Archive for December, 2006

Dec 31 2006

Splitting Wood

Published by under Plant Materials

Due to visitors I don’t have an opportunity to go into the forest whenever I want right now. This does halt the progress on most of my projects. To weigh up I have translated one of my former articles to English. It is partially overlapping with the “Elm Bow” project.

Splitting wood is a task often needed by the primitive, especially in the construction of bigger equipment like bows and skis. But it is also useful when making something as simple as a drill. The are are to my knowledge two methods for splitting a tree: Either by pounding in a wedge into the wood from one side or an end of the piece or by chopping into the wood and splitting the piece by breaking it out of the main piece. The last method is particulary useful when you are splitting off a smaller piece of a bigger tree or when you don’t have an axe.

With a wedge

To split a bigger tree to get several pieces this is the only method. For a start, an antler wedge is pounded, usually in the end, to start the crack. If the tree is small one can usually continue the split by simply seperating the two sides. If the crack shows a tendency towards running of to one side, it can be corrected by directing pressure towards the thickest side. On thicker trees this is harder to accomplish, but the problem itself is usually rarer too. By using a fork in a standing tree you can easily put leverage over on the thicker side. It does of course not work on overly large trees, but instead of just small trees you can with the aid of a fork also do the medium sized ones. If one wedge wasn’t enough to make the crack go completely through the tree, pound in one from the opposite side. To make sure you get an even split, pound wedges into both sides of the crack. To save strain on your antler wedges, use wooden wedges for anything but the initial split. Below: Starting a crack from one end of the piece.





If one’s plan is to split the log into even smaller pieces, one can halve the pieces the number of times needed to reach the desired size. It does however become progressively harder for every time you halve them, to keep the crack from running off to one side. Sectors are harder to halve than pieces square in cross-section. Because of this, it can be very advantageous to carve the sectors to squares to make the results more reliable. Below: The principle of guiding the crack. The thicker arrow indicates where the majority of the force should be excerted.








The same principle in practise: By using the forked tree additional force can be laid on the thicker left part.

Without wedges

This metod is difficult to explain by text only, but it is, as mentioned, very useful if you have few tools available to you. Especially if you don’t have an axe. Start by sawing (with a biface for instance) halfway through the tree or branch while it’s standing. When you are finished sawing you use your hand and pulls or pushes in the direction of the notch you have made. This should make the wood split in the deepest portion of the notch and you can guide the split up the tree/branch like described above. If you have no tools you can still do this if you very carefully break the sapling into the middle of it and continue as above.

If you don’t need the whole tree, but you need a broad and flat piece, you can take the more ecological approach by splitting out a piece of the trunk without cutting down the whole tree. I rarely use this method, and it does require quite good tools. Make a cut into the tree in the upper and lower end of the piece you want to split and hammer an antler wedge into either or both of the notches to pop it free from the main trunk. It is an excellent method for splitting bowblanks out of large trees (for low crowns) and will often not kill the trees themselves, especially if the trees are conifers.

To most purposes you want as straight grained wood as you can get, I will because of that mentioned a few guidelines for seeing whether the grain is straight before you cut down the tree itself. Some species are generally more straight grained than others. Examples of these are spruce and pine. A wood notorious for it’s twistedness is rowan and I have to this date yet to find a piece that was perfectly straight grained. It is easier to find straight grained wood growing on flat ground and in dense stands.

There are in general three signs, on which you can see whether the tree has straight grain or not:

  • Is the trunk straight and even? If not, chances are the grain itself isn’t either.
  • Do the fissures in the bark go vertically towards the ground rather than spirally? That is a good sign as the bark usually has the same direction as the wood behind it.
  • Are the branches aligned vertically on top of each other. If the wood is twisted, the branches are often placed in a slight spiral on the trunk.

Illustrations will be posted tomorrow. Happy New Year!

