Another Bucksaw on the Loose

I am stunned to hear from several recent misguided enthusiasts to the gentle art of wilderness skills that their new hobby costs them so much money… I guess even our low-tech approach to life can be marketed and sold to the right customer with our ingrained need for newer, quicker, and “approved” gear. Let’s hope this ailment isn’t catching.

Making something for one’s self is, in itself, an act of rebellion in these troubled times so I thought I would share what I’ve been up to in the idle hours these past few days.

After someone sweet-talked me out of my last (and personal) bucksaw I was in need of a replacement. I lucked upon some beautiful walnut last year and set some aside to make a few saws. Straight-grained, strong, and beautiful, this 5/4 sawn chunk was ripe for carving into something nice. I spent far too much time in finish and detail on this one but a beautiful tool is much nicer to use than an ugly one and curves appeal more than straight lines to this gentleman.

There isn’t much need for a lengthy instructable for this design but notice that the straight grain was respected in all dimensions and runs the length of each arm. As for hardware, it was my intention to inset square nuts into the handles and connect the blade with round-head machine screws. However, looking through my hardware on hand, that would have required a trip to a store, so for now, we use carriage bolts and wing nuts.

The devil is truly in the details and it is a joy to carve such fine wood with sharp tools. The entirety is polished with Lundmark carnauba wax as it brings out the color and grain while providing excellent protection against water.

Wooden Packframe – The Final Draft

Expanding on Lessons Learned

In 2012 I decided to build a wooden packframe.  What started out as a Sunday afternoon project led me down many paths, from Iron-Age Europe to 21st Century military designs and it took about a year of stewing around before I actually got around to building something. It was fortuitous for me that Markus at 74 FOOTWEAR DESIGN CONSULTING wrote and excellent little history of frame packs at almost exactly the same time I began researching them myself.  Shortly thereafter, I discovered Steve Watts and Dave Wescott were delving into the same subject (great minds think alike I guess).  After collecting many photos and drawings I dove in, and using human measurements as much as possible, I built the frame below.

A few hickory boards and some simple steam bending created a design I liked.

I decided against metal fasteners for the original project so everything was pegged and tied with rawhide.

It didn’t take long to build and tying it all up with rawhide was a simple evening job. The next step was to create some sort of support to keep the frame from my back and attach shoulder straps.  This wasn’t as easy as it sounded since comfort and strength had to be combined while keeping possible chafing to an absolute minimum.

The two horizontal rods keep the uprights from converging under tension and the three cross-strakes are stabilized by being set in grooves on the uprights. The steam bent support and top bar add to the overall sturdiness of the frame.

I decided that simple was best so I used heavy leather, stretched tight, across the back kept the straps fairly straight-forward.

Several people asked about the need for a curved top bar; well why not? I like curves and I think it reminiscent of the Otzi-style simple frame.

 

An Otzi reconstruction. Click the image to see the article there.

Was it good enough?

The answer is probably.  It was mostly used to pack gear in for demonstrations and spent most of its time as a show-piece.  Honestly, over the years I owned it, it only went on one real backpacking trip, and that was even a fairly short one.  However, I learned some things along the way.  I like the shape, it was fairly comfortable, it was certainly sturdy enough,and it carried a heavy load without much difficulty or discomfort.  So the design was more-or-less right for me.

On problem was that I didn’t like the tensioning of the leather back straps as it was difficult to draw them tight enough.  That’s how packframe number 2 came to be.  I began by deciding to improve the back padding system but with a few other minor changes in mind, this happened.

A bunch of new parts generated themselves on my workbench one lazy afternoon.

Parts –

Recycled fir for the uprights came from a 125 year old door frame, some planks for the cross-bars came from the scrap pile, and a couple pieces were pulled from the first packframe.  Before I knew it, I was bending a thicker and better arch for the top piece and construction began.  Since I wasn’t working from a plan and there is no real standard for this type frame I pondered the whole thing for a couple days to decide how to fasten the parts (pegs, lashings, screws, or glue) and began assembly a few nights later.  I have gathered quite a few old screws of various sizes over the last couple years in my housing restoration so I decided to use those for the basic construction.

After too long a mental debate, construction went pretty quickly.

Construction technique –

As can be seen in the images, the cross-bars are let into the uprights in a simple lap joint for strength and racking stability and fastened with reclaimed brass screws.  The platform support is lapped and pegged with wooden dowels.

Side view showing lap joints and side supports.

I added a small oak angle brace to further support the platform support which is also lapped and pegged.  The small missing piece visible here is operator error.  When I was cutting the laps I was in such a groove that I cut the low one on the wrong plane.  I’ll probably fill the gap with a small wood piece, but for now, I live with the hideous disfigurement.  Also visible here are the walnut caps I pegged to the bottom of the uprights.  Old Douglas fir is a fine wood but can be very brittle and the end grain would probably not fare very well under hard use on rocky terrain.

The frame in all its glory, waiting to be packed and carried off into the sunset.

Straps and Suspension –

I chose 12 oz Hermann Oak leather for the lower pad stretched tight and permanently fastened to the frame with brass screws and finishing washers.  The essential suspension depends solely on the cordage being strung tight while the leather pad distributes to stress across a smooth and wide surface. I think it will be quite comfortable.

Shoulder strap connection, a whittled oak dowel that is easily removed.

I would like to make a removable rucksack for this frame and would like to be able to utilize the straps either so making them easily removable was a must.

