30.12.09

Bushcraft 101 ............. more

1. Fire isnt always necessary.
2. Fire and morale are linked - if you think you will fail lighting a fire in poor conditions it might be better not to try as damaging you morale might make a miserable night unbearable!
3. Never use a air tight container to hold freshly gathered tinder as its go mouldy from even the smallest moisture in the bark or wood.
4. Strike anywhere matches are great in the UK - keep em in a match safe but be aware other countries dont have strike anywhere matches, so learn to use normal safety matches - and safetly matches dont work in/on match safes!
5. Always light a one match fire - preparation is key
6. A fire lit at the start of a weekend should not go out before you leave camp - when you leave camp make sure its properly out!
7. A flame is only a part of the fires uses - embers are generally more useful than flames
8. A small fire is more fuel effeciant than a large fire - better to sit near a small fire than away from a large fire.
9. A stove is 3 times more fuel effecient than a enclosed fire which is three times more effeciant than a open campfire.
10. Theres no shame in using man made fire starters - wax card is excellent - matches are great - but you need to understand traditional fire lighting skills - whether starting a fire with a bow drill or a blow torch the preparation phase is still EXACTLY the same - a fire fails ONLY if you prepare it poorly!
11. Fire lighting success isnt a matter or time its a matter of distance - select the best materials not the closest!

27.12.09

The Bushcraft 101 of top tips

Cutting tool tips ..........

1. Three most common tools - knife, saw and axe. Knife is a useful tool for all applications. Saw, even a blind man can use a saw - its a safe tool and coupled with a knife can produce most of your needs. Axes are the most dangerious tools, buy a good quality one and if used with care it'll last a life time.
2. Knives, nothing is more likely to part a "shrafter" from his hard earned cash than a knife! The market is huge yet 2/3 of all tool sold arent worth a cent. Things to consider - cost to usage! As quoted before the man who uses a knife the most is usually the one who can least afford one - ergo the "factory" makers of cutting tools (frosts for example) generally make a excellent knife aimed at workman like users while the custom knife makers aim for those who use their knifes less .........which can often mean a budget knife like a clipper is technically superior to a expensive custom knife.
3. No one knife is good for everything and you cant re-nvent the wheel. Thus avoid gimmicky new tools made/designed by makers who either never really use them or just sell fearsome tools which have a celebraty name stuck on them. A traditional designed "hunting" style knife will general serve you better - a saami knife, a leuku and Puuko combo evolved over thousands of years, used and trusted by people who live or lived in the wilderness is a far better option.
4. Avoid knives with thick spined blades (unless you want a pry bar) - and a remember a blunt knife is a screw driver.
5. Saws and axes - while a small folding (pruning saw) is a handy tool it isnt a wilderness living tool - equally a hatchet is a good travellers tool but a felling axe is better if you plan to live in the woods on a longer term! Dont beleive me?? Look at any set of indiginious peoples and tell me how many you see using "compromise tools"! Or even go to your local garage and ask the mechanic there to repair your car using only a multi-tool!
6. Axe handles should ideally be the length of your arm from arm pit to finger tip as this gives you maximum machanical advantage and eye hand co-ordination. Like was a knife blade should be the width of your palm, for a leuku double the width of your palm is good as eye hand co-ordination is still there.
7. Other bushy hand tools include the crook knife or spoon knife, a hand craft tool for making bowls and spoons but not one you'll die without. Adzes and augers - again additions but not life dependant tools.
8. Avoid the classic trap of buying for buying sake - remember you have to carry these tools - a well used workman like tool speaks volumes of the owner while a man with shiney knives and more tools hanging off his belt than the average viking raider just looks stupid!
9. With the better designed knives cost doesnt alway equate to quality. A £10 frosts knife may well be better than a £200 custom tool.
10. Know how to sharpen your tool and well as basic first aid for cuts.
11. NEVER carry a cutting tool without carrying a first aid kit. NEVER use a cutting tool when tired, drunk or in poorly lit conditions (night time) Never throw your knife or stick it in the ground.
12. ALWAYS carry a small first aid kit - ALWAYS clean your knife after use - ALWAYS resheath your knife after use (a knife should never be left ont he ground or even a tree stump or log ect) unless you've been butchering game then clean the knife before returning to sheath.
13. Carbon steel can be given a patina by leaving it over night covered in Balsamic vinegar - this will blacken the blade (wide of the excess blackening in the morning ect and oil) Avoid knives with leather handles. Plastic, zytel or kydex sheaths can be cleaned with boiling water.
14. Experience speaks volumes - Learn to use your cutting tool throughly.
15. A pocket knife with a utility blade, a smaller "surgical" blade, can opener, bottle opener and awl is a useful tool and can in experienced hands (married with a axe) be the only cutting tool you need.

24.12.09

Bushcraft 101 - top tips

HERES A FEW MORE TOP TIPS ..................

