Three tough cut­ting tools

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Reuben Bolieu

Ex­pat—some­one who has left his or her home­land to live or work in an­other coun­try, usu­ally for a long pe­riod of time.



Ex­pat Knives, named af­ter a long-time and highly sea­soned as­so­ciate of the ESEE team (it’s com­pli­cated, so be sure to read the side­bar on page 96), is a new di­vi­sion of ESEE Knives. Sim­ply put, ESEE, a die–hard, made-in-the-usa knife com­pany, now of­fers a line of qual­ity knives from a num­ber of re­gions around the world with the Ex­pat series. There will be dif­fer­ent tools, de­signs and col­lab­o­ra­tions made by top-notch man­u­fac­tur­ers—some over­seas, some in Latin Amer­ica and some in the USA.


The first col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ex­pat and ESEE is the Amer­i­can-made CL-1 cleaver. Al­though once a more per­ma­nent res­i­dent of the kitchen, the cleaver is mak­ing a strong show­ing else­where.

The CL-1 cleaver is made in Idaho and is a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of old-world ma­te­ri­als and New

Age tech­nol­ogy, high-car­bon 1095 steel for the blade and thick, Amer­i­can-raised leather for the sheath. This hunk of steel is not a flimsy Chi­nese cleaver; it is a camp and kitchen all-pur­pose tool. It will ready your camp­fire to get some good cook­ing coals while you process your pep­pers, chicken, onions and toma­toes for kabobs.

I en­joy cook­ing in the out­doors quite a bit, so my at­ten­tion grav­i­tated to­ward the cleaver in­stantly. How­ever, rather than do a reg­u­lar type of “camp cook­ing” sce­nario, I de­cided to keep it in­doors, be­cause there are fewer lim­i­ta­tions.

My first im­pres­sion of the cleaver was that it had some heft. It wasn’t a typ­i­cal Chi­nese-style cleaver, which can be used as chef’s knife due to its light­weight, thin blade. Ex­pat’s Cleaver is 25 ounces with a 3/16-inch-thick hunk of steel, just per­fect for one of my fa­vorite things to cook—chicken soup. When I re­ceived this cleaver for test­ing, it was win­ter in the North­east. Noth­ing goes down like a hot bowl of soup upon re­turn­ing from the snowy woods, so I put the cleaver to work.

I de­cided to quar­ter a whole chicken and use cer­tain parts for the soup and save the rest for the freezer. Quar­ter­ing a chicken uses a com­bi­na­tion of fi­nesse and some chop­ping.

The cleaver was nice and sharp, so that made the work go faster. Mostly, I was cut­ting around joints, along with oc­ca­sion­ally pound­ing on the spine of the cleaver to help get through some bone and car­ti­lage. Sep­a­rat­ing the back­bone from the car­cass was where I got the chance to use a lit­tle power cleav­ing through the ribs. This was no prob­lem at all; even when chop­ping off the ends of the bones on the drum­sticks, the blade never nicked or dulled. How­ever, the chicken was only half


the work—i still had to pre­pare pota­toes, car­rots, cel­ery, onions, pars­ley and gar­lic.

I pre­fer a larger chef’s knife or even a Filipino bolo to pre­pare food with, so the heavy cleaver wasn’t too dif­fer­ent for me. I used a sim­i­lar tech­nique for cut­ting pota­toes and gar­lic, al­low­ing that one is way larger and that the smaller gar­lic took more fi­nesse and con­trol.

I gen­er­ally make a num­ber of scor­ing cuts ver­ti­cally, fol­lowed by a series of scores hor­i­zon­tally, leav­ing a bit of the gar­lic or pota­toes in­tact to help keep them to­gether. Then, they are sim­ply cut us­ing a rock-chop­ping tech­nique, via which the blade rocks from heel to point. This re­sults in a nice dice or small squares for pota­toes. This is usu­ally done with onions, but for the soup, I kept the pieces big­ger. I did the same with the car­rots and cel­ery, be­cause sim­ple, larger chunks work for me.

