Sunday 18 December 2016

MaChris knives at Workshop Heaven.

For all of you that have been waiting patiently for news of the availability of MaChris carving knives....
Some good news.
A small batch of MaChris MiniMac knives are now available from WorkshopHeaven.
Follow the link below....


Developed in a long running collaboration between master spooncarver Jon Mac and custom knifemaker Chris Grant, the MiniMac woodcarving knife is truly in a class of its own. Decades of carving and knifemaking experience, extensive research and goodwill combine in this unique, high quality, handcrafted tool.
Handles: An original Jon Mac design, refined through numerous prototypes over several years, the MiniMac handle is a delight in the hand. Light, filling, simple and sublimely ergonomic, regardless of how the knife is gripped, the shape of the handle just melts into your grasp, so you can carve for long periods without fatigue. The handles are made from a selection of suitable timbers, most of them native to Great Britain, they have been lightly oiled and finished with handmade hard wax polish.
Blade: Ultra fine grained 52100 ball bearing steel produces a blade capable of taking the supremely fine edge required for controlled carving. Chris puts each blade through a very precise, multiple stage heat treatment process, which gives the steel it's astonishing edge retention, they are subtly hollow ground which makes them easy to keep sharp.
Sheath: Chris has crafted the sheaths for the first Workshop Heaven production run of 26 MiniMacs from some very special English leather. It has been tanned for 14 months using oak bark, in a Devon tannery that dates back to Roman times.  There is a slight variety in colour and surface, small marks and scars that add to the character of the material, and a wonderful rich natual scent. These honest handcrafted sheaths are full of character and are as tough and durable as leather can get.
Hand stitched with ultra strong waxed thread, the MiniMac sheath has been carefully designed to safely contain the ultra sharp blade and slender dextrous point, they grip the handle perfectly so there is no need for a flap or closure. A solid brass d-ring is fitted to the belt loop, handy for hanging your sheath on a peg in the workshop or a tree branch whilst in the woods, to keep it clean and dry.
*The MiniMac is a tool, it should not be left on the ground, stored in damp places, stabbed into blocks, batoned through timber, thrown or twisted in wood. Take great care unsheathing and sheathing your knife. Keep the blade in line with the sheath's welt and do not let the blade turn.
  • Blade: 52100 bearing steel
  • Overall Length: 7 3/4" (197mm)
  • Spine Width: 1/6" (1.5mm)
  • Blade Length: 3 1/2" (88mm)
Individually handmade in Scotland.
Age restriction applies. You must be 18 or over to buy this item.

Monday 15 August 2016

A hook knife free zone.

Sarah and I recently spent some time up in the Highlands of Scotland.
We went up to visit some friends and travel up to Skye with the possibility of a nip across to Malaig via the ferry to see the white sandy beaches they keep up there. We took some time out to visit with Chris Grant and couldn't resist a day at the coast with the boats and lime kiln at Boddin point.


On the way up we spent some time with Willow Lohr.
Willow and her daughter Kaya looked after us whilst we were in the Cairngorms.
Willow kept both Sarah and I entertained and busy feeding her sheep and helping out with her bees.
She had us suited up helping with a combining of two hives.
We were accompanied by eighty thousand bees buzzing about.
We thought it was prudent not to mention how I was crowned the wasp king some years earlier by Kaya.
Willow also spent time showing Sarah how to identify a few of the lichen species that can be used for natural dyes. Needless to say we now have bags of lichen and pots of chemical dotted about our home.
Willow is a very skilful bushcraft instructor and if you ever get the chance of joining her on one of her courses you will, quite quickly, become far more enlightened on the subject.
We're hoping she can take time to visit when she comes down this way for the Wilderness Gathering.


After some time we packed up and moved on to make camp at Glen Affric.
We decided to hammock camp and made ourselves cosy with the usual gear.
We managed to cover both hammocks with the Jerven bag this time out. Sarah decided she was far too hot so I re rigged it for one. The poncho liners were pressed into use as under blankets and we used our Snugpack sleeping bags as duvets.


