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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ray Laconico Chopper

California knife maker Ray Laconico makes all kinds of designs from big choppers to slipjoint and frame lock folders.

I've been slowly and quietly building up quite a collection of his knives including this one I received yesterday.

The knife has a 5 1/8" handle and is 13 5/8" from butt to tip. The blade is 1/4" thick measured just in front of the handle scale and the steel is (maybe) 5160. The handles are black micarta and there is a stainless lanyard hole and two stainless pins.

The knife weighs 16.5 oz. and the balance point is forward of the guard. This should help with chopping.

I've been using the knife since it came in and you can see some color on the blade already. It's comfortable to hold in the "normal" way and choked up on the spine of the blade to do detail work. I need to see how it handles the sting of chopping and whether the 8.5" blade is enough when combined with a nice sharp edge.

This really is right in the size range of "big knives" for me. It's not too unwieldy but it's definitely got some heft to it.

There was no sheath so it'll have to make a trip to JRE Industries or MBHanzo one of these days once I've given it a little more tough love.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ultimate Survival Technologies BASE Kit

I received a BASE (Basic Adventure Survival Essentials) Kit from Ultimate Survival Technologies today. This kit contains many of USTs essential items including the Sparkie one-handed firestarter, StarFlash signal mirror, JetScream whistle, and two cubes of their WetFire tinder. Instead of packaging it all in a hard case as they did with the NRA kits a few years ago, it comes in a 15 cubic inch Aloksak with a "patented leakproof/airtight seal" as tested by the U.S. Navy.

The kit will provide you with a reliable means to make fire and two signaling options as well as a water container.

The entire kit as received weighs in at 2.75 ounces and easily drops into a cargo pocket.

I'll dig into the whole kit soon and report back to you.

Thanks for reading,


EDIT: I opened it up this afternoon.

Here's everything plus my Small Sebenza which is just about all I could want in a true minimalist survival kit.

I might just toss the Sebenza into the pouch and zip it back up and then test the whole kit for water resistance to both still and running water. I already know the WetFire will be unphased as well as the rest of the gear but it'll be a fun test and a good reason to go splashing in the river and the pond.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More from the Weekend

We cooked maybe 50 foil packets of food for the boys and their parents and siblings.

I led a night hike where we saw some native plants, talked about how to identify poison ivy, and saw a tiny fawn curled up at the base of a tree. That led to a brief discussion about what NOT to do with wild animals including touching them, getting too close, etc.

We entered a clearing right around dusk and I mentioned that it would be prime deer viewing time in a prime deer viewing location and, as if on cue, we spotted a doe about 100 yards away. Perfect timing!

The Den Master told ghost stories after we got back and then it was S'Mores for everybody.

We got the kids cleaned up and then off to bed.

Early, early the next morning I was up to check the bed of coals and blew life back into the campfire. This, of course, woke some of the boys who came over to "help out" with the fire and we started to talk about flint and steel firestarting and I gave them a demo with my new Swissbianco Firesteel Farmer. I got sparks into my charcloth on the first strike and one of the boys told me I was "the real G" (whatever that might mean.)

We policed the campsite and had everything cleaned up and put away by 9am and then headed for home. I had to reset my equipment and let it dry before brushing it all down and putting it away again.

Today I'm cleaning sleeping bags because we had one muddy-footed visitor inside the tent and he apparently walked all over everything we brought with us.

Still, it was a fantastic trip, a fantastic experience for the kids, and we all had a great time.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Perfect Night

Laying here on the ground with Jake on one side and Laura on the other.

Sky is clear and the stars are out.

It's about 60° with a slight breeze.

We're camping.

It doesn't get much better than this.

Thanks for reading,


Sent from my iPhone.

Today is the Day!


After the postponement several months ago, we're finally going camping.

I have a packing list for the overnight but haven't had much opportunity to do much packing yet so today will be a bit of a scramble to get what we need.

Fortunately, the campsite is only a few miles from here so if there's anything we forget we could retrieve it if it's essential.

I have plans to teach the boys what I can around the firepit but it's sounding like we're pretty well scheduled from start to finish so I don't know how many opportunities will arise. We're going to give it a try though.

I hope to have tons of pictures and video to share with you in the coming days. I've got some gear to test while we're out including Ray Laconico's Unscandi Knife, SwissBianco's Firesteel Farmer, and my new ML Knives Coffin Striker/Necklace.

