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, February 28, 2009

Now THAT'S a Firesteel

I received a box with a couple of firesteels from yesterday. These make the Light My Fire Army firesteel seem a bit...small.

From top to bottom:

1/2" thick X 6" long Grizzly
3/8" thick X 6" long Cougar
Light My Fire Army (3/8" thick X 3" long)
Light My Fire Army Blank which I've drilled and threaded with ball chain

Today we're going to take these new bruisers outside and compare them to the old standby LMF Army. I think we'll try a variety of tinders and a variety of strikers to see what the best combination might be.

I've had other firesteels that seemed to be made of a similar (but NOT the same) material. They used to sell a firesteel at Bass Pro Shops that just wasn't as good as the LMFs. It scraped easier but didn't spark as easily. I hope these monsters are the same material as the LMF firesteels.

Here's the thing. A while back I did a post called Firesteel Math where I determined the life span of an Army Model firesteel to be nearly 11 years. So, doubling the length of the 3/8" rod should double the available number of strikes. Does that mean the SMALLER of the two rods will last 22 years?!

Jake's grandkids will be using the Grizzly to start fires someday. LOL!

And on top of everything else, Going Gear sells a 1/2" thick X 12" firesteel appropriately named The Beast. Too bad they were sold out when I placed my order. I could use a big firesteel.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 27, 2009

Altoid Tin Pocket Kit

I constantly struggle with the decision to carry more gear in order to be better prepared or less gear to streamline my pockets and prevent the jingling and saggy pants associated with over-gear-itis.

After spending some time looking at the Altoid Tin survival kits that are everywhere on the Internet these days it occurred to me that I could use one of the tins to carry the gear I'd like to have with me in a way that avoids pocket tangles and limits me to a maximum amount of space while offering a great deal of flexibility in choosing the contents of the tin.

This is the Altoid Tin as it goes into the pocket. I've put my EDC items in the tin to keep them from banging around so much in my pocket.
The first layer inside the tin is about two feet of neon yellow gaffer's tape. I like gaffer's tape better than duct tape because the adhesive doesn't seem to break down over time like duct tape can. It also comes in bright colors like neon yellow, blaze orange, and neon pink which makes it much easier to see in the woods.
Below the gaffer's tape layer is the meat and potatoes of the kit. This is the stuff I use most often. I've got a Victorinox Farmer, Army Firesteel blank, and Bic mini lighter in this layer.
Down one more layer you'll find a DMT Fine credit card sharpener which I've glued to a loaded leather backing. This piece is put in diamond-side down to prevent it from wearing out the layer above through friction. The leather may, over time, polish the items but nowhere near as much as a diamond stone would.
Here's the diamond plate side of the sharpener. I put a piece of paper cut to fit the tin under the diamond to keep it from abrading the inside of the tin. This piece of paper could also be used to leave a note or to scribble a phone number, grocery list, etc.

The Altoid Tin allows me to carry this gear compactly without the pocket clutter that used to drive me so nuts. Now I can just drop the tin in a shirt pocket (or coat pocket) and have what I need available but out of the way.

I've still got a tiny bit of extra room but not enough to toss in my Fox 40 Micro whistle so it'll have to go on my keyring.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Woods in Transition

Yesterday's hike revealed that the end of winter may be nearer than expected. Plants are starting to break through the surface of the remaining snow, the streams are beginning to thaw, and what's left out there is melting into slippery slush which, combined with the mud, makes for some difficult walking.

As a matter of fact, I managed to find a sizable divot on the way out yesterday hidden under the snow and as I stepped into it my knee made a loud popping noise and I was immediately made aware (like, OUCH!) that I may have just done something bad to my knee.

I limped out and got home to ice and elevate my leg but it's still hurting me this morning. I'm going to try and take it easy today and see how it goes.

I went out with Laura's new camera (Nikon S210) and the new video camera yesterday and got this picture of my Fallkniven F1 with the camera (a darned good point and shoot that fits in a shirt pocket) and some video that I'll try and put together today that'll give you a better feel for what I was seeing.

With temperatures in the 40s and more rain in the forecast I can't picture the snow sticking around much longer. Then again, it could well dump more snow on us. It is only February after all.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Firesteel Techniques

Here it is folks, my FIRST video:

I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for watching,


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Advantage Survival PACFire

I saw this video this morning on YouTube:

and then hit the website here: Advantage Survival to give the PACFire a look.

