Anything purchased through the links on this page takes you through my amazon affiliate account so that I get a commission on the sale, just because they know I sent you there. It doesn't cost you anything, and it doesn't matter if you buy a refrigerator or a bottle of shampoo instead of a hatchet and grafting knife.
I think most of us should buy less and do more. Many tools such as planes and saws can be had cheaper used, and probably of better quality for the price. While the items below are solid recommendations, not everyone needs them. Hopefully many products will also have a link to a video review eventually to help you get a better idea of whether you need something or not. The reason I don't have a regular amazon store is that they don't have a way for me to say anything about the product, so I set up this page instead. Amazon prices vary regularly. It is a good idea to shop around, both on the web, and on Amazon using the "available from other sellers" link on every product page.
I love this pruner. It is cheaper than a felco, very ergonomic, rugged, and has cushy grips. It also has a feature that cushions the shock when you follow through a cut. The blades are chrome plated and mine show very little sign of rust after several years. There is an oiler bolt for oiling the joint. The parts are supposedly replaceable. The latch opens when you squeeze the pruners, which I love! My only complaint so far is that the latch started wearing out. It began to not stay closed as well as it used to and required some finesse to close so it would stay. I was able to file it back into something close to the original shape, but it will eventually wear out too much to do that again. I will probably make a new latch piece when it wears out. Barnel sells parts, but I don't see this part on the site unless you buy a whole new head assembly. I'll probably keep using them and deal with the problem when I have to. I like the rest of them in every way.
This Swiss army is not the perfect one I would design, but it is the closest I can find besides maybe the Fieldmaster which is more expensive, but which also has scissors. It has no corkscrew, which is good because they bite into your hand.
This silky saw is the one I use all the time for both forestry and pruning. Both of those would often be easier with a longer saw, but this has a number of attributes that come together to make it a hard to beat back pocket saw. It is about as long as you can get away with for a pocket saw, and longer is basically more efficient. It is very light, the grip is good, they are very sharp and very effective. The tooth size is such that it doesn't clog easily in green wood. The same saw model comes with a finer blade and a yellowish handle, but that blade will clog too easily in green wood. This does well enough on dry wood even though the finer toothed model might be a little better. I use mine for pruning, crafting with wood and limbing trees in the forest. I almost always have it in my back pocket if I'm headed to the woods or the orchard and it's always in the same place in the house, ready to grab. As far as portability and profile go, I lost it one day and was looking around for it. I had just cut down a good sized oak tree, cut it up and pulled the brush into a pile. When I went inside to sit down, I found the silky in my front pocket, where I "never" put it! granted they are large pockets, but it is very light and flat. I never notice it in my back pocket unless I sit on it. For me this is an indispensable tool. I used the felco equivalent for many years, which is good, but shorter. I haven't used any other brands, but I don't feel inclined to look for anything better. Replacement blades are not very cheap. The blades are disposable, and they will dull, especially doing forestry work. That is my only reservation recommending this tool. A professional pruner may want a longer saw, but if the best saw is the one you have with you, I don't know how much this one could be improved in terms of versatility, effectiveness and portability.
I own a number of King stones and I like them all. They are soft, very fast cutting stones to be used with water. I listed this one because it is a good compliment to the 250/1000 dual sided King stone. With that pair, a file for reshaping and a bit of leather for a strop, you are pretty well covered to sharpen the great majority of tools. These stones do need flattening, for which there are special stones, or you can use any very flat surface, like a brick, sidewalk or concrete paving stone. According to reviews this stone is glued to the plastic base, but can be cut off with difficulty. There are models that aren't, but this is probably the cheapest option. It is probably the same silicone stuff they use to glue their two sided stones together, which is soft and fexible. Just be warned and read the reviews.
