American Bushman

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

Friday, October 30, 2009


Every time you sharpen it should be treated as a learning experience. As I work these 510s over and over I get more competent and confident about my ability. Having so many of them on hand has made it easy for me to compare my "finished" state on each knife in the progression.

One of the challenges of sharpening knives is keeping the red stuff inside your hands and fingers. Today I noticed streaks of what looked like rust on the stone as I made a few passes. It was then that I realized that I'd sliced a neat little piece off of my thumb. I had been resting my thumb on the tip of the knife to keep the bevel flat on the stone and apparently sliced it one time across the stone. I never felt a thing.

While I was laughing about the cut on my thumb I noticed a similar cut on my index finger on the other hand. Again, I never felt a thing.

These are knives that are taken to 220-grit on a Norton Waterstone so the edges are not highly refined or polished. Agressive would be a good word to describe the type of edge I've got at this point. After the edge is shaped then I'll take it to a 4000-grit Norton waterstone and then an 8000-grit waterstone of unknown origin. Finally I'll use black and green compound loaded into strops to put the final polish on the edge.

By the time I get to the bottom of the box I should be able to really make the Scandi edges shine.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winterize the Van Kit

It's that time of year again. The gloomy weather, the shorter days, the colder nights, and the increased likelihood of being outside mean that it's time to include some warming gear in the van kit for the next several months.

The first addition? My favorite German Army wool blankets (2) and my Beans72 buckwheat pillow. Second, the old Swedish Army Trangia (until something can come along and displace it) with some additional shelf-stable foods like bagged tuna, rice and beans, and Clif Bars. Water and Gatorade will be switched due to the higher freezing point of the latter. I'll still bring water but in lesser quantities. Also, I'll add hot chocolate powder or Abuelita chocolate squares.

What amazes me is the number of times I'll dip into this gear during the cooler months. The kids LOVE hot chocolate outside and I really enjoy being the kind of dad who can provide it for them anywhere and at any time. Impress your kids' friends, bring your camp stove and soup mix or hot chocolate and warm it up somewhere far from the kitchen.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prepare Your Eyes!

Laura, being the outdoorsy girl that she is, likes pink gear. She does not, however, like beat up Swedish Army Green gear so much. That being the case, I made a trip to Home Depot for some supplies and set to work yesterday pinking up her Swedish Army Trangia Cookset.

I sanded off as much of the old paint as I could, hit both pots with some Scotchbrite, and then applied two coats of tan primer. This was followed with two coats of the pinkest spray paint we could find which just happened to be neon. The undercoat tones it down just a bit but the whole set is still plenty pink.

That is NOT a Photoshop trick there folks. That's one very pink Trangia set.

We've test fired it on the burner and it holds up just fine. I worried a bit about the paint flaking off but it looks like the prep work was thorough enough and the heat from the burner never exceeds the capacity of the paint as long as the pot is filled with water. Now it's a simple matter of testing wear and tear on the stove.

The good news is that I can tell which one is Laura's cookset from a LONG way off now.

Thanks for reading,


PS. If you dare, you can click the image for a larger version of the same. I can't be held responsible for the damage it may do to your eyes however. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Strops

I convinced Dan and Spen of JRE Industries to part with some pieces of scrap leather for various projects I had in mind. One of them was to make myself a couple of new strops. Their scrap is of better quality than the remnants I could buy from one of the craft shops or Tandy Leather and I'm helping to reduce their waste so the whole process is very green.

I went up to Home Depot and purchased one 3' long piece of poplar and cut it into various length pieces. I took two similar sized pieces and sanded the ends and laid them over the top of the scrap pieces of leather and turned them until I could get the maximum coverage. I used the Spyderco Paramilitary to cut the leather to size and then glued it down with Elmer's White Glue (it was the only glue I had in the house that hadn't set up on me.) I set the strops leather side down on the counter and weighted them down while the glue set up.

A few hours later, I flipped them over and the leather seemed like it was firmly attached to the wood backer so I prepped the leather and applied black compound on one and Hand American .5 Micron paste on the other. Now I've got two finishing strops that take care of removing wire edges and bringing slightly worn edges back to sharp.

I think the whole project cost me about $3 and these strops will last as long as the leather holds out. JRE uses nice heavy leather so I think it'll be a very, very long time until I have to worry about replacing the leather (unless I do something silly like cut into the leather while cleaning up a Scandi bevel.)

