31.7.12

Ok guys time for a ramble!

Well a mental rabble anyway - the subject?? Common man, the term and its relevance.

I was surfing You tube looking at various videos about bits of kit and such and again and again I heard the term common man, even some of my friends are now using the term in blogs etc - which I like. I know the origin of the term comes via Mr Dave Canterbury and thats just fine with me but its "who" the term or "what" the term reflects that interests me.

And for two reason, firstly for a long time bushcraft was popular with a group who I will term the MIDDLE CLASS MIDDLE AGED MALES, of course there are others into bushcraft but in my experience teaching both for Woodlore and then for myself as well as attending various meets and gatherings, this was the majority and most common type .......... secondly because time has taught me that the, "until recently," trend in bushcraft to have the most expensive this and that isnt necessarily the correct path and a common man or more "independant" approach is.

What am I waffling on about??

OK, so what does/is the common man?? Is it the BBC presenter from the public school with his perfect grammar or is it the guy who has had to work hard at his 9 to 5 while using every second of his spare time reading up and getting dirty to learn a subject he loves? Is it someone who went to uni and realised bushcraft was better than working or is it the guy who spent his teens in a baggy green skin with a gun and learnt to love nature inbetween fire fights?

In my book, using the english class system I would equate the common man to the working classes as oppossed to those with more money than sense ......... ") ( i generalise of course as most of the wealthy people I know are tight arses compared to most of the poorer people I know who would give you their all without a second thought - hence why they arent wealthy I guess) but is this correct after all like it or not we all work for a living these days whether we're the Prince of Wales or humble gary wale, so arent we all working class now?? Isnt the difference only what we earn not which type of spoon we were born with in our mouth? If so we must all be common men, but then that remders the term useless?

I realise its a American term but thats my interpretation - COMMON MAN = THE HARD WORKING, SALT OF THE EARTH TYPE OF GUY. Or to put it another way "The terms common people, the masses, or commoners denote a broad social division referring to regular people who are members of neither the nobility (the wealthy upper middle classes) or the priesthood. Following the rise of the middle class in the 19th century, this division is now of mainly historical interest. Since the 20th century the term "common people" has been used in a more general sense to refer to typical members of society in contrast to highly privileged (in either wealth or influence)." (I'm still not sure I'd include upper echealon bankers in this or any other grouping though)

So using that term to denote who we are - what then is the common mans approach to bushcraft?? Is it, as became the fashion all shiny knives, 4 x 4's and everything Ray Mears sells in his shop but without the dirt under the nails or the skills to ID the ten most common edible plants?? Or is it something else?

I hope, and interpret it as something else!

I like to believe that the common man for starters has more sense than to waste his hard earned cash on the brand named, trendy stuff so often seen at various gatherings of people whose whole bushcraft experience is their annual trip to said meeting. (Now I'm not judging you if you meet that criteria infact if that is you I feel sorry for you as your missing out on so much) I like to think the common man is/was a bushcrafter before it got trendy and will continue to be long after the tv guru's and the sheeple have moved on to nature watching or bothering sheep.

BUT MORE THAN THIS - I LIKE TO THINK OF THE COMMON MAN AS THE GUY OR GAL WHO BUYS SENSIBLE GEAR BUT DOESNT RELY ON IT - WHO KNOWS HOW TO FIND IN NATURE A REPLACEMENT FOR ALL THEIR GEAR SHOULD THEY NEED TO - WHO CARRIES AND NEEDS ONLY THE BEAREST MINIMUM OF KIT AND IS PROUD OF THE FACT THATS ALL THEY NEED. (and doesnt need to justify it if they want to carry a little more)

I like to think of myself in that group, and if I am not then I ASPIRE to be. MORE so I like to imagine that the common man approach will become more popular and people will go back to learning skills and carrying knowledge rather than over priced or rated kit. (its been a dream of mine for many years)

The public school boy bushcraft king is dead - Long live the common man king!

Waffle over WAKE UP!!

28.7.12

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?

pot-hanger-21

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.

pot-hanger-31

*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

pot-hanger-41


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)

pot-hanger-51


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.

pot-hanger-61


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.

pot-hanger-71
 
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 below.

pot-hanger-81
 
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.


