I discovered that “skookum” is jargon [Canadian] for anything strong and able, solid and reliable, genuine.” That fits this knife to a “T”.
As close as anybody has come to the perfect bush knife that I have seen," says Mors Kochanski.
Standing in a check out line at a local market in 2002, Rod Garcia glanced down and saw a book for sale -- "Bush Craft Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival," the classic book by the legendary Mors Kochanski. Rod bought the book, having always been fascinated with the outdoors life style. Rod read the whole book in one day and it changed his life. He signed up for the Mors Kochanksi winter survival course. Rod found himself in a whirlwind of intense instruction for 6 days, immersed in northern wilderness skills.
Rod absorbed all the information, but even as a "new guy," he was somewhat dubious about the claims for the knife uses that Mors Kochanski, recommends in his book and in his courses. For Rod it just didn’t compute that a ten-dollar Mora knife could really fit the program. In Mors’s class, like most survival courses, the knife is the center of survival. It is the one tool you learn to trust your life with. Could a ten-dollar Mora, really stand up to the hard use that is called for in a real life extreme environment? Rod was not comfortable trusting his life to any ten-dollar knife.
The next year Rod enrolled in the summer course that Mors offers, and at the same time, he was looking for a knife a bit better than that ten-dollar Mora could offer. Besides, he had already broken a few of them; he didn’t like that.
In 2005, Rod attended a knife show in Montana, his home state. Rod met a knife maker and they discussed the kind of knife Rod was searching for. Between them, they came up with some good ideas, but the results still didn’t quite live to what Rod envisioned.
Determined at this point to become a knife maker, Rod met a local knife maker who exposed Rod to the basics and he was on his way. Rod sold his Land Cruiser to buy the knife equipment he would need to set up shop. The next thing he knew, he was pounding steel.
Being influenced by his dad, a machinist, Rod looked at the knife he pictured as a tool first and foremost, so it had to be sturdy and yet meet all the criteria needed for a real bush knife. The midnight oil burned on.
The First Test
Rod’s next move was to attend the Rat Root rendezvous, a gathering that includes mostly wilderness survival teachers/instructors [INWHAT STATE IS RAT ROOT?]
In his pack, Rod brought some prototype knives to show around. " They were a little rough " says Rod, the prototypes had been sitting out for all to look at and handle. Mors Kochanski, who happened to be at the event, sat down and asked, "Whose knives are these? These knives are as close as anybody has come to the perfect bush knife that I have seen," reports Rod.
More than encouraged by the endorsement from Mors, Rod spent the next four months experimenting with the design. He worked on the handle. Rod states, "It is important that a tool has a comfortable handle, and that all the parts work together."
Rod settled on a 12 degree scandi grind for the blade. The standard scandi grind is 91/2 to 10 degrees. So the Skookum Bush Tool grind is a little steeper and will handle more abuse. Rod’s first knife was 1095 steel but he moved quickly to carbon "O1" and "O2" steel.
Rod moved to his own testing in the field, all the while making adjustments until he felt the knife was ready for the final word. Rod sent three finished knives to Mors Kochanski.
Rod waited and waited, but heard not one peep for over three weeks and then, the phone call. "You are the first person to make my concept of a bush knife since my book was published in 1987," said Mors to Rod. How cool is that?
The Skookum Bush Tool as a Knife
I received my Skookum Bush Tool about four weeks before the deadline for this article. My first impression was "This is a beauty." The handle molded to my hand and feels secure. Everyone who had picked up my knife has commented on how comfortable this knife handle is.
I ordered my knife in "O1" carbon steel, as I wanted the sparking advantage with the carbon blade. I also opted for the "hole" near the tip of the blade, as Mors points out the advantages of this feature. The Skookum knife comes with a sheath that is made for hanging around your neck, again a recommendation from Mors. However, I feel the knife is a bit heavy for a neck knife unless you have on heavy clothing or a coat and the knife is hanging on the outside, I had The Gunhawk, a local gunsmith and leather craftsman, make a customized sheath for my Skookum that hangs on my belt but has a built in option, so I can choose to use the neck method if I so desire (the best of both worlds).
How it Works
This knife arrives sharp. Really really sharp! I cannot think of any other knife I have ever received from any maker that is this sharp, and that is saying a lot.
As this knife performs, it seems to flow through the woodworking camp chores, from fuzz sticks, trap triggers, cooking, slicing and dicing, and batoning. The Skookum features a full tang with a very strong pommel that protects the handle if the knife is driven tip first into the wood. The knife’s blade tip is close to the profile centerline of the handle. The back of the handle and the back of the blade are on the same line. The handle materiel is linen micarta, so it is impervious to the weather and other adverse conditions.
The blade is as long as the width of my hand. As you can see in the photos, the knife does not have a guard. To quote Mors Kochanski from his book: "A guard on a bush knife is in the way and detracts from many operations." Some people prefer a guard for fear of slipping forward onto the knife edge, but unless used for stabbing, the hand should never slip in this way. " In all my years of instructing I do not recall an injury due to lack of a guard." It’s in the book!
Rod also does his own heat treat process. " Being in control throughout the knifemaking process is very important to me. " The sheath is made by Rod as well, in a traditional style and is of heavy cowhide and molded to the knife. I will add Snoseal at a later date, as I do with all my sheaths. The knife sits deep and secure within the sheath, needless to say it is a top loader.
Notice the continuous blade curve transfers to great ease in cutting, making fuzz sticks or whatever you are doing, this feature enhances the practicability of the blade shape.
All of the features you find in this fine blade are straight out of Mors Kochanskis book "Bush Craft" in chapter 3, beginning on page 109 through page 134. I say this because I could quote the whole chapter and it really just boils down to this knife.
"The knife is the smallest and most portable of all the cutting tools. Light and unobtrusive, the knife is readily available for hundreds of everyday tasks in bush living." F(rom the book, "Bushcraft")
Being that the "Skookum Bush Tool " is Rod Garcia’s first effort as a knifemaker, I only have one question ….What took you so long, Rod?
Over all length 9 9/16 inches
Handle length 4 ¼ inches
Weight 6.67 oz
Blade steel O1 carbon steel
Blade thickness 1/8 inches
Width 1 1/16
Handle is linen micarta, mine is green.
(these are my measurements )
Rod Garcia can be reached for more detailed info at
Photos by Alan Halcon