rulers and neighboring powers. The Gurkhas had a reputation for being a substantial military force in the region. So, the company began recruiting Gurkhas into its own army. The first Gurkha units were formed in 1815 and they quickly gained a reputation for bravery and loyalty.

Gurkha with Kukris
Gurkhas not only were fearsome warriors with their kukris, they also used them for daily chores. This sketch shows Gurkhas catching fish with their kukris in India’s Bazar Valley circa 1900. (Istockphoto.com image)

Since the first Gurkha units were formed, they played a pivotal role in many conflicts and to this day remain an important part of the British Army. The Gurkhas fought for the British during the two World Wars, with Gurkha soldiers serving in various theaters of operations, including the Western Front, North Africa and Southeast Asia. About 200,000—virtually an entire male population—enlisted to fight in World War I. About 250,000 fought in World War II. In the two wars, 30,000 Gurkha troops were killed.

Continuing to serve with the British, they participated in the Falklands War in 1982, and have been involved in recent conflicts in Malaya, Borneo, Bosnia, Iraq—including the Gulf War—and Afghanistan. Soldiers that have served alongside the Gurkhas regard them with respect. The spine-chilling cry of “Ayo Gurkhali!”—“The Gurkhas are coming!”—has terrified countless enemies. The Gurkhas’ bravery and determination in battle earned them numerous honors and awards. In the two World Wars alone, they won nearly 5,000 medals for gallantry.

traditional kukri
The traditional kukri includes a natural handle material and the double-notched choil. Note the extra small knife and a sharpening steel—their handles protrude from the sheath here—that ride in the sheath. (Istockphoto.com image)

After the second World War, the British started to pull back from their colonial interests, allowing their various colonies to practice more independent self-governance. Even so, the British Army continued including the Gurkhas as an important part of their operations. Meanwhile, the kukri legend had no choice but to grow as it was made famous by the Gurkhas’ outstanding reputation for bravery and loyalty.

K-Tact Kukri Updates

The traditionally made kukri is a coveted piece in anyone’s collection. Condor Tool & Knife has updated the design with the use of modern materials to bring about a new tool with a pedigree. With the K-Tact Kukri Knife Army Green designed by Joe Flowers, the company remains loyal to the original shape but modified some materials and proportions.

K-Tact Kukri in hand
The overall profile of the Condor Tool & Knife K-Tact Kukri forms somewhat of a pistol grip. The grip angle serves well during chopping and carving. In less peaceful times, it accommodates thrusting without the need for a guard. Blade and overall lengths: 10 and 14.5 inches.

Instead of using the wide variety of natural handle materials seen on kukris over the years, Condor opted for a green Micarta®. Micarta is much more stable, and for better grip Condor gives it a textured bead-blasted finish.

You may have heard how the blades of the originals were made from truck leaf springs. Truck leaf springs were made from such carbon steels as 5160 or 1095, or reasonable facsimiles. I often wonder about the truck leaf spring story. If you think about it, seeing as how the kukri also was used by villagers along with other patterns of knives to get work done, that means a lot of trucks would be losing their springs. Condor uses 1075 carbon steel with a bead-blasted finish for the K-Tact, which is named after Alan Kay, season one winner of History Channel’s Alone reality survival show.

K-Tact pommel
The pommel helps balance the knife and serves as a hammer. According to the author, the synthetic Micarta® deals with any vibration from hammering and chopping better than natural materials.

Traditional kukris have a convex edge and are finished in a high polish. Condor convexes the K-Tact only part way up the blade and then leaves it flat. Blade thickness is .2 inch, thinner than most traditional models.

The average Nepalese villager’s kukri was made differently than the official Gurkha model. Possibly due to the time needed to make them and the lack of available steel, villager kukris had stick tangs. The Gurkha models have always been full tang and so is the K-Tact. Because of the thinner stock and the fact Condor took some weight off the blade with a stylized dip in the spine, the knife is livelier in the hand and feels more balanced.

Any of the traditional kukris I have held have had forward-heavy blades. They have a thick pommel plate the same thickness as that of the blade material. Having a thick pommel gives you a convenient hammer when needed and also enhances the knife’s balance.

K-Tact Kukri Versatility

One of the big keys to the kukri design is that it’s a great maker’s tool. It is not used for combat only. Among the recognized attributes of the Gurkha fighting units is their resourcefulness, and a large part of that is that the kukri lends itself to being a maker’s tool. Just the overall shape allows you to do many chores. It can act as a small draw knife due to the arched shape.