A spot of foraging yielded some Chanterelle which I fried in butter then added egg for a breakfast or two, I may have accidentally added some bacon as well. Not a bad way to start a day.


As you can see I'm cooking in a paella pan.
A trick I learned from Chris Grant.
A versatile lightweight pan option.


All served up in a couple of my old ale hens.



There were a few things I forgot to pack for this trip.
So I needed to make amends.
I bought a few tools to camp, axe, knife and saw.
My new prototype MaChris 'Typhoon' bushcraft knife got to see some hard work for it's first outing.
So it was off to the mainland for some suitable greenwood.
I found a large windblown mountain ash with a bit of life in it. 
The chosen wood was tough and twisted, I was up for the challenge.


One of the items I had forgotten was a spatular.
Roughed out with the axe we were ready to apply our spoon carving techniques.


The 'Typhoon' made short work of the job.
It's not a dedicated carver, it's more robust in it's form but it still retains some of the MaChris carvers attributes. Utter comfort whilst working being one of them.


After a short while I had a serviceable spatular which was employed thereafter at breakfast time.

Whilst this was going on Sarah went about the place looking for suitable firewood.
Keeping a fire going is important at this time of year to keep the ferocious midge at bay and to dry washing.


I must say that the foraging was pretty good here at Glen Affric.



And the ale hens came in useful.


After a few days we decided to move on toward the Isle of Skye.
We toured both the rabbit ears of the island whilst basing ourselves at a sheltered camp site hard on the sea shore.


We camped under our shelter sheet and made ourselves comfortable.
Not a bad view from the bedroom.


It  was all very lovely until a storm hit. We spent a night in fear of the banshee as the wind blew and blew. I had to get up during the night a couple of times to trim the lines. We had a wooden lean-to shelter in the forest we could have used, but I decided we would be safer leaving our camp and beating a retreat.

During this time I was pondering another way of carving a spoon without a hook knife. I'd left mine behind during a moment of forgetfulness.
I was shown a book about Japanese spoon carving a year or so back. I wanted to buy a copy but they are exchanging for silly money right now. My 'Typhoon' needed another test so I started to unravel the means to carving a spoon without a special hook tool.

spoon carving-without-a hook-knife.spooncarving

I have written a blog post in the past with an idea for spoon carving without a hook knife.
I think this solution is more elegant.

spoon carving

The MaChris Typhoon is made with a Wonderfull steel called Niolox.
The edge holding is, so far, impressive.


I will write up a quick how-to when this next busy period has closed.
Thank you once more for popping in.

Jon Mac.


Friday 15 July 2016

Bushcraft Auger set.

As a quick update from the previous post I would like to let you all know that as from 15 July 2016 the Mac Bushcraft Auger sets will be available from Matthew Platt within the next couple of weeks.
I have no price as yet but if you would like to email 
The wonderful folk there will deal with your enquiry.

So, to re-cap.
The complete tool roll ratchet socket, tommy bar and three augers weigh in at 556g approx
We can now offer a 1" auger as well.
The set shown has 1/4" - 1/2" - 3/4" auger.
The augers are hi q Japanese.

I'll post more information as it becomes available.
A great packable set for building, tapping and furniture making bushcraft style.








Thursday 14 July 2016

Art exhibition. The Coffee Cellar. Exeter.

I've been pleasantly busy toing and froing between printers and art suppliers recently.
The house is covered in tape and card as I've been mounting my new prints into their new frames.
I've been asked to show my work at a Bohemian cafè in our nearest city, Exeter.
The Black Crow Art Exhibition will be held on the 22nd July 2016.
The exhibition opens at 18:00 hrs with an auction at 22:30.
There will be live music at the cafè and a £4.00 entry fee.
You'll find The Coffee Cellar at EX24AP for those with a fandangled satellite thing.




You can view more of my photographs at

I will take one of my ale hens along to the show, but I need a plinth of some sort.
I nipped into the wood shed and found something suitable to use.
I wanted something neat yet rustic.
Out came the Shogun saw.
It's a big old Japanese folding saw with a fine clean cut.
Just the job for some smart work.

