Posts Tagged With: woodcraft and bushcraft projects

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds

by Todd Walker

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp.  ~ Warren H. Miller, 1915

Over years of wild camping I’ve learned just how little one needs to be happy in the woods. But a permanent campsite… oh the comforts to be contrived!

Walking through the beech trees and white oaks, I hop rocks across the creek. Then it happens. My soul smiles with every arrival at base camp. My home away from home is a laboratory for adventure and self-reliance skills. More importantly, it’s my place of comfort in the woods!

A few items I find essential for comfort are listed below…

Top Base Camp Comforts

1.) Shelter

Instead of pitching a tent or hanging a hammock, a semi-permanent shelter was needed. Constructed from natural materials (except for the repurposed billboard roof and bank line), it’s large enough to sleep in with room for storage. At both ends of my raised canvas cot, there’s ample room for laying in a good supply of firewood, tools, and gear.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The foot of my raised canvas cot

Speaking of firewood…

2.) Sawbuck

Using a plumber’s vise is effective for sawing wrist-size saplings in the field. My daddy taught me this technique when cutting pipe in his plumbing business. For right-handers, place the stick of wood in the bend of your left knee. Kneel on your right knee so the stock rests on your right thigh. This posture holds the wood in place firmly freeing both hands for sawing to the side of your body.

However, when processing larger rounds, a sturdy base camp sawbuck is indispensable.

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sawing firewood on this camp sawbuck

Here’s an interesting factoid about why the ten-dollar bill became known as a “sawbuck” in slang terminology. The Roman numeral for 10 being “X”, this reminded old timers of the two X’s used at the ends of saw horses.

3.) Camp Kitchen

“A fellow who cannot throw a flapjack is sadly lacking in the skill one expects to find in a real woodcrafter.” ~ Daniel Carter Beard

A seasoned woods cook will have an open fire lit in short order. Flapjack batter turns golden brown as the smell of freshly brewed coffee and salt cured bacon mingle.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Time to eat!

The plywood camp house situated near the dam of our family lake is long gone. The memories and the aroma of Uncle Otha cooking over an open fire with heirloom cast iron is as vivid today as they were 45 years ago. Truer words can not be found than in one of Mr. Kephart’s quotes, “A good cook makes a contented crew.”

A permanent camp kitchen, like modern ovens and ranges at home, becomes the center piece of camp life. The cooking fire is that hub. I personally find a raised horizontal surface indispensable. My camp countertop, a split cedar log resting on two cedar rails lashed between trees, keeps cooking utensils and ingredients off the ground.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cooking rice, grilling steak, and baking muffins on one campfire

A few carved pot hooks hung from a horizontal sapling (waugan) allows heat regulation when cooking coffee or simmering stew over an open fire. A solid tripod is another option for hanging pots over a fire.

4.) Paring Ladder

This simple device adds a “third hand” when using a draw knife to shape wood or remove bark.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The paring ladder in action

While I use it for its intended purpose, it also makes a fine camp chair. Secure a wool blanket or cargo net to a rung and loop the blanket around another pole near the bottom for lounging.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp comfort!

It also makes a great drying rack for wet gear and clothing. The ladder is lightweight and easy to move from one tree to the next.

The beauty of building these camp comforts is that few tools are required. A knife, ax/hatchet, saw, and cordage are about all you’ll need to contrive ways to make yourself comfortable in the woods.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Real Food, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log (Rope Vise Plans Included)

by Todd Walker

My uncle Emmett introduced me to woodcarving in grade school. He taught me to carve a “ball in a cage” from a single block of balsa wood in the church basement. Years pasted as did my interest in wood carving. It’s funny how our interests come full circle in life.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

After 40 years, I was reintroduced to the traditional skill of greenwood carving. Local, sustainable trees are used to make objects for everyday use while learning old-world skills. Handmade spoons, cups, and bowls are hidden within these renewable resources.

For over a year now, I’ve been whittling on wood to create something more than a camp pot hook. It’s all part of my addictive journey of self-reliance and…

Freedom from Electricity

Do I love and use electricity? You bet!

