The Handy Neck Knife

In the spirit of the internet Bushcraft trend of pulling out our tools and comparing I decided to join in the fun.   This is the patch / neck knife I purchased back around 1986 when I first started getting primitive.

A poor photo of the walnut sheath.

I went with wood as I was wearing this almost constantly whle working a backwoods program for the Scouts. I decided it might just impale me through the sternum or neck if I took a bad fall so the wooden block sheath was the solution.

Human hand for scale.

This one was made by a bladesmith from an antique crosscut saw and has a beautiful tiger-striped maple handle. This is probably its third sheath but it’s the one I’ve stuck with since around 2001. It’s been camping and on thousands of miles of field projects, not always around my neck but almost always close-by in my pack. For some reason, our society thinks you’re a little weird if you wear a knife around your neck all the time.

Too Many Knives

A few too many camp knives?

This is what happens as you travel, receive gifts, buy better stuff, always need a good knife, etc.

From the upper left: Camillus 5-1967 (a friend carried this through Vietnam), my small Arkansas stone for field touch-ups, Buck folder, two classic Victorinox Pioneer knives (I’ve carried this style every day since high school) and a small pen knife, a lock-blade Buck made in Idaho, a 19th century bone handle knife cut down from a larger eating knife, two Gerber multi-tools (the original is from 1990 and a more modern, but heavy version beneath), a hand-made patch knife by M.P. with walnut neck sheath I’ve had since 1986, a Solingen-made high carbon Bowie knife with ebony handle, two classic Case XX folders, two small folding Gerbers, a hand-made camp knife from a fine Colorado maker, and at the bottom my “go to” Buck field knife that has worked on archaeological projects, cut up animals, dog holes, and performed about every other imaginable task.

This photo came about as I decided to organize my camping gear.  While emptying packs and bags I realized there were knives in every one, usually in more than one pocket.  After throwing them out on the floor and arranging for a quick photo I began to think about the ones in various tool boxes, my wood carving knives, a couple collector knives I can’t seem to part with, and others stashed away around the house.  My search for minimalism is failing when it comes to good tools.

Knife Sheath

Maybe not the most exciting project to document but a vital one.  My F-S knife needed a sheath and I’ve been too busy lazy to make one.  Well, I finally got down to business and got it done.

FSsheath4Part of the reason to procrastinate this was that I wasn’t sure what style sheath to make.  This is a historical knife that was made with a very specific sheath but wanted one that reflected me and my “style”.

FSsheathAfter sketching out the blade and handle onto Bristol board, I decided to meld the basic outline of the original sheath (ca. A.D. 1942) with that of a traditional western sheath knife.  That is to say, flat seamed with a welt.  Knife sheaths do not require much leather so a quick trip to the scrap bin provided plenty of choices.  I decided to go with a very heavy oak-tanned leather I have normally used for shoe soles for the body of the sheath, and a lighter 8 oz. for the collar and strap.  The only hardware would be the button for the retaining strap.

FSsheath2After cutting the pieces, the edges were smoothed and beveled where necessary.  The heavy welt is shown above being glued down prior to sewing.

FSsheath3I didn’t photograph it, but the outer piece of the sheath was skived down very thin along the stitch lines to give a more rounded appearance to the finished product.  Double needle saddle stitching was run up the sides and around the top to provide some support against stretching and to give a more finished look.  The sheath was then wetted and the knife left inside for a couple hours to help form the shape of the diamond cross-section blade.

Note:  This knife is high carbon steel and therefore prone to rust like any other so the blade was heavily waxed prior to being shoved into the wet sheath. 

FSsheath6After burnishing the edges, the leather collar was added with the retaining strap and button and the whole thing was then waxed.

FSsheath5I’ll give it about 50 years before it needs to be replaced and I suspect that it won’t be my problem by then!

Author’s Note:  The Fairbairn-Sykes knife is about the coolest mass-produced military knife I know.  These were churned out by the 100s of thousands during the Second World War in Sheffield, England and have been in use, with very little variation through the present day.  Although these were designed specifically for fighting, these make excellent bushcraft knives.  They have an appealing aesthetic and are very similar to daggers carried throughout medieval and early historic Europe.