Fehrman Shadow Scout Testing

Posted in Gear on January 16th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

(Click thumbnails for larger images)

Write-up coming soon…

Thanks for reading,


Charlie Edmondson 1095 Chopper

Posted in Gear on January 13th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

It’s here! The blade I grabbed off of Bladeforums is finally here!

The box arrived via FedEx this morning and was taped up securely. I quickly pulled my Moose (does that sound just so wrong to anybody else?!) and went about “skinning” the box to get at the goodies inside. What I found was an 18″ zippered case with a broken zipper. It would only open about 2″ and I couldn’t get the teeth lined up for the first minute or so to get at the knife inside.

Talk about frustration. Finally I got it fixed. Then I realized that Charlie had put a cork on the tip of the blade to keep it from poking out during transit but it had been jostled loose and the tip of the knife had punctured the zipper pushing the teeth out of alignment. It also looks like the tip has been flattened just a hair but nothing that won’t sharpen out the second or third time around.

Anyway, here are the specs:

Hand forged 1095
5/16″ thick at the base of the guard tapering to the swedge
8.75″ blade length
5 3/8″ handle
21 oz. / 592 g
Bocote handle

(Click thumbnails for larger images)

The initial impression is very good. I really like the handle and it reminds me of an axe handle quite a bit. The swells really fill the hand and are right where I’d want them. The extra length is nice too because I’ll be able to bring my hand back for extra power when chopping.

The rough forged finish on the blade really strikes a chord for me. I like the pitting and roughness that says “Hand Made” and there is a nice faint hamon on the blade from the heat treat/tempering process. I’m sure the blade will patina nicely as I use it more and more.

Fit and finish on this piece is excellent. There are no gaps or rough spots where there shouldn’t be gaps or rough spots. The spine is nicely squared and throws a shower of sparks from my firesteel. The swedge isn’t sharp but could be very quickly with a coarse stone. The edge is sharp like an axe and is probably ideal for heavy chopping but I think I’m going to refine it a bit more once I’ve used it the way Charlie set it up.

Now, I’ve got to get in touch with a sheathmaker. Got any recommendations? :)

Thanks for reading,


Top Ten #1: The Axe

Posted in Gear on May 3rd, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Given the choice of just one item to take with me into the wilds it’d be the axe I would choose. Of the many axes I’ve tested and used the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (SFA) has been my favorite. It came sharp out of the box and has held an excellent edge through extended use and required no modification to be useful.

Gransfors axes aren’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination but they’re very good quality from top to bottom.

I give the handle a coat of Linseed Oil every couple of months and the sheath has needed nothing more than an occasional brushing to remove surface dirt to keep it in service. The head gets oiled after every outing and I strop and/or sharpen the edge after every use to keep the edge where I need it.

With the SFA (or any axe) you’ve got a hammer, a chopper, and a cutting edge. I can use my axe to take a piece of standing dead wood all the way down to a friction fire set. You can use the bottom corner (or top for that matter) of the axe to carve the initial depression into the hearth board and making the notch with an axe is easier than with a knife as long as you remember to watch your fingers. You can even choke up on the head and use the bit like an ulu for food prep.

An axe will feed your fire, put a roof over your head, and can even be used as a weapon in a pinch. If it could purify water it’d be the ultimate survival tool. (Sure, it can feed the fire that boils your water to make it potable…)

I’ve used my axe to make tent pegs, trap parts, firewood, a platform bed, a roughed out spoon and bowl, and much more. It’s been used as a hammer to pound in upright supports for a fire reflector, driven in pegs to hold logs in place for a primitive shelter, sunk wooden wedges into dead tree trunks to split them, and even pounded a few nails.

I’m by no means an Axe Man but I’ve used my axes enough to know that they’re my ultimate tool and that they’d be the absolute last thing I’d give up.

Of course my environment is much more suited to an axe than the jungle or desert would be but that’s why this is a Top 10 list and not a Top 1. :)

Thanks for reading,


Soda Can Whistle

Posted in Tutorial on April 1st, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Let’s make a whistle from an empty soda can.

