The Cutting Edge

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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.

KD:  What other knife brands are you a fan of?

CS: Gerber makes some great knives, ESEE as well.  The Rat Series by Ontario are really great knives.  And then a few customer knifemakers — Kostner, Blind Horse.

KD:  What are you feelings about small customer knifemakers?

CS:  There’s something to buying a small production knife or a sheath.  It connects you to the spirit of American craftsmanship  There’s just more to it than something stamped out in China.  And it’s worth more danggit!  It’s worth more money. I imagine Paul, with this sheath, in his shop, in the basement, hand punching these holes — a machine didn’t do it.  It just has more value to me to know that somebody in the U..S made it.  And I think a lot of people kind of miss that.

Want to Own the Knife Creek Has?

Well, you’re in luck.  Knife Depot is going to hook up one lucky community member with a BlackBird SK5, the same blade Creek carries when he’s in the outdoors.   To win, leave a comment below before Thursday at 12 p.m. Central explaining what your #1 survival tool is and why.  One random winner will get the knife and two others will receive a copy of Creek’s book


  1. John M Hazlett

    July 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    My #1 tool is my WILL. Without a strong will one will not do well even the mildest of survival situations. Thanks for the opportunity to win such a sweet blade. Respect.

  2. The 1 thing that I will not leave the house without is a knife.
    A good blade can save your life when nothing else will.

  3. My knife is number one with it I can make shelter, rope, and a bow

  4. mitchell birch

    July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Usually I use my frost knife the most out in the woods. Clearing branches in the way or around the fire to make sticks to cook with. Even making small shavings to start said fire. My knife is usually the most important tool I camp with.

  5. i use my ka-bar. it is a little larger but works great. would love to try something different though.

  6. Grant Alvarez

    July 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    My #1 survival tool would have to be a good blade. Your will to live and wit are good but without the proper physical tools to use your skills you can only do so much. No matter if the blade is made of stone or steel you need a proper cutting tool to start fire, clean and prepare food, as well as cut branches and cordage to make shelter.

  7. I want one

  8. Mike McCarthy

    July 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    My number one survival tool is my mind. it allows me to adapt to any situation, making the best/most of what i have to allow me to survive. It allows me to control my actions and use whatever tools and materials available to ensure my making it through a situation.

    My mind also retains all the knowledge I have retained regarding survival techniques such as shelter building, food foraging and trapping and use and maintainance of any tools and knives that may be available.

  9. A knife like this is a must in a SHTF scenario. Whether from building fires, clearing brush and protection from wild animals. This would a great knife to carry in my vehicle and be prepared

  10. Kirk A. Bennett

    July 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    My best survival tool is a S&W Spec Ops folder. It is 7 years old and well worn but is with me always. I do have to agree with Mike McCarthy though. Nothing works without knowledge and ability. I would have said the same thing but he had dibs.

  11. Dennis Tillman

    July 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    A good quality knife is very important to have for everyday use and long term survival.

  12. My most important survival tool is common sense. I have enough sense to always be prepared for anything .. . I try to use common sense to figure out most situations… If in the woods .. and there is a creek.. follow down stream.. . it it is early in the day .. sun is east.. shadows are longer to the west .. later .. the opposite .. Even if I am empty handed there are a lot of things common sense can get you… shelter, food, water… Common sense before any tool or knife.. but a knife of many uses is sure the second thing!!!!

  13. Multi-tool just so many uses.

  14. A good quality blade always. Have knife will travel.

  15. Knowledge is my number one survival tool

  16. My one tool I never leave home for anywhere without is my gerber multi plier tool, it has gotten me out of more situations than I can count, has everything from scissors to a saw blade!

  17. I use my knife more than anythingin the field. From filleting a fish to processing wood to make a fire. It is the single most important tool you can carry.

  18. Has to be the Gerber folding blade my cousin gave me as a wedding party gift.

  19. Philip Clinton

    July 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I carry a BK-2 From BK/Kabar. Its tough and reliable. But I could use a good knife for my wife’s BOB and this would more than do the trick.

