You Are Only As Sharp As Your Knife


The weapons and tools we use each have an intended purpose, whether we are seeking comfort in the wilderness, everyday carry or offshore on operations. You're only as good as the condition and quality of the tools you carry. This series of articles is a step by step guide to ensure you are maintaining your knife to its full potential and get many years of use out of it.

First, we must always learn what not to do so here are 4 ways you should not be using your knife.


Digging with your knife: Back in the basic army days, I would carry a lightweight knife specifically for this; digging covert shitters. It helped to cut through roots in thick bush. Aside from this I would never use my quality bush knife, or the attack knife worn on my body armor for poking around in the dirt.

Inevitably you will strike a stone which will damage the blade. Even if this doesn’t happen, the dense and coarse nature of soil will dull the blade and speed the process of rust if it is not cleaned soon afterwards.

Pry Bar: Special Operations soldiers and as Kiwis we pride ourselves on ingenuity and on the spot thinking. However prying things open with your blade is a sure way to damage it. It is best not to get into this habit. I have seen good blades used to remove nails from wood and wedge open large bits of wood. This can eventually or immediately cause curvature or worst a breakage which cannot be reversed.

Batoning logs: This is usually the main cause of broken blades. Placing your knife on a piece of wood then smashing it with another log or rock to split it. 


Batoning wood open is a really good technique to use if the log is smaller than 2 inches in diameter, and you protect the straight edge of the blade while doing so. Done correctly, we use this technique a lot and really advocate it. If you need to split larger bits of wood, then invest in a small hatchet. 

Kit husbandry: Personally, after I get out of the bush and before showering or heading inside; I pull everything out, wash, dry, air out and oil if necessary. This includes my knives, a small bit of moisture on the blade and left in a pouch is a sure way to invite a bit of ‘soldiers gold’ to start forming. If left for a too long or forgotten about, it will be a nightmare to get it back to its original state.

If you do allow rust to form, you can scrub off with steel wool or light sandpaper and WD-40.


4 Tips For Daily Use


 survival knife use and maintenance


  1. When finished cutting with you knife always give it a quick clean if possible, wipe off any dirt and dry any moisture off before placing back in its sheath. Particularly important for longer storage.
  1. All high carbon steel blades should be lightly oiled before storing
  1. Leather sheaths can hold moisture. If they are not dried correctly before storage it can lead to rust on you knife. Sometimes a good plastic sheath with drainage/ ventilation holes is a happy alternative. Personally, I enjoy leather sheaths so just leave the blade out of the sheath for a few days before storing away. You can purchase a leather conditioner to greatly extend the life of a leather sheath; this is highly recommended.
  1. A blunt knife is a dangerous knife. Take a few minutes to sharpen up and shape the edge, removing any burrs or chips, as necessary. This way, it will be ready to go for your next trip. For heavily damaged cutting edges, I find a good way to repair them is to use a sharpening system with a pre-set angle. Once you have removed all the burrs and chips, move on to a diamond or ceramic whetstone for putting a final, fine edge on your blade.

Sharpening Your Blade



Understanding the difference between ‘honing’ your knife and ‘sharpening’ is critical. You will often see people using a honing rod to “sharpen” their knives. These steel rods are not used to sharpen your knife; they are used to straighten the already sharp cutting edge allowing for smoother cuts.

You need to hone your knife every time you use it and sharpen it every few weeks using a whetstone as pictured above. Sharpening every few weeks is a general rule of thumb, realistically it should be done whenever its needed!

The next article is an easy step by step guide on how to sharpen your knife.

There are many ways to sharpen a knife and the next article is a basic technique for anyone at any level. If you have a preferred way, then please do leave a comment!

KO TE MATAURANGA TE KAHA (knowledge is power)

Written by: New Zealand Survival Academy for Warfighter Athletic

This is the first blog in our survival series collaboration with New Zealand Survival Academy. Over the coming months you can expect to see many more blogs and video content on the lost art of survival. If there is anything you want covered, be sure to leave a comment below!

As well as the Survival Series blog, New Zealand Survival Academy will be playing a key role in our Warfighter Athletic SF Survival Experience. The only way to secure a seat on the course will be by taking part in the OPERATION TOA pre-order and the launch of our new technical apparel collection. Keep an eye on your email for more information!

1 comment

  • Lando

    Awesome article!!!! How about one on shelter making??? Winter or summer?

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