In the world of bushcraft there is an amazing array of different suspension systems designed to assist us in hanging a pot above our camp fire to boil water or help us slowly simmer that backwoods stew.
But be it a Waugan stick, a dingle or a cooking crane of the most
cunning design, one defect in them all is the fact that the ‘crafter’
needs to spend time searching out the correct materials. ‘Not a
hardship,’ I hear you cry, and you’d be right as there is always
pleasure to be had, and wonders to be found while searching the woodland
for that hook or forked stick of correct length and size.
But imagine that time is short before darkness descends upon you and
its raining or your choice of materials are limited as might be the case
in the northern boreal forests.
Well, all is not lost and thanks to the cunning wilderness living
skills of a very good Swedish friend of mine, Preben Mortensen the
granddaddy of Swedish survival, the wily outdoors person can quickly
carve a Scandinavian pot hanger and in so doing not only impress their
friends with their knowledge and knife craft but also, perhaps more
importantly, quickly get the pot over the fire for that essential
warming brew or meal.
So where do we begin?
First, select two thumb thick sticks with a forked off shoot at one end and one short straight section as pictured above.
Green wood while not essential is best for this being easiest to
carve and less likely to suffer damage from fire in the short term. Try
to select the wood from non-toxic trees or trees without a heavy
resinous sap by nature as we don’t want to risk contamination our food
even if this risk is small
A tip here is to leave all wood, at this stage, as long as possible
so we can measure and trim it later – this will allow us to hang our pot
at the optimum height above the fire.
Now having selected our materials and checked they are sound and not
rotten or weak in anyway (don’t want our dinner dropping into the fire
now do we?) we can happily make our way back to camp where we will work
on the next stage of our hangers construction.
Having erected our crane, be it two forked sticks with a cross bar
(more correctly called a Waugan (a name predating the turn of the
century and as such the correct term given its age and in common usage
by our US friends) or a Saster, Speygelia (what we Brits might call a
Waugan stick thanks to TV or modern literature) over our fire measure
the points where our two branches (once carved) will meet and in so
doing lift our pot to the correct height above the fire. Once marked we
take our knife and remove approximately half the wood from the poles
length (as shown below) remembering to remove the material from the side
of the pole away from the fork.
*Note the notched or beaked under cuts carved into the lower ends of the pole will become more apparent later.
Having carved both pieces as above pay particular attention to the
removal of the ends of your poles (these being tops furthest away from
the forked side branches). These are cut at a 60 degree or so angle so
they face away from the carved or exposed wood with the angle going back
towards the fork branch side where it is sticking out and as such both
should be cut to a length which when placed together and slid into the
notches on the adjoining half lock the whole thing together – see below
This done we can fine tune the lengths of our set up, adjusting the
height of the pot (not the bottom of the lower forked stick) but so it
is at a height where we can hold our hand above the fire for
approximately 5 seconds without burning ourselves. This height above the
fire will generally (flames going up and down, wind speed ect ect)
ensure we boil water or cook food with the minimum risk of it burning if
left unattended for short periods of time but also without wasting fuel
by needing a hotter or longer burning fire.
I digress however so let us return to task.
Our forked sticks should now interlock but will lack the strength to
stay locked together once weight is placed upon them so now we must make
ourselves the locking bar. For this take our third shorter piece of
wood and carve it into a flat square piece of a size approximate to the
forked sticks but wider if placed horizontally across them (for thumb
thick sticks your looking at a piece approximately 10mm wide by 20mm
high and 80mm long – of course as with all things bushcraft these are
only guides and the dimensions of your materials will dictate)
Finally we need to carve the lock itself. Place the finished locking
bar across your two poles in a position central to both and mark the
poles on the exposed side and across the grain to the width and half the
depths of the locking bar.
Then using stop cuts remove the waste material inside these markings as below.
Carve slowly and with care as to much wood being removed will make
the final hanger ineffective as the locking bar will not be able to lock
the two poles in place.
This done we are finally ready for completion.
Place the two halves of the pot hanger together, their forks should
now both be facing outward, and gently tap the locking bar into the
carved lock recess. The bar should not slide in easily as its role it to
force the two halves apart and thus friction lock the slanted ends
tightly into the carved beak notches.
Once this is done and the whole hanger is locked tightly together we
can trim off the ends of the locking bar so it sits flush to the wood.
Now is the time we can also trim off the forks of our two halves
leaving them long enough to take our pots bail arm or handle but not so
long as to get in the way during usage. Also remember to remove any
other waste material until our finished article looks similar to the
This done, all that remains is for us to fill the pot and hang it
above the fire while we sit back contented in having displayed a new
skill which will become a familiar friend on many future trails.