American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Crooked Knife

Here's a tool I had heard of but didn't fully understand its usefulness, the crooked knife.

Kevin Finney, one of Briar Patch's instructors, pulled one out of his birch bark basket and I recognized it as a crooked knife but didn't realize that there was much use for one until he explained how it can be used for shaping spoons and canoe paddles as well as removing material for a variety of other wood carving projects.

The crook at the end of the blade is used to carve concave spots in the wood and the straight part of the blade can be used to strip off material.

Old Jimbo's got a page on crooked knives here.

I've contacted a couple of custom makers to find out if I can get my hands on a left-handed crooked knife as the right-handed model Kevin had was essentially useless to me as I couldn't even figure out how to hold it let alone carve with it.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Have I really been back for just five days?

It already seems like weeks ago that I completed the Primitive Skills Course at Briar Patch. I wish the class had been two weeks despite all the rain. There's so much more to learn and some of the "advanced" topics which could build upon the basic skills I've learned would have been great fun.

I'm already building a list of topics I'd like to see included in a future Advanced Primitive Skills class should George and Kerri choose to teach one.

Maybe they'll consider doing some 3-day weekend events throughout the year.

I'm going to have to allocate some time this weekend to get into the woods to keep my new skills sharp. I've been out playing with a big piece of flint today and I'm trying to get some consistent flakes. My knapping skills are not very good yet but I'm prepared to practice, practice, and practice some more. I know where to get big boxes of heat treated flint nodes on eBay so keeping myself supplied with raw materials shouldn't be too difficult. I do only have a limited number of fingers to smash with my hammer stone however...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Unloading superfluous gear

As Stephen Covey would say, I've had a bit of a "paradigm shift" since coming back from the Primitive Skills Course at Briar Patch.

I'm finding all kinds of knives, tools, cooksets, mess kits, shelters, etc. that I no longer feel I need.

Being a gear junky has caused me some storage problems as I've simply got to try the latest whiz-bang gadgets and gear. This means I've got more stuff than most tribes could use in a lifetime.

I go to Primitive School and find that I need a good axe, a good knife, and a good wool blanket. Everything else is just gravy.

Sure the tarp may keep you dryer than a bark roof in the short term but a little tweaking of panels will keep you dry once you've got everything dialed in. The billy can is easier to use than a bark container but making a bark container with spruce roots is NOT a terribly difficult task.

It's strange really. I feel a bit more free knowing that I don't need all this gear but I also feel a bit sad knowing that I've got a crawl space FULL of the latest and greatest outdoor and camping gear...

It's going to have to go up for sale. The proceeds will be earmarked for future classes at Briar Patch, the Wilderness Learning Center in upstate New York, and elsewhere. After all, the brain is the most important tool we carry with us into the city, the woods, and everywhere in between.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Wool Blanket

I took a Thermarest pad and it wouldn't inflate. The first night temperatures were in the 40s and I slept on the hard ground under a wool blanket and a Wiggy's Poncho Liner. I was uncomfortable as the ground was slightly uneven.

The second night of the trip was a bit warmer and I slept on top of a folded wool blanket and under the poncho liner. This was better and slightly more comfortable.

The next morning we headed for an Army Surplus Store and George encouraged us to look at some German Army wool blankets that rivalled the thickness and quality of my Hudson Bay 6-point. For $25.75 I couldn't resist and brought one back to camp with me. That night I slept on two wool blankets and under the poncho liner. Success!!! I slept hard that night.

I've pushed the idea of a bedroll for some time now and, after last week's trip, now find myself even more convinced that it is the way to go for three-season camping.

Before leaving town, I hit the Surplus Store one more time and picked up the last of their blankets. Now I've got one for my bedroll and one for each car. Two wool blankets on top of a space blanket makes a fantastic ground mat AND can be used for extra warmth if needed.

