Bushmoot 2017 – Brilliant

a magical two weeks

A ‘Brilliant Moot’ is how I would summarise this year’s Bushcraft UK Bushmoot. It was action packed from start to finish for me as I juggled my time between looking after my kids, running workshops and doing a lot of filming.

I will let the pictures and video do most of the talking so will keep the text to a minimum.

Bushmoot 2017

The first few days for us ‘Mods’ (forum moderators) were all about setting up the Bushmoot so that everything was in place for everyone arriving later in the week. We did not rush things as it was a holiday for us as well but over a few days the Bushmoot was soon set up.

Set up

There are some great places to camp at the Bushmoot which makes for stunning photography. The Mods’ corner is great to photograph on a sunny morning.

I have used the same camping spot for a number of years now and even though a year passes between each visit it feels as if I have never been away when I return.

Camp life

Early Workshops

There were a couple of early workshops this year – Open Fire Cooking with Neil and a 48hr Survival Course with Fraser from Coastal Survival. Both courses covered a lot of different areas so my photos are just a snapshot of their content – needless to say on both courses all the students eat well.

Early workshops

Videos

I put a short video together of this early part of the Bushmoot – including a scenario where my son pretends to chop my head off with an Ivy sword ūüôā

Also a short video on the Lolli Stick Fire on Fraser’s course.

In amongst all these workshops and general setting up my kids took themselves off exploring. I went with them on one jaunt and they took me to the ‘House of Doom’ (as they referred to it). I think film companies use the site and they had left this massive Gothic barn – quite beautiful but eerie at the same time (the axe was for posing with only by the way).

Exploring

The Bushmoot is all about ‘Family’ as far as I am concerned – this family extends out to all my Bushmoot friends I see time and time again as I return each year.

Friends

Getting out of the woods one day with my friends Ian, Catherine and Liz (and assorted kids) we went Dune Diving. Merthyr Mawr sand dunes are the second highest dunes in Europe, apparently, and there is one dune in particular that the kids love.

Needless to say I joined the kids as they threw themselves down the dune – great fun even for a 50-year-old kid like me.

Dune riding

Core Day Workshops

I have no idea how many different workshops we ran this year and I only photographed or filmed a small number of them. We always start with a tool safety presentation (normally three different groups) before starting the main workshops.

Core days – part 1

Fire lighting in its many different forms is a staple of the Bushmoot and this year was no different – below are pictures from the bowdrill, the damp tinder and the flint and steel workshops.

Core days – part 2

Other workshops included Baking, Pottery, Rocket Stoves, the Starter Course, Basketry and Wood Spirits (to name just a few).

Core days – part 3

Watch the video to get a feel of the subjects we cover at the Bushmoot.

Bushmoot Life

Outside of all these workshops and background work life goes on at the Bushmoot – food I can tell you forms a big part of that life ūüôā

I am no great chef (tend to prefer building Campfire Cooking Constructions) but can when needed put something together – thankfully though there are plenty of people around like my wife Alison willing to put together a good spread for the kids and myself. Highlights of the Bushmoot are the Group Meal and the Hot Chocolate evening.

All things food

A favourite of mine has always been the archery range. We had another great competition this year. The winners from last year (Marek and Louey) were also presented their made-to-measure bows from Wayne Jones of Forest Knights.

This year we also had a catapult competition run by Steve (Mesquite) Harral and a workshop from David Colter on the Pellet Bow. Around the site we had various smaller ranges for axe, spade and pin throwing.

Down on the range

The Naughty Corner

No Bushmoot would be complete without the Naughty Corner and I try to get up to it for an hour or two each evening. This year my friend from the Sea Cadets Alan Lewis joined me at the Bushmoot for the first time and as he is a chef found himself drawn to the pizza oven.

Phil and Magda as usual kept us well fed each evening and Cap’n Badger made sure we were all not too naughty ūüėČ

The Naughty Corner

The Sand Pit

The evening socialising is not restricted to the Naughty Corner – usually for a couple of evenings lots of folk congregate under the big chute by the kids sandpit for a bit of a shindig.

We were supposed to have a band along one evening but for some reason they failed to show up – thankfully Marek and Gemma with some others started their own musical session that lasted well into the evening.

Sandpit evenings

The Main Chute

This is where we meet each day, talk about what will be happening, answer questions and celebrate people.

The Bushmoot is run by Tony and Shelly Bristow (along with us volunteer Mods) and as often happens the Bushmoot coincided with Tony’s birthday. We also remembered our dear friend Drew who passed away so tragically at a young age in 2013. We do this by giving each year an engraved Swiss Army Knife to the person we feel has contributed most to the Moot.

Our good friends John Fenna and Steve Harral raise money each year for Cancer charities. Steve gets John to dress up in a different pink outfit each year and we make lots of donations in various ways. Also John has an award he gives out called the John Fenna Award (a Teddy Bear with lots of bushcraft kit) and this year it went to Cap’n Badger for dedicated service to running the Naughty Corner – or undetected crime as I hear ūüėČ

Life under the main chute

Kids’ Fun

All this talk of fun would not be complete without mention to what we organise for the kids (I mean the young ones here). We are not against technology and I am happy to let my kids watch a movie in the evening by the fire (gives me a breathing space to get on with camp chores).

The Bushmoot is a family friendly place and there are always workshops and games planned in for the kids. When there are no planned activities the whole estate is their playground and it’s great to see my kids roam free as I once did as a kid growing up in the Western Isles.

Kids – old fun and modern fun

My last video on the Bushmoot looks at this ‘Bushmoot Life’.

A Celebration

When I popped up to the Naughty Corner one night I got chatting to our chefs Phil and Magda and found out that they had just got engaged – Phil had popped the question to Magda that day down on the beach and she had said yes.

The next day we got Phil and Magda to announce the engagement to everyone under the Main Chute – congratulations guys.

Congratulations

Me

I am mostly to be found behind the camera lens so you do not see many pictures of my silver mop at the Bushmoot. Over the last 10 years I have really embraced photography and am always on the look out for something unusual to snap.

Fire Faces are a favourite of mine – spotted the BFG in one snap I took this year – but there is always something interesting to photograph at the Bushmoot.

Just me

A bit of Magic

This year at the Naughty Corner it was hard to miss the fact that the fire was making a good impression of a Rainbow. It turns out that Cap’n Badger had acquired some Mystical Fire¬† and popped it into the fire. I took a few snaps of the flames and caught a lovely shot that I call ‘The Dancer’.

My kids loved the stuff and so we popped a couple of sachets on our campfire one evening while they watched a movie.

Rainbow flames

Alison

My wife Alison did not attend the whole of the Bushmoot (she pops back and forth from home over the fortnight) as she runs her own publishing company and this year was focused on finishing the first draft of her own book while we were at the Bushmoot.

Needless to say when Alison returned at the end of the Bushmoot she did so with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the fact that she had finished her first draft – well done darling ūüôā

Congratulations Alison

That is it from me on the subject of the 2017 Bushmoot. Thank you to Tony, Shelly, all the Mods and all the other helpers who organised everything and helped make it such a magical two weeks.

Cheers

George

‘Space Shuttle’ Log Rocket Stove – With Des Cattys – A Video Post

This year at the Wilderness Gathering my friend Des Cattys was showing his love of Log Rocket stoves to visitors. I decided to drop in on one of his sessions to watch how he constructs one. Like Des I am intrigued by these stoves and I am always looking to improve on their construction so watching someone else at work building one is a chance not to be missed.

If you want more detail on making one of these stoves have a look at my How To…. on building a Log Rocket stove. There are many variations on them and I have included some of them on my Bushcraftdays blog in my How To section.

Cheers

George

How To…. Weave a Natural Birch Bark Firelighter

they burn long and fierce

Apart from making baskets and sheaths out of bark I have been experimenting these last few years with weaving bark into natural firelighters. I came across a post on Bushcraft UK by a member called Woodwalker on these firelighters from 2010 – he called them Woven Kindling.

