Monday, 31 December 2007

Bushcraft videos

Heres a couple of Bushcrafting videos I've been given permission to add to the blog - many thanks to Martin (the star) for some excellent footage.

Maya Sticks - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kn1-_Xa6b8

Plank hitch knot - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KumHMHJanAU

Saami knife (leuku) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRl3-dza4VQ

Love the buff!!

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Wilderness knife.


There is no tool more useful in the backcountry than a knife~~~the size I prefer for this style of knife is overall about 310mm in length~~~the blade and handle all one piece of metal, the handle remaining strong throughout, ~~~~
Raymond Mears, The Survival Handbook - 1990

In his excellent first book ( a selection of quotes above) Ray Mears advises the reader of the fact that no one knife will meet all their backwoods needs, Ray recommends the carrying of two knives a small one (maybe a folding or pocket knife) and a larger camp knife of 310mm overall length.

And this is a combo I subcribe to also. Years of trail and error, travels to the frozen north and time spent int he company of some of the worlds most expereinced outdoors folk has taught me this valuable lesson.

310mm equates to about 12" - this means taking the handle as being about 5" in length we are talking a tool of about 7" which is exactly the length of the Wilderness knife - Ray also recommends a full tang which, while our knife is Leuku like in blade profile, it is full tanged rather than stick tanged in design (strong throughout)
The knife is a workman's tool designed for the user, and to be used. This cutting tool like so many other laymans tools actually looks better with age and usage - shuning the shiney new look of some many!! A knife which would look equally at home 200 years ago in the hands of a buckskin clad Mountain Man as it does today in the hands of the modern bushcrafter and wilderness travel.


Available from our trading post..............avaialble only to users - collectors need not apply!!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Cold weather Bushcraft - be prepared.

Winter is fast approaching whether it'll be a white one or a wet one is yet to be seen. Predictions of a cold winter like we had in the 50's are all well and good but will it really happen - I HOPE SO!!

I love the snow and the colder the better but these conditions do create problems for the outdoorsman. Ridged self discipline and organisational skills are most important and a sub-zero enviroment isnt forgiving and doesnt suffer fools easily.

Those joining the Bearclaw team in march will learn this but more importantly they will also get the chance to explore and experience the wonders of a frozen wilderness.

In my opinion there is no better bushcrafting playground - trips to the frozen north of Sweden, Finland or Norway are the brightest gems in my memories of my bushcrafting adventures and as such each is priceless!!

Thanks to the Winter WEISS I'm also very pleased to be able to offer you the chance to harvest such wonderful memories for yourself and as a little teaser (or homework) for those who would like to come, or who are thinking about it, I've attached a little article written by my friend Johan Forsberg of our sister company Nordic Bushcraft.

http://www.bushcraftliving.com/prepareforwinter

And as a besides - the article can be found (as per the Link) on bushcraft living a very good bushcraft forum or on the Bushcraft Educational Society forum - enjoy.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Merry Christmas from the bearclaw boys

Thanks to Steve for this festive fun!!

Happy Christmas and a bushcrafty new year from ALL the Bearclaw gang!!

Ho ho blummin ho!!

http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=9623925493

Help for Heroes

A bushcraft blog shouldnt really be political - nor should it be about things not pertaining to bushcraft but I feel now is the time for those who care to stand up and be counted.

Being a ex-serviceman myself with friends and family still serving I feel that the good people of Britian need to now take the bull by the horns and try where they can to sort out the mess the Labour government has created with regards to our armed forces.

Today, thanks to medical improvements among other things more soldiers survive injuries which not so long ago they wouldnt have, but thanks to the penny pinching treasury money which was once sent on our troops is now spent ............well you know the story ............

Anyway let me recommend



http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/

Give what you can - show your support for our brave men and women - what better gift can anyone give at christmas than a small thank you to those who risk their lives so that we can sleep safe in our beds at night!

If the governement and the politicians aren't brave or strong enough to do whats right anymore lets us the people show them what true Brits can do - give today!!

Thanks on behalf of the bearclaw team and all those voiceless

Thursday, 22 November 2007

KNOW YOU SECURITY - DONT LET THE TERRORISTS WIN!!

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz began in 1940 and tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance". The last time the British issued "A Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French who are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels. The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

BUSHCRAFT SEAX Cont'

Sadly the quest for a bushcraft version of the seax has hit a we stumbling block - in as much as the blade maker has had (at this time) decided to cease trading.

The maker has taken up the chalis and now seeks a blade smith of equal ability so watch this space - if we can bring you the best bushcraft camp knife in the world we will - eventually!!

In the mean time heres a few pictures.






Above - picture of the makers prototype with a double hunter Leuku for scale.



Sheath detail of my original prototype (above)

My new user - this is the Bushcraft Seax - scales in Spalted BEECH and cow horn - great Anglosaxon materials with a 3mm veg Tan dangler sheath.

My old mate Tony Collins has a Masur Birch version of this knife and once he's hd time to evaluate I'll see if I can post his views on this blog too!!

And for those of you interested in a hand made Leuku like the other heres a pen picture of the marker -
"Paul (aka: Frenchy), is single minded in the way he sources his materials. When it comes to knife blades in particular, he'll only use the best from the best makers, even if availability is not assured in the long term. As a consequence, with quality and not quantity as his main concern, he admits that it's quite likely that some of his knives would automatically become part of a limited edition! It is to be expected that as he builds each knife by hand personally, there is a limit to how many knives he can produce at a given time. His care and attention to detail can be seen in every knife he makes. Another big asset that Paul has is that he makes available a wide choice of quality materials to satisfy the many preferences people have in Wood, Antler and Horn. Moreover, he's got a canny knack of utilising any combination of materials to produce exceptionally unique knives that are extremely handsome, sturdy and fully functional for their intended use!"

The Leuku's above RRP at about £195 - contact Paul to discuss your choice of scales ect.


paulakafrenchy@talktalk.net


Saturday, 17 November 2007

Follow baggy the bear!!

Havent seen this for awhile - it still makes me laugh so my continued thanks to Tref and his family - proof northerners do have a sense of hmour!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef-Ji4XmL0o

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Montane Extreme Smock


As promised to blog readers I now have the excellent Montane Extreme Smock in stock and am willing to offer to you at a discount.


The smocks are easily higher spec and superior to the buffalo range coming with loads of features (as per review below) including a hood (which you pay extra for with buffalo!!


Discount is for GREEN smocks only - sizes from M to XXL.


RRP £80 - BLOG PRICE (until sold out) £60 plus standard postage - thats a discount of 25%, but numbers are limited as I only have two of each size so order now or risk missing out!!


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Lest we forget

In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies growIn Flanders' Fields.
by John McCrea

or

"Please wear a poppy," the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head,
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;

But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.

His smile was full of joy and fun,
"Lady," said he, "may I have one?"
When she'd pinned it on, he turned to say;
"Why do we wear a poppy today?

"The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; "This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.

And because they did, you and I are free -
That's why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.

He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man - as you will, too.

He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he'd seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.

When he smiled at me and said, 'Goodbye,
I'll be back soon, Mum, please don't cry.
'But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.

His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.

Till at last, at last, the war was won -
And that's why we wear a poppy, son.
"The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said: "Thanks, lady, I'm glad to know.

I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you'd have done the same:
For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought - and thousands paid!

And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country's call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember - and Give!
by Don Crawford

Friday, 9 November 2007

KIT list and suppliers

Several people have recently asked me for kit recommendations - apart from the gear we stock which is all tested by us - the below list might be found to be helpful!!