  20. I would love to win a BlackBird-sk5 thank you.

  21. My #1 survival tool is a Ka-Bar. Its simple, very durable with a blade that can withstand a whole lot of damage. Once it gets sharp, it stays sharp for a long time.

  22. my number one tool is my recent addition of my eod breacher bar that i did what most did and gave it an edge while keeping the main purpose of the tool which is a pry bar but a true survival fixed blade would be an awesome tool to have.

  23. Daniel Gustafsson

    July 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    My sense of direction. Without a sense of direction, it doesn’t matter what other tools you bring, you’re going t o have a hard time anyway. However, a good blade and som basic know-how is never a bad thing.

  24. Yes i Want to Own the Knife

  25. Chance favors the prepared.

  26. 1 thing comes in my mind, be ready and be prepared, and most of all never loose your edge..

  27. My no1 tool is my brain, and training…

  28. I want that knife.

  29. brad epperson

    July 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Being prepared is the best tool. I keep an old beater econo-blade in my car bag, but would love to upgrade. Hook me up. 🙂

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  31. I train my Boy Scouts to think, to study , and then apply practical thinking. This is a practical knife.

  32. mine would have to be my fathers gerber black knife

  33. It’s amazing how handy such a simple device is and yet in the wrong hands it can be a lethal weapon. I don’t even know the name brand of my favorite knife because it is so old the brand wore off. I know it is made in Japan and it says it is made of surgical steel. It is a semi assisted opening folding knife and I love it.

  34. I really enjoy Creek Stewart’s philosophy and admire his work because you can really tell that he is passionate and puts a lot of effort in whatever he develops. I read with great interest the interview you took and I appreciate the tips he makes on knives. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Creek Stewart is the man. I too really like the Blackbird SK5. This a good article and reference for anyone in the market for a survival knife.

  36. Hi there. This is an excellent interview and it really provides some insight on why you would want to spend the money on a good, high quality knife. One good knife is better than five subpar knives. I’m in the market for a new survival knife soon so this is great timing. Thanks!

  37. Nice to see what knives he actually uses in real life.
    My Wife is currently building her BOB based on his writings.
    Adding the Blackbird to our kits would be a nice touch.
    Currently, we both have multitools (me a leatherman, her a gerber) and one-handed folders (me a Buck vantage, her an old spyderco rookie).
    The Blackbird looks like a good size for either of us to use; we could also attach that sheath to the pack, so it is always there.

    Thanks for the interview, and the contest!

  38. Oh, I failed to mention…..

    Creek is the one ‘survival’ type writers that my wife pays any attention to. She obtained his BOB book herself, which would make it the only prepper type book she ever chose and bought on her own. That says a lot about the guy’s writing skills, and beliefs.

  39. Creek knows his stuff. Great interview!

  40. Fire Starter without that you can’t have pure water or cook food!

  41. My greatest survival tool is knowledge. Knowing to stay calm, as well as knowledge of survival skills are the keys to most survival situations. (Keep calm and carry on)

  42. Without a doubt a fixed blade knife is your main tool in the woods. My yrs as a Scout Master & floating rivers & hunting on my own, I was never w/o my knife. Creer’s knife may not be the best looking, BUT, looks won’t save your life!

  43. I use a Walter Brend Rescue that I was lucky to receive as a gift. I find myself being reluctant to hack on trees and branches just because I value it so much. I would love to have a blackbird as it may be a little more practical.

  44. I value my knife the most. Carry a Cold Steel Hunter for helping with shelter and dressing game.

  45. Creek says it best : surviving is simple , just don’t die. To me a good knife is life and a good knife will give you a good chance of surviving .

  46. I want more info on his neck knife please!

  47. I see a lot of good answers already posted so I’ll take a different direction. my most important survival tool is my attitude.I try to live in a mindset of peace and harmony. by living in harmony I don’t attract negative things. Pity to the thing that goes out of its way to hurt me as my Scottish blood may react., I never let anyone beat me when there is a confrontation.One of the reasons is I do everything I can to avoid them. I may use my sense of humor for example.

