Nov 18 2020

Splitting Planks 1: Making a Mallet

Published by under Wood Working

Having a heavy wooden mallet is very useful when splitting planks. Especially when using wooden wedges it is virtually a must. You can use the hammer on your axe, however this tends to split and destroy them relatively quickly. Good wedges are valuable assets and they represent a fairly big time investment in construction as you need so many. Because of this you might want to have a system to make them last longer.

This particular blank is not ideal; the handle could have been straighter onto the trunk, but the handle and trunk was the right thickness, so I deemed it to qualify. It is downy birch (Betula pubescens) which has a good hardness and strength for this task

After the tree was felled, the ends are cut with an axe. The business end should preferably be axed off and not sawn. The axe compresses the grain when it cuts and will make the end somewhat harder, soak up less moisture and be less likely to split. The same end also has the corners shaved off. This greatly reduces likelihood of splitting the mallet during usage.

The bark was shaved off on the whole mallet, to make the tool dry faster. The birch bark could have increased the resilience of the hammer itself if left on, but it would dry out more slowly. The bark on the handle should be removed to improve grip on birch, but this might not be critical on other species.

I will let the tool dry at least for a bit before using it. Drying adds a lot of compression strength to the wood and it is also a bit on the heavy side in the fresh state.


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Nov 15 2020

Tiny Fishing Hooks

Published by under Bone and Antler

Made in the most common way of making toe bone hooks, these hooks are very small. About ideal size for brown trout in this area. The bones used are found connecting the dew claws on the front legs on roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Directly connected to the “needle bones”. Similar bones from the other deer species around here are either too large or wrong shape.

Construction is as follows: The bones are ground flat on either side until the wall towards the marrow is thin enough to be poked through. Grinding all the way to the marrow might make the hook too thin, so don’t overdo it. Drill if you have to. Next you carve out all the thin and flimsy parts until you are left with some kind of closed loop. Saw or carve off the one corner that will not be part of the hook and then thin and sharpen as desired.


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Nov 03 2020

Easy Bone Needles

Published by under Bone and Antler

Although scoring and splitting blanks for needles from cannon bones works really well I prefer easier bones when I have them. All of these bones are very easy to use and especially the fox bone (or similar ones from hare and other small animals) is good.

From left to right: Bone attached to dew claw on the front legs of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Wing bone from Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Thigh bone (I think, can not quite remember) from red fox (Vulpes vulpes).


You begin by sectioning the bone into the usable pieces. I took a bit shorter than I could from the wing bone, since I wanted to save the rest for a possible fishing hook. The porous ends are not really that usable, so choose middle sections.

The blank is then scraped or abraded into near finished dimensions. As you can see on some of these bones it doesn’t take a lot. The goose bone is hollow and a bit brittle, so more care is needed there. The tip also has to run off to one side on this particular needle to get a proper point.

Before reducing the thickness to the finished size, you make the needle eye. It is safer to do that when it is a bit thicker as there will be some pressure exerted when scoring or drilling the hole. I always score the hole, although I have tried both. The reason is that the hole will be much stronger in the sideways direction that way. The hole will be a weak spot on the needle and where it is most likely to break. So I make the hole as small as practically possible for threading it. Reducing the weakness of the eye portion as much as possible is essential for making the needle last longer.Additionally, the eye should be places as far back on the needle as possible. I leave a bit in the back for strength, but since the eye is a weak spot, you want it placed so that as little leverage as possible is put on them when pushing the needle from the back. Most of the time when sewing that should be avoided, but on occasion you can’t get away from it.

When the eye is finished all you have to do is to thin it further until finished dimensions.

I prefer my needles ultra small, so I might thin some of these further if the thickness is a problem. When sewing lightweight furs, leather or buckskin, one can usually poke straight through if the needle is strong. If the hide is thicker, the holes need to be pre-punched with an awl. The breaking strength of bone is obviously less than that of metal, so more care has to be taken when sewing. They are very serviceable though and are not less efficient if care is taken.


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Nov 01 2020

The Importance of Fishing


The ecological information I am writing here is not necessarily true everywhere, but certainly true in this general area. If it does not apply to where you live, just see it as a different perspective. It might also not apply to every type of fish.

The brown trout (Salmo trutta) is the most common fish in this area of Norway. It is in virtually every lake. One could claim it is not natural in the normal sense, since the fish has been planted there in most of the lakes. However, the transplanting goes way back and some of the lakes might have been colonized by the aid of humans thousands ago.

Because it is not strictly natural as such, imbalances tend to occur. In former times we also had bears and otters which might have made a significant contribution to keeping the fish populations down. These days the main predators are fishing birds of various kinds. Although effective, they are not numerous enough (and probably will never be) to keep the population growth down. They also appear to be less attracted to lakes with low quality fish and tend to move in as the quality increases.

