Friday, 30 September 2011

New Moon

I was out in the garden earlier and saw the new moon, i love it when it's just a tiny sliver of light, low down on the horizon in a big colourful sky, it's simply, well, magical.

The photo is, with the exception of the text and resizing, as it came off my camera.

Fire Piston

Ive owned one these for along while, but hardly ever use it, as i much prefer to use methods such as the bow & hand drill or the traditional flint & steel,  the Piston only gets used at the odd event now and again to show that fire can be created from compression as well as by friction, spark or indeed chemical means.

I bought mine many years ago now from DB Primitive on EBay, but since i bought it, i have, as mentioned above, hardly used it, well, lets rephrase that, I've used it, but i don't rely on it, it's not something i carry around with me when I'm out and about, in fact it lives in a drawer and hardly sees the light of day, but just now and again, like today, it will come out and get a bit of use, more for a bit of fun than anything else.

I made a short video a while ago on the Fire Piston which is on my You Tube channel here

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hand Drill Spindles

Whilst i was up at my sit tree today i did a little bit of exploring around the general area, just to see what had been occuring, as i was bimbling around this view was presented to me, a whole shedful of Mullein, some dead and dry already, others recently expired and still slightly green and yet others that were still in flower.

Not wanting to waste such a valuable resource as this, i got out my pocket knife and harvested a few, well, it would have been rude not to, in the end i elected to collect just half a dozen stalks and as i collected them i gave them all a good shake just to make sure any seeds that were left on the stalks were distributed, therefore giving me further plants to harvest in the future.

Once i had shaken all the seeds out i sat in the shade of my faithful sit tree and cleaned up all the stalks with my SAK, just need to dry them all out a tad before they will be ready for use as hand drill spindles, oh yes, while i was there, i also collected about half a dozen second year growth elder stems as well, i figure with what i already had at home, i should just about have enough spindles to last me for some considerable time now.

Sit Tree

Went off for a short wander this afternoon, up to one of my favourite spots on the South Downs, i quite often just wander up to my sit tree and well, erm just sit there and watch the world go by, or to do some paperwork or devise cunning new ideas,  today  though was one of those times where it was just nice to sit and watch the world go by, there was lots to see, Buzzards soaring, Pheasants in the field, masses of song birds but in particular hundreds of Goldfinches and a good number of Stone Chats were around.

A sit tree is a great place to get to know your environment and it's moods throughout the year, at the moment my tree (Ash) is just starting to change into it's autumn coat and loose a few leaves in the gentle breeze that was blowing this afternoon, a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hand Drill Material

Made a lucky find this afternoon, i went for a short bimble up over the Downs as one of the local farmers was at last harvesting his barley crop, very late Harvest in all honesty, all of the other local farms have made the harvest and ploughed ready for next year, as i was wandering up to the Barley field i noticed a very green spiky plant, that I've not seen before, on further investigation it became apparent that it was,  what i believe to be a form of Yucca, obviously a garden escape, it cant be anything else in all honesty, but the bonus was, it still had it's flower spike, albeit a bit manky, but the finger nail test came back positive so i harvested it.

When i got home i shaved the smaller piece down a tad and span an Elder hand drill on it, the result, well no ember this time, but there again the stalk is fairly damp, so i have it drying out at the moment and when it's dry, i shall give it another go.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

EDC Pocket Knife - Victorinox Alox Farmer

Thought it was about time i wrote something about my EDC pocket knife, up until a little while ago i either carried an Old Timer 340T or a British Army Pocket knife, that was until i got myself a Victorinox Alox Farmer that is.

Now, I'm not about to launch into a review of the knife, as everybody knows just how good these things are, and if you don't, well you should do :-).

Ive owned a Victorinox Tinker for many years, but  I fancied a change more than anything and as this was fairly cheap and as it had all the tools on it I'm likely to use on a day to day basis, it was the perfect choice, the thing i really like about it though, well two things really, are the small saw, which punches way above it's weight and the the awl, which is just perfect for striking a ferro rod as it's located at the end of the knife instead of it's usual location on top which make susing it as a fire steel striker nice and easy and probably a lot safer in all honesty.

