New guides in our field knife series

We just published five new posts about field knives — the main fixed blade knife everyone should have as part of their basic preps. Which, combined with our recent review of the best survival knives, completes the basic set of info needed for most people:

The guides are intended to give the high-level, most-important insights on a core piece of gear so critical that many emergency experts would pick a field knife if they were limited to surviving with only a handful of items. These knife-related skills and tools also help with daily life around the kitchen, camp, and workshop.

If you read through the guides and you find yourself wondering, “how and why does a person go this far down a knife maintenance rabbit hole,” I can tell you that in my case, it all started with wanting to learn how to properly sharpen my favorite knives without scuffing them up.

I’ve loved knives since I was nerdy 9-year-old in the 80’s, talking with anyone I could about the work of custom knife makers like Gil Hibben and Bob Loveless. But it wasn’t until my early 30’s that I learned how to put a high-quality, hair-popping edge on a knife without leaving the blade a mess of scuffs and marks.

Why did I wait so long to learn this basic skill? In a word, “YouTube.”

In the pre-internet world of my youth, knife sharpening was a mix of folklore and outright fiction. If you didn’t have a parent or Scoutmaster who could teach you correctly, then you bought a diamond stone and ground away at your knives as best you could until you got something like a working edge on them. Or, you handed them off to a friend or older relative who had a reputation for true competence at this rare skill.

But knife sharpening really isn’t that hard, and in the post-YouTube world there is no excuse for not being able to maintain a razor edge on a field knife with a minimum of fuss. And when you have the confidence that you can maintain a great edge on any knife you buy, without messing it up, that can serve as the foundation on which you build a broader base of useful knowledge about the many other aspects of working with and caring for edged tools of all kinds.

A stropping success story

Some time ago, I went on a guided hunt on a large game ranch in Central Texas, where I bagged a nice trophy buck, a doe, and a large sow hog. My guide, Gus, was an ornery high school football coach who relished letting me know exactly what he thought of anything and everything.

Every time we’d see a young buck that didn’t have a decent rack on him (i.e. not a “shooter” on a trophy buck hunt), Gus would declare him a “piece of @#$%.” I got the feeling that he didn’t spare the kids he coached any choice words, either.

On the last day of the hunt, it was time to drag all three animals out of the freezer and process them. I had brought along some knives for review, so I pulled one out and asked Gus to use it on the first deer. This knife came to me with a factory V-shaped edge, and that week I had started to convex it by stropping it, but I hadn’t gotten far enough so it wasn’t as sharp as I’d have liked.

Gus took the knife and made a few cuts with it, and silently handed it back to me with such a look of utter disdain and contempt on his face that I started to flush and feel like an idiot. So I reached in my pack and grabbed the customized Fallkniven F1 that I carried as my go-to for many years, and handed it to him.

The man just couldn’t get over it; it messed with his reality like seeing a UFO.

This F1 was the knife I learned to strop on, and its convex edge had never been touched by a stone or rod. I had stropped it on a dual-sided strop loaded with black compound on one side and green on the other, and then finished it off on strop loaded with white compound. Its polished edge didn’t feel sharp to the thumb the way the micro-serrated edge from a sharpening stone does, but it would definitely slice thin paper and shave hair.

Gus cleaned all three animals with that knife, and handed it back to me with awe and reverence. In all his decades as a hunter and guide, he’d never seen anything like it. He told me that normally he’d have had to stop and re-sharpen at least once during the first deer, and the hog would definitely have dulled the blade multiple times. But after going through all that game, the knife would still shave the hair off the back of my arm.

The man just couldn’t get over it; it messed with his reality like seeing a UFO. He’d lived his whole life without knowing such artifacts existed.

My guess is that Gus is a lot like I was back in the day, and just sharpened the way he was taught, free-handing as best he could on a stone or rod and just living with the fact that the edges he produced didn’t last very long.

But now Gus knows better, and after you read the guides, so will you.


    • Vaylon Kenadell

      Thanks for all the work you do in writing these reviews and guides for more liberal-minded preppers! I really appreciate that.

      One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how to preserve fat for long-term storage. Of course everyone knows how to store beans and rice and jerky — and while carbohydrates and proteins are all fine and good in a survival situation, our bodies need to consume fat, too, for optimum nutrition.

      I’ve seen advice here and there online regarding what to buy or how to store it — bacon grease in a metal canister, wrapped pemmican, waxed hard cheeses, canned butter — but I’m curious about the actual longevity of these products. Environment and microbes quite easily ruin fats, unfortunately, which makes long-term storage challenging.

      Would this be a subject that The Prepared be interested in tackling?

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      • John AdamaStaff Vaylon Kenadell

        Thanks for the kind words Vaylon! I don’t personally know much about fat storage (oh there’s a joke in there somewhere…) but that’s a topic we’d like to cover at some point. People in the community help contribute research to these kinds of articles, so if you want to share a summary of the info you’re finding on this topic, feel free to email me: hello (at) this website.

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    • Tony Vescio

      Good read. What are the 6 knifes shown in the cover pic?

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      • Jon StokesStaff Tony Vescio

        For the two vertical knives, they are both Busse SAR 7 variants. On the left is a paper micarta handled LE variant, and on the right is a Bowie LE variant with a canvas micarta handle.

        For the horizontal ones, from top to bottom it’s:

        1. Case/Winkler skinner
        2. Dawson Scout
        3. Fallkniven F1 with desert ironwood handle
        4. Fallkniven F1 with green canvas micarta handle.
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    • Kevin D.

      Hi Jon.  I see you identify the knives in the photo, but I am deeply interested in the sheaths… especially the horizontal leather one with the firestarter or sharpener… what is that? Available where?  Thanks!

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      • Jon StokesStaff Kevin D.

        Those were made by JRE Industries and are great. Not sure if they’re still doing them though.

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    • Kakuli470

      Good to see you show & mention the TEK-LOK. I designed the TEK-LOK over 20 years ago and we have made millions of them. I still have the original hand drawn design sketch. Another product that’s great for attaching sheaths, holsters and other gear or pouches is our MOLLE-LOK. I attached a few pics of the original TEK-LOK and the Gen 2 TEK-Lok attached on some custom sheaths I made for a couple of my personal blades along with an assortment of MOLLE-LOKS. The adjustable belt shims differ quite a bit between the two versions. The steel shim is diamond coated (done by DMT) we offered them for a while as the “Sharp Shim” a mini knife sharpener inside the TEK-LOK as a backup sharpener.





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      • Gideon ParkerStaff Kakuli470

        Hi there Kakuli470! Thanks for sharing those pictures of the TEK and MOLLE LOKs. It’s pretty cool to hear from the creator of them. I’m not into field knives as much as Jon Stokes is, but I do have a few cheap ones and I can appreciate these accessories. They look like a high quality well designed product.

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