You’ll need:
  • An empty soda can
  • A knife
  • A straight edge (Optional)

Once I’ve rinsed out the can I smash it as flat as I am able. Here I’ve used the straight edge to help me.

You can see I’ve managed to press the sides of the can all the way together. This just makes the later steps a bit easier.

Using the tip of my knife I score the can and then work the aluminum back and forth until the bottom of the can comes off.

Repeat with the top until you’re left with a wide flat piece.

I trim down the width of the flat piece and then cut off the ends to make two flat sheets of material. Cut one of the strips a bit shorter than the other.

Now, place the shorter piece perpendicular to the longer piece and fold it over and around. This is the first step of creating the mouthpiece.

Now slide the folded section down a bit and bend the end of the longer piece over the folded shorter piece. You’re nearly finished…

Bend the longer piece at the inside edge of the wrapped shorter piece and then use your fingers to make the rounded body shape for your whistle. You’re done other than some final tweaking.

Hold the whistle so that your fingers seal up the sides and make sure there’s a small (1/4″ maybe) gap between the moutpiece and the edge of the body.

Like this.

You may need to use a piece of scrap or your knife to open up the top fold of the mouthpiece to allow enough airflow. This is just one more step in the tweaking process to get the most out of your whistle.

This whistle really does work and it’s a good alternative to shouting should you become lost in the woods. Sure you need to find an empty soda or beer can but, sadly, that’s not a terribly difficult thing to do these days.

Thanks for reading,


Altoid Tin Pocket Kit

Posted in Gear, Tutorial on February 27th, 2009 by admin – 5 Comments

I constantly struggle with the decision to carry more gear in order to be better prepared or less gear to streamline my pockets and prevent the jingling and saggy pants associated with over-gear-itis.

After spending some time looking at the Altoid Tin survival kits that are everywhere on the Internet these days it occurred to me that I could use one of the tins to carry the gear I’d like to have with me in a way that avoids pocket tangles and limits me to a maximum amount of space while offering a great deal of flexibility in choosing the contents of the tin.

This is the Altoid Tin as it goes into the pocket. I’ve put my EDC items in the tin to keep them from banging around so much in my pocket.
The first layer inside the tin is about two feet of neon yellow gaffer’s tape. I like gaffer’s tape better than duct tape because the adhesive doesn’t seem to break down over time like duct tape can. It also comes in bright colors like neon yellow, blaze orange, and neon pink which makes it much easier to see in the woods.
Below the gaffer’s tape layer is the meat and potatoes of the kit. This is the stuff I use most often. I’ve got a Victorinox Farmer, Army Firesteel blank, and Bic mini lighter in this layer.
Down one more layer you’ll find a DMT Fine credit card sharpener which I’ve glued to a loaded leather backing. This piece is put in diamond-side down to prevent it from wearing out the layer above through friction. The leather may, over time, polish the items but nowhere near as much as a diamond stone would.
Here’s the diamond plate side of the sharpener. I put a piece of paper cut to fit the tin under the diamond to keep it from abrading the inside of the tin. This piece of paper could also be used to leave a note or to scribble a phone number, grocery list, etc.

The Altoid Tin allows me to carry this gear compactly without the pocket clutter that used to drive me so nuts. Now I can just drop the tin in a shirt pocket (or coat pocket) and have what I need available but out of the way.

I’ve still got a tiny bit of extra room but not enough to toss in my Fox 40 Micro whistle so it’ll have to go on my keyring.

Thanks for reading,


Firesteel Techniques

Posted in Tutorial, Video on February 25th, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Here it is folks, my FIRST video:

I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for watching,


Let’s Make a Pot Stand/Burner

Posted in Tutorial on February 21st, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Let’s make a pot stand/burner for our 12cm Zebra Billy Can. This pot stand/burner is a project I’ve done in the past but now I need to make a new one because the old one has been lost for some time. This project will allow you to heat your billy can with a Trangia burner, fuel tablets, or a wood fire.