Bow Drill Practice

I figured today id spend some time practicing the Bow Drill, like i didn't get enough practice a couple of weeks ago at the show, but I've always figured it doesn't hurt to practice.

So i made a few spindles up out of Hazel and four  hearth boards as pictured, from left to right they are Hazel, Sycamore, Willow and Sycamore again, the ember pan is made from Elm and my bearing block is the one i made a few weeks back from a pebble and it is without doubt the best bearing block I've ever used, comfortable and as the depression in the rock is now fairly well polished, it's more or less friction free.

In the end i lost count of the embers i made, but counting the burn holes there are 16 depressions and each one made more than a single ember, so a fairly productive day in all and a nice rest from the hand drill which has been my favoured friction fire lighting method of late.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Hand Drill Sets

Spent a bit of time making some hand drill hearths and sets today, all of the boards are Clematis and the drills are Elder, after making them i figured id better have a practice myself, so i grabbed my personal set and got spinning the drill, got a couple of weak embers and some minor blisters, I've not done a great deal of hand drilling of late, as I've been concentrating on the Bow Drill, so i need to re-establish the callouses on my hands as well as the all important muscle memory.

The picture shows the cut off ends from a couple of old drills and half a dozen Clematis boards that I'm sending off to Northern Ireland in the next week or so, so that Abo at Belfast Bushcraft can see how the Clematis compares to his usual hand drill hearths.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Winter Greens

Went for a short bimble this afternoon, just a mile or so there and back, was nice to see the Alexanders coming back, one of the few fresh greens that are available to the forager during the colder months.

Ive written about Alexanders on my blog before so no real need to duplicate those entries which can be found by clicking on the below links

http://kepisbushcraft.blogspot.com/2011/04/alexanders.html

http://kepisbushcraft.blogspot.com/2011/04/whats-for-dinner.html

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Spoonage

All Carved Today.
Had a good day of spoon carving today, got seven spoons and spatulas made in the end, the majority of the spoons and spats were carved from Sycamore, the two darker spoons are from Birch. Ive been asked why i carve so many spoons, well the simple answer is, i sell them, both at events i attend, like Fayre's and fetes and i shift a few over the Internet, the old stocks are pretty low at present, and with another event coming up next month,  i need to replenish my stocks a bit.


Gonna Be A Bit Windy - Apparently

I was checking one of the weather sites that i use and whilst it looks like it's going to be nice and sunny for the next few days, boy, is it going to be windy? ;-)



Guess someone made a bit of a boo boo then - lol

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tea Spoons

Made myself a couple of new tea spoons for my brew & cook kits today, the ones I'm currently using are a bit old and knackered in all honesty, they still have life in them but I'm not sure how much longer they will last, especially the one in my brew kit that is well used and abused. These new ones should last me for a while, both are carved from Birch and treated with raw linseed oil, think i will put the narrow necked one in my cook kit and the thicker one in my brew kit as that one tends to get considerably more use.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Mushrooms

After id finished making wooden flowers, i noticed that during the day a load of strange mushrooms had grown out of the lawn, I have no idea what species they are though, they are very hard and tough to the touch and smell "wooden" ;-)

Vampire Stakes

One of the by-products of making wooden flowers, see this post, is the sticks that you use for making the flowers end up as quite nice Vampire stakes. So if anyone out there has a Vampire problem and needs a couple of stakes, then let me know and you can have some of these, only proviso's are.

You pay the postage
Make sure you do the job properly

Wooden Flowers

I spent some time today making a few wooden flowers, Ive not made any in ages and thought id make a few to put out front of the house to add some texture to that part of the garden now that the real flowers are coming to an end as before long, it's going to be quite bare out there.

I made about a dozen flowers in the end, the ones pictured in the picture are made from Hazel with Willow stems and stand about 12 inches high, i also made a few larger ones from Ash & Hazel with Hazel stems and i guess they stand about 18 inches high (pictured below),  I quite like making these, it's one of those things where you can loose yourself in with your thoughts and there is also something strangely satisfying about making masses of curls on a stick, not to mention it's also great feather stick practice.

