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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Practising what Paul Kirtley Preaches.

I was watching the Ask Paul Kirtley vids on youtube and as happens every once in a while the pros and cons of bowdrill seems to be coming up a lot lately. I'm not a great proponent of it, I believe it's over rated and there's too much time and emphasis placed on it when it's simply one more arrow in the bushcraft quiver. Even Ray Mears says on one of his Walkabout programs that in a genuine survival situation you lose energy very quickly and it's therefore difficult to achieve fire with this method.. in a genuine situation get out your lighter!!
 So if it's not a genuine survival situation why even bother with it as any sensible bushcrafter will have a means to make fire on them. Also not only do you lose energy quickly but what happens if you're injured, if you can't bend down, or if your leg or arm is broke?, bowdrill won't be possible... I can see the purpose of it for demonstration or fun but in a genuine situation it's surely going to be a last resort, but Paul said something that got me thinking and really struck a cord with me, that the bowdrill method gives you a greater understanding of fire, it makes you think about achieving this element and with that thought and that greater understanding comes a more skilled individual, one who, if he can get an ember regularly with a bowdrill, then his entire fire making capabilities would be sharpened and made more acute, now that is something that makes sense to me, bowdrill is not just a means of making fire.. it's a teaching tool! Now this I can relate to as a deeper understanding is what I've always strived to achieve, so with this in mind I had a hoke to see what wood I had lying around, I found some elder, sycamore, willow and lime so out into the back garden for a go.

I haven't used the firebow in quite a while and muscle memory is important with this technique, you can certainly feel it after a few goes.....willow on sycamore

willow on lime

sycamore on sycamore, the dust was quite coarse and this usually denies me an ember though I got it this time, understanding the colour and texture of the dust is a lesson in itself..

I tried two types of bow, a stiff one and a flexible one and I without a doubt prefer the flexible one as it allows a bit of leeway with string length and spindle width..
I don't think it will ever be my favourite method of lighting fire as I can do without friction in my life..!!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Lundin and Teti law suit

Seems like the dual survival fallout legacy continues with Teti facing quite serious allegations once again, this time from Cody who alleges that Teti threatened him with an ice axe.. seems there's no smoke without fire.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Cattail and Yellow Iris, I got it wrong.

I know the difference between these plants, I also know HOW to tell the difference between these plants. I eat cattail and I make things from yellow iris... but I got complacent...and I got it wrong and ended up with a blistered mouth and throat due to my complacency.

I often nibble on new growth cattail but recently when out I wasn't thinking and I grabbed a new growth 'cattail', I quickly peeled it and started eating it, but I knew right away that the texture was wrong, I quickly spat it out and checked to see that the plant I was holding was actually Yellow flag iris and not cattail, but the damage was done, my mouth and throat were burning, like I'd eaten very hot chillies and it stayed that way for 8 hours and I ended up with lots of little blisters on the inside of my mouth and throat, all due to the fact that I didn't take care or pay attention.. There's no excuse for it, I was stupid and I paid the price, but I will learn from it and I won't make the mistake again, sometimes we need a swift boot in the rear to bring us back to reality and make us realise we are getting too cocky, I will learn from it. 
so to help you guys avoid making the same mistakes I made here is how to tell the difference between the two.

The first ID is leaf colour and shape, Iris has an emerald green colour and a very pointed tip, cattail is blue green and a rounded or bullet tip leaf (Iris left, cattail right).

In cross-section at the base of the plant, iris is elliptical and cattatil is rounded..note the purple colour on the iris, this would be a dead give away if the colour were always present but it isn't so don't use that as your only method of ID.(Iris left, cattail right)

leaf shape of each leaf..iris is diamond and cattail a crescent.(Iris left, cattail right)

a slice along the plants, note the iris seems more solid in texture and is definitely noticeable when you bite into it !!! (Iris left, cattail right)

This is the structure of each leaf and this is my main method of ID but again I got cocky and didn't examine the leaves, note the very vertical lineage in the structure of the leaf..this is Iris

Not the crosshatched or honeycomed structure of this leaf, this is cattail and if you hold the leaf to the light and you see this structure you can be sure it's cattail.

and next to each other, Iris above cattail below.

I'm the first to admit I got it wrong and I'm not too proud to say I make mistakes, but show me a man who says he doesn't make mistakes and I'll show you a liar. Every day is a learning process and some days are re-learning processes but in the words of George Bernard Shaw..
"success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time"

So don't do what I did when you are in the bush, take your time, examine your wild foods and make sure you know what you're eating, don't get complacent.. complacency can kill.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Spartatarp - A review

We were recently approached to review a couple of items from Spartatarp, they were a tarp and a hank of paracord. These items were sent to us so that we could perform an independent review with no bias.
I have use this tarp over the past month each weekend and this is how it performed.

It's in a nice red carry bag with a cool logo, the tarp itself is black, and is roughly 10ft by 9ft and it also comes with some short but quite thick alloy pegs. It's got 19 attachment points, 16 around the edge and 3 along the ridge but the thing that makes it a little different from other tarps is that the corner attactments are regular webbing but all the other attachment points are heavy duty 15mm elastic webbing. Now this is a clever design as it adds in a touch of suspension when the weather is against you and the wind gets up. Also for the weight conscious amongst you it comes in at a mere 600g !!

