Puukko/leuku sheath firesteel attachment

Want to know an easy way to attach a firesteel to most traditional Finnish puukko/leuku sheathes without adding a firesteel loop? Attach a piece of elastic cord to the firesteel handle, slip the rod under the leather strip and pull the elastic cord over the end of the rod. The firesteel can be quickly and easily transferred from one knife to another if desired. An alternative using traditional materials would be a leather strip strung through the firesteel handle and tied behind the rod on top.

Hand-made crooked knife

Hope you all had a nice Doomsday. :) Since the world didn’t end yesterday, I was able to make it to the local post office today to pick up a package which I had been eagerly awaiting. Upon opening the small box, I found this inside:

Removing the leather blade wrap exposed the super-sharp edge:

The attractive handle is made of rowan/European mountain ash.

This is a spoon-carving knife, or crooked knife, for carving curved objects like spoons, cups, bowls etc. It was sent to me by OZme of Bush n’ Blade, who made the entire piece from start to finish. Here’s the video he produced showing how he made it. I highly recommend subscribing to his YouTube channel, as he always has new interesting videos about a lot of different topics:

Thank you VERY much OZme! This is a fantastic gift. I can’t wait to use it!

Happy Holidays everyone!

The Council Tool Jersey Classic Axe – Part 1

Back when I was writing guest posts for The Sharpened Axe blog, I reviewed the Jersey Classic Axe from Council Tool in several articles. Since writing those articles and doing the initial testing, I have used the axe from time to time to limb, buck and split up several fallen trees. I thought it might benefit some of you if I rewrote and updated my review and presented it to you here, as some of you might not have seen it. So, without further ado…

In November of 2010 I ordered the Jersey Classic axe with the 36″ handle from Council Tool. It took almost a month to get to me here in Finland because of international shipping, customs handling etc., but I’m sure it would only take a few days within the US. At the time, the axe cost a very reasonable sum of around $60 (plus shipping and customs duties). One of my favorite things about it is that it’s made in the US.

The axe came with the head wrapped in thick paper, and the entire axe was wrapped in bubble wrap. Despite some ham-handed delivery/handling person managing to bend the box in several places along its journey to me, the axe arrived without a scratch thanks to the great packing job.

The Jersey Classic has a 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) head with a 5 1/8″ (12.8 cm) cutting edge and is one beast of a tool! If I remember correctly, the overall weight is about 5 lb (2.27 kg). I’d never owned an axe of this size before, and I bought it with the intention of using it for larger felling, bucking and splitting tasks. Because of its size and weight, I didn’t intend to use it on camping trips where I hike in.

The Jersey pattern head of this axe was attached to the handle via an epoxied serrated aluminum wedge.

First, a few critiques. The hickory handle as it came was quite thick, which is common on new axes these days. The head was a bit misaligned, but field use out in the woods showed it to be a non-issue. Though the axe would cut as is, a large burr/roll was left on the edge after sharpening at the factory. One of the four “phantom bevels” on the head was much less prominent than the others, so that side of the head looked a bit weird.

Now to the good stuff. It seemed like a very solid axe. The grain orientation of the handle was OK, and the quality of the hickory was great. The finish of the steel was also nice. The bit profile was really nice, and looked like it would cut deep. So many cheap hardware store axes hardly have an edge at all and are as thick as splitting mauls. The Council Tool Jersey Classic is not a hardware store axe!

When I get a new tool, piece of outdoor gear, etc. I seldom leave it the way it is. To me, customizing equipment is something that makes it mine, so I got out my tools and went to work.

My first task was to reshape and thin down the handle with my puukko knife. I would say I have medium-sized hands, and the handle of this axe as it came was a bit thick for my liking. Then I spent some time doing finishing touches to and sanding down the handle. I used 60 grit at first, then wet the handle to raise the grain, then sanded lightly with 240 grit after it had dried. Finally, I applied several light coats of linseed oil.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about the partially-missing phantom bevels, but I decided at the time to keep them all instead of sanding them smooth. I redefined/fleshed them out a bit to make them all even and put a patina on them.

