Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mors Kochanski Try Stick Project

Well it's the time of year where the "In The Bush" Facebook group has their annual outdoors competition where you complete various challenges each week against other members of the group and along the way people who don't complete the weekly challenge are eliminated. Last year the competition was centered on wild edibles and wild medicinal plants and I was fortunate enough to win last year along with Matt Wicker. This year the competition kicked off with a carving challenge which required you to make part of a Mors Kochanski Try stick (essentially everything on the try stick but the flute) consisting of over 10 carving tasks which are essential to wilderness self-reliance. There are a ton of versions out there and for some unfortunate reason the original version is buried in the Google search so I thought I would share the article that started it all: (See Mors Instructions on how to make it HERE). So without further delay here is my video of my final product, just click the picture below to start the video.

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Below are step-by-step instructions on how to make a try stick:

1) Blunt End:
  • When Is It Used?: The blunt end is used anywhere that you want an edge you would like not to any points or splinters on, more specifically for using against a tarp (think center stake) or against the body for a Roy Craft style pack (pack made from the landscape). This can also be utilized to make a striking tool  for batoning or on tent stakes as this helps keep the wood from splitting when beating the crap out of it (it essentially hardens the wood without fire hardening).
  • How Do You Carve It?: This is one of the easier notches to carve it just take a little time. Simply start an inch or so from the end of your stick to begin removing material as you spin the stick in your hand. you simply keep working your way up the stick with the motion a few millimeters at a time until you end up with a rounded end. 
2) Material Reduction:
  • When Is It Used?: This type of carving is used mostly for decorative purposes (think railing and furniture) but can also be used to make handles for improvised tools, making toggles and even a makeshift fishing reel.
  • How Do You Carve It?: You can carve it by marking out the area you desire to reduce and then press down firmly with your knife or easily baton your knife into the stick all the way around the area. If the area to be reduced is fairly wide you can do the same process in the center of this area and potentially several other times with in and then utilize your knife to pry these slits away from the stick. Once the material is removed in bulk you simply go back to smooth it out and even things up.
3) Pot Hook:
  • When Is It Used?: This type of carving is used almost exclusively as a pot hanger but can be used to hand any type of gear around camp. This is one of the easiest to carve and one of the most used portions of the try stick that you will run into, practice it and practice it often.
  • How Do You Carve It?: You can carve a pot hook my batoning your knife in an "X" pattern into your stick. Go to the back of the X and carve to the center of the X. You then want to remove the material to each side of the bottom of your X leaving you with a raised triangle which the bail for your pot hangs on.
4) Saddle Notch:
  • When Is It Used?:Think Lincoln Logs when you think saddle notch as it is primarily utilized for joining logs together when building a structure. Aside from the obvious use of building a cabin or shelter this notch can be utilized when making a Roycraft pack to join the three sticks at each point so the fit of the pack is much tighter.
  • How Do You Carve It?: To carve this notch you must determine it's depth and width by measuring it against the stick you plan to merge with the notch. Once you have everything measured out do a plunge cut (or baton) in the center to match your depth and then keep doing the same on each side until you reach the outside edge. You then must only pry the sections out and clean up the shape as needed.
5) Dovetail:
  • When Is It Used?: This notch isn't utilized much for in-field crafting as it if more often than not utilized for crafting furniture. Essentially if you want to make a clean corner for a cabinet, box or other container this is the notch you should implement. 
  • How Do You Carve It?: Baton (or cut) the outer portions of your trapezoid, cut (or baton) one or a few vertical cuts(depending on the size of your notch) to your desired depth in-between the sides of the trapezoid. Pry out the bulky portions of the interior and shave the interior to desired finish.
6) Latch Notch:
  • When Is It Used?: This notch is critical for crafting traps in the field as it is utilized in figure 4 traps for locking against 90 degree plains. 
  • How Do You Carve It?: Baton or cut a 90 degree at the bottom of the notch placement and then at an angle cut to the 90 degree side of the notch and pry out the interior of the notch and clean up the notch by shaving.
7) 90 Degree Plains:
  • When Is It Used?: This is most often utilized when making a figure 4 trap but can also be utilized for decorative furniture, bow making, handle making, and much more.
  • How Do You Carve It?: This is one of the easier items on the try stick to carve as it simply requires baton and pry. You simply start on one side of the stick and baton each side of the of the area you want at a 90 degree and pry the area in between leaving you with a 90 degree plain. You do this same action on each side of the stick creating a square creating four 90 degree corners. After this is complete simply shave each side down until you square smooth surfaces.
8) Split:
  • When Is It Used?: This wasn't part of the "In The Bush" Challenge but is something that I thought should be included on the try stick. This notch is utilized to merge two differing types and diameters of material especially in basket making. The piece of bark you see sticking into the stick below is fairly secure and if this was done using green wood it would have sealed around the inserted material. This technique is also utilized for growing two different types of fruit on one tree.
  • How Do You Carve It?: To carve this simply drive the tip of your knife into the the stick (a narrow profile knife is needed so as not to leave a large hole) and then place the material into the slot created.
9) Bow Notch:
  • When Is It Used?:The notch used is not one I personally use when crafting a long bow I usually just cut a V notch on each side of the bow. For the most part this notch is only utilized in the bow making process.
  • How Do You Carve It?: To make the notch in the video I usually baton at an angle in a half moon configuration  and then do the same thing 1/2 inch up from the first half moon. You then pry the area out in-between and smooth everything out so there are no sharp edges. 
10) V Notch:
  • When Is It Used?: The V notch is utilized in a variety of primitive trap most specifically the figure 4 where it is used to lock the upright against the support stick (think triangle fitting into a v). 
  • How Do You Carve It?: Carve at the angle needed on one side and go to the opposing side and carve a matching side to the V. At this point you can pry the center out or cut a vertical line in the center to make the prying action a little easier.
11) Root Stripper:
  • When Is It Used?: Unfortunately I don't have a great deal of soft wood conifer trees where my base camp is or along the trap line so I haven't put this type of makeshift tool into action. I usually just use a digging stick and a 90 degree spine of my knife. 
  • How Do You Carve It?: Start by making a simple "V" notch as described above and then extend the "V" further into the stick. You would then thin each of the four sides of the stick until it is nearly in a wedge design. 
While this is not something I do on a regular basis (I only use about five of these carvings regularly) it was fun to complete the try stick for the competition. That's one of the things I love about these annual "In The Bush" competitions is that it helps practice skills you might not necessarily always utilize and which you might be slightly rusty with. While this isn't the full Mors Kochanski try stick (You can find a link to it in the first paragraph) it does include all of the carving skills aside from the flute making. If you haven't made one grab the knife you always take into the woods with you and try to make one. I personally found that the thinner profile of the Lt. Wright Bushcrafter and the Leatherman blade or a pocket knife was the best bet over the BHK Scout Patriot just because it was so much thinner and easier to maneuver.
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