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!

18.9.09

Alone in the WILD


Alone in the Wild, reality TV? Real or faked? Like it or loath it?

Its very interesting how this series has such a varied viewership and how some of us love it and some loath it.

Ray Mears seems to be universally revered, and in many ways rightly so especially for his early stuff like tracks - Bear, poor old Bear, like wise seems to have a loyal following even if (imo) his skills will more likely kill you than save you. Indeed some of the comments in the articles below show the loyal viewing public and its biase for one or thuver!

Ed too seems to now recruit from among the viewing world and as such we now have a three or even a four way split is you note the comments about Survivorman.

But my question isnt really about the personalities - this programme could be "Alone in the Wild Joe Bloggs" and I doubt it would change things ...... why?

WELL firstly it seems to me the WHOLE theme of the programme is how scary and hard it is to live in the wild even if your better kitted out than the average british soldier on the streets of the 'Stan.

Secondly, regardless of all the continuity issues - or the lack of it in many ways, it strikes me that main character isnt the correct man for the job. We've seen this many times - producers picking odd balls and mis fits for reality tv programmes to create 'drama and social conflict' ect thinking this would make the programme more exciting? Personally I think this is wrong.

Lastly, while a programme like this is for 'general' viewing, it will be watched by avid outdoors folk and as such (imo) has a duty of care to show/teach folks a level of skills.

Alone in the Wild seems to be a programme about a guy who doesnt wanna be there, with a programmed theme about how scary and hard it is to live there, with dark moody music and Blair witch type filming - all in all making a survivorman style spin off really rather dull.

Will each programme show us Ed going up and down in his mood swings, extensive footage of him walking around in circles checking his snares and equally extensive footage of him laying in bed discussing his fears and feelings?

If anyone from Tigeress (you even have a test reel of mine) or channel four read this - give me a ring I'm sure we can do much much better.

And thats really the crux of things, the BBC make good documentaries, granted even they screw up occasionally, but generally their good - this documentary while scenic and promising does seem to have lost track of its potential (unless the failure was the plan all along?).

In summary I so wanted this to be a good series as the british viewing public really do need a new role model to pick up the bushcraft and survival batton now Ray Mears has moved away from bushcraft and more into history and travel logs - but sadly this isnt gonna be it ......... as my old teacher used to say - "all the elements are there, just put together wrong - must try harder!"









13.9.09

Bushcraft Camp ..........September


Well another excellent weekend - again spent in great company, among friends old and new.


Highlights of the weekends camp - Casey cracking bow drill, badger and deer watching, Atlatl fun, Neetle cordage making, Clive's dutch oven chefing skills, fire lighting tutorials, bench making/axe workshop, weaving of sedge spoons and as always the excellent evening social.









I'm already looking forward to the next one ........... but a picture paints a thousand words so ......................

3.9.09

Is survival training necessary??

Well this guy went into the woods kitted out better than a small army and yet nearly died .......... so persoanlly I would say YES.

The final quote in the arcticle kind'a says it all .................

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1209078/Channel-4-exploitation-row-cameraman-airlifted-wilderness-dying-starvation.html

2.9.09

Down your local




One of Wainwrights pronounced aims with the coast to coast was to inspire folks to come up with their own hikes.


Britian is a country disected by footpaths and bridleways - allowing the walker, rambler or hiker to wander far and wide and avoid as much tarmac as possible.



In so doing not only will you be able to get out - get some exercise and fresh air but you'll also be able to enjoy a spot of foraging or buschraft - even a tasty treat or two.



For myself this bank holiday weekend found me without a course a course to run and ahead on the office work - an ideal situation for a little dirt time as well as a chance to practicing navigation.





For my walk on this occasion I visited the essex salt marshes and a wild life reserve which abounds with not only bird life but amphibeans and reptiles as well as coastal plants and animals - a ideal place for a bit of a refresher on the coastal foraging skills.