Bushcraft Knife Tips And Techniques
Do you know what the term bushcraft means? You might have heard this term many times from adventure-junkies, campers and knife enthusiasts because it is a popular word for wilderness survival skills. The exact definition is stated as a skill in matters pertaining to life in the wilderness (bush).
Bushcraft skills include the following:
- Rope and twine making
- And most importantly, using tools like axes and knives
Bushcraft skills allow you to thrive in the natural environment by making use of your surroundings, skills and knowledge in various types of survival situations.
Know How To Choose A Bushcraft Knife
A knife is one of the most essential items in your survival gear because you never know when your life will hinge upon it. You need to understand that when you are stuck in a survival situation, having any sharp blade will be of some help, and if you are prepared for it beforehand, you can save yourself from grave danger.
Apart from using it to make ropes, build fires, construct shelters and gut a fish; it is the perfect weapon for self-defence. Keep this in mind: “If you don’t have it, then it can’t save you”. This is enough to make you understand how crucial it is to have a knife on you at all times in the wilderness.
As you may have already read about the many uses of bushcraft knives; the first thing that you need to consider before selecting one is how versatile is that particular blade. Versatility is all that matters when it comes to bushcraft. The second and third concern should be the weight and bulk of the blade before that plays an important role in survival situations. The selection process should consider the following factors:
- Proper materials
- Expected performance
- Experienced workmanship
- Solid construction
Other factors like the grip of the knife, your comfortable budget and availability of a specific blade come later in the list.
The preferred blade length is four to six inches, as it falls under the decent-mix size which is vital for control over its use. However, if you want a longer blade, you can always go for an axe, machete or hatchet.
Make sure you choose a full tang knife, i.e. a knife with a single piece of metal; wrapped with a comfortable grip at one end and a sharp blade at another. This type provides more stability and strength as compared to other types.
Don’t hold your pockets while buying one because your life may depend upon the correct choice of the blade!
Basic Bushcraft Knife Techniques
You may consider the following techniques as ordinary ones, but know that not everyone is aware of them and if someone goes out in the wilderness without the knowledge and practice of the following techniques, then he/she might have put his/her lives in danger:
- Push cut
As the name suggests, you have to push the blade away from your body. Hold the item you wish to skin in your off hand, put the sharp end of the blade on the object and push the blade through the item. It is useful in making spears, sharpening objects and trap triggers.
- Assisted push cut
Beginners might experience slips and cuts while practising the push cut technique because of lack of experience. Assisted push cut is better for them as well as when you wish to skin hard objects and require extra efforts. You simply have to use the thumb of your off hand against the spine of the blade while doing the same thing, as in push cut technique, to ensure more strength and stability. This position of the hand also keeps your off hand away from the blade. The only drawback is that you might bruise your thumb, but it may be a small price to pay compared to what you may need it for.
- Reverse cut
It is the most useful technique to cut ropes, vines and similar materials. You have to hold the knife in a reverse hammer grip to cut up and away from the object. You may have to take precautions while practising or using this technique because the sharp end of the blade will be swinging away from your body and it might hurt someone else on its path.
- Chest pull
This may seem like a dangerous technique, but trust the experts, it isn’t so. You need to hold the knife in a reverse hammer grip, hold the object in your off hand against your chest, pin your hands and elbows to your chest and then, skin through the object. You might be wondering about what if your hand slips and you cut yourself, but when you keep your hands pinned to your chest, the range of your actions reduces significantly; allowing you to work without hurting yourself.
All these techniques are altered and modified by different knife users because everyone has a different approach towards using a blade, but the basics of the techniques mentioned above remain the same.
Even if you are well aware of the above-mentioned techniques, practice them with care and thoroughly before your trip to the wilderness because using a knife is an acquired skill and requires intense practice to make sure that when the need arises, you are not hesitant to use it to protect yourself or anyone else that you love.
Expert tip: Keep the sharp end of the blade away from your body at all times.
Popular Bushcraft Knife Skills
Skills are not inherited, rather acquired. Even if you are in possession of the best bushcraft knife, it doesn’t guarantee your protection in any survival situation. Owning a sharp blade, full of potential will not save your life; your skills of using it for your protection will. To fight whatever you may come against in the wilderness, acquire the following bushcraft skills:
The term ‘carving’ does not look like a unique word, right? But do you know how useful it is to learn to carve with a bushcraft knife to make fire boards, spoons, bowls and other tools? You can also make sharp weapons (stakes and whatnot) with the help of this skill.
Apart from using it to make useful objects, it will also help you to gain control over your blade, which will be beneficial when you are stuck in self-defence situations. It is also quite entertaining to master because it helps you to construct new objects.