Shogun. folding-saw.bushcraft-saw

I tidied up a piece of apple wood harvested from the orchard last year.
I've made quite a few spoons from this stash and they all look super, the wood finishes well, quite shiny when knife finished.


Once I'd tidied the ends up I took a Leuku for a walk and cut three hazel wands for legs.
Now for some socket holes.
I had a chat a year or so ago with Matthew at Workshop Heaven about making up a pocket auger set for me.
I sent some drawings and after a short while Matthew put together a top class set for me to try.
Well, the set comprises of a small ratcheted chuck and some super Japanese auger bits.


Nice looking.


And not at all bulky.


The tommy bar is long enough to get some good leverage on the 3/4 inch auger bit.


And it's removable, which makes for a nice streamlined package.


This handy little set came with three bits and a tool roll.
The bits are 3/4 1/2 and 1/4 inch.
Handy for a spot of Birch/Maple tapping if you're so inclined or perhaps a bushcraft stool for camp.


It has an all up weight of 556 g.
About a pound in old money.
I'm not sure if Matthew has a stock of these, but if you emailed him I'm sure he would be only too pleased to put something together for you.

Matthew has just been in touch.
As of 15 July2016.

These Auger sets will be available in the next week or so.
He is able to supply a one inch Auger as well.
Contact Matthew at his business.
Workshop Heaven



So after a bit of drilling and axing this is what appeared.


It'll sit well in the exhibition.


Doesn't look too shabby in the home either.


I'm very much looking forward to showing my photography.
Perhaps I'll see you there.

All the best.


Saturday 11 June 2016

Camping Now and Then.

Sarah and I managed to get out for a spot of camping at one of my favourite places on Dartmoor last weekend. It's the first time Sarah has managed to carry her loaded pack any distance since her last attack of Ménière's disease late last summer. The weather held, it was warm and sunny, unlike today -
I'm sat by the sash window, open so I can hear the birds and watch the woodpeckers feed from the bird feeder, wearing a jumper and covered by a warm blanket. The washing isn't drying, due to the summer Dartmoor mist, different to the winter Dartmoor mist in the fact that it's ever so slightly warmer.
 We decided to forgo the hammock and camp under cover on a couple of blow up mattresses. Short, military types, long enough to keep the essentials insulated from the ground.


We headed out under a warm Devonian sun: skylarks singing, rising and falling as we made our way across some beautiful countryside toward our camp site.


The Bluebells were out, their scent filling the warm air as we walked under Sharp Tor.
We stopped a few times to take it all in and to give the camera some work.
For those of you interested in the photographic arts I use a Lumix G3 with a pair of lenses. The lenses are Lumix 45-200 and Lumix 14-42.
The camera is micro 4/3 format. 
Nice and light.
After a short time, we could see the woodland in the distance.


Once we entered the woodland, hard on the banks of the Erme, a stream of memories returned.
I have spent many a night here in the copse, it was always a place I enjoyed visiting on my walkabouts and somewhere I would try to include on a route; reasonably sheltered with plenty of fresh water, bathing opportunities in the right season and perhaps a smouldering damp Oakwood fire.  Piles Copse has everything one needs for a fine camp, except perhaps dry firewood.
I've noticed since the advent of 'Bushcraft' popularity that more fires are being lit, some folk even trying to burn green oak fresh from the tree.
Conservation and a gentle approach to nature is the key whatever you wish to call your pastime.


It was wonderful re-visiting the woodland. We chose somewhere to camp, high up on the hill overlooking the wood and river. Once camp was up I nipped down to the river for a fill up.


We took our Robens tarp and strung it up between a tree and an old hung up, windblown; dead oak. I tested the old tree before trusting it, it was strong as the fabled English oak and not likely to go anywhere. 


So, I've always approached camp as: shelter up, bedding out for an air, store non essentials in case the weather changes then kettle on for a brew.
Works for me....
We both dived in once the bed was made, quite comfy if a little downhill, I'm sure we'll be fine.


