Thursday, 29 September 2016

How to Make Pine Pitch Glue

There are several different types of natural glue that can be made and pine pitch glue is arguably the easiest due to the ready availability of ingredients, and the simplicity of manufacture. 



There are three components going in: The Pine resin  (clear, runny, solid all mixed up), charcoal acts as a temper (and stops the finished product being contact sticky) and beeswax prevents it being too brittle.


This is a 330ml drinks can with the sloping top cut off carefully with scissors, and several holes have been punched in the bottom but more on that later.


The charcoal needs grinding up and the finer the better for the finished product. Ground up grass and  dried herbivore poop can also be used but charcoal's OK for me thanks!


The beeswax in this picture is shaved from a larger block. Not much is needed.


The reason for the drinks can with holes in is that because the pine resin isn't of a regular standard or purity (pure stuff is called rosin) it needs a melting in a rudimentary filtering system, and a holey can is about as rudimentary as it gets. I've seen muslin suggested but I reckon you'll lose a lot as it gets stuck in the material. I'd guess if this was an uncut can the pine might have filled say 60% of it. It is inside the tin from the first picture.

 

It will start smoking almost a split second after hitting the heat and the length of Elder in the top is to help to encourage the lumps to liquefy. Keep the heat low as it can spontaneously erupt into flame without so much as by your word. The shot on the left is with the heat off temporarily to show the initial clear resin issuing out of the drink can holes.


Even at this early stage the untreated pine on the end of the elder stirring stick is taking on very glue like qualities. 

 

Once you've got all you think you can out of the drinks can (you don't get that much out considering the amount that is melted) it's time to add the charcoal and beeswax. Theories on the amount vary but I'm not  at the stage of being overtly scientific so at a guess I'd say 15-20% of the total is charcoal with  about a rough teaspoon of beeswax. Once it is all melted and combined, again over a low heat stir a pencil sized stick around around in the liquid and twist t around. The pitch will slowly go off and set. You can squeeze it into shape with your fingers when it goes a matt colour but a word of warning, try too soon and it will be hot.


And this is my pine pitch glue 'lollipop' just before it had finished setting. Will certain types and colour of charcoal make a difference? Maybe, Are there good and bad beeswaxes to use? Possibly, are there better types of coniferous to consider using? Quite possibly. I'm not claiming to make the perfect pitch but it does for my hobbyist bushcrafting needs and that'll do for me. Have an experiment. To use it apply a gentle heat to the end and drip it into place.


I recently used some on a 1-2-1 day with Will Lord making an atlatl that had the crested flint tip held in place with pine pitch glue and nettle fibre. You can  buy glue sticks from Will but it's rather satisfying pulling it together yourself.

Dave Watson Friction Firelighting 1-2-1

If you are a hobbyist bushcrafter (or anything similar to that) then there's a good chance that you'll know that Dave Watson (Woodland Survival Crafts) is synonymous with traditional fire lighting methods, a view that was heavily reinforced in me when flicking through his many articles in some of the early Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine issues. That's not to say Dave is all about fire because he did many non-fire articles, he runs a series of different courses and is an established IOL trainer and assessor. 



Pic from The Bushcraft show 2016.


 I've become reasonably competent with a bowdrill and regularly update and tweek this labour of love blog page. In early 2014 I arranged a bowdrill 1-2-1 with Jason Ingamells at the World of Bushcraft to talk through all aspects of bowdrilling and to critique how I was doing it.

I did realise that whilst I can source materials, bring them home and make a set to use I've never done so whilst in a wood all in one go. Anyone who has read any of my most recent blogs will have seen me droning on about my sabbatical, well unlucky, here I go again. I attended my first Wilderness Gathering this year and approached Dave about a) Purchasing a hand drill and b) Sorting out a 1-2-1 with him.



Dave sends out clear directions to join him in the woods, the entrance is something you may well overlook in isolation, but it is very near a prominent road sign (which is mentioned) and this Woodland Survival Crafts sign really helped too.


The first impression is good as you head down a track through thick forest. As I was here to bother wood with friction I decided to try and take in what tree species I could see. The base camp is very spacious with an impressive yurt style hub. 


