BEATING AROUND THE BUSH
Testing three Sargent Edged Tools in the field
Clean, rugged, practical, smart.
These are the words that first come to mind when asked what I think about the work of Brian Sargent. Brian is a highly sought-after maker who produces knives that don’t last for very long on various online forums and his social media pages. He’s a true American and patriot, and his knives are a combination of classic designs and modern technology and materials. Brian is a “make-it-happen” kind of guy, and he knows how to make a particular design work. He’s able to get incredible performance out of tried-and-true steels such as O1, and his designs simply work.
This is easily recognized the first time you handle one of his blades. My students have brought his blades to my courses over the years, and I had to get my hands on some to try them out for myself. So, after some great conversations and some good back-and-forth online, Brian sent me a box of blades to choose from.
I picked the top three to accompany me into the field—from the frozen Northeast all the way to the tropical Hawaiian island of Kauai. The Sargent Edged Tools were worked hard in the great outdoors in both of these environmental extremes. It wasn’t easy choosing three to focus on, but once you read what follows, you’ll understand why this trio of tools was carefully selected to tackle anything Mother Nature could throw at me.
THE BELT KNIFE: SARGENT EDGED TOOLS M3
The Sargent Edged Tools M3 Generation 5 is an all-purpose, 4.5-inch belt knife for all bushcraft tasks. With a 1/8-inch-thick blade that features a very distinct curve to the tip, the M3 is meant for slicing effortlessly; and with a keen Scandi edge, it push-cuts cleanly. The handle of the M3 is smooth and comfortable in all possible grips and long enough so that the butt of the handle extends past the palm of even the largest of the testers’ hands.
This knife can be used for extended periods of time without any risk of hot spots or blisters developing. The M3 comes with a beautifully finished, 10-ounce tooling leather sheath that has been waxed for a snap fit. A “pull-the-dot” snap on the back of the sheath allows the user to attach or remove an optional drop-leg loop that lets the sheath swivel as the wearer moves about or sits down. Being able to rock the handle forward or back allows the user to easily draw the blade from its sheath.
During testing, I subjected the M3 to tasks normally found within bushcraft circles.
When axes aren’t available, batoning is often the solution. I used the M3 to pound through seasoned maple and beech with a heavy baton. I also used it to cut through cordage—a lot of cordage. I push-cut through 1-inch Manila rope and left a mess of fibers behind. The Manila cordage split apart with some effort and really worked against the sharpness of the edge.
I also used the M3 to carve various projects such as tent pegs, pot holders and a few dinner steaks. Suffice it to say, the knife was well used, showed a good patina but was still working-sharp. What I mean by this is that it wouldn’t cleanly cut through looseleaf paper, but it would still carve feathersticks for fire-starting.
I took the M3 to a set of Arkansas stones from Dan’s Whetstones. Working from medium coarseness to ultra-fine, I worked the M3 back into shape in no time.
Considering the amount of cutting done with this blade, the steel’s condition after some hard use is a testament to the Peters’ heat-treat and Brian’s workmanship.
I WAS EXTREMELY IMPRESSED BY THESE THREE BLADES; THUS, THEY HAVE EARNED MY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
THE CHOPPER: SARGENT EDGED TOOLS SERECHETE
The Serechete is a new take on the beavertail machetes of yesteryear. Far from the exotic and impractical “zombie-slayer” designs with impractical points and serrations, the Serechete is meant to be a multi-purpose blade capable of heavy-duty work or fine carving.
The Serechete has a unique blade grind with a Scandi grind nearest the ricasso that transitions into a convex grind that extends around the beavertail. This allows the user to carve with a choked-up grip or chop with a traditional saber or hammer grip.
Speaking of grips: The Serechete’s handle is, by far, one of the best I’ve ever used in the field. Even when covered in rain, sweat and mud, it was exceptionally easy for me to maintain a good purchase on it. I normally shy away from cord-wrapped handles, because any raised surface on a working blade will cause hot spots. The thin-diameter jute twine impregnated with epoxy provided just enough texture without causing any blisters.
For those who have never used a sharpened
beavertail tip, it handles much like a large gouge. It can be used for scraping out hollows in logs to make bowls to boil in with rocks, and it works exceptionally well for digging in soil. The sharpened tip, when probed into the soil carefully, will cut right through roots. (For those of you who are wondering, it’s easy to differentiate when you make contact with a rock or a root.)
