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Friday 30 December 2016

Unusual Natural Tinder - Wasp Nest

Not really the sort of thing you would normally go for while its inhabited, but once the wasps have flown then nature provides us with something very useful
the way the wasps make the nest they've practically given us a whole ball of paper!!
They chew up wood pulp to break down the fibres and then build the most incredible house
and inside you can see where the grubs live, what a fantastic construction.
This one was the size of a watermelon so it will provide vast amounts of tinder for use with a ferro rod once dried.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Happy Christmas 2016

A very happy Christmas to everybody and a peaceful and loving new year

Friday 23 December 2016

Using the spine of your knife as a ferro rod striker - Bad idea.

I'm sure we have all used the spine of our knives as a ferro rod striker but for a while it's been puzzling me why I have to re-square the spine every now and again and why the square edge doesn't last long after continual use, I put it down to steel wear, just like the edge of your knife needs to be re-sharpened then so would the spine, but recently I started thinking about this and it hit me.. The reason the spine wears and gets less effective over time is simply that we are damaging the temper of the blade each time we strike the ferro rod. Lets face it, a ferro rod burns at around 3000 degrees Celsius, although it only burns for a very short time that initial burst of heat is enough to damage that area of the knife, I've found that stainless gets brittle and chips and carbon gets soft and wears or rolls,
this is a carbon bladed knife , if you look closely at the spine edge you can see damage to the square edge, every time you strike the ferro rod, the heat damages the temper and causes the edge to get softer

and a stainless blade which is much more noticeable, this is a victorinox farmer, you can see what fewer than a dozen strikes of a ferro rod has done to the spine of the saw blade. Being a thinner blade heat isn't dissipated as much and therefor the damage is more dramatic, but over time all blades will suffer.
Your knife is your most important piece of kit, treat it well, get a proper striker for your ferro rod and use your knife for what it was intended.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Sea Rocket

Although said to be commonly found around our coasts, I have found it more commonly along the western Atlantic seaboard. It's a pretty wee plant with pink or sometimes white petals and succulent leaves and is a nice winter coastal edible, though can be found at most times of the year. It's got a sort of radishy mustard taste which is to be expected from the crucifers I suppose and is certainly much stronger in taste than the cultivated salad rocket, apparently the root is edible too though I'm reluctant to dig up a plant unnecessarily just to try it.

It has a medicinal property in that a poultice is supposed to help heal infected wounds and cuts.
The flowers are supposed to represent the colour of mermaids tears!

Sunday 11 December 2016

Terava Jaakari Puukko - The Garberg Killer

I've had this beefy puukko for about 6 months now and already I can see a number of people online comparing it to the Mora Garberg with one guy on youtube actually calling it the Garberg Killer.. it seems like this epithet it catching on!
The knife comes in 2 sizes a 110 mm blade and a 140 mm blade, the smaller one is quite similar in size and design to the garberg as you can see in the picture above, the blade on the puukko is 4mm thick but has a typically high Finnish bevel with a secondary micro bevel which makes for a very resilient edge indeed, I find that the Jaakari puukko outperforms the Garberg on virtually every test I've done, and to those who think it necessary the blade is full tang carbon steel as opposed to the stainless of the Garberg.
But the best point of all, it you just buy the knife on it's own it's only a third of the price of the Mora, I can see why it's called the garberg killer!

Saturday 3 December 2016

Mora Garberg - First Impressions

OK, I said I wasn't going to buy one and in my defence I didn't nor would I have paid the full retail price for this knife. Quite a few retailers had this knife significantly reduced over black Friday and when I say reduced I mean less than half price!! Now make of that what you may but I don't ever recall a newly released mora knife being reduced to less than half price within a few months of it's release, I can only assume that sales where particularly bad and this was a way to get a few more knives in hand.
as for the knife when it arrived I was quite reassured to see the lifetime guarantee sticker on the box but that means nothing if the knife is going to spend it's entire life in a drawer.
The knife feels nice in the hand, only nice, not wonderful or exceptional or magnificent, just...nice.
the blade is a lump of stainless with a sharp edge on  it, that's all I can say about it, it's nothing exceptional, it doesn't take my breath away or feel like "quality" when I hold it, actually it just feels like a beefy 510. When I compare it with other knives of a similar price like Enzo's for example or even the Real Steel Bushcraft knife at half the Mora's price then it fails considerably in comparison.
I never thought, and after holding and using one I feel even more vindicated in saying, that this is not a £100 knife, it's embarrassing to have it marketed as such and I have no doubt that's why it was reduced so heavily recently.
How does it perform? Well it cuts well enough though I find the grind a little obtuse and when prepping food like apples, carrots or potatoes it tends to split rather than cut. It makes feather sticks fairly well but again it's not the knife that does that it's the user!! I'll try it out for a while but I don't think this will ever be a favourite, I'll probably get fed up using it and resort back to my 510's or robusts. I'm so glad I never paid full price for this, at half price it's just about worth it, at full price I would have felt cheated.
Also I can't get my head round this "it has to be a fulltang knife thing", nobody has ever put together a cogent argument as to why a knife HAS to be full tang that has swayed me, after all a knife is, or should be, used for much more than just batoning, does a wood carving knife or a food prep knife have to be full tang? I think not.

