There’s a sheltered trail my son made where I sit on a wooden chair beneath sprawling mesquites and brasil trees and engage in a bit of woodcarving. This is utilitarian carving for spoons, ladles, scoops and even small bowls. Practical carving, I call it having never been much for trinkets and the like. There are other places nearby to sit and carve. Shade helps as does an abundance of quiet. I bring along a hatchet or Woods Roamer knife as well as a couple of small crooked knives. You’ve probably seen pictures of the woodcarving tools I make. I’ll add a pocket knife to the mix and a little pruning saw I made years ago. If I walk a ways I prefer keeping the pouch carrying my tools as light as possible. Back at the cabin axes and chopping knives are heavier, hook knives longer, a bigger saw. But for the deep woods there’s satisfaction in totting the essentials in a bundle that takes little space in my shoulder bag. In fact, I’ll leave the pouch in my bag just in case I decide to do some carving.
It begins with the saw. The one pictured above is feather light. There’s little need to carry an expensive folding saw when a portable double toothed saw can be made for only a few nickels and it takes up much less room and makes your pack infinitely lighter. I’m not sure where the original blade came from—something I picked up at the hardware store a decade back. From the original blade I made two little saws and thus the venture turned out even less expensive than originally anticipated. The blade measures 5 ½ inches long with a 3 ½ inch handle wrapped in clothes line sealed with 5-minute epoxy. Simple, practical, feather-light; I made the sheath from the pocket of a Harbor Freight welding apron wrapped with duct tape. I’ve used it to make everything from camping bed frames to pot holders, spoon blanks and tent pegs as well as cut selfbow staves for the tillering tree. If I ever wear it out I’ll make another one for a couple of bucks smiling every time I see yonder bushcraft dude take out his official forty dollar folding contraption he saw recommended on YouTube and read about in Bushy Crafty World, “Because you just ain’t no bona fide bushcrafter unless you’re using this and wearing that….”
There’s a story behind the mini axe pictured above. When I bought it I’d never heard of a Gransfors Bruks axe and had no idea they were considered holy or something like that in bushcraft circles. In fact at the time I’d only heard the word bushcraft a couple of decades before and that was from a college buddy who applied the term to a completely different endeavor. Anyway, around these parts there’re people called “Old Time Woodsmen” and then everyone else. The genuine articles grew up in the ranchlands learning the ways of the woods (el monte) from about the age of five or six. By the time they reach their fifties they’re experts like none other. Give them a pocket knife and maybe a machete and they’ll build you a camp, trap you some food, fix you a meal and then slip into the woods like ghosts to reappear in some other place far away. Funny now to hear thirty and forty something’s referring to themselves as “bushcraft experts.” But the story goes like this: I bought the curious little axe (I called it a “baby axe”) at a store where a fellow had brought it in as part of a trade for a used Winchester model 63 .22 Long Rifle. I paid $25 for the baby axe which meant the store owner probably had no more than about ten bucks in the deal. The baby axe sat in a drawer for a year or two then one day I re-found it and started using it. Is it a good little axe? Yes it is. Is it worth a pile of twenty dollar bills, your oldest daughter, and your favorite dog? No, not even close and neither is any other Gransfors Bruks axe. And please don’t lecture me about steel quality and grind and profile and that sort of thing. I know a thing or two about metallurgy and grinds and profiles and wood sectional densities and about marketing hysteria as well. Regardless, my hat’s off to Gransfors Bruks or anyone else who can persuade the easily convinced (those 20, 30 and 40 something’s) that if they don’t use their products and pay their outrageous prices they’ll go prematurely bald, will start speaking with a lisp, and have to start using Cialis®. Well, the baby axe is a good one but not as good as the two knives pictured below.
No heavier and yet substantially more versatile than the mini-axe, the Woods Roamer knife was designed for woodcraft and woodcarving. Yes, I’m prejudiced. Enough said.
Maybe you’ve seen pictures of my crooked knives and hook knives. The two knives pictured above are miniature versions and the centerpiece of my deep woods woodcarving kit. They are essentially modified or hybrid crooked knives with sufficient hooks to make nice spoon bowls and string notches on selfbows. Lots of other uses as well and so I never leave home without one.
Then there is my number one knife, a Case Trapper. Years back sodbusters were the favorite amongst the locals but those days are gone and now the trapper style rules. Admittedly, most trappers are stainless steel affairs, many of them Chinese knockoffs, but you’ll not catch me with anything other than carbon steel. I don’t discuss pocket knives much around here so I can’t speak for why others have chosen this style but for the Ol’ Woods Roamer nothing else works as well. Woodcarving, whittling, making traps, scraping, and even burnishing; nothing beats the trapper’s model. I use my Case CV trapper daily and have learned to rely on it.
And, of course, the proof is in the pudding or perhaps better said that cup of freshly brewed coffee percolating as we speak. A heavy cloud cover, a slight breeze out of the north, a covey of bobwhite quail munching on the handful of grain I tossed out to them and the mini-scoop I just completed using nothing but my little saw (to cut the branch), my Woods Roamer knife (to rough out the blank), my crooked/hook knife (to form the bowl and do most of the shaping) and my Case CV trapper as scraper and burnishing tool to get it as smooth as glass.