- Jan 10, 2017 at 11:38 am #3444301
This is not a strictly speaking a Lightweight topic, but I am in the middle of teaching a wilderness survival workshop including coverage of the Wilderness Survival MB for a bunch of older Scouts (Life and Eagle). We built a bunch of fires in the rain Saturday and I was thinking it would be great to have included some splitting of small branches to find dry wood inside to make tinder. Most them do not own a fixed blade. There are some legitimate concerns in the troop about cost of gear (A scout is frugal after all!). So after reading some reviews and checking prices, it looks like the $12 (Amazon) Morakniv Companion might do the trick. Yes, it is not full tang but the blade is 4.1 inches long and 2.5mm thick. If cost were no issue, I would probably recommend more knife but I am thinking for a Scout who will only do batoning once 3 or 4 times over one overnight, the Companion should be enough knife when the Scout is using proper technique. Thoughts? Other recommendations?Jan 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm #3444316
Bob ShuffBPL Member
I thought there was a rule against fixed blade knives and the length of blades, but this morning I found this on scouting.org:
Q. What is the official BSA regulation on carrying sheath knives?
A. The Boy Scout Handbook, Bear Handbook, and Webelos Handbook contain the program for the safe and responsible use of knives. The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used. We are aware that many councils or camps may have limits on the type or style of knife that should be used. The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixed-blade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length. Additional information is found in the Guide to Safe Scouting.
The part that I think is particularly relevant is “The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used.”
Personally, I think the training of choosing the right equipment and using is correctly is essential. For wilderness survival workshops it is great to show what a fixed blade knife will do, but if the council or camp has restrictions we need to be clear that the Scout should abide by those rules after the workshop. My son and I carry a 3-inch folder on BSA treks, and one of several fixed blade knives when we are out on our own. For the training, why not let the scouts use the knives you or other adults have on hand – they shouldn’t buy a knife for training that they may not be allowed to take to summer camp or on certain treks. In my mind we are teaching scouts to handle future situations, but also to respect any rules a camp or council/district may have.
The Morakniv Companion is certainly a good reasonably priced option. My son likes his Morikniv with the built in firesteel (sold by lightmyfire). I have a Morikniv HighQ Robust, but prefer my Fallkniven F1 even though it’s a little heavierJan 10, 2017 at 1:03 pm #3444317
Personally, I would recommend teaching LNT and skipping the fires. Failing that, I woud teach other methods of fire lighting. A bunch of novice Boy Scouts waving 4″ blades around with essentially no experience and too much machismo can have only one result.
CheersJan 10, 2017 at 1:30 pm #3444323
Sticking to the OP’s question, the Companion is a really nice knife and capable of sustaining lots of abuse. The high carbon steel version is particularly easy to sharpen and holds a nice edge. The Scandi grind is easy to sharpen because there is no secondary bevel.Jan 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm #3444332
My first thought was to go to Goodwill and buy the more substantial kitchen knives and shorten them on a grinder to some reasonable length: 3 to 5 inches for the blade. If going that route, wear gloves for sure – some are tempered to hold an edge longer but can be brittle compared to a milder steel.
Maybe the most substantial table knives could be made to work. Those would be $0.25 or $0.50 each at Salvation Army and about $1, new, at Walmart.
Stepping up from those options, most concrete stakes are now round, unlike the flat ones of my childhood, but I see a few listings for them on the web. A 48-inch stake could make five 9.5″ full-tang knives: 5-inch grip, 4.5-inch blade. Materials cost of $2/knife.
OT1H, that’s a lot of work if it’s done by one father – all that cutting and grinding and sharpening. Hint: while a grinder is great for the rough shape and making any finger grips, I really like a belt sander (a large one on a stand) to put the bevel on a blade. Step through 60-grit, 100-, 150-, etc. And for this application, you’re basically making an axe, not a shaving razor.
OTOH, it would be a fabulous project for the boys to make. Get one or two grinders and a sanders in one location and several parents (try to be inclusive – the best welder among the parents of the middle-schoolers I coach is Hayden’s mom). Have a timer going. Everyone is limited to 10 seconds of grinding before they cool their piece in water, dry it off, AND PLAN AND MARK THEIR NEXT EFFORT. Having them in rotation actually works well for the nature of the project. Wrap the handle in electrical tape or 550-cord or leather shoe lace. Make a Turk’s Head from cordage as a guard between the blade and handle.Jan 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm #3444334
I’m going to disagree with Roger on the LNT thing. LNT is great and I like that my kids’ school did that during their 2-night environmental camp, and it’s mostly how my family camps/backpacks.
