Opinel No. 08

This is truly a classic. Opinel's No. 08 first saw the daylight back in the late 1800's when Joseph Opinel wanted to create a practical EDC. Today about 15 million Opinel knives are sold per year. Opinel manufactures several models and the original No. 08 is still in production as a part of the Tradition series.

This knife has a handle made of Beechwood. As an option also Rosewood, Bone or Stag handles are available. The blade is made of stainless 12C27 Sandvik steel. The carbon XC90 and a Damascus steel is also available. I like the down-to-earth feel of this folder. The simple yet stylish design makes this a blade suited for most situations. A thin clip point blade with a slight convex edge. The folding mechanism is spring less and the lock consists of the tight Virobloc. The No. 08's tight lock, thin blade and comfortable handle actually make this folder quite a good wood carver. And as the folder is so light it's very comfortable to carry in your pocket although it's size.

Opinel is with no doubt the French equivalent to the Swede's Mora knife; all households have one. It's clear that the concept of mixing; quality, simplicity, good price and tradition, is a smash hit.

Manufacturer: Opinel, France
Model: Tradition No. 08
Blade material: Stainless 12C27 Sandvik steel with 0,40 % Carbon
Blade length: 83 mm
Blade thickness: 1,7 mm
Knife length (closed/open): 111 mm/193 mm
Handle material: Beech with a natural finish
Handle thickness: 21 mm
Knife weight: 46 g
Price: 139 SEK (Sweden 2014)
Supplier: J.A. Sundqvist AB

You can read a more detailed article on the Opinel Tradition-series in the Swedish magazine Vapentidningen No.. 1 – 2015. If you don't already have the magazine you can find it (paper or web) via Vapentidningen's homepage

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Karesuandokniven Unna àksu

An axe from Karesuandokniven? Yes! After 40 years in the knife business the Swedish company now offers an axe for the first time. The axe is called Unna àksu which means "Small Axe" in the Sami language of the indigenous people of the Nordics. Karesuandokniven couldn't have picked a better name; this is really a small axe indeed. What's special with this interesting tool is the weight, the sheath and the shape.

The Weight
Unna áksu is a lot lighter than other small axes meant to be carried in the belt. This axe I actually can carry like a knife without getting bothered by the weight. Unna áksu weighs 317 g which can be compared to the Ontario RAT-7's 361 g or the Leatherman Surge's 334 g.

The Sheath
Perhaps not the prettiest piece of leather work I ever seen, but it absolutely get the job done. I can unbuckle the sheath and pull out the axe just using one hand.

The Shape
The design of the axe's head allows me to grab the tool far up the handle. This enables me to also use the tool almost like a knife. The sharp edge holds up very good as the stainless steel is hardened to HRC 54.

Manufacturer: Karesuandokniven AB, Sweden
Model: Unna áksu 3638 (Nature) and 3639 (Brown)
Steel: Stainless tool steel hardened to HRC 54
Length of axe's head: 105 mm
Thickness of axe's head: 20 mm
Edge length: 70 mm
Handle material: Moose bone, Reindeer antlers and curly birch
Total length: 225 mm
Weight (without sheath): 317 g
Sheath: 3 mm thick black cowhide
Total weight (axe and sheath): 375 g
Delivered with: Sheath, gift box and a diamond sharpener
Price: 1705 SEK (Sweden 2015)

A Crossing Between Axe and a Knife
Of course a small axe like this one doesn't provide the same chopping ability as a big and long axe, but the Unna àksu surprises me. I'm not a fan of batoning wood with my knives, but by batoning on the Unna áksu you get a great little tool to help you out when starting the fire.

If you wanna know more about the Unna áksu; take a look in the magazine Vapentidningen no 9 year 2014. There you can read an article I've written on the little axe. On the Vapentidningen website you can order the paper version of the magazine or take a look at the e-mag.

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Fällkniven U4 Bear Claw - Good Things Come in Small Packages

For six months now Fällkniven's small lock back folder U4 Bear Claw have been my everyday companion. The knife has become a good friend and has yet not let me down. A knife like this is suitable when a big folder or a fixed blade is inappropriate. But just because I choose to go lighter I don't necessary want to lower my standards when it comes to functionality and durability. The U4 is a good example of this.

The U4 Bear Claw has a 53 mm long, 16,5 mm wide and 2,2 mm thick blade of a discreet clip point shape (almost drop point). The Super Gold Powder Steel (SGPS) has been given a brushed finish and the convex edge is 5,5 mm long. The edge feels convex but when I look closer I can see a slight bevel. One nail nick on each side of the blade is appreciated from bout right and left handed users. The U4's older sibling the U2 was actually the worlds first serial manufactured folder using the laminated powder steel SGPS.

