Monday, 31 December 2007

Lime Bark Cordage

Having processed the Lime bark I have now been making some cordage. Lime bark has long been used for cordage and rope. The latin name of Small-leaved Lime is Tilia cordata (cordata meaning cord).

The cord in the picture below demonstrates different sizes of cords for a variety of uses; starting with a fine cord suitable for sewing and progresses through various sized cords, terminating with a piece of rope.

This cord has been made using the twisting method. Here is a closeup

This fishing line I am making is platted however.

Here in this closeup you can see the three strand platting

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Processing Lime bark for cordage

8 weeks ago I placed some Lime bark into a stream to begin the process of "retting" (Retting dissolves pectins which bind the fibers together, by the actions of bacteria. The bacterial decomposition that occurs during water retting produces a sweet smelling odor.)

Now that the retting process was completed it was time to remove the bark and process it for cordage.

The retting process allows tissue thin layers of the inner bark to be removed

in long lengths

The thin strips are hung to dry and can then be stored for use when necessary.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Sweet tin smoker

I decided to cook my family Salmon for dinner this Christmas, but rather than baking it in an oven, I utilised an empty sweet tin to make a simple hot smoker.

I drilled a series of small holes each side, through which I inserted thin metal rods (cut from an old oven shelf) as a shelf for the fish to rest on. I also drilled a hole in the lid to allow the smoke out.

I cut a small branch from a Wild Plum tree and shaved with my knife. The shavings I then placed in the bottom of the tin as flavouring for the fish.

The fish had to be cut into four pieces and smoked individually. I used tyme and garlic butter to add flavour.

I ignited some charcoal in a metal tray, placed the lid loosely on the tin and then placed the tin one the charcoal. As the shavings in the tin were heated by the charcoal, they gave off smoke which was absorbed by the fish and the heat generated also cooked the fish.

After only 15 minutes the piece of Salmon was cooked perfectly and had a fruity smoked flavour.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Seasons Greetings

Just wanted to wish everyone a Seasons Greetings, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Sewing needle holder

I wanted to add a sewing needle to my neck pouch for repairing clothes, bit needed to find a way of carrying it securely and safely.

I decided to use a small bone and first cut the bone a quarter of the way along it's length using a piece of flint.

I abraded the two ends to give a smooth fit and then needed to devise a way of keeping the two parts of bone together . For this I cut a piece of quill from a feather

and inserted this into the long piece of bone. The hollow quill provides a snug fit for the needle once inside it.

Part of the quill protrudes, allowing the top to fit securely onto it. The picture below shows the two pieces of bone pulled apart slightly to enable you to see the quill.

Here is the needle and completed holder.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


A friend of mine has just returned from a three week trip to Costa Rica and brought me back a rather nice gift, this machete

The blade is made from Japanese steel but has no edge to the blade when purchased, so I have spent some considerable time filing and honing the steel to produce a fine cutting edge. I removed the branches from a fallen tree with it and I have to say that it performed very well.
I plan to put my own handle on it though.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Mini compass zip pullers

I bought 15 mini compass zip pullers from Ebay for only £2.50 for all fifteen (including delivery). I was somewhat skeptical about them based on the price, but all of them work and are a useful stocking filler and a good addition to any mini survival kit.

Seller here

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Netting and smoking fish

When I was last in Lapland I was able to catch fish using nets for the first time. We put out 100m of nets and caught over 60 fish.

The majority of fish caught were White Fish and there were also a few Perch and Pike. To preserve the catch, we were going to smoke them, but before this they had to be gutted and their scales removed.

The picture below is of my smoker.

There are two chambers in the box; the lower is where you make a fire and in the top half of the box you first put items to create the smoke and help flavour the fish (I used Alder shavings and Juniper), then on a tray above this the fish are placed and the lid is then closed.

Ideally the fish are put into salt for a few hours prior to smoking to help remove moisture, but we had no slat available to do this.

After about 40 minutes the fish were completed.

