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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Laura's Izula

Laura has been getting a lot of use out of her pink Izula lately. It's been hers for more than a year but has never seen much attention despite the fact she earned her Whittlin' Chip just like her brother. The opportunity has been there but the desire has been missing.

Now she seems to have turned the corner. She comes home from school and asks what needs cutting around the house and wants to know when we're next headed into the woods.

She practiced making cuts on various sticks she'd find on the ground this weekend and even went so far as to baton her Izula with her walking stick to get nice clean cut ends.

We've talked about the various grips and their uses but she's still in the early phase of being able to handle a knife. With some more work I think she'll be ready for some easy carving.

Plus, now that she's finally using the Izula, we can talk about how to maintain the edge and keep it nice and sharp.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Day, Another Hike

On Sunday, the kids and I headed out for the second day in a row looking for some adventure and a whole lot of fun.

The weather was a bit warmer and the sun was out so it was a perfect day to get out.

We loaded our packs and headed up to a place we'd hiked once before but we'd only gone in far enough to have a little picnic. This time we were going to hike the whole trail.

Along the way, Jake asked to stop for a snack a half-dozen times. What amazed me was the simple fact that he'd eat every time we did stop. Tuna salad, chicken salad, granola bars, Spam Singles, Snickers, GORP, and more became fuel for Jake's fire.

We saw a track trap on the trail which stood out because it was a large slightly-wetter section of the path and the gravel/dirt were just the right consistency to see raccoon, coyote, human, bicycle, opossum, and more. The colder weather probably helped as it "set" the soil to some degree as the moisture froze.

Laura worked with her pink ESEE Izula and did a quick video for me on the goldenrod gall. Jake spent that time eating...

We're working on a points system now that each kid can earn points for their insights, skills, and knowledge. Those points will be redeemable down the road for goodies they want or trips they want to take. They're both competitive so this should really help them to soak up as much information as I can throw at them.

We talked about stride length and how to use your walking stick as a ruler to help you find more obscure tracks on a path. A young deer helped us out by crossing the path sometime prior to our arrival. The tracks were very clear and helped to establish a direction of travel but half-way across the path they were much harder to see (probably due to the foot traffic.) The stick and a quick measurement of stride length showed us where to start looking for the first "missing" track and it was right where it should have been but very hard to make out at first glance.

Laura (9) is certainly more attentive during these lessons but I'm happy just to have both kids out with me.

An important lesson the kids took away from the day was that they should do some of their own "homework" when picking a trail because I managed to get us on the loop that was actually a point-to-point trail some 2.4 miles long. Oops. We were out about 2.2 miles when I realized that we were still heading away from the trailhead and I pulled up a satellite image on my phone to see that we were near the end of the path but would come out far, far away from the car. So, we turned around and hiked back the way we came in.

Jake started talking about how everything was going to be alright because we had enough food to sleep out overnight and Laura got a bit upset because the hiking had worn her out and she just wanted to be at home on the couch.

We sat down for a minute, had a snack, drank some water, talked about where we were and what we were going to do next, and then packed everything up, put on some more layers because the sun was going down, and moved out toward the car.

After all the drama and the laying on benches as we found them, the kids both ran to the playground near the car and asked if they could play for 15 minutes before we left. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to fire up the stove and have some hot tea so I said they could.

On the way home we started talking about my adventures and the "52 Weeks" thread we wrote over at Knifeforums and I suggested that we could do the same thing. They both jumped on the opportunity so we should be starting that at the first of the year. 52 hikes with the kids should be a lot of fun.

So, anybody else want to sign on?

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creatures in the Woods

If you go into the woods today, you're in for a big surprise...

There are creatures beyond your imagination lurking...

Scary three-eyed creatures and large purple bunnies...

They'll eat all of your food, drink all of your drinks, and then play until the sun goes down.

Oh, and one more thing, they have knives.

We got the chance to go out yesterday for a few hours despite the temperatures in the low 30s so we went. We layered up, loaded our packs, and picked which tasks we were going to attempt and which gear we were going to test.

The mission of the day: Find pinecones to turn into bird feeders.

We also planned on some hot cocoa and maybe a cup of soup to warm our insides so I brought my Swedish Army Trangia Stove and some fuel.

We knew the natural occurrences of conifers in our area was very, very low but we also wanted to get out and explore a bit so we chose a different area for our excursion. I think it was a good call. There were no evergreens but there was plenty to see and the kids had a great time just being out.

And eating snacks...we can't forget the value of bringing enough food for Jake.

We actually did quite a hike considering the kids are 7 and 9 years old. It was 0.4 miles to the trail, a 2.7 mile loop, and then 0.2 miles from the loop to the playground where they hunkered down, ate, and then played and played until the hot cocoa was ready. Once the hot cocoa was finished, they went right back to playing and snacking until the sun went behind the trees.

