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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cyalume SnapLight Glow Sticks

I've always carried a couple glow sticks in my pack when hiking and camping for emergency lighting and yet these versatile items never really get any respect when it comes to gear discussion.

My daughter uses them as a nightlight when we're out camping and the comfort it provides her allows her to fall right to sleep and I, by extension, get more sleep.

There's no battery to fail in them so they should work whenever you need them so long as they're not long past their expiration dates. Even then, I've yet to have one fail on me when I needed it and I've used some old ones.

At less than $1 a stick they're not terribly expensive but I still wouldn't run them every night unless Laura demanded it.

They're fully waterproof, non-temperature-sensitive, and provide safe lighting in situations where other methods might provide ignition (i.e. gas leaks.)

Attach a piece of cordage to the end of a glow stick and you can swing it in a circle providing an excellent signal to ground and air searchers should you get lost. The perfect circle, especially one that glows, is not found in nature and will stand out to rescuers.

I recently read an interesting idea related to carrying the sticks. Wrap the foil wrapper with one or two rubber bands and when you need to use the sticks you can wrap the rubber bands around the activated stick and mount it on a tree, stick, or some other object to mark a trail or otherwise provide a visual signal.

My kids each get a glow stick each Halloween as a necklace which makes it easy for me to track them and for cars to see them as they run from house to house. This is one good way to cycle old stock too.

A half-dozen glow sticks in my car can replace flares if I find myself in distress on the side of the road and cleanup is extremely simple when rescue arrives.

Just some ideas for you to ponder.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fatwood ID Video

I found this video this morning on YouTube and think it really does a good job of covering the identifying characteristics of a fatwood stump.

If you're in an area with old growth pine trees you're likely to find your own lifetime supply of fatwood.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Hiking with the Kids

The kids and I got a chance to head for the woods today and we did our best to avoid getting snagged by the local forest tyrant. Several hours later, lots of stopping for wood chips, gravel, and mud in kid shoes, and success!

The weather was sunny and a bit cooler so it was a perfect day for a hike but the trails are flooded in many places from the pounding rains we had a week or so ago that followed so closely behind the snow melting.

The hike took longer than planned, we all got a bit sunburned, and we're all exhausted but any day in the woods with my kids beats a day anywhere else.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fehrman Knives Thru Hiker

After receiving a Thru Hiker from Fehrman Knives a few months ago I've carried it on and off. The ergonomics on the Fehrman Survival Series (i.e. Last Chance, First Strike, Final Judgment, etc.) are among the best I've ever carried and used but the knives in the Utility Series (i.e. Shadow Scout, Peacemaker) had handles that just didn't work out for me very well. Actually, the Shadow Scout is the first Fehrman Knife I ever purchased and immediately returned it because I couldn't work out the handles. I exchanged it for the Last Chance and have now managed to pick up every knife in the Survival Series plus the Thru Hiker.

Now I've tried to love the Thru Hiker because it's an excellent size for a daily carry or companion piece in the woods. 3/16" thick 3V with Fehrman's proprietary heat treat should be nearly unbeatable for hard use and day to day "real world" use.

The Utility Series handles just don't work with my hand. I don't know if they're a bit too small or a bit too big but the contours just don't nestle into my hand and long-term use is out of the question unless I could figure out how best to grip the knife.

Not being one to just leave things well enough alone, I went to work on the Thru Hiker to make it my own. First I stripped the black coating with epoxy paint stripper from Home Depot. This revealed a well-prepared surface on the knife. It looked bead-blasted on the handles and satin finished on the blade. I hit the flats on a Scotchbrite belt just to clean up any remaining coating and to give it a nice contrast to the handles.

At this point it still fit perfectly in the kydex sheath and I carried it this way for several days. I have had no problems with patina or corrosion on the exposed 3V and it's now the rainy season here in Illinois including 80-degree temperatures, thunderstorms, and incredibly humidity the other day.

