Monday 5 July 2010


Woodcraft it seems was the old term used, bushcraft is the new one. I have been trying to get a point across about flint & steel fire lighting on an English bushcraft site, but instead of people looking at it with an open mind, they simply take it as a threat and tenaciously defend their own modern methods of making fire. For some the arguement is that if an 18th century woodsman could have used a ferrocium rod to make fire he would have. Probably quite true, at least until the first time he dropped it and it broke! As a matter of fact wilderness dwellers in the 19th century did have the choice of using more modern fire lighting equipment and guns, but they prefered to keep to the flint and steel and flintlock guns because they were more dependable.

These days it is all about travelling light and items that are easy to use, no special skills involved. Where as I go for tried and tested gear that is dependable, even if it does require a little more skill to use and weighs a lot more. The tomahawk is rarely carried these days in preference to using a "bushcraft knife" that can be used for everything. In the 18th and even 19th centuries one had a right tool for each job. The tomahawk or hatchet was for shelter construction, making shelter and trap pegs, used for cutting through bone or joints when field dressing, and any other heavy work. Firewood did not require breaking with a tomahawk, there are other ways to prepare firewood.

The belt knife was/is a hunting knife, it is used to skin and butcher game, for protection, and for eating with. Often a second knife was carried, and sometimes a third, each had a specific use. A second back-up skinning knife might be carried in the top of the legging or under the waist belt or hanging round the neck. A third might be carried for camp chores in the form of a fixed blade or a clasp knife.  The problem with only carrying one knife these days is that if it is lost or damaged, you have nothing else. Nothing to cut with, and nothing to scrape your ferrocium rod with!

I am not sure how other people put their outdoors/camping/trekking/survival gear together, but I always ask myself, "what if".


Joel said...

I think there are a few reasons: one is people's sacred cows, another one is Ray Mears' influence, another is the worry about the knife laws that can lend you in serious trouble if you have the misfortune to cross path with a "jobsworth" police man. I probably don't look like much trouble, just an oldish guy walking his dog! A dog is a very good alibi for being out and about...I much prefer my wood craft stuff to be made of natural material, wood, leather, most of it hand made by me, or obtained through trades. I found that much more satisfying.

Keith said...

Thanks for the feedback Joel, much appreciated.

Hutch said...


I have always wondered, with regards to the butcher knife, about the sheathing and carrying. It looks as if there is no 'secure' attachment to the belt. It would be then much more prone to falling out. Was this something accepted, and kept mindful? Was the belt so tight as to make it hard for its release? Or, as on my Green River butcher, was there a longer 'hidden' belt loop that ran lengthwise on the back of the sheath so it wouldn't fall?


Keith said...

No loops Hutch that I am aware of. I have carried my knife this way for many years now, and it has never come out. The belt does hold the knife and the sheath fast. But if you were to be concerned re losing it, it would be quite acceptable to add a leather thong to the sheath to secure it to the belt.

Hutch said...

That's interesting. I actually noticed that when I was younger, in the movie Last of the Mohicans. It has always seemed to me that surely as they were running up and down the mountains and rivers of New York (or NC, as it were) that it'd fall out. Good to know it doesn't! Thanks!