26.7.12



Pocket knives especially when hiking are a viable option - personally I find myself using my pocket knife much more these days so today, with time on my hands I thought I'd run a little review/test.

Its not scientific - and before any of you knife nuts get all anal on me, its just my opinion based on a couple of hours playing ............ ok??

My aims were simple the knives needed to meet a simple criteria and each tool would be tested doing a few basic camp chores such as food prep and carving a feather stick - nothing to hard or robust after all I'd never baton with a pocket knife for example.

The results were interesting - scored out of 5 (5 being the best) and they came in as the chart below shows.


TEST
LEATHERMAN
OPINEL
SWISS ARMY KNIFE
Army JACK KNIFE
SVORD PEASENT
Weight (lightest)
1
5
3
2
4
Food Preperation
4
5
5
4
1
Wood carving
5
5
4
4
2
Feather stick carving
5
3
5
3
4
Spark from firesteel
3 attachment
5
3 saw blade
4
3 tang
Easy to sharpen
3
5
3
5
5
Safe in usage
5
5
5
1
3

Strength of hinge/lock
5
5
5
1 no lock hinge ok
3
Comfort in use /carriage
3
5
5
3
3
Price (availability)
1
5
4
3
2
Addition features (good)
2.5
0
2.5
1
0
Lock
5
5
5
0
0
Total scores
32.5
53
49.5
31
30



 Couple of points - easy to sharpen was based on bevel so a flat single bevelor convex bevel being easier than a secondary bevel and additional features where judged on attachements I consider useful so the Leatherman Wave may have loads of "bits" but in all my days I have yet to find a use for a philips screw driver in the woods!
The test was fun and I think it helped focus my mind on the pocket knife for me - and that will be the Swiss Army Knife - the rucksack model as over all this ticks the most boxes in my criteria but the opinel came out of the test very well too so a simple knife.

 I still carry a Mora No1 as my "craft' in the bush knife and my trust old tomahawk for heavy work - but if I'm out hiking or camping or generally bumming around where a cutting tool isnt essential then the SAK Rucksack will always be in my pocket! 


22.7.12


The good old fashion way .................. recently I've been going through a bit of a dilemma. My problem is kit, the modern bushcrafters dependancy on kit. The need of the modern outdoorsman to carry so much gear he needs a 4x4 to carry it all - and believe me I know more than one so called or self proclaimed expert who fits into this catagory as well as maybe a mislead newbie.

So for a while now I've been experimenting with various styles of carriage along the lines of the 18th century outdoorsman. The best combination I have found is the blanket roll and haversack.


 This combination allows versatility, good weight dispertion and freedom of movement - it solves the problem of a sweaty back (common with rucksacks) and allows the user to carry the essentials while being able to rely on their skills to provide the rest.

The bed roll also makes a handy little pillow for a midday nap!

The contents and break down of my bedroll and haversack -

Bedroll - Austrian army poncho, jungle bag, bw gorund sheet, woolly hat, fleece jacket.

Haversack - metal cup, 2 x waterbottles (one with filter) plate, saw, work gloves, gel stove, small bag of salt-pepper-spices, spoon, brew kit and rations, first aid kit. cordage and a map and compass.

This set is light and easily adapted to various conditions - its also much more fun to carry and use and I've really enjoyed experimenting with it - for example as the picture below shows one combination I tried was poncho and poncho liner which I slept in together - the combo worked well and was warm but condensation on the poncho proved a problem. Another set up I tried was to carry mess tins in the haversack again a successful set up but one I changed for the simplicity of just carrying a metal cup.


The reason I'm telling you this is because the individual needs to decide what combination works for them in their enviroment - but I would urge you to try it because its a fun, and it offers a freedom you may not have experienced before - freedom from the tyranny of kit dependancy!


16.7.12

I saw a very interesting video today on you tube pertaining to the defination of what is bushcraft .......... the video my Tim Smith detailed a chart designed by a friend of mine Stuart Goring (credit where credits due) which contained three overlaping circles - circle one was primitive skills, such as fire by friction. circle 2 was modern skills such as camping and the use of a nylon tarp. circle 3 was re-enactment or classical camping such as canvas shelters and flint and steel - now the video argued that where the three circles overlapped that was bushcraft ......... further it argued that by being thus viewed it was also inclusive of all "disciplines of the outdoorsman.

