Search This Blog

Friday, 27 May 2016

Making a willow whistle with a new knife

I'm currently working on a second edition to Bow Drill Trouble Shooting and in the new edition i will be dedicating a whole chapter to bearing blocks and will be looking at the fairly new fashion of having a divot in the handle of a knife for use as a bearing block for your friction fire kit.

Heinnie Haynes have kindly sent me a TOPS C.U.B a knife which features this bow drill divot and although I haven't had a chance to test the divot yet I did give it a bit of exercise making a simple willow whistle. You may have seen the video on the Bushcraft Education Youtube channel that shows how to make one.  
First select a strait green piece of willow. 

Cut a piece to the desired length, and try and choose a piece with as few knots and buds as possible. 

I carve the mouthpiece next as it will be harder if you leave it till the end. 

next a small notch on the top of the whistle. 

And now score around the bark a few centimetres bellow the notch.

After some vigorous tapping of the bark with a stick or your knife handle you should be able to twist it, you should hear a slight 'pop' and the bark will separate from the wood underneath. 

You will be able to slide the tube of bark off completely.

Now you can carve a sound chamber, enlarging the notch you made earlier, although you must not make the hole in the bark larger. You will also need to take a thin sliver of wood off the top surface of the wood in-front of the notch which is what you will blow through. 

Now you can replace the bark sleeve and you have a completed whistle. 

Have a go yourself


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

bushcraft and the law: Elm

World Champion English elm
English Elms in Preston Parks Coronation Garden, Brighton.
By Ulmus man (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

The English Elm (Ulmus minor) was one of the iconic trees of the British countryside until, over the last one hundred years, repeated epidemics of Dutch Elm disease (often shortened to DED) killed over sixty million British Elms. Dutch Elms disease has not been eradicated and still effects elms in the British countryside today.

Dutch Elm Disease affecting a mature English Elm at Wst Point, NY June 2010
The effects of Dutch Elms Disease presenting themselves in a tree in Westpoint NY.
By Ahodges7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Dutch Elms Disease is an infection of the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, although the earlier 1920's epidemic was caused by the related Ophiostoma ulmi. The fungus causes blockages in the trees water transport system which leads to the symptoms visible above, the wilting of leaves and death of twigs and branches and eventually spreads to the root system of the tree as well. This death of twigs and branches is known as 'flagging' and 'shepherds crooks' can also be observed where the tips of the dying twigs start to turn down. A good resource for recognising these and other symptoms of Dutch elms disease can be found here

Dutch elms disease is spread by beetles of the genus Scolytus, or elm bark beetles,which pupate in the bark of elms, the beetles seem to prefer taller trees and require a minimum thickness of bark to breed and feed. As such younger elms can survive for a while without becoming infected as their bark is too thin to house the beetle. 

The Larger European Elm Beetle Scolytus scolytus 

RN Beetle galleries, Wych elm
Beetle feeding galleries
Ronnie Nijboer [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
When the second major outbreak of Dutch Elms disease struck the British Isles in the late 1960's in to the 70's laws were put in place to govern the attempted control of the disease. These laws effectively gave the right to enter land and designate trees to be destroyed to prevent the further spread of the disease but also stated that the bark from healthy trees should be destroyed by fire before the wood is transported away from the site and that wood not removed from site should also be destroyed by fire. 

The original piece of legislation, the Plant Health; The Dutch Elm Disease (Local Authorities) Order 1984 is available here.  

How might this effect your bushcrafting if you're making string or containers from elm bark?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Friction Fire Lighting for Team Building

Last year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Experiential Educators Europe conference in Candriai Italy and if you check out the link to my post about that conference you will see that I had a great time.

I was hoping to attend this year as well but due to other commitments was unable to but I was really excited to share a workshop at the conference based on some of my experiences of friction fire lighting with teams and so prepared a video that could be shown in my absence highlighting some of the lessons that can be learned by groups taking part in this sort of bushcraft activity.

I'd like to thank the National Trust Academy Rangers for taking part in the filming of this video and for enthusiastically taking part in the activities.

I hope the video is useful to you and that you learn something about bow drill firelighting and it's potential as an activity for team development as well as just recreational bushcraft or as a survival as a survival skill. 

Hope you enjoy it 


Bushcraft Education Videos