They'll also work right up next to a small fire as the wool will resist burning much longer than the synthetics used on/in most sleeping bags.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Axe

I have, in the past, overlooked the importance of an axe/hatchet/tomahawk as an essential piece of gear for the woods. I carried the Bark River Mini Axe (seen here with the Mini Canadian) for quite some time. I suddenly realize that it's great for what it is but not ideally suited for the kind of hard use a tool could see in the woods.

This past week saw my Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet put to use several times and, frankly, I'd be lost without it. Several other axes were present and even a tomahawk. Interestingly there were three or four Gransfors axes and hatchets, one Wetterling, and the Hays Knives Montana Hunter tomahawk.

I used the poll to hammer stakes to lock down a pole bed, cut down several saplings, harvested plenty of dead wood for firewood, and even did a bit of carving. I split down some seasoned hardwood to build a fire for firing pottery. I even used the underside of the bit as a hook to drag a dead poplar back to the tipi.

Don't get me wrong, the ML Knives Kephart was an absolute champ. (I'll write more about it later.) The axe/hatchet is something that I'll now take much more seriously and look to improve my collection of Gransfors Bruks axes with the addition of a Carpenter's Axe in the near future.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 26, 2007


I just made it in.

Long week.

Tons of information to share.

Need to spend the day doing laundry and cleaning gear.

It rained some every day and some days rained ALL day.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tying Up Loose Ends

Just a few things to get squared away before we leave and then I'll be gone until late next Saturday (8/25) or early Sunday (8/26.)

I'll make sure to take plenty of notes, get plenty of pictures, and try to bring home some primitive projects.

See you soon,


Friday, August 17, 2007

Did Someone Say, "Kephart?"

Matt at ML Knives has done it again. I sent him a drawing, asked him to make it like a Kephart Knife, and left him to his process.

What I received has had a strong impact on me. I've been unable to put this knife down for any significant amount of time since its arrival.

It is pictured with the Bark River Kephart and differs significantly from materials to construction to size and thickness. While the BRK&T Kephart is stainless 12C27 with a partial tang mortised inside two slabs of micarta, the ML Kephart is a full tang Carbon Steel blade measuring 3/16" thick and with a blade length of 5". The slabs are Walnut (maybe?) and are pinned to the tang giving the knife a great heft, a warm "natural" feel, and instilling me with a great deal of confidence in the design, materials, and construction.

Dan and Spen made a really nice primitive style sheath complete with sinew stitching last night. This is the gear I'll be taking with me for next week's Primitive Skills class at Briar Patch.

Clearly, a design that was good enough for Horace Kephart is good enough for me and I believe Matt may have executed the design more closely to my "ideal" vision than any I've seen before.

Watch for some updates after next week when I've had a chance to put this knife through the wringer for eight straight days. I should have a darned good feel at that point whether or not this is as far as I need to go in my quest for my "perfect" knife.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 16, 2007


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Acclimatization is the process of an organism adjusting to changes in its environment, often involving temperature or climate (In laboratory conditions, this same process is termed "Acclimation"). Acclimatization usually occurs in a short time, and within one organism's lifetime (compare adaptation). This may be a discrete occurrence or may instead represent part of a periodic cycle, such as a mammal shedding heavy winter fur in favor of a lighter summer coat. Where acclimatization occurs naturally, some authors have used acclimation to describe the process of an organism being forced to adjust to changes in their environment by artificial means, such as in a laboratory setting.[1]

This week I've been trying to acclimate myself to the daytime/nighttime temperatures to prepare for next week's Primitive Skills course. Highs have been in the 80s which is quite a break from the 90+ degree days we've had the past few weeks.

A week isn't really enough time for a body to adjust to a new environment but it should be long enough to better know how I'll do before I'm in the situation. Here I've got air conditioning and a shower if it's just too much. I doubt I'll find either of those things readily available once I'm on-site.

So far it's been no problem. The forecast for Michigan next week isn't much different than it's been here so I'm going in fairly confident in my ability to handle what Mother Nature may throw my way.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Spoon Comparison

The missing spoon has been located. The first spoon I ever carved has been given away as a gift so all I've got to go by is the picture I posted when that one was finished. Let's take a look at number one versus number two shall we?

