Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DIY Alcohol Stove-The Tuna Can Stove

A little over a week ago I reviewed the Brasslite Turbo II-D alcohol stove. At that time I told you that there is a DIY version of the stove, and that I will show you how to make it. Here it is:

Start with two cans, one smaller than the other. For the small can I have found out that a tomato sauce can works very well. For the larger can I am using some canned chestnuts, but any two cans will work as long as when one is inserted in the other, there is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch separation between the walls. The original designs were made from tuna cans or cat food cans, giving the design its name.


Take the larger can, but do not open it. Your goal is to cut out a hole from the top, center of the can, about 1 5/8 inch in diameter. To do this, take a knife with a sharp tip (a Mora #1 works well), and using a hammer, make a series a small holes, outlining the cutout. Then using the same knife and hammer, cut through the material left between the holes, making for a one large cutout.


What I like to do in order to get a smooth edge, is to cut out the hole an 1/8 of an inch smaller than I need it. I then take a pair of scissors or sheers and make small cuts towards the desired location of the hole in 1/8 inch increments. I then fold those tabs down and in, making for a smooth surface.

The next step is to turn over the can and made another centered hole on the bottom, this one being 2 5/8 inches in diameter. I use the same technique. Here you can see the tabs folded in. On the bottom hole I do not fold them all the way in, so I can adjust them to give me a better grip on the smaller can which will be inserted here. If your small can is of a different size, make this hole smaller or larger as needed so that the small can fits securely. (When measuring the size, account for the fact that the lip of the small can will be removed.)


Then, drill eight half inch holes on the bottom side of the large can. This is all the work you need to do on the large can.


Here you can better see the folded tabs I was talking about earlier.


Now take the small can. Open it and remove the contents. Cut down the small can, so that when it is fully inserted in the larger can, the top of the small can touches the top of the large can. Then drill out a eight 3/8 inch holes on the top side of the small can. As an alternative, you can just cut the small can about a quarter on an inch lower than the top of the large can. This way when the small can is inserted in the large one, its top is a quarter of an inch below the top of the large can. Both methods will work well.


Insert the small can into the large one. Use the tabs on the bottom cut to make sure the fit is secure.


This is how it should look from the bottom.


Here you have the completed stove. The theory is that air will enter through the holes on the bottom of the large can, travel in the space between the walls of the two cans inside, come into the stove through the holes in the top of the small can, mix with vapors from the alcohol that is stored in the small can, and create a flame, which in turn heats the stove and creates more alcohol vapor. No priming or preheating is required for this stove.


Here you can see it in action.


The stove, as I have made it here weighs 2 oz. It is one of the best designs I have found. It burns very hot, and if speed of heating is what you are after, this is a very good, solid design. With these particular cans it will hold up to 4 ounces of alcohol. That is quite a bit because the chestnut can was rather high. A shorter can of the same diameter would have worked fine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post: Mora 511 Knife and Sheath Modification Tutorial

Recently I stumbled upon another great tutorial on Bushcraft USA put up by Jontok (Jon). Not long ago I had put up a review of the Mora 511, and showed that you can modify it by removing the finger guard. That modification however left the sheath with some unused space. Jontok has solved that problem in a very interesting way, and has allowed me to post it here. By the way, he is also to thank for the tang-view picture of the Hultafors HVK. So, here it is:

I've gotten lots and lots of PM's asking me to make a tutorial on modding the Mora 511... Well, I've actually only gotten one request for it, but I've read that one lots of times! :)

Anyway, this is how I do it with my limited supply of tools... Oh, and sorry for the crappy pics!

First you need a Mora 511. (I forgot to take a pic of it before starting)

Let's start with...


First thing I do is to mod the horrible plastic beltloop!
A little cutting, and here's what you get...(original on left for referance)


Then drill a couple of holes for attaching the new leather beltloop.


Logically I should now proceed with attaching the beltloop, but I like to get all my cutting out of the way first! :)

So Well come back to this later and, instead, move on to making the firesteel loop.

Just take your firesteel and see where, and how much, you need to cut off the sheath.


After some cutting...


Here you can see how the firesteel fits inside. Remember to leave some room around the tip! This will allow the cord to be passed over the tip (for retention).


For retention I like to swap out the cord on the firesteel with some 3mm elastic cord. I won't do it this time, but that's just because I can't remember where I put that darn cord! :)

Now, let's get back to that lea...WAIT! BREAK TIME!

Ok, now that we're back, let's resume with the leather beltoop!

Take a spare piece of soft leather, and cut it to the size you want your beltloop...


