Wednesday, 29 February 2012

US GI Spoon

I was challenged by a friend of mine in the US to carve a wooden version of the GI issue spoon, not being one to turn down such a challenge, i accepted and today, carved my representation of said spoon.

The spoon was carved from Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and took about 90 minutes to make,  from selecting the log to the final finish. I have to say, i enjoyed carving to a set design and really like the shape and style of the spoon, for reference the spoon is 6 3/4" in length and the bowl is 1 3/4" at it's widest point, the cut out in the handle measures 1/2"  wide and is 1" long.

The original GI Spoon features some extra lumps and bumps on it and has the letters "US" stamped into it, as can be seen from the photo my friend sent me to work from.

I've not at this stage replicated all of the finer details into the wooden version, but may go the whole hog and add them at a later date, or even carve another one and incorporate as much detail from the metal version as i can, perhaps that can be a job for later in the week?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sea Food Lunch

I enjoyed a lunch today of something ive not had for a long long time, Mussels.

These were bought though rather than foraged, we do have millions of them down on the coast locally to us, but we also have a sewage outfall just up the coast and with Mussels being filter feeders, it's not the worth the risk, nor to be honest, are they that appealing, knowing what they have probably been feeding on, so it's a safer bet, especially at home, to buy farmed Mussels, rather than gather them from the beach, they were incredibly tasty though, just steamed in a pan and then eaten with a pinch of salt and a bit of bread - lovely.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Go-Lite Hex 3

My main "go to" tent that i use for camping out in the woods is a Go-Lite Hex 3, sadly discontinued now and replaced by the Shangrila 3.

Ive had this mini tepee for a number of years now and have used it in good weather and foul and have never had a problem with it, it packs down small and sets up in minutes, on one occasion when i was staying out for a few days in the woods with a couple of mates, one commented that he saw me walk up to pitch and when he turned round again a tepee had grown, it really is that quick, i think the fastest I've set this up in, is about five minutes.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

BCUK February 2012 Meet

Ive just returned from a superb weekend away with a good group of people from BCUK, the meet was held at a campsite in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, UK.

Had a lot of laughs, learnt a few things too about Conifers that i never knew (thanks Peter), what else did we do, oh yes, we ate Wood Ants - very tasty, we did some flint and steel fire lighting, foraged for Deer Bones (didn't find any worth having), we did some basic net making and some of the guys carved netting needles, there was spoon & spatula carving around the fire and we got to check out a few bits of kit as well, but most of all we just chilled out and had a laugh. The photograph shows the view just out side my tent shortly after i got up this morning, absolutely perfect weekend, roll on the March meet.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Triangular Stool

Finished this stool/table/plant stand today, the frame is made from Ash (legs) & Hazel (stretchers & caps), the table top is made from split seasoned Ash, that has then been worked with a draw knife & cabinet scrapers to achieve a smooth finish.

I left gaps between the planks to accentuate the "rustic feel" and also left some of the bark on the edges of the planks, so people could see it was made from timber gathered from the Forest rather than bought from somewhere like B&Q (Home Depot)

I know being round wood with the pith in the legs will most likely crack on the ends, that's exactly the effect I'm hoping to achieve as that will, in my view, just add character to the Stool/Table/Stand.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Foot Stool

Have had a busy day today making some foot stools for stock in preparation for a couple of local shows I'm attending in the coming weeks and months, the one pictured is made from Ash rounds with Hazel stretchers and a woven sisal rope seat.

The Joints between Ash & Hazel are made using tenons and are as normal, not glued, the Ash is fresh cut and will shrink around the seasoned Hazel giving a tight and very secure joint, unlike the stool i made a few weeks back, i elected to leave the bark on the legs on this particular stool, i have to admit, that i much prefer the peeled bark legs.

I'm not entirely happy with the seat, as i cocked up the tension on the rope and it's not as tight as i would like it to be in places, but i figure with use it will settle down and sort itself out, if not, i'll undo it and do it again or perhaps wet it, as being a natural fibre it will shrink a little if it gets wet, i do like the weave pattern however, as it's traditional and surprisingly, didn't take as long as i thought it would, only an hour from start to finish, it took longer to make the frame than to make the seat, what is surprising, is there approx 150ft of rope in that seat.

The other stool i made is currently in the work shop awaiting completion, more on that one tomorrow hopefully, it's a totally different style and indeed shape.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Tea Spoon

Whilst working on some other projects today, i found that i had a bit of time spare whilst i waited for some glue to dry, so i grabbed the nearest available piece of wood, which happened to be a small off cut from a piece of Ash i had been working.

In short order it was debarked and split down to give a blank, which i then whittled down into the pictured tea spoon, who says you cant carve spoons from Ash?.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Wooden Flowers

Been a busy boy again making a shed load of Gypsy Flowers for a couple of local shows I'm due to attend in the near future.

