How To Make Fantastic Feathersticks

by Paul Kirtley

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Really good featherstick

Good feathersticks provide a very certain way of establishing a fire in otherwise potentially difficult circumstances. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Feathersticks are extremely useful under certain circumstances. Yet many people who enjoy bushcraft, survival skills and outdoor life are not particularly well practised in the skill of making them.

Many books, particularly those involved with survival training, contain images of what are often referred to as “fuzz-sticks”. These are little more than twigs with a few short, shallow knife cuts made around them.

On the other hand, feathersticks – when made properly – provide a very certain way of establishing a fire in otherwise potentially difficult circumstances.

The circumstances in which feathersticks are invaluable come under a couple of categories:

First, you may be in a situation where all the available fuel in the woods is wet. It may have been raining for days; even dead, standing wood will be wet on the outside. Small fuel such as dead twigs still attached to trees will also be wet or even soaked.

The second circumstance under which feathersticks are particularly useful is when there are no small sticks available in the area and, therefore, there is no small fuel to start your fire. This could be a situation where you are within an environment that has a limited variety of tree species. It could also be a situation where you are above the tree line but firewood is has been transported there. A prime example of this would be in a cabin in the mountains in winter, with a supply of logs in the woodshed.

Feathersticks, kindling and matches

Leaving things as we would wish to find them in a mountain hut in Norway. Photo: Paul Kirtley

A situation much closer to home in which there may be no small fuel – and is much more likely to be encountered by many – is where you are camping in a popular spot where all the small fuel that was immediately available has been used. I have stayed on many Scout sites where this is certainly the case.

Another example of lack of small fuel I’ve encountered is when making canoe journeys in popular areas – such as the Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada – where you are restricted to particular camping sites. Even though these sites can be quite remote, they often have a scarcity of the small fuel that everybody will grab first for lighting the fires. Many of the people travelling in these areas do not have basic bushcraft skills; few people have any real skill in the use of cutting tools and so are unable to produce smaller fuel from the larger pieces of wood that often remain unmolested in the camping area.

Algonquin campsite

A campsite in Algonquin Provincial Park – no kindling in sight! Photo: Amanda Quaine.

These situations are examples of where you can apply your bushcraft skills and have a plentiful source of all the useful sizes of firewood as a result, whereas an unskilled individual would struggle to find fuel.

In these circumstances feathersticks really come into their own.

Feathersticks: What We Are Aiming To Produce…

The primary purpose of a featherstick is to provide you with your initial fuel. Most commonly this means producing what is generally referred to as kindling. That said, you might also produce feathersticks of a high enough quality, with fine enough feathers at the base of the featherstick, that you may drop a spark directly onto the featherstick to ignite it. Thus, the featherstick can also provide you with what is commonly called tinder.

Your feathersticks should also inherently provide the next size of fuel up from your finest kindling. The body of the featherstick, as opposed to the feathers themselves, provides this fuel. Therefore the body – that is the stick – should be fine enough that the flaming feathers will ignite the neck of the stick and so ignite the whole featherstick.

The shavings we are looking for on our feathersticks should be long and fine. You should be aiming to produce a dense bundle of such high quality feathers.

You might ask why we don’t just produce a pile of shavings? Surely it is easier to shave wood off a stick, then pile it up and ignite it that way? While it’s true shavings can be used in the ignition of a fire – and certainly if you cut off shavings from your feathersticks by accident when you are producing them, you should use them – there are multiple advantages to keeping the shavings attached to the stick itself.

First, in keeping the shavings attached to the stick we keep them off the ground. This is true both initially when we are creating the stick. While you produce subsequent curls they all remain on the stick and up off the ground (or the snow).

The second advantage is the shavings can be moved around in bulk and we will not lose any. When you are moving or storing the sticks, they are all together. When you come to light your fire, the sticks can be can be organised easily and quickly.

The third advantage is that once you light your feathersticks, the burning shavings can still be manipulated while they are alight simply because they are attached to a stick which you can get hold of at the end and move them around.

