The Crooked Knife: A weekend making a traditional crooked knife and chip carving blade.
“I used to use a two-handed drawknife. That goddamned thing. You’ve got to use a vice to hold the work. With the crooked knife, I can work in the woods if I want. It almost feels as if it’s part of me. If anyone ever comes out with a tool that rivals a crooked knife, I’d like to know about it.”—Henri Vaillancourt; Modern master birch bark canoe maker.
The Mocotaugan or Crooked-knife is a one-handed drawknife and was the go-to tool of the Woodland Native-Americans, the canoe, sled and snowshoe makers. The Cree and Ojibwa called it the Mocotaugan, while the French-Canadian called it the “le couteau croche”, which translates directly into English as the ‘Crooked Knife’. The ability to use the knife one handed allows the other hand to hold the work piece and therefore removes the need for clamps or vices. There is no better tool for the finer work on axe handles, canoe paddles and general campcraft items.
This course aims to lead you through the process of making both a crooked knife and a small ‘chip knife’ (ideal for fine work and engraving). With the usual Wild Human ethos in mind, you will make these tools in a woodland setting using only the basic tools you would carry with you on a trip. You will begin with learning how to ‘field forge’, a backwoods process that will transform an old steel file into a functional crooked-knife blade and a chip carver. We first learned this skill set on a winter trip from two Master Maine Guides, Garrett Conover and Alexandra Conover-Bennett. The weekend will be led by Brian Elener, a professional carpenter who has undertaken many independent trips to the North Woods and used these skills in remote settings.
Whilst you could buy both of these tools for significantly less than the course fee, the knowledge and skills that you will acquire will allow you to manufacture your own tools for a lifetime, to replace a lost blade, fix broken knives and make beautiful bespoke gifts for others.
“Almost unknown today, this knife is one of the most distinctive antiquities of the ‘Man of the North’.” — Carl Russell
- Days: Fri PM – Sun PM (2 Nights)
- Location: Lake District, England
- Food & Accommodation: Fully catered and includes camping fees
- Activity: Backwoods Forging
- Size: 6-14 (Av.10)
- Physical Rating: Easy
- 2022 Date: TBC
You can download a pdf copy of the very rare book Mocotaugan – it is a facinating and beautiful literary work.
- Handle construction
- Safe use and storage
- Maintenance and care
- Chip knife making
- This course is fully catered throughout – we do our best to source food that is wild, local, organic, seasonal and nutritious. (This negates the need to buy food and bring stoves, fuel and cooking gear – it also maximises your learning time with us).
- All course materials, blades, handle wood, etc.
- Camping fees are included for two nights. This is a two day-long course with a start time of 19:30 on the Friday evening. This is to give folks time to get to us afterwork and to avoids you having to pay for a B&B, so that we can start teaching straight away on Saturday morning. The course concludes at about 16:00 on the Sunday afternoon.
- We offer a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service from and to the nearest railway station at set times.