All of the ones pictured are made from Hazel with Willow stems, these don't take long to make once you have the technique down and look absolutely amazing, the ones pictured are about a third of what i have available to me "in stock", so to speak to take to the shows.

If you look closely at the photo, you will see different flower styles,  this is down to the technique used to create the flowers. The ones that go wrong?, well,  i don't throw them away, i put them to one side and use them as tinder & kindling to get a fire going

Bow Drill Bearing Blocks

Following this post that I made back in January of this year, i eventually got round to finishing off these blocks today.

As you can see from the picture, I've made two shallow depressions in the stones, that will provide a place for the top of the bow drill spindle to sit in, to begin with i use a little Tung Oil in the depressions and with use the spindle top polishes the depression and as a result the block becomes almost frictionless.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Coat Rack

Ive been wanting to make a coat rack for the house and the work shop for some time now, as i get fed up with coats and jackets draped over the backs of chairs or lain down on the floor in the house and when I'm down the workshop im always moving my jumper around from one area to another as i get and replace tools.

So today i fixed that particular problem by making a couple of coat racks, the racks are made of pared down Ash that was then smoothed down using a very sharp draw knife,  they have Hazel pegs to accept the jackets and coats and are secured to the board by way of a tenon joint, the ends of the pegs are rounded off on both sides, so coats cant fall off or get snagged on a  square edge, securement is by two counter sunk holes that will accept a couple of small screws.

They work well and will alleviate the need for people to use chair backs as coat hangers, i also made a couple of smaller ones to use as key/tool/spoon/towel rack.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


While we up the woods yesterday, something caught my eye, it was white and totally out of place for the area, upon investigation it turned out to be a balloon tag that had been released as part of some school work by a Primary School in in Bristol, a cool, 110 miles away as the crow flies.

A nice lady on one of the forums i belong to found out a bit more about the event that the balloon release was linked to (see here for info), the balloon was release don the 11th January this year, but it must have travelled a lot further than the 110 miles between the school and the woods in which i found it, as we have had mostly North, North Westerly & Easterly winds, it would be cool to find out exactly how many miles the balloon actually travelled before it came to rest, but unfortunately we cant find that out.

Im going to do as the school requests and return the tag to them with details of where it was found and a couple of photographs, im also going to include a few things that we make in the woods, such as spoons, charcoal, whistles etc and will also include a little write up about what we do and make in the woods and why, that along with the items, i hope will give the kids a bit of a buzz and some thing tangible they can hold and then discuss and learn from.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Shell Casing

Spent some time in the woods today, i decided to go a wander to see what was what and purely by chance i looked down a rabbit hole and saw a cylinder that was far too smooth to be a piece of wood, so i bent down and picked up the the item pictured.

It's in fair nick and has two sets on markings on it, one set says WII the other set K41 or K47, cant quite make it out, now we know these woods were used during the war by the Canadians, as there are still some of the old slit trenches around as well as all manner of other things, like concrete bases and big lumps of iron sticking up out of the ground.

Anyway, measuring the top of the case the shell diameter was half an inch, most probably anti aircraft or something like that id guess, ive sent off pictures, dimensions & markings to a chap who is the bees knees when it comes to identifying shells & shell cases, so will see what he has to say about it.

It's probably nothing overly exciting to most, but i find things like this fascinating, it's a direct link to our past, albeit the recent past.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hazel Spoons

Enjoyed a day up the woods with a mate of mine today, rather than go on the usual 4-5 mile walk, we decided today to operate from a fixed camp and just do some carving for a change, two of the three spoons and the solitary spatula i made are pictured, all are made from green Hazel, they will all eventually feature a tooled finish, the bulk of the work was been done on them up the woods, but before i can get them finished, i need to let them dry out a little, should only take a day or two.

Cabinet Scrapers

I think one of the most underused tools that we use for the finishing of our carvings, be it spoons, bowls, Kuksa etc, has to be Cabinet scrapers.

A lot of people who carve spoons and bowls, go through the process of sanding down through the grits when they get to finishing the item off, yes, i do it myself, and regardless of what some people say about using sand paper, i don't see the problem in using it,  there is no right and wrong as i see it,  it's about what the individual wants to use to finish their carving off, sure it's not traditional, but who's to say that if it was available in the distant past, that our ancestors and the craftsmen of old, wouldn't have used sandpaper?.    

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Serving Spoon

I started work on a new serving / preserving spoon yesterday while we were up the woods, as you can see from the photo's it's a bit of a beast, the knife shown for reference is about the same size a Mora.

The spoon blank was rough carved from a nice piece of Ash that had a glorious natural crank in it, which has been incorporated into the transition area between bowl and handle, the rough shape was carved out using my Plumb axe with some knife work in the concave areas also being done in the woods, all being well, i will be able to get it carved into a more refined shape and then finished off over the next few days.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Charcoal Burning

During a trip to the woods today, we thought we would try and do a charcoal burn, not in the traditional clamp or kiln, but in a sweetie tin, and what better tin to use on Valentines Days, than a Roses one.