A smiling Dave strode over to meet me and we had a brew in the yurt whilst I gave him a potted history of where I was at with my friction fire lighting. In compiling different wood combinations for my afore mentioned bowdrill blog page I have used fair weather and Limpet shells for a bearing block to ensure continuity, so it would be interesting to get to grips with a wooden one again. We then took our brew outside where Dave had placed a large amount of bow drill kit. He then proceeded to burn in a depression with arguably the slowest, most laid back bowing action I've ever seen.


But no time to sit back and admire, it was my turn. Again this wasn't a session to pop an ember but a chance for Dave to see me bowing and to analyse my stance and style. Apart from moving my foot a microsmidge closer to the drill I got a tick (as in on a chart, not one giving me Lymes disease). 


We then went out for a bimble through the woods with Dave talking through the various woods with their uses in various parts of a bow drill kit. In this shot we are looking at a Laurel for the bearing block. If you ever meet up with Dave ask him to tell you his Laurel joke...

 

Dave also explained about actually making a bow from fresh wood with a view to using it a few weeks later, but also to use it here and now. This is a length of Hazel the he, and then I, shaped. He also showed me a useful variation on the notches for the cordage too.


It was at this stage that I revealed I had  an unopened bag of survival ration Jellybabies but Dave declined any, so as I started on a slow sugar rush we went off to talk about drills, looking at various lengths, sizes and indeed colour analysis of the inner would which can tell you a lot about possible water content, age etc. 


I usually go for a drill that is elbow to wrist in length but the one I was going to use is around 5cms longer so again, that was going to be interesting. I'm not the worlds best at shaping drills so I often stopped and took it over to Dave just to assess it using the you can cut more off but can't stick it back rule.

 

Two bases were to be made; one Lime and one Sycamore and a Froe, saw and axe were used. The Sycamore was a rather tricky attempt and although my splitting resulted in a slightly tapered end, Dave was pleased with the effort and said it had come out as well as expected. It does reinforce the point that a baseboard doesn't have to be  geometrically perfect via a circular saws attentions to work. Two bearing blocks from the Laurel were then completed I was shown a nice precision cutting technique that I was, to be fair, a bit ham fisted at but it works well with a board depression too and will be worth mastering. And that was the set pretty much ready.

 

We checked the bow and it had adopted a narrow curve so it had a bow sting added and now was the moment to test it out. Mindful of seeing how slowly Dave bowed at the beginning I tried to emulate it...But was told to slow down. When I first taught myself I used to go from nought to nutter in the blink of an eye, only learning it wasn't necessary much later on. When you've got a natural rhythm worked out changing it is something you have to think about but sure enough the smell, smoke and dust duly arrived at laid back miles per hour.


Whilst the ember coalesced I made up a  tinder bundle with a little Reedmace seed at it's centre and decided to show Dave how I'd prepared it (y'know whilst I was here and all that). when I offered the coal up to the bundle I had a bit off an issue because it had adhered to the ember pan and broke up a little but was still viable enough to produce flame.


After a quick break for some tuck we were on to the next part of the fire journey, namely the handdrill. I brought along the set that I'd purchased  at the Gathering and had a basic run through whilst there. I was doing a little and often at home and had made some smoke and even got an 'ember' on the end of the drill but was finding that my hands were getting a bit sore rather quickly and I'd hit something of a wall. 

Dave wanted to test the set to check it was OK (it was of course), I'd set my camera up in time lapse mode and I rather like the one above as Dave is testing the set I'm meaning business by peeling off my hoodie.


As with the bowdrill earlier Dave asked my to start so he could see how I shaped up position and technique wise. He gave me some drill speed to pressure guidelines and also suggested that I needed to get my body over the set more and involved.


I give a good go but felt spent and frustratingly Dave reckoned 10% more umph would have seen an ember. Well I say frustrating but equally I was also buoyed that I had come so close. A rest was needed and that rest came in the shape of a play with a pump drill, so no rest at all! I'd made one at home that didn't gather enough momentum so it was handy to not only see one close up but to get some usage muscle memory. I did however think 'Damn, another project to add to the list'.


