Monday, February 28, 2011

Kauhavan Puukkopaja Vuolupuukko Review

I want to thank all of my readers from Finland who have contacted me with information about the knife.

In this review I will look at a fairly unknown knife from Finland. Most of you are probably in the same boat as me, in that you can’t make heads or tails of the name of the knife. Kauhavan Puukkopaja is the name of the manufacturer. Kauhava is actually an area in Finlad and there are a few knife makes there. Vuoluppuukko is the type of knife, meaning wood-carving puukko. In this post I will simply refer to the knife as “the Puukko”.

Knife Length: 8 3/8 inches (213 mm)
Blade Length: 4 1/16 inches (105 mm)
Blade Thickness: 1/8 inches (3 mm)
Blade Width: 3/4 inch (19 mm)
Blade Material: Carbon steel made by Laurin Matelli
Blade Hardness: HRC 59 on the Rockwell Scale
Type of Tang: Rattail tang
Blade Grind: Scandinavian/single bevel with small secondary bevel
Handle Material: Stacked leather with brass bolsters
Sheath Material: Leather
Cost: $70.00

This is actually a medium cost knife. The only locations where I have been able to purchase it is this Finnish web store. Even with the shipping to the US, the knife still ended up being under $100.

When compared to the Mora No. 1, the Puukko is more robust and slightly larger. In dimensions, it is almost identical to the Mora No. 2 knife. The blade is a little over four inches long. I find it to be a much better length than that of the Mora 1. The extra blade length comes in handy when making slicing cuts. The carbon steel blade might appear to have a Scandinavian/single bevel grind, but there is actually a small secondary bevel at the very end. This makes the ultimate angle of the cutting edge wider than that of the Mora 1. While I greatly enjoy using the Mora 1 precisely because of that very thin cutting edge, the more robust edge of the Puukko makes for a more versatile knife. It is not uncommon to damage the thin cutting edge of a Mora. The edge of the Puukko is tougher because of the added thickness. I by no means want to imply that the edge is thick. It is still shaving sharp, and fine enough for delicate work. The cutting edge extends all the way back to the handle, just like it does on the Mora 1. The spine of the blade is rounded off, so if you want it to throw sparks you will have to square it off with a sharpening stone.

The blade is made by Laurin Metalli, one of the largest blade makers in Finland. The knife has a rattail tang. The handle is made of stacked leather with a bolster in the front, back, and two other places in the handle. The construction seems very solid. There are no finger guards, and the handle is a very nice oval shape. It is thicker than that of the Mora 1, which I find more comfortable to use during more forceful cuts. You will have to do a good oiling of the handle in order to keep it protected from moisture, dirt and if you are skinning an animal, blood.

I wanted to see if this knife is more than just a showpiece, so I took it into the woods for the usual tests.

The knife had no problem splitting a three-inch log. The blade is a bit thicker than that of the Mora 1, but it does not noticeably effect its splitting ability. The added length does help with splitting thicker pieces of wood. The knife feels more solid and robust than the Mora 1.

Truncating with the knife is also fine. Even though the wood I was using was frozen, there was no damage to the blade.

The Puukko also does fine with feather sticks. The ones I managed to make in the picture leave a lot to be desired, mostly because my hands were frozen. I’ve been using the knife for some time now, and it cuts perfectly well.

The knife comes with a nice sheath. It holds the knife very well, and is made of thin leather with a plastic insert for the blade. I like sheaths like this one because they are compact and lightweight. I hate it when the sheath weighs more than my knife. The sheath is attached to the belt with a leather loop in a traditional manner.

Overall, here you are getting a lot of knife for the money. Even if you have to get it shipped to the US, the value is very good. The knife is a work of art that performs very well. Its dimensions are very good for a small knife, and it’s exactly what I was looking for as a pocket knife to go along with my axe. Just like with the Mora 1, I would not go into the woods with this knife being my main cutting tool, but for smaller to medium tasks, the knife fits me very well. The manufacturer also makes a more expensive version with a wooden handle, but this one will do just fine. In terms of design, this is as close to my ideal as a knife can get, and the execution of the design is excellent.