Friday 2 December 2016

Late run Trout

On one of our permissions there is a gorgeous little stream, it's actually little more than a creek and for most of it you can actually step across it, however at this time of year it gets a run of really decent brown trout
here's the creek (sorry bout the phone pic).. can you see anything hiding in the current?
lets take a closer look..
can you see it now?.. estimates put it at about 4lbs, it's a really good fish!

Sunday 20 November 2016

Clean your blade with Sloes

Here's a little tip for those of you who use your knife to harvest pine or spruce resin, you've all seen just how sticky and difficult to remove it can be, well here's a little in field trick to help you clean your blade
first gather some fresh sloes from a blackthorn

cut a slice from the sloe and use the inside flesh to rub the blade

you'll soon start to notice that the acid in the sloe starts to remove the resin, it may take a little while but persevere

and after about 5 minutes.. a fresh clean blade!

Sunday 6 November 2016

Fortunate Fallow Preparation at NIBC Meet

At the most recent Northern Ireland Bushcraft Club meet we managed to take a fallow deer which was used by the guys there to provide us with food for the weekend plus lots of craft materials for later on projects..
strung up and allowed to cool before the prep begins

Gary and I took turns at skinning the beast and I have to say it didn't take long at all, we are definitely getting the hang of efficiently prepping large game.

I took the backstraps off and set them aside along with another little treat for dinner later that evening..
my favourite cut of venison, I absolutely adore this meat
after the meat was all prepped, Gary and the rest of the crew took the time to flesh the hide, hard work but they did a great job, the skin was then stretched and made ready for tanning!!

and our little treat.. the heart, lighlty cooked by our most excellent camp cook Davy, it was one of the finest pieces of meat I've ever eaten, the rest of the off cuts were used to make a venison curry which we dined on that night, the bones, sinews and left overs were then split between the group for different projects the gang all have in mind..
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Scarlet Dock Leaf

Every now and again nature produces a beautiful anomaly, and this seems to be one. Dock often turns red as it ages but this one was bright vibrant scarlet, on its own and I spotted it over 100 yds away, it was that visible...A gorgeous sight to see.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Paul Kirtley on Axe Safety

Paul recently put a superb article on his blog about safe axe use and proper handling techniques when using this tool in the woods. As bushcrafters and woodsmen it is always good to refresh the basics so we don't get complacent and end up with a serious injury.
The article he has written is one of the most concise and salient pieces I've read in a long time, if you use an axe, be it regularly or occasionally, you really should take the time to read it, so with Paul's kind permission I've included a link to it and ask you to take the time and visit his site and read it..

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Guelder Rose Jelly

Guelder berries are one that I often admire but don't often use, though I have included them in small amounts in compotes, preserves and jellies in the past, though I have never made a pure Guelder rose jelly until now. The berries are classed as toxic when raw but edible when cooked and have a long history of being used in Scandinavia.
I gathered about a pound and a half of berries

stripped the leaves and reduced them to a mush in the pan, and the smell was rank! Like a cross between vinegar and mouldy trainers, it was bad, and it lingered!
I then passed it through a sieve and for every pound of juice add the equivalent in sugar.
the result was a bronzey orange colour jelly. It seemed to set very fast so there must be lots of pectin in these berries so be watchful if you decide to make it.
 As for the taste, well lets just say I prefer virtually every other fruit out there rather than this, but in an emergency it might just do...maybe.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Sloe gin - (tryin' to wash away the pain inside)

 Every time someone says Sloe gin the lyrics from the Joe Bonamassa song runs through my head, I'm certainly a fan. Though neither Davy nor I drink we do get asked to make this for a friend each Christmas. The recipe is simple, for every litre of gin use half that in sugar and the other half in sloes.

