Posts Tagged ‘Survival’

The Mighty Machete!

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you may know that I have a good amount of experience with machetes. I have done many things with them, clearing fields of 10ft tall elephant grass, felling small trees, even carving field hockey balls. (Yeah. Betcha didn’t know you could carve a hockey ball using a machete did you!)

Indeed, there was a time when I used them routinely, I dare say even more often than I did my laundry!  The result, is that I tend to reach for a machete where most folks would reach for an axe. As a matter of fact, I consider machetes a blade that is highly underrated in North America. This may or may not actually be true, however when people start looking for a medium to heavy-duty chopper, the first thing people seem to reach for is a camp hatchet or axe.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Now to be fair, there are many things an axe is just better for. For instance, you don’t hear much about machete murderers in the good old U.S. of A. Axe murderers, on the other hand… Common knowledge. And look at how under represented machetes are in the media. You see hunting and survival knives portrayed prominently in movies all the time, like the Rambo movies, The Hunted, etc. Even in games, machetes get a bad rap. You see throwing knives, in all kinds of First person shooters, ballistic knives in Call of Duty, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on forever!

Even on Youtube, machetes get little love. There was recently a game of “Name your two favorite knives” tag on Youtube, and not a single person (whose videos I have seen so far) has even mentioned a machete. It is a sad state of affairs people. Especially when you look at what you can do with a good machete. Chopping, carving, wood processing, digging, brush clearing, dismemberment… etc. (And just so we are all clear, I mean dismembering large game animals, not people. Not that it hasn’t been done before, but it’s just not my style. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, a machete can do it all! And what is most amazing about it is that you can get a good machete for a mere fraction of the cost of many of the fancy schmancy designer knives that people all seem to love. But you can thrash a machete and not have to worry about, ride it hard, put it away wet (thought if you do that, you deserve to be flogged, hung from you hair from the tree of woe, for wild emu to slowly pick at you… No seriously.)

The fact of the matter is, machetes get no love. At least not in North America. In Africa, South America, and many developing nations, it is the hero of large utility blades, and today, I’d like to speak out on behalf of all the poor neglected machetes of ‘Merica! I’d like to show you that machetes are not only good, but that they can be cool too!
First, allow me to introduce you to the working mans machete, two of my favorites from the Ontario Knife Co:

Ontario 12in Camper Machete

Ontario 12in Camper Machete


 The Ontario 12″ camper machete. This one has a saw blade spine and a “D” handle to offer added protection to the user, though I must say that as a seasoned machete user, I can’t recommend either, as the saw back is incredibly inefficient at sawing anything. It is best used for notching, but that is about it. And the D handle simply makes it harder to use that saw back anyway, so this is what I would consider a bad combination. Moving on to one of my more favored workhorse machetes:

Ontario 18in Military Machete

Ontario 18in Military Machete

The Ontario 18in Military Machete is my go to machete for camping trips and such, it is versatile, tough, and best of all, Cheap! I have both the 12in and the 18in version of this machete, and I really don’t know why every outdoorsman doesn’t have the 12in version in their pack. They are awesome! Next up, a light duty machete: The Gerber Gator Machete.

Gerber Gator Machete

Gerber Gator Machete

Now this is a nice, easy to use machete, ideal for someone who wants to pack light. It is not as heavy-duty as the Ontario or Cold Steel Offerings, but is light weight, low fatigue, and has one of the best grip ergonomics I have run into on a machete for a long time. It also has a saw spine, however its performance is surprisingly disappointing, especially given that they know how to make a good utility saw. Phail on you Gerber! PHAIL!! >:{

And now, on to the machetes that I classify simply as “Cool beyond Words”. Ok, so they aren’t really cool beyond words. But they are pretty darn cool. I refer, in this case, to Cold steels line of machetes, starting with their quite impressive Kukri Machetes:

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Both the Regular and Magnum Kukri machetes from Cold steel are simply quite good. Strong, tough, can be made shaving sharp, and quite versatile, I have both versions, and can say that they are great, especially for the price, being excellent low cost choppers and all around bush whacking blades.

Last but not least, allow me to introduce you to my favorite machete design of all time, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete.

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Now this machete is just beautiful. Based on the ancient Greek Kopis sword, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete is a beautiful piece of work, a combination of style, function, strength and beauty that is really hard to come by these days. And, of course, as if simply to spite me, it is no longer being made. Curses. CURSES!!! Curse the machete gods for depriving me of this thing of beauty! Oh well. C’est la Vie. It is my own fault for not getting one while I could.

Anyway, there are a gazillion other machete designs i could talk about today, but these are some of my favorites. And hopefully I have demonstrated that Machetes are not just ugly choppers, and that you can have it all; strength, style, beauty and utility… with the Mighty MACHETE!! 😀

P.S.