I have since added spruce resin to mine and liken them more to Natural Frelighters as they burn long and fierce. This is the second part in my two part series on natural firelighters Рthe first being my post on Birch Bark Fire Fans.

The Birch Bark Firelighter

Removing the bark

If you can find a semi rotten fallen birch log the bark tends to come of easily so just pull of the what you need. If you use semi rotted logs just take a little piece from as many different logs as you can as these logs are home to many different invertebrates.

If the logs are freshly fallen then I use my knife to score out the area I want to cut out (ensure it is a smooth an area as possible). If the bark does not peel off easily I batton it with a small log to loosen everything up before prising it off with my knife. I go into the specifics of removing the bark in more detail in my post on the Birch Bark Fire Fan. The main thing is to take your time when the bark does not come off easily.

Stripping the bark

Once I have my section of bark I will either peel it by hand into strips of about 1 cm in length or if I am feeling the need to be very accurate I will tap my knife into a log and use that as a tool to cut the bark into even strips.

Locking the strands together

1. ¬†To make one firelighter you need four strips of birch bark. I use¬†strips about 30 cm’s in length¬†and 1 or 2 cm’s width.

2.  Fold each strip in half Рthe folded end is called the closed end and the end with the two tails is called the open end.

3. ¬†Slide one closed end between the open end of another strip so it sticks out by 2 or 3 cm’s. In the picture below in section 3 you can see a T shape is formed.

Folding – Open – Closed

4.  The closed end of a third folded strip is added to the upright part of the initial T shape to lock it off.

5. A fourth folded strip is added to the third strip to lock it off and the tails are threaded through the protruding loop of the first strip.

6.  All the strips should now be locked off.

7.  Pull everything in tight.

Locking in

The Four Strand Crown

The firelighter is formed by weaving a Four Strand Crown knot. I have added the arrows to help you visualise what I am doing.  Important РThere will be two strips of bark at each open end. Only use the top strip of each open end when you begin the weave

8.  To begin the knot fold one of the strips over. In section 8 I chose to fold the top strip on the left over first.

9.  The strip is folded over to the opposite side.

10.  To secure that strip in place I folded the strip at the top over this first strip to secure it in place.

11.  This top strip (now at the bottom) was secured in place by folding the right hand strip over it.

Four Strand Crown Knot

12.  To secure the fourth strip loosen the first strip slightly so that it forms a small loop by its fold Рknown as an eye.

13.  Feed the tail of the fourth strip into this eye.

14.  Pull the tail of the fourth strip in tight.

15. Repeat from step 8 to 14 again to form another layer of weave.

Building the layers

Flip the whole piece over and begin the weave on what were the bottom strips. Once you run out of bark to fold over tuck in the ends into a suitable slot or trim them off with your knife.

Repeating on the other side

The Resin

These little firelighters take only a minute or two to make but they can burn for far longer if you add some resin to them. I use spruce resin as it is plentiful here in the UK (again I discuss harvesting resin in my post on the Birch Bark Fire Fan in more detail).

I break of little blobs (it can get messy if the resin is runny) of resin and insert them into the little slots formed by the weave and that is basically it (use as much resin as you can).

Add the magic ingredient

When lit these firelighters burn easily for over 5 minutes so giving you time to build your fire without resorting to using fine tinder and just small twigs. I can easily hold the firelighter for the first minute before it becomes to fierce to hold.

Once it gets going and the resin is well lit then it I go no where near it with my fingers. I like to use them first thing in the morning when I do not want to faff about with collecting tinders and just get a brew on.

Ready to go

I prep mine in the evening while sitting around the fire and pack them away for when I need them. If you are looking for a viable alternative to modern firelighters then these are ideal – if you are always a purist and insist on foraging for your tinders every time you light a fire then maybe they are not for you.

Quick to make and lasts for ages

For those that like a video intead of the step by step I put this short video together to explain the process.

Cheers and happy weaving.

Geprge

How To…. Make A Birch Bark Fire Fan

Ever find yourself relying on using non-natural firelighters a lot due to their convenience? I do as I normally have a lot to organise before courses and using natural methods every time when I have a class can be time consuming when things are damp.

This is the first of two blogs on natural firelighters I like to use and how to make them. I like to prepare them well in advance of trips, pack them away in my bergen and use them instead of the likes of cotton wool and Vaseline (my usual non-natural method).

The Birch Bark Fire Fan

I came across a number of years ago a small section in Ray Mears book Essential Bushcraft on using a Birch bark fan. Ray recommended folding pieces of bark into a fan shape to stop the bark curling up quickly and becoming impossible to handle when it was lit.

I teach this method to my cadets however if I have time I like to add some melted spruce resin to these fans. This really extends the life of the fan giving me a better chance to get my fire going (great for these damp days) and because the resin soon hardens the fans they do not fall apart or deform so much when carried in a bag.

Removing the Bark

If you have a semi rotted birch log then the bark should come off easily however if it is a freshly felled log things may get a little more difficult for you. Here in the UK the birch bark can be quite thin and more difficult to remove than the thicker bark of birch trees you would find in more northern climes.

Mark out the squares

I mark out small squares with my knife and if the bark does not peel off easily I use a small batten to gently hammer the bark. This gentle hammering helps to loosen the inner bark from the sapwood.

Also having a wooden wedge helps to peel the bark of but mostly I tend to just use the curved part of my knife. Some folk say it is better to use the back of the tip of your knife but I find the curved part works well for me. The main thing is to take your time and remove the inner and outer bark from the sap wood.

Tap and Peel

Remove the Inner Bark

When I have removed a small square I gently remove the inner bark. Again do this job slowly removing the inner bark in small pieces. It is very easy when using thin bark to rip the outer bark.

Carefully strip off the inner bark

Folding the Fan

To make your fan start folding your square as if you were making a very small fan – not much more you can say about that ūüôā

Fold like a paper fan

Keep a hold on one end and with a strip of bark tie off the other end. They do not take long to make and are soon ready for the resin.

Tie a tail

Spruce resin

Here in the UK a handy and plentiful resource is Spruce resin. There are lots of conifer plantations where I live and a common tree in them is the Spruce. I keep an eye out for areas where the foresters have been using tractors to thin out the spruce as they tend to damage lower branches on trees they pass by.

To help heal itself the trees produce copious amounts of resin and this is full of oils that are flammable. By taking a little from different sites (I use a stick to scrape the resin) I can soon have plenty to melt and coat the Birch bark fans and leave plenty for the trees.

Harvest some resin

I just use a couple of tins (the inner tin has lots of little holes) to melt the resin by my campfire (I have documented this process in How To….¬†Spruce Pitch in a Tin Can) and dunk the tail of the fan into this hot liquid (good gloves or tongs are required here).

Once the tail is covered I pour some of the resin onto the area of the fan by the tail leaving the top of the fan clear of resin.

Melt, dip and pour

I find this combination works for me as the folds stop the bark from curling straight away and when the flame reaches the resin it burns for far longer.

One excellent fire lighter

I put a little video together on this to show you the process from start to finish.

The next post in this short series will be on making a woven Birch bark firelighter (again with Spruce resin).

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Dovetail Log Rocket Stove

In my continuing research into Log Rocket Stoves I came across a Wikipedia page called the Schwedenfeuer and in it details of a type of log rocket stove I had not come across before, with a built-in fire tray and a chimney formed by simply cutting away the inner corner of one section.

Clever though it was, though, this stove still relied on string or wire to tie the sections together. As these stoves have been around for a long time I figured there must be other ways of holding them all together. I thought perhaps that green wood dovetail wedges might do the job, so I set out to test this.

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The Dovetail Log Rocket Stove

Tools and Material

As usual I limited myself to the tools I would usually carry in my backpack, including a knife, saw and axe. A pen or pencil is handy for this project as well.

I’ve had a piece of birch stored in my garage for over a year however it had absorbed moisture over the winter and was fairly damp in its core.