Comprehensive Kit List
(Including suppliers list)

The below is a list of the typical items carried by the bearclaw team during our courses and various adventures.

It builds upon the generic course kit list and is designed to give you a more detailed list including the websites of the various suppliers we would recommend.

Please mention Bearclaw Bushcraft when contacting any of the suppliers listed below.

Clothing –

Under wear
Underpants – cotton summer/winter

T/shirt – cotton is fine for summer. Winter opt for Montane Terra, Icebreaker or layering via the Ullsfrotte range to avoid chilling.

http://www.snowandrock.co.uk/

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

Shirt
Shirt – cotton for the summer

Micro fleece for wet/cold or a Army Norgee is ok for dry cold climate
http://www.craghoppers.co.uk/


Thermal layer
Montane Extreme Smock - this is my year round top perfect for all conditions as a solo layer or as layering.
Snugpak make two thermal mid-layer jackets – the elite pile (cold/wet) or the Sleeka elite (dry/wet) – requires a natural fibre outer layer if working around campfires

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

Trousers
Greenlander, Forester or Barents trousers by Fjellraven as all top quality robust trousers – the professionals choice

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

Windproof/outer layer
British Antarctic survey smock, tough Ventile jacket, well designed with plenty of pockets. Windproof, fire safe and shower proof - recommended


http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

Socks
General wear wool socks are best as these are warm even when wet. Ullsfrotte are good – British army socks are also a favourite

http://www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk/

Gloves
Leather work gloves offer some elemental protection and are useful around the fire. Mekralon or thermal liners enhance these is cold weather. In extreme cold woollen mittens inside leather chopper mittens are robust and warm.

http://www.nordicbushcraft.com/

or

http://www.nordicbushcraft.se/

Boots
General purpose good all rounds are Rogue boots. For wet climates rogues can be worn with Sealskinz socks but Lundhags are a great choice also.

http://www.unbeatentrack.co.uk/

http://www.penrithsurvival.co.uk/

Head gear
For sunny climate Tiley hats or boonie hats in cotton with brims work well. For colder conditions woollen watch caps like the Ullsfrotte Luva are best. For woodlands and general wear the Fjallraven range of hats or caps is recommended.

http://www.thegorgoeoutdoors.co.uk/

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/


Waterproof
By far the most versatile waterproof item a bushcrafter can use is the poncho – adapting from waterproof to shelter to a million things in between – highly recommended are the genuine US army ponchos with the Fjallraven coming in a close second

http://www.strikeforcesupplies.co.uk/

Call Jasper and ask for a genuine US poncho.




Possibles


Belt
A strong wide belt which can be used as a tool suspension system, lash, and strap for carrying firewood ect is ideal – this is not used to hold up trousers!!

http://www.attacc.com/ (Brady belt)

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/


Cutting Tool
For the novice we recommend a medium (100mm) bladed knife like the Frosts Mora or Clipper.

For the more experienced or those travelling further a field a large camp knife like the Wilderness knife is a wiser choice as this knife is designed to do fine carving as well as chopping and splitting

A small folding knife such as those made by Opinel are great utility tools and ideal for kitchen tasks


http://www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk/

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

http://www.customknivesandsticks.co.uk/index.htm

Possibles Pouch
A Possibles belt pouch contains all those essential items we need to survive – call it the backwoodsman’s survival kit its worn on the belt with our cutting tool – thus in theory if we strip down to a underwear we should still be able to wear our belt in case of an emergency.


http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/


Spoon
Wooden – hand made by you!

Sharpening
Stone and mini steel – are best for the field, used to top up the edge on your cutting tools. The Fallkniven DC range works well but can be very coarse. Mini-steels are ideal for adding a micro secondary bevel especially for game preparation.

http://www.madbearoutdoors.co.uk/

Compass
A compass with a whistle attached and the knowledge of how to use both is essential.

Matches
Non-safety matches carried in a old camera film case are a versatile emergency back up to your fire lighting kit

Swan Vesta – were available
Flint bar
Carry your ferro rod (Jukka stick being the original or a fireball) in a rubberised tinder pouch (tobacco skin) – this means your fire lighting kit is to hand and that damp tinder can breath or be dried by body heat if carried in the pocket.

http://www.nordicbushcraft.se/

Insect repellent
Nordic summer is a favourite – life systems pump DEET sprays are strong and effective

http://www.raymears.com/

http://www.nomadtravel.co.uk/

First Aid kit
A small cuts kit should be carried whenever you carry your knife – a military First field dressing (FFD) is a good back up – make the kit yourself to meet your ability and needs.

Para cord
Genuine 550 is the best but hemp or natural cordage is ideal as it will degrade if left in the woods.

Torch
A Maglite or Petzl Tikka Head torch are a good well tried and tested choice.

http://www.maglite-torches.co.uk/


Field and Camping gear


Water bottle
Nalgene bottles are tough and well thought out – wide mouthed allowing better re-hydration as well as being easier to refill from tap or stream.

Sleeping bag
One season – Snugpak Jungle bag (synthetic)
2/3 Season Fjellraven Distance 5 (down)
3/4 Season Snugpak Elite 3 (synthetic)

http://www.naturestrails.co.uk/

Sleeping mat
Therma-rest is without a doubt our favourite but for the base camp nothing bests the comfort of a reindeer skin.

Bivi bag
Light weight Snugpak bivi bag is a good choice but if size matter the Alpkit bivi bags has been found to carry favour with the team here. Bombproof and long lasting the genuine British army bivi bag is a perennial favourite but ensure is genuine and not a cheap copy.


http://www.alpkit.com/


Basha
The Kathmandu tarp is light yet robust – our favourite without a doubt

http://home.freeuk.net/kathmandu/

Cookware
Swedish army mess kit
http://www.nordicoutdoor.se/


Rucksack

Fjellraven Vintage 20lt is an excellent top spec day sack. (the new 30lt will be even better!!)

Karrimor Sabre 45 – weekend pack

Karrimor Sabre 75 – Top spec well designed and highly respected full sized pack


http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/

http://www.naturestrails.co.uk/

Spare clothing
Spare clothing should include a change of clothing which can be worn if your normal layers get soaked – it can also include task specific clothing such as waterproof socks or

http://www.craghoppers.co.uk/

http://www.johnbull.com/



Luxuries
Cameras – books – mobile phones.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Its small, warm and light - but dont like the damp!!



Fjellraven Distance P5. – Few things in Bushcraft are more valuable than a good nights sleep and thanks to the Fjellraven Distance P5 down sleeping bag this is easily obtainable.
This is a quality bag from a top manufacturer which I personally have used all year round in both UK and Sweden and never found it wanting - sadly minus 32 in Finland would have been to much for it though.
Its extreme rated down to – 4 (comfort +8) but I have to say as with all swedish stuff their guide sizes or temperatures always seem to err on the side of caution as everything is bigger or better than they say - unlike our British makers whose temperature rangers and sizes seem to be works of fiction!! So I personally would say the comfort range is down to zero and the extreme easily past - 4 especially is you sleep dressed and/or use a good sleeping mat bivi bag ect.
Anyway its ideal for spring - summer and early autumn to average bushcraft season and as it packs down to the size of a grape fruit and weighs only around 650g it's a great piece of kit allowing you to carry an extra top if needed, which is far more versatile than having the weight in a bulkier sleeping bag!–
However - a word of warning - being down a bivi bag is a must in inclement weather as it - in theory - doesnt like it - but again I have slept in this bag all year in some pretty damp places like our scottish island and never yet found it to suffer.

Soon to be available from the trading post for just £87.99 - complete with storage bag for airing and stuff sack.

