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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bushcraft Basics; Cordage

I have started building up the 'bushcraft basics' pages here at Bushcraft Education and these can be found from the menu at the top of the page. The plan is to eventually have a whole suite of pages dedicated to basic bushcraft skills and this is the latest one. They can be found as permanent pages HERE  but for now I will post them as regular blog posts too.

I hope you enjoy it.
Geoff

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A vitally important commodity to the bushcrafter is something to bind, knot and secure things with. Mors Kochanski dedicates a chapter of his famous book Northern Bushcraft to the topic of 'bindcraft' and Dave Canterburys well known principle of  '10 C's of survivability' includes cordage. 

Whether that cord comes in the form of the ubiquitous 'paracord', is split down from larger ropes, improvised from seat belt's, straps, belts, shoe laces or duck tape it doesn't matter as long as you have something to pitch a tarp shelter, make bow drill strings or improvise traps.  Cord has a host of used beyond just tying knots, jute twine can be shredded down to it's constituent fibres and used for fire lighting, it can also be used to make a wick for an improvised lamp or candle, lamp wick was traditionally used to make the bindings of old fashioned home made snow shoes. 

As bushcrafters though the interest in cordage largely lies in the skill of being able to make it yourself. Even if you have plenty of synthetic cord it is satisfying to be able to make it yourself from natural materials and how about challenging yourself to use a home made natural string to gt your bow drill fire going?

So how do we make it? First let's look at the materials we have to choose from, how to identify them and prepare them.  


A selection of cordage and material ready to be made into cord, from left to right; horseradish fibres from the stem of horseradish leaves, cord made of elm bark, a bundle of lime bast with the start of a piece of cord. 
There is a whole range of plant fibres that we can use for cordage so we need to start by identifying it; 
Believe it or not as well as providing a delicious ingredient in the form of it's root the chunky ribs of the horseradish leaves provide strong wiry fibres for cord making. Processing them takes a bit of effort and will make your hands stink for days. It's leaves are surprisingly large and can be differentiated from other similar leaves like foxglove and comfrey by it's evenly serrated edges and hairless leaves compared to the soft downy leaves of the alternatives.


The lime tree is one of the best sources of natural cordage available to us in Europe, the bark of the tree can be processed to make some of the strongest natural fibres you can hope for. 
Lime leaves have this distinctive serrated heart shape. 

Another good source of fibres for your cord making is the bark of the elm tree (the leaf pictured above is from a wych elm). We featured a post on some of the potential problems with harvesting and using elm bark in our bushcraft and the law series so rather than repeat that here you can check that post out by following this link. 
                  
The much maligned stinging nettle is not only a great source of wild food but the fibres from the stems are another fantastic source of very strong fibres that can be used for making string. 
As well as being excellent material for making whistles willow is also an excellent source of bark for cordage, but it takes some considerable preparation before it can be used. 

These few examples are not an exhaustive list and cord can be improvised from other less ideal materials as well such as the fibres of bramble stems, honeysuckle bark, grass or cat tail leaves to name just a few. 

Some of these fibres can be used fresh and horseradish are fine to use as soon as they are harvested but almost all will benefit from being dried and re-hydrated before being turned into cord. Nettles in particular benefit from this as if used fresh they will dry and your string will turn into what looks like a DNA helix rather than a nice tight piece of sting. They can be stored dry for a considerable amount of time before being used. Others; lime bark and willow in particular must be processed before they are any use at all. 

Lime and willow bark must be harvested in the summer otherwise it can't be separated from the wood  easily. The easiest way to get plenty of lime bark is to fell a large 'sucker'. Lime will send up shoots or suckers from the base of a mature tree and these can get quite large, if you can fell one that is wrist thick or even larger and as long as you can find you will get a huge amount of fibre for cordage making. Once you have felled it you can strip the bark off using a stick carved to a chisel shape at one end and it should come off in one piece.  

Harvesting and stripping elm bark 


You want to strip bark with your hands and wooden tools as much as possible, maybe a single cut down the length of the piece with your knife or axe to ensure the fibres are as undamaged as possible. 
A good selection of harvested elm and lime bark. The wood is great as well lime makes fantastic hearths and drills for fire lighting and elm is wonderfully strong. 

