Google+ Followers

Saturday, July 26, 2014

First drink from my hand made birch Kuksa

It was a piece of firewood last month, now it's a cup full of tequila on the beach :). Hand tools only - hatchet and knife, coals from campfires to burn out the inside and sandpaper to finish. It's made from birch and actually called a "Kuksa". 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

37 rescued on a tiny local mountain - unpreparedness at it's worst

This story is truly a shame http://www.necn.com/07/22/14/37-hikers-rescued-from-NH-mountain/landing_mobile.html?blockID=869509&feedID=11106
 These folks should be found negligent and charged the cost of rescue. Imagine taking a group of 30+ on a hike and not a single person appears to have had some basic gear and navigation skills. Take a look at this mount major map I just got from the Internet
 look at it for a minute, you can see that route 11 runs north south, to the east of the mountain. This means that the no matter where you are "lost" on the mountain, you could travel easterly and hit the road in probably an hour or two. It would take about five minutes with a Compass to learn how to find the cardinal points (north south east west). This is not advanced land navigation. Even if the Hikers lost their map, this basic orientation would not be hard to remember. Moral of the story: if you go out in the woods, bring a map that you have looked at in advance. Bring a compass, at least know how to find north, south, east, west. Figure out the general direction you can head to intersect a linear feature like the road you drove in on, a trail, Lake, river etc. Staying found is not rocket science!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=827911440554214&id=100000060962005

Thursday, June 19, 2014

DIY Folding Buck Saw Details & New Never Before Seen Buck Saw design!

DIY Folding Buck Saw Details & New Never Before Seen Buck Saw design!

Read on my friends and stay tuned because out one of a kind bushcrafters lightweight and packable buck saw will soon be available for sale in the bushcraft products section of http://www.paracordist.com ! With just the information and dimensions on photos herein, you will learn how to make your own folding bucksaw. 

Within the last couple months, I pretty quietly undertook a project to make my first buck saw. I posted pictures of it with a promise that I’d offer more detail when time allowed. Here we go!

I started the process with the intent of making a “folding bucksaw”, one that would allow the blade connections to remain at all times (therefore no chance of losing hardware during breakdown/assembly). Searching online revealed relatively few details! There are a few articles with dimensions and written descriptions, but I felt none provided the detail I needed. I basically learned generally how this sort of saw worked and was constructed, then laid mine out around the blade (21” from end to end) I had in the garage on an aluminum bow saw. Here are the general dimensions:

I had a table saw at my disposal, so I learned from a youtube video that a tenon can be cut quickly by setting my blade to the depth of the desired tenon shoulder, then just cutting several kerf widths right next to each other, thereby shaving down and revealing the tenon as I repeated this process on all 4 sides. The mortise was more difficult. I don’t have a drill press. I read a method that included drilling out the mortise with slightly overlapping drill holes the diameter of the desired mortise width. Then just use a wood chisel to square it. My problem was that the bit didn’t want to drill that precise by hand! If I was to do it again I’d have drilled pilot holes with a small diameter bit first! I did finally get working joints.
I’ve seen two modes of breakdown of this sort of saw as follows:

1.       Breakdown occurs by pulling the mortise/tenon cross member then turning the vertical arms inward 90 degrees until they just about meet in the middle of the saw blade and cover the teeth in the saw kerf cut down the entire inside edge. This requires that the drill hole for the blade-holding bolt be closer to the inside of the vertical arm. I thought that the closer the hole was to the inside, the more likely the bolt would be to shear when under full tension.
2.       Breakdown would occur by pulling out the cross member, than folding the vertical arms outward and around 270 degrees so that the blade’s teeth would rest protected within a kerf cut along the entire outside faces of each vertical arm. This method requires that the drill hole for blade be as close as possible to the outside edge of the vertical arm (see 1” horizontal dimension on photo below). This allows the most wood to resist shear of the hole once the saw is tensioned, so it made the most sense to me.

These photos show varied angles and some important dimensions around the blade attachment point. As you can see, the kerf cut for hiding the blade is a major way through the wood. This leaves only ½” of oak undisturbed in the vertical member. I could have made this a bit thicker if I shifted the bold hole closer to the outer edge.


I used a jig saw to cut out some curves and sandpaper and linseed oil to finish. The saw cuts very well, and the space between the blade and cross member allows for a 6” diameter cut. The saw looks great and weighs not much more than a pound. I don’t have an elegant way to bind all the pieces together once broken down, I’ve been experimenting with various straps, bandanna, paracord, bungees etc. All functional but not quite what I’m looking for. I also don’t have the skills at the moment to make a nice little carry sack for it.