Mix it all together and shake once a week for 3 months

Then strain, bottle and present to the recipient.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Modified Hultafors Heavy Duty

Hultafors knives are great and we all love them. The heavy duty version is a beast and it's useful as a beater but I've always found it a little cumbersome. However it doesn't take much to turn it into a great little everyday user..
It's just a case of dropping the point of the blade, and changing the handle shape to make it more comfortable for long use. A final refinement in thinning down the edge bevels and you have a superb working knife for very little outlay.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Apple Chutney recipe

What a year it's been for fruit, it's definitely been one of the best for years. I've had so much that most of it has had to be given away but I have made lots of jams,jellies and preserves and chutneys too which are a great accompaniment to curries, game dishes and even cold cuts and sandwiches. So here is my recipe for Apple chutney and like most fruit chutneys the recipe is very fluid so adapt it as you see fit.

In a large pot or maslin pan add

2lbs apples
10oz chopped onions
400ml vinegar (white malt or apple cider)
4 oz dried cranberries
4oz pineapple (fresh or tinned)
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
(or your favourite spices)

cook on a low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it's all reduced and starting to thicken

add to sterilized jars and leave for 3 months for the best flavour

serve as an accompaniment to any dish but especially good on a cheese board.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Lewis gets Fire

We had a great day out with some lovely people having a little fun in the woods and learning a few new things, young Lewis managed his first flint and steel fire incredibly easily and managed to conquer all the tasks he was assigned,

 a woodsman in the making.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Blade Scratch or Crack?

I bought a couple of bushcraft blades from a maker a few months back, and having a little spare time I thought I'd put some spare tan micarta handles on one. The blades came with the scale still on after heat treating so I thought I'd remove it and fit the micarta..This I did,then fitted the handle then I started work on finishing the knife

as I did I noticed dimpling on the blade, this to me is a worrying sign as it can mean over heating on this part of the blade,but the more I worked on the blade something became evident,a scratch or was it a crack???

generally, as it's running horizontally I would have considered it a scratch and not worried, but the dimpling around it has me convinced that it's a crack, I'm a bit miffed to say the least.. I'm going to work the blade and see what happens with it over the next while but it has made me cautious over buying scale covered blades in the future.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Chicken of the Woods

It's always nice to find something a little different from the usual fungi we come across at this time of the year, and although we have found these before they are usually quite rare where we are
This is a young specimen so we will be back to check on it in a while (as long as no one else finds it in the mean time!!)

Saturday 10 September 2016

Foraged Fungi Lunch

Was out for a little forage recently to a spot I know to find some lovely Chanterelles

There were so many I could have filled a basket and as you can see here the large ones, placed next to my stick, were the size of my hand. I only wanted a few for lunch so I picked half a dozen and left the rest to do their thing.

I also managed to find a couple of small puffballs to add to the mix so these were quickly chopped and added to the pan

a few minutes on the campfire and it provided me with a very tasty lunch. 

I know people hold Chanterelles in high regard and while they are nice I do tend to think they are a little over rated.

Sunday 4 September 2016

Simple Pegged Pot Hanger

There are hundreds of different types of pot hangers and everyone has their favorite, some are quite elaborate and some not so, some take lots of fine carving detail, some don't, however there is one we make that is quick, simple and works very well, we call it a peg hook but really it's a pegged pot hanger.

cut a couple of hook sticks

cut a wedge out of the end off each hook, so that they face the opposite way when joined together

use an awl to drill a hole through each branch when placed together, you can cut a square hole with your knife the way Mors does if you prefer but an awl is very easy.

cut a small hardwood peg and gently hammer it through the holes so that it holds the two hooks together.

Trim the peg so that it's flush with the branch.
as you can see it looks very simple when put together

and that's it !!!

You can add an extra peg for security if you think you need the extra strength but I've never needed it and this hanger has often held cast iron dutch ovens!
A little piece of wire or a nail will give you extra piece of mind if you want but it's really not necessary.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Goose Quill Floats

When I was a kid and fished a lot, we didn't have plastic floats, we often made our own from balsa wood or other natural items, the king of which were porcupine quills. Due to a lack of porcupines in Ireland we, instead, used quill floats from geese, swans or other large birds. I haven't made these for 40 years, so recently having had the opportunity to use what a goose can provide I decided to make some.
these are from a greylag, take some large feather with stable quills
trim the vanes off close to the rachis
burn off any loose filaments and then sand the quill carefully till its smooth
wrap with thread and varnish ( I think we used cellulose dope or shellac years ago)
Paint the tips with a bright paint, we used to use moms nail varnish !
All set and ready to go, a little nostalgia that brings back great memories of fishing on reedy river banks catching small perch, roach, rudd and gudgeon, they were halcyon days.