The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Knife Learning (page 2 of 4)

Survival Knife Tips: A Crash Course with Survival Expert Creek Stewart

This is the second of a two-part series from survival expert Creek Stewart. In addition to doing a Q and A with Creek on survival knives, we’ll also be giving away a  BlackBird SK5 — Creeks’ survival knife of choice – to one lucky reader and two copies of Creek’s new book.  Scroll to the bottom of the article to learn how to enter.  You can learn more about Creek’s survival school in our post from yesterday.

KD: So, what’s your survival knife of choice?

CS: I carry the Blackbird SK5.  It’s made by Ontario Knife Company and designed by Paul Scheiter.

KD:  Why this knife?

CS:   The core of my courses and what I do, especially with primitive skills, revolves around using a knife.  So there’s a lot of reasons why I use this knife.  First, for my my primary survival I want something simple. I don’t want a movie prop.  I don’t want something that’s off of Alien or Predator with big spikes on the back like you might see in Mad Max.  I just want something that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. That’s what this knife has.

KD:  What characteristics do you look for in a survival knife?

CS:  For a core survival knife, it has to be a fixed blade. Whenever there’s a hinge, there’s a weak spot. I don’t care how you look at it.  Even the best made folding knives aren’t going to compete with a fixed blade knife. And full tang– it’s got to be full tang.  I’ve seen partial tang and rat tail knives break under similar conditions that I use my knife.

KD: How can someone determine if a knife is full tang

CS:  A lot of times you can see the metal sandwiched between the scales, but if you can’t, see if the scales are removable. Lots of times rat tail tangs will have a button at the bottom, where you can see where they’ve pinched the bottom of the rat tail. Worse case scenario, call or email the manufacturer.

KD:  What about the pommel?

CS:   I like a flat, solid pommel. It’s kind of like a little hammer and you can use it to pound in stakes.  I also like a flat grind so I can strike my ferro rod with my knife.  That’s important to me.

KD:  What about size?  What’s the ideal range.

CS:  My sweet spot is about a 10-inch knife with a 5-inch blade.  That’s  small enough to do detailed stuff, like feather sets or carving fishing gorges, but it’s also big enough to baton through a tree with a diameter of 24 inches if I had to.  So size definitely matters — too big is too much and too little isn’t enough.  I’ve spent thousands of hours in the field using a knife the way it’s supposed to be used and I’ve been doing it long enough where I can say that I’ve made all the mistakes. I’ve bought the big boys and I’ve tried to get away with the little knives — the little neck knives — and there’s kind of a middle ground that I think is best.

KD:  What other knives do you carry when you’re in the woods?

CS:  I always carry a back up blade.  So on my EDC kit I carry a leatherman — the MUT — and typically a  little Victorinox or a folder like a little thumb-assisted Spyderco, but I always carry a backup, because you never know.  Even though there’s nothing I could do to break or destroy this knife, I could lose it.

KD:  What about price?  How much does the Blackbird run for and how much should somebody expect to pay for a good survival knife?

CS: This knife goes for about $120, which I think is a pretty fair price for a knife that you would expect to last a lifetime and maybe even pass on one day.  That’s the way I look at knives, I don’t look at them like a disposable tool. When I buy a knife, I expect to keep it.  I’d rather spend $100 on a really good knife, then buy five $20 knives, because you never know when a cheap knife is going to break.

KD:  What are some of pitfalls of buying a cheap knife?

CS: There becomes a point when the price is a reflection on the materials.  You can only make a knife so cheap without cutting corners somewhere, maybe it’s in the metal, maybe it’s going to corrode fast.  Look, you get what you pay for.  I don’t mind spending money on two things:  food and knives.

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Serrated Blade Sharpening Guide

Gerber Hinderer Rescue

Gerber Hinderer Rescue

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about sharpening straight-edged knives, but we haven’t focused much on serrated blades. While we always encourage those with serrated knives to get them sharpened professionally or by the manufacturer, it is possible to sharpen one yourself. You just have to know what you’re doing.

For a straight-edged blade, you would take a sharpening stone and simply run the knife across it, but doing that with a serrated knife will only grind off the serrations. This might give the blade a specious and temporary feeling of sharpness, but it’s very bad for the blade and you should avoid it at all cost.

