Tactical Reviews at IWA 2018

This year was the 45th edition of IWA OutdoorClassics at the Exhibition Centre Nuremberg with 1,558 exhibitors and almost 47,000 trade visitors from around the world.
Exhibitors from almost 60 countries and trade visitors from about 130 countries gave the 45th edition of IWA OutdoorClassics even more of an international flavour than last year.

Tactical Reviews was there, and included here is a gallery of products that caught my eye as I went round the vast exhibition. Of course this is only a small taste of what was on show, with excellent products from Pohl Force, MecArmy, Mantis, Luminox, Armourlite/Isobrite, Morakniv, Nordic Pocket Saw, Hultafors, ZT, Victorinox, Leatherman, Fox, Oberland Arms, Buck, SOG, Nitecore, DYX, Wiley X, Spyderco, Chris Reeve Knives and Nordic Heat.

(When viewing the gallery, click on the image to remove the description, click again to bring it back)

Knife Review: Buck Selkirk, Compadre Chopping Froe and Kinetic Fishing Spear

Buck’s Selkirk, Compadre Chopping Froe and Kinetic Fishing Spear were specifically chosen for this review to compliment each other for camp/survival tasks. Following a visit to Buck at IWA 2016 I’ve been able to give these a good workout to see how they fare.

 photo 0 07 trio P1030840.jpg

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knife specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.
 photo 25 Selkirk grind P1180965.jpg

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).
 photo Knife measuring P1180483.jpg

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fällkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.
 photo 54 Froe grind angle P1180981.jpg

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.
 photo 24 Selkirk balance P1180963.jpg

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate.

 photo Buck Parameters.jpg

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Unfortunately I can’t always get time with the designer so will use this section to include relevant information about the knife and its designer.

The following comments are noted from a walk-through that Joseph Piedmont kindly gave at SHOT Show.

Model 863, the Selkirk is Buck’s new survival knife which includes a fire-rod with whistle for signaling. The sheath is moulded plastic and features multi-carry capability that can be reconfigured to allow for vertical or horizontal carry, and even upside-down as a neck knife.

The knife itself is a flat-grind drop-point featuring a guard and a hammer pommel. The handle has custom micarta sides. The choil is left with its sharp ground edge to allow it to be used with the fire-starter and have a nice grip to get good sparks.

The Selkirk’s sheath has a nice crisp snap-in, really holding the knife, so you won’t have to worry about it falling out.

Chopping Froe model 108 is fitted with American walnut handles and a red powder coated 5160 blade. This is part of the camping and outdoor survival series. Red was chosen to tie in camping of yesteryear (where it was common to use red-headed hatchets), with the camping of today.

The knife was modelled from a Scandinavian tool with the same name used to chop kindling. Buck have modified it with the handle and putting a knife edge on it to make it more versatile. (Reader’s NOTE: a traditional froe has a dull edge, a handle at 90 degrees to the blade, and is use for controlling and advancing a split in a piece of wood)

The Buck froe has been given a very steep grind producing a wedge behind the knife edge. When splitting wood, the knife edge starts the cut, but the wedge takes over so the knife edge is not finishing the cut.

The black leather sheath protects the blade and the D-ring makes it really easy to connect it to your gear or hang it up.

The Kinetic Fishing spear is one of three new spears. This range goes from the smallest, the Hunt Spear, to the Two Tined Gig spear, and finally the 074 Fishing Spear. The fishing spear is the most involved design with two interconnecting pieces. In its folded-flat state the spear is covered front and back by a plastic sheath tied together with paracord. The paracord is held in place with a moulded pinch-grip making it quick and easy to secure and release. The two parts of the spear lock together to form a four point spear. It has the same chisel on the back as the other two spears, and crucially needs to be driven deep enough into the stick to engage the secondary wedge. The beauty of this design is that the sheath parts go from the flat packed configuration into a cross shaped safety cover for the four points when it is mounted.

One trick to be aware of when mounting the spear heads is to wrap the paracord onto the stick before pounding the spear into the end of the stick. This really tightens up the paracord giving a very secure fit.

