Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Cut To The Chase

There are only two things you need for great food, really fresh ingredients and really, really, sharp knives.

As regular readers will know I pendulum between the futurist and atavist positions on most things and knives are no exception. Over the last few months I’ve been fetishising Tom Brown Jnr’s $260 T2 Tracker knife – but I didn’t buy one..............

A word as to knife, or knives. These are of prime necessity, and should be of the best, both as to shape and temper. The "bowies" and "hunting knives" usually kept on sale, are thick, clumsy affairs, with a sort of ridge along the middle of the blade, murderous looking, but of little use; rather fitted to adorn a dime novel or the belt of "Billy the Kid," than the outfit of the hunter.
George Washington Sears AKA ‘Nessmuk’ writing in the1880’s

For ‘murderous’ read ‘tactical’ and Nessmuk, Field and Streams venerable canoe camping correspondent, could be blogging today. I reckon he would have pissed himself laughing at the camo coatings offered on so many of today’s outdoor and hunting tools. I love my camo as much as the next redneck, but in the field ‘camo’ is often a pseudonym for ‘never seen again’.

Another trend in knife design is wooden handle and steel blade, held together with brass pins. Nowadays known as the ‘Woodlore’ style, popularised by Ray Mears. While these knives do have an attractive handmade-ness, they can be silly money. Perhaps I’m a bit of a pikey but at up to $440 I wouldn’t want to use a blade for duties any more demanding than letter opening!

Between the extremes of ‘weapon’ and ‘handicraft’ I did find a style that suited me. The ‘pry-bar with an edge’ AKA the ‘survival knife’.

After a scouting around on the web for a while. And choosing to impose a limit of $100, (I say ‘choosing’ it was actually fear of Mrs Bushwacker that made me impose it). I came to a choice of design philosophy between- America* and Sweden, the Gerber LMF II for serious mass production and Fallkniven F1 for serious seriousness.

*I know Gerber’s parent company is Finish – if I’m not pedantic enough for you write your own blog

Both designs pride themselves on being strong enough to stab straight into the side of an oil drum. I don’t know what the manufactures had in mind, but I know a barbequing opportunity when I see one!

Fallkniven, which means folding knife in Swedish, designed their knife for pilots who have made an unplanned change from flying, to shanks pony (walking) in sub-arctic conditions. The handle grips against skin or gloves whatever the temperature. The blade is in the 'drop-point' style and a practical 3.5inches long. Made from a stainless steel called VG 10 with a full tang, (the blade goes all the way through the handle), and has a pommel or sticky-out-bit at the end of the handle so you can give it a proper whack when handcrafting your new oil barrel barbeque, splitting logs or boar’s skulls.

Gerber, which means baby food in my house, designed their knife for infantry folk or at least for infantry wannabes. They gave their knife a more substantial pommel, nice, but chose to separate it from the blade, purportedly so as to reduce the shock felt when using it as a hammer. Unfortunately this ‘innovation’ means the handle has to be stronger rather than grippyer. Gerber Hmmmm.
In fairness I did like the idea of a sharpener built into the sheath, but that annoying serrated bit by the finger guard is in exactly the wrong place on the knife. It’s positioned just where a sharp plain edge is most useful for fine work like making tinder sticks. Still it does help give it that ‘tactical’ look. For me the tinder sticks would be more useful than looking ‘murderous’ when in the field.

Fallkniven give you three options for the knife and three for the sheath.

1. Plain blade with a Thermorun handle. Simple: utilitarian, grippy, and sterilize-able in a saucepan of water. Just the thing for my Elk hunt.
2. As above: but with a black blade. A bit too ‘tactical’ for me.
3. Plain blade with a Micarta handle and a nickel silver finger guard.
A very nice mix of useable and hand finished, nearly got my vote.

1.Drop in Scandinavian style sheath – now discontinued but available on Eay.
2.Flap closure style. The standard version, you wont lose it or have to pay any extra.
3.Moulded Zytel with a popper fastener. I like synthetic sheaths, but I’ve seen them done better.

Even though I’m in London, only 1762.65 miles from the Fallkniven factory.
The ‘sharpest’ price I found was from BestKnives.com in the USA. $98.95 or about £50 (they have the Gerber LMF II for $76.95 i.e £36 – pretty good as I’ve seen it in rip-off Brittan for £100+). These guys are cheapest or second cheapest for most knives, they ship promptly, and give you a UPS number to track your shipment with.

I’m lovin’ it!
I’ve used the knife for a few rough jobs; opening gummed up tins of paint, scratching out putty and broken glass. I’ve beaten it into some logs, cut some fire wood and shaved some tinder sticks. It would never be my first choice in the kitchen or for butchery, but its not designed to be, so fair play.
It takes a reasonable edge pretty easily and holds it well. Due to a lack of skill on my part I’m yet to get it sharp enough to pass the wet cigarette paper test.
Some people have re-ground theirs from the convex edge to a flatter blade profile, which will undoubtedly make for a much finer but more delicate edge. I’m not sure that I’ll bother. While I like the idea of it being a bit sharper. I kinda feel that it would miss the point, you can get all the knife you’ll ever need for fine work for $10 (Frosts – also of Sweden). The F1 is for making shelters, splittin’ firewood, and making showers of sparks. All things it does flawlessly. I have never seen any edge that makes more or bigger sparks from a firesteel. Really this you have to see!
The only modification I’ve made so far is to rub the handle down with fine cabinet paper. My guess is that like with new bike tyres, there is still some of the release agent left from the mould and a light sanding made the handle much more grippy.

PS after a while I'd blunted the blade and sent it back for a refurb there's what happened

Full Description http://www.fallkniven.com/a1f1/f1_en.htm

How Strong? http://www.fallkniven.com/test.htm

Best Price http://bestknives.stores.yahoo.net/faf1misukn.html

If You Must http://www.gerbergear.com/product.php?model=1400

Keep ‘em peeled. Bushwacker.


American Bushman said...

I'm glad to hear your opinions on the F1 as I've just ordered one last night.



Mungo said...

Finally! I have been trying to figure out what the much-vaunted F1 is, I go to the BCUK forum all the time and haven't ever really found a link. http://www.fallkniven.com/a1f1/f1_en.htm is it. Finally. Thanks!
Just linked yer blog to mine - hope that's cool.
Mungo Says Bah

Perkunas said...

I just noticed this review,its great.
i own tom brown tracker "one",and i gotta tell you that youre way better off with f1,than tracker.Tracker,however is just awesome tool if you only get to carry one,to cover all tasks in the woods but it requires better/silent sheath made out of leather and some edge modifying,to make it whittle better.its built like tank and if you ever get one,just remember to carry some small penknife with it and youre just fine to go.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right about the F1 and I know what I'm saying

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Well that's a relief