Monday, July 18, 2011

Feet maintenance on the trail

Feet can be the most annoying and painful part of your body after walking for a while. While the problem is mostly blisters, which rarely cause any permanent problems, there are real dangers too, for example a condition known as Stress fracture. So, get to know your feet, and if they really are killing you, dont be a dumbass and "tough it up".

Here's a couple of things Ive learned.

1. Obvious, yet often overlooked: stop and check your feet from time to time. When your tired, and dont feel any obvious hot spots on your feet, it's easy to just keep on going. Then, after you stop and rest for 15 minutes, you realize you have a huge blister developing. The thing is, often hotspots cannot be felt while walking, until its too late. So, take a break, get your shoes and socks off, check your feet visually and let them rest. Massage your feet and give them a good slap or two, to get the blood flowing.

2. Cotton socks. "Cotton kills", at least my feet they do. I've actually had blisters from a 5 mile evening walk with the best shoes I own, just because it was hot enough for my feet to get sweaty and I had cheap cotton "tennis" -socks on. So, get good socks, and try them out before going on a hike!

3. Layering socks. There are socks that are specially designed for layering up, but the cheap way is to buy womens angle-lenght socks. You know, those that are made from the same strechy material as pantyhoses. I usually have a pair of those in my backpack just in case. Ive noticed that sometimes just a pair of thin hiking socks is perfect and then another day it might be raining hard and I need to add a pair of womens socks to take some of the friction off. Anyway, having a pair will give you more options with the cost of 2 eurs and a few extra grams on your backpack. Also, the socks in question often offer a cheap laugh at the camp fire.

4. Blister plasters (=bandages). I dunno who invented these first, but the person responsible should get the Nobel price of hiking equipment. I've used the Compeed brand. What the blister plaster (damn, that sounds like a Mad Max villain) does is it covers the blister with a slippery, skin-like layer, eases the pain almost immediately, and stays on for days and days, minimizing further friction and actually healing the blister while you walk. These little things can save your trip. Highly recommended!

5. Shoes. What can I say? Some say that shoes are the most important piece of hiking gear, and I cant really argue with that. Pick 'em carefully, and dont take a pair of brand new shoes to a hike. Wear them in with miles and miles of all kinds of terrain.

Feet maintenance: after a long walk its nice to walk barefeet in the camp,
to let the feet breathe. When your feet are wet and wrinkly,
they might end up looking a bit weird, though

Pics from random hikes

Some pics from past hikes. Not so much gear or knife shots here, more wildlife and landscapes :)

Shots from home 1. Taken a few miles from where I live

Shots from home 2

Sun and moon 1

Sun and moon 2. (Kuusamo, Finland)

Adder... one of the few dangerous animals of southern Finland 

Reindeer. One of the not-so-dangerous animals of northern Finland.
(Kuusamo, Finland)

Reindeer skull (Kuusamo, Finland)

Wild edibles. Lingonberries and chantarelles

Wild edible with a deadly twist.
Korvasieni, or Gyromitra esculenta is deadly poisonous when prepared  incorrectly.

Damn sheeple!
On some of the islands of Turku Archipelago there are wild herding  sheep.
While not dangerous, these guys are used to humans and can be a little too nosey.
So, best not to leave your back untended

Two ways of crossing swamps 1:
During winter its easiest to walk on frozen swamp ditches.
That is, as long as they really are frozen... 

Two ways of crossing swamps 2:
Summertime its best to stay on the "pitkospuut".
Some of the swamps are basically unaccesible, and potentially dangerous places.
When on "pitkospuut", unfasten your backpack waist strap, just in case.

Firesteel + Tupasvilla (Hare's-tail Cottongrass), works just as well as cotton balls.

Monday, July 11, 2011

1st Puukko

Ive always wanted to make a puukko; forge, harden, heat treat and grind the blade and make the handle and sheath from scratch. Ive read a ton of books about said issues, but a few years ago I got a rare opportunity to work under the supervision of a professional puukko smith (said smith is nowadays one of the four "puukko-masters" in Finland).