Chop­ping pars­ley and chives was no prob­lem for the cleaver, be­cause it is truly meant for the kitchen. I also chopped a frozen lamb bone to see if there would be

any edge-chip­ping or -rolling, but bone and wood are just no match for the Rowen heat-treat!


The Ex­pat’s short ma­chete (from El Sal­vador) is the Libertariat. It has a stout, thicker-than-av­er­age ma­chete blade suit­able for South­east Asia or North Amer­ica due to their harder trees. One out­stand­ing fea­ture is the util­ity of the large hole on the front por­tion of the blade. It has a cou­ple of uses: One is putting a stick in­side to help get a bet­ter grip when us­ing it as a draw knife. The other is that it can be hung up on nail or hook in the tool shed or camp.

The han­dle is made of wal­nut scales and in­cludes a lan­yard hole. The stout blade is meant to be a tool, so the flat front can be an im­pro­vised dig­ger or thought of as a safety fea­ture that won’t stab a per­son ac­ci­den­tally while the ma­chete is in trans­port or while you are work­ing with it.

A ma­chete has a role and re­gion in which it thrives. The Libertariat ma­chete is a shorter-than-av­er­age, Latin-pat­terned ma­chete with a thicker blade. This isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Thicker, shorter ma­chetes have a place in the North Amer­i­can wilder­ness, gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially over the last 10 years or so.

Amer­i­can-pro­duc­tion knife com­pa­nies and cus­tom knife mak­ers have been cap­i­tal­iz­ing on this, and there has been an in­flux of over­seas parangs, bo­los and goloks find­ing their way here as well. Blades from South­east Asia have thicker and shorter blades than most ma­chetes; it isn’t any won­der why Amer­i­can knife-lovers have grav­i­tated to­ward them. The Ex­pat Libertariat re­minds me of a straight-bladed, short parang I saw avail­able in Pe­nang, Malaysia, along with a sim­i­lar pat­tern in Thai­land.

I first used the Libertariat while help­ing a friend build his semi-per­ma­nent camp. We used saws, hatch­ets and knives over the course of about a week. At one point, we had no ax with us ... but I had the Libertariat. A bow saw did the heavy cut­ting for the large ridge­pole and the bed logs. How­ever, the Libertariat did the ma­jor­ity of the limb­ing and trim­ming of the lean-to poles, as


well as mak­ing all the stakes. It also helped get rid of the knots on the bed logs and lean-to poles, which were go­ing to be fit­ted with a tarp (the small­est rough spot or pro­tru­sion on a piece of wood can tear a hole in a tarp over a mat­ter of weeks, so the poles that were touch­ing the tarp needed to be smooth).

I em­ployed the Libertariat as a draw knife to help smooth out the lean-to poles. I put a stick through the small hole to­ward the tip as a han­dle for a more-pos­i­tive hold when draw­ing the knife back and forth. It was also used to get the bed logs in or­der. This did not re­quire too much pre­ci­sion—mostly a few chops to even out the lumps.

Four or more large stakes are needed to keep a raised log bed steady. The

Libertariat chopped through green beech wood that was be­tween

the thick­ness of a broom­stick and a wrist. To make the "di­nosaur"-sized stakes, I chopped a chisel point on the ends rather than a con­ven­tional point. It works just as well, if not bet­ter, at get­ting them pounded into the ground.

This is where I re­ally felt the ab­sence of the ax, but ev­ery­thing was done just as well with the Libertariat. Only tech­nique needed to be al­tered (which is a true woods­man skill): Mak­ing the stop cut in the notches was done with a strong chop, and the notch, rather than be­ing carved out, was chopped out as the stake was turned up­side down. The cham­fer­ing of the top por­tion to be pounded on was chopped, not carved, on these large stakes.