However, my personal space in the woods is my favorite location for carving… or doing most anything else. Dependence on electricity is not an option. Out there I’m transported back to a time of Doing the Stuff with cordless-tools held by hands, my hands. My collection of simple hand tools overshadows my skill level. I’ll keep Doing the Stuff until my skills catch up.

One tool my semi-permanent shelter was missing is a dedicated carving bench. Add this to my Paring Ladder, and a future pole lathe, and my no-electric-power shop in the woods will be fully functional. The forest provides the raw building materials. It’s my job to collect them.

I’ve included a video tutorial for those who prefer moving pictures.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own…

Carving Bench from a Log

Material and Tool List

  • A hardwood log about 2 to 3 feet long and 10 to 12 inches in diameter
  • 4 poles for legs and a few other sticks along the way
  • Wooden pegs for the peg holes – again, more sticks
  • Cordage – something for the rope vise and smaller stuff for lashing
  • Chainsaw or crosscut saw – depending on how vigorous of a project you desire
  • Ax and knife – a drawknife is optional but really useful if you’ve built a paring ladder
  • Auger – 1 inch minimum

Ideas for this design came from photos of two Facebook groups of which I’m a member:

I highly recommend both groups if you’re on Facebook and pursuing self-reliance.

Step 1: Cut a Log

The reason I carried my chainsaw to the woods that day was to cut some dead cedar for a couple of sitting bench projects. Another heavy cutting project was a huge dead pine, not within reach of my shelter, but adjacent to a spot boy scouts camp. It needed to be felled. I also needed a hefty log for a carving bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The pine widow maker is down. Talk about a fat lighter’d resource!

I cut a limb off a red oak downed by a storm a year ago and hauled it back to base camp. Whatever tree you use, it should be hardwood and about the dimensions given above.

Step 2: Cut Notches

Make three perpendicular cross cuts almost halfway through the log. The first cut will be about 5 inches from one end. Now cut at a 90 degree angle from the end of the log to the base of the first cut to remove this section of wood. This will be the end shelf of your bench and platform for the rope vise.

Make the second cross-cut 5-6 inches from the first cut. The third cut goes in about 18 inches (depends on how much flat work space you want) from the second cut. The space between the second and third cut will become your middle bench area.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Save the half-moon sections for spacer blocks… or firewood.

Score a line connecting the bottom of the second and third cuts along the sides of the log. Make several cuts about 2 inches wide on the middle section of the log down to the scored lines. Strike the 2 inch sections with the butt of your ax or maul to break them loose. Remove and save these half-moons as spacers for wedging stock on the bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A good smack with an ax usually removes the half-moon blocks.

The base of the middle section will be uneven after removing the half moons. Use your ax to hew this section of your bench smooth. Use a wooden maul to hammer the ax through hard-to-reach sections until the surface is relatively flat.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hewing the work surface.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ready for holes.

Step 3: Bore Holes

Use a timber framing auger or brace and bit to bore a hole all the way through the center of the end shelf. This hole will serve as part of your rope vise. My auger is a vintage 1-1/4 inch timber frame tool DRG and I found at an antique store. I’d say one inch holes would be the minimum for this kind of project.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two parallel logs work well to hold the bench steady when crafting.

Lay the bench down on two other logs as supports. Bore 4 to 6 holes in the middle section of the bench. Make these peg holes about 2 knuckles deep. I marked my auger bit with duct tape at the two-inch mark as a depth gauge. Two holes should be about 4 inches from one wall in the middle section and about 4 or 5 inches apart crosswise. Repeat the hole spacing on the other interior wall of your bench. I added two more peg holes in between these four holes for added adjustability.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The best shot I had of the peg holes.

Debark the log with your ax. Turn the bench over with the work surface parallel to the ground on top of the support logs. Bore holes at each of the four corners to accept your bench legs. Use the same depth gauge for these holes you used for the previous holes. However, you need to angle these leg holes out from the center line and middle of the log.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A leg for each corner.