I figured there might be a lot to learn about this topic, but still I was surprised how much knowledge and skill goes into making a traditional puukko. A knife like this looks simple, but it's actually far from it. Almost all factory knives, and even most of the handmade custom knives are not forged, they're simply grinded or stamped from a flat piece of metal. This is true with most puukkos too. Forging however isn't important just because of tradition, it changes the structure of the steel, and is essential for a good blade for this type of knife. For a professional, making a puukko takes about 12 hours. For me, it was more like 30-50 hrs, but it was so intresting and fun, that the process could hardly be called "work".

For purely traditional values, I made the handle mostly out of curly birch. However, being this is my  very first puukko, I just had to add something extra to the handles. There was plenty of exotic woods to choose from, but I couldnt bring myself into using some psychedelic Amazonian neon-wood for a puukko, so I chose red rose wood (it actually grows in Finland too). The slabs between the pieces are birch bark. The blade is forged from 0,8% carbon steel, and the ferrules are grinded from brass. The shape of the knife is as traditional as possible; the style is mostly copied from Tommi-puukko, but of course I measured it to fit my own hand.

Here's a couple of pics from different stages of the process.

After some ~20 hours of training and work, I had two nice blades, ready to go

Fitting the ferrules was a lot of work; there should be no gap between
the blade and the brass

Assembling the handle.

Almost there...


Overall lenght ~7", the blade being a little under 3,5". The handle was treated with danish oil and bee wax.

The sheath was surprisingly easy to do, but it still took me some 4-5 hours to sew, decorate and dye it. The sheath has a wooden liner in it for shape and safety. The overall design is from tommi-puukkos sheath.

Making this knife was a lot of fun and extremely educational knife-wise. If you're ever given the opportunity to make a knife of any kind with professional supervision, I strongy recommend it!

Spyderco Delica 4

The very first quality folder I purchased was a first generation Spyderco Delica. I think it was 'round -96 or something. It's the one with fixed pocket clip, AUS-8 blade, full serrations etc. I put that little thing trough a lot; no surprise I broke the tip off (and reprofiled it with a diamond file). The handle is all scratched, and the blade has been sharpened numerous times... still that little knife cuts like no other.

Among friends (from top to bottom):
1. Byrd Raven, 2. Crickett, 3. 4th gen. FFG, 4. 4th gen combo edge,
 5. orginal Clipit Delica, and 6. the Harpy

A couple of years back I bought a Delica 4 with a partially serrated edge. During these 4 generations, the Delica has transformed from a featherweight blade into a sturdier knife. Almost too sturdy, one might say. The fit and finish of this knife are amazing, it feels like there's a ball bearing in the knife joint. The black paintet pocket clip shows scratches, and loosens up from time to time, but it works great, and is reversible to all four corners of the knife.

Brand new vs. 2 years of use

A year ago I upgraded into a full flat grind Delica which in my opinion kinda takes the Delica back to the roots due to the noticable lighter weight. Though the knife is almost identical to the previous Gen 4, there were some differencies with the quality. Something that maybe only a knife nut would notice, but this newer Delica lacks the smoothes and finesse of the previous Spydies Ive owned, and the "Spydie hole" in the blade has sharped edges. The blade lock's thumb stud is sharper too, and harder to push. None of these issues are a "deal braker", but I do hope Spyderco is not about to lower their previosly near perfect quality control.

Other than these minor issues, the knife is great. After a year of use, the clip has loosen up a couple of times, and its scratched up, but the blade looks like new. Spyderco really knows how to make their VG10 into one of the finest pocket blade steels there is. The full flat grind is in my opinion the way the Delica is meant to be made; it cuts amazingly well. Sure, the thin blade is more brittle than a thicker one, but the clue is in the name: the knife is supposed to be used delica(tely), not as a prying bar. This in mind, I'm not sure if the skeletonized metal liners are actually needed in the handle; the blade would snap long before even a plain FRN (Fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle would brake.

Worth of mentioning: the bright color of the handle is a big plus for me. Sure, the foliage green is cool and tactical and all that, but for a user-knife, I really want the knife to rather be visible than cool.

In conclusion: an excellent, fast and lighweight knife for a reasonable price.