See you all tomorrow,


Friday, May 21, 2010


I made a batch of charcloth this morning to use with my new ML Knives Coffin Firesteel and some flint.

I used this tutorial I wrote back in 2006 and this may be my best batch yet.

Laura and I tested it this morning while waiting for the bus. It's a very wet day and we got embers on the first strike and they stayed lit when I tossed the piece of charcloth on the ground, walked her to the bus, and came back. I could have easily blown it into a flame if I had a tinder nest ready to go.

I buy 100% cotton dish towels and use them around the house until they're just too dirty to use any more and then they go into a bucket to become charcloth when I have the grill lit or a fire in the fire pit.

The tin I'm currently using is big enough to fit a towel and a half which makes enough charcloth to last a lifetime but I always end up giving it away, using it up in demonstrations, or misplacing it and then I have to make another batch.

I have so many plans for the campout this weekend that I'm beginning to worry that I'm not going to have time for even 1% of them...after all, I still have to entertain a campsite full of Cub Scouts on top of everything else.

Thank for reading,


Thursday, May 20, 2010

SwissBianco Firesteel Farmer

This just arrived from SwissBianco and is destined for the Cub Scout Campout this coming weekend. Roger calls it his Firesteel Farmer Swiss Army Knife (SAK.)
Take a standard Alox-scaled Farmer (main blade, cap lifter, can opener, saw blade, and awl) and anodize the scales and add a hardened piece of steel to the spine for striking flint and you've got the SwissBianco Firesteel Farmer SAK.
I haven't had a chance to try it yet but I'm going to fire off a batch of charcloth today to use this weekend and maybe I'll get some video put up today or tomorrow of my practice sessions and then I'll get more shot over the weekend at the campout.

I'm very happy with Roger's service and turn-around time on this. The price was around $75 and the SAK came with a couple of pieces of tinder and a couple of pieces of flint.

More to come...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, May 17, 2010

An Old Friend (Diving Sparrow Boreal)

Another incredibly busy weekend is in the books. Phew!

This morning hasn't been much better.

Now I'm taking some time for myself while Sarah's taking a nap and I've reworked the edge on my Diving Sparrow Knife Works Boreal (shown here.)

This knife has taken some punishment and it keeps coming back for more. The blade has gone from a nice polished finish to a thick multi-colored patina. It actually has more color on it now than it did when I took that picture.

I got out my DMT stones and went to work on the edge. Not necessarily because the knife was dull but the edge could definitely use a tune-up and I find the process to be relaxing.

Starting with the Coarse stone I established the bevel and cleaned up the existing edge to make everything nice and even. Normally I'd start with my finest abrasive and work backward until i got to one that cut fast enough for what I was doing but today I knew I'd want to go for the gusto because free time isn't something I have much of these days.

Once it was sharp (it would pop hairs and sail through paper) at Coarse then I moved to Fine and repeated the process.

On the DMT stones I sharpen with water and dishwashing detergent (Dawn) and finish with Windex. Do I need to do this? I don't know. I just know it seems to work really well and one cuts and the other polishes.

I test the sharpness again after the Fine stone and the move to the strop for about 20 edge-trailing passes on each side alternating every two strokes.

Now the edge is like a mirror and sails through whatever I put in the way.

Maybe I'll be able to find some time this week to actually get the knife dirty again.

Friday Jake and I will be going on an overnight campout with the Cub Scouts so it'll be used there for sure.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, May 07, 2010

Congratulations Jake!

Last night, Jake and six of his Tiger Scout buddies learned the rules of proper knife safety, sharpening, and knife handling.

They satisfied all of the requirements in the Bear Handbook to earn their Whittlin' Chips and I was happy to award them two years ahead of schedule.

Ragnar, of Ragweed Forge, and I have worked together to surprise the boys at our May 22nd Campout with their first knives.

I chose the Opinel No. 7 and 8 in Carbon Steel and will hand them out in front of the rest of the pack with the understanding that the boys are to use these only in the presence of their parents until such time as their parents feel they're trustworthy enough to have the knives with less supervision.

I brought two Opinels with the edges ground off last night to cover the proper opening and closing of a pocketknife so all the boys have been instructed in the operation of the lock ring and safe use.

After the meeting, Jake sat in the back of my van and said, "I like knives."

You can't get much better than that...

Thanks for reading,