Yeah, that's why I had to build some new strops...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 26, 2009

Swedish Army Trangia Day!

What a perfect day to pull out my old Swedish Army Trangia and fire up some hot chocolate.

It's cold and rainy and we haven't seen the sun in days.

Sarah and I sat outside waiting on the buses this afternoon and I got the brilliant idea to pull out the Trangia 5-piece set and see if we couldn't successfully fire up the burner and bring some cold water to a boil.

I did the whole operation one-handed while I was holding the baby and the hardest part was getting the sparks from the Magnesium Firestarter into the burner. That actually required the second hand but Sarah did her best to help me out.

So, I sit here typing with a nice big Guyot Squishy Bowl full of hot chocolate.

I think I'm going to head back out for some more weather...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Made a Mistake

I was asked recently about the process I use to recondition a knife once it's been used heavily and is in need of some TLC.

I have every intention of doing a detailed post on that with pictures and video.

The thing is, I just did this with the Koster W&SS Neck Knife yesterday and didn't even think about documenting it until I was already finished.

This is the 1/8" thick 3V neck knife I beat up the edge on to see how hard it was to bring it back to razor sharp and then had some problems finishing the job. In the process of trying various abrasives I scratched the bevels to heck and the knife was moderately sharp but ugly.

Yesterday I reversed all the damage I have done, thinned and convexed the bevels, and now the knife pops standing arm hair and the bevels look as good as new.

The first step now is to take one of my knives out and beat on it mercilessly to make it nice and ugly...any requests for a particular knife?

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guyot Designs Pet Squishy Bowls

I was looking through the Guyot Designs website yesterday and noticed a new product, Pet Squishy Bowls.

They come in four sizes and are made of the same food grade squishy material as their bowls and cups.

You can squish one up and put it in a pocket to fill with food or water for your dog out on the trail or, if you're like me, you're considering getting one of the larger models to use as a supplemental dish for yourself. :)

It looks like they're still pre-order but product should start shipping on 10/31 so it won't be long until you could have a squishy bowl for your best trail buddy (or yourself.)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Cleaning Tip

Got a pot that you've cooked in and it's just not coming clean? Here's a trick I use all the time to get that nasty baked on gunk out of my billy can:

Take a small piece of that foil you're carrying in your kit. (You ARE carrying foil right?) Wad it loosely and use it like a Chore Boy scrubber.

This works in non-stick pans, cast iron, and stainless. The foil is softer than the seasoning in your cast iron but it's harder than any food that might have cooked on.

If you press hard on the foil ball you'll smooth out the surface. No worries, just open it back up and wad it again.

Hope you found that helpful,


Getting in the Hunting Mood

For some reason, I'm getting into the hunting mood this morning. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's my internal season clock telling me that it's time to get ready. Maybe it's the increasing number of deer I'm seeing along the roadside and in the woods.

I don't know for sure but I can tell you that I'm starting to lay out gear and think about doing the work to improve my odds come late November.

Sarah scratched my cornea in my dominant eye a few weeks ago and it has impaired my ability to see the front post on my muzzleloader but I've got a Leupold scope that's been sitting in a cabinet for the past two years so it might well be time to mount it up and see if it makes it easier to see down field.

I've got to hit the range to see just how impaired the eye is.

I'm also working on my pack to make sure I've got what I might need and taking out what I don't. Last year was a real learning experience so I'll do my best to pass along what I'm keeping and what I'm getting rid of this year.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still Here...

Really, I've been sitting here trying to write a post for the past two days. Unfortunately some obligations in the real world have kept my focus spread all over rather than here...

Pictures are still on the camera and the post just sits there half-finished.

I'll be back in a day or so with more to talk about.

I hope.

Keep on keeping on,


Friday, October 16, 2009

Sharpening the Hard Way

So there I was this morning, coming up with the day's project and thinking I was a total genius...

I have dozens of sheets of wet/dry sandpaper that I use for sharpening and refinishing my knives and the idea struck me that I could take one of the many cardboard boxes I recycle every week and some spray glue I just happened to have out to help Laura finish a project for school and I could make some very compact sharpeners in every grit with very little effort and then I could glue down whole sheets and custom cut to suit. The cardboard has enough give to sharpen convex edges and, when placed on the counter or some other flat surface, has enough rigidity to keep you from a) cutting into your leg and b) rounding your edges.