Although elm bark can be used as is lime bark needs to be allowed to 'rett' or ferment in water, this process rots away some of the plant fibres leaving only the fine flexible fibre that we want to use for our cordage. Ideally this water should be running but a large trough is an acceptable substitute. 

Once retted the inner bark can be stripped from the outer bark and dried ready for future use. If you are careful some of these strips can be as long at the sucker they were cut from and the longer the individual fibres the stronger your cord will be as you will have to do less splicing and joining. 

A big bundle of lime bast, bast is what we call this bark once it is prepared for use. 
The bast can be used as it is for some projects such as the binding for this grass coil basket.   For a finished coil basket check out this post about how to make them on the Geoff Bushcraft Blog.              
                     
If you are going to make cord though you will need to process your fibres a little more, although the retting process is specific to lime bark among those materials discussed here the next few steps are going to be the same for any fibres you choose to use.

Your two main options for turning your fibres into cord is plaiting or reverse wrapping, reverse wrapping is the better option for plant fibres in my opinion although I will always plait rawhide. A plaited rawhide rope makes an excellent option for a bow drill string. It's incredibly strong and resistant to abrasion and is also slightly so unlike all but the very best ropes made from plant fibres it is very forgiving when it comes to the extreme abuse that being used as a bow drill string subject it to. Reverse wrapping takes a little getting used to but produces an excellent cord that will look just like the kind you might buy in the shops and which will not fray when cut. To reverse wrap your fibres into cordage you will need to find the middle of a bundle of fibres, take the bundle between the thumb and finger of each hand and twist in opposite directions until the fibres kink and form a loop. This loop is going to be one end of your cord. From there on you will hold the twisted portion of the fibres to keep them still and then with your other hand you will twist the upper bundle of fibres between your thumb and index finger until is is tightly twisted and then take the lower bundle of fibres behind the first so that it is now uppermost, repeat the process.

The first twist in the fibres.


  video

This video shows the process of making reverse wrap cordage as it is very difficult to explain. 

Finished reverse wrap lime cordage. 

Some uses for natural cordage, fishing line for these gorge hooks

Snares, completed with grass stem runners so they open and close smoothly.


deer sinew binding for fletchings on a stone age arrow experiment. 




Making cord from natural material is very rewarding and almost therapeutic, it takes a long time to make any significant amount of cord but it is very satisfying and calming.  It will also surprise you just how strong this cord is, especially the particularly excellent lime and nettle cords which really are strong enough to use for fishing line, small mammal snares, nets and even ropes for hauling if made large enough.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Hunter, The Dog Men and the House by the shore.

Today we have a guest post from Dr Peter Groom, who has written here before on the topic of experimental archaeology as part of our 'Applied Bushcraft' Series. He has recently published an excellent book based on his experiences of hunter gatherer living skills and has kindly shared his motivations for writing his novel with us on the BushcraftEducation blog.

Peter Groom has a PhD in Mesolithic Archaeology, is a freelance Experimental Archaeologist and Primitive Skills/Bushcraft practitioner, a founder member of the Mesolithic Resource Group and is the Course manager and principal instructor of the Environmental Archaeology and Primitive Skills course at Reaseheath College. He lives in Staffordshire.


Amongst other things I am an experimental archaeologist, using primitive skills and bushcraft to help us understand how our ancestors used to live.  Some of my projects have included; stone bead making in Romania, tree bast experiments in Denmark, and Neanderthal birch bark tar production. In short, a range of exciting and fascinating projects.  A major recent project for me has been to work on the west coast of Scotland trying to figure out how Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were living 8000 years ago.  I did this by restricting myself to the resources and tool kit of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer so that I could I go through similar thought processes and experiences. Using experimental archaeology and primitive skills to fill in some of the gaps in the archaeological record, the human facets that are often missing.