But there was no escaping the hand drill, so by the power of more consumed Jelly Babies I had another crack. Remember the slow and smooth drilling mentioned earlier? Well by the end of this attempt I was grunting and gritting teeth but when you've got a master fire maker issuing encouragement and telling you that you are close you just do.


I'm glad he did too as he suddenly exclaimed 'You've got an ember'. Seeing it whisked me back to September 28th 2008 because that was the date that I made fire using a bowdrill on attempt number five. I arrived at this ember along a different route (a purchased set and help) but that matters not one bit.  


When I practice bowdrill I often don't blow the coals to flame but as this was the first hand drill coal it needed closure. Again I had a minor wobble when blowing it into a flaming mass but I got there in the end.


I'm glad I brought along a smaller second camera as Dave grabbed it and captured the moment for me which was peachy. What a way to finish the half day! I packed up my stuff and bid Dave farewell. 

This experience reminds me of Andy "Bravo Two Zero" McNab's autobiography when he said during weapons training after passing an officer asked why they were doing it as they already used them. He got kicked off the training because you can always learn something new however small. I've had really useful nuggets about shaping bows, dimensions, knotting bowstrings, caring for a new ember, loading  a drill, cutting bow notches, tinder bundles, speed, positioning, cutting depressions, wood analysis and probably loads more besides.

 

On the drive home I could occasionally smell the smoke on my hands (friction smoke smells different to smoke from a fire somehow) and it was a constant reminder of a successful and enjoyable experience. I also checked my hands when I returned home to see what state they were in after my hand drill exertions and I'm pleased to say that there were signs of wear and tear but importantly, no blisters. Dave doesn't go on social media and gets a lot of clients by word of mouth and reputation and I'm no different. 










Monday, 26 September 2016

Bushcraft & Survival Skills Article Guide 61-90

Now on it's third article reference blog page. As with any publication there has been a lot of individuals contributing stuff and  inevitably some are still here, some not. I am still going to colour certain long term contributors names using the colour chart produced on the previous two article pages (to help zero in on their work, see links below). There are some new regulars but if you look back at the other two pages of article reference you'll see I've pretty much used up all available combinations of colour hence the reason they are black and white. If you spot an error etc do let me know please.

Despite the blog title it's obviously not up to issue 90 yet, it is an ongoing reference that is added to as the magazines are published.The magazine article blog page from issues 1-30 can be found here, and issues 31-60 can be viewed here



Issue 61

Ben & Lois Orford-How to make a Kydex Sheath
Ray Mears Q and A feature/ How to Tie and Evenk
Lofty Wiseman-Parting Shot
Jamie Dakota-Given the Forecast we Were Hopeful
Geoffrey Guy-Fur and Feather
Man in the Ice (Konrad Spindler) book review
Olivia Beadsmore-The Son of a Survival Expert (Perry McGee)
Craig Fordham and Dave Watson-Mastering the Bowdrill
Jason Ingamells-Have a go at Making Rawhide
Tim Gent-Of Mossies and Men
Grant Neale-Petromax Feature
Ian Nairn-Budget Pimped Tomahawk
My Year Without Matches Escaping the City in Search of the Wild (Claire Dunn) book review
Grant Neale-Head and Feet Kit Review
Paul Kirtley-Foraging for Early Greens
Olivia Beadsmore-The History, the Ritual, the Power and the Physics of a Fire Walk

Issue 62

Ben & Lois Orford-Grow Your Own (wood)
Bjorn Arnfred-Bow Hunting in Uganda
Grant Neale-Growing Risk of Limes Disease
Lofty Wiseman-Nothing as Frightening as Fear
Olivia Beadsmore and Snjezana Jojic-Recipes for Cough Medicines and More
Tim Gent-Keeping Things Dry Afloat
Dave Watson-Something for Everyone
Geoffrey Guy-If You Go Down to the Woods Today
Epic Survival (Matt Graham) book review
Grant Neale-'Camp Kit' Showcase
Jason Ingamells-Practical Uses for Rawhide
Ffyona Campbell-Spring Wildfood
Flint and Steel kit Showcase
The Ash Tree (Oliver Rackham) book review
Ian Nairn-Budget Tom Brown Tracker Knife
Grant Neale-Portable Stoves on the Go
Jon Ridgeon -Two Designs for a Home-Made Cherry Picker
Paul Donovan-Navigation, a Basic Skill

