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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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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.

Wild Mushroom and Venison Meals

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Autumn has arrived and so has the excitement of finding delicious mushrooms on forest walks.

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Hen of the Woods & Chicken of the Woods

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Together my wife and I made Anthony Bourdain’s Mushroom Soup Recipe.

The same day I managed to harvest a doe from the forest and it being Saturday, we finally had the time to try butchering it ourselves. The process was very time consuming having not done it before but very much rewarding. We took our time scavenging all the meat including the smallest scraps that would be put into a grinder with a mix of bacon fat.

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Exhausted, I threw some in a pan with a few slices of mushrooms for a quick meal.

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But later after all was packaged, placed in the freezer and wiped clean multiple times… my wife made the most delicious venison meatballs with home grown tomato sauce.

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It was a rewarding day and felt like a culmination of skills recently learned put into the culture of our daily lives.

Foraging & Making PawPaw Crescent Rolls

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Took a drive out to a forest in Pennsylvania with a known spot for foraging wild PawPaw.
The broad leaves of the tree give a jungle like feel to the forest and produce a sweet sugary fruit full of large seeds.

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My companions as botanists had a secondary goal beyond enjoying the fruit in the shade of the forest.
They plan to grow trees from the seed for their own backyards and to share through a native wild plant nursery.

We tasted and collected many fruits to find the most choice potential seeds.

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I gathered them gently in a basket hoping to avoid bruising the highly delicate fruit.

Along the Way, I found some very large and abundant Spicebush berries.

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and some Jewelweed seeds that have a taste very similar to walnut.

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Afterwards, I wanted to make a pawpaw crescent roll.

To do so, I made a mini fire to have just enough coals to cook over. The goal is to gently bake the crescent but not the pawpaw in a tinfoil pouch. A flip after 3 minutes and about 2 more minutes provided a delicious fruit filled pastry treat..

 

Spring Trout & Wild Edible Outing

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Had a great weekend camping for the opener of trout season in NJ.  It’s become tradition to catch some rainbows and make a meal with some mixed wild edibles including wintergeen, wintercress, watercress, chickweed, dandelion, leeks, trout lily and partridge berry.  Hope you enjoy the video!

“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.” -Nessmuk

Wilderness First Aid – Case Study

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This past weekend some bushcraft and outdoor skills came together when an evacuation of a friend at a backwoods campsite became necessary. He had an accident with a Trail Hawk Axe while processing firewood when a glancing swing come back and hit him in the shin.

He explained, “Why it happened is easy. I was dumb. I broke the rules and paid for it. After we arrived at camp and said our greetings, I started to collect fire wood. Since doing a day trip, I only brought my Trail Hawk and an Opinel folding saw, not a buck saw, which was what was needed. The major mistake was that I was using the hawk in an unsafe manner. I was cutting a branch about chest high with axe. If the hawk missed, there was no safe backstop like the ground or another log to stop it. Just me. I’ve done it a hundred times with no problems, but this time I didn’t get away with it. That’s my stupidity.”

We benefited well from having multiple people with EMT and Wilderness First Aid Responder training including the patient himself who stayed calm and expertly directed his own care with our observation and questioning. Each of us had packed medical kits should we have to deal with such a situation and we had a mix of bandages and wraps to apply on and compress the injury.

It became clear quickly that he would not be able to hobble the mile long rough uphill terrain out of the forest so we reassembled a bushcraft campchair into a stretcher using cordage and lashings.

Luckily we had 5 guys on scene to assist with the evacuation as our best exit was an uphill route that began in a dense forest of saplings. At this stage it was easiest to carry our patient at waist height to best navigate the brush.  As we made it onto an old logging road and the forest began to open it became far easier to carry at shoulder height and rotate positions to alleviate stress.

It took us almost two hours from the incident to get to the cars before travel to a hospital.

Time to reevaluate the first aid kit for the next trauma and to remember that complacency can be the most deadly environment we find ourselves in.

White Cedar Puukko Knife Handle

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I’ve been participating in a Bushcraft Box Pass Around Challenge and one of the items that came to me was a Puukko. After taking the knife into the forest to split some wood for a fire the handle cracked while batoning. For those who don’t know, batoning is technique of safely splitting wood by using a branch to strike the spine of a sturdy knife in order to drive it through wood. This exposes smaller dried pieces for easier fire starting. Maybe it’s best I baton with a full tang knife…

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Well the split turned into an an offer and opportunity by a friend to learn how to re-handle the blade. He had a piece of beaver chewed cedar drift wood just waiting for a project.

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The old cracked handle and butt plate were knocked and sanded off. The tang was heated with a torch and lengthened with a few hammer blows. The new wood handle was cut to size, drilled, epoxied and capped with a brass plate using a ball peen hammer.

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After it was sanded and the grip felt right the knife received an initial coat of Boiled Linseed Oil.

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I’ll continue to apply the boiled linseed oil once a day for a week and once a month for a year.

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