Knives Illustrated

EDITOR’S EDGE

- BY STEVEN PAUL BARLOW

Idon’t like restrictin­g definition­s. In this issue, we have a special section that’s labeled “Bushcraft.” Some of it mentions survival, such as Jim Cobb’s excellent article on knives the survival instructor­s choose. I’m hoping to avoid any debates on what exactly constitute­s bushcraft and survival, specifical­ly when it comes to the knives involved. I’ve heard those arguments before. Bushcraft, as I see it, is a minimalist approach to setting up housekeepi­ng, especially in wild places, just as Reuben Bolieu did in Malaysia as he discusses in his story on parangs. You make use of the resources in the surroundin­g environmen­t to improvise the things that you didn’t drag along with you. While that constitute­s entertainm­ent for Reuben (he’s a little crazy), it’s great practice for you and me should we ever find ourselves in a survival situation. I suppose you could insist that a survival knife by definition has a certain length blade or that a true bushcraft knife must have a certain blade shape and grind. But let’s face it, any knife is a survival knife when you’re stranded, cold, and alone, weighing whether you should try to get out on your own or stay put and await rescue. Definition­s won’t matter then. You’ll use the knife you have. Any bushcraft skills you have might help you to survive. Of course, some knives are better suited to the task than others. A knife must be sharp, but that doesn’t narrow the field because all the good ones are sharp. What it comes down to is how a knife handles in performing the cuts needed to fashion the things that might help you to prevail. You don’t want to fight the knife when everything else seems to be against you already. Does what’s typically considered a bushcraft knife make a good survival knife? Probably. But survival situations can vary greatly. Who can say in advance what exactly you might face? Will you be hacking your way through the jungle, procuring firewood in a blizzard, building a shelter, or making cooking utensils to eat the frog you just caught with the spear you made? I always have a metal spoon in my kit, so in my case, I probably won’t have to whittle one. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good skill to have. Find the knives and other edged tools that fit your hands, and make the cuts you need seem as close to effortless as possible. You’ll only know by working with them. Don’t worry if they’re labeled bushcraft, survival, or neither. One size doesn’t fit all. Bushcraft and survival are intertwine­d, not distinct categories.

TAKE A BREAK ON US

You look like you could use a vacation. I always had you pegged as a winner, so why not enter the Knives Illustrate­d Giveaway? The prize is a $1,500 gift certificat­e to use at any Airbnb rental on the planet. Start thinking about where you’d like to go. It costs nothing to enter, so get all your friends and family to enter too. Even your Uncle Fred.

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