Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas...

I just wanted to take a moment and wish you all a Merry Christmas.  I hope that you are able to be with those that are special to you and that you are able to reflect on how wealthy you REALLY are if you have a roof over your head and the ability to eat multiple meals a day.  

Monday, December 7, 2009

Case Sheath Ferro Rod Modification

A while back I broke the saw blade on my Leatherman Blast and then the factory belt-case for it broke so I stopped carrying it and started carrying my Swiss Army Knife Camper (SAK).  I Use the saw a lot but I really missed having a pliers on hand.  Then the other day while working on the "Honey-Do" list I came across my 12 year old Leatherman Super Tool in an old brown after market belt sheath and I decided to start carrying that again.  As I strapped it on I got to thinking "Boy I carry A LOT of knives..." (adding the Super Tool put me up to 4. And so I decided to put the SAK in the drawer.  This raised the question of "What should I do with my ferro rod?".  It felt strange having it float around in my pocket all alone.  Then I noticed how my belt case for the super tool was a touch on the big side and had lots of extra leather.  So I grabbed my ever present Mora #2 and cut 2 slits into the side of the case and voila'!  A ferro loop!  Total cost to me? Nothing.  That I can afford.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Joys of Childern and Fire...

During Thanksgiving the family and I traveled north to Minnesota to visit with my wife's sister and her family.  The first night we were there my sister-in-law suggested that we all go for a night hike and call owls.  We got the kids bundled up which is no easy task (they have six kids, we have two) and headed off into the timber. 

After we had walked a little ways we stopped to listen and I did a couple of Barred Owl (Strix varia ) calls to no avail.  We walked further up the hill to a large open meadow and stoped to call again.  This time we tried the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), and the Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) in addition to the Barred (none of which should be confused with a Wandering Owlbut again we raised no response.  

The older kids and I stopped near a junction of two mowed trails on our way up the hill to wait for the other adults with the toddlers and infants in tow.  The kids began asking me why I carried a knife with me every where I go, and what other "odd" items I had with me.  I told them all the things I use my knife for from the mundane, opening envelopes, to the exciting, butchering game. While I explained just how useful a fixed blade knife can be on a daily basis I reached into my front pocket and pulled out my ferro rod and grabbed some bull thistle down from a nearby stalk.  This action promoted a whole new slew of questions as to why I need thistle seeds and what the ferro rod does.  Actions speak louder than words so I just showed them.  

I struck the ferro rod with the saw blade on my Swiss Army "Camper" and the bull thistle down burst into flames temporarily lighting up our little corner of the meadow.  My nephew, age 7, was little concerned that I was going to start a grass fire but I eventually persuaded him that everything was ok (I thought for a minute I would have to show him my S-130/190 Wildland Firefighter Card). 

As we were making our way back to the house the the last hint of light disappeared in the western sky and it was increasingly difficult to make out the trail in the timber so I grabbed my rope candle (a 6-ply jute rope coated with wax) from my pocket and lit it with my ferro rod and some char cloth.  I was again instantly barraged with questions as to why I need that.  I though the moment at hand made it obvious but I indulged their inquisitive nature and explained how my rope candle was a sort of pocket torch.  As we finally made it back to the house they decided that they also were in dire need of torches.  I told them I'd see what we could come up with the following day.

The following morning I awoke excited by the challenge of manufacturing torches from what the kids and I could find in the countryside. After we'd had breakfast and the kids had done their chores we headed off to a low ridge north of the house that had a small plantation of Eastern White pines (Pinus strobus).  Once we arrived at the plantation I pulled a coiled up bow saw blade from the billy can in my satchel and cut a Sugar maple sapling (Acer saccharum) whipped up a bow saw and we headed in.

We were at the plantation to gather pitch from the pine trees to act as fuel in the kid's torches.  I showed the kids what to look for as far as tree damage, pitch and how to remove it.  I made a basket out of my handkerchief which we lined with dried pine needle to keep the pitch from sticking to the cloth, handed it to my niece and sent them off hunting.

In the meantime I took off looking for a dead standing pine tree to fell in order to search for "fatwood", or pitch saturated wood at the base of the dead tree's stump.  The limbs of the pines had never been trimmed so there were dead limbs interlocked all over the place which made movement for me difficult.  I decided to cut some branches out of my way with the saw and when I did I realized that the bases of the dead branches were F-U-L-L of pitch, I mean loaded!  I set about cutting dead branches and placing the pitch filled section in my pockets.  