I always thought I'd see somebody capitalize on the firestarting kit idea and here it is. The PACFire is using fatwood, a Sparklite firestarter, TinderQuik tabs, and a waterproof container to carry it all.

It looks like a thorough emergency firestarting kit and the TINDERNest would easily ignite with the included sparker and tinder so getting a fire going, even in the wet, should be fairly easy.

I'd like to get an up-close look at this kit before passing final judgment but it looks good from what I can see of it online.

Thanks for reading,


EDIT: I found this video on the Advantage Survival site demo-ing the PACFire kit:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nick Allen (NWA) Knives Family Picture

I mentioned that I had a small handful of Nick's knives now and thought I'd shoot a quick picture of the quartet. Top to bottom the knives are the Stinger, Camp Knife, and two Field Knives in both natural canvas and green canvas micarta.

I'm carrying the green canvas micarta field knife right now and need to go get it dirty.

It's a gorgeous day but a bit cold. Time to head out...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Video Camera

I just picked up a digital video camera today so expect some multimedia posts in the next couple of days once I get it figured out.

Now I just need to set up a YouTube account...

TALK to you soon. :)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Let's Make a Pot Stand/Burner

Let's make a pot stand/burner for our 12cm Zebra Billy Can. This pot stand/burner is a project I've done in the past but now I need to make a new one because the old one has been lost for some time. This project will allow you to heat your billy can with a Trangia burner, fuel tablets, or a wood fire.

Things you'll need:

So let's get started.

Here is the new silverware sorter next to my well-used 12cm Zebra Billy Can.
Use the Sharpie and straight edge to lay out the opening you'll cut in with the Dremel. I liked the shape of Mungo's more than my original so made mine like his.
The Dremel is used to make quick work of the cutting. Fortunately, I've done this before and have learned from my mistakes. I still managed to break one cutoff wheel into a million pieces. I like to cut opposite sides to prevent the cutout from springing loose too soon.
The silverware sorter fits nicely inside the 12cm Zebra Billy Can with just enough room to slip a plastic bag in between to keep the mess contained. Since the sorter is a bit taller than the billy I'll put the lid upside down under the billy before slipping the whole assembly into a stuffsack (again, to contain the mess.)
I stuff the silverware sorter full of newspaper, fatwood, and whatever other tinder I can find to get it ready for burn-in. This process will cook off any coatings left on from manufacture and it should burn up any tiny metal slivers left from the cutting process.
A few strikes from my firesteel into a cotton ball gets this party started. I shove the now-lit cotton ball into a depression in the newspaper, like a sideways bird's nest, to get things going.
Now we're cookin'. You can see the metal has discolored from the burn-in and it's sooting up quite a bit inside (thanks to the fatwood.)
Once you've got your fire going nice and strong you can feed it larger pieces of wood like so. Push the ends in as the sticks burn much like you would feed a star fire. This allows you a longer burn with less maintenance.

Here I'm feeding the fire some pieces of knotty birch I just happened to have laying around.
Once my fire's well-established I like to capture some of that heat. Today it was about melting down some snow to make a cup of tea. It takes a massive amount of snow, which contains lots of air, to make enough water for even one cup.

I'm not saying it can't be done, but it'd be far easier to go prepared into the woods with a bottle or two of water.
Once the burn-in is done and everything is cleaned up you can see the difference between a new silverware sorter and my new potstand/burner.

Now I'll toss this into a plastic grocery bag and stuff it into my 12cm Zebra Billy Can and fill it with goodies for my next trip to the woods.

And that's all there is to it.

Now I've got a pot stand that'll last for a good long time.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Send me pictures and I'll put them on the site.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 20, 2009

Working Behind the Scenes

Today I've been sitting at the keyboard hammering out code and pounding Mountain Dew so I can bring you some new things in the next couple of days.

I think I'm about to get carpal tunnel though. :)

Hang tight, it'll be worth it.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coyote Breeding Season

Just a reminder that coyotes breed in January and February. Average gestation periods are around 60-62 days.

That means you should be careful if you're in the woods with your dogs in April because there'll be new parents out there who'll be at the peak of aggressiveness toward any potential threats.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nick Allen Stinger

Nick told me yesterday that the smaller of the pair of new knives is named the Stinger. I've had several chances to put the Stinger to work for me in the past 24 hours and I'm duly impressed with the ability of this big knife in a small package. I think this may have replaced the Bark River Mini Canadian as my favorite small knife. Both have thinner blades (but not too thin) and about 3/4 sized handles but the Stinger edges the MiniCan with greater blade length, better handle ergonomics, and stunning good looks.