Waist support, 12 oz harness leather. 6-7 oz leather was used for the back pad.

As for hip belts; I’m still undecided at this time but I suspect that sometime soon I will be constructing one.

A better view of the top arc and the overall harness.

I’ll continue to update the progress here and try to remember to take more photos along the way.  It really hinders work to have to think about documenting yourself along the way but I know people appreciate seeing the steps.

Walk in peace…

GTC

Making a Pack Basket

From one of my new favorite blogs Running With Sheep.  Johan and Sanne are a couple of remarkable outdoors – bushcraft – survival enthusiasts with more than a touch of philosophy thrown in.

bushcraft

Their most recent project shows how to convert a run-of-the-mill thrift store find into a functional pack basket.  From what I can tell, they are adept leather workers so their skill shows in this project.  Re-using found objects is an excellent way to economize both money and time, especially if it is something outside your skill set or craft specialty.

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Pack baskets are light and strong and a perfect choice for hauling anything from food to dirt.  Prehistoric people used them for everything, and the solid structure makes them useful even when not carried on the back (most of the time).

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If you can cut a few straight lines, do some minimal sewing, and hammer a rivet, this project is for you.  For the complete post, head over to Running With Sheep to learn more.  I suspect you’ll want to stay a while and catch up on their other posts as well.

Enjoy!

DIY Pack Basket:

https://runningwithsheep.com/2018/04/16/diy-pack-basket/

Wooden Mug, the end is in sight

Finally, after stepping away from this little project for two months, I’m nearly finished with this wooden noggin cup. I set it down in despair early on when the block started to check along the radial grain. Luckily though, storing it in a moist bag seems to have saved the project and I was able to remove the cracked ends to reveal this little mug inside.

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Canoe cup, noggin, kuksa, or guksi.  Whatever you call it, it’s nearly done.

The walls might be a thinner than is really prudent but I believe that once the maple fully cures it will fairly stable wood.  I knew of these as “canoe cups” from the historical references and their use by reenactors, but I’ve noticed that they have become very popular among the Bushcraft crowd the past few years. I’ve only made one large size cup like this (many years ago) but it wasn’t a thing of beauty and it is long since lost.

I can’t quite decide where to stop fiddling with it but it is essentially ready to use as is.  If I remember, I will post another, better photo, when it is complete.

Scout Staff Hiking Stick

Sometimes I wish carrying a walking stick was more acceptable in daily life. Maybe it’s just my yeoman heritage or my fondness for the old ways…

A review of Scouts, Calgary 1915.

To do so now, you tend to either look like a hoodlum or the walking wounded.  Living for so long in wild country I found that a staff was a handy tool that lends some confidence when encountering a wild hog, a rutting elk, or dog.  In my professional work as a field scientist it isn’t common to carry one either due mostly to the logistics of carrying a map, notebook, compass, GPG unit, pin flags and the like.  The reality is, you only have two hands.

The author with his antler-fork walking stick and his dog begging for a walk.

However, in the perfect world of semi-fantasy that I inhabit, I tend to keep a walking stick nearby and have several on-hand at any given time.  I’ve wavered over the years as to whether or not the extra burden is worthwhile and the truth I have settled upon is “yes, mostly.”  Other than the confidence it gives in an unwanted encounter, a staff really helps a walker crossing a stream or other rough terrains when heavily loaded.

As the great traveler Colin Fletcher wrote many years ago,it converts me when I am heavily laden from an insecure biped into a confident tripedThe Complete Walker.

The staff instills confidence and provides stability for the walker.

Here are a few other ideas for a walking stick and its many uses found around the Web. I’ll post a few more pictures of my own in upcoming posts.

In the mean time, if you are contemplating becoming a walker yourself, or already are, you may enjoy Henry David Thoreau’s short essay on the subject.  It’s a favorite of mine from a surveyor and philosopher who spent much time walking in the woods.

Walking, 1862

Save

“Make yourself a wool bush shirt” my article on ‘The Bushcraft Magazine’!

Excellent work from our Tuscany comrade. I hope to find the magazine and make one myself!

Wild Tuscany Bushcraft

One of my dreams  comes true!

Last month I’ve written a tutorial on making a wool bush shirt and this article… has been published in the Autumn issue of “The Bushcraft Magazine“!!!

how-to-make-a-wool-bush-shirt-article

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Pack Basket

In a fit of energy I got around to putting proper and better shoulder straps on my pack basket made last summer.  The pack is willow and the leather work is approximately 10 oz. Hermann Oak harness leather.

Once the leather ages a bit they will be beautiful and rustic-looking.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping

Sounds like a great time. Wish I were there!

Survival Sherpa

Guest post by Kevin Bowen

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

First off, I must thank Todd Walker for the opportunity to write this piece for his blog. He really wanted to attend Kephart Days this year but an even more important event took place the same weekend that required his attendance, the birth of a beautiful, healthy grandson. Congratulations good buddy!!!

I first met Todd online about a year or so ago and then had to chance to meet up with him and Bill Reese at one of the Workshop in the Woods classes, hosted by primitive expert/teacher/author, and all around great guy, Scott Jones. If you regularly follow Todd’s blog, you have been introduced to Scott already. Since then, I have garnered a great respect for Todd’s attitude, an affinity for his ideas and work ethic, and more than anything, a love for his friendship. It’s truly an honor to help him out…

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