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, February 28, 2011

Trail Closed

The kids and I got out on Sunday with some friends for a hike.

After all the rain and snow of the past few weeks, the river was high and had actually flooded over parts of the trail.

Some of that flooding was over the trail we were trying to hike so we turned around and headed in the opposite direction down a trail I'd never taken before.

I've got more pictures coming but need to jump right now to take care of things around the house. Busy, busy, never ends does it? :)

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Got Me an Idea...

I was reading the Church and Sons Blog this morning and had an idea for a project.

I've done the rawhide-wrapped handle in the past but it was over some burlap micarta and so the period look and feel was lost along with any point in using the rawhide in the first place. Now, however, I have a knife that could stand to be repaired and could benefit from doing things "the old way."

I really, really like the look of the butcher in that post and may just give the maker a shout but the post is a month old and that knife is likely long gone.

Either way, the project will move forward at a snail's pace (just like everything else around here that isn't a part of real life...)

I'll do my best to build up a whole work in progress (WIP) post so you can see what I did and how I did it.

For now, I'll be intentionally vague on the parameters as they may (and often do) change due to any number of factors. :)

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Skyhorse Publishing (Initial Impressions)

I received two books from Skyhorse Publishing over the weekend. The two titles were "Homesteading" and "Self-Sufficiency."

Both books are hard cover and measure 8.5" X 11" and have 464 pages. They are also both edited by Abigail R. Gehring.

I said this would be my initial impressions as I haven't had the time to read both books thoroughly but the kids and I have gone through both volumes looking for project ideas throughout the weekend.

With that in mind, here's my initial thoughts on these two books:

The books are made with a high-quality paper and include lots of great illustrations and photographs. The bindings are nice and tight and the cover is designed in such as way that it will lay flat when you open up the book. (This is an important feature in a book that has instructions that you may want to revisit while doing a project.)

The information within the books is presented clearly and concisely and the pictures and illustrations do a great job of advancing the subject while also showing some photographic artistry.

Both books have listed resources for further research whether you're looking for food co-ops or a place to buy chickens and turkeys.

For the cover price of $24.95, I'd say these books represented a good value and I'd wager you could find them for even less online if you looked around making them an even better value.

The kids and I will be using the books as a resource as we do some of the projects within in the coming weeks and months. The first one we're going to try, I think, is making a hydroponic "garden."

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, February 19, 2011


I've been sharpening with stones now for several months and have had a great deal of success with the DMT plates. They are hard enough to cut all steels but really shine when used on 3V and S30V.

I can get knives sharp enough to pop hairs and then strop to refine the edge for a little more durability (a smoother edge should break down a little slower.)

Yesterday I took my Spyderco Paramilitary (the first knife I got to pop hairs with the DMT plates) and just touched up the edge with a piece of 320-grit sandpaper on top of my leather strop using an edge-trailing motion (like stropping) and did 10 passes per side followed by 20 strokes on the strop for each side.

The very slight "give" in the leather has put a very slight convex edge on the knife and it's so sharp that my brain screams out, "STOP!" when I rest my finger tips on the edge to test it. It makes a cold chill run up and down my spine as though I'm about to separate flesh with just the lightest touch.

I haven't felt sharp like that in a long time.

I'm going to have to work with the knife for several days to see if it's really as sharp as it feels and just how long I can keep it that sharp.

There's certainly something to be said for the ease and efficiency of putting convex edges on steel. With JRE's handheld system, I can show a complete newbie how to put a razor edge on a knife in minutes without going in to the discussion about building your own sharpening block. The motions take seconds to learn and the details take much longer but just getting the motion nailed down is enough to sharpen.

I still like my water stones, DMTs, DC4s and DC3s, and my ceramics and will continue to use them but the ease of maintenance on a convex edge is pretty hard to deny.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 18, 2011

Swamp Rat Rodent Solution

I got this knife in from Swamp Rat the other day and have been using it quite a bit around the house. They don't ship with a sheath so this one's only being protected by a cardboard sleeve and will be off to see the sheathmaker in due time.

Up first, some specs:
Steel: SR101
Handle: Tan Canvas Micarta
blade length: 3 5/8" (tip to front of handle scale)
Overall length: 8 1/4"
Thickness: 3/16"
Weight: 6.45 oz.

The handle scales are subtly textured so the knife remains grippy when wet but not so much that it needs sanding to prevent blisters and hot spots.

The knife rests comfortably in my hand and the rounded butt-end makes moving the handle around easy and comfortable.