They're in the same ballpark price wise too.

Nick's got this thing plenty sharp for my use. I'll sharpen it when it needs it (a departure for me from the usual new knife routine) and let the original sharpening do the work for now. I'm curious to see how Nick's O1 holds up and how quickly the patina replaces that beautiful hamon line. That'll be a bittersweet day for me because I'll have worn off the newness but also lost that great bit of finish.

So far it's been mundane tasks like breaking down boxes, opening mail, and the old standby--nail trimming. It's been easy to hold on to the knife with the contoured handle and the sharp blade has made very short work of the tasks put in front of it.

It's raining today and about 40° but I'm going to head out to the trail for a bit of a hike and I'll take the Stinger with me in case I can find something to cut while I'm out.

And for those of you who aren't fans of the choil, Nick mentioned that he does this same design without the choil for the same price. I'm not sure yet whether or not I like/need the choil as designed but it does make the design continuity flow from the Stinger all the way up to the big Camp Knife. Once I get the Camp Knife back I'll put them all together and you'll easily see Nick's style.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More from Nick Allen

I just got this pair in from Nick Allen (NWA Knives) yesterday. This makes a total of four pieces from Nick and each one has excellent fit and finish, great handle ergonomics, and the visible hamon line on the blade really completes the look.

These blades are both O1 with the Field Knife sporting a 5" blade and the smaller one a 3.25" blade from tip to the front of the scale. The smaller knife weighs in at 4.35 oz. and the Field Knife at 7.8 oz. The smaller blade is 0.155" thick and the Field Knife is 0.21" thick. The sheaths have been treated with Nick's beeswax dip and come just about as hard as wood. These two sheaths both came with loops for the Light My Fire Army firesteel. I added a firesteel to the Field Knife sheath and the fit was tight but, as with all leather sheaths, it'll stretch a bit with time and the friction fit will loosen just a hair.

Jake is becoming quite a student of bladeware and spent some time yesterday looking over the smaller knife under close supervision. He really liked the way the handle felt in his hand and how the knife moved through the air (paraphrasing his words.) Then, when asked, he refused to hand it back to me.

He has taken quite a fancy to some of my knives and I'll find him going through "the box" for a new knife which he will then claim as his own. I don't think he'll get this one until I've used it a bit but he sure seemed tempted.

I really like how Nick has kept the aesthetic of the Field Knife in both the big and small knives. There's definitely a Nick Allen style now. Apparently he also makes a D2 fillet knife that looks very interesting and he could probably modify that design just a hair to make a great butchering/prep knife for my next deer. I suspect, however, that any of the four NWA knives I currently own could do the job just fine.

The Camp Knife and my original Field Knife are off to Mike Billman for his kydex sheath treatment and I'll get a picture of the whole "family" once they come back. Those will be part of Box of Awesome 3.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, February 16, 2009

Went Shooting

Yesterday I went shooting up at Bass Pro Shops with my dentist, who is also my friend, and two of his friends.

I've never shot at Bass Pro's ranges before despite going up there a couple of times a month. Now I suspect I'll go to shoot as often as I go to shop.

There are some hoops to jump through to get from the front door to the range but I can live with that for the convenience and location. They need to trigger lock and zip-tie the case, inventory your range bag (i.e. eyes, ears, ammo, targets, etc.) and then call back to the range to let them know you're coming. Once you get to the range you reverse the procedure and then they let you in to the locked lanes (pistol) or the locked rifle/shotgun tube.

We shot rifle and pistol yesterday although it took us 35 minutes to get everything in order to shoot through the rifle tube. We brought full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo because that's what we had. You can only shoot jacketed hollow point (JHP) in the tube because it's an indoor range and the FMJ would put excessive wear and tear on the backstop. You can, however, shoot any rifle caliber so long as you have non-FMJ rounds.

My first set was 20 shots with the rifle and I walked up and down the right side of the target trying to acquire the proper sight picture. I'm having a hard time seeing hits on my targets and will remember to bring some binoculars the next time. After making an adjustment three clicks counter-clockwise on my rear sight I then proceeded to hammer the bulls-eye.

