THESE SMALL FIXED BLADES WORK FOR THE WOODS OR THE CONCRETE JUNGLE
The theme is small, compact knives worth carrying in the city or the woods. The options are endless. However, the choices have been made easier due to a few new releases from Morakniv, Reiff, and Bear Forest Knives.
CAPABLE WOODS KNIVES
Rather than one knife to do all, these are more of the “one-knife-to-do-most” variety. If a sharp knife for knife tasks is what you’re looking for, these will do it—except chop. EDC knives come in all forms and styles, but they need to be comfortable for carving and provide decent carry options to work in an urban setting and still be woods ready.
EDC utility cutting tasks can range from opening packages, slicing fruit, and breaking down cardboard to cutting twine and carpet. No delivery package is safe when there is an EDC knife within reach. Now, take the same EDC knives into the woods for a day of cooking and setting up camp.
Those same EDC knives should be able to cut through food packages, slice veggies and meat, and help with fire preparation. A great majority of EDC knives are small and have a thinner edge than larger bushcraft and survival knives, making them slicey. This is an excellent quality to look for in EDC-capable woods knives, in my opinion.
The launch of the Morakniv Eldris knife in 2016 was a huge success. It gave many seasoned bushcrafters and beginners a reason to wear an egg-shaped neck knife around their neck. OK, it’s not precisely oval, but it’s close. The original Morakniv Eldris was designed to be used with a ferro rod as a small, utility, bushcraft, fire-making companion.
It had a Scandinavian (Scandi) grind at the base of the blade and a flatter belly-to-tip area ground thinner. This area of the knife was made for slicing vegetables and food better, much like the Morakniv 2000 Knife, utilizing a compound grind. The spine was sharpened to a 90-degree angle and ready to show sparks from a ferro rod. The regular Morakniv Eldris has a satin finish while the newer Eldris LightDuty has a polished finish.
The Morakniv Eldris LightDuty has an unsharpened spine, a more subdued color scheme, and a consistent Scandi grind—gone is the compound grind. Besides these small changes and blade finish, it feels the same in hand. The Eldris LightDuty is also 5.7 inches overall with a 2.3-inch blade. It has a 12C27 stainless steel blade with a drop-point shape.
A barrel-shaped polymer rubberized handle comes standard. It fills the hand, and provides a secure grip. The TPE rubber provides optimal friction without being harsh on the hand. Blade thickness is 0.8 inch (2 mm) and weighs 2.8 ounces. Included is an ambidextrous polymer sheath that carries the knife inverted yet snugly to wear confidently.
BEAR FOREST KNIVES
From the desert of California, Bear Forest Knives has been cranking out some fantastic user pieces of American-made cutlery. I was fortunate enough to try many Bear Forest Knives in their prototype phase. Garrett Tremblay is the man behind the Bear Forest Knives curtain—a one-person show it is.
Garrett combines old-timey patterns, such as the Bowie, Nessmuk, Kephart, and Hudson Bay, with updated materials yet adds his own flair to them. His Sierra Trekker, GT1, GT2, GT3, and Simple are among his biggest movers, as is his Wood Butcher (Bowie-inspired). He recently released a new version of his Simple model, so now there is a Simple 2.
The Simple 2 measures 6 inches overall with a 3-inch blade and 3-inch handle. Garrett chose AEB-L (cryo-treated) stainless steel for this one and left a raw finish on the blade. It has a Scandi grind and one super-sharp 90-degree spine. But wait, there’s more! It is 1/16-inch thick! Not many knife companies, aside from those that make kitchen knives, make knives this thin for EDC and woods use.
“EDC knives…need to be comfortable for carving and provide decent carry options to work in an urban setting and still be woods ready.”
My Simple 2 has burlap Micarta scales, a Corby bolt, and a hollow lanyard tube. Like on the Morakniv Eldris LightDuty, the handle has no finger grooves or suggested hand placement—it’s a blank canvas. A simple (pun intended) black Kydex sheath comes with a metal belt/pocket clip and can be removed to carry it as a neck knife, inverted.
The newer company of the trio has come out of the gates swinging. Reiff Knives is a relatively new outfit led by two brothers, Stu and Ben Shank. They offer two larger 6-inch and 4-inch bladed knives, the F6 and F4. The knives’ fit and finish are stellar, and the company’s packaging is on another level. Stu and Ben use CPM-3V on all their blades and G10 scales on their handles. All are made in the USA.
I first came to know Reiff Knives while using the company’s F6 and F4 for a Knives Illustrated article. The company’s quality, consistency, and customer service were on par with the best major knife manufacturers.
Reiff’s newest addition, the F3XC, is the EDC, super extra-handy Reiff knife. Stu told me the XC in the F3XC stands for “extreme conditions” and it has a Cerakote finish.
At the same time, another 3-inch bladed knife in the works, the F3DC, will feature Reiff’s standard stonewash finish. Total blade length is 3 inches, with a 2.75-inch cutting edge. Spine sharpness is there; it starts about 1 inch from the scales, giving a smooth area for a thumb. The overall length is 6.875 inches, with about 3.875 inches in the handle alone. The black Kydex sheath snaps in with authority and deploys the knife with an easy thumb press.
