Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Making a chest rig / repurposing an old gasmask pouch

For a while now I have been thinking about getting myself a bino-harness; a setup of straps for carrying a heavier type of binoculars while being out and/or moving. However forking over around 500SEK for a decent quality set somehow did not sit right.
On the other hand I had this British WW2 gasmask bag a.k.a. the Indiana Jones satchel! Well, his was a Mark VII, mine a Mark II... but anyway...
The pair of binoculars I have did fir this bag quite nicely and the bag itself is quite versatile. It has several smaller compartments on the inside, is very sturdy and easily accessible. Carries nice, too. The major drawback is that it had quite a strong musty smell and a hideous lime-ish green faded colour.
So the first thing I wanted to do was get rid of the smell and add colour! I did that by soaking it in a chemical, store bought olivegreen and after the dyeing and rinsing and drying..... it still had practically the same colour! Vaguely more green...

We had some leftover batik paint; orange and briljant blue, so I made a new colourbath, using these 2 colours and added the bag again. This time I turned up the heat too. AFter soaking for about 2-3 hours I removed the bag, which now had a deep, rich green. I rinsed it properly and chucked it into the drier. It came out a lot softer.... and a lot less green.... I gave up on the dyeing-bit and decided to wax the lid and front, knowing it would darker the colour. Which it did.
However the drying process had seriously damaged the original carrying strap, causing it to fray quite considerably. I had a sparestrap, once cut from an old French gasmask bag and I hooked that up onto the bag. Fitted perfectly!

 One feature of these bags was the strap securing it around the back, when worn on the chest. That strap was no longer present, so with some attachments and a length of darkgreen elasticated cord and made my own, adjustable one; all parts from the sparesbox!
Last but not least I set out to personalize and demilitarize the bag by adding the tactical version of a local sort of ribbon and 2 patches in suitable colours and themes.

I tried it the other day, wearing it as a chest pouch, during a hike through the woods and loaded it up with my cellphone, which really fits perfectly in one of the compartments and which was easily accessible, and my 8x40 binoculars. I hardly noticed the pouch being there! It rode really comfortably, not getting in the way, not becoming sweaty and not dragging and pulling down on my neck!

And when so desired I can just remove the backstrap, literally with just 1 click, and carry it as a shoulderbag!

Monday, April 6, 2020

I just HAD to get out!

The walls were closing in on me!
Physical ailments have been troubling me for way to long, the covid-19 madness and "social distancing" are getting on my nerves and the annual spring depression is kicking in for real. I actually skipped classes today! After having taken the first English lesson this morning and our internet connection failing all the time, I had had it. I grabbed my gear and went out. Which was exactly the point my wife had so persistently been making, too.
I had been meaning to test my "new" chest-rig, so this was a nice opportunity and I explored a new to me area today as well. No fancy stuff today, just woods, sun, water and the soothing sounds of wind in the trees and the brushing of the undergrowth as I moved..... The air was filled with the sound of birds having come back; trumpeting cranes high above, all sorts of finches chattering all around me, some wood pigeons cooing, gulls shouting and I scared some ducks as I approached the shore of one of the lakes. I had seen a lonely loon on our lake as well...

I was just checking to see how well I would blend in with my homemade camouflage anorak and the rest of the gear. The patches on the back of the backpack do stand out, don't they?

This is the chest rig I mentioned; a repurposed British WW2 gasmask pouch. I will get into that more in a later, separate post. I have to say that it was so comfortable that I hardly noticed it was there! Despite being loaded with cellphone and a hefty set of binoculars.

After having explored the new area, which basically was a pine pantation, I went back to the starting point and turned left into another part. Now this part of the woods was much more to my liking!

The lakes at our place are icefree, here the most shaded parts of the lake still was frozen.

I was getting hungry by now and decided to have lunch at my "happy place", the one I discovered last autumn. It was quite nearby.
On the spot I started to gather firewood and twigs plus a larger piece of birch bark from a rotten stump. That bark was not really dry, but that usually is no issue. I prepared it all, scraped the outside of the bark to produce dust that would take a spark form the firesteel.
Not today! It would send up puffs of smoke from time to time, but not ignite. The stiff breeze coming in from the lake blew what dust was left all over the fireplace. Well, I do keep matches, just in case...

After lunch I decided to hang around for a while, empty my head and find some peace of mind. The ongoing madness of late as well as other matters, have been weighing heavily these past few weeks. But me being me, I can not sit still for too long. So I got up and started playing with some of my gear.
One thing I had been meaning to explore the possibilities of, was the plash palatka (Russian canvas poncho/shelter) that I received from my Swiss buddy Pascal.

The first setup is straight forward using 4 bungees:

But then I figured that if I turned it around, the center toggle would face outward and when attaching a third bungee plus some makeshift groundpegs you end up with a lot more headspace!
This poncho/shelter is wide enough to accommodate 2 people, lying down.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The start of the season

Last weekend saw the, for me, "official" start of the gardening season; 21st of march is the meteorological start of spring, it was weekend and the weather played along perfectly!
It almost traditionally starts with the cleaning up of the garden, removing all the branches and debris that has fallen from the trees, so the threads of the grass trimmer do not get caught up in it. It also is a good occasion to remove all the scrap that had been left before winter, pots that had frozen to pieces etc.

With all this covid-19 hysteria going on, it sure felt good to slow down and get down to earth. And what better way than to get a fire going as well. That too has become tradition; the burning of the twigs and branches. Sort of season's first fire out in the open.

On sunday I also used the occasion to teach my son how to handle a chainsaw. I have an electrical one, which is ideal for that; not too heavy, not too much power and not extremely noisy (or smelly), making it easier to communicate during handling. But first he and his sister had to do some physical labour; carry the logs up to the place where we usually split the firewood. After going through the do's and don'ts plus some technicalities he was ready to "wield it". My oldest daughter helped a great deal with stacking the wood after it was cut into pieces and she had a go at the chainsaw as well. So now he knows how to handle such a tool and she is less cocky about handling one. It was fun doing it together; qualitytime spent wisely I'd say.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Let man's work honour God's Word

Books and learning have taken center stage these last months and anything nature or homesteading has been pushed back. Quite a few issues of a physical nature were one and actual the major cause. Some still are actually. Lack of motivation is another. Which just might be a direct result of the major cause.
I showed you one of my DIY projects a while ago and here's another.
One of the subjects I am ready a lot about is religion. It interests me and it is one of the subjects I want to become a teacher in. However the more I read the more I become aware of the fact that there is a deep underlying current of Christianity in me heritage and that current is actually being brought to the surface. No, I do not consider myself to be a devout, church going christian, but I do realize that I am one; a cultural christian. Everything I say, do, believe, every aspect of western culture or civilization is inherently Christian. I also realized that, despite having liberal views on certain topics, I also am conservative in others. I like to see things that were good to be preserved. Some things, a lot of things in the past were good.
And when one day I was secondhand shopping with my son, he pointed out a bible to me. Last summer I had bought an older, 1950's vintage family bible in a garage sale for 100kr; a tome of a book, 5kg heavy, more than 1000 pages, richly illustrated and bound in fake leather. Now I was standing in front of a similar specimen, yet bound in real leather and from 1928. Being a sucker for this sort of thing I could not resist and a second massive family bible followed me home. The first one now lives with my oldest daughter, who apparently has inherited this "fault".
At home I placed the bible on the coffee table, but somehow that did not feel right. It did not do this beautiful antique book any justice. And here's where my catholic upbringing kicked in. I have these memories of a bookstand or readingtable upon with the pastor in those days put such a similar bible from which he would then read. In English that stand is called a lectern.

And I immediately knew my bible was meant to be on one, even it would just be because of esthetics. These lecterns however did not appear to be very widely used in Sweden, so secondhanding one was not an option. I was going to make one myself. I googled some images, found a few appealing designs and set about "designing" my own and planning the purchase of all the materials. But during my shopping, finding what I needed I somehow still ended up leaving the store empty handed.... only to find that I had usable material at home! That usable material being the center beam of an old twin bed and the floorboard of an old bookshelf. And the creative juices flowed once more!!
The workplace was spartan to say the least, being the boilerroom and the woodbin served as a makeshift worktable, but it was great fun and very rewarding to get my nose out of the books and use my hands again.
A few evenings later I was able to see my toiling and labour come to fruition as the pieces of wood came together to indeed form the piece of furniture I had been aiming for. The curving supports are actually leftover pieces from cutting the circles that make up the feet. They not only enhance structural strength, but also give the whole a more classic look.

After a lot more sanding and 2 layers of walnut coloured waterbased woodglazing and I could call myself a happy man. Luckily I was thorough in sanding the areas where I had used glue, which was everywhere actually, so the glazing does not show any marks. I just used 2 strengthening screws for the table top and the foot.

Now that this was done, the old bible with faded cover and dry spine look bleak. It needed some care too. A rubbing with leather grease did the trick. It felt strangely satisfying, rubbing the grease onto the faded leather and see the reddish brown come to life again, glowing with a deep hue.
Now the bible has a fitting place to rest. And occasionally be read from or leafed through.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A new life for an old Mora Classic Nr.2

Well, a new posts is waayyyy overdue, so I am pleased to show you my latest finnished project, which has been dormant for a few years now; the revival of a Mora Classic nr.2.
I found this knife is a very sorry state at a barnsale. Cost me 5SEK if memory serves me right and came without a sheath.
Its very tip was broken, the blade covered in some sticky stuff, the edge nicked, dented and blunt. And it had that horrible, deep whine/brick red paint.
Later that same year I came across a piece of leather, while emptying a deceased woman's (former) farm and it was about to be thrown away. No so, when I'm around! The leather was marked with 1953 and "Fäggeby" (the small village the former farm was situated in), along with a branding 517 W. I am guessing 517 was the cow's number and the "W" stood for the owner's initial.
Long story short, I was going to fix up that knife and make a sheath for it. And it did not get much further than that. Until at school we had those mandatory creative classes, where we were supposed to work with our hands instead of our heads for 2-3 hours a week. So I brought this project in.

You can still see the tip of the handle in that horrible red. You can also see how I had planned on using the sheath; with the knife tucked away deep. In had previously attempted to wetform the leather, but the only real result that gave, was a vague shape and a strong impressing of the wooden strips I used to force the shape with help of clamps. The stitching is done by using the socalled saddlestitch, meaning you use 2 needles & threads and sew each hole from both sides.
However, as I have a tendency to do, when working freehand, the original plan changed from sewing the beltloop directly onto the sheath, I now wanted the top end to have a small belt and the loop would be attached to that. I have an old knife here that has a similar construction.
However that resulted in the opening becoming to narrow for the knife to slide down and thus the sheath itself becoming too long! Damn.... Now I was facing 2 option; cutting down and restitching the bottom or the same procedure on the top.
I went for the "top"-option, since that would be the easiest to fix. I simply cut the excess off and restitched the top part.
I then redid the earlier mention construction of the "belt" and beltloop, allowing a little more room for the handle, since that was a very tight fit earlier.
The leather in these pictures has not been treated yet, but you can already see some colour difference, despite being from the same piece of leather! That piece also has varying thicknesses. The sheath is slightly thicker at the top and the bottom is actually quite thin.
In the meantime I had also begun to sand away that red paint. I sanded.... and sanded.... and sanded.... and sanded some more. In the end I was left with a bare handle with the grain being deeply stained by the red paint. Yet this was not what I was aiming for as will be shown later on.

The final steps were colouring the handle and greasing the sheath. The latter was easily done and I used 3 treatments of saddlegrease, giving the leather a nice deep tone. Colouring the handle though was a tad more problematic. I had already oiled it with linseed oil, seeing if the pale wood would get a deeper hue. I was not satisfied with the result, so opted for a treatment with a flame, as I had done before with another Mora. However the oil prevented the wood from getting stained by the flame... until it got real hot and catching fire! It left its mark, so to speak.... When done I added a final, personal mark to sheath and handle and now both are ready to serve once more.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Naturnära friluftsliv first annual meet-up

Browsing through my sparse posts from this summer I saw that I did not post about this meet! Completely slipped through! How embarassing!
I make up for it. Right here. Right now!

The weekend of 23-25 of august this year saw the materialisation of our local outdoorgroup's first annual meet, which was held in Dalarna, Sweden.
Due to prior commitments, an exercise of the local civil defense/service group with calamities during saterurday morning and early afternoon, and ongoing physical issues, can not sleep on hard surfaces or handle any sort of equipment worth a name, I attended said meeting as an ornament for the campfire site. This left me pendling back and forth of friday and saturday.

 The weather played along very nicely and the heavens dispersed their sometimes heavy showers during the friday morning, leaving us with clear skies for the rest of the weekend and balmy temperatures well into the 20's Celsius.
Much of the meeting was taken up by canoeing, which I did not parttake in, bowshooting, same there and some bowdrill practice.... you guessed it. Which left me with smalltalk, grilling and coffee drinking. It could be worse! ;)
On my way in I was treated to a fine example of Swedish railway planning. A long freighttrain approached the same crossing as I was, in the middle of the woods, "far" from civilisation and had to stop there..... right across the crossing! Leaving me standing there for a good 25-30 minutes..
  The locomotive to the right....

