Hill Country Bushcraft Rendezvous - May 2014
Disclaimer - Good times, bullets, and fire can be seen below. Turn back if you can't handle it. Oh! and this is one of my largest photographic posts with 200+ images. If you have a slow connection be warned.
Luckily to make my life a heck of a lot easier I decided I will not be posting all of my photographs here on the forum. After dealing with the 5 photo per post limit for some time now. I have not come up with an quick and easy way to post my trip reports. It's a huge chore to figure the math, and then deal with typing "reserve for posts" every five photos that are posted. Ive done the 'write my posts in notepad first' deal, but then you can't view your images to write descriptions, and you still have to deal with the time allowance between posts. Yes I know trips can be a bit long winded, and image heavy but this is how I express myself and can tell my story to you all. Yes I know I could take less pictures but tell that to the other photo heavy expressers here. LeifSkog, Cody, Croatoan, and other fine woods folk. : ) I'm also excludung the majority of the images here because with the rules set in stone. I cannot publicly post any images of items I have made that I may have sold before or may sell in the future, or any items of my vendor friends have made, without the post being moved into my seperate vendor sub-forum. What's the point in posting a bushcraft knife review, canvas pouch, leather sheath, or any gear review in my vendor area? Im friends with a lot of vendors, and hang out with a handful regularily so this rule sort of puts a damper on things. It keeps me from sharing with the folks that really enjoy the stories. I grew up using this sort of gear, it's on us everyday whether we're at work, in the kitchen, or at the pub.
It all started at a pub somewhere... it usually does.
This isn't to knock the rules, and I've always respected the staff and rules. The rules make sense to me, and this is why this forum has a good track record of keeping things organised, clean, and fun with little drama. But what is the point in saturating my vendor space with threads that aren't really relevant to greenwood carving? It really clogs up my vendor forum and I get weekly complains that folks can't locate work in progress and sales threads because of it. Ive tried really hard to exlude such items from my photographs but it almost proves impossible since woodculture and hand made tools are a part of my everyday life. I can't just keep treating my scenes like a movie set or prop. It's distracting to have to remember to check for any vendor materials before clicking a photo. Heck I never even spend that much time thinking about an image when I hit the shutter, it's just an instant flash of thought and over in seconds. But de-propping just interupts everything as well. Ive also had dual trip reports, where one has said items, and the other report doesn't this way I can post it safely. But again, that's a poor workaround as well.So that is just something I wanted to explain in detail because if I didn't, Id get curious comments and pm's instead of people commenting on the subject of the thread here... a campout and woodcraft gathering! ; ) So I'll post some public-friendly highlights of my week in Texas, and provide a link so everyone can enjoy the story in it's whole. You guys and gals all rock, but I need to start making my life a little easier and spending more time crunching on the computer is time not living. So I hope this is ok to do, and all that are still interested following my story and visual journey.. will click the link.
I have to say.. this was the best gathering I have ever been to. Ive never seen or heard so much laughter and good spirits. If it weren't for the short hair and camoflauge attire, one would think you were at Woodsman's Woodstock! So much knowledge, home cooked food, and stories shared. If you watch the video, you hear everyone busting up laughing every ten seconds. I had fun of wandering around from each little group at the rendezvous observing and listening to just the overall sounds and speech.First noticable thing was all the different accents, Texas is one of the largest states in the country. Heck it practically is a country! Its fun to try to listen to everyone talking at once, everything blurs into an odd chorus effect. I didn't hear one argument, quarrel, or any drama at all. With 40 guys with guns, different backgrounds, different accents, different creeds and colors.. that is a rare site. We were all there for one reason only... to have a good time and make sure everyone else has a full belly and a sore throat from laughing too hard.
Also with this many knives, axes, saws, and tons of guns. Not one person got hurt, and everyone showed huge respect for the tools. There were kids present and even they carried razor sharp belt knives, and showed proper safety skills. Being from New York, folks here would not allow such a thing to happen. Evil guns for target practice! What?!? Children using firearms and knives? Better send down swat team and lawyers..this cannot happen. Poor kids from New York. You'll never get to grow up like a real boy because cap guns, sling shots, whittling knives, and just about every other darn thing a boy likes to play with is illegal and a federal offense. I raise this ale bowl to the loud and proud Texans who are still setting a fine example for the rest of the country. Education is how you keep people safe, not oppression. Sorry for the rant, but if you know at all what is going on in New York with it's laws you will understand completely. Im not looking for any commentary on this subject as it can be taken politically, and folks seem to get bent out of shape and stuck on it. This is a story about what really matters in life. Having a good time, surrounding yourself by good people, and treating the land and it's inhabitants with much respect and praise.
