Monday, 27 February 2017

5 Essential Bushcraft Knife Skills to Learn

The best bushcraft knife in the World will not guarantee it's going to be useful for you in the wilderness.  In order for it to be useful when it really counts,  you need to learn and practice some basic bushcraft knife skills.  In this article, I'm going to show you 5 knife skills that you can start working on today.

The great thing about learning to use your bushcraft knife is that you can do this in your backyard.  Thpractisinging is fun and over time you will become proficient with your bush knife.  Then if the need ever arises in the wilderness or a survival situation you will be prepared and know that you have chosen the right knife for the task.


Carving is probably going to be one main uses for your bushcraft knife.   This will allow you to make useful tools like spoons, bowls, and fire boards.  Carving is also something that is fun to practice at home and will greatly increase your overall control with your bushcraft knife.

You are also going to find out how well your bushcraft knife does at some of the smaller tasks.  Many people want a thick long blade for their main knife but those knives can suffer sometimes when it comes to the finer tasks like carving.

There are many knives made especially for carving like hook knives.  And while I use and suggest you have these knives as well, I also suggest you learn to do carving with your main bushcraft knife.  That way if the situation ever arises where it's the only knife on your person you know what to expect from that knife and your bushcraft knife skill set.


Okay, I'm going to start right off by saying that batoning is controversial among bushcrafters.  Many believe that you shouldn't use your bushcraft knife for batoning, myself included.  I prefer to carry an axe, saw or hatchet to perform wood tasks around the camp.

However, I still feel like it's a skill you should learn and practice because you never know when the situation arises that you don't have an axe or hatchet.  It's better to be prepared and know whether or not your knife can handle the task of batoning when you are at home in your backyard than when you really need it.

Most of your batoning will be done in the form of splitting wood.  You will need to select a bushcraft knife that is a few inches longer than the wood you are trying to split. 

Place the wood on a solid surface standing on end.  Then place your knife on top of that.  Strike out towards the exposed tip of the knife with a small hard piece of wood (the baton).  Keep batoning the knife until you split the wood. 

Try not to hit directly on the tip to protect the knife if possible.  A thicker blade will usually give you better results when batoning and is less like to take damage.  Also, it's important to have a full tang knife blade when doing this to avoid breaking the knife from the handle or scales.

Besides splitting wood, you can also baton with your knife when truncating wood.  This is when you are cutting small diameter wood into shorter pieces.  The procedure is basically the same as splitting wood but instead of placing the wood on its end you are placing it on its side.

Finally, you can baton with your knife to make deeper notches in your wood (similar to a wood chisel) or to also cut off small branches.   Even though not everyone agrees on using their knife for batoning I would still recommend learning the skill and to make sure you have a knife that can hold up to this bushcraft knife skill.

Feather Sticks

Making feather sticks is an important bushcraft skill to learn with your knife.   Feather sticks will allow you to start a fire when wood is damp and other methods might fail.  They will provide quick and intense heat for your fire at the beginning.  Another thing is that by making feather sticks you will improve your other bushcraft knife skills.

A good method is using a light touch to make light slices in the wood.  This will give you nice curls in your feather stick.  By practising this skill you will see how well your knife's blade bevel and sharpness does with this common bushcraft tasks.

Practice this skill in conjunction with your carving and fire starting skill below.  In no time you will be able to make some impressive feather sticks and you will be prepared to light a fire in adverse conditions.

Fire Starting

Making a fire is paramount in survival situations or just general bushcrafting.  It's important to know if your knife can handle this task.  It's also easy to practice at home in your backyard.

One technique to practice is whether or not the spine of your bushcraft blade can ignite a ferrocerium rod.   The Ferro rod is an easy way to start a fire and can be used thousands of times over. 

In order to do this, you will need a knife with a good 90-degree spine in order to throw a good amount of sparks.  You may need to file the knife spine down to achieve this but it's definitely worth the effort.  A good shower of sparks could be the difference between getting a fire started and sleeping in the cold.

Another fire starting technique to learn is flint and steel.  This technique will only work with your knife if it has a carbon blade.  A stainless steel knife blade won't throw off a spark when struck with a piece of flint.   For this reason, many bushcrafters only use carbon knives.

As with all bushcraft skills, practising fire starting at home and often will make your proficient for those times when you need to get a fire started in the wild.  I also suggest practising not only with dry material but also wet material.  The same applies to cold and warm weather.  It's much easier to gain confidence on starting a fire in wet cold conditions knowing your house is just a few yards away.


As if batoning wasn't' controversial enough, I give you chopping.   Many people like to use their bushcraft knife to chop down small trees to make shelters or tools around the camp.  This can be very hard on a knife blade and can loosen handle scales and damage knives.

I'm going to say the same thing here as I did with batoning in that it's a good bushcraft knife skill that you can learn at home.  You will know right away if your knife is good for this type of task. 

The most common method of chopping with a knife is getting out towards the end of the handle with your grip.  Some people only use 3 fingers to grip the handle which makes it easier to give the knife some swinging momentum when striking wood.  Just be careful that you still have a decent grip on the knife for your own safety and the safety of others.

You might also find after using your knife for batoning and chopping that it will work but isn't great for those tasks so you will instead choose to carry and axe, saw or hatchet into the woods.  Again better to learn that now that in a situation where you really need it.


You will notice that the theme of this article is to practice these skills at home before you are in a situation where your life may depend on it.  Not only will you find out what your bushcraft knife is capable of but you will also improve your own bushcraft skill set. 

An okay bushcraft knife is better in someone's hands with expert skills than a great bushcraft knife is in someone lacking good bushcraft knife skills.  By working at this you will become the former and it will be less stressful when you need these skills.

I hope this helped and please if you have any tips of your own, comment with your thoughts below

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