I love this tool. I barely use a ladder anymore for pruning because of it. I can cut green fruit tree wood up to at least 1/2 inch with it and it's light enough not to be too fatiguing or clumsy to use. Not that it's not both of those things but that's the nature of those type of tools. But it is much less so that most. I can also usually cut shoots off right above a bud if I want to, which I usually do. I also like to choose which bud, facing which direction, all of which is possible within it's comfortable working range. The head changes angles and the handle rotates as well, so much is possible. It has held up well to the use I've put it to, which is not extensive, but I don't baby it. There are three different heads available and different lengths. I think that it's best to get the longest one. Two of the heads are similar, the regular bypass pruner head and the cut and hold head. The cut and hold head grabs a fruit's stem, or a twig and holds it for safe lowering if you keep the handle squeezed. I have the regular bypass head. The cut and hold head sounds like a good idea, and my fruit expert friend likes his. You can probably find this cheaper somewhere besides Amazon, but make sure you get the length and head you want. A good gift for an aging person who is still climbing ladders to prune their trees. You might save their life.
You can probably find this saw a lot cheaper by shopping around on the web. I like mine. It is an expensive tool, but if you do a lot of high limbing as I do, it may be worth it. It is very long, over 20 feet, though the effective height you can cut even holding it up off the ground is probably only about 20 feet. This is a serious tool, but when it comes to limbing 20 feet up for whatever reason, such as to grow better timber, there are not very many options to get the job done. I've very happy with mine. Next I have to learn to climb tall straight trees so I can limb above 20 feet! If I limb my fast growing firs with this, within 5 years or so, I can have perfect cabin logs with no exposed knots. In many more years, almost perfect knot free saw logs. That's pretty cool. More of us should do that. BTW, Japanese forestry practices are fascinating. They do a lot of limbing early in the tree's life to grow beautiful, knot free timber.
This saw is quite a nice tool. I do a lot of forestry work pruning up overgrown forest for fire safety and forest health. I start with the hand held silky F180 saw up to head height or so, then I use this saw. It is very sharp, super light and rigid enough to work well. The telescoping mechanism works without a hitch. With my arm length and body height, this tool gets me well over 10 feet high in limbing. After that I use the 22 foot silky extension saw. Imagine what I would have to use in the way of ladders or climbing trees without long reach tools. The 22 foot silky will do the same work, but it is quite heavy and once you limb trees for even half an hour, you’ll understand the need for lighter tools where they’ll work. I would say the one caveat with this tool is that the blade is thin and an inexperienced user would spring the blade and bend or break it pretty quickly. I would never cut just anyone loose with this saw for that reason and prefer not to let anyone else use it at all. The upside is that the thin blade cuts pretty fast. It is of use in pruning trees, but only if you have older overgrown trees really. Anyone with a newer orchard probably won’t need this tool.
This is the tripod I use. I thought I would list it since people sometimes ask about the gear I use to shoot youtube videos. Although not cheap, this is one of the best investments I've made in camera gear. it is very well built and has survived hard use. I am not very careful with it. I have gotten lime, dirt, clay and who knows what else on the legs and they still slide smoothly in and out (edit, pine pitch finally gummed up the legs a little, but they still work lol). At this point there is play and loose stuff that needs tightening, which I haven't dug into yet, but I hope everything is adjustable. There is one flimsy piece of plastic in the tube that I broke immediately, but the company replaced it no questions asked and now that I know it's there I've never broken it again. Watch youtube review for all the features. It is very versatile. For me the low to the ground features and the fact that the arm comes out and swings around are invaluable for shooting hand work and macro shots. It is relatively quick to adjust once you get used to it. I can get simple rough panning shots with it, but it is not anywhere nearly as smooth as a good video tripod head. The upside is that it does all manner of angles and adjusts quickly. You can pull off really creative shots moving the camera around as you push the arm in an arc at the same time. It might take numerous shots and a steady hand, but it's possible to get moving effects with it. If someone was filming me a lot I would probably want them to have a video tripod head, but for me mostly setting up shots and letting them run at all sorts of levels and angles, this tripod works pretty great.
I've read this book a heck of a lot over the years. It used to be a standard reference for me. It is well written, well thought out and full of useful information.
The Complete Modern Blacksmith is an inspirational book for any smith at any level and to makers and tinkerers of all sorts. If nothing else, it shows what is possible with simple tools and techniques. Truly a one of a kind book, by a man who must have been truly remarkable and clearly very talented.
