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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Black Magic

When working on your edges there are two tools that will go a very long way to getting you to sharp.

1. A sharpie for marking the edge
2. Black Magic stropping compound loaded on a leather strop

I often use a Hoodoo Hone (a piece of wood with loaded leather on one side and mousepad-backed abrasive on the other) to convex the edges but mine are all a bit bulky to take with me into the woods. The DMT folding diamond stone works very well and they make one with different grits on each side in several flavors (Extra Coarse/Coarse, Coarse/Fine, Fine/Extra Fine, and Extra Fine/Ceramic) so you can have a wide range of grits in a very small package.

The leather I carry is just a piece of scrap I grabbed on a visit to JRE Industries (the stuff they call scrap is still just about the highest quality leather I've found and makes a fantastic strop.) I sanded off the surface on the smooth side after learning the trick from Dan and loaded it with the Black Magic compound they use. This isn't the finest grade of stropping compound but I really, really like the edge it puts on my knives. They're toothy and slice very well while still holding up.

When convexing, the angle at which you sharpen isn't so terribly important (i.e. 11° versus 14° would be a wash with the soft-backed abrasive) but the super-flat diamond plates are a little less forgiving so the Sharpie, used to color the existing edge, is very helpful in determining the sharpening angle that will maintain the factory edge or give you a visual cue that you're hitting the edge when making adjustments to the factory edge.

If, like me, you find yourself taking different knives into the woods with you it might be beneficial to take a Sharpie with you in case you need to sharpen/maintain your edge. I think the person who uses one knife all the time probably doesn't need any visual reminders of the angle.

The strop, loaded with Black Magic, is the essential finish to a freshly sharpened blade. It knocks off the burr, smoothes out the scratches left by sharpening, and gives the edge a bit of "tooth" which helps with slicing.

I'm speaking with Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works this morning and he's recommended I use white compound on a piece of leather for finishing so I'm going to look into some "White Magic" this morning.

Getting an edge like Abe or MBHanzo does by hand is my new goal and I'll take whatever tips I can get. I can pop hairs with my edge using Black Magic but my knives still aren't as sharp as what I get from these two maestros.

Sharpening by hand is really rewarding and relaxing and I'd heartily recommend it if you haven't tried it.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, January 30, 2009

ML Knives Blog

Matt Lesniewski has started himself a blog and you can find it here.

Yesterday he wrote up a post on small, pocketable fixed blades (including a little Kephart) complete with a picture of a few small knives he's made.

I've been using Matt's Sodbuster/Kephart quite a bit lately and then I got a note from him yesterday afternoon and we got to talking.

I just searched the blog and it doesn't look like there's ever been a picture of this one so I'll have to do a write-up for you. It's not a standard pattern but combines the Sodbuster blade (a long time pocket companion of mine) with the Kephart handle and Dan and Spen did up a sheath combining rawhide (old school kydex) and leather that holds the knife securely and actually clicks when you insert the knife.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 Fallkniven Catalog

Looks like the 2009 Fallkniven Catalog is available for download here in five languages.

They've got some interesting stuff coming in 2009 including the 3G version of the Model F1 which I'll have to get my hands on.

There's the 25th Anniversary Knife (the HK9) coming in 3G and Cowry X.

They're offering the diamond plate sharpeners (D3 and D4) without the ceramic backing and with an adhesive back to stick just about anywhere (maybe on the back of the zytel sheath?)

I'm a little disappointed to see that they decided not to go with JRE Industries for the sheath on the 25th Anniversary model. I recommended them to Peter over a year ago and thought they'd be a perfect fit for such a project. Their quality is exceptional and their pricing is hard to beat making the value excellent.

Fortunately the after-market is still an option. If I pick up an HK9 I'll just have Dan and Spen make me a sheath and toss the OEM sheath in a box with the rest of my factory Fallkniven sheaths.

I just read this morning that the exchange rate between Sweden and Japan has caused price increases across the board for Fallkniven so this may be the time to get your hands on that blade you've been considering before the prices here jump.

I'm going to see if I can't find a 3G F1 or two and try to do a comparison between the laminated VG10 and laminated 3G. I've heard the 3G increases toughness and edge retention by a factor of 4. At 62 RC that'll be one hard edge but if it holds up I'll be duly impressed.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stayglow Trekker from JRE

I've been carrying and using this knife since I got it and have to revise some of the things I said about it.