What blew my mind about Texans.. you can talk about religeon, politics, Kur Cobain, other state's BBQ, bigfoot, and hell even aliens!?! and you won't get your head chewed off for it. Debate and communication is good for us humans. Treat everyone how you want to be treated... but if you cross or lie to a Texan then its fair game to get kicked in the teeth. Sounds good to me.
We're all different and should enjoy that about ourselves. Crack some jokes.. bust some chops! It's part of the fun of camping with a bunch of ugly mugged guys! Im a pale and funny looking guy, who plays guitar, carves spoons, and takes photos all day from a mountain top in New York! No we don't walk around with starbucks glued to our hands.. wear makeup.. and just to let you know, NYC is only a small grain of rice compared to he land mass that makes up NY State. Things I have now found out that you guys don't let your kids ride horses to school, chew tobacco, and shooting rifles at stop signs along the way ;) These are the things our schools and media sort of portray eachother and I think it's wrong for them to do that. In a country that could use the unity, they really try to divide and conquer us by region. So this rant and writeup should be a great example of how wrong we all are thinking such stupid things. I will admit, everytime I come home from Texas, I am a more happy, polite, and better person. The great attitudes rub off easy, and they're addictive. The folks who work in the toll booths up north look at me with a horrified look when I say "Hey how are you doing today? Ok thanks and stay warm in there." Common courtesy is not something we're used to up in the north. Sorry to dwell on something like this, but it was a topic that kept coming up throughout the meet. What's ironic is I had a similar discussion with a close friend that lives in Montreal, which is more north than me! So the grass isn't always greener, but in Texas it was. Onto the goods!
I don't want the focus of this thread to be political debate, it is just an observation from 2,000 miles away. We're being taught we would never get along with the people down there, and they we're absolutely wrong. I can say this about a lot of regions, but I just happened to be down here when it all hit me. So that is one of the big things I brought home with me.
Here is my film covering the gathering. Please play in 1080p if possible for the best quality.
After about a two hour ride fom San Antonio, We made it to the San Saba River. This place is beautiful year round. Not much changed since my last visit in August.
John and I got right to shelter building. The storm clouds were coming in and spring time in Texas can be unpredictable. I wanted to hang my hammock on the same branch as last time, so I set up next to John.
It's hard to believe that a couple weeks beforehand the grass was green. Texas has been going thru a major drought the last 6 years or so. Moisture is hard to come by, so camping next to the San Saba River is really special. I can imagine the tribes that probably worshipped this river that flows year round.
The steep bluffs that the river has been cutting out for thousands of years unveils a vast timeline that you could walk right upto and touch.. if you were brave enough. Some of the walls are 40ft tall and are contstantly eroding away. Giant catfish and other dark mud lurkers hide underneath these walls where the river cuts deep grooves in many feet. After seeing so many water moccassin I'll keep my hands clear of those hiding places. If you stare long enough you can start to make out fossils and see all the different levels of soil that lay. A geologist's field day!
While the other NY lads were setting up the forge and making greenwood tool handles, John and I went to rope off a parking lot. We were expecting about 40 people. John discovered a skunk was messing about so we walked cautiously with the 30-30. Wouldn't want anyone to park over his dug hole in the ground...
John educated me on this thistle plant that is invasive and crowds out lots other vegetation. But he taught me it has it's uses. This is the early stage of the flowering, soon after it'll transform into almost a milk weed fluff. Perfect for tinder.
Hospitality is always a surprise to a northerner. Scott greeted us with some home smoked brisket... thank you so much Scott!!
Matt getting his forge setup by the river. Live quench water..
Scott is like a bushman meets Macgyver. He showed me a lot of the gadgets he's made and here is his version of the tracker.
Matt and Scott talking knives.
John testing out his new branch pipe that Jimbow made him.
This landscape never gets old for me. I used to dream as a child about the Texas views. Like something out of a movie.
Beautiful canopy from the friendly Pecans.
Here is something worth mentioning. John worked on a collabrative knife project with Ben Orford. Someone Ive had major respect for since I got into greenwood culture. Ben is a great guy who's positive and warm energy is infectious. He started his roots with Mike Abbott of living wood, and learned to make greenwood chairs, spring pole lathe bowl carving, and utilizing axes and hook tools to carve spoons. He also is a world class tool maker, specializing in greenwood working tools, and bushcraft oriented knives. I'd assume most have heard his name but if you haven't...please check out his website and youtube channel! So John ordered two custom knives, and one was to be raffled off during the 3 night rendezvous. I know I don't have to say this, but thank you John for being such a generous spirit, and also letting me partner up on these events. This whole movement means a lot to me and Im glad that I can assimilate greenwood craft into a bushcraft element. A lot of events I have seen are very one sided and attract only a certain kind of crowd. What we're aiming for is a place where everyone is welcome to come and enjoy themselves. The idea is that the attendees not only can get access to workshops, classes, products, but they can also be a part of it. Everyone leaves with something whether it's a limited edition shirt, or skills they'll carry forever.
