Saw-Back Survival Knife

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by scdub, Oct 19, 2020.

  1. scdub

    scdub Basic Member Basic Member

    May 29, 2004
    Probably like many of you, when I was about 11 I owned a hollow-handled survival knife. It was the saw-back, bottle-opener style blade with fish hooks, compass pommel, etc, etc... It probably cost $4 to make and I ended up giving it away without using it much.

    I never expected to own another saw-back until I got a glimpse of what appeared to be a large, flat ground, pull-saw-backed knife in a teaser picture from Swamp Rat Knife Works. As soon as I saw it I knew I would have it.
    I can’t honestly explain why I had that immediate reaction but there it is.
    It’s called the SawManDu.
    That’s baby on adoption day weighing in at just over a pound.
    As I knew I was keeping the knife (and I knew it was going to get scratched up in homemade kydex), I immediately heated up some distilled vinegar and gave it a good patina to help protect against rust and because I think over time it looks better with a user blade kept in kydex.
    Next day I tried out the saw:
    I’m a big fan of Silky brand saws, and if you’re familiar with them you know they cut very efficiently. The SawManDu is less efficient as you can imagine as it’s much thicker, however like a Silky Saw, it works on the pull-stroke and is designed to avoid binding by making the teeth the thickest section of the blade. For the size it works fine. It’s not as fast as chopping to get through most pieces of wood, but working slowly it could be pretty efficient on stable, hard wood. I plan to try my hand at “bushcraft” furniture making using this saw.

    SR-77 steel is a modified S7, so even with teeth this knife should take a beating. Split wood well until I got to this log which as you can see didn’t even want to split with an iron wedge.
    So I made a large wooden wedge that worked great.
    Here’s my sheath - large “Ulti-Clip” attachment.
    Maiden voyage today to a little known spot for some trail clearing.
    Nice day in the redwoods. Oh, I also enlarged the choil a bit which you can see in the above pic.
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    Chops amazingly well on larger stuff like the above. The bigger branch took 14 moderate swings. Does ok with smaller vegetation but it’s on the factory grind angle so doesn’t get super sharp. I’ll eventually thin the edge a touch...
    Handle felt great in bare hands for over an hour of use today.
    Got a bath in some alcohol and mineral oil a couple of hours ago and looking better than ever. :)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
    Stelth, Nixelplix, duramax and 5 others like this.
  2. DocJD


    Jan 29, 2016
    :) That's pretty cool !

    Saw back knives kinda get a bad rap , I think, because all those cheap Rambo wanna be "survival" knives . :rolleyes:

    But saws in general are very much more efficient for processing wood , especially as the diameter increases , than anything else , IMO and experience . :cool::thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Alberta Ed and scdub like this.
  3. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    SAK Officer's model sports an excellent saw though it's a bit short. Despite that, a good buddy of mine used his to cut firewood for three days when he was stranded on the upper Skeena River in northern BC one chilly October, after his Zodiac overturned on a haystack. I have a Buck game saw, coarse on one edge and fine on the other, that does an excellent job cutting wood and bone. Very compact and light, it came with a high quality leather sheath that slips nicely into a backpack.
    scdub and DocJD like this.
  4. DocJD


    Jan 29, 2016
    RangerGrip SAK has a relatively large saw . :cool::thumbsup:

    Works great for what it is , but I'd not like having to do survival firewood up north with just this . :eek::poop:

    Stelth and scdub like this.
  5. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    I have a silky saw Zubat 270.

    Quick cutting little beast.

    I am sad not to own the Sawmandu, and the battlesaw.

    Both look amazing.
    scdub likes this.
  6. scdub

    scdub Basic Member Basic Member

    May 29, 2004
    Yikes! That must have been sketchy. Goes to show that a small tool is better than no tool.

    I plan to take this knife out for trail clearing and on long hikes where I’m carrying minimal gear and could more likely end up in a long-term survival situation due to the terrain/location along the Pacific coast. I figure with the saw it will excel in shelter building with the enhanced ability to make measured cuts and stable joints (plan to try it out). A shelter is the priority in my hypothetical situation due to my climate (don’t need to keep an overnight fire going if my shelter is solid, so don’t really need a super efficient saw).

    Backpacking it’s several smaller knives and a Silky Saw.

    Between myself and my family we have a bunch of Silky Saws and like them a lot. I’ve got an F180 (my favorite due to weight), a Super Accell, and a Katanaboy 500. (And my wife has an F180 and my son has a Pocket Boy). Only issue with them is the narrow blades are prone to bending/breaking if not treated with care - much like a Japanese kitchen knife...
  7. scdub

    scdub Basic Member Basic Member

    May 29, 2004
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    Got more use in a partially burned area. Lots of trees/branches/shrubs down. Handle still felt great. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve added some cord to the sheath so I can add a quick lanyard for extended chopping/sawing. For sawing in particular, grip strength is the weak link and a thumb-loop style lanyard will solve that problem.


    So yesterday I finally got in a long-awaited H&B Forge “Small Camp Hawk”. Excellent work overall. Edge was paper cutting/hair scraping sharp - after a minute on a couple of stones it was kinda shaving sharp, and I tested it alongside the SawManDu. They weigh almost exactly the same at 1 pound.

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    The tomahawk hits with more force and I think would generally get through a larger branch/tree more quickly than the knife, however as was particularly clear on the above piece of wood, the knife bites in much deeper and with much less compression of the wood. On smaller diameter branches I believe it’s much more efficient than this hawk.

    A couple of additional notes on the tomahawk - the handle on the “Small Camp Hawk” is fairy narrow towards the end. It felt a bit small to me but it felt fine in use. Well - I never expected this to happen to me, (and I’ve heard about it in other threads but my wife isn’t really a knife person), but my wife ended up liking it a lot - first mentioning that she wouldn’t mind carrying it on a hike, then later commenting how the handle felt nice. I asked her if she’d like it and sure enough she did! Lol. Anyway, now I’ve got a Boy’s Hawk (full diameter handle) on order from H&B...

    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
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