Lots to catch up on!



This past year and a half there has been a lot I have not blogged about because of the business and hard lifestyle of living in a tent and now camper while building our house.

I am going to try to go back and cover some things that have fallen into the depths of my computer. There will be a few more tool mods and reviews, more spoons, some house work, tile work, carving axe comparison, and some other things to come.

We finally got a phone line trenched out to our place, and even though it is slow, we do have internet again.

Keep an eye out for things to come. Tomorrow will be a review and some modifications of a hewing hatchet or side axe which ever you prefer to call it.

If there is anything you are interested in seeing let me know and I will try to get around to it.


Sami Leather Coffee Bag Tutorial


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These neat little leather bags are a traditional style bag made by the Sami people of Scandinavia. These bags are found with a variety of names but the most common is a coffee bag or pouch.


I had a few request on some forums for a leather bag such as this so I decided to make a tutorial of the process for making one.

First I start out with some soft suede that I inherited from some of my brothers belongings. You can find a pattern on the internet, but it is really not necessary. All you need are the following pieces cut to the approximate size you want your finished bag.


Then you start by sewing one end panel to the long strip of leather which will form the bottom and sides of the bag. Usually I sew all my leather by hand and use a saddle stitch, but for this bag I decided to use my trusty old Speedy Stitcher that has not been used in years.


Once you have this end panel on it is time to sew on the second one. A word of caution at this point. The leather on will stretch different then the first panel if you don’t consistently use the same tension when sewing. This will result in the panels not being even. The best way I have found when sewing soft leather like this is to tack the pieces in place with super glue before sewing them together. This will help keep things aligned and save a lot of frustration later.

The next step is to sew in the top collar of the bag. This is a little awkward to figure out as the bag is sewn inside out to have the seams on the inside of the bag when finished. However the collar has to be sewn inside the bag while it is inside out. Confused yet by my description? Me too. Hehe. Here is a picture that should help explain what I am talking about.


At this point the top collar is left too long. This makes it easier to get it to the right length when sewing it all together. If you cut it to size before sewing, it might end up small after all the stitches shrink things up.

Now back to the confusing part. Once you sew around the edges of the bag you need to pull out the collar and sew up the seam for the collar. Again this seems odd because the orientation is now different then when you sewed the collar on, but it all works out in the end.


When you get to this point you can cut the collar to length and sew up the seam. You can now trim the height of the collar if you feel it is too long. I decided to make the collar a bit shorter than some of the ones I have seen because I like it this way. It makes it easier to get things in and out of the bag. Some people make the collar really long yet have the drawstring at the bottom of the collar by the bag seam. To me this does not make much sense, but to each his own.


Now the bag is basically finished other than adding some holes for a draw string. It is easiest to use a punch and hammer to make these holes vs the plier style leather punch.


I decided to make up a deer antler button for the main draw string stay, and some little leather buttons, or washers, to go on the end of the draw strings.



That is the finished bag. It is more time-consuming to make then a lot of other style leather bags, but the result is a very nice bag that you can use for just about anything. I decided to use this as my primitive fire starting bag. Everything in the bag is also made by myself including my flint and steel.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial and can use this information to make your own Sami style bag from it. As always if you have questions or comments I would like to hear them.


Return of the Pole Lathe



Two years ago when my wife and I were out on a travel assignment, I spent some time building a pole lathe. I had never used one before and decided to build it from scrap materials that my father had at his house. The only thing I spent money on was a few lag bolts which cost around $5.

Not really knowing what I was going to use the lathe for I decided to build it more as a spindle lathe since I had used power wood lathes growing up. I didn’t really follow any plan just kind of made it up as I went.

After that travel assignment, it was taken apart and transported 1200 miles back home. Space was limited so only about half of the lathe got packed up while the other half as discarded. It wasn’t until yesterday that I finally had the chance to get it set back up.


This time I made the bed five feet long. Everything else is the same. The one modification I am going to do is to set it up as a bowl lathe. I am going to use the existing poppet, for now, but in the near future I am going to make a new one with a bent center to give better clearance when turning bowls.

