Welcome to the Bushcraft Biker Blog

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

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Across the Sea to Skye

Looking for adventure, myself and a friend decided to head up to Skye, choosing the excellent campsite in Dunvegan in the far west of Skye as a our destination. The campsite is surrounded by magnificent mountains and sits right on the waters edge giving a very dramatic backdrop for our overnight stay. The roads in Skye as you can see by the photographs are pretty stunning and full of wildlife of the larger variety. Feeling a little uncertain if it was the right way to approach these things, a little cattle herding was required to clear the road but you do find yourself thinking "what if that big beast turns round and starts chasing me"!

It was a great opportunity for the excellent Tentipi, this one my friends Varrie 5 which has developed a tendency to leak in heavy rain (going to be sorted of course by the supplier), but luckily the weather stayed dry for us despite the forecasts. The campsite provide a very simple and elegant solution to the problem of stoves or fires leaving charred grass behind, something I always try to avoid. Rather than campers making their own makeshift platform from beach pebbles, the site provides a steel plate bolted to two wooden blocks, keeping the fire off the ground and allowing you to position it wherever you desire. As you can see, the excellent Honey Stove sits well on this fire stand and as usual performed admirably. One thing I will need to remember for next time is to bring some gloves for assembling and dismantling the stove as it can be quite sooty which is fine if you're close to some water and soap but not so good if in the middle of nowhere. I've also been moving away from Light My Fire Maya Dust as the resin saturated sawdust does light with the firesteel but it takes a good few attempts. I much prefer "Hamaro Lighting Paper", a Sweedish product which can be found at http://www.lightingpaper.com and is basically a light-able, world friendly paper pulp that works well in the cold and wet. It's very cheap, takes a spark first time found at local army surplus stores and one packet should last a year or more.

I also find myself, despite having many similar alternatives, leaning towards the Spyderco Bushcrafter. This I believe is because its larger, wider handle shape fits my hand perfectly and it keeps a very "shaving sharp" edge. The blade I notice does have a very fine tendency to chip while battening, but that can be expected I suppose with all knives of this kind under heavy use and nothing a session on the whetstones can't remedy. However, after a good several months deliberation, I've now picked up a Rat Cutlery/ESEE RC-3 compact knife from www.eseeknives.co.uk and first impressions are that it will make an excellent campcraft tool. I'll be reviewing the RC-3 next month.

Overall then a great trip and another opportunity to try out some new bushcraft kit and enjoy the stunning Scottish scenery.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Buffalo Bushcrafter

I've been a quiet admirer of knife maker Stuart Mitchell's work for quite a while now and when one of his blades came up for sale I couldn't resist the handling opportunity! Stuart's knives are regarded as some of the best in the industry, being highly sought after and something I'd been looking at buying for a while.

This blade is 4mm 01 steel and with a slightly different "vibro" finish. Slightly hollow bevels with a mirror polished convex edge, a little different, well completely to the flat Scandi type grind I'm used to.

Buffalo is also another material I've been looking to use for a while and I sourced a few bits of extremely large buffalo from Highland Horn. At 15mm thick x 150mm long, I just wonder how big the buffalo was this set came from! Horn can be very tough stuff to work with but and I was quite surprised how transparent the buffalo can be in sunlight and the inherit natural flaws are just beautiful, well worth the effort.

With red liners and a coke bottle type profile as usual, the handle is finished to 600 grit then buffed up to a polish. Fellow British Blades member Marcus was very kind to supply me some of his excellent home machined nickel silver "corby" bolts and lanyard tube which were perfectly made I have to say.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Small Neck Knife in Camel Bone

For a good few months, I've been wanting to use bone or antler for a while on a project so decided to ask knife maker Mark (Hillbill) at British Blades for one of his pocket/neck knife blades to handle. Below you can see how the project started after I roughly cut the scales to fit, glued liners and drilled the holes for the pins.

The knife for this project is made from 01 steel, is 3mm thick, 5 inches overall length with a 2 inch scandi ground blade. It's handled in camel bone from Highland Horn with red liners and a lovely set of brass mosaics from Rob J Evs.

I really enjoyed putting this blade together with this jigged/dyed camel bone - it was a big learning experience and good practice when for when I finally get my hands on some of my dream knife material, Sambar Stag which this is supposed to be an alternative to.

