Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Figuring out Feather Sticks

Today in the News: MGM apparently shelved the new version of "Red Dawn".  You may think that's funny, but I don't.  That movie scared the living dirt out of me when I was a kid.  I thought for sure the Russians were coming to invade Northern Maine.  They like Vodka - we grew a lot of potatoes.  Funny the things you think about when you're a kid.  Anyhow, I re watched the original awhile ago and understood a significance that I had no clue about when I originally watched it in the 80's.  I think, that it was VERY loosely  based on the story of the Bielski Brothers of Navahrudak.  They were Jewish Brothers who fought against the Nazi's in the second World War.  The movie "Defiance" just came out, based on their life during that time.  Follow the link of the day for more info on a very interesting story.

Link of the Day:  Bielski Partisans - Click here.

Figuring out Feathersticks

File this one under "Things Mike (somewhat) fails at." Not really fail, just not that good at it.  The first time I saw feather sticks, it was on an episode of Ray Mears. I felt like an idiot.  Here's why:

  I can remember hunting in the woods of Maine as a kid - damp, dark November day, searching out the odd partridge or deer and the snow would start falling - heavy, wet snow.  The type of snow that makes the slightest hiss when it hits the dead leaves on the forest floor and the flakes are so big that you can reach out with your tongue and devour them.  They are nearly all water and hardly any ice.   I can remember one time thinking it'd be nice to give up on the lousy hunting and have a fire, but everything I could find for tinder was soaked, including all of the receipts in my pocket and my emergency stash of toilet paper.  I tried anyway and failed.  I don't even think I could get birch bark to light that day, my hands were so cold.  I discussed it with my grandfather later and his only comment was, "Sure would be nice to have some boy scout juice (gasoline, kerosene, anything flammable, really) at a time like that, huh boy?"

No kidding.  I had a cigarette lighter and that was about it.  I froze my knuckles off that day trying to get that started.  After that I just resorted to things like hand warmers, or, if I was on the farm, I'd skip across P&C land and head for camp, where I knew the wood was dry and the stove was quick to offer warmth and Gram, ever the Saint, always had hot chocolate stashed somewhere in a cupboard.  I'd sit there, looking out the window of the camp out over the pond and convince myself, "No, this is hunting - a deer could walk out to the pond for water at any time...."  If I had dressed appropriately, it wouldn't have been a problem in the first place. Then I'd get the heat up to about 90 in the camp and have a nap until dark.

In the Mears episode, Ray discussed how Mr. Brown (the Queen's assistant) was out and about with the queen in the royal forest and couldn't get the fire lit for the royal tea. Mears stated that he should have used feather sticks.

For those of you who don't know about feather sticks, I'll explain it.  Think about it.  You're standing in the forest, much like I described myself in my younger days, and you want a fire, but everything around you is soaked.  Think to yourself - what is dry at the moment?  The INSIDE of the dead wood that you want to burn.  So, hypothetically, you have some implement on you that is sharp (knife, axe) and you find yourself a (somewhat) dry place and split open the wood.  There inside where it is dry, you start to shave away thin layers of wood, thus creating dry tinder.  Here are my bad examples:

I started out shaving it up with my Snow & Nealley HB axe.  I really do like this axe and it is plenty sharp.  Here I am starting out.....

....and here is after a short bit. 

And the final result:

Here I try with my EDC knife.  The result is really about the same.  It must be in my method and I imagine a good portion of it is practice, practice, practice - which I haven't really done.  Would I get by in a pinch?  I think yes.  Do I need to practice more?  Double yes.

Overall, it was fun, but a little frustrating to practice.  I'd like to see someone do it first hand - not youtube or anything like that.  If I had to choose, I'd use my HB axe over my knife for the shaving, but that might just be because my knife is dull.  Dunno.  We'll see.  Add comments or suggestions as you see fit.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel......out.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not the best feather stick maker, but I've gotten better over time, not only by practicing, but also by experimenting. Sometimes I'll hold the knife at a different angle or tilt it so it cuts like a plane etc. It's amazing what chaging a few little things can do.

    Thanks for showing!