Friday, 19 October 2007


I recently ordered a Montane extreme smock after the death of my old trust Buffalo and I was so mightly impressed by the new smock I not only wrote a review of it on BES (http://bushcraft-educational-society.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=1197.0) but I also have decided to start stocking them!!


The rrp is £80 but watch the website for a introductory offer ...........your chance to pick up one of these excellent smocks a little cheaper than usual!! ")

Details
Active cut with drop tail
Large pouch pocket with accessory attachment ring
DWR Beardguard lined collar
Part elasticated self fabric cuffs with hook and loop adjustment
Reinforced elbows
Glove attachment loops on forearms
Generous neck zip with hook and loop storm baffle
MONTANE® Cross-Vent system
Two-way zipped side vents with storm baffle
Hook and loop adjustable hem
Removable crotch strap
Removable, fully specified, single hand adjustable, pile-lined hood with wired peak
Colours: Black (With self-coloured logo), Olive (With self-coloured logo), Red (Main Image)
RRP £80.00
Fabric
Outer: PERTEX® 6- 69g/m² lightweight Nylon 6.6 plain weave- Breathable to 98%- Dense weave gives a wind resistance of 1ft³/min- Water repellent with a spray rating of grade 4Reinforcements: POLAR-DRI® mini-rip- Coated high tenacity textured Nylon rip-stop- 85% breathable- Water repellent- Suited to applications where durability and breathability are keyLining - DRYACTIV® 3000 Pile- Polyester fibre pile- Excellent inherent wicking- High warmth to weight ratio
Weight
875g / 31oz: Medium

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Vildmark in the Sunday Mirror

For those of you thinking of joining us on the excellent Vildmark and.or WEISS courses in 2008 you might find the attached article from the Sunday Mirror of interest.

In particular the fact that soon we'll be able to fly from Stanstead to Karlstad - with collection from there - making traveling to and from the courses much much easier!!

Enjoy

http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/homesandholidays/holidays/2007/08/26/life-is-swede-98487-19682361/

Friday, 5 October 2007

Cutting tool Maintenance

Knife maintenance and sharpening.

You are only as sharp as your knife - or a blunt knife is a screw driver!

Below is a little refresher on knife maint - as with all things shrafting theres more than one way to skin a cat but the below are skills which work for me and are most common among experienced outdoorsfolk.

Sharpening.
The best set up for sharpening a flat bevel knife involves 2-3 grades of honing stone.-

Course – 800 grit-
Medium – 1000 grit-
Very fine 6000 grit

A very course 250 grit may sometimes be used for restoration work.

At home the best set up for a novice is.- 2 sided India Oil stone made from Aluminium Oxide.

The coarseness is determined by the binding Agent but generally these stones consist of a course and medium side. I often use these to take off secondary bevels and to repair 'dinks' students make in there tools.Arkansas stones are mined from sedimentary rock in Arkansas (hence the name) and are usually fine and very fine. Arkansas stones are the best naturally occurring stones in the world.

Other useful items –- Steel, as used by butchers. These are used in the field to produce a micro scopic secondary bevel which gives our edge a more robust finished profile. Be aware a steel does really sharpen your blade it just re-aligns the teeth!

Strop – leather strop like you see in the barbers shop (or an old leather belt) are used to finish the edge before use and as such remove the microscopic wire created by the sharpening process.

Other products - Japanese Water stones.- Excellent for producing a superior edge but expensive lacking longevity- Made from rare clays impregnated with crushed seashells which are ground together and recompressed.- To use soak in water until the fizzing stops- Soft will not survive rough handles.Weston Water stones.- Basically cheaper copies of the above- More robust and hard wearing- Don’t hold so much water.*note water stones will shatter at below 0 degrees.

Diamond Whetstone- Rip away a lot of steel very quickly- Can Ruin your knife fast!

Ceramic stones- Superheated clays to recreate a volcanic type rock.- Too hard – take a long time to produce an edge but are good as steels (improvised)-

ExpensiveOil stones- Robust- Used will oil- Very good – a favourite old trooper!

Sharpening Techniques

Field sharpening.- Cut down water stones or small pocket Arkansas stone- Sit cross legged and place on shoe to use.- No ideal system but generally I'd recommend taking the stone to the blade always ensuring fingers are kept clear of the cutting edge!Base camp sharpening- Here we use our oil or water stone as follows,
Place stone on a flat surface
Lubricate stone (if a water stone soak in water until it stops fizzing the keep wet - never cross lubricate i.e oil on water or vica versa - and for field use always use water as some time or another the only lub' your have handy is spit!) This is to enable the microspoic metal filings to be carried away from the pours on the stone.
Lay knife flat onto stonestarting at near the handle as possible.
Tilt up the blade until the bevel is flat on the stone.
using gentle downward pressure slide the blade (as if slicing of a thin layer) down the stone - starting at the handle but ending the motion at the tip.
If nec' round the tip slightly to ensure full contact with the stone.
Do this intially 6 times one one then reverse and do the same towards yourself 6 times.
Keep repeating this process until were happy the edge is getting sharper.
Now start to reduce the strokes each side - come down from 6 to 4 to 3 to 2 and then 1
once on 1 stroke each side to this at least 10 times to weaken the wire (the wire is a very fine strip of metal which builds up as we wear away each side of the blade during sharpening if its not removed it will snap of in use and dull the edge.)
Once we're happy the edge is sharp we move to the strop - the strop will remove the wire for use.
Strop in a reverse motion to sharpening - minimum of 50 strokes each way.
Job done test the blade as described.
Stropping – as pointed out above stropping removes the fine wire edge that is built up by the sharpening process. The wire edge makes your knife ‘feel’ sharp but if it is not removed by stropping it will break off in use taking the knife edge with it.
Ideally strop your knife 50 times on each side.

Testing your edge.
Paper test, shave hairs off arm or use thumbnail.
The thumnail test is best - to do this drag your cutting edge across the HARD part of your thumb nail - if your knife is sharp you will feel it biting into the nail - any dull spots will slide without resistance.
Now we have a sharp cutting tool we will look at how to use it SAFELY!!

Maintenance

Care of your cutting tool can be as simple or as complicated as you like - it also reflects usage. If you use your knife often it requires less care as it will be constantly maintained in use - resharpened cleaned ect ect - so for our now let us consider the knife as if it were going into storage or likely not to be used for some months.

Firstly sharpen the knife, even those its not going to be used sharpening it will clean the cutting edge.

Next if the blade has a good patina on it already down scrub it off - the staining and discolouration a carbon blade picks up in use protects the blade from corrosition so leave it on - like wise I often add patina by coating the blade in organic Balsamic vinger and leaving it a few hours - the vinger darkens the blade and this blackening also helps protect the blade!!

So whether the blades work stained or not (bear in mind that doesnt mean covered in dirty. veg matter or anything else - if thats the case wash the blade to clean) we now are wise to oil it - riflte oil is best for this jub but I appreciate most people cant access gun oil so lightly use any oil available - again bear in mind if you use the knife for food prep you might not want to coat it in motot oil!!

Leave the oil to 'soak' in for a while then wipe off the access.

Depending on the scale material we can either give them a light coat of oil (wood ect) or just clean with a damp cloth (plastic ect)

Now heres a bone of contention - once the knifes clean give the sheath a once over - if its clean, in good repair and dry slide the knif ehime and store until next wanted.

Why is that contentious because some people think you shouldnt store your knife in the sheath as the leather might stretch or mositure might damage the blade - ya right - as long as the sheathes dry and the storage place is dry damp isnt going to be a problem - as for the stretching issue - same thing the leather is only gonna stretch from usage or is damp - I always store my knives in the sheath and have never had any problems.

