Sunday, June 03, 2007

Who's Who - John "Lofty" Wiseman - SAS Survival

When I was a kid of about 8 I already had some interest in the outdoors and survival, as much through Indiana Jones as anything else. I'd already been given a small black SAK by my Dad as an early birthday present when I was 7 but it was finding a hardback copy of the (old version) of the SAS Survival Handbook in the library which probably set me off on this road.
A sound biography of Lofty is available through his site for Trueways survival school. The courses here, and the approach of his books, are not really bushcraft or woodcraft but concentrate more on long-term survival. The best bet to find out more is to track down the Collins Gem version of the SAS Survival Guide.
There are 2 key features to his approach, the Lofty Wiseman Survival knife and the survival tin.
The survival tin typically involves a tobacco tin with various items in it to aid in immediate survival. Often included are a button compass, water carrier, snare wire and a wire saw (check out Doug Ritter's take on the BCB version). They are a common idea in all survival books and when I was younger I dutifully made one up. The theory is sound and Lofty Wiseman has no doubt forgotten more about survival than I know but I don't go for the survival tin any more. It is ok to have it in an outdoor coat or day pack but it is simply too big for day to day carry. That's why I tend to carry things such as a firesteel, tinder, magnifying glass and torch on my person at all times. When I'm out I tend to prefer full size items to use rather than miniature one just-in-case. To be fair though this is the difference between survival training and woodcraft. For a thinner approach check out the AOL tin kit.
The next item is one that I am lucky enough to have bought form a fellow member of the BCUK forums 2nd Hand. He'd even done all the hard work sharpening it too. As seen on his website it is a modern version of an Eastern Parang or machete. The knife is actually a bit smaller and lighter than I expected and chops chunks out of seasoned beech fairly well whilst being able to make feather sticks further up the blade.
As you can see the front is weighted for a natural swing and is thicker than the edge nearer the handle. The final part of the back edge is sharpened too but I'm not as keen on this - it seems to make it a less safe to use as a draw knife. It is a lovely bit of kit and were I allowed only 1 tool this would certainly be a contender. Unfortunately, not owning any land, it is hard to find somewhere safe to use it. For something I've dreamed of owning since I was 8 though it lives up to my expectations.

(Photos from British Red's sale thread on BCUK and, If you'd like them changed let me know)


Pablo said...

My introduction to survival was also through Lofty's book. Still one of the greats IMHO. Not sure about the shape of the parang. Still undecided.