Chopping with K-Tact Kukri
The author is not a big fan of batonning. “If you are going to do so,” he observed, “the rule of thumb is baton through nothing larger than one third the length of the knife. Following that rule allows you to keep leverage on the cut.”

For the sheath, instead of the traditional water-buffalo-covered wood, Condor uses a molded Kydex with a drop-leg leather strap and a retention strap. Despite being a huge traditionalist at times, I have to say the modern sheath is a huge improvement. The fit is spot on and you get none of the Kydex-rattling syndrome.

If I had to voice a disappointment in the K-Tact, to be fair it would be more of a “I want my cake and eat it, too” complaint. On a traditional kukri you get an extra small knife and a steel that ride behind the blade next to your body in the same sheath. Though I don’t have much use for the sharpening steel—I carry other sharpeners—a secondary small blade is a key part to the maker’s aspect of the knife.

K-Tact Kukri chopping
Due to the profile of the kukri, the sweet spot for chopping is at the belly a bit farther back from the tip than on a number of other chopper designs.

Yes, I know, I can carry another smaller knife, hence the “cake and eat it, too.” Having said that, there is still something about the knife presenting as a kit all in one housing. Keep in mind I am a father-and-son-knife-set collector. All I’m saying is, it would have been nice to have a matching small blade with it.

Use Before Buying

I must say I have enjoyed playing with this knife. It works well. Kukri-style knives aren’t for everyone, so do try and use one before you buy. Each knife style has its own little ins and outs. If all knives worked the same, what reason would enthusiasts have to collect multiples?

As a final thought, the K-Tact is a good, solid, dependable piece of kit and in the right hands can take you far. Who knows? You might discover that you just want a modern version of a legendary style. Made in El Salvador, it has an MSRP of $162.84.

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Non-Metallic Knives: Stealthy Stash Blades

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Super affordable and lightweight, these stash knives are cool.

Since some knife fans long have been obsessed with what steel blades are made from, maybe it’s time to talk about blades that aren’t made of steel at all. I’m referring to the covert type built from materials designed to be less detectable, the kind you might want to keep as a backup.

There are knives made with just such materials. Five are the VZ Grips Executive Hydra Black Gray, Cold Steel FGX Ring Dagger and FGX Boot Blade, and the Kershaw Interval and Arise. The list is by no means exhaustive, though I am covering more knives than I usually do in my BLADE® stories. It also doesn’t include ceramic, obsidian, flint and other non-metal models. My goal was to test knives less likely to show up by scanning methods such as X-ray and metal detection.

According to Doug Ritter of Knife Rights, there are restrictions in some states concerning non-metallic knives. For the legal status of non-metallics in your state, visit LegalBlade.org for links to Knife Rights’ free Legal Blade knife law app for state-by-state information on laws concerning undetectable knives.

There is a move to ban knives of the non-metallic type. Knives are covered by the Second Amendment, so to keep legislatures from infringing on your rights, remain vigilant. To both stay informed and for how you can help protect your 2A rights, visit the respective sites of Knife Rights and the American Knife & Tool Institute.

Versatile: VZ Grips Executive Gen 2 Hydra

In all my years of collecting, I’d never held a knife with a G-10 blade—until the test model from VZ Grips. Such knives have been around a long time but until now I really hadn’t given them much thought. When I saw the VZ Grips Executive Gen 2 Hydra Black and Grey during a search for pistol grips, I made note of it for just such an occasion. Out of the knives reviewed, it has the most versatility in presentation options. As you can imagine, with pistol grips being VZ’s primary business, the variety of G-10 materials it offers is practically endless. The company has other non-metallic knives as well.

Non-Metallic Knife VZ Executive
The VZ Executive is a palm-style knife with an indentation in the handle just before the blade. Thin and sleek, it has a profile made for punching holes.

G-10 blades aren’t particularly useful for EDC work. You can do things like open some packages with them all right. They also make great letter openers. If you live in an area where you need a backup tool for self-protection and weight is a concern, these knives tuck away nicely. I carried the Executive inside my waistline at the 4 o’clock position for a few days. It comes with a sheath that has a belt loop, which tucked behind my belt. After a short while it didn’t feel as if I were carrying a knife at all.

It is in a sleek double-edge dagger style but because the edges aren’t sharp, it doesn’t count as a double-edged knife. It is a palm-held piece because it lacks a guard, and the tip is more than sharp enough for use. To enhance grip there’s a thumb depression where the handle meets the blade. Overall, it is a great little package and will find a place in my gear somewhere.