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Tools

Splitting Out

This style of log rocket requires you to put a stop cut into the bottom of the log to about two thirds of its width. You can see in the top left picture below the cut is about 10 to 15 cms from what will be the bottom of the stove.

The top right picture below shoes you how far I put my stop cut into the log. The bottom two pictures show me marking out with my saw the approximate area I would be battoning out.

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Bottom cut and marking out

I used my axe and a large piece of wood to batton out the the wood. You can see the shape of the stove at this stage with one segment in an inverted ‘L’ shape (Segment¬†1) and a smaller piece (Segment 2).

The bottom two photos show me marking out the smaller piece for further splitting. This piece is not split exactly in two as this configuration allows you to form the chimney very quickly.

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Splitting

The Chimney

Below you can see the shape of all the pieces when they are put back together . I then battoned off the tip of the larger piece from Segment 2  so that a chimney would be formed. This piece of battoned-out wood I further split into fine pieces to act as kindling for the stove.

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The One Cut Chimney

Once I had the chimney battoned out I trimmed off some excess wood from Segment 1 and then used a pencil to mark out the chimney area.

I did this so I could put some Raappanan tuli cuts into the chimney area. It is important to keep the sections of the log rocket that join together as smooth as possible for a good fit so marking out the chimney area ensures I do not cut into the wrong area.

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Trimming & Marking out the chimney

The Raappanan tuli cuts are fairly simple to make with my axe. I just ensured I cut only into the wood in the chimney area and that the cuts were made upwards, towards the top of the chimney.

These cuts are particularly helpful when using damp wood as it offers far more surface area to the initial flame, allowing it to catch more quickly, and also it helps to dry the damp wood out.

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Raappanan tuli cuts

The Firebox

The next stage I worked on was the firebox opening. This can be done in a number of different way however I elected to go for a triangular opening.

I formed the opening by cutting a small triangle at the base of both pieces from Segment 2. I also tapered the inside of the cuts to open the firebox up a bit. I made this firebox slightly larger than normal as the wood was very damp. My thought was that the extra air intake would help to keep the fire going at the start before the insides of the stove became fully lit.

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The firebox opening

The Dovetail Joints

These joints were a total experiment. I put all the pieces together again and, holding them tightly, sawed a line to the depth of a centimetre across two of the joints.¬†(I recommend you use some string or maybe a belt to hold everything together as you make the cuts – I didn’t and I wished I had.)

I then did the same cut but flared my saw out slightly (about 45 degrees) to the same depth. I then repeated the cut with the saw flared out 45 degrees in the opposite direction to the original cut to the same depth (there will be a picture of the cut further down the post).

Once that was done I used my saw like a rasp to carve out all the excess wood to form what is called the dovetail ‘Tail’.

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Cutting out the ‘Tails’

Below you can see this ‘Tail’ part of the dovetail joint. It forms what I think of as a bow tie shape when done properly. The important point is to start each cut from the same place, saw to the same depth each time and ensure that the middle of the tail is centred over the split in the segments.

I found that as I had not strapped the segments together I had to really hold them firmly together – this is where you will appreciate your belt or piece of string. Also while sawing these ‘Tails’ in be aware at all times where the saw is in relation to your thumb and forefinger on the hand holding the stove.

I made three of these tails (one over each split) to hold all the segments together.

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The Tails

To hold the segments together you need to carve some ‘Pins’ to insert into the ‘Tails’. I used green hazel wood to make the pins and made sure that they were carved into a triangular shape but initially too big for the tail.

Carving in this manner allowed me to insert the pin into the tail and then progressively carve off smaller pieces from the pin until it started to slide in. I also used my large piece of wood to hammer the pins in to ensure a very tight fit.

If you find that your pin is too small just get a fresh piece of green wood and try again. They only take seconds to make. To finish the pins off I trimmed the ends with my saw.

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Cutting and inserting the ‘Pins’

As the bark of the birch tree is very flammable I stripped it all off and kept it to the side to use later as kindling to get the fire started. The dovetail joints if fitted snugly will keep all the segments locked together tightly.

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Trimming

Firing Up

I lit the stove with some Vaseline-soaked cotton wool balls (which I always carry with me) because everything was so damp. The wind was non existent that day so it took me a while to get the stove going well.

Normally these stoves fire up really easily when there’s a little bit of wind to create the rocket effect up through the chimney

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Firing up and drying out

Eventually the rocket effect started and I placed three pieces of green wood onto the top for my pot to sit on. These were fairly thin pieces but would last long enough to boil some water. Have a few pieces spare on standby though if needed.

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Green wood pot stand

Once the pot was on (about 10 minutes after initial burn) I needed to keep popping small pieces of wood into the fire box to keep the fire going. If your wood is really dry or resinous (like spruce or pine) you may not need to keep tending the fire as the internal walls of the chimney will probably be well lit.

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Now it is a stove

It took me just under 15 minutes to boil this pot of water (enough for approx 3 cups of coffee) and the dovetail joints remained strong throughout.

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Roaring

After 45 minutes the first of the joints burnt through however the stove remained standing until it burnt out. Due to the lack of wind the majority of the wood did not burn through.

I made this short video of another Dovetail Log Rocket Stove to show it in action.

I like to experiment with log rocket stoves and this reliance on using string or wire to hold them together (although you can dig the segments of some types directly into soft ground) has always bugged me.

This  Schwedenfeuer type of stove lends itself well to the dovetail joints I think,  and once you have practised making a couple you will be able to knock together a stove very quickly with just natural materials.

As usual I am open to ideas and suggestions on creating more log rocket stoves and Scandinavian candles. If you have not seen my other posts on this subject have a look at my summary post on this subject titled – Candles, Rockets and Long Fires.

Cheers

George

A Bushcraft Birthday

My last trip out for 2015 was a particularly nice one as we were celebrating the 6th birthday of a little bushcraft boy called David. He loves the outdoors and his Grandfather Keith Coleman had organised to celebrate the event out in the woods at Danemead Scout camp.

Keith was also out with a few of his cadets to practice some navigation skills and I was going to practice some bushcraft skills with my friends Dave, Alan and Jess.

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Bushcraft Skills

David’s Mum Maria was who is a good friend of mine was also at the campsite so it was great to catch up with her as we had not met up for a long time.

Keith soon had the candles lit with David and we were soon tucking into a slice of Birthday cake.

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Birthday Boy

Later on the boys Dad Jim turned up with David’s little brother James. Jim has been a good friend of mine for many years so It was good to catch up on goings on again with him. While we were chatting the boys asked if they could light their own fire.

We spent a little while collecting some dry birch bark and small twigs and then got the Firesteels out. I also gave them some cotton wool and Vaseline to help get the fire going as everything was very damp.

It was great to watch the two lads sparking away and then slowly building up their fire until it was well lit. Needless to say when it was time for them to go home they were very reluctant to leave their well nurtured fire.

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Bushcraft with the Boys

While the lads were busy making their fire Dave was busily building a spit to cook a joint of beef on. He stripped a green hazel sapling and put a split through the the middle of it with one end squared off. Then he carved a couple of flat skewers to go through the beef and the split. This method keeps the joint fixed to the hazel rod as it is turned over the fire.

Once that was done he made two uprights to sit the hazel rod in over the fire. One of the uprights had a square notch carved into it for the squared end of the hazel rod to rest in. This ensured that as we turned the it it always remained fixed in the position we had set it.

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Spit making

Dave’s father Alan is an excellent chef and he had been busily working away making up a whole range of different veggie kebabs. After a couple of hours turning the spit dinner was ready.

As we try to be civilised ūüėČ at these events the cheese board was produced by Keith and a relaxing evening was had around the fire.

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Dinner time

After a very restful sleep in my hammock I was awoke by our chef Alan busily working away around the fire preparing some pancakes for breakfast.

Alan was using my griddle for this job (if you do not own one I would highly recommend that you invest in one) and it was hanging off my Dovetail Crane. This crane is made out of one piece of wood, is easy to make and offers you a wide range of cooking heights.

