Marto-Brewer Explorer/Explora

Oh my, it's 1984 or 1985 again and I'm thumbing through the Brigade Quartermaster's Catalog. And there is the Marto-Brewer Explorer Survival Knife in all of its glory. I was sitting there looking at that thing and I wanted one pretty bad… But that order never came to be. I wanted that Marto-Brewer Explorer to accompany me on some of my trips to the woods and especially on summer camping and fishing trips. So, I have one good friend to thank for this knife and that is Ray Floro, as he is the man that brokered the deal for me all the way down in Australia.

Where do I start?

Every article should, in a very small way, be self-contained and while I do not want to repeat the same information over and over again, it is inevitable in this case. There is going to be some overlap and repeated information and thoughts in the Aitor Jungle King II Article simply because these knives are so similar. They both have rather extensive features and accessories and they are both the same type of knife, i.e., hollow handled. They were both popular during the same period of time as well. With that in mind, I shall begin on features and thoughts on those features.

A spear?

Hmm, as I said in another article, I used an Aitor Jungle King II for a spear, to spear fish and the one thing I can tell you with absolute accuracy is this: Carp is not a very tasty fish. I used the Aitor accessory "harpoon" blade much more for spearing fish and that's an excellent little blade for the task.

I never had the opportunity or desire to get up in a tree like a certain someone did in a movie over twenty years ago and spear a wild boar with a knife on the end of a stick.

I don't think I want any part of that action. I think a .44 Magnum is better belt-carried medicine for boar than a knife attached to a stick and I think a .45-70 lever action rifle is even better than that. This is said with all due respect to those brave souls who have hunted boar with a hand-held Bowie knife or a spear, of course.

I have absolutely nothing against hunting. A proper spear used on boar would be effective as well…but not something like this Marto-Brewer Explorer or an Aitor Jungle King II stuck on the end of a stick… You have to understand that the amount of spear shaft you are going to have inside the hollow handle is quite minimal. Basically, the amount of wood is going to be equal to the Survival Capsule supplied with these knives and that's not much wood when you consider the task at hand. There is no way you're going to be able to dispatch a boar with this thing. Well, of course, if you're lucky you could but I don't think you should be counting on luck for this type of thing... If hunting boar with something like a Boar Spear from Cold Steel, Inc. is "hairy," you should carefully consider your choices if you think you are going to use any hollow handled survival knife for a spearhead. The diameter and length of the wood that you would place inside the hollow handle is not sufficient for that type of stress. At best, the spear shaft you have made would break and then your valuable tool, the knife, would go running away with the wounded animal, never to be seen again. On the other end of the spectrum, an angry and wounded boar deciding to attack you. What we're talking about is a section of wood that is smaller in diameter than a common broomstick and only about three inches of it in the handle. That's not strong enough. Sure, perhaps for Sika or Whitetail Deer, but certainly not boar. Even a wounded deer can kill you...remember that.

Another thing to consider is the sawteeth on these two knives, the Marto-Brewer and Aitor Jungle King. In a pinch, you can use these knives for Self-defense because you don't have to rely on deep thrusts and you can use slashing and cutting if you have to.

When you are talking about spearing a boar, however, you want to be able to really work them over with thrusts if need be and having these sawteeth is not going to be conducive to doing that in a rapidfire manner.

If all of that were not bad enough, the only way to secure the Brewer Explorer to a shaft for use as a spear is to place cordage through the hollow steel roll pin in the grip and then use that to secure the knife to the shaft. The Brewer Explorer does not have a crossguard with lashing holes on each side like the Aitor JKII.

The easiest way to secure the Brewer Explorer or the Aitor JKII to a spear shaft is to use a length of ParaCord and a small hoseclamp. On the Brewer, place the ParaCord through the hollow steel roll pin in the handle, place the handle of the knife over the spear shaft and then pull the cord tight and run both tails of the cord under the hoseclamp. Hold the cord taught and tighten the hoseclamp.

Anyway, I did use the Aitor to spear some fish, trying carefully not to break anything, including the shaft of the makeshift spear I had. I basically just pierced them and pinned them to the muddy bottom of a creek bed. More of a push than a thrust, if you can envision that. If you must do this, you should be careful to only do it in sandy or muddy areas and not rocky areas as you could chip the blade, remove the point through breakage, etc. That goes for the Brewer Explorer as well as the Aitor Jungle King II. You really shouldn't be using these knives as spearheads.