Here’s a tip for keeping the legs in line with one another. After boring one leg hole, cut and prepare a leg and insert in the first hole. Now you have an angled leg to visually line up the opposite leg hole as you bore the remaining holes. Move the leg to another hole as needed to sight your angles.

Step 4: Make Legs

Since I have a good supply of standing dead cedar, I used 2 to 3 inch diameter poles for my legs. Plus, cedar is rot-resistant. I cut my four legs longer than I thought was needed and trimmed them to proper length later.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I used my paring ladder and my new foldable draw knife to taper the narrow end of each leg. An ax and/or knife is all you really need, though. The tapered end should fit in your leg hole snugly at the one inch mark. You’ll drive the legs into the holes later for a secure fit.

Step 5: Cut Legs to Height

When your satisfied with the final leg length for your bench height, pound the legs into the holes with an ax or maul. Chamfer the ground-end of the legs to help prevent “mushrooming” as your strike these ends.

I cut my legs so that my bench is about waist height. This may prove to be too high. I can always trim the legs but can’t add wood back to the legs.

Step 6: Build the Rope Vise

I had originally thought I’d use a loop of rope held down with my foot to secure stock on the end shelf. However, the tensioning device for my take down bucksaw came to mind as I kneeled on the ground measuring my rope.

Ah ha!

Cut a cross brace and attach it to the two end legs under the end shelf. Tie the two intersections with square lashing  about a foot off the ground. Tarred mariners line works great for this application.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fully assembled rope vise holding stock on the end shelf.

Feed a loop of rope through the end shelf hole from the underside of the bench. Place a stick in the loop on top of the end shelf to prevent it from dropping out of the hole. Tie the loose ends of the rope around the cross brace. I used a fisherman’s knot. Leave enough slack in the loop for spoon blanks to fit in the loop on top of the end shelf.

Next, cut a stick that will serve as a winding paddle in your rope. The paddle needs to be long enough catch on the bench legs, but not so long that you can’t twist it between the legs. Insert the paddle in the middle of the rope with stock in the loop on the end shelf. Now wind the rope tight and allow it to rest on one or both of the legs.

If the stock on the end shelf is loose, twist the rope a few more times. This rope vise allows you to hold down wood very securely. This vise is not a quick release system but it will hold what needs to be held.

Step 7: Cut Pegs

Cut two to four pegs measuring about 4-5 inches above the work surface when inserted in the peg holes. Taper each peg end as you did the legs. The only difference is that the pegs are smaller in diameter. 

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pegs with wedges shimmed to hold a large block of cedar firm. I started gouging a bowl on this stock. 

The adjustable pegs on the middle section gives you options for a variety of wood sizes. Simply move pegs to fit the width of your work piece. Cut a few wooden wedges and shim the stock tight between the pegs and end wall. You could also shim pieces between any configuration of pegs on the work bench surface. This center section will be an excellent way to hold larger projects like bowls and kuksas. Plus, I now have another flat, horizontal surface which always comes in handy around camp at supper time.

Your bench is ready for work!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Made by Hands: Make it or Buy it?

by Todd Walker

Made by Hands: Make it or Buy it? | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My blogging buddy, Patrick Blair (Survival at Home), is credited with the idea for this post. He recommended I share all my DiY stuff in one photo. Haha… that’s a challenge which would take a wide-angle camera lens.

Instead, I thought I’d share some of the stuff I’ve made over the years in hopes of inspiring others to make their own.

We promote skills over “shiny object survival” gear around here. But honestly, I’m a gear junkie as much as the next guy. We’re members of a tool-using species!

Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.

~ Thomas Carlysle

 

There’s more to self-reliance than just buying gear and tools though…

It’s about making your own and living this philosophy… Prepare modern but practice primitive.

Could the 10 C’s of Survivability be reproduced in a 72 hour survival scenario?

Yup. However, specific skills, resources, and time are needed, which may be hard to come by. So, Buy it… but learn to make most, if not all, of these essential kit items.