Guest Post: Making a Trade Axe, by Kentucky

This is a fantastic post that was put up on BladeForums about a week ago by the user Kentucky, who has graciously agreed to guest post it here. The article is interesting not only because it shows a step by step construction of a trade axe, but it very clearly demostrates the elements of the old style of axes, used prior to the American boom in axe manufacturing.

Every now and again we do one of these for a re-enactor or a period correct stickler. I think its fun myself.

This is how they did it before Mill's, Lathe's and 2" x 72" grinders..When the smith was responsible for everything... When the were truely hand made... No electricity...

The Materials: A 9 1/2" long, 1 1/2" wide, 1/4" thick strap of 1018.* A 3/8" thick forged to wedge shaped piece of 1095.

Thats it for the materials... Smiths of yesteryear kept the cost down as much as possible, hence the mild steel body and high carbon cutting edge. Good steel was scarce so as little of it was used as possible... Well we are going ot use the coal forge with a hand cranked blower. Remember, no electricity. Well heres the forge being brought up to temp, coking the green coal. We use a large deep fire to weld in and bank the coal up.

Heres a pic of the axe head ready for its first welding pass. The eye roughly formed and the high carbon bit in place...

After the very first welding pass, as you can see it still needs a couple more before starting any other magor work...

Ok, at this point its been three welding heats and the drift as been used the first time to set the eye shape. It wll be used again in a step or two for the final shaping. You will see a pic of it there... Here is where you see how good your weld is. We use a fuller to forge a notch in the bottom of the blade. The edge of the anvil can be used as well. If your welds not right here you'll bust the head apart!

Ok, now the head is ready for shaping. You know that funny looking thing on the back of your smithing hammer???? This is what its for, spreading the blade out wide.

Here we have spread the blade out and am getting ready to square it up to profile...

Now we use the drift for final adjustments on the eye since about all the heavy forging is done. You can true it up again later if needed...

Alright, since your using mild steel for the body its going to forge at a differnt rate than the high carbon. It will spread out over the high carbon completely jacketing it. The edge of the blade needs to be trimmed up. Again since we dont know what a 2" x 72" grinder is we are using a handled hot cut to trim it up...

Again no electricity so no grinder... We put it in the vise and hot rasp the head...

Here we have a close final shape, stamped with a touch mark. Any filework on the spine and stoning will be done cold... This is what it would pretty much look like as a trade axe. We did go ahead and hot rasp the edge and set the bevels but you cant tell it here... Here we would have brought the edge up to temp and quenched it in the slack tub. Then final sharpening and out to some lucky frontiersman to use...

From what I have researched over the years I think this is a pretty close representation of how a traditional trade axe may have been made... Thanks

Friday, February 25, 2011

Made in China

I know I’ve written about related subjects in the past, but I just felt like writing about it some more. When it comes to tools such as knives and axes, I’ve just been hearing so much talk about how one knife is good because it was made in the US, but the other one is very low quality because it was made in China.

While from a statistical stand point, such a statement might be true and very well supported, more often than not, it misses the actual cause of the problem. China can produce metal with the same quality as any other country in the world, including the US. Similarly China can temper metal just as well. There is also nothing inherent about Chinese people that leads them to be unable to achieve high quality control. The technology and techniques required to produce products such as knives and axes are well known to every manufacturer around the world. There are no magical secrets out there.

The reason why we see the above patterns in quality or lack there of, is that while labor in China is chap, it is not that cheap. What happens most often is that manufacturers who export the production of certain items to China (or any other country with lower cost of production) select which items are to be exported. These items tend to be the low end of their line. The foreign production is used to drive the cost of a cheap product even lowed. The company exporting the production could easily require higher standards and better quality control. The problem with that is that then the cost would go up regardless of the fact that it is made abroad. Cold Steel could easily chose to manufacture $100 axes in China which would have very high quality. They however chose to manufacture $20 axes instead. The lack of quality control does not stem from the fact that it is made in China, it comes from the fact that it is a $20 axe. The cost reduction has to come from somewhere, and that is most often quality control.

