Feathersticks or Shavings???

wood shavings next to a bushcraft knife

Nicole Breighner January 10, 2017

Should you be carving feather sticks or making shavings to help create a fire from the landscape?

Every woodsman has probably carved a few feathersticks, or at least attempted to, during their time in the woods.

Feather sticks seem to be the quintessential carving task for anyone involved in bushcraft but is this task something we, as woodsman, should really be worried about? Over the years I have had mixed emotions on the featherstick.

Benefits of Feathersticks

First, I believe that carving feathersticks is a great tool to teach and develop skills with your knife.  It allows individuals to practice knife saftey and also develop finesse with fine carving tasks.

Second, proper feather sticks aid tremedously in creating a sustainable fire and as a kindling source they are transportable.  Being able to carve without it having to touch wet damp ground makes them priceless in adverse conditions.

The Downside of Feathersticks

The downfall I see more than anything, with individuals carving feather sticks, is that through the learning process of developing high quality carvings their final product is poor.  This is not a problem unless we are carving these feather sticks to help sustain fire.  

Typically, poor quality feathersticks, have thick chunky feathers and are not carved enough leaving a thick inner base which does not burn just from the fire the feathers themselves create.  

Benefits of Shavings

On the other hand, we can look at shavings.  Shavings, simply feathersticks that the shaved feather piece of wood is totally removed from the stick, proves to be much more effective for beginner and intermediate level bushcrafters.  

Many individuals can makes these shavings much thinner and proper for sustaining fire.  

I believe this is due to the fact that the individuals simply only need to focus on one shaving a time.

The Downside of Shavings

The downfall of this method of course is that we need to collect these shavings onto something, especially if there are moisture or wet conditions.

Overall, feathersticks are a great training tool but shavings are just as valuable and the large majority of the time my go to option for creating kindling. Its quicker, more efficient, and simple.

Its a fire folks, not a beauty contest.