Friday, 31 December 2010

Binding a Native Fishing Hook

This is another Video tutorial by Davy K. showing the correct way to make and bind a Native fish hook. These type of hooks have been made by native peoples around the world for centuries. They can be used to catch fish in both salt and fresh water from the trout to Halibut. 

Video tutorial produced by David Kennedy 

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Char Cloth tutorial

Davy k. one of our members quite kindly put together a tutorial on how to make Char cloth that will help with spark based fire lighting like the flint and steel or fire steel(

ferrocerium rod). 

Video and tutorial by David kennedy

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ulster guides training day Basic Fire

On  24th of November 2010 we commenced our series of courses with the Ulster Guides Instructors at Lorne House. The first was a basic fire course run by Gary. It started off with a talk on the uses of fire, for things like cooking and water purification, heat ,moral and position identification. Basic fire lays were also discussed.

The students were then given their first practical task to make a simple but sustainable fire using what knowledge they had of fire lighting. For this task they were only given 1 match to light their fire! This exercise brought home the realisation that fire is very important and cant be made quickly.

They had mixed success with this task as some fires were lit but didnt stay lit for very long. This was a good lesson for them learnt well, as although you may have reliable ignition sources like lighters and matches you should always collect and build every fire as if you only had 1 match. This means that you will prepare properly and spend time collecting the correct amount and quality of resources so nothing is left to chance when you strike that match. 

Gary then explained about the  ‘The Fire Triangle’ and about natural tinder’s which can be used to ignite from just a spark, like birch bark. The students then collected and graded different stage fuels from pencil lead thickness through to the main fuel wood. Gary then showed them how to make feather sticks and the importance of them for fire lighting in wet weather, the students then practiced making and igniting their own feather sticks with just their fire steels (ferocium rod). 

After a lot of hard work and lunch the mood relaxed slightly with a wild tree and plant walk where the properties and uses of different local trees and plants was explained in relation to the making of fire. From the correct harvesting of birch bark to the uses of willow and lime trees in the bow drill friction fire making process. The day ended with a few demos of ancient fire making skills, like flint and steel on char cloth and the bow drill fire making process. The finale of the course was a demo showing the use of fire for signalling purposes, which resulted in a huge plume of smoke being cast from a simple cooking fire. 

A great day was had by all and we would like to thank Gary for instructing and all that took part for the hard work and enthusiasm on the day and we look forward to our next course with them.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Review of Wood-Gas camp stove LE

All i want for Christmas is...........

After some very heavy hinting my wife Cheryl bought me this. I initially found it on the web and thought it was just the kind of bushcraft gadgetry that would satisfy my Christmas urges. What really interested me was it claimed to be really efficient and super green.
Wood gas stoves were invented as a result of research to find better ways of cooking in the third world where people often cooked on open fires in enclosed places resulting in illness due to breathing poisonous fumes. Basically a woodgas stove works by burning from the top down rather than the bottom up. As well as heat coming from the ignited fuel heat also radiates downwards causing the unburned wood to release wood-gas. Mixed with the smoke this wood-gas is drawn downwards through the vents in the inner section of the stove and then back up via a hollow skin section  where it  emerges through holes in the rim and is then ignited. You get a sort of double burn of the fuel as a result. The puritan Bushcrafter might frown at this since  a battery pack is used to drive an electric fan to draw the woodgas and air into an efficient mix. But as a result you get a much more efficient burn. It can also be made more ecological by using rechargeable batteries and a solar charger.

Here it is in the bag it came with.

When I unpacked it this is how it looks - you get the basic stove plus a battery pack, handle which can be used as tweezers and cross piece to put your pot on and of course a bag to hold it.

This initial choice of fuel wasn't the best - we had these dry Elder twigs in a bag in the garage and they didn't burn that easily, but it gave the stove a good test for its first use. The manufacturer advises using dried twigs and/or wood pellets.

I set the stove up outside on the back doorstep - you shouldn't light it in an enclosed space due to risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. I have to admit for the first lighting i cheated a bit and used a match and bit of Lucky Jim, but in the field it will be with fire-steel and traditional tinder.

This is with it first lit - I added the billy can and plugged in under low power. Low is meant to give about 1.5KW and high 3KW. My only disappointment is that the high ppower doesn't work so we'll have to return it :-((((

The flames getting up better here.

