I hope everyone has seen Crocodile Dundee. If you haven’t then stop reading this and Google “Crocodile Dundee Knife” and watch the short YouTube clip of the scene. You will then understand why I have this pic chosen for this post.
I’ve been reading this book called “Bushcraft 101” by Dave Canterbury. Chapter 2 is entitled “Tools.” The first tool he talks about is your knife. I wanted to write about this today because I think we will all find value in this. Plus, it just might be enough to convince you to go get a really sweet knife.
His opinion, and I would have to agree with it, is that the most important tool you can have is your belt knife. It is what it sounds like; a knife that sits on your belt. This knife can be the best tool you own because, if chosen right, it can make other tools that you need when an emergency arises. So the real question comes down to what is the best belt knife?
There are three basic blade profiles: The butcher, trade knife, and spear point. Each have their pros and cons and we will get into those next. The profile is the physical shape of the blade.
The butcher blade looks like how it sounds (assuming the sound brings to mind a butcher’s knife). It is large, with the blade curving slightly upwards. The spine is flat at 90 degrees. This can be very important. It can be used as a striking edge to create sparks as well as work better when being hammered on with a large stick for splitting wood (otherwise known as ‘Batoning’). This blade is best used for big jobs because of its power. It makes splitting wood and other high demanding jobs easier. The down side is that it makes the smaller tasks like shaving wood for kindling harder.
The Trade Knife
This blade type was typically used by traders and trappers. About a million types of blades fall under this umbrella term. Trade knives are good for field dressing animals and doing finer tasks.
The Spear Point
This blade is typically used for small tasks like whittling and fine carving. This blade is usually double edged and designed best for piercing or penetrating like a spear. Not the ideal blade for splitting large wood though.
When looking for the perfect belt knife, you don’t want something super big. Large knives become cumbersome to carry and can’t handle the little jobs. But you don’t want something small either, like a pocket knife. The happy medium for blade length is 4.5 – 6 inches. Throughout history along the American frontier (and I’m assuming the Canadian one as well) this length of blade was the most common and most were found with the butcher profile.
The Hollow Grind
The Hollow Grind will maintain a very sharp edge and will do very well at skinning, but is easily damaged because of the thinness of the blade.
The convex Grind
The Convex Grind is the strongest and best for splitting but not very good for whittling or the finer carving tasks. This grind is also the hardest to maintain in the field. Something to keep in mind.
The Flat Grind
The Flat Grind is easier to resharpen in the field. It is very good for the finer tasks of carving or making kindling. However it can be brittle depending on the knife blade, the task you’re doing, and the weather. If it gets too cold and you’re trying to split wood while twisting it side to side it could damage the blade.
The Scandinavian Grind
The Scandinavian Grind is one of the best for finer carvings. The Flat and Scandinavian grinds are quite similar so their pros and cons are as well. Like the flat grind, it is easier to maintain in the field, which is a giant plus, and is great for the finer jobs. Neither of these two grinds are terrible for splitting, but they are not the recommended grind for the task.
It really comes down to what you think your tasks are going to be and then picking the knife, blade, and grind that best match those tasks.
Because your belt knife is such an important tool in your kit, this is not an item you want to ‘pinch your pennies’ on. You want the best quality knife money can afford. This one tool could be the difference between a comfortable bushcrafting trip and a terrible nightmare experience. Nothing worse than not having the right tools for the right job.