Next I had to address the handle issues. It's the butt of the handle that hits me wrong on my pinky so I pulled out a Sharpie, drew a line above the lanyard hole and below the last handle hole and then fired up the belt grinder with a 36-grit belt. Even though it's the handle I dipped the knife after every pass across the belt to keep it nice and cool. What I ended up with was a nice rounded handle that allows me to rest the butt in the palm of my hand or I can choke up and put my index finger in the choil and have a full hand on the handle.

Sure maybe I've messed with perfection (Eric's words) and maybe I've uglied this knife up beyond all belief but now it fits my hand, the finish is one I can claim to be my own, and the 3V with Fehrman's heat treat is the talking point on the knife now.

This one little change took me some time (3V is very tough stuff) and I finished it with EDM polishing stones to get a good finish on the bevels on the rounded butt end but now it's right where I want it.

I don't think my ergonomics are yet on par with Eric's Survival Series but are an improvement over the Utility Series for me. Now I've got to take another look at the Shadow Scout again.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 25, 2008

Great New Blogging Tool -- Skype

Last night I made my first Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone call using the free software from Skype and immediately saw the benefit to making free phone calls but it wasn't until late in the conversation that I began to realize the strength of this software for non-phone applications.

First, you go to the site and download the software, follow the installation instructions, and then create a user account once it's loaded on your computer. You can then search for other users in the Skype address book and add them to your contacts with a single click.

My computer has an onboard microphone and camera so I can do video calls and regular calls without additional hardware but some folks will need a headset to use the software. The good news is that headsets are relatively inexpensive and allow you to hear the call without everyone around you being a part of your conversation.

Skype to Skype calls are free and Skype to phone calls are charged a nominal fee. The sound quality is excellent.

Where the tool really shines is in applications unrelated to VOIP. You could use the software to create an audio/video diary, convert the recording to MP3, and save it for future listening. You could also use it as a blogger to communicate directly to your readers who could, from time to time, become your listeners.

I haven't tried it yet but in the next few days I think I'll play around with the concept and see just how far I can take it. I hope to be "talking" to you all soon.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fallkniven Bug -- Bitten Hard

I believe I've mentioned in the past just how much I like the Fallkniven F1. I now have four of them including two Thermorun handles, one custom from Greg Haugh, and one blank that I'm going to rehandle myself. I also have a production H1, custom H1 coming from Greg Haugh, and a custom A1 from Greg. All of the knives wear sheaths from either JRE Industries or MBHanzo.

Over the weekend I managed to snag a Fallkniven NL5 (my first foray into the Northern Lights series) and the stacked leather handles, the more refined blade and guard, and the overall package have really made me happy.

The knife is very similar to the F1 in blade length and overall length but the differences are subtle and many. The blade on the NL5 has more belly and is slightly wider than the F1. It also has a nicely rounded spine while the F1 is squared for striking a firesteel or for use as a scraper. The stacked leather handle is quite a change from the Thermorun of the F1 and offers a more oval grip with a nicely rounded pommel. The F1 has the exposed tang for driving pegs or nails--something I would advise against with the NL5.

Weight on the NL5 comes in at 5.95 oz. (169g) versus the F1 at 5.35 oz. (152g) and the balance point on both is about 3/4" behind the front of the handles.

Both knives have lanyard holes but I prefer the placement on the NL5 as the F1's lanyard hole had to be set a bit more forward to accommodate the exposed pommel.

Is the NL5 worth twice what the F1 goes for on the Internet? That's hard for me to say until I've had an opportunity to use it like I have the F1. The fit and finish on both knives are very good but the it's the details on the NL5 that really set it apart. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put the NL5 through what my F1 has already endured but that little knife (the F1) has proved itself to be quite a bruiser in the world of using knives. If the NL5 is simply a dressed up version of the same bruiser it'll be one heck of a knife too.

I can say that I hope the Northern Lights series doesn't sing to me as much as the production models have or it's going to get expensive quickly.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Holy Moly!

This has been a rough week so far. I've been completely overwhelmed with the post-show stuff.