While they were distracted, I cleaned up the mess I made when I let the hot cocoa boil over. Then I snapped some more pictures that really represent what we were experiencing. I've been here in the Fall, Summer, Spring, and Winter and this transition period, between bare trees and frozen lakes but before the snow falls, is pretty bleak. There's just no color out there and so little animal activity that you'd think they were all hibernating. We were out for a few hours and we saw just one squirrel and a handful of birds flying overhead.

The temperatures today should be about 10° warmer and the skies are still clear. The kids had enough fun yesterday that they're already up and making plans for today's hike so that's a good sign that we're going to get dirty again today...

Thanks for reading,


Swedish Army Trangia Tip

If you're using one of the Swedish Army surplus cooksets and have the brass stove, you need to consider putting a needle or a piece of snare wire in with your kit.

I can't tell you how many times the snare wire has saved my bacon when I was out and my burner was having trouble lighting.

You can take the wire and poke it down into the burner holes to clear them of debris so the burner can bloom. It may take a few pokes so the advantage goes to the longer snare wire over the fixed-length needle.

We had a boil-over with some hot cocoa yesterday and I'm cleaning the burner this morning and some of the charred sugar is giving me problems but being able to clear the jets helps a lot.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

REI Storm Matches

Have you ever seen something that you just HAD to post?

Well, here's one of those things. This video shows how it's nearly impossible to put out REI's storm matches:

Get 'em HERE!

Thanks for reading,



Last night I watched Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" and all the talk about the Vorpal Sword reminded me about the blade of the same name the folks at BRK&T did several years ago.

As is often the case, I got to searching on Google a little bit and found one.

What I find so funny is that it's on the same page I mentioned here a week or so ago:

Vorpal Sword

and it's right at the top of the page. :)

Who knew?!


Energy Up!

It's that time of year...

I'm really spending a great deal of time working on skills, reading up on new ideas, and getting the gear tested and evaluated for future use.

I've been working the firepit every day with only what I've got in my pockets but the onset of colder weather means I've got a TON of stuff in my pockets because each pocket contains some bit of outdoorsy joy. :)

I'm carving my next spoon. I have a small piece of birch here and it's got a nice grain to it so I'm motivated to carve.

I split it with my 510, then split one half into smaller and smaller pieces and made some fuzz sticks, and the other piece I began to carve by taking off slivers from the future handle. Those slivers were thin enough and dry enough to take a spark from my firesteel and thus began my fire yesterday.

I've been reading Baden-Powell's "Scouting for Boys" since the DC Trip and will be using much of the material with Jake's Scout Den. As a matter of fact, he's just been tasked this morning with picking one chapter from the book that we'll begin working as soon as this afternoon.

I think today might have a hike in store for us. The kids want to get out, I want to get out, and the weather looks like it's going to be clear and cold so it'll be a good opportunity to test coats, boots, wool socks, and gloves to make sure they're still fitting well and are suited to windy dry cold as they were originally intended.

I always have a bag of goodies I carry so if the kids get too cold there's a warm blanket, some hot chocolate, and other stuff that'll get their spirits back up long enough to get us to the car or the house.

Camera batteries are charging so I hope you'll have something more to read and see tomorrow.

See you then!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maintenance and Tuning

Have you ever really thought about how much time we put into our gear to really dial it in?

I'm sitting here this morning stropping the edge on my Mora 510 and taking a look at the squared spine and I think about the hours and hours I've spent maintaining and fine-tuning the knife to suit my uses.

Out of the box, the 510 was an inexpensive knife capable of a great deal of work. It came sharp, would hold an edge for a long time, had a serviceable sheath, and a comfortable handle.

With a little bit of work, the knife can really become a high-performance tool. Flatten the bevels and make it a true Scandi grind (no micro-bevel,) square up the spine, and then use the heck out of it to give it a nice patina and you'll be cutting with it for a long time with little further maintenance.

If, however, you're like me, you can't help but continually mess with the knife. I like to work the edge back and forth on the strop to really bring out the polish. It's part of my morning routine and goes really well with a hot cup of coffee.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Renewed Focus

The big push these past few weeks has been on getting outdoors.

In order to get the "time off" to do that, I have been involving not only my own kids but any other kids that want to tag along.

I have focused on kid-specific skills and gear in the past but I'm going to be focusing more and more on how to get kids into the woods and back home safely while teaching them important skills and knowledge about the natural, sometimes unforgiving, world around them.

I have built small kits for the kids which I wrote about here, I'm going got revisit that. I worked with Jake yesterday on how to make the simplest of shelters using a space blanket and zipties. I'll make it a photo tutorial. We talk about what to do when the kid becomes separated from the adult--hug a tree, blow your whistle, and be patient.

Some of the writing here is going to be aimed at the lowest common denominator and may seem elementary for some of you but if you have kids and you want to take them outdoors and get 'em dirty you can read along with them as I get my own kids even more comfortable with the concepts of spending an unplanned night out and, eventually, taking that trip.

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine yesterday about the state of the modern outdoorsman and I'm afraid that he's right that we're going the way of the dinosaurs. People (here at least) like their woods to be clean and safe and that's what they've been given. We're not allowed off the beaten path and it's making us more and more incapable of handling the dirt, the heat, the bugs, and all the wonderful pains and annoyances that can come with being "out there."