Getting back to one of my repetitive themes about hollow handled knives and their critics; I will say this again: Man is a tool-making creature. What this means is, you do not have to use a valuable tool like a knife for the spearhead. No, you can use the knife to make a sharp enough or pointy enough spear to pierce fish as well as other animals. You can even carve barbs into the spear to hold the fish, etc. You don't even have to take the chance of breaking the knife or otherwise damaging it. You are a smart animal, use the tool (knife) to make other tools (spear) and you won't have to worry about this feature. But it is there for whatever extreme reason you might have to use it for...I guess.

Spears are incredibly lethal weapons and almost every Martial Culture has used them to great effect in battle. On a shorter spear shaft, the attached knife as a spearhead would be more like a carbine with a bayonet, another combat-proven lethal implement in the hands of the trained, aggressive or desperate person. Unfortunately, the Brewer Explorer or the Aitor JKII attached to a stick is never going to be as strong as a carbine and bayonet.

The capability is just there. Not as good as a handgun or other firearm, but it's there. Desperate circumstances often require equally desperate measures.

Of course, in some State Parks, you're no longer allowed to have a knife like this in your possession. Check the laws in your area before you carry any knife.

What else is in this little booklet?

Fishing Spear - Mechanical Barbs (Optional)

The Marto-Brewer Explorer had an accessory attachment that was an option. An insert that you placed into the wirecutter - cutout in the blade and this turned the Explorer's blade into a large fishing spear with a barb on each side.

This neat attachment is a large contraption and you would have to really ramrod a large fish for this thing to work. If your knife was razor sharp and pointy as this one is, it's possible that these barbs could enter a large fish but in reality they are probably a bit large for the task. It's still a really great idea though.

A small screwdriver was provided to secure the assembly, which you will understand by viewing the pictures. The red and white Bull's-Eye dot in the picture above is the shaft of the screwdriver.

A fishing pole?

What the hell? They're kidding, right? Uh…no, they're not kidding… Yeah, see…there is a small hole in the blade (not the wire cutter cutout but the small hole used for making a clinometer…) and you could put the knife on the end of a stick, like you are making a spear. Then you tie off your fishing line in this small hole and you use this as your fishing pole.

Uhmm, no. This is also in the little manual for the knife but I think this use of the knife is just silly. The mere suggestion is silly, totally unnecessary.

The idea of using the knife as a spearhead has more merit than this and I wouldn't even do that nowadays. When you are marketing a knife like this, it is much better to say the knife has 15 features instead of just 12. You have a valuable tool - this knife. Why in the hell would you tie it to the end of a stick to fish with it when you can just make a cane pole to fish with? Why risk losing the knife? Why tie up the knife doing this silliness when you might need it for something else?

This was just a selling point aimed at people that didn't know any better and they would probably just stick the knife in a glass case and stare at it.

("See there Billy-Bob, it's a fishin' rod too.")

This small hole, the aforementioned tie-off point for the fishing line, is there so you can use the knife, along with a small piece of monofilament line and a splitshot sinker, as a clinometer. That seems reasonable to me. I think they should have just left the use of that small hole for that purpose instead of even mentioning what I consider to be silliness, that of tying off your actual fishing line and using the knife in that manner - as a fishing rod.

Internationally recognized Ground to Air Signals are also on the blade, a nice touch. The satin finished Explorers were used as signal mirrors, using the wirecutter cutout in the blade as the aiming device.

What about the Saw on the back of the blade?

The saw on the back of the Marto-Brewer Explorer is not as good as the saw on the Aitor Jungle King II - it's not as aggressive. It will work, as all of these saws will, to notch wood so you can construct traps and a host of other chores.

Magnifying Lens (Optional)

This is one of the optional accessories that I did not get with the knife. That optional device being a small magnifying lens that fits into the wirecutter hole in the blade. I don't know if the lens was pressure fit in the hole and you just popped it in and out or what. Again, I think this is "interesting" and sort of "cool," but interesting and cool does not always equate to "necessary" or even "realistic" or "smart."