There's still one round outside the bull but it's in the 9-ring. That's a hanging target at 55 yards using iron sights and 55 grain JHP bullets. Now that I've got it sighted in at 55 yards I'll be able to work more effectively at longer distances to get it re-sighted. I would've kept shooting yesterday but with two shooters sharing the tube for only 25 minutes we were a bit pressed for time plus we still wanted to shoot pistols before the range closed.

Now I'm not a rifle guy nor a pistol guy (yet) but I'm getting there. I shot around 100 rounds of .40 at 25 yards yesterday and had a few 10-ring shots but mostly I'm shooting low and right (left-handed shooter.) I found these wheel charts yesterday to help me diagnose the problems:

Left Hand Shooter
Right Hand Shooter

These are both PDFs so if you click the link it may take a minute to load.

If this chart is right then I've got to work on my trigger control and pay closer attention to my wrist and head position. Being only the second hundred rounds I've put through a pistol I know I'm going to encounter some problems. It took me thousands of rounds through my 870 to start hammering the sporting clays and 5-stand courses.

I'm going to see about going up there again this week to shoot some more and see if I can repeat the results from yesterday's trip (and improve my pistol accuracy.)

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fehrman First Strike Sheath Pictures

Well, he's done it again. Mike Billman of Grindstone Cutlery has sent me another Box of Awesome and this rig was in there. If I were to rate them, I believe BoA 2 was actually more awesome than BoA 1.

The Fehrman First Strike is an awesome end of the world (EoTW) type blade to begin with but Mike's kydex has made this the knife to grab in a Red Dawn type scenario. I've got a firesteel, cordage, and an extremely tough and extremely sharp tool at my disposal. I can use the ranger band for emergency tinder in a pinch and I could easily mount a Photon Microlight on this sheath like I've got on my Fallkniven F1 sheath.

The same box (the actual BoA) has gone back and forth now twice and will be headed back to Fort Wayne as soon as I can find more tools to send Mike's way. He's having as much fun coming up with sheathing solutions as I'm having playing with the finished goods.

The First Strike is a phenomenal setup but it's STILL not the most awesome thing I've received in a Box of Awesome...more on that in the near future. :)

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 13, 2009

Bushcraft Tools

I shot this picture this morning while setting up some other gear shots and really liked it. I thought I'd share it with you.

That's the Diving Sparrow Knife Works Boreal and the Rod Garcia Skookum Bush Tool on top of one of the standards in my bushcraft library, Kochanski's "Bush Craft."

The knives are similar in some respects but also so utterly different to defy comparison. The handles are both very comfortable and the blades are nicely thin but that's really where the comparison stops. While Abe's knife is flat ground with a wicked sharp edge, Rod's SBT is Scandi ground with a wicked sharp edge. One is 1095 and one is A2. The Boreal is a real slicer at 1/8" thick while the SBT has just a bit more thickness at 5/32" and no slouch in the slicing department.

Both knives are thin enough to handle cutting chores efficiently but you'll want to pair them both with an axe for heavier work I suspect. And, since I carry a Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (SFA) with me quite often, I'm covered.

I have been using the SBT quite a bit lately and it's developed some patina but stropping the edge gets rid of any discoloration so I'd eventually end up with a nice patina on the flats and highly polished bevels (if this one was mine.) I don't think Dan and Spen will mind the patina but I'll probably polish the flats before returning it just because I'm such a nice guy. :)

Anyway, I got some additional pictures of the contents of Box of Awesome 2 that I'll get posted in the next couple of days. I'm going to have to hurry though as Mike's already sitting on Box of Awesome 3 and coming up with more project ideas.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dehydration Headache

Pay attention to that nagging low-level headache during the winter. It could signal the onset of dehydration.

The dry air combined with cold temperatures and wind really can do a number on your hydration levels without you even knowing it.

I worked outside for several hours yesterday and never broke a sweat but the headache this morning reminds me that I never drank water while I was out.

It's a simple fix but the headache, even a mild one, is no fun at all...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trail Running

Well, with the recent break in the weather the trails are clear of snow but covered in mud--slick, slimy mud.

Today I'm going to try trail running to see if it's more my speed than hitting the treadmill or elliptical machine at the gym.

Plus, when I look silly during the first days of my walk/run phase, the only eyes to see will belong to the creatures of the woods (I hope.)

Wish me luck,


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Check your Kits

Remember to check your kits from time to time to make sure things are working as expected.

I ran through my kits yesterday and had three of my Photon Microlights with dead batteries. That'd be a rather unpleasant surprise in a situation where I needed some light.