Punch two holes matching the holes you drilled in the sheath.


Now fasten it with some heavy-duty thread. I use pre-waxed linen thread.
Just pull it through the holes lots of times, and tie it off.


Now for the....


Needless to say, this can be done lots of different ways! My way is done useing a dremel knockoff...

I start with putting some masking tape on the blade. Then I put a piece of tape where I wish to cut. This is a very helpful guide for your cutting blade!


Then a little time with a grinding wheel (for dremel) and a file for the final shaping and to square off the spine.


This is a fine time to make some thumbgrooves on the spine (using the cutting wheel and a round needle pointed file). I didn't bother with that this time though...

Then you cut of the fingerguard. I use a modelling saw (?) to cut the guard, then do the final shapeing with a sharp knife.

The finished product:



Well, that's it.

Hope you enjoyed it! :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Me With a 4lb Chihuahua

I’ve mentioned it before so you guys probably know, but my girlfriend and I foster dogs-we take them from shelters and try to find them homes. The one you see in the picture is a 4lb chihuahua named Lola that we were fostering but ended up adopting ourselves. My girlfriend thought the image was hilarious, so she snapped a picture with her phone. The dog does surprisingly well in the woods.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Workers’ Tent Camp 1893

The image shows a tent camp for hop pickers in Puget Sound. The image is dated 1893. The tents all appear to be a canvas A-wall design. Notice that the fire wood is fed into the fire from the side rather than being chopped to size.

Puget Sound area tent camp with hop pickers, Washington, ca. 1893.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Condor Scout Hatchet Review

For 2011 Condor Tool & Knife has completely redesigned their line of axes. One of them is the Scout Hatchet. I chose to review this hatchet because its specifications came closest to what I would look for in a good hatchet. The next larger model offered by Condor is a hatchet with a 16 inch handle and a 1.5lb head. I find the head to be too heavy for such a short handle.

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Manufacturer: Condor Tool & Knife
Axe Head Weights: 1 lb; overall weight is 1 lb 3.5 oz
Axe Length: 10 inches
Axe Head Material: 1045 carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $50.00


In terms of cost, this is a mid range hatchet. While not expensive, I would expect a hatchet in this price range to be well designed and offer good performance.

I decided to compare the Condor Scout Hatchet to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, as they have the same head weight, but since I also had the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet with me at the time, I decided to toss it in the mix as well. Here you can see the three hatchets next to each other.

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The handle of the Condor Scout Hatchet had fairly good grain. However, I found it to be too small for the size head, and as a result rather uncomfortable. It is not only short, but also very thin, which does not allow for a good grip.

The most serious problem with the hatchet however is the design of the head. The head of the Condor Scout Hatchet has virtually no poll. The back is squared off, but there is almost no weight behind the eye. All the weight of the head is concentrated in the bit. This creates a very poorly balanced hatchet. While I have tested other axes in the past that have had poor balance, this one exceeds all of them by a large margin. The weight distribution, combined with the small, thin handle, makes for a hatchet that is very hard to control during a swing. This is usually not a problem for small hatchets, but here the issue is so significant that it effects the performance.

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The other problem with the head is that it is shaped like a splitting wedge. There is zero sophistication in the geometry of this head. It is literally just a wedge to which a handle has been attached. It will split well, but that’s about it. An additional problem with the design is that the eye is very small. This will create large forces on the handle. I would have preferred a larger eye. Also, on the hatchet I bought, the metal wedge was inserted not diagonally to the wooden wedge, but perpendicularly. Clearly that was done because there was not room in the small eye for the metal wedge, but here I don’t even think it was necessary.

The surprising thing about the Condor Scout Hatchet is that from a production standpoint and quality control, it is actually very good. I have bought many more expensive axes that have had worse quality control. The problem is almost entirely with the design of the axe, not the execution of that design.

Overall, I don’t think the Condor Scout Hatchet is worth the money. There are better tools out there in that price range, and even lower. Clearly Condor is a company that means well, and is trying to create a good product, but just lacks the knowhow. I hope that for next year they just buy a few old Plumb hatchets and axes and duplicate those heads.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Internal Structure of a Mat Tepee

This is an image of a tepee from the Northwest Pacific region. It shows a mat tepee being put together, so we are able to glance at the internal structure of the dwelling.


Note that it is not formed like we most often see depicted, with poles just coming together at a central point at the top of the tepee. There appears to be a frame with internal supports and a ridge beam on which the poles forming the sides are then placed. This allows for the structure to be expanded from what we customarily see as a tepee, into a long house like this one belonging to the Nez Perce Chief Joseph from the same region.