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Pancakes using the Dovetail Crane

While Keith was off doing some navigation work with his cadets I spent my morning constructing a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove. These are easy to make and great to get a fire going in damp conditions.

I must thank Jess for helping me at this stage to take a lot of my photographs as my hands were full with constructing the stove. Thankfully Jess is an excellent photographer so I did not need to worry if the right shot was being taken or not leaving me free to concentrate on the stove.

Log Rocket Stove
Log Rocket Stove

All that was left after this was to have a brew and pack up for the trip home. This was an excellent trip to round my year off amongst friends, eating well and celebrating the birthday of a budding bushcrafter.

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Brew time

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove

When the weather is inclement and the ground is really wet then the option of making a rocket stove needs to be considered.

This How To…. sets out the steps I took on a wet and windy December morning to make a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove with only the tools I normally carry in my rucksack.

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The damp wood log rocket

I have dabbled with making different types of Finnish Candles for cooking on and they are excellent for when the ground is wet. Over the years I have also experimented with making Log Rocket stoves but restricted my activities to the workshop as I used drills to make them.

I recently stumbled on an idea on Facebook from the 1st Facebook Scout Group by Paul Hasling. This is the first time I have seen a log rocket stove done without the use of drills so I was instantly taken with the idea. Another Scout instructor Jos√© Xavier put Paul’s pictures together into a quick helpcard called the¬†Rocket Stove de Madeira. This is a very simple design where a log is split four ways, a chimney and firetray are carved out and it is all put back together again with string. I will certainly be showing my Sea Cadets how to make one.

First though I wanted to make one when out in the woods with only what was to hand. It being December, there was nothing that was bone dry so I found a dead Birch and cut a section off. It was still damp to the touch, however it had been dead for over a year so it was slightly seasoned.

Splitting

For the job I had my knife, saw, axe and a pen. Using another round of wood I split the log in half by battoning it with my axe (keep the blade of the axe at 90 degrees to your body when you do this).

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Tools and battoning

After splitting the log in half I split each half into three even sections. With very dry wood you only need halve the halves again to make four sections however my wood was damp so I wanted to produce as much surface area as possible which is why I opted for six sections.

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The splits

Stop Cuts

Using a stick and a pen I marked a line on each section about a quarter of the way from the bottom and also numbered each section. These marks were put in so that I could cut in stop cuts so to make it easy for me to cut out the chimney section.

My friend Keith Coleman suggested using tape as a depth gauge for this and it worked a treat, with each stop cut ending up the same depth.

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Stop cuts

Creating the Chimney

Using the tape as a gauge again I marked a line at the top of each split section and then, using my knife, battoned off the excess wood.

The stop cuts help as the split does not travel all the way to the bottom and so creates a lintel that the fire will sit in.

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Battoning out the chimney

After a little bit of whittling with my knife each segment had the wood removed so that the chimney would be formed when it was all put back together.

It is important to keep all the shavings and little chunks of wood from this process as it can be used as kindling for the stove.

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Trimming the chimney

The Raappanan Tuli style

Now the secret of making damp wood burn is to produce as much surface area as possible for the flame to catch. I learnt this from researching and making the Finnish Raappanan Tuli candle.

On the inside of each segment cut as many burrs as you can so that the flame from your kindling has something to catch onto. I tried out different types of cuts here and some were easier to carve than others – your wood will soon tell you what works well.

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The Raappanan Tuli style

The Firebox

Next up is the opening for the firebox. I¬†selected two segments that fit together (having them numbered really helped here) and marked out with a pen two rectangular areas just above the sill I’d¬†created. I made sure¬†the marking went¬†all the way round to the other side of each segment.

I then used a saw to cut into the wood in the shaded area. Do as many cuts as you can as this makes it easier to remove this waste wood.

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Carving the firebox – stage 1

I then used my saw at an angle to cut out the wood and finished the job off with my knife.

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Carving the firebox – stage 2

When finished the idea is that you want an access point big enough to put your kindling into the firebox area at the bottom of the chimney.

I found some old sisal string tied to a tree and used that to tie everything back together. It was pretty damp anyway and I hoped that would last longer than the copious amounts of paracord I tend to carry around with me. I think some thin wire would be the ideal thing to use though.

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Firebox and all wrapped up

From the top you can see how wide the chimney was. I have no idea what would be the optimal size to have so you may need to experiment for yourself.

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The chimney

Firing Up

As the wood was so damp I decided to go for the sure-fire method of lighting the stove up Рgood old cotton wool and Vaseline. This worked well however I needed to use 4 Vaseline-coated cotton wool balls to maintain the fire.

I have used shredded birch bark mixed with spruce resin on a number of occasions to light Finnish candles before but¬†I didn’t have the time to collect the resin this time.

Once the fire had started I added tinder/kindling down through the chimney and in through the firebox. The main thing at this stage is to not over-fill the firebox but allow the airflow to be maintained. It means about 10 minutes of work but the damp wood inside the chimney area will dry out and the overall heat of the fire will increase.

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Firing up

Maintaining the Fire

I placed three pebbles on the top of the stove for the kettle to sit on securely.

The gap created by the pebbles also allows you to drop tinder/kindling down the chimney. I like to use strips of birch bark here as it is so pliable and flammable.

If the wind is low or changes direction you may need to get down low and blow directly into the firebox to keep the fire going. Once the wood has dried out a bit you will not need to do this so much.

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Maintaining the heat

I gave the stove about 10 minutes before putting the kettle on and then in about 15 minutes the kettle was boiling. Not as fast as modern stoves but for what is in effect a wet log not bad.

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Waiting for the kettle to boil

I have to thank Jess Edwards for a number of these pictures at the end. Jess is a great photographer and keen bushcrafter so it was great to concentrate for once on the tinkering and leave the photography aspect in someone else’s capable hands.

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Brew time

Observations

Once the coffee was made I was able to have a good look at what was happening with the stove. As I looked closely I could see the moisture in the wood boiling off. If you look in the bottom picture you can see the water boiling away on the surface.

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Drying off

The stove kept going for another hour before I had to put it out as we were leaving.

Overall I was very impressed with this Log Rocket stove with the Raappanan Tuli twist and I will be using it again on my courses.

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A glorious farewell

Thanks again to the Scouts for documenting this stove – I hope you like my little twist on it?

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 8/10 – Fire in Fun Forms

The Moot will have something for you – be that firesteels, bowdrills, handrills, pumpdrills, bamboo fire saws or the secret art of lighting fire from damp tinder

Many many years ago I stumbled upon a website called Bushcraft UK and realised that there were many folk out there just like me, struggling to get to grips with all the different ways of making fire.

The results on the site only took me so far so I was even happier when I spotted a thread on the Bushmoot. This was the second Bushmoot way back in 2005.

Since then I have discovered many different ways of making fire when out and about. This post is about just some of the ways we make fire at the BCUK Bushmoot.

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Bushmoot Fire

Firesteels

One of the most common methods a bushcrafter will use to light a fire is a Firesteel, so there are plenty of people willing to share with you how they use theirs and explain what tinders they use.

We have included the use of Firesteels into our ‘Starter Course‘ at the Moot. ¬†They are easy to use and the kids love them. When teaching very young kids (pre school) I liken them to creating Fairy lights and this seems to catch the children’s imagination.

The first person to teach me to use a Firesteel ¬†properly at the Moot was Kevin Warrington (Laplander’s Natural Lore Blog) and after I attended his bowdrill class he asked me to come back and assist him with fire-making the next year. We have been good friends ever since and I have to thank Kevin for getting me started on the road to instructing others in the world of bushcraft.

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Fairy Lights

The Starter Course

The Starter course at the Moot is not just about lighting a fire, it is also about making anyone preparing and maintaining a fire, and just as importantly it is about putting a fire out safely.

It is great to see a whole family come together to learn how to work as a team to get all the resources they need for their fire and to coax that initial burst of heat into a well-established fire.

