The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Survival Knives

Perfecting the Core Four: Survival Instructor Creek Stewart Chats With Knife Depot

This is the first of a two-part series with survival expert Creek Stewart.  Tomorrow, Creek will be sharing his tips on picking out the perfect survival knife.  We’ll also be giving away a BlackBird SK5 — Creek’s primary survival knife — to one lucky reader along with two copies of his book.  Scroll to the bottom of the article to learn how to enter.

“I like to live what I preach,” said 36-year-old survival instructor Creek Stewart across a cafeteria table at the Cobb Galleria during the 2013 Blade Show. “I don’t just put survival instructor on my resume.”

A few minutes of conversation with Stewart, who founded and operates Willow Haven Outdoor survival school in Indiana, quells any doubts about his survival chops.

The former Boy Scout turned survival guru and bestselling author rarely goes anywhere without his “Get Home Bag,” a pack full of items ranging from energy bars to a Leatherman that ensures he’ll get home safely if disaster strikes.

At the Blade Show, he was wearing a BlackBird SK5 in a leather sheath on his hip and also had a Leatherman and a Spyderco knife in tow.

But what makes Stewart stand out from the pack isn’t his gear, but his survival philosophy. It’s a blended approach, which he calls “prima-modern,” that utilizes both modern tools and primal survival skills to meet the four core basic needs: shelter, water, fire and food.

A Passion for the Outdoors

An Eagle Scout at 14, Stewart grew up on a farm and developed a strong appreciation for both nature and self-reliance skills at an early age.  When he was in college, he wrote and self-published a guide on survival that he sold to the Boy Scouts.  He began teaching survival courses at 21, but without a full time facility was limited to mostly one day courses in his area.

Then about 4 years ago, he purchased Willow Haven Outdoor, a 21-acre survival school replete with a 10,000 square foot lodge.  Stewart now hosts 1-day and 3-day courses every year from May until November and said he serves a huge range of attendees, from 10-year-olds to 80-year-olds.  The approach at Willow Haven is somewhere in the middle in terms of intensity and Stewart said he’s developing a niche for instructing families.

“There’s one extreme where people come to a survival course and expect to strip down to a leather thong and only take their knife into the woods with them for seven days and starve, then there’s the classroom survival stuff — we’re perfectly in the middle,” he said.

In a typical class, students will receive hands on instruction to learn between three to five survival skills from each of the core four survival areas.

In addition to teaching, Stewart has also taken his survival skills to the literary world.  He recently published the Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to perform many of the survival skills utilized by characters in the “Hunger Games.”

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How to make a spear from a survival knife and channel your inner Fred Flintstone

We’ve all been there before: lost in the deep recesses of the woods, with nothing more than a trusty survival knife and an insatiable desire to build a badass spear.  Whether you’re looking to pick up a new survival skill or simply channel your inner Fred Flintstone and impress some friends, spears are not only handy, they’re also downright cool.

Here’s the blow-by-blow on how you can build a spear from a survival knife.  Check out our tips and let us know what you think.

Find a good stick

First, you’ll need to look for a sapling or a stick that’s approximately five feet long.  It’s crucial that your stick is strong, so spend a few moments slashing and waving it around to ensure it’s comfortable and durable.  If you think you found a winner, then chose the flatter side of the stick for the back and the other for the point.

Cut and Shave

Now that you’ve got your wood, hold it downwards at a 45° angle and place your knife approximately 4 inches from the back of the stick. Proceed to shave the stick down at a 45° angle and rotate the stick in your hand so that all edges are sharp and even.  Continue this process until the stick forms a sharp point.

Harden in Fire

Now, you want to place your spear point over the hot coals of fire, rotating it for a few minutes.  This will dry out the wood, making your spear sharper.

Create the Shelf

Find another sapling between 3 and 5 feet.  You will need to cut off the ends to ensure that the stick is flat.  Press your knife on the stick with the whole blade point over the edge and make a mark on on the stick where the blade handle ends with your knife.

Add the Knife

Split the stick in half lengthwise down to the point you made at the end of the knife handle.  From here, use a knife to cut off half of the stick to create the shelf.  Now, lay the knife in the shelf, with the handle on top and the blade sticking out the end of the stick.  Lastly, lash the knife with rope, cord, twine or any other material available and unleash your most primal scream.

Check out the video below for a cool visual tutorial?  Got a better version?  Let us know in the comment section below.

