Survival Knife Tips: A Crash Course with Survival Expert Creek Stewart

This is the second of a two-part series from survival expert Creek Stewart. In addition to doing a Q and A with Creek on survival knives, we’ll also be giving away a  BlackBird SK5 — Creeks’ survival knife of choice – to one lucky reader and two copies of Creek’s new book.  Scroll to the bottom of the article to learn how to enter.  You can learn more about Creek’s survival school in our post from yesterday.

KD: So, what’s your survival knife of choice?

CS: I carry the Blackbird SK5.  It’s made by Ontario Knife Company and designed by Paul Scheiter.

KD:  Why this knife?

CS:   The core of my courses and what I do, especially with primitive skills, revolves around using a knife.  So there’s a lot of reasons why I use this knife.  First, for my my primary survival I want something simple. I don’t want a movie prop.  I don’t want something that’s off of Alien or Predator with big spikes on the back like you might see in Mad Max.  I just want something that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. That’s what this knife has.

KD:  What characteristics do you look for in a survival knife?

CS:  For a core survival knife, it has to be a fixed blade. Whenever there’s a hinge, there’s a weak spot. I don’t care how you look at it.  Even the best made folding knives aren’t going to compete with a fixed blade knife. And full tang– it’s got to be full tang.  I’ve seen partial tang and rat tail knives break under similar conditions that I use my knife.

KD: How can someone determine if a knife is full tang

CS:  A lot of times you can see the metal sandwiched between the scales, but if you can’t, see if the scales are removable. Lots of times rat tail tangs will have a button at the bottom, where you can see where they’ve pinched the bottom of the rat tail. Worse case scenario, call or email the manufacturer.

KD:  What about the pommel?

CS:   I like a flat, solid pommel. It’s kind of like a little hammer and you can use it to pound in stakes.  I also like a flat grind so I can strike my ferro rod with my knife.  That’s important to me.

KD:  What about size?  What’s the ideal range.

CS:  My sweet spot is about a 10-inch knife with a 5-inch blade.  That’s  small enough to do detailed stuff, like feather sets or carving fishing gorges, but it’s also big enough to baton through a tree with a diameter of 24 inches if I had to.  So size definitely matters — too big is too much and too little isn’t enough.  I’ve spent thousands of hours in the field using a knife the way it’s supposed to be used and I’ve been doing it long enough where I can say that I’ve made all the mistakes. I’ve bought the big boys and I’ve tried to get away with the little knives — the little neck knives — and there’s kind of a middle ground that I think is best.

KD:  What other knives do you carry when you’re in the woods?

CS:  I always carry a back up blade.  So on my EDC kit I carry a leatherman – the MUT – and typically a  little Victorinox or a folder like a little thumb-assisted Spyderco, but I always carry a backup, because you never know.  Even though there’s nothing I could do to break or destroy this knife, I could lose it.

KD:  What about price?  How much does the Blackbird run for and how much should somebody expect to pay for a good survival knife?

CS: This knife goes for about $120, which I think is a pretty fair price for a knife that you would expect to last a lifetime and maybe even pass on one day.  That’s the way I look at knives, I don’t look at them like a disposable tool. When I buy a knife, I expect to keep it.  I’d rather spend $100 on a really good knife, then buy five $20 knives, because you never know when a cheap knife is going to break.

KD:  What are some of pitfalls of buying a cheap knife?

CS: There becomes a point when the price is a reflection on the materials.  You can only make a knife so cheap without cutting corners somewhere, maybe it’s in the metal, maybe it’s going to corrode fast.  Look, you get what you pay for.  I don’t mind spending money on two things:  food and knives.

KD:  What other knife brands are you a fan of?

CS: Gerber makes some great knives, ESEE as well.  The Rat Series by Ontario are really great knives.  And then a few customer knifemakers — Kostner, Blind Horse.

KD:  What are you feelings about small customer knifemakers?

CS:  There’s something to buying a small production knife or a sheath.  It connects you to the spirit of American craftsmanship  There’s just more to it than something stamped out in China.  And it’s worth more danggit!  It’s worth more money. I imagine Paul, with this sheath, in his shop, in the basement, hand punching these holes — a machine didn’t do it.  It just has more value to me to know that somebody in the U..S made it.  And I think a lot of people kind of miss that.

Want to Own the Knife Creek Has?

Well, you’re in luck.  Knife Depot is going to hook up one lucky community member with a BlackBird SK5, the same blade Creek carries when he’s in the outdoors.   To win, leave a comment below before Thursday at 12 p.m. Central explaining what your #1 survival tool is and why.  One random winner will get the knife and two others will receive a copy of Creek’s book

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  1. John M Hazlett
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    My #1 tool is my WILL. Without a strong will one will not do well even the mildest of survival situations. Thanks for the opportunity to win such a sweet blade. Respect.

  2. Brian Gordon
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The 1 thing that I will not leave the house without is a knife.
    A good blade can save your life when nothing else will.

  3. Nick Harrow
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    My knife is number one with it I can make shelter, rope, and a bow

  4. mitchell birch
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Usually I use my frost knife the most out in the woods. Clearing branches in the way or around the fire to make sticks to cook with. Even making small shavings to start said fire. My knife is usually the most important tool I camp with.

    • Posted July 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      His ruck sack is top notch. That resembles the one I had when I was in the Army.

  5. joe
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    i use my ka-bar. it is a little larger but works great. would love to try something different though.