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Creating a Fire

Pump Drills

From time to time some of the instructors will bring along some of their pump drills or other similar training aids. The pump drills prove a great hit with all the kids and once they get the hang of the system they soon have them spinning madly away as they attempt to produce some smoke.

These drills were supplied a couple of years ago by Perry McGee of the National Tracking School.

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Fire Drills

Bowdrill

A favourite of mine over the years has to be the bowdrill. I have lost count of the number of people I have helped master this skill at the Moot. One of the reasons I love teaching this skill is that there are so many factors to take into account when bowing you can easily lose a whole day when teaching it.

Recently a number of other instructors like Mark Oriel have stepped forward to teach this skill enabling me to focus on other areas to develop myself.

Bushmoot Bowdrill
Bushmoot Bowdrill – Pictures courtesy of Ian Woodham

Bowdrill Methods

While teaching bowdrill I use two methods. One is with a single wrap of cord around the drill piece and the other is with multiple wraps (the Egyptian method).

The single wrap is easy to set up however it puts a lot of strain on the cord and if the drill and the bearing block become separated the drill piece tends to ping off to the side.

The Egyptian method relies on multiple wraps, it takes longer to set up and can be more difficult to control. It does though have the advantage of not putting so much strain on the cord and the drill does not ping off to the side when it becomes detached from the bearing block.

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Single twist and Egyptian

Here is the bowdrill in action using the single wrap method.

Group Bowdrills

As we get a lot of children at the Moot and from time to time someone carrying an injury you need to devise other strategies for bowdrilling. Historically I believe bowdrilling was a communal affair as it requires a lot less effort from individuals to get fire when they work together.

I set up Group Bowdrill sessions for families where a couple of people can hold a large bearing block in place and a couple of others can push the bow back and forth to generate the heat required (approx 425 degrees Celsius) to produce an ember. This method usually results in a massive ember, which increases the chance of getting a flame.

Another method is to use the large bearing block with the bowyer holding one end as a bearing block with the other end dug into the ground. In the bottom two pictures you can see that Dave is also using a ’round’ of wood to raise the hearthboard making the act of bowing easier.

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Teamwork

I made a short video of a bow in action with the Egyptian method at the Moot a couple of years ago. This was to show how easy it was to create an ember using this method with two people on the bow.

Handrills

A Master fire maker who¬†has been coming to the moot for years now is Richard (Rich59 on BCUK) and what he doesn’t know about firemaking is not worth bothering about. He is an expert with the handrill and regularly brings along a range of woods such as Elder, Teasel, Buddlia, Mullein and Reedmace for students to try out.

Richard is a keen experimenter and will try out different techniques like attaching cord to the drill to see if that technique makes life easier for people.

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Handrill

This is my short video on using a handrill.

Bamboo Firesaw

This year Richard experimented with Bamboo Fire Saws. He managed to get some spare bamboo from Wayne Jones of Forest Knights (Wayne was making Bhutenese bows) and we soon had a pile prepped up around our camp.

I did not get to see Richards class as I was running one myself but the reports were all positive with successful fires being made, Maybe next year I will make time to see his class.

Bamboo Fire
Bamboo Fire – Bottom picture courtesy of Andy McDonald Photography

Dry Tinder

Once you have your ember created (however you do that) it is time to coax that very fragile bundle of hot dust into a fully formed ember and – with the use of whatever tinder you have at hand – to get that much sought-after flame.

It is at this stage that you can see students’ faces transform from concentration into sheer joy – one of the reasons why I love this subject.

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Flamage

Damp Tinder

Normally you try and find the driest tinder possible to turn your ember into a flame, however Richard turned that idea upside down a few years ago. We had a chat one evening around the fire and he explained his idea to me: dimply that it was possible to walk off into the woods and pick up damp dead leaves and process them in a certain way to make tinder to start a fire.

After collecting a pile of damp leaves (take the driest ones from the top of the leaf debris) start to break them up by rubbing them vigorously. Collect the flaked pieces and grade them from minute up to piles of the skeletal remains of the leaves.

From this make a small pile wjth the finest flakes in the centre of your pile.

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Damp Tinder fires – Prep

Make a small hole in the side of your pile to the centre and pop an ember (create that in whatever way you wish) and start to blow gently into the ember.

The trick is to do this slowly so that you create an ever-expanding dry area. If necessary you can place some green leaves or bark over the top to trap all the broken debris and stop it all blowing away. After about 10 to 20 minutes you usually get flame. Just shows you should always persevere with your fire.

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Damp Tinder Fires – Flammage

Challenging Yourself

Whether you are a novice to fire making or an expert looking for a new challenge the Moot will have something for you  Рbe that firesteels, bowdrills, handrills, pumpdrills, bamboo fire saws or the secret art of lighting fire from damp tinder.

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Happy Fire faces

Cheers

George

How To…. Carve a Mortise and Tenon Campfire Crane

Let me introduce you to what I call the Mortise and Tenon Campfire Crane. This is a crane I made up at the the BCUK Bushmoot this Summer.

The idea came about as usual in a discussion around the fire with my good friends Charlie Brookes and Ian Woodham.

As you can see the arm of the crane can be set high or low (and ranges in between) and if set up correctly the upright can be easily rotated to swing your pot away from the fire.

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Mortise and Tenon Crane

I would classify this one as more Pioneering than my usual constructions as it relies on some string to work. It is one for the long term camp however if you were on an overnighter with a couple of hours spare it would make a good project for an evening.

I will be describing the construction of the crane as I go through the post however I thought it would be helpful to have a completed picture of the crane marked up with the relevant work areas for you. Please refer back to this overview at any stage.

Mortise and Tenon Layout

My tools for the job included my knife, a small saw and and axe but you may find having a pen or pencil to hand will be useful.

I took a rod of Sycamore (fairly well seasoned) and sawed it in two. In the picture you can see I have left the thicker end longer than the thinner end. The thicker pole will become the upright and the thinner pole will become the arm.

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The Makings

Carving the Upright

On the thinner end of the thick pole that was to be the upright I marked out the shape of the Tenon tongue and then cut two stop cuts into the side of the pole.

The stop cuts are put in to so that when I batton the waste wood off the split does not run on down the upright.

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Creating the Tenon Tongue – Stop Cuts

I used my knife to batton off the waste wood (make sure your knife blade is at 90 degrees to your body when you do this).

Once I had the Tenon tongue shape split out I carved one side of it into a curve. This is important to allow the arm of the crane to be raised up and down.

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Creating the Tenon tongue – batton and carve

To finish the upright I axed out a point at the bottom and about half way down it I carved a small wedge-shaped recess. This wedge-shaped recess needs to be on the opposite side of the curve to the Tenon tongue.

The recess does not need to be that deep, just enough to allow some string to catch in it.

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Little extras on the upright

Carving the Arm

About a third of the way along from the thicker end of the arm flatten the wood with your knife on opposite sides. This gives you a decent working surface to carve out your Mortise hole.

In the bottom left picture you can see how I used the top of the upright to help me gauge how big to make the Mortise hole. Mark out your Mortise hole with a pen or pencil (mark out both sides of the arm).

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Flattening the arm and marking out the Mortise hole

I used my knife and a piece of waste wood as a batton to cut out the Mortise hole. I took my time here so I would not split the wood along the length of the arm.

Once I got about half way down the depth of the Mortise hole I started on the other side.

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Creating the Mortise hole – First Side

As I use¬†the tip of my knife for this work I always ensure the work piece is secured on a flat surface. I have seen the after effects of a knife going through someone’s hand and it is not a pretty sight I can assure you.

Soon I had my Mortise hole cut through and tidied up. As I did not want to make the Mortise hole too large I tested out the Tenon tongue in it and trimmed the tongue down slightly so that it would fit in the Mortise hole easily.

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Creating the Mortise hole – Second side

The Tenon tongue when fitted should sit slightly proud. You will probably find you will make lots of little adjustments here as you test the action of your crane at this stage.