After about 45 minutes of collecting my pockets were full of fatwood, and the kids' basket had a healthy supply of pitch in it.  We headed back to the house and we made a detour past the cow pasture to grab some Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) that I noticed on the way out.  The kids gathered up the mullein and we beat it back to the house where I built a small fire while the kids went and scrounged up a soup can to melt their pitch in.

While the pitch melted, the kids and I had lunch around the campfire and drank tea that I boiled in my billy can. Once the pitch was melted I took the heads of the mullein and rolled them around inside the can until they were well coated then I allowed them to cool.  I repeated this process a few times until they were well saturated, all the while I was explaining to the kids the ins and outs of safe handling of the torches and how they were ONLY to be lit under adult supervision.

Besides making the torches I was able to teach my oldest niece how to make cordage using baling twine from the barn.  I showed her once and within a few hours she had made herself a 4-ply, 10' lead rope to use on her horse's halter. Later that day when we were hiking in the woods she grabbed some inner bark from an Ironwood tree that had been damaged by a log skidder and made a few feet of 2-ply cordage.  I was (and am) a proud uncle.

I took the fatwood I collected home and made a few fatwood matches that I learned about from an article over at  The "matches" I made are pictured here on the left.  You light them by hitting the cotton wool wrapped around the "match" with sparks from your ferro rod.  The picture on the right is two of the "matches" burning (Note: the cotton wool has burned away and just the fat wood is burning now).

I also recently made a match-safe from a 12 gauge a shotshell that I have filled with waterproof matches.  I got the idea for the match-safe from Ray Mears' Essential Bushcraft.

To make it you simply heat the brass of a discharged shotshell over a candle just enough that it will slip off and then slide it over the open end of another discharged shotshell.

I went a step further in that I used a hacksaw to cut grooves into the removable end of the match-safe to provide a friction plate for lighting my matches. 

I waterproofed the matches myself by dipping strike anywhere matches in a clear lacquer after I read an article about the process in the latest issue of Backwoodsman Magazine and over at Brian's Blog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rope Candle and Bushcraft Manifesto update

This past weekend I was out stargazing and owl calling with my two year old, Monkey, while visiting my mother-in-law in extreme northeast Iowa. While we were out Monkey asked "Daddy can we walk in the woods and look for creatures?". How could I say no? I didn't have a flashlight to help us to spot the tripping hazards but luckily I had a small candle in my pocket. I lit the candle with a cotton ball and my ferro rod and off we went. The candle wasn't giving off much light, and I was having trouble keeping it lit when I remembered a short hank of rope that was in my coat pocket. I pulled it out, poured some melted wax on it and lit it with the candle. Presto! A mini torch! It put out a surprising amount of light and stayed lit easily. When I got back home I twisted up a hank of jute cordage into a 6" section of 6 ply rope and coated it with wax. I carry it in a tin with some char cloth that I use to light it. Not gonna leave home with out now. After all you never know when your little one will want to hunt for creatures in the dark...

Also as a side note I finished my Bushcraft Manifesto (or at least an early draft) and I have it available as a pdf if anyone is interested. Just shoot me an e-mail at norseman55731 @ and I'll send you a copy to peruse and critique. I have added some sketches to the Bindcraft section that a gentleman sent me after attending a program I did where I taught my style of cordage making. I think he did great job and it make the text easier to understand.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bushcraft Manifesto-Firecraft

Almost done! One more section and the rough draft will be complete, which is good because I'm presenting it tomorrow on Thursday.

The Knowledge: Firecraft
Fire has a countless uses. Some are obvious; heating, cooking, signaling. There are also some not so obvious uses. Some of the less obvious are water purification, utensil and container making, tree cutting, insect repellent, scent cover-up, habitat improvement and the list goes on. The ability to light a fire in any kind of weather is absolutely invaluable for prevention of hypothermia and fire making is one of the first skills one should perfect. Start out with simple, sure fire methods (i.e.; ferro rod and petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball) and then move on to more advanced methods (i.e.; fire-by-friction). It is also a good idea to practice lighting a fire with one match (and only one). It is very easily done, it just takes time and preparation to get it done. To get a fire started you will need:

  • Tinder: Very dry, lightweight materials that are flammable such as dried grasses, dried inner tree bark (cordage materials often make good tinder), wood shavings/sawdust, birch bark, jute twine, cotton balls, bull-thistle down, etc...)
  • Kindling: Very dry thin wood either split from larger pieces or broken down limbs. The smallest kindling should be about pencil thick and graduated up to thumb thickness.
  • Feather sticks: Very dry thumb to wrist thick wood that has been shaved to create thin ribbons of wood that remain attached to the main body of wood.
  • Small wood: Dry wood up to wrist thickness. As a general rule the small wood for you fire shouldn't be bigger in diameter than you can break without using a saw or an axe.
  • Large wood: Dry wood forearm thickness and up. Large wood is used to sustain a fire for longer periods of time, and to build up a good bed of coals for roasting or baking.

As was stated above when getting a fire going use dry wood. Dry wood burns faster, hotter and smokes less then damp wood. That being said there are times when throwing damp wood on the fire isn't a bad idea. If your camp is particularly buggy damp wood can create smoke and repel insects. Damp wood is also useful to keep a fire going through the night. Once you have established a good be of coal a couple of damp (not wet mind you) logs can be laid on the fire to burn very slowly through the night. With luck you all you will have to do to start a fire in the morning is rake up the coals and throw on some dry wood.

The Fire Trinity
Before we get into the discussion of fire lighting methods it is important to understand that a fire is almost a living thing in a figurative sense, not spiritual (for me anyhow). Fire, like other living things, needs food and air. If you don't feed a fire enough it starves, deny it oxygen, it suffocates. On the other hand if a fire is fed too much it grows out of control; likewise too much oxygen causes a fire to over exert itself and it will burn brightly, but quickly vanish.

The three things a fire needs are fuel, oxygen, and heat. Limit one of the three and a fire will suffer.

Ferro rod, Cotton and Petroleum Jelly
I half jokingly tell people "If you can't light a fire in the woods with this method under any conditions you probably shouldn't be in the woods". But seriously, if you can't light a fire in the woods with this method under any conditions you probably shouldn't be in the woods... seriously. A ferro rod (ferro is short for ferrocerium) is a man made "flint" made of various metals (iron,cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium, magnesium) and when struck with a piece of high carbon steel it sends a shower of hot sparks. Small ferro rods are found in cigarette lighters but you can purchase larger ones fairly inexpensively that are good for hundreds of strikes.

Some ferro rods come attached to a block of magnesium that can be scraped into your tinder to aid in fire lighting, others are simply a 3" rod roughly the diameter of a pencil often referred to as a "scout" or "army" model. I personally prefer the scout/army model mainly because the rod is thicker and less prone to breakage and because in my experience the magnesium is overkill. That being said I own both styles. I carry the scout/army with me on a daily basis, and the magnesium block stays in my billy can kit for day hikes and camping trips. When it comes to knives and fire lighting equipment always error on the side of redundancy.

A ferro rod can light an amazing variety of natural tinders with a little bit for prep time, but for emergencies I always carry a small tin of cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly. To light a fire simply fluff up a cotton ball to expose the dry center and then strike the ferro rod to it. They usually light with the first strike, if not make sure you have enough dry cotton exposed and hit it again. Once the cotton starts to burn the petroleum jelly will keep the flame going (even in a strong wind) for several minutes. That being said you should be sure to have ALL your fire building materials together before you try to start your fire.

One Match Fire
The trick to a one match fire is very dry wood(notice a trend here?) and feather sticks. They way you lay your fire before you you light it is crucial in a one match fire. I prefer to start out by laying my tinder bundle down and building a open faced "tee-pee" of thin kindling around it. I will also lay aside my feather sticks and small wood before I try lighting my fire. Once I have everything set up I light my match and touch it to the tinder bundle. As the tinder bundle starts to light the kindling tee-pee I slowly add more pieces of kindling and my feather sticks, but not too much, remember to let the air flow. Once I feel that your kindling tee-pee is burning strong I beging to build a small wood "cabin" around my tee-pee. I start by laying for pieces of wood in a square around the base of my tee-pee and then four more pieces on top of that following the contours of the tee-pee; in the end your cabin should sort of like a pyramid with a flat top. I build the cabin around the tee-pee until the cabin is slightly taller than the tee-pee. I have found that this laying a fire in this manor gives you a really goo bed of coals and creates it's own airflow. By stacking the wood up and following the contours of the tee-pee you create a chimney that draws air and heat upwards so all I have to worry about is adding fuel.

