Mike's Chopping Tests

4 views
Skip to first unread message

justme

unread,
Feb 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/9/97
to

What follows are the results of some informal chopping tests that I
did strictly for my own edification and amusement. No attempt is made
to sway anyone towards or away from any particular cutting device.
This is just something that I thought I'd share with you all.

The results below are the AVERAGES of (3) chopping sessions each with
the listed knives. For consistency and some relationship to what might
actually be chopped in a survival situation, I chose pressure treated
2"x2" pine. Each chopping test was done with the cuts directly over
the center of a pine stump. (To avoid the smash-through effect that
occurs if the cut is made with the work hanging off the edge.) Each
session was timed, and the time noted is the average of (3) complete
'severings'. Also the number of chops to complete severence were noted
and below is the average of the three. All chopping was done with
simple elbow and wrist movements, (one handed), and at no time were
any really heavy over the head type swings employed.

Disclaimer--- I'm well aware that (3) tests of anything may well be
statistically invalid or irrelevant. I'm also aware that times/hits
posted will no doubt vary from person to person etc. I have no doubt
that some of you will be able to better these times significantly. To
me, that's not relevant. These results may well mean nothing at all,
but I thought I'd share them anyway.

Just past the make/model and size of the knife, a rough idea of
'street price' follows. Then comes average time in sec.s and # of
"hits". All strokes, (including near misses) are counted. Every effort
was made to rapidly chop through the wood using as uniform alternating
"vee" strokes as possible. Consistency, not raw aggression was the
goal. For the saws each complete forward and backward "push-pull" is
counted as one stroke. All times and numbers are averaged to the
nearest sec. or chop. Listed 'worst performers' first:

10) Cold Steel "Thrower" 5 3/8" blade ($15) 167 sec. 285 hits
I thought this might do better since it's nothing more than a 3/16"
hunk of steel with an edge. Oh well. Only para cord wrapped handle
that did not unravel.

9) Ek 1/2 Grind Commando knife ($25) 152 sec. 276 hits
Tests stopped after (2) severings, due to para cord handle coming
completely undone and brass guard coming loose. Still Shaving Sharp!

8) Kabar USMC Fighting Knife ( $30) 135 sec. 167 hits.
Still shaving sharp, but this and #'s 9 & 10 were one hell of a
workout, just to get through the wood!

Below the line are what I might consider more serious wood cutters.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7) Sven 21" Folding Bow Saw ($18) 27 sec. 37 strokes
Aggressive teeth were hard to get started! A disappointing showing!

6) Stanley Pocket Saw, 5" Reciprocating saw bld. ($8) 21 sec. 37
strokes-- Most consistent performer tested! Also gave best looking
finished cuts!

5) Tramontia 6" Meat Cleaver ($13) 18 sec. 27 hits
Cheap stainless took progressively more hits due to blade getting
duller. A higher quality meat cleaver might be very interesting
indeed.

4) Blackjack Simba 10 1/2" blade, 17 1/2" OAL, ($55) 12 sec. 12 hits
Handle fell off on 1st test. Homewrapped para cord came undone on 3rd
test. Blade got stuck in wood 4 times. Previously, I erroneously
reported that this thing beat hatchet and kukri. It did initially,
but, Read on.

3) Rigger's Hatchet 3 1/2" blade, 13 1/4" OAL, ($10) 10 sec. 12 hits
This is a generic version of a popular hammer head hatchet also sold
by Vaughn, Estwing(?), and Miller's Falls. Might be interesting to see
if tripling the price, gets 3x the quality.

2) 440 Kukri, 10" blade, 8" cutting edge, 14 7/8" OAL ($22) 8 sec. 7
hits--- Another generic, possibly marketed under the name "Explorer"
Much higher quality than many Indian Kukris in similar price range.

1) US Machete 18 " blade, 23 1/4 " OAL ($13) 7 sec. 4 hits
The clear and surprising, (to me) winner! Also, the largest device
tested.

Alll blades started out as sharp as I could get them. Most would
shave! At the end, only the Kabar and the EK would still shave. The
saws started with new blades.

Conclusions----
1st, it's important not to read too much into this. At a different
time, or with a different person, the results might be somewhat
different. Still, this exercise was enlightening to me to dispell some
things that I was 'positive' of.

*Primarily, I was shocked to see how poorly the bow saw did, due to
it's aggressive teeth being hard to get started. Still, it does allow
one to tackle much bigger pieces than some of the other implements,
and I wonder if the results wouldn't favor it, if the work piece was
significantly larger. Say a 10-12" tree.

*The lowly US GI Machete was not only the clear winner, but was also
the most cut for the least buck. It's worth noting, though that not
all machetes are equal, and I have one Chinese one that I didn't test,
due to the fact that I bent the blade on a much less substantial
branch some time ago. Clearly, though, a proper machete is not at all
just the cutter of soft leafy things that some people make it out to
be!

