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 or drop me a line at

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!!

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.


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.