1. Try to avoid arriving at your camp site after dark. with a good head torch and experience this need not be a problem but the novice may find setting up in the dark a problem.
2. Rigging a simple Tarp/Basha style camp should take around 30 mins max - if it take you as long as it takes others to set up a parachute classroom, dig a latrine and put up the tent and set up their own shelter as well as light a fire - your either doing something wrong, way to selfcentred and worried about personal comfort or just a work sherka!!
3. A good order for setting up a camp site is - Light the fire (and put the kettle on) - set up your tarp or tent - Stash your gear as you need it (organsie camp) - fetch in firewood (as much as you think you'll need then the same amount again!) - gather water - enjoy a brew while making dinner - relax around your fire with a full belly and a organised camp.
4. Site consideration, shelter or use of the prevailing wind, sun rise location, away from trails and water run off, location of camp fire and fuel, location of water.
5. Check for widow makers in over hanging trees!
6. At the end of your trip remember to ensure your fires fully put out and the scare hidden - leaving the site BETTER than you found it!
7. In freezing wilderness or if crossing frozen lakes where there is no risk of fire spreading due to snow ect sometimes its wise to leave a small fire burning when you leave camp - that way if theres a emergency you can quickly return to camp and use the fire/embers to reheat yourself or others - this simple plan has saved many lives of people living in true wilderness areas!

Happy camping ...............

22.12.09

The Bushcraft 101 of top tips

As the winter months tend to restrict our movements these are the traditional times our minds and hands turn to our kit - repairing and clean items hard used in the warmer month or browsing the web and catalogues for that new must have!!

So with this in mind I will randomly post a few top tips to help focus your search, help you plan for future trips or just select the right item from your favourite bushcraft trading post.

The bushcraft 101 of top tips -

1. Sleeping bags whether down or synthetic are better packed in a ruck sack by stuffing them in the top than by rolling them up and putting in a stuff sack as this prevents the fibres/insolation being crushed by repeated folding.
2. Always air a sleeping bag between uses if possible as you can perspire and breath up to .7 Litre of moisture into your bag each night.
3. When buying a sleeping bag ponder the following - do you want down or fibre? How warm is the bag and how cold will it be used down too? How much does the bag weigh? Does the bag have a baffle? Will the bag be long enough?
4. Remember makes extreme temperature range is always over imaginative as a rule of thumb drop 10 degrees and this will mean you always sleep warm! Also dont be afraid of a big bag - the bigger the bag the more insulation!
5. Sleep clothed - light wear (t-shirt and undies) in summer - warmer layers to match to cold in winter - wearing a hat and a scarf or headover in your bag will warm you a great deal.
6. In cold weather wear a balaclava over your nose and mouth - breath through it to warm the air before you take it into your lunges - alturnatively sleep with your outer layer smock over your head and breath into a sleeve - this will keep you warm and prevent ice build up around your face and bags rim.

More tips to follow!!

21.12.09

How feeble is our society??



Does our world exist on anything for than gasps of thin air??
A little snow and it grinds to a halt ......... even with the powers that be trying to help .............roads closed, channel tunnel grinds to a halt, airports cant operate, rich people in rural villages buy local shops out of stocks leaving old people unable to feed themselves ............ the list goes on!
Imagine what would happen if the authorities werent trying to help? If no one was there to clear the roads - delivery food - make the trains work again!
People trapped on the chunnel trains whinged "we werent given blankets or water!" - might as well just admit - "where not able to look after ourselves and we needed someone to do it for us!"
And why? Are we so pampered by civilisation that we have lost the ability to fend for ourselves?? Are we little more than sheep - raised and rared by the government like shepards who instead of fattening us up for the table fatten us up for the taxes we can pay them!!
Ponder this -
* Can you find your own water if the water were to go off or be contaminated for more than 5 days? Could to find 3 litres of drinking (and thats just drinking) water per day for each member of your family?
* Can you grow/hunt your own food if the supermarkets were to close? Can you ID edible wild foods?
* Could you make your own clothing or footwear if the shops all shut and you had to live in the wilderness?? Could you make clothing suitable for the enviroment by hand??
*Could you treat a toothache or a bad laceration without the hospital or a ambulance available? A sever burn or broken Limb - what about deliver a baby?
The world health organisation predict wars to be fought over drinking water in our life time! And lets not even bother pondering the oil peek crisis which has alreadt started!
Imagine a race or a civil war starts in Britian tomorrow - the infa-structure crumbles .......... could you even keep your house warm this winter without gas or electric?? Defend it? Feed yourself until the troubles subside in months? - not days or weeks but months!
Soft people in comfy homes with fat wallets often ask whats the point of survival or bushcraft training? Aboves the answer for if nothing else it trains us to be prepared - to plan for the worse while hoping for the best but dealing with whatever comes our way!
Weather like this only acts as natures little reminder - shes just flexing her muscle and telling us to prepare!

8.12.09

Mora thoughts on the Mora knife

Heres a very interesting review I found of the Mora knife (www.thefreelibrary.com/) - I particularly like the quote from the blacksmith - something to consider in this day and age!





The Mora knife: The backwoodsman's choice.