There are five flowers in this bundle

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Woodfair 2011

Took the boys to the Woodfair at Bentley, near Ringmer in East Sussex yesterday, had a great day despite the rain, met some old friends and made some new ones.

The Woodfair is held annually and is a great show, although i did sense yesterday that there were not as many exhibitors as in previous years, the programme for the event stated there were more, perhaps there were more exhibitors for the areas that don't hold a lot of interest for me, as there certainly seemed to be less in the coppice & crafts section than before, maybe they were just more spread out than in previous years, i don't know, like i said, maybe it's just my perception, regardless, it was a great day out and it offers the chance to speak to people like the chap pictured  (Andrew King), who like myself practices these skills on a day to day basis for a living, albeit in vastly differing areas of expertise.

In addition to the traditional skills such as Hurdle making and Besom brooms there is a lot of significantly more modern equipment on display, including mobile saw mills, stump grinders, hydraulic log splitters and well anything to do with Forestry basically, one of my favourite parts of the show though are the second hand tools, at last years show, i did well and bagged myself a bargain, this year it wasn't to be, although i was on the look out for a few things, the  things i did find, didn't really float my boat, not a problem though, as just up the road from us is a huge second hand tool shop, at least in there it's warm and dry so you can check the fit of an axe head knowing it's not tight just because it's damp, as they all were yesterday, we did bag one bargain though, eldest wanted a Sloyd knife, so we picked him up a Mora 120 for around a tenner, funny thing was, the stand next door was also selling them, but for nearly £17.00, certainly pays to look around at these places.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bimble

Went for a bimble over the South Downs today, only walked about 7-8 miles in the end, but being out there in the sunshine, with a just a light breeze blowing was magnificent. I didn't really do anything except enjoy my surroundings, in all honesty it made a nice change just to amble along, listening to the bird song, watching the wildlife and munching on blackberries and wild apples, i hardly saw anyone all day and even that was nice in a way, just to be out there, one on one with my environment with no distractions.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Hand Drill

As i seem to be on a bit of a friction fire binge at the moment, i thought it was about time i practiced the hand drill again, erm,  no hearth material, i used the boards i made a couple of weeks back on Sunday for the bow drill, no problem, a quick trip up the lane and i scored the two pieces of Clematis in the picture, the knife is my Stewart Marsh Bushcraft Knife, by the way, the vine  i harvested was dead standing.

Once i got home I removed all of the bark material and placed it in a nice dry place for later use, i then pared some of the Clematis down into boards, grabbed a spindle and whirled away for a little while, gently at first to warm up the old muscles, then i went for it, many people say it's like riding a bike, once you know how, you never forget, well they are not wrong.

Stone Bearing Block

Following my weekend of bow drilling, i figured today i would make a more substantial bearing block for use at shows and events, as the wooden ones, such as the ones made from green Elm, i was using this past weekend soon scorch and burn, even with the addition of green material in the socket to lubricate it, meaning that i have to prepare and take a good half dozen bearing blocks with me to be on the safe side.  I figured if i made a more substantial block that also offered less friction then half the battle is won.

So, with this in mind, last evening we made a quick trip to the beach, which resulted in the collection of a few  pebbles, all of which had been worn smooth by the wave action of the sea.

Bow Drill Demo

At the weekend i was invited to attend a local show and to demonstrate some woodsy skills, the one that i always like doing is the bow drill because it gets peoples interest and at this event it was no different, a number of people mentioned during the day that they had heard of making fire by "rubbing two sticks together" but had never seen it done.

So as previously noted on this 'ere blog, i made a load of sets up and set to work, i soon had a small crowd around me and them when the tinder (eventually) burst into flame, oohs and ahhs and a round of applause, a few people had a go and soon realised it wasn't as easy as it looks, although it has to be said that a couple of people who tried it, with a little more instruction, would have gotten there and produced an ember no problem at all,  one young lad who tried it  just refused to give in, he got a little flustered at times, but he, as did the other people who tried it had the right mind set to be able to achieve that first magical ember.

