Lapland autumn 2009

I’m back from my three week visit to Lapland and I would like to thank Jeremy and George for covering my absence with such enjoyable and informative posts and I hope they are both willing to contribute again in the future.

This trip has been very different to previous trips, with not all my time spent at my cabin and the reason for this will become apparent.

I want to begin with a series of pictures taken by one of my neighbours at the cabin (thanks Eric and family).

The first picture was taken of my cabin in winter 2008

IMG_2663 (Medium)

They were there to clear snow from their cabin and because of the amount and weight of snow, kindly cleared my roof at the same time.

DSC00598 (Medium)

and here the job is completed

IMG_2328 (Medium)

The other series of pictures will feature in my next post

Leather Bound Journals

I thought I had made my last post for a while but it seems not to be the case after speaking to Kevin last night.

He has just got back from his trip and is quite busy sorting everything out. He said he would post soon with all the details of his trip.

So in the meantime I would like to share some pictures with you of two leather bound journals that I had made for my wife Alison and myself.

They were both hand made by my friend Adam Cottrell (aka ‘3please’ on the Woodlife forum).

The first one I got made up for Alison’s birthday.

Alison1Adam made up the design himself from a telephone chat.

Alison3It locks together with the pencil holder.

Alison4All nicely bound.

The next book was for myself and Adam gave this to me as a prize for a competition I entered on the Woodlife forum.

Adams Book 001

The wooden carving on the front is my bushie name and it is carved on Laburnum wood. The plants are Oak, Beech, Pine and Nettle.

Adams Book 002

To open it you need to open the wooden front.

Adams Book 003

Then you can pull the side out.

Adams Book 004

The main cover is cow leather. The pouch is Buffalo and the pencil holder is Goat leather.

Adams Book 008

Front and….

Adams Book 009

the back all beautifully bound. The paper is a type of parchment.

I now use this to record all the courses I run or am involved in.

Cheers Adam for two fantastic journals.

George

Crafts made using Spruce Pitch

As a final post before Kevin returns from his trip I thought I would just post pictures of some of my craft items. Specifically those made using the spruce pitch, Sweet Chestnut inner bark and some with rawhide.

I used one of the adzes to fell the Sweet Chestnut limb. Each flint head was positioned in place with pitch before binding with rawhide.

23092009 041This axe head was initially held in place with pitch before binding with rawhide.

23092009 039You can see the pitch holding the flint head in place on this small hatchet.

23092009 042The axe and hatchet side by side.

23092009 044The flint knife used to cut the bark strips was also held in place by pitch and a small piece of rawhide.

23092009 045From left to right:

My Atl atl – Antler tip bound with sinew and pitch.

Two Atl atl darts.

Two arrows

The knock on my Holmegaard bow – Rawhide, sinew (real and false) and pitch.

23092009 049The flights on the darts and arrows. I only attached the Atl atl flights in one place.

23092009 054My primitive belt order. Made out of Sweet Chestnut inner bark and a buckskin bag.

23092009 055The whole collection.

23092009 053

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing for Kevin’s blog and look forward hopefully to writing some more in the future.

Cheers

George

Adventuring in the great outdoors

Ask yourself the question, “When was the last time I had a really good adventure?”

Now be truthful to yourself.

Was it recent? Was it enjoyable? Was it different?

In my line of work as an Adventure Training Instructor, health and safety and risk assessment are the norm. Everything has to be planned and assessed for each activity I am involved in. I have to be qualified in each activity I run because I work with youngsters and inexperienced adults.

Once I have planned and assessed an activity, it is no longer an adventure to me, although I hope it will be for the kids and other adults that take part in that activity. Don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy my work, but taking a group out on organised walk in the woods or mountains is not really an adventure for me as it has already been planned in great detail.

Where the adventure for me comes in is, for example, when my group is trundling along a woodland path and I call a halt, then say something like “I’m bored now: let’s see what’s down there”, pointing off into the deep and dark woods. These off-piste adventures usually go for a few hundred metres so the group can get back onto the pre-planned route quickly.

What’s interesting is how such adventures often seem to scare people, not really I think because the woods are deep and dark but because they are leaving the path. As a nation I think we have had it drummed into us since childhood that we need to stick to the pre-planned path or we could never be found again.