The sheath was one I made a few weeks ago for another knife, actually a Driftwoodwalker Pocket Pal but fits this one perfectly luckily enough! The sheath has a firesteel holder and a few days after taking a photo of this knife I made a firesteel from the camel bone to match.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Spyderco Bushcraft Knife Sheath

Spyderco launched a bushcraft knife earlier this year and I was lucky enough to pick one up recently. It's a beautiful design with spalted maple handles and made in 01 steel. It feels great in the hand and looks trult stunning, not to mention being razor sharp. One thing that I did want to change was the sheath, the original being a little wide for my camping trips and lacking a firesteel holder. So I set about making my own traditional bushcraft style sheath.

The process started with a template that I have used on other bushcraft knife sheath projects and that I modify to suit by eye. I then cut out the leather and two welts to provide the correct width for the knife handle (thick in this case) and to allow the firesteel loop to be added in. I use a selection of implements that are cheap but made for jobs such as stitch grooving, stitch marking and edge finishing. These small tools make the job of making a sheath much easier and were sourced from a company called Le Prevo.

Once the sheath leather is cut, the firesteel loop is wet-formed and the holes drilled with a 1mm bit on a press drill, the process of stiching and gluing with Impact adhesive begins. I prefer a snug wet-formed design, with a lanyard hole and belt dangler that allows you to sit down without the knife handle digging into your side.
I finished the sheath with Fiebings Dark Brown Leather Dye and a coat of carnuba wax. The knife fits in a treat as does the Light My Fire firesteel and can be turned upside down without fear of either falling out to the ground.
I'm looking forward to using this knife on my next camping trip.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The first bike camping trip of 2010

As the weather has been a little colder than usual, planned attempts to venture out on the bike have been thwarted at the last moment by 50 year record snow and cold temperature events. As you know motorcycles and ice don't generally mix (steel-spiked tyre snow speedway bikes aside) so even the mighty BMW GS has to make way to four wheel drive occasionally. This past weekend and with Spring on the horizon the clear roads made a camping trip possible so it was back to our favourite Scottish camp site.

The rourte on the bikes took us up to Stirling, Killen and over the snow covered hills to Aberfeldy. From then on it was back down the road to Crieff and a nice days/evenings camping with a friend in the Tentipi. As you can see from the image, the snow was piled high at the side of the road by snow plows and at one stage was literally higher than both of us riders on our motorcycles.

During the trip I had a good chance to try out collecting some firewood with my new aptly named Spyderco Hossom Forrester. With it's green micarta handles and a razor sharp 10" blade, the Spyderco made a good alternative to the axe for gathering and chopping smaller pieces of fallen branches making an ideal camping companion. It would go through an inch thick piece of wood in one chop or something much larger if required.

It was great to be out on the bikes and we even stumbled upon an excellent horn craftsman's store on the road to Aberfeldy from Killin. I was very tempted to strap an Antler on the back of the bike and the craftsmanship of some of the goods in his shop were outstanding. I suspect that's why Mr Cameron Thomson has been there so long.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Bushcraft knife in Lacewood - Project No 4

Late last year I bought a very well made blade from maker HillBill as it was a little different from the norm and there was just something about it I liked. After having a good think about what I wanted to handle it in, I chose Lacewood and managed to source some lovely mosaic pins around the same time.

The blade is 01 steel, 3mm with a 4 1/2 inch handle and around 3 inch blade. It is scandi grind with a very micro bevel. It's shaving sharp as my arm can testify.

I decided with the lacewood to go with black liners so as not to detract from the beautiful wood. I also decided to go for a more rounded handle this time, still loosely coke-bottle shaped but a bt more chunky to give a good grip. I also remembered to line up the mosaic pins this time. I went with a smaller lanyard hole with brass tube than I have before due to it's closeness to the edge of the blade and as I like a lanyard hole. As lacewood isn't the most stable of woods for a knife handle I've been told, I soaked the handle in linseed oil overnight which has darkened the wood but is a bit more practical as this will be another user. It's finished to 600 grit then gone over with fine steel wool.

For the sheath I decided to try something a bit different this time. It's British Tan Fiebings dye, with a kind of strip application which I like. I also didn't wet form the sheath this time for a change and used a white waxed lined thread just to be different. I'm not sure of the results but it's growing on me and most importantly holds the knife securely.