Issue 63

Ben & Lois Orford-How to Make Wooden Tongs
Naomi Walmsley-Bare Hands Cooking
Lofty Wiseman-Time
Dave Watson-Propeller Thingamajig (Whimmy Diddle)
Pablo-The Senses and Fieldcraft pt I
Tim Gent-A Very Long Walk
Ian Nairn-Budget Bike Tyre Sandals
Craig Fordham-Know Your Knots
Bushcraft, a Family Guide (John Bow and Owen Senior) and the Usborne Outdoor Book (Alice James, Emily Bone and Briony May Smith) book reviews
Jason Ingamells-The Ash Tree
Olivia Beadsmore-The Bushcraft Show 2016 Review
Ross Douglas-Designing my First Bushcraft Knife Showcase
Grant Neale-Sleep System Review
Giles Newman-Spoon Carving
Paul Kirtley-Kit Considerations

Issue 63

Ben & Lois Orford-Blade Show and Beyond (USA)
Noami Walmsley-Let There be Light
Lofty Wiseman-After the Show was Over
Tim Gent-Coranoe
Ian Nairn-Budget Insect Repellent
Dr. Sarita Robinson-Can Bushcraft Improve Health and Well-being?
Out on the Land-Bushcraft Skills From the Northern Forest (Ray Mears and Lars Falt) and Grand Adventures (Alistair Humphries) book reviews
Jason Ingamells-The Birch
Olivia Beadsmore-Will Lord, Flintknapper Extraordinaire 
Grant Neale-Gerber Showcase
Grant Neale-Outdoor Watch Showcase
Pablo-The senses and Fieldcraft ptII
Dave Watson-Versatile Reedmace
giles newman-carving a flower spoon
Nick Allen-From Online to Offgrid















Friday, 23 September 2016

Jack Raven Bushcraft medicinal plants 1-2-1


The first time I'd heard of Jack Raven Bushcraft was actually on social media, with the name cropping up on the usual haunts frequented by outdoorsy folk on Facebook and mentioning everything from regular courses to IOL courses as wellI met  Gary at my first ever Mayday Meet and amongst other things that he was doing he had a display of natural plant creams for various aliments. I therefore decided to book a bespoke medicinal plants 1-2-1 with an overnight stay with Gary as part of my sabbatical


 Once we'd sorted the detail out he emailed me the the directions/ meeting up PDF which was more akin to a welcome pack and very helpful. He later said that the idea is to not only be informative but to help prevent folk getting lost en route so he then doesn't have to field calls whilst getting ready to deliver a course.



Well if the joining up notes weren't detailed enough the sign on the farm outbuilding told me I had successfully  reached the right place too.

 

I met up with Gary and his dog Willow on a glorious Autumnal morning in undulating countryside and then without further ado we proceeded to the wooded base camp with my kit. My first impression was that a lot of work and thought had gone into the camp. Not only was there the usual paraphernalia such as parachute suspended over a fire but also a green woodworking and smithy area (which is done in association with Kaos Blacksmiths who I will be visiting in November), even the bird feeders and pinned up reading matter in the compost toilet...Which had a scat chart right by the throne!


We kicked off with a quick tour off the base camp and then, almost inevitably we had a brew. before we set off down country tracks... 


...In and out of the farm looking, talking and foraging...We not only discussed medicinal plants but also anything of interest on the bimble too. 

 

...And along small country roads with me reaching for my notepad and pen to start scribbling notes as we paused. It's worth a quick credit to Willow who was really biddable whilst we were out.


To make sure that I had some pictures I set my camera on a tripod in time lapse mode and predictably had lots of shots of flora, sky and both of us as I carried it from location to location.


We returned with various foraged leaves and Gary then set about making some teas to which we also had some previously gathered dried ingredients. 


We spent quite a while sampling the Nettle, Willowherb, Ground Ivy, Nettle, Plantain  and, Elderflower like wine aficionados,  trying to describe what the aromas reminded us of. Gary's best one was a herby sausage roll and the Ground Ivy really reminded me of the smell that you get from Nettle syrup.