Making and testing a wide range of fishing gear, I travelled thousands of miles over 4 years and started to feel like a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer; lugging fishing gear to remote sites, planning to maximise the use of tides, experiencing lousy weather. These experiences provided me with an insight into the world of the coastal hunter-gatherer, revealing the extent of organisation and knowledge that they must have had in order to fully utilise their environment. The planning needed to maximise returns, whether foraging, hunting or collecting resources. The environmental and ecological knowledge required; the places to find the best materials for a particular task, knowledge of seasons and the seasonal movement of species. When and where to be, at a particular place at a particular time. It is of course very difficult to understand the mind-set of someone who lived 8000 years ago, but by using some of those ancient hunter-gatherer skills together with experimental archaeology, we can move some way toward them. It is apparent that Prehistoric people had an extensive knowledge of raw material processing that many of us currently lack. I have a wide range of interests and experimental archaeology provides a fusion between my environmental knowledge, interests in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology and my fascination in the use of organic materials in Prehistory. Experimental archaeology/primitive skills are often used to engage public interest in our past, most notably through reconstruction or experiential learning.

With a view to further communicating our understanding of the Mesolithic I recently wrote a novel, The Hunter, The Dog Men and the House by the Shore


I wrote the novel with three objectives in mind. Firstly to illustrate what a fascinating and diverse ecosystem we have lost in the UK since the Mesolithic. Secondly, to bring to the modern reader some idea of the lives of our Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, the food they ate, how they might have cooked it, how they travelled, the tools, the buildings, etc. Thirdly, to demonstrate the extensive skills and knowledge that our ancestors would have employed day in, day out, skills that most people now lack.
The novel is based on the latest archaeological research and is packed full of Natural History, Bushcraft and Primitive Skills. The story takes the reader on a journey through north-west England (what is now Cheshire and North Staffordshire), 8000 years ago in a landscape where aurochs, elk, wolf, lynx and wild boar roam. The main character is a lone Mesolithic hunter who works his way through this diverse and changing landscape. On his travels he encounters a range of characters; from traders to killers and ultimately meets his new mate who lives in a house by the shore.

The novel is available to purchase in a link on the left of the page. 




Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Applied Bushcraft; Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom

This article used to appear as a separate page on this blog but has been updated somewhat to appear now as part of our Applied bushcraft series and provide a bit of added context to what we consider to be applied bushcraft.



TEKW

T(raditional)
E(cological)
K(nowledge)
and
W(isdom)



Bushcraft skills were once more than recreation, without knowledge of plants people would have been without food, medicine and material for construction. Without a knowledge of animal ecology and behaviour people would not have been able to efficiently hunt and trap and would have gone without food, clothing, bone for making tools, sinew for strong cord and hoof and hide for glue. While a knowledge of ecology is still important in many modern professions there may seem to be less use for the traditional skills and knowledge which can also be applied in the countryside and which we might choose to call bushcraft. 





Indig1.jpg
An Australian Aborigonee encampment depicted in a 19th Century engraving, first nation peoples like these are often credited with having a wealth of TEKW which is what puts them miles ahead, in terms of their familiarity with the natural world and the things that live and grow in it, of those of us more reliant on modern conveniences and technology.
Public Domain, Link






In the UK we have no first nations people left to pass on their skills and can really only speculate as to the skills they used, guided perhaps in part by archaeological discoveries such as those at Must Farm in the Cambridgeshire Fens and the work of experimental archaeologists. We do still have a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge through the anecdotes and experience of those who have worked the land for decades in professions such as forestry, game keeping, agriculture and perhaps, although as a game keeper and deer stalker by trade I hate to admit it, the old poachers knew a thing or two as well. So although we don't really talk about traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom in the UK it is there. 


There is an awful lot of literature on TEKW from other countries though, a lot of it is about the importance of preserving and passing on that knowledge for cultural reasons and to preserve the identity and culture of the first nations people who have that knowledge and practice the skills related to it. 