Then it occurred to me that my frugal approach to sharpening wasn't actually all that cheap. Sure, I already owned the abrasive and the spray glue and the cardboard but building this kit from scratch would cost me some time and money because I haven't found a place yet that sells everything in one location (brick and mortar anyway...)

I also have one of these. The JRE Industries EMS Sharpening System and, for $35, don't think I can beat it. If I were feeling really frugal I could just purchase the full set of abrasives and leather for $15 and mount them to my recycled cardboard backing. That's a LOT of abrasive in lots and lots of grits. I can take a butter knife and make it razor sharp with this system and NOTHING else.

I've been on a Japanese Waterstone kick lately but cleaning up well-beaten edges with the EMS is fast and super easy. As a matter of fact, I was talking with Dan of JRE Industries in the woods last weekend (as you know if you've been reading this week) and he mentioned that he pulled out his EMS to clean up some edges and was amazed at how well it worked AND HE'S THE GUY WHO CAME UP WITH THE KIT!!! :) I think it's because he's got access to machinery (belt sander and buffer) to handle sharpening in the shop and doesn't have much need for a system that'll handle a knife that's been beaten up so badly. Maintenance of an edge ALWAYS takes less time than reestablishing a damaged edge.

The bottom line is this:

I can still make my cardboard/abrasive compact hones for fun but the EMS Sharpening System really will handle everything I could need and it contains all the pre-cut pieces of leather and sandpaper and switching from one grit to another is so simple I'm not sure why I don't just use it all the time.

As an aside, I find it pretty funny that the same guys who make sheaths to protect you from your knife's edge are also responsible for the sharpening equipment that'll put a scalpel edge on your cutting tools...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Blades (F1 and Paramilitary)

It's time for a couple of changes to the cutlery lineup with the change in the weather. I'm putting the laminated VG-10 Fallkniven F1 on vacation for a few months while I continue the break-in period with the 3G F1 and the Paramilitary has done so well these past few days that I'm thinking of extending the pocket time to a month or longer.


I wonder how much I'll still like these blades come winter...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Project

I convinced Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works to fire up his forge and work on some things he hadn't worked on in a while including a couple of crooked knives. I received them yesterday ready for handles and will now take the page from Ellsworth Jaeger's book as a guide.

I'll take some pictures of the blades as received and then I'll put together a tutorial as I put the knife together and sharpen it that first time.

Maybe I can find a suitable branch in the woods this coming weekend...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Ruin a Morning

I've been reading Dr. Paul S. Auerbach's "Medicine for the Outdoors" the past few days and today I got to the chapter on minor bruises and wounds and it's some toe-curling information including how to drain a boil, repair an ingrown toenail, handle blisters on the trail, and more. There are lots of images (line drawings) of how to use your scalpel to ease pain and suffering of common ailments that affect hikers and backpackers. OUCH!

There's tons of great information for those of us who spend time out and about and it can be especially useful to those of us who carry and use sharp tools like axes, knives, and saws, who spend time outside during biting season with blackflies and mozzies, and who like to drink "wild" water and may suffer ill effects if purification isn't used. Sure, the water looked clean...

I'm hoping to get some training from the local Boy Scout Council on wilderness medicine in the near future and I've taken several first aid classes in the past so this book should be very useful to me in this pursuit. I think it was about $25 and, so far, I'd say it's been money well spent.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Two In A Row!

For the second Sunday in a row, I hit the woods with Dan from JRE Industries for some gear testing, some relaxation, and some hard core bull shooting. :)

Today I tested the Fallkniven 3G F1 for the first time. It has been sheathed on my pack strap since I got it and today it made its way into the woods and I no longer had an excuse to avoid using it. I carved fuzz sticks, split down branches with a baton and by driving the point into the stick and twisting, and I struck my firesteel to get a fire started.

I know friction firestarting is sort of the ultimate bush craft but using a knife and firesteel to get a fire going is really cool when no prepared tinder is being used. If I have my knife and a firesteel and the knowledge that has come with experience, I can start a fire in most situations using what is around me and some basic preparation techniques. As I told Dan, "There's something primal about the connection between man and fire. Once I had a small fire burning I was confident that I could survive a cold night out."