So my place at this event was Photographing and recording the activities, but also to introduce and demonstrate greenwood craft. A spoon is not just a simple food shovel. It's an engineering feat, but requires many other mastered skills to make one. Tree identification, conservationism, axe and knife safety and more. This is why I feel it's a very important and unique way improve any woodsman's skills and knowledge. So I held an axe carving workshop and then walked around and helped a bunch of people with special knife grips. It was a huge success and a great test for me. The next rendezvous will be even better and I have even more special things planned. As well as a kuplika shooting contest to win a hand carved kuksa from me.
I wanted to really focus and get a lot of nice images of this collaboration. What better than a nice thick and golden sunset to show off a proper woodsman's knife.
I also brought along my very special Joonas Kallioneimi Custom Puukko. It has been around my neck for almost 5 months, and been put thru plenty of woodcraft chores and abuse. Hidden tang knives are just as tough as full tang maucho knives. Technique will always defeat overbuilt kryptonite-stealth-survivability knives. Just ask the Sami.
Night grew fast, and the light in Texas is really bold and vivid. Tomorrow morning was the first day of the event, and we had a pretty good headstart on things. I was very excited to see some old friends, and meet many more new friends. That's what I find unique about Texas.. I haven't met anyone I dislike.
My new neighbor decided to take a visit in John's gear so he put the Orford/HIll-Country knife to the test on this spider.
Finally Jorge showed up...dueling tornado warnings and literally working all night with little sleep. This was one of the characters I came down here to see. We're great friends and I always enjoy his good conversations...and Nana's Sweet Tea.
I was put to the ultimate test... Cook a steak for a Texan.. I did not want to get this one wrong. I hear echoes of "GET A ROPE!" This was actually one of the things I loved about those Texans.. Lie Tellin' and Chop Bustin! Gotta keep your guard up and have a quick witt to keep up. They really keep you on your toes. Good times.
The photo is of Jorge's awesome hammock rig. I must get one of these!
The next morning we woke up to some big thunder claps and a couple buckets of rain. This would make a hot and humid day, but hey... it's Texas. Can't handle unpredictable weather and plants that bite... pack up and go!
I woke up to typical camp sounds from my New York pals.. Matt was of course cooking a pile of potatoes, onions, and polish sasauge up.
Afterall his blacksmith shop is set ontop of a huge dirt farm where the veggies grow. I can't complain..I always wake up last and he's always quick to offer a friend first bite and Scott offered fresh midnight black coffee that'll bust any weary eye lids open.
That percolator top is badass!
Putting more dirt time on my hand carved kasa.
John using his two-hole kuksa I carved him last summer.
I promised I'd let some folks know that I will have some of these for sale very soon!!
I won't go into why I have been slow on the carving front, just look back thru my threads.
This is about Texas not my hand.
Scott on skunk patrol.
I kept finding it amusing hanging out with folks who own AR-15's. These 'evil' weapons didn't do anything evil this weekend. Just as harmless as a banana, moving vehicle, or a hammer. Back where I am from, these are regarded as killing machines...WMD's... so evil that if you look at the object the wrong way it'll just start randomly malfunctioning and firing on innocent targets. I think not and proved not. I won't get into that debate.. but I was surrounded by a vast collection of bullet tossing tools covering just about every flavor and even some children had a place in the competition. Some good clean fun, and no one got hurt. It's all in how we're educated. Hanging out with responsible and free people really open your eyes.
Nana's Sweet Tea. My favorite recipe so far... and she won't tell her secrets!
Evidence of a black dirt scottsman blacksmith around. He can't be too far off..the snausage is almost ready!
Matt carving a snake stick...moccassins were all around us. I think the total serpent count was nine total. We have the same venemous snakes at home, but these one's have different moods.
Probably one of the most beautiful and toughest knives Ive ever seen. Matt forged this out of "Da-mattscus" steel.. thin as a razor, tough as an axe...seax are underestimated. It's all in how it's forged. Ive threatened Matt's life if he ever sells this.. it's really a snapshot of himself.
I brought along a black cherry bowl I carved and Im using my buckthorn chip carved spoon for breakfast. Nothing is better than using hand made goods with hand made grub.
Reminds me of a Texas blues album. Probably my favorite region for blues... Johnny Winter, Lightning Hopkins, Lance Lipscomb, Stevie Ray, Albert Collins, Big Mama Thornton, ZZ-Top... The harsh land, the great food & drink, the colorful people. It's no wonder if had a huge impact on their sounds.
Took some product shots of ScoutsNOA's haversack.
