First used by man over two million years ago, the knife is one of the first and oldest tool to be held by human hand. This special tool allowed the primitive people to go from crudely tearing at things with their bare hands to cutting with greater efficiency and probably less wear on the fingers. Originally made from materials like stones and obsidian in designs closely resembling well, a rock, the knife has come a long way.
Now available in many exotic steel alloys in designs pushing the imaginative envelope, choosing the right knife can be frustrating. I have been through my share of knives and although it’s true that the purpose of the knife dictates its design, the basic function remains the same as it did two million years ago. So, in searching for good multi-purpose fixed blade knife, I discovered what I feel is a great all around, “don’t care if I beat it up” knife: the Cold Steel Bushman.
Cold Steel Bushman Knife:
The Cold Steel Bushman is a survival knife, it’s a camp and utility knife that you’re not afraid to scratch. Need to gather firewood from a dead fall and slice tomatoes later? No problem. This knife really does it all: it chops, it slices, it dices, and on and on…
I ordered mine from a vendor on eBay for around US$26 shipped (a steal). Below is a picture of this simple yet useful knife.
As mentioned above, it’s just a basic fixed blade knife, nothing fancy and doesn’t even use the best materials, but for it’s intent and purpose (and cost) it just cannot be beat.
The Blade / Handle: This knife has an interesting design in that the blade and the handle are all made from one sheet of 2.5mm thick high carbon SK-5 steel and heat treated to RC54. The blade is 7″ long with an overall length of 12.25″ and has some sort of black coating. Due it its design, the handle forms a hollow compartment which could be used for storage. So what does this all mean? Basically it means the knife excels at retaining a sharp edge and is fairly easy to sharpen, so put it to hard use. And thanks to its high carbon makeup, it’s great for striking up sparks from your favorite firesteel (ferrocerium rod).
Here is the Cold Steel Knives video on the Bushman series knives.
It is my thinking that in order to keep the manufacturing cost down, Cold Steel left the handle plain and unwrapped or textured. For most uses it’s fine, but I like alittle more grip and cushioning when doing some serious chopping. As the saying goes, there are a thousand ways to skin a cat and my way was to wrap the handle with some mil-spec 550 cord. 17′ to be exact. I started by forming a “monkey’s fist” ball knot at one end of the 550 cord per instructions provided by this youtube.com video (this is not me):
On my last camping trip with my wife, I personally used this knife to chop up 1″-2″ thick dead fall branches with ease. On thicker branches, I hammered (batoned) my Bushman with another branch to work through 3″-4″ thick branches with no damage to the knife.
The Sheath: The manufacturer supplied sheath is decent and functional, but left a lot to be desired (top picture). It’s made of Cordura nylon and features a small utility pocket on the outside for storing such items as a sharpening stone, a fire kit, etc. Under most circumstances the sheath should satisfy most users, but I wanted something a bit more durable and secure. I headed down to the local plastic vendor and picked up a scrap piece of white Kydex for $10. I had never formed any plastics, but my friend had and taking his advice, I gave it a go. Basically, I used a heat gun, a power sander, a drill, and some screws found at the local ACE Hardware to build my Kydex sheath. Since the scrap Kydex was only available in white, I took a can of coyote tan spray paint and gave it a new, slightly subdued finish.
Now my Cold Steel Bushman clicks securely into place and comes out with a slight tug. On the other side of the sheath is a belt loop I formed by curling over a strip of Kydex as seen below.
As you can clearly see by the weirdness of the belt clip, it was my first time working with Kydex, but overall, I’m happy with the way the sheath turned out. More importantly, I’m really digging the knife and it’s usefulness as a good, all around cutting tool. If you’re in the market for a fixed blade camp / survival knife, give the Cold Steel Bushman a look.
Performance: For this portion of the field test, I decided to chop / cut materials commonly found around the city. Reason being, like many folks out there, I live and spend most of my time in the city. So it’s reasonable to think that if I ever needed this knife in a survival situation, it would most likely be in the vicinity of my house. That said, the materials I need to test the Cold Steel Bushman against are things like 2×4′s, plywood, my neighbor’s tree, etc.
Test #1: Cold Steel Bushman vs. common 2×4
Test #2: Cold Steel Bushman vs. 1/2″ thick plywood
Test #3: Cold Steel Bushman vs. my neighbor’s tree
Bonus Test: Cold Steel Bushman as a spear vs. cardboard terrorist
I’ve excluded videos of me chopping vegetables and table meats because I have a full set of kitchen knives for these types of tasks. I suppose in a pinch I could use my Henckels to chop wood, but if I broke one I would never hear the end of it (even under survival conditions). I think I’ll leave the heavy chopping duties to the Cold Steel Bushman.~ John, Modern Bushman>