Multi purpose backpack

Having made a bucksaw in my previous post I had the idea to use the frame for making a backpack.

For this I inverted the saw blade and put on the blade cover


I have a Reindeer skin that I sleep on and by cutting some small slots down the edges of the skin I can thread Hazel wands through


to form a bag

Lacking rawhide I used parachute cord for lashing.  Firstly lashing the skin to the frame


and across the front of the skin


The top of the skin acts as the pack lid


and with a couple of carrying straps attached the pack is complete


Now to be honest this needs a bit more work to really be usable but I have posted about it to hopefully inspire others to develop the idea.  After all, in addition to a backpack you have;

by withdrawing the Hazel wands, a skin to sit and sleep on


and by removing the blade guard and flipping the blade over, a bucksaw


New axe project

I was keen to test out my new axe so I decided to make a “bucksaw”.  My first task was to split a piece of Ash in half


Then I carved the two halves into the required dimensions


and cut the pieces to length beginning with the two uprights


and then a horizontal piece


I used a mortise and tenon joint to join them together, which I have to say was not easy with a knife!


I cut a groove across the bottom of each upright


into which the saw blade fits


I twisted up some Hemp as a tensioning cord and with a piece of Ash this works as a windlass to tension the blade


On another piece of Ash I scored a groove using this piece of flint


as a burin


this acts rather like a small plane as you draw it along the wood, shaving off small curls of wood


The saw blade fits into this groove and this piece of Ash acts a blade guard.

Now in the process of making this bucksaw I had an idea for another potential use for the frame and this is what I will posting about next time.

Starting a rib basket for Mungo

So to answer Mungo’s question in my previous post…..

Take the basket rim


and the central rib (if you wish to make a basket with a handle this would be another Willow hoop) and using a cross lashing secure the two together


Now take another wand and weave in a figure of eight over the rim from front to back


across the front of the rib


and then behind the rim


and over the top and this time go behind the rib


and over the rim from the front


and then across the front of the rib


After you have done this a few times two holes (top and bottom of the figure of eight)  will have been created looking like this from the side view


and into each of these you push the end of another rib


At this stage you should then have five ribs.  Now continue weaving between them all a few times and with the resulting holes created between each rib you push in another six ribs, giving you eleven in total and this is what you will have


Hope that answers your question :>)

Willow basket

I wanted a basket for carrying kindling from my woodshed for my woodburning stove, so I went for a walk and collected some willow wands.


Firstly I twisted two thicker wands into a circle to make a rim for the basket.


I weaved in the basket ribs


I continued weaving between between the rib, filling in the basket


As I filled in the middle of the basket I did not weave to the basket rim.  This creates two opposing handles for carrying the basket when it’s full.


This handle is very different to those on other baskets I have made


My weaving skills are still rather slow but after three hours the basket was completed



And the finished basket is certainly fit for purpose



New axe for carving

It can be difficult doing fine carving with a large axe.  My small forest axe isn’t too bad (though the long handle can get in the way), but the axe I have in Lapland is considerably larger.


so I was keen to have a small carving axe to take with me on my next trip.

My friends Will and Sue gave me an old Elwell axe head which with some work would be fit for purpose.  My first task was to carve a handle from green Ash.


It took me four attempts before I achieved a size and shape I was happy with.


Before fitting the head to the shaft, I re profiled the axe head with a file to make it more comfortable for carving.  This included a finger recess on the underside


I also re profiled and sharpened the cutting edge.  On the right side of the blade I put a hollow grind and on the left a flat grind.

When making fine adjustments to the shaft to fit into the eye of the axe I used a flint scraper (a piece of broken glass also works well).


Once the shaft was a good fit in the axe head I cut a slot across the top of the shaft, fitted the shaft into the eye of the axe and then drove an Oak wedge in to the slot to make a tight fit.


Then I cut off the protruding part of the shaft and wedge.


With a couple of coats of linseed on the shaft the axe was finished


Using an old piece of leather and some brass rivets I made a sheath


I used the spare popper from my Fjallraven trousers for securing the sheath in place.


Cup, bowl, plate and spoon

During the process of constructing the livestock handling facility I had to fell some trees, including this Birch


Using wood from this particular tree I have been busy carving


Notice in the picture above that I use my axe as a “bench stop” to carve against and I have a piece of Hawthorn as a mallet.

I have made a cup, bowl, plate and spoon.  The plate and bowl are inspired by a piece of work made by my friend Sue Holden.


As I carved the handle of the cup I found a fault in the wood making it impossible to have a usable wooden handle.  So using a lap joint I secured a piece of bone as the handle.



Livestock handling facility – Part 2

Once a few posts were in position we were ready for the rails.


Most of the rails had to be drilled and were then secured in place with 200mm coach screws.


It was difficult to achieve nice even curves with straight rails but with careful consideration and some cutting


we were achieving the desired shape.


With the outside of the pen completed the crush (used to secure individual animals while being examined) had to be lifted into position.