My point is, judge products for what they are. Their place of origin is not a conclusive indicator of quality.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Update on the Cheap Alternative to the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

As you may remember, a while back I did a post on how you can build a cheap alternative version of the very useful, but very costly Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, using the head from a Northern Tool 24oz Camp Axe. You can see the full post here.

I have been contacted by several people who have tried it for themselves, and come up with some excellent results. The axes in the below picture were made by Carl Norman. Photography is by his brother, Matt Norman.

Here you can see some examples still in progress.

He informs me that so far there have been no performance issues with the axes. I can second that. I have been using the one I made for some time now, and have had absolutely no issues. I have even put it through some rough tests, where I have hit the ground, and even chopped ice with it, without any damage to the edge. The toughness of the head has been quite a surprise to me.

I did have one reader let me know that the Northern Tool head he bought had some quality control issues. Please keep that in mind. This is a $10 hatchet, you may encounter some quality control issues. So far though, they seem to be fairly rare.

There are also some news with respect to sources for the Small Forest Axe replacement handles. I know that one US distributor is in the process of importing a number of Gransfors Bruks replacement handles at a reasonable price. I will keep you updated on their availability.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inuit Family, 1917

This is an image of an Inuit family that was featured in National Geographic, Volume 31.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rockforge 1.25lb Camp Axe (Fiberglass Handle) Review

This is a review that I have had for a while, but never got around to putting it up. This is a line of axes that I keep seeing at Home Depot, although I have had trouble finding them online.

Manufacturer: Rockforge/GARDEX
Axe Head Weight: 1.25 lb
Axe Length: 14 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Fiberglass (possible with metal rod inside)
Cost: $15.00

From what I have seen online, this company sells different versions of this axe, including some with wooden handles. The reason why I got this one is because that is what I kept seeing at Home Depot, and I figured people might be wondering about them. It is a low cost hatchet and it doesn’t look too bad at first glance.

As always, I will be comparing the Rockforge 1.25lb Camp Axe to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. Here you can see them next to each other.

The handle of the Rockforge hatchet is a bit longer than that of the Wildlife Hatchet. From what I have been able to find, the specification state that it is made out of fiberglass, but it feels heavy, as if though it has some type of metal reinforcement inside. Obviously there are no grain issues, and the handle is very well aligned and secured to the head.

The head on the Rockforge hatchet is a quarter of a pound heavier than that of the Wildlife Hatchet. It came unfinished. The edge was covered by a glued on piece of paper underneath a rubber edge guard, and was in no way sharpened. Sharpening was easy to do because the metal is the softest that I have ever worked with.

Even after sharpening however, the convex of the edge is very thick. As the overall shape of the head is not bad, it can be re-profiled with a bit of filing, especially considering the softness of the metal. The rest of the head however, is in great shape and with very good proportions. Even thought he head was unfinished, it would have been worth re-profiling the edge, had the metal not been so soft. I generally don’t mind softer metals in an axe, but this is too soft for my liking.

When it came to performance, the Rockforge hatchet clearly fell behind the Wildlife Hatchet, This was not surprising considering that I only sharpened the edge rather that completely re-profiling it. The thick edge prevents good penetration in the wood when chopping.

The Rockforge hatchet did well at splitting. The extra quarter of a pound makes a clear difference. The handle however, while comfortable to hold, feels too stiff, transferring too much of the shock into the hand. That is part of the reason I think there might be some type of harder material as a core.

Overall, you are better off skipping this hatchet. It is a low cost axe, but it is not one that you can just purchase and use. It will require a good amount of work to put into working shape. If you are looking for a project axe, and are willing to put in the time, then there are much better options out there.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Premium Axe with fiberglass handle (3.5lb head; 36 inches in length), The Single Bit Axe with fiberglass handle (3.5lb head; 36 inches in length), The Boy's Axe fiberglass or wood handle(2.25lb head; 28 inches in length), and The Camp Axe with wood handle (1.25lb head; 14 inches in length).

Camping and Woodcraft Gear from the Past

A while back I did a post on the Cooking Kit of Horace Kephart. As I indicated there, the kit was manufactured by Abercrombie & Fitch Co. A reader of my blog has managed to find a copy of the Abercrombie & Fitch Co. catalog of 1911. You can see it here.