Yours truly with an ember.
We also gave people the opportunity to try lighting some char cloth with the flint and steel, again, not as easy as it looks, but to give these people their due, they were willing to try something new and gave it their best shot, but like the people who tried the bow drill, with a little more instruction in the art of making fire with a lighter of matches, they could and would be making fire in no time at all and gain a valuable life skill at the same time.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Show Time

I attended an event yesterday that is held on an annual basis by one of the local estates, this is the second year I've been invited and despite, the weather it was a superb day out, i spent a lot of the time there speaking to people about woods skills, showing off some of my wares like spoons and painted spatulas, but the biggest thing was friction fire lighting (always a crowd pleaser), but spending a day on the bow drill is hard work, but great fun nevertheless, i failed to produce an ember a couple of times and even when i did produce an ember it wasn't guaranteed to go to flame as the tinder i had, was ever so slightly damp, but this just made it more of a challenge, in the end we had to resort to adding some crumbled cramp ball fungus to the tinder to act an an ember extender in order to give us a fighting chance.

A couple of people had a go at the bow drill and soon realised it wasn't as easy as it looks, but i will give them their due, they didn't give up, even though they didn't produce an ember, i still gave them a bow drill set to take away with them, a few others tried lighting fires with the flint and steel and again, soon realised it wasn't as easy as it looked, but they tried and were willing to learn a new skill and that to mind is all that mattered.


This event is always great fun, a chance to meet with old friends and make some new ones,  because of the grotty weather forecast the visitor numbers were down on last year, although despite this, there were still a good number of people around, the Estate do a superb job at organising this event which this year also saw a Cider press in operation, Corn dollies being made, nature walks, wild food walks and fun and games for the kids such as parachute games.

I only managed to take four photographs, all of these were of our set up (see above picture), luckily i had the two boys with me and eldest took a few more pictures than i did, so i will endeavour to get some of those published on this 'ere blog shortly.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Haws

Went on a foraging bimble this afternoon, only just got back, met a couple of the farm hands and well, we set the world to rights:).

I went out to collect some more Sloes and some Haws, I got 2lb of Sloes which is all i need for a few more bottles of gin and 3lb of Haws that im going to turn into fruit leather with the help of my dehydrator. Some of the Haws are huge, more akin to cherries in size than Haws, still im not complaining, the bigger the better.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Yew Soup Spoon

Yes, I've carving spoons again, this one is a soup spoon that has been carved from a lovely piece of Yew, although, due to the poisonous nature of Yew, the spoon will only ever be used for display purposes, that aside, i think it would be a crying shame to stain the stunningly gorgeous grain patterns in the wood with tomato soup or the like.

Bow Drill Sets

Was busy today making a load of Bow Drill sets up ready for an event I'm attending this weekend, i figured a dozen sets that are ready to go and about half a dozen as spares should be plenty.

What i like to do and as previously mentioned on my blog is, if someone does produce an ember on the bow drill, is to give them the set they did on so they can take the set away with them, knowing that the set works so they can keep practicing the skill.

Miniature Feather Sticks

Decided to practice making some feather sticks  aka fuzz sticks this morning, all i had available to me on the spur of the moment was some small pieces of wood with some sulphur on one end ;-),  so i figured they would do, the one pictured to the left was made with my Stewart Marsh Bushcraft knife, i think that this knife may be just about sharp enough now.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Oak Spoons

Made a couple of tea spoons from some seasoned Oak this morning, I've had the Oak hanging around for a while in the form of a few boards that we were going to put some water colour paintings on, so i thought i would grab a couple of the boards and create a spoon from each instead, well i couldn't let that amazing grain pattern go to waste now could i?.

Looking at the photo's i took of these two spoons, there is a bit of an optical illusion going on, as in the photo's they look dead flat, but in reality, both of them have a bowl carved in, still adds to the overall effect i think.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

'Primitive' Fishing Hook.

Well i say primitive, but what is primitive?, to the people of the time it was the latest top notch technology, will our descendants looks back over the millenia and see an iPad as a primitive piece of equipment, i dare say they will, so to my mind this hook is not primitive, it's just different,  because it suited human development and their level of technology in a totally different era.

Well, enough of the philosophy, i made this hook a little while back and whilst getting some materials ready for a show I'm doing this weekend, i, well, i suppose i rediscovered it in amongst the box loads of stuff i have here, i really must have a sort out one day.