By the way… Anyone got a Cold Steel Kopis machete they want to… umm… donate to… “charity”? I can take care of that for you… Yes, yes, it will be for a good cause. You know, like the Happy Balrog Knife Charity… No, no, it’s a real charity… It goes to Balrogs in desperate need of hard to find knives… No, really… 😀

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet – [True Swords]
Ontario 12″ Camper Machete – [True Swords]
Ontario 18″ Military Machete – [True Swords]
Gerber Gator Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kopis Machete – (no longer made)

A primitive knife for the caveman in all of us…

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

SOG has built a reputation for themselves in the knife industry, and for good reason. They make a lot of good knives. They are also one of the many knife companies that subscribe to the idea of “tacticool” knife design. Meaning, they don’t just focus on making good tactical knives, but that they also try to give them some sex appeal too.

In general I cannot really complain about this way of thinking. Personally, I grade all of my blades on both functionality and aesthetics. I like knives that not only work well, but look cool. And being dead sexeh, or simply evil looking, certainly doesn’t hurt their grade in my book. 😀

However some folks occasionally tend to take it just a little bit too far…

SOG Fusion Jungle Primitive

SOG Fusion Jungle Primitive

Folks, meet Bob. Say hi Bob! My friend Bob here, is a SOG Fusion Jungle Primitive. “Wassat?” you say? Well, he’s a cave man. Or a cave knife. Actually a Cro-Magnon or prehistoric modern knife, to be exact. Yep. Prolly ought to be in a museum. With all the other primitive knives. But here he is. Looking us right in the eye, and trying to establish alpha knife dominance over the lowly pocket knives we all happen to be carrying. A modern day barbarian. Heh.

LOL OK, yes, perhaps I’m being a little mean. But it’s all in the name of a little fun. I don’t really mean anything by it. 🙂 The SOG jungle primitive is not actually a bad knife. In fact I think that, apart from one or two features that are minor pet peeves, it’s actually a great knife. I think they just kinda took the tacticool thinking to a bit of a new level. But not actually in an entirely bad way either.

Lets start with the kraton grip, which should be fairly grippy, even in adverse conditions. SOG went one better by molding an artistic faux knurling to the pattern of the kraton grip, (which they are calling a “Digi-Grip”… go figure)  that gets irregular at the top and bottom. Nice touch actually. The shape of the grip is also very nice, with a decent guard at the top, and ridges at the bottom and top of the inside curves to help increase traction. The pommel, protruding from the grip of this full tang blade has been given a small saw tooth finish. This, I am on the fence about, for reasons I’ll get to later.

The blade on the Jungle Primitive just drips with that second kind of cool (aka Tacticool). The blade is a large 9.5 in clip point, with lots of belly, a good combination for a survival blade. Just above the grip, the first inch and a half of the blade sports a serrated edge. Just above the grip, on the spine, we have a thumb recess with the same saw tooth pattern used on the pommel. Above that, a cute little divot for who knows what. And above that, we have my main pet peeve; a section of rearward facing saw teeth. Lots more on those later.

Obviously, this knife was designed with optimal grip for both gloved and bare handed users in mind. The size and the shape of the little saw teeth both on the thumb section on the spine, and on the pommel pretty much make that fairly clear. However I tend to think the design is perhaps biased a little too much towards the gloved users. The serrations seem overly large, like they would actually become tiresome against a bare thumb over long periods of use.

But that could just be me being a wuss. The other thing, is that the same pattern on the pommel makes sense if the knife is going to be used in a reverse “ice pick” grip, with the thumb over the pommel. Again, the saw teeth would provide added purchase for your gloved thumb, but would probably become very irritating against a bare thumb. Another concern would be that because a common use for the pommel is as a hammer, and there are some things that you might end up splitting instead of hammering, because those teeth would concentrate the force of each blow into a few very small points instead of  across the whole pommel.

Now as you can probably imagine, this is by no means a small knife. It is basically a knife modeled on the large, single knife only, survival role. As I’ve said in other posts, going this route is far from ideal, the ideal would be to carry a much larger heavy knife (a camp axe or a machete), and at least one small knife. However if you have to do it with just one, this would definitely fit the bill.

But now, if you all don’t mind, I’d like to vent about my one major pet peeve with this design: THOSE BLASTED SAW TEETH ON THE SPINE!!

The most hackle raising feature of this otherwise very cool knife was how the spine saw was implemented. Rather than put an actual saw blade on the spine, the folks at SOG opted for the much more difficult “dino tooth” option. They went back in time, grabbed some hapless velociraptor, performed an X-Men, Wolverine-style dental job to replace all of its teeth with steel, then pulled it’s newly transformed steel teeth out and stuck them on the back of this knife.