Fire by friction may not be easy, but it is NOT impossible. One of the greatest feeling I've had since becoming an outdoor educator is seeing the face of someone that has lit there first successful fire using a bow-drill with materials that they collected themselves. The trick to successfully lighting a friction fire is practice, practice, practice. You need to practice in order to get get your form just right. Proper form is almost more important that proper material. If you have the marginal form and excellent materials you won't get a fire going, however if you have excellent form and marginal materials you will.

Bow-drill parts:
  • Bearing block-The bearing block is what you hold in your hand to apply downward pressure on the spindle to increase friction. The bearing block can be made of the same wood as the rest of your set or a harder wood. Hard woods tend to polish up more and generate less friction which is a good quality in a bearing block.
  • Spindle- The spindle of your set should be made of a soft wood that is very dry. Slightly damp wood can work, but you'll work a lot harder. It is a good idea to square off your spindle instead of having a round spindle. A square spindle will rotate better than a round one because your cordage is more likely to slip on a round spindle instead of turning it. The top of your spindle should be more pointed than the the bottom to further reduce the friction between your spindle and your bearing block.
  • Hearth board- The hearth board, like the spindle, needs to be made of dry wood. To test if a the wood you have selected for your bow-drill set is suitable give it the thumbnail test. Press you thumbnail into the wood and if you easily leave a dent you have the right materials.
  • Bow- I prefer to use a bow that isn't bow shaped. I like to use a straight bow because I have less trouble loading the spindle into the bearing block and hearth board. When I've use springy curved bows I've spent a lot of time launching the spindle off into the woods. For my bow string I like to use a long synthetic boot lace. Natural materials work but they are prone to fraying and breaking.
  • Ember board- The ember board is simply a thin piece of wood (a dry leaf will work fine) that catches the dust from your spindle and hearth board that will be heated until it becomes a coal in your hearth boards notch.

If you keep the arm holding your bearing block locked in tight to the leg thats steadying your hearth board and you apply the right amount of pressure while keeping the spindle vertical you should get a fire.

Once you have selected and prepped your materials for your bow-drill set using the thumb nail test take your hearth board and make a small indentation about 1/2 a spindle in from the edge of your hearth board using your knife point or a piece of flint, etc. Repeat the process by putting an indentation in the very center of your bearing block.

Now load your spindle into your bow and place the appropriate ends of your spindle into the notches of your bearing block (more pointed) and hearth board (less pointed). Place leg on your hearth board close to the indetation you've made. Now apply downward pressure while locking your bearing block arm into your leg. Begin to move your bow back and forth slowly while applying downward pressure. To much pressure will keep your spindle from spinning, not enough and you won't generate enough friction.

An important note: pay attention to your shoe laces and pant leg on your hearth board leg so that they don't get wrapped in your bow string.

Once you have successfully bored out the indentation you put into your hearth board so that your spindle locks into its (1/4" or so) set your bearing block, bow, and spindle aside and pick up your hearth board. Using your knife, or flint cut a v shaped notch into your hearth board so that the narrow end of the "V" is about 1/3 of the way into your bored indentation. The "V" is where your powdered wood will gather and be heated by friction until it forms an ember.

Now repeat the whole process of loading your bow drill and getting your form right and start to slowly work your bow back an forth. As you progress you will add speed an pressure until you start to see smoke rise up from your notch. it is important NOT to stop drilling the moment you see smoke. Keep going for a while after you see smoke in order to be sure you have a good strong ember developed. When you feel confident of your ember slowly and carefully extract the spindle from your hearth board. If the smoke continues to rise up from your notch CONGRATULATIONS! If not, get back to it. If you do have a strong ember take a small stick and gently place the tip of it over your amber and roll your hearth board away from the ember. Now grab your tinder bundle and gently place your ember into the center of it an then gently begin to blow in the ember.

Most people force too much air onto the ember too quickly and either blow it out or burn it up before they can catch the tinder on fire. As you tinder begins to smoke you can blow a little harder, and the more smoke you get the harder you can blow. When the tinder bundle finally does burst into flames lay it down and begin to add your dry kindling to it. It's as simple as that, heck even a cave man could do it...