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Testing the joint

To finish the arm off I carved a groove near the thick end of the arm (for the string to grip), chamfered the thick end to tidy it up and cut out a groove at the thin end of the arm for attaching a pot handle (I will show this in detail in a further picture).

Finishing the arm
Finishing the arm

The Mortise and Tenon Crane

I spent a long time working out a way of making the arm fully adjustable with just the usual items in my rucksack. After discussing this with Ian and Charlie I opted for a simple system with string and a wooden toggle.

Below you can see that the upright and the arm are connected by string and a toggle on the left hand side.

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In Profile

I tied off some doubled-up string to the arm groove and knotted it along its length with some simple overhand knots. This produced lots of little loops the toggle could fit into.

I attached a toggle to the upright groove and inserted the toggle into one of the loops in the string from the arm. Depending on what loop I put the toggle into I could adjust the height of any pot hanging off the other end of the arm.

The groove for the pot handle I made with a backstop and a slightly angled forward section. This shape allows the pot to remain secure when the arm is either raised or lowered.

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In detail

To insert the upright I had a separate pole to act as a pile driver. I hammered this into the ground first and then inserted the upright into the hole I’d created.

The upright can then be rotated quite easily to move your pot off the fire. I found that I could pour water from the kettle while it was still attached to the arm as the handle sat snugly in the angled section of the pot handle groove.

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In use

I like this crane for the challenges it set me and the fact that I could overcome them with just the kit I would normally carry.

I plan to re-visit the string set up as there must be a simpler method to keep the arm securley attached while giving me the ability to adjust its height.

Feel free to suggest an alternative method for this but remember it needs to be created with what you would normally expect to carry in your rucksack or about your person while out in the woods.

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Up and Down

This will be (for the moment at least) the last How To…. on building campfire cranes however I have really enjoyed exploring this very diverse and little documented area of Bushcraft.

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Heavy Duty Campfire Crane

My ongoing quest to learn all I can about campfire cranes has brought me to this Heavy Duty Crane (just something I have made up to describe it).

This crane works on the same principle of the Simple Dovetail Campfire Crane I documented in a previous post. The main differences are in relation to size and how you adjust the height of the pot above the flames.

I see this crane more for the long term camp due to its size.

The Heavy Duty Crane
The Heavy Duty Crane

I constructed the crane using just an axe, saw and knife. I chose a pole that had been cut down a number of months ago (sycamore wood) so it was fairly well seasoned (the girth of the pole was just big enough so that I could not close my fingers around it). Green wood would work well enough for the short term however as the wood dried out you may find the dovetail joints you create would loosen slightly.

Sawing

To begin with I sawed the pole into two pieces. The cut was about a third of the way along the length from the tip (the thin end) of the pole – this would become the arm. The bottom two thirds of the pole (the thicker end) would become the upright.

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Start with a long stout pole

The Arm Joint

Using my axe and knife I carved the thicker end of the arm piece into a triangular shape. I took my time over this to ensure all the sides were as even as possible (carpenters measures with my eye).

This would form the ‘male’ section of the dovetail joint on the crane.

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On the arm piece carve a triangular end

The Upright Joint

As you saw in the first picture in the post the upright has a number of female dovetail cuts carved into it. Make as many as you see fit however due to the length I had I opted for four.

To help me in carving the female notches on the upright I used the triangular section on the arm as a guide. I marked out two triangles on either side of the upright making them fractionally smaller than the arm triangle (remember you can always take wood off – it is harder to put it back on again).

I also off-set the triangles slightly so that the tip of the arm would be pointed slightly upwards when it was inserted (you do not need to do this if your arm has a bend in it). Joining the tips of the two triangles I scored a guide line for my saw.

Once that was done I made a cut with my saw on each side of the triangles and a couple in the middle.

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Use the triangular end as a template to cut out a socket on the upright

I used my knife and a piece of wood to batton (hitting the handle of the knife with a stick) out the excess wood, tried the arm to see if it fitted and then kept on carving out the notch until the arm fitted the notch. This takes time but if you take it slowly you will get a snug dovetail fit between the upright and the arm.

Once I was happy with the first joint I started the process slightly lower down for the next joint.

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Chip out the excess wood and repeat

Make sure you leave a few centimetres gap at the between each triangle so that the joint remains strong.

The bottom two pictures show how the arm connects into the upright. I like to have the apex of the triangle on the arm slightly protruding from the female section of the joint on the upright.

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Ensure you have a snug fit

This process takes time and when I made this upright I completed two in the evening and the other two the next morning (hence the change in t-shirt). Taking my time though meant that I had four snug joints that would be good for long term use.

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Carve as many notches as you wish

Finishing the Upright

To finish the upright I carved a point at the base and chamferred the top. All this is designed to make it easier to insert the upright into the ground without causing damage to the joints.

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Point, chamfer and test

The Arm 

I have a tendency to make crane arms in a standard way. After axing out a basic shape (taking care not to touch the triangular end) I formed the final shape with my knife.

I like to put lots of notches along the upper side of the arm to give the bail handle of my pot something to sit in. Having lots mean that I have the ability to adjust the placement of the pot on the horizontal plane as well as on the vertical plane using the upright.

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Carve the arm

To finish the arm off I usually put a little dimple near the tip of it so I can hang an adjustable pot hanger off it if needed (picture later).

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Add a dimple if you want an extra pot attached

I like to use a stout stick as a pile driver when using a crane so that I do not damage the upright when putting it into the ground.

The ground in my garden is fairly loose so it was not a problem however some of the sites I use can be quite hard and stony.

As this crane was to take heavy weights I really compacted the earth around the base of the upright and gave it a few more taps to drive it in. If you remember to chamfer the top and give the upright a strong point you should be able to drive the upright in securely.

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Use a pile driver to insert the upright

My first test was to see what weight the crane could take. I filled my Super Potjie Dutch Oven about half full and filled the group kettle up.

With some cranes you can see the arm bend when the pot is put on however when I added all this weight it did not shift in the slightest.

Below you can see how the adjustable pot hanger is attached to the end of the arm (into the dimple).

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Crane set up with extra pot holder

Testing

My sister sent me my favourite treat of the year – a Guga (young Gannet) and I cooked it outdoors using the Heavy Duty crane.

It took the weight easily enough however I did trim about a millimetre (the girth)  of the triangular section so that it could be easily inserted and extracted from the upright as I sought the ideal heat.

I had the pot low down at first to boil the water and then raised it so it would simmer gently for an hour.

Unlike the adjustable dovetail, the lap joint and Aures cranes you cannot fine tune the height of the arm but you do have a reasonable height difference that can take a lot of weight.

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In action (a comparison in size with the adjustable dovetail crane)

Treated well this crane could last you for many years and takes up little room around the fire. If you are doing a pioneering project yourself or with a group this is an ideal project to undertake.

Cheers

George

How To…. Carve a Simple Dovetail Crane

Simple, quick to make, tidy and strong

My search to find and document as many different campfire cranes brought me to this simple type of dovetail crane. I first came across this idea from a blog post by Ken Cole Jr on the Scout Pioneering site.  I expanded on their idea with adding an adjustable pot hanger to the crane.

It is similar in concept to the Cooking Crane I documented previously except that the socket on the upright is created by cutting into the side of it instead of through the middle of the upright. This leads to a far quicker construction time.

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Simple Dovetail Crane

I also like these vertical campfire cranes as there is little for people to trip up on around the campfire and  like my previous post on the adjustable dovetail crane this simpler version is built using just a single pole.

Trimming

I used a sycamore pole on I had on hand trimmed it into two pieces using my folding saw.

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One pole trimmed to size

The larger pole you can see below was destined to be the upright and the thinner piece was to be the cranes arm.

The arm

I started work on the arm first carving a triangular end on one side. I took my time here to make all the sides even in shape.

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Carving the triangular bed of the arm

Once the arm had the correct shape carved out I used it as a template to mark out the dovetail socket I would cut into the upright.