More happy shelters
Another shot of ScoutNOA's custom hammock setup. He asked me to take more product shots. Something I want to offer to other vendors and makers. Ive done this commercially for years, and I enjoy outdoor products..so why not?
Morabob's wife made this for ole shnickerdoodle.
My good friend JSM arrived with a pile of carving goods and I snapped some photos of him setting up his shelter as we caught up on gab.
I love this shot of JSM. Almost like a ritual dance to the Pecan gods. He really took a liking to this tree, and it's basically become his 'official' hangout. We carved a lot here...this tree has some stories to tell.
Sunny meeting sequioakid from New York as well.
Hey look.. folks down south wear plaid too!
John discussing a custom axe mask order.
We also had Heisenburg cater the event.
Of course Pinkman left a mess..
Thistle in it's tinder bundle stage.
Smallest praying mantis I have ever seen.
Hawk throwing competition!
JSM standing like a proud father to his three legged carving bench pets. I can't thank you enough for bringing those!
Chris whooped me at hawk toss.
Chris and JSM repairing the target.
Sunny's musk ox posed for a shot. He's really interested in greenwood carving, and like's long walks on the prairie.
Newlin found a really interesting bird nest. I never met him before but we really got along well. He picked up a kuksa and spoon from me, and I gifted him a cooking spoon that he wanted to buy for mother's day. We had a bunch of good conversation and he's really interested in forging and greenwood carving. Glad we could help give him what he was looking for. These meets are all about meeting new people and keeping in touch with the one's that leave an impact.
I don't want to make things seem more epic or bigger than they were. This was just a great campout, that was planned well, and everyone went home with something. Life is how you make it I guess one would say?
Lloyd forging some steel.
JSM eating gumbo from his old school style treen bowl made of live oak burl! Fantastic!
I didn't get to demonstrate as much as I wanted to but luckily I brought down way too much carving material and books. I brought around 60 spoons and 15 kuksas. Sold a couple here and there but the finished work proved even more useful to the aspiring carvers. Now they could paw at each piece and look at it from a sculpture and tool point of view. I always have a rule or.. code to follow. As you all know, I like to make my own things. I dislike having to buy things..it's how I was brought up. But if there is a design Id like to learn or 'copy'.. I always invest in that person's carving. Its not that expensive anyways, but its just proper and the polite thing to do. It's really the greatest way to learn more about craft and to also make friends with other people. Want to learn to carve, buy some of my spoons.. Small investment for a wealth of knowledge. Plus you get some really nice spoons out of the deal. When you're done copying or mimic'ing cuts...absorb that skill and knowledge and move on with it forward towards your own design.
John was the first to buy a kuksa, probably my favorite one in the lot. He christened it with Chili! Good man!
He has quite the collection of treen these days. Watch out JSM!
Unofficial camp cook - Shnick gets his vats of chili roaring. Damn that stuff was good. What was even better was washing it down with is handcrafted beer. How can you not be friends with a guy like that?
Sunny had a pot of gumbo going, which was the best damn gumbo Ive ever had. Maybe it helped that he was using a really old cooking spoon I carved him. The tip was blackened from hard usage. That is what I like to see! Thanks Sunny for being one of my biggest supporters. Means a lot to see an old spoon beat up like that.
These are not display pieces, or for the mantle. They're to be worn on belts or hung from packs. Use them, enjoy them, bang em up, make some noise with them.
More of my hand carved treenware.
People always talk about 'southern hospitality' but I guess they've never hung around Texans! After carving and shooting in the sun I was exausted and a little foggy minded. The heat gets to me fast. Sunny yells "grab your bowl!" So he takes it from me, starts filling it with this amazing gumbo. Then Schnick pops open a cold one for me, and Sunny gives me his chair to sit while I eat. Not to sound mushy, but man.. you guys have no idea what hospitality is. These guys make me feel like a king or emperor of the woods. Thank you so much... and the food and drink were top notch!
The only possible way to make food like this taste better is to eat from hand crafted bowls and spoons. Many are disbelievers.. but that is just kuplika or stainless steel guilt & denial. Sorry but it is true. Who wants to eat from recycled truck tires and nasty plywood anyways?
I tell you what.. when it's 90 degrees I don't want to be anywhere close to this inferno and our camp chefs really take a beating from the heat to provide for us.
That's what makes this meet different than the others. Everyone here offers something for the table, not just food either. Everyone leaves with something, but leaves something for the others.
Man I could eat this all day.
Time for third dinner..
Sunny taking a load off after a long cook session.
Chili rendering down nicely..
mmm cornbread. I still will never understand the obsession people have with instameals and mountain house. You can still eat like a king in the woods with less.
Cooking is a skill just like carving, being bladesmith, or doctor.