Instead, you will need a sharpening rod—either made from steel or ceramic. The size you get is really important, but it also depends on the size of the serrations. If you’re using a large cooking knife with wide serrations, opt for something like the DMT Ceramic Steel. For most pocket knives with small serrations, go for the DMT Diafold Serrated Sharpener. This works with made types of small serrations because the rod tapers down at the end, so it fits various sizes.

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Knife Depot’s Gift-Buying Guide

Knife Depot's Knife Gift Ideas

Keys to Carving the Perfect Pumpkin

Halloween is synonymous with costumes and dark festivities. However, no tradition tests your creativity and knife-wielding skills more than carving a jack o’lantern. If you’re looking to carve the perfect jack o’lantern either to scare your neighbors or enter our pumpkin carving contest, here are a few important tips.

Pick the right pumpkin

The first step is actually picking a healthy pumpkin from the patch. In order to pick the right shape, you can go about it two ways. You can go in with a design already planned, so you can get a pumpkin that fits your plan. For example, if you want to carve a screeching cat, you might want a taller one. Or you could simply go in without a plan and pick the most uniform pumpkin with no scratches or bruises. You also want to make sure that the skin is firm.

Select a unique design

This one is entirely up to you, but you should be fully aware of your limitations and avoid something too ambitious for your skill level. You can create your own on a piece of paper or scour the Internet for inspiration.

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5 Features to Avoid on a Survival Knife

A survival knife is a piece of equipment that can literally save your life if all else fails. This tool can be used for hunting, building shelter, cleaning fish and even self-defense.

And for those looking to pick up a solid, all-around survival knife, the choices are plenty. While many of the survival knives being sold today are great quality tools, not all of them are perfectly designed for survival situations. So if you’re trying to buy the best knife for surviving in dire circumstances, these are the five features you don’t want on your survival knife.

Folding mechanism

The last feature you want on a survival knife is the ability to fold. A folder, while much more convenient, is also much more likely to break when used in survival situations. You want a knife that does not have moving parts or bits that can be easily broken. Even if it does have a lock, extreme pressure will sometimes break a knife. Instead, opt for a fixed-blade knife.


Serrated and partially serrated knives are all the rage these days. While there are plenty of good uses for serrations on certain knives, a fully serrated blade is a bad way to go. Serrations are mainly good for cutting rope, among a few other specialized activities. Everything you will be doing in the wilderness would require a plain edge. Also, serrated blades are impossible to sharpen on the fly, so if your blade dulls while you’re trying to survive, you’ll be out of luck. Instead, go for the plain-edged blade.

Gut hook

It might make sense to try to pack all the features into your survival knife like a gut hook. Wrong. You want a simple blade that will not make doing some of the important tasks, like slicing things, more difficult. You would likely rarely if never need a gut hook in survival situations.

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App gives chart for knife steel compositions

Most people’s smartphones are full of silly games like Doodle Jump or Angry Birds, but a new app brings back the functionality and reference that made smartphones such revolutionary items: the Knife Steel Composition Chart app.

OK, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but the app is definitely a must-have for those knife nuts out there. The app offers an easy reference for information about steel. Not only does it give you information about the composition of steel, but it gives some notes about the qualities and properties of the steel.

Here’s the description of the app from the iTunes store page:

Knife Steel Composition and name cross-reference database. Includes popular, high end and exotic alloys used in knife blades. About 4700 alloy names, over 900 compositions. Alloy names for 17 different international standards, proprietary names and their equivalents. Easy alloy composition comparison with bar graph in 3 modes: mass percentage, molar masses and atomic count per 1000 atoms.

S30V real name is CPM S30V. All Crucible CPM steels used in knives are in the database, including their aliases.

The app is available on iPhones and Android. It’s worth a download to learn more about the steel of knives you have or a knife you’re potentially buying from the store. Check out the links below to download the app.

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Anatomy of a Knife: 10 Key terms every knife enthusiast should know

When describing the basic parts of a knife, the terms seem pretty simple. You have the blade and the handle. It’s when you start talking to knife experts that terms like quillon and choil made you feel completely uneducated. So, whether you’re interested in talking to some of the big boys in the knife industry or simply want to learn more about knives, these are some key terms every knife lover should know.