When mak­ing uten­sils and smaller stakes us­ing smaller branches, the Libertariat was per­fectly suited for these tasks (some­times, with the help of a ba­ton). The Libertariat will most likely be kept in the camp as the res­i­dent ma­chete/beater.



The Medellin, the com­pany’s util­ity fold­ing knife, is newer than the other two of­fer­ings, but it is per­haps a lit­tle more rec­og­niz­able—not for its name­sake once be­ing known as the most dan­ger­ous city in the world and home of the Medel­lín drug car­tel founded by Pablo Es­co­bar. Rather, it is rec­og­niz­able be­cause the clas­sic ESEE-3 knife has gone fold­able. Al­most iden­ti­cal in blade shape, han­dle thick­ness and over­all length, the Medellin is built to be rugged in use, yet smooth and fluid when de­ployed.

The frame­lock han­dle adds sim­plic­ity and strength to the tool. The re­versible pocket clip (tip up or tip down) and AUS-8 blade round out the pack­age nicely.

The Medellin fold­ing knife is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent of­fer­ing from the Ex­pat series than the cleaver. The made-in-tai­wan folder is a hard-work­ing, com­pact util­ity knife. It rides low in the pocket and has a slim de­sign, so there’s no bulk to be con­cerned with. I car­ried it tip down and

found all work­ing parts fluid. This knife felt very rem­i­nis­cent of the ESEE-3 blade ... be­cause it is prac­ti­cally its twin. The blade shape, length and width are the same as the clas­sic ESEE-3, so us­ing it felt more fa­mil­iar than if I were us­ing a new knife.

As a util­ity tool, the blade bit deeply into plas­tic zip ties, cut­ting them in short or­der. The blade had no trou­ble cut­ting through thin steel, be­cause its tough edge was ag­gres­sive enough for the task. I cut a lot of thin steel wire—sim­i­lar to snare wire—for hang­ing pic­tures. The edge seemed per­fect for all sorts of util­ity chores, such as cut­ting through card­board boxes and plas­tic ny­lon pack­ag­ing straps. Twine and 550 para­cord were no match for the Medellin blade; nei­ther was duct tape. Tip strength was good when used to punc­ture thin-gauge me­tal for mak­ing a hobo stove and on food cans for cer­tain crafts.

The thin frame­lock de­sign wasn’t al­ways com­fort­able when grip­ping hard and do­ing some tasks, but it was strong. Grip­ping the knife tightly just en­sured that the lock wouldn’t dis­en­gage.

As an added test, while wear­ing leather gloves, I held the knife re­versed at the end of the han­dle and gave it a few thumps on the back of the spine on a solid sur­face. Cheap, low-qual­ity fold­ing knives will of­ten buckle, and the lock will give. Nev­er­the­less, I tried it with the Medellin and was happy to see it re­mained strong—even more that: I didn’t cut my­self. (How­ever, I

don’t rec­om­mend try­ing this test!)

I was pleas­antly sur­prised when the Medellin was pushed into wood­work­ing ser­vice. It per­formed three very ba­sic bushcraft chores in the woods (to check its chops in case the knife needed to be used as a bug-out blade).

Mak­ing some­thing as sim­ple as a stake will tell you a lot about a knife and how it han­dles. I made a stake for a tarp (I al­ways have a few on hand for the times a stake needs to be re­placed, which seems all too of­ten in my camp). I formed a deep stop cut in a dry piece of beech wood and then carved out the typ­i­cal “7” notch on one end. The op­po­site end got a point that would go into the rocky ground.

Next, I made a sim­ple fuzz stick out of a chunk of maple. This is some­thing I’ve done count­less times with the ESEE-3. Sure enough—the blade shape made the wood curl where I wanted it to and just seemed al­to­gether ... well, fa­mil­iar. Lastly, I just put a sharp point on the end of a green stick to see how the Medellin would fare on green wood.

