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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Success Patenting the Invention that Put Survival in the "ParacordSurvival Bracelet"

A few years ago, I put "survival" into the ubiquitous "paracord survival bracelet" with my invention of the BSB - Best Survival Bracelet. I knew I had something original that could even save lives. This attractive bracelet, that would satisfy even ultralight outdoor enthusiasts and minimalists, would make readily available all that is needed to produce a potentially life-saving fire.

I believed in this product, and with the support of my wife, sought to protect it against larger companies that would steal (and have stolen!) the idea and market it as their own. At the same time, I've openly offered advice, schematics and materials to the do-it-yourselfers who wanted to make one of their own. My wife and I had to make some serious sacrifices to afford the patent process which is not set up to be undertaken by the average Joe. 

Today I'm elated to announce that the United States Patent and Trademark Office will be issuing us a "Notice of Allowance". In English, this means they are granting my patent! The review is over. They've examined all "Prior Art", publicly available information and current applications. Our claims are validated! 

For the individualist and do it yourself I plan on finally making the how to video so if you want to make your own stay tuned and subscribe to my YouTube channel

Thanks to everyone for supporting us the last couple of years and already owns one of these bracelets. If you don't have one, what are you waiting for? Come and visit and have a look!
Written by Kevin Gagne

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My first wooden utensil carving projects - spoon, fork and spork!

Coming off the relative success of carving my first Kuksa, I decided to have a go at a spoon carve. I grabbed a piece of split wood from the campfire pile and made sure it was a piece with no center pithe (I've learned my lesson). There weren't any progress photos because it went so quickly ! I used my hatchet to rough out a working blank with roughly squared up sides, bottom and top. I grabbed a spoon from the drawer for reference and drew out plan (top) view. It only took a half hour or so sitting in the beach chair to carve out the shape with the pocket knife. I flipped it on outs side and drew the profile (side) view. Carving out unneeded wood from this angle was equally quick. The bowl was carved with a straight knife blade so involved some patience. A hook knife will be a welcomed addition to my tools! I took the sandpaper to the piece to round it off just in time for ice cream test with the family! 
I quickly learned why spoons are so shallow when I couldn't easily get to the icecream in the bottom of mine! A simple fact I really didn't think much about. I decided it would be necessary to rework the top to make the sides less steep and the inside more shallow. One's top lip should wipe the spoon clean when removing from the mouth. Duh. After a quick re-work that evening, it was ready for the breakfast test. Unfortunately, I was having waffles and learned quickly that I'd probably benefit from a fork!
Grabbed another split from the firewood pile and brought it to the beach. I quickly worked up a fork, but in the end found it wanting for a bit of a bowl and a better profile shape.

Back to the woodpile! I decided my third piece of wood-ware would be a "spork". I'd try to have the nice recurve of my first spoon, with some prongs for the waffles, steaks and chicken! The next two photos show the roughed out side and top view, next to my first fork.
A few nights on the chair at my son's football practice and I'd completed my spork. The blank I roughed out of the firewood wasn't very thick, so I didn't have the depth needed for a sweeping recurve. In the end, I just curved the end! I've very satisfied with it. The following two photos show it in comparison to the original fork. Its not better than a fork for forking, nor is it better than a spoon for spooning - but it is two tools in one.
I had been treating the finished items with coconut oil, until I picked up some walnut oil at the supermarket. With either oil, I'd put a bit in the cup, microwave for 15 seconds to warm it all up, then work it in with the hands. I'd like to do an oil/beeswax mix as I've seen some beautiful wooden carved pieces online treated this way. My understanding is that the beeswax and oil mixture affords some additional waterproofing and surface protection - with a nice shine. Working with these oils got me thinking of another project thats been on my long term to do list (that also requires the use of oils) restoring an old cast iron skillet! In my next blog I'll talk about that process and how it lead to my current wood project - a long wooden "sauce" spoon!

Written by Kevin Gagne

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
 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!

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 IS NOW available for sale in the bushcraft products section of ! 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