There are pros and cons to this design that got me thinking outside the box for better ways. This saw protects the blade and protects against hardware loss by avoiding the need to remove any for setup/breakdown. The tradeoff, which is no small one, is strength. I don’t know exactly how much my saw is weakened by the long cuts, but I’d imagine quite a bit. It has taken some pretty serious tensioning without fail, but it’s still young and it is mighty oak! Not sure how an inferior wood would do. I want a design that will afford protection to the saw’s most critical element – the blade, while maintaining maximum strength in the members. Breakdown is important, because I want a packable saw. The nature of the breakdown in my first saw limits the length of the vertical arms as they must meet in the middle of the saw blade); which in turn limits the diameter of the possible cut. I wanted to develop a design that would maximize the cut-able diameter for the given blade length. I wanted to find a way to protect the blade upon breakdown that does not limit the length of the vertical arms! I don’t want it to be too heavy, I don’t want to copy someone else’s design, I wanted it to be unique and innovative, I wanted it to look good and be a true craftsman’s project. I want, I want, I want!! I wasn’t sure I could have it all; I mean there are usually tradeoffs with everything. I’m limited in my woodworking skills, so I turned to my friend Todd Thompson (who is quite a pro) to do some brainstorming.

Together we’ve been going back and forth, and I think he’s come up with some things that have never been done before!

The coolest idea by far that Todd's actually brought to reality is bulletproof protection for the blade – its encased completely INSIDE the cross member, from tenon to tenon, during breakdown.
 
Todd did some woodworking magic to accomplish this. The cross member was made in two pieces, then carefully glued together with Titebond III wood glue. Upon breakdown, the blade is slipped into the member and secured there using the same hardware that’s used to connect the blade when assembled.
The pieces are bound in the middle by some 550 paracord from the windlass, or bandana, leather thong etc..The vertical arms are no longer limited in length, so we’ve extended them to allow a full 8” diameter cut for the same blade length.
Also, they are solid pieces of oak – no strength concern here. To address the concern for losing hardware on setup/breakdown, he’s come up with a way to imbed a removable bolt, two nuts and two washers in one of the members!

Adding a touch of style and identity, is this special Paracordist windlass

Here are some highlights of the prototype in progress. Will it be the best collapsible bucksaw on the market? We think so!

Wood = oak

Assembled dimensions: 21.75” W x 16” H x ¾” thick

Broken down dimensions: 21” x 2.5” x 1.75”

Total weight: 1lb 10oz.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exciting new paracord jigs available - the Perfect Mandrel and the Gibson Turks Head Former

The perfect paracord turks head mandrel
Introducing the Perfect Mandrel

Ever since I made the first comprehensive "long" Turks Head Knot video series (starting in 2010) 


 on YouTube I've been working to find the right design and maker and design to bring you the Perfect Mandrel. A mandrel is a tool utilized to tie the turks head knot in a sort of "controlled environment" (without the width and alignment variations often associated with hiking staves, axe handles etc.). After the turks head knot is fully formed, the pins (or pegs) on the mandrel can be removed so that the knot can be slid off and transferred to the finished item (knife, hatchet or tool handle, hiking staff etc.) for tightening. There are other mandrels for sale out there, but none so versatile or innovative as The Perfect Mandrel! This break through design by Travis Huppert allows for literally hundreds of options for bight spacing and count. It really is only limited by the users imagination. The main tube is 1-1/4" in diameter and 12" long. The two sliding collars adjust up and down the length of the tube for almost limitless settings. The collars are predrilled and tapped with 30 and 24 bight count rings and have an outside diameter of 2". This predrilled hole spacing will allow for ties with a multitude of bight settings, ultimate flexibility. If you are like me and have lots of mandrels you use for various ties, well this will replace almost all of them in one useful tool. It comes complete with (30) 1/2" set screws and an allen wrench to insert or remove the set screws. This is the one tool you have been waiting for and once you have one the tool you really won't ever want to ever be without. Order your Perfect Mandrel now, then watch this video to learn how to plan your first project!

 Before you read on, please watch the video I just embedded above. One of the main points of the video is that a "test knot" should be tied that has the minimal number of leads (utilizing 1/2 wrap in the first half cycle of the knot). This test knot can be tied quickly using a Turks Head Former, using this technique I first learned from Gibson's Book of Knots and Splices. I first taught this approach in my 2010 YouTube video "Paracordist how to tie a Turks Head knot easily using a jig and paracord for a hiking staff handle".