In some places leaving the public footpath means trespassing, but not always. It is all about knowing where to have your adventure. The Countryside Right of Way (CROW) Act has opened up a lot of new land for adventuring (get the latest OS map of your area to see where the CROW access is). Also speaking to local landowners and explaining what you do can open up whole areas to adventure in.

Scanning my map before entering the wood tells me what I need to know in regards to health and safety and I am constantly assessing risk as the group moves through the wood. But I am seeing new things all the time , and that makes it an adventure for me. For many in the group they are realising for the first time in their lives that it’s possible to get off the beaten track and enter a whole new world, and that is their adventure.

If you’re going to lead an adventure like this, teach your group to always look back at their route so that the path is recognisable if they have to turn back because of  an obstruction. Mostly though, take your time and explore and enjoy your new surroundings.

So….

  • Have an adventure every time you go out so you can say it has been recent.
  • Take your time and explore so you can say it has been enjoyable.
  • Finally, have your adventures in various locations so you can say they have been different.

Happy adventuring.

George

Bark Sheath

Now for the sheath.

As I was to do all this primitively I had to make up some tools for the job. These were a flint adze and a flint knife.

I used the adze to fell a limb from a Sweet Chestnut coppice.

Felling with a flint adze.

Felling with a flint adze.

It took a while but the job got done.

A rossette cut is made all around.

A rosette cut is made all around.

The flint adze tends to rip the fibres to give a very strange flower shape. I trimmed the stump with a saw afterwards to tidy it up.

Success.

Success.

The next job was to strip the bark off. As Jem covered that last week I will leave this process out.

Inner bark & tools.
Inner bark & tools.

I left the bark to dry out overnight to allow it to shrink then re-wet it next day to work it.

Bark ready for cutting.

Bark ready for cutting.

Now the strips.

Cutting with a flint knife.

Cutting with a flint knife.

For this sheath I needed six strips, each folded in half.

Six strips neatrly folded will make my sheath.

Six strips neatly folded will make my sheath.

Now the tricky bit.

The right hand strip was locked onto the top half of the left hand strip.

The right hand strip was locked onto the top half of the left hand strip.

The next right hand strip was locked onto the bottom half of the left hand strip.

The next right hand strip was locked onto the bottom half of the left hand strip.

The third right hand strip was locked onto the top half of the left hand strip.

The third right hand strip was locked onto the top half of the left hand strip.

The second left hand strip was locked onto the top of the first right hand strip and woven through the other strips.

The second left hand strip was locked onto the top of the first right hand strip and woven through the other strips.

The third left hand strip was locked onto the bottom of the first right hand strip and woven through the other strips.

The third left hand strip was locked onto the bottom of the first right hand strip and woven through the other strips.

The top of the first left hand strip is folded back.

The top of the first left hand strip is folded back.

The bottom of the first left hand strip is folded diagonally over the other left hand strips.

The bottom of the first left hand strip is folded diagonally over the other left hand strips.

Then the top of the first left hand strip is flipped back up.

Then the top of the first left hand strip is flipped back up.

The next right hand strip was locked onto the bottom half of the left hand strip.

The next right hand strip was locked onto the bottom half of the left hand strip.

Flip the whole sheath over. There should be a single strip on the right now.

Flip the whole sheath over. There should be a single strip on the right now.

Now the bottom right strip is folded diagonally over the other right hand strips and woven in.

Now the bottom right strip is folded diagonally over the other right hand strips and woven in.

Starting again on the left hand side keep repeating the whole process.

Starting again on the left hand side keep repeating the whole process.

Soon your sheath will take shape.

Soon your sheath will take shape.

Nearly there.

Nearly there.

Now for the top.

Now for the top.

It is a tricky business, experiment but tuck the ends in.

Tuck the ends in neatly: it's tricky as each end will be different, you might need to experiment.

Trim the excess.

Trim the excess.

The knife fits in perfectly.

The knife fits in perfectly.

The knife used as a bodkin to weave in a buckskin strap.

I used the knife as a bodkin to weave a buckskin strap into the sheath.

Ready for attaching to the belt.

Ready for attaching to the belt.

Attached to my belt (to the left of the bag).

Attached to my belt (to the left of the bag).

