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Thoughts on weight versus performance, please read.

Oct 8, 1998

My current thoughts may get me into some trouble, but here we go.

I found an old article in Fighting Knives magazine(now gone) by Sean McWilliams, famous for his forging of stainless. In it he does a fairly scientific test of weight versus performance where he tests a British surplus MOD(hollow sabre ground chopper) against one of his own flat ground knives.

And finds that although the MOD is heavier it chops nowhere near as well. He credits it to geometry.

But this sparked some musings for me.

Like, will a heavy blade chopper of the modern style (Busse, Mad Dog, custom camp knife, etc) really outperform a machete, and then if you factor in weight, has it really outperformed the machete, given that you were packing a couple pounds up the side of a mountain?

Last month or so, I acquired a 12 inch Barteaux machete. I haven't had the oppurtunity to test it yet, and am wanting a larger one to test as well.

Another thing that got me thinking is that for much of the third world a machete or machete like tool is used daily, and none of them go looking for something heavier, or do they?

What are your thoughts?

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at mdpoff@hotmail.com

I wrote a review of the Kasper AFCK variant, an interview of Bob Kasper, and some thoughts and brainstorms of the AFCK in general. It can be found at http://www.bladeforums.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/000568.html . Check it out and tell me what you think.

"I'm just an advertisement for a version of myself." David Byrne

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action that's important. You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing there will be no result." Gandhi

Lighter thinner blades not only preform better , They DONT wear you out quickly. That in my mind is where preformance really shins. A good blade say 3/16 x 1 3/4 x 9" great handle and full flat grind with about a .02 edge and a small convex for strength at the edge.
Different strokes for different blokes.

Or actualy, it depends on what you're trying to do/cut. Take two classic choppers that should clearly illustrate this, the machete and the axe;

The machete is a long, wide, thin tool(they're descended from a sword, the Espada Ancha, so they're not really knives, but they aren't swords anymore either) that relies on building up high speed in a swing and the thinness of it's cross-section(smaller area for the force to concentrate on/has to push less material out of it's way) to penetrate what it's cutting. This works real well on soft materials, less well on hard materials.

The axe is heavy, with a fat cross-section, long handle and short blade. It relies on the weight of it's brutish impact to drive it's wedge-like blade into what it's cutting. The wedge shape forces the material being cut to open wider and wider to accomedate the blade, untill it over-stresses said material causing it to break out. This works real well on hard stuff like trees, but not so good when you're dealing with vines and such. Note that an axe is wedge shaped, they present little surface area at the edge and get wider the further you go back. If you just make something fat, the effect won't be the same. It has to have the acute taper. Otherwise all the force of the impact is gonna be distributed over a wider area, softening the blow. That's why a lot of chisel grinds suck.

That said, knives just aren't the type of tool it's a good idea to go around making a fat and heavy chopper out of. They don't have enough leverage in the handle to build up honest speed, so you have to make a knife real heavy, so it's just an inefficient design for this type of tool. You are better off finding a happy medium between the machete and the axe, an edge that is resonably thin, that widens to a reasonable width, to give it reasonable weight. Which actualy is pretty intuitive if you think about where the knife lies between the machete and the axe; they are typicaly heavier per inch that machetes, but lighter per inch than axes, and shorter than both.

Then you can fine-tune this to fit it's given role; full flat grinds work best against softer materials, such as vine and flesh(also great for cutting dangling rope), saber grinds work best against harder materials such as wood and bone(typicaly beat out flats at the 2x4 cutting test).

This is illustrated by two modern knives aimed towards the combat/survival market; the Mad Dog Attak, and the Chris Reeve Project 1.

The Atak cuts hanging rope better than the Project, but the Project chops wood better than the Atak.

Blades with thin presentations tend to bite in and burry themselves in wood without breaking much out, as can be clearly seen with a machete. Blades with wider presentations tend to wedge the wood apart, as can be seen in the axe. This assumes we're talking about a cut at 90 degrees. If you cange angles, you can shear/shave wood off, or if you alternate angles of attack, you can chop off chunks with blades that have thinner presentations. Technique can help make up for shortcomings in certain areas. Just keep in mind that when you chop wood, it's gonna make chips, so just `cause you see chips doesn't mean it's having a wedging effect.