Hope that helps - any questions please feel free to ask.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The bushcraft ideal

What is the bushcraft ideal?

Or I'm going on the bearclaw Tenderfoot course HELP!

In Military survival for example the ideal is that you learn to survive and avoid capture with the minimum of kit - the survival tin and all the Rambo type gear of recent years are just gimmicks to catch the stupid out as most soldiers know that unless you escape within the first 24 hours or less of capture you will be processed and in being processed not only can you expect to be beaten senseless you will also be stripped of everything useful - Geneva convention stated IPK to be left ect but I doubt some of those we fight these days can read or have even heard of the Geneva convention.

But Bushcraft - woodcraft - wildernes sliving is different ................isnt it?

So what are our ideals?

Personally speaking I think of 'the craft' as being something that gives me the ability to go into the wilderness kitted out with a knife, a blanket and cook pot and being able to live comfortably.
Of course I have trained myself to be able to do without each of these items but then I would consider that a survival situation as the priorities are different.

And being able to to live happily with just a knife - blanket - cook pot doesnt mean I want to do it all the time. Although I do like to keep my kit down to a minimum at all times especially as we see so many people burdened with all sorts of unnessacary junk but I digress.

So if the ideal of bushcraft is to be able to go out equipped as above (forget the moden trend of carrying a axe, saw kitchen sink ect) and live with nature comfortably surely the three key items we carry are important - so lets consider these.

Knife - your knife is your life and in this case never has it been closer to the truth, so whats the best knife? The best knife is the knife you feel confident in using and can use to the best of your ability. But a knife should be able cover a variety of needs (forget the modern bushcraft knife with its 4" blade and spear point tip - much copied and never seen used outside the bushcraft clique circle - unless you have mastered it in all its fine detail ALL native people and those with experience generally go for something a little bigger) and more importantly should enable us to make a tool to meet our needs if we done carry it.

For example a knife at a minimum should be good for,

  • Chopping - wood for shelter - fire - bone
  • Carving - we need to fashion tools and trap triggers so fine control is important
  • Splitting - either with a baton or more axe like
  • Butchering game
  • Food prep
  • Any one of a million other tasks it might be called upon to do

Ideally our knife should do all the above with ease, in a safe manner with the minimum of effort. It should be easily maintainable in the field and strong.

EQUALLY - the sheath its carried in most be just as good - for a knife is only as good as its sheath!

Blanket - a blankets a blanket isnt it? Well no, not for our purposes. Here we need to consider warmth to weight ratios - fire safety and durablility.

The old Whitby blankets or hudsons bay point blankets were favourites among the Indians and trappers of the 1800's as they had all the above characteristics - but they are bulky and quite heavy!

A US army poncho liner is light, not as warm maybe but not effected by the damp and quick drying - its down side is care must be taken near the fire.

Fleece blankets - again are similar to the Poncho Liner.

A wool polymide blanket would be lighter but more fire friendly.

Also size matter - a single blanket is ok as a top cover or ground sheet in the right conditions but a double blanket would be bulkier but more versatile.

Lastly a space blanket will reflect back body heat - it can be incorperated into the back of the shelter as a fire reflector - but it isnt in itself warm.

Cook ware - of all the modern items the native americans covetted the most the metal cook pot was top on their list - imagine how hard life was without one!

So what should we look for in a pot -

  • Size - the bigger the better as we can cook a small meal in a big pot but if we have to purify all our water a small pot isnt fuel and effort effecient.
  • Bail arm - if we can hang it over a fire it means we can slow cook foods like stews without the risk of burning the food.
  • Wide base - the wider the bottom the better heat is distributed and the quicker it cooks again minimising the risk of burning
  • Materials - ali or steel - your choice on what ect
  • Thickness - some pots (the stainless mess kit for example) have bombproof thickness - and while it could be argued once hot that stay hot longer - it could also be argued they are heavy and require more calories to carry and more fuel to heat.
  • Other bits - is the lid a fry pan, a plate? Does it double as a cup?
  • Plastic bits - does it have plastic handles or rim which could melt in the fire?

A pot isnt just a pot we need to think carefully about it.

So those are our key items - I hope they have been food for thought.

And as anyone who has done our Tenderfoot course will tell they maybe be simply items but with these alone the trained person can live like a king!!

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Traditional Crook knife


We've all watch Ray Mears in his series Bushcraft making a beautiful Birch bark caneo and we've all heard Ray praising the crook knife for its ability to carve wood to a plain shavingly smooth finish.

Well recently my mate Frenchy made me a traditional crook knife for me to play with - and mightly impressed I am with it too.

Its my belief that the Native Americans first obtained crook knives from the early pioneers and european settles in trade - logic tells me that the natives wanted steel tools but the whites fearing giving them proper cutting tools which they could easily use as weapons traded old farrier hoof knives with them instead and this is what Paul has used for this tool too. The blade is a frost mora farriers blade so (excuse the pun) it comes from a good blade making stable!

To this paul has attached a fist sized lump of antler which fits my hand perfectly. Remember the crook knife is designed to be used in the draw method of carving so the handle needs to fit the hand backwoods (if that males sense)

Anyway slightly dull from the packet I sharpened the blade (sharpening only on the flat unbeveled side and soon had it razor sharp and ready to carve with. I carve a spoon from start to finish with this fantastic looking and aesthetically pleasing tool with no problems what so ever - all it took was a little time to accustom myself to gripping the tool in a different maner to that which Im used to.

Overall very pleased with it - I found an old sheath for it and now its my only carving tool - well after my main knife of course.

If you'd be interested in obtaining a hand made - unique - beautiful yet practical tool like this please contact Frenchy direct ..........remember to mention Bearclaw when you do and he'll ensure you get service and a tool second to none - contact piuspaul@fenech0.wanado.co.uk





Among our anglosaxon forebears no tool was as import than the SCRAMASAEX - (scramseax, scramsax ) Indeed so important was the tool that the people were eventually names after it - the SAEX or Saxons. The AE are known as ASH and are prounced AA - so SAEX reads SAAX's




Ths tool was their camp knife, butcher knife and weapon in the press of the shield wall when the warriors came to Briton and banished the Celts to its rocky fringes. Indeed it could be argued England would not exist if not for the Scramsaex.




But enough history lets look at the tool.




Pictured above is the prototype saex which I have recently had the pleasure to trial - and it has been a great pleasure indeed.




The SEAX itself comes with a 4mm thick 8" bearing steel blade which terminates in a slightly clipped point. The overal design follows the artist and practical lines of the BFK making it a real users tool witht he balance being at the termination of the scales and the cutting edge. This excellent point of balance means that though a big knife it can be used for both chopping and heavy chores while still remained agile enough for feather sticking or fine carving! The scales shown are horn a traditional material of the Saxon peoples and are good in the hand withputht e risk of slippage in use.




The sheath (pictured) is made of two leather sleeves the outer is laced together and sits snuggly in the laced belt loop - but is not attached to it - means we can wear it left or right handed and change it to suit or needs (truely ambidextros) The inner sheath is a siliconized leather which protects the blade and is removed for drying if wet ....................but this is the prototype remember and its been decided that we aregoing to folow a more traditional sheath idea which was used by our Angloseaxon ancestors, instead of the silicon leather all bushcraft Seax's will have a more traditional sheep skin liner, the sheep skin (real sheep skin not PC faux crap) will do several things most important of all imparting lanolin to the blade which will naturally protect it!!




Once ready I think this will be the Rolls Royce of bushcraft knives .......