One thing that I need that I don’t have, is a mandrel to use for bowl turning. I had already turned one out of hard maple when I took the bowl turning class at North House, but it needed to be trued up as it dried oval shaped. Surprisingly it turned just fine after drying out for several months. Now I just need to make some pins for the end that gets driven into the bowl blank.

Later this week I am going to cut down one of the birch trees at the edge of our property and start turning a few bowls. When I do I will post some pictures of the process and finished bowls.


Using Treenware (Wooden bowls and spoons.)



I get asked on occasion if I actually use the treenware I make. Treenware, by the way, is a word used to describe wooden objects such as bowls and spoons made from green wood. 

Using the treenware I make is something I most certainly do and enjoy. Here is an example of a two such items made from paper birch. This wooden bowl turned on a pole lathe and a hand carved spoon are two that I use often.

One of the reasons I enjoy green woodworking is because I like to make things that are functional. It took a while for me to actually use what I had made though in the beginning. Like most people I was worried that I might ruin the items I had taken the time to make. 

One day I decided to start using my wooden spoons and bowls and have really enjoyed the transition to their use. The more you use these items the nicer they get. The spoons get silky smooth and become very nice to eat with. The bowls insulate your food and are nice and warm to the touch but not burning hot like modern ceramic or porcelain. What’s not to like?

Will they wear out one day? Probably, but not for a long time. Case in point are several 1000 plus year old bowls I held and examined that belong to Roger Abrahamson. They were turned with primitive means by today’s standards on a pole lathe and have probably been used for most of their life.  Yet these bowls could probably be used for another hundred years if not another thousand. 

So, if you have some treenware on your shelf, pull it down and give it a try next time you eat. You might just like it. 

Off Topic Content — Whats your Opinion?


I have been thinking about this for a long time. Years in fact. Let me tell you a secret. I like writing! I do, I really do. However a lot of what I want to write about is everyday stuff. Well not every day stuff for most people, but everyday stuff for my crazy life.

"Saftey Point" Nome, AK - Photograph copyright © 2007 David Sims

“Saftey Point” Nome, AK – Photograph © 2007 David Sims

Let me give you an example.

My wife and I started building a house on an old farm we bought this last summer. We lived in a tent on the back of our 40 acre field with our 6 month and 3 year old children. For the first two months camping off grid in a tent like this we experienced a lot of crazy things. Get ready for a long list that screams run on sentence.

These are a few things that happened while living in our tent: a nearby tornado that almost blew our tent across the field, necessitating us bracing the sides of the tent for nearly an hour to keep things put, downpour after downpour that literally left our tent floating in flooded field, mosquito’s that were worse then anything I ever saw in Alaska (they formed clouds that covered us and our children as we ran from our sleeping tent to the screen tent we used for cooking), sleeping in one room with two small children for months, having coyotes and wolfs wandering around our camp at night, planning a house, building a house, having my dad and brother come up and live in their tents with us for 3 weeks while we framed the house, getting in the grove with the environment around us, etc.

Whew, I told you that was going to be a long sentence. Anyway, my point is that I have a lot of things I would enjoy sharing with you and others, but I usually do not because it is off topic to this blog. Part of me feels that keeping the blog strictly craft oriented is best, but I feel that both you and I am missing a lot of  things I would enjoy writing about.

Perhaps the hard core readers would be turned off to see me talking about how I nearly lost our tractor in the creak, or how the sunset makes me feel at the end of the day, or how I really feel about finally getting to build my own house on my own property (Its HARD!). However I feel like these are the things that I have passion in talking about and writing about. A more creative side to writing then the documentary / how to style I typically write.

Now don’t be alarmed. I am not talking about abandoning the current format of my blog or doing away with the crafts and skills I regularly write about. I am just talking about adding more content that is life related but not necessarily Traditional skills.

Homesteading, gardening, raising animals, photography, life, building a home, kids, nature, and other interests are something I would also like to share.

What does everyone think? Would you stick with me if I decide to go this route? Would this make you less interested or more interested in reading my blog?

Please comment and give me your thoughts. I would greatly appreciate it.