I used slickers in tanning to finish bark tanned leather. I’ve never seen this tool in person, I just went and found the most promising looking one on Amazon. The best one I’ve seen out there is made by Barry King tools with a hardwood handle, but it’s also 50.00 If you are doing only a couple of hides here and there, you can get away with anything that has a hard straight polished edge. They are easy to make from small slate floor tiles by grinding on concrete and polishing with sandpaper. Anyone that installs or sells stone times would have a pile of them lying around. Obviously I’d rather see you make your own, but if you want to buy one, follow this link and then do some comparative shopping. Most of them have minimal finish work and rounding of the edges. This one looks the most finished of those on Amazon and it is also tempered glass.
You can graft with a small pocket knife just fine, but if you are going to buy a grafting knife, I think this one is great. It comes razor sharp, works very well, is cheap, hard to lose because of the color and it is easy to sharpen. it is sharpened on one side only, which helps with control, but that also means it is a right handed knife. While not essential, the one sided bevel is helpful for making controlled flat cuts. Left handed users would probably do better with a regular pocket knife.
I’m tentatively recommending this having bought one, but not used it yet. I contacted the company and they say it’s tempered tool steel. I have not major complaints with the design and it actually seems quite nice. The size is about right. I would change stuff, but at the price it’s nothing to worry about. It’s also stainless.
I have had one of these for a while now. Mine is sharpened on both sides, but they have single bevel models too. I think the double bevel ones are more versatile. I like it quite a bit for certain things. It is very well made by a very reputable saw maker in Japan. It doesn't look that sexy compared to traditional Natas with it's rubber handle grip, but the grip is very shock absorbing which is most definitely a good thing in a rigid choppping knife. Most tools like this have harder handles which can be fatiguing. If the handle ever fails, a wooden one could be made. I use this tool mostly for trimming brush in the woods. It is very good for that. The blade is heavy enough to slice through small limbs, and unlike a hatchet, the edge is very long, so you can work fast since you don't really have to aim. I do not find it to be very good for any major chopping, hewing/carving type stuff. It comes in handy as a froe for splitting small stuff sometimes. The prices vary wildly. I've seen if for under 50.00 and over 10,000.00! If you are patient you'll probably get it for around 70.00 or less. it is a fairly expensive tool and would not be justified for most people. They can be used for a lot of things, but a hatchet is a more versatile tool in my opinion. I'm glad I got it for doing the work I use it for, because I do a lot of forestry with hand tools breaking down brush, limbing and trimming, for which it's really better than the large knife or hatchets I've used in the past. Finally, there are 3 or 4 different weights. I have the heaviest one. I'd prefer a lighter one if I was carrying it around a lot, but the weight is mostly an advantage when breaking down brush. If I was buying again, I'd have to think about the weight issue. Again, most people woudn't be able to justify purchasing this. Then again, if cost was no issue, it would be great to have kicking around the garden for hacking things up since it's stainless it can be exposed to the weather. If money were no issue that is...
I like Swiss army knives. They are cheap and handy pocket knives, hold an edge and are easy to sharpen. I've done all kinds of stuff with them in a pinch and use mine every day. for versatility's sake, I would rather have one than the clip knives that are so popular now just because it is so much more versatile for numerous domestic tasks. On this one I would replace the silly hook with a sharp round stabbing awl. The scissors make it heavier and thicker than the hiker, which is also cheaper. The scissors are kind of cheesy, but handy for trimming broken nails and flaps of torn skin safely.
I love these things. I probably only had them a couple of years, so I can't say a lot about durability, but they sure work good. I consider them almost an essential tanning tool now. I've tanned hides most of my life with just my bare hands. Short rubber gloves are terrible because they just end up filling with water, but you have to reach pretty deep to get water in these. If mine got lost I'd buy another pair in a heartbeat.
