onsdag 6 september 2017

Some (better) alternatives to the common outdoor knots

There are some very commonly used knots out there. Some which almost everyone uses but which are not really the most efficient when we are out in the wild. The most common problem is untying them. When you set up and take down camp everyday for many weeks all these small things gets tiresome.

So here follows some knots to replace the most common ones. I don't know the name of all of them unfortunately.

Before I start. Here are some terms I use which is good to know. Explanation taken from wikipedia.


A bight is any curved section, slack part, or loop between the ends of a rope, string, or yarn.

Standing end

The standing end is the longer end of the rope not involved in the knot, often shown as unfinished. It is often (but not always) the end of the rope under load after the knot is complete.

Standing part

Section of line between knot and the standing end (seen above).

Working end

The active end of a line used in making the knot. May also be called the 'running end', 'live end', or 'tag end'.

Working part

Section of line between knot and the working end.

The Sami knot

Replaces: Sheet bend and sometimes square knot.
I found this one in a poorly translated book, if someone knows another name of it, please let me know.
This knot is extremely simple. It's great for joining lines, both of same and different thickness. It's less prone to slip than the sheet bend and square knot and it has a quick release end which works amazingly well. Try it and I promise you'll love it.
Great for extending tarp lines or pretty much any situation when you need to join two ends.

Make a bight on one end (the thicker one if using different lines)

Go over and then under the bight with the other end as in the picture.

Using the same line, grab the middle (between the end and the knot) and pull it through the bight. But don't pull the end through.

Tighten it by pushing everything towards the top of the bight.

Finish it up by pulling the parts to tighten it. The right end on the picture is used to release it.

Angler's loop

Replaces: Bowline knot
Angler's loop is a fixed loop which is quick and easy to tie. Here I show two methods. The first one if you are not tying around anything and the other one when you are. I've added a small quick-release on this one too which I've not seen others use.

Put the line as shown. The lower (big) loop is the fixed final loop we get in the end.

Take the middle of the loose end and make a bight over the intersection.

Take the big loop over the bight you just made and put it through the small loop.
Tighten everything up. You now have a quick release. Though it won't release the whole knot.

Here is how you make the angler's loop around an object.

Make an overhand knot on the standing part then move the working end around the object and back.

Put the line through the overhand knot from above. Then cross the standing part.

Make a bight on the working part and move it from the left through the two loops in the overhand knot.

Ferrimond Friction Hitch

Replaces: Tautline hitch
This one is my new favorite! I used to use the taut line hitch a lot, for like everything. But it takes a while to make and it takes a while to undo. This one is faster to make and it releases in an instant.
This is used for tarps and tents and has the fantastic ability to be easy to adjust the tension with.
This one was too hard to explain with photos so take a look here:

Quick release hitch

Replaces: Timber hitch
Timber hitch is another one of those knots which are easy to tie and easy to untie, but really could be a bit faster, especially with a long end.
Honestly I don't know the name of this one. I've read quick release hitch sometimes and sometime I heard something about Siberian hitch or something which I forgot.
This one does about the same thing, it's easier to release and it can even be tied and released with gloves.

Put the line around the tree or anything else. Make sure you have the working part away from yourself.

Loop the working end around your hand. First over then back under and over again.

Bring the loop around the standing part and grab the working part.

Pull it through, but not the end of the line.

Tighten it up and slip it against the tree. Pull the quick release to untie.

Tripod lashing

Replaces: Traditional tripod lashing
This is another one I don't know the name of, it's from the same poorly translated book as the Sami knot. So let me know if you know, I'm sure it has a name.
There is nothing that annoys me more than to undo someones tripod made with triple 8s around the poles and lots of fraps. That kind is extremely effective but not very efficient. It uses a lot of line and it takes a long time to make and undo. Not ideal if you make a new tripod at each camp. But very good for one you keep standing the year around.
This one is easy to make and undo, really tight and with only half the line used in a traditional lashing.
Put the poles as in the picture, two side by side and one crossed over.
Set the line under them like in the picture. Measure the distance of one end of the line so it's a good length for the pot loop if you hang the pot from the same line.
Move the ends through the opposite bight. What you have now are actually two opposite Munter hitches.
Move the two hitches next to each other and tighten them by pulling to the sides, not up.

