How to Properly Clean Your Knife

A knife is an extremely useful and critical tool in a survival situation and outdoor setting. In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of properly caring for your knife. Ideally, you are doing those small but important tasks like keeping it oiled and storing it appropriately. Sometimes you can just wipe your knife down with a damp rag to keep it clean.  For heavier jobs, use the following steps to clean your knife.

Regular Cleaning

  1. For lockblades and pocket knives, blow out the pivot points by mouth or with compressed air.


  1. Wash knives in warm soapy water just long enough to remove dirt and grime. IMPORTANT:  If you soak your knife too long in hot water, the handles can warp, loosen, and/or lose their finish depending on what type of knife you have.
  2. Let the knife dry completely, including any movable parts.
    IMPORTANT:  To avoid rust on your folding knives, remove all moisture by blowing out the pivot points.
  3. Once dry, lightly oil blades and/or pivot points. Do not use too much oil as the oil will collect dirt and debris.

Rust Removal

The number one rule in rust removal is: Don’t Let It Rust!  Once rust starts, it tends to stick around and you will find yourself continually battling to stay ahead of it.  To prevent rust, follow these simple dos and don’ts.  But sometimes, despite your best intentions, you pull your knife out of its sheath and discover that it has rusted.  Could it be because the knife had been in its sheath for 6 to 8 months?  Not that that scenario has ever happened to me – or not more than a few times at least.

In that case, here are a few safe, simple ways to remove rust:

Knife cleaning

My preference is to use 0000 steel wool with a light oil.
– Any type of oil will work (e.g., 3-in-One, WD40, honing).
– Using a light pressure, sand back and forth.  CAREFUL:  If the pressure is too heavy,
you will scratch the finish.
– Wipe off the dirty oil often and change it frequently.


Other ways to remove rust:

  • Use a toothbrush with Flitz metal polish or toothpaste (mild abrasive). Brush back and forth.


  • Use cork with dry, white wood ash.  CAREFUL:  Using wet ash can create a lye and cause skin burns.


NOTE:  You can also use aluminum foil with any of the above (oil, polish, toothpaste, ash).

Remember to store your knife out of its sheath and keep it lightly oiled to remain rust-free!

-Frank Sherwood

How to Properly Clean Your Knife

New Pack Basket Class!

Hand-woven pack baskets

We have been humbled and overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to our Adirondack-style pack baskets!  Woven pack baskets have been around for centuries, but they were a new addition to our Ancestral Living Skills program this year.  So many people asked about making the baskets that we have added TWO two-day classes in 2016!

Dates:  August 13-14 | September 24-25, 2016

Time:  9-4 on Saturday, 9-2 on Sunday

Cost:  $135

Location:  Issaquah, WA

Description:  Traditionally used by the early trappers, pack baskets were woven out of black ash or white oak. Most baskets today use high-quality reed to create these strong and light vessels.

Join us to weave your own pack basket in this two-day class. Learn how to weave the “belly” into your basket for the roomy pack basket shape. You’ll finish by lashing a hardwood handle into the rim. The final touches are a protective coat of stain or oil finish and custom strapping for ease of carry.

These baskets are perfect for your next trip to the market or upcoming summer picnic. All materials and tools provided. Finished size: Approximately 11” W x 10” D x 17” H.


New Pack Basket Class!

Forager’s Forecast

Attention wild plant enthusiasts!  Our new segment, The Forager’s Forecast, will offer you direction when considering what newly emerging plants to bring to your dinner table or add to your apothecary.  We focus on Northwest plants that have blessed our table lately; however, many can be found much farther than this corner of the world.  Search them out, be amazed.  They will bring you joy many times over.


Bitter Cress (Cardamine occidentalis, C. oligosperma)

We have used this spicy early mustard in zippy pestos, to spice up salads and add some flare to otherwise dull soups.


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Our greens have been up for weeks now and we have made regular batches of our favorite dandelion pesto.  It goes on everything from roasted potatoes to homemade pizza to spread for crackers.


Dock (Rumex crispus, R. occidentalis, R. obtusifolius)

We are still finding the tiny seeds tenaciously clinging to the dry, reddish brown stalks.  Look for them in overgrown fields. We used them recently in dock seed crackers, mixing about half  ground seeds and half rice flour.  Delicious with dandelion pesto!  The young leaves of dock should soon be emerging for salads or soups.  Keep your eyes open.


Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The needles or leaves are one of our favorite year-round teas.  While the new spring tips are often heralded, don’t forget how wonderful a cup of Vitamin C-rich Doug is on a cold winter evening!

For more detailed information on identification, harvesting techniques, and ethics as well as additional suggestions for preparations, here are some of our favorite foraging books.  We carry these books in our school store.  Please call our office (425.746.7267) or email ( to order.  We appreciate your support!

  1. Discovering Wild Plants, Janice Schofield Eaton
  2. The Forager’s Harvest, Samuel Thayer
  3. Nature’s Garden,Samuel Thayer
  4. The Boreal Herbal, Beverley Gray

Happy Foraging!

Forager’s Forecast

On the Horizon – Upcoming Classes

Some of our most popular classes are fast approaching this spring. They often fill to capacity, so if you are interested in signing up, please send in your application soon!

Twined Salla Bag

March 5 and 19, 2016 | $95 | Issaquah, WA

baskets 116

Description: Salla bags are soft-sided bags, woven with a unique full-turn twining method long practiced by Native Americans of the mid-Columbia River region. The bags were traditionally used for gathering roots, acorns and medicines. In this class, we continue exploring the techniques of full-turn twining as we create salla bags of our own.

