Friday, 27 February 2009

The Return Of The F1

My fallkniven F1 dropped onto the door mat a couple of days ago, back from its trip to its birth place in Sweden. Now that it's back I though I do a review after a year or more of use.

I bought the F1 as I'd seen them mentioned on numerous Bushcraft and knife forums and seen a few well thought of instructors using them. While the F1 isn't my idea of the perfect bushcraft knife - blades too thick for fine woodcarving- I do really rate the design. Alone in the woods this puppy would be a wellspring of confidence. For fire and shelter it's absolutely perfect, if you wanted to whittle a violin to play while your waiting to be rescued you may find something a little thinner more to your taste.

Regular readers will remember that I chipped the tip (1mm-1.5mm) a while back splitting a piece of Leylandii for a backyard fire. I wasnt that impressed, but in fairness to fallkniven I had already subjected the knife to some heavy use during which it had acquitted itself admirably. 
One of the key feature of a 'survival knife's is that it needs to be a 'pry bar with an edge' and buoyed with the confidence of other peoples user reports I took them at their word and treated it without mercy. After the testing I did in the first few days I had cause to take up all the carpet in the bottom part of the house; cut it into pieces small enough to sneak into the domestic rubbish collection, take up what seemed like miles of carpet tracking (the nail studded wooden strips that holds your carpet against the wall) and then pry up a few floor boards. No problem. Scratches? Yes loads, but it kept an edge and showed no signs of bending.

Then I set out to teach myself convex sharpening, using the mouse mat method, and although it pains me to tell you this - I suck at it. The idea is that you glue a range of different abrasives papers to the undersides of old mouse mats and by pulling the blade over the abrasive service you'll sharpen the edge, while maintaining the 'apple seed' shape of the blade. Many, many people have achieved spectacular results with this method. One day I may even join their ranks.

If you fancy a go yourself here's the top tip I SHOULD have followed.

The only pressure you need is the weight of the blade, ANY pressing down on the blade will round the edge not sharpen it. Opps!

I put the F1 in the post to Peter Hjortberger, owner of fallkniven, and this is what he emailed back to me.

......Your knife has arrived. What I find is a well used knife, very blunt edge and a loss of the tip of around 1.5 mm. Regular wear and tear is NOT covered by our warranty. Our offer is to regrind your blade into a good shape for free but charge you for the return cost......

I thought this was a fair assessment of the situation and gratefully coughed up for the postage.

Team Fallkniven have refinished the blade to a wicked edge, sharper than when it came out of the box, and put a shine on the blade that would let you signal to a rescue plane. The blade seems a little thinner than I remember it, but I didn't/don't have a micrometer handy.
The person who re worked the blade took a bit of metal off the ricasso (where the handle ends and where the shaping of the edge begins) I'm sure many Britishblades or knifeforums members would be livid, but as I keep having to explain to my nearest and dearest I'm not a knife collector, I'm an enthusiast. They're tools to me.  

So, having been thoroughly tested,  I can give what I expect to be my final assessment of the F1. 
  • Worth the money? YES 
(I told a well known knife vendor what I paid for mine and the look on his face made me think they aint that cheap wholesale, but even during our current exchange-rate-meltdown they're still a lot of tool for the cash - if you are after one: I keep seeing bargains on british blades in the Portobello Rd forum)
  • Holds an edge? YES (It'll withstand anything. Except incompetence)
  • Strongly made? YES  (very, beating it this deep destroyed the Oak mallet I used)

  • Fit for purpose? YES (they were designed as survival knives, not scalpels, not bushcraft knives. They also make excellent carpet removal tools)
  • Would I buy another? What do you think? ;-)
Wait 'till you see the bayonet I got for my birthday!!
your pal
The Bushwacker

A Tale of Two Rounds

I've managed to include all three still life knife/gun blog conventions in this picture. 
Camo, Steel and Brass! 

Note to self - Get A Life


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Metsakaamera Or Wild Pig TV

This one may prove fruitful for any other armchair nature watchers. It's a game camera in Estonia that's becoming a bit of an internet phenomenon 75,000 people A DAY have logged on!

See what's happening NOW

The main site is linked here and they have several other cameras featured. I would tell you more about it, but to be honest I've already neglected my homework quite long enough.
your pal 
The Bushwacker.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Adventure Writing: An Outsider Art

It's been a while since I wrote about the books that are the inspiration for this blog. There are a few that have given me a glimpse of how I'd like to be, shaping my thinking and aspirations. 
The thing that connects them all is that they chronicle the journey of outsiders. Some have the outsider label forced upon them, others are compelled to seek out new ways of being to escape a life they feel unsuited to.

