CVBC – Marsden family bushcraft 1 – safe tool use
The first of three bushcraft sessions took place in the woods near Tunnel End at Marsden today, sponsored by Cuckoo’s Nest Community shop and delivered by Birch Forest Schools on behalf of Marsden and Slaithwaite Renaissance.
On arrival at the site we were assailed by a hoard of midges which caused us to lament the absence of the fire bowl, that said, it is surprising how effective a small smoky fire in a Kelly kettle bottom can be at deterring the creatures.
Participant numbers were just right for the space and the activity, safe tool use. As a method of demonstrating safe tool use and to help embed safe tool use skills, we made green wood mallets from a piece of freshly felled birch. Working in groups, the children and their parents learned how to use a bow saw safely and how to use a billhook to cleave waste wood from the mallet.
I have had lengthy discussion on the subject of using billhooks for this purpose, the argument against being that this is not what the tool is intended for and this process is better carried out with an axe or a sheath knife. In answer to this I would point out that billhooks are used to cleave smaller round wood in the production of laths and as long as the diameter or hardness of the log to be worked is not too great, I see no reason why a billhook may not be used.
More importantly is the safety aspect. With billhook cleaving, it is possible to hold the tool two handed at either end and better control any follow through than one might be able to with an axe. There is ample room on a billhook to hold and where necessary cover a child’s hands during cleaving.
Being heavier and more cumbersome than a sheath knife, the user is more aware of the tool and so its use embeds the sense of respect required in tool use. In the mallet making exercise, it bridges the transition from the group use of the bow saw to individual knife work in a coherent and generally harmonious way.
On a practical note, a quality billhook is somewhat cheaper than a quality axe and is lighter to carry.
Though we had several other activities in reserve, the making of the mallets was carried out in a calm and relaxed way, which is as it should be. Some participants had to leave a little early, with some reluctance, and others, keen to stay until the very last helped tidy away the camp.
This was a fantastic start to the Marsden bushcraft sessions and the positive feedback both at the time and since through Facebook give us hope that we can continue working in Marsden beyond the scope of the current project,