In looking at this subject, I had to approach it from a “function” stand point.
If I was to suggest a first knife model to someone, I would suggest a standard Spyderco Para Military 2. The PM2 is a knife that carry’s well, deploys well with an outstanding lock and multiple choices for deployment technique, cuts well, and closes easily.
The blade steel is CPM S30V. S30V is a modern blade steel with good edge holding and good toughness, and it’s stainless. If sharpened properly, S30V will continue to serve you well on your knife for a long time.
For a new comer sharpening S30V, again, from a standpoint of function, what I would suggest is the Spyderco Sharpmaker. The Spyderco Sharpmaker is a relatively inexpensive sharpening system that utilizes diamond and ceramic stones (rods) mounted in a holder that determines edge angle for the user. The user only needs to execute basic movements with the knife on the stones and the system will handle the rest. There is material on using the Sharpmaker on YouTube, where the creator, Sal Glesser explains and demonstrates the system. I suggest buying the diamond stone options and using them with the system, as well as the Ultra Fine Rod for finishing.
While both S30V and the Spyderco Sharpmaker are not the best options in a knife or a sharpening system, I believe they’re the best to a new comer who’s looking for immediate function.
Once a user has gained a passion for sharpening, my suggestion is to either move to a high end guided system or to learn freehand. If freehand sharpening is something that one wants to learn, I suggest buying an Opinel to learn on. This is due to the low cost, sharpenability of the steel, and good build quality for learning to sharpen. A person should experiment with different types of stones and strops to gain experience and knowledge.
Regardless of which approach a person takes, the most important thing to remember is to enjoy the hobby.
Friction Fire-Starting by Jim Yurasek, REC
The earliest form of man-made fires were likely started using friction fire methods. Today we will be discussing a few friction fire starting methods, and going over in detail what is widely considered to be the most efficient.
First, let’s talk about the fire piston and how it works. A fire piston consists of a hollow cylinder sealed at one end and open at the other. A piston with an airtight circular seal is fitted into the cylinder. A string packing lubricated with water or a rubber gasket lubricated with grease is used to create an air-tight but slippery seal. At the end of the piston is made a small cavity where tinder can be placed.
Air gets very hot when it is compressed under high pressure. When the air is compressed in a fire-piston it is done so quickly and efficiently that it can reach a temperature in excess of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to ignite the tinder that is placed in the end of the piston. Ancient examples of the tube itself are of hardwood, bamboo, or even horn.
It is closed on one end, very smooth inside and accurately bored. Equal care is taken in the creation of the associated piston. A “gasket” of wound thread, fiber, or sometimes leather insures a proper seal for successfully creating the compression. This gasket is “greased” to help with the seal and to allow free travel of the piston. The walls of the bore must be perfectly straight and polished smooth.
Use of this method is simple. All you need is the fire-piston itself and a good amount of tinder. Form a pile of tinder and place a small, preferably fluffy, piece of tinder in the bottom of the hollowed out section of the cylinder. Press down hard and fast on the piston, pushing it in to the gasket on to the tinder. Remove the piston quickly and tap out the ember you have made on to your pile of tinder and blow it in to a fire.
Throughout history the most common method of early friction fire-starting is the hand drill. The friction methods developed also may depend upon time frames of the settlement on different continents as available materials influenced the methods used, such as bamboo as the cylinder in the fire-piston. The hand drill has been modified many times by countless different cultures, one such innovation is commonly called the “bow drill” or “fire drill”.
The materials needed for this method (a bow , drill, socket and base board) can mostly be gathered from natural materials such as wood and rock. You will need a flat piece of wood, about an inch thick, for the base. A fairly straight piece of wood, 5”-10” long, with about an inch diameter for the drill. A curved piece of wood, usually found from a branch of a small tree, for the bow. A small piece of rope long enough to loosely string it in the bow. A shoestring can be used here, alternatively you could make string with the fibers of some wood or leaves. And, a piece of wood or rock with a notch in the center for the socket.
To use the bow drill you must first cut a notch in the base board about 1.5” from the edge to make an indentation with the drill. Space it so you’re about ¼ of an inch away from the edge of the base board with the edge of the drill. Then, stringing the drill in to the bow, hold the drill down with the socket on the indentation you made with the drill and move the bow back and forth causing friction on the base board. Repeat this motion until you form an ember with the dust formed. Weather conditions and materials will largely contribute to the success of any bow drill set-up. For example, you always want to have a slightly harder wood for the drill, and, for obvious reasons, this method will be much more difficult in wet conditions.