Poundmaker.png
While the traditional skills of first nations people would once have been taught to their children just as children in modern schools in the UK learn history, maths and phonics now those skills are in much less demand, the person in this picture is Pîhtokahanapiwiyin (c. 1842 – 4 July 1886), better known as Poundmaker, and was a Plains Cree chief known for his skill at using buffalo 'pounds' or corrals. These skills are now for the most part lost and if it wasn't for the efforts of remaining first nations peoples there would be very little attempt to teach these skills to a new generation at all.
Image by; By Prof. Buell, O.B. - Library and Archives Canada, Public Domain, Link   






In some parts of the world traditional skills are still very much in everyday use but with improvements in technology, and therefore less demand on young people to learn traditional skills, the number of people in these areas who have well developed practical ‘bushcraft’ skills is declining. Particularly, according to a study of the Transmission of Environmental Knowledge and Land Skills among Inuit Men in Ulukhakatok, in specialist areas such Polar Bear Hunting (Pearce, et al., 2011), making skin clothing (Kritsch & Wright-Frazer, 2002), Fur preparation, hunting, fishing and trapping (Ohmagari & Berkes, 1997). 

Modern technology may have made many hand tools and traditional skills less efficient than modern methods but by no means have they become obsolete. For example in many parts of the world subsistence agriculture relies solely on the traditional knowledge and skills of the farmers (Beckford & Barker, 2007) (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1990) and researchers agree that TEKW is valuable and valid even when you consider the availability of modern farming methods and improved scientific knowledge of agriculture (Agrawal, 1995) (Colorado & Collins , 1987) (Posey, 1990) (Schultes,1988) (Hunn, 1993).
Today we are far removed from the ancient skills that would once have been used by native peoples living in the British Isles; the hunter gatherer societies of the Maesolithic (10,000-5,500 years ago) were the last people in the British Isles to operate without agriculture (Darvill, 2010) and would have used bushcraft as their means of survival. In other parts of the world primitive survival and bushcraft skills have been used by native peoples in living memory and in some parts of the world is still a way of life (Wescott, 2001). As Pearce et all (Transmission of Environmental Knowledge and Land Skills among Inuit Men in Ulukhatok, Northwest Territories, Canada, 2011), Kritsch& amp; Wright-Frazer (2002) and Ohmagari & Berkes (1997) explain, the successful transmission of these skills is a vital part of preserving the skills, traditions and way of life of surviving native peoples. Formal schools have been set up in some parts of the world to ensure these skills can be taught to younger generations such as the Samernas Utbildningscentrum (The Sami’s Training Centre) in Jokkmokk, Sweden, and the TePuia in Rotoroa, New Zealand.


Craftsmen at Te Puia, Maori Arts and Crafts institute in Rotoroa New Zealand where the traditions of carving and weaving are kept alive and strong.






These types of skills have already been lost, or at least only practised by a very small minority, in the UK and to teach them now is to re-introduce them rather than to preserve them. But they can be relevant in a range of applications, from developing social skills, to influencing environmental decision making (Ellis, 2005) and, conservation (Berkes, Gadgil, & Folke, 1993) (Richards , 1997) (Schultes,1988) (Ellis, 2005). 



TEKW related literature (including references from above);


Agrawal, A., 1995. Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge. Development Change , Volume 26, pp. 413-439.

Beckford, C. & Barker, D., 2007. The role and value of local knowledge in Jamaican agriculture; adaptation and change in small scale farming. The Geographical Journal, 173(2), pp. 118-128.

Berkes, F., Gadgil, M. & Folke, C., 1993. Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio, 22(2-3), pp. 151-156.

Colorado, P. & Collins , D., 1987. Western scientific colonialism and the re-emergence of native Science.. Practice: Journal of Politics, Economics, Psychology, Sociology and Culture , Volume Winter , pp. 50-65.

Darvill, T., 2010. Prehistoric Britain. 2nd ed. London: Routledge .

Ellis, S. C., 2005. Meaning ful Consideration? A review of Traditional Knowledge in Environmental Dcision Making. Arctic, 58(1), pp. 66-77.

Hunn, E. N., 1993. What is traditional ecological knowledge?. In: N. M. Williams & G. Baines , eds. Traditional Ecological Knowledge; wisdom for sustainable development. Canberra: Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, pp. 13-15.
Kritsch, I. & Wright-Frazer, K., 2002. The Gwich'in Traditional Caribou Skin Clothing Project; Repatriating Traditional Knowledge and Skills. Arctic, 55(2), pp. 205-213.

Ohmagari, K. & Berkes, F., 1997. Transmission of Indigenous Knowledge and Bush Skills among Western James Bay Cree Women of Subarctic Canada. Human Ecology, 25(2), pp. 197-222.

