If you’re not familiar with the Nessmuk Trio, it is essentially the three bladed tools that George Washington Sears (Nessmuk) recommends in “Woodcraft and Camping” consisting of a hatchet and two knives. These three tools have reached legendary status among woodsmen. There are countless custom knife makers who attempt to imitate these originals – usually for a significant pricetag, especially for a frugal woodsman such as myself. Ironically, excluding a small drawing and a few paragraphs of details, there is little information to be found on the original trio.
“The hatchet and knives in the engraving will be found to fill the bill satisfactorily so far as cutlery may be required. Each is good and useful of its kind, the hatchet especially, being the best model I have ever found for a “double-barreled” pocket-axe.
…A word as to knife, or knives. These are of prime necessity, and should be of the best, both as to shape and temper. The “bowies” and “hunting knives” usually kept on sale, are thick, clumsy affairs, with a sort of ridge along the middle of the blade, murderous-looking, but of little use; rather fitted to adorn a dime novel or the belt of “Billy the Kid,” than the outfit of the hunter. The one shown in the cut is thin in the blade, and handy for skinning, cutting meat, or eating with. The strong double-bladed pocket knife is the best model I have yet found, and, in connection with the sheath knife, is all sufficient for camp use.”
For a purist or collector, it may be worthwhile to invest hard-earned dollars in a true-to-original form. However, the average woodsman can find other shapes and sizes of hatchets and knives which are commendable substitutes. There are many options available to adequately fit your needs in the wild. I highly recommend that you find a trio that is comfortable to you as opposed to mimicking the “old woodsman.” Once you have found these items, do your research on quality before venturing into the wild – better to discover poor quality blades and handles in your backyard as opposed to on an outing.
I experiment quite a bit with various hatchets and knives using them around our camp and on outings. The “Duncan Trio” currently consists of an Estwing Sportsman’s Axe, a Schrade Sharpfinger fixed-blade knife and a Boker whittler, although the Boker is destined to be replaced.
The Estwing has proven more than adequate for camp use. The Sharpfinger has proven itself in the kitchen and campsite. However, it has yet to be tested for field-dressing game. The whittler’s design seems to work well but I am a bit dissatisfied with Boker’s quality. In the near future, I’ll be providing detailed reviews on each of these items as well as several other knives I use for outings.
In conclusion, find a trio of good quality that is comfortable for your use as opposed to trying to emulate the “old woodsman.” You’ll find that you will spend considerably less money and be just as useful on any outing into the wild.