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Dec 30 2006

Elm Bow Update

Published by under Plant Materials

Continued on my elm bow today. The thickness has been reduced and thinned down a little with the chopper and the sides have been planed down to the approximate width. Even though the stave was oiled liberally and has been stored in a tree it has dried up considerably on the surface. There is a slight sign (as yet, totally tolerable) of checking a little to one side, but I think I can remedy it by working it a little more on one side.

I use a sturdy flake as a drawknife. To protect my hands I have padded them with a piece of leather. I have shaped one limb yet. The stave is back in a tree to keep it from drying out quickly.

One point when working elm: Make sure the piece you are using is carved absolutely evenly. Otherwise it will check towards the thinner side.

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Dec 29 2006

Squirrel Hunt

Published by under Foods

Was out hunting red squirrels with two of my brothers today. Will not say anything about what weapons we were planning on using. 😉 We saw no squirrels this time and no other game either. We did however find some more of the common polypody (Polypodium vulgare). It commonly grows in the moss on rocks.

We also found a few patches of hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum), but as we had neither anything to carry them in, nor the time to make any containers so they are still available to anyone who decides to pick them. They grow in spruce forests and are exceptionally good eating. Strange seeing them in this time of year, when we should have had lots of snow.

Although we didn’t see any game, we found the den of a probably hibernating badger and it’s poo hole. Forgot to take any photos, but I will do it another time. We did however see a dog, seemingly not with it’s owner present, the race is called “Finsk Spets”.

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Dec 28 2006

Arrow Sizer Update

Published by under Animal Materials

I know there is a lot of projects that are half-finished now, but please bear over with me, I will finish them eventually. 🙂 Some of the projects are quite substantial and much of it takes quite a lot of time so I will only post when I reach important tresholds in the process.

This is going to be an antler arrow sizer a little out of the ordinary. I want to carve an eagle out of the tines. I have an idea of how it’s going to look. We’ll see if it turns out that way too.

The first step is to scrape grooves into the soft core and break it off.

Next the break is ground smooth.

Drilling the hole to pass the arrow through is done with the recently made drill.

That’s all of the progress for now. Hopefully I will be able to finish the bow-blank in a few days and post further progress.

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Dec 27 2006

Wild Food

Published by under Foods


Fish is and was, contrary to common belief, a staple for most primitive people, often more so than the big ungulates. Especially lake fish is confined to a limited environment and is because of that a much more reliable food source than for instance the reindeer, whose pattern of travel may vary to a great degree year over year. Getting close enough to catch them is also an issue, while the fish is easy to lure into your traps and nets by exploiting their quite limited intelligence.

In my area there are very few fish species. Mainly trout (Salmo trutta), but also arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) and/or the common whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) in some lakes. These are some of the most widely distributed anyway, so even if my experience is to a great deal limited to these species, the knowledge will be useful in a lot of places. Many of the methods can also be used for other species as well, maybe even in the sea for all I know.

The Trout

Fishing for trout in substantial quantities is difficult because of their solitary nature. At one time of they year, they are however exceptionally easy. When the trout runs on the rivers or streams to spawn in the autumn they can easily be caught, even with the hands. Photo shows lots of small trout caught in a few hours. The dark skin comes from living in a lake heavily influenced by bog water.








The most common method of hand fishing is called “tickeling”. Being rather basic animals, the trout believes that it is hidden whenever it can’t see anything. Consequently, you can quite often spot the tail of the trout under a log or a rock. But anyway, chances are that you will see where the fish swims away from you and into hiding. By gently stroking the trout from the tail and forwards it will stand still, because it actually likes it. That affection is likely to come to an abrupt halt when you suddenly grab it by the gills and throws it ashore. Fish in hiding can also be speared, by for example probing under a bank.

You can also use spears, clubs or whatever to take out the fish. The club works best with a run and hit tactic. By running into a river and bashing at everything that moves you can kill or stun a few fish. Leave the river alone for a few hours and repeat the procedure.