Things you’ll need:

So let’s get started.

Here is the new silverware sorter next to my well-used 12cm Zebra Billy Can.
Use the Sharpie and straight edge to lay out the opening you’ll cut in with the Dremel. I liked the shape of Mungo’s more than my original so made mine like his.
The Dremel is used to make quick work of the cutting. Fortunately, I’ve done this before and have learned from my mistakes. I still managed to break one cutoff wheel into a million pieces. I like to cut opposite sides to prevent the cutout from springing loose too soon.
The silverware sorter fits nicely inside the 12cm Zebra Billy Can with just enough room to slip a plastic bag in between to keep the mess contained. Since the sorter is a bit taller than the billy I’ll put the lid upside down under the billy before slipping the whole assembly into a stuffsack (again, to contain the mess.)
I stuff the silverware sorter full of newspaper, fatwood, and whatever other tinder I can find to get it ready for burn-in. This process will cook off any coatings left on from manufacture and it should burn up any tiny metal slivers left from the cutting process.
A few strikes from my firesteel into a cotton ball gets this party started. I shove the now-lit cotton ball into a depression in the newspaper, like a sideways bird’s nest, to get things going.
Now we’re cookin’. You can see the metal has discolored from the burn-in and it’s sooting up quite a bit inside (thanks to the fatwood.)
Once you’ve got your fire going nice and strong you can feed it larger pieces of wood like so. Push the ends in as the sticks burn much like you would feed a star fire. This allows you a longer burn with less maintenance.

Here I’m feeding the fire some pieces of knotty birch I just happened to have laying around.

Once my fire’s well-established I like to capture some of that heat. Today it was about melting down some snow to make a cup of tea. It takes a massive amount of snow, which contains lots of air, to make enough water for even one cup.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’d be far easier to go prepared into the woods with a bottle or two of water.

Once the burn-in is done and everything is cleaned up you can see the difference between a new silverware sorter and my new potstand/burner.

Now I’ll toss this into a plastic grocery bag and stuff it into my 12cm Zebra Billy Can and fill it with goodies for my next trip to the woods.

And that’s all there is to it.

Now I’ve got a pot stand that’ll last for a good long time.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Send me pictures and I’ll put them on the site.

Thanks for reading,


Fehrman First Strike Sheath Pictures

Posted in Gear on February 15th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

Well, he’s done it again. Mike Billman of Grindstone Cutlery has sent me another Box of Awesome and this rig was in there. If I were to rate them, I believe BoA 2 was actually more awesome than BoA 1.

The Fehrman First Strike is an awesome end of the world (EoTW) type blade to begin with but Mike’s kydex has made this the knife to grab in a Red Dawn type scenario. I’ve got a firesteel, cordage, and an extremely tough and extremely sharp tool at my disposal. I can use the ranger band for emergency tinder in a pinch and I could easily mount a Photon Microlight on this sheath like I’ve got on my Fallkniven F1 sheath.

The same box (the actual BoA) has gone back and forth now twice and will be headed back to Fort Wayne as soon as I can find more tools to send Mike’s way. He’s having as much fun coming up with sheathing solutions as I’m having playing with the finished goods.

The First Strike is a phenomenal setup but it’s STILL not the most awesome thing I’ve received in a Box of Awesome…more on that in the near future. :)

Thanks for reading,


Folding a Bedroll

Posted in Tutorial on June 13th, 2007 by admin – Comments Off

In preparation for the trip I’m packing all of my gear to get it loaded up and ready to roll. My shelter component will consist of the Tom Claytor Jungle Hammock, a black closed cell foam pad, my Wiggy’s poncho liner, and a space blanket. I’ll use my fleece for a pillow and should be plenty warm even when the temperature drops in the evening.

I carry the foam pad, poncho liner, and space blanket in a bedroll strapped to the bottom of my pack. The seam on the roll should be toward the ground to prevent rain, should it fall on me, from leaking into the liner. The space blanket provides a waterproof barrier for the contents.