Ask any back-country inhabitant--homesteader, hunter, trapper, fisherman, prospector or backwoodsman--what tool they most frequently use. The answer will most likely be their knife. This bit of wisdom is nothing new. Every historical account we have of early settlers and frontiersmen speaks of knives and their uses. Look at the paintings of the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel and his graphic depictions of peasant life in the middle ages and one notices the knife that hangs from each person's belt. The myriad of chores from butchering and dressing game and livestock, preparing hides, whittling Whittling is the art of carving shapes out of raw wood with a knife.

Whittling is typically performed with a light, small-bladed knife, usually a pocket knife. Specialised whittling knives are available as well. and carving wood, to cutting rope, opening feed bags and preparing food is the work of the knife.

The daily tasks the knife performs are timeless. Bruegel's peasant, an early American settler and a contemporary homesteader

Not only are the tasks timeless, but the pattern of the working knife is timeless as well. Accounts from the American frontier speak of simple, straight knives with blade lengths of four to six inches, carried in deep pouch sheaths. This is the knife of the peasant, the trapper, the farmer. It is simple, functional and inexpensive.

Blacksmith Jim Dickson once said that people who use knives the most are usually those who can least afford them. This being the case, the charge then is to put a knife of the highest quality into the hands of those whose life and livelihood depend upon it. All at a price that those with a slim wallet can afford. Enter the Mora Knife Mora knife in Swedish Morakniv. The "mora" is a term used to refer to a range of popular belt-knives manufactured by the cutleries of the town of Mora in Dalarna, Sweden, primarily by Frosts knivfabrik and Mora of Sweden (previously known as KJ Eriksson). from Sweden.

This writer has had the good fortune to take several wilderness survival courses, both winter and summer, with Mors Kochanski at his camp in western Alberta. Mors is perhaps the finest instructor of sub-arctic survival skills in the world. It was while training with Mors that I was introduced to the Mora Knife.

The Mora, is a true survival knife Survival knives are intended for survival purposes when lost in a wilderness environment. Military units frequently issue some type of survival knife. Hunters, hikers, and other outdoor sport enthusiasts also purchase and use great numbers of commercial survival knives. , suited to daily living in the bush. The Mora's configuration conforms to those patterns which have stood the test of time and have endured since the iron age. It is the traditional Scandinavian pattern and a more useful knife would be difficult to imagine. The straight blade is available in lengths from four to six inches and is of superb Swedish steel. The edge has a Rockwell of 60 on the hardness scale, which means that it will keep its razor edge yet, due to the grind and bevel, is easy to resharpen. The handle is oval in shape and made of birch. The Moras come with and without finger guards and blades come in high carbon and stainless steel. I prefer high carbon but either holds a superb edge.

What is extraordinary about the Mora is the price. Depending upon sheath material and model, prices range from $12 to $28. Thus fulfilling the promise of the finest backwoods knife at a price which is affordable.

Mora Knives are available from Blue Ox Knives, 728 Westview St., Philadelphia, PA 19119, (215) 844-5960. Write or call for price list.

DAN SHECHTMAN Dan Shechtman is the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. In 1982, he discovered the icosahedral phase, which opened the new field of quasiperiodic crystals. Resources

D. P. DiVincenzo and P. J.
728 WESTVIEW ST. PHILADELPHIA, PA 19119

6.12.09

Gary and Steve go walk about!



As a bushcraft instructor its rare that I actually get time to enjoy the outdoors for myself these days so I was more than keen to join my friend Steve when he proposed we hike the North Downs Ways or at least half of it anyway.



But being bushcrafters we couldnt do it hiking from b+b to b+b, packed down with brand names and luxuries, we had to do something more "traditional" - after all did the Roman's under Ceasar do that? Or the Pilgrim's??



Way back when I first left the army and went to work as a assistant instructor for Woodlore I often went walkabout but being unable to afford camp sites or b+b's I used to go what I called "tramping" ......... and this is what myself and Steve choose to do this time. Traveling light, sleeping rough and enjoying the freedom to which our ancestors were born.





*I should point out here that tramping does what it says on the tin - its not expedition style campcraft, no luxuries and comfies. Tramping means sleeping rough, where you find a place etc - I should also point out that this my be viewed by some as tresspass which is a civil offence and I do not condone or advise anyone to take such actions. Damage to property, makes tresspass a criminal offence and that is something I am strongly against.


Unlike Scotland, England has no right to roam act and as such "tramping" means we are only expressing our natural right to travel and rest upon the lands of our ancestors - but we do not damage them or deface them so others can not enjoy them.

As such rule one - no fires!


Rule two - only uk legal cutting tools allowed (as you will see you dont need more anyway!)




On the last day of November myself and Steve set off on our travels.


Arriving at Dover Priory station we had a quick cuppa and posed for a happy snap before tabbing off through the town toward the start of the trail.



Here the North Downs Ways and the Saxon Shore way mingle so as a walker you get to enjoy both as well as the bracing coastal weather you also climb out of Dover on a route lined with bunkers and gun emplacements built during the last war.



As we turned inland the heavens opened and set the theme for the rest of a week where we (and Kent) suffered over double the counties standard monthly rainfall in two days married up with driving winds and sub zero temperatures.




The weather, rather than the miles was to prove our greatest challenge but enjoying our freedom we found some interesting shelters such as a old Pillbox where we stopped for a much needed hot drink!