Pearce, T. et al., 2011. Transmission of Environmental Knowledge and Land Skills among Inuit Men in Ulukhatok, Northwest Territories, Canada. Human Ecology, Volume 39, pp. 271-288.

Posey, D. A., 1990. The Sience of the Mebengokre. Orion, 9(3), pp. 16-21.


Richards , R. T., 1997. What the natives know: wild mushrooms and forest health. Journal of Forestry, Volume September , pp. 5-10.

Schultes , R. E., 1988. Primitive Plant Lore and Modern Conservation. Orion, 7(3 ), pp. 8-15.

Wescott, D., 2001. Introduction. In: D. Wescott, ed. Primitive Technology II; Ancestral Skills. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Primitive Technology in Riddy Wood

The latest instalment of environmental archaeology and primitive technology students experiences in Riddy Wood comes courtesy of James Findlay.

The view of Riddy Wood as we approached
Dinner Time
Riddy wood sits on a natural prehistoric border between hills and ancient fen land. This was the perfect location for our hunter gatherer ancestors. I was on a trip here with the archaeology and primitive skills course at Rease Heath College. Coming here is the perfect opportunity to learn and practice skills learnt. Thousands of years ago this area would have been brimming with useful resources. We intended to use as many of these as we could on this trip to fully understand the mind-set of the people of the past and enhance our skill set. We rushed to set up camp between the trees while it was still light then cooked over the open fire.

Home Sweet Home
 The following morning, before I had emerged from my hammock, our lecturer Pete Groom told us our task for the day, to make an arrow using only stone tools! Riddy wood is full of useful resources so this was not too difficult a task. We first went out into the nearby fields and collected flint and churt. This was to be used for knapping to make our arrow heads. Pete asked us to imagine how the landscape would have looked thousands of years ago with hunter gatherers living in these very fields. To fit with the idea of a prehistoric landscape I found a knapped piece of flint that I was told would have been used as a scraper for skinning an animal. This find really made me realise how skilled our ancestors were in crafts almost forgotten.

We then walked the field boundaries to see what other resources were available for collection. Being autumn the trees were drooping with laden boughs of sloes, hawthorn berries, blackberries and apples. We collected as much as we could to take back to our camp to make into fruit leather.

The knapped arrow head in place. 
The arrow head has now been secured with a sinew thread. 
When we returned to camp we started work on our arrows. First we had to collect a straight piece of hazel for the shaft. This had to be done without using a metal cutting tool so I twisted a piece off from the coppice. After that we had to strip the bark. We had found a piece of flint perfect for the job with a semi-circular hollow with a bevelled edge cut into the rock. It did a better job than a knife at stripping the bark! 

Next we had to knap our flint, using soft hammers made from deer antler. You have to hit along the lines that protrude from the piece of flint. This causes fractures to form and very sharp fragments to break off that can be used to make tools. We continued until we had a selection to choose from and then we selected the best to be used in our arrow. I made a composite arrow, this means I had the main arrow head and then there are more pieces of flint bellow that to follow into the wound causing more damage. These weapons are brutal but effective; it just shows that the hunter gatherer world was focused on survival without any care for suffering. I split the end of my hazel to place the flint into the gap created. We then used sinew from deer legs to tie the end together and secure our arrow heads. All that was then left to do was the fletching. 

This proved to be the hardest part because it was difficult to keep all three feathers an equal distance apart. My efforts came out looking rather poor compared to some of the other arrows but I just need practice.

And finally the fletching
Overall each arrow turned out alright. Only using stone tools really made me realise how much we take for granted our modern tools that make a job so much easier. Even people who call themselves bushcrafters use pieces of modern kit that they couldn’t manage without. This exercise drove it home to me how utterly dependant we are on our society and the benefits it provides. True freedom can be gained by the knowledge that you have the skills to survive if all this equipment is taken away from us. That is why I am keen to learn all I can about the world around us so I can know that if everything is taken away from me except my knowledge then I would still be able to live comfortably with the knowledge of our ancestors.