But I bet Roger could get a good fire going if he needed to warm up in a survival situation. And you’re probably glad you have those skills, even if you hope/prefer to not use them. I know I travel a little lighter knowing how to start a camp fire, use pine boughs for insulation, etc, in a pinch. And where/when does a person learn those skills anymore, if not in a group like Scouts? I hope they are exposed to both traditional and LNT skills and knowledge, given a strong conservation ethos, and directed to use higher-impact approaches only in appropriate areas (and emergencies).
My troop had a “one match” rule: Each kid got one shot at getting the campfire going. If you failed, you stepped aside and the next kid did his prep and took his shot. It was powerful motivation for making enough really good tinder, kindling and using it properly. 40 years later, I still go a bit overboard on those steps and almost never have to frantically rush to fiddle with a fire once it’s lit.Jan 10, 2017 at 2:09 pm #3444338
Bruce: If you opt to go the Morakniv route, what’s your Council/Troop’s inclusion/exclusion policy for out scouts?
Because I have two extra ones lying around due to a mix-up on my part with a MassDrop order (man!, they take a long time to ship!) that I could send you or maybe even drop off next weekend (I might be in the SFBA).Jan 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm #3444342
I bet Roger could get a good fire going if he needed to warm up in a survival situation.
Yes, I can get a fire going if I want to, under extreme conditions. I too learnt in the Boy Scouts with a ‘2 match & no paper’ rule.
But in a survival situation I would not bother with a fire. I would get the tent up and dive inside. Dry clothes, sleeping bag, stove, hot drink. Been there a few times, in snow or hail storms, and I know which one works for us.
CheersJan 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm #3444365
I think all the posters already know how to build a fire and ignite it with 1 or 2 matches and no artificial tinder. The Scouts do not. Hence the exercise,
This event would not be for a several weeks so I have time to gather materials. The parents are SO busy I need to forego any serious DIY projects. I did have the Scouts make vaseline impregnated cotton balls for the first exercise.
Thanks Matthew for answering my basic question.
To Roger’s LNT point, I heartily agree but the issue today at our local council is that the Scouts do so much fireless camping, they do not really know how to build a fire. The second class requirement does not require the Scout to light the fire. Many of the other Scouting activities are patrol activities so many Scouts never get any experience. The Wilderness Survival MB requires each Scout demonstrate basic proficiency in making fire with three different types of ignition. Hence the motivation of the original post. Not too mention, they had a lot of FUN building the fires Saturday in the rain.
To Roger’s point about safety. Many of the Scouts already own a couple of pocket knives, many with 2.5, 3 or 3.5 inch blades. I would also only do this with Scouts who already hold the sharp edged tool safety Totin Chip badge. Tell me if I am wrong, but I think the objective safety issue with a 4 inch fixed blade Mora is that it would be much sharper than their pocket knife.
David. Are you offering a gift of the Mora knives or a sale? PM meJan 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm #3444369
Yes, I understand about teaching the Scouts HOW to light a fire. It’s useful knowledge. Please show them what damage a wildfire can do as well.
My real concern is having a bunch of young kids waving large knives around. I guess that teaching them some common sense about the hazards might be good. A few small cuts maybe?
Fwiiw, I would much prefer to teach them how to baton with a FIXED blade rather than a folder. Hit a folder in the wrong place and it can fold up. A fixed blade is actually much safer.
I taught both my kids at a young age about fire safety with matches the ‘experiential’ way. Lined them up, gave them each a box of matches, showed both of them how to hold the match for striking, and got them to light their matches at the same time. Then I kept talking until the matches burnt both their fingers (slightly). After that – no problems with matches! Can one do the same thing with knives I wonder – without actually removing a whole finger?