Steel Analysis of the Super Gold Powder Steel (SGPS)
C - 1.40
Si - 0.50
Mn - 0.40
P - 0.030
Cr - 15.00
Mo - 2.80
S - 0.030
V - 2.00

The U4's 10 mm thick black zytel handle is molded in one piece and a torx blade pivot pin attaches the blade to the handle. The folder's lock back leaver is placed on the middle of the handle and is as smooth and well fitted as the rest of the U4's moving components.

Model: Fällkniven U4 Bear Claw
Blade Material: Laminated powder steel, Super Gold Powder Steel (SGPS), 62 HRC
Blade Length: 53 mm
Blade Thickness: 2,2 mm
Knife Length: 72 mm / 125 mm
Handle Material: Black zytel
Handle Thickness: 10 mm
Knife Weight: 26 g
Price: 824 SEK (Sweden 2014)

Here you can see the U4 together with a couple of  friends from the same knife segment.
From the top; Fällkniven U4 Bear Claw, Buck 55 and Opinel No. 6.

A God Candidate for The Ultimate EDC
When talking about small EDC folders I think the U4 is one of the best. The knife design is simple yet tasteful and offers a practical tool. The low weight and compact measures makes the U4 fit in any pocket, and can even be mounted on the key chain if so desired.
Although the folder is small and light it feels robust and competent and besides the obvious downsides of a small knife my only objection is the sharp edge on the back of the blade neck when folded. This sharp angle may damage the inside of a pocket or other objects kept in the same pocket. But so far I haven't really had any problems from this.

I've been using this knife a lot but have yet not needed to sharpen the edge. Have to get back to you regarding the maintenance of this knife. The U4 Bear Claw is no bling bling folder if you're out to impress your company. But this is also the strength of this knife in my opinion; to always be at hand in a discreet way.

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Axe vs. Machete - Is it Really a Competition?

"Shall I choose to bring an axe or a machete on my trip?" This is a dear question among many of my bushcraft friends.
Personally throughout the years I've gone from favoring large knives to smaller knives, and from axes to folding saws and back to axes again. Perhaps it's time to give the very large blade; the Machete another chance?

As always learning by doing is the best way to reflect on what tools are the most proper ones for a task. Therefore I pile up my favorite axes and machetes for a evaluation session out in the woods to confront my old habits and prejudices.

Chopping Tools
Of course you can use the edge of both an axe and a machete to perform smaller handy tasks like carving and dressing game, but a small and thin blade is always my first pick when it comes to precision work. Therefore I define axes and machetes as tools for chopping. So I grab some steel and chop away on both bush and timber...

When it comes to clearing a path in a thick section of the woods the machete is the way to go as the axe is less efficient cutting the flexing twigs around finger size in thickness. Also you have the safety aspect to consider when a heavy axe's short edge misses a small tree. The long thin edge of the high velocity machete also enables to take down several small stems in one single blow when the bush is getting really thick.

But when it comes to chopping and splitting larger wood the axe is your best friend. The weight of the axe in combination with the wedge shaped head takes away bigger ships from a log than the lighter and thinner blade of the machete does. A right size axe work through a arm size and up thick tree faster than a machete does, even though the machete eventually also gets the job done.

Parang and Kukri
Although we right now focus on axes and machetes I want to also mention the big blade tools falling into the category of Parangs and Kukris. These are nice chopping tools I would say is something in between an axe and a machete. I would even say a really large Bowie knife would fit into this category. The blade is often shorter and thicker than the machete's and the weight and balance is closer to an axe. In my opinion a long,  thin, flexible and light machete is best suited for chopping bushes all day long trailing the jungle. The shorter and stiffer blade of the parang or kukri is not as energy efficient when it comes to this task. But as I touched on earlier; whenever the material meant cutting don't flex back on impact, the heavier and stiffer blades and axes chunk away real good. Perhaps these "hybrid tools" is the right pick for you if you for some reason only can bring one edge tool on your trip.

The Answer to the Question
My conclusion of today's session out in the beautiful Swedish forest is that the answer to the initial question is; "It depends on what kind of vegetation you will travel through". When in a tropical environment; the thick bush and the vines demands a machete to be able to advance in the terrain. Here in the Scandinavian outdoors focus often is on building shelter and gather fire wood rather than clearing paths. Then the axe is superior to the machete when it comes to efficiency.

It's All in the Hands
But bear in mind that the most important variables in most comparisons is the skills and techniques of the craftsman; the more experienced you are in handling a tool the more efficiently the work will get done (this also include taking care of the tool, like for instance sharpening). So my advise to you is to try out for yourself; which tool is the way to go for me, when operating in this area, doing these tasks.

My Pick
In situations when space and weight is not an issue I'd pick a larger axe for fixing firewood and more robust carpentry and a thin flexible machete for moving off trail in thick vegetation. As I said; in thick jungles the machete is you best friend moving about. It's really not a competition between axes and machetes, it all depends on the task you are about to perform. These two tools complement each other very well and fits inside or outside most large backpacks.
But of course as a Northerner the axe always will lay a bit closer to my heart than the machete.