First, I believe I called it a one-handed version of the Rucksack.

While the tools are definitely similar to the Rucksack, the locking system is definitely NOT the same. The liner lock on the main blade also locks the cap lifter/wire stripper in the open position.

The more I use this knife the more I like and appreciate the one-handed feature. I have a one-handed German Army Knife (GAK) from current production but never used it much because of the serrated blade. The plain edge on the Stayglow Trekker has seen tons of use already and, I suspect, will see more going forward.

The glowing scales are a great feature and one that both makes the knife easier to spot in a dark room and entertains my 5-year-old to no end. He likes illuminating the scales and then killing the lights so much I may have to get him his own and take the edge off the main blade--he can already open a regular SAK with ease.

I'm really glad they went with the corkscrew instead of the screwdriver on this model. Not only can I open a bottle of wine but I can get one of those mini screwdrivers and put it inside the corkscrew.

As much as I love my Farmer, this one beats it with the addition of the toothpick and tweezers. I carried a Silver Gripper on my keyring because the Farmer doesn't come with "implements" but the Stayglow Trekker has them built in like most of the standard SAKs.

I still think it's the ultimate and have heard that there may be a more subdued color option coming down the road.

The ONLY thing I can think of that is a slight negative about this model is the size. Some folks just won't be comfortable carrying the larger/longer SAK day to day. I don't have a problem with it and find the extra length on both the blade and saw to be very useful.

This is a limited run so if you've got an interest in them I'd encourage you to give the boys at JRE Industries a call/email to see what they can do to help you get your hands on one before they're gone for good.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Old School Sharpening

I had a hankering to get out the stones and do some sharpening today.

My Sparrow Special and ML Sodbuster/Kephart both could use some TLC and I decided to do them freehand with stones this time instead of convexing them with the mousepad-backed abrasives like usual.

There's something very calming about the sound of steel on stone as an edge is brought back to sharp and then honed to a razor's edge.

After I had both knives sharp on a coarse stone I switched to the fine side and repeated the process--a circular motion down the stone two times for each side followed by 20 strokes on one side then 20 on the other. Then I reduce the pressure and number of strokes by half again and again until I'm down to a single stroke on each side. After two or three single passes the knife is ready for the strop.

I've been using my new JRE strop quite a bit and that black compound really brings the edge to hair-popping quickly. It also helps to blend all the scratches left on the edge from using the stone and brings a high polish to the steel. I'll take a few passes flat on the bevels just to brighten them up before I finish and then everything gets a drop or two of oil before a wipe down. Once that's done the knives go back into their respective sheaths until I need them again.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, January 23, 2009

Help Me Out Here

Dan, Spen, MBHanzo, and the rest of you:

I need something.

I have a leather key clip from JRE Industries that I wear on my belt to carry some of my many keys. It's just long enough that I can drop the keyring into my pocket and the keys don't rattle around while I'm moving from one place to another but they're also easily accessible and secure.

I need something similar with the ability to carry multiple keyrings/split rings. I have a set of keys for the swim club, I have a set of keys for the house, I have a set of keys for my gun locks, I have a set of keys for the car, and I have a set of keys for various padlocks. I also, on occasion, like to carry a firesteel, striker, and whistle on a split ring. I may need any or all of these keys on a regular basis so leaving them at home would be a bad idea.

I don't think I want to carry them all at the same time but I'd like to be able to quickly and easily swap one keyring for another as my schedule dictated.

How do you manage your keys? Have you seen a product that'll accommodate multiple keyrings that isn't too bulky for regular use?

Maybe our creative leather and plastic benders can come up with something that'll work.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Box of Awesome!

Here it is! The contents of the "Box of Awesome" that came from Mike Billman of Grindstone Cutlery in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has now made me several sheaths for several knives and machetes and I think he's working his way toward King of Synthetics at a breakneck pace.

He designed the rigs, made the sheaths, and did the sharpening/modification of the knives and machete to optimize them for field use.

I added the new Stayglow One-Hand Trekker to the pile because I think it fits right in with the awesomeness of the box's contents. What I've got here is a customized Ontario 12" heavy duty machete and sheath, Stayglow Trekker, Marttiini survival neck rig, and Busse Fat Fusion Battle Mistress (FFBM) rig set up for tossing in the trunk/pack with a webbing loop on the back just in case I need to strap it to my belt.