Spoon 1Spoon 2

You can see that, clearly, I'm no Ray Mears when it comes to spoon carving but there is some improvement from my first attempt to my second. This one is comfortable to hold and the bowl is smooth enough to use. I plan on taking it with me to use during the Primitive Skills course at Briar Patch next week.

It could use a bit more sanding and then I'm going to try and seal it with a bit of mineral oil.

I do really enjoy the act of spoon carving and one day hope to be bold enough to try and rough out the profile with my axe as so many bushcrafters do. After taking off the tip of my right index finger a couple of years ago while working on an axe I've yet to regain that level of confidence.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Bob!

Today is my father-in-law's birthday.

Happy Birthday Bob!

Hope you have a good one.


Missing:One Hand-Carved Spoon

To say that the kids like the new spoon would be an understatement.

I set it down to get a piece of sandpaper or just to rest my hands and it disappears faster than I can imagine.

Last time I saw it Jake was running around the driveway with it. He'd been drinking out of it so I know it'll hold water.

Once I find it I'll snap a picture and then I'll compare it to the first attempt.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 13, 2007

Spoon Carving again

I'm giving spoon carving another go.

This time I'm working from the bowl out and am finding it strange how everybody knows this one's a spoon while still in very raw form and the finished burned bowl spoon was the recipient of plenty of ?? looks during construction despite looking like a paddle/spoon from very early on.

This time I'm using my spoon knife to carve the bowl and a Fehrman Last Chance to do the chopping and rough shaping. It's not a huge knife but carries plenty of blade mass and makes short work of the sugar maple I'm using to carve.

The biggest problem I've encountered this time around is the kids stealing my spoon whenever I set it down. I had no idea that a half-stick with a bowl carved in it would be so fun...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, August 11, 2007

ML Knives Kephart

Matt sent me this image yesterday of my newest piece from ML Knives. It's based on my interpretation of the Kephart Knife.

I've been a big fan of the Kephart design for some time and had been anxious to find someone who would make one to my specs.

This one's got a 5" blade forged out of 1095 (I think) and the blade is approximately 3/16" thick. I can't wait to get it in my hands for a bit of pre-trip testing.

It joins the ranks of the other trip candidates bringing the total of potential companions to three. The Dark Hunter, the ML Drop Point, and now the ML Kephart could potentially all go to Michigan at the end of next week. I'd prefer to take just one but that may be too tough a choice to make.

No matter which I choose I'll not be under-knifed for a week-long trip.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, August 10, 2007

Primitive Skills Class

Briar Patch Outdoors is hosting a Primitive Skills Class at the end of this month (8/18-25) up in Michigan.

I've made plans to attend. I have childcare lined up, my schedule is cleared, and I'm setting aside the basic gear I intend to bring along.

My personal rule is to exclude any gear that won't fit inside a single 5-gallon bucket. So far I'm taking a tarp, a knife (to be determined,) my Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, a Snowpeak 3-piece cookset/mess kit, two Nalgene bottles and purification tabs, and a big box of Texas Flint for knapping. Oh, I'll also bring along the camera, a notebook, a couple of pencils, a rain coat, and a toothbrush.

Going light is tough when there's so much cool gear to take out and test/review...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Internal Mosquito Protection

I'm trying an experiment.

I have read studies on the Internet about taking supplemental B1 vitamins to deter mosquitoes and, after a weekend of getting destroyed by them, am going to give it a go.

I'm taking 50mg of B1 three times a day and am now on my fifth day.

Excess B1 is supposed to be excreted in your urine much like excess Vitamin C and once the amount of B1 in your body has reached some sort of critical mass it will change the "smell" of your body to the pregnant mosquitoes (those are the ones that bite.)

I'm also taking garlic oil which I've read can drive ticks mad. So far I've had just one tick on me all summer and he seemed to be just passing through.

My daughter has a bad reaction to mosquito bites and, if this pans out, I'll put her on supplemental B1 during the summer months to give her a bit of an advantage against them.