In the video, I used a former I threw together using some tape, a piece of scrap sheet rock and some finishing nails. The jig worked fine for a while, but soon the nails worked loose and the lack of "heads" on the nails resulted in the bights often slipping off while tying. I'm happy to announce that we will soon have the Gibson Turks Head Former's for sale (named after the author of the book where I learned the technique). This is a durable, select wood board with 7 (standard size) or 10 (large size) evenly spaced and squarely drilled holes. The pegs were specially selected for appropriate length, snug fit in the holes and perfect size heads to prevent slippage of bights. I expect to have these available in the Paracord Knot Tying Jigs section of my website within a couple days, so please check in !
Paracord Turks Head knot tying former
Gibson Turks Head Former

Written by Kevin Gagne

camping, Kuksa fire, bacon grease lamp disaster, birch carving supplies

Another beautiful weekend family camping. When opportunity granted itself, I whittled away with my knife on the maple kuksa which I resigned to keep in a zip lok with a wet sponge when not working. I'm doing this based on recommendation I received after my post inquiring about the cause of cracks I was observing.
 I learned that they were related to the excessively quick drying of the wood and differential shrink between the pith wood at the core of the branch I used and the outer rings. I also learned this is common with woods worked green such as my maple. The bag/sponge technique slows the seasoning and yes I saw an immediate effect on the cracks; including the closing of the largest crack that started forming. I learned from several wise commenters that there were ways to deal with the cracks, so not to be discouraged into stopping the project. No matter what happened I would learn from it so I decided to carry on with the maple project! One piece of advice that stuck out was this recommended way of harvesting wood to minimize likelihood of cracking:

1. Take a log of roughly twice the diameter that you wish to be the height of your future kuksa.
2. Split the log down the middle.
3. Lay the split face down.
4. Draw the Kuksa front view as shown in the sketch below to begin roughing!

 
Note: I did ask why not turn the cup to make better use of the natural curve of the wood? I got a convincing, detailed answer basically saying that the left and right sides are going to want to pull in downwards and outwards from the middle, resulting in cracking or at least warping.
 
I asked my dad if he had any split wood in the pile from this years efforts (for next winter's firewood) that would have come from an 8"+ diameter birch. He said he'd have a look and bring some by on Monday if he found something.
 
My only "rules" for the Kuksa project was no power tools. Otherwise I'd use whatever I could get my hands on. As I hung out at camp, I decided to see what I could accomplish with fire towards my goal of hollowing out the rough shape. My attention was drawn to the Weber firestarter cubes (poor mans version of  UST's "Wetfire" tinder), as I was not ready to make the camp fire for the evening. I scraped off a pile and light it afire inside a small hole I carved out with the pocket knife. It burned steady for quite some time, but alas merely browned the edges.

Later that evening, with a true campfire going and a glowing bed of coals underneath, I pursued the effort in a more traditional manner. I scooped a nice coal out and dropped it into the small starting cavity I'd made. Blowing on the coal I quickly picked up the gist of the technique.

Not too much oxygen so as to cause the burst of flame.

I could rotate the cup and direct the force of the oxygen towards the area I wished to "carve". I was very excited to see the green wood slowly turning to glowing coal itself in the focus areas.

When necessary, I stopped blowing on an area and it quickly "cooled" down. In this manner, I was able to make great progress during a relaxing evening under the Maine stars, with my family by the campfire. Here is the cup, ready for a charcoal scraping session.

This being the last campfire until we return in a couple weeks, I'll likely turn back to the pocket knife and for the first time on this project, a wood chisel when I return home.
 
The next morning's bacon grease was collected and hardened in one of my wife's glassware bowls. She asked me to go outside and scrape out the grease into a container for disposal. I decided to grab a few napkins to twist into makeshife wicks. My bright idea was to try to make a little "upcycle" project lamp. I was delighted to see the effectiveness and snapped this photo as my wife peered out to chastize me "your going to ruin my bowl". "It will be fine", I returned (thinking that I after all am the mighty bushcrafter, not her).

Literally a second later "pop" and the glass dish's side popped off. Within 30 seconds, all the rest except the bottom cracked off. "Honey, sorry, you were right".

To round out the weekend and kickoff the next week, I woke to a planned visit from my parents and a truck full of split birch from my dad. Varying heights of the half moon pieces from 3.5-5", all around a foot long. Should last me a while!

 
As an added bonus, they gave me a Plumb axe head picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents! Add this axe refurb to my list of projects!


Written by Kevin Gagne

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bushcraft Projects - Bucksaw, Axe and Knife Restoration, First Kuksa

I've had a number of fun outdoor / bushcraft related projects going on lately, from the restoration of old American Made (Collins and Coucil Tool), to the building of my own oak foldable buck saw (with paracord tension string), the creation of several knife sharpening paddles for my 220, 400, 600, 1200 and 2000 grid wet/dry sandpapers and leather strops, and the restoration of an old knife of my Grandfather's that I received when I was a boy. Each one of those topics should be several detailed posts of their own (and some are), but I'm short for writing time and wanted to post some things before I'm overwhelmed! I've grown frustrated with the lack of edge holding ability of my swiss army "fieldmaster" under repeated use on these recent projects, so I decided to dig through my keepsake knives looking for a new carbon steel user. I enjoy sharpening just as much as the next guy but don't like seeing a hair-popping sharp blade lose that edge after a few minutes whittling! I settled on a knife that I thought was a Barlow based on the handle shape, but soon learned was an old electrician's knife (probably Camillus) which my grandfather had modified (grinding the screwdriver into a utility blade). I cleaned it up, sanded and sharpened the blades, oiled it up and removed some rust, linseed oil for the rosewood handle. Within days of carrying it, I was able to give it a true test...