Budget Friendly: Cold Steel’s FGX Boot Blade And FGX Ring Dagger

Cold Steel non-metallic knife
Cold Steel uses a checkered-pattern Kray-Ex overmold rubber on the handle of the FGX Boot Dagger. The checkering isn’t very aggressive but still provides solid purchase.

At manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) of only $8.99 each, Cold Steel’s FGX Boot Blade and FGX Ring Dagger are the most economical of the test bunch. If this knife genre interests you, these two are but a smattering of Cold Steel’s non-metallic blade offerings. The company reproduces a number of its steel models in the non-metallic material Griv-Ex. I chose these two because they are among the styles that represent a traditional-looking boot dagger. Both knives come with a metal ring through the handle and no sheath. The Boot Blade has a Kray-Ex grip. Both have guards that encourage a hammer grip.

Two interesting features on the Ring Dagger are a reinforced tip and serrated edges. During the penetration tests when I stabbed a bunch of cardboard, the reinforced tip helped the Ring Dagger a lot. As for the serrated edge it did well cutting several things, though of course not as well as a steel edge. I put it up against cardboard, plastic packaging and packing bands. The edge will help in a pinch but I would not count on it as an everyday user.

Cold Steel Ring Dagger
The combination of the Cold Steel Ring Dagger’s reinforced tip and dual serrated edge make it a very aggressive blade for soft materials.

For the money the knives are an outstanding deal. Without sheaths, though, just finding a way to carry them might end up costing you more than the knives themselves. The tips are sharp enough to pierce some clothes, so stashing them in a bag might be problematic.

Concealable: Kershaw Interval And Arise

At press time, the Interval and Arise were Kershaw’s lone offerings in the genre. As you may or may not know, I like to comment on knife names. In this case and with the cutlery market so flooded these days, it seems Kershaw might have just opened a dictionary and pointed. Conversely, names have little to do with quality.

Kershaw Interval
Kershaw’s Interval is so slim it tucks in perfectly into the tight spaces in your EDC gear and clothing.

Both knives are made from a PA-66 glass fiber. A traditional dagger design bests describes the Arise. For whatever reason Kershaw decided to install four Torx® screws in the handle. The presence of screws obviously makes the knife detectable by metal detectors. As a traditional dagger design it has a guard to prevent your hand from slipping forward. As with the VZ knife the edges aren’t sharp so it should be legal in states that restrict double-edge knives. The blade shape is somewhat difficult to describe since Kershaw takes an angular approach. For sturdiness the blade has a fuller. A simple ribbed design provides handle texture.

The Interval is a palm-style knife with no guard. It’s very lightweight and for whatever reason there’s a metal insert on the inside of the diamond-shaped lanyard hole, which makes the knife detectable by a metal detector as well. A geometric-style surface design provides handle texture. I like the knife very much. It is the easiest to stash of the review pieces so I can see getting more examples as backups and putting them in my kit. The tip is sharp but the main edge isn’t.

Kershaw torex screw
Steel Torx® bolts in the handle make the Kershaw Arise detectable by metal scanners. If you want, you can remove the bolts.

Both knives come without a sheath but due to the sharp tips I would still prefer a sheath for carry. Given the knives’ size (7.4-inch overall lengths) sheaths would be nothing to make. You want to keep stash blades tucked away and undetectable. As one who has dug through many EDC bags looking for stuff stowed properly, one of these knives would be hard to find for a person who didn’t know it was there, say at the bottom of a pocket or in a small fold. My only beef is the inclusion of the metal lanyard ring/insert or these knives would be practically invisible. Both models did well in cutting tests and would make good stash blades.


VZ Executive Gen 2

Non-Metallic Knife VZ

Blade Material: G-10
Overall Length: 7.75″
Blade Length: 3.25″
Metal Parts: None
MSRP: $79.99
Country of Origin: USA


Kershaw Interval

Non-Metallic Knife Kershaw Interval

Blade Material: PA-66 glass fiber
Overall Length: 7.4″
Blade Length: 3.5″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $11.99
Country of Origin: China


Cold Steel FGX Ring Dagger

Non-Metallic Knife FGX

Blade Material: Griv-Ex/Kray-Ex
Overall Length: 9.1875″
Blade Length: 3.5″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $8.99
Country of Origin: Offshore


Cold Steel FGX Boot Blade

Non-Metallic Knife Cold Steel

Blade Material: Griv-Ex/Kray-Ex
Overall Length: 9.5″
Blade Length: 4.875″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $8.99
Country of Origin: Offshore


Kershaw Arise

Non-Metallic Knife Kershaw Arise

Blade Material: PA-66 glass fiber
Overall Length: 8.4″
Blade Length: 4.2″
Metal Parts: Yes
MSRP: $14.39
Country of Origin: China

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How To Make An Atlatl

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We’ll take a momentary break from knives to talk about how to make this ancient and useful hunting tool—the atlatl.

