Tag Archives: Ray Mears

Pleasure of whittling — Which knife ?

A knife and a piece of wood make my day.
I can sit and enjoy a good blade taking nice wooden chips.
Steel chemistry is important, especially how fine its grain is.
Back in the 90’s I have found how a Benchmade in M2HSS was more enjoyable than the same model in ATS-34.
How is the blade is ground is also very important, scandi makes shallower cuts when hollow grind got deeper in my experience.
But more than this: the general ergonomy of the knife and especially the spine of the blade do make a difference for me.

But let’s have a look at the knives: Ed Schemp’s Tuff and Bowie, Police 4, Yojimbo 2, Sebenza, Spydiechef, PPT, Paramillie, Lil’Native, Wolfspyder, A little TOPS scandi, Mantra2, Millie and Nilakka.

A rounded spine like my Sebenza is great. It’s very thin edge is also a plus but ATS34 is not making the moment enjoyable. Of course it will cut but the pleasure of feeling how the edge is making the chips is not there. Its edge is like a mad cow !! Hard to control.

 

One of the great surprise in term of pleasure has been that Lil Blue 2 from Raker (Ray Kirk). Made of 52100 ball bearing steel and brought to razor by JD !
The rounded spine of that small fixed blade makes it super enjoyable. The fine grain 52100 makes thin chips but can also be use hard for deeper cuts. That would the kind of knife you can enjoy all an afternoon without thumb soar.

A good old Opinel N°8 is able to cut deep and with power, for sure. Do I enjoy it ? Not really. It does the job but there is no pleasure when the thin spine bites my thumb during push cuts.

A great surprise and even a better surprise that my previous whittling with a Yojimbo 2 in S90V is my Yo2 Jade with a CPM M4 blade.
It is not a knife designed for whittling but it does the job perfectly. Better even is a tougher blade in CPM M4 which is very aggressive. The spine also is thick and my thumb can push with with confort and control. The Yo2 and especially that version is a great wood companion I can use with serenity.

Another knife I highly recommend for going in the woods and whittling with pleasure. And another knife with some martial pedigree has proven to be a great whittler: the PPT.
The S90V thin blade of that edition with a very confortable handle has been eating wood like a chef.

Speaking of chef: lets’ continue with the surprises. One important side of the Spydiechef is how easily it can go out of the kitchen. Sailors and sea kayakists are using it without any risk of failure but within the woods? OK mine has been convexed but this is another great tool to bring with you everywhere. I was able to create beautiful chips and the spince have not bite my thumb. Really a nice experience with this one.

My CPM Cruewear Paramillie has been convexed and its edge was really hungry for wood.
It was in all the bunch the one which went the easiest in the rod of wood. But then the square spire was so sharp and thin: it was not enjoyable. More about it later.

The Lil’ Native with JD sharpening skill is nice and powerful for its size. Really a nice you should not judge by the size. But then again, JD reground it to almost a scandi level. The belly and the thin edge does marvel for whittling. Just a tad longer blade will improved the experience but then you got a Native not a Papoose no more.

Another knife improved by JD sharpening skill is the Mantra 2. I had rounded the spine on this one and it turned to be a very powerful wood cutter. The kind of knife which disappears in your pocket and once deployed is a game changer. The very solid construction and great ergos of that Eric Glesser design is blooming in the woods.

The Police 4, as powerful as its K390 thin convexed blade was a real disappointment. The thin spine is really hurting my thumb when push cutting. The Police is and stays a very urban design. I was not really able to enjoy fine whittling with it. It does the job but the thin spine ruined it for me. This one is much better in cutting cardboards or ropes…

Of course the Nilakka is a five stars experience. nothing new: thick spine, zero ground blade. It is powerful and accurate. Pekka Tuominen knows. Just the thin point could be an issue when digging in the wood to make a hole for example. This is were the Wolfspyder shines: a very solid point !

Another great surprise in term of pleasure has been the Gent knife from Massdrop. I had convexed the edge and its S35VN rounded spined blade is just great. Its natural belly helps a lot in term of push cuts. It is a great folder and 100% shot flipper, easy to keep clean, and look at the shape of that blade: it is stunning and for less than 100 dollars shipping included. It will be reviewed.

Sorry, but the Mora has been the worst. It was not able to bring me nice chips.
I’m certain it would be a great hard used tool in the wood but here for fine gentle whittling: zero pleasure.
The synthetic handle is becoming sticky, the scandi edge is rusting and it was not able to bite in the wood. Cheap fixed blade.

So eventually, using 400 grits sandpaper, I have decided to rounded the spine of my Paramillie 2 and of course it makes a huge difference. Actually I have been really surprise in how deep It was cutting in the wood, kind of remembering its brother in 52100.
Soon I will try AEB-L steel which is considered as a stainless 52100 on a Sprint Run Urban already in transit. So more will come.