Others were hungry so Sunny fired up a fresh pot of gumbo with okra.
Two knifemakers.. aren't they supposed to be fighting eachother to the death? They look really calm...and sharing a beer? This was a multi vendor event and it worked out so nicely. All of us collaborate together and love eachother's work.
Infact a lot of the things we sell now incorporate portions of eachothers work. I guess to us we're in a community, or handcraft culture. Opportunists aren't welcome in these parts. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. They were all friends before businessmen.
Jeffro was demonstrating his flint knapping that he learned from his father and is now teaching his grandson 'Mullet' his techniques. I was in awe.. I think knapping is just magical. He was very humble about it, but I was amazed that one can predict the cleavage and breakage in the stone.
This is just another handcraft that cannot be learned with money, videos online, or buying expensive tools to do so.
He was very humble about it. "Oh I don't have a clue what I'm doing, just remembering watching my dad work the stone." To get good at handcrafts you actually have to put in the time. Jeffro told me some stories about his father. "No matter where we were, my dad always had his knapping toolkit and was constantly making chip piles everyday." So there you have it. Im not crazy when I explain to frustrated folks who want to get better at wood carving. You have to actually do it and make it happen.This is a skill I really want to learn. It's not much different than my wood carving. Stones and trees can be found almost everywhere. It's an important link to our past.
Beer bottle spear point. This was even cooler, to repurpose an item that could be found in most locations. Flint isn't available everywhere but in these times beer bottles are.Maybe that's where your extra bottles went Shnick.
I was talking to Newlin about my favorite way to shoot, and how the light right before the dawn. This very weak soft light that just adds a good blend of light and shadow play.
Probably one of the best portraits I shot the whole time. It's the mystery in the shadows that is what makes your mind wander. What is in there..?
John helping with breakfast..decreasing the value of his knife.
Blackdirt - Blacksmith style breakfast... it was tasty too.
My favorite knife Matt ever made. I will be really disappointed in you if you sell this one.
Classic as can be...enamelware, hand made knife, dirty old cook pot.
Sunny wastes no time.. he grabbed his fishing gear and hit the river.
So you thought you'd get away without me going off on a tangent.. think again!
One of my favorite things about photographing people is capturing a moment without being obtrusive with a camera. Over the years you learn to almost trick people into not seeing your camera at all. I also never shoot with telephoto lenses so I am forced to be up close and personal to get decent photos of people. I can have a real conversation with someone, snap a pic without then even realizing or stopping their train of thought. Unfortunately in a world full of cell phone cameras, and this strange obsession where everyone wants to be a famous loud photographer in the lime light.. with big goofy and flashy gear, it's gotten more difficult to 'do my thing' as I was saying earlier. I can still break down those akward barriers with people it just involves more work, but I have noticed a difference in how folks act around lenses now. Most photos I see of people are taken from 40 feet away with a telephoto lens so they're unplugged from the photo. Its just an observation shot, the same as taking a photo of a bird from afar, they don't even know you're there. No connection at all. I guess there is a place for those images but its not how I shoot. I like to engage people and it also in a way lets them be a part of the process. No soul stealing... soul sharing. or they either they look uncomfortable, or have trained themselves to 'pose just right' which is so artificial. That's even worse! This image is just great, you can almost hear John laughing and I can remember exactly what we were talking about at the time.
That's right.. at our meet we have WAFFLES!
Some MP/LW goods on the table
Oh and yes...the steel they use only glows green when evil water moccasins are present.
BadgerClaw Leatherworks goods as well. I bought one of his strops..beats the pants out of the couple I own.
Another happy customer at the waffle station...
You won't find any pictures from this gathering depicting grumpy faces.
Scott "Saustin" it was good to see this guy again. He was first at camp and was chainsawing us some carving blocks,and made Matt some stands for his forge setup. He also brought me an amazing hewing hatchet from his father's stash. Thank you again, means a lot to be handed something like that.
Oh and lets not forget that smoked cattle you brought.
I don't think peta would ever be allowed to step a foot into Texas. Animals are delicious!
Sunny rocking his custom MP knife around his neck. sequoiakid made a Schwert inspired lanyard for it.
John was gracious and invested in a bunch of bowdrill sets that were hand made by Marry Merit - Southern Survivor.
It was time for the bowdrill competition.
ahhhh the ole pipe trick. I have a suspicion that this tinder bundle had char cloth though which is not a naturally gathered material.
One of Brian's knives that he brought to show. Shnick giving his arm the spa treatment.
Hale getting his kit ready for the mad dash.
It was a bit over 90 degrees in the shade and as you can see on the tip of Henry's nose, a bead of sweat. Im glad it's not just my cold ny blood.. it was hot out for everyone.
MoraRoberto with the big grass nest.
Sunny still working at it.
Our champion JSM at 46 seconds! That is fast!
MLarson giving it his first go in the second round.
If you watch the video you can see his frustration, Ive been there before. This isn't easy to do, especially when it's really hot out and you have 20 guys shouting at you that you're doing it wrong. But he kept at it and conquered it, so I have to hand it to him. Ive never tried the bowdrill and folks make it look easy.
and like typical boys we get distracted by two turtles perched on a tree trunk. I started cracking up as BigJesse and Mullet grabbed the slingshots. Those guys are a crack shot! You can see in the video how far away they were..
It's about time... Im in Texas...break out the guns! Lets spend some brass.
Matt took a fancy to Sunny's old school pistol. Goes well with the Seax I think.
The shooting competition has begun! Again... if you're from New York please look away. Put down your hot coffee, don't want a spill. We had a nice range setup with some awesome targets. John was in charge of the event, and made sure everyone was very thourough and safe. New Yorkers.. just don't look..skip over these photos.. so much evil man killing machines around. Sorry but I have to. Last time I came home from Texas and showed them photos of the neat rifles and pistols... The usual response was "How could you fall asleep at night around all those people with guns?" I laugh.. Ive never felt more safe! My own personal army! Heck they even brought some for me to play with. Shnick has some great footage of me popping off some rounds from his AR15.. I look like a little kid at toysRus! Oh the joy of harmless bullet wasting.
Remember what I said about being about to laugh at one's self.. it's just that I never get the opportunity to go shooting much. I live up on a mountain and have neighbors and we're litereally in the woods.
It's hard to believe but if I shot off a single .22 shell.. the cops would show up. I just think that is no good.
BigJesse doing his thing..spinning his hat taking a break from filming. You must check out his footage as well! Glad others put in the hardwork to bring everyone some stills and movies to watch. It was a blast.
SmilinJoe's son getting some pointers from John.
Jeffro wins..with best firearm. He brought a 1942 Finnish Mosin Nagant. I took one picture of him loading it and thru the lens I see him trying to hand it to me. I was honored to shoot such a nice piece of machinery. Nice and heavy and kicked like a mule. I have no idea if I even hit the target, I was so distracted by how old and beautiful the craftsmenship was. That and you get a rush firing off older guns like that. To think of how many people carried one to defend their country and honor. Thanks Jeffro! I'll have to get one to match my finnish puukko.
I'm not the only one! Everyone wanted to get a piece of that.
I think folks who have irrational fears of inanimate objects such as guns should just get educated about them. Sorry to keep harping on this subject. If you're afraid of something you need to break it down and figure out why you are in fear. Usually it's irrational, and I understand that some folks cannot handle it for their own personal reasons. That's ok... but don't look down at someone who enjoys them and practices their human right. I hope my photos portray the feeling of calm, warm, happy people, with very safe practice. Guns aren't the focus, but they were around. These are just as dangerous as a hammer, a moving vehicle, or aspirin. In the wrong hands, yes they can be used to harm. Everyone here was happy to educate me more about guns. How the mechanisms work, how to handle them safely, and what NOT to do. Most are obvious, but sometimes reminders are good.
I've shot targets a bunch, and understand the principals. But it was good to be around a culture that doesn't fear them. Thank you to all the folks who showed me how it's done. We must've went thru $1000+ in ammo... so I am grateful.
In my film you might wonder why I have a "Tribute to NY" sort of message before we went yee-haw with bullets. It was a celebration of freedom, and to keep things light and positive. Look, a crate of bullets... and nothing happened. Just some laughs. I've seen more people get hurt with knives, and it was because knives have been removed from our lives. Less have experience and education in them.
Father and Son. You can see where SmilinJoe gets his name. The guy never frowns.
A friendly wager ...with a tiny little pea shooter.
JSM's treen collection. Mighty fine pieces he's either collected, carved himself, or bought from me. Im jealous of those noggins! So authentic.
I want one so bad now!
Of course... we talked treen for hours.
JSM was real generous and carved us up three carving benches. Or as I call em, wood anvils. This is a godsend while camping. Working at a proper belt/waist height is key for efficiency and safety. Especially since I'd be teaching beginners. Slumped over chopping on a log by your feet is exausting.
So I started out my workshop with axe carving and safety. I set my camera dials and JSM ran the Nikon handheldfor a couple of shots. Thank you for doing this, the snaps are great! I rarely have photos of me carving. I think this little demo was really succesful. I showed some technique I use to carve, as well as share my philosophy on why greenwood working is really important to us humans, and really important to anyone that owns a knife. Think outside the box.. its not just a spoon. Its an engineering feat! With these same skills you could build a cabin. So open up to the idea of learning the simple spoon design.Everyone was really interested and had great questions. I could not have asked for a better group of people to have as a class.
