What Makes a Bushcraft Knife a Bushcraft Knife?

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What is a bushcraft knife
Four of today’s top American-made bushcraft knives, from left: White River Knife & Tool Firecraft FC 3.5 Pro, TOPS Knives D Fly 4.5, Gerber Terracraft, and Camillus Bushcrafter. (Marty Stanchfield photo)

Bushcraft Knives are Defined by How They Can be Used

  • Chopping
    Batoning
    Carving
    Fire Starting
    Food Prep

Five basic chores of outdoor survival can be performed with a bushcraft knife. The tasks are elemental and a must-learn if you want to use a bushcraft knife to maximum effect.

1) Chopping

First is chopping. Whereas a small hatchet, ax, or even a machete are better suited for the task, a bushcraft knife can turn the trick. Grip the handle as far back and as securely as you can, and chop as you would with a larger knife, ax, hatchet or machete.

2) Batoning

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The second task is batoning. Basically, to baton a piece of kindling is to split it.

Take a rather large/thick piece of wood to act as a baton/hammer in one hand, lay the blade edge on the end of the secured piece of kindling with the other, and, using firm, deliberate blows, pound the blade lengthwise through the kindling, effectively splitting it.

Again, an ax, hatchet or even a folding saw would be better, but if you lack any of these, your bushcraft knife is capable of handling such a task.


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3) Carving

The third task is carving. One of the most important bushcraft skills is to carve bowls, spoons, or even whittling sticks to roast hot dogs. Chopping and batoning are tasks using brute force; carving is more finesse and control.

4) Fire Starting

Finally, the fourth task is fire starting. This can be accomplished by using the knife and a ferrocerium (aka ferro) rod. The job is best done by using a knife that has a blade with a 90-degree spine as opposed to a chamfered or radiused one.

Grasp the knife firmly, cutting edge up. Lay the corner of the blade spine on the ferro rod and with one swift, downward motion, as if you are whittling o a piece of the rod, move the blade down it. Doing so will result in a white hot shower of sparks. The sparks can ignite tinder to start a fire.

The key to fire starting is always select a bushcraft knife with a 90-degree spine. If it lacks such a spine, you can always use the edge but this will dull the one spot on the edge faster than standard cutting will.

5) Food Prep

And, obviously, a bushcraft blade can also adeptly handle any cutting task related to food or campsite prep. Bushcraft knives prove a knife need not have sheer size and weight to be effective. It’s all in smart design of the blade and handle.

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