Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Net Making

Net making is something I don't get to practice much, so as the sun was out I thought I'd head to my favorite wood and make a start on one.

 

First off, get a fire and a brew on.
Feathersticks and a flame this time as I was in a rush and everything was soaked.

With things looking a little more cosy I went over to the Hazel trees and found a good round section of straight green timber suitable for carving a netting needle, gauge, and making a baton for the splitting.

Then onto making the kit needed for the job. I bought some linen thread along and set to carving the needle and gauge. I wont go into the detail too much as its all been done by many folks before. Check out purse net making videos on you tube, and written guides such as on Jonathon Ridgeons bushcraft site.


Once the needle was made, a quick cup of tea, and load up some cordage ready to get going.

Time was nearly up and Hurricane Gertrude or what ever daft name it was called was getting a good blow on, so I practiced the sheet bent knot and made a series of loops called a chain.

Then to continue the trend of tying knots in the wind (often as tricky as other tea related activities ;)) I finished off a smallish net of around one meter square last night.


Its quite an enjoyable repetitive job once you get the hang of it. I think this net will be fine for covering a rabbit hole, or as part of demonstrating a spring live capture trap. Next time I'll make a larger net with the smallest gauge I can for a primitive fishing lesson aid.




Saturday, 30 January 2016

Making Birch Tar

I try to get out to practice skills in the woods as much as possible, and winter is often the best time. Its quiet, and there's less pressure on time needed for teaching or preparing for the courses I run. Its also a greater test as the weather can make things difficult both physically and mentally. Looking out that window just before setting off knowing there's going to be a storm coming in or a big sudden difference in temperature can sway your mind.

But know its play time, and all will be well. Its also a very good excuse to light a fire so this time I thought I'd bring a bowdrill set along, gather all the firewood and make up a batch of Birch Tar. I managed to score this large Panettone tin to load up the birch bark. I have quite a lot of Birch bark at the moment that I've been saving for my barkcraft sessions. There is always left overs and unusable bits, so they all got tightly stuffed into the big tin. If you've not seen this done before, you punch a hole in the base of the tin and push on the lid when full of bark. 
Then bury a smaller tin most of the way into the ground as pictured and place the bigger tin on to it, carefully locating the punched hole over its centre. The two tins should make good contact. To help with this and to reduce air to the gap between them, add a little earth around the join of the two and overlap the base of the big tin.

Then light a fire around the big tin. I started small with just an ember from the bowdrill (warms you up on a cold day) into my tinder bundle of dry bracken, grass and thistle heads. Then add on your kindling - match thick, pencil thick upto finger/thumb thick. At this stage I keep adding finger thick material to create a lot of heat which you need to extract the oil held within the bark and encourage it to run into the lower container. 


Once I get a good fire going all around the tin I keep it going for around an hour. Now is time grab a cup of tea and relax and just add on fuel as needed.



Let the fire die down and the tins cool, this can take a couple of hours and its worth waiting for to get all the last drops of oil out. Then use as required. It can be used as a natural medicine for skin complaints, a water proofing for cordage and leather, a glue when reduced down by simmering, and a decorative finish and preservative for wood. Useful stuff, and it smells nice too.

Originally inspired by The Belarus/Partisans episode of Extreme Survival by Ray Mears.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Kuksas and shrink pots – Branched handles and practical use

Most of my spare time when not carving items for the shop or nipping out to the woods, has lately been spent on refining kuksa shapes, working out the problems with using straight grained wood, and trying out a few new things I’ve not seen done before.

I’m seriously thinking of writing an e-book on the subject as lots of people ask me the same questions all the time regarding splitting on drying or when adding hot fluids.
Another problem with kuksas is that as much as I love them, even large ones tend to be on the small side when it comes to a big cup of tea or a pint of ale. Fine if you have a tea pot, but still a faff adding milk and sugar again like being in a tea party.

So I started to think about shrink pots and making them water tight, then adding a handle for better function and to add some interest. But how to do this? Well, luckily I got the chance to slip on the rope and harness and do some tree climbing and dismantling operations just before Christmas with some Birch - Betula pendula Trees near a chap’s house.

They were full of interesting sections for making things from so I started to cut them out with the saw and put them to one side for projects.

 
I started with a large 2 pint shrink pot, complete with a side handle for starters and it was a success. I thought the knots and branch unions would be too difficult to work through but it wasn’t too bad, perhaps because it was so green. It was on the large side though so next up, came a one pint shrink pot this time with the outer bark on and a side branch again. This worked a treat too and is now my standard drinking vessel for ales. Its holding up really well after plenty of use.

