TOOL TEST:

Does Silky’s Nata make t he cut?

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents - BY GRANT S P OL A NDER

‘LET’S CALL A SPADE A SPADE.’

Most of us are fa­mil­iar with the say­ing, but, de­spite the pop­u­lar­ity of this cliche, the value of the out­door and camp­ing mar­ket is based, to a large ex­tent, on you and I be­liev­ing dif­fer­ent.

A knife cuts things. For the most part, that’s all any of us want it to do, yet the de­sign, price and vari­a­tion of knives on the mar­ket is al­most in­fi­nite.

But what of an axe? A tool so sin­gu­lar in its pur­pose that even chew­ing gum found more uses in the hands of Macgyver. Can an axe re­ally vary in form and func­tion?

JACK OF ALL TRADES

Per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing any out­door en­thu­si­ast is the mat­ter of pack­ing space, or the lack thereof. Whether you’re a hiker, hunter, camper, off-road trav­eller, or gen­eral lover of the great out­doors, most of us are aware of our space lim­i­ta­tions.

Per­son­ally, I tend to be­lieve that trav­el­ling with too much gear is worse than trav­el­ling with too lit­tle. For this rea­son, I gen­er­ally favour equip­ment that is ei­ther mul­ti­pur­pose, or ver­sa­tile in its func­tion. The prob­lem, how­ever, is that a num­ber of mul­ti­pur­pose tools are ei­ther bad at ev­ery­thing, or not par­tic­u­larly good at any­thing. Which is why I view all ‘ lat­est and great­est’ mul­ti­tools with ex­treme scep­ti­cism. The Nata from Silky was no dif­fer­ent.

At first, I couldn’t quite fig­ure out what it was meant to be: Is it an axe, a ma­chete, or a gi­ant meat cleaver? Then I held one in my hands and re­alised that it’s all of these things, and none of these things. The Nata is a hy­brid tool that is an axe, a ma­chete, and a knife, all in one – mak­ing it the most unique out­door cut­ting-chop­ping­hack­ing-split­ting tool known to hu­mans (well, known to me). I’d even go so far as to say that the Nata is an evo­lu­tion­ary mile­stone for one of hu­mankind’s old­est tools.

But enough ram­bling – what can pos­si­bly make this … hmmm … axe-knife-choppy thing so much bet­ter than a con­ven­tional axe? Ev­ery­thing!

Aside from the ob­vi­ous fact that it looks com­pletely unique, what amazes me most about this blade is its weight dis­tri­bu­tion. It feels sur­pris­ingly well bal­anced for a tool that has a 240 mm blade and a 175 mm grip length. Part of this is due to the Nata hav­ing a fixed blade that runs all the way through to the butt. What this means (when you’re ac­tu­ally us­ing it), is you don’t get nearly as fa­tigued swing­ing it around as you would an or­di­nary axe.

Along sim­i­lar lines, most con­ven­tional axes fea­ture a heavy ta­per, where the back (or spine) of the blade is typ­i­cally far thicker than the edge. Nat­u­rally, this makes your av­er­age axe pur­pose­fully suited to split­ting logs, but it also means that your wrists have to work ex­tra hard to keep the top-heavy blade up­right and steady.

Ad­mit­tedly, a stan­dard axe is prob­a­bly a bet­ter log-split­ting tool (thanks to that ta­per), but at the same time, most axes aren’t great at pen­e­trat­ing – which is what you need when clear­ing bushes and fallen branches. This is gen­er­ally the do­main of ma­chetes and kukris, which have thin­ner blades that are de­signed to strike deep into ‘wet’ wood and branches. What most ma­chetes lack, how­ever, is the nec­es­sary mass and blade stiff­ness to split a log in half.

And that’s pretty much where the Nata slots in: some­where be­tween an axe, a ma­chete and a gen­eral-pur­pose out­door knife. So in­stead of hav­ing to own all three of these things, you can get away with just one. But the real dif­fer­ence be­tween these tools and the Silky Nata is the qual­ity.

As a self-pro­claimed knife nut, I would con­sider a Nata just for the steel qual­ity alone. Made from SK4 high car­bon steel, the Nata’s edge re­ten­tion and hard­ness is ev­ery bit as good as the phrase ‘Ja­panese steel’ im­plies.

And with that, we come to our fi­nal point – price. With­out a doubt, at R1 439, the Nata is go­ing to cost far more than most peo­ple are will­ing to part with for an edged (out­door) tool. Ini­tially, I thought the same way, but since own­ing one, I have sub­se­quently bought three Natas as gifts for close friends.

But what draws me most to this blade is that I don’t of­ten come across a prod­uct that is bet­ter than the hype that sur­rounds it. Sure, it’s go­ing to set you back far more than a gar­den-va­ri­ety axe, but this is no or­di­nary yard tool – this is evo­lu­tion.

Silky Nata Tool: Where are you: Wilder­ness, jun­gle, gar­den Chop­ping wood, clear­ing brush and branches, cut­ting thick steak What you might be do­ing?

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS WEIGHT: 0.6 kg Blade length: 240 mm Blade height: 49 mm Blade thick­ness: 5.0 mm Edge: Dou­ble edge Steel type: SK4 high car­bon steel

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