Now, kitchen duty isn't really a full-on test of a knife like this so it'll have to get outdoors before getting the final stamp of approval but, for what it's done so far, it has done everything very well, the edge has held up to a week of light use, and I still look forward to using it so it certainly has some things going for it.

A big part of this test will be knocking the edge off and putting a new one on. Everything I've heard about SR101 (modified 52100?) is that it's HARD. If it takes and holds an edge nearly forever, that means that putting a new edge on will be a bit of work. Fortunately it shipped very sharp and I'm happy to use it as-is for a while before worrying about sharpening.

I've got more cell phone pictures that I'll get uploaded for you as soon as I get them off my phone. These include in-hand shots, a spine shot, and more.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Admission

Yes, I'm a knife-carrier and knife-user.

As a matter of fact,the ONLY time you'll find me without a knife in my pocket or on my belt is when I'm traveling through an airport.

Here's one more thing you should know about me:

I'm not sorry.
I will not stop carrying it because it makes some folks uncomfortable.
I will not cover up the use of my knife because it scares you.

How did we get here?

A man who carries a pocket knife is a DOer. He can tackle those simple chores like cutting loose threads, trim his nails, open the mail and packages, and even open those snack bags with the "tear here" notch that never tears.

Some carry a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) that may have screwdrivers, can openers, cap lifters, and even saws and magnifying glasses. Those folks can do even more mundane work.

My kids know that a knife is a tool and that carrying one doesn't make one a serial killer or whack-job. So, why do some adults show such mental deficiency? Are those people also afraid of hammers, drills, staple guns, and saws? How about baseball bats, kitchen cutlery, or even spoons?

The problem, as I see it, is that some of those scared adults make policy and could make emotional responses instead of rational ones. Fear is, after all, an emotional response.

What I'm doing today, and would encourage you to do as well, is heading over to Knife Rights and joining to make sure that my rights are being protected by like-minded folks.

I'll continue to carry, use, and refuse to apologize for doing so but I'll also continue to try and educate and do my best to be a positive role-model.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Skyhorse Publishing

I got an email yesterday from a Managing Editor of Skyhorse Publications (they published Richard and Linda Jamison's "Primitive Skills and Crafts," one of Geoffrey Budworth's knot books, and Ernest Thompson Seton's "Woodcraft and Indian Lore") about reviewing a few of their books and I, happily, agreed.

So, three books are headed my way and I'll be reading them and giving you a review in the next couple of weeks.

I'm sure it was just a coincidence but I actually own several of their books already and find them to be well produced and full of useful information.

Once I receive the books I'll let you know the titles and give you some pictures and first impressions. Then we'll dig into them.

By the way, those three books I listed above are NOT the three they're sending but I'd encourage you to take a look at any or all of them.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The NWA American Bushman Knife

Here she is, the Nick Allen (NWA Knives) American Bushman Knife.

Some specs for you:

1/8" thick A2 with Nick's belt finish
Green Canvas micarta scales
10" OAL
5" blade
5" handle

(Click for larger image)

You may notice, he's cut in the thumb scallops I've really come to like for extra comfort in the chest-lever grip and I'll try and shoot a video later to give as much detail to that as possible.

The spine is squared very nicely and the extra thumb jimping on the spine will throw some massive sparks from a firesteel.

This knife is built from a drawing I worked up quite a while back. I sent the drawing to Nick and he stepped up and offered to make it. He has built a reputation on making some very hard working knives and his handle ergonomics are fantastic.

There's so much to say about this knife and what went into making it a reality but I'm really too excited to keep typing and want to get out and get this knife dirty. So, I guess you're going to have to keep coming back to see some pictures of the knife in it's natural habitat and in use.

I've already asked Nick to make me another just like it in 5/32" thickness so I can compare the two. I doubt I'm going to lose much cutting efficiency to the extra thickness but the toughness, or robustness, of the knife should go up quite a bit--NOT that I have any concerns about the toughness of this knife as is. :)

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 11, 2011

It's HERE!!!! IT'S HERE!!!

Yes, it's here.

Tomorrow you'll see it first.

THEN I can reveal it to the rest of the world.

My full custom from Nick Allen (NWA Knives) is here. This is my design executed perfectly by Nick.


Working (Tech Stuff)

Once upon a time I was a computer geek...

Then the bubble burst and I was left without a job.

And then kid 2, and eventually kid 3, came along and I stayed at home.

Well, for the past few days I've been working under the hood at a new site and it's been a blast! I had forgotten how much fun it was to flip a switch and see a change on a page. Then there was modification of the code...