If I had a guess why machetes are popular amongst primitve peoples and in third world* countries, it's because they're cheap and said people often live in environments full of soft stuff to cut, i.e. jungles. Note you don't really see desert peoples packing machetes or axes.

*Third world means not aligned with the Western-bloc nations(first world) or Soviet-bloc nations(second world). Some people think that third world just means undeveloped, and while many are, not all are, and not every undeveloped nation is third world. This came up in a different conversation somewhere else, so I thought I might take the time to clarify for everybody's benefit here.
Marion :

Like, will a heavy blade chopper of the modern style (Busse, Mad Dog, custom camp knife, etc) really outperform a machete

Yes and no. It depends on exactly what areas of performance you are talking about. I looked at a couple of Ontario machetes awhile ago and compared them against a decent bowie :


Basically a decent machete will have a much higher penetration than any bowie-style knife. And of course since it is so thin it will greatly outslice it. So this means that a $10 Ontario machete is a better knife than a $300 ATAK / BM? Well not exactly.

Before that is answered first where does penetration come from? There are two terms involved. The first force term is due to the blades mass and the second is due to your effort. The first term is independent of cross-section (to a first approximation) but the dominant term (assuming you are using some effort) is the second which is inversely proportional to cross section. So basically the thinner the knife the deeper it will bite.

Now what is the downside to this? Why carry a thick blade? Quite simple. Take an Ontario machete and try to chop through a 4x4 (soft wood) really quickly and see what happens. Then do the same with a Trailmaster. You will find that even though the machete penetrates really well you are quite limited by the fact that all this penetration does is lodge the blade in the wood. The bowie on contrast will not stick near as much and can in fact by twisting violently break out wood quite rapidly.

Ok, then what are the advantages to machetes? Well they cut hardwoods really well. On really dense wood penetration is quite low so nothing sticks. The main disadvantage of the machete is eliminated and you will quickly realize what a a significant performance benefit thin blades have. You can see this quite easily. Take a moderately hard wood like an axe handle and attempt to chop it in two pieces with a Trailmaster or similar, and then with an 18" Ontario machete.

And of course the other obvious downside to thin blades is durability. How important this is to the individual varies.

Snickersnee, axes rely on velocity (due to the large radius) not weight. Pure chopping (not utility or splitting) axe heads are very light and very thin. They are not much thicker than a bowie at the chopping face and are often hollow ground for penetration. They like machetes will stick quite easily on soft woods. However because of the stiffness of the head and handle you can wrench them out much easier.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 12 July 1999).]
I think technique has a lot to do with cutting efficiency. When in Peace Corps an eon or so ago in Micronesia, I watched one of the local guys efficiently open a coconut with a machete. Holding the coconut against a log with one hand, he rolled the machete back in his hand as he raised it, then sort of snapped it down on the cutting stroke, chopping off the top of the tough coconut... not something I'd want to try with my fingers exposed. I have read that the same technique is used by people who use the kukri.
Alberta Ed :

I have read that the same technique is used by people who use the kukri.

Only for light work. You can't generate much power that way compared to stiff wristed chopping.

Cliff, By pure chopping, I infer you mean "battle axes", as you did not include "utility" or "splitting" axes in the same category. I am vaguely aware of the existance of a "skinning axe" but know abosolutely nothing about them.

Weight is indeed an important ingredient of an axe. I didn't spend a lot of time on the fact that it has a long handle int he "axe paragraph", but I though I covered it in the following "knife paragraph" when I commented that you won't get enoguh leverage(=speed) out of a knife handle to make a mass-reliant knife work. A long handle is a neccesary component of a mass weapon, like a mace or warhammer. The "Persian mace" illustrates this well, doesn't have the first thing that resembles a blade, just a big, heavy solid steel head on a long handle. No, axes don't soley rely on weight, but it is a factor. Does that mean all axes are going to weigh the same and have the same geometry? No. Axes designed for different purposes will be somewhat different. But if you made an axehead out of a weightless material, I doubt it would work nearly as good. In general, an axe is swung mostly letting it's weight carry it, whilst a machete has little weight so by default you will put "oomph!" more into the swing. Yeah, a weightless machete probably wouldn't cut as well as a steel machete, but the focus of the machete isn't the fact that it's mass enters the cutting equation, it's the fact that it presents a thin profile. If mass was it's main design parameter, the machete would be much, much longer, or would have to be much, much thicker. Or made out of some sort of heavy material, like tungsten.

