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 ( 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!! ")

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
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
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!!


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.

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!!


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!!