A good theory and a nice cuddly way of including all people no matter how little or much they know or how little or much kit they like to use and one I would say was pretty reasonable.

BUT (and no words before a but are usually worth anything)

I still cant argee, and further I still cant understand the need to define bushcraft ........... firstly where the three fields overlap they create a triangle of skills that would surely be bushcraft and not the entire circles ........... if we thus agree this small triple over lap area is bushcraft then surely this tells us that a small part of such field is bushcraft and not the whole? It therefore doesnt define which skills are deemed bushcraft and which arent? For example how much bushcraft is there in modern camping where the camper rolls up in his mobile home with electric fittings and satellite tv? Yet going by the defination used on the video this is bushcraft??

Do we need a definition?? I dont feel I need to define my hobby, the thing that gives me pleasure - it just is what I do and have done all my life ..................if I need to define them then I'll turn to Ray Mears Original and best book "the survival handbook" (the green one as its know) here Rays introduces us to bushcraft thus,"do you like clean air, fresh water and the wonders of the natural world? if so read on for this book is wrtten for you. The skills contained within this book are not new, experts have been writing about them for nearly a hundred years, grouping them together under the well-suited title of woodcraft ............... the aim is to describe the methods by which you can find natural alternatives to modern outdoors equipment, and by so doing enhance your perception of nature"



 

14.7.12

Well I finished Thoreau, much food for thought. Primarily on the stuff culture of the modern world. A simple life is what we all desire yet we all seem to fool ourselves into believing we cant achieve it. Obviously we cant just go to a local wood cut down the trees and build a cabin but we can simplify our outdoors lives - worry less about brand names and more about just finding gear that works for us. As he says, the monkey in paris puts on a hat and the monkeys in america copy him - so it has been for a long time by the bushcraft monkeys.

Certain guru's put on a hat and the world copies them and yet why? And are the head monkeys so wise or experienced that they know best?

Many people myself included try different things, different jackets or sacks or hats and so do the so called experts. Ask yourself this, if Ray Mears is seen using a certain pocket knife in one episode of his programmes should the sheeple rush out and buy one?? Is Ray seen using this knife often?? Does the pocket knife look like he's used it for years, a trust old friend or is it fresh out the packet??

My point is this, lacking experience or practicle knowledge we all seek advice and inspiration from those "percieved" to have more than we.

Thoreau for example states that one thick layer is as good as many thin layers - my own experience as well as the accepted view is counter to this.

A well travelled and respected Norwegian tells us that a leuku or large knife is an important tool as it can also be used to lift pots off the fire or as a stand for a candle for example, yet anyone with a ounce of bushlore might say we'll so is a stick! A stick can lift a pot off the fire and split with a loop of bark makes a far better candle holder!

Another or more food for thought is the luxury or gear we seem to think we need - I have heard the statement if your roughing it your doing something wrong and this is right, but what or who decides what roughing it is?? Surely the inability to visit a woods and camp out for a night or two without a car load of gear isnt the right approach? So what is roughing it? Going to the woods to some is roughing it yet I say to you that if your going to the woods with the intention of sleeping out then you owe it to yourself to experience the minimalistic approach, if not then why not stay at home and enjoy your luxuries there and leave the woods to its natural inhabitants!

I could go on - food, gear, mental attitude etc etc but I wont bore you.

All I will say dear reader is ponder this - it would be well perhaps if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies ...................how many of you have ever slept outdoors without a roof over your head?? Maybe thats the place to start, carry the tarp but if its not raining sleep without it - trust me, you will awaken next day with a different feeling, and a more subtle understanding of your place in nature!! 

From there a new trail may open to you - follow it for it leads you back to that which you seek, back to a simplier life and a better understanding of the natural world of which we are all a part!

12.7.12

Busy day today so read but little - here however are two thoughts from the man

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or breakfast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let bells ring and the children cry, - determined to make a day of it.

