Wednesday, December 23, 2015

EDC Knives and Total Survivalist Blog

Ryan over at Total Survivalist posted some great content shorty prior to his move and another today that got me thinking. I've done quite a few posts on different knives, but not a comparative assessment on the strengths of certain folder/EDC knives over others. Ryan posted this question about EDC knives.  It's getting quite a few comments, as well as mine so I considered making a post about the EDC knives I use and for what situation.

Each person has different needs and ergonomics for their knives. A professional might open parcels and need a small knife for those simple tasks that come up, a shipping ninja might need a large box cutter or tool steel folder for long term use on cardboard or shipping tape. A range hand might use a fixed blade hunting blade. Construction professionals might need one of everything. When you consider the myriad of needs across the board, the choices can be daunting.

My life is fairly eclectic with my different hobbies. Those hobbies, as well as my occupation make the need for a pocket knife rather pressing. When I was a union electrician, the powers that be dictated that some companies had a zero tolerance policy for razor knives. They had been party to several accidents as a few companies, so those same places banned them. That meant that the employees needed to buy specialty stripping knives or that they bought a thin bladed pocket knife for sturdy wire stripping and general cutting tasks.

My newest skillset, 18th century woodsman survival, requires it's own set of specialty knives and tools. They are very simple tools with multiple uses, just like most survival equipment of today. If we look at our EDC knives the same way, we would be hard pressed to get a knife that would be perfect for any situation.

For 90% of the situations I run into, the HK Epidemic fits the bill. It's extremely hard D2 tool steel holds a great edge and it's one handed open/close action makes it ideal for work when I'm on a ladder or have one hand utilized. The single sided spear shaped blade lends itself to most cutting chores in an industrial/commercial/suburban setting. Opening boxes, splitting cable jackets, general cutting tasks, and many other daily chores are it's forte.

The 10% of the time I'm not in that environment, I'm usually in the woods. When I'm in the woods, I generally carry more than a single knife. If I'm with the scouts, it's normally a small folder that I keep in my backpack. It's the same knife my Grandfather carried while a carpenter in WWII on an aircraft carrier. It's pretty beat up, but it's a thin 1095 blade is perfectly suited for use while camping with scouts in a more controlled environment. It also has a blunt tip and single flat cutting surface, making it safer for use around kids. When I'm camping with my sons or by myself, I will carry the Cold Steel Spartan.  It's perfect for rough use, and being a large folder that can be used to do pretty much anything a fixed blade can, it's extremely useful. I've batoned wood, chopped through dense briars, carved stakes and camp tolls as well as processed game with this knife. It isn't perfect for each task, but it will do them all in a pinch.

Woodsman knives are very specific, and each has an intended use. There are many out there with different ideas about the perfect knife for bushcraft uses, but in the end, it's the individual's right to choose what's best for them. I went against Pathfinder school doctrine and bought a thicker, bigger knife for general use, and a smaller, thinner knife for specialty work like cooking and processing game after skinning. A also chose to purchase a curved skinning knife that is stainless for use on hides and for scraping. It's a sacrificial knife for use with things that I wouldn't want to ruin a good knife's edge with. I'll do a full review of my kit and what it entails when it's complete.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Re Learning Skills Lost To Time.

The idea of sustainability isn't new. It's not just a green party buzzword. Permaculture is the use of the soil cycle in a manner that leaves the soil in better condition after a growth cycle than how it was before the growing season. These models allow a nearly endless growing cycles if used properly. This idea isn't anything new. It's been refined by botanists and it's better understood today than it was in times past. It was still a required part of farming for thousands of years of human history. From placing a fish over stalks of maze like the Native Americans, to spreading manure on fields, it's been a mainstay of agriculture in it's earliest forms.

This is but one of the sustainable skills required by early humans that was refined and polished to perfection at the turn of the 20th century. After that time, technology and interdependence ravaged the skillset of your average human. For the most part, we have lost the skills to survive at the most simple level. We cannot feed ourselves independently if the need arises. We cannot survive in the wilderness without modern equipment. We cannot live a sustainable life with nature in this day and age, the knowledge and physical acuity has been lost by nearly all.

The dawn of modern living has stolen from human kind the ability and knowledge to live a self sustaining, independent lifestyle of simple pleasures. We have, as a whole, come full circle from wanting to harness nature, to realizing that we need nature far more than she needs us. It's taken a century to make that apparent to about half our population. I'm afraid the other half will never realize it, or realize their mistake too late to matter.

My grandfather was born in a dirt floored house in a small immigrant community near the Kentucky/Indiana border in 1911. He grew up with 9 siblings on a farm that raised beef and some hay. They grew and canned their meals for the winter. If they had a bad growing season, they got skinny. They augmented their income by felling and processing lumber for a cabinet company in a neighboring town. My Grandfather quit school in 8th grade to go work at that cabinet company. He still raised beef and felled trees with the family, but he was more interested in learning a trade that could take him away from dirt poor living. Consider the 90 years that have passed since he quit school. My son is in 8th grade. His biggest worry is remembering to bring home his trombone so he can practice.

 The magnitude of lost skills is truly mind boggling. There are so many skill sets that are valuable to prepared groups that it would be best for them to choose certain people to learn different skills instead of everyone learning the same set of primitive skills. I'd even go so far as to say the family unit should look to diversify.

The first lacking skill I chose to start refining was gardening, and it's a bit rough to begin with. 2014 was a great year and we had a bumper crop. 2015 was a little rougher with a soil issue in a main bed. Too many banana peels skewed the soil content. Lessons learned have a growing season to make an impression. It's an ongoing process, but the wife is taking the lead on that front. We did end up with a plethora of jalapenos, and all our friends are begging to get more of the canned sweet ones I made. I believe I'd go so far as to call it a marketable product we could readily trade with.

For 2016, we will be working on the pioneer skills of the trapper/woodsman. Injured men were able to save themselves from perilous situations with nothing more than a knife and the skills to use it. I've begun purchasing the tools of the woodsman and period correct gear for learning the same techniques that settled the west and carved a country out of a continent. YouTube has been a great resource for tools and techniques associated with woodcraft/bushcraft/woodsman skills. There are a plethora of wilderness schools out there that post new videos regularly. Everything from primitive traps to expedition requirements for unlimited time spent in the wilderness.

2017 is slated to be woodcraft related skills with primitive tools. I'm planing to utilize my Grandfather's tools to make useful items for a retreat or camp. By then we should have a new retreat property to utilize.