This week I've had the opportunity to put the buck saw and Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet (that I had recently acquired) to hard use pruning several overgown maple trees on my property. The canopies on these trees had expanded so far that my lawn was turning to dirt underneath. In an effort to get some sun back on the ground I cut a large number of low branches with diameter's up to around 6". I used the Gransfors to limb and buck baw to section the bigger pieces. Both cut through the hardwood like butter.
Recognizing the bounty of fresh green maple I know had on hand, I decided to grab a few select pieces to pursue another project on my list - making my first kuksa (wooden cup). I've wanted to do this for some time, and figured it would be a great campfire project to whittle away at in the coming weeks. I stripped the bark off the branch I selected. Orienting the wood for what I thought was the best use of its natural shape (particularly for the future handle), I sketched some centerlines and cup shape using a sharpie. For some sort of size reference, I grabbed a measuring cup from the kitchen. My buddy pursuaded me to maximize the size so that maybe this cup could double as my beer "chalice" (hense the elongated oval shap right now)! The following photos show the initial rough out using the Gransfors, followed by a "re-draw" and refine shape (profile/side view), and finally the current status after some whittling and top/plan view sketching for the next refinement.


I've done a substantial amount of the latest rough work with the "new" pocket knife's main blade. The blade is hair popping sharp but still requires firm effort to work the maple. This is dense, tough wood, even though its green! What pleases me beyond words is that after each session so far (probably two hours total use) the blade has passed the shave test. I lapped the strop a couple times with it and it seems literally like I just sharpened it fresh. Goodbye SAK, goodbye stainless, I'm a carbon devotee for life!

Written by Kevin Gagne

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Part II - My First Axe Restoration Projects (Council Tool and Collins Legitimus)

Start at the beginning with Part I "My first axe restoration projects - Collins double bit and Council Tool Dayton"
_______________________________________________________________________________

At this point in my journey I've reached a mirror finish on the Council Tool, and resigned myself to put the Collins on hold until I "learn my way" through the Council project. If you follow all my blogs, you'll see that I recently scored a Grandfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet at a giveaway price; but it didn't affect my desire to do these restorations. In fact, I am enjoying this activity more and more with each step I take.

A week or so ago I bought my handles from House Handles; a website with great prices, selection and high quality handles. Shipping is also at cost which is nice. If you order from them, be sure to request "select grain handles" and no finish (you'll want to linseed it yourself). They up charge a couple bucks for this but its worth it. I have the boys at Bushcraft USA forums to thank for the recommendation. While waiting for the handles to arrive, I methodically planned my next steps by reading anything and everything I could find on the topic of refinishing axes, axe re-profiling, axe sharpening, axe hanging as well as general axe use, maintenance and care materials.

When I found a great resources, I read and re-read them. From these works I formed a list of things I'd like to make and/or acquire to get through future project steps - like a wooden carpenter's mallet, some proper files, wood rasp, linseed oil,  Swel-Lok, file card, Wonderbar rust eraser... In addition to the regular advice and feedback from the forums, I have found the following to be indispensable:

1. An Axe to Grind by the U.S. Forest Service as well as the detailed PDF of the same title.

2. The Woods Life Blog has three fantastic blogs on axe restoration and care.

3. This great post "How to Sharpen an Axe" by British Red on the Bushcraft UK forum, on which I am a member "Paracordist".

My plan is to reprofile the Council Tool with a file soon because the cheek is just too thick. I realize now that I might have been better off doing this before the fine grit sanding work I've done, but I don't mind doing it again as my goal is to do it right first and foremost.

I'm also thinking ahead about the hang. I like detail in the Forest Service publication and video, so I'm planning to follow it closely. One of my next purchases will be Swel-Lok which is the recommendation Bernie Weisgerber (author of Axe to Grind) for the wedge treatment prior to driving it home. I also need a "Carpenter's Wooden Mallet", and tonight decided to make one from an old fence post I was going to throw away. I saw the beginnings of a handle already, so decided to go with it!

 I made a couple vertical cuts down the quadrants of the existing "handle", then turned the post on its side and began to cut out the wedges.
 An excuse to use the Gransfors I just acquired for $30:
 Shaved / rounded the square handle left from the saw cuts.
 Next I just sanded the heck out of everything for a few minutes
 Now I think I have a serviceable mallet!




Written by Kevin Gagne