For more information on fire-by-friction visit these sites:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bushcraft Manifesto: Bindcraft

This i think has to be the hardest section the my mini-manual to write. Trying to describe in words the process of making cordage is frustratingly difficult. I had a friend that I recently taught how make cordage proof read it and he said it seemed fairly clear. I hope to get some good photos of the process and add them soon. Any advice or clarification that you think might help would be greatly appreciated.

The Knowledge: Bindcraft

Arguably the most important skill to have in the wild is the ability to improvise cordage or rope.
Cordage can be used to:
  1. Make fire with a bow drill.
  2. Lash a more sturdy shelter together.
  3. Weave a mat, or thatching to make a better insulated shelter or sleeping pad.
  4. Make a fishing line or snare to procure food (a.k.a. protein & fat).
  5. Improvising equipment (i.e.; pack frames, bucksaws, baskets)

As a rule of thumb the easier a material is to collect for cordage the weaker, or more brittle it is.

The skills required to make strong, serviceable in and of them selves are simple until you try to convey them to someone else. All the people I have taught to make cordage seem to have what I call an "ah-ha!" moment after struggling to understand the hand movements. The technique I prefer to use reqires the use of both hands and generates strong cordage relatively quickly.

You start by taking the cordage material and folding it into a "J" shape and holding the curve (bottom) of the "J" in your weak hand. You should have two (2) tag ends, one (1) long and one (1) short. I like to start with the short tag end away from me, and the long tag end close to me. Take the the tag end that is away from you and take it between the index finger and thumb of your strong hand. Your palm should be facing the ground. Take your thumb and roll the cordage material up your index finger then rotate your strong hand so that your palm is now facing upwards. As you rotate your palm upward use the middle finger and index finger of your strong hand to grab the tag end that is closest to you. Now rotate your strong hand back to it's original position (palm down). This action crosses the two (2) tag ends. Now while holding the cordage in your strong hand slide your weak hand down the cordage just far enough to grip the place where the two (2) tag ends cross. Now repeat the whole process.

The reason that you have one tag end shorter than the other is splicing. When collecting cordage materials you usually end up with short sections that need to be spliced together in order to end up with usable lengths of cordage. Splicing as very simple; when you get about 1.5"-2" from the end of a tag is lay a new piece of material along side of it and continue twisting. It is important to have some distance between your splices away from each other because they are weak spots. Holding the cordage in the "J" shape automatically leaves on tag shorter than the other eliminating weak splices being too close together.

Cordage Materials List:
  • Basswood (Tilia americana)-The inner bark Collection/Processing: moderate Strength: moderate
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)- The inner bark and rootlets. Collection/Processing: moderate Strenght: moderate
  • Ironwood/Eastern hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)- The inner bark Collection/Processing: difficult Strength: strong
  • Wild grape (Vitis riparia)- Pencil sized vines with shaggy bark Collection/Processing: easy Strength: weak
  • Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)- The thin skin on the outside of the stalk Collection/Processing: moderate Strength: very strong
  • Willow (Salix spp.)- Sapplings and thin branches can be used as wythes. The inner bark. Collection/Processing: easy Strength: relatively strong

This is by no means an exhaustive list of plant for cordage materials. I chose these 5 plants because of their abundance and resilience to harvesting. Basswood trees are very popular among whitetail bucks for rubing there antlers on during the fall rut. This action strips of the bark and exposes the inner barks, and usually shreds it into manageable pieces for you. Eastern red cedar is considered an invasive by land managers that are trying to restore prairies and are often looking for people to help clear them out. Ironwoods are often looked upon as less desirable in mature timber stands of oak and managers again are usually open to the idea of someone helping them to thin them. Wild grape grow abundantly in fence rows, along forest edges, in uplands, on floodplains, just about everywhere. It is pretty easy to find a downed tree top with grapevine growing in it that you can collect with out worrying about destroying the plant. Besides make decent cordage grapevine can be woven into serviceable baskets without a lot of trouble. Finally willows are extremly useful for cordage due to the suppleness of their small limbs which allows you to use them for tying an lashing. Also the inner bark make good cordage either prepared as described above, or simply by stripping the bark and using it as is.

For more information on cordage materials as well as different styles of making cordage visit these sites:

For a good source on knots and other related topics visit:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deer Camp 2009 and Canning Venison

Here are a few pictures from Deer Camp 2009.

