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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Join Scouting!

Over the weekend, Jake and I joined Cub Scouts.

The big kick-off meeting was yesterday and we got to spend some time building a cool first aid kit/neckerchief slide, learning how to whip the end of some rope, and start a fire with a metal match.

Now, these are all skills Jake already has but it was fun to see him do them (mostly) on his own with his peers.

What I found especially surprising was the level of preparedness on the part of the Boy Scout instructors. The cordage session was run by two Scouts and a leader and they had one dull knife between them and they needed to cut roughly 15 pieces of cordage per session. Fortunately we got there a little ahead of our group and I loaned them my new Victorinox Soldier and Leatherman Micra to cut what they needed.

Then I sharpened the dull SAK on my Fallkniven DC4.

I loaned out my Light My Fire Army firesteel to the firestarting table and it was a treat watching the kids light dryer lint but I was a bit shocked at how many parents would encourage their kids to give it up and let another boy try before the scout had succeeded. If at first you don't succeed...give up and let somebody else try?!

Not in my den...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fallkniven Stones (DC3 and DC4)

Some of you may have gotten one of the more recent stones like I have. One of my DC3s came with the ceramic about 1/8" too short on both ends and there were saw marks (like concentric circles) on the ceramic side that gave it a sort of serrated appearance. This makes it VERY hard to get a clean edge on the finish side.

Here's a quick trick to fix the texture problem.

If you've got another Fallkniven stone just rub the rough ceramic side on the diamond plate in a circular motion (like you're lapping a water stone) and use plenty of water. Don't push down too hard and be patient. In just a couple of minutes you'll have smoothed out the ceramic side and it'll also open the pores of the material to really help with your final sharpening.

I tried lapping the ceramic on a piece of worn sanding belt over glass but the ceramic is too hard for anything but diamond.

It seems like it cleaned up the diamond plate too.

At first I was really disappointed with the quality of the last batch of stones but in my small handful I received one that was a problem and one more with an ill-fitting ceramic side. The lapping fix took care of the functional problem so the rest is purely aesthetic.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spoon Carving

You can learn a lot about a tool's design simply by trying to make one yourself.

This past weekend the village had a work day in the natural area in my neighborhood and Laura and I went to work removing invasive buckthorn, thistles, and other non-native plants. One of those buckthorns had grown to a 25 foot tall tree and had to be removed with a chainsaw.

As soon as it was down I asked if I could have the trunks for spoon carving and I got a lot of strange looks. Fortunately they know me, I know them, and those strange looks are pretty commonplace for me. I got the trunks cut into four foot lengths and carried them home. Then I used my folding saw to reduce the length of one piece with a crook that looked like it could turn into a spoon.

I used my Eriksson 510 and a Mora spoon knife to do all the work from splitting the log to roughing out the shape to final carving. Sure, I had to strop the 510 three or four times during the work but it did just fine. I also burned out the bowl a bit to get through some of the knots I encountered that were much harder than the surrounding wood and seemed to just shrug off most of the spoon knife's efforts.

Now I've always been artistic but I find myself going too far with every project so it's not an avenue I ever really explored. The spoon carving is no different. I would continually come in, look over the spoon, and think that it needed more carving. I'd show it to my wife and kids and they would critique it and give me some ideas. I would head back outside to carve some more and worry that I'd carve the handle too thin or cut right through the bottom of the bowl in my quest for the perfect lightweight spoon.

It turns out that my other attempts at spoons have gone nowhere near far enough rather than too far. I am now going to rework all of them to make them lighter, thinner, and more useful. Fortunately a very sharp 510 is up to the task of carving well-seasoned wood. We'll see how it holds up though. The Buckthorn was nice and green and my other spoons have already been fire-hardened.

Speaking of fire hardening, I used all the shavings left from the stick and my 510 with a firesteel and started a fire which I used to create the coals that I'd use to burn out the bowl as well as giving me a chance to dry out the wood to both harden and lighten it. The heat also gave the grain a nice pop. Plus, I'm left with a tiny bit of ash at the end of the day which is easy enough to sweep up or scatter to the four winds.

