Companies I cannot recommend….

For some time I have wanted to purchase a pair of US Military “Mickey Mouse” boots.  These were first issued to GI’s in the Korean War and are designed to shield against water and extreme cold.  The boots are constructed of rubber and between two layers of rubber, air is trapped to act as insulation.  A valve on the outside of the boot means you can add or remove air to vary the degree of insulation provided.  In addition the boots are wool lined for increased insulation.

So I was really pleased to find a company in the UK advertising them, brand new for only £9.95 +p&p!  I ordered my a pair of size nines from Surplus and Adventure and 5 days later they arrived.  As soon as I unpacked them it was clear that these boots were not what they were advertised to be.  The label on the back stated “US style” and lacking two layers of rubber, a valve, and wool liner these were in fact just short, lace-up wellington boots with an incredibly heavy steel shank and I would require about 10 thick wool socks to to fill the boot with my foot.  The cost of returning the boots would have been almost as much as the purchase price so I have forwarded them for re-sale else where as a “safety boot!”.  My verdict…..DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!!

“Googling” this company brings a lot of results from unhappy customers and in fact my colleague at work ordered some items from them three weeks ago and has not yet received them.  When he contacted them, he was told the items are not in stock and will hopefully be in within a week…..we shall see!!

UPDATE 16/12/09 – The items my colleague ordered have arrived today.

At the beginning of the year I was contacted by a representative from Fusion Productions in the USA, who explained that they were working on a new television series called “Hot on the Trail”, to be aired on the Veria Network in June 2009.

They contacted me because they wanted to use images of some of my crafts made from Cattail/Reed Mace for the Cattail part of the series.  The series sounded really good and after some exchanges of emails I agreed to supply images for the series, in return for a DVD copy of the programme.

Since providing some images I have heard nothing from the company and having emailed the two representatives I had been dealing with to find out if my images were actually used, I have received no response.

I would very grateful if anyone who has seen the series could get in touch with me if any of the images below were featured in the programme.

Willow and Cattail leave baskets

Cattail basket

Cattail leaf duck

Cattail Dolls

Thanks in anticipation.


After writing this post the production company contacted me and informed me that they did not use my images in the series.  My recommendation to others……if people seriously want what you have they will pay for it!!

Reed leaf boat

This is one that my mother taught to me and is always popular with children and adults.

Remove a long leaf from a stem of Common Reed Phragmites australis

Fold the leaf a quarter of the way along from one end and then make two tears to divide the fold into three equal tabs

Put one of the outside tabs over the middle one and into the fold of the opposite one (as shown below)

and then repeat at the opposite end

Now the boat is completed

The boat is ready to be floated on water and will blow around in the wind

Split Willow spanner

While out on the reserve the other day I needed to undo a nut and bolt but realised I had left the spanner behind.  It was a long walk back to the workshop so a decided to try and make something out of natural materials.  I cut a piece of Willow about the thickness of my finger

I used a piece of cord to whip both ends of the stick and then split the stick in half (the whipping prevented the split running to the ends of the stick)

I had to prise the two halves apart and put the nut through the gap

I grasped tightly either side and close to the nut.

I was rather sceptical that it would work but I was pleased to find that it did!!  It would not be strong enough to remove a lock nut or rusted nut and bolt.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me when I originally made the spanner so I have reconstructed it for the pictures.

Flexcut interchangeable Tools

My third recent purchase was a set of interchangeable carving tools made by Flexcut.  I bought their quick connect palm handle and then from their range of tools selected four that I thought would be most useful.

Three are from their #6 sweeps and one from their spoon gouges range.

The handle is comfortable to hold and the blades fit securely into it.  I used them to carve this spoon out of a piece of Almond wood

and I tried to carve a cup out of a piece of Apple wood

The spoon gouge is the ideal shape for carving a cup but the cutting blade is only 7/16 inch wide and so it would take hours to carve a cup.  The #6 sweeps have wider cutting blades but the shape of the gouge is flat rather than curved and so they are not ideally shaped for carving a curved cup.  In the picture below the spoon gouge is at the front and the #6 sweep at the back

I contacted Flexcut to ask if they have a larger spoon gouge set or would consider making them for those of us who make cups but unfortunately like so many companies who have a potentially good product they did not respond to my query……UPDATE! Flexcut have emailed today (25/11/09) and it this time they do not have a gouge suited to making cups.