In the field, I used the Serechete for chopping down and splitting bamboo for various projects, as well as for preparing fruit for midday snacking on the trail. It was easy to use as a draw knife for carving and as a slicer in thicker green vegetation. This large blade handles extremely well and is very lively in the hand. It does not feel like a heavy-duty sharpened pry bar; rather, it feels more like a large camp knife.
In letting others examine and use the blade, they also remarked about the comfort experienced with the handle, as well as the overall finish of the blade. For full disclosure, I must admit the blackened finish, like all finishes, will wear in spots of frequent use. My sample shows plenty of character after numerous days in the field.
CLEAN, RUGGED, PRACTICAL, SMART. THESE ARE THE WORDS THAT FIRST COME TO MIND WHEN ASKED WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE WORK OF BRIAN SARGENT.
THE PERSONAL KNIFE/NECKER/BACKUP: SARGENT EDGED TOOLS MATILIJA
When a knife is too large, it is impractical to wear it 24 hours a day; when a knife is too small, it loses some of its utility.
The Sargent Edged Tools Matilija is an excellent blade for daily and nightly carry. Designed as a miniature S.E.T. Model 1, the Matilija is sized just right for use as a neck knife or ultralight blade for the backpacker. It features a Scandi grind, so it is the perfect knife for the casual carver who sits around the fire and fiddles with various bushcraft projects.
Whether in my hands or the smaller hands of a couple of female testers, the knife was comfortable and remained very sharp after considerable use. When sharpening was necessary, I used a traditional stone. Some of the modern super-steels require diamond hones, but O1 steel can be sharpened with a combination of Arkansas stones and light pressure.
I wore the Matilija while hiking in very damp conditions. The deep pocket sheath helped protect the knife steel from exposure to my sweat and the rain. The polished edge of this knife took on a deep-purple patina the more I used it—as any O1 steel will. The rear flared handle tube was used as a lanyard hole; and, with a small length of paracord, the Matilija was easily extracted from the sheath.
In terms of fire-starting with a ferro rod, the Matilija was the best of the three knives I tested. Its 90-degree spine and compact size enabled me to reach into fire rings and inside a fire lay without knocking over my tinder or kindling.
The Matilija was designed as a small backup blade, but it could easily be used as a primary knife—in conjunction with a folding saw and small hatchet. It is the smallest fixed-blade knife I would be comfortable using as a primary belt knife without feeling inadequately prepared. However, for smaller-statured users, this knife is the perfect size.
[BRIAN IS] ABLE TO GET INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE OUT OF TRIED-AND-TRUE STEELS SUCH AS O1, AND HIS DESIGNS SIMPLY WORK.
i The Serechete worked as a strong chopping tool, as well as a fine working knife. The author used it to prepare fruit on the trail on multiple hikes and found it handled like a large knife.
i The Serechete comes with a heavy-duty Kydex sheath featuring a fuller indentation that provides some extra retention on the blade.
i Right bottom: The Serechete cut deeply into thick, dried bamboo. The convex edge held up and was not deformed after repeated use.
i Right middle: The Serechete finish protected the 1095 steel while cutting through green vegetation and only started to show wear when working with dried woods and materials.
i Right top: The author uses the Serechete to process bamboo while on the Nā Pali coast of the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
h The M3 from S.E.T. comes with a 10-ounce leather sheath that is waxed for a snap fit and equipped with a drop-leg adapter that is easily attached and removed with a pull-thedot snap.
h Author Estela was able to return the S.E.T. M3 to razor sharpness with a series of Arkansas stones from Dan’s Whetstones.
h The M3 handle scales are secured with brass Corby bolts.
Below: The S.E.T. M3 was push cut through Manila rope multiple times. The ⅛-inch-thick blade and sharp Scandinavian grind were hardly affected by this test through this tough medium.
Above: The author used the M3 by Sargent Edged Tools to baton through seasoned maple and beech. The knife showed no noticeable wear, except for some rub marks on the shoulder of the side of the blade.
Top right: The Matilija developed a deep patina during testing. This natural process actually protects the blade from rusting.
Bottom right: The Matilija carry package comes with a deep Kydex pocket sheath with an ULTICLIP attachment.
Above: The Sargent Edged Tools Matilija is a compact belt knife with a substantial handle for comfort and a keen Scandi edge for carving.