If you are not fortunate enough to have a smoker, a biscuit tin can be utilised to create a smoker for use on a campfire.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Long-tailed Field Mouse

When I went to measure the weekly rainfall on the reserve, I opened the wooden box containing the measuring gauge and to my surprise, there was a Field Mouse which when I opened the box, ran into the measuring tube.

It had also made a nest in the box where we keep the measuring gauge and after I released it from the tube, it disappeared into the nest.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Securing tarp lines

I currently carry a piece of Pertex material in my pocket with three pieces of para cord to use as a tarp shelter. It packs down very small and is relatively lightweight.

Rather than cutting holes in the material to enable me to secure the para cord (which can lead to tears or runs in the material), I take something like a pebble, handful of grass or leaves or even an old snail shell

I place this on the underside of the material and then wrap the material around it. Then I make a loop in the para cord and place over it and pull the cord tight.

Then I can suspend the shelter using available trees.

Monday, 10 December 2007

A simple clothes peg

This is a simple peg I made based on a drawing I saw in a picture in a book while in Canada.

I removed the bark from a piece of willow and then split it in half. I cut a small v-notch in each half for a pivot to seat into.

Using some willow bark, I lashed the pivot in position. I then shaped a wedge from another piece of willow to insert at the back of the peg.

The wedge is used to hold the peg closed and grip the item the peg is to be used for.

I am using it here as a coat hanger but it could also be used as a tarp clip.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Submersion through ice at -30 degrees

In February this year I spent two weeks with my friend DR Heiko Schmidt at his home in Swedish Lapland. We had had several conversations concerning immersion through ice at the extreme temperatures encountered and factors affecting subsequent survival. We decided to undertake an experiment wearing clothes typical for the climate, to answer the question: “What happens if you break through the ice in harsh conditions?”

We wanted to establish whether it is possible to get out of the water, strip to woollen thermal underwear, and roll in the snow to absorb moisture from clothing, then walk and maintain activity, collect tinder and light a fire.


Because the ice was over one metre thick, we had to locate an area of open water which in this case was a fast running stream. The air temperature was -30 degrees (dry cold - at such a low temperature any moisture in the air has been converted to frost) with a light wind. Those involved were wearing clothing typical of dry cold conditions; woollen thermal underlayers and cotton outer. No assistance was provided to the individuals undertaking the experiment.

Test 1.

My parts of the experiment were to first walk into the water wearing three pairs of woollen socks, then walk through the snow for twenty minutes and maintain warm feet. Next wearing two layers of Ruskovilla merino wool thermals and my three pairs of woollen socks (I also had a cotton outer layer, typical outer wear in a dry cold climate) I entered into the ice water and submerged myself,

then exited the water and immediately removed my cotton outer layer (to prevent them potentially freezing to my body)

and rolled in the snow to absorb as much water from the wool as possible.

I then walked for twenty minutes in the forest to generate body heat.

Test 2.

Heiko then entered into the water wearing one layer of merino wool thermals and two pairs of socks. After emerging from the water Heiko walked for ten minutes and then collected fuel (birch bark and dead spruce branches) and lit a fire using a firesteel.


Although my outer layer of socks froze, my feet were warm and I was able to walk without discomfort. Following submersion, after an initial feeling of coldness, there was no shivering that would indicate a drop in core temperature. After rolling in snow and walking for two minutes, even though Heiko was only wearing one layer of thermals, we were both tolerably warm (still with no shivering). Wearing two layers, after twenty minutes body heat had increased and I felt warm and comfortable (apart from the genital area) considering the climate conditions.

Wearing one layer, Heiko found the experience bearable but not comfortable though again no shivering to indicate a drop in core temperature. After ten minutes walking, he had no problems collecting tinder and lighting fire with a firesteel. However, kneeling on snow with one layer of thermals was very cold leading to eventual numbness in the knees and feet.

When removing wet thermals and changing to dry clothes, both of us experienced shivering indicating the beginning of a drop in core temperature. After a few minutes in dry clothes we both felt ok.