Dr. Charles Brewer was a Scientist and an Explorer (some would say a whole lot more…) and I guess the reasoning behind this, from what I gather in the little manual supplied with the knife, is that this was to examine things like plants and insects in the jungle. I think it would have just been better advertised as a Burning Lens that had the secondary function of splinter removal or examining other objects.

On a survival knife or in a survival kit, the primary functions of a magnifier is to start a fire on a cold but sunny day, to remove a splinter or perhaps read survival directions on cards where the print is very small. Not necessarily to examine interesting insects. The magnifier did not have to be so fancy as to be able to fit in the blade of a knife. Again, very "cool" but not really necessary.

They could have just as easily placed this magnifying lens in the survival capsule in the form of a small disc, slightly smaller in diameter than the capsule itself. Problem solved!

(And now an update, I will keep the material/info above on the magnifying glass the same even though that was composed well over a year and a half ago. I now have information that some of the survival capsules were equipped with a lid that served as a magnifying lens! All good things to those who wait…)

Continuing on… So, those are the three basic criticisms of the Marto-Brewer Explorer as a System. Not the knife itself, but just three of the features. I think they would have been better off including a smaller accessory knife like Aitor does with the JKI and JKII. Had they made an "accessory knife" with a cutout in the blade, you could have attached that optional set of mechanical barbs to the accessory blade instead of the Explorer itself. That would have been excellent! Downsizing the barbs would have made it more effective as well.

The Buttcap and the Compass

The Buttcap on this knife appears to be massively strong, overbuilt really. I would not use it for hammering and expect the compass to work in any of these types of knives. The Buttcap is heavy and I'm sure it would make a serviceable hammer poll. However, you should make a hammering tool in the form of a wooden club if you need one, a mallet actually…use the knife to make other tools.

(As a sidenote, since I keep telling people what they are - tool-making humans…I wonder if these people who not only insist on hammering on knives with rocks but hammering on rocks with knives have ever read the Foxfire Series of books. Perhaps they should, they might learn something. You know, like how to make what basically amounts to a maul made out of wood.)

Hammering with the buttcaps on some of these knives…please use your head. No, not to hammer with, use it to think with. I don't care how overbuilt an endcap is, when you put something sensitive like a compass in it, don't think you are going to be hammering nails or anything else and still have a serviceable compass when it's all over.

The Brewer compass is quite accurate; I check all of my smaller compasses against a G.I. Lensatic Compass. You should not expect pinpoint navigation ability with a button compass, but they can be miraculous in that, they can save your life by showing you the general direction that you will have to go in order to survive.

It's a "Thataway Compass."

The Handguard

Well, this is an obvious plus on a knife of this type. Sure, it makes the overall knife a bit more bulky and it can cause you some pain and aggravation in dense bush but it can also save your knuckles from being bashed as well. There is always the added feature of being able to smashmouth someone in self-defense as well - although this is not a "self-defense" knife, per se.

The Sheath

The Sheath is polyamide; it's tough enough as far as I'm concerned. Similar to the Aitor Jungle King, in that, on the end of the sheath, there is another tool, on the Aitors it is a set of slingshot forks. On the Marto-Brewer it is wirecutters. A set of wirecutters not totally unlike those you can find on AK-47 bayonets. A handy flat-blade, standard screwdriver is on the very end of the sheath as well.

Another similarity (to the Aitor) is the sharpening stone mounted to the back of the sheath. A good use of space even though both Aitor and Marto-Brewer stones leave a lot to be desired when it comes to sharpening stones. I spent a lot of frustrating time sitting around a campfire with the Aitor and the stone on the back of the sheath.

I'd rather have a diamond rod like an EZ-LAP or a DMT folding diamond hone, but this stone will work if you must use it, it's a just a pain to deal with.

The Survival Capsule

Well, it has International Morse Code on the side of it. That's kind of neat. It would be pretty funny if you didn't know any Morse Code… To have to hold this knife in one hand and try to aim sunlight off of the blade (assuming you had a satin finished one or polished a small area on the black blade version as Leroy Thompson suggested in his excellent book on Survival/Fighting Knives...) and in your other hand you're holding this Capsule, trying to figure out Morse to signal with as you go. Fairly impractical, don't you think?

If you're good enough to use Morse Code, you don't need the Capsule. If you don't know Morse, the Capsule probably won't do you much good. Still, I guess you could learn, some learn faster than others. I guess it costs just as much to put the Morse Code down for S-O-S as it did the entire Alphabet, so, why not put the whole thing on there?