Now cross the lines over to the opposite side, tighten it a bit at this stage. Then continue under the poles and back. Pull hard at one end at a time to tighten it more.
Finnish it off by tying a square knot while keeping the tension. Here I've coiled the excess line so it won't hang in the fire.

söndag 25 december 2016

Wooden pack frame project

This is something I've been wanting to make for a long time now. A wooden pack frame from the natural bends in the wood.

What triggered me to make it was when I saw a left over crooked log some friends had used when making kayaks. I immediately saw that it was just the right shape for the uprights of a pack frame. And since they had no more plans for it I could take it.

I found some plans with detailed plans of the frame in the book "Building outdoor gear" by Gil Gilpatrick. The frame in the book is just the kind I was looking for, the big difference for me though was that I made it from naturally crooked wood whereas he explains how to either bend the wood or glue thin strips to the right form.
Using his plans I used axe and spokeshave to shape the uprights. A goal with this project was to not use any power tools and only natural materials.

I then went into the forest to get a tree for the crosspieces. It was harder than you'd think to find. But  in the end I found a very crooked tree from which I could get all 4 crosspieces. I shaped up these too roughly. Then came the hard part... I had to wait for several weeks for the pieces to dry before I could continue. I put linseed oils on the end grain to prevent cracks during the drying.

A few weeks later I could do the final shaping as well as the mortises and tenons. I wanted my frame to be narrower in the top to give more space for the arms, this made making the tenons in the exact right place really hard. Since the uprights are not straight, but slightly angled inwards the length of each crosspieces varied by a few cm (up to an inch for my American friends).

I then made holes and tied the crosspieces in place using hemp cord which I put linseed oil on afterwards. Gilpatrick suggested nylon string, which you iron flap afterwards. While I'm sure it works well, maybe even better than my hemp cord. I'm just too stubborn and feel I loose some of the genuine feeling if I use synthetic cord.

Next I needed some shoulder straps and some back brace between the 2nd and third crosspiece. Since it's my first pack frame I don't really know yet what works and what doesn't. So I decided to make nothing permanent. Everything on the frame can be taken off easily.
The shoulder straps, made from leather are just attached by a cow hitch in the second crossbar from top. Then sewn onto hemp rope which I have tied with a tautline hitch at the lower crossbar for adjustable length.

Shoulder straps tied using a cow hitch.

Bottom of shoulder straps, tautline hitch.

For the brace I used hemp cord again and tied it using clove hitches to the uprights and cross bars. I'm unsure if this will hold up in the long run. If it does I might drill holes in the cross bars and uprights and re-do it so it looks nicer.

Then the final piece of the weight bearing system was the waist strap. I sewed it from left over pieces of tipi canvas and filled it with something we in Swedish call lindrev. It's made from flax fibers and used between the logs in log houses as insulation. I then linseed oiled the shoulder strap too. I don't want it to get all wet if it rains for an extended period of time.
I cut and old belt for the straps and carved 2 plates for easily adjustable length from a birch burl I've been having lying around. This made the fibers follow beautifully making them very strong. The two pieces are joined together using a piece of a tin armband which I cut and bent to the right form, then tied in place.
To keep the whole waist belt in place I sewed a single piece of canvas that goes around the uprights and is tied together like a pair of shoes.

Waist strap joined together.

The canvas piece holding the waist strap in place. This makes the height adjustable.

The final thing I needed was a quick and easy way to attach the stuff I want to carry. This took a lot of thinking and trying different ways. I've never seen anyone use this system I came up with but I think it works very well. I made 5 small loops on each upright by tying hemp cord around a double loop of thicker hemp cord. Then tied these loops to the frame. (The easy way here would be to just buy small metal rings). Then I put a cord through these loops. On one side I put small hooks, made from the same burl as the waist band, between each loop. These too are strong because the fibers follow nicely. I can then just put things in between the loops and hook it together. These hooks could be replaced by carbines just as well. And the rope which is now hemp, could be replaced with something elastic to make the system even easier and quicker.

The loop that keeps the gear in place.

The hook

lördag 15 oktober 2016

Tipi project: Part four

I'm down on the level of details now. So today I've been working on the holes for the sticks that keep the tipi together, the rings for the smoke flaps and the loops for the tent pegs.

I started by marking the holes. I put them 17 cm apart, and to keep them in line I used a square edge. It was raining today so I had to do everything inside which was a bit tight.

The holes are just 3.5 cm long vertical cuts. I will hand-sew these later.

After the holes were cut I started on the rings for the smoke poles. I got inspired by this drawing, and wanted to try something similar. So first I marked out the inside of the ring and made a cut.

