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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Condor Bushlore Blade Blank

I was never a fan of Condor knives after buying a few original ones which were nothing more that pry bars, well it seems they've upped their game and the new Bushlore blade blank is a lovely piece of steel.

it's a little over 9 inches long and it's supposed to be 3mm thick but it's just short of this, still it's relatively cheap and it fits nicely in the hand
I decided to handle it with a bit of wild cherry I had harvested and had been stored away for a couple of years
a very simple tapered handle and sanded smooth to 400grit
a couple of coats of linseed oil just to make it basic and non fancy, to me it has a sort of old world mountain man type feel to it so..
.. I made a sort of old west type sheath to go a long with it, seems to work well, to me anyway.
and the last thing was to refine the edge to make it like a laser, it takes a great edge, I'll look forward to using this one.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Taking it too seriously ??

I think bushcrafters often take themselves way too seriously, really we all need to have a sense of humour and be able to laugh at ourselves a bit more, don't take things to heart, learn a little, kick back and enjoy the journey....if you start taking it all too seriously and you start getting frustrated or annoyed over things then it's time for a rethink and to look for a way to bring the fun back... this guy is a master of bushcraft parody, makes me laugh every time I watch his videos..hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Furtherance to the Bowdrill Debate...

This bowdrill discussion doesn't seem to be going away with both sides offering pro's and cons for it's purpose, I'm not going to labour the point so I'll let this article be my last on the matter..
It seems I'm in a minority on the matter on the importance and sacred elevation given to fire by friction, ironically a lot of the people who revere it so much have confessed to never succeeding at this method, go figure!
I don't see it as the be all and end all of fire methods and I'm happy to fight my corner on that. I've done enough courses were instructors seem to ram the method down your throat going on and on about how special and sacred it is, some even seem to relish the idea of watching people struggle with the method, I suppose it's one of the reasons why I dislike it so much, I've seen people get laughed at and practically humiliated by 'instructors' who were 'teaching' the skill I've even seen instructors get frustrated and angry when people couldn't manage it, there's been times when I've actually stood in to help someone in front of the teacher... not cool.

Anyway, one of the pro's main arguments for bowdrill is that it gives you a better understanding of trees and wood types, well that's to do with woodcraft, that's not firecraft, also they say that it allows you to think about tinder bundles, their construction and therefor help in the creation of fire, that's a hollow argument that doesn't hold water, so to speak, 

from left to right, bowdrill ember, charred punkwood ember, amadou ember, charcloth ember, plain punkwood ember. 

See the above picture, (apologies for quality, it was taken on my phone quickly before all the embers burnt out) I can't make this any more plain, a bowdrill ember is just that, an ember.
Do embers have to be treated differently because of how they're created, do we have to use different tinder bundles for different embers, do we have to use different tinder materials or a different construction method because of how we created the ember? No we don't, all embers are treated the same regardless of how they're made using the same types of tinder bundles..
The bowdrill ember was willow on willow, the charred punkwood, amadou and charcloth were jasper and steel, and the punkwood was a ferro rod.
These embers still have to be taken to flame then the fire created and maintained. Every step after the initial ember is created is exactly the same regardless of how the ember was made, therefor to say that a bowdrill particularly makes you more aware of firecraft is wrong, as I've said previously that's woodcraft, that is using the right woods in the right condition to be able to help you make fire, it's the wood selection and condition that is important, every step after that in the creation of fire is identical.
So many people now have it in their psyche that it's the ultimate bushcraft skill, well hardly! But the idea of bowdrill is constantly preached to the exclusion of other more important skills like tree and plant ID, bowdrill is just another string to your bow (pun intended).
The method is also self limiting in that you have to achieve a particular posture to help you perform the task, some people for one reason or another can't do this, it's a ludicrous idea for this method to dominate firecraft the way it does, don't be taken in by the modern bushcraft urban mythology that it makes you a better bushcrafter, that's nonsense, it's just one more method, that's all..practice it, yes, but don't be consumed by it, chances are you will never ever have to resort to fire by friction in a survival situation, other wilderness skills are much more important, keep this were it belongs, on the back burner.
Bushcrafters in general tend to be quite intelligent, I think. Well they have to be really, when they're in a situation they need to think and act quickly, they practice continually and are able, by nature, to improvise, adapt and overcome nearly all situations, it's that broadminded attitude that makes them the intellectually aware individual that they are, giving more credence to bowdrill than it deserves just makes you blinkered.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A day with Positive Futures

We were recently asked by a charity called positive futures if we would take some young Autistic kids out into the woods for the day and we were only too glad to help. However I was so busy doing stuff with the guys that I got hardly any time to take pictures though we did manage these couple at the end of the day...
we started the day with fire, they all managed this easily and were brilliant at it, then we did some backwoods cooking which they seemed to enjoy, ( well at least Adam went back for seconds!)
then we built a shelter
here they are all proudly displaying their new home!
A great time was had by all and they were a pleasure to work with, hope we see them again soon.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Practising what Paul Kirtley Preaches.

