Wednesday, June 23, 2021
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Monthly Archives: April 2015

For cuts, we begin with the basics. Remember to always follow the 8 Blades of Knife Safety while carving with your knife.

Forward Cut

Most people think of the Forward Cut, the most basic cut, when they think of carving.

  1. Hold your knife with a Fist Grip in one hand. Hold the wood with a Fist Grip in your other hand.
  2. Position the blade edge onto the wood where you want to start your cut. Don’t form a perfect cross with the blade on the wood, instead angle the butt of the handle slightly away from you.
  3. Slice forward, away from the wood hand and the rest of your body.


Remember to use the full edge of your blade (don’t cut the cheese!). Also, a deeper angle takes off more layers of grain but requires more force. A shallower angle removes thinner slices and can build into bigger cuts.

SAFETY No Thumb Dies

Beginners often make the serious mistake of extending their thumb or fingers to brace the wood while holding it. This frequently leads to people carving off the tips of their digits.  Practice holding the wood with a Fist Grip by wrapping your thumb over the top part of your fingers. Also, don’t tilt your wood hand knuckles. Keep them at right angles to the wood.

That said, it’s not always practical to hold the wood in a Fist Grip, especially when working with larger or flat pieces. You may need to hold the wood differently. When using different wood grips always Pay Attention and be certain your wood hand and fingers lie well out of the path of the blade.

MODIFY Extension Cut

Use the Extension Cut to better remove bulk amounts of material while shaping wood. It’s just like the Forward Cut,  but  you hold your arms out straight in front of you. (No T-Rex arms!) Full-arm extension means you use the larger muscles of your upper body instead of the weaker muscles of your elbow or wrist.

TRACKERS TIP Don’t Cut the Cheese

When you cut cheese, you cut with just one part of the blade. Wood is not cheese. When you cut wood, try to use the full blade edge, from the base to the tip or the tip to the base. This also prevents dulling on one part of the edge.

Next cut, The Push Cut.

Also check out:

8 Blades of Knife Safety & Care
Safely Sheathing a Knife

Many people think tracking is simply following footprints. They believe its usefulness is limited to hunters and naturalists. Tracking can be seen as arcane and irrelevant in the face of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and other conventional educational benchmarks.

Yet I suggest that the ancient art of tracking is the most valuable way of seeing, perceiving and learning that you can ever teach a child (or an adult).

While You Were Tracking

While tracking you wait in silence. While tracking you create detailed and progressively more accurate maps in your mind: maps within maps within maps. While tracking you train yourself to see what’s hidden. While tracking you hunt down the information at the edges of your awareness.

The bird tells me where the fox lays. The fox tells me about the movements of coyotes. The absence of coyotes leads me to cougars. The cougar trails the elk as I track it. The elk reveal how spring will unfold this year.

Beyond Nature

Tracking goes beyond nature. It helped me create a teaching organization (Trackers) that many insisted would be impossible. While starting Trackers, prominent outdoor educators told me:

“That’s not possible.”
“Get a real job… with an established organization.”
“Your challenges are insurmountable.”

In spite of that, Trackers has grown from 40 campers our first summer to nearly 15,000 students per year. Tracking teaches us that “impossible” is often an irrelevant concept. At Trackers, we go beyond obvious puzzles and obstacles to discover hidden opportunities.

When people say, “Look at this problem!” we respond with, “Yes, and now let’s uncover all the unseen possibilities.”

At Trackers, opportunity and creativity are never obvious: They are elusive trails we must hunt down. Anything else would be boring. Tracking does more than teach this awareness, it hardwires mindfulness into our senses, both in body and spirit.

Back to Nature

While some people are able to gain these skills outside of nature, I believe something is still missing. In the long-term, learning to understand only the human world is easy. No matter how complex the jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces are ultimately familiar when the challenge is limited to a human-centric scope.

Nature forces us to empathize in more radical ways. The behavior of a song sparrow proves as subtle as epistemology or metaphysics.

Through tracking in nature we step out of a world designed for humans only; we become ambassadors for a culture that needs to exist. One that respects diversity, mindfulness and creativity.

Tracking How-To

“Alright,” you’re thinking, “If tracking is so useful, how do I learn to do it or teach my child the basics?” Here’s a good place to start:

1. Find wilderness wherever you find yourself and visit it consistently (morning and evening at a minimum). Wilderness can be a sparrow in your backyard hedges or wildflowers in the city park. Wild is the more than human world.
2. When visiting wilderness, don’t bring your human trappings. Leave behind the field guides, gear, your phone… although you may need pants. Of course, bring the survival gear you need, and train to need it less.
3. Pay attention to what is actually happening around you, not what you think is happening. Silence, stillness and wide-angle vision (we call this Whiskers) prove truly helpful for developing this.
4. Always look at footprints within the context of how that animal is connected to the larger ecosystem. Clear tracks and other overt sign are only single words in a larger narrative.
5. Pay attention to birds and see how they react to you. Then figure out how they react to other animals. Then see how the animals react to birds reacting to you. Finally, get the birds to not react to you. Now you’re invisible.
6. Always be excited to prove yourself wrong. Really excited. Even more important, recognize everything changes. All the time.
7. Follow each trail, thread and connection until you’re exhausted. Then follow them some more. When you’re about to quit, follow them further.
8. Never think anything is impossible. But don’t delude yourself into thinking you have magical superpowers that can accomplish the impossible.
9. Through one thing, know many things.

Of course there are many more techniques we could add to your toolkit: sensory development, mapping routines, and mindfulness training. But these 9 principles could prove a useful start.

Prove Me Wrong

Is tracking really the most important skill? Like any good tracker, I’m eager for you to test it out and prove me wrong. But it’ll be hard. For that to happen, I’d have to see the song sparrow agree with you.

Note to parents: If you let kids develop the above skills of questioning and thoughtfulness and you may asking for trouble. Good trouble 😉