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We have an open fire and during the winter month we burn mostly logs. However, some are a bit large, or burn quite slowly and so we have a bit of coal on hand that we occasionally use to make the fire more effective.

This coal comes in thick plastic bags which are generally wet. It is remarkably tedious how it always seems to be raining when I have to get fresh coal, and even when it isn’t the bag is wet to start with, and even when they’re dry outside they tend to be wet inside.

What also happens a lot is that when a bag is open, there isn’t enough coal to fill the bucket and I will have to open another. This will coincide with the fact that I don’t have a knife on my person. At least not a knife I want to sully by using it to open a grotty, gritty plastic bag.

So what I thought I needed was a cheap blade that I could leave outside by where the logs and coal are stored, so that I could open the coal bags without having to traipse back indoors to get a cutting implement.

As well as being cheap it needed to be safe to use, given the usually wet conditions.

This is what I came up with. It’s a Stanley knife-type blade sandwiched between two pieces of flat plastic that came from some packaging. There is a hole in the blade and after drilling the plastic, I used a piece of bamboo to act as a pin for added strength. The bamboo came from a chopstick, which are most useful for making and fettling projects.
The whole thing is glued together using a glue gun, and as the glue itself is rather rubbery I added some as ribbing to give grip in the wet.

It looked a bit anaemic to start with so I thought I’d paint it, which proved to be interesting. I used car spray paint and the undercoat went on fine. Next I gave it a coat of white, which clearly did not work well with the undercoat. I am not sure why. Both seemed to be the same type of paint, not for example one cellulose and one enamel. It looked a bit rubbish to be honest, but I then gave it a coat of the orange day-glo paint, which is something I use when I’m making fishing floats, and the end results looks, well… interesting. It also almost looks intentional. Anyway I like it and it will make it easier to spots if it gets misplaced.

All I need to do now is think about how I stop it rusting, since it is going to live outdoors. I am thinking some kind of sheath lined with grease.

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This is a blade I swapped with someone on a bushcraft forum, with the intention of rehandling.
I didn’t take a picture of how it looked to begin with, but you can get an idea from this first illustration which is a before and after type thing, with the blade after I had taken some metal off on a photocopy which I used to work out how much steel to remove.

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Having done so, I ordered a brass bolster from Moonraker Knives (great service) and found a suitable piece of wood for the handle. I chose a seasoned piece of Ash because it is a wood that is light, strong with a certain amount of spring, which is why it is tradionally used for tool handles.

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After drilling and filing a suitable slot in the Ash to ensure the knife tang was a tight fit I began to shape the handle. At this stage I did not fix the blade in place, in case I had a mishap with the wood.

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Eventually after a lot of work with knife and sandpaper I was somewhere near where I wanted to be and glued the blade in place with epoxy.

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Here I learned something, namely to consider whether blade or bolster needs any final work, before joining the parts together. The latter needs some filing and smoothing to get rid of some of the machining marks of manufacture and I should have done this before I glued the whole shebang together.
Anyway, with lesson learned, the thing was now a whole rather than several parts.

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It was however quite ugly, so the next thing was to make the handle thinner and a bit better looking. My instinct was to make it very slim, to visually “balance” the blade, but I was chary of taking off too much “meat” and with it the strength. Having spent so much time on the knife I did not want it failing on me.

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At last I’d got it to a point I was happy with, and so after a final going over with fine sandpaper it was time to oil the handle. This is my favourite part of working with wood, when the grain’s colour springs out with the first coat.
So then, after a good number of coatings over several days, it was done. The next thing to consider was making a sheath.
Now that is going to be a challenge.

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An occasional series on a few of my favourite things.

This, like an earlier favourite thing, is a knife that I inherited from my grandfather.
Whilst that one was given to him by his father-in-law, this one is of less certain provenance. He never showed it to me when he was alive and it came to me when we were clearing the house after his death. I made the assumption since it was an old knife that he’d had it since he’d been a boy. After all for my generation, my father’s and beyond most boy’s aspired to own a sheath knife. And my grandfather had been in the Scouts and I knew that in the Thirties some Scouts carried a knife on their belts. A knife is after all an essential piece of outdoors kit.

Thus I thought no more of it until recently when I put the maker’s name through an internet search engine. (The details – Joseph Rodgers & Son, Cutlers to His Majesty, Sheffield, England do not show in the picture – the blade is stamped on the other side).