Over 20 years ago I attended a primitive skills event in Michigan where the Michigan Atlatl Association was having its annual competition. I was amazed at how accurate the people could be using an atlatl, not to mention how much energy they could generate throwing one. However, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. For starters I want to explain why I’m discussing atlatls in the first place.

One of the key points to remember during a survival situation is efficiency, because efficiency saves calories and resources. I know, many have heard of making a survival bow, but the time and resources used to make an atlatl are way less. An atlatl is simple: a throwing stick that allows you to increase your power when throwing a dart.

Imagine you were a pitcher in the major leagues and you could increase the length of your arm by half. The advantage you would create would be amazing. Similarly, not only is an atlatl easy and fast to make, it also increases your ability to throw a projectile farther and faster. Don’t get me wrong; I am not against bows by any means, but in the time it takes just to make a string for a bow, you can make an atlatl and a fist full of darts. In the end, if I were in a survival situation and needed something to hunt with, I would start with an atlatl.

How To Make An Atlatl

Handcrafted atlatls
At left are two single-finger throwers. At right is a snowbrush Chris Oberg used as a thrower to win the Michigan Atlatl Association championship. A hammer-style grip works well with the snowbrush thrower as the scraper end acts as a stop.

As mentioned, the atlatl is simply a stick used to increase your throwing advantage. To start, the simplest version is a branch with a secondary branch sprouting off the main shaft.

Take a branch and cut it to the length of you forearm, being sure to leave the secondary branch near the end. Now all you need do is cut the secondary branch to a small point, or leave a pocket. Which method you use will affect how you make your darts. With the point configuration, you must put a bit of a dimple in the end of the dart so it can rest on the point of the thrower arm. Another method is to form a pocket by attaching other materials. These days most survival kits and a lot of EDC kits include duct tape. Simply cut yourself a stick, again the length of you forearm. At one end of the stick form a pocket with a piece of duct tape to cradle the back end of your dart.

There are a couple of methods to hold the atlatl. The first and easiest without having to do any more work on the atlatl itself is the hammer grip. To apply a hammer grip, grab the end of the thrower with the bottom three fingers of your throwing hand. Take your other hand and place the dart on the holder. Then rest the thrower in the palm of your hand and, with your thumb and index finger, grab the shaft of the dart, suspending it off the thrower.

A second method makes your thrower in the basketmaker’s* style. To do this you will need a bit of cord (a shoelace will work) or anything you can use to form two loops on the side of the atlatl shaft. At the end of your thrower, tie a knot that creates two loops on the handle. Insert your index finger in one loop and your middle finger in the other. Having the two loops makes it easier for you to retain the thrower throughout as it is now attached to your throwing hand. A thrower is that easy to make.

Making Spears And Darts

variety of darts
A thrower and a variety of darts illustrate the basic concepts of harvesting and utilizing various materials, including lashing smaller pieces together to make a dart.

An atlatl dart is simply a large arrow. If you can wrap your head around that, you start to see potential dart material everywhere—perhaps a piece of a broken fishing rod, the extra pole in your tent bag, a leg from a folding chair—the possibilities are pretty much endless. The mark of humanity is that there is plenty of garbage most everywhere, so remember to capitalize on any resource you run across.

For natural resources you can turn to plants and bushes that grow almost straight shaft shoots. Some examples in North America are those from mullein, rosewood cane, ragweed and dogwood. In places like Asia, bamboo is a natural selection. Since plant shafts grow in a tapered fashion, be sure to put the heavier end of your dart at the tip. Having the heavier end at the rear will cause the momentum of the heavier back to lift the tip, as the heavier end will want to pass the front.

For length, look for the dart to be at least twice that of the thrower or longer. The longer and lighter the dart, the more energy you can produce. Note: The heavier the dart, the strong the thrower must be.
Start by stripping the shafts and straightening them. During the initial straightening you can bend the shafts or create friction on the concaved side, which will release the tension in the material. As time passes you might do the occasional straightening over a campfire, as the heat helps.

Now that you have the shafts straight you need to carve a small dimple in the back of each one to rest on the point of the thrower. If you are using materials that have nodes along the shaft like bamboo and mullein, be sure to carve the pocket just before a node to avoid splitting the shaft of the dart.

Now for creating drag. Just like with an arrow, to keep a dart flying straight it helps to have drag. Consequently, fletch the dart by splitting leaves and lashing them to the shaft. A more expedient way is to make fletching out of duct tape. You don’t necessarily need fletching but for throwing longer distances it helps.