Here is how I create my bedroll:

The space blanket is laid on the floor reflective side up. On top of that goes the Wiggy’s poncho liner. Notice how close in size they are. In an emergency I can make an expedient waterproof sleeping bag with just these two components.
Here you can see I’ve chosen a bright red space blanket. This choice aids in discovery should I require rescue. It also happens to be the blanket I could most easily locate. (Nalgene bottle for scale.)
Get the foam pad as close to center as possible. Eyeballing is fine for this project. I believe this to be the 3/4 length pad from the local outdoor store.
Fold the ends up to the length of the pad.
Fold the sides in to the width of the pad. You now have a water resistant “burrito” which you simply roll up.
I like to kneel on one end of the “burrito” while rolling toward myself. This prevents the roll from skewing one way or the other. It also allows me to get some pressure on the roll to squeeze out air that gets trapped inside. When I’m finished I like to wrap the bedroll with a loop of paracord just to keep things tight.

And that’s that. Easy.

This roll will get strapped to the bottom of my pack and the hammock will be stuffed inside. I can have my shelter pitched and ready to go in just minutes with this easy setup.

Thanks for reading,


The Sanctuary

Posted in Trip Report on October 16th, 2006 by admin – Comments Off

This weekend I decided to hike to my hike. The local woods are about 1.5-2 miles from my house and the extra bit of exercise would be good for me. I loaded up some very basic gear, grabbed a bottle of water and my hiking stick, and headed out. Along the way I spent some time investigating the woods along the bank of the river. I also have long wondered about a section of woodland I pass every day taking the kids to school.

Yesterday I stopped someone and asked a few questions and found out the place is called “The Sanctuary,” has public access, and has no trails to speak of. Sounded like just the thing after a fairly busy weekend down in the city.

This property belongs to the Forest Preserve District but appears to be left to natural development. Often the woodland is managed to remove excess understory which will prevent the canopy trees from flourishing. This area had an extremely thick understory of 2-3″ diameter saplings and smaller trees.

The terrain is slightly undulating and has enough shallow depressions and slight bumps to knock the starch out of the legs. This on top of a very short night made for some very tired legs.

The Sanctuary is adjacent to residential property on the North and the main access road to the forest preserve on the South with enough woodland to completely swallow up a lone hiker. In other words, I can go in far enough to be concealed from the access road and the residences. If I’d thought far enough ahead to bring my hammock I might’ve made a night of it…or at least a nice little nap.

There’s something about the crunch of leaves underfoot and the frequent scampering of squirrels and chipmunks running about looking for food to store away. This is, however, the kind of woodland that can give an unprepared hiker the creeps. With no trails to follow and the heavy understory it is extremely easy to get turned around. It’s less than a mile (I suspect) in any direction to paved roads but running through the woods in a panic rarely happens in a straight line.

I found some more musclewood and these particular examples would make excellent hiking sticks. I almost lost mine (pictured) later in the day as I propped it against a tree to take a picture of something and then walked off without it.

This is the picture I was taking. My Northstar has custom Tan Fern Fibermascus handle slabs put on by the boys at Bark River Knife & Tool some time back. The slabs go all the way up to the plunge line allowing a more forward grip and a more comfortable grip for those with larger hands.

This is a knife that has seen quite a bit of work over the past two years. It carries well, cuts great, is light and comfortable, and has been a great value. I may not carry it always but I sure do seem to carry it often. With the introduction of the Aurora just around the corner this one may be officially “retired” but, seeing how it has survived the arrival of several other knives, I suspect it’ll just see less frequent rotation.

I walked far enough that I could see the access road and so I turned West to head for the North Loop Trail. Just as soon as I found the trail I also found (and surprised) a nice buck that had been leaving scrapes, rubs, and sign all over. He and I had very little distance between us and it was clear that he was so distracted he hadn’t heard me coming.

There’s plenty more to talk about but this post has already gotten pretty darned long…I’ll save the rest for later.

Thanks for reading,