Today I'll run out and get replacement batteries and get things back in working order.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, February 09, 2009

Skookum Bush Tool

I picked up a Skookum Bush Tool from the shelf at JRE Industries last week and have been playing with it since I got home.

I contacted Rod Garcia, the maker, and asked him to describe this particular model for me and he informed me that it's probably A2 and is a test model which was designated as a sheath sample and not representative of the final finished product.

He offers the SBT Mark I in O1, A2, and 3V so all the blades can take a patina with use. I hope Dan and Spen aren't too upset with stains on the blade when they get it back.

The knives are Scandi Ground and sharpen up easily and nicely. This test model will shave hair readily.

I look forward to doing a more in-depth review over the next several days/weeks (depends on how long the JRE boys let me hang on to it.)

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Woodsman

These videos were posted on one of the discussion forums I frequent and I enjoyed them so much I thought I'd share with you. They're in the same vein as the Russell Coight "All Aussie Adventures" I wrote about a while back.

I hope you find them as amusing as I did.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 06, 2009

Modern Day Pack Basket

I picked up a German Army surplus rucksack a while back at Cabela's thinking it looked like a decent sized pack with acceptable straps and, at $20, it was easy enough to get one and try it.

What I didn't realize at the time was that it could change the way I carry gear into the woods with a very simple addition.

It was an accidental discovery made while cleaning out the mud room and moving gear from one location to another after hunting season. I am a big user of 5-gallon buckets and consider it a unit of measure for most activities. I used it as the limiter for the class at Briar Patch, as the maximum amount of food and gear for the hunting trip, and the basis for the food load in the back of my car for emergencies.

Well, the 5-gallon bucket with lid is the perfect size to fit into the main compartment of the rucksack. It's waterproof with the lid snapped on, holds odd-sized/shaped items, and provides me a place to sit when I get into the woods. The pack has pockets on the sides that'll fit the 1L Nalgene/Guyot bottles and there are slots behind the side pockets for longer items like an axe handle.

I can't find them on the Cabela's website but I may just not be looking in the right place. They've had them locally each time I've gone into the store so I hope they're still available.

For $20 (rucksack) plus maybe $5 (bucket and lid) you can put together a modern day equivalent of a pack basket that carries fairly comfortably when loaded and offers a wide array of options for just what you can put in it for a trip to the woods or even for carting emergency gear around in the back of your car that you may need to grab and go.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rough Night

Last night I couldn't find my Beans72 pillow as it had been moved and it was well after dark when I came to bed.

I tossed and turned most of the night and woke this morning with a stiff neck, sore shoulder, and a whopper of a migraine--good times.

It's funny that it went missing last night as I just ordered Beans72 travel pillows for both of the kids yesterday after they fought over my King Size pillow on Monday night. (It's quite humorous to watch a 55 pound kid and a 42 pound kid wrestle over a 16 pound pillow.)

The support provided by the buckwheat hulls is unbeatable in my opinion and this is the first stiff neck I've had since I purchased my first Beans72 pillow more than a year ago. I take my travel pillow with me whenever I'm spending a night away from home whether it's in a hotel or in the woods.

Yes, all this gushing over a pillow...

If you haven't already gotten yourself a Beans72 pillow you owe it to yourself to give them a try. If I had the time today, I'd give mine another shot with a little nap.

I'm going to wish I'd had my Beans72 pillow last night when that last meeting of the evening is dragging on...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Building the Man Room (Day 1)

Today starts the development of my new "Man Room" in the basement.

I haven't had a basement in a long time and I'm taking full advantage of the fact that this one is both large and unfinished. It'll give me a place for my bushcraft books and videos, gear, and offer a place to hang out that's both warm in winter and cool in summer. It's a lookout basement so I'll have the ability to watch the woods from the comfort of a hammock while staying out of the elements.

It's not much to look at today but I did move the furniture out of the toy room upstairs and into the basement to make room for the new baby furniture and, rather than just store the furniture downstairs, I set it up like it was upstairs and used carpet remnants to keep things off the concrete.

Today the electrician is coming in to run some lines because I've got just one outlet in the entire basement and it's already being used. By the end of the day today I hope to be able to plug in and turn on the television and maybe even get rid of the 100 foot extension cord I've been using when I need to drag the wet/dry vacuum around the basement to suck up dried out salamanders, spiders, and construction debris.

Thanks for reading,