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Kelly Kettle

By plantigrade 2014.06.12 in Fires and stoves

Usually I’m not a great fan of reviews. Nevertheless I’ve been using my Kelly Kettle on several occasions over the last months, and I still get amazed  by the simplicity and high efficiency of the thing. The one I have is the 1.1 litre scout model. I’ve managed to boil a litre in less than five minutes, with only a handfull of spruce twigs. I think it’s too big to fit into a rucksack, but for a canoe or kayak trip it’s been perfect!

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Baidarka part 2

By plantigrade 2014.06.11 in Baidarka

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For the last weeks I’ve been using my newly finished baidarka. It’s been quite an experience to finally get it wet and ride the salty waves. Here’s what’s happened since the last time I wrote about it. The sub surface seams have been sealed with a chalk paste, the deck and bottom have been painted first with a chalk paint to fill out the fibres of the canvas, and then with an oil based paint, the coaming around the hatches and cockpit have been varnished and deck lines have been attached. I painted it twice, which was what I could manage with the time available, but I’m going to paint the bottom at least four more times, to get it nice and smooth, and to get a nice even waterline. On each set of lines going across the deck in front and aft of the cockpit, there are three pieces of hazel. They have been cut fresh and boiled in oil to bring out moisture and replace it with oil. This way you prevent them from splitting when they dry. The sticks are for the paddle to go under, to create stability when needed.

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It’s been really fantastic to paddle my own baidarka. It fits me well, and i really enjoy the feeling of it. Because the wooden frame is lashed together, it’s extremely flexible. It kind of  takes form and follows the rolling of the waves. There’s no seat in the cockpit, so you sit in a sea sock directly on the bottom. In the sea sock you put a thin foam mat, to make it more comfy, but still you’re right on the bottom of the kayak. This allows you to feel the waves rolling against your legs. Of course, sitting in the baidarka for a long time is tiring. Especially in the lower back, but I guess that’s a matter of getting used to it. Anyway, I think it adds something to the total experience of paddeling, when you feel the kayak move.

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I don’t have a lot of experience with plastic or fiberglass kayaks, so I’m not going to be too opinionated about skin on frame kayaks.I think everyone should decide for themselves. But I must say I like the idea of a light and flexible kayak that feels alive in the water, and is made of natural materials.

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Traceless roaming

By plantigrade 2014.05.08 in Traceless roaming

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This post has a couple of themes. The first one is poor planning.

 This Easter, a good friend and I went on a trip to Sweden. More exactly we went to the area of Trestiklan national park near Ed in Dalsland. Since this is right on the border to Norway, we also went to Lundsnesset national park on the Norwegian side. We had a great trip, but we never planned to go there… Originally we were supposed to be four people instead of just two. I’ll call the others A, B and C.

 A few months ago we started planning this Easter trip, wanting to go canoeing or hiking and focusing on camp setups and routines. As Easter came closer, we sat down to plan exactly what to do and where to go, but since we were all pretty busy, only three of us (A, B and myself) were able to participate in the planning. We looked up some hiking trails on Google maps and decided to hike a part of Bohusleden and circle back to where our car would be. The three of us agreed on who should prepare what and so on, I phoned the fourth guy C and told him everything was taken care of. We all felt well prepared. The day before departure I met with B to buy food for the trip. But he wasn’t feeling well and doubted he would be able to come, due to what turned out to be a small concussion, inflicted by the unlucky cocktail of alcohol and a solid oak counter at a bar one of the previous nights. The rest of us decided to go on as planned. The next day I got up early to pick up A on the way to C, but saw a message on my phone sent by A sometime during the night. A had fallen ill with high fever and heavy vomiting and wasn’t able to come either. That was very unfortunate. Not only is A a friend who I had been looking forward to hiking with, but he had our maps! I decided it was too early in the morning to try and wake him up to get the maps, and also I figured we’d be able to buy a map at a petrol station once we reached the area. Also I had seen where we were going on Google maps, and was sure we’d be able to point out the parking space to leave the car at, on a tourist info map. So off we went, C and I (C hadn’t taken part in the planning, and hadn’t seen a map of where we were going).

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The map we ended up using.