If you are saying that there are different sorts of edged tools that do different sorts of things, I agree wholeheartedly. I could list many types of tools too. But I don't think this thread is about blade diversity, I chose the machete and axe because as near as I can tell there isn't a man, woman, or child that hasn't had some experience with them, if only the hardware store/utility variety. Yeah, it's generic, but it's a lot more expedient than having to list what every type of edged or bladed tool is, and what it does in every scenario cutting every material.

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 12 July 1999).]
"Another thing that got me thinking is that for much of the third world a machete or machete like tool is used daily, and none of them go looking for something heavier, or do they?"

Actually, while the machete is the current tool of choice for large portions of the developing economies in South America, in other parts of the world the choice might well be a kukri, bolo, Golok, etc. The machete is an efficient tool for coping with light vegitation. If the objective is to cut through weeds, brush, or light foiliage it hard to top the machete.

But as the US quickly discovered in the Philippines, the common machete is practically useless in a hardwood jungle. The US Collins 1005, Spingfield Armory 1909 bolo, and Springfield Armory 1917 bolo were the products of that lesson.

Is the bowie/camp Knife better than a machete, or an axe for that matter? It depends on what you intend to cut.

I remember reading the FK article several years ago. If I remember correctly the author also tested a round steel bar against his camp knife and a British MOD-4, and concluded that his camp knife was the most efficient tool. True; but, if I were going to use the knife to cut teak the tougher MOD would be a better choice, and if I were planning to cut through a brick wall the round bar would come out on top.

Snickersnee :

By pure chopping, I infer you mean "battle axes"

I have no idea what a "battle axe" is beyond the fantasy stuff by United. Basically this is what I am familiar with. First, wedge, this is basically a sharpened maul and is excellent for splitting and hammering and lously for chopping. Second, utility, this has a convex grind and is decent at splitting and chopping. Third is a chopping or racing axe, these are very light and made for penetration. You can very easily match chainsaw speed on wood (you just get tired faster).

In general, an axe is swung mostly letting it's weight carry it

Not by me its not, nor by anyone I have ever seen use one, concerning wood chopping anyway. If this is how you use an axe on chopping wood then I can understand your viewpoint in the above posts.

Deadfall force basically produces chopping power that is independent of cross section (of the penetrating face). If you are not swinging them hard, then a utilty axe, a splitter, and a chopping axe will perform about the same level in regards to penetration. And if you are using a chopping axe and getting penetration equal to a splitter, well then, something is badly wrong.

knives just aren't the type of tool it's a good idea to go around making a fat and heavy chopper out of

A decent heavy-utility khukuri will out chop any machete, bowie or even hatchet and it is the limit of fat heavy choppers. The only thing that will keep up with it is a racing axe and it would be an interesting race as the khukuri user has a much faster swing and of course the axe user has a much more powerful one.

not2sharp :

the common machete is practically useless in a hardwood jungle

What was the problem?


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 12 July 1999).]
I have never seen/heard of this "racing axe". I'm not doubting it's existance, I was just unaware it existed. A "battle axe" is an axe of a pattern designed for use in war. In Europe at least, there were many varieties. I have no idea what, was it United you mentioned?, is pushing. I don't as a rule follow what is coming from the junk smiths.

All the woodsman I've ever conversed with, and all books I've ever read on the subject, say it's really not a good idea to put too much into an axe swing. The reason being it can rebound, or slip off the target and injure you. This is when you're cutting wood paralel to the ground, not chopping down a tree. Obviously you have to use a good bit of muscle power to swing an axe horizontaly. Not that it's difficult, but gravity pulls stuff down, not sideways. Also, you can do more chopping with this technique as it is not as tiring.