No. Really. That’s what they did. What? Don’t beleive me?

Ok, fine. Maybe they didn’t. But it certainly looks like it. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that a velociraptors teeth are designed to help them catch and eat live prey. Not for SAWING WOOD. Do any of these knife makers actually ever look at a real wood saw any more? Seriously? Have you ever seen teeth like these on a wood saw? A hand saw? A folding wood saw? Branch cutting saw? Anyone? Why is it so hard for knife makers to get that oh, so simple little detail right?

I mean I can understand the cool of having the spine of your knife look like a hungry velociraptors jaw, but this knife is supposed to be a survival tool FIRST, and cool tool SECOND. Weapon/tool aesthetics aren’t called the SECOND kind of cool for nothing. Pro tip folks: Always get your basic design fully functional before you go designing in the sexy. OK?  Aaaaand… I’m done. End rant.

OK. To be fair, the knife is still quite evil. In a jungle primitive kind of way. My kind of aesthetic. And it will do most everything you might want it to do. Some things (such as sawing through wood) will require a little more effort than others. But it will get the job done. Just remember that if you are looking for a knife for survival purposes.

The way I see it, there’s the tool, and then there’s the cool. Sometimes you can have both the tool and the cool. Sometimes the cool overwhelms the tool. Me personally, especially for survival use, I prefer the tool to pwn the cool. Because if you are in a survival situation, the cool ain’t gonna get you through. It will be all about the tool… 🙂

Now say that 20 times fast. 😀

SOG Fusion Jungle Primitive – [eBladeStore]

The devil’s in the details…

Monday, July 27th, 2009

In a couple of previous posts I talked a little about what makes an ideal survival knife. I had actually planned a future post to treat the topic in a little further detail. However I recently ran into a good example of an almost perfect survival machete that I thought warranted a little post.

And I say *almost* perfect because, while it ostensibly meets the requirements of what I consider ideal in a large survival blade in a multi blade set, it falls short in one single area, a small failing, that by my estimates, rendered it almost 50% less effective than if it had been properly designed. Yeah. Small flaw, big problems. This is the tool in question:

The Ultimate Survival Machete

The Ultimate Survival Machete

This is the Ultimate Survival Machete. I may have mentioned in a previous post that in my opinion the ideal survival kit would actually include multiple blades, with a minimum of two, not one survival knife, which is a misconception that many people seem to have. The singe blade solution is a compromise for if you have absolutely have to carry only one blade.

However in my opinion the ideal solution includes at least two knives. One small blade for fine work, skinning, whittling, carving and what not, and one large, heavy blade, like a bowie, axe or a machete, for heavy work, such as chopping, log splitting, cutting down trees, and other heavy camp work. But I digress.

This so called “Ultimate Survival Machete” actually does do it’s name some justice, though possesses a basic flaw, which we will get into shortly. But besides that, I find the basic design concept of this machete would actually make for an ideal large camp knife. On the front edge, like most other machetes, you have a large, strong heavy, full tang blade that would make short work of heavy chopping chores.  But unlike most other machetes, this one also has a rather effective looking saw tooth spine.

Now this is something I have not talked a whole lot about, but it bears mentioning. A properly designed sawtooth spine is extremely useful on a single, multipurpose survival knife. The saw simply makes it much easier to cut through medium to heavy pieces of wood, with surprisingly little effort, especially compared to the energy required to chop the same saplings and branches down with a medium camp axe. This is important in a survival setting. Granted, when it comes to chopping down large trees and such, the axe is a better bet, however a heavy machete is a pretty close second.

So in my mind, this design, a machete with a saw toothed spine, assuming the saw teeth are properly designed, is a near perfect combination of features that could easily replace an axe. And as an added bonus on this machete, you actually have a somewhat decent point, perhaps not an ideal design for thrusting, but one which would allow it to be used as a defensive weapon whose full length could be used to keep large animals and whatnot at bay. Add to that the full finger guard, and the lanyard, and you have a near perfect survival machete design.

BUT now we come to the fly (or in this case the dung beetle) in the proverbial ointment. In their great zeal to create the ultimate survival machete, the designers of the tool forgot one little thing. Kudos to anyone who can guess what I’m about to demerit this survival machete on… Go on. Give it a shot. I’ll wait…

No clue? OK, I’ll give you a hint: Full finger guards rarely work as well backwards. 🙂

The Ultimate Survival Machete - Sheath

The Ultimate Survival Machete - Sheath

Bingo! That’s it. There is a full finger guard. And then there is a saw tooth spine.  And try as you might, nary the twain shall work! 😀 As you can see from the pic, that full finger guard would work great when the machete was being used for chopping. However what happens when you want to use the spine for sawing? You have to flip the machete upside down don’t you?! And then what happens to the guard…? DOH!!

