View Full Version : Is it true bushcraft

12-10-2005, 12:14
I,ve been really impressed by all the tools and projects posted in the gallery. Inspiring stuff which I must admit makes my efforts look rather pathetic. Alot of the stuff I make is with the aid of modern tools but I have started to wonder if I am not carrying out my work in a true 'bushcraft' fashion. For-example, should I be using sand stone grit in leather instead of sand paper or pine sap instead of modern wood glue? Do you draw a line between what are the true skills of bushcraft using only natural materials or will any modern technique and tools do, to get the job done. :confused:

12-10-2005, 12:40
I don't see that there's anything wrong using modern glues and abrasives if thats what you have, surely its the making that is important, after all we all use ferro-rods (A.K.A. Firesteels) for firelighting, and they are quite modern, aren't they?


12-10-2005, 12:41
it all depends on what you want to achieve, but the use of modern tools certainly isnít cheating, everybody starts out this way and as they learn a new skill they progress a little further until they can make items in a true Bushcraft style.

it also depends on what you call modern, a steel knife and a ferrocium rod are modern tools and the skill leap to flint tools and handrill is a big one

it takes many years before you collect all the individual skills needed to create even the simplest item from the ground up creating all the tools you need from stone etc and gathering all the materials required correctly from sources you have learnt to identify and even on a forum as big as this there are only a handful of people who are this skilled (and I am certainly not amongst them)

even those who have attained this level of skill will admit that they donít do everything in this 'pure' form, for convenience they will still often use modern equipment.

Bushcraft is about the willingness study of these skills and an interest in slowly perfecting them, and by asking this question you have already proved that your fulfil this criteria....... happy bushcrafting

Abbe Osram
12-10-2005, 12:44
I,ve been really impressed by all the tools and projects posted in the gallery. Inspiring stuff which I must admit makes my efforts look rather pathetic. Alot of the stuff I make is with the aid of modern tools but I have started to wonder if I am not carrying out my work in a true 'bushcraft' fashion. For-example, should I be using sand stone grit in leather instead of sand paper or pine sap instead of modern wood glue? Do you draw a line between what are the true skills of bushcraft using only natural materials or will any modern technique and tools do, to get the job done. :confused:

Hi mate,
thatís up to you only! For one person its enough to use power tools to build himself a hunting bow or a canvas canoe. His aim is to save money or maybe building the canoe in a design none is offering for sale. Another guy is doing the same work with selfmade stone tools because he wants to test how the natives where doing it and tries to learn and re-discover old skills.

What about using a power drill and testing different wood types against each other for starting a fire? If you want to save you some time and elbow grease than why not. But I doubt it is fun to take a power drill with you into the forest. :eek: Well, you see it is up to you and what you want to get out of the experience. I like to learn the skills to live in the Woods and from the Woods; to glue something with my own self-made glue is better for me than buying some.
Less I need better I feel. But thatís just me.


12-10-2005, 12:52
In true Ray Mears fashion, I think it's the spirit of bushcrafting that counts. Ray uses all kinds of fancy stuff, from ferro rods to sophisticated clothing and GPS units. I would not let the use of--or lack of--any equipment interfere with the most important part of bushcraft: the enjoyment of the outdoors. Stay safe, keep warm, and enjoy.

12-10-2005, 12:54
Moko, it is not cheating.

Look at it as part of a natural progression, as Stuart has said there are not many that can do everything from scratch.

As you progress you will learn more skills and as a result be able to employ them. Bushcraft by it's very nature is both progressive and regressive. It has developed in it's own right and tools have been developed from this. At the same time you will learn ancient skills as your knowledge increases which is regressive because they are not "modern" methods.

When most people learn to start a fire they do it with a match or lighter, then move to firesteel, then flint and steel and finally to friction fire. Just look at ot in the same way.

It is like the difference between making a knife, when you start, you will make a handle and fit it to a blade, then you may make the blade through stock removal and then you may end up forging the blade. Virtually no makers that I know make thier own steel for forging which would be the next progression.

12-10-2005, 13:10
There's nothing wrong with using modern tools to get the job done. If Black & Decker had been around a couple of hundred years ago I'm sure the old bushmen and mountainmen would have had an 18 volt drill in their kit to get drilling jobs done quicker.

It comes down to gathering the knowledge, over time, to do stuff using only natural materials. In days gone bye when people had no other choice, the skills would have been passed from father to son from a very young age. The child would have grown up knowing how to make stuff as a matter of course and all their bushcrafty bits 'n bobs would have been an accumulation of a lifetime's work, being replaced only when something wore out.

In our busy lifes we often try to kit out our bushcraft hobby (and that's all it is for most people regardless of how passionate they are about it) in a relatively short period of time. So, it makes perfect sense to use mechanical aids and power tools to play catchy up. Once we have the gear, we can replace bits and pieces with traditionally made ones until eventually we find ourselves kitted out like our bushcraft ancestors in a completely home made, natural outfit. If that's your goal then go for it but don't feel guilty taking shortcuts to get there, after all you didn't start all this as a kid learning from the older males in the tribe. We are all going through a learning process here at a much faster rate than would be considered a natural pace. It's no wonder that we use the tools available to us.