Deer Crew 2009
The Longrifles
Mom, Monkey & I
Or serious deer hunter look...
First doe of the year.

I now have 8 venison tenderloins, 4 hind quarters, and enough trim meat to fill twelve quart jars (all told about 100 lbs.) And that's under half of what my old man took to start canning at his house. Plus there is 35 lbs. of hamburger and 25 lbs. of summer sausage. I love my life...

To can the deer meat (using a quart jar) is a really simple process. The first step is to trim the meat; get as much fat and gristle off as you possibly can. Next you cube the meat into nice bite size chunks (1.5" to 2"). After the meat is trimmed and cubed you put as much as you can into your canning jars. Once you have your jars full you add one teaspoon (don't bother being precise, just scoop and throw) of salt and then a .50 cent sized piece of beef tallow on top.

Put the lids and rings on at this point and screw them on as tight as you can. It is a good idea to run your finger gently over the lip of each jar before you fill it to make sure there are no blemishes, and again once you've filled the jar to make sure its clean. Now place your jars into a large stock pot and fill with water up to the lip of the jars. Bring the water to a hard rolling boil for 3.5 hours. Remove the jars and let them stand on towel until the lids seal. If you aren't in a hurry you can boil them for the 3.5 hours before you go to bed, then shut them of and allow them to stand in the water over night. That's how we did it growing up since my folks worked and I had school. It take a few days, but it gets the job done.

Once you've canned the venison and you are S-U-R-E the lids have sealed you can put the jars on the shelf until you are ready to use them. Canned venison in shelf stable for years so long as the seal isn't broken and the lids don't rust. It is also a very versatile way to prepare quick meals. Since the meat has been boiled in the jar it is pre-cooked and can be eaten as is, or you can use it in dishes like strogenoff, stews, any Mexican dish that uses shredded beef, bbq sandwiches, etc... I like to fry up garbanzo beans with olive oil and chipolte seasoning and then add in some canned venison. If you try it out and come up with some different recipes please share them with me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Iowa 2009 Muzzleloader Hunt

Here is a video the first of my two deer from this years early muzzle loader season. About a 30 yard shot with a .50 caliber flintlock. I shot another doe in the exact same spot a week after this one. More Deer Camp 2009 pictures to come soon...

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to make a charcoal forge out of mud

This young gentleman from GB has some great videos. This one was particularly ingenious I thought.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My latest DIY project...

Last night (Friday, October 9th) at approximately 8:25 PM Central Time my wife and I delivered our new daughter, Lucy Belle, in the comfort of our own home 40 minutes BEFORE the midwives had a chance to arrive. It was the single greatest experience of my life. Both mother and baby are doing great, and at the moment they are napping.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I went on a backpacking trip this weekend and made bannock for the first time. I got the recipie I used from Mors Kochanski's Bushcraft book. I picked this recipe out all the various ones I found in books and from on-line resources because it was the simplest I could find. The recepie is as follows:

Bannock (for 2 people)
1 cup flour
1 moderately heaping teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

That's it...

All you NEED to add to the mix is water. This can be done right in the bag you carry it in by putting a dimple in the center of the mix with a couple of fingers and then slowly add water until you get the consistency you are looking for.

The bannock is very versatile and can be prepared in a variety of different ways. For supper on my backpacking trip I made it into a pliable dough that can be baked by wrapping around a green stick (maple worked well) that has been striped of bark. I also mixed in some Cabela's All Purpose Seasoning before i wrapped it onto the stick. It complemented my red beans and rice very well.

The following morning for breakfast I improvised a dutch oven using two frying pan/lids from my mess kit inverted on each other. Rather than try to explain how I did that here I'll do a post w/pictures a little later. Besides the water I also added one egg and some cashews and raisins to the dough. I also made the dough a lot runnier. Once i had it all mixed together I poured the mix into the greased frying pan oven and baked it for about 20 minutes. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Can't wait to make it again soon.

Let me know if you try it, and how you tweak your recipes. I'm gonna make some soon with chocolate chips, craisins, and almonds. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bushcraft Manifesto-Bladecraft

This is a continuation of my mini-bushcraft manual to hand out during classes. As you can tell the information is really basic. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. At the end of the manual I am going to include a bibliography with suggested books, websites and blogs. I would like to thank the retailers I mention in the article for there support and advice. Please take a moment to visit there sites and support their businesses.