In conclusion my more enjoyable whittler is still the Wolfspyder.
The surprise joy came for the Gent, The Yojimbo 2, the Mantra 2 and the Raker.
The Paramillie with a more rounded spine will be certainly part of the club.
The biggest down was the Police 4 and the Mora.

But in term of sitting under the porche and whittling a rod the Ray Mears designed Wolfspyder is winning. It was designed for that task.

 

Casstrom No.10 Swedish Forest knife — My Woodlore Alternative.

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The title could have been the “Poor Man Woodlore” but it would have not reflect the quality of this N°10 SFK Bushcraft knife. For twenty years now I have follow with interest the long walk of Ray Mears in the wood. Producing an elegant fixed blade to make some magic of barks, sticks and leaves. First time I have seen him using his knife, I thought to myslef: “Who is this guy who walks in the countryside with a fixed blade in his pocket…” This is where my interest for the man and the tool has started.
I was already using a Hello Scandi grind knife back on those days with cladded carbon steel.

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Bushcraft is a childhoold adventure dream. It mixes Tarzan, Rambo and all those scouts and indian stories. You can go playing in the woods with your favorite new sharp toys, creating things like bows, arrows, huts, shelters… I was doing bushcraft with my uncle Guy back in the 70’s. He was using a sturdy slipjoint german knife we called a “Canif” (k-nife) and soon I was allowed to bring my own fixed blade knife. Later, when I was 11, I was really into it after investing all my money in a Glock Feldmesser 78 which was a game changer for me: I was able to chop wood !! Any way, a fixed blade was always my best friend in the wood and I have often asked for a sheath I could pocket easily. Don’t laugh but I still got my Rambo II knife… perhaps the subject of another article. Anyway here a picture:
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Ok back to the topic:  Casström No.10 Swedish Forest Knife.
Casström is a manufacturer and distributor of top quality knives and outdoor equipment. They got all a collection of knives and some beauties for bushcrafter. They are famous for having a survival knife developed with survival expert Lars Fält an old friend of Ray Mears. But I was not interested in that collaboration. Why ? because I was looking for a smaller knife. My attention turned to the N°10 with its 10cm long blade compared to the Lars Fält with it 11,5 cm blade.

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I add noticed they were selling Second Knives in their site. It sounds great to me since I got a great experience with Second knives in the UKBushcrafter sale some years ago.
So I have contacted them explain to them that an handle or cosmetic was not an issue as far as the blade was perfect for the review. Gently they have decided to send me a perfect knife instead of a second and that for the initial price. Very nice gesture.

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From their site we can learn that it was designed a multipurpose knife for hunting, bushcraft and general use in the great outdoors. The blade is 10cm long and made using 3.8mm thick Austrian made O2 high carbon tool steel (Böhler K720) and heat treated to achieve a hardness of 58-60 HRC. The knife is ground with a shaving sharp flat Scandinavian grind and have a satin finish… and it’s true, it was shaving sharp right out of the box.

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What I had noticed on the pictures of N°10 knife was the handle: it’s not straight.
Immediately after holding it for the first time, it was love at first palm ! The handle is so well thought after, it literally makes love with your hand. It’s like Ed Schempp or Paul Alexander knives designs, straight lines are not our friends, curves are our friends.

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You see where you pinky can wrapped itself ? It is so confortable !
You can also see the black liners between the handle scales and steel to enhance durability over time. The site explains also that the wood has been treated with a traditional Scandinavian linseed oil based varnish.

The knife comes with a sturdy welted sheath made from cognac brown 3mm vegetable tanned full-grain leather. The sheath features an extra wide belt loop, a fluid draining hole and a lanyard hole. All based have been covered. The sheath looks sturdy but I was happy to apply some bee wax and jojoba in it to smooth it a little.
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About the steel: Böhler Tool Steel K720 is a very tough and strong oil hardened high carbon tool steel also known as O2 : C. 0.9%, Si. 0.25%, Mn. 2.0%, Cr. 0.35% V. 0.1% (HRC 58-60)
Compared to
O1 Tool Steel. C 0,85%  Si 0.50%Mn 1.00% Cr 0.60% Ni 0.30% W 0.40% V 0.30% Cu 0.25% P 0.03% S 0.03%
They are brothers in the tool steel department as “Bushcrafters generally don’t seek the characteristics of stainless over the performance of high-carbon edge retention, and is why traditional Bushcraft knives are produced using tool steel for their blades.Spyderco Catalog.

Compared to the UKbushcrafter in G10 they also brother in the same department.

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The main difference between them is the weight; 68 grams lighter for the N°10. G10 is heavier and more dense than oak. I do prefer also the wood handle which feels less slippery than G10 when my hands are wet.

