Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Taking a Break

I am ashamed to say this, but there will be no posts on this blog for a longer period of time. Currently I am juggeling too many balls at the same time. Writing quality material for the blog takes a lot of time, so I am downprioritizing it for the moment.

Hopefully in some time, I'll return with a lot of fresh material, possibly also from the expedition to Hitra. Maybe even a book by the turn of the year.

My best regards to you all.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Evenk Berry Picker Update

Two years ago, I made a makeshift Evenk berry picker when out in a woods, inspired by an article on a Swedish site and later also by Ray Mears in a tv-series. I was surprised by it's efficiency, but the workmanship didn't hold up for long.

I have been thinking about making a new one for a long time, even gathered the bark and the spruce root, but it wasn't until there recently was announced a berry picker contest on bcuk that I got the neccesary kick in the behind.

What I have done yet is to gather the materials and to make the rim. This was done quite a while ago, this summer. The rim is of willow and could with advantage have been of another, more sturdy material, but in the very far north that is one of the few materials available. The willow is so weak in that after it had been split and thinned, I wrapped the opposite half on as a support. The bark is strong, taking away the strain on the back and the opposite half evened out the compression.

Compression fractures developed in one place, and that place was straightened with boiled water. To keep it firm until it dried, I bound down a bone piece with some rawhide.

Monday, 12 February 2007

On the Use of Antler Axes

The last half year or so, I have only used antler axes, no metal whatsoever. During this time I have made quite a few observations on them. Compared to stone axes, antler axes have mainly two advantages:
  • Ease of construction (softer material, "axe shaped")
  • Ease of repair (softer material, can be repaired by scraping with flakes)
Their major disadvantage is that they dull more quickly. On a newly sharpened antler and a stone axe, there is however no difference in sharpness. If there is, I would say it goes in the favour of the antler axe. Below: Flattening a piece with a diagonal antler axe.

There are primarily two styles of edges on these axes, the diagonal edge, the elk(US: moose) axe and the hafted slab. As antler normally has a pith, the first and third options are normally the only ones possible. That especially accounts for red deer antler, which has a very extensive pith.

The diagonally edged axe is quite quick to make. The fixed direction on the edge makes it very suitable for wood working, but not for heavy duty chopping. For small trees it works fine, but if you have to lean into the blow, you risk splitting or chipping the antler towards it's weakest direction, making repair a monumental task.

The elk axe is a much more stable axe, it is ground to a centered bevel like a standard metal axe and is therefore good for heavy duty chopping. This axe is as a general rule only possible to make out of elk antler, due to it being solid and extremely hard near the base. The superior weight of the elk antler also adds into the equation. Due to it's hardness and the sheer amounts of materials that needs to be removed, making this type of axe is a major undertaking. My elk axe is under remake, I will try to remember to post the appropriate pictures when it is finished.

The slab type I have limited experience with, I just made a quick one this fall and it didn't hold up for too long. This type lacks the weight of the former ones, but the narrow blade offers even greater precision and better cutting ability.

Hitting rocks is total death on bits, whether it is antler or stone, though even more so with stone. A way to avoid this is to make high stumps, that keeps the edge as far away from the ground and the rocks as possible.

The good ratio between hardness and flexibility is what makes antler such a good material for axes. Flexibility is completely lacking in stone and makes chipping more likely. However flexible, red deer antler (or degraded reindeer and elk antler) is on the margins of what is usable, it is too soft I feel and the extensive pith makes it prone to splitting. Use top grade reindeer or elk antler if you can get it. It is most likely that I will continue to use antler axes in the future, they arn't as good as metal, but then again nothing is.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Willow Basket

Willow is very fast growing tree. That makes the wood weak, but the strong bark keeps an integrity to it. Harvest the red shoots, they are usually the best ones. The shoots that are still red has a large pith, but the bark is strong, so that they can be folded without breaking.

Harvest in winter, when the sap is down, the shoots seems to be less brittle then and their water content is lower. But still, dry them before you use them, to avoid the baskets becoming loose. It is better to reconstitute them afterwards, before using them. That wasn't neccesary with these shoots though, as they were so strong. When harvesting, there is no need for tools, the easiest method is just to rip them off the trunk with your hands.

To start the weaving, overlap four willows like on the photo. But four will not do it. It has to be an uneven number, otherwise the weave will end on the same place and that will not make a basket.

When you feel the gaps between the spaces become unmanagable, add in an even number of new strands. If you add in an uneven number, the result will be even and will not work (Said differently: Not 5+5=10, but 5+4=9.). Cut off all of the ends on the inside, as that will be hard to do on the finished basket.