Not only did I have extra housework here but I've been following up with folks from the show pretty much non-stop since Monday morning. Who knew I could talk and type that much? :)

There's lots of exciting stuff in the works but nothing I can discuss here just yet.

It's a perfect day to hang a hammock and here I am posting on the blog. I think I may just have to find a couple of trees out back...

Thanks for reading,


Ahh...Laura's hammock but still a bit relaxing...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Crazy Monday

Whew, I'm glad this day's almost in the books...

Mondays are always crazy but the Monday following a weekend out is especially bad. I had an awful lot of stuff to catch up on, needed to follow up with folks I talked to over the weekend, laundry to be washed, etc.

On the bushcrafty side of things I cleaned up the Koster Bushmaster and then got it good and dirty again by breaking down some logs and carving some fuzz sticks. After dinner we used the knife, firesteel, and a dirty napkin to get a fire going in the fire pit--in ONE STRIKE!

The kids were definitely impressed.

I haven't even downloaded the pictures from my camera to see if I've got any worth including in my write-up/first impressions of Blind Horse Knives.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 20, 2008

And...We're Back


What a weekend.

I got a chance to meet some amazing folks, some old friends, some new ones, and quite a few knifemakers who're probably reeling now that they've had the "opportunity" to spend two days with me. :)

Special thanks go out to Dan and Spen at JRE Industries, L.T. Wright of Blind Horse Knives, George Hedgepeth of Briar Patch Outdoors, and Brian Andrews of Life Uncomplicated.

See you tomorrow,


Friday, April 18, 2008

See You Monday

I'm off to Novi, Michigan for the Wolverine Knife Collectors' Show this weekend.

I'll be taking Dan and Spen from JRE Industries with me and will be spending some time with them at their table.

If I can get a wireless connection I'll try and get some pictures uploaded for you before I get home.

Otherwise I don't expect to be able to connect with the blog until I get home on Sunday.

Keep an eye on this place while I'm gone won't you? :)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Survival Situation -- Then What?

I recently watched this series of videos on YouTube and began to wonder a bit about the days, weeks, and months after a survival situation has come to a close.

If you abandon your vehicle in the desert and successfully walk out do you go back in to find it or is it now lost forever to the sands?

Do you face fines like those unfortunate ice fishermen who lose their vehicles to the bottom of the lake?

What about the costs of a Search and Rescue mission? Do you have some liability?

If you lose a vehicle or gear in a survival situation can you be reimbursed by your insurance?

Anybody out there have any ideas?

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finally! Some quick pictures of the IJ Aito 1244.

This knife has a 3.5" blade and is approximately 7.5" overall. It feels light in the hand at 3.5 ounces yet substantial. And the balance point seems to be right at the brass spacer immediately behind the blade edge.

Then handles on this knife are stacked birch bark and it has an almost cork-like feel. It's grippy without feeling overly so. It seems to stay warm in cool weather but there wasn't much more of that once the knife arrived.

The shape of the handles is really well done with a swell near the center that really nestles the knife into the hand easily and naturally.

I really, really like this knife and look forward to my first real use of it. Carbon steel, traditional leather dangler sheath, birch bark handles, brass accents...what's not to like?

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Natural Cycle and the Body's Internal Clock

Sometimes I find myself falling into a more natural rhythm with complete disregard for the clock.

Not having a regular 9-5 job can have that affect but it seems to be more than that.

After sleeping out on Saturday night and waking every 40 minutes or so during the night I found myself much more interested in listening to my body than just relying on what time my watch told me it was.

I went to bed last night immediately after tucking the kids in because I was tired. At 3:15 this morning I woke up because I wasn't tired any more. I started to do the things I didn't finish last night (mundane things like laundry and cleaning up the kitchen) but I also had an opportunity to experience the first bird songs of the morning, a coyote loping through the back yard, the frogs singing in the wetlands, and an amazing sunrise through the trees.

Will I be tired by noon today? Maybe. But it was worth it.