"Deadfall force" is no different than any other kind of force. The fatter the edge, the more force required to bury the edge. A thin cross-section will still bite deep, a wider one will still wedge. A blunt chunk'o'steel will still bounce off.

Now, though I've never seen one of these "racing axes", I would hazard a guess and say they, like most axes, have a hole in the head for the handle to pass through. I would say that with most woods the thinest you can go is perhaps half an inch. I would guess that the thinnest the steel would be around the hole on the head would be is 1/8 an inch. That would give you an axe that was at it's widest 3/4 an inch. Assuming they aren't very wide from edge to handle, that's going to make for an axe that will be wide enough to have a good wedging effect. They sound like a comprimise between wedging, biting and mass to me. They also sound like a pretty good idea.

The reason why the machetes didn't do so great in the hardwood jungles of the Philipines is reported to be they were too flexible and tended to bite in but not chip out wood, or at worst to just bounce off. I've never been to the Philipines, so I can't verify this. I can say that while you can chop wood with machetes, and you can do it succesfuly, they aren't really the most efficient design for such work. They are descended for swords meant to cut flesh, and traditionaly are used mostly to chop vines and softer woods, and skin out game and such.

Kukris have broad blades, but aren't fat knives. Besides, the main advantage of their design is their concave cutting edge coupled with flat grinds or narrow spined saber grinds. The fact that most of it's weight is up front is also important. The position of the weight is more important than the shear mass of the knife. They also tend to run big, many the length of short swords.

I can see how you'd mistake what I was meaning by "fat and heavy" though. A bad analogy would be the difference between a two-hundred pound man five feet tall, and a two-hundred pound man six feet tall. Yeah, shorty could be all muscle, but at that height he'd be "muscle bound", but that's irrelevant. Anyway, it's not the weight per se that makes a knife fat, it's how the weight is used. A thick, blunt knife would be fat. Many poorly made chisel ground knives are fat.

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 12 July 1999).]

Regarding the use of machetes in the Philippines, you may want to take a look at Daniel Edward's COLLINS MACHETES AND BOWIES 1845-1965 pp.109.


Dr Ron Hood has made some interesting observations about machettes versus some of the heavier big blades he's taken into the jungles of Peru and elsewhere.

Overall, as Darrel indicated, and as Joe Talmadge touts, a slim profile will do many chores better than a 1/4" chunk of steel. But with certain specialized tasks, such as chopping, the wide wedge of a khukri and related designs provide inertia to make light of this job. Machettes and thinner blades require more muscle to chop effectively.

The only "big" knives I own fall into the chopper class (HI 15" AK, BK&T Brute, CS C-V TrailMaster) except my recently acquired Mission 10" MPK-A2 and my older Ek M5 7" bowie. The former is simply a brute survival-field knife that like the Ek can serve as a pry bar. These are suitable for opening ammo cans, breaking major bones while butchering in the field, cracking 55 gallon drums and such that I wouldn't necessarily trust to my more refined and thinner field knives. I won't be using any of these thick puppies for food prep or field dressing unless it was all I had available (and of them the Ek seems best suited here).
So I think that when evaluating weigh versus performance, the critical issue is performance doing what!


I did NOT escape from the institution! They gave me a day pass!

I done a lot of wood chopping,splitting etc. over the years with a variety of hand tools so I`ll just toss in my two cents. My 18" Ontario machette as much as I like it is a lousy chopper on larger wood of any kind. It gets stuck very easily and transmits a lot of vibration on harder woods. It tends to flex too and take cupped cuts out rather than deep straight ones. It`s also a very poor splitter due to it`s thin cross section. However for lopping off small limbs and hacking through brush it rules. My 12" bladed 3/16" bowie works almost as well on light stuff when it`s within it`s shorter reach. It chops much better. It seldom gets stuck and chops pretty deep. I`ve chopped down several small (<6") standing deadwood trees for firewood with it and it worked fine. It splits rather poorly also. Lastly is my own design 13" blade "bowie" with a 5/16" thick convex ground blade and a slight foreward cant. It chops the best out of all of them, easily equal to a good hatchet. It splits quite well but not quite on par with a hatchet but close. It`s too blade heavy and thick to hack brush well or for any amount of time. It`s better on small branches than a hatchet but not as good as the other knives. It really shines on splitting kindling and chopping small trees and large branches which was it`s intended purpose. The same ideas hold true with axes. I use a maul for splitting. It works super for this but can`t chop at all. My general purpose axes work good for chopping and so so for splitting. For serious chopping I have a double headed axe with a narrow head and nice thin edges that does the job noticably better than a GP axe. This one doesn`t split too well at all. When all is said and done it seems to come down to the same old thing. All tools do certain jobs better than others. Marcus
I'd rather have a Battle Mistress than a cheap $10 (forgive my machete bias) machete. If you are really strong, you will like the BM better, as you have the endurance to deal with the added weight. And the BM will outlive 25 machetes. BTW: Ever seen a machete with a warranty?