The logo is prominent and only on one corner and while this may discourage some people, I think it looks quite cool.

The fabric it's made of is lightweight ripstop nylon with a waterproof coating inside, it's very nice looking fabric having the same look as the carbon fiber scales you'd find on a top quality knife handle. If you know ripstop then you'll know this will be a tough and reliable material that should last.

Here you can see the underside of the tarp, the crosshatched weave and the waterproof coating, it's looking very impressive so far.

The webbing tabs are reinforced with a woven polypropylene layer taking the strain off the main tarp and distributing it evenly across the corner, but as you have elastic webbing tabs too, any extra tension put on the tarp through extreme weather conditions or even by tripping over the guy ropes should be easily absorbed resulting in fewer stresses on the fabric and attachment points.

As my luck would have it, the 4 weekends I spent under the tarp have all been dry, so I couldn't vouch for it's waterproofness. This left me with a quandry as the whole premise of a tarp is too keep you dry, so not wanting to publish a review without this vital issue being broached I decided to do what any genuine bushman would do, I poured 2 gallons of water right onto the tarp!! This is considerably more than you would ever expect the tarp to deal with in any rainstorm you may have the misfortune to be out in, if it's going to leak then this is the time for it to do so, the water column pressure on the fabric must have been quite high at the time but I was confident that it would take the beating...

..and it did, very well. The water bounced off the fabric easily and beaded beautifully as it wiggled and wound it's way down the fabric and onto the forest floor with not a single drop penetrating the material, very impressive and it certainly gave me the confidence to use this tarp during any torrential storm I may be out in.

Above you can see it pegged out with just 4 pegs, one at each corner, a ridge line running under and fixed with two prussic knots to keep the tension.
 All in all it makes for a superb piece of kit, one that I'd be happy to carry with me and rely on, especially due to it's lightweight and great fabric construction.

So if you are searching for a new tarp, contact Calum at SPARTA STORE and give serious consideration to this tarp, I don' think you'll be disappointed.

Sparta Paracord - A review

Along with the Sparta Tarp (see separate review) we were also sent a hank of paracord, so I thought I'd offer a quick review on it..
These days there's paracord and there's PARACORD, well this stuff is the latter..
It's got the good seven strand inner matrix and the tightly woven outer shell.. The very middle strand is a mixed colour twisted cord, it's very nicely made and feels tight and firm, just what decent paracord should be.
I tried a few tests with it, first was to tie a section between 2 trees and stand on it to see if it broke it didn't, and if it can take my weight it's good stuff (remember knots regardless of how well they're tied can weaken the stated breaking strain of any cordage).
Second test was to tie 20 feet of it to a tree and pull like crazy to see how much it stretched, normally weakly made paracord has up to 20% stretch and you can see the woven shell start to separate when doing this..With this stuff I got and extra 18" stretch which works out at roughly 8% stretch with no sign of wear or weakness, all in all a very very good type of paracord
You can contact Calum at Sparta store if you're interested in this cracking cord.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Hultafors Trekking Axe 800g

Not wanting to be swayed by my disappointment with the Hults HY20 axe, I went ahead and bought the Trekking axe, it's also known as the Hultafors Hatchet, and it's a handful of a hatchet. 

It's got a 17" helve made of hickory and an 800g or 1 3/4lb head and weighs in at about 2 1/2lbs altogether, 
After the problems I had with the last axe, I intentionally bought this from Heinnies and specifically asked that they quality check the axe before it was sent and I have to admit, this one is a cracker!

The edge wasn't bad, there was no burr, it was evenly ground and was sharp enough when I received it, the grind marks weren't as bad on this one as the last one.

it seemed to be hung correctly, very little gap around the head and was properly centered on the helve, as a matter of fact it was fitted better than my Gransfors SFA.

The grain in the helve was perfect and running vertically as you can see, there shouldn't be a problem with this one showing any signs of weakness.

I tried it out without any refinement of the edge to see how it performed on a fallen scots pine and it bit in and chopped nicely, throwing great lumps of wood with every swing.

the head was fixed very well, nicely aligned and wedged and a decent job with the ring pin., 

After a day of use the edge was good, still sharp but as usual I took it to the next level and sharpened and polished it so that it was hair popping sharp. It seems to be a relatively soft temper, easy to remove metal and nice to sharpen, the steel responded well to the stones I used and it turned out lovely, I'm very happy with this one.

