Monday, January 30, 2012

Light My Fire and Mora of Sweden to release new survival knife with built-in firesteel in Spring 2012



Light My Fire, maker of the popular firesteel used by many bushcrafters, has joined forces with Mora of Sweden to create a new survival knife called the Swedish FireKnife. It features an LMF Scout Firesteel that fully integrates into the handle. The blade is made of Mora's excellent Sandvik 12C27 stainless and the blade design appears to be a modification of Mora's Bushcraft Forest Knife.

The knife will be available in 5 color schemes and the expected retail price is $39.99.





Check back here as spring approaches for my full review!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

REVIEW: Best Made 26" Unfinished Hudson Bay Axe


Formed in 2009 by axe aficionado and Grammy Award winning designer Peter Buchanan-Smith, Best Made Company is a fresh face in the world of axes. Smith, who'd been using axes since he was a child growing up on an Ontario farm, wanted to combine both his love of axes and art into something that could not only adorn one's home, but could just as easily be pulled off the wall and used for real world axe duties.

Much in the way that canoe paddles have traditionally been painted by both Native Americans and American settlers, Smith wanted to continue this tradition with axes as well.

Smith's painted pieces have already attracted international attention, having been purchased by the likes of Mike Jones (president of Myspace) and are also on exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

Here's an example of one of Best Made's painted versions of the Hudson Bay axe:




Smith, a longtime collector of vintage axes who spent his summers as a youth canoeing and using axes for camping and exploring, realized the need to produce a more affordable axe line in addition to his custom "art axes." In 2011, Best Made began producing "unfinished" versions of their axes, which were more affordable and featured unpainted handles, hence the title. The term "unfinished" though is slightly misleading, as these axes are actually completely finished in the traditional sense, in that the handles are sanded properly and coated in linseed oil, head is polished, etc.

In order to produce these axes, Best Made initially partnered with Maine-based axe maker Snow & Nealley before settling with longtime US axe maker Council Tool in 2010. The two axes that Best Made sells are actually existing designs by Council Tool from their Velvicut line. The axe in this particular review is a rebadged Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe with a longer 26" handle, different sheath and Best Made stampings and packaging. I reviewed that axe here last month with both a First Impressions Review and a Field Review, so I won't rehash all the details and instead will focus on the feel and performance of the longer handle as well as the packaging, appearance and sheath differences.

SPECIFICATIONS:
26.2" overall length
2.0 lb head
5160 Steel
Grade "A" Hickory Handle
Weight (without sheath)-  45.4 ounces
Weight (with sheath)- 47.2 ounces
Country of origin- Made in Lake Waccamah, NC, USA by the Council Tool Axe Company
Price: $135.00

The Unfinished Hudson Bay Axe arrived in attractive packaging along with stylized information cards containing warranty info/registration, production number, axe maintenance tips and safety instructions:


The sheath is similar in style to those used on Swedish Gransfors Bruks axes. This is not surprising, considering that Smith visited the Gransfors factory a couple of years ago and took note of their simple, yet elegant sheath designs. On longer axes, these sheaths tend to be easier to use, compared to the top loading sheaths on the shorter Council Velvicuts. The strap also bears the "C.C.G.F." logo, which stands for Smith's outdoor credo; Courage / Compassion / Grace / Fortitude:


The Axe

As mentioned above, the Best Made is basically a rebranded Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe with a longer handle and different sheath. Here's a comparison shot of the two (Best Made axe on the right):


The overall quality of the handle, including grain direction and head/handle alignment, is very good and similar to the Velvicut: 


 Field Test

For the test, I thinned out the profile to get it as close to the Velvicut as possible. This particular model came with a thicker stock profile than the Velvicut did, so additional edge work was necessary to get the two to match for the test. This is not the fault of Best Made since Council Tool makes these, but hopefully Council Tool corrects this problem in their quality control process soon.

Here's a photo of the two axe profiles (after the edge work) side by side, with the Best Made on the right:


Performance

For the chopping test, I used a dry, seasoned Ponderosa Pine log and chopped 30 times with each axe. Due to the short 22.5" handle on the Velvicut, safe chopping required a kneeling position. This obviously reduces the amount of power in the swing. On the other hand, the Best Made, with its almost 4" length advantage, safely allowed for a standing position. This, along with the extra handle length yielded a rather dramatic result (Best Made notch on left):


The longer Best Made simply trounced the shorter Velvicut in the chopping contest. I was expecting a slight difference, but nothing quite this dramatic.

Feather Stick Test

I also wanted to test out the Best Made's balance by creating some feather sticks. I had mentioned in my previous review of the Velvicut that I felt that the handle was a bit short for the weight of this head. After spending time using the longer Best Made, I have to say that it confirms my suspicions. The extra handle length just balances the axe better, and I actually found it easier to use for close work like feather stick making than the shorter Velvicut.

Feather stick made with the Best Made axe. The added balance of the longer handle definitely helps with this task:


Conclusion

This is the Hudson Bay I wanted from Council Tool all along. For me, the 26" handle is an almost perfect balance of length and packability, plus, it adds noticeably to the balance. The sheath is simple, attractive and easy to take on and off, another plus.