Finally, I put a working edge on the bit. I filed off the burr and sharpened the edge with a file and then moved on to a stone. The edge cut paper pretty cleanly after that.

At that point, I was happy with how it looked and felt. Truth be told, if you don’t mind a thicker handle, all you’d really need to do would be to take a few minutes to file and sharpen the edge. I like a thinner handle, so I put the extra work in.

The real test for any tool, of course, is how well it works, so check back soon for Part 2, where I’ll cover my experiences in felling, limbing, bucking and splitting with the Council Tool Jersey Classic axe.

For size comparison, here is the axe next to my vintage Gränsfors (26″/65 cm), Wetterlings LHA (20″/50 cm) and Wetterlings Mini axe (12″/30 cm).

Interested in Finnish bushcraft?

When I moved to Finland, I was happy to find that bushcraft, woodcraft, knife making and other traditional skills have a long history here and are still alive and well today. Since sharing a few blogs and other websites with you almost a year ago, I have learned of several more and some significant changes to others. This post is intended to be an updated list of bushcraft/outdoor-related blogs and websites in Finland (most of which are in English). If you know of any others, please let me know! By the way, please also give the “in Finnish” blogs a chance, even if you don’t speak Finnish. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. :)

Blogs

Blacksmiths/Knife makers

Forum

  • Bushcraft Finland: This is the main (and only, as far as I know) forum for bushcraft in Finland. It was recently moved to a new server/provider and is now advertisement-free. It also has a great new appearance and layout. Both English and Finnish speakers are welcome.

Other

Last, and definitely not least, I want to point you in the direction of some videos from yesteryear showing a variety of Finnish crafts and old-timey ways (click one of the “Isien Työt”s on the left-hand side and then scroll down and click “Katso nyt” to watch a video).

Enjoy!

A visit to the farm on Independence Day

We have just returned from four days in our old neck of the woods visiting my wife’s relatives and celebrating Finnish Independence Day. On Dec. 6th, 1917, Finland adopted the Finnish Declaration of Independence and withdrew from Soviet Russia (very shortly after the USSR’s creation). This holiday holds special meaning for Finns, as I’m sure you can believe. Had they not declared their independence during this hectic period in Russia’s history, they could have been part of the Soviet Union until the 1990s like so many countries bordering Russia.

Each morning of our visit to Eastern Finland, we were greeted by a fresh blanket of snow (on top of the other blankets of snow) and temperatures ranging from -8 to -15*C (17.5 to 5*F). The sun didn’t shine much, but other than that it was pleasant to be outside. Part of our visit was spent at my wife’s grandparents’ farm, where we took the pictures below. They provide a glimpse of the early stage of winter we are in, as well as a look at some elements of a typical old Finnish farm.

Proudly flying the Finnish colors for Independence Day:

The old farm mill, which is no longer in use:

The smoke sauna can be seen here at the bottom left. Just beyond that is the creek which separates the farm from the neighboring property, which fills the rest of the picture:

The big old barn:

Hay field and woods:

Bunny tracks in the yard:

Berry bushes, asleep for the winter:

Here are the Woodswife and Woodsboy opening part of the barn so we can peek inside:

Inside that part of the barn is just some of the firewood they have stockpiled:

Before we headed inside, the Woodsboy took a tractor ride with great-grandpa:

Here’s an old photo showing great-grandpa when he himself was just a Woodsboy:

Four generations of proud Finns, going back well beyond the first Finnish independence day (my wife is generation 5, and the Woodsboy is generation 6):

The icing on the cake of a nice visit to the country was leaving with these:

Hand-knit wool over-socks, made by my wife’s grandmother. I can’t have enough pairs of these. Socks like these accompany me on every winter outing, and now I have a new favorite pair. :)

Thanks go out to the Woodswife for taking most of the pictures for this post. Fortunately, she has recently expressed interest in writing full articles about things like berry and mushroom picking, making preserves and juices, family/farm history etc., so you can expect to see them (eventually) here. :)

Alternative water carrier for winter hiking and camping

Preventing the water in your canteen or water bottle from freezing can be a problem when the temperature is well below 0*C/32*F. It’s true that in this situation there’s a good chance there will be snow around which can be melted and used for drinking and cooking, but this isn’t always convenient or possible.

