ESEE’S EXPAT FAMILY
Three tough cutting tools
Expat—someone who has left his or her homeland to live or work in another country, usually for a long period of time.
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-THEBOX DESIGNS FROM EXPAT KNIVES— MASTERMINDED BY ESEE.
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
ALTHOUGH ONCE A MORE PERMANENT RESIDENT OF THE KITCHEN, THE CLEAVER IS MAKING A STRONG SHOWING ELSEWHERE.
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 HEFTY MACHETE
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
THE EXPAT’S SHORT MACHETE (FROM EL SALVADOR) IS THE LIBERTARIAT. IT HAS A STOUT, THICKER-THANAVERAGE MACHETE BLADE SUITABLE FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA OR NORTH AMERICA DUE TO THEIR HARDER TREES.
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.
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 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.