For making the tip, simply sharpen the point or as mentioned earlier get creative and find something to use that has been left behind—a soda can cut and folded to form tips, for example. How does the saying go? Recycle, reduce and reuse.

What’s An Atlatl Good For?

Thrower's take aim with atlatl and dart
Carter Gammill takes aim. In terms of accurate throwing, the hardest part is getting your timing down as to when to release the dart. Setting up a target for practice provides an added element of challenge.

Atlatls have been in use for thousands of years as hunting tools. There are still Inuit tribes that use them to hunt narwhal to this day. It is expedient, uses little resources and best of all you can carve one with your favorite knife in no time. You will want to try making one first to get the idea. After that you will be surprised how you start to see so many things that can be made into an atlatl. The hardest part is getting your timing down as to when to release the dart when you throw it. Most importantly, knowing how to make and use an atlatl puts yet another worthwhile tool in your kit.

*The Basketmaker culture of the pre-Ancestral Puebloans began about 1500 BC and continued until about 750 AD with the dawn of the Pueblo Era in what is now the American Southwest. They used the atlatl for hunting and as a combat weapon. The culture was named Basketmaker for the large numbers of baskets found at local archaeological sites dated circa 800 BC to 200 AD.

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Budget To Bang Combos: A Trio Of Great Hunting Knife Sets

When Hunting, One Knife Is Good But More Knives Are Better. These Knife Sets Can Help Make The Hunt Easier No Matter The Size Of The Game.

Each year hunting season rolls around there are experienced hunters and first-time hunters anxious to make their way into the field. Whether a bow hunter or a firearms hunter, one thing remains consistent between the two: They both need something to clean game and prepare it to be able to get it out of the field and home.

No one would argue that you don’t need a knife, but sure enough each hunter would back his choice of blade in a discussion led by the question “What do you use?”

This year, as usual, I found some likely candidates to add to the discussion of whose knife is better, though this time, instead of a single knife to tackle the project, let’s consider knife sets. They can’t get your game for you but we can put them through their paces to see if they can help make the most out of what you do get.

Gerber Moment

Gerber Moment
Here you get a good look at the size difference between the large Utility knife and small Finesse knife in the Gerber Moment. Sometimes a good picture is worth a thousand measurements. Blade and overall lengths: 3.625/3 and 8.625/7 inches. Blade and handle materials: 5Cr15MoV stainless and rubber overmold, glass-filled nylon

The Gerber Moment is a two-knife set. Of the test entries, this one is for the budget-minded hunters looking to spend the short dollar. It is made in China and the fit and finish is darn respectable considering each knife runs about $17.

The two knives were not hair-popping sharp out of the package, though it didn’t take long to up their edge games. Both the large utility knife and the small finesse model come with contoured rubber grips. 

The scales do not totally cover the full-tang handle design. A small perimeter of the tang is left exposed around the scales. At the rear of each tang are small oblong-shaped notches to serve as lanyard holes. They’re small holes at that, as you won’t get much more than paracord through them. As mentioned, the edges of the tang are proud of the scale but not so much as to cause any hot spots.

Both knives are drop-point designs, with the large knife being hollow ground and sporting a gut hook. The small Finesse is a full-flat-ground drop point. Texturing on the rubber grips helps provide a good, solid purchase. Of the two, as you would expect, the small detailing knife is pretty agile, though it isn’t like the large one is clumsy. To tote them both Gerber provides a dual-carry nylon belt sheath with plastic liner inserts.

Overall, the knives are quite well made. The design cleans up easy. After you do some work to bump up edge performance, you’ve got some users.

I have never been much for gut hooks. I remember when the Wyoming Knife was new and loads of hunters were sold for life on gut-hook knives. Even though I don’t use them, I can see how some hunters could like them. The gut hook on the Moment is pretty large.

I would have to give the set a thumbs up. It would be good for a hunter on a budget or one looking to try out different styles until finding one that suits him best.

MSRP: $34

Outdoor Edge Razor Guide Pak

razor guide pak
Some of the extra blades you get in the Outdoor Edge Guide Pak Razorbone include a selection of drop point, gut hook and boning/fillet patterns. All are neatly store in the waxed canvas roll. Blade steel: 420J2 stainless.

The Outdoor Edge Razor Guide Pak comes with two knives—the RazorBone and the RazorCape—along with a small bone saw. The knives take replaceable razor-blade-style inserts. Both are folders and come with multiple replacement blades. 