After we'd finished that section we then had another regular brew and set about destroying a tupperware container of biscuits that I had stashed away in my stuff.

  

After having a packed lunch with the Autumnal sun still with us we then moved towards looking in a little more detail at the various ways that medicinal plants can be prepared and then used internally and topically. Some methods would be a little beyond my preparation and usage skill set but equally it's good to have the knowledge written down and it's a useful skill to know when not to attempt something.  Incidentally the table we are sat at is for course participents to use during lunch and tea breaks so that not only have they got a decent spot to eat but it is a way of promoting banter and bonding between folk as they eat.

 

During the discussion we looked at Gary's collection of previously prepared oils, dried flowers etc (some of which went into the teas we made) and the sun really set the liquids off as I took these photos.


The next step was to convert some of the infused oils into creams. Another nice touch is that Gary will bring along a plastic storage box of books relevant to a day or course and we occasionally dipped into them during this process. In the right hand side picture I'm weighing out some beeswax onto a really delicate set of scales.


And here is a close up of the measured oil and the scales with the weight equivalent of beeswax in. That's 30g being weighed out and the delicate scales almost force the user to be delicate too.


And then into a pan on a low heat until the 'ingredients' have got to know each other and are totally blended together.


Once this is achieved the liquid is carefully poured into labelled jars which are then left undisturbed to set in a gentle breeze blowing through the preparation area. The three creams are Plantain, Self Heal and Comfrey.


Once we'd finished all things medicinal Gary took me on a quick tour of the woods just before tea time. Talking of tea I'd said during the organising of this 1-2-1 that I'd do some for us both. This is a Tikka curry and I'll just take this point in time to say that I wouldn't be without the vacuum sealer that I used to bag this as it has so many outdoor applications, and indeed it works in tandem with a dehydrator too.


Whilst tea was warming through I nipped off to set up for the night and I'd decided on a ground dwelling night with a tarp for a roof.  There was some low level cover to the left to help minimise draughts but after having  an initial  setup brain fart I adopted a closed end. This is a DD Tarp M which gives me that little extra length to comfortably lose the end to make the wedge design. Incidentally you can see Gary's Lavvu style tentage in the background.


After tea I went and set up a trail cam near a badger sett and then returned later for a sit spot. It was a really still night so that was in my favour.


One series of pictures showed two badgers and there was a brief appearance from a Fox. As for the sit spot...They seemed to stay that far side of their sett and I didn't see them from my position but I could hear them crashing about. I decided to return and chill after 90 minutes.


The morning saw the weather set fair again so kit was stowed quickly and easily. I did tea in a Dutch oven but I usually use a non-stick Primus saucepan and after knocking out a bannock I did this cooked breakfast with ease. I had intended to rey and cook the scrambled egg in an origami style container but it turned out to be a little too small. No porblem though when your plan B is a non-stick pan. I cooked it to a not quite done state and fliiped it out, I then pan fried some of last nights curry potatoes, some pre-chopped bacon and a defrosted sausage and then flopped the nearly scrambled egg back in at the eleventh hour.


I beat a lazy retreat from the woods, (who in their right mind would want to rush?) and decided to head for a whistle stop visit to first the RSPB reserve at Dungeness which was close by, and then to RSPB Rainham Marshes on the way home.

 It wasn't my first time visiting Dungeness but it was my first visit to the RSPB reserve. Of the flora there was a final hurrah from the Viper's Bugloss and Ragwort with the highlight being dozens and dozens of Martins and Swallows probably topping up on the way to Africa. If I was a Hobby making the same journey back as these herundines then I'd make sure I stopped off in TN29 en route. 

Sad as it harks back to when we used to see large numbers all summer back in the day and that this was probably our last sight of them in blighty before they cross the channel.


For me Rainham Marshes is just through the Dartford Tunnel and then left so it wasn't too much of a detour. There the beautiful powder blue Chicory and vibrant yellow Wild Rocket was still to be seen, and lots of House Sparrows could be heard chirping from cover. The Dungeness visit wasn't bad, the Rainham visit was OK but the Jack Raven visit was exactly what I was hoping for a more. Recommended.