I mentioned earlier in my post that my return to Piles copse had stirred memories.
When we returned home, I had a rummage around in my small stock of photos. You know, the ones printed on bits of paper. I don't have many pictorial memories of the past beyond the year 2000, but I found a few that I'd like to add here.
Don't forget though, I wasn't always the middle-aged grizzly bloke you see before you now.
Back before the invention of money, before things as fun as a shelter sheets could be bought, I had to make do. I used to spend as much time as possible up the river Dart with my friends from Totnes on the weekends, swimming and sipping the odd drink whilst cooking something that involved sausage or beans or both on a Camping Gaz Bleuet-206 like the one in the link, but rustier and not as posh.


I know, I know.... He doesn't look old enough to own, yet alone use a stove.
Here you can see the lesser spotted Mac sporting a line of military cast-off's and a ground sheet standing in for a tent?
I'm sure I can see a duvet poking out amongst that lot. I had a tankers sleep suit from Germany at the time, and no kip mat, bloody freezing.
Fine use of some blue polypropylene rope though - a step up from bailer twine, which if you hadn't realised is the only thing keeping Cornwall from drifting into the sea. Bailer twine has many uses down here, from gate closure and fence repair to trouser holder upper.
Well, over time and with experience one learns the trick of the trade, I soon began to master the art of keeping warm at night.


Sarah and I set our bed up using a reflective camping mat by Highlander and a couple of inflatable camp mats.
The Highlander matt weighs next to nothing and comes in handy as an under blanket when hammocking - simply fold a poncho liner, add string to corners and slip the Highlander matt inside. You'll be pleasantly surprised how warm it is. 
I'll post a photo one day soon.
We also decided to employ the Fjellduken Jerven bag and a couple of poncho liners. Sharing the bag made for a very warm night, it was a little damp with condensation in the morning, as the waterproof material is not breathable. However the bag was still very warm and the condensation could not be felt until I hung it up on the line for an air during the day. The Primaloft insulation is very forgiving and dries super fast.
We set the kitchen a short stumble from our bedding.


I packed a couple of short racing spoons, just right for our evening dinner of a bolognese with rice.
It's tricky finding light weight camping food that actually tastes nice.
I doubt if some of the products available is actually food at all.
The night before our camp I cooked up something we both like and popped it in a plastic box.


Culinarily speaking, our meal was a far cry from some of the adventures I've been on.
Here you can see my best mate Keith, the Doyen of cooking corned dog and onions over a miltifuel stove in sub zero temperatures. He has since improved to include some serious and tasty dishes to his wide and famous repertoire.
As you can see, the attention to detail, even under the most trying conditions is faultless.
The candle light adding a certain sense of romance to the bothy at Camban
The highlands of Scotland.
The last century.
In winter.


I well remember walking in, carrying everything we needed for a stay at one of the most remote bothies in Scotland. Food, as much as possible but mainly consisting corned dog, (corned beef) onions, pasta, coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco and brandy. Clothing, everything I owned, mainly made by Buffalo. Heating, half a bag of coal.
 My pack and back were groaning like a worm infested pirate's sloop; hard under sail; attempting to out run the Royal Navy due to some misunderstanding regarding the ownership of a few trinkets.
Keith's was putting up a struggle too.

When we arrived at the idilic bothy it looked like this. 
We made ourselves as comfortable as possible, lighting a fire and eating a fine dinner followed by some great conversation over a brandy or a malt or two.
The weather picked up in the middle of the night, we slept upstairs on the board floor and watched as the wind lifted the roof at the same time as a handful of snow was thrown in.


By the morning our situation had changed....


Keith shrugged it off with a brew.


It's amazing how quickly weather can change in mountainous regions, and not always for the better.
I just had a quick peek at the M.B.A site.
It looks like they put a new roof on Camban some time ago.
Not before time if I was being utterly truthful.
Well done to the volunteers at M.B.A !
It was warmer on Dartmoor as we headed toward Piles copse I must admit.


Sometime before getting cold in Camban I stayed warm by hitching round France and Spain.
The snow was a lot warmer and the food more palatable especially when it's fresh caught.