  6. Grant Alvarez
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    My #1 survival tool would have to be a good blade. Your will to live and wit are good but without the proper physical tools to use your skills you can only do so much. No matter if the blade is made of stone or steel you need a proper cutting tool to start fire, clean and prepare food, as well as cut branches and cordage to make shelter.

  7. Raynen
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I want one

  8. Mike McCarthy
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    My number one survival tool is my mind. it allows me to adapt to any situation, making the best/most of what i have to allow me to survive. It allows me to control my actions and use whatever tools and materials available to ensure my making it through a situation.

    My mind also retains all the knowledge I have retained regarding survival techniques such as shelter building, food foraging and trapping and use and maintainance of any tools and knives that may be available.

  9. Bryan love
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    A knife like this is a must in a SHTF scenario. Whether from building fires, clearing brush and protection from wild animals. This would a great knife to carry in my vehicle and be prepared

  10. Kirk A. Bennett
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    My best survival tool is a S&W Spec Ops folder. It is 7 years old and well worn but is with me always. I do have to agree with Mike McCarthy though. Nothing works without knowledge and ability. I would have said the same thing but he had dibs.

  11. Dennis Tillman
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    A good quality knife is very important to have for everyday use and long term survival.

  12. Mr Jim Oyen
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    My most important survival tool is common sense. I have enough sense to always be prepared for anything .. . I try to use common sense to figure out most situations… If in the woods .. and there is a creek.. follow down stream.. . it it is early in the day .. sun is east.. shadows are longer to the west .. later .. the opposite .. Even if I am empty handed there are a lot of things common sense can get you… shelter, food, water… Common sense before any tool or knife.. but a knife of many uses is sure the second thing!!!!

  13. Jesse mason
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Multi-tool just so many uses.

  14. john pearson
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    A good quality blade always. Have knife will travel.

  15. Patrick
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Knowledge is my number one survival tool

  16. Doug Hoag
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    My one tool I never leave home for anywhere without is my gerber multi plier tool, it has gotten me out of more situations than I can count, has everything from scissors to a saw blade!

  17. E. Schwab
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I use my knife more than anythingin the field. From filleting a fish to processing wood to make a fire. It is the single most important tool you can carry.

  18. Andrew
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Has to be the Gerber folding blade my cousin gave me as a wedding party gift.

  19. Philip Clinton
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I carry a BK-2 From BK/Kabar. Its tough and reliable. But I could use a good knife for my wife’s BOB and this would more than do the trick.

  20. alfred
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I would love to win a BlackBird-sk5 thank you.

  21. Sam Rogers
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    My #1 survival tool is a Ka-Bar. Its simple, very durable with a blade that can withstand a whole lot of damage. Once it gets sharp, it stays sharp for a long time.

  22. michael
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    my number one tool is my recent addition of my eod breacher bar that i did what most did and gave it an edge while keeping the main purpose of the tool which is a pry bar but a true survival fixed blade would be an awesome tool to have.

  23. Daniel Gustafsson
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    My sense of direction. Without a sense of direction, it doesn’t matter what other tools you bring, you’re going t o have a hard time anyway. However, a good blade and som basic know-how is never a bad thing.

  24. Arturas
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Yes i Want to Own the Knife

  25. Mark Weisman
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Chance favors the prepared.

  26. Ralph
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    1 thing comes in my mind, be ready and be prepared, and most of all never loose your edge..

  27. C.W. Skeen
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    My no1 tool is my brain, and training…

  28. Sam Bousum
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I want that knife.

  29. brad epperson
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Being prepared is the best tool. I keep an old beater econo-blade in my car bag, but would love to upgrade. Hook me up. :)

  30. Posted July 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink



  31. rob agne
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I train my Boy Scouts to think, to study , and then apply practical thinking. This is a practical knife.

  32. Trey Olive
    Posted July 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    mine would have to be my fathers gerber black knife

  33. Posted July 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s amazing how handy such a simple device is and yet in the wrong hands it can be a lethal weapon. I don’t even know the name brand of my favorite knife because it is so old the brand wore off. I know it is made in Japan and it says it is made of surgical steel. It is a semi assisted opening folding knife and I love it.

  34. Posted July 8, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I really enjoy Creek Stewart’s philosophy and admire his work because you can really tell that he is passionate and puts a lot of effort in whatever he develops. I read with great interest the interview you took and I appreciate the tips he makes on knives. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Posted July 9, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Creek Stewart is the man. I too really like the Blackbird SK5. This a good article and reference for anyone in the market for a survival knife.

  36. Posted July 19, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Hi there. This is an excellent interview and it really provides some insight on why you would want to spend the money on a good, high quality knife. One good knife is better than five subpar knives. I’m in the market for a new survival knife soon so this is great timing. Thanks!

  37. joseph
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see what knives he actually uses in real life.
    My Wife is currently building her BOB based on his writings.
    Adding the Blackbird to our kits would be a nice touch.
    Currently, we both have multitools (me a leatherman, her a gerber) and one-handed folders (me a Buck vantage, her an old spyderco rookie).
    The Blackbird looks like a good size for either of us to use; we could also attach that sheath to the pack, so it is always there.

    Thanks for the interview, and the contest!

  38. joseph
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I failed to mention…..

    Creek is the one ‘survival’ type writers that my wife pays any attention to. She obtained his BOB book herself, which would make it the only prepper type book she ever chose and bought on her own. That says a lot about the guy’s writing skills, and beliefs.

  39. Posted July 26, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Creek knows his stuff. Great interview!