The upright

It is worth the time doing this as you want to produce a socket that the arm will fit into snugly.

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Using the arm to score out the shape of the socket

Once the shape had been marked out with my knife I used my saw to cut into the upright, one on each side and then a couple of cuts through the middle.

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Roughing out the socket

I used my knife then to carve out all the loose excess wood and to smooth all the sides out.

I continually kept trying to insert the triangulated end of the arm to see if it would fit. As I wanted to keep as much wood on the arm I just used my knife to keep carving of more wood from the socket area on the upright to enlarge it. Eventually the arm was able to be inserted into the socket and released without too much force but still fitted snugly.

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Finishing with the knife

To finish the upright  I chamfered the top so that it would not split when I hammered it into the ground and carved a strong point on the other end.

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Chamfering and pointing the upright

I hammered the upright and checked to make sure all the angles looked good. I like to have my crane uprights to have a little lean away from the fire but not too much as this could cause the arm to swing when it had a heavy load.

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Checking the angles

Hanging the pot hanger

The arm needs a little flat platform carved on the end with a little dimple  in it the pot hanger to balance on. I have explained in a previous post on carving an adjustable pot hanger on how to make one of these.

Just make sure that you carve the flat platform on the correct plane in relation to how the arm fits into the upright – I used the triangular end as a guide for this.

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Carving the pot hanger end of the arm

You can see in the picture below the end of the arm has a slightly flattened surface and a slightly curved surface underneath it.

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Completed

If your pole is long enough you could carve your pot hanger from it. In this case I had plenty on hand so just used one I had made before.

Testing

You can see in the picture below how the pot hanger sits on the tip of the arm in the little dimple. It looks very fragile but it can hold a lot of weight if everything is carved properly.

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Attaching a pot hanger

I decided to shorten the arm of the crane as it bent a bit with the weight of the full kettle so rather than cut the end with the dimple I just extended the triangulated area of the arm so that it could be adjusted easily(I did trim the back of the arm later).

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Shortened arm

I was quite happy with the arm being this length for the weight of the full kettle.

I also brought out one of my Dutch Ovens and filled it with water to test out the crane. I decided though to carve another shorted arm so that it would stand up to the extra weight better.

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A full kettle – little bend in the arm

This shorter arm did bend a little bit but it did not break. Just to make sure I left the pot hanging off the crane for two days without any problems.

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Shorter arm for a heavy pot – more pronounced bend but still workable

I took the crane to a Sea Cadet camp last weekend and it was used all weekend to keep the kettle on the go. There were a lot of staff around the campfire most of the time but due to its minimal footprint the crane did not get in anyone’s way.

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Kettles on

I really like this crane for various reasons, these being it is simple, quick to make, tidy and strong.

If you have never made a crane before I recommend this type as one to experiment with.

Cheers

George

How To…. Carve a Lap Joint Campfire Crane

While I was writing my post on the Single Fork Aures crane I got a message from a Bushcraft USA member called Alukban about another type of campfire crane, which was made out of a single piece of wood and looked quite straightforward to carve.

The connection between the arm and the upright is a type of Lap Joint. It is easy to adjust and can take the weight of a decent-sized pot.

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Lap Joint Crane

Trimming

I had some sycamore lying around, about a metre and a half long. I trimmed the fork off the end as it was not needed and then cut the pole into two further pieces.

In the picture below all the wood to the left of the folding saw became the arm and the rest became the upright for the crane.

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Single Pole

The upright

I squared off three of the sides of the upright along two thirds of its length and formed a point on the bottom third.

I took my time doing this so that it was as even and as smooth as possible along its length where it was squared.

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Square the top – Round the bottom

Once I was happy with the upright I moved onto the arm. The whole crane works on the principle that the weight of a pot hanging on it will create enough friction to hold the arm against the upright.

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Line up to Mark up

The arm

I used the upright as a guide to measuring where I need to cut out the lap joint on the arm (I measured it so that the lap joint would be very tight initially). I did not make this a 90 degree angle but about 100 degrees, so that the tip of the arm would be pointing slightly upwards.

Once I had marked the width on the arm I cut some stop cuts to half the depth of the arm and then added some more to make it easier to carve out.

I also used my saw to carve out some of the excess wood from the joint area.

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Stop cuts and Sawing out

Once I had taken out most of the excess wood with the saw I used my knife to remove the rest and make it all smooth.

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Trim with a knife

I locked the two pieces together and started to move the arm up and down the upright. This allowed me to spot rough areas still on the upright and then I was able to easily trim that wood off with my knife.

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Continually check the fit

Once I was happy that the arm could move easily up and down the upright I trimmed of loads of excess wood from the arm to make it easier to attach a pot.

I put a stop cut about a quarter of the depth of the arm all the way around it to protect the wood around the lap joint.

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Trim the limb

You can see the general shape of the arm appearing now. I likened it to the shape of an old-style naval cutlass.

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The arm

In use

I added a few ridges along the length of the arm to hold pots securely and then started trying it out.

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Carve the notches

I used this crane for two weeks at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot in South Wales over the summer and was quite impressed with it. It holds pots well under tension but it needs to be treated with respect when moving the pot up and down.

I found that the crane works best with the pot hanging from near the end of the arm. If you move the pot closer to the upright along the arm it has a tendency to slip.

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It is all in the friction

I will be making a variation of this style over the next few days with more of a dovetail joint so that the arm cannot come off so easily.

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A great crane

I like this crane due to its simplicity so give it a go.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 1/10 – Learning

The Bushmoot (referred to generally as the Moot) is an annual event here in the UK and for many years now has taken place at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales. The name Bushmoot comes from the word Bushcraft (as popularised by Richard Graves and Mors Kochanski) and the Saxon word Moot (used to describe a gathering of people).

I like the Moot as it is a gathering of like-minded people with a multitude of skills to share with each other. Not only can kids run free and have fun but so can the adults and I am a firm believer in learning through fun .

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Fun learning

I am writing 10 blog posts on the Moot this year and this first one is on the theme of Learning. I tried to write just one post however I really struggled to choose just a few pictures out of the many hundreds I took. My wife Alison suggested a number of short blog posts on different themes from the Moot and so here we are.

A couple of well-attended courses nowadays are the Starter course (a full breakdown of the course can be seen here on the BCUK site) and the Spoon carving course run by Dean Allen. Alison and our kids did the spoon carving course this year with Dean and carved their very first spoons.

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The basics

I managed to fit in a few courses this year and did a cracking traps course with Perry McGee.

The Moot is usually run over 2 weeks with a core 5 days in the middle where many short courses (2 hrs to 1 day) such as fire making, bow making, spoon carving, tarpology, knife safety, axe work, net making, cordage making, bread making, foraging, atlatl making and knotwork, to name just a few, are run.

There are other longer courses run either side of the core days (with an additional fee) such as an accredited First Aid course, Bhutenese bow making, coastal survival, tracking and lobster pot making with willow.

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Fine detail

Many of the courses are based on using different materials, from basket making, pottery, sling making to learning about different knots.

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Using different materials

We get lots of full-time instructors visiting the Moot like Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival), Perry McGee (National Tracking School). Wayne Jones (Forest Knights), Julia Wagstaff (Welsh Willow Works),  David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis), Theresa Emmerich (tanning expert) and Richard Cook our First Aid expert.

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Advice from the experts

I enjoyed running the ‘show and tell’ workshop on campfire cooking constructions and observing the father and son bows being made.

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Working with wood

One of the things I love about the Moot is the sharing of knowledge such as how a stove was constructed or that Ikea make good quality drying racks that double up as brilliant cooking grills.

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A bit of metal

A favourite of mine is the art of fire making. At the Moot you can learn about making fire with firesteels (old and modern), bowdrill, handrill, with damp tinder, pump drills and in many other ways.

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Flamage

Shelter building is a big subject and is covered well, from simple tarps and debris shelters to large group tarps, permanent constructions and the magical art of tarpology.

