Home' The Backwoodsman Magazine : Jan-Feb 2018 Contents 31
dead log to get at the dry heartwood
inside. First, you cut the log to a man-
ageable length (takes just seconds
with a good saw), then, you split it
from the end grain with an axe.
Even a mini-hatchet is an awe-
some splitter if you use the safe
method illustrated. Also, the blunt
poll of an axe is a handy hammer—
useful for setting tent stakes and
rivets and for straightening the hard-
ware of a bent aluminum pole or canoe.
I wouldn’t dream of going on a
r emote canoe trip without an axe!
If you don’t have an axe for
splitting wood, just use your belt knife
and hammer the spine on through
with a wooden mallet. In my outdoor
seminars I often wow the audience
by splitting a three-inch thick pine
log with a cheap paring
surprised at how effective
a small, light knife can
be when it is used with a
These edged tools
travel with me on all my
wilderness canoe trips:
Cliff Knife, from
Idaho Knife Works. I
designed this blade 10
years ago, but master
knife-smith Mike Mann
continues to improve on
the design. Specs are: 4-1/4 inch,
full-t ang, flat-ground, carbon-steel
(15N20) blade, one-sixteenth of an
inch thick at the spine. The edge is
sharpened right to the hilt—essential
for leverage when you “power-
shave” kindling. In the kitchen, the
lightweight Cliff slices meat and
vegetables like a culinary blade; in
the woods, it confidently splits four-
inch thick pine logs. The point is fine
enough to pick a splinter or bore a
hole in a fire-board; the carbon steel
blade sharpens easily to a razor edge
and in an emergency will produce a
reliable spark when struck with flint.
The blade has enough flex to do a
fair job of filleting fish.
A Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet
is usually enough axe for me.
When the route calls for
clearing portage trails,
I bring a larger (three-
quarter length) Gransfors
Small Forest axe. I have
never needed a larger
axe. On go-light trips I
pack a Gransfors mini-
hatchet (12 ounces)—it is
more efficient than most
full sized U.S. hatchets.
Saw: The Fastbuck
com) is the best folding
saw on the planet! I
won’t go to the woods
Original Leatherman tool: It’s
lightweight, compact and it has all
the tools I really need.
In summary: A medium sized
thin-bladed sheath knife, a multi-
tool and a compact folding saw and
light axe, are all the edged tools you
need on a remote bush trip in North
America, and indeed, most anywhere
else in the world. The tropics are the
notable exception. There, you’ll need
a machete. www.cliffcanoe.com
L to R: Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet, Fastbucksaw,
Idaho Knife Works, “Cliff Knife, Leatherman
Safe way to split wood: (Left) Splitting wood is
easy if you use the axe as a splitting wedge rather
than a chopping tool. Thick logs can be easily
split by this method. No axe? Just use the same
procedure with your fixed-blade knife. (Right)
Kindling splits easier from the end grain—a
process that is easier and safer if you use a stick
of wood to hold the upright stick in place.
Cliff Jacobson is one of North
America’s most respected outdoors
writers and wilderness guides.
He is a retired environmental
science teacher, an outdoors
skills instructor, a canoeing and
camping consultant, and the
author of hundreds of articles and
more than a dozen top-selling
books. His video, “The Forgotten
Skills”, details the most important
camping procedures. His flaghsip
book, Canoeing Wild Rivers,
5th Edition (Falcon Guides) has
been in revised continuous print
since 1984 and is internationally
recognized as the premier text
for canoeing wilderness rivers.
Cliff is a distinguished Eagle
Scout, a recipient of the American
Canoe Association’s prestigious
Legends of Paddling Award and a
member of the ACA Hall of Fame.
Cliff has canoed and camped in
the deserts of the west, the forest
and tundra of Canada, Alaska,
Norway and Finland, the tropics
of Costa Rica and the glacier ice of
Spitzbergen, Norway. He has never
carried-or needed-a big knife!
See Cliff’s web-site, www.cliff
canoe.com for information about
his books and popular video.
Cliff’s newest book, “Justin Cody’s
Race to Survival” (a riveting teen
adventure that teaches canoeing
and camping skills) is available as
a FREE download on his web-site.
Click on SHOP/FREE.
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