Outdoor Edge provides a boning/fillet-style blade along with a drop point and gutting blade for the RazorBone. For the RazorCape knife, you get two cape-blade inserts. Both have glass nylon and TPR rubber inlay handles.

A lockback system secures the blades in the open position. The handles don’t have a lot of cross-sectional contouring and the texturing on the rubber inserts provides some traction to your grip. There’s a thumb groove with jimping on the spine of the blade holder.

What worked well for me was the difference in thicknesses between the blade holder and the blade gave me a great lip to secure my handhold while executing a pinch grip. As I used the RazorBone in a butcher grip, the thin tip of the insert snaked through joints and kept me close to the bone so that I didn’t leave any of the good stuff behind. 

The RazorCape knife works well but has a large choil. I find such choils a waste of potential edge length. As if that isn’t bad enough on a hunting knife, they basically become a fur catcher. Both folders come with a pocket clip, though for me they are not pocket-carry-style knives. All the inserts come scalpel-sharp, so show them respect while handling them.

Lastly, the Flip n’ Zip saw works well but the anodized aluminum handle doesn’t do a lot for me. It makes a nice, thin package. A lockback system securely holds the blade in place. It’s just that the aluminum handle, even with CNC grooves, is thin and pretty slippery in my hands once things get wet. 

Also, the handle is so thin it makes it a bit difficult for my fat mitts to hold onto it. I would hate to try it with gloves on while the handle is covered in blood. The extra blades, all 420J2 stainless steel, are stored in a wax canvas roll. 

MSRP: $99

Knives Of Alaska Bobcat Combo

Alaska knives
Knives of Alaska includes a top-notch leather sheath with the Bobcat Combo. The sheath has the hallmarks of solid craftsmanship. (The author indicated he put the nick there.)

The set from Knives of Alaska (KOA) comes with the Alpha Wolf knife and the Bobcat Hatchet—hence, the Bobcat Combo. I’ve used the Alpha Wolf before. It’s a full-tang design made of D2 tool steel and a layered polymer handle. The handle contouring includes four finger grooves, with the index groove on the ricasso. It is a straightforward, fully flat-ground drop-point design.

The Alpha Wolf comes shaving sharp out of the box and has a general curve to the cutting edge. I have to say as a game knife it handles well and you can exert a great deal of control over the cutting edge with little effort. 

The design fits well in my meaty hand and the cuts get made where I need them without struggling. At the rear of the edge is a micro choil and, as usual, when the material being cut gets hung up there, it frustrates my workflow. I would say the only thing I would prefer is a bit of texturing to up the grip game.

As you can imagine, the Bobcat hatchet does things like splitting the sternum, cutting the pelvic bone and, if you want, it will bust out some of the tougher joints. It doesn’t have the heft of a full-size hatchet but as my buddy is fond of saying: if you put enough force behind anything you can make it fly. To me, it would be certainly neater than a chainsaw (don’t ask, it’s a drunken Canadian hunter thing). A gut hook is on the back.

A top-notch-made leather sheath carries the combo. I never reviewed a knife from KOA on which the leather wasn’t well executed. It’s a good combo and the Bobcat hatchet is such a neat tool I couldn’t resist using it in the kitchen as a small hand chopper. I know, somewhat sacrilegious, but it’s my kitchen. It’s a great set and as much of a trophy as the game you kill. 

MSRP: $209.99

There’s a wide range of knives here from budget to bang and represents only a small sampling of the tools available to hunters these days. If you’re going for the big game, don’t ruin the moment by struggling with a poorly crafted tool. Take the time to round out your kit with a good field-dressing knife set.

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How To Use Drawknives

Drawknives Are A Woodworker’s Best Friend And One Of Many Unique Knives Craftsmen Use Regularly

Knives take on many shapes and sizes. As tools, their designs sometimes focus on specific tasks. In the case of the drawknife, it is designed for woodworking. Drawknives have been found to date back to the Viking era more than a millennium ago.

The design itself takes many different shapes for a variety of purposes. At times, it is not referred to as a drawknife but, at first glance, you can see the relationship and how a number of tools can be considered part of the same family. As with any tool, different cultures have different interpretations of how the tool should be designed.

What Is A Drawknife?

A drawknife is a single-beveled blade placed between two handles. The tool gets its name from how it is used. You simply grab both handles and draw the knife towards you bevel up. Controlling the angle that the blade enters the wood will control the depth of cut. A steep angle will get you a deeper, more aggressive cut but will also require more effort.

Lowering the angle makes for a shallower cut and also gives you a finer finish as the material is removed less aggressively. Some designs have long handles on plane with the blade. Other designs have the handle tight in and below the plane of the blade. No matter where the handles are, the action is the same but the point of control changes.