"All of our knives open with one hand, in case you're busy with the other"
Stompy- Would you rather have the Battle Mistress because it is a status symbol or because it is the best tool for the job.

If you are really strong, you will like the BM better, as you have the endurance to deal with the added weight.

How do you know that? What if I wore myself out moving at double speed with too much weight over unfamiliar ground? What if I wanted to use my strength differently and therefore wisely by my standards?

All- I realize that we are talking compromise, but I thought I mentioned that you are taking this up the side of the mountain, with other gear. The part I didn't mention is that I am planning on supplementing this with an axe and a smaller knife or two. I guess I am realizing that the whopper choppers are meant to be, or thought of as one tool for all jobs and I would prefer to carry a couple of tools that do their individual job well.

Cliff- What bladed tool or tools would you take with you, expecting to rely on them for extended if not an indefinite period of time, to do all the jobs necessary to build shelter, establish and maintain yourself in a remote wilderness area. That question applies to everyone, and why?

All- In terms of reality, how many times are you going to take a tree down, or have to chop all the way through the larger diameter logs, so isn't the pack weight you saved worth a little more work on only rare occasions? Also the Barteaux machete I have is fairly thick, twice as thick as the Tramontina I gave my brother.

With a machete, can't you make two swings one to each side of the wedge you are removing, and won't those two strokes require less energy than the one axe strike? And won't that machete be livelier in your hand for thinner stuff and other cutting jobs?


If I had a guess why machetes are popular amongst primitve peoples and in third world countries, it's because they're cheap and said people often live in environments full of soft stuff to cut, i.e. jungles. Note you don't really see desert peoples packing machetes or axes.

Jungles have hard woods, don't they, teak and ebony right? The Aboriginies of Australia and the Masai of Africa, aren't their blades machete like?

not2sharp- I am pretty sure that the Golock is machete like, thin and long.

All- Also, won't your big blade be used to possibly to disassemble an animal, and then the better slicing makes it a good compromise tool.

bald1- Where are Ron Hood's observations to be found?

Gentlpeople- Let's keep this up and see where this exchange leads us?

You can see the Barteaux machetes at


Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at mdpoff@hotmail.com

I wrote a review of the Kasper AFCK variant, an interview of Bob Kasper, and some thoughts and brainstorms of the AFCK in general. It can be found at http://www.bladeforums.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/000568.html . Check it out and tell me what you think.

"I'm just an advertisement for a version of myself." David Byrne

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action that's important. You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing there will be no result." Gandhi

[This message has been edited by Marion David Poff (edited 13 July 1999).]
Marion David Poff:
Your looking for a tool that has to be carried up a mountain with all your other gear, must be able to perform survival tasks such as shelter, establish and maintain camp, chop wood, skin and quarter game and be as abuse/extreme use proof as possible.
Lightweight, compact, adaptable, tough and affordable. The Uluchet fits that description well.

YES,it is sharp, just keep your fingers out of the way!

I feel there is middle ground here. 3/16 thick
9-10 in blade forward cutting edge with a handle designed properly for extended use is what I prefer. Edge geometry has much to do with this knife also. Then with that I have a
light 4-5" bladed THIN knife for small chores around the camp. Both can be carried in the same sheath with a tough up stick for times when you have nothing to do hahahha

Web Site At www.infinet.com/~browzer/bldesmth.html
Take a look!!!