Keep on cutting and be safe.

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Buck 110 Folding Hunter

When I say the word "folding knife" the picture that pops up in your head is probably the one of the Buck 110 Folding Hunter. In 1963 Buck creates a robust lock back folder of a design that made it the classic it is today. Together with it's siblings the 110 has become one of the world's most bought folders. This year the Buck 110 Folding Hunter celebrates it's 50 year anniversary and this I want to salute by writing this article.

Although it's these folders from the 60's that are Buck's most well known products the history of the company goes back to 1899 when the founder Hoyt H. Buck as a 10 year old becomes a blacksmith apprentice in Kansas USA. In 1902 the young Mr. Buck invents his own method of forging his knife blades giving them a more durable edge making his knife making bloom. In 1949 the talented knife maker Hoyt passes away leaving the business to his son Al Buck that continues the knife making until 1991. Since then Al's son Chuck Buck and his son CJ Buck have passed on the family legacy together with Paul Bos that is Buck's current CEO.

On April 18th 1963 Buck's Board decides on developing a robust lock back folder for hunting use. The year after that the company introduces the knife model 110 Folding Hunter and the success is a fact. There had been robust folders on the market prior to the 110 but Buck was the first to refine the design of the knife and also add a leather holster for convenient carry. The knife attracted not only hunters, also farmers and other craftsmen started to carry this elegant and practical tool in their every day hard work. Initially the 110 was equipped with a 440C stainless steel but in 1981 this steel was replaced by the 425M and since 1991 Buck has used the well known stainless steel 440HC as their standard blade steel. Of course this year's 50 year anniversary is celebrated with an anniversary model.

Soon the siblings of the 110 started turning up. First out was the Buck 112 Ranger in 1969; a more compact version with a shorter blade The Buck 55 can be described as a miniature of the 110. If you're more into drop point blades I can recommend you take a look at the Buck 500 series. The 110 and 112 is also offered with a finger grooved handle (FG). Also a light weight version of the 110 and the 112 called EcoLite was in production between 2010-2013.

Since the launch of the 110 almost every knife maker has at least one folder in there catalogue inspired by the legendary Buck 110. Here you see some examples, from the left hand side; Chinese folderanonymous copyCold Steel Mackinac HunterValor Super SportBuck The 55Buck 112 Ranger EcoLiteBuck 112 Ranger and Buck 110 Folding Hunter.

The Classic Design of the 110
Most of the knife's weight is situated in the brass handle equipped with stainless steel details and handle scales made of wood. Since 1994 the scales is made of laminated birch (Dymondwood) dyed to give the look of the wood used on the older knives; Makassar Ebony. The shape of the blade and the nail nick makes it easy to open the knife and the lock back mechanism locks the blade nice and tight when opened. The 94 mm long and 20,5 mm wide beautiful clip point blade is delivered with an excellent edge straight out of the box and it's a joy to let the knife work trough all kinds of material. When it comes to field dressing my game I personally prefer the shorter blade of the 112 Ranger, but when I need a good all round folder I gladly carry the 110 on my belt. As the Buck 110 Folding Hunter is a pretty heavy folder the well made 2,8 mm thick leather holster is perfect for carry. The black holster of my newest 110 has a 25 mm wide loop for the belt, but looking at my older holsters I notice that the loop is 5 mm wider.

Blade Material: Stainless steel 420HC, HRC 58
Blade Length: 94 mm
Blade Thickness: 3 mm
Knife Length: 125 mm / 218 mm
Handle Material: Brass, Stainless steel and birch
Handle Thickness: 15,4 mm
Knife Weight: 210 g
Holster Material: Leather
Total Weight: 269 g (knife and holster)
Price: 610 SEK (Sweden 2013)

Childhood Dream and Faithful Life Partner
The genuine history of the 110 and the reasonable price in combination with the knife's potential makes it no surprise that this often is the first own knife of many youngsters with adventurous dreams. For me I can admit that the 110 was the first folder able to convince me to "just" bring a folder to a big game hunt. And the range of Buck's old lock back models makes it easy to find a knife for each occasion.

Jonas Vildmark hereby gratefully wish the Buck 110 Folding Hunter Congratulations and a Happy 50 year anniversary! May you join me on my adventures for at least another 50 years.

I can recommend you a visit to Lamnia to check out more Buck and other stuff.

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Karesuandokniven Hunter Damask 8

The Karesuandokniven Hunter Damask 8 (3570) is delivered in a beautiful gift box that I eagerly open on this peaceful day out at the cabin. This is my first knife with a hand made Damascus steel blade and therefore I respectfully sit down by the fire to get acquaintance with this beauty.