I remember camping at Le lac du Vive in the French Pyrénées Orientales, a stay lasting a week or so before moving off over the French border into Andorra and then Spain.


The next three photographs do not belong to me and I will attribute them to a site called
This is the lake I camped by, Le Lac du Vive.
I had a quick scout round Google and was surprised to find a set of photographs.




This set of lakes which include Lac du Vive can be found at an altitude of 2237m and not very far from Pic Carlit 2921m, which I managed to climb one hot sunny day. A spot of fishing happened here as well from time to time, memorable breakfasts next to a sweet smelling pinewood fire.
It also rained, with thunder, at precisely 3 o'clock each and every afternoon.
And I do mean thunder, with heavy rain.
More practice for keeping warm and dry.
And another reminder of changeable mountain weather.
....Always dress appropriately....


I know... It shocking... But panic not, I can categorically state those knees have been covered ever since. 
Well, nearly always.
Not long after sleeping under the brown ground sheet seen earlier I bought a small two person Lichfield tent, which was a fine thing for a lightweight back packing adventure, but a little cramped if the weather came in and you were caught out in the open. 
After some time I saved some cash and bought a    
Which I carried about all over the place in back pack and sidecar.
The Vaude lasted for about and roughly 25 years. It succumbed to the ravages of UV damage last year.


It accompanied me on my hitch hiking tour as well as many trips here and there up and down the country. Later in its life it got strapped to a Russian sidecar for a few years, where it was driven across France, back and forth between the Massif Centralle and the French/ Swiss alps.


Look out! More knees....





Back on Dartmoor Sarah and I spent our time setting camp and chatting about the birdsong we could hear and the wildlife we encountered. I guess we could have gone down to the river for a swim, but neither of us seemed in the mood.


We sat in the sunshine for a while quietly chatting and watching the comings and goings both near and far. It's amazing how Sarah and I can spend time together quietly taking it in, we seem to have made it into an art form in itself. I popped a brew on as we decided we had just enough time for a hot chocolate before I made a start on dinner. So the stove was lit and we sat together keeping an eye on it whilst chatting. As a quick top tip, if you run out of fuel for your Swedish cook set you can utilise the wind shield as a wood stove, either way up will do. Just keep a weather eye on it.


The day started to come to a close, so it was back to the stove to cook our dinner before the sun set.
As I cooked we reminisced about our adventures in the 15 years we've been together, I guess that's why this blog is more of a reminisce than any practical guide. A meander through some of my memories and also a comparison between present and past. My equipment is generally better, and I know I can make shelter and fire without this gear, but there's nothing better than making a nice homely camp. We thought it would be fun if I shared a few bits and pieces from previous adventures. To show that when one starts out engaging with our wonderful wild world it's ok to make do and mend. It's also ok to make a few mistakes, as long as the place you chose to have them is relatively safe.
I'm self taught with all the skills I use out in the wilds. In fact I'm self taught with most of the things I get up to. I think overall, over the years I've learned, like the Scouts, to be prepared.
I remember teaching myself navigation on Dartmoor. It's a very tough place to learn, it becomes featureless at night and when the mist arrives. In fact its pretty featureless full stop. So I learned with a pack that had one of my old tents, sleeping bag, food and cooker. If I got lost, which I did from time to time I simply made camp and started over in the morning. I seem to remember often ending up at a place with a comic name.
Dead Mans Bottom.
A nasty mire, wet underfoot.
Not recommended at days end when you're supposed to be elsewhere, sleeping on nice dry land.
My regime seemed to work as a few years after the Dead Mans Bottom affair I passed the navigation test and was accepted for training with Mountain Rescue Dartmoor.


So, the sun set and I lit the Uco candle lamp before settling in.
Remember I mentioned our bed was on a slight slope?
Sarah snuggled in and was asleep before the count of ten.
I spent most of the night slipping down the hill 😊😳😆!!!


Still learning, still loving.


Carving a Dragon Kuksa.

Carving a Dragon Kuksa.  I have been carving Kuksa from green Birch for 15 years or so, I’m self taught. From the beginning, I limited mysel...