The remaining posts were put in and all rails attached.  All the gates were hung and the facility was completed.


The team

Livestock handling facility – part 1

Not all my work involves working with hand tools.  Recently I had to design and construct a livestock handling facility on a nature reserve.

I began by designing the facility on paper but as with so many things in life what worked on paper did not always work in reality, but all problems were resolved.  Here you can see my initial scaled design.


I chose an area of dry, flat ground on which to site the handling pen.


But before construction could start, I had to fell some trees and bushes.


Once the area was cleared


the ground was ready to be levelled and stumps removed.

I had hired a JCB digger and Steve the driver for 7 days to assist with this and other tasks during construction


and my colleague Mike would also be assisting with the work


The materials I had decided to use for construction were recycled telegraph posts and motorway crash barriers and once the site was cleared and levelled I began measuring and marking out on the ground where posts would need to go.

Initially we tried pushing the 13ft telegraph posts into the ground but the chalk rock a few feet down prevented us getting the posts in as deep as we required.


So we changed to attachment on the front of the machine to an auger and drilled holes into the ground before pushing the posts in.


Parachute Tipi

Thanks to Rich59 for his contributions and I look forward to receiving more in the future.

Inspired by Iowa Woodsman’s Parachute Tepee tutorial I have been experimenting with one of my ‘chutes.

I only had one 12ft pole available


so I decided to try replacing the other poles with parachute cord lines.  I tied twelve lines around the top of the pole, attached the top of the parachute to the pole and then secured the lines to pegs in the ground.


The ‘chute was folded in half and so I attached one end to one of the lines and then pulled the parachute around the pole over all the lines, securing loops at the base of the ‘chute to the line pegs.


Here you can see the entrance.  With two more poles an entrance and “smoke hole” could be create, as described by Iowa Woodsman.


Here you can see inside


The internal diameter is 3.4 metres and the double thickness of material improves its ability to shed water.

The parachute will fold down surprisingly small.


The hand drill – Rich59

I have written this post with the express purpose of passing on my hand drill skills to you.

Myself and  a friend set ourselves the challenge to collect some fresh materials and make a working hand drill set with them.   We went out for a walk in the local woods to see what we could find in the way of materials.  For the hand drill I found some straight, dead Elder (Sambucus nigra) and stripped off the bark from which I made 2 drills 12 – 14mm in diameter.


For the hearth I found some 3 – 4cm thick Clematis (Clematis vitalba) that had been cut sometime ago, which I peeled and split.


The damp and cold weather meant all our materials went into a warm dry cupboard over night.  The next day there was still some dampness in the material (Future tip to self – try drying on top of radiator) but I had a go anyway.   First I took the large unsplit piece of clematis and split it twice to make a flat board.  I was careful to avoid rotten wood and only drill into sound parts of the board.


I started to make a depression in the hearth about the same diameter as the tip of the drill by making two parallel cuts with a knife and gouging out the wood between.


To get the drill and socket to “bed” together initially I pressed hard with a little twisting action.


I tried to burn it in with speed and pressure to get a charred socket and drill tip.  One of the biggest issues is how to transfer your upper body weight through the drill.  The most successful attempts were when I didn’t try to push down at all, just using a spinning action with moist/sticky hands while leaning ones weight on the drill for support.   Leaning can confer 6 – 12 kgs of force as shown on bathroom scales.  The hands will travel down as your upper body falls forwards.  The other key factor is to divide the drilling into 3 phases; 1) cold to smoking (even dead wood contains 10 percent moisture and this needs to be removed by friction), 2) a gentle stage over a few minutes with just with just enough effort to keep it smoking a bit to char the material, 3) an all out effort of about 5 passes down the drill to produce as much char as possible in the smallest possible time.


However you will note a lack of smoke and a close-up shows the hearth board is simply wearing away.


This happens when your hearth board is too soft.  In this case it was because of the retained dampness.  Trying again with some of the material that had been split the day before proved to be  much better.  The next stage was to cut a notch into the hearth board and begin drilling.  Another technical problem in that with the drier split wood we only had enough thickness to drill into with the curving side of the wood underneath.  This can allow the collecting charred dust to scatter rather than be concentrated, so I put a small wedge underneath to prevent this.


At this stage the char looked a little pale and also course.  Such punk is unlikely to form a coal.  If the drill tip were wider then it would grind hotter, finer powder so I changed drill to the other one that was larger.  This time I got lots of better quality char.


But the $60,000 question is did we get the coal we were after?  Well, I must point out that the materials were still a bit damp, parts of the wood were rotten and I had sore, blistered hands from the previous days drilling activities…..Of course  I did!!  And here it is, just as some older accounts will tell you “Roll the spindle with your hands into the depression.  When the spindle tip starts to glow red, gently blow to ignite the tinder.”


Oh yes, that was a bit of a surprise!  Quite a rare occurrence in fact.  Reasons for the coal not forming in the notch in the usual way might be the underlying dampness problem and that the notch was a little small so we were wasting a lot of hot char over the edges.