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Shelter in many forms

There are many other courses to attend at the Moot with new ideas coming up each year. I have found that the Moot has really broadened my knowledge of all things Bushcraft over the years and I expect will continue to do so for many more to come.

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Sharing knowledge

Look out for more reasons to Bushmoot soon…

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Gibbet Aures Campfire Crane

This is the second of my blog posts on the Aures campfire crane trilogy. I call it the Gibbet crane based on a pot hook I found mentioned in the book Camp-lore and Woodcraft. The crane does look a bit like a traditional gibbet but the name apparently refers to the overlapping joints used in its construction rather than its likeness to an instrument of execution.

This is a great project for the longer-term camp or if you want a bit of practice carving joints and whipping.

The Gibbet Aures Crane
The Gibbet Aures Crane

As usual the tools for making the crane are to be found in most bushcrafters’ backpacks – a knife, saw and axe. I saw this crane set up many years ago at a camp however I have seen little written up about it in books or online.

I found one piece of wood with a strong fork and a smaller catapult-shaped fork (bottom left below) and I cut a limb with a branch coming out (top left below).

The first job I did was to strip off all the bark from all the pieces.

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Tools and basic parts

I placed the large fork up against the pole it would hang off to measure where I needed to trim each limb. To do that I just used my knife to mark the limbs. The top limb needs to be marked to the left of the pole (as you see in the picture below) and the bottom limb needs to be marked to the right of the pole as you see it below.

Carving the top limb

To begin with I trimmed the top limb at its mark with my saw, leaving the bottom one for the moment.

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Measuring and trimming the top limb

I laid the small hook beside the end of the top limb so that the hook was pointing towards the big fork and marked where I wanted to trim it. I did not want to leave it too big – just big enough to be whipped to the big fork.

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Measuring and trimming the top hook

I wanted the joint to be strong so I put a stop cut into the top of the upper limb so I could cut out a lap joint (also known as a Gib joint).

I then battoned off the excess so I was left  with one half of the lap joint, then I trimmed the bottom of the small hook flat to fit snugly against it.

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Cutting out the Gib cut on the top limb and hook

Not a perfect fit but good enough.

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Putting them together

I then used paracord to whip the two together, on both sides of the hook. I left excess string tied in a knot as the wood was green. As it dries out the wood will shrink and I will have to redo the whipping.

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Whipping The Gib joint

Carving the bottom limb

I flattened the upright of the ‘Y’ piece and split out a Gib¬†joint on the lower limb. You have to make sure all the cuts are done on the correct planes so that the hanger will fit on the upright pole without twisting.

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Cutting the Gib joint on the bottom limb and fork

After a bit of whipping it was time to set it up and make sure it worked correctly. In the bottom right picture you can see clearly how it all comes together.

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Fitting and splicing

Carving the pot arm

I have a particular way of carving the hanging arm (you be as creative as you like). I axe out the basic shape I want, trim it smooth with my knife and cut in lots of grooves along the upper part to allow the pot to be hung on various areas of its length.

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Carving the pot arm

Once all the grooves are cut I tend to put a dimple in the end so I can attach an adjustable pot hook. This allows me to hang two or three pots from the crane.

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Finishing touches

Using the Crane

This sequence of shots shows the method I use for adjusting the height of the crane when it has a heavy pot attached to it. I swing the crane away from the fire, remove the pot, adjust the height of the crane, attach the pot again and swing it back over the fire.

With light pots you do not need to remove the pot but just lift the crane slightly so it detaches from the upright and then just move it up and down.

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In use

In this picture you can see how the arm works with an adjustable pot hook attached to the end of the crane arm.

It looks precarious but with the usual level of care you take around any fire I have found this system works well.

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Added adjustable pot hook

Dinner could be in one pot and the kettle on the other leaving plenty of room to sit comfortably around the fire without having lots of uprights protruding out (which can be a problem with other campfire cooking rigs).

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Works a treat

I took the set up out on a recent bushcraft course I was running to show some colleagues and set it up with a fixed crane. All in all it worked a treat.

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In use in the field

If you have not seen it I have another post on making one of these cranes but just out of one forked stick – How To…. Carve an Aures Campfire Crane – Single Fork

Cheers

George

How To…. Make and Use a Simple Flint Knife

As part of a primitive technology course I was taking with Woodcraft School back in 2009 I had to make various craft pieces. The aim of the course was to slowly take away our modern tools so that by the end of the course we would only be using primitive tools to make our craft items.

I was using hand-held flint tools such as discoidal knives in the beginning but about halfway through the course I decided something a bit better was required. This How To…. is designed to show you the simple steps I took to make my flint knife and show you some of the uses I have put it to since.

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A simple flint knife

During the course (spread out over 5 months) I came across the knife you can see below left in the Museum of Prehistory at Cheddar Gorge. Not only was the knife beautifully constructed it also looked strong and practical. I knew I was to be taught on the next part of the course by top flint knapper John Lord so was keen to keep my eye out for a suitable piece while I was knapping flint with him. The knife I made on the course is on the right, not as strong or anywhere near as beautiful but for my needs very practical.

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My inspiration

It was while I was knapping my flint axe head that I saw this piece pop off. The piece had a strong back, a sharp edge with good curves and a perfect point. I re-touched the back to smooth it down a bit and pressure flaked a groove where the sinew wrap to the handle would be.

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The blank blade

I’m afraid I didn’t take many pictures of the handle preparation as it wasn’t going into my portfolio: I used a modern saw and knife for this part to save time. (As I said at the beginning of the post the course was designed to introduce me to primitive crafts by gradually reducing my reliance on modern tools.)

I selected a piece of dead standing wood that was well seasoned and had a slight curve in it, to make for a more comfortable grip and also to reduce the amount of carving necessary. I then used my saw to cut two stop cuts in a ‘V’ shape into the end of the wood. Since finishing the course I now know that a piece of serrated flint would have done this job just as well, if a bit slower.

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The handle-to-be: starting the slot

Once I had the stop cuts in place I used the tip of my steel knife to cut out the centre of the ‘V’ for the tang part of the flint blade to fit into. Then using my steel knife I carved the wood down into the final handle shape.

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Stop cuts in place

I filled the ‘V’ notch with some spruce pitch (see my article on arrow making for making spruce pitch) and slid the tang of the flint blade into the notch. I then bound the hilt of the handle with sinew to secure it and covered the sinew with more pitch to protect it. Within 24 hours this knife was ready to use.

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Rawhide and pitch wrap

Not the best pictures I am afraid but as you can see this knife was the perfect size and shape to use on many of the jobs I would normally use a steel knife for.

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A perfect size and very sharp

The purpose for which I created the knife was tanning some deer skin on the course. When splitting the hide of the deer the knife was comfortable to use and the top curve near the tip cut through the hide like a knife through butter.

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First job – cutting a deer hide

My final craft item was to make a bark sheath for the small bone bodkin you can see on the right. The knife allowed me to easily cut out many strips of bark in a very controlled manner so that the strips were all of the same width. I added a wrap of  rawhide at this stage to protect the pitch and sinew from general wear and tear.

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Creating bark strips and a new rawhide wrap

When I was finishing the sheath I found the knife edge was brilliant for trimming off all the excess bark.

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Perfect for trimming

Finally, to hang the sheath on my bark belt I cut up lots of buckskin with the knife to make some rough cordage.

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Good for cutting up buckskin

Since the course I have used the knife on a few other projects. So long as I am respectful of the fragility of the flint edge, the knife has produced some wonderful results. It’s great for scoring lines in bark, shaving pieces of green wood down to points and for making rosette cuts in small branches to snap them.

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Scraping, point work and splitting

When I was making my Split Stick Atlatl and had to batton open a piece of green wood I found that the thick back of the blade was able to withstand a lot of force from my wooden hammer, which was a pleasant surprise, although I was very nervous throughout the process.

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Robust enough for battoning

Eventually I made the knife its own bark sheath and it now sits proudly as a well-used tool on my primitive belt order.

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My primitive belt order

Cheers

George