  48. jason hemberger

    July 14, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    my #1 survival tool would have to be my knife. it can be used to carve tent stakes, skin animals, make shelter, start campfires and prepare meals. there is nothing that beats a good knife on your belt ready for whatever task you ask it to do.

  49. Michael Morton

    July 26, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    It wasn’t until I started watching, #FGITW, that I realized just how important a positive mental attitude, combined with internal fortitude and the willingness to learn from everyone who has something to offer, in all life’s lessons, student and teacher alike, in order to survive and thrive.

    Outdoor survival situations are the very essence of understanding basic principals to change for the better everyday.

    The order Mother Nature commands is follow or else things can go wrong in a hurry.. Shelter / 3 hours; Water / 3 days; Food / 3 weeks. Fire is after step 2 unless the elements dictate otherwise.

    I realize this is an old post, so I’m not expecting anyone to respond, but I wanted to say “thank you, Creek, for teaching a way of life to all who care about ourselves, one another and the great outdoors!” Maybe we’ll cross paths on the game trail.

  50. I carry a Kershaw with me twenty four seven and have a mora bush knife in my car and when I go into the woods I carry a tomohawk as well.

  51. I have been using knives all my life. I like to collect them and have a few. As the Eskimos stated, “A man with a knife will live, A man without a knife will die. ” I’ve had plenty of experience with knives and have some of the best made custom or handmade knives that money can buy, these knives are not slouches. Thirty plus years with the US Army and National Guard I’ve tested and used more blades and styles than most have seen. I always carry a knife and I like what Creek says about fixed blade knives, I to will take a fixed blade over a folder anytime. Folders have their place and do good work. Sure would like to have a SR5-Blackbird. Will most likely purchase one.

  52. My mind, and a good piece of steel!

  53. my best survival tool is two fools. Knowledge and preparations, they go hand in hand. A knife would round a good scenario, but preparations will actually have those tools available for you. So I say being prepared for the worse and everything else is just a bonus. Know where you are going. Scope out the area prior to having to go there. Set up some preps at the location and maybe have some stuff on site already. Preparedness is the key. Just saying. I have Bowie, and a buck. I also have a cold steel, but, I am liking your rig since I watched fat guys in the woods. I will also, put it to the test. Thanks for showing what others should, and need to know.

  54. When I carry in the boondocks I usually pack the K-Bar my dad handed down. It’s small but gets the light work done.

  55. I love my Smith & Wesson knifes. I have 2 knifes in the same sheath. I very much luv making traps and starting fires with nothing but what is around the area your camping in.

  56. I hate to admit it, but my number one tool in the outdoors is a bolo machete. I find it much more useful than a small axe or hatchet and in most situations I can perform camp duties without a problem. Mine isn’t sharp enough to shave with….yet!

  57. I always have many Knives stashed in my truck and I usually carry two on me.
    But my long tested true to me is my Leatherman Wave. I have bought other accessories like the Croc and the bit kits. I own fixed blade knives and like them, but I will always carry a Leatherman. My kids make fun of me and refer to me as MacGyver.. But when and if shit hits the fan. They call DAD.

  58. Excellent interview. My knife goes everywhere with me. I never leave home without it. I have had to use it on multiple occasions I would never have imagined. Thanks for this useful article. Much appreciated!

  59. My number 1 tool in survival is maintain a leave head and common sense to survive. I haven’t done this in over 20 years but still yearn to go back and survive with the skills I know. I’ve been extremely fascinated with the way Creek starts fire’s. Great show

  60. Number 1 survival tool for me would be accurate knowledge of what to do in any situation. You can have the very best equipment, but if you don’t know what to do with it it is of little value.

  61. My every day survival tool. A medium sized Swiss army, single blade folding knife. Although I fully agree with a fixed blade knife being the most useful, my situation does not allow me to carry such a large knife every day, but I will not leave home without some sort of knife.

