Friday, 8 June 2012

Guest Speaker, Listen Up!

My friend Vieuxbois is not only a follower of this blog, but he is a valued international member of our 18th century living history group. What he has to say below regarding knives & battoning is in response to my recent article. It is really good to get the point of view from another person whos life is spent in the wild and often depends on the blades he carries with him.
My sincere thanks to Vieuxbois for this information.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

Frozen wood is ``brittle`` and easy to split. But it’s also very hard. Furthermore, steel is also more brittle when it’s very cold (it’s better to keep the protected blade warm by holding it close your body). So if I need to split frozen wood (which is rare and exceptional) there is more risk to damage a knife than an axe : an axe edge is generally thicker than a knife, there is more material to support the stress.

In my opinion, there are no reason for batoning with a knife unless if :

1. It’s not your choice, you need to do it : you are in a survival situation (or a survival training) with only a knife to work with, so you do with what you have, and you do it carefully because you want/need to preserve what you have like a treasure because your life depends on it. If you are in a true survival situation why would you risk breaking your knife? Break your knife and your chance of survival goes down.

2. You are playing like a kid, so you pay the game price.

3. It`s your choice, you want to do it : so you will use a very strong knife with an appropriate design/materials and heat treatment if you want to keep this tool in good condition. But does this very strong knife will do the same job than a thin blade? Of course I can carry both.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

From Thin, Sharp, Knives - Posted: 9 September, 2011 in http://bfelabs.com/2011/09/09/thin-sharp-knives/ : `` If you look around the working world, at the knives that are regularly used to do work, you might notice some startling differences between those knives and what is prominent in the popular knife industry. Particularly the “survival”, “tactical”, and “hard use” arenas of popular knife-making (both custom and production).
In these arenas we typically see heavy knives, from thick stock, with study handles and generally robust construction. We are told that this robustness is desirable, even absolutely necessary, for these tools to withstand the rigors of hard use. And the market sucks them up about as fast as they can be made, with companies like TOPS Knives producing ever-new variants of these beefy blades for battle and conquering barren-wastes. But what is being bought, and what is actually being used, are far different. What people actually work with is often something very different. The prominent working knife is not a robust, stout, knife but rather a thin, sharp, knife.
I was at a branding recently, out here in cattle country, and took note of the knives being used. For those unfamiliar, when branding calves it is also common practice to ear-mark with a notch in an ear and castrate. These tasks require a deft hand with a sharp knife, particularly when the calf is not forced into an immobilizing squeeze chute, but is rather roped out and held down. I’ve taken part in and observed this process numerous times in my life, and there is a great commonality to the knives being used: They are thin, sharp, knives. The same knives most of the cowboys and ranch hands carry in their pockets daily, and use for everything.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

The thin, sharp, knife is not unique to this environment, but rather common to every other. Moving out from the traditional slipjoint folder common to the ranching west, a survey of other traditional folding knife designs would turn up a variety of styles, locks, and construction methods, but one commonality: Thin, sharp, blades. Moving from folders, to fixed blade knives, we see the same variety in design and construction in traditional designs, but a great many have the same commonality of thin blades. The traditional Scandinavian knives, as typified by the Mora so common to woodscraft, are an easily accessible example of the type.
Thin blades are not limited to small knives, either. Many old-time woodsmen, frontiersmen, mountainmen, etc. who used big knives carried ones that, rather than resembling the Iron Mistress of Hollywood, more resembled a butcher knife, being thin although long. Now, some may use the argument that we know more than they did, and thus make more appropriate choices, but that is simply nonsense. Anyone who makes a living with a tool, or depends on it for his own life, on a day-to-day basis, knows far more about selecting the right type of that tool than anyone who does not do the same, no matter the other mans “knowledge”.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

If so many who’s lives depended on their knives choosing thinner blades historically holds little sway, then the fact that the trend is a modern one too should tell us something. Today, if we take a survey of the knives being used routinely, we would find many of them to be far thinner than what we’ve come to expect (or been told to expect). And not just small knives: While so many Americans and others influenced by the major knife market are of the opinion that a heavy, thick-spined, knife is required for chopping or “serious” woods work, much of the rest of the world relies on something far different; The machete, or some variant thereof.
Different tools are appropriate for different tasks. There is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a place for robust knives. One of the most valuable characteristics of contemporary knifemaking is the rise of robust locking systems for folding knives. The matching rise of the robust blade, however, may not be the best thing. But it is important to recognize that place, and use the right tool for the right job. For the majority of tasks for which a knife is used, a thick bladed knife is not the right tool. This includes many “hard” tasks, from woodscraft to cowboying to “tactical” environments (whatever those are). You aren’t necessarily wrong is you carry a robust knife for these, or even more mundane, daily uses, but you should ask yourself if that is truly what you need. Give some thought to whether cutting performance is a greater need than brute strength, and take a thinner knife better suited for cutting out for a spin sometime.``



Gorges Smythe said...

Wise words!

Bob Mc said...

A lot of good information there. Love the reference to the "Iron Mistress of Hollywood". I saw that rediculas movie years ago. The saying "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story" applies. :)

Ross Gilmore said...

Very good post. Thank you.

PaoloinUAE said...

I have a large collection of knives long, short, fancy, machetes, parang, kukuri (the Nepalese one), however if i would be in a survival situation with only one knife as a tool, small or large, the last thing I would do is batoning. Not only because a wrong hit can break the blade but because a good survival knife (that can be sharpened in the field without modern contraptions) is bound to get some damages to the bevels (like folding or chipping), if it doesnt like many of the knives on the market, it will be almost impossible to sharpen in the field. With the proper technique you can cut a bit more than thumb size branch with a standard 4" blade bush craft knife, Scandi grind and no more than 4 mm blade thickness. Splitting logs with a knife, no way in a survival situation, there is plenty of wood that can be harvested with bare hand and if you really have a lot of energies to spend (not a good thing in a survival situation) a belt ax would be more appropriate. In my recent expedition in Africa I saw the bush primitives never use their blades for chopping wood, they are too precious to be risked in such a rough task, chopping wood is done with a very primitive, but effective, small or medium ax. With due respect for the Africans, we might know a bit more than they do, however for sure they know how to conserve the little they have. I like long blades, but I dont like heavy blades, a little chopping is fine, but I woudnt touch anything more than 1 1/2" in diameter, is not worth the risk and the amount of energies spent.