12-10-2005, 13:31
It's all realetive.
Eric has touched on this a little.
How many Sami bushmen - or any other similar tribesmen - would refuse a box a matches if you offered it to them?
Not many I bet.
It's cheating, it's using the resources avaliable.



happy camper
12-10-2005, 13:52
hello :)
i reckon that it's fine to use modern tools and glues etc. In fact, to me, it doesn't make sense not to use the best tools and materials you have at your disposal, bushcraft seems like it is often born out of necessity, and i reckon you should use whats available (or whatever you can improvise) for any given project or task. I might add that a modern or electrical tool isn't always the best tool for the job, they are often just quicker or more convenient.
I guess the more experience you have, the easier it is to improvise, which seems to be the key to alot of bushcraft. i personally think that it is a good idea to explore and practice different ways of achieving the same thing so that you can be flexible and develop new skills, that way you'll be able to work out which techniques work for you and which don't, and in the process you should extend the limits of both your tools and your skills, allowing you to achieve more, using less (if any of that makes sense?)
Id like to add that i'm not an experienced bushcrafter, and as such, all of the above might, in fact, be a load of mince and you should probably disregard according to taste :D

Carcajou Garou
12-10-2005, 16:17
Look at any aboriginal peoples in the world and you will find that they all aquire "modern" tooling and supplies as they can. A "flint/obsidian" knife is as sharp as steel but they are not so easily sharpened you have to re flake the edge to resharpen them a time consuming task.etc.. for any and all new tools the same applies. In aboriginal peoples there are always one who does this or that better than the rest, so along comes the first of the trades and so on. Bushcrafting is what you do with those tools, what personal skills you have and youre ability blend/control/exist the environment that you are in presently. Take an amazonian and place him in a mall and can he survive!!! not until he has re educated himself to the new "urban jungle". I think some are taking this idea of primitivism way to seriously, life isn't permanent, take advantage of it.

running bare
12-10-2005, 16:33
i see no reason why you cant use modern tools to achieve what you require then you can experiment/improvise making stuff without modern tools. time consuming?yes. but it will give you the mindset of achieving your aims with what you have with you in the woods. after all the modern lathe is just a modernised version of a pole lathe! :)

12-10-2005, 23:17
Exactly! That is why I take my pole lathe to the meets. But I also take my chainsaw, a couple of medium size generators, a band saw and a drill and angle grinder. That way I can teach a traditional woodland skill and with the help of the power tools, squeeze five days work into two (which is usually how long the meets last.)

The spoon carving, kuksa carving and pole lathe turning are traditional skills using hand tools, and it's great using and teaching them. On the other hand, if someone wants to knock out a woodlore blank from some 01 tool steel that I happen to have brought, I don't expect them to file one into shape in two days, but, they could knock a couple of blanks out using an angle grinder and shape out the wood for the scales with the bandsaw. No problem there then, it just means we can get more great bushcrafty stuff made in a doable period of time.

In fact, once I've cracked making a Swannie lookalike for myself I'll probably include the sewing machine and bang up a few made to measure Swannies at a few meets next summer, and maybe do customised adjustments to kit to order.


13-10-2005, 08:29
using modern tools is just adaption,even wild animals adapt,thats how they survive.

Borneo Wildman
13-10-2005, 09:01
I like to think of it as a spectrum - at one end using a credit card to buy what you need from someone else, through learning to make things yourself using power tools, to actually making everything from neccessity as and when the raw materials and opprotunities present themselves.

Personally I feel bad if I use anything too madern, I want to have the painful bit of learning the hard way - but I'm wierd like that. :D :o

13-10-2005, 10:11
Remember that even the oldest and most traditional technology was once new and modern. Flintknapping has several distinct phases of development from the eolithic to the neolithic, likewise every fire and shelter making method was once the latest thing. No matter what you decide is the cut off point someone else will ask what about the day before?

Many of the things we consider essential are relatively new inventions, including pre made maps. How many of us are prepared to head off without a map into an area we havn't been before, or even not consult a map to see if the area is suitable for bushcraft or covered in concrete before we go there?

So we accept the legitimacy of using some modern technology to help us practice bushcraft, I like to know that I can get by without it but I also know that it is possible to make anything using skills that are classed as bushcraft if you've got the time and can cope with a few failures along the way. After all that's how we got where we are today and we can't turn the clock back to the mesolithic and unlearn all we've learnt since then.

13-10-2005, 14:26
Thanks everyone for your incouragement, great stuff. Best get back to that Bow...now, where did I put my nail gun? :)

15-10-2005, 00:42
Sorry to jump in at the end , especially really just to agree with what has already been said.
In my opinion its the doing that counts, if its easier to do it with a power tool/modern technology then do it, once youv'e mastered doing it that way the natural instinct of the bushcrafter is to strip a layer off and try again
e.g LIght a fire with a lighter and bbq lighters
LIght a fire with just a lighter
Light a fire with a match
Light a fire with a firesteel
Light a fire with a bow drill
oh etc etc etc I guess you get the point

Wondering just how many ways he can make fire

15-10-2005, 16:42
The use of modern technology may be cheating, but if it helps to develope your skills, where you can use traditional methods competantly then it can't be a bad thing.
I was watching a Ray mears dvd where he was making a bark container, he was using modern epoxy glue and explained that the bark was a precious commodity and the modern glue would extend the life of the container :Thinkingo