Specifically, note page 58, where Kephart’s kit is featured. In my original post I had indicated that the kit was made out of tin, as per the description in the museum, but the catalog specifies that most of the parts were made out of aluminum, and the cup and utensils made out of steel. It is interesting to note that Kephart had replaced the steel utensils that came with the kit with wooden ones.

We have to remember that while we read of the adventures of people like Sears and Kephart, these are people who were doing exactly what many of us do these days. They were recreational outdoorsmen, who spend as much time thinking about their gear, and clearly wasting as much money on it as we do.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Post: Fire-Cattail and Waxed Jute, by American Grouch

Today’s post is written by a fellow blogger. This man is the real deal. His posts on winter camping are certainly something that you should not miss. Most of his writings can be found on his blog: American Grouch. Be sure to check it out. It will be well worth your time.

I've seen this method before, wanted to show how I do it and a slight twist to the usual recommendation. I'm sure there are other and perhaps better methods, this has worked for me for a while now.
You'll need some simple ingredients to get started.
1. Paraffin wax
2. Jute twine (I use the small stuff but many suggest the bigger twine)
3. Pot to melt the wax in
4. Knife
5. Fire

Word of caution, once melted the wax is quite flammable, your wife, if you use one of her pots, is also flammable. (Hard to impossible to get the wax out)

If you use a camp fire, use caution as the heat level is not as easy to regulate as your stove top. I like doing it outside so I used a small fire.

Once I've got the fire going and waiting for it to burn in a bit I cut the twine, 8 to 12" in length.

With the fire about right I'll put my melting pot on with a couple blocks of wax.

Once the wax is melted I'll lay in the twine, I do not suggest putting a whole bundle in at a time. You also do not want to let it get too hot.

Once they've been in a bit I'll pull them with a stick and lay them to cool.

Here is where things start to differ compared to what most recommend. Where I live, if I NEED a fire as in right now, I need it right now. I don't have the time or luxury of nimble fingers to pick and peel the jute apart to make it fibrous enough to take a spark from a firesteel. It would be winter, between -20 to -30 with howling winds, snow or freezing rain. In those conditions a man's fingers are not nearly as dexterous as in normal conditions. Fingers get stiff, don't want to move, hard enough to grasp the firesteel and striker. Something I usually do with mits on for that very reason, pulling jute twine into a fibrous nest with mitts on is impossible. (One of the other reasons my firesteel is large, built into a deer bone and easy to grasp, even with mitts.)With that in mind, I like to twist or roll the waxed twine into lumps, or balls or squares as seen here:

Then I'll mix these up with old cattail fluff. It'll stick to the waxy jute. Further if you pull the jut a bit and get good gobs of the cattail fluff mixed together you can squeeze it back into a compact unit. The cattail fluff is very easy to ignite but it burns extremely fast. If you are using it in conjunction with waxed jute though it fires the jute which will burn a nice long time. Basically, your using the easy ignition point of the cattail to get the twine going. Most of what I have seen others recommend is pulling the jute apart to make your tender bundle. I like to use cattail fluff with the twine as it works much better for a fire right now situation.If you've got it right, it'll look like this, as with all of my fires I really try to build them on a layer of birch bark. It's prolific here and a very nice fuel. You can see just how nice a bed of material you have to receive the spark.

It'll take a spark very easily and spread to flame as well with little extra effort.

Incidentally, I used the left over melted wax to reseal my leather tinder bag. A pretty nice leather piece my daughter made for me.

The waxed jute twine and cattail fluff, travels light and easy and in good quantities. Here's what the inside looks like, cattail fluff, jute twin, cedar and pine shavings also in there as well as a couple pieces of fatwood in the bottom.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gear in Action

So, this whole week, and then some, I’ve been making lists of my gear. You guys are probably as bored with it as I am. I figured I would show you some of it in use on a trip. Here is the whole pack, ready for action. Notice the very valuable snow shovel.

I chose my camp location because the large rock had minimized the snow accumulation, requiring me to shovel less snow. No tarp needed-too cold to rain.

Why is the sleeping bag so out of place, you ask? Because there is a frozen little dog hiding in it.