Karesuandokniven is very service mind and are offering most of their knife models in five different blade materials; stainless, carbon, graphite, Damasc Rose and Damasc Twist. So far I only have used Karesuandokniven's stainless steel knives and now after some time spent with their Damascus steel I truly understand the knife's different price tags. The Hunter Damask has a razor sharp edge and has an amazingly beautiful Damascus pattern to the blade. My knife bears the Twist pattern which is created by the steel being turned over for up to 160 times by the blacksmith (160 layers). The steel is a powder Damascus steel patented by the little forge Damasteel located in Söderfors Sweden. They have a history of blacksmiths going back to 1676. Their Damascus steel is based on the well known RWL34 but the great thing with Damasteel's process is that it produces stainless blades trough it's hardening method handling the steel in temperatures over +1922°F (+1050°C). Most other Damascus steels are made of carbon steels less stainless. This means that the blades from Damasteel and Karesuandokniven can handle more abuse than other when it comes to corrosion. So my advice to you is to use these knives with full joy and sharpen them when needed. Howerver sharpening makes the Damascus pattern fade. The cure for this is to put the blade in acid for about 40-50 minutes and then the pattern starts to show again. But remenber to always use protection when handeling acid and rinse the blade carefully in water after the treatment.

Before I got the knife in my hand I thought that I would want a longer blade. But the Hunter Damask 8 has a perfect design. I like the rather long and bulky handle made of curly birch, reindeer antler and brass. The 23,8 mm wide and chubby drop point blade is easy maneuvered in a safe and comfortable way. The brass finger guard is protruding on the edge side in a efficient way but just as much as it's OK to let your hand slide down over the blade when you wish so. The brown leather sheath is nicely crafted and fits perfect on my belt. However; I'm thinking of making a custom sheath of a more traditional Scandinavian style with a longer leather loop so the knife hangs lover, not being in the way when carrying a backpack with a conveyor belt.

Blade Material: Martensitic stainless powder steel, 120-160 layers, HRC 58-59
Blade Length: 84 mm
Blade Thickness: 3,2 mm
Knife Length: 195 mm
Handle Material: Curly birch, reindeer antler and brass
Handle Thickness: 20 mm
Knife Weight: 90 g
Sheath Material: Leather
Total Weight: 154 g (knife and sheath)
Total Length: 220 mm (knife in sheath)
Price: 3100 SEK (Sweden 2013)

I Got a Crush on This Knife
Now I have had the time to try out this knife and I like it alot. The Hunter Damask 8 works really nicely in all kinds of material, not only when butchering game. And the blade is still holding an excellent edge. I also used the back of the blade on my fire steels and it works fine, however the Damascus steel seem to take a beat from the sparks. Karesuandokniven's Hunter Damask 8 got to be a very nice first acquaintance of Damascus steel and I want more! Looking forward to my next Karesuando Damasteel knife.

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Buck 112 Ranger

After Buck's success with the 110 Folding Hunter back in 1964 it didn't take long it's siblings turner up. First out was the Buck 112 Ranger in 1969; a more compact version with a about 20 mm shorter blade and a updated shape of the front brass bolster. This particular knife is from 1994 and ended up in my hands after some help from a nice Danish couple.

The chubby clip point blade of the 112 is made of Buck's well known stainless steel 420HC; a nice all round steel that has been the company's standard steel since 1993. I especially like the blade length that allows me to put my finger on the tip of the blade not to damage any intestine when field dressing my game.

The famous Buck lock back mechanism locks the blade nice and tight when opened. 1994 was the first year Buck started using laminated birch in their handle scales. The wood is colored darker to imitate the previous scale material used; Makassar Ebony. The handle scales is nicely fitted into the robust brass frame.

As this is a pretty heavy folder it comes with a black 2,8 mm thick leather holster with a 30 mm wide loop for attaching to the belt. A more pocket friendly version of the 112 you can find in the EcoLite version produced between the years 2010-2013. If you want a Ranger with finger grooves you should check out the Finger Grooved (FG) 112.

Blade Material: Stainless steel 420HC, HRC 58
Blade Length: 75 mm
Blade Thickness: 3 mm
Knife Length: 109 mm / 184 mm
Handle Material: Brass, stainless steel and birch
Handle Thickness: 15,6 mm
Knife Weight: 175 g
Holster Material: Leather
Total Weight: 237 g (knife and holster)
Price: 590 SEK (Sweden 2013)

Out Hunting
This particular knife was actually the first folder that made me to "only" bring a folder to a big game hunt. The fact that the Buck 112 Ranger is a price worthy and robust folder in combination with Buck's genuine history makes this a ultimate hunting folder according to me. At this moment the fluffy snow is slowly falling outside my cabin window and I'm looking forward to this weekends Hare hunt. And of course then my 112 Ranger get to tag along.

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