Cheers

George


Primitive Bone Knife

During the summer I completed the Woodcraft School Primitive Technology course.

The course required that at least one our craft items had to be made using only primitive tools and techniques.

I decided to make myself a bone knife and a bark sheath for it. The knife I made from a Lamb’s thigh bone and the sheath was made from Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) inner bark.

Bone utility knife & Sheath

Bone utility knife & Sheath

I wanted to be able to use the knife as an Awl for working hides, as a Bodkin for when weaving and as a general knife for cutting cordage and meat.

This post will concentrate on how the knife was made. The next post will be about the sheath.

The bone I used was a thigh bone known as the Shank. Hence the names ‘Lamb Shank’ as a cut of meat and the word ‘Shank’ as a primitive knife.

Fresh Bone & Flint

Fresh Bone & Flint

As I was using primitive tools and techniques only I scraped all the fat and flesh off with a piece of flint.

Other students tried burning the fat and flesh off but the made the bone brittle so it easily shattered. It is slippery work that requires a lot of patience. One slip and the flint will cut you as cleanly as any sharp knife.

Slippery work

Slippery work

After an hours work I had the bone cleaned up.

Ready for carving

Ready for carving

I decided that one knuckle would make a good handle but the other had to be removed.

I scored a line around the whole bone near the knuckle I wanted removed. Apologies for the slightly out of focus picture. The score line was about a couple of millimetres deep.

Removing a knuckle

Removing a knuckle

After scoring the line John Ryder (course instructor) showed me how to scorch the line to make it a little brittle in that area.

Scorching the bone

Scorching the bone

A close up.

Scorch line

Scorch line

Once the line was scorched all the way around a little gentle tapping was all that was needed.

A gentle tapping

A gentle tapping

A crack soon appeared.

Cracked bone

Cracked bone

To finally remove the knuckle I carried on scraping with the flint.

Removed knuckle

Removed knuckle

Once the knuckle was removed then I decided on the shape of my knife point. I did this by gently scraping with the flint on the bone to define my knife shape.

Flint score lines

Flint score lines

Then making sure that the bone was on a stable surface and held in a secure grip the tedious scraping began. The carving out of the knife shape took a number of hours.

Making the groove

Making the groove

The awl tip taking shape.

Awl tip

Awl tip

Eventually I was able to prise a section of bone out.

Removal of bone

Removal of bone

I went through two pieces of flint carving the bone out.

Eventually the general shape of the knife was produced.

Basic shape - front

Basic shape - front

And the other side.

Basic shape - back

Basic shape - back

A messy but necessary job is to remove the remaining marrow. I just used a small stick for this.

Removing the marrow

Removing the marrow

To give the knife a basic edge I used a piece of sandstone.

Sanding the edge

Sanding the edge

Any rough edges I tidied up with flint.

Final touches with flint

Final touches with flint

Below you can see the side profile of the knife. This curve is useful as a Bodkin in basket weaving. In the next post you will see that this was the knifes first job.

Side profile - Bodkin

Side profile - Bodkin

Here the knife is sitting on the inner bark I used to make the sheath out of.

Ready for its sheath

Ready for its sheath

More on that next time.

George

Bushcraft the Sea Cadet way

I have been involved in teaching outdoor pursuits to Sea Cadets now for over 10 years, mainly focussed on land-based activities (though I’ve been known from time to time to get a toe or two wet in some sort of boating activities).

I am very keen to bring Bushcraft into the Adventurous Training part of the Sea Cadets. Camping is more than setting up your tent, getting your gas stove on for a brew and studying your map for the next day’s route. It is about these basics but to me it is also about having adventures and explorations where you have fun and learn at the same time.

So here is some evidence of fun and learning taken from recent Sea Cadet weekends.

Note the lovely path

Note the lovely path

Room for anymore

Room for anymore

Jungle prison

Jungle prison

Making up Sisal tinder bundles (its the Navy way)

Making up Sisal tinder bundles (it's the Navy way)

First the instructors need to learn

First the instructors need to learn

Then the cadets

Then the cadets

Eventually

Oops, there goes the drill piece

They always get there when they work together

They always get there when they work together

Happy city kids

Happy Bushcrafters

Even the young ones get in on the act

Even the young ones get in on the act

And don't give up when the flames go out

And don't give up when the flames go out

Kevin the master at work

Kevin the master at work teaching

Well done Chris

Well done Chris

One of kevins toys in action

One of Kevin's toys in action

After fires are lit it is time to cook

After fires are lit it is time to cook

Pudding anyone

Pudding anyone?