Top row, from left: a German-style drawknife made in Western Germany, Mora push knife, English-style drawknife, Flexcut 5-inch drawknife and a cooper’s knife. Bottom row, same order: Round drawknife and a chair maker’s scorp.
Top row, from left: a German-style drawknife made in Western Germany, Mora push knife, English-style drawknife, Flexcut 5-inch drawknife and a cooper’s knife. Bottom row, same order: Round drawknife and a chair maker’s scorp.

How To Use A Drawknife

When working with a narrow stock up to two inches wide, it’s easy enough to draw the knife straight back toward you. On wider stock, it is better to skew the knife. Skewing the knife provides a leading edge and causes less resistance during the cut. When working with hardwoods you want to keep the cut light, as the dense grain provides more resistance and bogs the knife down.

Learning to use a drawknife properly is a bit like working a puzzle. The easiest way to make a cut is to work the facets of the material. For instance, say we are working on a piece that is square. To shape the piece to the required size it is easier to work the corners down, creating more corners until you get to your desired shape. By working the flats, you must use more energy and struggle to make a cut.

When first using a drawknife, the tendency is to use your arms to power the tool. Instead, use your back muscles, which are larger and less likely to fatigue quickly. Draw the knife back as if you were using the same muscle for rowing. If done right, it should feel like your shoulder blades are trying to meet in the middle of your back. For safety’s sake, keep your elbows in tight. As you draw the knife back your elbows will hit your core acting as a safety stop, preventing you from slipping and cutting yourself.

Types Of Drawknifes

A debarking knife is usually a larger style of drawknife used for extracting bark from logs. They are larger and heavier than their woodworking counterparts so that you can blast through the bark.

It has been my experience that when working green wood, the knife doesn’t need to be kept as sharp. In fact, it is somewhat more helpful to keep the knife a bit dull when cutting green wood so as to avoid diving too deep into the wood itself. On seasoned logs, because of the lack of sap between the bark and sapwood, I find it better to have the knife a bit sharper.

Woodworking drawknives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The two main types I have used: English and German. The English style has a blade that bares a slight arch and the handles are on the same plane as the blade. German-style knives have handles that sit lower than the blade and the blade tends to be straight. The knives’ handles can vary. Most of mine have a pear-like shape. There are other styles like a round knob style, which is a ball shape.

Specialty styles of knives include any drawknife that is shaped to obtain a specific result. A cooper’s knife is shaped to accommodate the making of barrel staves. I also have a handle-making knife. The handle-making knife is a tight arch designed to make handles for things like brooms or garden implements. The basic shape is a half circle, so instead of trying to round a piece off by angling a number of cuts, you get a piece of wood close to size and simply let the knife shape it.

The cooper’s shave is designed to hollow out the staves of a barrel.
The cooper’s shave is designed to hollow out the staves of a barrel.

Push Knife


The model uses the Mora push knife to clean up curls left at the bottom of a curve. With the push knife, you can work the wood in an opposite direction without repositioning the piece.

A Scandinavian invention, the push knife is similar to a drawknife in that it has a blade attached by two handles on either side. Using a push knife is different in the way that you are expected to force the edge away from your body instead of pulling it toward you. Unlike a drawknife, the handles come straight out from the sides, which allows you to either push or pull the knife. I normally use the knife in the manner that gets the job done—meaning on occasion I will draw the knife toward me rather than push.

What Is A Scorp?

Technically, scorps are not drawknives. However, in terms of looks and use you can’t help but lump them in the same family. I have a chair maker’s scorp that is designed to hollow out the seats of chairs. On older chairs is a slight depression where the person sits. A chair maker’s scorp was used to produce the shape. The tool operates just like a drawknife except it has a shorter blade with a more pronounced arch.

How To Sharpen A Drawknife

Like any other cutting tool, a drawknife must be sharpened. Perhaps the trickiest part of sharpening a drawknife is finding a way to brace it. I find dynamic sharpening the easiest way to sharpen a drawknife. I brace the knife and move the sharpening medium instead of the other way around. One way to brace the knife for sharpening is to put one handle in your armpit and hold the other handle in your off hand. Once the knife is braced this way, take a stone to it. Another way is to brace one handle on the bench, lean your chest on the other handle, and then begin sharpening. Keep in mind a drawknife must be sharp (except where noted previously) but since it is not necessarily a fine woodworking tool, don’t get carried away.

YouTuber James Wright shows you how to sharpen a drawknife using a set of sharpening stones in his shop.