A few more details of the Selkirk Survival Knife:

Before concentrating on the Selkirk, here are the boxes for all three together.
 photo 00 01 Buck Boxed P1180722.jpg

The Selkirk arrives in its sheath with ferrocerium rod and whistle, plus an instruction leaflet for the sheath mounting options and a warranty card.
 photo 01 Selkirk Contents P1180728.jpg

Though it looks like a Kydex type of sheath, it is a moulded plastic.
 photo 02 Selkirk Sheath front P1180731.jpg

On the back of the sheath, the belt loops can be removed and refitted in different positions.
 photo 03 Selkirk Sheath back P1180734.jpg

All the components lined up with the sheath, knife and ferrocerium rod/whistle.
 photo 04 Selkirk parts P1180740.jpg

The Selkirk has a nice deep blade with full flat grind.
 photo 05 Selkirk angle P1180743.jpg

Buck say that the pommel (rear bolster) can be used as an improvised hammer.
 photo 06 Selkirk pommel P1180745.jpg

Looking close up at the handle micarta sides you can see the semi-smooth finish and additional grip grooves.
 photo 07 Selkirk grip detail P1180748.jpg

An overall view of the handle. The layers in the micarta act as contour lines showing the shaping.
 photo 08 Selkirk grip P1180749.jpg

From a different angle you can see the palm swell and grip flaring.
 photo 20 Selkirk handle swells P1180787.jpg

A very close view of the choil and its sharp edges for striking the fire-rod.
 photo 09 Selkirk choil P1180752.jpg

Going closer still for a look at the point and how the cutting edge has been formed from a coarse grit followed by a polishing process.
 photo 10 Selkirk point P1180756.jpg

On the spine there is an area of jimping for the thumb to sit on. On this example this was well formed and not too sharp.
 photo 11 Selkirk jimping P1180758.jpg

Keeping on the up-close theme, the moulded sheath has the Buck logo moulded into it.
 photo 13 Selkirk sheath brand P1180768.jpg

Next to the fire-rod holder are the sheath screws which adjust the retention tension of the sheath. You can change how much force is needed to remove and insert the knife by adjusting these screws.
 photo 14 Selkirk sheath screws P1180769.jpg

On the lower part of the whistle is a bayonet fitting to hold the fire-rod in place. There is also a cord which can be stretched over the end of the rod to further secure it.
 photo 15 Selkirk ferro rod whistle P1180770.jpg

Inside the belt loop is a moveable adjuster block to cater for different width belts.
 photo 16 Selkirk belt loop adjuster P1180775.jpg

At the tip of the sheath there are metal rivets that provide tying points.
 photo 17 Selkirk sheath rivets P1180777.jpg

The overall impression of this knife is good, but its mass produced character is visible when you start looking and small details. Here the micarta handle is not a perfect fit.
 photo 18 Selkirk finish P1180782.jpg

Still looking for flaws, this time at the pommel, the grinding is not that precise and filler appears to have been used between the micarta and steel pommel.
 photo 19 Selkirk finish P1180784.jpg

The Selkirk with a couple of other well known knives to provide the scale. (Fällkniven F1 and a Spyderco UK Pen Knife)
 photo 22 Selkirk size P1180797.jpg

One last look at this knife before moving onto the Froe.
 photo 21 Selkirk angle P1180792.jpg

A few more details of the Compadre Chopping Froe:

First impressions are really good thanks to the leather sheath the Froe arrives in. The only other item in the box is the warranty card.
 photo 30 Froe contents P1180804.jpg

Immediately obvious are some nice touches like the retaining strap’s popper cover having Buck’s logo and name on it.
 photo 31 Froe popper P1180811.jpg

Also of note with the retaining strap is that the metal back of the popper that sits against the handle has been covered to prevent it marking the wooden handle.
 photo 51 Froe sheath popper back P1180883.jpg

There is a cut-out in the sheath that shows the Buck anvil logo cut into the blade.
 photo 32 Froe sheath detail P1180813.jpg

Pressed into the leather sheath is the Buck logo.
 photo 33 Froe sheath logo P1180815.jpg

The sheath is well stitched and riveted for extra strength.
 photo 34 Froe sheath stitching P1180818.jpg

On the back of the sheath the rolled rivet heads are not as neat as on the front, but fit with the rivet colour used for the hanging loop.
 photo 35 Froe sheath reverse P1180820.jpg

The rolled over heads of the rivets on the back of the sheath look like this.
 photo 36 Froe sheath rivet reverse P1180823.jpg

A nice heavy duty D-ring is used for the hanger.
 photo 37 Froe sheath hanger P1180826.jpg

Opening the two retaining straps allows the Froe to slide out.
 photo 38 Froe unsheathed P1180829.jpg

A very obvious label warning you not to strike the Froe’s blade with hardened tools is on the side of the blade. This is no different to traditional froes or any other blade you might baton with.
 photo 39 Froe warning P1180833.jpg

Whipping the label off gives you the full effect of the red powder coating.
 photo 40 Froe no label P1180835.jpg

The ‘tip’ of the blade shows the splitting wedge design of the blade grind.
 photo 41 Froe point wedge P1180840.jpg

