Basic precautions to handle and work with big blades.

This is a mirror of Singularity's page on his server. I can only agree with everything he has already written, and certainly couldn't write it any better!

I still had traces of blood on one blade from when customs removed it from sheath for inspection.. Try fast draws when you have had a few drinks or want to show off, and you will be very sorry!

Sheath security is important. Singularity has posted some information on kevlar tape on the forums, and maybe we can get that added. Eventually everyone who walks in the woods takes a fall, so sheath security is a big issue. Singularity has also posted some great information on using thin strips of leather to the mouth of the sheath, so that blades do not have a loose fit. That deserves to be added!

I hadn't thought much about the technique of hitting from left to right if you are right handed, and vice-versa. I often have to take chops the other way due to clearance for swings - and so the Kevlar protection. It makes a LOT of sense! You will see hits being deflected in a very dramatic manner, as with the picture of the loka and the banana tree Red alder has a tendency to split when it's under tension, and if it splits while the blade is in it - you will get a severe deflection - often down to where a leg might be. If I make cuts from right to left, I'm pretty careful where my body parts are, even when wearing protection!

The worst accident I've had in years involved a sudden leap to my feet to save my grand-daughter from getting scalded. Unfortunately I was holding a 2" blade Mora at the time. It's surprising how much damage a tiny knife can do. That one was something which I couldn't avoid. A stupid thing to do was when I had just reprofiled a heavy axe, and tried it out on a leaning alder. Due to the reprofiling the axe bit in far deeper than I would have believed. That tree split to the top with a sound like a pistol shot, and one side of the split sprang out. That little tree would have killed me if I had been using a shorter axe. Accidents happen, but reading the following will make sure that you minimize or avoid unnecessary risks. Such simple safety techniques soon will become unconscious actions, every time you pick up a blade - and it will soon become apparent to anyone watching you, that you can be trusted with a dangerous blade. Many of us have had to learn the hard way - but perhaps you don't!

Type of sheath

Some sheaths are more secure than others. Sheaths can be made from all sorts of material, including wood, leather, plastic (Kydex, Concealex), cordura, etc. Most will be easily cut or split by the edge, should an impact occur, or just when sheathing or unsheathing. 17 " of razor blade can cut a wooden sheath easily if is not properly done. Some sheaths do not have a retension system of the blade, invent one!

Sheathing and unsheathing

A general principle, while holding a sheath with a big blade, and drawing the blade from or into the sheath, is to hold the sheath firmly, the hand well away from the mouth (so that the edge cannot cut you), in a vertical position (if there is no retainment strap, or if it has been released). The fingers should not at any time be on the sheath part that is under the cutting edge (you hold the sheath using a U of your hand, palm on the side of the sheath that holds the spine of the blade -- an alternative is to hold the sheath in a way the edge is up, and unsheathe the blade, letting the spine rest and slide against the sheath, like you'd do for a katana). The main principle is to never trust the sheath.

Secure sheathing / unsheathing, note the open hand over the sheath and distance of the holding hand from the mouth. the main disavantage is an usecure grip, and that the edge may cut through the sheath with gravity and time. But anyway it is worth describing, as at least it saves your fingers.

The katana way, sheath and blade up-side down, edge up, you let the spine rest on the wood/material of the sheath. You do not change your grip on the handle, just flick the wrist up. Same thing for unsheathing, you hold the handle in the right position from the start by flicking the wrist. Again, note the distance of the holding hand from the mouth.This is probably the best method ever, it saves the scabbard, the edge, and the fingers.

Chopping and machete work

My preferred position: hitting away from me, with a movement from the left to my right side (the wall in this case !)[1]

This has the advantage that the arm cannot close around me like in an embrace, and therefore, in case of deflection, the blade is less likely to comeback towards me [2]Also it allows me to hit whith the arm in extension, therefore the blade is at the maximal distance I can get from me when it impacts. It also allows getting more speed, as the position is safer. If you need to angle the blow at say some 45 degrees from vertical, you'll need to take more care again, as bouncing back due to a glance or a deflection is always possible.

These blades where sunk in the banana trunk using the exact movement I just described.