  62. My number one tool is my fire starter I would not go in the bush without it thanks and I hope to win this knife

  63. A good survival knife is my best tool. It can be very useful for many things when out in the wilderness. I’m trying to find a good survival knife to carry on my pack when we go on outings with the Boy Scouts. I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster & go on every outing that we have to assist the scouts in any way I can. I carry a good pocket knife with me at all times but a good fixed blade is what I’m looking for to complete my survival pack. Thanks Monte Smithson ASM Troop 9 Selma, IN.

  64. Michael W. Ruddy

    December 26, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    My knife is by far, the most important tool I carry when hiking, camping, back-country 5-6 day treks into the wilderness. I have the same knife that Bear Grylls uses. I purchased in in a retail store. However, the blade is made by Gerber and does not keep an edge long. On my 5-6 day backpack trips, I always carry a spare knife due to the lack of confidence in Gerber blades.

    One reason a knife is essential whenever heading outdoors, is a lesson learned in Northern Minnesota when I was out on my own in January, 2003. I was clearing snow off the lake in front of our cabin to play hockey the following morning. It was -29 degrees and not a sole around if something happened. Well, something happened. I put my skates on after clearing snow and started working my legs. About 30 minutes later, my skate blade caught a crack in the ice and I found myself face down on the ice. I severed a fully torn ACL and PCL with my skate blade still stuck in the ice. Screaming or yelling was useless since no one was anywhere around and the temps kept dropping. However, after an hour, I took out my fixed blade knife and had to cut my hockey skate off at the heel. Cutting off a Bauer hockey skate was no easy at all, but I eventually got it cut off. With a severed ACL and PCL, I could’nt walk, at all. With 28″ of snow on the ground, there was nothing for me to grab hold of to crawl to our cabin 200 yards from the shoreline. Using my knife, I impelled it into the ice, then into the frozen ground to use it to pull on to get to the cabin. After an hour, I was finally in the cabin, but suffered frostbite on my right foot and hands. Still, no one was there nor scheduled to arrive until the next day. I had to drive to Crosby, MN for medical attention and surgery afterwords in Minneapolis, MN. If it was not for having a fixed blade knife with me (in a non-survival situation) I would have suffered from hypothermia and more intense frostbite. In a sense, my knife became the ultimate survival tool, far beyond anything else. Why did I have a fixed blade knife on me when clearing snow in extreme weather, late at night ? For me, it’s as common as wearing a seat belt in my truck. My knife potentially saved my life that night. I carry one at all times now.

  65. I am a huge fan of Fat Guys In The Woods and think I’ve seen every episode at least once and many of them several times.

    Like many of the above posters, I also carry a knife with me 24/7 and believe that it is the most important tool to have available as we go through our day. My EDC is a Buck 285 (while in town) or Buck 110 folder (when deer hunting). A Glock 81 fixed blade knife with root saw goes with me any time while traversing the woods. Along with the knives are a double sided diamond embedded sharpening tool and a Coghlan magnesium fire starter.

    Great job on Fat Guys In The Woods! I hope the show has a very long run. I really enjoy watching it and gaining the survival skills that I did not know.

  66. A good knife is key, but you also need a good stone to keep it sharp. A dull knife is nothing but zero dull knife,

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  68. what’s my number one survival tool..I’m not sure if I could pick one..could say my mind but I think of have lots to learn..I like my grandfatherstatus kbar that I have. I like multi tools, and my flint and steal..

    • My #1 survival tool is a Hudson`s Bay ax.With it, it is easier to build a camp site,prepare wood for a fire ,hammer down stakes and do all the various things associated with camping or living out. A pocket knife or a sheath knive is great and makes everything that much easier but I could get by with just the ax if I had to. These are my thoughts after many years.——-Tom

  69. My dad always had a knife in his pocket. My old neighbor on crutches next door in the early 1950’s as a child taught me mumble peg and he was a whittler. I’ve carried numerous knifes over my 72 years but have never had a survival knife. Would love to own and learn to use it.