Next time I'm going to try some camel bone or stag for a handle and maybe a smaller blade or a folder....

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Honey Stove at the Beach

After searching for a small stove for those times I don't want to lug the Tentipi firebox or Jetboil around I tumbled upon the Honey Stove from Backpacking Light. It arrived safely packaged and with a free bag of Skittles which put a smile on my face when I opened up the parcel. It's basically a few pieces of stamped metal which slot together to provide a simple but effective stove, big enough for a small pan or crusader type cup. All this makes for a very stable platform for making small meals and it's size allows you to use various small twigs or other bits of wood you find lying around.

So, for a first trial we headed to a beautiful, wild beach in East Lothian and set up the stove in a sheltered spot on the rocks on the beach. From the charring on the sheltered side of the rock it appears we were not the first to choose this spot and from the dark marks on the rocks I guess this place has been used for several hundred years to provide a great spot to cook. The amount of limpets and mussel shells make me suspect this has been a good spot for wild food for many years. However, I brought some contents of an army rashion pack I had left over from my last camping trip.

To get the fire going, I used a bit of cotton wool impregnated with a Vaseline type substance with a Light my Fire firesteel and brought a few pieces of dried kindling. Three pieces of kindling were enough to boil almost a litre of water in around 10 minutes which was impressive. Depending on what fuel you are using (you can also use a meth's burner from a trangia), you may wish to have a lid to cover your crusader cup as with any fire outdoors in the wind, ash can find it's way into your brew! The stove burns very efficiently and the various combination you can make it into provide a way of cooking small meals or bigger courses depending on your needs.

Overall I rate this Honey Stove highly and suggest at around £35 it's a pretty good bit of kit which should last many years.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Winter Camping Trip in the Tipi at Comrie Croft

A couple of mates and myself had planned a January camping trip at Comrie Croft for a while and we weren't going to let the snow put us off. We had the Nordic Tentipi, firebox and a good few other bits of kit to keep us warm. Firelighting was a bit trickier in the colder temps as was finding tinder but birch bark helped out a great deal as well as cotton wool for a back up with the firesteels.

Waterproof trousers were a must for snow clearing at first, but an improvised elastic band round the bottom of the combats saves your trousers getting wet in the snow. Thermals are a must underneath.

I got a chance to try out the new Mick Spain bushcraft knife I handled last week and enjoyed trying to identify all the wildlife tracks in the snow!

 Food was of the army ration and sausages type, the more carbs the better. Lot's of water was drunk (partly as the beer was just too cold) as dehydration this the blood in colder weather but a little Macallan 10 year fine oak whisky took the edge off the chill.

The trip was originally planned to be a biking adventure but temperatures in the minus degrees and lack of grit on the roads meant we had to go by 4 wheels. So much for Bushcraft Biker but I'm always one to agree with people who use the best tool for the job and the excellent Land Rover Discovery 3 was just the ticket. It certainly is practical but doesn't have any of the character of a motorcycle for a camping trip and essentially that fun part of the journey was lost but needs must.

I highly recommend camping in this weather but make sure as I'm sure you would to take the right gear and almost too many clothes. I ended up sleeping in two pairs of thermals, socks and two micro-fleeces.

I've another trip planned for late January and can't wait.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

I've fallen in love with Anjan - Bushcraft Knife Project 3

Although this is my third bushcraft knife project, it was the first blade I acquired and I just couldn't decide what to handle it in. After a suggestion from Jean at Knife Scales I decided to go with the hardwood Anjan (Indian I believe) and have to say it's a beautiful, if tough wood to work with!

The blade is 3mm thick o1 steel from Mick Spain, 220mm long approximately. It's razor sharp to say the least and my left arm was stubbly for a number of weeks after I decided to see how sharp it was!  I decided to use corby bolts again on this one and an 8mm brass lanyard tube supplied kindly by a fellow member.

The wood as I mentioned is Anjan and I used black liners on this one so as not to detract from the wood. Jean tells me the silver spots will turn to black with age so I'm looking forward to that. I finished the blade in 200 grit to remove a few scratches but I'm sure there will be many more as this is destined to be a well used tool and I can't wait to try it out next week while camping.

I made the handle slightly coke-bottle shaped once again and as I did it by hand (need to get a bench sander) took quite a few hours.

Overall a very positive experience with this particular knife.