This one's a gift for the guy who cut down the tree and then sectioned the trunk for me. The next one is going to the woman who organized the work day. Then maybe I'll make one for me.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 24, 2009

Some New Knives

I met up with Dan from JRE Industries yesterday and picked up three new knives which I'll be discussing in the next few days as things settle down a bit.

Today is the first day of school and this morning it's a zoo around here trying to get Jake and Laura ready for the bus plus I've got an appointment with the dermatologist this morning to take a look at the beating my feet have taken this summer barefooting and to preemptively strike at any poison ivy Laura or I may get from our work over the weekend.

On top of all of that, I've got my first soccer practice tonight and I just got rid of all my coaching materials a few weeks ago so I need to come up with some new drills for the girls that are fun, easy to learn, and teach them some essential skills since we've got a game coming up this weekend already.

This could be a good week for posting though. I may even have a rant or two before the weekend comes...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 23, 2009

How Hard is Koster's 3V?

I've finally knocked the razor edge off of the Dan Koster Wilderness and Survival Skills (W&SS) Necker and need to touch up the edge. The problem I'm encountering is the extreme hardness of 3V and its resistance to abrasives.

First I tried a worn 800-grit belt on a mouse pad and got nowhere. Then I tried stropping and had little success (but I did get the Sharpie to wear off.) Next was my water stone. 4000 grit did little to the edge and I didn't want to go coarser as I wasn't reprofiling the blade but just cleaning up the edge. So, I was left with ceramic and diamond stones.

My Spyderco stones are too fine and my DMT bench stone is too coarse so I looked to my Fallkniven DC3 which I am carrying in my pocket. It's both diamond and ceramic and the dual surfaces were just the trick to get the edge on the W&SS necker popping again. Plus it only took a matter of a couple of minutes to go from start to finish.

I use a circular motion to establish the bevel and then a few "slices" across the stone to unify the scratches in the edge. Repeat the process on the ceramic side and then a quick hit on the strop (despite my previous results) for a few passes to make sure the wire edge is gone.

Then I jammed the knife through an aluminum can and worked my way around the perimeter cutting the can in half just for giggles. The result? NO DAMAGE to the 3V!!!

Fortunately, when the edge does get damaged, I know how to fix it and the tool is right there in my pocket. Now, off to find some more challenging tasks for this knife...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 17, 2009

One Handed

How much of your gear can you really use one-handed?

Sarah has been demanding lots of carrying lately and so I've been working on lots of things one-handed--including typing this entry.

I had to open my Otterbox PSK this weekend and simply could not get it done. I undid the first latch but the angles on the other one were all wrong. I tried right handed, I tried left-handed, and I even tried to use my body for additional leverage. No dice.

Now, lots of components inside the kit can be used one-handed but they're of little use to me if I can't get to them. Worst case scenario I could smash the box with a rock I suppose.

Food for thought...


Friday, August 14, 2009

Ultimate Survival Technologies

I got a box last night from Ultimate Survival Technologies with some new gear that I'll be testing and reviewing over the next couple of days. The box contained the new WetFire Stove that uses UST's WetFire Tinder Cubes as fuel. The stove is made out of Titanium and folds up small--I mean SMALL! There is also a box of WetFire (8 cubes) that I'll be using with the stove and as tinder. Lastly, the Basic Adventure Survival Essentials (BASE) Kit which includes the Sparkie Firestarter, StarFlash signal mirror, WetFire tinder, and JetScream whistle. Everything fits inside a waterproof bag (Aloksak maybe?) and weighs just 2.4 oz.

I'll be reviewing these items individually in-depth over the next couple of days so expect plenty of pictures and even a video or two.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stabbed! Twice!!

Well, I'm clearly doing something wrong this week. I've managed to stab myself TWICE in a matter of a few days.