One way to keep a supply of liquid water with you is to use a thermos as a canteen. Everyone is familiar with using thermoses for their intended purpose of keeping hot drinks/soups hot, but they are also effective at preventing slightly warm or room-temperature liquids from freezing in the winter, thanks to their insulative properties. Just fill yours up with water at home before you head out or with boiled/filtered/treated water while in the wilds, just like you would with a regular canteen or water bottle, and you’re good to go. It’ll save you both time and effort!

By the way, did you know you can use a thermos to cook some foods as well? Just add the correct amount of boiling water and the contents of your favorite rice or pasta meal package to the thermos, shake it up well and hit the trail/woods. Your food will prepare itself without any chance of it burning and will stay hot for hours! I picked up this tip from The Backwoodsman Magazine.

And to my Finnish readers: hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää! :)

4-in-1 camp kitchen multitool

It’s been a while since I’ve shown a carving project here at the blog. Ok, ok, the only thing I’ve ever shown that could be called a carving project was the snowshoeing pole I made last winter. Anyway, I’ve been planning on doing more carving projects for a while, and as anybody who lives in the far north can tell you, a lazy weekend during the long, dark winter is the perfect time to bang something out, so that’s what I did. Allow me to introduce you to the 4-in-1 camp kitchen multitool (and the tools I used to make it):

http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z326/bmatt78/Misc/DSCF2007.jpg

It slices, it dices, it blends…eh…well, it doesn’t do any of that, but what it does do is to meet several needs I have while preparing food in the wilds. The most obvious function is that of a spatula. I wanted something softer than my metal spoon which I could use to stir food in my frying pan. (By the way, the brown spots you see are part of the natural coloring of the wood.)

http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z326/bmatt78/Misc/A.jpg

I don’t usually eat things like pasta, rice and other such meals with a fork while camping, simply preferring my spoon instead (I don’t carry a metal fork at all), but when it comes to holding a piece of meat or sausage while I take bites from it, a fork like the one shown here really comes in handy. It can also be used as a grill fork to manipulate the meat while it’s cooking on a grill/grate.

http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z326/bmatt78/Misc/DSCF1967.jpg

Surely you also noticed the notch on the side of the spatula head. I call this the pot-lifter, because, well, that’s what I’m going to use it for! Instead of burning my fingers or using a stick of questionable strength, I’ll just hook the bail of my pot or kettle with the notch and lift away.

http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z326/bmatt78/Misc/DSCF2013.jpg

The last function might be a bit of a stretch, but I plan on using this tool as a kind of fire poker or “coal shuffler”. Being made of wood, it’ll obviously be best suited for quick reshuffling of coals and firewood with the spatula end, and not for prolonged use.

http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z326/bmatt78/Misc/DSCF1992.jpg

The piece of birch I used to make this tool was originally headed for the inferno of a wood stove full of glowing coals at a relative’s house, but I managed to “rescue” it just in the nick of time. My plan was to use only my Finnish puukko knife for the entire project, but the work of thinning out the spatula head became tedious after a while, so I used a rasp to speed up the process. After I was finished with the knife and rasp work, I gave the tool a quick, light sanding. The whole project took longer than it would have if I had used a hatchet or carving axe to rough out the general shape of it prior to taking the knife to it, but for some reason I felt compelled to do (almost) the whole job using only my knife, so that’s how I did it. All that’s left to do now is to raise the grain of the wood by wetting it and then sanding it after it’s dried. I’ll probably give it a light coating of oil after that as well.

As an aside, the knife I used for this project is a traditional forged puukko style knife made by Antti Mäkinen. I bought this knife from Antti at a knife show in 2009, and it has served me well since then. The carbon steel blade is 7 cm/2.8″ long and has a Scandi grind with a microbevel. The handle material is rowan/European mountain ash.

I thoroughly enjoyed this simple carving project and look forward to the next one. Let me know what you think!