Welcome to the Bushcraft Biker Blog

Bushcraft techniques, kit reviews, fire-lighting, motorcycle camping, knife making

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Fenix TK11 & Leather Sheath

Having heard a few good things about Fenix torches, when one became available secondhand at a reasonable price I jumped at the chance.

It came with a nice nylon carry case but as I've been making a few sheaths out of leather recently I decided to set about making my first leather torch sheath!

The Fenix torch isn't the same diameter all down the tube or end cap so that posed a bit of a tricky problem in making a suitable holder. I wanted a sheath I could wear as necessary on my belt but with a quick release option as when you sit down while outdoors, quite often these things can dig into your leg or hip, something I wanted to engineer a simple solution around. The dangler loop with suitable rivet solved the quick release problem.

I decided to use the same 3.5mm veg tanned leather I've been using for my belt sheaths and dark brown dye. Also I thought a belt dangler loop would be useful so it didn't dig in and something that could easily be taken off meant a suitable rivet and hole. I wet formed the leather and it seems to hold the torch quite well, allowing it to be held securely and operated without taking out of the sheath if required. It's finished with carnuba wax, buffed to a nice sheen.

It's my first attempt at a torch sheath so a bit of a learning curve. Once I get a chance to use the torch while camping, I'll post back here with a brief review.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Hand Made Leather Belt

For some time I've been looking for a decent leather belt, not just for outdoors stuff but for every day use. Most belts available from your local store these days seem to be made of plastic or reconstituted leather fibre and just don't seem to last. I prefer a leather belt for strength and the ability to strop a knife when out and about if required.

So after some thought I ordered a few parts from leather supplier Le Prevo, a long piece of pre-cut vegetable tanned leather, a 1 1/2 inch buckle and a few Chicago brass screw rivets. I'd recently dyed a sheath with British Tan Fiebings leather dye and the results were impressive so this would be the colour I'd go for. The length was decided with some expansion/contraction ability built in if you know what I mean and I got to work forming the belt keep. It was a bit of trial and error but using a hole punch made life easier and I was surprised how well it turned out. It's finished to a buff sheen with carnuba wax, beeswax and linseed oil.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Second bushcraft knife - 01 Carbon Steel with Olivewood

fter a weekend camping in the woods and seeing my first bushcraft knife (Pau Rosa 4mm Bearing Steel) in action, a friend asked me to make him up and bushcraft knife. I suggested he go for a 3mm blade similar to one I had from bladesmith Mick Spain in 01 carbon steel as it would be the right combination of blade strength and weight for what he wanted to use it for. I contacted Mick who was kind enough to let me have one of his bushcraft blades and went about sourcing a suitable piece of olivewood for the project.

Specs for this bushcraft knife:

Blade: Mick Spain, 3mm O1 Steel, 58/59HRC, 25 degree bevels, blade length 105mm, tang length 115mm, 200 grit finish.

Handle material - Olivewood with red fibre liners.

Pins - Corby bolts and lanyard tube in brass.

Sheath - 3.5mm leather, dark brown without firesteel holder this time.

The olivewood, I considered using black liners initially but the bright red looked so good together with the light wood I pressed on with that combination. Olivewood can be a hazard to work with as the dust is very fine so a mask and safety glasses must be worn when working with it. However I had misplaced my safety glasses so a pair of retro Ray Bans were at hand to help keep the dust out of my eyes, albeit providing a very dark working environment!

As you can see from the profile images, the blade is heavily figured in a traditional "coke bottle" style. It fits the hand very well and with the olivewood really turned out better than expected. The corby bolts proved less of an issue than I was expecting and do a good job of holding the handle slabs on to the blade while the resin sets making a nice flush finish. The olivewood is finished to 600 grit and with natural Danish Oil then Renaissance Wax.

For the sheath, I used the same 3.5mm vegetable tanned leather I have before, wet-formed, stitched with brown linen thread and with the addition of a lanyard hole at the bottom of the sheath. The sheath is dyed dark brown and finished with carnuba wax.

Overall I'm happy with this knife and am looking forward to the next project which is another Mick Spain blade I have awaiting a handle.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Bushcraft Knife in Pau Rosa & Bearing Steel

When I was a young teenager I was given my first knife by my father, a Boys Brigade folder he had when he was himself a young lad. I collected a few knives over the years, purely as tools and along the lines of a Weatherman Wave and the odd penknife. Recently the need for a proper bushcraft tool for use while camping became evident, with fire making a more frequent experience and a decent tool was required. I stumbled upon the excellent British Blades forum and their help and advice was second to none, so my journey began to make my first bushcraft knife.

The first step was to obtain a suitable blade that I could handle and Paul "Frenchy at Custom Knives and Sticks came highly recommended to me as a man who eats, sleeps and breathes knives. He had available a blade he calls the Talisman and offered me one in 52100 bearing steel. Now this blade is a bit of a beast and the specs are:

Material - 52100 bearing steel
Overall length - 228mm
Blade length - 115mm
Handle length - 112mm
Blade thickness - 4.2mm
Widest part (at start of cutting edge) - 32mm
Widest part (at pommel end) - 32mm
Type of Grind - Scandi
Depth of grind - 9mm

For the handle I decided to go with an African hardwood, Pau Rosa, meaning "red wood" in Portuguese from Jean at Knife Scales. With mosaic pins and a newly acquired B&Q pillar drill I undertook my first bushcraft knife project. The Pau Rosa was tough but beautiful to work with and the dark red liners worked a treat with the overall look I was going for - hardwearing, beautiful but functional. Now I'm very much a beginner at this so the shape was something that I studied online a great deal and went with a traditional coke bottle style.