Finally, a key advantage in having the feathers attached to the stick is that it allows more oxygen in amongst the feathers and the overall fire lay is not too dense. This is particularly important at the start of the fire before it becomes established. A further point – following on from our previous point about being able to manipulate the feathersticks while there are alight – is that should we need to allow still more oxygen into the initial beginnings of the fire, we can lift up individual feather sticks in just the same way as we can lift up bundles of twigs in the typical small-stick fire lay.

By contrast, a pile of shavings, particularly short shavings as opposed to long curly shavings, is relatively difficult to light compared to good feathersticks. It is also very difficult to manipulate in any useful way.

Material Selection For Feathersticks

As with many things in bushcraft, the ultimate success of the application of a particular technique – at least the quality of the outcome – is to a large extent dependent upon good material selection. This is certainly true when making feathersticks.

So what materials should you look for when aiming to make good quality feathersticks?

As with any good firewood, the ideal raw material for feathersticks is dead, dry, standing wood. You want wood that is well seasoned, in good condition and not rotten or punky.

You should be looking for upright timber and, unless you have an axe, it needs to be of a particular dimension.

If you have only a knife, it should be feasible to easily baton the material. In other words, for a typical bushcraft knife, we are looking for maximum sizes of maybe 3 inches (i.e. 7 cm) in diameter.

Also, you do not want wood that is so small in diameter that persistent rain will have penetrated far into the wood. So you are looking for a minimum diameter of around 2 inches (i.e. 5 cm).

Species that work particularly well for feathersticks are pine, willow, cedar, and sweet chestnut.

In terms of the quality of the wood that we are looking for, I will re-iterate that it needs to be dead, dry and well seasoned. In my experience, people can get lazy with applying these criteria strictly and end up making sub-optimal feathersticks (i.e. they don’t work). Equally, the wood should not be too soft or punky, i.e. too rotten.

The wood you select should also be straight-grained and, preferably, knot free. To a large extent you can get a good idea of how knotty a piece of wood is just by looking at the outside bark. Because you are going for relatively small diameters, any external knots will likely carry a good way into the grain of the wood. Try to choose sections of wood that are relatively free of side branches or the remnants of them.

In the woods, you should be aiming to select an upright standing piece of wood and cut it into multiple sections to gain all the fuel that you need – including your feather sticks – to establish your fire.

Feathersticks, kindling, small fuel and medium fuel

You can produce all the sizes of fuel you need to establish your fire. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Once you have selected your piece of standing timber, saw it down. Then you should cut up your selected wood into sections that are 12 to 14 inches (30 to 35 cm) long.

Now that you have these rounds – and I suggest you have at least three of this length as a minimum to produce the fuel to start your fire – you can begin to split the wood down into suitable sizes.

In the absence of an axe, the technique to use is batoning. This is a common and often used technique of basic bushcraft – one with which you should become fully familiar, if you are not already.

Batoning to produce splints

In the absence of an axe, use your knife and a baton to create all the split wood you need. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Stand the sawed round of wood vertically on its end on a stable surface such as a chopping block or log. Place your knife horizontally on top end of the log with the handle as close to the wood, leaving as much of the tip of the blade protruding on the far side as possible.

Batoning with a bushcraft knife

Place your knife horizontally on top end of the log with the handle as close to the wood and hammer with the baton. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

It may be worth creating a small wedge before you hammer the knife into the wood and potentially get it stuck. The wedge will allow you to free your knife if necessary.

Once you’re ready, hammer the blade into the end of the round until the back of the blade is flush with the top surface of the wood. Now proceed by hitting the tip of the knife with your baton while maintaining pressure on the handle so as to keep blade horizontal. The wood should split relatively easily.

For your feather sticks I would recommend quarters from wood that is relatively small – say 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter – and eighths for wood that is larger diameter than this.

Batoning section of wood into eigth

Split the rounds down into quarters or eighths depending on their diameter. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

After prolonged or heavy rain, the outer surface of even vertically upright wood may well be damp. Once you have batoned out the splints that you require, you should shave down the outer surface removing the bark and any damp layers of wood that lie beneath, until all you are left with is dry wood.

Shaving off the damp outer layers, including bark using a knife

Shave off the damp outer layers as necessary. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Techniques For Creating Fantastic Feathersticks

For those who have tried to make feathersticks in the past, the part of the process they often find most difficult or frustrating is starting the featherstick. Getting going and producing good long curls consistently is reliant upon creating a good foundation in the first place.

To create this foundation for all your curls, do not worry too much about creating good curls for the first few cuts. Rather, what you should concentrate on is creating a good even surface, which can then be shaved down into nice even curls. What you do not want is a raggedy edge or a lumpy-bumpy surface that looks like a washboard road, then try to create nice smooth shavings from it.

Start by aiming to plane the surface that exists as a result of splitting out your rounds of wood to the desired size. Start on the inside edge, that is the edge that is sharp. This inner wood will still be dry despite the heaviest of rains. Even though sections have been split out quite nicely by your batoning technique, the edge you are to work into feathers will still be uneven.

Shaving wood down

Start to shave off raised or rough sections which make the wood uneven. Photo: Amanda Quaine

Place the split wood on a firm surface in a vertical or near vertical position. Holding it with your non-knife hand at the top, take your knife and place it below your fingers, turning the knife inwards so the edge is turned towards the wood. If you’re using a flat-bevelled knife you can achieve the angle relatively easily; turn the knife so that the bevel is flat against the wood.

Push the knife downwards so that the blade descends. As you do so, turn the knife edge in towards the wood a fraction more and you should start to take off small shavings of wood from the high points.

To reiterate, it is not important that these stay attached. You are simply levelling the surface on which you are going to work. If you have ever used a plane think of this initial action in this way.

After your first descent of the piece of wood, return the knife to the initial starting point and repeat the process, shaving off more of the remaining high points. Repeat this process until you are left with a smooth surface to work on.

Working to an even surface

After a few runs down the stick, you will have a much more even surface to work from. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Now, repeat the step as described above but this time with the intention of creating one continuous, even shaving from the beginning of the cut downwards to nearly the bottom of the stick.

Starting the featherstick curls

Now shave steadily downwards to create a nice, even curl. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

The part of the bushcraft knife blade you should be using for this is the straightest part, which is close to the handle. Here you have most control and least leverage on your wrist.

Push the knife downwards, maintaining an even depth into the wood, creating a nice even curl.

Initially this is easier said than done!

Paul Kirtley making feathersticks

Placing the stick on a firm surface, work downwards with your knife creating shavings. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Featherstick Frustration

Do not get too stressed about losing curls at the beginning of your learning curve. It happens to everyone.

The thing you should be concentrating on is getting a feel for how deep or how shallow the edge of the knife is shaving the wood then making small adjustments to maintain an even cut.

This takes practice but you will soon pick up a good feel for the type of wood that you are using, combined with the sharpness of the knife you are using.

It goes without saying that your knife should be as sharp as possible.

Once you have started to create a few good downward shavings, you will find that the bottom of the stick starts to become a little crowded. The common mistake made here is to finish cuts progressively higher up the stick on each descent with the knife.

The problem with this is that the curls are not then all adjacent to each other and you will find them harder to light. Also you will not achieve as thin a body of the stick because you will not have shaved off as much along the complete length.

If you need some more space at the base of the featherstick simply use the side of your knife to push the shavings down and away from the body of the stick, leaving more space behind for additional curls.

Once you have started to get a good feel for the basic downward shaving motion, you can add some variation into this. What you do not want to be doing is creating shavings all around the base of the stick. You actually want them all on one side of the stick, in a nice arc of about 180°. This is important for when you come to light your fire.

180 degree arc of curls on a good featherstick

You should be aiming to create a 180 degree arc of curls on one side of the featherstick. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Getting Fancy With Your Feathersticks: Adding Variety To The Curls

The basic downward shaving action will create curls that are pretty much in line with the stick and at right angles to the blade of your knife.

To put curls on one side or the other of the central curls you can change the angle by raising or lowering the tip of your knife as you cut.

Start with your knife on the stick close to the handle and turn the tip of the knife upwards. Now shave downwards and slide the blade across the face of the featherstick as you descend. This will create a tightly curled shaving, which moves out towards tip of a knife.

