The Cutting Edge

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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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51 Comments

  1. John M Hazlett

    July 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

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

  4. mitchell birch

    July 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    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.

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

  6. Grant Alvarez

    July 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    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. I want one

  8. Mike McCarthy

    July 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    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. 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

    July 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    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

    July 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm

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

  12. 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. Multi-tool just so many uses.

  14. A good quality blade always. Have knife will travel.

  15. Knowledge is my number one survival tool

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

  19. Philip Clinton

    July 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

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

  21. 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. 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

    July 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    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. Yes i Want to Own the Knife

  25. Chance favors the prepared.

  26. 1 thing comes in my mind, be ready and be prepared, and most of all never loose your edge..

  27. My no1 tool is my brain, and training…

  28. I want that knife.

  29. brad epperson

    July 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    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. :)

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

  32. mine would have to be my fathers gerber black knife

  33. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Creek knows his stuff. Great interview!

  40. Fire Starter without that you can’t have pure water or cook food!

  41. My greatest survival tool is knowledge. Knowing to stay calm, as well as knowledge of survival skills are the keys to most survival situations. (Keep calm and carry on)

  42. Without a doubt a fixed blade knife is your main tool in the woods. My yrs as a Scout Master & floating rivers & hunting on my own, I was never w/o my knife. Creer’s knife may not be the best looking, BUT, looks won’t save your life!

  43. I use a Walter Brend Rescue that I was lucky to receive as a gift. I find myself being reluctant to hack on trees and branches just because I value it so much. I would love to have a blackbird as it may be a little more practical.

  44. I value my knife the most. Carry a Cold Steel Hunter for helping with shelter and dressing game.

  45. Creek says it best : surviving is simple , just don’t die. To me a good knife is life and a good knife will give you a good chance of surviving .

  46. I want more info on his neck knife please!

  47. I see a lot of good answers already posted so I’ll take a different direction. my most important survival tool is my attitude.I try to live in a mindset of peace and harmony. by living in harmony I don’t attract negative things. Pity to the thing that goes out of its way to hurt me as my Scottish blood may react., I never let anyone beat me when there is a confrontation.One of the reasons is I do everything I can to avoid them. I may use my sense of humor for example.

  48. my #1 survival tool would have to be my knife. it can be used to carve tent stakes, skin animals, make shelter, start campfires and prepare meals. there is nothing that beats a good knife on your belt ready for whatever task you ask it to do.

  49. Michael Morton

    July 26, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    It wasn’t until I started watching, #FGITW, that I realized just how important a positive mental attitude, combined with internal fortitude and the willingness to learn from everyone who has something to offer, in all life’s lessons, student and teacher alike, in order to survive and thrive.

    Outdoor survival situations are the very essence of understanding basic principals to change for the better everyday.

    The order Mother Nature commands is follow or else things can go wrong in a hurry.. Shelter / 3 hours; Water / 3 days; Food / 3 weeks. Fire is after step 2 unless the elements dictate otherwise.

    I realize this is an old post, so I’m not expecting anyone to respond, but I wanted to say “thank you, Creek, for teaching a way of life to all who care about ourselves, one another and the great outdoors!” Maybe we’ll cross paths on the game trail.

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