*The small Stanley pocket saw is the most portable of the items
tested and was an amazingly consistent performer. The fact that it
also takes metal cutting blades makes it a truly awesome little
device. Folded it measures just 7 3/4" .

*It's worth noting the realtive size difference of the Machete and the
Kukri. A larger, harder Kukri might be truly awesome.

* Another thing worth mentioning is that (2) of the (3) para cord
wrapped knives came unraveled in just this simple test. I doubt if I
will be getting any more cord wrapped handles.

Maybe as soon as my arm/shoulder quits hurting, I'll see how the CS
Bushman and the Camilus AF knives stack up to the Kabar. For now,
though, I'm content with the understanding that knives that balance
near the guard, probably don't chop very well. Weight forward seems to
be what's needed for serious wood chopping. No surprises there.

If you want any further trivia about this particular exercise, email
me at the address below. (The one in your headers is garbage.)

Mike Swaim mi...@cphl.mindspring.com


Jeffry Johnston

unread,
Feb 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/9/97
to

justme (jus...@home.com) wrote:
: At the end, only the Kabar and the EK would still shave.

What steel is the EK supposed to made of?

: *Primarily, I was shocked to see how poorly the bow saw did,
: [me too and how good the machete did too]
: If you want any further trivia about this particular exercise, email


: me at the address below. (The one in your headers is garbage.)

: [no wonder you never answered my replies where I cussed you up one side
: and down the other :]
: Mike Swaim mi...@cphl.mindspring.com

This was a really cool post, thanks.
Alvin Johnston <--Libertarian

TmFln

unread,
Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
to

It's refreshing to see this kind of post. Just when I thought this was
going to turn into the Specwar/home defense/throwing spike/alt.religion
newsgroup*, somebody actually does a down-to-earth test on what this group
is supposed to be about - toys with edges!

Mike, thanks for the post. IDEA: I don't know if you can get your hands on
a Cold Steel LTC (Light Terrain Chopper), but you might enjoy giving it a
test-it is one serious kukri. I used mine to take down my Christmas
(oops, religion-there I go) tree - 8" tall - took about 8 downward chops
to shear off all the branches, leaving a 4-5" thick log which took 2
fairly good lateral swings to cleave in half. FUN!!! :-) Pine sap does
make a mess of the blade, but once cleaned, still shaved hair. BTW, as I
remember it, the shoulder ache lasted about a day. Please post future
results.

Regards,
Tim
*no offense to those of you who enjoyed/contributed to the aforementioned
discussions of SpecWar/home defense/throwing spikes/alt.religion; I too
enjoyed the first, oh..thirty to forty posts, but come on... this is
rec.knives. Admonition ends.


Trister K

unread,
Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
to

Great post. You've verified what I've long thought about para-cord
handles. I'd be interested to hear which knife at 12 inches or less
over-all (which is about a much knife as I want to carry camping) does the
best as a chopper.

justme

unread,
Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
to

tris...@aol.com (Trister K) wrote:

Ugh! I feel like the headmaster character in Oliver Twist. "You want
more? YOU WANT MORE?"

Well, maybe later. Right now my right arm and shoulder really ache. In
doing that simple test, I impacted wood with a blade almost 2100 times
in 2 days. Most of that was with the (3) short knives. It doesn't help
that I screwed up my rotator cuff in a motorcycle accident last fall.
I may do some saw tests this week, but it'll be awhile before I get
back to impact tools.

Let's do a little hypothetical exercise here. Say you're lost in the
woods and need to build a shelter and a fire, and just for sake of
argument lets say that you figure you'll need 20 shelter sticks and 20
fire wood sticks all requiring a cut on both ends. That's 80 cuts.
Now, just as an exercise, let's use the numbers that I generated in
the tests. (Yes, I know real life won't have you cutting uniform pt
2x2's. Humor me.)

Totally ignoring the time to select and gather the necessary wood, and
concentrating ONLY on the time/effort to cut it, the much overrated
Kabar will have you spending 180 minutes (3hrs.) to make 13,360 cuts.
(Assuming your arm doesn't fall off or you don't turn the blasted
knife on yourself 1st ;-( Personally, I'm not at all sure that I'm
even capable of making 13,360 cuts in 3 DAYS, much less 3 hrs.!

The Stanley Folding Pocket saw will only require 28 min. to make 2960
low impact strokes. (Much more doable.)

The US GI Machete will only need just over 9 min to make 320 hits.

Are you still sure that you're only interested in the foot long belt
knife category? Personally, the small saw and a decent folding knife
are looking better all the time.