Featherstick curl with knife tip upwards

With the knife tip up, curls move off towards the tip. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Once you have created a few of the above with the tip up, go back to shaving down the central part of the stick with the knife held horizontally so as to create some more shavings in the middle.

Then, place the knife at the top of the stick again, this time with the tip facing downwards and the initial point of contact with the blade closer to the tip. Shave down the featherstick again, moving the handle of your knife towards the stick and cutting across the face of the feather stick as you descend.

This will create a curl that moves towards the handle of your knife and fills in where there are no curls.

Tip down featherstick curl

With the knife tip down, curls move towards the handle. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Create a few of these curls then go back to the central curl, then go back to the point-up curls. And so on.

In varying the techniques like this you will create a dense and even bundle of excellent curls at the end of your feather stick.

Dense bundle of curls at the head of a fantastic featherstick

In varying the angle and making sure you start and finish in the same places, you end up with a dense bundle of curls at the end of your featherstick. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

To get the curls all at the end of your featherstick, remember that you must start and finish your curls at the same place on the stick each time.

Do not fall into the trap of starting further and further down the feather stick. Nor should you, as mentioned above, finish each curl at progressively higher points up the stick.

Either way, curls will become shorter and less curly each time, they will not sit next to each other on the stick and you will not achieve a thin enough neck that will ignite from the flames of the curls.

Practice Makes Fantastic

Practice making feathersticks when the going is good, and the technique will serve you well when things get a more tough. You should be aiming not only to be able to make feathersticks but make feathersticks quickly.

While making feathersticks may be quite a frustrating pastime at first, as with many aspects of bushcraft, the more time and effort spent to become proficient, the more likely it is that the particular technique becomes a realistic one in a situation where you really need to depend upon it.

Besides, the next time you are camping with your friends and there is little firewood around, you can impress them by producing everything you need from an unlikely piece of wood and dazzling them with your fantastic feathersticks.

Have you used feathersticks in situations where there was no other way to get your fire going? Or do you still struggle with getting good curls? Let us know in the comments below….

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

How To Sharpen A Bushcraft Knife

How To Light A Campfire With One Match

The Raven PK1: Evolution Of A Knife

How To Split Firewood On Snow: Key Axe Techniques

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

 

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Werner

Hey Paul,

Great review, it’s the small things that make a camping trip great.

Thanks

Werner

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Werner,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s often the small things and details that make a big difference.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Mary Ann

Fantastic pictures & instructions, Paul. Will have to give this a try.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for your kind words Mary Ann. I hope this article serves you well. Please let me know how you get on with the technique.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Paul Glazebrookk

Another excellent article and instruction. Very detailed and I like it.

Your comments on Algonquin Park are absolutely correct. It gets heavy use by a large number of inexperienced trippers in the summer. Winter backcountry travelers in the park are asked not to use the designated campsites but to find out of the way sites near beaver ponds with their abundant standing dead spruce.

I am sure you thought of it but packing along a few pieces of good feather stick wood is an idea for a quick fire if needed.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your various comments on this article. I’m glad you like the detail I include – useful feedback thanks.

If firewood is really sparse in places like Algonquin, my tactic is to first unload the boat and get kit up to the campsite. Then I get back into the empty boat and paddle off to find some firewood. I get a reasonable quantity – enough for the evening and breakfast (if applicable) as well as leaving a little for the next visitors (but not so much that it is squandered).

Hmmm…I need to get another canoe trip in my diary…

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Stephen Walker

Hi Paul
Great article this one.
Making an initial assumption that feathersticks would be easy to make is perhaps not good for the soul (or fingers).
I did find it one of the most enjoyable skills to learn, however.
And like all skills, the more ‘sticks you make whilst following advice from you guys, the better they become.
And, hey presto, that wonderful of all things: fire.
Keep them coming, Paul.
Cheers
Steve

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

As always, it’s good to hear from you.

Agreed on feathersticks – like many repetitive skills which require some concentration, once you achieve some ‘flow’, they become quite therapeutic.

And however many times you have achieved fire, it’s always superb when you’ve had to work a little for it.