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Afraid of a zombie apocalypse? Get the Apocalypse Survival Kit from Gerber

Imagine this scenario. You wake up from a coma in an abandoned hospital. You can’t tell how long you’ve been out, but things seem to be completely different from what you once knew. As you’re exploring, you come across a group of hideously decomposed bodies. The only problem is these dead guys aren’t really dead at all. They are actually flesh-eating zombies looking to kill you. What could you possibly do?

Well, in the likely event of a zombie apocalypse (2012 is just a few weeks away, you know), Gerber is selling an Apocalypse Survival Kit, which comes equipped with three types of machetes, an axe, a fixed blade knife and a folder. Gerber knives, which is a brand that’s no stranger to exposure on television (see Bear Grylls), supplied these items for the season opener of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead.

Since Gerber was able to help out the characters of the show with some amazing tools, they figured it would also benefit the greater population to offer the tools as a proactive measure for that inevitable zombie invasion. Unfortunately, the kits sold out quickly, but you can still buy each of the tools individually. For example, no apocalypse survivor or self-proclaimed zombie hunter should go without this badass Gerber Gator Machete Pro or awesome Survival Series Bear Grylls Parang.

If you’re having any doubts about the usefulness of these tools against an army of undead, check out the descriptions found on Gerber’s site.

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Talking survival knives with survival expert Leon Pantenburg

The Cutting Edge recently spoke with Leon Pantenburg, who runs the fantastic site Survival Common Sense and teaches survival courses, on what makes a good survival knife. To learn more indispensable survival skills, check out his site.

1. What are the traits of a good survival knife?

It depends on the person and where you are. In the wilderness I would want a non-folder, fixed-blade knife with a good sheath and want the blade to be between 4 to 6 inches long. I don’t want a serrated edge, I don’t want a gut hook, and I don’t want a handle that’s going to be slippery because this knife will be called upon to do a myriad of things.

Also, it’s critical that it’s lightweight and compact because otherwise it won’t be carried. It doesn’t matter how good of a piece of equipment it is. If it’s back in the car because it’s too heavy, then it does you no good.

2. Do you think a straight edge, serrated or partially serrated blade is best?

I don’t like serrated for a number of reasons. One, their value is limited. They’re good for sawing ropes and that’s pretty much it. Two, once they get dull, most people can’t sharpen them without special equipment. Three, the serrated edge takes away a good chunk of your knife’s usefulness because you can’t really slice with a serrated edge. Generally, I don’t see any value that warrants taking an inch or two from your blade to have serrations on it. I must point out that most of these survival knives are designed by people who work in cubicles and don’t use the equipment.

3. For those who might not know, is there a difference between a survival knife and a combat or tactical knife?

This whole tactical thing is a joke. They take a knife, blacken the blade and call it a tactical knife. In reality, a tactical knife with a blackened blade is only useful if you’re sneaking up behind someone in the dark or some fantastic situation that’ll never happen. If you look at World War II knives that were actually tactical, they weren’t all camoed up. If you look at a Marine KA-BAR knife, which was a standard tactical or combat knife, it looked like a normal knife. I never heard of anyone getting shot because someone saw their knife.

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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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The Lowdown on Survival Knives

Dark Ops Survival Knife

Dark Ops Survival Knife

A pocket knife is adequate for a number of outdoor tasks, but if you’re a bona fide survivalist, a serious hunter or a Rambo-enthusiast, you’ll want a bigger, burlier, survival blade. Here’s a look at how the survival knife changed over history and what it represents today.

Survival knife prehistoric history

The survival knife has likely existed in some form for thousands of years. When German hikers discovered Otzi the Iceman, Europe’s oldest mummy, he had a flint knife in tow.  He likely used that knife to skin animals, start fires, build shelters and defend himself from everything from bears to human attackers.

Jim Bowie, survival knife inventor, fighting machine.

It’s difficult to imagine a historic figure manlier than Jim Bowie. Whether he was operating as a backwoods pirate in the swamps of Louisiana or slaying Mexicans with his back to the wall at the Alamo, Bowie was one of the toughest knife-wielding renegades of the 19th century and a key contributor to the legacy of the survival knife.

In 1930, Bowie designed the most famous version of his Bowie Knife, a monstrous 9.5-inch blade similar to a butcher knife.  The knife blade curved at the end, making it especially apt for skinning dead animals; its straighter section was ideal for chopping or cutting smaller items.

However, the most infamous use of the Bowie knife was combat.  In 1827, Bowie was a principal at a duel, later termed the sandbar incident, that ended in him being attacked and shot. Bowie defended himself with his Bowie knife, disemboweling one man and nearly slicing off the arm of another.

