Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
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
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 Owl) but 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 Woodsmonkey.com. 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.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
- 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.
- 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.
Friday, November 13, 2009
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
- Make fire with a bow drill.
- Lash a more sturdy shelter together.
- Weave a mat, or thatching to make a better insulated shelter or sleeping pad.
- Make a fishing line or snare to procure food (a.k.a. protein & fat).
- Improvising equipment (i.e.; pack frames, bucksaws, baskets)
- 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
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Here are a few pictures from Deer Camp 2009.
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
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
Saturday, October 10, 2009
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
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
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: BladecraftThe 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:
- Stainless: It is difficult to sharpen because of its hardness.
Carbon: It is easy to sharpen while holding an edge.
- 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).
- 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).
(Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grind)
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:
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.
(Retrieved from www.midwestbushcraft.blogspot.com)
- Teeth cut on push AND pull.
- Easy one handed open and close.
- Blade locks open.