Monday, 2 September 2013

My Survival Knife

I love carrying a knife with me, in my pocket or my bag, even when I'm home. Whenever I am out of home, I always carry a knife along not just because it can be of use, sure it has always been, but because it just feels like I have a trustworthy companion there, always within my reach, and always with me.

no-brand_for references only
But what is there in a knife which makes me feel so secure and comfortable carrying one around? Why do I carry a knife in the first place?

For me throughout the years, a knife has been a constant source of companionship and security. It has always been a great tool that is rather trustworthy. Without it I just feel insecure. I have never used the blade of a knife to injure or kill in the first place, never as a weapon -- I simply hate violence -- but then I have also gone through countless occasions in which a knife had been simply indispensable. Here is a small list of things, among many others, I have employed my knife to achieve:

1. Peel and chop fruits and vegetables
2. Cut through ropes and twines
3. Make walking sticks in the mountains out of bamboo and branches
4. Peel insulation from wires in remote areas
5. Drill holes through and make depressions in various types of wood
6. Skin, dress and clean a whole goat once in the remote mountains
7. Peel bark from trees for cordage
8. Split wood
9. Carve
10. Cut and tear through plastic sheets, clothing materials, fabrics, nylon straps, etc.  

And here is what I seek in a good quality survival knife:

1. A good sharp cutting edge
2. A certain thickness that provides me with assurance while working with wood and plant materials
3. A reasonable tip-point that can be reasonably employed as a spear-tip if need be
4. A certain toughness that even if it falls from a reasonable height on a rock by accident it should not break into pieces like glass.

5. A certain hardness that when I put the knife to chop or hack at branches, or even bones, the blade should not go dull.
6.  A certain flexibility in the blade material as well as the design of the blade: it should be able to hack, chop, slice, peel as well as being able to flex somewhat under pressure than break completely.
7. A full tang that extends to the very butt end of the handle
8. A reasonable grip and a solid hefty feel
9. A solid pommel (butt-end of the handle)
10. A reasonably sized eye (or a lanyard hole)at the butt end of the handle to tie a cord for extra safety so that even if the knife slips from my hand, I still have a line to which the knife clings (losing a knife in the field is not an option). The same rule applies while carrying the knife in a sheath or belt.
11. It should be easy to sharpen and re-sharpen with rocks available freely in nature and yet it should hold its cutting edge for reasonable limits of usage and time
12. It should be easy to maintain and at least, to some extent, have rust-proofing

khukuri_with_scabbardIn my home country, options are really limited as the market is not freely competitive. Branded knives are really not available apart from the world-famous folding/pocket Swiss Army knives. They are neatly foldable, easy to carry, have multi-tools attached and the authorities feel relaxed with them. However, they are really not meant for heavy-duty tasks demanded by survival situations in the field where people almost invariably carry a Khukuri knife on them. However, for a person who is not a traditional villager carrying a khukuri is not practical as a khukuri is basically designed for extra heavy-duty work such as chopping and cleaving firewood, and butchering all sort of animals, large or small. Moreover, a khukuri is rather cumbersome to carry on a city person, weighs very heavy, and its handle does not feel very ergonomic in one's hand. It is legendary, hefty, world famous because of the British Gurkha soldiers and Indian Army, and at the same time, not so easy or comfortable to carry on one's person on a daily basis. It is designed as a farming and household utility tool, mainly to hack, chop and slash. Smaller ones are available, but as they are the mirror images of the big brothers, they are difficult to use as knives comfortably. 

So what do I do?

I make a small, customized knife. And who made it for me? I did it myself.

What with? A piece of scrap metal bought from a junk-collector, an old Chinese-made angle grinder that did not simply forget to die quickly like its siblings and continues to run despite being badly broken at many places, a couple of grinding wheels together with sanding wheels that fit into that angle-grinder and sandpapers, a stainless steel ruler, and a lot of drawings with pencil on paper. A piece of wood taken from a carpenter's was used for the handle. A pair of aluminium rivets to fix the wooden handle to the knife. Not to mention, days of labour with intermittent breaks filled with tiredness.  Oh, and a couple of circular discs that got eaten away during the process. Couple of carbon, too, but being a DIY guy I simply fashion carbon contacts from used and spent battery rods (spent size C batteries).

Is it serviceable? It is not rust proof as it is home-made with cheap materials but it is rather hard and tough and can be sharpened easily with a Grindwell Norton 6" standard two-grade sanding stone that is manufactured in India (while at home), or with a suitable stone available everywhere along the trail. Imitation copies are widespread in the market but no other stones are available in any other size and it cannot be carried in a pocket (It fits in a pocket but is rather heavy).

A night without a knife under my pillow is just simply another rather sleepless night, even at home.

I don't know why.

If you can buy a good knife that meets your requirements, then by all means do so. If you cannot find what you need in the market, then make one for yourself. Here is a link to an article that contains basic but good knife-making instructions. Check it out for yourself: 

(The first image in this post is taken from an expired US registered patent of 1959. Patent No. 186021. The second image is taken from artofmanliness website at  retrieved September 11, 2013. Image copyright of its respective owner/s.)