Ishi was the ultimate outsider; having literally stepped out of the stone age into the Edwardian age. But his story wouldn't have been brought to life for me in the same way if it weren't for his friend and counterpoint Saxton Pope. A man who, when the chance presented itself was ready to make the journey in the opposite direction.   If I couldn't become more like Ishi; wild, free, and indistinguishable from the landscape. I'd happily settle for being like Saxton Pope. The old school gent afield, bypassing convention, passionately curious about the world beyond his understanding, while carrying the good bits of home with him. An outsider partially by choice, partially because it's his default setting to swim against the tide.

Another inspiration who fits that frame is Eric Newby. Not a hunter or fisherman, but a total card, and some spinner of yarns....

'A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush' is one of the greatest travel books ever written and how its written. Newby conjures up the droll gentleman adventurer better than anyone, with the notion of adventure as a pursuit anyone could take up as an alternative to say, playing bridge or stamp collecting.

Newby could never have been mistaken for an ordinary man, not even at a hundred yards. His youth was full of high adventure; leave private school, work aboard a four-masted ship, win boxing matches against other crew members, serve in the special boat service (the SAS without the shoot-and-tell autobiographies) taken prisoner in WWII, escapes, betrayed, recaptured, meets Wanda, after the war returning to Italy to see the people who had sheltered him and while he's there he marries the stunning Wanda.

Surely this would be enough to convince anyone that they had a certain something. Something, which should be listened to. Followed even. But somehow he found himself working in woman's fashion, a field he latter admitted that he was totally unsuited for and had been told he was unsuited to. Daily. For ten years.

During the lunch hour of one particularly trying day at the office [told to hilarious effect in chapter two] he was to send a telegram to his pal Hugh Carless that changed his already remarkable life forever.


He returned from lunch a changed man. Sending that telegram was powerful magik. Magik that was to evoke all that was best in him. Providence of course answered, in this case by return telegram.


Within weeks he has jacked in his job, set about filling their small flat’s living room with the giant bewildering pile of specialist kit that such an endeavor needs. Rented the flat out, arranged for Wanda and the children to live with his mum and dad. Wanda must absolutely rock because she thinks this is all good and accompanies the boys on the first leg of the journey!

In order to get the visas they need Newby and Carless decide that a compelling reason to go to Nuristan would be - mountaineering. Knowing the sum total of not-a-lot about mountaineering they decide that a weekends ‘practice’ would be in order and spend the weekend in a hilly part of Wales seeking guidance from climbing obsessed waitresses and bearded men in rough-hewn sweaters. I could spend all night writing out hilarious scenes from the book, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Newby is prepared to go a long way to break out of the monotony of a life that is totally untrue to him. However much he understates it, he is the real deal himself - a true explorer. Finding hither to hidden parts of himself in unmapped parts of the world. 
One scene that resonates with me shows that just like the rest of us, however far you go to escape the disappointing mediocrity of the modern world, even when he’s stepped over the ragged edge and is trekking though an alien landscape amongst people whose lives and customs havent changed much since the time of their prophet, he bumps into a living legend whose been SO much further.

We came down into a junction in the Panjshir river. We'd been travelling all day, and all night, crossing a very wild pass. "Look," said Hugh, my companion, "it must be Thesiger."
Thesiger's horses lurched to a standstill on the execrable track. They were deep-loaded with great wooden presses, marked "British Museum", and black tin trunks.
The party consisted of two villainous-looking tribesmen dressed like royal mourners in long overcoats reaching to the ankles; a shivering Tajik cook, to whom some strange mutation had given bright red hair, unsuitably dressed for central Asia in crippling pointed brown shoes and natty socks supported by suspenders, but no trousers; the interpreter, a gloomy-looking middle-class Afghan in a coma of fatigue, wearing dark glasses, a double-breasted lounge suit and an American hat with stitching all over it; and Thesiger himself, a great, long-striding crag of a man, with an outcrop for a nose and bushy eyebrows, 45 years old and as hard as nails, in an old tweed jacket, a pair of thin grey cotton trousers, rope-soled Persian slippers and a woollen cap comforter.
"Turn round," he said, "you'll stay the night with us. We're going to kill some chickens."
We tried to explain that we had to get to Kabul but our men, who professed to understand no English but were reluctant to pass through the gorges at night, had already turned the horses and were making for the collection of miserable hovels that was the nearest village.
Soon we were sitting under some mulberry trees, surrounded by the entire population, with all Thesiger's belongings piled up behind us. "Can't speak a word of the language," he said cheerfully. "Know a lot of the Koran by heart but not a word of Persian. Still, it's not really necessary. Here, you," he shouted at the cook, who had only entered his service the day before and had never seen another Englishman. "Make some green tea and a lot of chicken and rice - three chickens." After two hours the chickens arrived; they were like elastic, only the rice and gravy were delicious. Famished, we wrestled with the bones in the darkness.
"England's going to pot," said Thesiger, as Hugh and I lay smoking the interpreter's king-size cigarettes, the first for a fortnight. "Look at this shirt, I've only had it three years, now it's splitting. Same with tailors; Gull and Croke made me a pair of whipcord trousers to go to the Atlas Mountains. Sixteen guineas - wore a hole in them in a fortnight. Bought half a dozen shotguns to give to my headmen, well-known make, 20 guineas apiece, absolute rubbish."
The ground was like iron with sharp rocks sticking up out of it. We started to blow up our air beds. "God, you must be a couple of pansies," said Thesiger.