I know many of you kit junkies out there will be dying to know what we took. Apart from wash kit and basic emergency items (first aid, compass, torch ect) we each took a sleeping bag, bivi and tarp. Warm jacket (Montane down) UK legal pocket knife (mine a Case Jr Scout, which proved more than capable of doing everything I needed a cutting tool for, from carving tent pegs out of thumb thick hazel to preping food and even helping treat a errant blister!) we both had 2 litres of water and a thermal mug. For food all we took was a few satchets of porridge, cup-a-soup and a reindeer salami.



Suffice to say much of the hike was just that hiking and as such not much to tell - so I wont bore you to much - pictures speak volumes and when the clouds permitted the views were stunning.






One or two tales worth mention however - midweek a terrible storm hit us, we slogged on and were soon soaked through to the skin - as night closed in a temperatures dropped we needed to find shelter, a shelter better than a wind blown tarp and the bushcraft Gods did provide as hiking deep into a stretch of woodland we came across a old lorry trailer used by beaters as a rest area. Never was such a thing more welcome and if not saving our lives it certainly went a long way to making them bearable that night!!




Another tale people might find of interest is the fact what 'out of season' we had the downs to ourselves and in a week came across only two other groups of people - and all of them soldiers! One group out doing a 30 mile hike the others out enjoying a bracing mountain bike ride .......... suffice to say we, as our ancestors would have done, stopped to exchange greatings and news. Much to the armies amusement they were impressed to see two 'civies' as mad as they were, even if they did point out that they were at least getting paid to be out there!



Hiking from Dover to Rochester we had planned to enjoy a steady stroll of about 1.5 miles an hour covering the 54 miles in a relaxed 5 days, bearing in mind the limited day light hours we planned to do 11 miles a day, allowing for us to gather food and find water ect as we went.




Much to our surprise the weather, or more correctly the rain and the subsequent sucking mud made this a harder task than planned and yet one which we could have easily completed in 4 not five days! The last night found us settled and comfy in a small strip wood only 4 miles from our expected finishing point.




We finished the walk hiking across the Medway Bridge, where I told Steve how Ceasars army had swam across the river and then fought a battle against a ancient British host before decending down to river level and a much deserved junk food fiest at the Golden Arches!




A fantastic week which even the bad weather enhanced rather than hampered. We were both reassured in ourselves to know we had succeeded where many other 'shrafters' would fear to tread. We had proved ourselves capable of living up to the bushcraft ideal, we were actually able to carry less by knowing more, we were able to replace kit with knowledge and feed and sustain ourselves along the way and we were able do, rather than just dream of doing, bushcraft!


Rather than just the usual sitting around a campfire and talking about it, admiring your shiny kit next time you get some free time why dont you saddle up your old rucksack, lace on your hiking boots and get out there for a tramp - experience the freedom and see if your bushcraft skills are as good as you would like to think they are!!??



One things for sure - if you do, your most likely to meet myself and Steve out there as now we've tasted the freedom of roaming wild we will certainly be doing it more and more -


For what could be more 'bushcraft' than going walk about just as our own aboriginal ancestors did?


24.11.09

Water bottles now on Bearclaw

The amazingly versatile Stainless steel water bottle is now added to the bearclaw website -

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/trading/shelter.htm


Anyone who orders from Bearclaw over the Christmas period will also get a free MOD issue torch included in their order!!

Happy shopping ...............

23.11.09

Have you got a pot to ............. boil in?





One of the hardest things to do in nature is boil water without a metal pot. As such there has always been a need to carry a boiling vessel along with your water bottle. For many this is simply a matter of a army water bottle with the attached mug - for others a seperate pot. But always the added boiling vessel increases bulk and weight, especially for the lightweight traveller or the day hiker, after all if were just spending a day away from camp do we really want to haul in cookware etc etc?




The answer is usually no! As such many folks will carry a water bottle in their day sack but leave the pots and pans in camp.




But what happens is disaster strikes? You become geographically embarassed and have to spend the night out or you find a walker suffering from exposure or you run out of precious water and need to boil and purify some more??




Well you can light a fire and boil the water in your bottle ............ yep plastic drinks bottles will work, so will Aluminium ones but you only get one shot with the plastic as it will strink and melt (releasings all sorts of chemicals into the water as it does) and with the Ali theres the possible (yet to be confirmed) link with Altzhiemers and the risk of the bottle burning through if allowed to dry out (evaporation). Both are risks worth taking if you have no other choice of course but if you had a stainless steel water bottle things would be different.




Stainless steel is the only safe, toxin and Bisphenol-A free bottle. Bottles are reusable, durable and lightweight as well as being enviromentally friendly. But what is more in the above scenerios you could safely boil water in them without any undue risk to health or damage to your bottle.





Boiling water in a stainless steel bottle means you can warm up that chilled hiker, purify your water or make yourself a comforting nettle or pine needle tea on a unexpected sleep out!









Even better, not only wont a stainless steel water cost future generations the earth they wont hurt your wallet either the larges size retailing at only £8.99.