 And the rest of the train disappearing into the distance to the left....

 This was a nice opportunity to try out a recent gift I had received; a Haglöfs daypack from the 60's, back from the days when that company still was a local company.
I did add some personal touches and you can expect a more detailed review on a blog near you, soon!

Something for the canoe-lovers!
The second one, white&red, is called "Selma and she's a lady of a respectable age! She saw the light of day in 1937 and is made out of wood and canvas!

We had a bit of a close encounter with a large group of great crested grebes or skäggdopping (Podiceps cristatus).
These were not scared of us one bit and I got to watch them at very close range!
Some of the guys were fishing and as one of them casted his bait the entire group rushed toward it, blowing all his chances of catching anything!
Not that there was much left anyway, since these birds proved to be very effective in catching the fish themselves!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Clearing college cobwebs from my head

Recently I have gone back to school. Being only 16 months away from the big "Five-Oh" this isn't an easy task, especially considering that it was 30 years ago, since I left the schoolbenches.

So I had to go out, clear my head after the first weeks of classrooms, lectures and severe social interaction and today was a fine, yet rather windy day.

Initially I headed out to scout out a new area for a midwintermeet I am planning for our group here, but the location I had in mind turned out to be a disappointment. The old fäbod (forestfarm) is in disrepair and draughty, the roof falls apart and there was no possibility to stay the night inside and have a fire.
The surrounding area has suffered from a clear cut too.
Too bad really. The location in itself was rather good.

So after a short while I left again, wondering what to do or where to go.
There is another area nearby, one that I had never visited, despite living near for almost 7 years! So I decided to go there instead. The place is called Trylämnet and is rather popular during summer. Now the summerguests and tourists have vacated the area and I had the entire area to myself. I drove up the forest road to see how far I could go, but at one point I decided to stop. It just kind of looked inviting. As I left the car I noticed a path going into the woods, which soon disappeared downhill. I grabbed my gear and followed it and within minutes I was at another, much smaller lake. The spot is just perfect! And I knew I had found a new spot to come back to. It just felt right.
Right at the lakes edge there was a fireplace that had been used before, but by the looks of it not recently. Here was were I was going to have my lunch and coffee! There were plenty of spruce around, providing me with dry wood, despite the rains of late.... and last night.... all of last night. I discovered something I was not to pleased with; someone had left 3 makeshift fishingrods leaning against a tree, complete with hooks, weights and lines, but this was so old that the lines had become overgrown with moss. I dislike stuff like this. The wood will rot away eventually, leaving the lines and hooks for an animal to get trapped in. I disposed of these traps by burning it all.


I started by gathering firewood, which actually were mostly the lower branches of said spruce and got myself a fire going. The strong winds made me burn through that wood at an alarming rate! So more forays were needed to keep it alive.
One thing I must confess to, is that I am a neatfreak, when it comes to campsites and gear. I can get, and always do, really annoyed by campsites where gear is strewn all over the place. So I always make sure that when I am out there, things are tidy.
I also want to show off my altered anorak.... if you don't mind. ;)
I have dyed and redyed the thing about half a dozen times, the last time adding green with the warm batik-method. But I wasn't satisfied. It looked to pale. So I added dark brown, using a paste that can be painted on, breaking the paleness.

I had also planned on doing a gearreview on my backpack, doing a test with signal colours and their visibility in the woods and wanted to explore the area more...
But I ended up staying at the spot, fiddling around with my cellphone camera, eventually just settling down, having coffee, sitting close to the fire and observing that.
I just sat there, watching the angle of the sun change....

Have you ever paid attention to the smaller pieces of firewood? Seen how they twist and bend as the fire consumes them?
Have you paid attention to the patterns in the embers? How they glow and die down, depending on the wind and the flow of air across them?
Or the patterns of the smoke as it twists, swirls and dances to the "beat" of the wind?

It is magical, hypnotizing and alive!!

But all good things come to an end. I doused the fire die down and when the very last of the flames extinguished I threw water over the hot embers, watching the steam follow the path of the smoke, said my thanks and headed home.
My head is clear again, my body feels grounded again.