  1. Cutting tools – Unless you’re a very talented craftsman or artisan, I recommend buying the best knife, ax, and saw you can afford.
  2. Combustion device – Learn to make primitive fire via friction and flint and steel. Flint or quartz can be used on the spine of your high-carbon steel cutting tool to light charred material. You carry a next fire kit, right?
  3. Cordage – Finding natural resources suitable for cordage expends calories. Making indigenous cordage is a good skill to learn though. I practice making cordage because I enjoy primitive skills. If you don’t, buy cordage for your kits.
  4. Cover – A USGI poncho or emergency space blanket doesn’t weigh much and can be found for under $20. I hammock camp with my bed sheet tarp but carry an emergency space blanket I purchased.
  5. Container – You must stay hydrated. Yes, you can make containers from the landscape but a metal container gives you anti-fragile options!
  6. Cotton – Never made it… buy this item for sure.
  7. Cargo tape – Practice making natural glues but buy and keep Gorilla Brand duct tape in your kits. If it can’t be fixed with duct tape…!
  8. Cloth sail needle – My metal repair needle is mounted on the back of my primary knife sheath with Gorilla tape. Primitive needles or awls can be made from bone, but, again, time and resources area factors.
  9. Candling device – Buy a quality head lamp that takes “AA” batteries. I carry a candle and have made fat lighter’d torches and oil lamps but a flashlight is too easy to pack.
  10. Compass – Navigation is the primary use for a compass. If that’s all your compass can do, you should consider buying another one. My multi-functional Alpine compass can also be used for combustion, signaling, self-aid, and tick removal.

Even if money isn’t tight for your family, there’s no better satisfaction than using gear made by hands… your hands!

Today is a celebration of making the stuff of self-reliance. Click the title links in the photo essay for details on how to make your own stuff.

Made by Hand

Below you’ll find DiY projects in two broad categories: Outdoor Self-Reliance and Homesteading.

Awesome photo courtesy of Connor M. Lamoureux on Instagram (adventureconwards)

Awesome photo courtesy of Connor M. Lamoureux on Instagram ~ adventureconwards

By the way, if you’re on Instagram, give us a follow at… ToddatSurvivalSherpa.

Make tag
Buy tagor

 

 

How do you know when it’s best to Make it or Buy it? Skill level, tools and equipment, space, time, and resources are determining factors on which project to tackle. The ultimate goal of making stuff is… making us more self-reliant.

What kind of person are you making?

Outdoor Self-Reliance

Wool Blanket Hunting Shirt

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

My hunting shirt made from an Italian wool Army blanket

Oilskin Bed Sheet Tarp

homemade-oilskin-bedsheet-tarp

DiY Hands-Free Ax Sheath

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Outdoor Cooking Tripod

How to Build a Bushcraft Tripod for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Prefect!

Mountain Man MRE’s (Pemmican, Parched Corn, and Dried Fruit)

how-to-make-modern-mountain-man-mre

Smoke house teepee

Fixin’ Wax

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Tree Bark Archery Quiver

IMG_2047

Base Camp Sawbuck

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Primitive Process Pottery

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Brian Floyd, our main instructor, made a tasty stew in one of his pots for lunch.

Wooden Spoons

Spoon Carving with an Ax | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blowing through a section of river cane to burn the bowl of my spoon

Char Material for Your Next Fire

Blowing-My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Embers on charred punk wood

Waterproof Fire Starter

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

A door hinge pin chucked in my drill

Pine Pitch Glue Sticks

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fat Lighter’d Torch

pine-tree-uses-self-reliance

Natural Cordage

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage I made this weekend. Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Poplar; Okra, and Yucca.

Base Camp Stump Vise

Make a Stump Vise for “Smoothing It” Camp Projects | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Sling Shot Bow

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Duct Tape Arrow Fletching

Ducttapevanes6 - Copy

 

Cigar Fishing Kit

Screw cap taped

Screw cap taped

Altoids Tin Oil Lamp

30 Ultimate DiY Gifts in Santa's Survival Sleigh

DiY olive oil lamp

Survival Gig

diy-survival-gig

Used about 6 feet of cordage here

Homesteading

Compost Tumbler

 

30 Ultimate DiY Gifts in Santa's Survival Sleigh

DRG’s elevated compost tumbler

Rain Collection System

trading-theory-for-action

trading-theory-for-action

It’s not camo paint, but it blends in very well in the front yard.