There is a subtle choil next to the handle.
 photo 42 Froe choil P1180844.jpg

At the top of the blade next to the handle there is a hole in the blade. Though this could be used as a wrist strap attachment point, I would advise you to be very careful if you want to do this as it can become more dangerous than the tool coming out of the hand.
 photo 43 Froe hole P1180846.jpg

The American walnut handle slabs are held on with nice looking bolts.
 photo 44 Froe wooden handle P1180849.jpg

Blade stock used for the Froe is substantial.
 photo 45 Froe thick blade P1180853.jpg

Having a long handle, the Froe can be used with different grips.
 photo 46 Froe handle P1180857.jpg

looking along the Froe to show more of the contours of this tool.
 photo 47 Froe contours P1180859.jpg

There is a nice swell at the pommel to prevent slipping, but no striking surface. If you hammer on, or with, this tool you risk damaging the handle. This view also shows the handle is made from plywood, not solid wood, as this will be more resilient and resistant to cracking.
 photo 48 Froe pommel P1180863.jpg

A few more details of the Kinetic Fishing Spear:

And now for something completely different, a fishing spear.

Folding flat, the Kinetic Fishing Spear is very neat in its folded state.
 photo 60 Kinetic contents P1180889.jpg

This package is held together by a paracord tie and a pinch-grip.
 photo 61 Kinetic tie point P1180896.jpg

Pulling the end of the cord out of the pinch-grip you can start to unwind it.
 photo 62 Kinetic opening P1180897.jpg

Releasing one side of the plastic cover.
 photo 63 Kinetic opening P1180900.jpg

The pinch-grip has small teeth to hold onto the cord.
 photo 64 Kinetic tie teeth P1180903.jpg

The same piece of cord then releases the other side of the cover.
 photo 65 Kinetic opening P1180905.jpg

Fully unwound the cord comes completely off the cover.
 photo 66 Kinetic opening P1180908.jpg

Now you can slide off the lower cover.
 photo 67 Kinetic opening P1180911.jpg

And then the point covers, which also slide apart to give two separate pieces.
 photo 68 Kinetic opening P1180917.jpg

The shorter of the two parts of the spear head slides into a slot in the larger part.
 photo 69 Kinetic fitting together P1180918.jpg

This then rotates into place, and in this position cannot move backwards or forward.
 photo 70 Kinetic together P1180921.jpg

When assembled the spear suddenly looks very capable.
 photo 71 Kinetic together front P1180925.jpg

The smaller piece has the Buck logo on it.
 photo 72 Kinetic together angle P1180927.jpg

As does the larger piece.
 photo 77 Kinetic logo P1180946.jpg

A really cleaver feature is that the two pieces of the point guard slide together to form a cross shape.
 photo 73 Kinetic guard P1180935.jpg

This cross shaped guard can then cover the points of the assembled spear head.
 photo 74 Kinetic guard fitted P1180937.jpg

There is a barb on each of the four points.
 photo 75 Kinetic barb P1180939.jpg

A chisel point is provided on the tang of the larger piece of the spear that can both be used for some of the spear pole preparation, and to make it easier to drive into the end of the pole.
 photo 76 Kinetic axe P1180944.jpg

What are they like to use?

It is not that I expected anything to be bad about the Selkirk, but it has really surprised me just how good it has been for me to use. Not only that, but anyone I’ve handed it to has also been impressed with how good it feels in the hand.

Remembering that I take an XL size glove, this is how the Selkirk looks in the hand.
 photo 12 Selkirk in hand P1180767.jpg

The shaping of the handle is excellent. The palm swell is just enough to sit very naturally, and the curve of the handle allows your hand to work with the Selkirk. Flaring at the front and back of the handle stops you hand moving, and even working hard with this knife on hot days with sweaty hands didn’t cause any issues.
Resting between cutting jobs, the Selkirk just seems to stay in place in a relaxed hand, and when working I was never aware of the handle, instead all my focus was allowed to fall onto the cutting task and directing the blade. I did not expect this level of comfort and control.

I’m going to look at more of the Selkirk in use later on, but switching now to the fire-lighting capability of the Selkirk, and how well it strikes sparks from the ferrocerium rod.

As the product description from Buck specifically says the choil has been left with a sharp corner to use for striking sparks, I’ll start with this. Once you get through the outer coating of the new rod, you then start to get proper sparks. Using the choil does work OK, but is not that good.
 photo Buck Selkirk Choil Ferro 600px 200ms.gif

Flip the blade round and use the spine instead and you are rewarded with a bigger shower of sparks. So the specific feature of using the choil to strike sparks is a little redundant. What you do have is a choice of more or less sparks. Striking fewer sparks with the choil will wear the fire-rod away less and may be all you need.
 photo Buck Selkirk Spine Ferro 600px 200ms.gif

Scaling up in size we have the heavy Chopping Froe. Here the grip is closest to the pommel and gives the greatest striking advantage.
 photo 49 Froe in hand P1180872.jpg

For more control you can grip the Froe handle near the blade. This is good for finer chopping tasks, but the blade edge is not really sharp enough (due to the edge angle) for fine carving or slicing cuts.
 photo 50 Froe in hand P1180874.jpg

When I initially saw the rake of the Froe’s blade, I thought it would be awkward to use, and if working onto a chopping block, the angle does mean you can’t really strike down onto the block and have the edge strike squarely, you always end up cutting into the edge of the block.

