Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gear Essentials: The Jungle Machete

While a good number of campers, trekkers and trampers will be confident and at peace in the outdoors equipped with their tiny celidor handled Swiss Army Knives, the Hunter, Survivalist and of course Zombie Hunters (and Huntresses) would up the ante and carry a Machete of some form either in their rucksacks, bug-out-bags or even safely carried onto their belts.

The machete has played a crucial role in historical events from the rain forests of central America all the way to the isles of Great Britain (or UK for the hip at heart) but it's true value lies not only in its versatility in performing cutting tasks but also the great amount of work that it can accomplish and an even greater amount of destruction it can unleash. I guess that's why the name Spanish term 'machete" literally translates to "little sledgehammer".

I've often han an aversion for carrying more than one multi-tool or a multipurpose knife during my scouting days. I have come to realize that the reason behind this is the fact that the situtations that I have found my self in during those times never called for a need to use workhorse / torture resilient tools. I never even needed to fish back then, nor hunt nor did I ever consider eating insects.

But gone are those days and as the Zombie Outbreak slowly, but surely begins to show signs of actually taking place the need for stronger, more reliable and more resilient tools come into order. Actually, I've started using a machete not because of zombies but because I realized that I cannot fell a small tree nor build improvised shelters with a dinky pocket knife. The machete has served my needs so well over time that I now look at it as an indispensible tool whenever I go out in the wild. I may leave my take-down recurve hunting bow, but you'll have to pry my carbon steel machete from my dead decomposing hands.
There have been so many varions of the Machete that came out as time went on such as the Latin Machete (which I believe is the original, and known as the traditional machete in most parts of the world), Panga, Heavy Machete, Parang (from the Malay archipelag), the Gulok, Tabak or Itak from the Philippines and a plethora of others - each one of them rightfully earning a separate review all their own. I don't have any special preferrence over these various types cause it will really depend on the task that you need to accomplish and besides a true survivalist will have to made do with what's on hand and make the best out of it - Hell, I remember CASTAWAY, one of my favorite survival films of all time, the main character played by Tom Hanks even used Ice Skating shoes as his main cutting tool. So, If you don't know anything about flintknapping, or if you can't survive while stranded in a island in the South Pacific with a broken pair of Ice Skating boots - always bring a Machete!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Knife Review: Bradley Kimura V Balisong

Being from the Phlippines, my exposure to the balisong came at a rather early age. My grand dad who served in the 2nd world war was the first person to tell me about their existence. I was about 3 or 4 years old when I came to him asking if he can reach something from the cabinets in my room and as he turned to me I saw him with his gun all stripped on the table being cleaned and I also saw this cool looking thingy with a blade attached to two counter rotating handles as he polished them. I kinda thought that it looked more like a toy over anything else. So I asked what it was. I was told that it was called a balisong. my grandfather knowing that I was into toy swords probably thought i'd be better off not seeing how cool it was if I saw the knife being flipped in this quick blinding fashion. So he closed the thing with two hands placed it inside his filing cabinet and helped me with reaching my toys from the cabinets. I never got to see that balisong anymore even after the old man passed away. It was a few years later when I saw these knives being sold at a local "vaciador" (a place that offers sharpening services for knives, saws, scissors, and other bladed tools). I was in 6th grade at that time and with my measley allowance saved up painstakingly - skipping lunch, not buying music cassettes, not buying Wrestling trading cards with their colorful bubblegum, not buying chips, not telling mom that I was planning to buy a balisong.

The day came when I got my first balisong and man, I sufferred from so many cuts, some minor some really, really bad. This was a great learning opportunity for me. I learned that carbon steel, honed to razor sharpness can cut human skin like a hot knife through butter. Several hours, days, weeks, months of flipping taught me how to respect the blade and what it can do. So dozens of balisongs and 25 years later I decided to get a non Filipino made balisong from Bradley Cutlery. I've been thinking about trying this $150 balisong before I stepped up and got the $280 Morpho Balisong from Benchmade and there are a few things worth commenting on about this acquisition. First off it's sharp. I mean razor sharp. Sharper than razor sharp... in the words of Hattori Hanzo "Its so sharp that if god stood in its way, god will be cut in two". I don't know too much about god but I sure know a good bit about knives and I can't remember how many times I got bitten that that notoriously unforgiving edge.

Well, here are the specs before anything else:
Blade Length: 3-3/4"
Closed Length: 5-1/4"
Overall Length: 8-7/8"
Handle Material: Stainless steel
Blade Material: Stainless steel
Blade Style: Spear Point
Manual latch
No sheath or pocket clip
Made in USA

The word's out that although this balisong is sold under the Bradley Cutlery brand, the knife was actually manufactured by Kershaw. Which explains the solid, overbuilt quality & feel of the knife. As far as rumors are concerned in knife collecting circles, this might just be true and that's not a bad thing at all given the quality of knives that Kershaw has always been known for. Holding the knife with the intention of flipping it made me feel a bit uneasy as I've always been used to Filipino Handmade Balisongs that are more on the lighter end at around 3 to 3.5 onces. This knife weighs in at about 5.4 ounces so, the added weight should allow for better control with aerials and spins but there's also a higher potential for it to slip. So, I approached it with extreme caution. The knife has a good, clean beadblast grey finish. The handles are made of 410 Stainless steel and if I did my homework right the blade steel is made of 14C28N Sandvik Stainless steel - the same steel that they use for those stainless versions of the world famous Mora knives of Sweden (I'll post a review on them in the future). Edge retention is top notch, I've used this knife for a year and I've never found the need to resharpen nor touch up the blade at all. The knife is based on a "sandwich contruction" platform, meaning that the sides of the handles are screwed together to hold the blade and retain the structure of the knife. Instead of the standard spacer, we have barrel type spacers on the knife with a manual latch that renders the knife locked solid when closed and when opened - just like a reliable fixed blade.

I'd like to give props for the use of phosphor bronze washers on the pivot screws as this eliminates the need for oiling and allows the knife handles to swivel smoothly all the time. In the closed position the tip on the knife's tang serves a reliable impact device for self defense emergencies. Well worth my $150. Oh, by the way I ended up spearing my left ankle with this knife when I dropped it open. Crazy? yup! and painful too.