The Knowledge: Bladecraft

The Knife

The “perfect” knife for general outdoor use is a fixed blade belt knife with a 4” blade made of high carbon steel that has a Scandinavian grind (flat bevel). Large, stainless steel, hollow ground blades should be avoided; the reasons will be discussed shortly.

When choosing a knife it is important to understand the advantages of a “small” knife and the draw backs of a “large” knife. By “small” I mean a knife with a blade that is 5” or less in length, “large” knives in my opinion have blades 8” and over. With a small knife it is possible to do fine detail carving on projects like a netting needle as well as fell a 6” diameter tree (with a little knowledge). Many people like large knives so they don’t have to carry a knife and an axe, but the relatively lightweight of a large knife makes it a poor substitute for an axe, and the large blade makes fine carving difficult.

A high carbon steel blade has a few distinct advantages over stainless steel. The pros & cons of both steels are:

  1. Stainless: It is difficult to sharpen because of its hardness.

Carbon: It is easy to sharpen while holding an edge.

  1. Stainless: It is brittle and prone to breaking (especially in cold temperatures).

Carbon: Is relatively soft and is more likely to bend than it is to break. (this is important when batoning).

  1. Stainless: Does not work well for throwing sparks to start fires.

Carbon: Works well with ferrocerium rods as well as a traditional flint/chert stone.

The grind, or bevel, of your knives is as important as the type of steel chosen. The two most common blade grinds are the Scandinavian grind, or flat bevel and hollow grind (pictured below).

1) Hollow Grind 2) Scandinavian Grind

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The advantages of a Scandinavian grind over hollow are ease in sharpening, lifespan of the blades edge, and overall blade strength.

When sharpening a blade with a Scandinavian grind the entire surface of the knife’s face is kept on the stone (you can sharpen one with your eyes closed). A hollow ground blade has to be held at a specific observed angle while sharpening (it is difficult to do by feel). Also because the face of the blade runs from the cutting edge to the spine a Scandinavian ground blade can be sharpened until the blade is gone. Because of the constant gradient of the face of a Scandinavian the overall blade strength is greater when compared to the “scooped out” face of the hollow ground.

Their are a wide array of knives that meet the qualifications that I have laid out here and happily many of them are C-H-E-A-P! The quintisential bushcraft knives are Frosts Moras. Frosts Moras come in several makes and models which run from as high as $20.00 a knife, to as low as $10.00 and are available from a variety of sellers online. Four of the best in the States are:

Ben's Backwoods

Bushcraft Northwest

Northwest Woodsmen

Wilderness Outfitters Archery

The Saw

By carrying a fixed blade knife and a small folding saw, or a bow saw blade the versatility of the knife is greatly increased. With a saw you can cut larger diameter wood into desired lengths and then using your knife and a baton (stick) you can split the cut piece for firewood, kindling or carving. The type of saw you choose is based on both personal preference and the task you wish to use the saw for.

Different tooth designs on blades are made for cutting different type of wood (green wood versus dead wood). For dead wood a peg tooth design is preferred and for green weed wood it is best to have a raker tooth design.

Peg-tooth Raker-tooth

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A buck saw blade can safely carried by coiling it up in the bottom of a billy can. When a saw is needed it can be removed and a simple buck saw frame can be fashioned from materials found in the woods. The saw pictured above is made with a raker-tooth blade, jute twine, and a grey dogwood frame.

The options I look for in a folding saw are:
  1. Teeth cut on push AND pull.
  2. Easy one handed open and close.
  3. Blade locks open.

The advantage of teeth that cut on the push and pull more efficiently utilize your energy. I like my folding saw to have the option of one hand opening and closing for instances where I need to steady what I'm cutting. One instance where it has come in handy for me was cutting a tree top that was across a branch of a river I was paddling. I was able to hold the branch while steadying the canoe with one hand while opening the saw and cutting the branch with the other. The final option that a saw has to have (I guess it really isn't an "option" per say then is it?) is a locking blade. For safety sake it is important that the blade can be locked in place to keep it from folding on your hands while you are using. The saw I use doesn't actually fold, rather the blade slides in and out of the handle. This is a little stronger design than a folding blade in my opinion and it is easy to open and lock using only one hand.