Tomato Ladders

Todd's Tomato Ladders | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Four Tomato Ladders anchored and ready with an old wooden ladder on the far left.

Pallet Fencing

Up-cycled pallets, windows, and doors.

Up-cycled pallets, windows, and doors.

Rat Trap

stairway-to-heaven-bucket-rat-trap

Paper Fire Logs

diy-firebricks-woodstove-logs-firewood

The wet fire log ready for drying

Farmhouse Table

Pipe clamps putting the squeeze on the 2x6's

Pipe clamps putting the squeeze on the 2×6’s

Foldable Sawbuck

Sawbuck: Work Smarter in the Woodpile

Sawbuck in the woodpile!

Battery Storage Rack

Attention Men: Pinterest is a Prepping Goldmine

Power at your finger tips

Self-Watering Container Gardening 

Image

 

Rendering Tallow

Almost ready.

Almost ready.

Homemade Sauerkraut

Get Your Gut In Shape: Down and Dirty Sauerkraut

Plumber’s Stove

How to Make a Plumber's Stove on Steroids for Cooking and Warmth | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cedar Bench

Here she sits outside my shop

Here she sits outside my shop

Plantain Salve

how-to-make-lucky-sherpa-plantain-salve

This tin fits nicely in my haversack

Being a student of self-reliance, my expertise is limited in making a lot of the gear I own. However, it’s good enough to get the job done. For instance, the bed sheet tarp has been through extensive field testing and has performed like a boss!

Then there are DiY projects I’ve tried that failed miserably. The journey to self-reliance depends on failing forward.

Your turn. What’s your favorite gear or equipment you’ve Made by Hand? Let us know in the comments.

Keep Making the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Herbal Remedies, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills, Water | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Spoon Carving with an Ax

by Todd Walker

Woodcraft, bushcraft, camp craft… whatever term you prefer, is all about building skills of self-reliance. You may keep a titanium spork or cheap plastic spoon in your camp kit, but nothing compares to eating a bowl of squirrel soup from a wooden utensil you carved from a hunk of tree!

Spoon Carving with an Ax | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Over the holidays I discovered that Dirt Road Girl and my mama are very fond of a particular wooden cooking utensil. It is more of a spatula than a spoon and their favorite for stirring chili and soups. You’ve got a favorite cooking spoon, right? Well, this design can’t be found in stores any longer. They’ve looked!

Tag. I’m it. I told them I’d carve one.

It’s pretty simple. You remove the wood that is not a spoon and… bam! … you’re slurping soup by the campfire.

Spoon Carving 101

Spoon Carving with an Ax | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Use a template or free-hand it

To get started, you need only a few basic tools. You can buy expensive carving knifes but a sharp, thin-bladed, inexpensive knife will work just fine. One specialty knife you’ll want to acquire is a crooked knife. A wood gouge also works. Most self-reliant types own a short-handled hatchet or ax. A small folding saw will save you loads of frustration.

Basic Tools List

  1. Hatchet/ax – short-handled and sharp
  2. Knife for detail work – I used my Mora Companion
  3. Crooked/hook knife – Mora brands are inexpensive and great little cutting tools
  4. Saw – small folding saws on Leatherman tools, Swiss Army Knives, or camp saws work well
  5. Pencil or marker for outlining your design
  6. Wooden anvil or platform
  7. Wooden maul to baton round wood into carving blanks

What Wood Works?

There are many wood sources for carving blanks. I built a fence for a neighbor this summer and trimmed a 3 inch maple limb clearing the fence line. Tossed it in my wood pile for a future unnamed project. Glad I did. Also, storm damage yields excellent pickings as well! Your neighbor will be glad to have you “clean” up their dropped limbs.

Maple has a very tight grain and works well for carving, especially the ladle indention. For this project, I wanted to try sycamore. It is more grainy and twisted than maple. But we have a field full of young sycamores in the bottom of our land.