Lastly, keep it oiled. Even the newer ones are not made from new high-tech steels. Most are from simple carbon stock and a light coat of oil goes a long way. Among others, Flexcut offers a contemporary drawknife.

Other Wood Carving Tools

Beyond drawknives and planes, there are many other types of wood carving knives out there that can help with some of the finer points of woodworker. Small, nimble wood carving knives like a sloyd knife or a spoon knife.

A sloyd knife is a short, sturdy blade good for small, finite carving tasks. A spoon knife, as the name suggests, is meant to carve out the concave scoop of a spoon but can be used for any other situation where you are trying to create a concave dip in the material.

There are certainly more than just these few tools to being a successful woodworker, but knowing how to use wood carving tools big or small can get you on the path to success.

Why To Use A Drawknife

Long before there was solar power, fossil fuel power, steam power, etc., there was muscle power. Humans developed the world using tools with muscle and sweat. There is something satisfying about making something by hand. The feel of a good day’s work is sometimes what the soul needs. A drawknife not only gets the job done but also gives you an accomplishment to savor.

Where To Buy A Drawknife

Spyderco Yojimbo 2: Fantastic Straightedge Folder

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Now in its second iterations, the Yojimbo 2 nails exactly what a straightedge folder should be.

It isn’t hard to review a Spyderco knife.

Anyone who has ever used one can tell you the company has an uncanny ability to nail the making of folders as well as fixed blades. What is even more uncanny is how the company can do it so consistently while being so prolific. Hence, if you want to talk about good straight-edge knives and also the features of folding EDCs in comparison to fixed-blade EDCs, you might as well include one of the best folding knifemakers in the business. If you’ve ever talked to BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Sal Glesser, you quickly realize the thing that drives Spyderco’s outstanding record of knife offerings is Sal’s passion for the trade.

The wide blade on the Spyderco Yojimbo 2 gives plenty of real estate for your thumb to clear the scale and fi nd its way into the hole so you can open the knife easily.
The wide blade on the Spyderco Yojimbo 2 gives plenty of real estate for your thumb to clear the scale and fi nd its way into the hole so you can open the knife easily.

Yojimbo 2 Rundown

The Yojimbo design has been out for years, but to be truthful I am just getting around to reviewing it now in the Yojimbo 2 iteration. At 7.55 inches open, it’s in the midsized folder range. I prefer a small-to-midsized folder because once I get into the large folders, I start asking myself why I didn’t just choose a fixed blade. The blade has a sharp-angle execution of a wharncliffe style, resulting in a very articulated tip. With a blade width starting at 1.5 inches, the steep angle still provides a sturdy tip. Spyderco uses a hollow grind that results in a thin geometry.

The handle is subtly textured G-10. The texturing for me has that Goldilocks feel to it—just right. Sometimes because of new machining technology companies do things they can do and don’t think about whether they should. One of the things I most often find is over texturing of handles to the point the knife is uncomfortable to use. This isn’t the case with the Yojimbo 2. The texturing is very slight but undoubtedly present.

Straightedge’s Performance

Opening and closing the folder is smooth. It features Spyderco’s compression lock system, which has a crisp lock up. There’s no doubt your blade is locked thanks to a crisp snap as the lock engages. A handle profile with a number of broad finger grooves provides a secure grip. The broad grooves allow the knife to remain nimble in your grasp.

Out of the box, the Yojimbo 2 was razor sharp. It made eff ortless cuts through this packing crate strapping like the medium wasn’t even there.
Out of the box, the Yojimbo 2 was razor sharp. It made eff ortless cuts through this packing crate strapping like the medium wasn’t even there.

If I were to mention only one issue I have with the knife it would be something particular to me and people who suffer the same affliction: fat hands. My hands are beefy. On occasion, the compression lock, because it is located on the spine, catches me ever so slightly between the lock and the liner. Would this version of Spyderco’s would be No.
1 every time. The overall profile makes it easy to capture the rim on tight and loose pockets alike. Not every knife I have reviewed over the years comes back around to be a personal carry. I can tell you, though, the Yojimbo 2 will be making it into my EDC rotation.

Spyderco supplies one of its full-metal pocket clips for the Yojimbo 2. I can’t say this enough: If you had to make a list of the top-five-designed pocket clips, this version of Spyderco’s would be No. 1 every time. The overall profile makes it easy to capture the rim on tight and loose pockets alike. Not every knife I have reviewed over the years comes back around to be a personal carry. I can tell you, though, the Yojimbo 2 will be making it into my EDC rotation.

For more information on the Yojimbo 2, please visit spyderco.com.

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