As with most things, woodcraft can be done with a minimum of tools. These tools do not need to be expensive. This is one area where many people who spend a lot of money on tools are often disappointed with their performance relative to much cheaper ones!
A fixed-blade knife is best here. Folding blades can be used for very light work but do not stand up well when force is applied when splitting wood or using the more forceful cutting techniques. Without a lock, they also have a nasty tendency to snap shut when you least expect it – with your fingers in the middle!
Simplicity rules when choosing a knife for woodcraft. A flat ground blade is ideal for carving wood and is easy to sharpen. One of the few kit recommendations you’ll get here is for the excellent Mora knives from Frosts of Sweden.
The clipper has been a mainstay of bushcraft schools for years. Now replaced by the new 711 models (I’m trying one out at the moment. I like it a lot) – a fine knife and even better when you consider it’s costing somewhere around £9.
A saw is indispensable. In a fixed camp a bow saw is really useful for cutting large wood down to size. If portability is an issue then the folding saw is very convenient. It’s also handy for finer saw work such as making stop cuts and sawing off “surplus” ends of a carving project.
The best ones lock both open and closed – open to ensure it doesn’t shut on your hand, closed to ensure it doesn’t open in your pocket or rucksack and cause a nasty cut the next time you reach for it. The locking mechanism is easily clogged with sawdust so should be checked every time you lock it.
Used to carve out the hollow in a spoon or bowl, the crook knife is a useful addition to your woodcraft toolkit. Of course, they vary widely in quality and price. Some of the cheaper ones have a very ‘round’ hook which I don’t like but it’s a personal thing. Crook knives are a fine tool for not only hollows but the curves on the back of spoons and cups.
For larger carving projects an axe allows more wood to be shifted in a short time. The safety stakes are raised and even more, care should be taken when using an axe for carving. Safe working distances should be rigidly observed. You need to think about the final resting place of the axe on each and every cut and make sure basically it’s not a part of you – or anyone else!
Again, axes come in a wide variety of styles, prices, and levels of quality to suit every budget. Generally, for an axe to be useful for carving it should be light enough to wield with one hand comfortably without tiring, the blade should not be so thick it prevents fine work and the steel should be of a quality that will hold a good sharp edge without constant re-sharpening.
Of course, if you’re carrying an axe with you into the backcountry it has to perform a variety of roles so choose accordingly.