Expert tip: Avoid hurting yourself while carving an object and the best way to ensure that is to focus more on precision and technique than strength.
A bushcraft knife is not supposed to be used for batoning. Period! You should use an axe or a hatchet for batoning but what if you don’t have one when the need arises. As already mentioned above, you should have a bushcraft blade on you at all times; learning this skill will only come in handy when the need arises.
Always choose a blade which is longer than the wood that you are required to split. The blade needs to be thick and have a tight grip (preferably, full tang) to avoid slips and breaks. It is necessary to make sure your knife is not damaged beyond repair. The skill is quite simple, but practice is required to ensure precision and understand how much strength is required to get the work complete. It will also help you learn how to ensure your knife is not damaged while batoning in the wild.
Expert tip: Don’t use a bushcraft knife for batoning unless it is the last option that you have.
Don’t you find it fascinating to see how experts can build a fire in the wilderness without any matchsticks? Firecraft is one of the most significant bushcraft skills that you should acquire because you never know when a little fire can save the day in the unpredictable wilderness.
The first step is to make feather sticks to have enough fuel for your fire. Carving is required to slice up the wood in small, feather-like shavings to make sure that even a small spark can be used to get the job done. The second step is to have a ferrocerium rod on you at all times, as it can be used to build a fire many times over. Make sure that the spine of your bushcraft knife can ignite the rod.
Hold the knife and the rod near the bunch of feather sticks and strike the blade against the rod to produce sparks. Direct the sparks toward the sticks and when you see smoke, blow over lightly to enhance the fire.
If you have a carbon steel blade, then flint can be used instead of Ferro rod to build a fire. The rest of the process is same as above.
Expert tip: Don’t practice firecraft inside your house; rather in the backyard, and also, be prepared with proper fire equipment to avoid it going out of hand.
Although just like batoning, this technique can also damage your knife. It is essential to practice with your blade for chopping as it can be really helpful in building shelters and tools.
Strike wood by holding the end of the knife to have a swift momentum and focus your strength towards the weak parts of the wood. You might have to strike a few times before it is chopped, so practice hitting at the same spot to get the job accomplished sooner.
Expert tip: If your blade is thin and does not have a full tang, then chopping will damage the handle scales and might even break the blade. So, buy a thick, full tang blade even for practising this technique at home.
You know you can make a rope out of grass? Yes, you heard it right! Natural ropes have an amazing grip and can hold even heavy objects in place. You can use it to hold hammocks, shelter blocks, hang essential items above the ground or pull yourself up the rocks to get out of the wild. The number of uses is endless, and it is not that hard to make ropes in the wild.
You have to cut long strands of grass off the ground, braid them up and tie them to make thick strands. tie each thick strand with another strand to hold them in place. Then, follow the same process over and over again, until you have the desired size of rope. The knife is required to cut the correct size of grass to make sure all the strands are of the same size, as it will provide more stability and strength to the overall rope.
Expert tip: Avoid using thin grass, as no matter how thick the bundle is, it has a higher chance of breaking when used to hold heavy objects.
All the skills mentioned above can be practised in your backyard with ease. This can eliminate your excuses for not knowing any one of them.
Bushcraft Knife Tips
A blade is as good as the person using it. This proves how essential it is to learn the basics of all the techniques and skills that may be used in the wilderness to survive from the unpredictable environment. Be it a face-off against a fierce animal or a need to build shelter; bushcraft knives are required to aid survival during such times.
Read on about the best bushcraft tips:
Many essential tips are already mentioned above. You should keep one thing in mind, that it is a sharp object that can hurt anyone, even you. It is best to keep the sharp end away from yourself or your loved ones at all times. And also, don’t hesitate to use it against any predator that may harm you. Here are a few final tips that may help you survive a little longer in the wild:
- Always use a full tang knife, as it provides more stability and does not break easily when used for batoning or chopping. It also prevents the handle scales to get loose and hamper the uses of the knife.
- Choose a length for the blade that best suits your purpose and size because there is no specific ideal length for all sizes of human beings. Choose a knife that acts as an extension of your arm.
- Even practising bushcraft techniques and skills at home require appropriate precautions, especially firecraft, to avoid severe consequences.
- Always stay alert in the wilderness; prepared for any type of survival situations. Being mentally prepared for the worst is what will save you from it because when people are caught off-guard, they often tremble to use even the right tools which can get them out of that situation with ease.
Stay alert! Stay safe!
Huge thanks to Jennie Trotter for this guest post.
Use your instincts to survive