All the wood was gathered with the Trailblazer bucksaw, and then split with my small axe. This is all oak and hickory. Unfortunately, that’s what I had in the area. Oak burns for a long time and creates great coals, but is a pain to process-very hard to cut and especially split.

Something that is particularly true about winter camping is that you need to be prepared. Don’t just hope that certain resources will be available. If you don’t know the area, don’t just think that you will easily find tinder, bedding, or any other materials you may need. Time is often of the essence, and spending two hours looking for resources while being wet, can be a problem, especially since the sun goes down early.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 7-First Aid Kit

Okay, I promise, this is the last gear overview post. I just want to briefly point out a few things about my first aid kit. It is listed as item number 6 in Part 1 of my post.

This is a fairly typical first aid kit. It has items designed to deal with minor to moderate injuries. It is not designed with the intent of being able to keep a person alive in the woods for months, or to perform any serious procedures there.

In a box, I carry an assortment of pills. This will vary for each person depending on what needs one has. I make sure to stock pain killers, allergy medication, and Imodium (men’s best friend in the woods).

For minor cuts and injuries, I carry an assortment of band-aids. The ones I have are pre-treated with antibiotics. I got them at a regular pharmacy, and they didn’t cost much more than the regular band-aids. I like that because it is an easy way to prevent an infection. While cleaning a wound will decrease the chances of infection, it will not prevent it, even if done with alcohol. Being able to use a topical antibiotic increases the chances that any infection will be stopped. It is not as good as an oral antibiotic, but in my opinion it is the next best over the counter option.

For more serious cuts and injuries, I carry gauze and gauze wrap. It works fairly well to stop heavier bleeding. I also have a small tube of antibiotic ointment that I can use before bandaging a wound. I know some people love the idea of being able to stitch their own wound in the woods, but that is not recommended. Unless you can sterilize that wound, stitching it together will only make the situation worse.

For the really bad injuries, I carry two Quik Clot sponges. They are an amazing product designed to stop heavy bleeding. They cost anywhere from $10 to $50 depending on the size sponge. The ones you see are the small size.

There isn’t much more I can tell you about first aid, as I am not a doctor. The only recommendation I can make is to have items available for different degrees of injury, so you can use them without hesitation. If all you have is a large roll of gauze, you are not likely to open it for a small cut. The cut may then get infected, causing unnecessary problems. Be prepared for the serious stuff, but also remember that most injuries will be small, but still need to be treated.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 6-Miscellaneous Items

Okay, are you guys getting tired of looking at gear? I know I am. Well, it’s almost over, this is the next to last post. Here I will look at what was listed as number 11 in Part 1 of my post on gear. This is a bag which includes all my miscellaneous items. I have numbered them in the picture to make it easier to see.

1. This is a ziplock bag which contains toilet paper, a collapsible toothbrush, and two small bottles, one with Purell and the other with liquid soap.

2. This is a mosquito head net. I’ve never had to use it, but it has many other possible uses.

3. A mirror. I originally got it to serve as a signal mirror in case of an emergency, but it has proven to be very useful. It can come in handy to be able to see your face.

4. This is just a larger box of tinder. I carry it in addition to the tinder I have in my pocket kit. Particularly in winter, when you don’t have time to mess around with natural tinders, this can be of great value.

5. This is the Coleman CR123A Lithium Pack-Away Lantern. It is a collapsible lantern that can put out over 100 lumens, and weighs 4.8 ounces with batteries. This is an item that is not necessary. I’ve often thought about leaving it out. Even though it is very light and compact for a lantern, it is still the heaviest object in this bag. It is a very expensive option as well, coming in at $60.

6. This is the NiteCore D10 flashlight. It runs on a single AA battery, but because it uses a computer chip to process the power, it can achieve spectacular results. It can put out 130 lumens, or at the low setting of 3 lumens, can last over 45 hours. The one thing I don’t like about it is the “infinitely adjustable” power setting. Some people love it, but I prefer a flashlight with a low, medium, and high setting. I don’t like having to play around with things like that. NiteCore has recently come out with the D11 version, which is supposed to be an improvement. You can buy the D11 for about $55. I prefer a hand held flashlight to a headlamp. It is just a personal preference. If I get rid of the lantern though, I would have to get some type of head attachment for the flashlight.