Yum

Yum

Back to the adults learning again

Back to the adults learning again

And taking it easy. Perrys first night out in a shelter (my boss)

And taking it easy. Perry's first night out in a shelter (my boss)

All the instructors are taught how to use the Atl atl

All the instructors are taught how to use the Atl atl

Then the kids have a bash

Then the cadets have a bash

Stalking games are always a hit

Stalking games are always a hit

Some serious knife safety lessons

Some serious knife safety lessons

Sometimes not so serious

Sometimes not so serious

Elbows on knees and the cadets have a go

Elbows on knees and the cadets have a go

Whimmy Diddle. One of Mors Kochanski's toys

Whimmy Diddle. One of Mors Kochanski's toys

Grass mat making

Grass mat making for bed time

Not forgetting Marsh Mallows before bed

Not forgetting toasted marshmallows before bed

I hope you enjoyed the Sea Cadet tour?

My next posts will be about making a bone knife, followed by a bark sheath for it.

George

Spruce Pitch revisited: Hot Rocks!

I promised you another way of making spruce pitch: I learnt this method while on a Primitive Technology course with Woodcraft School

The best stones to use are igneous rocks that have not been anywhere near water. It’s also handy if there’s a small depression in the rock for the mixture to pool in. I sometimes use the granite blocks that building stores sell as paving.

If you are at all unsure what rock type you are using best not try this method, as the rock may crack or even explode. (Our rock cracked slightly but this was due to an existing crack line, not the nature of the stone.)

I put the rock in the centre of the fire, piled embers round it and left it there for about an hour while I collected a good load of spruce resin as per the previous post.

Hot rock in fire

Hot rock in fire

I used a couple of sticks to drag the rock out of the embers and let it cool slightly – if it’s used straight away the mixture will boil off instantly.

Hot rock out of the fire

Hot rock out of the fire

Once it had cooled slightly I put the spruce resin on the rock to melt it, added the charcoal and the beeswax and mixed it all up.

Mixing the ingredients

Mixing the ingredients

I was then able to scrape the mixture onto a stick with a sliver of wood.

Loading the stick

Loading the stick

As before, I then cooled it rapidly in water. Thanks to my friend Ben for the brilliant idea of putting the rock onto a piece of split wood, which provided a depression that allowed us to store the water for this.

Rapid cooling

Rapid cooling

This process needs to be repeated to build up the pitch on the stick.

We made enough pitch by this method to help make one arrow, I would think. The pitch stick on the left was made using the tin can technique and the one on the right using hot rocks.

Little and Large

Little and Large

To re-melt the pitch you can just hold the stick over an ember until it starts to drip then quickly apply it wherever you need the pitch: use wet fingers to spread the pitch over your bindings etc.

Re-melting

Re-melting

The pitch you get from the hot rocks technique is much rougher and it takes longer but I think it’s somehow more satisfying than the tin can technique.

These arrows were coated with pitch using both methods.

Primitive arrows

Primitive arrows

Happy experimenting!

George

Spruce pitch

Hi, my name is George Aitchison. I have been friends with Kevin now for a few years and have worked with him on a number of occasions. I teach outdoor skills (including Bushcraft) to SeaCadets.

Kevin asked me to write for his blog while he is on his travels, so I thought I’d share a few projects with you.

I’m going to start with my favourite technique for making spruce pitch, which can be used as a glue/filler in primitive crafts – for example coating the bindings on arrows, as in the picture below.

Primitive arrows
Primitive arrows

There are several ways of making pitch: I’m going to show you the tin-can method today, and in the next post I’ll cover the hot rocks method.

First up we collected a tinful of resin from some spruce trees that had been damaged by woodland machinery. I prefer to use a flattened edge on a stick to collect the resin as this is a sight safer than using a blade.

Collecting spruce resin
Collecting spruce resin

My mate Ben collected resin in an old baked bean can – as you can see we quickly got a tinful.