I can see your appetite is wetted .............so watch this space for more details as the trials continue






Thursday, 20 September 2007

Whats new?

Sorry I havent been updating the blog recently but we've had a busy old time at bearclaw.

So whats new?

Firstly my mate Frenchy is now producing some cracking traditional crook knives - Mora blades mounted in the materials of your choice and designed to be used in the traditional manner as a draw knife. With a little practice they can also be easily adapted for use in spoon carving - one knife for the whole job cant be a bad think!!

Also were pleased to announce that in the waning months of last year we contacted Fjallraven and suggested they make a 45 litre version of their 20 litre Vintage sack (a excellent sack which is the choice of the whole bearclaw team!!) - anyway the guys at Fjellraven took this on board and we are pleased to announce they will be arriving/released in Feb 2008 - this is excellent news as these really are the best sacks I've every come across!

I'm working on a couple of articles too - one about Knife and cutting tool care - the other is a picturial on the classic rabbit stew cooked over the fire.

Hope this brief update has wetted your appetite - see you soon.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Coming soon the new Wilderness knife






Wilderness Knife

The Wilderness traveller needs to be able to rely on their cutting tool. Simply put they need an implement which will never let them down. They need a tool large and strong enough to offer them maximum mechanical advantage for chopping while remaining light and flexible enough for fine carving. The Wilderness knife’s 3mm thick blade is perfectly balanced at the junction of the blade and scales making it agile and highly manoeuvrable in the hand for fine work while the classically shaped Leuku style 7 inch blade is differentially hardened by multiple edge-quenching (meaning it will hold its edge well while the spine still remains malleable enough to avoid breakage during heavy usage *due to this factor use with a fire steel is limited) and oil quenched to approximately 56 Rockwell C so is ideal for chopping and excellent for splitting yet also easily re-sharpened to a stunning razor edge.
In looks this fine knife captures the romance of the Mountain man era having the classical lines and sheath design of a fur trapper’s butcher knife while still maintaining the strong functionality of the Saami reindeer knife (Leuku).
Unlike its Scandinavian cousins this knife has a full tang which is fitted with tough English Oak scales secured via peined over steel rivets (much stronger than brass) giving the tool both a home grown feel as well as superior strength in use.
A functional handmade knife which also comes with a luxurious handmade 3mm chestnut brown tanned leather sheath mounted on a brass O ring swivel and a belt loop capable of taking belts up to 2”. All in all a tough workhorse of a tool.
Being handmade their may be a slight delay of a couple of weeks on orders during busy periods.


Saturday, 18 August 2007

Course photo 2007 WEISS


WEISS Temperate course
2007
Well done all who attended and Passed!!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Coming soon - Kuksa


Natural Form Kuksa.

The traditional handmade wooden Kuksa has become a bushcraft icon, a symbol of style and oneness with nature as well as being thermally efficient (drinks do not cool quickly in cold weather and there is no chill factor of skin on cold metal either!) and aesthetically pleasing. Top quality and ready to use these natural shaped Kuksa’s come all the way from Arctic Finland where the birch burls used to make these luxurious cups are hand selected and being formed by nature each one is totally unique in shape, size and colouration. Sizes available are Medium - approximately coffee cup size and Large - anything over this. (Sizes may vary as we can only supply that which nature provides.) Rare, distinctive and utterly one of a kind your hand made Kuksa can only grow better with age and usage soon becoming a trusted fireside companion. Natural form Kuksa’s make ideal gifts for the bushcrafter who has everything!!
*All Kuksa’s are hand made and made to order – as such some delays may be experienced in orders as the woodsman needs to go out and select them individually – we will of course keep a small stock when available


Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Woollen Capote, traditional bushcrafting wear



Woollen Capote
Something’s just sing of the fur trade era, they typify the Mountain man and his hardy, free life style. Things like the Hawken Rifle, the butcher or camp knife and the Woollen Capote.

While I now have the perfect butcher/camp knife I still aspire to own a 50 calibre Hawken rifle and am now the very pleased owner of a Woollen Capote.

Traditionally made from one blanket the Capote (a corruption of a French word meaning coat or cape) was torn or cut with a knife (Indians didn’t have scissors) and then stitched in one of many various style.

Cut and sewn for warmth and ease of motivation these fantastically warm coats look a little bulky when new but are actually very unrestrictive making them as Ideal now for the bushcrafter as they were 200 years ago.

Being made from almost one entire blanket they are a little bulky to roll and carry when new but they have many pro’s to out weigh this slight negative point – of course they can be worn for warmth, around the campfire they are safe and will not melt if accidentally burnt. Being wool they remain warm even if soaked for up to 6 days!! But they are also the ideal overnighting blanket being big enough to roll yourself in for a warm cosy nights sleep!!

Originally Capotes were made from Hudson Bay blankets and the blankets had a point system. So highly prized where they that a 4 point blanket (with 4 small black lines on one edge denoting its points) was equal to or traded for 4 beaver pelts.

Available in various colours I opted for a nice red one and looking like Father Christmas aside love the rich scarlet colour. Hand made but machine sewn my Capote is a quality item cheaper in price and more traditional to the 'shrafting' ethos than later items such as Swannis.

Now available from the Good old US of A see the links column of the bearclaw website for the maker’s details.

http://www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk/links.htm

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Stop that roaring its getting boring!!

As I sat there in the morning,
Beneath the lone oak tree,
I wondered at the world around,
And what bushcraft meant to me.

Bushcraft is a treasure chest,
Of skills and Lores of old,
Its freedom from the mundane world,
It’s JUST living for the bold.

It’s not some silly romantic dream,
Or having the most expensive knife,
It’s not chatting on some forum,
Causing trouble, wrecking lives.

The petty politics we find in life,
In the bush should have no place,
It’s for the love of nature,
If you’ve got a problem say it to their face.

Bushcraft is for the gentle soul,
It’s for the hardest man,
It’s seeing the world with a child’s sweet eyes,
And being the best you can.

It’s wonder and it’s beauty,
It’s a zone that’s lie and EGO free,
It’s the silent woods with dew wet leaves,
Not sitting by some PC.

As I sat beneath my Oak and watched the slow sun rise,
I saw another truth and watched world unfold before my very eyes.
And as I sat in quiet reflection part of natures scheme,
I knew within my heart of hearts it wasn’t just a dream.

And that is what Bushcraft is to me its escaping from the world,
It’s escaping the petty politics, escaping jealous words,
It’s understanding our place within natures rich tapestry,
And I hope one day you’ll taste the truth and sit ‘neath mine Oak with me.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Kodi the bearclaw totem

Kodi - our logo
“We learn the ways of life from the Bear; it revealed the potato to us when we watched it dig it up from the ground and eat it. If you watch and follow the bear, you can gain much knowledge. “
Native American shaman describing mans relationship with the bear.

Throughout history the Bear has been a significant creature, a symbol of raw courage and power both admired and feared by man. It is not without good reason that the heavenly guardian of the wandering traveller, Ursa Major – the great Bear, points to the North Star as an ever watchful sentinel boldly guiding our way through even in the darkest night .

The wise men of America’s first nation knew full well that whatever Bear will eat is good for humans too. It may not be socially acceptable to eat the insects that Bear finds under trees, but they would not do us any harm it we did and like us when Bear goes looking for fish, he doesn’t look for the perch, he looks for the salmon and the trout - the best! When he goes looking for the berries, the ones he chooses to eat are all the ones that are good for us humans too. When Bear has a head ache he sits and rubs a willow tree, scratching off its bark and eating it. The wise old men saw this and when they had a head ache they copied Bear and their head aches disappeared for willow bark contains the active ingredients of aspirin.