Marion :

What bladed tool or tools would you take with you, expecting to rely on them for extended if not an indefinite period of time, to do all the jobs necessary to build shelter, establish and maintain yourself in a remote wilderness area.

The most important point that I would have to address is if I would need heavy lateral strength. If the answer to that is no and I could take just one tool it would be a 12" machete class blade. If I do need need heavy lateral strength I would take my 18" AK unless I needed to do a lot of brush cutting (its impossible to do this for an extended time with a knife this blade heavy). For the machete my current choice would be to get Mel Sorg to grind me one out of 3V in something close to 1/8 - 3/16" stock and with a heat treatment that would leave it durable enough for chopping on small diameter hardwoods.

Speaking of machetes and sticking, this is not much of a problem for purely functional woodcutting, but it is for recreational uses (which is why I don't personally like them much). If you are just trying to chop a tree down and want to do it with minimal effort, you don't have to actually cut through it. Take the machete (or whatever), and make a series of chops around the tree. Assuming that you are not attempting to live out some lumberjack fantasy, I don't see why you are taking wood down that is larger than 3-4" in diameter. At this size, if you make a series of cuts around the tree and just lean on it the wood will crack off.

Now if you want to bring down much larger trees, like 6-8" in diameter then a machete starts to be a poor tool. If you do the above then you will not have weakened the tree enough to fell it so you will have to resort to trying to chop through it and you get into problems with the machete sticking unless the wood is hard. And if you are in shape enough that cutting through a 8" hardwood tree with a machete doesn't really fatigue you then gear limitations are not really a primary concern and you could just drag a wagon behind you filled with a small hardwood store.

Along the same lines, wood that size is very difficult to build anything with. You are talking about sticks in the 100 - 300 lbs range. Lugging all this around seems an awful waste for a temp. shelter. As for firewood, trying to burn 8" diameter green wood requires a decent fire unless you want to spend a lot of time quartering all that wood up. If none of this sounds like any significant strain, I would suggest not bringing any tools. You could find shelter by just going into a bears den and throwing the bear out and sleep in there. You could also find food by a similar method.

In reality I don't see the need for anything other than 2-4" diameter wood for a temp. shelter or firewood and trees of this size are easily manipulated with a machete. This blade should also be thin enough to handle any slicing task and because of the wide flat blade will also dig quite well and unlike most knives it could actually make a decent shovel (all knives will make good picks).

Back to the Ang Khola. The advantage that this blade would have compared to a machete it that it could straightforward chop through the tree with the same effort that the machete just weakened it. It would also make a much better hammer with its thicker spine and much greater weight. And of course it could stand a significant amount of prying.

The only real disadvantage would be in brush cutting. With a knife this blade heavy I will start to feel fatigued really quickly. If I was doing chopping in this manner at a regular pace, then in about 20-30 minutes my aim would start to suffer and I would seriously start to want to wish I had brought something else. Now of course it will be awkward to use on game or any other slicing task, but in a survival situation I don't really think that matters much. If I was paying somone to butcher my meat I would want them to be fairly neat, but if I was cleaning a rabbit I just snared I would do it fairly quickly with the AK and not be concerned much about what it looked like.

Blades like the Busse BM are basically a compromise between the AK and the machete. They will not chop as well as the khukuri nor will they slice as well as the machete. However they are much more durable than the machete and they will handle slicing tasks much easier than the khukuri. With a decent blade length (10+ ") they work well on brush cutting, not as good as a machete, but significantly better than a heavy khukuri. And of course you could simply get a khukuri that has these basic dimensions. Instead of going for a thick model like the AK, get a slimmer narrow one like a Sirupati. This will perform like a slightly beefed up machete.

Lots of choices to work with any range of slicing -> chopping performance you need. What you pick should also depend on your body type and physical output. If you have very high endurance but low strength then light thin blades would work well. If you are high strength and low endurance then grab the biggest heaviest blade you can find. If you are high strength and endurance then it really doesn't matter (nor if you are low strength and endurance as you are dead then so what difference does it make what knife you were wearing).