I wish I could listen to my internal clock more often but I'm afraid there is just too much "stuff" in my life that lives and dies by the schedule and, therefore, so do I.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sleeping Out

Last night Jake, Laura, and I slept out on the screened-in porch for our first official "camp-out" of 2008.

The forecast called for rain and snow with temperatures in the low 30s and wind.

We put down the tarp and wool blanket I'm using in my Versa-Shelter, covered it with ground pads, laid the kids' sleeping bags (Wiggy's Superlights,) and covered each bag with another wool blanket. The kids chose their own pillows and accessories, I gave them each a lightstick, and Jake had a bit of a snack before bed to help him crank up his metabolism a bit before tucking in.

I slept down at their feet in front of the door. I had a space emergency blanket, Wiggy's poncho liner, and ground pad for my insulation from the decking and a Wiggy's Ultima Thule for my bag. I found myself overheating in the bag early on despite wearing short sleeves--not surprising as it's a -20 degree bag and the temperature was around 36 degrees.

Jake was the first to abandon after just 30 minutes or so. He got so excited about sleeping out that he couldn't relax and he was keeping his sister up. He was waving around the lightsticks and it looked like the lightsaber battles from the Star Wars movies.

Once he was gone the only sounds you could hear were the rain, the frogs, and the occasional truck on the highway. We did hear a pack of coyotes howling at one point but they were quite a way off. Laura drifted off to a heavy sleep quickly.

At around 1am she got up, adjusted her wool blanket, decided that her feet were too cold, and packed it in. I got up and walked her into the house and saw her off to bed. Then I headed back out to finish my night "out."

By this time the temperature was around 33 degrees and the rain had been blowing through the screen door as a fine, cold mist but I was still plenty comfortable in my bag. I could have moved up to where the kids had been sleeping but it didn't seem worth the effort.

I got up around 7am and the temperature is on the rise again. We were at 36 degrees when I came into the house for a cup of coffee (yeah, I'm back on the java train) and looks like it's going to get up into the 40s again today.

All in all it was a very enjoyable night out. Laura knows that she's made it through the coldest part of the night so getting her back out should be fairly easy. Jake just needs to get more comfortable with the idea.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, April 12, 2008

IJ Aito 1244 Bark

The knife is here. This is my first bark-handled knife and I didn't know just what to expect.

I am suitably impressed with the overall fit and finish on the knife and the handles have a feeling like cork that just seems like it'll be cozy in the cold of winter and the heat of summer while being grippy enough without causing hot spots and blisters.

I've only had it in house now for an hour or so. No pictures yet but they'll be coming soon enough...

I'm off to the woodpile for some splitting and batonning work.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 11, 2008

New Kydex Guy MBHanzo

I've got a new kydex guy. I snagged another Fallkniven F1 off of eBay a while back because it came with this well thought out survival rig built around a kydex sheath shaped like the Bushcraft sheath I like so well. The sheathmaker, MBHanzo, is really Mike Billman--the owner of Grindstone Cutlery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He also has a presence on eBay listing several kinds of knives and multi-tools in their own well thought out rigs.

As you can see, I've managed to pick up my second sheath from him already for my SwissTool. This one has the Pull The Dot strap over the top to guarantee that you're not going to lose the multi-tool. This kydex has plenty of snap to it and it'll hold the SwissTool without the strap just fine but Mike's really gone over the details again and again and this is just another example of that.

The SwissTool sheath has a firesteel loop that fits the Light My Fire Army model firesteel and will fit a large Tek-Lock or, as it came from Mike, a loop of paracord through the eyelets allows you to throw this rig over a shoulder to carry baldric style or over the neck. Either way you'll have an array of tools plus the ability to make a fire without even having pants with belt loops on...

The F1 sheath has a firesteel loop, came with the Army firesteel, a photon light, and an extra belt loop with a clip if you'd rather carry it on a pack than on your belt, and has cordage daisy-chained up the back of the sheath--enough to be beneficial if you need to scavenge cordage from your knife sheath. Yet the whole package hangs just like a regular kydex or leather sheath and doesn't seem the least bit bulky.

