Lecture Series to Teach Bushcraft Skills

A wood mallet used for basic bushcraft tasks. teejaybee/Flickr
A wood mallet used for basic bushcraft tasks.

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

If a person gets lost in the mountains or forests of Kodiak, they’d benefit from knowing a bit about woodworking, sharpening tools, and starting fires. A series of three presentations as part of the Baranov Museum’s History Speaks spring lecture series will teach audience members those very skills.

Speaker Jim Dillard says the first class will cover crafting tools that an adventurer needs to camp and cook in the woods. He says, historically, the Russian population in Kodiak knew woodcraft, and the ability to craft one’s own tools became necessary during war and hard times.

“There were no supply ships coming here and everybody in the Russian community was expected to provide their own food and start their own fires without matches and to make their own utensils and so these are the basic skills that will teach folks how to do that once again.”

He says at the class he’ll talk about tools and how to select them, projects that beginners can try, and he’ll demonstrate knife and axe skills.

“These are not skills that are mine. These have been used for centuries and even in Scandinavia these skills were taught for the last 130 years or so in the public schools and just pretty well standard fair for woodcraft or what some people now call bushcraft.”

Dillard says he’s done a lot of research about how Alutiiq people traditionally cooked their food and what kind of utensils they used, and campers can tap into that kind of resourcefulness.

“And if a person goes out for a day trip or even a longer excursion, there are a great number of ways to cook our local foods and to do so without having metal. People can make those things on the spot from local materials and cook their own meals with very little equipment, and it’s a very satisfying thing to do.”

The class, called “Learning the Hands-on Skills of the Traditional Woodsman,” will begin at 7 p.m. tonight at the Baranov Museum. Dillard says the next two classes in the series will be about keeping tools sharp and building fires with wet wood.

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