Thursday, 29 August 2013

Fish trap with Hazel and natural cordage

The last time I visited the woods, I tried my hand at fish trap making, putting myself in the situation of only using what was available around me, and only using a saw and knife. 

The main problem and probably half the work was in making strong cordage. 
This took a couple of hours to gather, extract the fibres, dry, and improve.
Here we have around 25 long Nettles on the left and Willow strips on the right.

The Nettle fibres were much stronger than the crack willow ones after a while drying, especially if twisted up into a two ply lay, but this seriously uses up the fibres quickly when tying knots. Two knots tied on the frame per nettle was good going. One was the norm, or three on an un-layed but strong fibre.

Thirsty work this, plus the midges were biting, so a fire and brew was called for.

The source of the main building materials. Hazel wands.
Often just growing naturally as thin shoots on un-coppiced trees.

The better sticks tidied up, and some hoops made from the smaller diameter ends.
These hoops were whipped together with the willow fibres.

Four poles and four hoops tied together using the Nettle fibres.

Lean too shelters on the brain, I fashioned a door for baiting, stone weights 
and of course extracting the hefty catch of fish ; )

Out of time I returned home to finish the next day, adding several more Hazel sticks.
Still full of gaps and having run out of suitable hazel I tried willow end growth, thinking I could weave instead of tie (saving cordage), speed up the process and camouflage the trap.

I'm not too sure if this will work due to all the twiggy growth in the chamber, but I'll give it a go and if no joy, I'll grab some hazel next time I get chance and finish the frame and the one way door.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bowdrill hearth spoon

After lighting the fire by friction using the bowdrill, I chilled out with a spot improvised carving.
Its nowt special, but it stirs coffee, and gets food to my mouth. Good to know you don't always need an axe or spoon knife too.

The Hearth board was looking a little spoony to me....
Using the Enzo trapper knife for all the carving.
Burning out the bowl with the embers
Ready for action!
Slight crank for general use
Not all that pretty, but quick to make and works.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

How to make a Bundle Bow

I thought I would have a go at making a Bundle Bow today using three lengths of Hazel, bound together using strips of Elm inner bark. The Idea being that out of the primitive weapons, the bow and arrow seem the easiest for me to hit the target with on a fairly regular (albeit on an amateur level)  amount and with some degree of impact potential. 

Making a bush bow from a sapling without an Axe would ruin the edge of a knife and be hard and time consuming work. A bundle bow however is a pleasant task, and achieves it would seem, a bow of similar performance.

I used one length measuring 6' long and around thumb thick, one at 4.5' and index finger thick and the smallest being 3' long and little finger thick, to see what the power would be like with only three poles and hoping it would be easier and quicker to make than lots.
I got the idea from a great site in the US called

I have tried in this case to use what I would have available in a typical woodland and one piece of para-cord

Cut to length the three hazel sticks and mark there centre points. 
Lay the 6' and 4.5' together at the centre points and lash together in the middle, ends and halfway between middle and end. That's five equally spaced locations.

Then Lash on the 3' stick using five more lashing points in the same way but this time going around all three sticks. This two stage lashing, binds the sticks more thoroughly. 

All done, and string made using 4 strands of inner para-cord, simply twisted together using a two ply cordage method.(One pair for each strand) Basic nocks just carved into the 6' stick ends.
Fixed loop made at one string end and then find the correct place for locking off with a few hitches on the other. The distance I used between the string and bow handle was One fist and thumb outstretched.

The whipping knot used on the Elm bark lashings.

Use the same knot to whip on two strands of inner para-cord for the short section that the arrow clips onto the string. Helps when drawing to keep it in place and with abrasion over time.

Then get on that range!

Mine is only pulling around 27lb but feels good and sturdy and might just do the job if hunting in a survival situation. The bow seems to be shooting consistently and "feels right" so far. 
Just need to train the operator some more and make some more primitive arrows!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Fire by friction - On the day

Today was a visit to the woods to practice some skills and enjoy the season. I like this time of year as the heat of Summer gives way to a hint of Autumn.

I wanted to make fire by friction with the materials found in the wood, and on its boundary where there is more light and different plants (except the cord as that's for another post). Its good to get away from perfect conditions and test yourself, especially if teaching the subject.

I  needed to practice some more with hunting weapons so I had a go with throwing sticks, and as spoons have taken hold again, I made a spoon without axe or crooked knife.

On the hunt for bow drill parts.
Dead Willow branch for the spindle.
Bonus find as I was hacking my way through the swampy willow area, was a Cherry plum tree.
I'm very chuffed with this find.
A nice thicker section for the hearth. This, I can tell you took some finding!
Nettles, Brambles and fallen trees, It was more like the rainforest down there.
Hacking through the Jungle
All the parts Gathered. Willow for drill and hearth (There's two of each just in case one is punky or not fully seasoned. I always get at least two). Rhododendron (green) for the bearing block and a seasoned bent stick for the bow. 
All carved and ready to rock! Cheap braided polyester for the cord. More than strong enough.
Preparation for the kindling.
Match stick, Pencil and Thumb thick and some thicker wood for main fuel.
Tinders which are combined into a tinder bundle.
Grass, Bracken, and Cleavers with a spot of Thistle to grow that ember.
I spun the set together, burnt in the hole and then after carving the notch, went for it.
YES, FIRST TIME! I still get a buzz out of this after nine years of playing.
Still got to turn it into flame yet, so calm down Adamson! The tinder was gathered first thing as I got into the wood as habit, stuffed into a cargo pocket and dried a little more.
Some days you have a good day.
I thought it apt to celebrate by brewing fresh coffee, Cowboy style. 

Contented Woodsman

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Spoon carving course at Elvaston Castle Country Park

I've had an excellent day today teaching Axe and Knife use to Five great students, and we even managed some spoons. We went through all the usual safe working techniques, increasing the skill level throughout the day to progress to spoon making. They were a joy to teach and made some lovely cooking spoons which for first attempts were spot on. They all left eager to wait for them to dry and carry on the fine whittling.

Nice facing up Ian

Helen chopping out the handle sides

In the Zone

Noel slopped off and knocked this up with a Husqvarna,
to act as a deterrent for unsafe tool use :)
Good Chest Lever from Charles
Chris working like a pro, he made an amazing serving spoon complete with hook
Thumb push Alice
Spoon Alley 
I managed a couple of rough outs in between.

A cracking day, and looking forward to the next one.