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, March 25, 2011

Getting it Done

I have inventoried my knife collection (well, the fixed blades anyway) and the results are a bit staggering. To have a collection of users ranging from the venerable Mora 510 all the way up to the Mears Woodlore seems par for the course.

After all the recent play with superglue, then the experiment with Bar Keeper's Friend, and the rest, I have found myself once again streamlining the gear I take by modifying the gear I like to better suit me.

I've spent the past few days dialing in my Ontario 12" Cutlass machete for field work and, last night, got a second one in from Machete Specialists to tune the same way should something go wrong with the first project. For $20, and with PWYP right around the corner, I need to make sure that things go successfully even if it means buying a backup machete. :)

Add in the Mora 510 and a Victorinox Farmer and you've got quite a lot of cutting tasks covered for not a lot of money.

Sure, I love expensive full-custom bushcraft knives and I love using them and putting character marks and patina on them but, at the end of the day, it's about having tools to get the job done and excellent tools that will cover 99% of your cutting needs can be had for around $50US.

Now, if I once thought my knife problem was bad, you should see my collection of aftermarket sheaths...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Neat Trick

On the subject of modifying gear, I learned a new trick the other day by accident.

I was cleaning up an Ontario machete that I've used from time to time and had waxed and stored for the winter.

Instead of using warm soapy water as I normally would, I decided to try a little Bar Keeper's Friend and a green Scotchbrite sponge instead (I had been cleaning pans and had the stuff out already.)

What happened came as a bit of a shock but the results were pretty cool.

As I lightly scrubbed the flats on the machete, the black coating began to come off. I didn't notice at first but when I squeezed the sponge, the water that came out was black and there were bare metal spots on the machete that weren't there before.

Bar Keeper's Friend causes a chemical reaction that aids the cleaning process and that reaction apparently helps to remove the black coating that Ontario uses.

I thought it might be a fluke so tried it on another machete later the same day and actually got better results with it.

Both of these machetes had a highly polished edge and the BKF seems to have not only removed the coating but also put a patina on the steel.

Now I just need to polish up the edges again and then start working them to see if the patina is enough to protect the blade.

By the way, the reaction STINKS so be near a window if you can.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I had a wild idea yesterday and now I'm scrambling to see if I can pull it off.

Practice What You Preach (PWYP) is an annual event in North Carolina hosted by photographer and outdoorsman Terrill Hoffman and the last time I attended was four or five years ago. The original event was put together as a sort of "put up or shut up" for a handful of members on one of the discussion forums (Knifeforums maybe?) and has since grown into a rather grand affair.

It's a "survival" weekend where you are allowed to bring as little, or as much, gear as you think you'll need and you can test yourself and your skills or you can go whole hog and bring the camp kitchen, tents, cots, and a camper.

There will be knife guys, gun guys, survival guys, edible plant guys, campers, survivalists, and outdoorsmen settling in for a weekend of fun and good conversation with new friends and old. (By the way, when I say "guys" I do mean men and women.)

There are some logistical issues to tackle but I've managed to clear a path so those few hurdles, once cleared, are the only things potentially stopping me.

I'm going to meet with Spen from JRE today and we'll figure out how to make things work as his travel schedule and mine don't line up exactly.

I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 21, 2011

Adjustable Pot Stand

I saw this video this morning on YouTube:

and thought it a very clever project idea.

I think I'll dig out my Graves book and find the details to put one together.

The style of adjustable pot hanger I make has always been more like this. It uses a rock or heavy log to hold down the long stick and then one more "Y" branch to support it.

The one in the video (by the way, great job with the video wgfarmer if you're reading this) is more easily adjusted if not slightly more work to construct.

Since I tend to use the Zebra Billy Can, hanging is probably the best method but I often find myself setting the pot in the coals as it's faster and easier. It is not, however, as simple to control the heat that way.

The whole construct looks like it uses three parts. An upright, a forked stick to wrap behind the upright, and a longer double-forked stick to hold the pot that attaches to the first forked stick.

Once I dig out Graves, I'll see if there are illustrations and try to get something put together.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, March 18, 2011


It seems like knives and gear have been coming in the door at a break-neck pace lately.

Despite that, it seems like I'm having a very difficult time finding the knife I want to drop into my pocket for the day or the gear I want to load into my pack for a day hike. It's like being very hungry in the grocery store but not finding anything you want to eat...

I'm frustrated.

If the Victorinox Pioneer does everything I need in a knife then why do I have so many much more expensive alternatives? If the Tramontina machete I just started working on will do everything I need in a chopper, why are there so many big choppers? Does the Snowpeak Mini-Solo do more than the Swedish Army Trangia or the White Box stove do more than the brass Trangia burner?

I'm burned out on knives and gear...

I think what precipitated this was an influx of new stuff combined with a lack of adventure and the recent discovery that a little superglue and a little sandpaper could really help me to fix or modify gear to better suit my needs. Heck, I fixed the torn Thermorun handle on my old F1 yesterday using this trick and now it looks better than it has in months.

I hiked last weekend, I hiked the weekend before that, but these little hops through the woods aren't getting it done. I need something more.

Maybe this weekend I'll get out somewhere and stare into a campfire for a while and see if I can sort this out.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Superglue and Sawdust--the Pictures

As I mentioned, I've been spending some time dialing in my gear lately and this superglue and sawdust trick is the newest, and most addictive, technique. I'm finding myself actually looking for things to repair.

The thinnest CA glue is the stuff you want to use because it can actually penetrate the pores of the wood to create a sort of micarta-type material that is part natural and part synthetic.