The hook was made as part of a project i undertook to make a "primitive" fishing kit, more on that at a later date, the hook if i remember correctly was made from a piece of  Willow, the hook point was whittled down from another piece of wood and then it was all lashed together with artificial sinew, although i could have used natural fibres and indeed i did this on another hook i made, the lashing was then held in place with a coating of pine resin.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Bullroarers

These are most definitely the thing of the moment, I'm as addicted to carving these as i am spoons, well perhaps not quite as bad as that, but there is something quite satisfying about carving these things and then whizzing them round your head and making all manner of banshee type wailing and other weird noises, dead easy to carve and great fun to use.

Pictured left are two of my latest creations, both are made from Boxwood, which whilst hard to carve, does look great once it's done and the finish you can achieve is incredible, despite being dead smooth, both of the roarers make an incredible noise, which OK, i could increase by adding some aerodynamic instabilities like the dimples found on a golf ball, but in the case of these two, i just simply don't want to spoil the look and feel of them, although the bottom one in the picture does need to have it's width reduced somewhat.

Box Wood Spoon

Latest carving effort, this time in Boxwood, now this stuff might be sought after by wood turners but it's horrible to carve, it splits and splinters like no tomorrow, and even when green it's like carving iron, but hey it was free and despite the difficulties in carving it, it's worth it for the grain patterns alone, well i think so.

Wet Wet Wet

No, not the popular 80's/90's pop group, but the rain, i was out collecting a load of Sloes to make some Sloe Gin with, when i set out there wasn't a sign of any rain,  so off i trot, get about a mile from home and start picking the Sloes, look up and see the hills have disappeared in the approaching rain storm, no sign of it when i left, in fact not a cloud in the sky, still at least i wont have to wash the sloes now - lol, I got bleedin' soaked, thought i had put my poncho in my bag, did i heck?, i put a similar green bag in my shoulder bag that contained, yep, anything but my poncho, that'll teach me to go out in a rush i suppose and not look at what I'm doing - lesson learnt.

Got soaked to the skin, but hey at least it was warm and the rain felt nice in all honesty, even though it damn well hurt at times it was that heavy, the pics were taken from the shelter of a big Ash tree, but in the end i figured i couldn't get any wetter than i had already got, so i just head back down the lane towards home, i weirdly quite enjoyed it, just walking through the rain.

Oh yes, the view towards the hill you can just make out in the rain, yes it's rain, not fog or mist, normally looks like this

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Eating Spoon

During my carving session today i also made myself a new eating spoon, i don't particularly need a new one, but as i carved this spoon, it just seemed to happen and the more i carved the more it seemed the right thing to make, i have to admit this one worked out pretty well,  it's a bit more chunky that my regular style, but  being it's going to be a user I'm not overly unhappy with that, i think it will be perfect for eating my Cornflakes with, only problem i can see with that is, i don't eat breakfast :-).


Hazel Spoon

Was bored out of my skull earlier, so i locked myself away in the shed and did some carving and listened to the rain hammer on the roof, amongst some of the things i carved was this spoon, i started it up the woods last week and finished it off today, it's made from a piece of Hazel and unbeknown to me when i started it, had an inclusion in the wood, right at the top of the bowl, because of this it will only be used for display purposes rather than for food prep.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Dead Fall Trap


Practiced some more trapping set ups today, including this one that i like to use in preference to the Figure 4, i find this trap to be easier to manufacture, easier to set up, more stable and if the trigger is set very fine, it's much more delicate and therefore easier to trigger, the added bonus is that unlike the Figure 4 where you have to sure the log or rock wont hang up on the upright, with this trap it doesn't matter, as the components tend to flip out of the way of their own accord.

Friday, 2 September 2011

MaB Knives - Mini Bushcraft Knife

Ive been in possession of this knife from Mike Bowler of MaB Custom Knives for a good time now, and i thought it was time i put a few words down about it.

Ok, so the knife itself is made from 3mm O1 tool steel  and is 5 1/2 inches in length, with an equal split being given to the blade and handle, the particular example i have has Walnut scales with red liners and 6mm brass pins and lanyard tube, the blade has a  Woodlore"esque" shape with a scandi grind.

