The Woodsboy’s first knife

A little over a year ago, when the Woodsboy turned 5, I bought him his first knife. While this may seem too young an age to some people, I think this is largely a 1st-world viewpoint. From evidence I have seen, children in rural areas of developing countries and tribal societies around the world are accustomed to using knives at even younger ages. It’s true that this is largely out of necessity, as they don’t live in a world full of pre-packaged, store-bought items, but the simple fact is that they would not be allowed to handle knives like this if they were not capable of it. So under constant supervision, with safety always in mind and with a clear set of ground rules (e.g. always cutting away from himself, always returning his knife to its sheath when not in use, only cutting things Daddy lets him cut, letting Daddy keep the knife in a safe place when we’re not practicing with it etc.), I have begun teaching the Woodsboy how to use his first knife.

The knife in question is the Condor Junior from Marttiini:

Image linked from http://www.marttiini.fi

I bought this knife from a local sporting goods store for around 25 Euros ($27.50). A few specs:

  • 8 cm (3.2″) Scandi-ground blade
  • Rounded tip for safety
  • Finger guard
  • Grippy rubber handle
  • Rugged leather sheath

So far over the past year or so we have used the knife together about half a dozen times, and our use has been centered around safe handling, as well as getting to know how the blade works and how to cut effectively. Most of what we do is cutting sticks, whittling and cutting string. As he gets older and progresses, we’ll work on wood carving and other things like that. I’m happy to say that the Woodsboy has never come close to hurting himself with the knife and am proud to see that he handles it in a safe way (praise for good behavior goes a long way!). If you are looking for a starter knife for a child, I highly recommend the Marttiini Condor Junior or a similar knife with the same level of quality and safety features. The Condor Junior is a solid, well-made knife which should serve my son well for years (BTW, the tip can be ground pointy later on when he is mature enough and can begin carving with the tip).

I will leave you with a picture from last weekend showing the Woodsboy practicing his feather-stick/shaving making skills. Needless to say, we were both very proud of his pile of shavings (which by the end was more than enough to get a campfire going). :)

DISCLAIMER: Utmost care is necessary when allowing children to use bladed tools. They should NOT be left unattended. You alone as a parent/guardian are responsible for deciding whether or not your own child is old/mature enough to handle bladed tools and for teaching and supervising them.

Will the real Weekend Woodsman please stand up?

It appears someone in Canada has purchased the domain name http://www.weekendwoodsman.com, is calling himself “Weekend Woodsman” and has been running a blog of the same name since July of 2014 (almost 3 years after I started my blog “The Weekend Woodsman”). I have never been contacted by him regarding use of the name “Weekend Woodsman,” so perhaps he was simply unaware of my blog and meant no harm. However, since both the content of our blogs and the climate we live in are similar, I would appreciate it if he would change the name of his blog (for example “Weekend Woodsman in Canada,” “Weekend Woodsman in CA,” “Weekend Woodsman in Newfoundland” etc.) so as to avoid confusion. I do not wish for people who are looking for my blog to think his is mine by mistake. Unfortunately, I’m having a tough time getting in touch with him, as I can’t log in to leave comments at his blog, send him an email etc. If anyone knows the owner of this blog/website or if you are able to contact him, please ask him to contact me.

Thanks!

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da…

I don’t often talk about personal issues here at the blog, but I feel compelled to share a little information about why it has been relatively quiet here for so long. Almost a year ago now, my wife and I separated. That separation will be finalized this year. I don’t want to go into too much detail, though I will say that the cause wasn’t anything heavy like substance abuse, infidelity or anything like that. It essentially came down to us being two very different people who seemed to be on different paths in life. I will say that the thing that probably hurt me most was the breakup of our family, which I thought was very unfair to the Woodsboy and his emotional future, especially since we had always had such a happy and healthy home life. However, when two people don’t share the same general set of moral and ethical values about what is most important in life, eventually there will be problems. Our separation and divorce were very surprising to many people, including our relatives, co-workers etc., many of whom didn’t understand it (and I have to admit I still don’t understand it 100%).

In the grand scheme of things, though, this doesn’t matter. The fact is that life is going to give you what it gives you, whether you want it or not. There will be injuries. There will be job losses. There will be separations. These things are absolutely inevitable. The only thing we have control over is how we respond to the things that happen to us. You can either get angry and upset, which makes things worse, or you can turn the other cheek and transform it into something positive. You could say life had given me a truck-load of lemons last year. Fortunately for me, I like lemonade. :)

So life does, and has been, going on. I took a break from bushcraft, camping etc. for a while, instead focusing on my growth and development as a person, spending lots of fantastic quality time with the Woodsboy, forging new friendships and working on projects at the homestead. Speaking of the homestead, the contractor I hired to restore the cabin says the work should be complete by the end of May. This will be a significant development, not only for me, but for the blog as well. Once the structural restoration is complete and I have set up the interior (and get electricity, a water pump etc.), I will actually be able to live and work there for up to a week at a time thanks to the mobile nature of my job. This means instant access to the woods and the ability to work on homestead/gardening/cabin projects anytime I’m there, something that I have never had since starting this blog!

