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Groomsman Gifts: Helle Viking Knife Blanks

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Last year with the help of a friend I had purchased Helle Viking Knife blanks from Ragweed Forge to make into groomsman gifts for a commission. We visited Dixon’s Muzzleloading Shop to pick-up gun stock scraps of tiger maple for the handles and scraps of leather to make into sheaths.

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We shaped the handles and hand sanded with 220 grit on the wood and 400 at grit on the bolster edge.

We then raised the grain on the wood 3x. The process was the apply water to the wood with fingers, use a propane torch to rapidly dry the wood to raise the grain and rub the wood smooth again with 0000 steel wool.

Next the Aquafortis acid stain was applied with a dauber to all handles. The torch was used to oxidize the stain and the heat turned the wood reddish brown. This was started at the bolster because the brass acts as a heat sink and a yellow ring will form at the wood below the bolster if not enough heat is applied.

The torch heat was then passed over the whole handle with just enough heat to make the stain oxidize. If the wood became scorched it could be rubbed out with steel wool. The heat was passed over gently trying to remove any sections with a yellow cast so all was oxidized.

This process was done again starting with a second coat of stain.

The acid was finally neutralized with a mix of 8oz water and couple teaspoons of baking soda, all applied with a dauber. A light bubbling action resulted.

With the wood still warm, it was rubbed with 0000 steel wool and boiled linseed oil. This allowed the oil to soak in and also remove any scorching while bringing up the grain and highlighting the beautiful striations within the wood.

More coats of boiled linseed oil were applied over the next few days allowing the wood to absorb as much as possible.

The knife handles were left to dry before finally packaging in brown grocery paper with a Ballistol wipe and care instructions and wrapped with jute string.

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Adirondack Lean-to Camping and IceFishing

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“The core of mans spirit comes from new experiences” – Into the Wild

 

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It took a 5 hour drive after work to reach the point of entry into the beautiful Adirondacks before pulling sled a mile or so over land and ice to the planned shelter spot and beacon of lantern light left out at the edge of the water by a friend. The trip was designed originally as a canvas hot tent outing but due to the heavy rains and warmer temps we ended up staying at a nearby location in a lean-to and never took the tent out of the bag. The lean-to made for an easy base camp and was situated 100 or so yards from the waters edge. We woke before the sun and drilled holes through the approximately 10 inches of ice and placed tip-ups according to plans made after reviewing the state water depth maps and considering the fickle habits of our target species.

We caught many Lakers but to be a keeper they needed to hit the 21″ regulation. They bit on jigged lures baited with spikes (aka maggots) as well as tip-ups at varying depth baited with live shiners and later baited with smelt when they were caught. It took till sunset to reel in a keeper the first day and although it wouldn’t have been necessary it was a moment of satisfaction to know that the planning, patience and perseverance before and during the trip paid off handsomely. That fish would make the first dinner for the 4 of us along with an onion, oyster mushrooms found in camp and some black trumpet and chanterelles pulled from the freezer. A cup of foraged wintergreen leaves made a tea that was added to the first nights feast.

It rained all that evening and when we woke, the mist rising off the lake added to the beauty of the Adirondack landscape and kept providing new scenery throughout the day. We fished hard another day catching more Lakers and Smelt as well as small mouth bass but no Brook trout would be had on this outing.  Later in the afternoon a big storm blew in and took the tip-ups with line and bait and blew them down the ice. We scrambled to gather our belongings and take shelter in the comfort of the lean-to. The storm made water collection easy off the corner of a tarp we rigged as both an extended roof and to cover the face of the lean-to at night in order to block the winds.

That second night we fried and ate many of the smelt caught earlier in the day and enjoyed them as appetizers. The main course consisted of venison, wild rice, pierogies and other goodies like Pillsbury wrapped hot-dogs. All of it helped to fuel and warm our bodies after a wet day and during a blustery stormy night. As we got settled in, the temperature began to drop, reaching 20f, the rain turned to snow, winds picked up and when we woke the forest floor was covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

We slept in past sunrise and tidied up making sure to leave the place better then we found it and left behind a pile of split firewood for the next campers in Adirondack tradition. With packed sleds and a final sip of coffee we were off across the ice, using a spud to check for stability and safety and then up the trail to the vehicles for a long ride home.