A friend who is an agricultural engineer agreed to try and re-profile the 1 inch #6 sweep

Firstly he heated it

and then re-shaped it

I need to sharpen and hone the cutting edge and I will then test it and let you know how I get on.

Fiskars hatchet

Another item I recently purchased was a small hatchet to use for carving as I left my Elwell axe at my cabin

Kevin Warrington - new equipment (Small)

Ignore the Wilkinson Sword stamp on the handle because the hatchet is actually made by a Finnish company called Fiskars.  Other companies such as Gerber and Stihl have also put their stamp on Fiskars axes.

Its a very will balanced tool and good for splitting logs (the way the axe head is fitted into the carbon fibre handle means you can use a baton on the back of the head), carving such things as cups and spoons (with a little re-profiling of the cutting edge) and chopping

kevin warrington using fiskars hatchet (Small)

The axe head produces a really nice shower of sparks when used with a firesteel.

The sheath is rather disappointing and so I set about designing and making a leather belt sheath

kevin warrington leather belt sheath (Small)

Unfortunately I didn’t take a series of pictures during its construction to enable me to produce a tutorial.

The handle of the hatchet is hollow and while initially I considered fitting a survival kit inside, I decided to put a chainsaw file inside instead to remove burs or nicks when sharpening the blade.

I split down a piece of Ash and carved it to the shape of the handle and so that it would fit inside the handle.

I then carved out a groove into which I glued a cut down file.

hatchet handle file (Medium)

When I used the hatchet, the file hit against the inside of the handle so I had to carve this piece of Ash to glue halfway up inside the handle to prevent the file moving around.

I paid £17 for this hatchet and think it is worth every penny!!

Lifeventure titanium cup

I have recently made some new purchases and will be reviewing them during the next couple of posts.

Kevin Warrington - new equipment (Small)

I find that for day-to-day living in the UK my crusader cup is rather large for my needs so I recently purchased a Lifeventure titanium mug.  In order to boil water in the cup I wanted to make a lid so firstly I cut out an aluminium disk.

aluminium disk (Medium)

I drew around the cup of the cup and using a piece of half round post

half post (Medium)

and a small hammer, gradually bent the edge of the disk to create a lip for the lid to keep it on the cup

shaping lid (Large)

The aluminium must be shaped gradually otherwise it will crack.  I cut a strip of aluminium and shaped around a pencil, riveted it to the lid, added a keyring ring and clip to finish it

completed lid (Large)

I made a reindeer leather pouch for the cup and when the draw-string is closed on the top of the bag, the whole thing can be clipped on a belt-loop to carry around

reindeer pouch for cup (Small)

I wanted to design a cooking stand for the cup similar to the one I designed for my Crusader mug

I carved several pieces of Hazel to achieve a satisfactory design but I was unsuccessful and so decided to just hold the cup over the fire to boil water, but having discarded the pieces of wood I noticed two pieces had landed in a crossed position and it was seeing that, that gave me the solution to my problem.  Two pieces of wood pushed into the ground at an angle to form a cross which supports the two parts of the handle.

cup stand-1 (Small)

A cup of water was boiled in 6 minutes

cup stand-3 (Small) (Medium)

Lapland autumn 2009 – 24th September part 2

We headed off away from the bear den and after walking a while Teres spotted a beer bottle pushed under a fallen tree.  Amazingly she could remember having sat there with her friend when she was 15, drinking the bottle of beer and after they had finished she pushes the bottle under the tree to hide the evidence.