I was watching the Ask Paul Kirtley vids on youtube and as happens every once in a while the pros and cons of bowdrill seems to be coming up a lot lately. I'm not a great proponent of it, I believe it's over rated and there's too much time and emphasis placed on it when it's simply one more arrow in the bushcraft quiver. Even Ray Mears says on one of his Walkabout programs that in a genuine survival situation you lose energy very quickly and it's therefore difficult to achieve fire with this method.. in a genuine situation get out your lighter!!
 So if it's not a genuine survival situation why even bother with it as any sensible bushcrafter will have a means to make fire on them. Also not only do you lose energy quickly but what happens if you're injured, if you can't bend down, or if your leg or arm is broken?, bowdrill won't be possible... I can see the purpose of it for demonstration or fun but in a genuine situation it's surely going to be a last resort, but Paul said something that got me thinking and really struck a cord with me, that the bowdrill method gives you a greater understanding of fire, it makes you think about achieving this element and with that thought and that greater understanding comes a more skilled individual, one who, if he can get an ember regularly with a bowdrill, then his entire fire making capabilities would be sharpened and made more acute, now that is something that makes sense to me, bowdrill is not just a means of making fire.. it's a teaching tool! Now this I can relate to as a deeper understanding is what I've always strived to achieve, so with this in mind I had a hoke to see what wood I had lying around, I found some elder, sycamore, willow and lime so out into the back garden for a go.

I haven't used the firebow in quite a while and muscle memory is important with this technique, you can certainly feel it after a few goes.....willow on sycamore

willow on lime

sycamore on sycamore, the dust was quite coarse and this usually denies me an ember though I got it this time, understanding the colour and texture of the dust is a lesson in itself..

I tried two types of bow, a stiff one and a flexible one and I without a doubt prefer the flexible one as it allows a bit of leeway with string length and spindle width..
I don't think it will ever be my favourite method of lighting fire as I can do without friction in my life..!!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Lundin and Teti law suit

Seems like the dual survival fallout legacy continues with Teti facing quite serious allegations once again, this time from Cody who alleges that Teti threatened him with an ice axe.. seems there's no smoke without fire.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Cattail and Yellow Iris, I got it wrong.

I know the difference between these plants, I also know HOW to tell the difference between these plants. I eat cattail and I make things from yellow iris... but I got complacent...and I got it wrong and ended up with a blistered mouth and throat due to my complacency.

I often nibble on new growth cattail but recently when out I wasn't thinking and I grabbed a new growth 'cattail', I quickly peeled it and started eating it, but I knew right away that the texture was wrong, I quickly spat it out and checked to see that the plant I was holding was actually Yellow flag iris and not cattail, but the damage was done, my mouth and throat were burning, like I'd eaten very hot chillies and it stayed that way for 8 hours and I ended up with lots of little blisters on the inside of my mouth and throat, all due to the fact that I didn't take care or pay attention.. There's no excuse for it, I was stupid and I paid the price, but I will learn from it and I won't make the mistake again, sometimes we need a swift boot in the rear to bring us back to reality and make us realise we are getting too cocky, I will learn from it. 
so to help you guys avoid making the same mistakes I made here is how to tell the difference between the two.

The first ID is leaf colour and shape, Iris has an emerald green colour and a very pointed tip, cattail is blue green and a rounded or bullet tip leaf (Iris left, cattail right).

In cross-section at the base of the plant, iris is elliptical and cattatil is rounded..note the purple colour on the iris, this would be a dead give away if the colour were always present but it isn't so don't use that as your only method of ID.(Iris left, cattail right)

leaf shape of each leaf..iris is diamond and cattail a crescent.(Iris left, cattail right)

a slice along the plants, note the iris seems more solid in texture and is definitely noticeable when you bite into it !!! (Iris left, cattail right)

This is the structure of each leaf and this is my main method of ID but again I got cocky and didn't examine the leaves, note the very vertical lineage in the structure of the leaf..this is Iris

Not the crosshatched or honeycomed structure of this leaf, this is cattail and if you hold the leaf to the light and you see this structure you can be sure it's cattail.

and next to each other, Iris above cattail below.

I'm the first to admit I got it wrong and I'm not too proud to say I make mistakes, but show me a man who says he doesn't make mistakes and I'll show you a liar. Every day is a learning process and some days are re-learning processes but in the words of George Bernard Shaw..
"success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time"

So don't do what I did when you are in the bush, take your time, examine your wild foods and make sure you know what you're eating, don't get complacent.. complacency can kill.