For the sheath I decided to use 3.5mm vegetable tanned leather which seems to be the norm and made a simple sheath, similar to the Ray Mears Woodlore type design with a firesteel holder for the fire lighting tool I would also fashion from the wood. It wetformed to hold the knife securely and is dyed dark brown with leather dye to match the wood to some extent. Finished in carnuba wax.

So far I've had the opportunity to spilt wood with the knife, use it for firesteel striking, make pot stands and prepare food with it. It performs well and the bearing steel, although tougher to sharpen, holds an edge well.

Overall, it's a bit of a beast and I quite like that as it seems almost indestructible.

Tentipi Safir 5cp Tent Review

After my budget Tresspass 2 person tent took on the new role of paddling pool on a somewhat wet and blustery night in Applecross earlier this year, I was forced to take shelter in a friends Tentipi. This lack of durability of my traditional tent in moderate Scottish weather made me look towards a different form of tent for my overnight outdoor accommodations.

 Setting up camp. It takes 20 minutes when practiced.

As most of my camping and outdoor trips are undertaken by motorcycle, my R1200GS 2008 beast of a machine, iut would need to fulfill basic bike camping needs....

1. Be relatively compact, lightweight and be able to fit across the rear seat and panniers of my BMW.
2. Be able to sleep two or three comfortably
3. Be very durable and watertight
4. Be easy to put up and take down, particularly in bad weather

So, I popped down to my local Tentipi supplier Nordic Outdoors and spoke with David and Casper, both very helpful and full of great advice on these unusual tents. The Safir 5 weighs, with groundsheet approximately 10kg, so although a little more than my second choice, a Hilleberg Nallo GT tent, the space it provides inside is exceptional. Having the ability to stand up to put on motorcycle boots and get changed into your bike gear greatly transforms the experience from one of wriggling around on the ground to one of comfort. The tent is made from a cotton/polyester fabric, not unlike the Bell tents of old and is extremely well made. The fabric breathes and there is no real need for the optional inner tent, although a groundsheet (at additional cost) is something I wouldn't be without. That groundsheet comes in two options - both having zips that allow the ground to be made accessible for an open fire which we shall discuss a little further on. The only real difference between the groundsheets is weight, significant purchase cost and the ability to make an opening at the door or not. The latter being useful but not worth a hundred quid more in my view.

Camp set up at Comrie Croft.

One aspect of having stayed in a Tentipi was the experience of an open fire within the tent itself, having a chimney flap and ability to take a freestanding wood buning stove if required. This transforms wet and windy or even cold days to an enjoyable experience. The marketing blurb says "togetherness" with relation to sitting round an open fire but although slightly cheesy in concept, actually is pretty accurate. For the best part of a grand, you expect quality and I'm happy to say this tent oozes that particular asset. The difference between a traditional tent while motorcycle camping and the Tentipi is vast - the latter is like having a small house on the back of your bike, with a lot of comfort and the ability to practice all your firelighting bushcraft techniques upon arrival at your destination.

I'll be continuing to post feedback on how the tent performs over the next few years so watch this space for updates....

The Tentipi on the back of the GS in a waterproof stuff sack. 

Altogether, the Tentipi Safir is highly recommended for motorcycle camping trips, particularly in the varied Scottish climate.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Maxpedition Versi Jumbo

I recently bought the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack (new model) in khaki after looking at their smaller packs and competitors. I use it as my EDC and it goes in the back of my motorcycle pannier for camping trips.

It's best features are the build quality, various pockets, all well thought out and "Nagalene" drink bottle holder which can be tucked away when not in use. With a couple of foam pads in the bottom it makes a great camera bag for a two lens SLR set up, flash or second lens going in the water bottle compartment. I chose khaki as it blended in well to most kit and black would have got lost on my Tentipi floor while also looking too "tactical" for me. The "concealed item" area is excellent for things such as passports and documents you want to keep close.

It's a good size if you don't want to carry a backpack and I highly recommend it for day to day use!

Welcome to the Bushcraft Biker blog

A warm welcome to the Bushcraft Biker blog. I've always been interested and active in the outdoors from an early age, living next to acres of farmland and woods growing up and wanted to combine my love of all things bushcraft with my other passion, motorcycling.

After a few years of riding all manner of bikes from the latest Japanese sportsbikes to a 1976 Honda CB750, I've finally taken the plunge and bought a sensible bike, the 2008 BMW R1200GS, non adventure model earlier this year which will be the perfect companion for trips to the wilderness. Many of my trips will be with the motorcycle group I help run, Central Scotland Bikers, a great group of guys and gals from all over this fine country.

Adventure is in my soul as I've traveled and backpacked quite a bit around the world. From trekking, hitching and taking a 4x4 through several Central American countries, hitching across Malaysia. I even had a spell working as a Divemaster and Scuba Instructor on the Great Barrier Reef and on Santa Catalina Island off the California coast.

The Bushcraft Biker blog will cover a wide range of topics - motorcycling camping being the main one, bushcraft kit, bushcraft skills, outdoor photography as well as bushcraft knife making. Anything and all things practical and outdoors.

So, sit back and hopefully enjoy the articles with a nice single malt or freshly brewed coffee, whatever your desire...