The edges on all three blades are screaming. The FFBM was a user before I sent it in and the other two are new but Mike sharpened all three before shipping them to me. I've seen him sharpen before so I can tell you the guy knows his way around a DMT bench stone.

He reground the tip on the machete, rounded the spine, and modified the handle to remove the "D" guard and leave me with the important parts. Then he re-blued the blade and edge to give it some corrosion protection before he finished the sharpening leaving his trademark atom-splitting edge. If it's anything like the modded 18" machete he did for me the edge is not only ridiculously sharp but it'll hold up.

The Marttiini rig locks up tight and provides the user with cordage, a firesteel, ranger band (emergency tinder,) and a fantastically useable Carbon Steel blade with a comfortable handle that reminds me of my favorite low-cost knife the Frosts Mora 510.

Combining these two with the new Stayglow Trekker should give me as much blade as I could need in the woods.

The FFBM rig is modeled after one Mike had in the shop when I visited and is designed to be tossed into a pack (that's how he does it) or trunk. It protects the blade, looks good, provides me with some cordage, and doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Survival Sheath but has enough to get the job done.

Can you see why the boxes that came since then have all been a bit of a letdown? I'm filling another box to send off to Fort Wayne to see if I can up the ante on the next Box of Awesome.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I'm really finding it hard right now to sit down at the computer to write my daily updates.

Scheduling is tough right now as I've volunteered for so many things and my time with the kids has gotten much shorter. The days are full of to-do lists and errands and the evenings are spent scheduling meetings and attending other meetings to discuss what needs to be done between meetings. Exciting huh?

I look at my knife, firesteel, and billy can every morning and think, "Maybe today is the day..." and then toss my gear in the back of the van just in case.

At night my gear comes in unused...again.

That leaves me with a dearth of information to post. It also makes my posts that do get written a bit less fun (for us both I suspect.)

My snow trench sits outside half finished and never occupied.

My time in the woods is now spent working rather than relaxing.

Have I somehow gotten myself a full-time unpaid job other than the one I was doing?!

It's time to revisit my calendar and figure out how to make the days work with some time for a little bushcraft and R&R.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 19, 2009


Today's going to be spent cleaning up my gear.

It doesn't really need cleaning for the most part but at least I still have a connection to it this way.

I love cleaning my (and others') guns and I find it to be a great final step after a day at the range.

Knives get wiped down and stropped, guns get fully disassembled and cleaned, oiled, and reassembled, and packs are unpacked, reorganized, and repacked to suit the coming weather.

I'm also headed to JRE Industries for a sneak peek at some gear they've gotten made/delivered. I don't know yet what those things are but I can't wait to see them.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gone Shooting

I went out shooting today with my buddy Matt.

It was my first time (well, technically it was my third time) shooting a handgun and it was a total blast.

We shot at an indoor range attached to a gun shop and the place was hopping. There was a line to get into the ranges and lines at every counter with folks looking at, holding, buying, and talking about guns and ammo. It actually took us an hour to get our turn in the range.

Clearly I'm going to need more work if I'm going to be a handgun shooter and/or compete in 3-gun matches (rifle, pistol, and shotgun) because my entire first magazine, aimed at the Police silhouette's chest area, went into the area between the belt and the knees. OUCH! That's right, I didn't manage to kill the bad guy but I made sure he was no longer able to reproduce.

Matt gave me some pointers and the next magazine got me closer to the "5X" target in the center of the chest but I still didn't manage to hit it. There are plenty of things to do wrong when holding a handgun that will allow shots to wander. Muzzle flip, loose wrists, too much finger against the trigger, and more can throw off the intended trajectory even at the 21' (7 yards) target we were shooting.

Finally, on the third magazine, I hit the chest. Then I hit it again. Then a third shot right between the first two. Hurray! I was finally getting what the sight picture was supposed to look like. Then the fourth round went low and to the left. Oops.

I shot a total of 100 rounds yesterday and will probably shoot more the next time out because it only took me 20-30 minutes to go through all the rounds I brought. I ended up hitting the "5X" on all three silhouettes I brought and many, many more spots on the target, off the target, and even two just off the paper.

I've now got my three targets hanging up in the basement and was going over them last night to see how I did and find many groups of three or four shots in 1" groups but still 12" from the center of the target so I'm going to have to figure out how to bring my groups up.