So thank you for being patient! You can expect the frequency of posts to pick up here over the next few weeks and months (starting with a trip report on an overnighter I took late last month). I will finish this post with advice to any of you who may be going through hard times right now: Stand firm. Be resolute. No obstruction, no hindrance, no injury or setback is so severe that you cannot get past it with God’s help. Life may not be the same afterwards, but you will be stronger for having gone through it. Time does heal all wounds, especially when you help it along by having a positive mindset.

Cabin restoration project – Quick update (the outer roof is on)

Progress on the cabin has been going at a snail’s pace because the contractor has been tied up with larger projects, but I wanted to give you a mini-update on what has been going on. The “vesikatto” (or “water roof”, i.e. the outer roof) has been built on the cabin shell. There is still a gap between the roof and the walls, which will be filled when the roof insulation and interior paneling are installed.

Now that the roof is on, it’s really starting to look a lot more like a “real” cabin/house. Not too shabby!

(blurry “naked” shot from a friend’s phone:)

The next step should be to put in the windows, door and subfloor, as well as to remove the wall that’s currently dividing the cabin into two rooms.

My DIY canvas pouch for pocket carry

For the past 5+ years, I have regularly worn a pouch on my belt for convenient access to small, frequently used items (and emergency items) while in the woods. While convenience is great, a more important benefit of belt pouches is that they allow you to keep some critical gear items separate from your backpack so that, should your pack be separated from you, you still have a few basic essential capabilities. Without exaggeration, this can mean the difference between life and death in the most extreme cases.

As great as belt pouches are, though, they are not without their drawbacks. Besides getting in the way of backpack hip belts and other things that go around your waist, some belt pouches can get caught on branches etc. while passing through thick brush and sometimes even be opened up unintentionally in the process. They can also get in the way of long shirts and jackets (or create a large bulge if worn underneath).

Wanting to retain the benefits of a belt pouch, but not be bothered with the drawbacks, I decided to try out pocket carry instead. Whatever season it is, and whatever I happen to be wearing, I always have large pockets which can be snapped closed to hold a small pouch full of important items. Although pocket carry may be slightly less convenient, I’d be happy to give up a small amount of convenience in exchange for being more “aerodynamic”. ;)

I put together this small canvas pouch on a lazy afternoon around Christmas:

I have already used this pouch once and found that it works great. There seems to be very little disadvantage to having the items in my pocket, as opposed to on my belt. I’ll continue to carry this way in the future and see how it goes. Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s in the pouch, you’ll have to wait for my overall gear update. :)

As a little bonus, here are some recent pictures I took at the old farm. The Woodsboy and I went out with some friends of ours after Christmas. Hope you enjoy!

Cabin restoration project – A cabin is (re)born!

“Another cabin post? Hey Weekend Woodsman, why don’t you just change the name of your blog to ‘The Cabin Restoration Project Blog’?” I know, I know. The simple truth is that I haven’t been doing any bushcraft, camping etc. since earlier this year because I’ve been spending my free time working on the old farm property. Now that the sauna building repairs are finished for the year and a professional has begun work on restoring the cabin, I can spend more of my free time on outdoor pursuits (e.g. Alex and I are planning an upcoming camping trip). But for now, here’s another installment of the cabin restoration project!

Last time around, I mentioned that any restoration of the old farm house has been put on the back burner due to cost and time constraints, and that for the time being the project will revolve around the restoration of one of the farm’s outbuildings instead. The building I speak of is called an “aitta” in Finnish, and the English translation for this word is usually something like “shed” or “grainery”, but I don’t really think either of these words are a good match. An aitta is a log building usually made up of two or three conjoined rooms, each with its own door to the outside. The rooms are unheated and can be furnished as living quarters or used for storage. I think one of the rooms in the aitta at the old farm may have been used to house animals, because it contains what looks like three animal stalls (this particular room will NOT be reused in this project).