Glorious stuff.

Anyway, I think some of what I did can apply here so I'm going to start looking at the template and whatever other code Google Blogger will allow me to see/modify and maybe we can dial this site in a little more.

Heck, it's all technology anyway. Maybe I can bring some more tools to the party.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Priorities: The Colossal Blizzard

"The Storm of the Century" they called it...

"The Colossal Blizzard" was the name The Weather Channel gave it.

What we really experienced was blowing winds, lots of snow, and drifts of several feet. It closed the roads and left people homebound without power.

In this situation, being stuck outdoors could be a death sentence. The gear I carry in my pockets or my car wouldn't be much help unless I got extremely lucky.

Shelter would be the first priority (assuming you were uninjured) and finding a solid shelter would be essential. The space blanket I have would have been torn to shreds by the wind before I could even get it pitched. I'd have to find a cave, a large hollow tree, or even an abandoned car if I was going to last more than an hour or so. There wasn't enough snow on the ground to dig into either so snow trenches, quinzes, and the like were out of the question.

The other difficulty with shelter selection was the change in direction of the wind and drifting from hour to hour. It was blowing one way early in the storm and shifted to the opposite direction later on so a shelter that was facing away from the wind early would be facing directly into it and the snow later on.

If I were lucky enough to get out of the wind, the next thing I'd need is heat. Without the wind it was still in the 20's or 'teens. I don't want a fire inside a car and finding enough usable fuel, kindling, and tinder in that storm would have been very difficult.

Even if I could build a fire, the shifting winds would have been problematic as they would blow flames and sparks into the shelter later in the night potentially burning down your shelter.

You can see how difficult this particular scenario would have been. My first two priorities, shelter and fire, would both require a great deal of luck just to pull off in the first place.

Fortunately, if I were trapped, I'd more than likely be in my car. I have food, water, heat, blankets, etc. in the back because I can. I'd be out of the wind and even though I'd more than likely be miserable, I would dramatically improve my odds of making it through the night.

So, that'd be Man 0 - Wild 1 if left to what I carry with me...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

It's All About Priorities

I'm not talking about making the blog a priority here though, I'm talking about those essential priorities that will keep us alive when faced with a survival-type situation. They are:

  • Air

  • Shelter

  • Water

  • Food

  • Fire

  • Signaling

When I say "Air," that includes all essential first aid. It's often overlooked but injury can accompany a survival situation and if you don't stop excessive bleeding the shelter isn't going to help you much. If you're buried under the snow, building a fire isn't the first thing you need.

Now, the list of priorities is always changing based on location, seasonality, personality, weather, and setting. For that reason, there's no one list that beats all others.

I'll be looking at various scenarios and settings over the next several weeks and talking about how I would prioritize and I'd like you to think about the same.

There will be a minimal kit that will remain the same through all the scenarios because we've all heard the mantra "Your survival knife is the knife you have on you in a survival situation" and sometimes the knife you like to carry isn't ideal for every task. Plus, there are certain bits of kit I carry every day anyway and it'll be a good mental exercise to see if I'm carrying the right stuff to get me through...

So, let's get started shall we?

Tomorrow: The Colossal Blizzard Scenario...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bushcraft and Survival Volume 9

Peter and Julie Gawleta of Birchtree Productions have released another volume in their "Bushcraft and Survival" series.

Volume 9 finds them traveling to Scotland to be blown by the wind, eaten alive by midges and mossies, and still seemingly having a good time.

I placed an order with them last week and got the DVD yesterday and have watched it one time. As with all of their videos, I'll watch it multiple times because the level of distraction around here is at an all time high. :)

Like the previous eight volumes, this one has plenty of skills, education, humor, and this one even has a musical number. (If you've seen it you'll know what I mean.)

I'd encourage you to give them a look. They have some samples on their YouTube channel if you want to take a peek before placing an order.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, February 07, 2011

MORE Snow?!

That's right, we're getting more snow.

I am really getting tired of moving it from one spot to another.

My back hurts, my arms hurt, and my legs hurt.

How's Florida this time of year? :)

On the up side, we've had fires in the fire pit for the past few days that were lit using nothing more than a firesteel, a knife, and found wood. Always practice your skills before you might need them for real...

We had a tree fall on the fence behind the house and I've been cutting it up and trying to move the trunk before it snaps the split rail it's laying on.

The igloo hasn't moved forward because the kids now want it to remain a fort. However, with the new snow, we may have a go at making a quinze.