Spearing with a torch is very, very efficient. The light calms and attracts the fish. But the torch has to burn brightly, without being made with either fat, birch bark, pitch or fat wood as a component, chances are the fish will not be mesmerised. When spearing fish, aiming at the neck makes for the surest kill, but be aware of that the light bends in the water. Sneak the spear slowly towards the aiming point of the fish (through water if needed) and thrust in an explosive movement. The spear is usually held in the right hand while you hold the torch with the left. Put your hand far up the spear to get most control and force. Pin the fish to the bottom until you manage to grab it with your hand to bring it on shore. With this method you can easily spear dozens in a short time.

If you have a net, chasing (by throwing rocks) the fish into the net or seine-netting a pool can give you hundreds at a time. Alternatively, block the passage of the water with a wall, leaving only a little opening where you set your landing net you can get quite a few fish too. Then start scaring the fish from above and into the only available exit, which is your net. Where the fish run on the exit river of a lake this can be used as a permanent installation, emptied every day. A related method is the fish basket, where the funnel inside guides the fish into the basket, but their limited intelligence make them unable to find the exit. This trap can be used in conjunction with a wall in an upstream run. Below is a crude basket trap.








Not all trout spawn in rivers or streams, some spawn in the lakes and all the fish in a lake doesn’t spawn each year, particularly in lakes with bigger fish. Because of that, setting nets on strategic locations around the lake can bring a good catch. Such locations are usually inlets, outside of peninsulas or river out or intakes.

The same goes for spring. But particularly newly ice-cleared river intakes are sought by the winter-lean trout, seeking food brought by the flooding rivers or streams. Setting a net there overnight will often yield a good catch.

Summer is a poor season for fishing. The water is too hot for much movement and the brightness reveal your nets to the fish. Instead of using nets at this time of year, this is the time when the hook and line represents the best available alternative. For a more industrious approach; baited long-lines.

The fish move less in winter, but can still be caught with hook and line. In the winter the fish is found in deeper portions of the lake, but as spring approaches they move closer to shore. Netting under the ice is somewhat efficient on trout, but far more so on the next species described.

Arctic Char

Of these three species, the one I have the least experience with. It is a social fish, running in shoals. It is mostly pelagic and quite hard to catch in summer time, especially on lower altitude lakes where it goes deeper than the trout. Below: Small arctic char caught in ice fishing.








In late autumn (November approximately) the char goes into shore to spawn and is then to be found in very large shoals and is easily caught with nets. If there is ice you can either put nets under the ice, fish with bait or spear the fish like the Inuits sometimes do. The char is quite easy to catch under the whole period with ice.

Common Whitefish

This fish also moves about in shoals and due to a small mouth almost impossible to use hook and line on. Nets are about the only good option for this specie. A few places it runs in slow flowing rivers, but for a great part it spawns in the lake itself. In summer it is usually found in the deeper portions of the lake, but some can be caught in the shallows too. The fish spawns in late October and November, by setting nets outside peninsulas at that time you can catch lots and lots of this fat fish. If the ice is firm, you can also set nets under the ice, which can provide you with whitefish throughout the winter. How to set nets under the ice will be described in a seperate article as the procedure is quite complicated. The spring is also a reasonably good time to catch this fish in nets, but the fish is, as everything else, leaner then.

Dressing the Fish (illustrations will be edited in as they become available)

Start the cut by inserting the tip of the knife in the anus. Cut up all the way until you reach a harder structure almost at the throat. Rip up the tongue and gills from underneath the gill cover. Stick a finger into the throat and rip the pectoral fins off and the entire digestive system with it. Optionally you can scrape out the “kidneys”, a blackish substance sticking to the back from the inside commonly believed to be blood. If you are to fry the fish, skinning or scaling the whitefish is recommended. Of the organs, all can be eaten, including the roe and sperm. Photo is of me, dressing a few trout in front of the lavvo.








Cooking fish will be handled in a later article. This article series will be temporarily discontinued until I have enough photographic material to post the remaining articles (Mammals, cooking, shellfish, seaweeds, lichens etc…).

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