Mike Swaim

Hilton Yam

unread,
Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
to

justme wrote:
> Totally ignoring the time to select and gather the necessary wood, and
> concentrating ONLY on the time/effort to cut it, the much overrated
> Kabar will have you spending 180 minutes (3hrs.) to make 13,360 cuts.
> (Assuming your arm doesn't fall off or you don't turn the blasted
> knife on yourself 1st ;-( Personally, I'm not at all sure that I'm
> even capable of making 13,360 cuts in 3 DAYS, much less 3 hrs.!

:) I had trouble chopping with the KaBar as well. I found the round
handle turned in my hand, causing me to slap the wood with the flat of
the blade (not very effective). The handle also tended to slip as I
swung (don't stand in front of me!).

Hilton

Trister K

unread,
Feb 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/10/97
to

Hey, I cut about 3/4 of the handle off my toothbrush to avoid carring the
extra weight, I'm not gonna pack a kukri. maybe a light-weight hatchet . .
. and jeez, carefull with that arm. If you do more tests in the future,
prehaps you could disqualify any blade that requires more than say, 100
cuts. At that point I think you've established that the knife is not much
of a chopper and you can save yourself some wear and tear. I may give this
a try this summer, if so, I'lI post any results.

justme

unread,
Feb 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/11/97
to

tris...@aol.com (Trister K) wrote:

>Hey, I cut about 3/4 of the handle off my toothbrush to avoid carring the
>extra weight,

I hope you're joking. You can't have saved even 1/3oz. and run the
risk of getting all sorts of nasty germs in your mouth if you're out
in the boonies and haven't surgically scrubbed your hands prior to
getting them that close to your mouth.

> I'm not gonna pack a kukri. maybe a light-weight hatchet . .

I may try to borrow one of the electronic scales from work to weigh
some of this stuff, since I'm curious about that aspect myself. For
now, I'll tell you that the 440 Kukri that I used weighs considerably
less than the hatchet that I used. My kukri is somewhere in the
18-22oz. category _with_ leather sheath. Don't know how much the
rigger's hatchet weighs but will try to find out.

> If you do more tests in the future,
>prehaps you could disqualify any blade that requires more than say, 100
>cuts. At that point I think you've established that the knife is not much
>of a chopper and you can save yourself some wear and tear.

I'm already gathering data from some other lower impact tests, and
will post later this week. I'm thinking of dividing implements into
categories based on what the largest item that they can reliably cut
in XX amount of time is, not necessarily on size of item, although
that may also come into play. For instance we might wind up with a
whole category that could be adequate for cutting through something
like a 1" rod, but wasn't really useful for a 2x2. Likewise we might
have stuff that could handle a 2x4. It's that kind of division that
I've not really seen in print before. I've seen allusions to something
like that, but never a real breakdown.

>I may give this
>a try this summer, if so, I'lI post any results.

I hope you do. I'd like to see a whole bunch of folks try this with
their stuff and generate a sort of collective body of knowledge in
this area. That's one of the reasons that I wanted to use something
really common and cheap like pressure treated 2x2's. Anybody can get
them at the local home improvement store, they're fairly consistent
and they have a lot more bearing on real life than free hanging 1"
manila rope. The Home Depot near me sells 3' lengths of these for
$0.79ea and $5 worth goes a long way.

Mike Swaim mi...@cphl.mindspring.com

Michael W. Fleming

unread,
Feb 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/11/97
to

In article <5doi5k$1...@camel5.mindspring.com>, this group wrote:

>I hope you do. I'd like to see a whole bunch of folks try this with
>their stuff and generate a sort of collective body of knowledge in
>this area. That's one of the reasons that I wanted to use something
>really common and cheap like pressure treated 2x2's. Anybody can get
>them at the local home improvement store, they're fairly consistent
>and they have a lot more bearing on real life than free hanging 1"
>manila rope. The Home Depot near me sells 3' lengths of these for
>$0.79ea and $5 worth goes a long way.

It would also seem to me that some of your tests with some of your
instruments could be modified to take more advantage of the strength of
those instruments.

For example, I would imagine that some of the knives with serrated edges
might work better for this purpose as saws rather than hatchets. Saw,
pry, saw, pry, WHACK! Repeat as necessary.

Btw, with respect to your survival scenario, it has been my experience
that live branches are much easier to cut and chop than cured wood.
Whereas sawing cured wood is easier than live branches. It could be the
operator (me) but I bind my saw a lot more trimming branches than cutting
a 2x4.

Michael

TmFln

unread,
Feb 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/12/97
to

I used very hot water, soap and what my wife called a "scrunge" (one side
sponge, one side PLASTIC scrubber - don't get the steel wool-sided job for
the Recon or it won't be very stealthy anymore :) ). As soon as I "offed"
my tree, I used a paper towel to take the real heavy stuff off, then ran
it under the tap for a few minutes, which took off alot more gunk. Then I
let the bulk of the blade soak in the kitchen sink - hot water and "Dial"
dish soap- for about twenty minutes. Used the scrunge-thing and Presto!
Clean! The edge did have some minor rust spotting, but otherwise was fine;
the black finish (same as the Recon) was undamaged. Cleaned off the rust &
it looks as good as new (well...five years later). Good luck.

