Saturday, 24 September 2011

Tools of the trade. The knife, The axe, and The gun.

Tools of the trade.

The Axe, The Knife, And The Gun.

The Axe.

When choosing your tools you must think about what the tool will be used for. Small axes are not used for cutting down large trees, if you need to do that then you need to pack along a felling axe. My tomahawk/axe is used to construct shelters, make traps, for recreational throwing, for self-defence, for hunting if needs be, and sometimes as an aid in butchering game.

I don’t need it for cutting firewood; there are plenty of ways to get firewood without having to use an axe. So what do I need? I need a light axe that I can easily make and fit a new helve to if one should get broken. That is it. I don’t care if it is slightly easier to cut saplings down & split kindling with a heavier hatchet, I don’t need the extra weight and I don’t need to split kindling wood. This choice has nothing to do with me living in Australia; I would make the same choice if I lived in the UK or in America. For me, it is simply the right tool for the job.

The Knife.

What do I need a knife for? Self-defence, skinning and butchering game, eating meat with, cutting up food, hunting if needs be, making trap parts. Now I don’t want to use my hunting knife for making trap parts, so I carry a jack knife as well.

I don’t need to split kindling wood at all, and if I did I would use my tomahawk, not hit the back of my blade with a chunk of wood! Someone said recently that it is hard to strike the right place on the end of a small piece of timber by striking it with a tomahawk. He was right, but this person also has no idea how the job should be done. You do not strike with the tomahawk blade when the target is too small, you simply place the blade on the wood and lift both wood and axe together and strike the wood on a firm surface. Knives were not originally meant to be used as an axe. You need the right tool for the job in hand.

Anyone who has done a lot of hunting will tell you that it is a good idea to carry a back-up knife. I carry a legging knife because it is out of the way and easy to retrieve.

A small knife like this is an excellent back-up for butchering or self-defence.

Dutch 1604.

The Gun.

The flintlock is a natural choice, either that or a gun from an earlier period or a bow. Once again you must consider what sort of game you are likely to be hunting, and in what sort of environment. I need an arm that is versatile, one that can shoot anything from small game to large game. Small game includes birds and rabbits so I really need to be able to use small shot, swan shot, and round ball. So the gun for me is a smoothbore, and I chose a 20 gauge/.62 calibre trade fusil with a 42 inch barrel.

This arm serves me well for self-defence using swan shot and ball [buck and ball] loads. The lock is also a good back-up tinderbox [fire lighting tool]. Being a smoothbore I can load this fusil faster than it takes to load a rifle, and it loads even faster again if I use paper cartridges. It is also lighter to carry than some rifles and muskets.

I don’t carry a lot of lead with me because more often than not I can retrieve the shot ball from the downed game and remould it. This means that I can carry more weight in gunpowder. I don’t need to carry patch material unless I intend to shoot over long distances which I never do. I will start off on a journey carrying patch material and wads, but it is not a problem if I run out of these items.

A word on hunting knives: The most commonly used hunting knife by Indians & woodsmen/woods women was the butcher knife, also known as a scalping knife. This knife was generally light with a long blade. The handle was riveted with pins, not the modern rivets with heads. Usually just three pins, but this is very general and there could be more or less pins depending on the style of butcher knife.

Above you can see a pinned handle and a 19th century knife handle which is riveted.


Gorges Smythe said...

Good choices, each, and they look woodsy besides!

Karl said...

Great Post Keith...

I totally agree with the right tool for the job... nothing eirks me more than watching someone split wood with a knife... a knife is a cutting tool to be looked after like your children.. it's not a splitting maul or wedge...




Le Loup said...

Thanks for the feedback Gorges.

Karl, you may be still a young bloke, but you are definately old school. Thumbs up.

Martin said...

Hi Loup!

Great post; as usual! I have a couple of questions:

How many buckshot go into your "Buck & Ball" load?

How far out is your self-imposed range of your smooth bore?

All The Best,


Bob Mc said...

Good one Keith. I cringe when I see someone splitting wood with a perfectly good knife, beating on the top of the blade with another piece of wood.

I'm not a reenactor, so my firearms are more modern, but your choice of a smooth bore makes good sense. For me that means a 20g single shot shotgun. It will take anything I care to shoot these days.

Le Loup said...

Hi Martin. 6 buckshot. I never shoot over about 50 yards, & usually a lot closer than that.

Bob. I have no idea why some people have this attitude towards tools like using a knife as a froe. I have been told that some modern knives are actually made to withstand such treatment, but it still goes against the grain with me.