Despite the harsh conditions of very cold water and an air temperature of -30 degrees there were no significant problems with major drop in body core temperature, indicated by lack of shivering. We both felt we could have continued much longer, however two layers of thermals appeared to be more beneficial than one. With outer clothing removed, we experienced no problems walking around for 20 minutes or collecting tinder and lighting a fire.

Wool is capable of absorbing up to 35 per cent water without feeling damp. After absorbing moisture, chemical reactions take place in its fibres releasing heat and as result making the fibre feel warm against the skin.
The water-repellant properties of wool are explained on the Ruskovilla website; “the surface layer of wool contains small micro pores which enable the fibre to let air through it. The pores are so small that water droplets cannot pass through the fibre's surface, but evaporated or molecular water (sweat) can pass through the surface pores. Therefore, wool is also somewhat water-repellent.”

If immersed for a longer period the outcome might be very different.

From our experience we would suggest;

  1. Insulation on the ground while lighting a fire such as spruce boughs may be beneficial
  2. Spare clothing carried in a waterproof bag makes a considerable difference
  3. Lacking snow, remove woollen under-layer, wring out and put back on again
  4. Remove outer layers quickly and lay out neatly in the snow to enable easier drying by the fire.
  5. Find shelter from the wind as soon as possible.

Heiko shortly after our experiment was completed.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Personal Kit

I thought I would take a picture and describe the items I carry with me all the time.

At the top of the picture is a necklace I wear with a Sycamore spoon and Elder beads on it.
To the left of the picture are the contents of my reindeer leather neck pouch.

From the top;
1. Small knife, with blade, scissors, tooth pick and small tweezers.
2. Some reindeer sinew and a bone awl and bone needle.
3. A piece of carbon steel chainsaw file, a piece of quartzite, a piece of true tinder fungus, a char tube and some sisal string - all of which I use in combination for fire lighting.
4. A small firesteel and a glue stick from a hot glue gun.
5. Reindeer leather neck pouch

and on the right of the picture the contents of my reindeer tinder pouch.
From the top;
1. Strike anywhere matches in a water tight container
2. Pine cones - burn slowly and give off a lot of heat
3. Birch Bark
4. Reindeer leather pouch

I find the piece of file very useful. I use the smooth edge as my flint and steel striker and the file surfaces for abrading items such as bone and set into a piece of wood, I can use it to touch up the edge of my axe.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Taking the pith

The other evening I was discussing with Torjus methods of removing the pith from species such as Elder. I have been experimenting with making a threaded piece of wood to use to drill out the pith.

First I removed the bark from a piece of wood, then I scored a spiral around it and cut either side of the score mark to form the thread.

I pushed the point of the thread into the pith of a piece of Elder and started to turn it and the pith started to come out.

I only had Hazel available to make the thread and broke two of them just boring about 15cm, but using something like a piece of Oak might be more affective.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Poplar, wet tinder and a brew

Found this fallen Poplar tree while out walking.

The bark can be used as a bearing block for the bow-drill and I have used it to make floats for fishing nets.

The bark is also good to burn as it burns slowly, smouldering rather than flaming and gives off a a lot of heat (the end of a long piece can be placed in a fire and once smouldering, used to carry fire with you).

To make a fire for a brew, I collected a hand full of damp leaves from the ground and rubbed them vigorously between my hands to break down the fibres and remove moisture. I placed these on the ground and using flint and steel, sparked onto a piece of Crampball fungus and once glowing, placed it on the leaves. I then placed another handful of buffed leaves on top leaving a small cavity around the fungus. By gently blowing, the glowing Crampball produces heat and the cavity acts like an oven to hold heat and gradually remove moisture from the leaves. Eventually the leaves will dry sufficiently for a flame to appear.

Once the fire was sufficiently large enough to burn small fuel sized sticks, I added the poplar bark.

After the billy can of water had boiled, I was able to enjoy a cup of vegetable stock.

I also found a nice specimen of Artists Fungus on the fallen Poplar tree. When you mark the white underside with a blunt stick it turns black.

Here is a rather nice example I found on another website.