Friday, 28 October 2016

Experimental Archaeology in Riddy Wood

The second instalment in the student accounts of their experimental archaeology adventures in Riddy Wood;

Alex explains what they all got up to for two days;

Alex and lecturer Dr Peter Groom select flint for arrow making, Dr Groom has contributed to this blog in the past with an excellent post on experimental Archaeology

On the first night we had a quick first look around the wood but seeing as we arrived late, we had to set up our camp of tarps and a couple of tents. Some slept in hammocks but two of us slept on the woodland floor in sleeping rolls.

As it went dark on the first night we made our way to Geoff's fire to spend the evening cooking our dinner and chatting, it wasn't the best dinner during our trip though.

I woke up too early on the first morning so I warmed myself up by sawing some logs, a fire warms you three times. Pete showed me his camp and I was a little bit jealous that I didn't know how to read the woods to find a better spot. He had set up his tent next to a track which lead to him getting close to a deer.

We spent the first day in and around Riddy Wood foraging for materials to make arrows and beads for a primitive skills exercise. We found everything we needed, apart from deer legs needed for our fletching, and pine sap for glue to fix our arrowheads. I could have done better on the procurement side of things but all of the materials were there. We found flint across a freshly ploughed farmer's field, hazel in the woodland and nearly enough feathers for everyone (we ended up borrowing a pigeon wing from Geoff). After we sat around a slow burning fire, putting our arrows together and firing the clay we had found in a field to make beads, we started foraging for food to add to the food we'd brought. Crab Apples, Haw Berries and black berries went into a make shift fruit leather, we also made crisps from nettles found about 30 foot away from our fire. We sat around eating for hours, which is where it becomes apparent that there is a difference between survival and bushcraft. We were pretty much having a feast, especially when Geoff brought us a Muntjac leg to cook on the fire, and later on, during a hornet gunship attack, we cooked a rabbit.


On the final morning it didn't take long to pack up camp and to check for any litter we'd left behind before having breakfast, eggs bacon and beans. Then we were off to Flag Fen. It's easy to see how people would have lived around the area in the past, especially with a trip to one of the best Iron and Bronze age sites in the country.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Prehistoric Arrow Making Using Stone Tools

We've had some visitors in Riddy Wood recently, the new cohort of environmental archaeology and primitive skills students from Reaseheath College. Over the next week or so they will share some of their experiences at Riddy Wood. 

First you'll read an account by Evon Kirby, one of the archaeology students, of some prehistoric arrow making using materials found at Riddy Wood. 


Evon making her arrow



First Step -­ Procurement



To start making the arrow first I had to find all the resources I would be using. This consisted of a whip form either hazel or ash long enough for the shaft, I collected a hazel whip, 3­-4 feathers around 6 inches long, plus a selection of flint and abrasive stones. The feathers were the most difficult to find because of the size needed but I found them by looking for areas around Riddy Wood with lots of smaller feathers, indicating a roost. The whip I choose was about the same size as my draw length.

Second Step ­- Stripping the Whip



To strip the bark off the whip I needed to select a piece of flint out of the ones I'd found that had a sharp, ideally concave, edge to run down the shaft to strip off the bark and twig ends. The flint I picked was quite large and had a good concave edge, removing the bark easily. Once I'd fully stripped the whip I lightly ran it through the embers of the fire to burn off the frayed bits and tidy the shaft.

Third Step - Flint Knapping Blades



To begin flint knapping I needed to select a piece of flint that had a fairly large face that I'd be able to get good sized shards off for the arrow tip/blades. Once I'd picked the flint I wanted to work I then grabbed a soft hammer made of deer antler that had already been shaped. I had to practice hitting with the soft hammer on my thigh to get my eye in before hitting the flint.


When I was comfortable I placed the flint on my thigh, on top of a pair of gloves for padding, and rubbed an abrasive stone over the edge of the face I wanted to work and would be striking. I then began striking the flint on the edge where I had abraded. It took a few goes to get used to where I was trying to connect but once I had I began getting shards I could shape into blades.

Once I felt I had a good selection of shards to work with I picked out five that I wanted to use for the arrow. I picked shards that were the thinnest, flattest and closest to the shape I wanted to end up with.