Anyone out there tried this? Did it work?

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Katadyn MicroPur MP-1 Tablets

For less than $15 you can get a package of 30 MP-1 tablets capable of treating up to 30L of questionable water. That works out to slightly more than a gallon per day for a week.

It couldn't be easier to treat water either. Strain out grass and bugs with a handkerchief, drop in one of the tablets, and wait. Within 15 minutes it destroys bacteria, 30 minutes to destroy Giardia, and 4 hours to kill off Cryptosporidium.

The smell of chlorine (think bleach) is heavy immediately after application but fades to nothing after 4 hours. This is quite an improvement over good old Iodine.

My new method is to carry two bottles--one for purification and one for drinking. That seems to make the 4-hour wait time easier to handle. I suppose I could get one of the big MSR hydration bladders and treat the water overnight too...

These tablets have a 10 year shelf life and, for the money, are going to be hard to beat for simplicity, reliability, and compactness.

Give them a look.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Using Knife

Did somebody say, "patina?"

I've been using my ML Knives Drop Point quite a bit since I got it and the blade keeps getting more and more patina to it. It's almost black down at the edge and fades to blues, purples, and various other hues.

You can see where I use it the most or what is called the "sweet spot" of a knife.

I'm really enjoying this piece and it seems equally at home in the kitchen and in the woods. I normally use a 600 grit paper to sharpen the edge and then finish with a strop but today I decided to try 220 followed by a strop and I am really liking the new "toothy" edge.

I don't know how it'll hold up for woodworking but for produce in the kitchen it's great.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 06, 2007

Dark Hunter

Here's one I just got in an email this morning. Whoah.

I found Robert Dark on Bladeforums back in early July and asked him to make a Model 103 with micarta handles and this is the picture I received early this morning.

Forged 1084
Old Canvas Micarta mortised handle
Stainless Guard and Pins
Left Hand sheath from 8-9 oz Veg Tanned shoulder
OAL - 9 5/8"
Blade Tip to Guard - 5"

I can't wait to get this one out for some testing.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 05, 2007

SAR Knives Update

Recently I wrote about my new SAR Knives Ridge Runner. I've been carrying it on a regular basis and find it to be plenty sharp and extremely handy to have around.

I found Spencer's blog this morning here. He doesn't have many posts on there yet but, with some encouragement, I think we can get him to give us some more updates.

Drop on by and leave him a comment.


What a Week!

It's been a crazy, hectic week around here. My niece Aubrey is up from Indianapolis and we've been having a great time with her around.

We did our normal activities this week with the addition of a playdate, a dinner party, and a pool party and now she, and Jake and Laura, are completely destroyed. I bet she'll take naps this week.

There's so much more I want to show her and so much more to do. It's somewhat amazing to me that one whole week isn't enough time to fit in all the fun activities we do.

Next week I'm back to just two and I hope we find our "normal" rhythm again quickly. I can only imagine how many times on Monday I'll worry that I've left Aubrey somewhere as I realize her space is empty.

I think she had a great time too. We'll see just how soon her Mommy and Daddy let her come back up and for how long.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, August 03, 2007

Personal Locator Beacon

Doug Ritter's got an interesting post on his blog here about a company manufacturing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that doesn't do what other, more expensive, PLBs will.

Give it a look. It may just save you a few bucks and, if you were going to use the product, your life.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Victorinox SwissTool

Is the Victorinox SwissTool the best multi-tool on the market today?

I've tried several of the Leatherman tools over the years and, about two years ago, lost a Wave before buying up a new Wave, a Charge, and the SwissTool. The SwissTool is heavier than the rest but the individually locking tools, the Swiss Army Knife blade, and the Victorinox lifetime warranty all sold me on the SwissTool.

I got mine out today for some maintenance (scrubbing the pivots, oiling them, and cleaning the tools) and decided to snap a quick picture of my well-used, well-travelled, and much-loved SwissTool.

Thanks for reading,