Regards,
Tim

James R. Blankenship

unread,
Feb 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/12/97
to

I've seen lot's of follow up to Mike's original post, but for some reason,
I have yet to receive the original choppoing post! (I'm seeing follow ups
before the original posts on *many* threads, but so far, this
is the first time I haven't seen the original.)

Could someone who saved the original post either re-post here or e-mail to
me?

Thanks in advance,

Jim Blankenship
jbla...@ccat.sas.upenn.edu

rjbi...@aol.com

unread,
Feb 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/13/97
to

>Mike tested several knives cutting thru 2x2 wood
The machete is _made_ for this kind of cutting job. My wife and I just finished
taking down 28 pine trees ranging in dia. from 2 to 6 inches. Felled with a chainsaw
and took small branches off with machete. Switched to a butcher knife I
got at an antique show-- worked better than the machete, BUT is about 12" long and
about 1/4 thick, or a little more, sharpened kind of wedge-y to a fairly good
edge. Weighs about 2 pounds. Just lift it up, swing it down and off pops
a 1 1/2 inch branch,if I hit it right.
BTW, my wife insisted in digging/cutting out the stumps to a depth of 8".
Her choice for that is a double bitted ax. Cheater.

Rostyk Lewyckyj

unread,
Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

Did you try one of those flexible wire-like saws?
The kind that you can coil up like a piece of string,
with a pull ring on each end.
O-------------------------O


justme

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

urj...@gibbs.oit.unc.edu (Rostyk Lewyckyj) wrote:

Yes. I'll post those results in a bit. I noticed that there are at
least 2 different kinds of these saws. I have the kind that is one
long thin piece of steel wire that is twisted in a very tight spiral,
and the edges of the spiral are what does the cutting. It cuts light
metal, plastic and wood. There is another, more popular, and more
flexible type that is primarily for wood cutting. It's made more like
barbed wire, and may feature several individual wire strands all
twisted together with sharp edges and bits held in by the twisted
wire. I'm gonna try to obtain one of those as well.

Mike


Dave Sutton

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

> jus...@home.com (justme) writes:

> Yes. I'll post those results in a bit. I noticed that there are at
> least 2 different kinds of these saws. I have the kind that is one
> long thin piece of steel wire that is twisted in a very tight spiral,
> and the edges of the spiral are what does the cutting. It cuts light
> metal, plastic and wood. There is another, more popular, and more
> flexible type that is primarily for wood cutting. It's made more like
> barbed wire, and may feature several individual wire strands all
> twisted together with sharp edges and bits held in by the twisted
> wire. I'm gonna try to obtain one of those as well.


I always found that these worked pretty well...

When you do, you'll find that it works lots better if
you use it to cut a green sapling length and then use
that as a bow to tension the wire...really making it
into a bow-saw of sorts. They work OK as a snare also...
if you are so inclined.

Old survival school tricks...Snake Eaters Unite!!


Dave Sutton, RED STAR AVIATION "MiG's R Us"
pil...@planet.net www.planet.net/ppilots/

Jim Schippnick

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

Regarding KBARS and chopping: When I was a kid I had a Kbar my
ex-marine cousin gave me. I did a lot of chopping with it, shelters,
firewood etc. (up to 6-8" oak) I eventually learned to grip only the
end of the handle with my first two fingers, and snap the blaed into
the wood. This was quite effecient, but the knife eventually broke in
half.
The black powder folks use a whole series of light tomahawks for this
kind of work. Some weigh only a few ounces. Because the wieght is
comcentrated out at the end of the handle, they work very well. MUCH
better than a knife of similar weight. They also tend to be reasomably
priced. $10 or $20 will get you a good cast repro. $15 - $30 will get
you a good hand forged repro from India, and about $60 will get a good
repro from a US smith, with a mild or iron body and steel insert.
I have a very light 'hawk in an early flaired viking pattern ($5 used)
and a Mora knife. I find the combination more versitile, and lighter,
than a BIG knife.
(Another two cents worth)

Regards,
Jim Schippnick
Ragweed Forge
http://www.bluemoon.net/~ragnar

john m.

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

justme wrote:

> Are you still sure that you're only interested in the foot long belt
> knife category? Personally, the small saw and a decent folding knife
> are looking better all the time.


Ditto on that. When weight is a consideration, I carry a smaller knife
and a Gerber folding saw, which I have used extensively for cutting
things up to about 5" diameter trunks. Works fine for me.

John

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages