Category Archives: Things to try


Knife-making with Dean Piesner and Robb Martin

Knowing as much about my tools as I can has always been the way I’ve been wired. It’s the reason I took up an interest in blacksmithing in the first place — I took a one-day historical society course on how to make a traditional Native neck knife (the pocketknife of the fur trade era). That cemented the fact that if you know how to make your tools, you adopt a mindset that is very versatile, very flexible.

This lends itself well to survival, to bushcraft, and to daily living, in or out of the city.

That course was a revelation, and started me down a road that had me seeking out new teachers, building my own forge, and realizing how tough it is to actually spare the time to get good at anything. I tried to keep moving forward nonetheless, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to bring the past few years of occasional smithing experience (including studies with Robb Martin of Thak Ironworks) together, and learn how to hand-forge the ultimate general-use tool, the fixed blade knife:

I’ll be writing a bit more about the process involved from start to finish, but for now, I still need to finish and haft the first of these knives, and of course, I’m looking forward to making the sheath. After that I have many more to make, and still much to learn.

Mike Zimmermann - Forge work


Winter Power Outage Tips


It’s December, 2013, and although it usually means mild times in Toronto, a severe ice storm has left a good many residents without power, and by extension, heat. The temperature as I write this is -10° C (about 14° F), and will be dropping, not rising throughout the day. #icestorm2013 and #darkTO are the only things on many people’s mind. Many people have been without heat and power since Sunday morning, and will continue in the dark until after Christmas.

Not cold by Canadian winter standards, but with an urban dwelling and no alternative way to heat it, many people are left unprepared in a dangerous way. Assuming you have a half-decently stocked fridge and groceries for the week, the cold is probably going to be your most immediate challenge.

There are, of course, many things to keep in mind like turning off appliances, stockpiling water, etc., but here are some quick and dirty tips for those caught in the cold and dark: Continue reading

Making a classic bow-frame saw

I’m the first to admit that despite my love of the outdoors and the woods, I’m relatively unschooled in the fine art of woodworking compared to some. Natural wood has a life and character unlike any other material, and it’s hard to ignore those who make this craft their pursuit.

I love to listen and learn from passionate people, and this past week, I had the pleasure of learning how to make a classic frame saw from Steven Der-Garabedian (see his work at Steve is absolutely fanatical about woodworking, and it comes through in every action and every word he utters. Not only is he patient and accessible, but he has that other quality that distinguishes good craftsmen from good teachers—his love of his art is infectious.

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Time for a wanigan


What I carry is nowhere near as nice as this, but the concept is essentially the same.

(What I carry is nowhere near as nice as this, but the concept is essentially the same. These are from J.a.G Woodworking)

I’d like to talk about one decision I’ve made when it comes to kitchen on a canoe trip. There’s a part of me that wants to go as ultra-light as possible, knife and a flint striker and some rope, and improvise from there, but there’s another, more obsessive side that wants to bring every gadget possible. Somewhere in the middle is the ideal camping kit. That ideal pack obviously is different for each individual, and indeed, changes for me on a constant basis.

One peice of kit that has started coming with me on any canoe trip longer than three days is my version of a wanigan. Bill Casselman’s “Canadian Word of the Day” site describes it better than I could.

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A new leaf

I’ve decided to take a step back and look at this site. I haven’t updated throughout the winter, and although I camp year-round, sometimes there can be big pauses between trips. So to move things along during the slow times, I will be writing reviews of various gear that I’ve tested and used. Further to that, I’m going to actually take the time to design a new site, with a good section for organizing the reviews, and perhaps a gallery. It will give me a chance to test out some new technology as well, and I’m looking forward to that.

So begins the lengthy re-design process.