Like the wisest of our ancestors we would do well to learn from Bear and all our cousin creatures be they great or small - We should learn to look for the Bear necessities.

This is why Bearclaw Bushcraft has adopted the Bear Totem, for we like all our students and friends, would know the wisdom the wise ones who went before us. We would learn to travel by the Great Bear’s ever guiding light and in so doing learn the lessons that he would teach us about nature and the natural world around us.

Friday, 13 July 2007

The shrafters lost love

The ‘shrafter’s’ lost love

She wanted me to wear a suit
With Gucci shoes and tie.
She wanted me to drink red wine,
And live the modern lie.

She wanted more than I could give,
And so she walked away.
She didn’t see the man I am,
My love of soil and sky.

Where mountains kiss the valleys deep,
Where dapple shadows dance.
She’d never know the joy I feel,
She never had a chance.

So her wine bars and flashy clothes,
I told her she could keep.
I’m a simple man with simple dreams,
I bathe in crystal lakes so deep.

The sad and scary cityscape,
Is dark and blots the sky,
Give me the woods in pastel greens,
More pleasing to the eye.

So I lost my love that day,
Yet greater was the prize.
I lost the warmth of her soft breast,
Yet beauty fills my eyes!!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Ode to my knife,

Dull the steel which once shone bright,
The wear of age its shining light.
Companion, comfort, trusted friend,
By my side until the end.

We travelled cross the world so wide,
Cross field and flood, through wood and tide,
Your edge so sure, your grip so right,
Silent friend both day and night.

Worn now your wooden scales,
Dark with use and age,
Yet bright they lay in my minds eye,
Oh, silent companion to me.

To any task without complaint,
To any toil you’d leap,
Craving spoons or trigger traps,
Treasured gifts to keep.

Smile my little metal friend,
Your service I still need,
Hark, the woods they whisper there,
The forests call we’ll heed!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

WEISS (Sub Arctic) Course

This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive;
That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
This is the Will of the Yukon, -- Lo, how she makes it plain!
Robert Service – Law of the Yukon


The Arctic and sub Arctic climate is one of the worlds most beautiful yet most dangerous however it is also this pristine wilderness which offers the brave bushcrafter a chance to challenge them self as well as to extend their knowledge and abilities whilst studying new skills in a winter wonderland with dream like magnificence.

Phase Two of the Wilderness Experience International Survival School programme is only open to those who have completed the Initial WEISS temperate course or have achieved advanced skills via similar training or experience elsewhere as the course itself, while different from the WEISS temperate in as much as it’s a 100% learning course, is no less testing and is equally as challenging.

Predominantly run upon the Frozen lakes and in Boreal Pines forests which cover the rolling hills around Riksviken Sweden as well as the WEISS classroom this well established courses covers such skills as,

· Snow Shoe travel and Navigation
· Using a Snow mobile (snow go to our Swedish friends)
· Ice Fishing
· Snow shelters
· Fire lighting in extreme conditions – where your life can truly depend on it.
· Clothing
· Survival and general skills for minus temperature living
· Edible/Utility plants and resources common to Arctic/Sub Arctic lands.
· Cross country travel man hauling sleds

Upon completing this course you will have earned the Winter bar, a badge which can be worn above the much coveted WEISS badge, a sign of distinction, a sign that you are now a highly skilled, motivated and knowledgeable outdoors person who stands head and shoulders above their peers – simply put ‘The Best of the Best’

As with WEISS there is no kit list given and students, being at an advance level, are required to bring the appropriate equipment however you should be aware specialist items will be loaned to you.

Course size is limited to a Maximum of 10 Students

Saturday, 23 June 2007

WEISS COURSE











Established in 1956 the Wilderness Experience International Survival School has trained explorers, soldiers and top outdoorsfolk from all over the world.

The distinctive 5 sided badge is worn with pride by many renown individuals, earned through hard work and skill this badge speaks volumes of the wearer, a wearer who without a doubt has proudly joined the bushcraft Elite
So it was we had the pleasure of greeting 17 of the latest potential WEISS winners to Sweden on a sunny day in June.
The group arrived in high spirits but also with a sense of anticipation.

Bearing in mind that this course is part survival part bushcraft many of the students had tried to prepare for both ...........but nothing could prepare them for the course.
















On the first day we removed all their own gear and reissued them with a complete outfit of our own, cookware, shelter, sleeping bag ect all provided and all the same. No student would have the advantage of the latest gizmo - here only skill shines out not money or technology!
The week itself flew by as we covered such subjects as fire by friction, flint knapping, the making of traps and fishing gear, navigation and SAR's techniques plus much much more.

I'll not go into details of the course but suffice to say everbody on it celebrated when the little 2 seater Cessna search plane flew over and spotted there signals and the hand held flare waved frantically below it - wagging its wings it dropped a parachute of supplies which all the guys couldnt wait to get their hands on.



































The final treat was a evening in the sweat lodge, basking in the hot tube and enjoying a beer and a spectacular meal cooked by our host Preben Mortenson.
We were proud of every one there and even prouder to say even one passed - a stunning event which even Preben could not remember happening before - 100% pass rate!!

Those who passed this fantastic course are now invited to attend the Winter WEISS course which will next be run in March 2008 - this course is invite only and open only to the best of the best.............maybe we'll see you there one day?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Weiss and Vildmark 2007

A more indepth write up of this years Swedish courses will follow soon but for now (courtesy of Johan at Nordic Bushcraft) here are the links to a couple of galleries.

http://www.nordicbushcraft.com/course_pics/weiss2007/

http://www.nordicbushcraft.com/course_pics/vildmark2007/

Note - no images or any inform or details from these images are to be used or copied without the express permission of the owner - Johan Forsberg.

Images are for information/pleasure only and not for reproduction.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Custom Opinel with neck sheath

In his earliest book - the survival handbook - Ray Mears praised and recommended the Opinel No8 folding knife and I to echo that praise.

Its a simple knife, no dodgy bevels, no tricky locks or silly catchs to break or go wrong. Its a work horse and has earned its populaity and trusted reputation from knowledgable outdoors folk due to this and its fantastic price.
So imagine my pleasure at finding a guy who customizes the Knife and then supplies it with a matching fire steal and neck sheath!!

Presently only trading on ebay the makers is a really friendly chap who will customise the Opinel in one of a variety of materials, horn, antler woods of all shapes and colours ect - a great deal, on a great knife which is without a doubt 100% a bushcrafters best friend. Plus you also get a great leather neck sheath and matching customized firesteel - which castes top rate sparks from the Opinels hard squared off spine - truely a winning combination!!

You can contact the makers at piuspaul@fenech0.wanadoo.co.uk or drop me a line at www.bearclawbushcraft.co.uk

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

The wild bushcrafter song

Heres a cracking little song from tube sung by a couple ofyoung bushcrafters - I'm sure you'll enjoy it!!

Cracking song and cool Buff!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef-Ji4XmL0o

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Excerp from a review of the Fasach Ile course.