Next time I think I'll use some different targets so I can figure out what my sight picture has to do with where the bullets are going. It took me a year to figure it out with the muzzleloader and, once I understood what it was supposed to look like, put three shots through a .75" hole at 100 yards.

I really enjoy shooting and would like to do lots more of it going forward.

Thanks Matt for coming along, providing me with instruction, and picking up the range time and targets on your dime. I had a blast and will return the favor the next time you're out this way.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, January 16, 2009

School's Closed

The forecast calls for a high of 7° today and the wind chill will drive the temperature down to -45° so that prompted the district to close school today.

We've got ice forming inside the windows, the metal parts of the doors are so cold that skin will stick, and the dishes, on an outside wall with too little insulation apparently, feel like they've come right out of the freezer. This is inside.

I've got to go out for a bit today and am not looking forward to it.

These are the temperatures that'll freeze exposed skin in minutes (if that long) and after working outside yesterday in -30° (wind chill) I know that any time outside today will be even less fun.

I think I'll set up a photo studio in the basement today to get shots of those knives and sheaths from MBHanzo.

Stay warm.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wool Socks

Why can't I find a pair of wool socks that holds up to even one season of use?

I know I said I was going to write about the "box full of awesome" today but this sock issue has reared it's ugly head and I'm more than a little frustrated.

Several years ago I purchased several pairs of Wigwam wool socks. I believe they were Heavy Hikers--an extra thick sock designed for maximum comfort and durability. I wore them every day but had enough of them that no pair was being worn more than once a week. They wore out inside of a year.

Then I bought several pairs of Bass Pro Shops' wool socks in various styles and thicknesses. They wore well but also only lasted short of a year.

After complaining about it one day to Dan and Spen I was directed to the Redhead Lifetime Sock which carries a lifetime guarantee against wear and tear. I immediately ran out and purchased eight pair. If there's ever a problem of any kind with these socks you can just take them back to your local Bass Pro Shop and exchange them for a new pair. I couldn't believe the luck.

These socks are comfortable, hard-wearing, and warm. I wear them every day during the fall and winter. They do, however, wear out just like all the others.

I wear holes in the soles of the socks which open up rapidly once that first little hole is started. The spot starts just behind the ball of my foot and within a day the hole goes from 1/4" to 3" in diameter. Then the sock is relegated to oversock duty until I can get up to the shop for an exchange.

The biggest problem? Since I bought all the socks at the same time and wear them evenly they all wear out at the same time. That means I return 6-8 pairs of socks at the same time. When the hole is worn in then I'm stuck with holey socks until I can return them.

I need a tougher sock. Or maybe I just need to learn how to sew up those holes.

Anybody got a lead on especially hard-wearing wool socks?

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Field Trip

Today I'm going with my son's class to Rivershire Nature Center.

I'm charging up the camera battery and made sure he had on his warmest clothes today. We're expecting snow and temperatures in the teens with wind chills down below zero.

I'm told that there are some unnatural things to see out there and hope to be able to capture those for you. With the extensive flooding we had a few weeks ago and the extreme cold we're now experiencing we've got rings of ice on the trees at the prior water level and I hope to show those to you.

As to the rest, I'll leave my expectations at the door and I'll bring back whatever I can bring back.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 12, 2009

Custom Victorinox/Swissbianco Knives

The boys at JRE Industries now have the custom Victorniox Swiss Army Knives (SAKs) on the site here.

I'm also expecting "a box full of awesome" from Mike Billman at Grindstone Cutlery in just a bit. I'll have more information once I get it. I'm sitting here typing and staring out the window at the mailbox which is nearly buried from all the snow.

I wonder if the mailman will sense the awesome-ness he's got riding alongside him while he's delivering the mail...

This is the first gear I've acquired so far this year. (Sure we're only 12 days in but that's got to be some kind of record for me.) :)

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow Trench (Day 2)

Well, the snow trench lasted about as long as it took me to type that last post.

When I got back outside the neighborhood kids had opened up one of the walls and filled the inside with hard-packed snow "stones."

I've been working at rebuilding it but it'll be a day or so before I can determine whether or not it's got enough structural integrity now to be useful. Fortunately the weather is going to cooperate by staying incredibly cold and dropping more snow over the next several days. Repairs might hold with all the extra "building material" that's coming.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snooooooow Trench!

Finally! We're getting snow. The 3" predicted has turned into maybe 8" or more (so far) and it's still filling the air.

