6 Wood Carving Skills For Survival

Your trusty pocket knife can do a lot more than open Amazon packages. Knives are an indispensable part of any outdoor survival kit. When used to their full potential, knives can perform some amazing tasks. In terms of surviving the wild, simple wood carving may seem like busy work, frivolous, or even worthless. However, that shaggy “fuzz stick” isn’t going to seem so silly when every piece of wood is soaked on the outside and you need the warmth of a fire to keep you from hypothermia.

1. Fuzz Stick

You’ll have the hardest time building a fire when all your fuel is soaked, but it’s usually just wet on the outside. Carve into a wet stick and you can often expose dry wood. Start by finding the driest sticks you can , usually on standing dead trees and shrubs. If the bark can be easily peeled or carved away, take it off. Most tree species have bark that burns poorly (especially when wet). Carefully start carving away from yourself and away from your body, making shavings that stay attached to the stick. Initially, your first shavings will be short, but as your skills increase, so will the length of your shavings.


2. Feather Sticks

Once you have mastered the fuzz stick, it’s time to graduate to the feather stick. This fire starter requires better carving skills, but it also provides a better burn. Feather sticks have longer wood shavings than fuzz sticks. These longer shavings are also curled into rings and still attached to the stick. Since the feather stick exposes more surface area in the material of the stick, it allows the wood to burn more quickly and with higher heat than a fuzz stick (or the regular stick). Two of the main tricks for carving feather sticks are material selection and knife pressure.


3. Figure Four Deadfall Trigger

Deadfall triggers prop up a heavy rock or piece of wood (deadfall) to trap dinner—squirrels, rabbits, etc. The toughest trigger to carve is the figure four. You have to make 12 precise cuts, creating four different features on three separate sticks. The vertical post should have a chisel-shaped feature carved on one end and a 90-degree square facet carved in the middle of the stick. The diagonal stick will act as a lever. It will need a similar chisel point on one end and a side notch at the other end. Trickiest of all, is the horizontal piece of the trigger, which will need a notch at the end and a notch on the side near the middle of the stick. This middle notch will need to be a quarter-turn away from the end notch.


4. Make A Bow Drill Kit

The bow and drill is one of the most reliable friction fire methods, but it’s not easy. In fact, this method takes proper material selection, good cardio, and some solid whittling skills. You’ll need to carve a straight wooden drill that will be rotated back-and-forth on a flat wooden board. You also have to notch a small branch to create a bow, which will be used to turn the drill. There are also holes you’ll need to drill into a handhold block and the fire board, as well as the angled notch in the fire board (the notch will hold your precious dust). If all goes right, dust will become an ember and your fire will be born. To carve the bow, choose a flexible limb about 2 feet long and as thick as your thumb. Carve a crescent-shaped notch at each end to hold a thin rope for your bow string. Carve the drill into a smooth cylinder, about thumb thickness and 10 inches long. Carve the fire board flat and drill a shallow hole to receive the drill. You’ll also need to drill a piece of hardwood to create a handhold block, which will sit on top of the drill.


5. The Try Stick

The late Mors Kochanski is known for many things. He was an author, and ran a successful survival school in Canada for decades, mentoring many survivalists. He popularized the use of Mora knives here in North America and also gave us the “try stick” to hone our carving skills. The try stick can be made in many different ways, and you can create your own pattern (either for fun or to practice tricky carving techniques). However you do it, the point of a try stick is to practice many different cuts and carving techniques on a single stick. The typical stick has a variety of notches, reductions, and other shapes, all designed to showcase your carving skills.


6. Hook Knife

The hook knife (or crooked knife) is an odd/old tool. Today, farriers use a dull version of this blade to clean the crud from the underside of horse hooves, but other than that, these tools aren’t frequently seen anymore. The knives can be used to carve the hollow cavity for wooden bowls, spoons, ladles and other necessities. You can use a Morakniv 162 (a wide double-edge blade with a tight radius), the Morakniv 163 (a wide double-edge knife with a shallow bend) and the Morakniv 164 (a narrow little single-edge hook with a tight radius) for your carving. With a sweeping stroke, you can push or pull these blades through soft wood or medium hardwood to create any project the wood will allow.

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