I have seen it advertised as the Hultafors Hatchet but at 2 1/2lbs it's a mighty weight to swing for any length of time single handedly but it does seem to work well with two hands although an extra couple of inches on the helve would make it much easier, but then it wouldn't pack so well so it's horses for courses. I like it, smaller but heavier than the Gransfors SFA and certainly more packlable. It punches well above it's weight and takes a lovely edge if you put in the time..I'm sure it'd certainly build up your forearm if it's used regularly.. If Thor carried a hatchet instead of a hammer he would probably carry this one! Hence what I've nicknamed it.. the Thorax!. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

50 Knife Superstitions

I'm not, by nature, a superstitious person although there are a few rituals I abide by like asking the elder before taking her flowers or never bringing blackthorn blossom into the house, but when it comes to blade-lore I'm very superstitious and I think a lot of knife users are just the same.
I've collated some of my favourite adages about knives, some are simply common sense, some are proper knife etiquette (which a lot of knife users no longer practice and it's a sad sight to see) some are purely folklore but all I find very interesting..
Some knife superstitions are, unusually, very similar in different cultures around the world whereas some are country specific but all should teach us good manners and respect for our favourite cutting tool.
Although I haven't placed them in any specific order the first one is, I believe, the single most important superstition in all blade-lore.

1. NEVER ever ask for a loan of some one else's knife.
2. A knife, according to a woodsman, never cuts, it bites.
3. A knife never truly belongs to you until it has drawn your blood.
4. A knife with a black handle keeps away fairies and bad spirits.
5. A knife, given from a lover, means the relationship will soon be over.
6. If someone gives you a knife a coin should be offered in return, in Ireland this is usually a copper coin.
7. If you drop a knife someone else should pick it up otherwise it's bad luck.
8. Never leave a knife sitting with the edge facing upwards or the fairies will cut their feet when they land on it.
9. If a knife falls and lands on it's left side a woman is coming to visit, if it's the right side it will be a man.
10. It is bad luck to stir a soup or stew with a knife 'stir with a knife, stir up strife.'
11. Never cross your knife with another piece of cutlery at the table, it is bad etiquette.
12. A knife under the pillow of a pregnant woman will ease the pain of labour.
13. A knife under the marital bed will produce a son, a skillet will produce a daughter.
14. Never close a folding knife unless you are the one who opened it.
15. If someone willingly passes you their knife they are also passing their soul and the knife must be returned just as it was given.
16. Sharpen a knife by the light of a full moon and it will never go dull.
17. If, while using someone else's knife, it bites you, quickly wipe the blood from the blade and whisper a charm or the knife will cut everyone who uses it afterwards.
18. If a knife cuts you 3 times in a row it must be washed in real spring water to wash away the evil.
19. To pass a knife to a friend, lie it on the table then let them pick it up, it should be returned this way too.. that is proper knife etiquette.
20. Tap a horseshoe with the blade of a knife 3 times to make the knife lucky.
21. A knife stuck in the mast of a sailing ship portended good luck, fair winds and a safe journey.
22. A bride and groom use a knife to sever old ties, past relationships and create a clean break to ensure a long life together.
23. A knife stuck in the lintel of a door offers protection to those within.
24. Never lick food from the blade of a knife as it's an insult to the cook.
25. If a knife is leant to a woman she must kiss the blade or lie it against her bosom as a thank you otherwise it will bring you bad luck.
26. A knife forged in fire is pure, a knife ground in water is soul-less.
27. To make a knife oneself then offer it to a friend to keep is to offer a true and eternal friendship.
28. A knife drawn from a leather sheath must always cut something before being re-sheathed.
29. In Ireland, a knife used to cut a fairy thorn must be destroyed as the blade then contains the anger of the fairies.
30. A broken knife should never be repaired it should be buried so the steel can rust and it can return to the earth from whence it came.
31. Tap a knife 3 times on a church door to bless it.
32. Tap a knife 3 times on a gravestone to curse it.
33. If you find a knife it must be cleansed from the previous owners essence by washing it in rain water or bathing it in moonlight.
34. A knifeless man is a lifeless man.
35. If you no longer want a knife never pass it on as this passes on the feelings of resentment, always bury it.
36. A knife that does not hold it's edge should be left in a hawthorn hedge for the hedgewitch to take.
37. A knife should always be sharpened by it's owner, if someone else sharpens it the knife will seek to be owned by that person.
38. A knife made of animal bone will give the maker the attributes of that animal.
39. When you have finished using your knife always re-sheath it, never leave it on the ground or stick it in a tree as this will bring misfortune.
40. A Knife made from steel from the earth should be sharpened with a stone from the earth.
41. Casting a knife into a stormy sea will cause the storm to abate.
42. If you carve the spoon you eat with, with the knife you own, you will never be hungry.
43. If you drop a knife and there is no one else there to pick it up, you must tap it 3 times on the heel of your shoe to knock out the bad luck.
44. A different knife should be used for different tasks, as per this rhyme:
Knife for flesh
Knife for wood
Knife for bone
Knife for food.
45. A knife thrown in the air can be stolen by the fairies before it hits the ground.
46. Loan your knife,
loaned is your life,
returned is the blade,
a friendship is made.
47. Leaving a knife unsheathed all night will bring the owner bad luck.
48. To cut someone else with a knife either accidently or on purpose is to bring a curse on your family.
49. A knife placed in a coffin will ensure the departed rests peacefully.
50. According to the Sami people brass should always be used in a knife to bring good luck.

I hope you found this interesting and if you know of any stories, rhymes or lore that I've missed please drop me a line and let me know.