Man has used Every Day Carry since the dawn of time. From Knives to fire starting kits, it’s always good to be prepared for whatever nature has in store. But, the most important EDC is knowledge. Having all the equipment in the world would be pointless if you don’t know how to use it properly. Having the skills to make and use a bow drill set up is an excellent EDC. For more information, and a great presentation of this method check out Les Stroud’s (Survivorman) content.
CAMPFIRE ESSENTIALS by Jim Yurasek, REC
Fire, man's most ancient skill. Without the ability to make and sustain fire, humanity would not be able to survive the harsh elements of nature. In this article I will be covering some of the basics of fire starting, safety, and a few tips on how to start a fire in non-optimal conditions.
Gathering plenty of dry wood is easily the most important part of getting a good sustainable fire started. Firewood can be broken down in to three categories: tinder, kindling, and fuel wood. Tinder can be anything that takes a spark and catches fire easily. Some good examples are dry leaves, cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly, frayed rope or twine, birch bark, feather-sticks/fine shavings of wood or fatwood (highly resinated pinewood), most paracord has cotton twine on the inside, or some of the store bought materials like the Instafire Fire Starter. Any of these will be able to take a spark to flame, even in the rain. Kindling is anything with the diameter of pencil lead to the diameter of your finger, and fuel wood is anything wrist sized and up. Finding dry wood is essential. Look for branches sticking up in the air from fallen trees, dead standing wood, and dead branches that have fallen and are leaning against stumps or on other trees. Being in the air, not on the ground, these pieces of wood have a better chance of being dry. Look for wood in shielded areas such as under dead trees, caves or rock outcroppings, and in thick patches of conifers. Dry wood can usually be found in these places, even if it's been raining all week. Wet wood can also be used if it's split using an axe or knife to baton, getting to the dry wood on the inside. Always take your time and gather more wood than you think you'll need, then double that amount and you'll easily have enough wood to last the night.
To start building a fire you'll have to process the gathered wood, breaking it down in to 18-24" pieces for fuel wood and 6-12" pieces for kindling. Using a folding saw or axe to break down larger pieces is optimal. But, if that’s not an option, use the leverage method by putting a long piece of wood between two trees that are close together and push or pull, or breaking it with your foot. You can also burn larger logs in segments, starting from one end and feeding the log into the fire as it burns down. Once everything is broken down and separated in to the three types, you can start to build the fire. Some popular methods are teepee style, log cabin, and pyramid or upside down fire. Teepee style is fuel wood and kindling leaned against each other around a pile tinder and smaller kindling in the shape of a teepee. Good for a smaller, more controlled fire. Log cabin is two pieces of fuel wood laid parallel to each other on the ground with two more pieces laid perpendicular on top either end of the first two pieces, and so on in descending size with tinder and kindling inside the cabin structure. This is good for getting a large fire started quickly. And, the pyramid style is layers of fuel wood layed on top of each other perpendicularly in descending size and shape, making the shape of a pyramid. The tinder and kindling is put on top of this fire building style and is started from the top, giving it its other name "upside down fire". This style is good for long slow burning fires. Always use designated, or pre-built, fire rings if available. This will help cut down on the risk of forest fires. Also, multiple fire rings in a campsite takes away from useable space, and it is damaging to the natural surroundings.
Getting a fire started in the rain, or wet conditions, can be difficult. Using the following method is a good way to spark a flame in any condition. Split or baton several pieces of thick fuel wood, using a good bushcraft knife or axe, to get to the dry wood in the center. Arrange three or four of them parallel up against each other on the ground, making an elevated dry surface to start your fire. Put two or three of the fuel pieces at one of the ends of the platform, and have your kindling ready to lean up against that end over the base. Make a good sized pile of tinder on the base close to the end where you put the fuel wood and light it on fire. Keep adding kindling until you get a solid flame, then start adding small pieces of fuel being careful not to block airflow. You can also blow on the fire, or use a pocket bellow, to get the fuel and kindling going. At this point you can easily build it in to a log cabin or teepee structure, just be sure to allow plenty of airflow. Be sure to keep your fire inside the ring, and enough water on hand to extinguish the flames in case of emergency.
When camping somewhere, always check the fire regulations. Some places may have a ban in certain areas, elevations or altogether due to dry conditions. Most places don’t want you to bring your own firewood, to help stop the spread of invasive species like the ash borer beetle. Remember to always follow the “leave- no-trace” rule by thoroughly extinguishing your fire with water. You may have a few questions such as: How do I split wood with a knfe by "batoning"? How do I make a feather-stick? What is fatwood , and where do I get it? Other than using a lighter or matches, what are some alternative fire starting methods? These questions and many more will be answered in future articles in the REC Newsletter.
With the weather getting warmer, and stay-at-home orders being lifted, we all want to get out and enjoy nature. Let’s get back to our roots and safely enjoy, fire.