Basic Knife Skills by Field & Stream’s Keith McCafferty
Blade basics 1 FELL A TREE If you can double a sapling over using one hand (limber it up by … Continued
1 FELL A TREE If you can double a sapling over using one hand (limber it up by bending it back and forth several times), you can slice the trunk in half using downward pressure with an angle cut. The sapling must be green and the pressure should be evenly maintained throughout the cut, although with larger trees it may be necessary to rock the blade. Support the sapling as the trunk weakens. It will be impossible to finish the cut if the wood splinters.
To bring down softwood trees (poplar, birch, some evergreens) up to 6 inches in diameter, pound the knife tip into the tree at a right angle to the trunk, then jerk it sideways or pound the spine with a baton (a hard stick used as a club) to work the blade back and forth and widen the cut. Repeat the process around the trunk.
2 SPLIT WOOD A knife runs a poor second to an axe as a chopping tool, but when pounded with a baton, a small blade is perfectly capable of making dry splits from wood blocks.
Rapping the knife with a baton, split a thin shingle from the side of a dry wood block. Sharpen the edges of the shingle to make a wedge, insert the wedge into a crack in the wood (or make a crack in the wood with the blade), then pound the wedge with a baton to make wood splits for the fire. Using a series of wedges, you can split a log section lengthwise.
You can also use a baton and blade to split the chest cavity of an elk or moose. Keep to one side of the sternum for an easier cut.
3 CREATE CORD Cord is a primary survival tool, essential for fashioning bowstrings, lashing gear, and strengthening braces for shelter. The hide of almost any animal can be rendered into strips using a circular cutting technique. Drive the knifepoint into a flat wood surface, then pull the hide into the blade in a circular pattern to make a long strip. A guide peg driven into the wood maintains an even cut.
4 MAKE A FIRE STARTER If you can’t find dry kindling for building a fire, you can use your knife to make some in the form of a fuzz stick. Rest the end of a stout stick on the ground, then shave downward to lift curls of dry wood. At the end of each stroke, pry outward with the blade to spread the feathers. The end result will burn readily.
DOUBLE-DUTY HUNTING KNIFE
The following features make a knife perfect for woodcraft as well as for field dressing deer: [A] Blade: Five finger widths in length. [B] Spine: Flat for pounding with a baton. No upper finger guard. [C] Handle: Rounded and smooth with a tang that extends through the handle for strength. [D] Butt: Made from shatterproof material so that you can pound the knife point-first.