Anyway, I'm off to shovel some more. I'll see you back here soon.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Behold! The Igloo (Sort of...)

We spent yesterday building an igloo with the Girl Scouts.

We only had 90 minutes and suffered a few setbacks along the way but I think they all had fun and our "fort" is still able to be converted into an igloo with a bit of work.

We had a couple of workers stumble through the walls and the quality of the snow wasn't quite where we would have wanted it for the ideal igloo but 90 minutes of work netted us a very windproof shelter that we could cover with a tarp.

Also, it's big.

I asked two girls to lay down in the snow and the rest of the troop to walk around them to define the size of shelter needed and somehow the diameter grew and grew until it would comfortably fit 8 kids...

The kids and I sat down this morning and I suggested that we could take it down, recut the blocks, and rebuild a smaller shelter complete with a dome and they really just want to use it as a fort so we'll have to leave it as is for now.

We're getting some nice snow this morning that should help to fill in the cracks and hold everything together too.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 04, 2011

Prehistoric Indian Blazes

As I was reading through "Wildwood Wisdom" again last night, I saw an illustration labeled "Prehistoric Indian Blazes" and noted that one of them was also tagged as being not too far from here. Then I remembered the picture I have of a very similar tree.

Reading through the text, there's a trail from Lake Michigan through 5 miles of wilderness to a former Indian village. Well, that trail has long since been reduced to housing, forest preserves, and highway.

BUT, at least one tree still stands marking that ancient pathway and now I aim to see if I can find any more.

Any good blaze is within sight distance of the next so there's a chance that another one is out there and I just haven't seen it because I wasn't looking carefully enough.

This is how the adventure begins...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snow Day!

Another day with a house full of kids.

School's closed for the second day in a row after the snow storm which didn't turn out to be quite as ferocious as expected but still a big one.

We ran an errand this morning if for no other reason than to get out of the house for a bit and the streets were mostly empty.

Once we got home, the kids geared up and headed for the yard to start digging some snow tunnels.

We also started planning an outing for the weekend (after some MORE predicted snowfall) where we'll build at least one igloo and possibly more for the Girl Scouts.

Being the slave driver I am, I made the kids take their spelling tests before they were allowed to go outside. They did poorly so I gave them another 5 minutes to study before the retest.

Second time's the charm I guess and they both improved dramatically so now they're out getting snowy. :)

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Some Storm

Well, this has been some storm so far.

We lost power (then got it back about 90 minutes later,) wind gusts up to 60mph, more than 12" of snow down with lots more in the air, I've been out pushing snow every couple of hours to stay ahead of it, and overnight the snowfall negated any work that I had done to that point.

The blowing snow was much worse than the falling snow yesterday. We'll see if the same holds true today.

I should have some pictures for you a bit later.

For now, I've got some snow to move. :)

Thanks for reading,


EDIT: Pics as promised...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Yep, if the Weather Channel is to be believed, we're about to get pounded.

If this blog goes quiet for a day or two, we may be without power (or I may be preoccupied with shoveling every hour or so.)

I suspect, however, that it'll be bad but nowhere near worthy of all the press this storm's been getting.

Growing up dealing with Lake Effect Snow, I can't be terribly worked up about the doom and gloom forecasts. Well, I can be but I'm not...

If I'm wrong...well, then we're still well-prepared. We can just sit tight and ride out the storm.

See you on the other side...


Two Blanket Bed

When colder weather approaches, a second blanket is in order.

You could just double the layers as in yesterday's tutorial but Jaeger has a special method for two blankets that gives you a warm and less-bulky solution.

Again, this would be ideal with wool blankets but we're going to mix it up to make it easier to see what's going on in each step.

First, you're going to need two blankets. Here I'm using the German Army and Israeli Army surplus wool blankets.
Step 1: Lay one blanket out flat and the other folded lengthwise putting the fold on the edge of the first like so.
Step 2: Fold under the excess of the top blanket.
Step 3: Bring the extra from the bottom blanket back across the top of the top (German) blanket.
Step 4: Tuck the bottom under your feet and sleep snugly all night.
The two-blanket method gives you two layers underneath, two layers above, and four layers under your feet.

If your blankets are big enough and you can fold them in thirds like the one-blanket method, you can really stay warm on those cold nights. Just keep the open sides opposite one another and you'll keep out the cold.

One more tip: If you're going to use a ground pad, I'd suggest putting it on the bottom blanket just before laying down the top (German) blanket in Step 1. That way it'll stay securely within your "cocoon" while offering you protection from the cold, hard ground.

Thanks for reading,