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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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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 

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.

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.

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.

20 Ingredients in an Altoids Tin Survival Kit

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As part of one of the skill sessions in my nature explorers wilderness and survival week camps we cover what might be included in your pack. I start with a modern camping backpack but extend the lesson by getting campers started on their own Altoids Survival Tin Kit. The skills taught during the week could work to minimize required essentials, nevertheless we encourage participants to always be prepared with redundancy.  The Altoids tin makes for an excellent light weight, compact kit that can hold enough critical essentials to help you should an emergency arise.  From the Native Americans to the Pioneers those venturing out have always carried essentials to help better their individual situation should a challenge arise. The modern REI hiker should be no exception.

Consider customizing ingredients in your Altoids Survival Tin Kit to fit your needs, style and preferences.  Some items may include:

Cutting tool, water tablets for purification, zip lock bags, 24 gauge snare wire, signal mirror, whistle, button compass, razor blades, medical tape, bandages, anti-diarrhea tablets, ibuprofen tablets, antibiotic, alcohol prep pad, picture (of family, friends or faith), List of notes (survival acronyms), sewing needle (magnetized),  safety pins, buttons, duct tape wrapped around pencil, waxed matches, braided fish line, hooks & weights, wire saw, cash, copy of photo identification and copy of important keys. Many of these items have multiple uses and should be practiced with for best potential outcomes should the need arise.

Take another step towards self-reliance and setup a Bug Out Bag or Box.  Some items may include:

Tarp, genuine 550 paracord, whistle, sodium iodide tablets (avoid radiation), containers for water boiling, food (snickers!), silver blanket, compass, cutting tool, bottle 2% tincture of iodine (water purification), wool blanket (still warm when wet), photo identification, house key, car key, ear plugs, head lamp, crank radio, Leatherman type multi-tool, flashlight, road flares, 24 gauge snare wire, razor blades, anti diarrhea tablets, sailing needle, 6 hour candles, pepper spray, weapon.

 

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