Have I mentioned that Mike's really thought through the layout and available options on these sheaths?

I have a strong suspicion that you're going to be seeing more of Mike's work posted here in the not too distant future if I play my cards right.

Give him a look if you're thinking about a kydex rig for one of your knives. His work is fantastic, the fit and finish is superb, he's easy to talk to, and the guy knows a thing or two about knives and knife collecting besides being a great sheath maker.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bark Handled Aito Pukko at Ragweed Forge

Ragnar just got in one of the most highly-recommended knives I've heard about in recent months and I jumped all over this one to make sure I had one in transit as soon as I heard that they had arrived.

The knife is the Iisakki Järvenpää Aito Pukko (Ragnar item number #1244-Bark) for $90 plus $6 shipping. (Picture courtesy of Ragweed Forge.)

If all the reports are true, this is going to be one of the most comfortable handles for carving plus it's got a real old world feel to it with the "as forged" flats, brass fittings on the leather sheath, and the birch bark handle.

Once I've got it in hand I'll be able to give a more detailed report but for now I'm just happy to report that I've managed to snag one for myself.

Ragnar's a great guy to deal with and he's got some amazing deals on some hard working tools. I encourage you to give his site a look if you haven't been there before. Who knows what gems he's added recently? You may find the knife you'll treasure forever there...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

David Petersen Books

I got an email this morning from a reader who suggested a few books and websites to feed my hunger for traditional archery and hunting. One of those authors, David Petersen, has been hard to find at the local bookstore and at so I did a Google search and came up with this site: David Petersen Books

Reading the synopsis on the books really piqued my interest and I went ahead and ordered not only the two that were recommended, "A Man Made of Elk" and "On the Wild Edge," but also three others. I sure hope I like Petersen's writing style because I've got about 1000 pages of his stuff coming soon.

Ordering from the website gets me autographed copies of the books and, as they're hard to find elsewhere, cost me nothing extra over the big book websites.

Thanks for the heads up Mike.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

North Carolina -- PWYP

I should be headed East toward North Carolina tonight but it just isn't in the cards once again this year.

I tried harder this year than the past couple to get child care lined up but it just wasn't enough.

I'm disappointed but will push on.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 07, 2008

Wilderness Outfitters Finger Weaving Video

Dave Canterbury over at Wilderness Outfitters Archery has put another great video on YouTube. This time it's about finger weaving--a subject I've often been curious about but never tried.

Using nothing more than two pieces of cordage and Dave's video I've successfully made my first bracelet and now have a much better understanding of the finger-weaving process. I plan on making a 6-strand braided hatband for my hat later today or possibly tomorrow morning.

Dave's straightforward explanation is the best I've seen or heard on this subject. I was thinking "under, over, under" every time I passed the left-most line through the three other lines and it worked perfectly.

I had a bit of difficulty feeding the lines through the loops at the end but opening up the loops a bit and threading the lines through one at a time made everything a bit easier.

I'm going to have a go at teaching this to the kids today after school.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, April 04, 2008

Planting Time

It's getting to be time to put the first potatoes and asparagus in the ground here.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to put them but it'll be nice to have a supply of fresh produce available for the digging/picking right out the door.

I took the family out for dinner last night and absent-mindedly ordered a Coke. So much for working the caffeine out of my system quickly... The headache today can attest to the silliness of my mistake.

I do feel better today so things must be evening out for me. Tomorrow I'm going to do an early 4-miler in the woods before breakfast just to get the blood flowing.

Final gear selection is going to become a priority here darned quick and I haven't really made a move in any direction for a week or so.

Maybe frying my routine right before a trip wasn't the best idea I could have come up with...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Working it Out

Sometimes you've got to feel worse before you can feel better.

I've given up snacks, beer, and coffee in my quest for a better life and better fitness. The beer and coffee I'll reintroduce later (maybe) but the snacks needed to go for quite some time.