Well, all the petrol stations we stopped at were either sold out of maps, or never even had them. I had a Swedish road map which was okay for the driving, but it turned out I wasn’t all that sure about the exact name and position of our destination. I read a place name on the road map and decide that must be it, but of course it wasn’t and when we finally found a proper tourist info shop, they had just closed twenty minutes ago. We found a map at the back of a magazine at a petrol station in Ed (which isn’t exactly on Bohusleden) and agreed to go to the area of Trestiklan. We knew it was a national park and that you’re not allowed to light a fire there, so we went as far as we could go by car just south of Boksjön outside the park. This was our first camp. The next day we decided to walk around the lake starting on the Norwegian side and camp away from the Swedish national park. We had no idea at that point that there was a national park on the Norwegian side of the lake also… The map we had torn out from the back of a magazine wasn’t very accurate, and had no info on scale and so on. We had left our first camp around noon, and know only a quarter around the lake it was getting late. The forest was dense and we made slow progress. There was no way we could make it around the northern end of the lake and out of both the Norwegian and Swedish parks before nightfall, so we had to stay in the Norwegian park. Again, we knew you’re not allowed to light a fire there, but we hadn’t been planning on camping in a national park and all we had for cooking were two pots for cooking over fire. We talked it over a few times, and decided to light a fire anyway. That day we had come across several burned out campfires that were just leftnas they were, and we were definitely going to do it right. So we set us up on the bank of the lake, and built our fire on the wet pebbles right at the water. We took some flat stones and built a “stove” and only used small twigs found on the ground. We never broke off any branches or damaged any trees, dead or alive, and only had the fire going for as long as it took to prepare dinner. Also the fire was kept really small, and only was kept going by twigs, so there were no long burning embers. We didn’t put up any kind of shelter, but simply rolled out our sleeping bags on the rocks, and made sure to disturb the place as little as possible. The next day, after breakfast, we cleared away all traces of our fireplace and made sure it was safe to leave. The following days we made sure to camp outside of the parks on the Swedish side.

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Our cooking fire at the lake.

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How we left the campsite.

This trip wasn’t in any way how we planned it to be. From beginning to end we ended up planning as we were going, and at first I think we were both disappointed about it. We weren’t even close to where we first wanted to go, we didn’t have any proper maps and we had no idea how far and exactly where we were going. Back home again, I looked at a real map and found out I had confused Rölanda with Romelanda. But we did have a great time and this ended up being one the best hikes I’ve been on. As soon as we put our disappointments aside we really enjoyed the area, which is very beautiful.

About the different themes in this post, besides poor planning and the ability to accept and enjoy even though things aren’t like you thought they would be, I really want to point out traceless roaming. This is something I’ve always taken seriously, but this time it really seemed necessary. Not as much because of the risk of detection and breaking a written law, but in respect of the special status of the area we were in. Of course you could argue that we shouldn’t have made a fire, but we really did our best to disturb the place as little as possible. One of the thoughts I dread the most when camping, is to be responsible for wildfire, permanent disturbance of wildlife or the likes. This goes for anywhere I camp, and not just because this time it was a national park. It just made me think about it a little more. And really, if you work traceless roaming into your routines, it forces you to reflect about what and how you do things and I’d argue it will improve your outdoor skills!

Mukluks

By plantigrade 2014.04.16 in Mukluks

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My first project this year, was to make a pair of mukluks. Mukluks are a soft boot, traditionally made of reindeer or sealskin by the arctic peoples. The name mukluk comes from the Yupik word maklak, or that’s at least what wikipedia says. I’m pretty sure this kind of boot hasn’t only existed in the arctic americas and Greenland, because the design is so simple and brilliant. This was my first attempt at making mukluks and it took me around 5 hours to make them. That’s only counting sewing time. I also pent quite some time measuring for the right size and figuring out exactly how to approach it. Next time it’ll be a lot easier.

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It was originally published in 1945 which you’ll notice when you read it. It doesn’t have a huge amount of details, but enough to get you started and challenge your mind and creativity. Also it takes me back to some of my childhood projects and games.  I really would have loved this book when I was 12.  Actually I used the guide for making soft woodland moccasins and converted them into mukluks. The ones I made aren’t all like the original mukluks, but they’re my version and an experiment.

As I mentioned, originally mukluks were made of reindeer or seal skin. Since I had neither, I made mine of sheepskin and canvas. The foot of the boot is sheepskin with the wool on the inside, and the leg is canvas. The whole thing is made of three pieces simply sewn together. I added another piece by sewing on a strip of skin to the foot so without the canvas, it would be an ankle boot and not a shoe. That turned out to be a good idea, and gave me warm ankles. The trickiest part was crimping the skin around the toe. The rest was very straight forward. I’ll post a step by step guide to how I made mine later. For the stitchings I used flax thread and artificial sinew, which really is just waxed nylon. I used the artificial sinew on the skin parts, because the thread is flat and I was afraid the strong, round flax would tear into the soft skin. I have a bunch of red deer sinews, but thins were kind of hectic when I was making them, so I took the easiest way. Next time I’m making something out of skin, it’s going to be with the real stuff. Also because of limited time, I used paracord as “laces”. I heated the soles with an ironer and melted in some beeswax to “waterproof” them. The same was done to the front of the canvas parts.

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I tested my mukluks in Norway this winter, and they work really well. Only thing is, you need dry cold weather. I used them in camp on a trip with -25 celsius and I was definitely the one with the warmest feet. But when the weather got warmer I gave up using them. In warmer, wetter conditions the skin soaks up on the moisture and you’re no longer the one smiling. I new it would be like this, but it’s great to “discover” it yourself and not just read of it. I’m glad I made them and got to test them and I’ll definitely be using them again. Next time I make some I’ll try to get hold of the original materials though.