Yeah… I bet you can just feel the calluses forming as you picture it in your mind. Sawing holding onto the grip upside down, with that full finger guard running over the back of your hand, or across your thumb, would be awkward, and get very, very, uncomfortable, because you would be hard pressed to actually get the blade into a 90 degree angle with whatever it is you are trying to saw into.

You could grip the guard instead, but then you’d be holding a very small grip, above the centerline of the saw blade, which wouldn’t be any better. Basically, by adding that full sized finger guard, they have rendered the saw toothed spine almost unusable. BUMMER!!!

Now to be honest, there’s an easy fix. Grab a hacksaw, and lop off the guard flush with the top and bottom of the grip, maybe leave a small, unobtrusive stubby guard instead, and sand it down to match the contoured grip. Voila! This would get you the perfect survival machete advertised.

However I did want to illustrate how important little things can become when they are not fully checked for correct ergonomics across the entire range of possible uses the tool is designed for. Clearly, in this case, either the saw tooth spine was added as an after thought, or the ergonomics of this feature was never really thought about during the design stage.

I already have a small camp hatchet in my camp kit. But this machete would still definitely make it into that, or my bug out bag. After making the aforementioned modification, of course. And I’d probably ditch the hatchet if I had to choose between them. But then again I grew up using machetes for everything from field work, to camping, to a few other out-of-left-field things, so I might be a little biased… 😀

The Ultimate Survival Machete – [The Happy Ninja]

An Interesting Spirit Knife…

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I recently came across an unusual blade design. Actually the design itself wasn’t so much unusual, as much as the way in which it was used.

SOG Fusion - Spirit Knife

SOG Fusion - Spirit Knife

The SOG spirit knife is essentially a small spear point blade, attached to a short handle. The handle is detachable, and the blade itself can then can be attached to a shaft, in order to make a spear. Or you can leave the handle on and use it as a small knife. They even suggest that it could be used as a throwing knife.

The short spear point design is unusual, but I can see the usefulness of the design. It would be work well as a small knife for fine detail work, such as carving whittling, and such. However as a survival tool, I think the design is too limiting. For instance, I can say, with a pretty high level of certainty, that I would not be throwing *any* of my valuable knives at anything, if I were in a self reliance scenario.

The same for using it as a spear. You can make 100 disposable spears and/or throwing implements with a single good knife. A good knife, on the other hand, is hard to make out in the field. The thing is, if you lose your knives, and you’re much more liable to  find yourself  in great big world o’ hurt. So that kind of rules out half of the proposed use cases for this design.

The other thing, as I’ve mentioned in past survival knife posts, is that I consider both detachable and folding blades a liability. Detachable/Folding = weak = easily broken or lost. I would much rather have a small, full tang knife for fine work, than something like this, that is liable to work loose, or break off even, and get lost somewhere.

So ultimately, at the end of the day this may be a good knife for casual outdoorsman stuff, but for a good self reliance/survival tool, I’d probably look elsewhere…

SOG Fusion Spirit knife – [True Swords]

A Multi Function Fighter?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Today I came across an interesting knife, one whose name suggests it aims to do a couple of different things, but whose design, imho, really only suits one of them well.

United 48 Fighting Knife - Razor Rescue

United 48 Fighting Knife - Razor Rescue

Quite a unique blade profile. However I think it’s name is a little misleading. When I look at the design of this knife, I can see it would be great for a few specific things. However fighting is not one of them. I’m not saying it’s a bad knife, and it could certainly be used for fighting, but that is not really what I think it’s design is best suited for.

Here are it’s strengths, as I see them. The long straight blade and serrated edge would be is excellent for cutting people out of straps, and cables and such, and the  hook on the spine would make short work of seat belts and the like. The abrupt, reverse tanto tip appears very strong, and should be able to penetrate hard objects like bricks or metal.

The wide blade, whose width stays pretty much the same until almost the tip, would even make it a relatively proficient digging tool. The grip is a good solid weather resistant grip whose contours would actually provide fairly decent retention qualities. But what all this adds up to, is Emergency Rescue use. Possibly for survival. But for fighting, I think it would be a very limiting design.

I’d have no issues packing something like this if I were an EMT or a Firefighter. In fact it would probably excel in that role. But as a fighting tool, I’d most definitely pick something else. So when I read names that start with “Fighting Knife” I can’t help but think the “fighting” bit of the design took a back seat to the “Razor Rescue” bit…

United 48 Fighting Knife – Razor Rescue – [True Swords]

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