I'm still doing my morning exercises and notice muscles where there haven't been muscles in quite some time but they're still well hidden and insulated. I'm sleeping more.

Strangely I feel terrible. I think it's been three days since my last cup of coffee and I suspect the caffeine withdrawl has something to do with the problems. My head hurts, it's hard to concentrate, my stomach feels a bit upset...good stuff. I've also heard that I'm a bit cranky. Who? Me?! :)

Understand that I'm a hard-core coffee geek and drink espresso all day long and I quit it cold turkey.

I think this is a passing phase and, frankly, the sooner it passes the better.

What does any of this have to do with bushcraft, the outdoors, or gear? It's a lesson in what goes on inside the body chemically when something that's been a regular part of one's diet is suddenly removed. It's also a chance to see just how little a person can consume in a situation where rationing is necessary and still feel like the wolves aren't at the door.

Hunger is a strong motivator. Let's see what I can do with a little motivation...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bushcraft and Survival DVD Volume 6

I've been watching Volume 6 of Peter Gawleta's Bushcraft and Survival DVDs quite a bit lately.

He begins the video with an introduction and then jumps right into cooking mussels on the beach. He uses a traditional French technique involving a plank, pine needles, and some wonderfully fresh looking mussels. Frankly, I wish I was there to enjoy some of them.

Peter and Ollie travel light and fast with minimal gear packed into what looks like a German Army surplus rucksack. He goes through his entire load before heading up into the mountains and goes into detail on a few key pieces of kit.

Hobo Cooker
He's made a hobo cooker out of an old biscuit tin and goes through some of the construction details before firing it up for a streamside cup of rose hip tea. Meanwhile, good old Ollie goes about collecting his share of the firewood.

This chapter also includes some information on filtering water.

Up in the Mountains
Peter and Ollie hike up, and up, and up until they get to their campsite where Peter begins to dig a small fire pit using his hiking stick. The small fire he builds in the pit will be used later (in the form of coals) to warm him during the night.

The use of the Millbank bag is also discussed here. He also gives you some valuable advice about a real survival situation when he can't find any fish or crawfish in the streams. He says, "sometimes what you get is what you get." I think that says a lot.

There is also instruction on making some bushcraft candles using a few sticks, some sphagnum moss, and some pine resin.

Hobo Fishing
Peter's survival fishing kit includes a stick, some line, and some hooks and sinkers. He's going fishing for brown trout with some earthworms. A cast into the stream using the hiking stick as a pole and we're fishin'. Pete's friend Ray shows up in time to help prepare and eat a meal of trout and Jerusalem artichokes.

Then, if roasted artichoke wasn't enough, Peter fries up some as chips in his billy can.

He shows you how to clean a brown trout to prepare it for cooking whole.

I truly enjoy these videos. They're entertaining, informative, and well filmed and edited. There are a bunch of great bushcraft/survival tips throughout the DVD. At just under an hour for Volume 6 I think they're really a good value and look forward to future editions of Basic Bushcraft & Survival and, perhaps, some Advanced editions in the future.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Camp Cooking Practice (Update 1)

Today's lunch was rice with cashews, soy sauce, hoisin (Asian barbecue sauce,) and sriracha (hot sauce.) It was AWESOME!

Tomorrow we're going to give dried beans a try. They require a bit of pre-thought but that's what I'm doing right now. Overnight soak, and tomorrow we cook. Maybe I'll add some rice to make a complete protein.

1/2c of dried rice is more than enough so maybe I'll cut it back even more to 1/3c.

This is fairly easy to do on the cook-top but will require a simmer ring on my Trangia burner to do it without burning the rice.

Practice, practice, practice...

Thanks for reading,


AZ of Bushcraft Volume BG

Andrew Price of AZ of Bushcraft fame has a new video that shows his sense of humor.

Volume BG shows how to survive like Bear Grylls and pokes fun at the television star who has been known to stay in hotels while filming "Man Vs. Wild" prior to especially challenging episodes.

Give it a watch. I hope you find it as funny as I did.


Thanks for reading,