The old scout motto was BE PREPARED - by replacing your existing plastic or Ali bottles with stainless steel ones you will be!




Stainless Steel bottle Range with replacement/interchangable caps will be avialable on the Bearclaw bushcraft website soon.



http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/trading.htm





4.11.09

Greenhorns teaching greenhorns .......

Usually I try to keep my posts on the blog fairly light but after a interesting chat with a friend this morning I feel todays post will need to be heavier - addressing certain questions which some might find annoying - especially those who have grown up expecting "respect" ............
What do I mean? Well a certain leader in the field of bushcraft has refurbished their website and one of the additions is a list of instructors. This is what my friend rang me about asking me if I'd seen it.
Well I have now!
I've been living and working in the outdoors for nearly 30 years now, one of my associates who teaches on courses has been doing similar for over 50 years so imagine my surprise when I viewed said websites instructors profiles and found an array of fresh faced youths some looking like they should still be at school.
Now dont get me wrong I'm not saying they are bad instructors - far from it I am sure they are all capable of repeating piece meal the lessons they have been taught. However to my mind their is more to being a good instructor than just being able to repeat word for word a lesson you've been taught.
At the end of my Milan Detachment commanders course my instructor said "Well boys the lessons are over, now the learning starts!" Wise words which have stuck with me for many years. What he meant by that was that the classroom and the real world are never quite the same and the lessons were to be those learnt in the school of hard knocks!
A good instructor needs more than anything else experience, experienced accumilated in doing, not reading books, watching tv or sitting around a cosy expedition style camp surrounded by abundant gear and food. Experience not only in the skills being taught but of living. An instructor needs to have lived, travelled and put the skills he or she is teaching into practice.
How can a guy or gal with limited life experience and even dirty time possibly teach a subject which is 99% experience based? Take bow drill for example how many different wood combinations can work, how many minute errors or flaws in technique can cause a person to fail? How can someone whose never made half the errors or used half the woods be expected to know the answers??
Bushcraft - the industry and the hobby is a small world, in days of yore the instructors from this and most schools had names known among their peers - none of those listed, and for that matter for half the other schools out there, are names I've never heard of or heard others mention.
Why am I harping on about this - after all we all had to start somewhere - well because I am firstly sick of the weakening and watering down of the skills I see so often these days and secondly because I am fed up with then having to re-teach the skills to people attending advanced courses when they should know this but dont.
The first instance is a crying shame - when I started on the bushcraft trail our aim, our ideal, was to master skills which enabled up to live in the wilderness comfortably with just the clothes on our backs and a billy can to use as a boiling vessel ........ now if its not a expedition style camp and the soft comfy option most people arent interested, god forbid to have to forage for food (unless its as a taster to add to your feast cooked in your dutch oven!) god forbid you have to find and process your water .......... what no tap, well I'll go without thank you ...........
In the second instance on courses like the WEISS course were now almost constantly have to run workshops for skills like bow drill - we've even had students attend who have been taught you can only do bow drill in pairs ................plant id skills are non-existant and even the fundamentals like knife sharpening are lacking.
Of course the worse offenders are those who have done a course and suddenly think they can teach others without a schools or a more experienced leaders back up and theirs plenty of those out there too, but still the key is experience. Even if the school has been established for 20 or 50 years the experience base of the instructor teaching is what counts ...............in the old days we all earned our stripes and paid our dues only in so doing can any instructor be worth his salts.
So there you have it dear reader - if booking a course ask yourself this, would you like to be taught skills you one day might pin your life on by someone whose never used them him/herself? Or are you happy to just tick the box and say "well I did a survival course with such and such so I'm the greatest"
If your answers Yes to either question - I have some dehydrated water you can buy .......... Experience is the only key which safely opens the doors of nature treasures.

27.10.09

Travel Alberta - winter survival guide

Heres a interesting little read for anyone interested in winter survival or a fan of Mors Kochanski, survival ex.pert and wilderness living instructor.

http://freshtracks.travelalberta.com/Archives/Vol3Issue2/#/2

26.10.09

Tenderfoot




The Tenderfoot course is always a highlight of our courses year as its a fun course for us to teach and a excellent course for those few hardy students with the courage to come and walk the walk!


The courses primary role is simple - its to allow advanced bushcrafters to come and practice the bushcraft ideal of going into the woods with just a cutting tool and a billy can.

Many bushcrafters can only dream of what these guys experience. And that is the key - the course is hard and in that the experience gained is priceless!


Nature is always the best teacher and this year the weather was wet, cold and windy - prefect weather to encourage good shelter building!! Cold nights soon taught the students the importance of a glowing campfire. Added to this game prep, water precurment and foraging and the guys got a full and varied course ..........but no bearclaw course would be complete without a few little twists to stretch our guests and this year we also had them prepare first aid kits from nature and prep a three course meal for the instructors - proving their advanced skills and enpowering them with the confidence of a true bushcrafter, far an above the wild camper relient on expedition style camp!!

12.10.09

Knife classifications




I had a email today from someone asking me to explain knife classifications - what I mean by a camp knife.




So, always happy to oblige, enjoy.




