Saturday, 7 November 2015

'Victorinox' Chopsticks

Some time ago I noticed a picture on social media of a bushcrafter using chopsticks and commented that they were perhaps rather overlooked as a utensil and the individual agreed. Fast forward to early 2016 when Bushscout's Terry Longhurst and I were on board with the Scout Association to help with the Victorinox sponsorship of the Scouts section's Survival Skills badge.

I was asked if I could come up with some simple projects that a Victorinox penknife could be used for. I suppose any knife would be useful in varying degrees in a true survival situation but ideally I guess most folk would want a fixed blade so I plumped for projects that would be both useful and around the whittling level of difficulty. the first one that came to mind was a pair of chopsticks. 

I used a Victorinox Huntsman to do these photos with as it has knife blades, scissors and a saw which I used but would favour a fixed blade. When using a pen knife always take out and fold in sharp tools with care, remember that a non-locking blade can potentially close on your fingers, and when using any sharp cutting tool think twice, cut once.


For this how to I've selected hazel which is both straight in aspect, easy to work and suitable for food use. I've cut two lengths that are about the diameter of a pencil and about a foot or so long (or about 30 cms).


The next step is to remove any lumps and bumps and trim the ends if necessary. Then strip some bark off at the business end, this needs to happen so that there's no potential to taint the food through taste, transfer of bacteria or dirt. 


Take one of hazel lengths and carefully shave off about 2mm all the way round the end, angling the blade slightly and using your thumb to do a controlled cut. Repeat on one end of the other length to. It isn't essential to the finished chopstick's function, but it does tidy up the end and is a useful cut to practice because if you are are going to baton a large stick into the ground it helps prevent the end splitting.


Now carefully cut around the chopstick to be's circumference with a blade, enough to just score through the bark all the way around about 3cms from the end. Do this by carefully turning the length and scoring the bark as you go and support the blade with your thumb if needed.


Now you need to use the blade to carefully remove the bark with a controlled, shallow slicing action. This set was made for the photo sequence but got used for eating with. If you are going to use them for cooking you'll want to take a bit more off because the reason for removing bark is that it can harbour dirt and bacteria and taint any food. If you cook raw meat with them remember that you may need a second set to serve/ eat with due to potential cross contamination.


Try bevelling the ends of the freshly de-barked sections (like with the other end). Not essential but useful as a bit of extra practice. It won't come as a surprise to find that this is pretty much a finished project but for those that struggle with chopsticks having a mind of their own... 

secure them together helps with control so towards the back of the sticks using something like nettle cordial (shown) or an inner length of  paracord, fasten using a clove hitch (shown), round turn and two half hitches or something similar leaving a gap of around 3 cm between the sticks. Adjust as necessary.

The finished article.


So you now have a tea bag fisherouterer, coal placer, cooking and serving utensil and of course eating food with. 

When helping as a Woodlife Trails course assistant I sometimes use chopsticks, well two unworked small pieces of straight kindling, to pick up a small coal to place in a buffed clematis bark mini tinder bundle if there are no fire dogs to be had to get the fire started on the courses.

Below is some of the badge promotion at the time...Oh, and as I've mentioned Victorinox and a specific Swiss Army Knife model in this blog page I'd like to just mention that I'm not sponsored by the company but it was representative of the project at the time.