Bushcraft Basics

Staff Making 1Sitting around a camp fire in the middle of a wood or forest is a magical experience, but to be able to create something that you’ve put time into making is truly wonderful. Taking time to design and plan your Staff and then to spend time taking the bark off and carving your own design and to personalise it with branding you initials or logo.

The staff you make will not only be a great item for hiking holidays but it will last you a life time. You may consider making a Tracking Stave; an invaluable resource whilst out Tracking. How to use them is also taught on our Tracking Course.

Staff Making 3The wood we tend to use are seasoned Hazel, Ash or Oak these will give you the best results and finished correctly make them very durable. The knots and curves of the natural wood make them look very rustic and with adding a personal touch it makes your staff an extension of you.

Choosing the right tree to coppice is very important, and if you are planning on making a Staff on your own, remember to always get the woodland owners permission. If, you find a branch or piece of wood that has fallen from the tree, even better. If the branch you are using is still green, once you’ve stripped the bark off you will need to let it dry for a few weeks. This will season the wood and make it ideal for using as a staff. If the wood has been collected from a fallen branch make sure there is no wood worm on any part of the branch even if it’s not on the part to be used for your staff.

Staff Making 4The design you choose or the way you finish your staff depends on your design and ideas, as long as once carved, branded or just stripped and rubbed down you seal it with wax, wood stain or varnish. This will help preserve the wood and protect it in all weathers.

Staff Making 2

Our first ever Staff Making course was in February and we had eight eager participants who made beautiful staffs, some chose to use the branding irons to personalise their creations and others added button compasses to the top. They all worked hard throughout the day around the camp fire with hot drinks to hand and within a relaxed, sociable atmosphere.

One participant commented

“I didn’t realise how much went in to making a Staff. The day was just what I wanted, enjoyable, informative and with excellent instruction. I’m going home very happy.” Matt

Another said….

“Thanks for another great day in the woods around the Fire; I learnt a lot and met some truly lovely people.” Kim

Staff Making 5Our next Staff Making day will be on 27th March at our beautiful woodland venue near Canterbury, Kent. We provide all the seasoned wood and materials needed and you will be able to choose from a variety different wood and lengths.

It’s a great way of spending quality time away from all the stresses of modern life, and you come away with something you have created and that can be used for years to come.

How to make a feather stick

It’s pretty wet outdoors at the moment. Whether it’s rained or not, wood can be pretty damp and this makes it more difficult to light. It’s important to find dry tinder to light a fire quickly. One excellent way is to make a Feather Stick, by exposing the dry wood in the centre of your stick and creating fine feathers that can catch a spark easily.

It’s important to use a very sharp knife. (I recommend the Mora 860 Stainless Steel or Mora 840 Carbon Steel for an excellent, inexpensive bushcraft knife).

Remember the rule to cut away from your body and do not cut above your leg.

Good woods for making Feather Sticks are Pine, Hazel or Birch, avoid hard woods.

Split the wood in half using your knife and a thin log to hammer the blade of the knife.
How to make a feather stick - Image 1

Split the wood again so you have created four quarters.
How to make a feather stick - Image 2

One side of each piece of wood will have an angle where you split it and it’s this angle that will help you to make your fine feathers.
How to make a feather stick - Image 3

Using your sharp knife and long strokes, cut thin slithers down the corner of the angle making sure you stop before the end of your piece of wood and so your feathers stay attached. Don’t worry if some come away, they can be added to the fire later.
How to make a feather stick - Image 4

Continue with this method working up the stick and making your feathers smaller and thinner.

Light the finest feathers with your fire steel and let the flames catch the larger feathers.

Continue to add further wood and enjoy your fire.

This skill is covered on our new One Day Bushcraft Course.

FireFire is so much more than a source of heat or a means to cook food. Sitting around a roaring fire is associated with so many things eg. family, community, celebration. But in terms of survival and longer term bushcrafting, fire is essential. (more…)

Birch Trees in SpringLate March to early April would have been a delight to our ancestors. After a long, cold winter with food reserves running low, the first signs of spring would have been welcome, none more so than sweet, nutritious Birch Sap. (more…)

Flint Arrow Head

Flint Arrow Head

Will Lord, the UK’s top flint knapping expert, has been bringing ancient technologies alive since 1975. His courses are always eagerly awaited down at Natural Pathways.

Learning how to master the basics of flint knapping such as pressure flaking, notching, stemming and fluting can open up a whole world of natural possibilities. Working with living stone can be mesmerising while also creating something of practical beauty, just like our ancestors.

Will Lord Flint Knapper

Will Lord - The UK's Master Flint Knapper

Humans have been using flint based tools for millennia, it is only over the last 2,500 years that we have lost this knowledge. Bringing this ancient technology back to life re-opens the connections we have to the earth.

Come and join us and see how the living rock can be transformed into tools so necessary for our ancestors survival. The next flint knapping course in the heart of the Kent woodland is on November 7th. More details and booking can be found here.

Water Droplets

Essential for life on Earth

Apache Indians and many other indigenous cultures around the world regarded water as the Earth Mother’s blood. They afforded it great respect and prevented polluting the lakes and rivers. During modern times this respect has all but disappeared.

Many of our rivers and lakes are polluted through the works of industry, agriculture and many other “benefits” of modern living. (more…)

Foraging in the Woods

Foraging is a fun and productive way of re-connecting with nature

So the economic downturn has hit pockets hard. Does that mean we stop shopping at supermarkets as food prices rise? Probably not. But if you were going to turn to foraging for your food, how would know what’s good to eat? (more…)

Desert FootprintsHumans can get lost quite easily. In terrain with a lack of landmarks to aim for, we end up walking around in circles. And in this instance, it’s our own bodies letting us down. (more…)

Debris ShelterIn our quest to reconnect with nature we must first relearn how to physically survive outdoors. We spend much of our lives in enclosed spaces. We have become complacent about controlling temperature in our environment; turning the central heating up when it gets cold, switching the air conditioner on when it gets warm. But in the wilderness, there are no easy switches for adjusting the temperature. (more…)

Log FireOut in the wilderness it may seem that a map and compass are essential items to get back to the comfort of civilisation. And they probably are if you don’t have the bushcraft knowledge to read the landscape around you. But if it was going to take you some time to get to a populated area, what will keep you alive in the meantime? (more…)