The Critter Camera – All Scavengers Invited

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The Critter Cam was setup by a group of middle-school age students during a Swamp Exploration-Wild About Wildlife program. The trail camera was positioned over the remains of a recently harvested and butchered white-tailed deer to catch the mix of scavengers that might take advantage of an easy winter treat and forest feast.

Within the first few days and nights the camera captured coyote, fox, red tail hawk, vulture, crow, red bellied woodpecker, blue jay and deer.

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Simulated Native American Artifact Excavation Activity

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If you ask kids today how we know what we know about a subject they often will answer “google” or the “internet”. Try it.

To get students to think of themselves as seekers of knowledge, I’m always trying to create lessons that allow them to comprehend information through their own discoveries. This makes lessons more personal, meaningful and memorable.

To help elementary age students learn about the Lenape or Delaware Native Americans I create a simulated artifact excavation activity. I’ll bury animal bones (mostly deer and bear), pottery shards, arrowheads, shells and stones. The students become archaeologists making exciting discoveries as they excavate, clean, record and organize findings.

When ready we circle around the findings and one at a time discuss what we think an item is, what it was used for and what the modern equivalent might be.

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Can You Dig It!

Uncover and analyze artifacts in an

attempt to reconstruct aspects of 

New Jersey Indian Life and Culture.

 

Lesson:

Participants approach excavation site to uncover artifacts of the Lenape people in a simulated archaeological dig.

    • Job 1 Digging: This team works to take layer by layer the soil including artifacts from the site to provide to the sifters.
    • Job 2 Sifting: at this station material from the dig is sorted through to remove the artifacts.  The team works together to find everything they can.  Encourage the group to be meticulous in the sorting process, small objects may be harder to find.
    • Job 3 Sorting: This team is responsible for sorting the objects in similar piles.  This can be done in containers of different sizes.
    • Job 4 Recording: Using the grid view data sheet recorders document what quadrant and depth level items were discovered.

Extension:

  • Arrowhead Necklace: Allow participants to search in a simulated archeological dig to find arrowheads. The arrowheads can be tied up with cord to make a necklace.  Explain that in a real dig the archaeologists would never take anything because they would go to a museum for everyone to study and enjoy.
  • Ask participants to make a mystery box of artifacts from their life. Allow teams to try and reconstruct the persons life from the items brought in to share.

Winter Hot Tenting in the Adirondacks at Good Luck Lake

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I’ve been reading a lot about winter trekking and hot tenting this past year and finally had an opportunity to get out for a few nights to a place called Good Luck Lake.  We did some ice fishing, snowshoeing, star gazing, a lot of fire wood processing and plenty of camp cookery.  Now I’m back to day dreaming about the next one and hopefully will find the right place to hot tent and pull some trout through the ice!

 

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We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks—anywhere that we may be placed—with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left. “Alas for the life-long battle, whose bravest slogan is bread.”I am talking … to those of the world’s workers who go, or would like to go, every summer to the woods. And to these I would say, don’t rough it; make it as smooth, as restful and pleasurable as you can.” – Nessmuk -Woodcraft & Camping 

Adirondacks – Cedar River Flow

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Back in November, I had an opportunity to explore the Cedar River Flow. My friends and I had plans for Bog River Flow but due to construction on the dam we were unable to access the area.  Good thing the Adirondacks are so full of great options for public open space to explore.

 

 

Autumn Canoe Camping in the Adirondacks

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My friend Ron and I had a great trip in early October to the St. Regis area of the Adirondacks. We hit the autumn colors at peak, portaged to hidden ponds, caught brook trout for dinner, had a crayfish boil, lounged in our hammocks and just enjoyed the incredible beauty and peacefulness the wilderness area offers.

 

It’s wonderful to return to an area you’ve been before but have a completely new experience based on hitting a few side ponds, staying at different campsites and going in the “off” season. We could have counted the people we saw and heard on one hand.  The video sums up the trip nicely and shows a mix of it all including some bushcrafty skills mixed with modern gear.

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