When you have the size of the bottom you want, bend up the strands and tie them together in the top to keep them like that. Start weawing upwards. It is messy in the start, but if you are careful to keep the weave tight it will become progressively easier as you move upwards.

Weave it as high as you want it. When the top has become stable on it's own, you can release it in the top, that will make further weaving easier. Splice on the outside, as trimming later on the inside will difficult.

Cut off the tops at a good lenght. Make them pointy, that will make tucking them back into the weave easier. Tuck them back over into the neighbouring strand.

Finally, trim off all the ends and the basket is finished.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Changes on Course Dates

Some changes have been made on the course schedule for 2008. No courses with bookings have been changed.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Willow and Alder

I was out on a little daytrip today. Took home piece of a broken alder tree, it will probably give me plenty of heartboards for the bowdrill. Since I am also entering the berry picker contest on bcuk I broke off some willow branches for the rim of my picker. I really need only one branch, but in case I screw up royally I cut four.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Fishing Gorge

Due to a heavy work load at school and in the home I have had very little opportunity to test much of my new equipment yet. So, when the workload hopefully eases sometimes this summer, I'll have opportunity to test the fishing equipment some more too.

Anyway, having heard about the efficiency of the throat gorge for several years, I have decided to give it a go. My experience with metal hooks is that smaller and thinner is better. This is where I believe most practitioners fail today. To large and too crude.

I used the thigh bone of a black grouse. First it was sawed off in one end, then halfway through on the other. As usual, water helps reduce the work involved.

Four slithers was made by scoring it along the length in four places.

The pieces are scraped pointy in the end and all that is left is to tie a thin thread to the middle. I don't think it will slip, even without a groove. The smallest one is less than 1,5 cm long. Hopefully small enough for the small fish I usually go after.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Skin Pouch Update

To make the pouch easier to tie off, I made a lining of roe deer buckskin. The skin is cut against a board. Keep in mind that it is easier to cut reliably in a pushing motion rather than pulling.

The sinew thread is single ply strands from reindeer backstrap sinew. It is twisted like this to keep it together. For longer, stronger threads I'd use two ply threads, but for this project that wasn't needed.

The small tear down in the bottom is sewn tight with an antler needle. For this I used a simple overhand stitch. For the rest I used running, double stitches.

On the top of the lining I sewed in a short braided cord of elm bark to tie off the opening of the pouch. The knot here is excellent for tying off the end of a seam.

The finished result: A tinder pouch.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Skin Pouch Update

Have done some major progress on the skin pouch today. But I'll sum it up tomorrow in a longer post.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Skin Pouch Update

After having soaked the pouch in a lake an dried it again, the tannin smell is pretty much gone now. The skin has been oiled and was today softened by breaking it in. It takes time. To get a more even result I would use a sharp, shredding object, but due to the risks of tearing the thin skin and that the hair will be out anyway, I omitted this step.

The rough, hard edge on the thicker skin on the "rim" is cut off and evened.

All that is left now is to sew up a hole and a tear. I also want to make a buckskin lining on it if I have enough scraps left. It will be wrung back for sewing, but for this picture it has been left hair out, like it will be in the end.

This is just the tip of the ear. I am also thinking that skinning the whole ear would make easy, quick to make mittens. Especially smaller roe deer ones for children.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Elm Bow Update

I was aiming at getting a 60 pounder out of this stave. Due to a couple of bad decisions when I removed the bulk of the wood, I may be ending up with a 40 pounder. Not what I want, but it'll do until I make another one.

To day I started some initial floor tillering. It seems like the wood may be a month or so from being totally dry, but I got a feel of it still. The reason why I don't think it is totally dry is because it doesn't snap back, but retreats slowly. The tillering is done by watching the curve while flexing it onto the ground.

The adjustment is made by scraping with a sharp flake on the stiffest spots. Can't say I am as enthusiastic in regards to this bow anymore, but I will follow it through. Who knows, some extra seasoning, may add a few pounds of draw weight.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Pack Frame Update

An advice for those who are going to make this themselves: Mortise the boards into the frame while the frame is still green. The hazel become remarkably hard to work after it has dried, mortising properly is next to impossible. What I did was to plane the surface down to make it flat and narrower, so that the cordage grips binds the boards more securely to the frame.

Tie the boards down very hard. Preferably with wet cordage, so that it will tighten up when drying and not loosen again when it becomes wet. I may have to redo just that, if it becomes a problem.

The straps are tied under the boards and the frame is now finished.

Courses and Expedition 2008

I'll arrange 11 courses and one expedition in 2008.

Prices, dates and additional information is found on these links:
Standard courses