The current phase of the project involves the dismantling, reconstruction and conversion of the other two aitta rooms into a  two-room cabin with a loft. The aitta in question:

Here’s what’s left of the building at its original site:

After choosing a new site for the building, the contractor broke ground:

In the ground around the concrete block and timber foundation, he constructed what’s called a “salaoja”, or “hidden channel” covered over with gravel, which allows rain and snow-melt to drain away from the building area quickly. This prevents the moisture-related problems which plague so many old log buildings in the north country. Following this, the contractor removed the tin roof from the aitta and carefully dismantled the building, log by log. Before he did this, though, he numbered each individual log to make it easier to put the big jigsaw puzzle back together again later. Then began the process of reconstructing the building on its new foundation. For insulation between the logs, the contractor used some sort of natural-looking fibrous material (I’ll have to ask him about this). In the old days, sphagnum moss and old clothing were used instead! The pictures below show the current state of affairs. The contractor is jumping back and forth between different projects at the moment, so the work will not be continuous. He put a tarp over the whole shebang to keep rain and snow out until he puts a new roof on, which is the next step in the process.

Needless to say, I am very pleased with the work so far. A cabin is really beginning to take shape. Before long, this century-old homestead building will be brought back to life, its latest incarnation being a 30.5 m2 (330 sq ft) recreational cabin!

Interested in seeing how log buildings like this were constructed? Check this out:

Cabin restoration project – Finishing the sauna interior, and a new direction for the project

Hey guys and gals. It’s been a while! Since the last installment of this series, I have finished renovating the interior of the sauna building, so I thought I’d give you an update on that, as well as fill you in on the new direction the project is taking.

Last time, I showed that the changing room floor was almost complete. I have since finished the floor, molding etc. and, with the help of the Woodsboy, furnished that tiny room with some items salvaged from the old farm house: a little rug, a cot, a small folding table and an upholstered chair. Normally, a changing room like this would only have a bench or some chairs, but until there is a larger cabin on the property, this is the way it will stay.

As for the sauna side of the building, I’m happy to say it no longer looks like this:

Unfortunately, the nasty rotten floor boards in that room weren’t the only problem with the sauna. Removing the heat-shielding panels from behind the old sauna stove also revealed extensive water (and ant) damage resulting from a leak in the chimney. So I removed all the rotten and damaged wood from that room and enlisted the help of more experienced fellows to help me get the room into shape. We installed new floor boards, new wall boards, special waterproof trim around the bottom of the walls and some profiling along the drainage channel in the floor to protect the wood from water damage.

Next came the most important item in the sauna: the stove! I received this second-hand stove for free, which I was very happy about! Heat-shielding panels were installed around the stove to protect the wall. As you can see, the stove features a hot-water tank which allows you to heat water for bathing.

The final step in finishing the sauna was to sand and treat the benches.

With this, the interior of the sauna building is finished. What’s left is to make new steps out front to replace the rotting ones and give the exterior a new coat of paint. I will also dig out some of the soil under the building and replace it with gravel for better water drainage.

And now: the new direction of the overall project! Originally, the plan was to renovate all or part of the old farm house for use as a cabin…

…and to set up a small, one-room milled-plank cabin kit nearby which could be used while the house was being repaired and then later serve as a guest house. Unfortunately, it turns out that the amount of money and time required to renovate the old house will simply not be available anytime soon, so I scrapped this plan. While thinking of alternatives, I took stock of the existing buildings at the farm and realized that there might be some potential in the building I always called “the barn” (it’s actually more of a storage building, but one of the rooms does have animal stalls).

Admittedly, it looks like the building is about to fall over, but the log walls are in good condition and the building does have a decent amount of floor space. So I had a professional contractor who specializes in log buildings come out to assess the situation and I told him that I’d like to convert the two rooms on the right into a two-room cabin with a loft (the room on the left is not part of the original structure and would be scrapped). He said it shouldn’t be a problem, so that’s the new plan!

On my last trip out to the farm, I was accompanied by my friend Alex of 62nd Parallel North, who helped me empty the storage building of the junk (and good stuff) that had been piled up in there over the decades. Once we got the stuff out, I was happy to see that the logs were in even better condition than I thought.

Soon I will return to the property and remove the roof of this building in preparation for the contractor to come and dismantle it and reassemble it in a better location. He’ll install new floors, a new loft, a new roof, remove part of the wall inside to connect the two rooms, put in a new door and windows and install a wood-burning stove, among other things. Funding for the project will come from the sale of timber recently harvested from the property. By the way, in case you’re wondering, the total floor space of the cabin, including the loft, will be about 30.5 m2 (330 sq ft).

Seeing as how it’s been over two months since my last post, I’m sure some of you have wondered about the status and future of my blog. I’m happy to say that I have no intention of quitting! As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been dealing with something major in my personal life, but I am moving past this and have lots of plans for future blog posts on bushcraft, homesteading, the cabin and more. Please do stay tuned. :)