On the side of the Explorer's blade, there are International Ground to Air Symbols as I mentioned earlier, much more useful I would say.

On the newer sheath accessory inserts on the Aitor Jungle King IIs, they also have International Ground to Air Symbols.

Moving on to other things about the Survival Capsule with the Explorer…


Well, there was a flint rod in there; I'm a big fan of them! They work very well indeed and they are small enough to go into the hollow handle of a knife and not take up much space at all. They will disintegrate over time...


They put matches in these Capsules that were very close to the excellent British Lifeboat Matches. These will save the day when you need to build a fire quickly.

Scalpel Blade

No, not for surgery! Picking splinters and whatnot with it would be OK, you could clean animals with it if you had to but, you still have your knife with you, right?


Then came the sutures. Well, hmm…I guess I could do it if I really had to do it, sew myself up. Problem is most of the time you don't really have to. We have other, better things now anyway, but let's just go with this for a moment.

You ever been sutured in an ER? A lot of people wonder why their Dentist can give you a shot of local anaesthetic in an incredibly sensitive part of your body, your mouth, and it doesn't hurt so bad. But if you go to the Emergency Room and you have a cut on a tougher part of your body, the shot of local hurts like sin.

My Dentist, nice guy that he is, explained it to me like this: "When you come here, if I hurt you and don't care about your pain, you won't come back, you'll find someone else that will treat you better. The ER Doctor is not so much concerned with that because they are working in an Emergency Room. Where are you going to go when you have a gaping wound that needs closed?"

He further explained that it hurts more because of something that is inevitable: you have to do multiple sticks into a wound that might already be very, very painful, in order to distribute the local so the doctor can sew it up. The part where they are quite callous about it all is, they do this fast and they inject the anaesthetic in there and when you do it fast, you are creating small abscesses in there, instead of an infection, the "abcess" is filled with local anaesthetic.

Creating those little fluid-filled pockets is quite painful until the numbing agent takes effect. If they would just slow down a bit, it wouldn't be so bad, but most of them don't. I know some Docs read my website because they have E-mailed me in the past. Don't take offense. Most of the older Doctors slow down a bit because they care and they know. You get one fresh out of Medical School and you're probably going to be in for a few minutes of misery.

They are notorious for threatening little children who won't stop screaming at the tops of their lungs, threatening that they won't treat them when the one doing the threatening is the cause of half of the pain. I've seen it, save your hate mail. Don't lecture me on why medicine has to hurt - most of the time it's simple callousness.

So, do you really think you could take a needle and push that through your tough skin and down through sensitive tissue, tissue that's already suffered some type of trauma (or you would not be sewing it up anyway, right?), and you're going to do a bang-up job of this.

All the while you have to concern yourself with contamination, of closing contamination inside of the wound and making a bad situation a horrible and perhaps life-threatening situation.

I'm a pretty tough person, I can grit my teeth and get on with it but I have some serious doubts that I could do this to myself if I was really torn up. If I had a syringe and some local, I could do that to myself and then sew myself up, but let's face it; this is going to be very painful without a local and unless you're a Doctor, Dentist, RN or EMT, you're probably not going to be able carry that type of gear legally or "semi-legally."

I think you would be better served by the various medical "Super-Glues" like Derma-Bond. One little vial of that stuff could go in a Capsule like this or perhaps a couple of excellent 3M Steri-Strips. That is a much more realistic approach to the problem, in my opinion, rather than trying to stitch yourself up.

If you choose to use a medical adhesive or a Steri-Strip, you must clean the wound out totally or you risk a far greater infection.

I've been in Emergency Rooms a few times (as you have probably guessed by now). They bring the suture prep tray in, a little wash basin, some soap and a little piece of hell that has a sponge on one side and a brush, for lack of a better word, on the other side. The Nurse's job is one of Grand Inquisitor, she soaps and scrubs the area and this is done for a very good reason - so you don't get foreign matter like dirt, gravel or someone's tooth fragment(s) in the wound that is about to be closed. If you walk into the ER under your own power and you know you are going to be sutured, it is best to relieve yourself in the restroom instead of during the suturing process.

Sometimes they have to shave you as well, but that's another story...