All three bush chores went off with­out a hitch and were just as easy as if I were us­ing the ESEE-3. The only thing I want to add about the Medellin is how the pocket clip can dig into the hand a bit when mak­ing stakes or force is ap­plied on harder cut­ting tasks. Then, again, it’s a util­ity folder and not meant for full-on wood­work.

AUS-8 steel is a de­cent fold­ing knife steel that is ac­tu­ally not too hard for the av­er­age user to sharpen. I used a small, ce­ramic pocket crock-stick (in a “v” shape)—noth­ing more—to bring back the edge.

The Ex­pat line will ex­pand with dif­fer­ent tools, de­signs and col­lab­o­ra­tions made by top-notch man­u­fac­tur­ers, over­seas, in Latin Amer­ica and the United States. Keep an eye out for new, out-of-the-box de­signs from Ex­pat Knives—mas­ter­minded by ESEE.

What­ever your ad­ven­ture, Ex­pat Knives prod­ucts are de­signed to en­hance it and en­able you to thrive.

Far right, top: When pushed into the out­doors, the Medellin de­liv­ered. Mak­ing a sharp point, a fuzz stick for fire and a com­mon tent/tarp stake com­prises ba­sic bushcraft chores—for which the knife re­ceived fly­ing col­ors. Near right: The Medellin’s...

Far left, bot­tom: The pocket clip can be at­tached in ei­ther a tip-up or tip-down po­si­tion. The steel frame lock is rigid, yet thin and com­fort­able.

Near left: Fit and fin­ish on the Medellin folder are what you'd ex­pect from ESEE, and the jimp­ing on the spine is ef­fec­tive with­out be­ing over­done.

Be­low: Sleek, smooth and very ca­pa­ble, the Ex­pat Medellin folder is a must-have item for your next ad­ven­ture. The su­per-sharp AUS-8 blade comes sharp out of the box and is eas­ier to sharpen than most stain­less steels.

Far right, top: Whether you ven­ture into the North Amer­i­can wilder­ness or the dark­est jun­gle, pack the Libertariat ma­chete for a lit­tle ex­tra sur­vival in­sur­ance. Far right, bot­tom: The Ex­pat Libertariat ma­chete, with wal­nut han­dle scales and a 1075...

Far left, mid­dle: The Libertariat has a han­dle that smoothly tran­si­tions into the blade, al­low­ing the au­thor to get close up when mak­ing notches for stakes or traps.

Far left: The Ex­pat Libertariat ma­chete, with wal­nut han­dle scales and a 1075 car­bon-steel blade, is a stout, for­mi­da­ble blade meant for hard use.

Near left: The au­thor used the Libertariat as a draw knife to smooth out the knots on the lean-to poles for a newly built camp. The hole in the blade helped the au­thor get a pos­i­tive grip on the tool.

Above: The Libertariat is put to work chop­ping some green hard­wood branches for stakes and uten­sils from a downed tree. The au­thor chops low be­hind him in a down­ward path for the safest fol­low-through.

The first of­fer­ing from ESEE’S Ex­pat series is a big, burly cleaver. Well-suited for wilder­ness and camp chores, it is a for­mi­da­ble tool in the kitchen.

The blade of the CL-1 is fin­ished in black ox­ide, which gives the tool a worldly look, sim­i­lar to your grand­fa­ther’s butcher knives. The stout, 3/16-inch-thick 1095 car­bon steel is as at home in the kitchen as it is in the woods.

Be­low: It might look a lit­tle rugged and out of place, but the CL-1 cleaver is an as­set in any kitchen. Cen­ter: The cleaver was used to process an en­tire chicken to make soup. From the quar­ter­ing of the chicken to chop­ping all the veg­eta­bles, the CL-1...

The flag­ship ESEE-3 next to the Ex­pat Medellin folder with AUS-8 stain­less steel blade. Mi­nus the choil, it is the spit­ting image of the car­bon-steel ESEE-3.

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