I'm going to see if I can't turn some of these kids into muddy, knife-carrying, fire-building, plant and tree identifiers who WANT to get dirtier every week and who want to learn what a roasted acorn tastes like and how to skin a squirrel with a pocket knife.

Who wouldn't want that?

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 20, 2010

To the Woods!

Today started the first of many monthly Scout Hikes to come. I didn't get many takers but the weather was cool, the sky was clear, and a slight breeze kept things moving.

Winter is clearly around the corner but it's not here yet.

Jake was my only woods pal today but I was more than happy to have him along. The promises of snacks and time away from the television were enough to draw him out.

He loaded his own pack this morning with snacks, drinks, and other "essential" gear for any 7 year old boy and I put enough emergency gear in my own pack to handle any potential problems encountered with up to 100 kids in the woods. The list included space blankets, water, firestarting gear, zip ties, cordage, a first aid kit, a Wiggy's poncho liner, and additional snacks.

Strangely, when it came to cutlery, I seem to have left my knives and other pocket gear at home. What I did have in my pocket was the Fallkniven U2 which proved more than capable of what we would encounter in our "wilderness" adventure. As a matter of fact, the most difficult task we faced was the whittling of a stick during our snack. For that, the SGPS performed wonderfully.

Jake and I talked about the importance of the space blanket and zip ties when you're out and I explained how he could quickly erect a shelter using one of the bent trees and his supplies. We didn't have an opportunity to really practice the skill today but we will in the coming weeks and months. The benefit of the zip ties is the ability to work quickly without a knowledge of tying knots. (He's seven, he'll learn enough knot tying as we do this but zip tie knowledge is available right now.)

We were only out for a couple of hours but when your kid, a television zombie, tells you how much fun he's having in the woods you really embrace it and try to stay out just as long as possible.

Unfortunately, the cool air got to him and we had to head for home to look for a good pair of lightweight gloves for our next outing.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 15, 2010

Some Post-Camping Thoughts

I spent Saturday night out camping with Laura and a dozen other Girl Scouts.

We spent some time talking about making fire and then, using the information they'd learned, we built and started the fire.

Once we had a good flame going, we fed the fire and built it up and fed it the small stack of wood I'd split earlier. We also talked about how to start small and grow the size of the fuel as the size of the fire grew.

One thing I thought about afterward was the benefit in bringing an axe. Yes, this is the axe versus big chopper debate...

In my case, a practiced hand with an axe can still beat a practiced hand with a large chopper when it comes to processing wood for a fire. The wood we had stored near the fire ring was too big to split with the knife without using a baton. The axe, however, would blow it apart with well placed blows.

The mystery is why someone who knows the value of an axe and can use it for a variety of tasks through experience (me) would continue to lust after and purchase one big chopper after another...

I love the look and feel of the big choppers and actually brought one with me but the axe is still my go-to wood processor.

We cooked burgers and potatoes over the coals and were even going to attempt a dutch oven cake but the loaner ovens from the campsite were in need of seasoning so the troop leaders decided to just make the cakes inside in the oven. The burgers were delicious and the fries could have been wrapped up a little better. I must've dropped three foil envelopes in the fire during cooking. Fortunately, there was so much food that nobody noticed the missing fries. :)

Today is supposed to be for gear cleaning but Sarah has other ideas and she clearly missed her daddy while he was gone with big sister. I can't say I blame her, I'm one heck of a fun guy. :)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mears Bushcraft Knife

I finally got one!

Now we'll see just how it stacks up to the others...

Today might be the day it arrives. If not, I'll be a little bummed out but as long as it's here before the weekend campout I'll be happy. :)

Expect LOTS of pictures...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Getting Sentimental

Remember the simpler times? You know, back when I was writing every day...


The activities have continued to ramp up and my involvement with the kids' stuff continues to grow and my time is getting harder and harder to find.

We just completed a trip to DC, I've got a campout with Laura this weekend, and I've got a campout meeting with the Cub Scouts tonight.

I was discussing this with Dan and Spen of JRE Industries a few weeks ago and the discussion turned to what got us together in the first place and, other than similar hobbies, the common thread was Bark River knives. Many of you know that I've divested myself of most of my Bark River stuff in the quest for that next "best" piece of gear.

Dan and Spen, however, have been building up quite a collection and they're getting ready to move on as well. (This is the curse of the knife collector and user...)

Check here:

They're building the page while I'm typing this so expect some updates.

Here's the kicker, they're offering these knives at better prices than they used to be when I considered them such an excellent value. The steel, heat treat, and geometry are still the same, the fit and finish is still the same, and the warranty is still the same. The only difference is the lower prices.

Heck, I'm seeing pieces I've never seen before like that coffin-handled Kephart and the full custom Jim Stewart piece.

Go pretend for a minute that it's 2006 instead of most of the way through 2010 and check out what they've got available. You may find something new in your never-ending quest for the "best" piece of steel. :)

Thanks for reading,