Tip or Point: We’ll start at the, well… tip. This is the very top of the blade, which is also known as the point. The tip is a part of the knife that has various styles and designs. For example, some points are Tanto points, clip points, spear points and many more. If you want more details on the full range of blade shapes and variations at the tip, I encourage you check out Jay Fisher’s educational post.

Spine: The spine is the widest part of the actual blade and is also known as the back.

Edge: This is the thinnest part of the knife and, therefore, the sharpest. The edge is also sometimes designated the cutting edge to distinguish it from false edges, which are unsharpened. Generally, when someone mentions the edge, they mean the cutting edge.

Grind: The part of the knife between the spine and the cutting edge is known as the grind.

Ricasso: When your blade thickens before going into the handle, it’s called the ricasso. It’s that unsharpened part of your edge between the grind and the handle.

Bolster: Knives with bolsters sometimes have two: a front bolster and a rear bolster. These reinforce the knife in critical areas. It’s the thick part of the knife blade that transitions into the handle. It’s usually smooth and found typically on forged knives.

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How to swallow a sword (and not die)

There are many useful things you can do with a blade. For example you can cut tomatoes with a knife, use an axe to chop wood, skin a deer with a blade or put a sword down your throat. OK, so maybe the last example isn’t that useful, but it’s definitely cool.

After researching the story I posted earlier this week about renowned sword swallower Chayne Hultgren getting arrested, I became curious about how someone actually discovers this skill.Do they one day trip and fall head first, mouth open onto a sword and voila?

That didn’t seem too likely, so I took to the Internet and found that like juggling knives or throwing knives, it just takes a little practice.

Before continuing, I strongly advise you not to try this at home, especially with a real sword. This is not necessarily a how-to article, but rather a how-it’s-done article. Do not try this at home.

There’s nothing really magical about swallowing a sword, but it does take a lot of physical discipline and patience. For some, it takes years and hours of practicing before finally being able to swallow a sword. The Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) says it takes anywhere from three to seven years to learn.

The first and most basic thing you have to learn is to control your gag reflex. If you’re new and try to put a sword down your throat, you will gag and cut yourself for sure. That’s why you have to take it slow and practice with smaller objects. You have to invoke your gag reflex over and over until you become inured to the act. When you do active your gag reflex, be prepared for a world of discomfort and vomit.

Then, a performer must learn how to relax the muscles that are involuntary for everyone else. These muscles control the opening of the esophagus, which is where the sword enters your throat. You have to tilt your head all the back, relax your esophageal sphincter and guide the sword (or if you’re still just learning, another object) down your larynx.

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Make Your Own Knife for Fun or Survival

If you’re serious about knives, then there’s no doubt you’ve looked into how knives are made and have maybe even yearned to make your own.

About a month ago, I wrote a post on how to make your own knife out of a file. While making a knife that way is definitely legitimate, it requires some less common tools and machinery, which you would never find in the wilderness.

There’s actually a much simpler way to make a cool looking knife by flintknapping, which can also come in handy during survival situations.

For anyone not familiar with knapping, it dates back to prehistoric times and is often done with flint, obsidian, chert or other specific stones. Basically what you do is take something like copper cylinders, hammer away material and flake off the ends to make it sharp. Then affix a handle and you’re finished.

It actually only takes a few materials and tools to make a great looking knife that’s extremely sharp and functional.

If you’re good at flintknapping, you can also make some money. In a recent article in the Newark Advocate, writer Dick Martin said he knows a guy who sells his work at arts and crafts shows for $10 an inch.

So, if you’re interested in making your own knife whether for money or sale, here are some basic instructions on how to go about doing it.

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Blade Magazine to Host 30th Annual Blade Show in Atlanta in June

Blade Show Logo

Blade magazine will host its 30th annual Blade Show from June 10-12 in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you’ve never been before, the Blade Show is essentially the Super Bowl of knife collecting; if you have the time, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The event, which will be held at the Cobb Galleria, is the “world’s largest combined show of handmade, factory and antique knives.”  It will feature 700 tables and approximately 175 factory booths.

An award for the 2011 Knife-of-The-Year will be given for factory knives and there will also be inductions to the Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame.

Other highlights are: the 9th Annual BLADE Show World Championship Cutting Competition, forging demos and seminars on how to collect and make knives.

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