Unfortunately the cold was too much for my camera and I don’t have any pictures of them in action.

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Building a baidarka.

By plantigrade 2014.04.06 in Baidarka

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As a part of the outdoors guide course I’m doing this year, we’re building our own baidarkas. The baidarka is the Aleutian Kayak, developed by the people of the Aleut Islands for their specific waters and needs. We’ve been building the baidarkas in several steps over the last four months and finally reached the point where they only need painting, and the finishing details. The type of baidarka we’re building is a modern adaptation of the Aleutian kayak developed by experienced kayak builder and outdoorsman Svend Ulstrup. The vessel is made as a skin on frame boat. The frame of spruce laced together with hemp and flax string, the ribs made of oak, the masik made of beech, the sterns cut out of plywood and covered by a skin of canvas sewn tightly around it all. The “original” baidarka had a round deck which meant more storage room when travelling. But for practical reasons, such as time, materials and so on our decks are mainly flat. Even though our modern baidarka is very flexible in the water, it’s still stiffer than the original. The Aleuts developed a variety of techniques to make their baidarka extremely flexible yet strong. a really nice thing about building in this way is that every material (except maybe for the glue in the plywood) is natural. I like the fact that I could just leave the kayak, and it would be able to return to nature without doing any harm.

Since I haven’t yet paddled a baidarka, or any skin on frame kayak, I’ll wait with going further into details on its paddling qualities and comparison with a plastic kayak.

I really can’t wait to getting it wet.

 

Here’s a short demonstration of what’s possible in a baidarka. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT1Cl_oi0ow

 

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The frame. No glue or screws, only dowels and string.

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Wrapping it up, getting ready to stretch the canvas.

 

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It was relatively cold and the humidity was high, so to loosen up the fabric for stretching, the canvas was heated up.

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The view in the cockpit.

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Spring.

By plantigrade 2014.04.05 in Carving

I recently returned from a seven week long winterfjeld course in the Tyin area of Norway. Now home again, this was my first trip to the forest. The weather was sunny and warm, and after a night in the open air on the bank of Lake Gurre Sø, l woke up to a symphony of geese, swans, cormorants and ducks… and this sunrise.

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Last fall we’ve had quite some storms, in which a lot of trees have been blown over. I found a nice piece of birch, still wet and all and spent the better part of the day carving. The result so far is this spoon and a kuksa. The battery of my camera ran out before I managed to photograph the kuksa, but I’ll post some pics of the finished result along with the finished spoon. I usually shape the kuksa roughly and just begin the hollowing out while the wood is all fresh. Then I put it away and continue the carving in steps over a period of time, so the wood doesn’t dry out too fast. I’ve too often been too eager to get the job done, which only results in the wood “shock” drying and then splitting. With spoons it’s not that dramatic, because the hollow isn’t that deep. Generally, the more wood you remove in one go, the greater the risk is that the remaining wood will warp and split. Between the carving days, I store the kuksa in a plastic bag. Make sure not to close the bag too tightly or the kuksa will become all moldy. A friend of mine stores his kuksas in a bucket, covered in the still wet shavings from the carving. This seems to work really well, because the shavings surround the kuksa with moisture. This way the wood dries out slowly and the process can be controlled.

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Knives.

By plantigrade 2014.04.05 in Knives

Here are a couple of knives I’ve made some years ago. I haven’t had the opportunity to photograph them all. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make time for knifemaking for too long now, but I do have a couple of nice blades waiting for a handle and a sheath, so there should be some new ones coming up. When it comes to knives I really like the scandi design. I think it makes a really elegant knife and most of them are very good allround knives too.

Top: Handle made of ovenkol, smoked oak and brass.

Middle: Handle made of curly birch, reindeer antler and brass. Blade forged by Aage Frederiksen.

Bottom: Handle made of stained maple, reindeer antler and tin. Blade grinded by Per Glerup.

 

Knife

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First post!

By plantigrade 2014.04.05 in Uncategorized

Hi there.
Welcome to my new blog, which is in fact my first blog ever!

This blog will be about my deep fascination with nature and wilderness living. The technologies, skills and crafts of “primitive peoples”, and the pre agricultural world. This won’t be strictly without modern materials and tools, but is meant as a way of sharing my experiences and adventures with the full extent of my feet placed solidly and responsibly in the natural world.

Looking forward to sharing with you all.
-Tobias

Welcome

This blog is about my deep fascination with nature and wilderness living. The technologies, skills and crafts of “primitive peoples”, and the pre agricultural world. This won’t be without modern materials, but is for sharing my experiences/adventures with the full extent of my feet placed solidly and responsibly in the natural world.

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