Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Most people use a small axe to rough-out spoon blanks or bowls.  That’s what I’ve always done and have become so accustomed to using an axe for the initial shaping in woodcarving projects that anything else seems odd.  I’ve seen videos where people perform their rough-out work with large knives but it always looks clumsy.  I invariably ask: Why doesn’t that guy just use an axe?  Even so, I started employing some of my Woods Roamer knives for the initial shaping and found them quite comfortable.  The typical Woods Roamer knife is designed as an all-around survival knife and I still think it’s superior to most other designs because its overall shape lessons hand and wrist fatigue.  But a small axe (especially with a 1.5 lb head) makes the work easier because the wood carver can use the weight of the axe to do a lot of the work.  Still, I wanted to create a large knife I could utilize expressly for woodcarving.  I refer to the concept as “Completing the Circle.”  A man acquires a piece of steel and a branch.  From those two things he makes a knife.  Then he takes the knife he’s made and uses it to carve a spoon or bowl or tiller a selfbow.  The circle is completed because everything the man uses he made himself and one project leads to another.  Nothing was purchased at a store.  Total and Absolute Self Sufficiency.

The knife pictured above is a concept tool and so far I am quite pleased.  In fact, I’ve taken to using this knife for just about everything.  Camp craft, woodcraft, bushcraft…you name it this knife works as well, if not better, than a small axe.

I used a piece of 5160 spring steel acquired from a small trailer for the project.  If you can’t find a used leaf spring from a trailer then you can buy leaf spring sets at either Northern Tool or Tractor Supply.  These are smaller leaf springs than found on automobiles and they make excellent knives.  Most of these leaf springs are about 0.25 inch thick or a tad thicker and you really don’t want anything more than that because a heavier spring requires much more pounding and if left too thick won’t work adequately for woodcarving.

I canted the blade about 1/8 inch to the right so that it would allow me to keep my wrist absolutely straight when chopping or rough shaping a blank.  I made three prototype knives using a wooden handle and cardboard blades to get the angle perfect.  If you want to get an absolute custom design made exactly to your specifications then you need to build a few prototypes first.  Commercial knives are built for the masses and as such the blades are kept straight.  But a custom knife need not be held to those specifications and can be made to fit the user’s style.  Think of this along the same lines as a custom gunstock with canting along the comb in order to fit the shooter perfectly.  Knives can be built along the same lines though most people don’t realize how much better an ergonomically designed knife feels.

I looked around for the perfect handle shape and was lucky to find two nicely curved pieces of wood.  The other piece awaits its blade.  The stick tang is 4.75 inches long and robust.  A 4.75 inch long tang is essentially as long or longer than your average bushcraft knife handle and thus just as strong.  In effect, this amounts to a full tang when considering stress factors associated with light chopping.  I triple pinned the tang with one of the pins concealed beneath the copper ferrule.

As always there are other projects in queue.  A man should know how to make things.  Until you learn to make your own knives and bows and woodworking tools; and you learn all the plants in your region; and you learn biological ecology and ethnobotany and conservation biology at more than the superficial level; and you learn to make your own traps and cordage….Well, until you learn all of those things you’ll be a shopper but not a bushman.  But then after you’ve spent a few years (as in a few decades) honing your skills you’ll start looking at just about everything around you and you’ll think: You know, I can make a better one.  And you know what?  You will!

Blade Length: 7.25 inches
Mesquite Handle Length: 6 inches

My Next Post will be about Mini Bushcraft Tools.