Test­ing three Sar­gent Edged Tools in the field

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Kevin Estela

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 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.



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.



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.


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.

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