I then grabbed some shaped antlers pieces for pressure flaking. I practiced on some smaller pieces I wasn't planning on using and cracked a few to begin with. Once I was used to the pressure needed and how far in to apply the pressure I started to shape the blades I wanted. I started with the tip which was a pointed arrow head around 1.5cm by 1.5cm and then shaped the four blades that I would place down the shaft near the top, two either side. I curved the edges that would be facing out from the arrow so they followed the same line as the tip blade as much as possible. I then used another piece of flint to run down the edges of the blades to give them a serrated edge.

The reason I shaped the blades this way is because this style of prehistoric arrow was designed to pierce the hunted animal in the chest and then as the animal ran the movement would cause the side blades to act like a saw and would embed the arrow deeper, eventually piercing the lungs.

Fourth Step - Grooves for the Blades

When I had shaped the blades I needed to make grooves in the shaft for the blades to sit in and shape the end for the arrow tip. First I used a sharp piece of flint to shape the end of the shaft into a point. I then used the flint to cut into the middle of the point so I could fit the tip and also cut in the two grooves either side of the shaft for the other blades.

Fifth Step - Fletching



For the fletching I picked two pigeon feathers around the same shape and size and using a sharp piece of flint scored down the middle and split the feathers in half. Once I had split the feathers I needed to attach three to the bottom of the shaft using sinew. Before I began attaching the fletching I removed the blades so didn't lose them in the process. I was given deer's legs for the sinew and once it was removed I used the soft antler hammer to hit the sinew until it opened into workable fibre.

When I had the fibre I separated it into thinner strands and wetted them so they became slimy and pliable. Once the fibre was wet and workable my instructor showed me how to begin attaching the feathers to the end of the shaft by placing the first and then wrapped the sinew around it at the base, then placed the second and wrapped the sinew around and then the third. I then tied off the sinew and grabbed another piece to connect the feathers at the middle. I made sure I split the feathers at the same point for wrapping the sinew so that once it was attached the feathers could be pushed back together and the gap closed. I still had sinew left once I had secured the middle so I used the same piece to begin attaching the top of the feathers using the same method, using an additional piece when needed. When I had tied off the last of the sinew I then used a flint piece to cut off the excess feather and sinew.

Sixth Step - Attaching The Blades



To begin with I began attaching the tip of the blade using just sinew, wrapping it around the corners and the shaft but this wasn't very secure and when the sinew got wet again it loosened. As it wasn't effective I then made pine resin glue to help attach them. I collected pine resin from and pine tree and heated it on a flat rock next to a fire until it softened and became runny. I then mixed it with ash from the fire using a stick until it became a thicker workable consistency; I needed to reheat the mixture a few time to add more resin.

Once I had the mixture I applied it to the gap in the point of the shaft for the arrow tip using a stick. It dries really quickly so I needed to hold it over the fire to soften it to then push in the flint tip. When I had pushed in the flint I again heated it over the fire so I could mold the resin to secure it. I then wet some sinew fibres and secured the tip further by wrapping it around the corners and shaft.

Once I had attached the tip I then used the same resin technique to attach the blades on the sides.


The Finished Arrow Head



Additional Work




Once I had attached the blades I noticed how the shaft had started to bend as it dried, as I cut it green, and so using cane created a splint to keep it straight whilst drying. I secured the cane using nettle cordage.

Monday, 10 October 2016

My blog hiatus


Until next summer you wont see an awful lot from me on the BushcraftEducation blog, I will still update the new ForagersDiary and GeoffBushcrafts blogs as regularly as I can, but these demand a little less attention due to their format.




The simple reason is that I'm really busy; 
I'm in the process of writing my Masters dissertation, putting the finishing touches on a couple of new books which I was hoping to release last month and are now considerably behind schedule, getting up to date with my writing for Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine and Countrymans Weekly, teaching game management, conservation and the new archaeology students at Reaseheath College, and working at Riddy Wood

I am due to finish my Masters Dissertation next Summer and after that will be back to blogging here with a vengeance hopefully with a lot of new material to post and share with you. 

You will still see posts on here from the other contributors to the blog, updates from BushcraftEducation Ltd. and from the Riddy Wood Project,  details of courses, posts from guests, and a couple of posts I have had in the works for a while and which are scheduled to appear in the next month or so. 

So see you next year

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