Dave Writes...Good question mate, let me tell you about my recent trip there with Bearclaw Bushcraft then you can make your mind up in full possession of the FACTS.small print disclaimerI do not intend to give you anything like the facts because one of the major strenths of this course is that you NEVER know whats round the corner.I could spend all night just telling you about the drive along the rocky coastal roads to the ferry port at Kenacriag, a trip I was lucky enough to share with Grez. We caught the ferry to Port Ellen passing Texa on the way.'Oh my, That is a very small, rocky island sat rather too far from Islay in a choppy sea, it's getting dark and it's raining... Gulp !'There to meet us were Jeremy with his super family and Donald- James, two gentlemen who earned our rich respect over the week ahead. The transport to the island of Texa i will gloss over because even if you have heard about it, as I had, nothing will prepare you for this. It serves the purpose of clearing your jaded, work-a-day pallette of all traces of the person you were two minutes earlier, it turns you back into a ten year old and it sends the thrill of adventure tingling down to your finger tips. The only downer comes when you reach the jetty to be met by Gary, JP and Steve Wiggins. Three first class chaps obviously, the downer being that smile they are all wearing- GOTCHAThe terrain is rocky with wet peaty soil, Suficiently different from the flinty chalk of my South Downs to be a novelty.Bashers up, meet round a fire for welcomes and, in view of the long distances travelled by more than a few of us, bed.Up for 24hr pack breakfasts (sublime in my opinion) and onto lectures. Jeremy wipes the smile off our faces with a few home truths about the dangers and the difficulties peculiar to this Island from a search and a casevac point of view. Gary's legendary cutting tool saftey chat is allways a pleasure but somehow more precient when you are actualy standing in the wilderness and preparing to use these things with a degree of urgency.Time to get vague on detail here, because the structure of this course works on many levels, and forwarned is the exact opposite of forearmed in this case.On a practical level, everything you need to do to survive here is shown early on and put into practice straight away. Some of the things which start happening to your mind and sub-consious are so profound that I was home a week before I started understanding half what happened to me.The instructors take you on little tours of the nature and are allways keen to answer questions especially about the amazing array of sea birds. All the while, Texa is seeping up through your sodden boots and into your nervous system. As the week moves on, Survival starts to become Bushcraft and Wilderness Living. By this time, Texa has sidled into your soul, planted a flag and set up arcs of fire to repelle anything daft enough to try and compete.There are many, many reasons why this is the best course I have ever attended and I will list a few of the more obvious ones to save me typing into the night.The instructors were flawless in their advice and the way they worked as a team. It's making my teeth bleed to praise the Essex boys but they pulled out all the stops and in conjunction with the local knowlege and experience of Jeremy and Donald-James, I don't think I missed a single experience which could have improved my week.The course is layed out in a way which keeps building on the things you learn. Instead of telling you something and then asking you questions about it at the end of the week, every new factor is incorperated into your daily routine.I have compared the tricks of the mind on this course to being on 'big brother' in the way that your morale may be lifted to the sky by the finding of a pignut but then plummet when it seems one of your companions eat more than their fair share of it !The freedom of simplicity is a precious thing ; if it isn't shelter, water, fire or food it's just a talking point. Remind me of that when i'm doing the school run and i'm going to be 5 minutes late for the dentist.I think that the one biggest reason that this week was so momentous has to be Texa herself. The beauty, the nature, harshness and fertility, and the coolest goats you ever did see. A big mention for the limpets of Texa, in my imagination at different times, they tasted of kebabs, fish finger sarnies with brown sauce, and crunchy nut corn flakes. If this is where Bushcraft is heading, well it's a blessed relief because there are people out there who don't rest on their laurels, and who won't chase every last penny till it all withers into nothing. I recon there is nothing to compete with Texa as a course and an experience and I am so very grateful to the people who made it happen.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Bushcraft Basics part 2

Knife maintenance and sharpening.

Sharpening.

The best set up for sharpening a flat bevel knife involves 2-3 grades of honing stone.

- Course – 800 grit
- Medium – 1000 grit
- Very fine 6000 grit

A very course 250 grit may sometimes be used for restoration work.

At home the best set up for a novice is.
- 2 sided India Oil stone made from Aluminium Oxide. The coarseness is determined by the binding Agent but generally these stones consist of a course and medium side. I often use these to take off secondary bevels and to repair 'dinks' students make in there tools.

Arkansas stones are mined from sedimentary rock in Arkansas (hence the name) and are usually fine and very fine. Arkansas stones are the best naturally occurring stones in the world.

Other useful items –

- Steel, as used by butchers. These are used in the field to produce a micro scopic secondary bevel which gives our edge a more robust finished profile. Be aware a steel does really sharpen your blade it just re-aligns the teeth!
- Strop – leather strop like you see in the barbers shop (or an old leather belt) are used to finish the edge before use and as such remove the microscopic wire created by the sharpening process.

Other products

Japanese Water stones.
- Excellent for producing a superior edge but expensive lacking longevity
- Made from rare clays impregnated with crushed seashells which are ground together and recompressed.
- To use soak in water until the fizzing stops
- Soft will not survive rough handles.

Weston Water stones.
- Basically cheaper copies of the above
- More robust and hard wearing
- Don’t hold so much water.

*note water stones will shatter at below 0 degrees.

Diamond Whetstone
- Rip away a lot of steel very quickly
- Can Ruin your knife fast!

Ceramic stones
- Superheated clays to recreate a volcanic type rock.
- Too hard – take a long time to produce an edge but are good as steels (improvised)
- Expensive

Oil stones
- Robust
- Used will oil
- Very good – a favourite old trooper!

Sharpening Techniques

Field sharpening.
- Cut down water stones or small pocket Arkansas stone
- Sit cross legged and place on shoe to use.
- No ideal system but generally I'd recommend taking the stone to the blade always ensuring fingers are kept clear of the cutting edge!

Base camp sharpening
- Here we use our oil or water stone as follows,
  1. Place stone on a flat surface
  2. Lubricate stone (if a water stone soak in water until it stops fizzing the keep wet - never cross lubricate i.e oil on water or vica versa - and for field use always use water as some time or another the only lub' your have handy is spit!) This is to enable the microspoic metal filings to be carried away from the pours on the stone.
  3. Lay knife flat onto stonestarting at near the handle as possible.
  4. Tilt up the blade until the bevel is flat on the stone.
  5. using gentle downward pressure slide the blade (as if slicing of a thin layer) down the stone - starting at the handle but ending the motion at the tip.
  6. If nec' round the tip slightly to ensure full contact with the stone.
  7. Do this intially 6 times one one then reverse and do the same towards yourself 6 times.
  8. Keep repeating this process until were happy the edge is getting sharper.
  9. Now start to reduce the strokes each side - come down from 6 to 4 to 3 to 2 and then 1
  10. once on 1 stroke each side to this at least 10 times to weaken the wire (the wire is a very fine strip of metal which builds up as we wear away each side of the blade during sharpening if its not removed it will snap of in use and dull the edge.)
  11. Once we're happy the edge is sharp we move to the strop - the strop will remove the wire for use.
  12. Strop in a reverse motion to sharpening - minimum of 50 strokes each way.

Job done test the blade as described.


Stropping – as pointed out above stropping removes the fine wire edge that is built up by the sharpening process. The wire edge makes your knife ‘feel’ sharp but if it is not removed by stropping it will break off in use taking the knife edge with it.

Ideally strop your knife 50 times on each side.

Testing your edge.

Paper test, shave hairs off arm or use thumbnail.

The thumnail test is best - to do this drag your cutting edge across the HARD part of your thumb nail - if your knife is sharp you will feel it biting into the nail - any dull spots will slide without resistance.

Now we have a sharp cutting tool we will look at how to use it SAFELY!!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Fasach Ile










Last week saw us taking a few very brave souls away for a week long training adventure on our own uninhabited island just of the Scottish mainland.








The course was a great success and I take my hat off to the guys who atteneded it, they all did remarkably well in some rather rough weather conditions.








The area we use is also used by the Royal Marines for their survival training and while they are often unofficially helped by the friendly locals the guys with us had to do it all for real.