Moving to free-cutting when you are chopping through branches or the trunks of smaller trees, then this rake actually ensure the edge strikes at a slight angle which does enhance the cutting power. The Froe is very efficient when used in this way.

The more I use the Buck Froe, the more I would compare it to a hatchet rather than a knife, but a hatchet with a very long edge and which does not need a precisely positioned strike to get a good result. The knife edge, despite being sharp enough, is not well suited to anything but chopping. The blade thickness and steep primary grind make it pretty hopeless for slicing cuts and the overall size/weight and rake make fine work difficult.

Finally a quick mention of the Kinetic Fishing Spear. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to spear any fish with it so far. Not due to always missing, but due to a lack of suitable fishing opportunities. Mounted it seems very capable and with an overall good balance, but unfortunately up to now that is as far as I can comment.

Mounting the Kinetic Fishing Spear

One small project that would cover all three of these Buck products is to make a shaft for the Kinetic fishing spear head. A quick visit to a local wooded site resulted in a pole for a first attempt.
 photo 0 01 Collecting staff P1030781.jpg

Working onto a cutting block I used the Froe to trim the pole to length and to prepare a baton for later. As you can see here the Froe has cut quite deeply into the edge of the cutting block.
 photo 0 02 trimming staff P1030809.jpg

The spear head needs a cross shaped split to fit into. For finer control than the Froe would provide, instead I went for batoning the Selkirk to create the split.
 photo 0 03 splitting pole P1030821.jpg

A quick clean up of the end of the pole.
 photo 0 04 remove bark P1030824.jpg

And setting the Kinetic spear head into place.
 photo 0 05 insert spear P1030827.jpg

Then using a cord wrap to hold the spear head firmly. (keeping the cord in a single piece and using a whipping technique to secure the ends.
 photo 0 06 cord wrap P1030831.jpg

All ready to go, the fearsome Kinetic spear and the partnership of the Selkirk and Froe.
 photo 0 07 trio P1030840.jpg

Onto another project, and in this instance I was making a wooden spoon. This requires some careful splitting of a small log, so again I whipped up a baton and used this for making the controlled split with the Froe.
 photo 01 spoon start P1190531.jpg

The splitting worked very well and the Froe also did a little rough shaping, before it became a little awkward to use due to the rake.
 photo 02 spoon split P1190535.jpg

Other tools were used, but it all started with the Froe.
 photo 03 spoon P1190550.jpg

While things were going well I decided to have another go at the spear’s pole. I found a rather good piece of hazel, and this time cleaned off all the bark with the Selkirk.
 photo Fishing spear 01 start P1190494.jpg

The size of the pole was chosen to suit the tang of the spear head.
 photo Fishing spear 02 closer P1190495.jpg

Pre-split using the Selkirk, the Kinetic spear head was then tapped into place.
 photo Fishing spear 03 cross P1190501.jpg

Wrapped tightly with paracord to secure the head. As the wood dries further the cord needs to be re-wrapped to stay tight.
 photo Fishing spear 04 whipped P1190508.jpg

Ready to go, the only issue, no suitable fishing spots round here.
 photo Fishing spear 05 overall P1190506.jpg

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Selkirk – Excellent handling. Selkirk – Fit/Finish is not the best.
Selkirk – Versatile sheath. Selkirk – Ferrocerium rod retention may not be secure if not using the cord loop.
Selkirk – All rounder FFG blade.
Selkirk – Hammer pommel.
Selkirk – Ferrocerium rod with Whistle.
Froe – Effective heavy chopper. Froe – Relatively expensive.
Froe – Great for splitting even large logs. Froe – Poor performance for other cutting tasks.
Froe – Very sturdy leather sheath. Froe – Blade rake is awkward when cutting onto a block.
Froe – Long Handle allows different grips.
Kinetic – Strong construction. Kinetic – Requires mounting before it can be used.
Kinetic – Guard can be used folded or assembled. Kinetic – It is necessary to hammer on the prongs to mount it.
Kinetic – Cord is provided.

 photo 00 02 Buck UnBoxed P1180950.jpg

 

Discussing the Review:

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