Dec 27 2011

Winter preparations

Published by at 5:37 pm under Expeditions and Experiences

The snow has been carpeting the ground since well over a month. Craftwise, I’ve been mostly doing some minor repairs on my existing gear and tools.

The fur on the sleeves of my coyote parka got worn off in some spots, so I decided to cut out the thin parts and replace them with new fur. Lacking tanned coyote fur, I used racoon instead, which is actually of pretty similar quality.

coyote fur scrap

parka sleeves finished

The picture on the lower left shows a piece of tanned racoon fur and a piece of tanned (and worn-off) coyote fur – both are winter pelts. The hairs are of similar length and insulating properties, and in the end the patching is hardly visible (lower right). Ready for some cold weather!

I’ve posted about the skin boat I made earlier this summer…I appreciated all the feedback and questions about it. I’d sure do a few things differently with the next one, though this one has been quite satisfying so far. This is how it’s currently stored…

skin boat storage

…tied to the ceiling of a crafts shelter to keep it away from ground moisture.

I’m always curious about how the things I craft perform when they’re used on a everyday basis. Here are some pictures from one of my more recent trips in the woods:

The toboggan, finished last spring, seems to work just fine. I actually salvaged my gear lashing cord when I was running short of rawhide for my skin boat so I need to make some more…

The other pictures show some of the landscapes you might encounter here in the northwoods. Whenever possible and practical, I like to camp in hardwood forests such as the maple forest shown above, since they provide excellent firewood. Bogs and swamps can be hard to travel through in the summer time, but in the white season, once the ground is frozen and covered with snow they are easy to cross on snowshoes (and toboggans, if any gear needs to be hauled).

A little while ago I made this crooked knife with my friend and fellow craftsman Jarrod StoneDahl.

After using mass-produced crooked knives for a number of years, I came to appreciate the qualities of a hand-made tool more and more. On some of the more specialized projects that involved a crooked knife, I noticed how my hand and wrist started hurting after a while. Traditional craftsmen used tools that were matched to their needs, including the shape and size of their hand. The handle of this crooked knife has a thumb rest for additional support which greatly reduces the stress put on the wrist (see picture on the right) – and how that thumb rest needs to be shaped depends on who is using the knife – there is no “standard”.

We used his forge to craft the blade and fit the extension of the blade into a notch in the wooden handle, glued a wooden plug on top and wrapped it with linen string. More recently I put a sheath together to protect the blade. Jarrod has been making quite a number of such individually crafted crooked knives and if you have an interest in this subject, I recommend checking out his blog.


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