CheersJan 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm #3444372
Yes I have my concerns too. Yes no folders. I have 8 Scouts in this class. I have one fixed knife that would work. If David is ready to get rid of his two extras, I would have three. I could do the demonstration, and then split them into three teams. Then I control the knives. (Just like the axe yard at Scout camp.) And no running around at home with a fixed blade. :-))Jan 10, 2017 at 8:18 pm #3444406
Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
“But in a survival situation I would not bother with a fire. I would get the tent up and dive inside. Dry clothes, sleeping bag, stove, hot drink. Been there a few times, in snow or hail storms, and I know which one works for us.
That’s not what I would call a survival situation Roger. That’s just camping in bad weather.Jan 10, 2017 at 8:28 pm #3444410
hat’s just camping in bad weather.
Oh, we have done plenty of that. It doesn’t worry us.
I am talking about a few times when we have pushed the limits rather close and been shaking or shivering that much in the icy wind and rain that it was hard to hold the tent poles and get them into the sleeves. Putting the tent stakes in was tricky too. Sue was so cold inside the tent she could not get her wet clothing off: I had to peel it off her. Who is going to try to light a fire under those conditions?
By way of explanation: for the last hour or so we had been on the side of a mountain, and there was NOWHERE to even bivy. Next morning was fine.
CheersJan 10, 2017 at 9:18 pm #3444425
Bruce: PM sent. Free. A “PIF”, possibly delivered 2,163 miles to your doorstep.
Roger: Totally agree that often the best response is to hunky down in a sleeping bag in a tent. The times I’ve found a fire really helpful is not when everyone was being hammered, but when some of party had gotten cold, wet and/or completely soaked. Then the fully functional humans can build fires for the hypothermic ones. And when one has time to prepare. I was on a 8-day trip at 8,000 feet and got some colder-than-expected weather while going SUL (by 1983 metrics). Sleeping between a campfire and a boulder with a large pile of firewood nearby made for much more comfortable nights. Ideal? No. Another pound of sleeping bag (i.e. ANY sleeping bag!), would have been superior, but I was already committed.Jan 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm #3446248
OK here is my article and handout for the forthcoming workshop. Many thanks to David Thomas for the gift of two Mora Companions!
Batoning: Using A Fixed-Blade Knife to Make Kindling
Troop 30: Beyond the Wilderness Survival MB
by Bruce Tolley (c) 2017
Sometimes in the rainy season, it is very difficult if not impossible to find dry wood for kindling (and tinder). Most of the time, only the outer 2 to 3 mm of wood are wet. The axe is usually the tool of choice to split wood in order to access dry wood inside a wet branch or log. In a survival situation a strong fixed-blade knife can be carefully used to split the wood using the knife as a wedge. This technique is called batoning because a baton or piece of wood used to strike the tip of the knife.
Tools and materials
The tools used in our batoning exercise are: 1) a strong, fixed-blade knife with a full- or three quarter-tang, 2) the baton to strike the knife’s spine and tip, and 3) a pruning saw to make the baton and prep the wood.
The baton: The baton should be about two to three inches in diameter and one and a half- to two feet long made from green hardwood. The piece of wood should have a bit of heft so the mass of the baton does the work. Obtain the wood from downed hardwood wood (oak, maple, bay) in your neighborhood or volunteer to trim a tree branch for your parents.
The knife: For small branches 2 to 3 inches in diameter suitable to split into kindling, you need a fixed blade knife with a 3.5 to 4.5 inch blade. Batoning will break a folding knife, which is VERY dangerous. A sturdy craft knife or bushcraft knife will work. While a full tang knife is preferable, three-quarter tang knives also work. Mr. Tolley has a few knives Scouts can borrow. Some examples are listed below. Raw material: Bring one or two pieces of relatively straight pieces of wood with few or no knots. The wood should be 2 to 3 inches in diameter hardwood or softwood (pine, fir) and at least 12 inches long. Use a saw to create cuts on opposite sides about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch deep at the mid point.
Parts of the Knife
Image not uploaded
Technique: Remember the parts of the knife. The spine is the straight top of the knife. The tip is the angled top of the knife between the point and the spine. The point is the pointy end of the knife. Strike the spine only to force the knife into the wood. You get more leverage and less stress on the knife by hitting the tip. Strike the tip to continue forcing the blade deeper, until a split is achieved. Hardwood causes more stress to the knife than softwood.