Teres (Small)

We decided to stop, make fire and cook some food and coffee.  I set up the tarp as a wind break while Teres made fire

forest camp (Small)

The items I was carrying with me were; crusader mug, pouch of real coffee, frying pan, bread, cheese, sausage, a spoon and peanut oil lip balm (carried and used by the Swedish military) which applied to the frying pan, can also be used to cook food with!

lunch (Small)

The peanut oil worked very well for cooking the sausage

cooking forest lunch (Small)

Once coffee was made it was an ideal opportunity for me to try another traditional food… cheese

coffee cheese (Large)

The cheese is made specifically from the first milk from the cow after it has given birth to a calf which is called colostrum.  The cheese is cut into cubes which are dropped into the coffee and once warm, are removed and eaten.  I have to say that I found it quite bland in taste.

We  relaxed in the forest and enjoyed the autumn sun

us in forest (781 x 582) (Small)

before returning to the cabin, closing it up for the winter and heading back to Gallivare.  Three days later I flew back to England.

Lapland autumn 2009 – 24th September part 1

The morning started with me sanding cups and Teres sewing leather bags

making cups and leather bags (Large)

The temperature was -2 degrees and it had been -7 in the night but at least it was sunny

sunny morning (Small)

After cleaning the cabin (as it would be our last day there) we decided to go walking in the forest, to the peak behind the cabin.

out walking (Small)

The forest is so quiet for birds at this time of year but is very peaceful listening to the wind in the trees.

walking into sun (Small)

and from time to time we could see back across the lake

a view to the lake (Small)

As we walked further we noticed that the berries and leaves had been stripped from the ground flora which is apparently typical of bear feeding.  A little further on I looked to my left and saw a fallen spruce with the root plate raised vertically

bears den in forest (Small)

at the base of the root plate was a large hole in the ground which was a bears den (bjorn ide in Swedish).

Bears ben (888 x 668) (Small)

I got to about 30 metres  from it but could not get a clear photograph and unsure if the occupant was at home I was unwilling to get any closer!!  You can see part of the hole slightly right of centre in the picture below.

Bear den closeup (592 x 445)

You can learn more about the Scandinavian Brown Bear here

Lapland autumn 2009 – 23rd September

We spent the morning collecting fallen trees from the forest for next years fire wood.  Its so much easier to drag them back when there are two people!!!

collecting wood (Small)

I also carried back the tipi poles and stored in the cabin roof.

I spent the rest of the morning sawing the trees into logs

Sawing logs (Small)

We drove to a small village about 10 miles from the cabin to buy some supplies.  As we returned I took a couple of pictures of the landscape around my cabin

view-1 (Medium)

view-2 (Small)

Later on I completed a Birch plate and kåsa

kasa and plate-1 (Medium)

kasa and plate-2 (Large)

I also had a half finished kåsa/kuksa which I took back to England and completed

kuksa-1 (Large)

kuksa-2  (Large) Kevin Warrington


Lapland autumn 2009 – 22nd September

I spent some time teaching Teres how to use a firesteel and while we were out collecting water from the spring, I challenged her to make fire and a pot of coffee.   So as not to pressure her I went walking in the forest.  I was walking along the edge of this marsh

across marsh (Small)

when I heard hurrru…..hurrru…..hurrru……hurrru repeatedly and something running in the forest in my direction.  I froze trying to see movement and decide what animal could be making the noise when suddenly 15 Reindeer came running out in front of me and across the marsh as though being chased by something.

There are some beautiful colours on the forest floor as the Blueberry leaves change colour ready to fall from the plant.

forest flora (Small)

When I returned to Teres the fire was burning and the coffee cooked

Teres making fire (Small)

We sat and drank coffee, enjoying the quiet of the forest

Coffee break in forest (Small)

Later in the day I was sitting outside the cabin sanding a kåsa when I heard a noise the other side of the car.  As I looked up a male Reindeer was standing there.  I grabbed the video camera and filmed him as he ran into the trees but did not have time to get a photograph.

there was a reindeer (Small)

I can only assume that he was attracted in to investigate the noise of me sanding.