More important over what knife you have is knowing how to use it. There is a fair amount to knowing how to hold a knife so that you don't create a significant level of strain. If you have not done much with one before then you will want to do some work before heading out. If you are well versed in its use then either a machete, BM or khukuri will work well. You will just use different techniques with each one.

Guys, knives aren't heavy. I don't know how much gear you guys pack that a pound or two is really gonna make all that much difference, but when all is said and done I pack about twenty pounds of gear, total including my clothing. I'm not going to begrudge a few ounces for a knife.

I can't speak for the Masai, but the Australian Aborigines live in diverse environemnts, they don't all live in the Outback, and not all of the Outback is desert, in the American West sense. In fact there is jungle on the coast of Australia, and Aborigines live there, and I wouldn't doubt they use soemthing like a machete. You are right about tropical hardwoods. That's why every time I seem natives go for big trees in these documentaries, they use an axe.

Knife selection is based partly on environment, intended use, and personal preference. Assuming I need to pick a knife for survival over an indefinate period of time in my native Florida, I would want a piece I custom-designed for the task. If I didn't have that option, I'd be perfectly comfortable with my Project 1. It has proven itself in the field, and I don't have to worry about it breaking.

If I had that custom-designed piece, It'd pretty much be a Project 1 with a blade about an inch longer, no serrations, and a fixed steel endcap. Of course it would live in a custom kydex sheath.

I would choose the Project 1 because of it's strength, proficiency at chopping and splitting wood, ability to crack open the bones(as much as I hate the taste of marrow, it is nutritious) of large animals with a spine whack, it's a good penetrator which is important because I kill game animals with a knife, I find the handle to be very comfortable for extended use, it's one-piece construction facilitates easy cleaning whch is important becasue there are some nasty bacteria in wild game and they can take up residence in the cracks and grooves of hilts and handle slabs, and last but not least because I can clean game with it. It is a good compromise and it does everything I could ask of it.

Cliff, actualy in such a scenario I would be chopping down two or three trees a foot wide, and a bunch more 6-8 inch wide trees. Reason being is that here in the Florida swamps and marshes and estuaries and gunkholes and even scrublands, we've got a lot of bugs that bite and will give you all kinds of diseases, as well as a host of critters that live on the ground that you don't want sleeping with you at night, and the best way to escape them is to live several yards up in the air.

You find one straight tree on good ground, or two if you can, that will form the first post/s of your platform, and then you drag the other trees over, after having lightly scorched the lower part of their trunks and apllied salt if you have some, next to the living ones and plant them in the ground a good three feet or so. The scorching and salt is to retard rot. Pour salt water all in the postholes too if you have any. Then you use some more logs to build the base and roof of the platform. Cover the roof with plam frond thatch woven as tight as you can. The tighter it is, the longer it last and the more waterproof it is. You sleep on bunks that are built above the floor of the platform, on mats made of Spanish moss that's been smoked over a fire to drive out the insects. You will find long-term survival becomes less a struggle against life and death and more of the same old daily grind the more comfortable you make yourself, and the more you "move in" to the wilderness.

I'd pick a Project 1 for several other environments as well, but being that no particular environment was specified, my home range seemed to make the most sense.

Cliff, I second the part about knowing how to use a knife. Otherwise it's like a computer, sure, you can do a lot with a computer, but if all you got is hardware and no software, it's just a paperweight.

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 13 July 1999).]
Snickersnee, when you give those measurements are you talking about diameter? Are you cutting these down with the Project?

The size seems staggering to me. I can't imagine needing something 12 inches thick for construction. That is wood that has the cross sectional area of 6 pieces of 4x4" put together. Unless its balsa or some other really light weak wood. What kind of trees are they?

Are these perm. shelters put up in places that you regularly visit or do you just construct them on the fly whenever you go out?

drag the other trees over

It is far easier to carry a stick than it is to pull it. Just pick it up from the light end and you are just fighting the torque at the center of mass (less than 1/3 the dead weight force). The hardest part is the little shift you need to do to balance it.

Using this technique you can easily carry logs that are much heavier than you can drag / push / pull. The interesting thing is that the limiting factor is not getting them up on your shoulder, that's fairly easy its the shear force across you chest that becomes the problem (that requires a lot of weight though).