The Knife Splitting the Wood
Knives: For creating kindling and tinder, any full or three-quarter tang fixed-blade knife with a 3.5- to 5.5-inch blade works. Examples: Morakniv Companion, Stainless Steel, $12. Morakniv Companion HD, $22. Morakniv Bushcraft $45. Warning: these knives can arrive very sharp from the factory. To test sharpness, try cutting paper or a vegetable. If you touch the edge with your finger, you risk cutting yourself. Carbon steel knives are easier to sharpen and work better with firesteel than stainless steel blades but can stain especially when exposed to acidic foods. Stainless steel blades keep their edge longer but are more difficult to sharpen and are of course “stainless.” Beginners should buy stainless steel.
Hazards: Do not use a folding knife. Care must be taken to avoid damage to the fixed-blade knife. You can break the blade by striking the spine of the knife at an angle. The broken blade can become embedded within the split and impossible to get out. In a survival situation, this could be catastrophic.
Leave No Trace: Boy Scouts do not take wood from live trees in the backcountry or in nature preserves unless it is a true survival situation.
Knife safety: Circle of blood, triangle of death, work positions, etc. BSA Scout Handbook. Dave Canterbury, “Knife Safety Part 1,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqAt-CGniGs.
Tutorial Videos: Dave Canterbury, “Batoning Wood with Your Knife,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m7YFiePmRY . Ben ‘Backwoods,’ “How to Sharpen a Mora Knife,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwKkhyjV5Rc
Other References: Les Stroud, Survive!, 2008. Dave Canterbury, Bushcraft 101, 2014Jan 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm #3446387
@ejvcLocale: Near the Klarälven river
Wow. At our scout group in Sweden, all the 8 and 9 year olds are certified by their leaders in fixed blade knife and axe use. They split all the wood and kindling. Was I nervous? Sure, at first. But both scouts and leaders take all edged tools VERY seriously. No axe accidents. Two kids cut themselves, not seriously, in a year. Also they have all practiced fire lighting, even in the rain. If 9 year olds can manage it…Jan 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm #3446396
Excellent. Sounds like a great Scout group that is having LOTs of fun while being VERY safe.Jan 9, 2018 at 9:18 am #3511444
Walter UnderwoodBPL Member
@wunderLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Get the Morakniv Companion HD instead of the regular Companion. The blade is 3.2 mm thick (0.125 inches) instead of 2.5 mm. The edge is ground at a more blunt (stronger) angle.
Mora says “suitable for batoning”.Jan 9, 2018 at 9:35 am #3511445
Huh. Weak and feeble.
If you want to baton firewood, get something with a bit of guts – like this:
I used to have one too, 50+ years ago. You could use a small blacksmiths club hammer on the back of it. It’s not a ‘putty knife’, it’s a ‘putty removal knife’.
CheersJan 9, 2018 at 11:55 pm #3511556
John S.BPL Member
I go for the Morakniv over Roger’s putty knife…lolJan 10, 2018 at 3:34 am #3511596
I had two Moras from BPLer David in Alaska (Thanks again david!) and one of my own that I shared with the Scouts. I also demonstrated to them that you could baton with a knife from an everyday table setting. Mora has since come out with a full tang knife for bushcraft.
BruceJan 10, 2018 at 4:04 am #3511600
I admit, the putty knife lacks a certain elegance. :)
CheersJan 22, 2018 at 2:48 am #3513623
Charles LBPL Member
Youtube’s gotta bunch of videos of people stress testing Mora knives. There was one where a guy went fairly crazy with the batoning, which did result in the blade coming loose from the handle. But it seemed extreme.
Off topic for the o/p, just chatting:
For our Scouts, we recommend the 511 for everybody. If it gets lost, not so many tears. It’s what I usually carry, unless mine are missing (the kids borrow my gear all the time).
The only rules we have for knives are: you need your totin chip; knives have to meet state legal requirements; you better have it on you. And to only take folders to summer camp, as the camp has it’s own requirements.
We did consider just adopting the local boy scout camp policy of folders only, but enough of the adults who’d been there as scouts assured me that they’d all brought big, scary knives despite the rules, and they’d just gone out in the woods and done stupid stuff the whole time, unsupervised, it didn’t make sense to replicate that level of silliness at the troop level.
We haven’t had any knife related bleeding in three years.
All the reasons I’ve heard for having the “folders only” rule for camp sound like tall tales.
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