Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meeting a hero...

Been a while as I've been kinda busy, but recently I've managed to meet someone I admire greatly, one Mr Ray Mears.

Yes that's right, Ray Mears, the UK's leading survival and bush craft expert, someone I've watched and learnt from through his DVD's and Book for a long while now. Have always wanted to meet him and see what he is like in real life.

The venue was Tumbridge Wells south of the UK, about 5-6 hours driving solid, (south of London) He was doing a talk on various Photo's he has taken over the years. Well it was quite an adventure getting down, what with traffic through London, getting there an hour late and missing a good chunk of Rays talk. Also having my car attacked by some madman in a red van with a stick for no reason what so ever, while I might add traveling at 70 mph (now that was surreal!).

Got down in time to still catch a good section of his talk and then the question and answers bit at the end, finally a book signing in the bar. That is where I met him in person. Its hard not to sound like a complete fool when talking about him, I've always admired this man, so meeting him was pretty special I think.

Impressions of him in real life. A genuinely nice man who loves his bushcraft, his life and is very passionate about them all. He even goes on to say what makes him different is that he likes to do bushcraft instead of talking about it. Amen to that.

Well I got one of his books signed and also got to have a brief chat to him. As you can see with the very grainy picture. Was happy none the less.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

New sharpening technique?

Just a short one :-)

Knife sharpening is a subject that I do enjoy reading about and playing with new techniques. I normally just use 2 Japanese whetstones, 1000 and a 6000 one. Stropping was just something I'd heard of people doing, well that soon changed.

Normally I get a basic edge with the 1000 stone then I'd move to the 6000 for a nice mirror finish. After reading about stropping with a leather belt and having watched it on Ray Mears Extra's on one of his DVD's. I thought stropping was just an unnessasary act done by knife sharpeners as a final ceremony.

After a particualr intense session I decided to give it ago for the hell of it.

Stropping is the act of drawing the blade bevel away from you on a piece of leather to remove any bur's from the edge. It removes the bur and gives a better more stable edge, less minute fractures.

After doing this for about 25 strops I tested it on the usual piece of paper and it sliced through effortlessly. Even tried it on my arm seeing if it would shave some hair. Well it did. I was impressed. From now on I shall be stropping my blade.

Also I don't really think I need to use the 1000 as much as it just really shapes the edge, while the 6000 does the sharpening. Just a thought.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Night in the woods

My first proper night out in the woods by myself, sure I've solo'd on mountains many times backpacking my way in the National parks. But this was my official first time in woods as a Bushcrafter. I was looking for a nice set of woods and I think I found it. The weather was set to be windy and rainy, I seem to have picked a fine night to do it!

Right gear wise I won't go into too much that I shall save later for a future post. I brought the basics Tarp, Bivvy bag, sleeping bag, water, food, fire making equipment of course and other items I thought I may find useful.

The site I found was very peaty so I couldn't build a fire on raw ground (underground fire risk). Luckily there were plenty of rocks near so I dug down a little and made nice rock bed for the fire. Next the tarp went up and fire wood was gathered for my dinner to be cooked on and the all important brew! Ended up just sitting the cup on the coals to heat me dinner and water, should of really made a hanger for it. (Note: If you look carefully you can just make out the cup on the left.)

The amount of firewood I actually went through was very surprising, I ended up gathering a lot more, but seen as I didn't have much main fuel near by and no axe I was limited to medium sized wood. It was enough to cook my dinner but not enough for a cup of tea, so I had to fall back on to the fuel tablets I brought as backup(Lucky) By this time I'd settled so didn't really fancy getting up again, plus it was pitch black.

The bivvy bag was out, mat inside and sleeping bag in ready, was time to write my journal. As it was dark I needed light so I thought it would be a good time to test the candle lantern. It performed brilliantly, nice warm light, subtle but enough to read and write with. And unaffected by wind and rain too. It was a bright moon at night, not quite full as yet but bright enough to throw silver light through the trees all about me. It was a very beautiful site, amazing how something so simple can stir such emotions. Just to think you'd never see any sights like this in the urban environment, the sky is normally bleached out by city lights. I think you lose a lot with when nature is pushed far away and excluded.

By this time the fire was out and smouldering, and I was happily writing away, it was getting cold and the temperature was dropping, wind started blowing too..was that movement? I decided to get the fire going again. After collecting what I needed I had a nice fire burning and it made a vast improvement to my morale. Amazing how fire can do this. The only fault I could find was that it was very smoky, as most of the wood I found was damp on the outside so I ended up smelling smoky. I shoved the rest of the wood I gathered on and climbed into my bag to sleep.

I slept well, it did rain but all I heard was the gentle pitter-patter on my tarp, I was glad I'd brought it instead of just bivvying. When I woke I reluctantly got out of my warm bag and got the stove running for a nice brew.

It was now time to go. Up came the rocks and I watered down the fire just to be safe. Next I made sure there was no trace of be ever being there, did my second litter sweep just in case I missed anything and walk out back to civilization. I was happy. Wondering when and where my next adventure would be.

What did I learn and what would I do differently?
Well I'd cut a lot more firewood, bring an Axe (which I haven't got yet) and I'd like to finish the stay without smelling like a smoked haddock! Perhaps a book to read and relax with? Oh and make the effort to make a pot hanger for me fire. That little extra effort would really be worth it.

Anyway, next up will be the gear I brought.