Thanks for your feedback Steve.

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Shiver

Fantastic article on how to do it correctly, I must admit my feathersticks are not as good as yours, practice practice practice!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Cyril,

Thanks for your feedback on the article.

“practice practice practice!” – yep, that’s what they need! 😉

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Steve Carothers

Hey Paul…excellent article on feathersticks…great detail…I enjoyed the read…thanks.

Steve

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Steve! 🙂

Reply

David

Feather sticks look easy! I thought as I watched James demonstrating on the Bushcraft essentials course, how wrong I was!
Great article Paul, must get out and practice more!!!
David.

Reply

David

Feather sticks look easy! I thought, as I watched James demonstrating on the Bushcraft essentials course, how wrong I was!
Great article Paul, must get out and practice more!!!
David.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi David,

It’s good to hear from you. I hope you are well?

Yes, James does make them look easy. He prefers a different method to me. He’s better at his way, I’m better at my way – which just goes to prove the point it’s all about practice and familiarity…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Steve D

Great article Paul, this is something I have certainly struggled with. Can’t wait to get out and try these techniques . Like everything practise makes perfect. Thanks

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your feedback – it’s much appreciated.

I agree – like any of the skills that are a little harder to get to grips with, it really is just perseverance until you get the basic technique right. Then it’s just practice.

Please do get out and apply what’s in this article. Let me know how you get on and please do ask questions…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

George Aitchison

A great article Paul.

This is a skill I try and practice but never enough to make them perfect every time. I usually end up with the fuzz stick effect to be truthful.

I do remember being in Algonquin Park in 1999 on a canoe trip and having to make some up as there was very little in the way of twigs around the campsites. Nice memories.

Cheers

George

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi George,

I’m glad you liked this. Feathersticks are one of things with which you need to keep your hand in.

Yes, I have lovely memories of that Algonquin trip the photo is from. Right at the end of September with hardly a soul around.

Did you see my friend Kevin Callan’s great Once Around Algonquin series? I think you’d enjoy that…

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Simon Rawlinson

Hi Paul,
As usual, another great article. I shall be using these to show my Troop in the spring.
Please keep up the great work your doing, I thought I knew enough, but, well, you the man!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad I’m providing material which is useful to you and your troop.

Whatever level you are at, there is always more to learn… 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Jon Briafield

Like many bushcraft skills, for me it was a case of:

Struggle, persevere, struggle some more, persevere, struggle, sharpen the knife… Aha! Feather sticks!!

Being able to light a featherstick directly with a fire steel was for me a real enabler. I don’t go out without a fire steel, so I know that with my knife I should be able to make fire whatever the weather.

Like many skills a sharp knife is the most critical thing for achieving a truly satisfactory results, otherwise it’ll be fuzz sticks.

Thanks again Paul for a great tutorial.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Jon,

It’s good to hear from you. Yes, I’m sure that process you describe will be familiar to many. It certainly is to me. The only thing is, you missed taking the skin off your top thumb knuckle 😉

Getting to the stage where you can light a featherstick with a spark is indeed a great enabler and a good level of skill to apsire to for those who haven’t done this yet. For anyone reading this, being able to light a featherstick with a FireSteel will force you to improve both your featherstick technique and the accuracy of the sparks from your FireFlash. It requires being able to produce a large, concentrated spark with a FireSteel.

Finally – yes super point about having a sharp knife. For anyone wanting some pointers on this, they can see my bushcraft knife sharpening guide.

I’m glad to read that you’ve persevered with the skill of feathersticks to the point where you can head out with a knife, FireSteel and confidence. I hope that’s motivational for others to persevere with this skill too…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Duncan Chandler

one thing ive found does superb feathers if you carry one and is a great additional cutting tool is an Indian Crooked Knife they are designed to plane and usually sharper than a GP bush craft tool with the hook you can also feather out the inside of a half log like you where making a a bowl you get a mass of fine centre wood curled at one end with a nice hollow in dry wood to set your ember and tinder under the curls
ATB
Duncan

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Duncan,

Yes, agreed – an Indian knife is very good for this.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Paul Glazebrook

Duncan, the Crookedknife works very well and is arguably the best tool. An alternative is the Opinel #8. This has a very sharp and thin blade which produces beautiful curls. The Crookedknife requires you to draw the blade towards you so extra care should be taken.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

You don’t necessarily have to draw an Indian knife towards yourself for the purpose of making feathersticks. As you probably know, a true Indian knife has its single bevel on the inside of the curve (while a spoon knife has a single bevel on the outside of the curve).