First was in the stomach with a sharpened pry bar two days ago and today was with one of the 510s I've been sharpening.

The stomach stab was due to poor decision making as I tried to pull a ranger band off of the handle of a County Comm Pry Bar and I managed to snap it free only to jam the sharpened pry end into my stomach. Fortunately it didn't bite me too hard thanks to the layers I was wearing and some of the extra "insulation" I'm still carrying around.

Today I stuck the 510 in right between my thumb and index finger right into the webbing as I attempted to put the blade to a piece of worn 220-grit belt that I'm using to flatten the bevels. I stuck it right in, felt the pain, and then bled a bit before deciding that I should probably hang it up for the day. :)

So I'm going to take the kids out to the pool for dinner and swimming...

Thanks for reading,


Briar Patch Campout

Anybody planning on attending the campout on the 28-30 of this month should know that I'm bringing a whole mess of gear that I'll leave out for testing.

There'll be more steel than you can shake a stick at as well as whatever else I can think of tossing in the back of the van prior to our departure.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Camp

So the kids are both at summer camp this week. The camp takes place in the same woods where I used to play all the time so I know the area VERY well and can talk with the kids at length about what they saw during the day. This is good.

Laura (8) is doing a natural history themed camp where they are discussing the voyageurs and Native American life and Jake (6) is doing more nature exploration (plants, animals, etc.) and the projects they come home with are fantastic.

Yesterday, Laura's class made darts and played a game that would have been played by the youth to train them for hunting with projectiles so we started to talk about the atlatl and I went into the garage to fish out my darts. We threw them because the thrower was in the house but they all got the idea that I would have been an awesome hunter "back in the day" if I had been around because I could throw the darts all the way into the neighbor's yard and stick it into the ground.

Accuracy was not a concern for them thankfully. LOL!

Anyway, now I've got the kids in the neighborhood wanting to make their own atlatl darts and I'm going to clear it with their parents first (sharpened bamboo is NOT something to be taken lightly) and then we can move forward.

Maybe I'll use my freshly tuned 510 to do the bamboo cutting when it comes time to finish their practice darts.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Working Up the 510

You may remember that I picked up a whole box of 510s from Ragnar at Ragweed Forge a while back for some sharpening testing. Well, working up those knives has been more difficult than originally expected because I just can't seem to find the time to do them in a batch so I end up doing them one at a time and then cleaning everything up and putting it away.

The problem with the 510 is that it's so darned useful. A properly sharpened 510 is pretty hard to beat in terms of performance and value but there's a price to be paid in order to squeeze everything out of the knife.

Here are some of the steps I go through to maximize the performance of my $10-15 Moras.

1. Flatten the Scandi Grind with a DMT Coarse stone.
I have yet to get an inexpensive Frosts Mora with truly flat bevels. The DMT stones are advertised as being something like .0001" from flat or less and so this becomes the stone I go to first. Short back and forth strokes seem to work best for me using a very light touch. The long strokes I'd use with other knives just go too slowly to be of much use. Once the scratch pattern is nice and even the full length of the bevel then I'll switch to long strokes.

Once the scratches are nice and even, I put a piece of fresh 220-grit paper on the DMT stone and repeat the process. This really speeds up the process and gives me nice flat bevels with a decent finish very quickly.

Repeat this step with 600, 1000, and then 2000 grit paper.

Hit it on the strop using edge-trailing strokes maybe 10-15 strokes on each side, then 5 strokes, 3 strokes, 2, and alternating strokes until it's screaming sharp.

2. Square the Spine
I clamp the now-sharp 510 between two pieces of wood to protect the flats and go to work with a Bastard File to flatten and square the spine. The squared spine can be used like a cabinet scraper to get fine tinder and it is much more useful when striking a firesteel.

Follow up with the Smooth File and then wrap some 220-grit paper around the file and get all the scratches out.

That's it.

I've spent maybe an hour to 90 minutes working on this 510 and now it should really sing. The 510 is immensely useful as shipped but this little bit of maintenance really improves cutting ability.