Since mans earliest tools were made our species have always used cutting tool - originally knapped from flint the hand axe was the stone age swiss army knife. But time and technology changed things and we as a species went through the stone age, the bronze age and into the "as Conan might say" age of steel.




Our ability to manufacture steel has seen man develope a vast array of tools each with a specific role from weapons of war to farmers impliments, from eating irons (knife fork spon) to space ships.




Globally the event of steel saw a transformation in primitive peoples lives, but just as the people where tempered by their enviroment so their cutting tools where tempered to the roles they would be used for, from the leuku to the kukri, from the pen knife to the paring knife.




Time has seen the availablity of tools from around the world made available to us all and as such we, the decerning bushcrafter, can now choose the best tools for us.




Even Ray Mears, one of the earliest UK based writers on bushcraft, in his earliest book comments on how he uses a small home made carbon steel knife while hiking but a large modified MOD survival knife (wilkinson type d) and a pocket knife (opinel) for his base camp kit.




As such the classification of cutting tools works thus - (this is my version and not necessarily all instructors would agree with me but I know what works for me)




Pocket knife - UK legal penknife, ideally with a can and bottle opener as well as a decent cutting blade. Usually carried in the pocket and ideal for opening packets, peeling and preping food especially veggies and fruit.




Utility knife - (some call it a whittling knife) - this is the classic puukko of the Finnish. Blade should be approximately 4 inches or so - this would be the Woodlore style knife. Interestingly Ray Mears (again) says that with a knife of this size and a folding saw you can produce and do most things. This is potentially correct in the typical UK expedition style camp situation. Ultimately the utility knife should be a jack of all trades, capable of peeling fruit and veg while also being able to baton and split wood and carve spoons and triggers for traps.




Camp knife - this is a bigger knife, Leuku or similar. The camp knife is the bushmans version of the axe or hatchet. I know, I know if your going to the boreal north then a axe is better than a camp knife - but come on how many bushcrafters, especially UK ones, actually go into the boreal north? and if they do how many actually carry a full sized axe which is what they should carry? or do they carry their axes religiously as the great prophet told them too? Anyway the camp knife is a larger tool. This type/size of tool is more typical among native peoples than any other type - native people dont compromise on this and generally will carry/prefer a 7 plus inch blade - picture if you will a native man sat cross legged carving and in so doing holding his knife half way down the blade ..............a camp knife should be capable of doing all the tasks in camp from butchering game to hammering tent pegs. One thing a camp knife is handy for is lifting hot pots off the fire!




Neckers are generally utility sized.




Crook or crooked knives are spoon knives and like all carving tools are specialist and fall into the specialist catagory.




So hope thats clearer - ideally the bushcrafter will carry/own three tools - a pocket knife, a whittling knife and a camp knife.




Size shape and design will matter greatly but these are the catagories - axes and saws are handy but if you have the three types of knife you can live without them.




Last though as per the Ray Mears quote - if your going for a walk in the woods you really dont need to go armed better than the average viking warrior so leave the hardware at home and take a sensible UK legal pocket knife.
")
POST SCRIPT - FROM ANDY AT BOOMERS BLOG - UK legal more info
It was a long held common belief that a folding knife must be non-locking for this provision to apply. A Crown Court case (Harris v DPP), ruled (case law). A lock knife for all legal purposes, is the same as a fixed blade knife. A folding pocket knife must be readily foldable at all times. If it has a mechanism that prevents folding, it's a lock knife (or for legal purposes, a fixed blade) The Court of Appeal (REGINA - v - DESMOND GARCIA DEEGAN 1998) upheld the Harris ruling stating that "folding was held to mean non-locking". No leave to appeal was granted.

10.10.09

The Survivall Kukri

Stuart from Iberian Lynx survival training recently posted a couple of videos of our SurvivALL kukri - so I've copied them here!

Interestingly enough I'm in the process of review the SurvivALL kukri against the Fallkniven A2 to see which is the best camp knife.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz24xpLcq6Q&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjC65XMns9w&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrbqALJlPpU&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRoOPF16GDU&feature=player_embedded


Many thanks Stuart - good videos!

7.10.09

When's a ventile not a ventile?


Or when is Gore-tex not gore-tex for that matter??


Answer when you dont pay through the nose for a trade or brand name - for example WVPM is the british army version of Gore-tex - LITERALY the same thing but half the price ........


And so with the SASS kit SAS smock - gumpth below


Top Quality All Weather Fabric

Windproof, Water Repellent and Highly Breathable, Traditional Performance Fabric.

Finest Quality dense Oxford weave cloth, woven from specially selected 100% cotton long stable fibres, and using about 30% more yarn than conventional woven fabrics. "Naturally" comfortable, quiet and fast drying.

The Special Air Service Windproof Smock is issued to each member of the SAS regiment. Both the four big cargo pockets at the front, and the left arm pen pocket are fastened using “no-loose” taped buttons. (Bigger size for gloved hands). The four cargo pockets also have fold over tops to help prevent pockets content loss. The attached hood has a front and rear drawcord, for a full range of adjustments. Velcro closing storm flap covers two-way heavy duty zip. Add to this velcro tab cuffs that can be adjusted from fully open sleeve to tightly fastened wrist, and the internal waist draw cord, means the SAS smock offers full windproof protection.