Some in the woodcraft/bushcraft community view sycamore as a trash tree. It’s actually a great tree for survival and self-reliance… beyond woodworking! But we’re carving spoons today. Here’s a few facts you might want to know about this distinctive wood…

Sycamore Woodworking Profile

  • Sycamore is grown commercially for pulp and rough lumber.
  • Interlocking grain makes nice accent pieces for woodworking.
  • Turns easily on a lathe for bowls.
  • Beautiful specking on gun stocks.
  • Music boxes; guitars and violins.
  • Hard to split which makes sycamore an excellent butcher’s block.
  • Quarter sawn makes this wood more stable for projects. Flat sawn tends to warp.
  • It gets one of its nicknames “Buttonwood” from it ability to create durable wooden buttons.
  • The wood is food safe and was used for food crates and barrels in the past.

Note: Do your due diligence to ensure your wood selection is safe for cooking and eating purposes.

Watch our tutorial video at the end of this post for the finer points of spoon carving.

Safety and Grips

Here are few whittling grips and techniques that are helpful and safe:

  • Overhand Grip ~ Hold the knife in your hand like a tennis racket. The spine of the knife should be facing away from your body and inline with the V formed between your thumb and index finger. It’s like you’re shaking hands with your knife handle.
  • Chest Lever ~ Grip the knife in the opposite manner of the overhand grip. The cutting edge will be facing the V between your thumb and index finger. Holding the wood with your off-hand, bring the knife and wood towards your chest making a scissor pattern. With the cutting edge on the wood anchored in your chest area, contract your back and shoulder muscles to remove wood in a power, yet controlled manner.
  • Thumb Lever ~ Place your off-hand thumb on the spine of the knife in an overhand grip and push the blade with your thumb for better precision cuts. You can also use your thumb as a fulcrum by rotating your knife spine against your thumb for sweeping cuts.
  • Knee Lever ~ With an overhand grip, brace the inside of your wrist against the outside edge of you knee. Pull the wood towards your body making contact with the anchored cutting edge. This controlled motion, performed properly, produces fine curls and shavings.
  • Gloves ~ For beginners, or even seasoned whittlers, a leather glove on your off-hand may prevent a bloody mess on your spoon.
  • Keep it Horizontal ~ Your ax has less of a chance of biting you if it strikes the wood with the handle horizontal. Increase this angle at contact and you increase your chances of burying the hatchet… in your anatomy.
  • Avoid the Triangle of Death (the triangle formed between you knees and crotch). Nick a femoral artery and your spoon carving days are over.
  • Alone in the Blood Circle ~ If you have onlookers admiring your whittling abilities, be sure they are outside your Blood Circle. To define your circle, spin in a circle with your outstretched arm, cutting tool in hand. The area inside this circumference and just beyond is your blood circle. You’re the only person allowed in this area.

Wooden Spoon Care

  • Not dishwasher safe – hand wash and dry
  • Keep ’em lubed

Once you’ve completed your spoon, you want to make it last. To do this, the wood needs to be sealed.

Note: Green, non-seasoned wood spoons have to be dried before sealing. Place them in a paper bag for 5 or 6 days to allow them to dry slowly. Humidity will determine how fast they dry. Another method I hear works is to place completed “green” spoons in a sealed plastic bag. Check them every day or so for moisture build up inside the bag. Wipe the moisture off and re-seal until the wood stops releasing moisture.

Choose Your Sealant

Vegetable oils can turn rancid over time. Mineral oil is petroleum-based… “they” say it’s safe to ingest. I’ve read, haven’t tried it yet… too expensive, that walnut oil is great for sealing wooden eating/cooking utensils. Yep, it’s a nut oil that supposedly will polymerize to form a hard covering that prevents the oil from turning rancid.

I’ll stick with my homemade Fixin’ Wax recipe. Heat up slightly and rub liberally on the wood surface.

Now for the video:

I’ve had offers to buy my spoons. It’s a hobby for now but could turn into a cottage business if one wished to hone this skill. They make great gifts for ladies and men alike. Plus, food just tastes better from a wooden spoon you crafted with your own hands!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 21 Comments

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