I've dug out an area in the front yard and put all the snow around the perimeter to make a snow trench big enough for Jake, Laura, and me with a long entrance. Then I went all around the outside and thickened the "walls" to around 2' and now it's setting up.

The shelter as it stands now is about 2.5' deep and if I covered it with a tarp it would be ready to go. I think, however, that we'll make the walls a bit taller so I can actually get inside later and then we'll tarp it, cover the edges of the tarp with more snow, and finish up the entrance.

Pictures coming soon. :)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 08, 2009

MBHanzo Marttiini Bushcraft Rig

Wow! I made the mistake of clicking an eBay link in my email this morning and saw this: Super Bushcraft Setup

That setup REALLY speaks to me. I'd like to see what he could do with a handle-up sheath but otherwise I think I'm going to be getting in touch with Mike this morning about a rig just like this.

His stuff is always top-notch and he's really thought out the design and the details and this one is no exception.

I'd think this rig paired with an axe or chopper (I'm a machete guy through and through) would get you through an awful lot of wilderness work.

Thank goodness I'm headed out the door in just a minute and don't have time to peruse his other auctions this morning. It could get expensive for me fast. ;)

Thanks for reading,


Into the Woods

Well, I'm finally headed out for a day in the woods. No bushcrafting to be done today though.

I'm going to be working with the village on removing buckthorn, a non-native invasive species, from the natural areas and then taking what I've learned and removing it from residential areas in my neighborhood.

I look at it as a good excuse for some knifework and time in the woods.

Maybe I'll bring along my Trangia and fire up some coffee or tea after a couple of hours and bring the project leader on board the bushcraft train. :)

I'm really excited to get out there and do something for the village while enjoying my time "off trail" doing village-approved blade work. Does it get much better?

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I've been given the nod to take the first step in the sharpshooter qualification process. Next I'll meet with the village's lawyers. There are some issues regarding insurance, background checks, etc. involved with carrying a loaded firearm adjacent to residential property.

The woods behind the house have been closed due to herd management so I haven't been able to get out and do much of anything. I did go out with my Fallkniven F1 and a firesteel and get a fire started in the fire pit using sticks from the yard and wood from the wood pile. Nothing too extravagant I admit but something.

I've been trying to get some pictures of the new Swiss Army Knives (SAKs) I picked up from JRE Industries but the lighting here has been awful and none of them have even been decent. The stay glow one-hand model may well be the ultimate SAK though. It's got everything I look for in an outdoors knife and nothing I don't.

Look for pictures and write-up in the next few days if I can get some decent light.

Otherwise, it's been more of the same "Honey Do" list tackling. Nothing too exciting to report yet but I've got a couple of things in the works that I hope to get finished up in the next couple of weeks.

Man am I tired...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Internet Problems

I'm having some problems with connecting to the Internet today.

Don't know if this'll even post or not.

Stay tuned,


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Where to Begin?

I'm having a bit of a hard time figuring out just how to get 2009 started here on the blog.

I was hoping to start the year off with a bang but instead have had trouble getting started at all.

The kids' vacation has thrown our schedule right out the window and we spend the day running errands and/or playing rather than doing "the usual." Normally I'd grab a cup of coffee (or three) and sit down to write either early in the morning or right after they hop on the bus. (They're asleep now so I'm taking the opportunity as presented.)

We spent most of the day yesterday at Cabela's and almost managed to walk out empty-handed. The kids like watching the fish in their enormous fish tank, shooting at the shooting gallery, and playing in and on just about every piece of camping and hunting gear in the store. What is it they say about the apple and the tree? LOL!

Just before hitting Cabela's though I ran by JRE Industries to pick up a knife and Spen showed me an orange Victorinox Farmer with a clip. I mentioned that I needed one and he said he had a couple more in stock. When he came back with the knife he also handed me a stayglow plain edge one-hand opener from Victorinox that had the same basic setup as a Rucksack (saw blade, main blade, cap lifter, can opener, corkscrew, and awl) but with a liner lock like the Fireman. I don't know what it's called but I had to have one of those as well. Go for one knife and leave with three. That isn't the first time that's happened to me...

By the way, there are still items listed for the American Bushman Gear Sale and more to still be added if you're looking for a piece of kit that has plenty of life left in it for a decent price.

Maybe it isn't the most explosive start to the new year but it is a start nonetheless. So look out 2009, we're on our way...

Thanks for reading,