Beautiful patterns emerge as students weave the sides of their bags with alternating colors of wool yarn. Students also prepare and use dogbane as one of their finishing rows. A false braided rim completes the basket. Finished bags measure about 5 x 7 inches and are completed in two classroom sessions held several weeks apart.

Note: Anyone wishing to repeat this class will be given an opportunity to create a new pattern called Spotted Fawn.

Course is two non-consecutive days with “homework” in-between.

Flintknapping: Techniques and Tool Kits

April 2, 2016 | $135 | Issaquah, WA

flintknapping 2010 042

Description: Early humans perfected the techniques of rock working to craft beautifully shaped and functional arrowheads, projectile points, spear points, and knife blades. Join this class and learn the techniques of making these extraordinary tools.

We demonstrate the entire process, beginning with material selection, spalling, and direct and indirect percussion flaking. In addition to learning the fine art of knapping stone, each student makes a tool kit including leather hand pad, “Ishi” stick, and flake tarp. These are yours so you can continue to refine your flintknapping techniques at home.

Wilderness Survival Skills

April 15-17, 2016 | $375 | Shelton, WA


Description: With the explosion in the number of “reality” survival shows, come learn what is real and what is not!  Learn to not only survive but also live comfortably in wilderness by learning the foundation skills to keep you alive. In this information- filled weekend, you learn the essential skills of shelter building, safe water collecting, fire by friction, and harvesting wild edible plants. Nature awareness, cordage from natural fibers, and the use of rocks as tools are also covered.

If you are interested in becoming more comfortable and self-sufficient in the wilderness, or want to experience the magic of your first bow and drill fire, this hands-on weekend is for you.  This program makes a great refresher course for those who wish to review their wilderness survival skills.

Students camp on-site.  Cost includes all meals.


On the Horizon – Upcoming Classes

Staying Warm and Dry

We are excited to host an intern this late winter and spring!  Erik Rasmussen is completing his bachelor of science degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism at the University of Utah and is the author of this post.

Being warm and dry while camping are two of the most essential things to remain happy and keep a positive mental attitude (PMA) in the back country. If you or your participants get wet or cold, their enthusiasm will drop and the fun factor of the trip can potentially drop. The best way to not let that happen is to prepare to be warm and dry which means looking at a weather forecast and bringing appropriate clothing. It will also help to know your area so you can foresee what kind of changes may occur while you are out there. For instance, coastal regions tend to be windier and foggier while deserts are hotter and drier.

Clothing is your first form of shelter so make sure it is appropriate for your trip. Wool is a natural material that will keep you warm even when you are wet. Down or synthetic polyester “puffy coats” do a great job of insulating your body heat unless you get them wet. Gore Tex is a great water resistant fabric that will keep you dry but may not insulate you. Look at the tag and do your research; clothing is a very important tool and some jackets may have a combination of technologies in them.

There are also a variety of shelters we sleep in: campers, tents, tarps or debris huts. Setting up whatever kind of shelter you prefer is the first thing you should do when you get to your camping area. Take the time to make sure it is set up well so that you only have to adjust it slightly if it starts to rain. It should be strong enough to withstand high winds, heavy rain and possibly snow. Having a dry warm place to go is a must, both for safety and for comfort reasons. Even if you do get wet and cold, having a safe place to go to warm or dry out can save the trip.


Fire is a friend that will help to keep you warm and dry throughout. Use lighters, matches, flint and steel or fire drills to get the fire going. Spend time gathering dry firewood of all sizes. Do not get wet or green wood because it will not keep you as warm or dry. Set up your fire in such a way that it can warm both you and your shelter. A good way to do this is to build a reflector on the opposite side of you/your shelter in order to save heat. And pay attention to your body. If you notice your extremities losing heat, spend time warming up around the fire. While you are at it, you may as well dry out your clothing around it, too.


Remember: to stay warm and dry, we need good preparation, good shelter, and a good fire.

Staying Warm and Dry

Wild Food Feast – Ethnobotany begins!

A wild food feast welcomed our new Ethnobotany students on February 3.  We ushered in this year’s apprentices with delectable offerings such as acorn muffins with rose petal jelly, dandelion pesto (of course) accenting roasted fingerling potatoes and coho salmon,  beet-pinkened camas bulbs, Navarro oysters with apricot-tamari dipping sauce and home-brewed dandelion wine.  We did indeed feast, and needed a nap afterwards!

We have been exploring taxonomy, assisted by a floral “peep show” to both lighten the subject and make it more memorable.

We also have learned to use a dichotomous key to identify Northwest trees and finished building individual plant presses in preparation for numerous field and foraging excursions on the horizon.

While this year’s program is already in full swing, you can reserve your place in next year’s program to join these informative (and life-changing!) adventures.  More information about our Ethnobotany program can be found at our website.


Wild Food Feast – Ethnobotany begins!

Coastal Clam Dig

Frank’s Path of the Hunter mentoring program returned from a wonderful weekend of coastal razor clam digging and surf fishing.  Pleasant winter weather at the beginning of January allowed for successful evenings on the beaches.

Lessons on razor clam cleaning followed the next day and we packed many clams for future meals.


Late mornings found us back at the beach, knee-high in surf casting for surf perch.

We couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

Surf perch – Path of the Hunter 2015
Coastal Clam Dig