The second image was taken by Edward Latham ca. 1901.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Low Cost Leather Working Kit

I want to start of by saying that my main use for this kit has been to make axe sheaths, and as such it has been completely satisfactory. You can certainly make other items with it, but it is not suited for all projects.

You will also note that I use Tandy Leather Factory for my price points and links. That is not because I think their products are somehow superior, but because it is a good place to get all you tools and equipment online.

The kit is comprised of a piece of leather, a bottle of leather glue, a set of snaps, a set of rivets, and a setter kit.


For the leather, I usually get the cheapest tooling leather they have for sale at the time. I prefer a single shoulder cut, and I like mine to be about 5 oz in terms of thickness. That however gives a fairly thin sheath. I think most people would prefer 7 oz or so thickness for their sheaths. You should be able to get a whole shoulder cut for about $20.00. That will give you a good number of sheaths. For the type of leather I am talking about, you can look here. Keep in mind that some prices are listed for the whole cut, while others are per square foot.

The next item is the leather glue. You don’t necessarily need it, and can certainly get away without it, but I like to use it. A bottle will cost about $8.00 and will last a long time. You can see the one that I use here. I use it because it is cheap.

The thing that will actually hold the sheath (or any other project) together in this kit are the rivets. I like to get the extra small ones, and they cost about $4.00 for a pack of 100. You can see an example of them here.

Each rivet set is comprised of two parts. You will have to perforate the leather, and fit the parts, one on each side.


The snaps are also a very important part for an axe sheath. A great way to buy them is in a kit, which comes with its own setter. You can see the kit here. 20 snaps and the setter will cost you $10.00.

The snaps have four parts, two for each piece of leather.


The setter is just a small anvil and dye with which you strike the rivet or snaps. I find that the setter that comes with the above kit works well on the rivets I listed above as well as on the snaps.


The way to use it is to first make a hole in the leather, using either a drill or a hole punch or awl, and thread the rivet through it, making sure that the two parts connect, one on each side of the pieces of leather. Then place the rounded part of the rivet on the anvil. Place the dye on the other end of the rivet, and hit it with a hammer. The metal is soft, so the portions of the rivet that are inserted into each other will deform, creating a connection. Make sure not to hit too hard, because it is possible to drive the river through the leather completely. The same process works for the snaps as well.


Here you can see a sheath that I have made using this kit. I cut the leather with a pair of scissors, and the holes were made with a drill. For those wondering, the sheath is made of a folded piece of leather, which forms the sides, with a strip of leather inserted between them at the front and, being held by the rivets and glue. The strap is held by a rivet on the back side and a snap on the front side.


The total cost of the items listed above it $42.00, but that will give you a whole lot of leather sheaths. The thing you will run out of first is probably the leather, but you should be able to get 10 sheaths out of the cut I talked about above.

Next week, I will post the items needed for a more advanced kit, which will allow you to make a greater scope of projects, but these are items that in my opinion belong in every leather working kit.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Brief Look at the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet

I was again fortunate enough to have the kind people at Omaha Knife agree to lend me one of their axes for this review. Considering the cost of the product, I would not have been able to do the review without their assistance, and for that I am very thankful. The axe in question is the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet.

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Manufacturer: Gransfors Bruks AB
Axe Head Weight: About ½ lb. The total weight of the hatchet is 12.4 oz.
Axe Length: 10.25 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown Swedish steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $160.00


Without a doubt this is a very expensive axe, especially for such a small tool. I think that is part of the reason for the high price. Such a small hatchet must be quite difficult to manufacture.

Here you can see the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet for comparison.

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Even though small, the handle is comfortable and well made. Similarly the head is of nearly identical shape to that of the Wildlife Hatchet, although noticeably smaller. No metal wedge is used in the attachment of this axe head.

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The head has a harsher transition between the bit and the eye than I would like, similar to that of the Wildlife Hatchet.

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Overall, the Mini Hatchet has a good feel to it, and all the elements work well together. The problem however is that it is just too small. It is fun to use, but has very little practical value. There is nothing that you can do with the Mini Hatchet that you can not do with a knife. Considering that the Wildlife Hatchet is much more useful from a practical stand point, and costs a good amount less, I see little value in the Mini Hatchet. It is very light weight, but in my opinion it is dead weight. If you have a mid size, or even a small knife in your pocket, the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet will add little practical value to the outing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brasslite Turbo II-D Alcohol Stove Review

In the interest of reducing weight, I have been playing around with alcohol stoves. They tend to be some of the simplest stove designs on the market, and as a result are usually very light weight. The one I want to look at here is a commercially available stove, the Brasslite Turbo II-D.