I actually planned more lessons and I feel bad I forgot to run down and give a shout to the other guys who wanted to participate. When it's hot out like that, and my brain is slowly turning to mush I sort of just go with the flow. These hungry aspiring carvers grabbed me and I decided to just improv it on the spot. Next time will be even better with even more lessons to teach! I cannot wait!
More scientific proof of SmilinJoe's nickname origins...
John sure knows how to run a run and successful event. He worked out some custom knives from our makers to raffle off. I know.. they're nuts!
Here are the winners with the knife makers. [MP Knives - Matthew Paul & SPL Knives - Steven Long]
Edgar and his boy enjoying the woodsman mayhem.
Edgar showed up late in the night and said he was new to the whole woodsman meet sort of deal. That was me two years ago, and I went right over to try to make him feel at home. Afterall, it was only last August when I was the new person at the gathering.
He was really into camping, some primitive skills, and forging. His son seemed to love the carved spoons I brought. One he kept picking up and spinning in the light so I decided that is what he should leave with after this meet ends.
I gave away more gifts than I sold and that is perfect. Im happy to balance both out. He's a cub scout as I once was and I wish back then I had access to campouts and people that were really genuine about woodculture. Took me a long time to get here, and I would've seen the light sooner, if I actually had access to it.
JSM and Sequioakid pawing at my carvings.
One thing I like about Texans...when they bring food.. they BRING FOOD! Its not to showoff status..they bring their best cuts because they want to treat you. Ive been to some dinner parties up north and it often seems pretentious.. a display of 'how good we're doing'. This is just the opposite. If you need food, they'll cook you their serving and figure out another way to eat. "Shirt off their back" kind of friends. I promised to come home with that attitude... hopefully it won't rub off in two weeks.
Sure... you hear that "Everything is bigger in Texas." but it's not exactly true. They just have more to share!
They're allowed to live a free lifestyle, and money earned stays in the bank. Not $14,000 in taxes (ransom) for my parents to own own maybe two acres that they own?
Pigs & Cows.. are delicious animals. Look at this meat!
After shovelling grub into my belly, I went back up to the carving circle to see how the lads were getting along.
To my surprise they were already started on spoons! Runaway apprentices! It was actually really cool to see. They had a huge buzz from the axe demo I did, and it got me even more pumped up to carve.
I left my carving axe out for anyone that wanted to try such a foreign looking tool. But it also proves a point I wanted to make. You can carve with any old junk axe. Skill and technique are mandatory and an expensive tool doesn't give you any. There were some boys axes on short handles and I used them to carve blanks as well.
So the post office really knows how to stress test my carvings. I shipped down 25lb box of tools and carvings, and only two spoons busted. They're extremely tough, but Im sure you've seen how boxes get treated. It's almost like they tried to smash down someone's door with this box, haha. So I was given a lemon and made lemonade. The spoon split perfectly in half at the bowl so it gave a wonderful cross section. I used it as a demonstration piece, so you could follow and understand how important grain and fibers are in carving spoons.
More hawk chucking!
and to prove how badass he really is JSM chucked his shovel and it actually stuck in the log. Bravo!
Love hearing all the chatter about carving. My one rule was, to pay it forward. I gave them some knowledge and technique and the rule was they must find another person after the event is over to pass on some spoon tricks. Spread it like the flu! The Country needs more handcraft!! We were a nation that was run on wood culture.. time to bring it back.
Jeffro made us a mixed berry pie. How did he know pies were my favorite?
The land of amazing light.
The sun was setting, so I told Steven to grab his camera. Time to catch up proper, Lloyd came along too.
Group settings are really fun but sometimes distracting when you want to get one on one time with people.
Those guys had me cracking up.. good times.
I hear this is a rare shot of Steven. Matt has said the same thing.. everyone always asks knifemakers "why do you look so mean?" "do you have anger issues?"
What I think is it's a classic case of poor photographer/communication skills. These pictures are really a picture of myself. I was having a beer and laughing my butt off too.
Steven even had me trade spots and got pics of me smiling and cracking up.
I still have to ID this, looks to be in the mint family.
Shnick breaking one of the laws of booshcraft. Carving hedge apple (osage orange) Ive been told it's not allowed because it'll ruin all of my edged tools. Guess those guys never carved buckthorn or any of the other ironwoods. Just have to have a proper edge on your tool and you're good to go :) Another mystery shattered by our good ole trusty shnick.
Steven trying to slice up the flies and mosquitoes mid flight. Now that's how you test a knife!
