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Friday 17 July 2015

A Slave to the Grind?

It's pretty certain that old school traditionalist bushcrafters tend to use knives with a zero scandi grind simply because that's what Ray Mears advocated, or at least they believe the knife they are using to have a zero grind.
Lets face it though, if you sharpen free hand then unless you're a robot you can be pretty certain that your treasured zero is starting to change. It could end up more obtuse or even head towards a convex and it really takes a good set of decent stones at home or base camp to keep the edge as true as possible, and these stones are too big or numerous to carry with you all the time.
But consider a true survival situation when all you have is your knife, no Japanese stones, no carborundum stones or fallkniven DC521 and no jigs or sharpening help, how are you going to keep your precious zero in tip top condition, chances are you won't!
 It's one of the hardest edges to keep properly maintained without the correct equipment and technique, and it's hard to find truly flat stones out there in nature that could be utilized for this purpose.
Its a brilliant grind for woodwork but is it the perfect all round grind, usable in every situation?, probably not.

So picture the scenario, a genuine survival situation, little hope of rescue in the immediate future and you've only got your knife, you use it heavily to build a shelter and make traps, the edge is starting to dull, does your favourite grind now allow you to resharpen it with only what you can find around you in nature?
 Mine will, as I've started to rely more heavily on a sabre grind of late...

The sabre grind I choose is obviously higher than a scandi but not a full flat grind, but the key is the micro bevel on the edge that allows me to sharpen the knife without having to worry about the primary bevel at all, I can do this with any type of stone I happen to find, sandstone, basalt and even granite have all worked to provide a very serviceable edge and it only takes a few strokes along the edge..

This is my zero scandi bushcraft blade, I've been using it a lot interchangeably over the past few months and I always take extreme care with the bevel when I get home, as you can see the bevel is perfect and the edge like a razor, japanese stones and a loaded leather strop keep it in perfect condition, but in the bush without these items..

the edge starts to go AWOL. The top knife has been sharpened properly the bottom one which was originally a zero scandi has not

and if you look closely you can see the bevel is no longer flat , it's becoming quite convex and very obtuse, as a matter of fact its at the stage now where it's getting unusable, I can't get a decent edge on it and it no longer will do what I require it to do, simply because I did not have the proper sharpening equipment to keep it in shape. So I can foresee a potential survival scenario where if I started off with a knife like this, after a few months of improper sharpening I'd end up with a useless hunk of metal, certainly not what I'd want to be trusting my life on..

Now look very closely at the edge of this knife, it's got a micro bevel, and it's only this bevel I need to sharpen to keep the knife in tip top shape, therefore I don't need fancy sharpening equipment and I can rely on this knife for a lot longer than one with a true scandi grind. It's a more reliable, versatile and trustworthy tool, one I'd much rather have if I needed to trust my life to it..

So the next time you use your favourite blade, check it's grind, think what would happen if you only had that knife and nothing else, could you trust your life to it? If not maybe you need to rethink what sort of edge your knife should have, actually look at most Mora and Hultafors knives and you'll find that they also come with a micro bevel, there's a reason for that..

Think smart, don't be a slave to the grind.


  1. Thanks for presenting the other side of the Scandinavian grind discussion. As a novice to edge types, I was beginning to think of micro bevels as something that would make sharpening more difficult. I don't have fancy stones or jigs, or a super steady hand for that matter!

  2. They are more beneficial that most (blinkered) people realise, use this type of knife regularly and you'll see that when it comes to practical general knife use they can be a great advantage, and they certainly make sharpening much easier. Take advice greatfully but always make up your own mind through experience.