Because of lack of natural predation, the lakes tend to easily get overpopulated if left alone. This is not true of all types of lakes as there are many factors involved. Available spawning ground to the size of the lake being the most important one. During an overpopulation, quality will decrease. The fish will get skinnier, smaller and have a tendency towards getting more parasites.

When having fish as a staple, one does not want to eat low quality fish. The fat content is essential for not getting tired of them and also to get enough energy. Larger sized fish have a higher capacity for storing fat and although very small fish can be good for frying, you will generally want to have larger fish because of this reason.

In order to remedy overpopulation, we are keeping a constant, very high pressure on the good lakes and we try to reduce the fish population to below normal carrying capacity when restoring a lake to good condition. Such a high pressure on the fishing will allow the feed insects and crustations to recover and create better conditions for the fish. This can involve fishing thousands of fish and in large lakes it is an enormous job. The quality will often be so poor it is not worth keeping more than 10% for food during such stages.

You want to fish as much as possible on the smaller sizes of fish in lakes with high reproduction. The larger fish cannibalize the smaller and spawn at a slower rotation (like not every year). This will thus over time help the lake into a higher degree of self-maintainance. Some of the larger fish will however be so stunted that they are beyond recovery. These will gradually be taken out even in nets that are too small for them. But they can persist for a surprisingly long time.

The example below are lakes where Jon (jonsbushcraft) and I have been doing the majority of the fishing. The first years we threw away more than 50% of the fish. Now we are generally throwing away less than 10% and the quality is experiencing a major increase.

The statistics below are from when we started the project. We are not quite done for this year yet, but the majority of the catch has been made. Unfortunately we did not record the weight during the first years. However, we did for 2020, so I am including that to show that the average weight is still pretty small.


3308 trout


2532 trout


1602 trout


3581 trout


1505 trout (193.63kg)

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Oct 30 2020

Toe Bone Hooks (Different Style)

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) is one of the main staples of my food supply. It is exceedingly common in this area and a greatly underused resource. Although I mostly fish with nets, during a period in the summer it is very difficult to catch enough this way, due to the bright nights. It would be even more true if using traditional nets. We have a few alternative methods that we do successfully use on occasion, but they are sporadic. During that time hook fishing is the main way of catching them. Fishing with worms is most effective in late May and June, but can be used with success during the whole summer and to a lesser extent throughout the year.

This particular type of bone hook is a bit larger than what I commonly would use, but it would work. I have had success with smaller ones, which will be in a different tutorial. It is worth noting that these hooks are untested as of yet, but they are strong enough and will allow for threading a worm on, which should be enough for them to work.

The bones that are used for this particular set are the toe bones right before the actual hooves on the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Any deer species can probably be used, but size of the hook will be according to the size of the bones. There are 8 on each deer and you will get 16 hooks from it.

A common way of producing toe bone hooks is to grind both sides of the toe bone until the marrow is exposed, then carving out the hook from this ring. The advantages of toe bone hooks is that you get round grain at the bottom of the hook, allowing you to make a thinner base. This is very useful when threading worms on. Other types can not be threaded with worms, but are more suited for tying on bait.

These particular bones get rather weak if ground from either side, because the centre portion is very thin. There are bones which work well for this method, but I will cover them in a later tutorial. Another disadvantage is the work involved with grinding rather large bones from either side. It takes A LOT of time. Additionally, in the method I will show you get 2 hooks from one bone, rather than 1.

You start by grinding the break surface until it is flat and maybe a bit more. You want to remove most of the flimsy areas. Next you score around the bone with a flint saw/burin. It is not very far to the marrow on these bones so fairly soon you will be able to split it without any irregularities. With some training it will take you 10-30 minutes, of course depending on the size of the bone. If you want to you can of course use a hacksaw, but I have bad experiences with using hacksaws on bone because it is so easy to torque the saw a bit, causing unexpected breakage. I prefer to use a modern knife and a small file, and a flint saw as well. That combines the best of the two worlds for the fastest results.

Next you remove the marrow and drill a hole in the bulbous end and preferably one in the other end (optional, both shown). Then you score approximately as suggested in the picture.

When that has been done well enough you can gently break out the piece you are not using and then start cleaning up and thinning it with a sharp flake or knife/file. At this point you can also make a barb if that is desired.

And that it is. The whole process probably takes 1-2 hours and it can potentially catch you a lot of fish. 16 of those and you can probably catch enough to feed yourself during the hard summer months.

Interestingly the result is remarkably similar to the right one of these hooks. I would not be surprised if it is made from the same type of bone with similar techniques.


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