(Click for larger image)

The last picture is the handle on my Tramontina machete. The scales were a bit proud of the tang and normally I'd sand down the wood to make everything flush to prevent a "pinch channel" that could cause hot spots on my hand during use. This time I decided to see if I could fill the gap with superglue and sawdust and it worked flawlessly. The back is now so smooth that you can't tell there was a "fix" of any kind.

I'm fairly sure this technique would work with other materials as well and know that modelers use baking soda and superglue to build up parts of polystyrene.

Just remember to be careful. Superglue this thin runs like mad and I could see how easy it would be to get some on your fingers or on the floor. I worked outside and kept my hands well clear of the glue for the few seconds it took it to set up.

The machete project, from start to finish, must have taken me only a few minutes. I let the glue cure for 24 hours before wiping down with oil but that's just a precaution I've been taking with no particular reason. :)

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Valuable Tip

While I visited with Mike Billman this weekend, he taught me a special trick that repaired a chip in my axe handle.

Today, I used the same method to repair the cracked handle on my Spyderco Bushcraft.

It's easy, fast, and inexpensive.

You'll need thin superglue (CA glue) and some sandpaper.

Sand the wood, apply a few drops of glue, wait for a few seconds while it cures, then repeat. Do that until you've smoothed the crack, chip, or dent and then sand smooth.

This technique has been used by woodworkers for some time but it was new to me. My first attempt isn't nearly as nice as Mike's was but it'll come with time and experience.

Once fully cured, I'll brush the scales with Linseed Oil to bring it back to a finish more like the factory one.

It's drying now and I should have a picture or two for you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Video

While surfing around YouTube, I found this Cody Lundin video interview for Newsweek and really thought it had lots of good points.

The main point, I think, is to have a preparedness mindset and take personal responsibility but don't let it consume you.



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Been Away

I brought the kids down to the lake this weekend for a much needed change of scenery.

It's still grey and cold outside but the lake is opening up and it is starting to look and sound like Spring is right around the corner.

I had a chance to spend the day yesterday with Mike Billman at Grindstone Cutlery and spent some time behind the counter doing my best to stay out of the way when I could and answer questions when I couldn't. :)

I dropped off a few knives, picked up a few knives, handled a TON of knives that I don't already own, and even got a customized Byrd that Mike dialed in for me.

I should have some pictures for you this week.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Gear Tweaking

I've been busy lately with modifying my gear.

After yesterday's hike, I came home and stripped my Swedish Army Trangia cookset. The paint was clumpy and worn so I coated it with paint stripper, waited, and then scraped and sanded until I was down to shiny stainless steel.

It's smooth now but there are dents all around. If I decide to repaint, it'll go on much smoother than the pink set I made for Laura but I've got some other ideas.

First, I'm going to use it as-is just to see if I mind the shiny stainless tins.

It's funny how making a change to existing gear, much like receiving a knife from the sheathmaker, seems like a new bit of kit but it's actually not.

Seems like an economical way to get something "new"...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, March 05, 2011

In the Woods

Brought NOTHING but the clothes on my back, the iPhone, and the Hampton Back-Pocket.

Cold, wet, and tired...

I'm hunkered down behind a tree to stay out of the wind.

Slipped on some ice and nearly went down...

Not too far from home so this is all just an exercise...

With the iPhone, I can post to the blog, call for help if needed, and even locate myself using GPS and satellite maps.

I only have one bar here but that should be enough to get this posted. :)

Technology, when used wisely, certainly has a place in my pack when I go out.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, March 04, 2011

The Crooked Knife

I've had this idea for a long time and just never got around to doing it. I wanted to take a hoof knife and turn it into a more traditional crooked knife.

The crooked knife was widely used and it's strength as a one-handed draw knife shows why. These blades are typically gripped in the fist and used with the edge toward the user. The bent blade is handy for carving bowls, spoons, paddles, and poles. The flat portion can also be used as a plane to smooth down flat surfaces.

There is no single design for a crooked knife as the knives were typically made to suit the maker and/or user. This one, however, is made from the Mora 180-LH as an introductory project before I go to work on the blade I received from Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works.

(Click for larger image)

A page from Ellsworth Jaeger's "Wildwood Wisdom"
First, I drew a line where my thumb would most naturally want to rest.
Then I carved down to that line and continued to round and refine the shape by simply gripping the knife and determining where wood needed to be removed.
An in-hand shot

Up next, I'm going to continue to sand the handle and then steep it in some strong tea to see if I can't darken up the handle a bit. Once I'm done with that, I'll burnish the handle with steel wool and then see where I stand.

I'm playing with the idea to rub some coffee grounds into the wood to give it an older look but that'll have no impact on utility.

Lastly, I need to get this edge sharp and then start putting it to work.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Kerry Hampton Back-Pocket

I got myself involved with a pass-around on Bladeforums and received this knife on Monday afternoon.

It's by Kerry Hampton and has an A2 blade and black canvas micarta handle slabs.

(Click for larger image)

I've been using it every day as my only cutter so it's seen a variety of uses from peeling fruit to opening envelopes. I even used it for a bit on Tuesday to work on carving a spoon from some well-seasoned Birch.

It's comfortable in the hand, stays sharp, and has nice snap at the half-stop and full-open position.

As it's not my knife, I'm still babying it a little but I've tried to use it as I would one of my own and I've also tried to mix up the things I cut so I can really give it a good test.

I'll have some final thoughts on Sunday when I box it up to send on to the next recipient.

Thanks for reading,