Fuel Capacity:
2 fluid oz
Stove Weight: 2.8 oz
Stove Height: 2.75 inches
Stove Width: 3 inches
Burn Time: 9 minutes on 1 fluid oz of SLX denatured alcohol (as tested by me)
Boil Time: 7 minutes for 2 cups of water (as tested by me)
Cost: $32.00

Brasslite has been making alcohol stoves for a while, and they have gone through several different designs. I always avoided them in the past because I was not a fan of those prior designs. The current one however is one of my favorites. It features a double wall design, which produces a very hot burning stove.

Here you can see the Brasslite Turbo II-D next to the Trangia Mini 28 stove for size comparison.


The Brasslite stove comes in at 2.8 oz in weight. In comparison, the Trangia Mini 28 weighs 5.8 oz together with the pot stand you see in the picture, and 3.9 oz for the burner alone. The Brasslite clearly saves you a good amount of weight, but is not nearly as indestructible as the Trangia. While both stoves are made out of brass, the Brasslite is made of much thinner metal.

Using the stove is fairly simple. Put some alcohol in the pan, and light it on fire. The stove can hold up to 2 fluid oz of alcohol, which I find to give you about 18-20 minutes of burn time, which should be enough to cook most backpacking foods.


There is no preheating time, so you can put the pot on the stand immediately.


The Brasslite Turbo II-D has a preheating pan, where you can put some extra alcohol in cold weather conditions. It also has a simmer ring, which encompasses the circumference of the pot. The way it works is by covering the air intake holes on the sides of the stove. Here you can see the stove burning with the vent holes opened:


When the ring is rotated and the holes closed, the flame is reduced significantly, allowing for simmering.


Like all alcohol stoves (of which I know), the Brasslite Turbo II-D is not terribly user friendly. Once the stove gets going, the whole assembly heats up, making it hard to handle. For example, it becomes very interesting trying to turn that simmer ring once the stove is going and is scorching hot. Witht he Brasslite Turbo II-D, it is also very hard to put out the stove, and it is impossible to recover any unused fuel. The Trangia stoves are the only ones I have seen where the fuel can actually be stored inside the stove.

All that being said, if you don’t mess with the stove too much, the Brasslite Turbo II-D works very well, and does it at a very low weight.

Brasslite also makes another model of this stove, the Turbo I-D. The I-D model is a smaller version of the one you saw here. It has a fuel capacity of 1 fluid oz. I find that to be too small for cooking food like rice, but if all you do is boil water, it may work for you. It will save you some extra weight. 

There is a DIY version of this stove, and I will show you how to make it next week.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fiskars Softgrip PowerTooth Folding Saw Review

This is a saw I ran across at Home Depot. It was being sold for about $10, so I figured I would give it a try. Usually, the Fiskars saws available on the market are the ones with the sliding blade, and not the folding model you see here. I tried to search for it online later on, and was only able to find it in a few places. It does not appear to be a common model. You can see it here and here.

Overall Length: 10 inches
Blade Length: 8 inches
Weight: 7 oz
Cost: $15.00 (can be found for anywhere from $10 to $25)

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In design the Fiskars saw resembles the Bahco Laplander. You can see the two of them here.


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The Fiskars is longer by about an inch, both in overall and blade length. The blade of the Fiskars saw appears to be made by Sierra Saw for this particular Fiskars model. The tooth pattern of the two saws is very similar. I am not sure about alignment or specific tooth design, but the size of the teeth looks about the same.

In terms of performance, I could not detect much of a difference between the Fiskars saw and the Bahco Laplander. I expected that the longer blade of the Fiskars would give it an advantage, but I could not see any. Maybe in a different type of wood, the difference would be more noticeable.

The handle of the Fiskars PowerTooth saw is comfortable, and the added length allows for more leverage to be applied with both hands if necessary. The blade locks when both opened and closed just like on the Bahco Laplander. The only problem with the handle was the locking/release button itself. Unlike on the Bahco Laplander, where it is placed on the side of the handle, the button on the Fiskars saw is placed on top. Because of that , when one chokes up on the handle, it is very likely that the release button will be pressed. I found that to be rather annoying.

Other than that one design issue, I found the saw to be very serviceable. For the $10 I paid for it, it turned out to be a solid and well performing tool. It is nothing that would change saw design, or win any awards, but will do just fine for a backpacking saw. If you can find it for a low price, you may want to give it a try. I would not spend $25 or more on it. For that price I would just get a Kershaw or Bahco Laplander.