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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.

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 

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

Lake Lila, Adirondacks – Whitney Wilderness Canoe Trip

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My wife, dog and I took a trip to Lake Lila in the Adirondacks to explore part of the Whitney Wilderness Area.  We portaged in and paddled around the lake exploring the surrounding nature and camping for three nights. I had a chance to have some fun working on my advanced wilderness bushcraft skills as part of Bushcraft USA and also paddle our new kevlar Mad River Explorer Canoe.

Bushcraft USA Class

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I’ve been participating in the lessons over at the online forum for Bushcraft USA led by incredibly talented instructors like Terry Barney from Midwest School of Bushcraft.  It’s been a fun way to learn and practice new skills and make the most of my winter outings. To complete the basic class one must make feather sticks, tie knots, setup tarp shelters, identify trees, make hanging pot hooks, bake bannock bread on the fire and much more. Below are some of my favorite photographs from recent outings.  I look forward to completing the challenges of intermediate and advanced Bush class.

 

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