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Top 5 Movie Knives (That You Can Also Own)

Movies provide us with a variety of long-lasting cultural tidbits, from famous quotes to iconic costumes. However, some movies have knives that transcend the fantasy of the big screen and enter the commercial market because of their overall impressiveness. That’s why I’ve decided to create a top 5 list of most memorable movie knives.

While there are many notable knives that appear on the big screen, I’ve decided to make this list only include knives (swords will get their own list) that have become so iconic that they are now commercially available. If you think other knives deserve to be on the list, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Here we go.

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Sharpening Your Knife in Survival Situations

Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about knives being used in extraordinary circumstances, like the case of Aron Ralston or my recent post about doctors using a Swiss Army knife to amputate a man’s legs.

These are just two examples of survival situations where a dull knife simply won’t cut it, literally and figuratively. In many survival situations, knives become dull from overuse, and there are no sharpening tools available.

If you ever find yourself stranded in the wilderness, here are some things you can do to sharpen and hone your knife.

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Buying Knives on The Thailand-Burma Border

Burmese Knife VendorWhen I arrived in Thailand last month, I only received a 30-day tourist visa. It expired this week and in order to renew it, I had two options: either trek 14 hours to Laos and hit up the Thai embassy for a 60-day visa or take a 3-hour jaunt to the Burma border, walk across for 30 minutes and be granted an automatic 15-day extension upon my return.

I chose the latter.

The border connects the Thai village of Mae Sai with the Burmese town of Myawaddy, which has a lively market that is occasionally jolted by bombs set off by Burmese rebel groups.

It’s a good place to buy  DVDS, watches, clothes, electronics and pretty much everything under the sun for a fraction of the price it would cost you in the West. While stumbling through the myriad stalls, I came across a woman selling knives.

She had a little selection of tactical knives, most of which seemed outrageously cheap.  I ended up buying a Dark Ops Stratofighter Stilleto, which retails for $250 for 500 baht ($15).

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Bear Grylls Gerber Ultimate Survival Knife

In the word of survival, it’s hard to best Bear Grylls.  The star of Man V. Wild spends most of his TV-time hurdling cliffs, dunking himself in sub-zero ice pools, eating vile animal parts and doing other badass stuff that only a guy whose first name is Bear can do.

At his side is usually a survival knife, which is probably why Gerber decided it was wise to team up with Grylls to pump out a signature collection of Bear Grylls blades.

The latest knife to be unveiled is the Ultimate Knife, a 4.8-inch, stainless steel, serrated, drop-point blade with a range of other features.

One of the most impressive features is the fire starter, which consists of a ferrocerium rod that locks in the sheath and can be rubbed against a striker notch on the back of the knife blade to produce sparks.  The knife also has its own diamond sharpener for sharpening on the go.

The knife’s sheath is made of lightweight nylon and contains an emergency whistle and special survival instructions from Bear, in case you get stuck in a sticky situation and need some sage advice.

The knife is available from a number of distributors and retails for around $60  Anyway, if you want to see the blade and get a description from the Bear himself, here’s a short promo video.

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Jungle King 14-inch Hunting Knife w/ Survival Kit

Two of my favorite knives are hunting knives and survival knives, which is why this heavy-duty Jungle King hunting knife has me so enthused.  It’s essentially a hunting knife and survival knife in one.

At 14 inches, it has a freakishly huge blade, making it great for cutting through brush when trekking deep into the woods.  I’ve also used it to cut pieces of firewood, and thought I’ve yet to skin an animal with it, I’m fairly confident it’s up to the task.

The knife comes with a stainless steel fixed- blade with a clip point, which makes it excellent for stabbing and tearing.   Its top edge is serrated and can saw through wood if necessary.

A slick-looking jungle green nylon sheath is included and comes with some lagniappe in the form of a full-fledged survival kit, which contains:  a multi-function skinning knife, can opener, slingshot, matches, compass, sewing kit, fishing kit, band aids, tweezers and more.

You’re not going to use all of this survival gear every time you hit the woods, but having it there gives you a  host of tools to choose from.  I dig that, and it’s another reason why I’m such a huge advocate of this knife.

Another is the price.  The Jungle King Hunting Knife only costs $50, which is significantly less than many other hunting knives in its class.

Lastly, this is just a rugged-looking blade.  I’ve never been one to prioritize style over substance, but when the substance is there, the style is a plus.

If you’re going to buy a survival knife, you might as well buy one that looks like it’s capable of slaying a mountain lion, skinning it, clearing brush for a campfire to roast it and finally slicing its tender morsels into tasty pieces for you to enjoy.

That’s exactly how I feel with this survival knife in tow.

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