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The sheath also is less bulky that on the UK Buscrafter which feels like a bigger knife all in all.
But compared to the original Woodlore we are in the same game: same length , same weight, same kind of steel, same grind… Which makes a great alternative with a very clever handle at a fraction of the price.
Really, Casström people are entering the bushcraft game with great products at a very nice price. The N°10 made in Sweden (*) can be found around 120 euros with international shipping and you can compare to the 460 euros of the last Ray Mears design made in the UK. Alternatives are good.
Time to test the knife  now. More to come soon.

* “The knives are manufactured predominantly in Spain, but with design, material selection, final finish and quality control here in Sweden. The finish is very high in relation to the price and materials used as you can see. The wooden handles we make are close to custom grade.” David Cassini Bäckström — Casström AB

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Wolfspyder upgrade – adding a deep pocket clip on the folding bushcrafter.

I had ordered a titanium deep carry clip for my Yojimbo2 but eventually I did not like how it was slowing the draws on that SD folder. But there is one knife which desserved another attempt: the beloved Wolfspyder. So here it goes ! I’m always amazed at how thick the blade is and how solid this little folder is after one year without real maintenance. I have found the scandi S30V quite easy to maintain razor sharp and to my surprise it is easy to keep that way without any convexing and losing the “zero ground” scandi edge. But the best thing about the Wolfspyder is how hard you can use it with now after thoughts. You can drill with its point and cut hard in wood or plastic. There is no risk of failure from the point to the lock and the thick G10 slabs are confortable during long cuts sessions. Mine has developped zero play in any direction after one year of use. It’s one of the knife which is sheeple friendly and gives a lot of joy in use. Controlling the whittling cut is really something which gives you a grin of satisfaction. The Wolfspyder ? Still highly recommanded in my book. 😉 Easy to carry and easy to reach in the pocket. This one will be in my pocket for a trip in Norway very soon ! The Scandi ground little big knife in Scandinavian territory ! 20171004_192619-011485188651.jpeg 20171004_172752-021531683036.jpeg20171004_192521-011447988755.jpeg20171004_192536-011341008177.jpeg

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It can take big chips of wood from hazelnut trees.

Geometry rules!

And after a week end of whittling it is still razor sharp.

False Brothers — Wolfspyder and Yojimbo2

Like Apollo and Soyouz, those knives are different but got connections.
Both are Spyderco folders with no hump, no choils, both equipped with compression locks, nested liners, spoon clips and radical blade designs.

Both are made to be carried as EDC. Not too big but not too small with a blade around 3 inches / 9 cm.
Their looks are reflecting their designer’s minds and crafts. Ray Mears is a teacher in bushcraft and Michael Janich is a teacher in martial blade craft.

Both are best carried tip up and you need to pull on their tails to unsheath them. They leave a similar print in and especially out the pocket.
Also both got a consequent integral guards. Only the Yo2 got its guard double with a nested liner though.

The main difference is the way their respective blades are ground.
A scandi grind against a saber hollow ground: the Yin and the Yang of cutting perfs.
Eventually the Yo2 is much easier to get sharp as you got less material to remove. But the Wolfspyder scandi’s once sharp is a pleasure on wood works for very precise controlled cuts. In that area, the Yo2 is more like a wild hungry edge waiting for a firm hand to stay on the course.
The thick point of the Wolfspyder is made to withstand drilling in hard wood.
The shard of the Yojimbo’s point is designed for deep penetrating thrusts… to the bone.

But in the end of the day, both knives are very pleasant EDC companions. Their ultra solid locks make them safe to use hard with no after thought. I was surprised how they can be adapted to mondaine chores with their own characters. Both got great ergonomics improved by a wide guard. The compression locks are not hurting my hand like on my Paramillies and the absence of jimping and hump is a plus in my book when you need to extend your thumb on the back of the blade for power cuts.

Spyderco Ray Mears WolfSpyder Collaboration

When I’ve heard about the collaboration between Ray Mears and Spyderco, I was really excited. Ray Mears !! I knew his show since the 90’s and his gentle way to walk in the beautiful English countryside and doing a lot of thing with a short fixed blade.

Wait a minute ?! A short fixed blade in the UK ?! Is that forbidden by UK laws ?
But Ray’s knife was a tool to do things, to create shelter, to elaborate traps, a cutting tool used for construction, for cleverness… not for fear and destruction.

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At the last Minimeet in Amsterdam I was able to play with a prototype of the coming Wolfspyder. I was not impressed. Almost disappointed : it was a very short knife with a big notch in the handle asking for my thumb to find a linerlock… without any liner lock. Oh yeah, it was a very goofy handle at first sight… And a thick edge on a short blade…

Eric Glesser was hosting the Meet alone for the first time and he was giving a lot of informations about this design : how Ray Mears has contacted Golden and how they have decided to join force. The best ‘in house’ lock being the Compression Lock, it was an immediate choice. Now the folder needed to be used in the way Ray uses his knives, so it needed to be tough, solid, reliable and ergonomic.