The biggest negative is the thicker profile that came on this axe. I spoke with Best Made about this and they said that most of the other axes they've seen are a little thinner than the one I received. They offered to replace it, but I declined, since I have access to a belt sander and it wasn't hard to adjust the edge profile with my equipment.

I would add that when talking with Peter (the owner of Best Made), he comes across as a genuine axe enthusiast who really cares about his product. He makes no bones about being a "boutique" company, but he also wanted to create what he feels is the perfect sized Hudson Bay Axe and worked with Council Tool on the specs for this version. His objective was to make it more affordable, so he priced this model within $5.00 of Council's Velvicut. After testing the Best Made version, I have to agree with his assessment that a longer handle is better. This one's a keeper for me, and I hope to be lucky enough to pass it down to my kid one day as well.

For more info please visit: www.bestmadeco.com


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe- Quick Update

I received several inquiries asking me to thin the edge of this axe and then test performance. Today I spent 5 minutes thinning the edge on a small belt sander, nothing radical, but similar to what somebody would be able to do with a file in about 10-15 mins. 

After getting the edge razor sharp, I took it outside into the wild kingdom that I call my yard (we have herds of Elk and Mule Deer that hang out here frequently) and gave it a try. Sorry no pics yet (promise to have some up soon), but the axe performed noticeably better in both chopping and wood shaping\feathering. In fact, my neighbors were quite amused by seeing the huge chips flying from this little axe smacking the wood. 

Cheers, CW

 
January 21st, 2012 Update:

As promised, here are some new chopping test photos after the edge was thinned on the Velvicut Hudson Bay. A slight improvement to be sure, but nothing dramatic without additional edge work. However, the axe feels much better in use from this small improvement. Chopping feels easier and more precise, and creating feather sticks is noticeably easier. With some additional edge work I think it would improve performance even more noticeably.

New profile of Velvicut after thinning the edge slightly:



New chopping comparison between the Velvicut and Wetterlings LHA. Nothing radical, but definitely a slight improvement (30 chops with each axe):




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: UCO Stormproof Matches- worth the extra cost over regular waterproof matches?



Standard waterproof matches have resided in my fire making kit for as long as I can remember. With proper tinder and kindling preparation, they were all I’ve ever needed to start a fire in most conditions. Sure, I’ve heard about “stormproof” matches for years, but thought they were really just an expensive gimmick and rather unnecessary for those of us well versed in woodsman’s skills. Curiosity got the best of me though, and I just had to try some of these out. I recently had a chance to test some UCO brand Stormproof Matches, and after seeing how well they performed, have to say that I'm now a convert.

During a recent outing on an extremely cold and windy night to test some gear, I had a chance to see if they would live up to the hype. Winds were gusting up to 50mph with stand still temperatures in the single digits, driving the wind chill factor down to -30 degrees at times. It was so cold that removing my gloves to take photos was to endure instant discomfort followed quickly by pain and numbness. Definitely a great time to have a reliable match if needing to start a fire for warmth in an emergency situation!

For the test, I lit several matches and held them out in the gusting winds to see if they would stay burning. To my amazement, they kept burning until all the chemical on the match head was completely gone. I even tossed some in the snow and they just kept burning. I could never do this with a regular waterpoof match, and it convinced me that I needed to add these to my fire making kit for emergencies. Granted, the price is roughly double what a good set of waterproof matchs run, but I don't plan to use these to start a fire unless it's a true emergency, and then that extra $2 bucks would seem trivial. These are for when the "dung" hits the fan so to speak, and I feel confident that these will do the job when called upon.

UCO match burning like a comforting beacon on an extremely cold and windy night:


If I haven't convinced you that these are worth carrying, then maybe this video will. It's UCO's promotional video showing how these matches keep burning no matter what you throw at them. I don't usually include company promo videos in my reviews, but as you'll see, this one is very convincing:

video

UCO also includes backup strikers sealed in plastic in case the striker on the main box gets wet: 


SUMMARY

These really are an excellent piece of kit (to borrow a term from our UK Bushcrafting friends) and I really don't have anything bad to say about them. Though pricey compared to other types of matches, the $4.00 cost for these just might be the best money you'll ever spend if you find yourself in a survival situation. Highly recommended.

For more information visit http://industrialrev.com/stormproof-matches.html


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lots of reviews and articles coming soon!

Hi readers,

Just wanted to let you know that I will be posting a whole herd of reviews and articles in the coming days, weeks and months!

I will be reviewing new axes by Helko of Germany, Best Made Co and Fiskars, US-made outdoor gear including the Voile Backpacking Survival Snow Shovel\Saw, Outdoor Research Extreme Cold Mittens, Open Country Cookware, knives by Mora of Sweden, Puma, Victorinox and Gerber, Leatherman Multi-tools, as well as articles about winter wilderness survival, Rocky Mountain Tree identification, winter backpacking, fatwood/pitchwood, wilderness first aid, mountain bushcrafting, and more.

I'm also excited that Rocky Mountain Bushcraft is closing in on 3,000 page views in its first few weeks in existence and picking up more everyday.

Thanks again for stopping by, and as always, I love to hear comments on posts, so please tell me how you feel!

Cheers!