Category Archives: Reviews

Kit reviews for kit and equipment that we are using at present.

Laplander or Opinel??

Over the years I have used a number of different folding saws, some of which were branded, others that were made by mystery companies and others still which were just plain cheap and nasty. The three main saws that I use are made by Opinel or by Bahco.

When bushcraft started to become popular the Bahco Laplander became very much the flavour of the month, with certain TV personalities giving it their backing and even talking about it in their books. The question being did it really deserve this level of recognition.

The Laplander Folding Saw has got a few nice touches about it, the blade is easily changed and is a reasonable cost here in the UK. The Saw itself isn’t going to break the bank when it comes to purchasing it. When it comes to safety the saw locks open or closed which is a reasonable safety consideration.As a friend once pointed out you wouldn’t want to reach into a side pouch just to meet the teeth of your saw.

The laplander (Bahco 396 LAP) is a good cutting tool, the XT blade is designed as a multipurpose blade for cutting green wood, seasoned wood, bone and even plastics. There are seven teeth per inch over a 7.5 inch (190mm) long blade. The handle is approx 9 inches (230mm) long, the combined overall length is 405mm and the saw weighs in at 200 grams so the saw is good and light.
Although the blade is hardpointed it’s quite flexible and will bend, this is not a bad thing as you can always bend it back. The cutting action is both ways, it cuts on both the push and the draw / pull stroke. In action it is a good efficient tool that cuts reasonably quickly, it doesn’t however provide the cleanest of cuts and this is due to nothing more than the tooth pattern of the saw.

The Opinel, well I say the Opinel, but there are two of them, the No’12 and the No’18.

The Opinel No’18 Folding Saw is closer in size to the Laplander saw, it locks, but it only locks open. This can be rectified by tightening the bolt and nut that hold the blade in position. The lock is effective enough even though it’s a very simple system which also makes the system easy to fix if it should be broken.
The handle is made of beech which is both aesthetically pleasing as well as being warm in the hand. The blades are replaceable, but the cost is prohibitive (it cost nearly as much to buy a new saw in the UK should you break a blade). The blade length is approx 180mm (just under 7.5 inches), the handle length is approx 9 inches (I have seen measurements of both 220 and 230mm) and the weight is around 200 grams.
So as far as specs are concerned the two saws are clearly very much the same (I can’t find a stated TPI for this tool). The tooth pattern on the Opinel is totally different to that of the Laplander, infact it resembles the tooth pattern to be found on the Silky Arborist saws, it cuts only on the draw cut, but it cuts very quickly and very cleanly (I have split blocks of Ebony to be used for knife scales with one of these saws).
The channel that the saw cuts is narrower than that of the Laplander, but it cuts as quickly if not slightly quicker than the laplander. The teeth are large, sharp and run side by side in offset pairs.

The Opinel No’12 has a 120mm blade, it has a locking collar that allows the blade to be locked both open and closed in the same way as the Opinel lock knives. The tooth pattern is exactly the same as that used on the No’18. It’s a nice little pocket saw, it won’t cut through the same diameter as the larger No’18, but it’s portable / pocket sized in a way that the other two saws aren’t. The downside to this saw is that there is no facility to change the blade and it’s still quite expensive.

From my point of view as an owner of this saw I like it a lot and it gets carried on a regular basis especially when weight and space are a concern.

As a personal thing and what I carry for use by me, I tend to use an Opinel, if I am mobile then I use the No’12 and if I am working from a static location where I don’t have to carry all my kit on a daily basis then I’ll use the No’18. The Laplander is ideal for use when teaching as it is less likely to get damaged when being used by people who are not used to using handtools, it is also considerably cheaper to buy than the No’18 and the blade replacement is also cheaper.

The Armageddon Cookbook and Doomsday Kitchen


The Armageddon Cookbook and Doomsday Kitchen by Marcus Harrison.

It’s no secret that we at Green-Craft know Marcus. It was however a bit of a surprise when Marcus let me know there was a little something coming in the post.