This is really quite a book. It is detailed, thoughtful, insightful and well written. There may be some dogmas in there that are not agreed on by everyone, but you'd have to be a huge douche bag not to respect the guys experience and level of conversance on the subject of axes and practical axe use. It is basically all about putting up firewood with an axe, so it is a must read for anyone doing the axe cordwood challenge. This is an information packed book with little fluff and excellent illustrations. In an age of mediocre books that only look amazing, this is a gem of wisdom and substance. Clearly a labor of love borne out of a personal romance with axes over a lifetime of association. I feel like we owe Dudley Cook gratitude for recording his thoughts and experience on axes into what is probably the very best reference on the subject and which will not likely be equaled or surpassed.
I like this file a lot so far. I haven't had it very long, so it's only seen moderate use, but I feel good recommending it. The pattern itself is great for general use and that is exactly what it is designed for. It has a double cut side for rough fast cutting and a finer single cut side for less coarse work. One edge is smooth for working up against a surface that you don't want scratched. the other edge has teeth if you want it to cut. There won't be a huge difference between the 8 inch and 10 inch models. The 8 is a little finer and certainly more portable, while the length and slightly coarser cut on the 10" is an advantage for moving metal faster. I would get the 10 inch version if you are not packing it. While most file manufacturers have gone down the tubes, Bahco still have a reputation for quality and this file is very well manufactured. You may always need a specialty file here and there, and you can collect those later, but this is a good starter file and traveling, and probably the best if you are to only have one, since it is adequate to a lot of tasks and aggressive enough for reshaping tools and moving a lot of metal.
Another king stone option. A great stone, but maybe redundant if one has the 250/1000 already. for those who already have a coarse diamond hone, this will make a pretty complete set for very cheap.
I remember well when my Mother stopped by the sewing store in Roseburg Oregon 40 years ago and left us in the car to go buy the Gingher shears she had been saving for. She still has them today. They were strictly off limits for kid use! I Love mine. I use them on thinner leathers mostly, especially braintanned buckskin. Impeccable quality and very sharp! A lifetime tool.
This is THE reference on lime. It has possibly the worst cover I've ever on a book. Seriously, WTF? But you know what they say... All kinds of technical and historical stuff on working with lime, about it's properties etc. If you are planning to burn and work with lime a lot, It's a must have.
This is the mushroom bible for the west coast of North America. I would be surprised if there is anything so voluminous and thorough for any other part of the world. It and it's small companion book All That the Rain Promises and More are standard fare for west coast mushroom hunters.
This is a very thorough book covering all manner of grafting techniques. It is more than any casual grafter needs for sure, but for the geekier among us it is a great reference. This book is where I first learned of the difference between topworking and frameworking and is no doubt partially responsible for the existence of my frankentree which has about 150 varieties of apples on it. If you just want to graft a few trees, this book is overkill and you can probably learn what you need on youtube, starting with my Grafting Series.
This book is awesome. It outlines the processing of acorns for food using the highly developed techniques and tools that allowed California Natives to use acorns as a reliable year ‘round staple food. The book is organized and written by Bev Ortiz, to document the process as practiced by California Indian cultural ambassador and teacher of many Julia Parker.
I've used this axe quite a lot and I like the form. The one I got has an excellent handle and holds and edge plenty well enough. I have gotten one that is too soft and have heard that complaint now from a couple of other people, so it is probably a crap shoot on quality control unfortunately. I hear they are good about returns. The balance is also better than average. It is a light axe at 2-1/4 lb. If I were to build a beginner firewood axe I'd probably make it either 2.5 or 2.75 pounds with a full 28 inch handle. Mine came with a 27 inch handle and is specified as 2.25 lb, although I have not weighed it. All in all though it seems like a great beginner axe and if you shop around you might find it even cheaper. Best case scenario, buy it in a store so you can check for blade alignment, handle quality. See my Axe Buyer's Checklist video series.
The cons are the aluminum wedge, which I would recommend removing and replacing if possible and the paint which is thick and quite a bit of it has to be removed to grind the bit. The bit needs work. Plan on at least an hour of work, more, with a good file if you are not experienced with that type of work. The good thing is it's cheap enough that you can afford to mess about with it and even screw it up. I still think putting a vintage head on a new handle is a better option over all if possible. Full Video review below.