Next time you see someone wearing a Texa Ranger badge be aware these guys have earned the right to talk the talk because with us they have learned to walk the walk.
























Tuesday, 27 February 2007

I left my heart in Finland










Recently I was lucky enough to take a small group of friends on a test course out to Finland - words really can not express the wonderful time we had, the Finnish people are among the best in the world, I've nothing but praise for their friendliness and the warm welcome they are gave us.














Landing in Roveminia Airport (home of Santa and right there on the edge of the Arctic circle was a treat, its like Christmas all over again. The time we had in country playing in Temperatures down to a fresh -32 C were great - so as the singer says a picture paints a thousand words .........I hope you enjoy these few .............







I left my heart in Finland mid the snow and the tower spruce tree,
For how that cold land calls to me with the whisper of the breeze.









Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Neck Knife



Having spent a lot of time over the years working with Scandinavian peoples I've come to appreciate the strengths of the 7" Saami knife - or Leuku as we Brits call it.

But very few northland folk carry the Leuku alone, they nearly always carry a smaller utility knife either a puukko on their belt or a small knife worn around the neck (a come practice among native americans too).

Such a combo for the Northlander replaces the compromises and incompleteness of carrying a medium sized knife with an axe like the SFA and saw as in a frozen land they can do ALL they need with these to knives - prefering a 3/4 or full axes for heavy chopping work and veiwing the popular UK combo as amateurish and not much good for long term living in the boreal forests.

I also find this sort of combo (neck and Saami knife) very versatile and am pleased to announce that we have finally found a UK based maker to produce a small Neck knife for us. These tough little tools are 3mm thick A1 tool steel with rosewood handles and come complete with a hand stitched neck sheath.

Watch the website for this new addition to our range!!

Thursday, 1 February 2007

The new BFK and DFK have landed




There are few times in a mans life when he can justify getting excited and the arrival of a new range of cutting tools is one of them - especially if your a bushcrafter!!

Today saw the arrival of the new DFK so before we get them on the website I thought I'd share the information and first pictures with you.

Damascus Field Knife
Modelled upon the more common style of bushcraft knife the Damascus field knife is a real work horse as well as a tool of aesthetical beauty any bushcrafter would be proud to own.

The Damascus steel composition is 125 layers of 1084 high carbon steel and 15n-20 with 2% nickel. The steel is first forged into 125 layers and then forged into a round bar. When the steel is at welding temperature the bar is twisted like a rope and then forged back into billets of Damascus.

The Damascus is then heat treated at 1500 degrees and quenched in oil. At this stage the Damascus is too hard and must be tempered back to a useable hardness. This done at 400 degrees for two hours and then repeated a second time. The blade is then ground, buffed and acid etched to bring out the beautiful Damascus pattern in the steel.

Being hand made these full tang knives are all unique and have a rustic look and feel to them as the maker often extenuates the natural shape or beauty of the materials he uses.
DFK’s are available with Antler, Horn or Masur Birch handles (scales) and come with a veg tanned leather belt sheath with firesteel loop attached – sheaths are available in either black or chestnut brown leather. Please contact with your choices of materials and sheath colours when ordering















Saturday, 20 January 2007

Bushcraft Basics. Part 1

Each week I'll be publishing a new item in the bushcraft basics list - this week we start but looking at our most important of all the cutting tools.

Nessmuk favored a “trinity” system of cutting tools, his little double bit hatchet, a light fixed blade and a substantial Moose pattern folder. Nessmuk’s views towards knives are arch-typical of the classic outdoorsmen; he preferred thin knives, keen edges and a useable length..

A pair of utility knives are most favourable – generally this means a larger camp knife and a smaller knife designed for cutting tasks such a game or food prep and whittling.

This trinity is what we favor also – our trinity being,

Sheath knife such as BFK
Pocket knife like the Opinel
Axe or hatchet such as the SFA.

Or

A Scandinavian option,
Scandi style neck knife
Leuku
Felling/full forest axe

This lecture deals with the tools a woodsman uses in his everyday activities.

Five kinds of Tool are generally employed in Bushcraft,

Bow saw
Folding saw
Axe
Knife
Crook knife

Another tool used in tropical environments is the Golok or machete.

Before picking up any tool in the outdoors ALWAYS pick up your first aid kit!! – Carry a small cuts kits with your knife a FFD IS IDEAL.

Be strict about this rule!

Never leave a tool unsheathed when not in use it can cause injury to ourselves – others or important equipment.

The knife

Our most valuable tool in Wilderness living is the knife.

Your knife is your life – which means choosing the right knife is extremely important to the woodsman who relies on his knife to perform all the tasks he asks of it.

There are many types of design of knife on the market and as such looking for a good one can be quite baffling. Generally the following features are desirable in a good field knife.
- The tang should run through out the handle (full tang) this should be one piece of steel and not thin towards the hilt.
- Tang should be reasonably wide ideally the same width as the blade as this lends itself to tasks such as splitting and hammering.
- Handle shaped is important – an oval shape is best as this will cause less fatigue in the hand from prolonged use.
- No guard – this is for fighting knives in bushcraft a guard will get in the way.
- The tip should be in line with the centre of the knife all the way through the handle. This gives the tip strength but also keeps it clear of bones ect when skinning or butchering game.
- The blade edge has a gentle curve from tip to handle as this is easiest to sharpen.
- Flat bevel with a edge of approx 25 degrees
- Capable of fine work but robust enough to act as a wedge for driving into wood.

Dimensions – blade length should be equal to your hand width for mechanical advantage ect. Spine not to thick to allow food prep ect.

Carbon VS Stainless steel.

For bushcraft work we generally opt for carbon steel. It is our preference because,
- It has soul – the steel reacts to the weather and materials cut – it will rust and as such needs to be looked after.
- Takes a keener edge – but needs more maintenance (generally speaking)
- Sparks with flint

That said stainless steel has its place especially is constantly working around water – stainless’ advantages are,
- Doesn’t rust – more hygienic
- Generally will not take or hold a razor edge but will hold a sharp edge much longer (high carbon stainless steels are the exception here)
- Hard or soft temper

Carrying your knife.

Always carry your knife on your person. I usually suggest students wear their knives around their necks in the Native American fashion because there is less chance of losing it and as such they are always aware of its weight and would notice its absence.

Note – a blade longer than 7.4cm is deemed as an offensive weapon -.so a knife worn around the neck and under your shirt will not upset anyone you can chance upon in the woods. It’s safe and discrete (Learn and observe the laws in your country)

A knife worn on a belt interferes with the waist straps of a rucksack unless it has a strap similar the the BFK or the classic scandi, htese are designed to hang below the belt and give free unhindered carriage and movement.

If a knife is left lying around it is a danger to everyone – never do it – always return to sheath after use! This is the classic sign of a poorly trained amateur and as such you will be deemed a very poor woodsman

4 BASIC BLADE CONFIGURATIONS

Convex – seen on axes and machetes this is good for chopping at its robust and lasts a long time. The convex edge is easiest to produce but is not good to wood work and carving.
Concave – Hollow ground edges are usually mass produced and are generally fairly cheap to buy. They are hard to maintain and have an inherent weakness.
Secondary Bevel – this is most common and is actually so very good for carving and is also prone to rapid edge lose and is harder to sharpen.
Flat Bevel – blades with a flat, single bevel are strong, good for carving and splitting wood as well as being easy to sharpen.

Other knives

- Folding knives – are useful easily in food prep but they lack the strength of a sheath knife. The locking mechanism can fail making them dangerous to use.


Next we will look at how to maintain and sharpen your knife.