  70. Like Creek said a knife is bought for years of use and may be handed down from father to son…my pop gave me his many years ago and it is now a backup since it is showing its age…over 70 years old..don’t really use it that often. I watch Creek on the Weather Channel here in NYC great information.

  71. I think the best survival knife it is hunting knife. First, it is very big knife, so you can kill some dangerous predators. With small knifes you can’t do it, it is very hard. And of course, it needs to be sharpened.
    And it’s desirable to have dark knife, because it will be more difficult for predators to find you in forest.

  72. Larry Bedford

    July 23, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    A good fixed blade. But I’d love to have one of the Blackbirds looks like it would be the perfect size, like the handle too.

  73. My number one survival tool is my brain. One must be able to stay calm and think critically and analytically – outside-the-box. Many people have not survived the wilderness not so much due to what they carry, but instead due to their lack of knowledge about survival or due their failure to adequately apply the knowledge they have.
    No, your brain cannot take the place of a good survival knife, so I always carry my Essee. Those micarta scal;es are the best non-slip scales I have experienced; the blade is sharp and strong; and my Essee refuses to break.

  74. Steve Roberts

    July 24, 2019 at 3:00 am

    Knowledge and a good blade are my best survival tools. I read and practice everything I can. I have a decent couple of knifes but I need better. Its always in the back of my mind that one of them or all could break when I need them the most.

  75. Thomas Kasiewicz

    July 24, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    My number 1 tool right now is my hatchet. I can split wood, gut fish, skin animals ( not great) but in a survival situation it will work. also i can cut veggies, slice meat and bushcraft with it

  76. My favorite survival tool has become my BK2. I find it very versatile and fits my hand like it was custom made. I appreciate the opportunity to gain the SK5 into my collection.

  77. I turned 78 yesterday and can still sit up and take nourishment. This alone should win me something nice. I have some age-related health conditions so I do not trek through the woods. Come to think of it, having been born and raised in The Bronx, New York City, I NEVER trekked through the woods! My main survival tool is my burglar alarm (he’s my rescue Schnoodle, Kito. No need for batteries). My back up survival tool is a .357 Magnum Ruger SP-101 wheelgun. I can’t start a fire with it, unless I fire some rounds through a drum of gasoline, (not recommended, (so I use matches to start fires, duh). I could probably hammer stuff with the butt if needed, good ole American made stainless steel. I have a concealed carry firearms license when I feel I need to be armed outside my home. Oh, yeah, I do own some nice knives, fixed blades and folders, and I always carry a Kershaw flipper in my back pocket.

  78. I have been a fan of Creek since seeing him on TVon Fat Guys. He knows his stuff. I need a good fixed blade knife.

  79. Thank you Creek for helping people. I’m 61 and thankful for some of my favorite times going to the mountains growing up. Blessed by God and taken care of that as kids we never got lost or needed survival skills because we didn’t have any. I always wanted to learn.. Now I am learning from you , I want to learn more—- so I guess my first survival gear will be , knife or fire.. God bless you.

  80. As an older female who lives at forest’s edge, I spend a lot of time in the woods by myself either cutting my own firewood, out quad riding or hiking and hunting. I grew up in a camping/hunting family and I pride myself with having a lot of common sense. Usually. I’ve always used mostly cheaper knives, which I always end up cussing at when they get dull quickly. I have one good fold up knive by Kershaw that is my “go to” knife and stays sharp much longer. But after discovering Creek Stewart, I love watching his survival shows and am amazed at the things he does with his fixed blade knife and realized there’s no way I could do a lot of that without my knives breaking. So started thinking about getting one and had to find out what he uses. Now I know! It would make my millennium to win that Blackbird SK5! Thank you in advance!

  81. My every day carry is a Gerber Multi tool, was a Leatherman my wife got me for birthday years ago I have retired it. I always have a small folder clipped in my pant pocket. In my truck are a multitude of various tools of destruction, from Gerber machete, hatchet, rope, tarp. Have watched Mr. Stewart for awhile. Would be honored to be awarded one of his knives. Thank you.

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