You can just see the jets at the top alight here.

Within a few minutes bubbles are starting to form at the bottom of the billy can.

Soon after steam was starting to come out the top.

Shortly followed by a good head of steam.

At last my first brew - tasted delicious and the stove handle was very handy for squeezing out my tea bag after. The handle is good as pair of tweezers for adding fuel to the top as well as lifting and moving the stove.

The stove is surprisingly cold on the outside - with a full flame going on the inside you can pick it up and hold it in your hand - it's sitting in the snow here and not melting it.
The fuel burnt down to just ash which has very little impact on the environment and also leaves no trace!

I was a bit miffed that i couldnt try the high power setting and sent an email of complaint on Christmas day, surprisingly i receive a reply and from a real person as well. As a result i will be doing a follow up of the manufacturers returns and warranty policy so stay tuned to see how that turns out. 
All in all i was very impressed by the wood-gas stove LE even without trying it to its full  capability.

Review by Alan Kearney

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Quinzee Craze.

Following on from Garys blog entry on his Backyard Quinzee and with the recent spell of snowy weather, both myself and Stuart had a go at our own. For you who dont know what a Quinzee is, its a snow shelter made by piling snow which wont stick together (powder snow) into a mound, allowing it to freeze ( also referred to as sintering) and then tunneling into it to create a living space. This is in contrast to an igloo which is a shelter formed by building hand cut blocks of snow. 

Stuarts Quinzee

To make this quinze I flattened down the snow in a circle about eight feet in diameter.  This would give me about six or seven feet inside when finished.  In the centre of the circle I placed a thirty litre barrel and piled snow on that.  After many hours of toil with a shovel I had a dome of snow about chest height. I flattened this down to compress the snow a bit and then placed sticks about a foot long each pointed into the centre of the dome.  I left this to freeze overnight and the next day I hollowed it out until I hit the sticks.  This gave an internal chamber about three feet tall and six feet in diameter.  

Pauls Quinzee

I made mine slightly differently. I made a pile of snow slightly over chest height and allowed it to sinter overnight (this is where the ice grains connect where they touch each other forming a strong but lightweight structure). I then tunneled into the snow pile. I didn't use any sticks for measurement like Gary and Stuart, i wanted to see if i could judge it by eye. I made the entrance just big enough for me to squeeze in lying on my back and i built a small return at the front to add shelter from the wind. I am 5'10" and i had a comfortable amount of room to sit up inside with out any problems, there was also enough room to lie down inside. I found a container of water had frozen in my back yard i managed to remove the top which was a perfect 2" thick piece of ice. I set about using it to make a window in the side of the Quinzee which worked very well for letting in light.

Improvised Snow shoes

I had seen Ray Mears make these and I thought I would give it a go.  When I was gifted two days off work due to snow and I couldn’t miss an opportunity!

Firstly, I went and cut a dozen straight willow saplings and picked the best looking ten.  It was like a winter wonderland and I had a friend in the form of a curious little robin to keep me company.  I cut them with a folding saw at each end to the same thickness and put them in the car. 

Back home, I cut the willow rods to be slightly longer than I am tall (6ft) and stripped the bark.  I then pointed the rear ends to ease travel.  Then I tied them at one end using a clove hitch and found the balance point.  This is where the ball of the foot goes.

I had a couple of pieces of hazel, which I split to use as cross pieces.  I lashed the cross pieces on using twine – one at the balance point and one at the heel.  This was probably the longest job!  Interestingly, another little robin came up to see what I was doing!

I loosely tied the rear ends together and bent up the front ends like skis.  This needed some cord slightly stronger than the twine as they are under more tension.

I used thin polypropylene twine for the lashing, which is ‘slippy’ and doesn’t hold knots well – but I was improvising.  I expect that as the willow seasons over the next while the lashing might loosen.  I will probably rebind them all with better stuff at some point.

I tried using some leftover elasticated upholstery webbing as bindings that I had used for making canoe seats, but they stretched too much.  I bought a bit of 25mm polypropylene webbing and that worked really well.  Tying the bindings on so that they didn’t loosen took a bit of jiggling but finally got it.

I took them out in a local field with a good depth of snow and they worked really well.  It was an interesting project – not sure if I would have enough cordage in a survival situation to make them – but you never know. 

Pictures and write up by Stuart staples.