Although I performed various tasks with each EDC knife, I wanted to give them each a project I thought would be suitable for them. I started with the Bear Forest Knives Simple 2. Over several months of use, I prepped fires and food. I also made tarp stakes and a bowsaw with the Simple 2 knife.
The project I issued the Simple 2 was a Try Stick, which is an excellent way to practice knife skills while also practicing notches and total knife control in the process. This project uses a green stick, about thumb-to-broomstick thickness and about arm’s length, but any size will work for practice. If the stick is short, simply make fewer notches or cram them in—no rules. I managed to make about 11 practical and commonly used notches on mine. There may be a specific amount written in stone at some bushcraft mecca; however, most avid outdoors people don’t use half of them.
“Although I performed various tasks with each EDC knife, I wanted to give them each a project I thought would be suitable for them.”
Usually, stripping the bark off is the first step, but I hate how the stripped sticks appear in photos. So for contrast, I left mine on. The Bear Forest Knives Simple 2 would be great for this task, as the sharp spine is suitable for peeling or shredding bark. I made a root stripper on one end and a V-notch next. I also added a square reduction next to a 90-degree latch notch and a lashing cross notch on one half of the stick.
In the middle were double-sided flats with a square hole cut through with the tip, not drilled. Next, I made a straight square notch, a saddle notch, then a round reduction section. The pot hook was second to last, and the finale was a rounded end used for digging sticks or stakes that would be hammered into the ground.
The thin edge bit deeply and shaved just the correct amount of wood. The sharp pointed tip was vital when making the square hole in the flat reduction area. It has to cut and pierce through each side using the tip while the handle is cradled in the palm. The handle end was perfect for this task as it was oval in the cross-section and comfortably rounded at the butt end. The round reduction was more effortless with the belly of the blade and front section, which also enabled me to make some long, thin, curly slivers for tinder.
The Reiff F3XC was assigned the figure-four trap. Using the F3XC and a baton, I sectioned the green piece of wood for a trigger stick (longer/thinner), vertical (medium thickness), and diagonal (thickest) pieces. The top of the vertical and the end of my diagonal were given a 45-degree cut. A baton helped shear through evenly and to save time. A seven-notch was made on the diagonal and fit into the vertical top. The trigger stick got two seven-notches, one fitting into the last seven-notch on the vertical piece—trap done. The super keen blade and comfortable handle made this project effortless.
The last project was making an Apache throwing star with the Morakniv Eldris LightDuty. I located two thick, hardwood sticks and stripped them of their bark. Each end was sharpened, and a straight-notch (locking-notch) was put in the middle of each stick to join them. Last, bankline was used to apply two jam knots. Carving and notching were done efficiently with the Scandi grind and generously comfortable handle. Like the other knives, any grips I used flowed without strange pokes or hindrances.
All three knives prepped for a fire in the 90-degree weather in Georgia—all for testing. Each blade had to make tinder shavings using dry bamboo pieces and sticks, and needed to split wood into finger- and pencil-thick pieces. The Reiff F3XC and Bear Forest Simple 2 had longer blades and could split wider wood.
The Morakniv LightDuty also did not have a sharpened spine like the other two contestants. Still, it had another trick up its sleeve. The blade of the LightDuty scraped bamboo shavings as cleanly as the spines of the other knives did. The spine of the Reiff F3XC was used for generating sparks with a ferro rod. I had done it previously with the Simple 2, and the Morakniv LightDuty didn’t have a 90-degree spine. Luckily, most ferro rods come with a striker.
ALL THREE PROVEN
After the various wilderness tasks they performed, I have deemed them all capable woods knives, useful as EDC pieces or teamed up with other tools.
AEB-L STEEL AND 12C27
Initially developed by Böhler-Uddeholm as a razor blade steel, AEB-L is said to take a very sharp edge. The steel is chemically similar to the Sandvik series of steels, such as the famed Morakniv 12C27 used on its stainless-steel knives, as well as 13C27 and 14C28N. It is almost identical to Sandvik’s 13C27 with only minor differences in composition.
Apparently, AEB-L has a fundamental heat treat similar to 440C. AEB-L tends to be very hard and also has above-average corrosion resistance.
Sandvik regards 12C27 as its primary knife steel for handheld knives, high-end ice-skate blades, and ice drills. The company has continuously improved it over 45 years, and it has evolved into the high-performing steel grade it is today.
With a hardness range of 54-61 HRC, other characteristics include high toughness, scary sharpness, and good corrosion resistance. The 12C27 steel is the recommended grade for hunting, pocket carry, camping, high-end cooking, and tactical tasks.
Morakniv Eldris LightDuty
Handle: Polymer with TPE rubber
Blade Material: 12C27 stainless steel
Total Length: 5.7 inches
Blade Length: 2.3 inches
Thickness: 0.8 inch (2 mm)
Weight: 2.77 ounces
Bear Forest Knives Simple 2
Handle: Orange burlap Micarta
Sheath: Black Kydex
Blade Material: AEB-L stainless steel (cryo-treated)
Total Length: 6 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Thickness: 1/16 inch
Weight: 3 ounces
Reiff Knives F3XC
Sheath: Black Kydex
Blade Material: CPM-3V
Total Length: 6.875 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Thickness: 1/8 inch
Weight: 5 ounces (3.9 ounces knife only)
Bear Forest Knives
A version of this article first appeared in the December 2022 print issue of Knives Illustrated.