Homemade ice fishing rod

I decided to try making an ice fishing rod.  This is just a prototype and if it works well, I will improve the design.

homemade ice fishing rod

The rod itself is a piece of Willow (Salix).

The handle I have made by glueing together pieces of Birch bark onto the Willow rod.


The eyelet at the end of the rod I have made from a piece of reindeer horn, which I have then lashed to the rod.

ice fishing rod antler eyelet

For the “reel” I have made two pins from reindeer horn and drilled the rod and inserted the pins in.  The fishing line then wraps around between the two pins.

homemade ice fishing rod reel

I have not had the chance to try out yet, but will let you know how it goes!

40 Today!!

Today is my 40th birthday so what better way to spend the weekend than at my cabin, collecting Birch bark .

Some of the bark was impossible to remove but some separated from the tree as you cut into it

I took the bark back to the cabin.  Some I will store, but some I wanted to work with while it is fresh and flexible

I made a large folded container

I used a narrow strip of Birch bark folded in half as a rim and removed bark from a Willow sapling

and used to stitch the rim in place

The container holds about 5 litres of water

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Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me when I originally made the spanner so I have reconstructed it for the pictures.

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



A fenman and a fish trap 2

Using a circular chopping board with 28 holes drilled in it as a gauge, we started making a trap.  Inserting a willow wand into each of the 28 holes (the warps).


We used thin flexible wands to weave around the top of the trap (end nearest the board) until we had weaved around the diameter of the trap twice, adding in new wands as the previous became too thin or short.


A single weave was added about 15cm above this


and another 15cm above that.  This time the weave had to be a little tighter which caused the trap to start curving into a cone shape.


Three more wefts were added, each tighter than the previous (as you can see above) and then the ends were all lashed together.


This part of the trap was then removed from the gauge and using the same 28 holes we made the funnel or “chair”.


Once completed, the funnel was inserted into the trap so that the 28 warps  of the funnel laid between the 28 warps of the trap.


Both were then woven together.


Here is the completed trap.

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The trap has to dry for two weeks now and then I will soak it and test it out.

A fenman and a fish trap

This week I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a day with Peter Carter.  Were it not for the fact that Peter is around the same age as me, I would have described him as “a traditional old fenman” making his living from the land and making all his own traps and nets.


I had originally contacted Peter to ask his advice on making simple willow fish traps that I could make and use while staying at my cabin, and he invited me over to spend a day.

Peter grew up in the fens and as a child spent his time with, and learning from the older  generation who were in the business.  We began by looking at some useful tools when making willow traps.  Any idea what this is used for?


Well it is called a “cleaver” and as you push the centre into the end of a willow wand and push it along and as it moves through the willow it splits it into three equal pieces, as you can see in the picture below.


The cleaver was traditionally made out hard woods such as Hawthorn or Blackthorn.  Then using another of Peters homemade devices which acts rather like a plane,


you pull each wand through the device and the cutting blade removes excess material, giving you nice even thickness strips of willow.


After a coffee and a chat about different types of traps and our net making methods, we were ready to begin making a fish trap……but more about that next time.

For fans of the TV program Time Team, Peter features in next weeks program.