This is the Swiss Army knife that I carry now. Simple as it is, I rarely notice it in my pocket all day long, and that is pretty important. Then again, the hiker has a saw, which is remarkably effective and handy at times.
Mora knives, I love them and hate them. I think they make poor carry knives if they are sharpened as intended, though I'm sure many would disagree with me. More on that here. However, they are really nice to use on wood for carving. the long straight wedge formed by the bevels makes them almost like using a draw knife in terms of control. The downside is that the angle is very acute which makes the edge weak and vulnerable to damage. They not only can't take any abuse, they can't even really take regular use, especially in hard dry woods. Yet I still have one always handy and wouldn't want to be without. I have several different ones, and have owned many models over the years, but this red wooden handled one is the one I usually grab first and it's very cheap. Again, not recommended as a general sheath knife. If you don't baby it the blade will always be damaged and a belt knife should not be that fragile. But, anyone interested in wood carving and woodcrafty type stuff should probably own one. If I were trekking off into the bush tomorrow, I'd take one for sure, but with a second knife for everyday use.
This model is nice for small and more detailed carving. Strictly a carving and crafting knife. I carved the handle on mine into a neat pinecone pattern.
This is complementary to the Mora number 1, which a skilled user can get a lot of different stuff done with, but there is no doubt that this is a better knife for close fine work. I like mine. Given one or the other though, I'd get the number 1, which seems to be cheaper too.
I have had various vintage and newer kitchen knives. I inherited a Wusthof of the same size that costs well over 100.00, but this is the one I reach for first. Everything is just right about it. It isn't very sexy, but it just works. I like it especially because it's very thin, which makes it really conducive to sharpening with a steel.
I use these for fermenting foods, using regular canning jar seals as recommended in my video on making fermented hot sauce. They are kind of pricey, but they work much better than the metal rings and last a lot longer. You can find some equivalent plastic lids on food jars, like mayo jars but I never see any the size of a wide mouth canning jar. I don't use these for canning, just for fermenting and storage of the fermented food. I'm a big fan of fermenting food in canning jars and then storing them in the same jar for sometimes months and years depending on the food. These are almost essential to that method.
I was shocked when I bought this for 20.00, but now it's only 15.00 (at time of writing this, prices on amazon change all the time) An excellent value. I cut a square piece off the end of mine which I use as an axe puck. It wears out pretty fast, but it also cuts quite fast. To get stuff really sharp, go up another grit, like the king 6000 stone, which makes a good compliment to this one and is also a relative bargain. Video Review here
There are lots of options and combinations of eneloop chargers and batteries available, so don't just buy this one without comparing. I've been using these about 10 years and only recently had a second battery fail. In the meantime, most of my other NiMh batteries have failed, not to mention they never held a charge well in the first place. The eneloop self discharge very slowly unlike most NiMh batteries, so you can keep them around charged, or not use your devices for a year or more and they will still work. That is a game changer. These are far above any rechargeable battery I've ever used. Using head lamps a lot on the homestead, they are indispensable. If you are still using throw away batteries, just buy these. They're awesome. The adapters for d and c cells don't work well however. I think most devices that use those larger batteries draw too much current to be powered by a AA battery in an adapter.
Mor's Kochanski, Accept no substitute. I consider Mor's Bushcraft (previously entitled Northern Bushcraft) essential reading for anyone interested in primitive camping, survival, bushcraft or primitive skills. Also, essential reading for the cordwood challenge. The chapters on fire, axes and knives are worth the price of admission alone. Lots of emphasis on safety. It is geared toward Northern Forests, but has broad applicability. This book is DENSE. No nonsense, no fluff, information packed and written by a remarkable man.
A very handy small but dense mushroom guide. Contains lots of edibles, great pictures and easy to use entries. This is a companion guide to Mushrooms Demystified to which it contains page references for further reading. The two books are really made to work as a pair, though I think this book is very useful on it's own.
I used this book to do my slate roofs. It is excellent and has everything you need to know about putting together an excellent roof. A very thorough work.