All we did was load the tin up with dead hazel, made a small hole in the lid, put the lid on the tin and put it on the fire, the process is exactly the same as making char cloth, just on a slightly grander scale, but not as grand as a full on clamp.

Once the smoke had stopped  and no gasses were to seen to be igniting from the hole in the lid, we took it off the fire, put some wet earth over the hole to seal the tin and let it cool down for a little while, once it had cooled, we took the lid off and admired our work, a tin of lovely home made charcoal.

We bought some of it home with us, the rest we left up the woods in a sealed container, so we have a source of fuel that will ignite easily should we need it or to be used as part of a water filter system, it was great fun making it and a good skill to have, we are planning on going back up there later in the week and will no doubt have a go at making some more, but perhaps this time we will use some smaller section wood and try making some that would be suitable for drawing with.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Willow Spoons

I figured it had been too long since i carved some spoons, that and the fact that my green wood pile has been frozen solid recently in the sub zero weather conditions we have been experiencing, so today with everything nicely defrosted, i ended the spoon drought.

Pictured are three of the eight spoons i rough carved from some, now, very wet Weeping Willow, the two smaller spoons are of a regular desert spoon size giving a sense of scale to the larger serving spoon.

At the moment these spoons are only rough carved and i still need to hollow out the bowls, but I'm going to leave that job for a couple of days, so these have a chance to dry out just a little bit, to give an indication of the moisture content in the wood, as i was carving these you could see the water pool in front of the cutting edge on the knife and through capillary action, in some cases two to three inches in front of the cutting edge.

Once dry i can refine the spoons, they have deliberately been left a little thick in places and certainly on the eating spoons, the handles need some work to give them a nice graceful elegance opposed to the scaffold planks they currently represent.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Beater Axe

Im sure a lot of people who read this blog have a beater axe?, it's one of those tools that didn't cost a lot of money and one that you probably don't particularly care for as you should, it gets dragged out for all manner of duties, including ones that it wasn't designed for, basically it's a use and abuse tool.

Mine is no different, my beater axe is made by Amtech, cost me £3.00, it has a fibreglass handle with an awful plasticised rubber grip and you know what?, i really don't care, but this tool is one of my favourites. Despite being a cheap axe and the beatings it's had, from splitting seasoned Oak & Elm, to being dropped on concrete and gravel and, well totally abused basically, this axe still keeps on going, eventually it will fail and when it does, i'll just cut the handle off, blunt the edge down and use it as a splitting wedge and go get another one.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Water Bottle

There was and still is some discussion on one of the boards i follow about water bottles and the ones people use, my favourite bottles are the British Army 58 Pattern bottles, why?, well they are bomb proof basically.

These things are so simple and strong in their construction, there is simply nothing, apart from a rubber seal in the screw top lid that can fail, in fact on You Tube there is a video of a guy driving a Land Rover over one of these bottles and the bottle remains unharmed, now that's a pretty robust piece of equipment, apart from their simplicity, these bottles do of course become part of the Crusader Cook Set, the bottle sits inside the metal cup and a black plastic mug sits over the top of the bottle, I'll do a proper write up on the Crusader at a later date though, rather than extol the virtues of it here.

One thing to be aware of when buying these bottles though, make sure it says "Osprey" on it and has a manufacturing date, if it doesn't say "Osprey", it's a cheap Chinese copy and it's no better than junk.

The other bottles i use on regular basis to back up the Ospreys, are just plain old, simple Squash Bottles, they can be compressed down after use to save space, and weigh next to nothing, in fact rather than put squash in my Osprey bottles, which only ever have plain water in them, I'll put a litre of Lemon or Orange in a small squash bottle instead.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Camp Kettle

Ive been after a decent sized camp kettle for a long long time, but have point blank refused to pay some of the silly and to be honest downright, greedy prices that some of the retailers both on the high street and online are demanding.

So in line with the old adage of the 'the best things come to those who wait' i got the pictured kettle on Ebay for about a tenner, it's a Swan brand and holds four pints and importantly has a metal handle so it can be suspended over a camp fire, it's perfect for a fixed camp situation and/or when I'm teaching and want to offer tea and coffee, as it has a the capacity required to cater for small groups of people.

For it's age the kettle is in superb condition, all it needed was a bit of a clean up to remove the dust where it had obviously been stored for quite some time, but apart from that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, now i just need to get it over a fire and get it all nice and blackened up.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Gransfors Bruks Axe Stone

Ive had this little stone for a number of years now and love it, the stone has two sides a coarse and a fine and as you will see from the photo, it's encased in a rubber housing, the housing is split directly in half so no matter which side of the stone you are using, you have something to get a good grip on, essential when using it with wet hands. 