So, try flipping the Indian knife round in your hand and using it downwards just as per my photos with with the bevel flat against the work piece…

Let me know how this works for you.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Paul Glazebrook

Paul, I did not think of using my Crookedknife in a push mode. For me, it is a little awkward because of the handles shape. The curls aren’t as good as those I produced by drawing the knife towards the chest. This is a function of the single bevel on the knife and my lack of skill. More practice is called for.

Reply

Duncan Chandler

The Crooked knife is pretty safe if used correctly as your wrist/fore arm will stop on your chest long before the blade the same if you use a normal knife towards you and the crooked knife needs a lot less force so more control is available due to the generally thinner and sharper grind

and I would expect a more advanced user to have one any way to get its full potential to me they are a true all round bushcraft tool

Reply

Mark H

Hi Paul

Fantastic article about fantastic feathersticks. Your usual quality content and writing.

Another skill which develops with time. It involves the recognition of different woods and their ‘state’ of decay , the quality of your knife sharpening skills and the ability to persevere.

As with many parts of Bushcraft; after many years of practice , you experience a ‘coming together’ of the skill sets. You find that once the skills reach a certain level they all start self enabling one another and more complicated tasks. May I hasten to add, I am still on this journey !

I have often found myself ‘short cutting’ the process by breaking away ‘dead standing’ thumb thick staves from over grown hazel stands. Then quite simply creating feather sticks from them. That said it has taken many years to recognise the right materials and produce effective feather sticks.

Once again thank you for the article,
Best
Mark

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Mark,

As always it’s great to hear from you – thanks for your comments.

Yes, you get to certain point where you have enough skills under your belt that there is some sort of multiplicative synergy between them that can be applied to new challenges.

Plus, after practicing skills like feathersticks lots and lots, I think you also develop a certain bloody mindedness 😉

Best,

Paul.

Reply

liam gadd

Fantastic Feathersticks… A skill I knew would need practice, and after doing my last course and being shown and trying feathersticks, I discovered I was right. A lot of practice. I have been practising this skill every oppurtunity since. There currently being finnished with a “good enough to work” grade. But not anywhere near as good as yours… Yet.

Now I’ll get back to more practicing. 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Liam,

Well “good enough to work” grade is, by definition, good enough to work. Now you can work on adding some finesse to sticks and/or speed to their completion.

As always it’s good to hear from you and I love your enthusiasm. Keep it up!

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

fevzi

Hey Paul,

its great fun and learning to follow your blog. Keep us informing and keep it simple like it. and maybe a short video would be great for this article. Thanks for your sharings.

best regards from Turkey
Fevzi

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Greetings Fevzi,

Welcome and thanks for your comment. I’m happy you are finding useful things in my blog and I hope you continue to enjoy my articles and videos.

I’ll add a feathersticks video to my long list of projects 🙂

Warm regards from England,

Paul

Reply

Jake

Paul,

Another phenomenal article. The sheer amount of detail covered in this post is why I keep returning to read your stuff 🙂

One small tip I found useful when first learning was making sure to keep my arm entirely straight and stiff. I found as soon as I started doing that it was much easier to control the depth of the cut and get some consistency in my curls.

Can’t wait for your next article!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Jake,

High praise indeed! 🙂 I’m glad you appreciate my work and I’m thankful to have dedicated readers such as yourself. I don’t take it for granted at all.

You’re right though – I am a detail-oriented guy and, on the whole, in bushcraft and survival the devil is in the detail.

I hope this article serves you well in improving your feathersticks and that you – and others – manage to squeeze tonnes of value from it.

More articles coming soon! 🙂

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Gwyn James

I can remember how gypsies used to sell fake chrysanthemums made by using this method! I’m nowhere near that level of skill. Is there anyone out there who can still do it?