7. A replacement AA battery for the NiteCore.

8. A whistle for emergencies.

9. A compass-nothing too fancy. It just does what it’s supposed to do-it shows North. I think I got it for about $10.

10. This is a bottle of 100% DEET. I find it very useful. As you know, I don’t use a tent or a mosquito net, so the DEET is very useful at keeping the mosquitoes away.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 5-Water

So, the list goes on. In this post I’ll show you the water filtration and storage equipment that I use. These are items listed at numbers 15 and 16 in Part 1 of my post.

The water filtration/purification system as well as the water storage equipment that you use will be heavily guided by your environment. There are areas of the country where you can walk for ten minutes and find a good source of water. There are other places however, there water filtration would be useless because there is no water to be found.

In my area, during some parts of the year, there are good sources of water. During other parts however, almost all the water dries up. The availability of water is a function not only of temperature, but also the type of soil in the area. Here, we have very rocky soil, so all the water quickly drains. During those parts of the year, I am forced to get my water from small puddles or swamps. That guides the tools that I use. For more information about different ways to treat water, you can see my post here.

The first item you see is the MSR Miniworks EX water filter. The reason why I use it over all others is that it can deal with the worse water problem in my area, sediment. The water that I get from puddles or swamps tends to have a high level of small particles, suspended in the water. They can clog up any filter within minutes, including this one. The advantage of the MSR Miniworks Ex however, is that it uses a ceramic filter, which can be easily cleaned just by wiping it down. This way you can keep it working under conditions which would kill another filter. The MSR Miniworks EX retails for about $90. You can find more information about it in my post here.

The next item you see is a bottle of MSR Sweet Water. For all practical purposes, this is just chlorine bleach. I only use it in addition to my filter if I suspect there may be viruses in the water. Filters will not remove viruses, so if you think they are an issue in your area, something like this might be a good idea. It costs about $15 per bottle.

The next item is the rubber hose with pre-filter attached. The pre-filter helps remove some of the sediment before it inters the filter. You can see more information on my pre-filter in my post here.

The next two items are just a sponge, which I use to clean the filter, and the repair kit for the filter. In the years I have been using it, I’ve never had to repair the filter.

The last item is the MSR 6L Dromedary water bladder. I had one for a long time, but I had to replace it because the water in it started tasting funny. I bought a new one, but even after the first use, I had the same problem with the taste of the water. I don’t know what’s causing it. Maybe it has something to do with the water in my place. I’m going to have to consider some other options soon, which is a shame because it is a very durable water storage system. The bag retails for about $35.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 4-Cooking

In this next part I want to take a look at my cooking gear. These are the items listed as numbers 7, 8, and 9 in Part 1 of the post.

The first two items you see are the cooking pots. The first one is a MSR 2L titanium pot, and the second one is a Snow Peak 1L titanium pot with a knob on the lid that I put there myself. When I am alone, I used to take only the 1L pot, but decided that it was too small for me because it always ended up overflowing. Because of that, now I either carry only the 2L pot, or the two of them together. The great thing about titanium is that it is so light weight. I use the red bandana that you see to wrap the small pot. That way it does not make noise when stored within the larger one. Neither pot is still in production, but at the time I bought them they were very expensive. The big one was close to $100 and the small one close to $70. Titanium is still very expensive, but if you have the money, its strength to weight ratio is great. For some of what I consider good lower cost options you can take a look at my post here.

The next two objects you see are a pot grabber and a small sponge. The pot grabber came with the 2L MSR pot. It is small and light, but not too comfortable. I keep in the pot together with the sponge, which comes in handy when cleaning burnt on food. You can see some more info about the sponge here.

The rest of the items you see are part of my stove (stove, fuel bottle, small priming bottle, wind screen, repair kit, and lighter).