The stone, according to GBA, can be used wet or dry, but i much prefer to use it wet, of course even though it is sold as an Axe Stone, it's not just limited to sharpening axes, I've used mine on axes, billhooks, draw knives even my belt and pocket knives, and being a nice compact size, it fits snugly in a bag or pack when you are out and about, it's not an item id carry on every trip, but for those extended trips or when you know you will be doing a lot of axe/knife work in the woods and your tools will need to be sharpened, i find it invaluable.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sub Zero Bimble

Went for a bimble of around 8 miles today with two mates from BCUK, one being Hugo, the other RockMonkey, the temp was just above freezing point, but with the windchill factored it in, it felt like -8.

There was still some snow to be found on the hill tops and a few sheltered places along the route, but you have to be out there in all weathers and all times of the year to truly understand how the landscape works, well i think you do anyway.  Lunch was fresh cooked bacon butties, cooked up under the boughs of an old Yew Tree, they must have been good as the RAF flew over at fairly low level in a Chinook, must have smelt the bacon we reckoned, he's a good cook that Hugo you know.

 Had a great time, lots of chinwag and loads of laughs with some great company - cheers chaps.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I received this sling in the mail quite some time ago now from a chap i know in the USA, the sling is made from 550 para cord with a finger loop on one end, a leather pouch to hold the projectile and a bead & free floating paracord Turks head knot that is held between thumb and fore finger, which is released to let the projectile fly whilst using the thing.

Now this is not to be confused with a slingshot as you US based chaps call it, or as we call it a catapult, this weapon packs down very small as you would guess, considerably smaller as you don't have a frame for a start, but the power of centrifugal force is not to be messed with, the speed at which pebbles come flying out of this sling is incredible, now if i could only gain some accuracy with it ;-), i just need practice using it - a lot of practice.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Scandi Sheath

I decided yesterday to make a better sheath up for my neck knife, this one is made from skived down 3mm full veg tan leather that formed wonderfully when wet, i didn't want a show off sheath for this knife, just something simple & functional, but elegant.

The belt loop dangler is removable by simply undoing the leather lacing giving me the option to carry the sheath on my belt or as a neck sheath.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sheath For My Knife

Made myself a sheath to go with the neck knife I've just made for myself, see this post.

Ive made the sheath in the Scandi style as it seem the appropriate thing to do, the sheath itself is made from veg tan leather that has been wet formed around the blade and sewn up with waxed linen thread, I've not dyed the sheath, just sealed it and added a coat of clear wax, i was going to hot wax it, but I've run out of beeswax.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Knife Build

Following on from my post about building a knife, well i got it more or less finished today, it took an age to carve, shape and sand the handle to a good finish, but i think it's been worth it, although, if i build another, i might forgo the stacked leather and just go for a wooden handle.

This knife is built around a Lauri 85 blank, and has a brass bolster and pommel, the end of the stick tang has been peened over to secure everything nice and tight, the handle comprises eight layers of birch bark (from my woods) at each end that sandwich the leather, i should have counted the total number of layers in there, all i will say is there are a lot, as each layer is only 1mm thick.

I'm pretty pleased with the way it's turned out, there are a few mistakes in it, but that's all part of the learning process and next time i will know, all i need to do now is make myself a nice new sheath for it, I'm thinking of a Scandinavian style sheath as it just seems appropriate.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Lauri 85 Blade

I ordered a Lauri 85 carbon blade the other day, as i had the hankering to make myself a new knife, i was going to incorporate some of the Rams horn i received into the handle, but decided in this instance to keep things simple initially and iron out any problems i have in the build process (I'm only using hand tools) by just making a simple handle for it.

Keep you posted on it's progress

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Surplus British Army Bergen

Went over to the surplus shop earlier this afternoon to get some wool blanklets and ended up buying myself a nice new, well new to me, surplus Long Back Bergen in OG.

I've been looking at one of these packs for a little while for transporting timber back from my woods, as I'm always fearful of ripping my Sabre packs that i currently use and a surplus Bergen is going to be one heck of a lot cheaper to replace than a Sabre 75.

The extra capacity of this pack will also allow far easier transportation of gear when the boys and i go for a weekend away as they only have relatively small packs and during the cooler months of the year, their packs are a little small for their winter gear, and lets face it, just because this is a 120 litre pack, doesn't mean it has to carry 120 litres of gear.

Included with the Bergen were the side pouches and the yoke as pictured, sure being surplus there are few bits that are missing, a couple of clips here and there, a bit of frayed stitching and the squaddies name is written in permanent marker in a couple of places, but they are only aesthetics, all of the main clips, zips & buckles are in place and in good working order, oh yes the price i paid for the whole lot,  £35.00 all in.