The last word goes to the writer Evelyn Waugh who, mistaking our Newby for another Newby, agreed to write a preface for the first edition.

'Dear reader if you have any softness left for the idiosyncrasies of our rough island race, fall to and enjoy this characteristic artifact.'


Friday, 13 February 2009

Weekend Reading

Have a look at this fascinating article about how a community decides which innovations are likely to help and which are likely to hinder. Very cool and well written too.

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt6

The season approaches and a Suburban Bushwackers thoughts turn to; Trout, buying stuff he don't need, and milled aluminum for milled aluminum's sake.

Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. 
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary. 
Patrick F. McManus

Sex on a stick (sticks in carbon, fiberglass or bamboo) from Halo Reels

Your pal
The Bushwacker

Sunday, 8 February 2009

S'now Its time For Archery

Snow had closed my course down for two days. so we had an afternoon free. we put the time to good use. Archery! Posture,upper body strength, breathing, aim, release and the bow all need some work.
The Northern Monkey had scouted out some land and on the walk in we found a dumped black plastic air vent. Target!
TNM shot ever tighter groups, while I couldn't even manage a loose association.
Luckily a sudden fart of wind was sent by the coyote god, and one of my arrows smashed the target!

TNM retorted with a 'tree splitter'.But still NIL POINT!
Showing another great example of th sheer dumb luck that has sustained me so far, another field point juddered home. Here you see me explaining to The Northern Monkey the traditional 'salute' used to remind the french that our archery skills are superior to theirs.
The bow is way too big for me,[I cant remember my draw from my days at the archery class'].
It's much more TNM's size so I shan't morn leaving it with him. After all, he needs the practice!!

Keep Warm

Thursday, 5 February 2009

For Bongo Man

Here's one for Bongo Man AKA The Northern Monkey
How cool is that dude? How cold must you be now? Brrr!
Keep warm fella, and say Hi to Sir Hiss

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

It's A Different World Up Here

New To The Blog Roll

The collective name for a flock of snipe is Wisp - a wonderfully evocative, melancholic name, ideally suited to the half a dozen or so birds I saw vanish on a cold, starkly beautiful day.

I've received an email from a new blogger, who writes the amateur naturalist blog, great prose and great photography, so i thought i'd invite you all to stop by  and take a look. The blog only started last month so i wouldn't usually mention it until it had a few more posts.However I found something beguiling in the writing style, is it just because its 5.30am ? You decide. 


Monday, 2 February 2009

Down Among The Variables.

I just got in from a dog walking session with NPM (northern plumbing mate) and noticed a new post from The Gear Junkie about the very puffer jacket brand I'd been raving about to NPM, Canada Goose.

As we walked around the park I was boiling in my puffer jacket- I had to vent three times and ended up taking the hood down and my hat off. On the way back to the house I my arms the were suddenly cold. They were soaked through and the cold had started to bite. I was reminded of a conversation I'd had with Tobermory...... 

To set the scene: your pal the bushwacker is seeking advise before facing 'difficult' clients

Tobermory [who you met here]: (kindly wise eyes a twinkle)
'You're ready, you think you can do it'

SBW: (looking across the yawning chasm between our levels of talent, wisdom and experience)
'I guess so'.

Tobermory: 'What are you doing to buy insurance?'

SBW: 'Reduce the variables, I don't want any surprises. Find consistent capabilities and build from there.'

Tobermory: 'even more useful if you know the operational range of those capabilities'

SBW: 'Ahh I getcha! Like a down jacket is the warmest thing in the world while your stood still, but as the warmth starts to make you sweat, moisture rises into the down which losses its thermal efficacy, and the rising heat makes the snow melt on the outside surface, wetting the down from the outside, further lowering the jackets TOG value ' 

Tobermory 'It's your metaphor. I have no idea what you're talking about but it looks as though it works for you'

SBW: 'its camping gear, for harsh conditions'

Tobermory: Yes I've experienced those, where room service isn't 24 hour, Brrrrr'

Keep warm guys