Dan has a new Silky Pocketboy 170 and it blew away my Bahco Lapplander saw when it came to cutting both green and seasoned wood. The cuts were smoother, the wood cut faster, and the cuts started faster with his saw. Despite the fact that he's using the coarsest blade, the cuts were very smooth. He also showed me a technique last week that I found interesting where he used his saw to cut the notch in a stick which could be used to hang a billy can, as part of a trap, or used as the relief cut when felling a tree with the saw.

There's more to tell and more testing to be done but that'll have to wait for now. I've got dinner on the table waiting on me.

What a way to spend an afternoon...

Thanks for reading,


Friday, October 09, 2009

Spyderco Paramilitary

I picked up a Spyderco Paramilitary (photo courtesy of Roger at Knifeworks the other day and it arrived yesterday afternoon. My initial impression is VERY favorable and I'm really impressed with the fit and finish, the lockup, and the locking mechanism. Having an S30V blade and G10 handles doesn't hurt either.

This thing came SHARP. It didn't feel sharp but it sure will cut whatever I put in front of it.

The size and shape are extremely conducive (to me anyway) to every day carry (EDC) and I think I may put away my other knives for a bit and see how it works out. Let's say one week to start.

Effective immediately, I'm emptying my pockets and leaving my old Victorinox Pioneer and Leatherman Micra in the drawer. Let's see how it goes shall we?

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 08, 2009


While I was out snapping some pictures yesterday I started piling up some of the well-used gear I tend to take with me into the woods more often than some others. There's something about well-used kit that really appeals to me. I don't know if it's the simple fact that usefulness and reliability has been proven or if it's simply the familiarity that comes with extended use but these are some of the tools I use.

In the pile is my Fallkniven F1, an old red Victorinox Pioneer, an old Fallkniven DC4, a Bahco Lapplander folding saw, the Light My Fire Army Firesteel, and the old broken but accurate compass housing that's a reminder of the rough baggage handling at the airport that cost me a GPS and two compasses. It, like the other bits of gear pictured, is a survivor. It's proven.

Some things I forgot, my SwissTool and my old Zebra billy can, should have been included as they've also proven their worth over and over. The billy can was still in the house but there's no excuse for leaving my SwissTool out of the picture as it was on my belt where it ALWAYS rides in a JRE Industries sheath.

I can still remember where the gear came from and there's still a connection with them all. They're also proven in my mind.

The F1 and DC4 came from Roger at Knifeworks, the kydex sheath came from MBHanzo, and the SwissTool, firesteel, and leather sheath came from JRE Industries. They, too, are all guys you can count on.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Knife Maintenance

Another day of the same old routine...

At least I've been able to spend some time sharpening. I took care of every blade in the kitchen and then moved on to my well-used Fallkniven F1 which I spent some time polishing last week.

The polishing took just enough of the edge off to prevent it from cutting well so I knew it was time to finish the job and bring it back to screaming sharp.

First, I made a few passes on a ScotchBrite belt on the belt sander to evenly satin my hand-polished job making sure to let the blade stay cool. Then I made two passes in each direction on my JRE field strop and the knife was literally popping hairs from my arm. (Have I mentioned how much I like the black compound they load on their strops?) Wow! It's better than new...

My 3G F1 still sits, waiting. I know it needs some testing but the laminated VG-10 blade has done so much and done it well. I know how to sharpen it quickly and effectively. It has handled every task I've set it to.

Over the weekend I carried one of my custom F1s but it's also laminated VG-10...

If it ain't broke...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fuzz Stick Tip

I'm sure some of you already know this but some of you may not.

When making fuzz sticks, in order to maximize your volume, you can make the curls lay in different directions simply by moving the point of your knife up or down as you're cutting.

Point up (at an angle) and your fuzzies will curl away from you.

Point down, and they'll curl toward you.

Keep the knife perpendicular to the stick and your fuzzies will curl straight.

A few passes each way will give you more volume (and make the fuzz stick light easier) than simply cutting one single way.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fun Day Out

I spent the afternoon with Dan from JRE Industries and his kids out in the woods doing some hard core playing with knives, firesteels, and other bits of gear.

We set up around a fallen tree and just relaxed while a spike buck came in for a look, a big toad tried to get the heck out of the way, and a redtail hawk glided big circles in the sky.

Fuzz sticks were carved, knives were tested, fires were built, and a particularly long hiking stick was harvested.

All in all a great time.

Thanks for reading,