Fiddleback Users Weekend picture

Fiddleback Users Weekend

On the May 5th the very first Fiddleback Users Weekend was held at the Riverbend Campground in Hiawassee Georgia, and situated on the Hiawassee River. In attendance were several long-time members of the Fiddleback Forge forum, some fairly new members, and our special guest was my friend and colleague Kevin Estella, who is extremely knowledgeable in outdoor and wilderness skills. We all had a blast of epic proportions, and plans are already being made for the next one.

With the words "Users Weekend" in the title, you can be sure that a lot of emphasis was put on knife skills. In the fifty-thousand years since the stone age began, the development of the cutting edge has played a very important role in human evolution.  So, to begin with there was a demonstration and discussion period on safe and proper knife handling during various cutting techniques. Then came practical application of those skills, starting with everyone making a version of Mors Kochanski's  "try-stick", and then moving on to carving trap components and utensils, as well as whittling feather sticks for starting fire.

Yet the weekend was in not limited strictly to knives and their uses, and other tools and sills were discussed and demonstrated. It was a very family friendly event, and the theme of the entire weekend was increased knowledge on multiple levels. The main emphasis was in knife use in bush-craft and field-craft yes, but overall the intent was to increase the tools carried in the mind, to increase the levels of self reliance and self confidence of the attendees within various skill sets. For the young boys and girls in attendance the weekend was as much about personal empowerment as it was about bushcraft.

Because the use of fire has been another one of the most significant factors in human survival, the was a lot of emphasis on that skill set as well. We discussed the anatomy of fire, and various ways to properly structure the fire starting materials in order to maximize chances of success of sustained fire, even under some very bad weather conditions, and minimize the chances of failure. The spring weekend turned out to be a good one for such studies, as the rain kept the organic materials around us rather wet. It also helped us to demonstrate some organic tinder materials that will work even when damp such as pitch wood and River Birch paper bark. Bothe of which have some hydrophobic properties, and also are widely available here in the southeast. We also had discussions and demonstrations of primitive fire starting methods such as friction fire and flint and steel.

On Saturday morning the rain set in for a while, so we moved the knot tying and lashing class inside the pavilion, and the weekend continued without missing a beat. Here Kevin demonstrated, and we all discussed, various knots and their specific purposes in use for lashing and rigging. Multiple practical applications of knot tying and rigging were discussed at length as the storm worked its way by us. Here you can see Kevin demonstration the structural strength of a tripod made of green bamboo tied together with a few feet of para-cord. The tripod structure easily held his body weight, and later that afternoon similar tripods were made to build a swamp bed for sleeping in such wet conditions.

Of course with it being a three day event, there had to be food and drink. So yes there were several occasions for us to spend some time resting and relaxing. So we got to spend some time just sitting around speaking with, and getting to know, the members who had traveled to the event from out of the area. Few things in life bring individuals together like time spent sharing food and drink around a camp fire. The comradery and fellowship were wonderful. It was great to finally get to meet some of the people I have been talking to for years, and be able to put faces with the names. It was a great weekend over all, with some new friendships were formed, and some old ones strengthened.

We are currently discussing dates and subject matter for the next weekend training adventure. So if you did not get a chance to come to this one keep your eyes and ears open for the next one. This weekend was a great success in spite of the newness and the weather, so we can only assume the next one will be even better


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