Also, do not use duct tape or electrical tape to close wounds, I see this discussed over and over again, don't do it. Don't you get frustrated when you peel tape off of something and it's all sticky from the adhesive on the tape? See all of the filth and crud that it collects? Now, why would you want to use that sort of thing on a wound you want to keep clean? Doesn't make any sense, does it?

There are two reasons to suture a wound. One is to stop bleeding and to keep medium to large sized pieces of flesh and meat from flapping around. That's valid. The other is to keep scarring to a minimum. Keep that in mind if you get hurt. Don't immediately assume you have to do anything except keep direct pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding and then clean it and keep it clean.

Fishing Kit

The fishing kit is minimalist and it will obviously work. There is not a whole lot more to say about it really. They could have included a couple of "flies" and that would have made it much better, but you can't have everything, can you? Some monofilament line, a few hooks, a couple of splitshot sinkers and a very small and quite interesting two piece bobber was included with the kit.

This is not the kit from my Brewer Explorer, but someone sent me this picture from one they purchased. Apparently, the compass in their Brewer Explorer fell out of the butt cap. I wish mine would! Then I could use the butt cap to hammer with.

Braided fishing line is ALWAYS better than monofilament line in a survival kit.


Well, I've seen a couple sewing needles in these kits. I guess you're supposed to use the monofilament fishing line because I have never seen thread in these mini-kits. But, to be fair, I have never seen a brand-new, never touched Brewer Survival Capsule Kit, either. I just have mine and I know it is incomplete.

The Aitor had sewing thread and monofilament line for fishing, I don't know if the Brewer Explorer was supplied with sewing thread or not.


Some additional information will be provided directly after these closing thoughts. Like the Aitor Jungle King II, this knife would best serve as a spare in your vehicle or pack. Now, this along with the Aitor Article will get passed around and commented on and the "knife testers" are going to come out of the woodwork.

Stop telling people, including me, what you can break and destroy and start telling me what you can build and create. Anyone can break anything, but only a few are capable or interested in building and creating.

Please stop singing the praises of being able to make a "knife" out of chert that will break if you look at it the wrong way and then tell me a knife like this is "junk."

The following information was sent to me by a Gentleman on Bladeforums, it just adds a little spice to this article, enjoy. - Don


The information I posted about Dr. Brewer and the Marto Explorer came out of Abel Domenech's El Cuchillo Tactico (ISBN 987-96072-0-1). There is a very good write up on the knife on pages 243-247.

Unfortunately, it is in Spanish.

The publisher released a partial English translation of the book, but the translation on these pages is only a one paragraph synopsis. Here it is: "I met Dr. Charles Brewer-Carias during a trip to Venezuela in the summer of 1990. Thanks to the help of my good friend and "Machairologist" Dr. Luis Bianco Hernandez, I was able to personally meet the famous explorer, adventurer, sportsman, and former Minister of the Youth for his country. As an explorer, Dr. Brewer has visited remote and isolated parts of South American Jungles, discovering new plants, flora and fauna, and meeting primitive human beings living in those exotic lands.

With this experience, Dr. Brewer knows very well the importance of a good knife as part of his equipment, specialy in limit situations. This led him to the creation of an special knife which is presently being made by the famous cutlery firm Marto, located in the legendary city of Toledo, Spain." The original Spanish text is very extensive and much better written.

The following is an excerpt from the book, "Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon" by Patrick Tierney "This is the Brewer Explorer Survival knife," said Charlie…6 1/4-inch stainless steel blade, Rockwell Hardness 56-58; 2 3/4-inch saw extending from the handle towards the point; on the left here a 180-degree clinometer for calculating the height of mountains; on the right instructions for five ground-to-air signals... It converts into wire cutters.... It can also be made into a harpoon and holds six fish hooks, nylon fishing line, two lead sinkers, one float, an Exacto blade, two sewing needles, three matches, a flint stick and a suture needle with suture material attached.

It's made by Marto of Toledo and imported into the US by Gutman at $150. But you and Simon can have one. It's good for skinning alligators. And when the Yanomami have had a go at you, you can sew each other up round the arrow holes."


And there you have it, a general overview of and thoughts about the Marto-Brewer Explorer Survival Knife. - Don

Copyright 2006 Don Rearic

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