The result identified the knife as those issued to Auxiliary Units in WW2. This shadowy bunch of warriors was set up when the threat of Nazi invasion was very real. They were something like the Special Forces wing of the Home Guard: recruited with the specific intention of creating mayhem behind enemy lines, should Britain be invaded. Such was the secrecy surrounding these units, and so resolutely did those involved take their oath of secrecy, that very little is actually known about these units.

So whilst I was pleased to find out something about this knife I was faced with a number of questions.

Had my grandfather been in an Auxiliary Unit?

Is that why he was not called up at the earlier in the war?

If not, where had the knife come from?

I asked my mother if she knew anything of the knife’s history. She did not, but when I explained what I thought it was, commented that she’d always thought it unusual that he knew where all the defensive pillboxes were on the (local) Kennet and Avon canal.

From looking on the internet it would seem that the Auxiliary Units were all based in coastal counties which would put paid to any suggestion that my grandfather was a member of one. I think he probably picked it up somewhere, like a few other bits and pieces he had, however I guess I will never be certain.

So I have inherited a knife, a piece of British wartime history, and a mystery.

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This is an update to a trio of posts from last year detailing how I rehandled a little Sheffield blade.

One, Two, Three.

Having given the blade a new lease of life two things seemed important.

Firstly making a sheath and secondly giving it a useful role.
So this is what I came up with, a small sheath that allows it to be worn around the neck.
I made the sheath by making a wooden covering out of thin wooden spatulas – think tongue depressors. This I then covered with leather. And then added a leather lace, to allow it to be hung round the neck, with a bead to hold the sheath in place.
The leather came from a pair of gardening gloves from the Poundshop – which is why the colours are slightly off. The lace is something I bought off Ebay and is the only new/non-recycled item in the whole thing,set . The bead I made from a piece of apple wood. Overall I’m really please with it. Having never worked with leather before, it was definitely a process where I gained some experience.
As for the second bit, being useful, well it just is. I have found that when camping, or doing other outdoorsy stuff it useful to have a knife quickly to hand. Of course you may have a penknife in your pocket or a bigger sheath knife on your belt. One takes time to deploy (and two handed) ; the other is often to big for the task. This knife therefore often has the edge – as well as being razor sharp that is – hanging round your neck makes it quick to get hold of and its size means it’s just the thing for the times you need to quickly slice, dice or nick something.

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Here at Boot Hall we are always making things, for reasons both of pleasure and practicality.

This is the first in what, hopefully, will be a series about that.

About a year ago I bought a large water bottle to take on wombling excursions. It came with a pouch and a belt. I found that whilst this was a useful piece of gear the belt and pouch were too much, unless I had other kit to stuff in the pouch.

So I got some nylon webbing, some quick-release clips and made a holder along with an adjustable and detachable shoulder strap. This has made it much more useful as a grab and go item, plus it’s lighter and easier to carry.

Unintentionally, it reminds me of a water bottle I had as a kid that came with something called an “Adventure Kit“.

I’ve just started work on some loops to attach it to a belt. We’ll have to see how that develops.

bag kit

Almost eighteen months ago I posted about equipment/kit lists and putting something together for the wombling expeditions that Little Boots and I regularly undertake.

Just recently I’ve put those thoughts into action. I had been taking a rucksack with us, but it was a bit too big for what was needed and the tendency in having a big bag is to take far more kit than you need, so the first thing was to get a smaller bag and I wanted something that’s worn over the shoulder for speed of access.

This is what I ended up with, it’s a Finnish army bag, which is about a foot square and has some useful internal pockets. The rucksack, which gets taken on all sorts of trips including shopping, school and work and so needs constant loading and unloading.

The idea with this bag is that it has a dedicated purpose and so is always ready to grab and go. That means apart from adding food, drink and almost always a camera it’s always got the kit in we need in it ready and waiting. I made a list of the things we always take, the things we often take and the things we sometimes take. I then thought about the things we never take, but should, or perhaps have talked about whilst we were out (for example the torch, for looking down holes and exploring in dark woods). From all these things I put together an inventory of what needs to go in the bag.

A few wombling escapades should shake out whether we have all we might need, not enough or too much.

 

Just treated the handle with walnut oil – brought it up very nicely. 

It’s sat in front of me now and I think it’s worth a smile of self-congratulation.

000 at last