Beer Grylls trying to catfish with a bamboo spear... notice I said 'trying.' :)
I take for granted the small things that happen around me sometimes. I carve all my spoons just as thin as a metal spoon, or at least try. I always check thickness with my hand calipers and using the sun or a lightbulb. They were all excited to see the translucent spoon and I didn't mean to act so unenthusiastic! Im just so used to seeing it every day. It was one of those "oh big deal.." "Wait what do you mean?? That is awesome!"Also from my perspective Im wearing the headlamp that is illuminating the spoon to them. I won't see it backlit. It is really something to look at from that point of view.
One of the many catfish he caught that night.
We got hungry again, Chef Sunny was on the grill again.
The moon was bright and the campfire kept us going.
The latenight crew kept it going. I don't know how I ran on such little sleep. There was too much life to live.
Well except for Matt.. he was forging all day. I was beat too but I just could not sleep. I ended up having some late night mexican beers with Steven Long and we talked all darn night til sunup.
Everytime I hang out with this guy I wonder if we're related. It was his birthday, a month after mine. So why not share tall tales around the campfire. Everyone else drifted off, but the conversation was too good. Is this my DBX subsitute? Mike woulda came down to deliver some backhand if he were here. How are ya, I was hoping to see you and get in touch with you. Mike makes some killer bows, knives, and fine leather flasks and plains indian rucks. Man I wanted that one pack you brought. Hope all is well! I took a 2 hour nap and came down to the river to make some breakfast the next morning.
I took some shots for Joonas Kallionemi, the Finnish lad who made all of these. Oliver has two, and John had to get one once he heard what I had to say about them. He is a fine knifemaker..damn.
Hale finally owns one of my carvings! JSM you are a generous man. This kuksa cup really fits you Hale!
I never got a shot of your home made sandals..they were great. This guy walks around with a percolator..and I even heard legend that last trip he thru the innards of one in the bushes in frustration.
Scott repurposed the kit into his mors bush pot coffee macine which Im jealous of and must own. Hale must be really picky about his coffee.. I mean look at the fine hand carved kuksa he chose to hold his special brew...
Im still trying to find one photo of someone looking negative. Everyone is too happy..what gives?
I can't get over those natural expressions... you can't pose that..
This was our last day in San Saba, the meet was ending and the little population of woodsman was thinning out. Im going to miss this guy.. We've become really good friends. I can say that about almost all of the people Ive made friends with down there. You don't want to leave a place that is so good to you. Moving there to start over is really tempting. [I never allow any blurry shots to be released, but I didn't shoot this image, but Im grateful for it ]
We spent the next couple of days unwinding at the Guadeloupe River. What an interesting place, another river that must've been sacred.
There are some massive Cypress growing here.. the roots just engulf the muddy banks.
Lloyd cooling off in the river.
Big Ole Buzzards waiting for their next meal.
...this guy... You can't take him anywhere! I was taking a photo of my carving bag below, and Matt swims up like a Scottish Merman and thought this would make a far superior image. It did...
After a swim I wanted to carve more spoons. It's hard to be productive at the meet, when it's so damn hot out and too many good discussions to jump into.
I forgot to mention my newest frost river addition. Right before Shnick took off he had this awesome field satchel.
He had a bunch of carving gear in it and asked if I wanted to trade. I love trading, and it's about time that man had a kuksa so I let him pick the one he desired..
It was sort of meant to be, I was looking for something small to put spoon blanks and a water bottle for little woods wanderings. Ive already started modifying the bag. You know they won't do requests anymore so I got out the seam ripper and made some axe sleeves on the side. Now she's cookin! Thanks Shnick!!
How did the pioneers get thru all of this juniper, sharp stones, and ugly bugs? Who thought "This looks like a dandy place to make a home." ??
It is beautiful though..just such a harsh landscape.
Yep.. Chef Matthew is at it again. More potatoes.. this time we fried up some freedom fries and chicken. (Ironic joke my french candian friend informed me of... the french didn't invent the frie! It was the Dutch! Joke is on us...)
Here is some shots of the white birch finnish style kasa I carved for John. Schwert made him this lanyard and we found a clever and traditional finnish way to add this.
And I leave you with a great group shot that included almost everyone there. Glad our ugly mugs didn't bust my camera...
There were a couple people that did not make it that I wanted to see again. Next time Mr. Noir and Jimbow! Speaking of Jimbow... the native flutes you are hearing in the film were played and recorded by the man himself! Thank you so much for adding such talent to the film.
Thank you all for putting up with another long winded visual walk along.
Please bookmark these sites:
For more information about future rendezvous, and a great place to get leathergoods and other woods gear head to John Maynard's website:
For hand forged knives and camp tools:
Steven Long's knives can be found:
Ben Orford's knives and tools can be found here:
Don't forget to check out his youtube!
The Finnish puukkos were forged by Joonas Kallioneimi, and I can provide his information as well.