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Sunday, 04 March 2012 21:51

Lime trees...(Tilia.)

Although this is a wood that I regularly use on my bushcraft courses, being a favourite hearth board for teaching friction fire with. I have to admit that this is not a tree that I rave about half as much as I should.

Its classically heart shaped leaves are an easy indicator in the right season along with an abundance of shoots around the base of the trunk and its distinct smell when cut make it relatively easy to identify. Popular in parks across the UK I don't often see it wild in the SW and often find myself looking for timber when the local parks start pruning.

I am told on good authority that the oldest tree in the country, over 2000 years old, is a lime at Westonbirt.  Although you wouldn't know it if I stood you next to it as it has been coppiced so much it looks like a ring of lime stools with a diameter of 30m or so.

It is a versatile tree and has  a wide range of uses for most parts ......

Published in Bushcraft Tips
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 10:00

Extracting fibres from bramble

It was Dave Watson of Woodland Survival Crafts who showed me this great method for extracting bramble fibres. I like using bramble in bushcraft as you can use it straight from harvesting, no drying needed; and its readily available almost everywhere I go; although it’s quite seasonal as you need to find the newest growth you can still find 1-2m lengths which are perfect for the job. I find the fibres to be a little more course than nettle and not quite as strong but for the majority of camp uses bramble is up to most tasks.

Published in Bushcraft tutorials
Monday, 17 August 2009 16:56

Extracting nettle fibres

Those of you who know me may well know I live with a half cat half Godzilla type creature that some may mistake for a simple cat. And how I handle her and nettles to avoid any sharp pains is pretty much identical.

Like cat fur nettle stings grow in one direction up the stem and out along the leaves stroke cat or nettle in the right direction and no harm will come however stroke them against the direction of growth and you’re asking for trouble.

Knowing this makes handling nettles a lot easier and once your holding a nettle there is so much to be done with it. The fresh new leaves once blanched make for an excellent spinach substitute. The older leaves make for a pleasant hot drink and the stem will give you some of the finest fibres for string making.

Published in Bushcraft tutorials

It is easy to forget what a difference a little string can make but once your out in the wilds one of the key elements of bushcraft is the making of cord. from short lengths for bangles and decoration to enough to make nets and baskets there are a million uses for string. Making it can become a little addictive and you will find yourself experimenting with anything vaguely fibrous no matter where you are. I have found myself on the London underground with the bark of an exotic tree getting many perplexed looks which turned to looks of bemusement when I handed a friend who was with me a bracelet to take home. Fibres can be taken from a wide range of plants nettle and bramble being my favourites. However for the purposes of this I've opted for raffia as it’s something that I have in great abundance for running workshops with local schools and groups. The key to tidy string is in keeping everything even and in two strand twisted string there isn't much to concentrate on so with a little practice it’s fairly easy to come up with something strong and presentable. 

Published in Bushcraft tutorials