 






















But I couldn’t leave the kuksas behind now could I, so I tried the side branch idea again, mainly so that I could achieve an upswept handle without requiring a large diameter log that then needed a lot wasting away. I made two in quick succession. Both successfully hold hot drinks, so one flew the nest and now lives in Spain, and the other, well I’m keeping it as its one of the nicest things I think I’ve made during all the crafting I’ve done over the years.
 
 

 I hope this gives you some inspiration to think a little out of the box, and not to always do things by the book. The knots all held and as long as you are used to gouge work, not too much bother to work with, and so far all is well with the items apart from a recent fixable split in the 2 pinter due to a hot room and too tight a base. I’m still learning all the time though and it keeps you humble and searching for answers, which is the way it should be.

If you fancy learning about bowls and kuksa carving, there are courses in the events section of the website.
Be good to see you there. Tea and coffee provided, just make your cup ;)

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Happy New Year and a January Sale

Its bargain time in the web shop.

http://www.eco-create.co.uk/shop/woodsman-crafts.html?cookies_accepted=Y

There will be a few new regular designs, one off spoons, and kuksa available soon to buy.

Also, a few new blog entries are long overdue. Subjects to be carving kuksas, bowls and drinking from shrink pots as well as keeping up with other bushcraft skills such as making Birch Tar, finding water (not hard in the UK at the moment!) firecraft, net making, and foraging.

The calendars looking quite full already with trips to Sweden and Sussex booked, along with craft demos and teaching.

I was asked to write a magazine article and complete an interview for No Serial Number Magazine
Heres the link if you fancy a look. http://www.noserialnumber.com/e-magazine

Cheers all.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Butter knives

Ive started to make more of these recently. I love making them and I'm surprised more carving folks don't as they are very useful and its one less metal utensil in the kitchen.

They are called Smorkniv in Sweden where they get made and used more often.
Its also an excuse to play with Ochre milk paints that I like to make up, as the wood on these is Birch, so you can enjoy the plain simplicity of the wood against the brightly colored handles. I first saw a version of these being made by a very famous and creative craftsman called Jögge Sundqvist via his book Schnitzen.

Another leader in Green woodworking Drew Langster of Country Workshops in the USA www.countryworkshops.org is currently running a butter knife project where you can send in your version of these utensils. Give it a try if your into wood carving, as they are a great introduction to the craft.



Now available in the web SHOP if you fancy one 


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Bushcraft Skills overnighter course

Had a great weekend just gone, teaching a group of seven adults all about the basics of bushcraft, with a chance to sleep out in the woods and enjoy the experience for longer. We were busy long into the evening and many a dutch oven was filled and emptied over the 24 hours.
Its worth all the preparation, teaching, and setting up when there is so much positivity within a group and folks start to take in the new skills as well as relaxing and chatting around the fire in an evening when the work is done.

Its very rewarding work.

Anyway, a few pics as per usual...

Large group area for cooking and teaching.


First time with Tarpage and some new knots learnt.

Trying out the bivi for the first time


Fire by friction successes



Evening meal all cooked as a group. Pizza, chilli, curry, flat breads and rice.

Relaxing with a brew and chatting long into the night.


Cooked breakfast on the way

Black Pines. I still like to climb when I get chance, and these are great. They're very tall and you can usually sit on the very top of the canopy due to the table top like upper surface.



Thursday, 6 August 2015

Decorated eating spoon designs post Spoonfest 2015

Last weekend I attended Spoonfest in the village of Edale part of the wonderful county of Derbyshire, Uk. Its such a great thing living close to an amazing international event. Many of the worlds top spoon (and other woodcraft) carvers instruct there and its made a wonderful place with all the folks that attend to see, and carve spoonage. Camping out for the whole event, you really get to soak up ideas and inspiration.

I've not been happy with my eating spoons. There ok, work perfectly well, and are durable, but I wanted to make them a little more distinctive, and to revisit some of the chip carved and kolrosed designs from my previous spoons. I made nine spoons over the first three days back, tweaking the design and leaving them around the house grabbing a look from different angles as I went about my chores. After finally picking out my favourite, I matched up the others as best as possible and went for it with the frosts 106 and carved in some patterns long into the night.

I'm into Sami symbols again and elements - wind, fire, earth, water and trying out a few ideas. I cracked out the milk paint and ochre pigments again to add a little colour. I was a little unsure if I should follow this imaginary, but it feels right, I'm drawn to it constantly. Plus the Mrs likes it which helps!

What do you think? Be honest now or I wont be able to make for the customer.




Cheers,
Paul.