There was a glance on this one. I did hit at 30-45 degrees, but giving a lot of energy, and the blade ended vertically stuck. The tree is soft and large, so it stayed there, but it could have been bad on different wood, as it could have bounced back, after taking a chip...


There are a few things that can be dangerous when using a big blade:

  1. Glances: - A Glance is when the handle tries to turn in your hand while hitting the material. It often shows that you were probably applying too much force to the blow, but can also come from the design of the knife. The blade can turn in the material, and the trajectory be modified to a point it comes out of the chunk, and back to you or another person at the same speed it came in. Beware of khukuris regarding this aspect. Generally, blades whit a lot of forward curve are prone to glances, the same way hatchets are, for the reason that the cutting edge is dinamically under the dinamic axe created by the arm, hand and handle.8 stitches in my big toe, down to the bone, and 10 on my shoes :) can attest of this.
  2. Draw cut or saber effect: - This is encountered on backward curved blades that look like sabers (golok, parangs, sabers...). When you hit the material, it tends to push in your hand towards you. If you pull the blade, at that moment, thus taking advantage of the natural tendency, the blades goes slicing the material, as well as push cutting. All users of goloks have noticed this, the problem is that when you think the blade will get stacked in thick material, it goes through. It could be very dangerous if a part of you, or another person is in the way. Goloks are likely to do this. Do it once, and you will quickly understand why the saber was a so feared cavalry weapon ! This is why being right handed, I hit from left to right, away from me, and not the opposite.
  3. Shearing effect: - This is encountered on forward curvedd blades that look like khukuries (bolos ...). When you hit the material, it tends to pull from your hand. If you take advantage of the natural tendency, by giving a small rotation forward, the blades goes slicing the material, as well as push cutting. It is like the draw cut, but going away from you. The effect is the same, and this is a reason why khukuries are so valued by outdoor people.
  4. Deflections: - The blade hits something unexpected, or something expected at a wrong angle, and is deflected from its expected trajectory. I could be messy if you, or anybody, are in the trajectory. Try to avoid movements that would cause the blade to pass too near or too parallel to your body.
  5. Loose blades in sheath: - The blade is loose in the sheath, meaaning it does not stay in the sheath when the horizontal level is passed, this is a danger, you go with a huge blade in it's sheath on your belt, securely, then bend to pick something on the floor, and ZZZZZip you get 17 inches of razor sliding out, and getting in an unknown direction just near you, because you passed the horizontal level. Avoid the reflex to grab the thing!. I always secure my big blades, by adjusting a piece of leather in the mouth of the sheath, which holds the blade by friction. When you do this, you must take care to adjust the leather thickness, in order to avoid splitting the scabbard. It does not need to hold in an up-side down position, but a good 30 degrees is a lot of security added.

Basic precautions of use:

  1. Other people must be outside the reach from your blade when the arm is extended, in front, on the side and behind you. Be aware of their position, they may come closer to see what the hell you are doing with this HUGE blade.
  2. Take the time to learn the blade first using moderate blows.
  3. Do not rush, do not run with an unsheathed big blade, think your movements carefully. Be stable on your feet, or put the blade back in the sheath if not.
  4. When carrying, remember to keep it straight in the sheath, or put a friction pad. Sliding blades are a danger to you and others.
  5. Do not hand the bare blade to someone else, sheathe the blade first, hand the whole lot.
  6. Avoid if possible full force blows, let gravity work for you. This is not always possible, but avoids glances and tiredness.
  7. Try to make the trajectory of the blade as straight as possible.
  8. Avoid the edge entering the material at an angle different from the angle of the blow. This avoids glances.
  9. When tired, stop, breathe, rest. Most accidents happen when tired. Recently a friend cut his knee (just 2 stitches, he was lucky), because he was tired, and did not control the blade well enough anymore.
  10. Protect yourself: Gloves, steel toes shoes, thick pants are not that stupid. Kevlar gloves and pants exist for gardeners and workers, and are not that expensive. If you are not protected, act accordingly, being more careful and less precipitate.

Using a big blade is a bit like using a charged and armed gun, except the range is closer, and it can hit backwards and on the sides too.



1. I am right handed.

2. I cannot hit my back with this movement when on a movement from the right to the left, I could hit my left side if my arm folds.


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