A good few years ago at the Wilderness Gathering Marcus was chatting to us about a work in progress, it was quite a large undertaking to say the least, he wanted to cover aspects of wild food and cooking in a survival situation / environment, however it was not going to be just plant identification and a few recipes. It was to be a work covering many different aspects of food and cookery.

Well three months ago the book actually popped through the door. It didn’t take very long before I picked up the book for a “quick read”, however the book seemed to have a different idea and a quick read turned into a much longer and more in depth read. Marcus has gone far beyond any work that he has ever undertaken before.
Infact I believe that Marcus has covered more in this book than pretty much any other “in the field” cookery book. This book covers the psychological aspect of survival (which is both a good read and very honest), acquisition of food, plant identification, food prep, cooking methods and recipes.

Normally we find that wild food books cover straight forward weeds that we can eat, but Marcus has added in bits to do with trees and the use of some for food and some for making infusions for teas. We are all familiar with the normal sources of protien, but this book has covered insects, molluscs, fish, crustaceons, birds, mammals and he’s covered the seasonal availablity and environment that some of the food can be acquired. Some food will need to be stored and storage away from animals has also been covered. Preservation of food has also been a consideration.
Marcus has also addressed one other aspect that’s normally forgotten in books like this and that’s Water. He has covered water sources, harvesting, filtering and sterilisation. Improvised utensils have been included, cooking methods, jigs and ovens. You’ll find that Marcus has placed in a number of recipes, some of the names will make you chuckle and they’re meant to.

In Summary, The Armageddon Cookbook and Doomsday Kitchen is well written, it covers a lot of different aspects of wild food that aren’t normally covered. As a personal opinion I think that this book lends itself towards disaster relief, the psychological apsect and the decision making process are very relevant specifically to these situations. For people that have lost most everything, having to improvise the basics, this book contains the knowledge and ideas that you need.

98.6 Degrees

A good few years ago I was teaching at an event arranged by Bushcraft UK. At the event I met Mors Kochanski, a very nice and knowledgeable man who is probably considered by most to be the father of Modern Bushcraft. At the end of the event whilst chatting with Mors he presented me with with a book. 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive

On the way home I started to read. Now this isn’t a large book, but it packs a lot of knowledge into the pages within the cover. The basic idea behind the book is that when your body core temperature alters by more than a certain level it has a drastic effect on how your body performs or doesn’t perform as the case may be. This was no new concept to me because of the environments that I had worked in, I had both seen and at times felt the effects myself.

This was the first time however that I am aware that a lay person had put together a book that actually listed / dealt with the potential hazards of core temperatutre change for people working in outdoor environments or having been caught in dangerous/survival situations. The book itself is actually all common sense and could potentially have been a very boring text of a clinical / medical nature. However what Cody Lundin has done is to interject some light humour both in the text and as diagrams (which I found very reminiscent of Elsworth Jaeger’s Wildwood Wisdom). It would appear that Cody has a sense of humour and of irony, actually a major requirement of a good survival instructor. The Book contains loads of well thought out hints and tips, suggested contents for a grab bag that doesn’t include the kitchen sink and as such is much more realistic.

98.6 degrees is a well balanced and thoughtout book. It has a small amount on small basic survival kits which don’t reqire a lowloader to shift them, it contains the odd story to back up the research and data that has been quoted by the author, all in all it’s a damned good read for anyone and not just people interested in the great outdoors

Axminster Detail Carving Tools

XM 006 (Medium)

XM 007 (Medium)Detail Carving Tools.

Another Christmas present that I have been using over the last couple of months. What you see is what you get, a good value starter kit for fine detail. All 8 tools came razor sharp and ready to use in a basic, but fairly robust plastic case. The tools sit in the case well, and the cutting edges do not touch each other. All the tools are easy to use in both the left and right hand, and perform well in soft / hard, seasoned / unseasoned wood.

8 Piece Axminster Detail Carving Tool Set £11.30p

A low cost no frills good quality tool kit, you can’t go wrong.

Flexcut Slipstrop.

A basic shaped strop for small gouges and vee tools. I have honed all 8 of the detail carving tools on this strop, it works well when used in conjunction with the polishing compound supplied with it. Axminster Tools sell this product.

Flexcut Slipstrop with Compound £13.20p

These boots are made for…..Bushcraft

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The kit we use in the woods is a very personal matter and no item more so than the footwear we choose. And it’s not just in the woods – work shoes (when I was a chef) and, of course, running shoes when I was pounding pavements and running marathons.

Over the years I have tried a lot of clothing and footwear, everything from army surplus boots, to traditional walking boots and everything in-between. Like most people I have researched my purchases, looked at what other people use and looked at what the outdoor “celebs” and guru’s use. I have used boots from all sorts of manufacturers: Lowa, Miendhl, Lundhags, Merrel, Nike, Zamberlan, etc,etc. Hunting boots, walking boots, approach shoes, cross trainers – you name them, I have probably tried them – even Crocs!!!
When I was working for Bison Bushcraft, Roger and I designed a boot especially for bushcraft. We were looking for something light that allowed you to feel the world around you, the idea was for an “enclosed flip-flop”, a simple shoe with no raised heel (this simplistic idea seems to have taken off with the advent of “bare-foot”& “minimalist” shoes). While very good, they were not the “ideal” for year round use and had a slight flaw in the design.
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One thing that become apparent is that no one pair of boots can be suitable for all conditions in our world of bushcraft.
So what is the answer?
I looked at the clothing I use in the woods (more specifically – what covers my legs!) and there was the answer!
Most of the year, I wear an old pair of British Army Lightweights (cheap, robust, fast drying, not too many pockets). If the weather is hot and I decide to get my legs out – a cut-off pair of German Army Moleskins (baggy, made of cotton & super comfy). When the mercury drops and the weather gets cold & damp, I want something that offers more protection. I have a pair of Tuff-Stuff “Bushman” trousers that are made of polycotton canvas, have cordura pockets for knee pads and have a few sensible pockets.
So all I needed was three pairs of boots!
The boot that I have chosen for use most of the year (and I am still testing eight months on!) is the Vivobarefoot Mens Off Road Hi M Leather Trekking and Hiking Boots
, a water-proof lined leather minimalist boot, that is amazingly lightweight, grips superbly and lets you feel the world under your feet. I have used them in the woods, on the Cornish coast path and as a general purpose boot while teaching. These boots need care, don’t use them for everything! Like plumbing, going to the pub, going to Tesco’s, etc,etc – because they are not made for that sort of use – the clue is in the name “off-road”, use them for that purpose and the sole will last!
In the heat of the summer woods – you want something very light, very soft (so you can feel the forest floor), grips well and dries fast. Again I looked to Vivo-Barefoot and I use their “Vivobarefoot Mens Neo M Trail Running Shoes

” shoe. This was the first shoe I got from this company and I have been using them for over a year and they are superb. Incredibly light, very “grippy” and the sole allows you to feel everything that lies beneath your feet. They also make excellent “camp-shoes” to change into at the end of a hard days hike, weighing nothing and packing down very small.
My one word of caution with “bare-foot” or “minimalist” footwear is, that the properties that allows you to feel everything – does just that! If the ground is cold, so will your feet be!
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So what to wear when it’s wet and the ground is cold?
For the answer I looked to countries where the winter months mean snow, cold & wet for the duration. In countries where it remains cold & dry – Muk-luks are favoured, however in places where wet is also added into the equation, the “Pac” type boots seem to be favoured. These boots have a rubber foot section (like a wellie) and then have a leather top that, laces up. The inner is usually made of felted wool (or similar), keeping your feet warm & dry.
I purchased a pair of Seeland Pac Boots (£42) at the beginning of the winter. Last winter I used a Gore-Tex & Thinsulate lined “cold/wet” boot and in prolonged use had cold feet most of the time. This winter with my “old-school” Pac Boots, my feet have stayed warm and dry. The dry part was severely tested while teaching scout-leaders in Gloucester in November when we had 14 hours of torrential rain and wide-spread local flooding.
While feeling “big & clumpy” compared to my other “minimalist” footwear, they have become a firm winter favourite.
So there you have it – my thoughts on footwear for use in our woods, the whole year round. And as far as cost goes – the three set of footwear, suitable for use the whole year round – was £180….which for a “year-round” set of footwear – I think is quiet reasonable.
Til, next time.
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Praise where praise is due…

For the last month I have been field testing some new items of kit. This is the first of several reviews I will be posting over the coming weeks. This Silky pocket boy saw sheath made by Lois Orford was given to me by Jennie at Christmas. As I expected it is a first rate product. The saw fit is perfect giving you confidence that it is safe and secure, whether it is on your belt or in your coat pocket. A snug fit is what I was looking for as I often carry the saw in my ventile pocket, and pocket boys only have a lock option when the blade is open. The leather quality and workmanship is excellent, and the colour is an exact match to that shown on the website. Jennie had to confirm the order over the phone, and said they were very helpful and a pleasure to deal with. Available from Ben Orford.
Standard belt case for Silky Pocket Boy saw 170mm £25.00

I’m very happy with it and personally rate it as 10/10


Guy Stainthorp Custom Knives

Earlier this year I contacted Guy Stainthorp about making a knife, I originally asked about blade blanks, well you’ll never know if you don’t ask, before being politely informed that he doesn’t make blade blanks.

The commission that I wanted Guy to take on was actually a copy of another knife with a few modifications made to it. This is going to end up sounding like a review of both knives, however this is just my opinion.

To explain I own a Benchmade BM210 “Activator”, the general idea behind the knife is actually not bad, however in my opinion it’s let down by a number of it’s features.

It has G10 scales which are wafer thin, This is not very comfortable for me. My hands are not huge they are about normal size and I can’t quite get a really good grip of the knife.

The full flat grind has a huge secondary bevel that means that unless you want to spend a hell of a long time on a diamond stone grinding away (the original BM210 was made in S30V even though it is now available in D2 as well) you’ll never get this thing truly flat, so you end up with a knife which has a cutting edge which is convexed.

The BM210 itself is quite a pretty little knife so Benchmade have given it a full grain leather sheath, unfortunately it’s a butt ugly pancake of leather. I also do leather work and if I turned out something that looked like that I would be embarrassed to sell it.

So what I wanted was a knife made from a steel that I would like (there’s nothing wrong with S30V, I just prefer other steels to it), so we went with RWL34. The knife had to have the same profile as the activator, however I wanted a Scandinavian Grind placed on the knife as I do a fair amount of wood working. The scales were to be replaced with Black Micarta and were to be a bit thicker than the original ones as I like something that I can grip and last but not least it was to have Kydex sheath that had the facility for me to wear it neck carry or on a belt if required.

Guy Stainthorp Knife

The picture Guy sent to me

I took receipt of the knife just before going off to teach the Army Pre Selection Survival Training with Footsteps Of Discovery so here are my initial impressions of the knife.

The knife when used for small game prep is very good, the slightly larger handle allows me to grip it tightly and maintain control even if it’s covered in slime. When carving for prolonged periods the slightly larger handle means it’s less tiring for my hand in use.

The Scandi Grind bevels allow me to carve very good precise feather sticks, it also allows a great deal of control and fine work when carving trap triggers.

When the knife arrived it was shaving sharp, it hasn’t been sharpened yet because the edge retention is very good, it’s only been used for making feather sticks, carving pot hangers, cutting string, carving trap triggers, a bit of splitting and skinning bunnies for three days. It is still however shaving sharp even though I battened it through a knot in some of the sticks I was splitting.

The Kydex sheath has a very secure lockup, it’s small, elegant, lightweight and easy to clean should I forget and place a blood and gut smeared knife back into it by accident. Before this there was probably only one person I would have gone to for a Kydex sheath and that would have been Chris Claycomb. Guy’s work is up there with Chris’s.

These are my initial observations on the knife, however I must say that I am pretty much delighted with the knife and with Guy’s “Can Do” sort of attitude.

After a few more months I’ll post an update to say how it’s faired over time along with some photos of it in use and what it’s capable of.