Large internal poachers pocket and inside open left chest pocket. Double layer fabric to hood, shoulders and elbows; rest single to speed drying.The weave allows the cotton fibres to swell when wet aiding the water repellent finish in keeping the wearer dry.Made and hand finished at our location in Lancaster, UK


I came across these excellent smocks while looking for a replacement to my old BAS smock. My criteria was simple I wanted a multipocket jacket with a full central zip, single layer ventile and ideally one for less than £200.
I looked at the usual suspects WEST WINDS and SNOW SLED - both generally dont do single layer jackets with decent pockets or only over the head smocks and both to expensive. Keela and Hilltrek like wise - the closest to my wants was the Bison Bushcraft ventile as this is the military style I had in mind but again the cost was way to high for the spec of the garment.
Then I stumbled across the SASS kit smock - £131.99 delivered - which is the best price for any ventile even over head jobs - these smocks are excellent and I am well impressed with mine - hence this blog entry!


Its a shame more people arent aware that some Ventile jackets arent ventile purely because the manufacturer doesnt pay for the name and hence doesnt charge you for the name either - why pay £200 plus for a name?
Ventile, oxford cotton or egyption cotton all much of a muchness - only difference is the price!
Like wise the kanny shopper should beware of people who sell no trade marked items as something there not too - with the price hike to match - Army Goretex bivi bags for example, are techincally Army WVPM bivi bags but add the word GORE-TEX and you can double the price even if it is technically false advertising.

If your looking for a Great, high spec, well made, excellent priced smock of a material thats not ventile (but is ventile) the SASS kit SAS Smock wont let you down.
And the service given by Paul at SASS is also second to none!


Mention Gary at Bearclaw when you order!

5.10.09

Hadrian's Haul

Al and Adam form Bushcraft Educational Society are planning to walk Hadrian's wall national trail and raise money for Help for Heroes charity.

Two great lads and a very worthy cause - follow the link for more details and to donate the charity.

http://www.justgiving.com/hadrianshaul/

http://www.hadrianshaul.blogspot.com/

29.9.09

Fallkniven S1 - serious survival knife


What is the perfect bushcraft or survival knife? Does such a tool even exist?

Personally I'd say no - the old adage, "the best survival knife is the one you have with you when your surviving" still holds true - but as a serious outdoorsman we can always edge our bets and carry tools which will aid us.
(http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/trading/tools.htm) the Leatherman Wave is a excellent multi-tool and everybody who ventures into the wilds should carry similar.

But for strength, reliability and robust usage we need a good quality sheath knife of "sensible" proportions, after all lets remember the sioux legend of walks far women, she having escaped captivity with another tribe, was kitted out with just a knife and he native skills and managed to talk back to her people having to survive a long winter alone in the wilderness. Her skills enabled her to make shelter and fire, find food and water, feed and clothe herself all with just a knife.

Now I'm well aware many people make up for missing knowledge with kit, its a fact of life - were all "still learning" so our choice of knife may be critical here. I am also aware that there are those who believe "only" the most expensive custom knife will do or equally those who will swear by the excellent Clipper and seek no other tool .............. so be it.

But I wanted to test out the S1 more out of interest than needing a new knife, after all my F1 is a great tool and for most bushcraft tasks I had always liked the Mora no2. So why did the S1 catch my eye, well firstly I was looking at reviews of the Fallkniven range and found reviews and you tube footage for all the other Fallkniven range but this. Why was that I wondered?

Also I wanted to see if a knife claiming to be the best hunting and fishing knife, forest knife would live up to its claims and as no one else had tested it I couldnt help but do it!

First impressions, the weight and balance are good, the size of the handle isnt to big and sits well in the hand beign of a size thats comfortable to use for long periods yet not so large that the handle cant be manipulated in the hand for the various grips and grasps used in bushcraft. The false clip point isnt my idea of ideal but there is enough squared of spin for easy use with a fire steel. Metalogy (is that a word?) ....... I dont care about, it can be carbon or stainless steel - it could be Kryptonite for all I care, as long as it holds and takes a good edge and does the work thats all I'm interested in I'll leave other such matters to those with more home time than dirty time and draw queen owners.

The sheath, I ordered was the zytel sheath as I prefer the strength and ease of cleaning over the aesthetics of leather. I also whipped the sheath with para-cord and covered this in old bicycle inner tube making the sheath itself something of use rather than just a pretty carry case.

So, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, lets get the tool dirty ...............but before i did this I attached a thumb loop to the handle. The idea of the thumb loop is as it says, to go around the thumb and not as most people would do place the loop around the wrist. Why? Well is the tool is dropped the blade tends to swing away from you it also means if the tools dropped say with the user falling the blade can be caste aside much easier, also the thump loop places the paracord across the back of the hand this in turn added power when we use the knife for chopping "Leuku" style.
Before going bush I used the blade (straight out the packed) to carve a sunday joint of roast beef - peel some spuds and slice tomatoes and onions. All of which it did with ease so kitchen/food prep side of things are a doddle - not down to the serious stuff.