Time is but the stream i go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how swallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

11.7.12

Todays Thoreau thoughts

as that a young man tried for a fortnight to live on hard raw corn on the ear, using his teeth for all mortar. the squirrel tribe tried the same and succeeded

they would part at the first interesting crisis in their adventures. above all as i have implied the man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait 

as for doing good that is one of the professions which are full.

and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve

 

 

10.7.12

More Thoreau

Samuel lang says that, the laplander in his skin dress, and in a skin bag which he puts over his head and shoulders, will sleep night after night on the snow -------------- in a degree of cold which would extinguish the life of one exposed to it in any woollen clothing

it would be well perhaps if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies

near the end of march, 1845, i borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by walden pond, nearest to where i intended to build my house and began to cut down some tall arrowy white pines,

the owner of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the apple of his eye, but i returned it sharper than i recieved it

make kneaded bread thus, wash your hands and trough well. put the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and knead it thoroughly. when you have kneaded it well, mould it, and bake it under a cover

 

9.7.12

Many moons ago I read Walden; or, life in the woods by Henry David Thoreau and to be honest his 19th century style of prose, back then, left my brain numb!!

Well Im now re-reading this master and thought over the next few weeks I'd share with you his better statements and thoughts .............

it would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them;

for the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man's existance, as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors

the necessaries of life for man in this climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under the several heads of food, shelter, clothing, and fuel, for not till we have secured these are we prepared to entertain the true problem of life with freedom and a prospect of success. man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food, and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to by it.

every day our garments become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer's character

the head monkey at paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the monkeys in america do the same (or the head bushcraft monkey on the popular medium puts on a bushcraft "whatever", and all the bushcraft monkeys do the same!) 

More to follow.

8.7.12


The struggle between the needs and wants of our little bushcraft adventures is never ending fuelled by naivity, imagination, fear, lack of skills, dreams of the coming end of the world scenerio what ever it is that floats your boat. But the reality is different, generally our weeks or weekends in the woods are safer than the average work day so do we need to carry rucksacks full of gear we will never likely need?? Surely our hobby is such that we should be learning to make do without those all singing all dancing gadgets and expensive what nots, surely our hobby is learning to craft in the bush those items we feel to be necessities rather than to buy and carry them in with us??..............it is after all, all about bushcraft's not commercially made kit craft .............

With this in mind below is my packing list for summer hikes/weekenders - its a simple kit but contains everything I need and experience has shown every item can and will be used regularly. (below this, two links to excellent blogs where the writers express similar thoughts))

I'm not saying you should carry only this - your skills will dictate what you carry but I truly believe you should aspire to be able to live in the woods comfortably with minimal kit, its not only a pleasure to know you can do it but its also a powerful lesson in itself and this leads to confidence in your skills and greater knowledge as doing is the only way to continue learning.

Summer kit list for lightweight hiking. 1. Swedish Army LK35 rucksack 2. Fleece shirt 3. Poncho (waterproof and shelter if needed) 4. Mess tins (stainless steel) 5. 24hr rations + brew kit 6. Spare socks & a t-shirt (sleeping in as well as dry kit) 7. Wash kit and house wife 8. Sleep system 9. Woolly hat & Gloves 10. 2qrt canteen 11. Alc gel stoves x2 (hiking and fire lighting) 12. A pair of work gloves 13. 15-20m of 5mm cordage 14. Possibles bag (first aid, para-cordage, axe stone, cylume, candles,) 15. Haversack (see below) 16. Tomahawk

Remember the rule of threes (if it isn’t used in two or more trips remove the item – with the exception of first aid)

Haversack (away kit or day hikes) – mess tins and rations, condiments inc can opener, filter bottle and canteen cup, spoon, stove, tinder box, saw and sheath knife (when not worn) – tomahawk

Obviously there is the clothes I am wearing too ..........and usually a clasp knife in my pocket on top if the above list.

http://woodtrekker.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/bushcraft-life-and-death-struggle-to.html?showComment=1341726400529#c969161875378577338

http://ranger-pathfinder-notes.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Bushcraft

6.7.12

This video says it all .................




1.7.12

Just spent a cracking weekend in a secret location near Ashdown forest - weather was a bit "changable" but it didnt dampen our spirits and I have to say it was great to spend a few days in the company of one of my oldest friends and a kindred spirit!!



Mum cooking breaky - thanks mate!!



My new combo ................two tools for the modern woodsman!!







And of course we had a cheese board ........................................


 Polish army tent shelter half with a hazel pole replacing the poles that come with it!





Little video review of the SVORD Peasant and General Outdoors knives ......................



Excellent tools - recommend them!!