You will probably notice from the picture that the transition from handle to blade on the top of the knife features a fairly pronounced incline, in use this additional material fills the hand nicely and provides a nice thickness for additional grip, the handle itself has been formed by Mike into a "coke bottle" shape and even on a small knife such as this one, this shape does feel very comfortable in the hand.

Day At The Lakes

Eldest lad decided it was about time we went fishing, so off we went, me, the two boys,  nan & grandad and two car loads of fishing equipment, we went to the lakes that i built and where I'm the Fishery Manager amongst other things.

It was a glorious day up there, we fished the middle lake of the six that are on the site and there were lots of good sized carp to be seen cruising around on the surface, but sadly none taking a bait, these damned things know what bait has a hook in them and what one doesn't, still as it is for people, no good getting old without getting crafty at the same time.

Despite the fish not really playing ball, we did manage to catch a few, i think we would have done much better if we had had a couple of pints of maggots between us or at the very least some bread, punch,  at least that way we would have caught masses of small silvers, as it was we were using sweetcorn, spam or soft pellet on  the hook, but, despite the lack of fish in the quantity we are accustomed to, we still had a great time, the thing with these lakes is the the wildlife, so even when the fishing is not as good as it should be, there is always something to watch, like today with Willow Warblers, Buzzards, Sparrow Hawks and masses of Finches feeding on the thistle seeds.

Eldest Fishing at 11 Metres on his Pole

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Bullroarer (2)


Following my previous post and You Tube video of the Bullroarer we made up the woods, that worked, but  admittedly not very well, and having received some valuable advice on the subject from people who are far more knowledgeable on this subject than I, so following the advice received, I've been experimenting with different shapes and sizes of Bullroarers, some have worked, others didn't.

The best one so far is the one pictured it's based on the drawing in the book "Primitive Technology Book Of Earth Skills" and it works brilliantly, I've had the book for years now and it never occurred to me to look in there, i was actually researching a different subject when i rediscovered the article.

The noise this makes now I've got it right is incredible and it works even better now that i have replaced the cordage with a doubled up length of artificial sinew to reduce the drag effect on the twirling string, i'll make a video at some point to outline the differences.

Yew Kuksa


Made another Kuksa over the past couple of days, have to admit this one didn't start off too well as i couldn't get the symmetry right at all, got there in the end though and i personally think it was the effort and occasional expletive.

The bowl is approx 2 3/4" in diameter and 1 1/2" in depth so it will hold a good amount of liquid, although i don't intend using this one, not because Yew is poisonous, but because i want it for display purposes, i have a few Kuksa's that I've made from Birch & Ash that i use for "drinks" so there is no need to get this one dirty, apart from the fact that i don't want to sully  the amazing grain patterns in the wood.

I still have a bit of work to do on the Kuksa, as it has a few imperfections (created by me) that  i need to remove, but I'll leave those until Sunday when it is supposed to rain, so I'll lock myself away down the shed and finish it off properly then.

Display Boards

I'm exhibiting at a couple of local shows in the coming weeks and will be demonstrating a few skills as well as showing a few things that i make, in the past i have just laid things on a table, which is fine until things start to get moved around and mixed up, so this afternoon i made myself two display boards, one for spoons and one for spatulas, as you will notice the boards are angular, the reasoning behind this is most display boards you see are rectangular, so i wanted something different.

The boards can either be free standing as pictured or suspended on a wall/from a ceiling, and rather than take mega loads of spoons and spatulas to shows, particularly those where you are just demonstrating things rather than selling goods, i can just take a cross section of products instead, but still have a nice neat display set up, that retains it's "woodsy" feel.

The boards have a small hinge screwed to the reverse, to which i have attached a leg made from a piece of Hazel, the spoons are suspended by their necks on 8mm pegs, whereas the spatulas, being decorated are simply held on the board in the correct orientation to the painting, with some sticky pads/rolled over tape, if needs dictate i could secure them on the board more permanently with a loop of wire that goes over them and is then secured on the reverse of the board.