Splitting/batoning. The S1 has a good thick spine, this and the 5 inch blade, makes it ideal for batoning - I batoned through wrist thick seasoned Aspen, spruce and rowan with ease. The blade profile and tampered thickness also allowed me to baton through twisted wood (which would have bent or snapped a thinner knife like a clipper) it also allowed me to bulldoze the blade through knots. The false clip point wasnt a problem and I was more than happy with the tool in all batoning tests.


Chopping. Fallkniven themselves claim this tool only up to light chopping ........... which is? One of the comments a friend of mine makes detrimental to the F1 is "you cant make a stretcher with that" meaning chopping poles down. As a bushcrafter it'd be rare to need to fell anything thicker than wrist thick wood even for shelter building (need anything bigger take a axe!) so I found myself to standing but dead birchs slightly thicker than wrist thick - the term knife through butter sprang to mind as the tool went through them in seconds (remember the leuku style chopping with the thumb loop this is were it wins out every time adding power to the chop) again 100% happy with the tool


Carving spoons. The convex blade on the S1 is interesting, a flat single bevel has always been proclaimed as best especially by the many spin off school and instructors of Ray Mears and myself was included in - however thinking logically a convex blade is probably a more traditional and common profile after all when you sharpen your knife on a rock from the river its not gonna be flat and wear and tear would soon concave it .......... anyway in carving the spoon (aspen) I loved using the S1 it, if possible, actually made the task of carving easy. Comfortable in ever grasp I also found myself using the tip more - not sure why but it was the perfect section to use for fine work. Spoon blank was completed in 20 minutes and the knife excellent in all the cutting styles used.



Carving feather sticks. Here the only thing I found was that if I added to much pressure the feathers lifted flat and dull - but by using almost no effort I got wonderfully curly feathers - I think the convex edge won gold!

Fire steel - the spin is square for about an inch come out from the handle and like all the Fallkniven range this square spin section castes big hot sparks from the standard army fire steel.

Another point as an aside is whilst carrying out the above trials I was also canoeing and one day in strong winds and High waves had to leap out and drag the boat ashore - coming in through chest deep water the knife and sheath got soaked - but being made of the materials they are this mattered no a jot. Indeed when I eventually limped home cold and tired it was a simple matter to dry the blade and put the tool to bed - could I have dont this with a carbon steel and a leather sheath .............. oh course not!

In summary - depending on your taste the S1 is either a beauty or a beast to look upon. Personally I like the no nonesense military style lines but (I suspect) many a custom own will not after all thats why folks have custom jobs done. But looks arent a guide to how well a tool will perform and all I can say is that the S1 have performed EVERY task I put it to with comfortable ease - I'd score the S1 in use 9/10 (would have gotten 10/10 but the price lets it down) suffice to say the S1 is now my main knife with the A2 being my winter/arctic carry.

Want a tough, reliable workhorse? You wont do much better - but can do a lot worse than the S1.

28.9.09

FUNGI having fun in Sweden



Sweden in September IS the season of berries and fungi without a doubt!! A country I have grown to love as much for its natural splendour as for the friends I have made there.



Indeed this last week saw me staying with, and sharing my time, with some of the people most dear to me. Funny how bushcraft skills can bring people from different worlds together, creating long lasting friendships which endure the test of time and prove both the strength of the friendship and the quality of the people!!



My week in Sweden this time was one of pure pleasure - a vacation - or a busmans holiday as you, dear reader, will see from the pictures below.



Some of the fun tasks I had to endure included carving a spoon with my new and surprisingly excellent S1, Canoeing, berry picking, fungi foraging, enjoying some of the finest food anywhere in the world and enjoying more than one sociable tipple with true friends both old and new.



Sweden owns my heart and I can understand why Ray Mears says that a visit to the lake land there is close to a religious experience.



Hope you enjoy a few pictures of my time ...............



Ground dwellers ..............................buzzing around preparing for the winter





Hoist the red ensign - it was a brief but brilliant pleasure to share the campfires of the McPhee re-enactment society!




The nights were long and beautifully dark with the moon just making it above the horizon



Old England - New France ....................good bless Canada and the Hungry Belly Company



Up which creek? Well I still have the paddle at least ..........






A few fungi's to hang out with!


Berry good time was had my all - and they improve a bannock muchly!



12 Tine moose - note to self always carry your camera!


S1 trials, batoning stove wood - double bubble and the S1 was excellent too (review to follow!)


Soon all that fun wore me out ..............who needs the Bahama's and a coconut tree eh?



PUNK-SHROOMS



And a bad guy to end with ............. no I didnt eat it ....................




Few places speak to the heart of the woodsman, Sweden is one of those few places, I have friends there who I think of as family, I have spent happy days and restful nights, eaten meals fit for kings and been embraced by wonderful people who I respect and admire.




My vacation is over but only for a while - March and the winter WEISS cant come quick enough for me as I dream of my return already!




Thanks to all the friends I made and those I meet again and thank the gods for Sweden as place were the woodsman can truely be at one with "the nature" - long may it be thus!