Ray Mears Woodlore was his first attempt in the knife designing world. Alan Wood was the maker of his short fixed blade with scandinavian grind. The result was a no non sense design of a versatile tool. (Spyderco also got their own Bushcrafter knife vaguely inspired by the Woodlore craze…)

To my own knowledge the Wolfspyder will be the first folding knife designed by Mears, so I figure this is a very personnal attempt. He had time to think about what he wanted in a folder. So this a knife of maturity.

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The result is absolutly fascinating if you know the philosophy behind Woodlore Inc UK’s premier School of Wilderness Bushcraft: using knowledge to live from what the wilderness offers.
In the past years, I had noticed in his TV shows that Ray Mears was often using a Suedish folding knife (a Fallkniven 3 inches folder) instead of his famous Woodlore fixed blade knife. It was funny as I remember how Peter Horstberger (Fallkniven’s CEO) was not advising to use his folding knives for cutting wood… (When his Fallkniven U2 was released…)
Anyway, Ray Mears was counting now on a full flat ground folder as his main EDC in the wild and on the show. But now he was going to Golden: the ‘Temple of Full Flat Ground Folders’ to get his own design refined and produce and we got…. A scandi grind folder !?
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OK. Scandi means hard use for me. The blade offers some thickness to almost its point. Its edge goes deep when push cutting and trimming wood and the cuts can stay shallow for creating feather sticks.
But as much as I love S30V, will the choice of that steel be the best « sharpening friendy » choice ? CPM S30V is one of the rare steel made for knives but Bushcraft tools tend to be more on the “carbon steel” side. O1 is the tool steel found mostly.
Scandy grind, if you don’t create a new bevel, can be a bear to sharpen as S30V a big carbid vanadium steel is very resistant to abrasion and you need to keep the original geometry to remove a lot of metal.
I dont think I will get a good result with my Japanese water stone.
Diamonds will be S30V scandi ground best friend. But then, will the cratches ruin the finish ? Oh well… I’m really looking forward to watch some Woodlore video showing us how to… 😉

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Back to the Wolfspyder intriguing design. As odd as the handle looks, it is eventually a pleasure to hold. The unusual horns are perfect for a resting thumb, even the pinky got its own place ! The integral guard works great, you can firmly hold your knife, your hand won’t slip on the blade. It works edge down in hammer grip but also it works great edge up.

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The compression lock is hidden/integrated/nested in the G10, this is Spyderco’s usual ‘tour de force’ they know to achieve since 1995 on their C36 Military’s liner lock …
The G10 green colour is dark and perfect for a UK offspring tool. The back of the handle (where the lock is) does not bit your hand when using the knife hard. It was my main concern since the Paramilitary compression lock was sometimes really painful when used hard without gloves on. Which means the Wolfspyder can be used harder, with more power than the Paramillie !

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For my own confort I have sanded and rounded all the G10 edges. Also the back of the blade as I don’t have plan to make fire this way and my sore thumb was asking for that improvement. Now the edgy back was designed to scratch some ferro rod… I prefer to push cut with my finger on a rounded back blade like on the Sebenza.

The Wolfspyder again oozes quality from all its pore. The action is smooth. There is zero play in any direction. It’s heavy in your hand, well balanced… it screams to be used.

Once clipped to a pocket, the knife rides high compared to my recent wired clipped Spydies… But odd enough, eventually it makes quick draws so easy! The fingers find their way around the handle and the thumb ready to push open the holed blade in the same motion. Easy and fast for tip up carry knife. This is not a southpaw friendly knife BTW.
I close the blade using momentum and inertia. The relatively heavy blade is perfect for that. I release the compression lock and with a quick wrist movement it closes.

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On my Plastic Bottle Butt test, the Wolfspyder was not the best performer. The grind is a little to « wedgy » for pushcutting through thick plastic. But I was able to pass through. When my Swick, my Manta 2 and of course my Nilakka were able to cut through it easily. Again, that particular grind is primarily made for wood tasks.

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All in all, I’m very satisfied with that purchase. It’s a very well thought EDC companion imagined by a gentleman who got only two knives designed and made in 30 years, the Wolfspyder being the second to my knowledge. At least Mears is not Bear with a collection of low end tools mass produced for his TV fan. And this UK designed knife is proudly made in the Colonies: Golden, Colorado, Earth !! 😉
So the Wolfspyder is finding its gentle place in my front pocket, easing my craves for new bold designs, asking to be used in the wild even if I carry it in the city. Have a knife, will travel… Chapter II is here !

and her last travel to Norway is here.

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