Reply

Lee

Paul

I’m really impressed and appreciative of the level of detail provided in this article, it has certainly pointed out some errors in my featherstick technique.

Do you have preffered varieties of wood to use, I’ve heard that straight white varieties are best such as the Ash in another of your articles?

Thanks again!
Lee.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Lee,

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your kind words and I’m glad that you found this article useful. I’m a detail-orientated person and I’m glad you enjoy the detail I put into my articles.

Yes, straight-grained woods work well. Even relatviely open/coarse grains such as sweet chestnut. Ash also works well but I don’t often find dead, standing ash in the correct condition. Others that tend to work well are pine, willow and cedar.

If you have other questions, please just ask.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Liam Gadd

Very true, pine is great I have tried this. I may try the ash I should be able to find a decent piece to use.

Reply

Martin

Paul
Great article as always and very well explained. I really must get myself booked on some of your courses.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Martin. When you’re ready, let me know if you need any advice on the most suitable course.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Peter Dekker

–Dear Mr Kirtley,

Great article! It all comes down to a sharp knive 🙂 And even have seen many video’s about that, and have practiced this myself even more … it is the bottleneck when working with (eager) Boy & Girl Scouts who are proud to have their (first) belt knive (mostly Mora, as this brand offers great knives to reasonable prices) … but when it comes to sharpening the knive after the first weeks of use, it is hard to focus these teenager Scouts on the long works of sharpening their knives in a propper mannor! The use of a wet stone and doing the: 10-9-8-7- etc. drill on the wet stone on either sides and than changing the wet stones upper side and doing the 10-9-8-7-etc. drill again asks much too much of their teenager brains, i.e. their front lobs 🙂
BUT: if they have sharpe(ned) knives the battoning and featherstick making is a great practice to do … I useally collect wood from DIY-projects, or building sites from the waste containers, to practice this on cheap, soft wood … Just to get them on the going! Step-by-Step we evoluate to practice outside and to get wood from the woods we are doing the practice of firemaking (including the featherstick making).

Well thank you again for the great articles / video’s!

Kind Regards,
Peter.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, I think you are right – giving the Scouts a reason for having a sharp knife and a consequence for not achieving a good edge is a powerful combination for them both seeing the value in the goal and paying attention to the process.

Also, approaching this in a gradual manner from off-cuts to woodland application is a good one.

I’m very glad you are finding my materials useful and thank you again for taking the time to comment.

Keep in touch!

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Chris Allen

I always enjoy making feathersticks, it’s never a chore in my book. I’ll do them even when there’s no reason to. I have a wood burner in my living room, and never get tired of making them, I find it very therapeutic, and often use a sharp axe instead of a knife to make them. This has probably got to be the finest articles on feathersticks out there, great work Paul. Practice, practice, practice is the way to go.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your comment and for your kind feedback.

I think your attitude towards these skills is a good example to everyone who wants to get good at making feathersticks – find any opportunity or excuse to make them and do it repeatedly until you enjoy it (even if you find it frustrating at first!)

Practice, practice, practice – indeed!

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Ronald Shepherd

Thank you for the quick reply. I did learn something new. Keep up the great work.

Reply

Grant

Hi Paul, excellent article-cleared up a few points for me as i was guilty of moving up and up the sick to produce the feathers. Off to the woods I go then!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Good stuff Grant. Glad it was useful. Have fun in the woods!

Reply

Joe

Hi Paul

Yet another great article, very indepth and useful. Before reading this I was struggling with making proper feather sticks, now with a little practice and a lot of patiance I think Im now making something that would pass as a feather stick rather than a “fuzz stick”. It always suprises me every time I read one of your blogs or watch one of your videos I learn somthing new or a new take on things when ya read something in a book.

Thanks Paul,
Keep up the good work, and Im looking forward to the next blog/video.

All the best,
Joe

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Joe,

It’s good to hear from you. I’m glad you’re making progress with your feathersticks. Thanks for letting me know that my article was helpful 🙂

It’s also good to know that my other articles and videos have been useful. Great feedback.