When I use a stove, I like a serious stove. I don’t want to time burn durations or measure ounces of fuel. I want to be able to put the food on, and cook it without too much hassle. That is why my choice is a white gas stove, specifically the MSR Whisperlite International. In my opinion, what gives this white gas stove the edge over a canister stove is that I can re-fill the fuel container. That way I don’t have to worry about running out, or carrying extra containers. I have never done a review on the stove because it has been around for so long, and I’ve had mine for years. There are probably more hi-tech options out there that I don’t even know about. The Whisperlite International is a well tested and proven stove, which will burn multiple fuels, and will cost you about $90. It comes with different size bottles. The one you see in the picture is the small, 11oz one. For more information on different type of stoves, you can take a look here, and for a tutorial on how to light a white gas stove, you can see my post here. For an unrelated tutorial on how to operate an alcohol stove, see my post here, or for a tutorial on how to make a wood gasification stove, see here.

I always carry a repair kit since this not a simple tool, but in the many years I have been using this stove, I’ve never had to repair it.

An item that you don’t see here is my spoon, which I keep in my food bag.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 3-Tools

In this next part of the overview of my camping gear, I want to take a look at the items listed as numbers 10,12, and 14 in Part 1 of the post. These are my tools.

The first item is my axe. The one you see in the picture is an axe I made myself, and has since then become my favorite. In size and weight it is identical to the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. In fact it uses the Small Forest Axe handle and a Northern Tool Camp Axe head which I have re-profiled. You can see more about the axe in my post here. Sometimes I’ll change the axe that I bring, especially if I am doing any testing. A hatchet would also make an adequate tool for most task, especially if you have a good saw.

The next item is my 24 inch Trailblazer Take Down Buck Saw. I have previously done a review of it here, and a comparison test with the Kershaw folding saw here. The version you see in the post has actually been modified. You can see the modifications in my post here. I also carry an extra saw blade, which fits within the saw. In my opinion, this is the best bang for the buck that I have been able to find when it comes to wood processing tool. It is not only an issue of being able to cut large pieces of wood, but also the speed with which you can cut smaller ones. This saw makes wood processing a breeze. It is not the lightest tool I carry, but it is worth every ounce. I bought mine for $25 here, although I have seen them go for as much as $40.

The last item is my tool bag. In it I have a bunch of paracord for setting up my tarp and other chores, as well as some artificial sinew. I keep the ropes in a ziplock bag because if you have your tarp in the rain, the ropes will get wet as well. You don’t want to put them together with your tool and get everything wet.

The smaller tools you see are the Mora 162 crook knife, the Mora 120 carving knife and the Leatherman Juice S4.

The Mora 162 crook knife is an adequate knife for making spoons and hollowing out other containers. It is sharp on both sides, allowing for more cutting positions. It is very lightweight and costs about $20. You can see more details about it here.

The Mora 120 is a small carving knife with a 2-inch blade. It is an excellent carving knife. In all likelihood however, since I have changed my primary knife, this one will probably be redundant, and I’ll stop carrying it. The reason why I left it in the picture is because it is a very good option in case you primary knife is a larger tool like a Fallkniven S1 or a BK2. This makes those fine tasks much easier. The knife costs about $15.

The next item in the bag is a U-Dig-It stainless steel folding trowel. I have sharpened the edge of mine somewhat to make it useful for hacking at roots when digging. It is by no means the lightest trowel on the market, but no matter how much I try to leave it behind, it always proves to be very useful. It costs about $17.

The last of the items is the Leatherman Juice S4. In terms of camping, there are a few things that I look for in a multi-tool . The first is a good set of pliers, the second is an awl, and a third is a pair of scissors. I don’t care much about the knife or the saw, as I already have better versions of those tool with me. The Leatherman Juice S4 has all the things I need. The pliers are good, including the wire cutters. It has a very good pair of scissors, better than the ones you see on many larger multi-tools. The awl has a fairly good design, although it was not sharp at all when I got it. I had to spend a good amount of time with a sharpening stone to get it sharp. All of this comes in a very compact package. All the features of a multi-tool are good to have, even though they don’t get used too often. That’s why I like the small, lighter weight design. The Leatherman Juice S4 costs about $45.

The only tool that I have left out of this post is a small snow shovel, which I bring when there has been a lot of snow and I have to dig to get to solid ground.