Marks Moot Sept 2009 044
A tinful of resin and collecting stick

To make pitch I use two baked bean style tins with a small improvised colander in one made out of half a beer can with holes punched through the bottom.

The sticks in the picture below are ready for rolling the pitch on to when it is ready. An alternative is to use a stick like elder with the pith taken out and the pitch poured into the cavity, which makes a kind of pencil.

Marks Moot Sept 2009 046
Kit for making the pitch

I packed the colander with resin then set light to it. The disadvantage of this method is that you lose a little of the resin but the big plus is that it melts quickly and collects cleanly in the bottom of the tin, leaves the detritus in the colander. Two good friends of mine Mark Oriel and Keith Coleman introduced me to this method: previously I’d just put the resin into a tin, placed it into some embers and scooped out the detritus when it had melted.

Burning resin
Burning resin

My friend Mark then powdered the charcoal with a small stone.

Powdering the charcoal
Powdering the charcoal

The melted resin (it looks black from previous pitch making). As the detritus is left in the colander the resin in the tin is very fine, which makes for very smooth pitch.

Melted resin
Melted resin

To temper the pitch and make it less fragile and more flexible I add beeswax and charcoal.  There are many other ingredients that can be used instead of these. The charcoal went in first. I normally put in as much charcoal as there is resin.

Adding charcoal
Adding charcoal

Next was the beeswax. I have heard some folk say they put in the same quantities for everything but I usually just put in a small block or two. I also use beeswax balsam you can buy in shops. It seems to work just as well.

Beeswax
Beeswax

Then stick it on the embers and mix it up. Watch out that you don’t overheat it as it will froth up and spill over.

Melting the beeswax
Melting the beeswax

When it is mixed and the tin has been pulled out of the embers it is time to get the sticks and water ready. Let the pitch cool slightly and become a little tacky first.

Put one of the sticks into the mixture and roll it a few times (I try to square off the stick when I can remember to help me here) until you have some pitch on the stick.

Adding the pitch to the stick
Adding the pitch to the stick

Then stick it into the water to rapidly cool the pitch down. The pitch shrugs off any water and any bits that fall into the water turn into little blobs that can be popped back into the can.

Keep repeating this process to build up the pitch on the stick.

Rapidly cooling the resin
Rapidly cooling the resin

Remembering to wet your fingers first, you can mould the pitch how you want it.

Moulding the pitch
Moulding the pitch

The 3 pitch sticks were made by my friends Mark, Ben and myself. The piece at the top had been made on an earlier course. All will be used in craft making.

Completed lollipops
Completed lollipops

Hope you found that useful: next time I’ll show how to make pitch using hot rocks.

George

Family holiday

I’m probably not alone in the fact that other members of my family do not share the same enthusiasm for sleeping on the ground, eating all manner of wild things and taking my ‘call of nature’ well….as bears do! This year I think we found the perfect compromise for our family break. We experienced a Featherdown Farm holiday. Featherdown Farms are camping holidays which,as the name suggests, are all based on family farms.There  are about 20 sites around England which each have around 6-7 ready pitched tents. The tents have a certain ‘pioneer’ feel about them. They have wooden floors, brown canvas sides, a sink with a cold tap, a flushing loo, a wood burning cooking stove and all lighting is either oil lamps or candles.featherdown_tent

The farm we chose to stay on was in Kent on the High Weald,a particularly well wooded landscape.overthefields During our stay we cooked all our meals and heated all our water on the wood stove.Inside_tent The children played out practically the whole time, leaving the tent early in the morning to collect eggs and generally going ‘feral’.pond dipping

We could roam freely over the farm (120 acres) and could have picnic fires pretty much where we liked. I had access to lots of wood for spoon carving etc. and was lent a crayfish trap by the owners to use in the river that ran through the farm.jem_crayfish_basket And here are some cooked.cryfish_cookedOn a couple of nights the owners fired up the bread oven and we cooked pizzas and loaves.JemBread oven Here are some foraged mushrooms that were gathered in nearby fieldsmushrooms

There was a wealth of wildlife to see.My son and I went out tracking at dusk and were rewarded with close views of badgers, fallow deer and fox.

We spent a lot of time just living,doing the day-to-day ‘chores’ but returned utterly relaxed.