Thanks for reading and keep on practcing.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Denis Watson

Hi Paul,
Another great article, well done lad. I have just bought a “Mora” knife after taking your advice on knives. Now to find out if I can use it as good as you do making “Feather sticks”, very, very doubtful .

Reply

ben

Hi, great article, I always try to make feathersticks even for starting barbeques at home. Its a great way to practise my knife skills and I find the more I persevere the quicker and more adept I become. I also find its a good way to encourage my 6year old to begin to use a knife safely. He lacks any wrist and arm strength to actually make many feathers but he is getting there. So thanks for a well wrjtten piece and I look forward to the next one.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Ben,

Thanks for your comment. I like the image of you practising feathersticks with your six year old son.

And your are right – practising at every opportunity really brings your skills forward. Lighting a wood burner or a bbq or similar are all great chances to apply and improve fire skills.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Joycelyn

Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your
webpage? My website is in the exact same niche as yours
and my users would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
Please let me know if this alright with you. Thanks!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Jocelyn,

Thanks for getting in touch. Apologies for my slow reply – I’ve been away on a trip for several weeks.

Yes, a quote with a link back to the full article is fine and I’m flattered you have asked.

Just to be clear though, last year someone asked if she could “quote” some of my articles in her latest book. She then proceeded to included the whole articles. This is not a quote, it is a reproduction and is not OK. In the context of a website, wholesale reproduction of articles also causes problems with Google and other search engines (both for you and for me).

I hope this is clear, but if you need further clarification, please just ask.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Jon Lavender

Paul,
thank you for this very well writen article. Your illistrations and directions were very easy to understand.

Would you or have you done a video on this subject? I sometimes find it easier to learn from the vodeo type of presentation, than just reading about it.

thanks again for the post keep them comming. Knowlede is the key to living.

Jon

Reply

Kris

Paul,
How do you find making a feather stick in Australian Eucalypt timbers, which are notoriously knot riddled?a

Reply

mspell

Paul,

Another extremely well done article, as always. I only hope that people reading it understand the need to practice in advance. It always looks much easier to produce the nice feathersticks as shown until you’ve really tried it. You really need to know the particular type of wood, your knife, and how to use it properly. Practice ahead of time. Of course that is true with all these skills.

I love your website, all your videos, blog posts and articles. Your’s is the best site for bushcraft related info that I have found. I am surprised (but glad) that you give all this great information to us for free.

Thanks,

Martin

Reply

Sue O'Brien

Hi Paul,
i can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people demonstrating feather stick making, they then create a pile of shaving to add a spark to, just to have the wind come along and blow it all away! It makes complete sense to me to keep them attached to the stick. I’ll definitely be following your direction.
By the way it’s the same here is South Australia when it comes to the campsites being stripped bare of any firewood, and such a disgraceful sight when there is evidence of people chopping down green trees and branches , just to find out they don’t burn and leave them charred and discarded at the camp site.
On a positive note……Thanks for sharing your knowledge and adventures with us Paul.

Reply

John Lucy

Hi Paul

We are off to our Scout Summer Camp on Saturday and it’s a Traditional green fields camp.
For one activity,our Scouts have to survive two days in backwoods.
They will no doubt put all your tips to the test !!!

John

Reply

Benny Morgan

Very good detail. sir.
I try the same but sometimes it takes a couple of tries.
Thank you for this excellent post.

Reply

steve

Very informative post especially with regard to the size and dimensions of the sticks to start with. Have you done a video on this?

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stefanie

Picked up a random soggy stick. Hurt my hand trying to work it into a featherstick without smoothing first. It got progressively more lumpy with not a single shaving remaining attached. Guess I will try your method next, when my hand is less sore xD

Reply

Gary

Thanks for sharing this informative and very helpful post.

Will give this a try with using Pine-Tree Sticks which are prevalent in Asia and the Mountainous Regions of the Philippines.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

You’re very welcome Gary.

Thanks for your comment.

Let me know how you get on applying this technique with your local resources…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Gary

I’ll surely will Paul & will always keep you updated as well with my feather-sticks skills.

All the best from Asia!

Reply

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