Not a bad investment for the performance achieved.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 05, 2009


With the completion of their scheduled summer activities, the kids have taken quite a shine to the various screens here in the house (i.e. computer, television, Wii, etc.) and they're slowly but surely putting down roots. This, combined with the generally wet and cool summer we've been having has lead to some drastic steps now that the weather has finally turned into summer.

At 10am I ban the kids from the house. They have to go outside and stay outside until lunchtime (Noon) and are free to spend their time observing nature, playing with their friends, playing with each other, or just running around like maniacs.

I provide them with snacks and drinks on a regular basis so I know they're not suffering from the exercise PLUS I get to control just what they're eating and drinking. As with nearly every household, we've got snacks around here and the kids are very good at figuring out how to get their hands on those snacks instead of eating balanced meals.

Yesterday was our first day of this new routine and it went well. They were out for two hours, came in for lunch, went back out and played with their friends, and then Laura had Mad Science camp from 1:30 to 4:00. When I came to get her from camp we ran home, changed into bathing suits, and headed for the pool. Then we swam and had some dinner and left around 8:00 last night and the kids were TIRED!

As a matter of fact, Jake and Sarah are still sleeping...

With all this recent talk about kids' shortage of Vitamin D, I thought I'd do my part to make sure my kids weren't part of those statistics. They're going to get regular doses of "Medicine In the Sky" at least until school starts again.

Thank for reading,


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wilderness Skills Weekend

Indian Orchards & Briar Patch Outdoor Training are co-hosting a Wilderness Skills Weekend in Byron, MI August 28-30.

They'll be offering lots of hands on classes including plant identification, cordage and rope skills, shelters, traps, fire making, tools, primitive weapons, and kids programs.

There'll be camping sites available on the 27th after 5pm for setup and costs are broken down per day or by the weekend as follows:

Adults $20/day OR $50/weekend
Kids $10/day OR $25/weekend
Family $50/day OR $125/weekend

Classes begin at 10am Friday and end at 1pm on Sunday. There's also a potluck dinner on Sunday after the class at 2pm.

For more information or to register, call Ricci at (810) 449-7656 or George at (989) 288-0168.

I'm going to move some things around and try like heck to get up there and bring Jake and Laura. That's the first weekend after school starts so they'll probably be itching to take a break from the new routine and get back to getting dirty outside.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Keep 'em Sharp

I had an opportunity today to sit down and do some carving on seasoned birch with my Fallkniven F1. I sometimes forget how enjoyable it is to make fuzz sticks with a truly sharp knife and the 4.5mm thick Laminated VG-10 blade has proven itself as a true performer. It handles the rough stuff like splitting down seasoned wood, the finer stuff like making fuzz sticks, and even the sparking of a firesteel to get the fire started.

It's the keenness of the edge that most interests me though. This particular F1 has been beaten, bruised, and scarred. The edge has sustained chips, the blade bears several scratches, and the handle material has torn along the spine. It has also earned the place of honor among my gear as the go-to knife whenever I get ready to head out.

I think part of the reason it's so often taken along is that I've sharpened it with diamond and ceramic stones, water stones, oil stones, Hoodoo Hones, and strops. I've sharpened it on a belt sander, by hand, and at home and in the field. I can get the edge razor sharp with any of these methods and I'm comfortable with my ability to put and keep an edge on it no matter what.

A sharp knife is much safer to use than a dull one and being able to sharpen with whatever I've got on hand increases my confidence and comfort with this knife more than any other. The simple fact that I can replace it so easily (being a production knife) doesn't hurt either.

This sharpening experience may be for naught with the new 3G F1 but I won't know until I have to try it for the first time. As exciting as it is to have a new super steel in my F1, it's still hard to think about retiring my Laminated VG-10 F1 for any amount of time. We've got history.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. There's just something about making a curl the entire length of a 14-18" long piece of wood that really tickles me. And doing it over and over again really gets me going...

Thanks for reading,