I then sewed around the ring two rounds. It looks quite messy. On the picture this is how they suggest it. But I' very skeptical to how long the thread would last. I can see the ring falling of in just one summer. So I reinforced it with leather to protect the seam.
To make it last even longer I took the opportunity to put raw linseed oil on everything, since it will be under the leather when I paint the tipi. I also greased the leather on both sides.
I'm actually very pleased with how it turned out. I did the leather-sewing using my (not so) speedy stitcher.

The last thing for today was the tent pole loops. Many tipi plans suggest eyelets, but my experience is that they gets loose from the fabric or the fabric breaks very fast. It's much better to spread out the wear as much as possible. So using some kind of bands works very well. I didn't have any ready-made bands so I followed my friend Lovisa's tipi sewing description (Swedish but good pictures).

I cut 12cm wide pieces of fabric which I folded to the middle from both sides. Then folded it in the middle and sewed together. From this I cut thirty 29 cm long pieces.
I also made reinforcings from 15x15 cm pieces of canvas as described in pictures in her blog. After sewing 12 of them I ran out of thread. And tomorrow is Sunday so I might have to wait till Monday to finish it. Maybe I will take a well-deserved day of rest and go canoeing.

An attempt to show how I folded it.

Reinforcings to the left and the loop bands to the right.

Loop in place.

fredag 14 oktober 2016

Tipi project: Part three

Last days I worked a lot on the tipi, despite this horrible cold that won't leave me alone. Guess I should rest, but when I have a project going on I just have to finish it!

So yesterday I sewed the 4 big pieces together. I have this amazing sewing machine, a Husqvarna from 1940-something. It has been working amazingly well. it can only do straight seams but I don't really need any other for the tipi. Unfortunately the machine isn't mine. It's my ex-girlfriends. But if I got the chance to buy one I would do it right away! It even beats my Bernina 830.

So I sewed the big pieces together with lapped seam not sure if this is the correct English word). Either way it's done like this:
It's important to check that the seam end up the right way, so the rainwater flows off the seam and don't get stuck there.
When I cut the fabric I made sure to mark the center on each piece. So when I needled them together I got them centered. The first part of the lap seam is quite easy. You can just let the fabric go on the outside. The second part however you need all the fabric at one side of the seam to go though the machine. To make this easier I made sue it was the smaller side I took through, and I rolled up the fabric on both sides of the seam.

My house is quite small, definitely not big enough for a whole tipi. So when needleing the pieces together and rolling it I took it outside. I got lucky and didn't have any rain. I got some ants and leaves on the floor but I can live with that.

All pieces sewn together.

Rolled up and ready for the last seam.

Since a tipi needs to be round I needed a big flat surface to draw on. My lawn isn't very flat. So I had to find another place to do the drawing. Unfortunately I forgot the camera. But I did it on an empty parking lot. I used an old tire and a stick to make the center point. Then attached a rope to draw the (half)circle. I cut it at home using my, if I may say so myself, awesome home made rotary cutter.

I then proceeded to sew the longest seam on the tipi. I folded the edge of the circle around a hemp rope and sewed straight through it. I thought this would never work, way too thick... But the machine did it as easily as if I was sewing in cotton candy. Or well, almost. I did break two or three needles. But except that there was no trouble. Not that it's important that you sew this seam on the inside of the tipi. Otherwise it starts collecting rainwater and rots.

Late night sewing.
The next day I proceeded with the middle of the straight side. Which is the highest point of the tipi. This is where you attached the last tipi pole to raise the cover. It's a critical part of the tipi, also because it is the area that needs to fit around the meeting point of the poles. So it needs to be strong and the right size (which you most easily get from other tipi descriptions.
After some measuring I made the lines from a form I cut out, to get it the same on both sides. I cut inside the lines though because I need some fabric to wrap around the rope later.

Before adding the rope in the picture above I added the smoke flaps. On them I have a rope extending from the lower edge up to the top and over to the other flap. I also added a 2 meter rope for attaching the cover to the pole on the end of the middle flap.

Finally today I cut the doors. Deciding the width was quite hard, theoretically it's 65cm now. I will see how it turned out when the tipi is up :) I also hemmed the edges of the door using a separate piece formed after the side of the door, to make it more stable.

That's all for today! I'm starting to get done with all the big pieces. Soon all that's left is the boring hole sewing and making the loops for attaching it to the ground. And after that of course I need to make the door and the lining.