Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods

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by Todd Walker

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Image used with permission from the builder, Wiley Log Homes.

We built crude log forts in the woods growing up. They weren’t water tight or warm. The wind would cut through the muddle of sticks and threaten to take your hat off. Those were fun times. A bona fide log cabin was what I dreamed of then… and that dream remains.

At nearly my age (55), Dick Proenneke set out to live in a remote area of Alaska. For 30 years, he lived in a log cabin he built with his own hands. You can learn more of his remarkable legacy of self-reliance and conservation by watching the documentary, Alone in the Wilderness.

For those following my cabin project on my YouTube channel, I’m in the early stage of cutting and debarking logs. I don’t have the luxury of waiting a year or more for peeled logs to season. I could wait but patience isn’t one of my strong suits. I’ll build my little “practice” cabin with green logs. I’ve already been asked in video comments how long I’ll let my logs season before building.

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to use traditional saddle notches to connect corners. I may try my hand at saddle notches on cured/seasoned logs at some point. Until then, my research turned up a little-known (to me at least) construction method which uses green, unseasoned logs in construction. If you’re not familiar with this style, let me introduce you…

Butt and Pass Style Log Cabin

The advantages of using the butt and pass construction technique is it requires little in the way of tools and construction experience for a DiY log cabin builder. I’ve got plenty of construction experience and tools. My dilemma is that I have green logs and want to finish the cabin before the end of the school year. This no-scribe, no-notch method will speed up the construction process.

The top photo of this article is a butt and pass log home built by Wiley Log Homes. Ronnie, the owner, gave me permission to share a few of his beautiful handcrafted log homes here. I hope to have a few shots of my own cabin corners soon. Until then, take a look at the corners of these Wiley Log Homes.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This cabin has a stone basement.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Five foot eves help keep water off the logs.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A good shot of the butt and pass corner style.

No matter what method is used green logs will shrink. However, with tight-pinned butt and pass construction, settling will only happen if the foundation/piers are not properly formed. With each course of logs, holes are drilled through the top log through the bottom log. A length of 1/2″ rebar is driven through the logs (tight-pinned) about every two feet. As the green logs cure and shrink, the logs shrink around their center line. The gaps between the logs increase but the wall height remains the same. Touching up the chinking over the first few years will have to happen as the logs cure, so I’ve read.

Self-Reliance on Trial

I plan to build my cabin with hand tools only. That’s a tall order especially when I have power tools at my disposal. The pioneer method doesn’t trump someone who chooses to use power tools. I have a comfortable home and don’t “need” this cabin. But somewhere, back in my deeper, primal self, I want this cabin, if for nothing more than to put my self-reliance on trial. Who knows, I may not make it through the project using just hand tools. Either way, this project has been brewing in my gut for years and feels good to take the first step.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My cousin said this to me after he saw the first logs de-barked. “Hardest step is the first one. I’ve been told this but usually by someone who ain’t doing the stepping.” ~ Tim Hester. This is a photo of Dick Proenneke peering out of his cabin door (Image credit: National Park Service)

I’ve only bucked and de-barked one pine tree so far. My first attempt at skinning logs was with a draw knife. The tool peeled bark really well but would not be a sustainable method for this old man. I needed a method where I’m not bent over scraping with pine sap flying in my face. Enter the tile scraper. I ground the edge on this old long-handled tool and it’s a far cry better than my draw knife on my back. I’ve been using it like a draw knife, scraping long strips of bark off the length of the logs, but will try peeling whole sections off logs by prying around the round part of the log. Not sure how well this will work since the sap is not rising like in spring time.

Another hand-tool concerns that comes to mind is boring holes to accept the rebar pins. Twisting a half-inch auger through logs can’t be easy. Yet another challenge will be transporting 12 and 14 foot logs to the build site in the woods. I won’t be able to split them in half or into rails the way I did in last year’s Axe Cordwood Challenge. I need draught horses, or oxen. Seriously!

Progress Report

To keep up with the log cabin journey, I’ve created a playlist on my channel titled, Log Cabin Build. Most are mine but a few are of Dick Proenneke’s cabin. I’ll also be updating here on the blog.

This is the last video in the log cabin series. I traded my draw knife for a DiY bark spud…

With only one day per week to work on the cabin, progress is slow. Winter break should offer a few extra work days. Below are some photos of my progress.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A storm blow-over bucked and ready for de-barking.

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two debarked logs.

After the first two logs, I mentioned in my video about the fun you can have debarking logs. In honor of Tom Sawyer’s fence white washing pitch, I had a buddy and his son show up to my first Barking Party. Evan Newsom, first picture below, was the first to party on!

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tom Sawyer would be so proud!

I even have my school students convinced…

Self-Reliance on Trial: Using Hand Tools to Build a Log Cabin in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Introduced students at RISE to the draw knife. They have acquired a liking for this tool.

Sure appreciate having the physical health to be able to attack this pioneer project. It will take longer to construct using hand tools. Patience may become a strong suit of mine after all is said and done.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

25 DIY Weekend Preparedness Projects

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25 DIY Weekend Preparedness Projects What are you doing with your time? Huh? How much time do you spend doing the things you like and how much time do you spend doing the things you need to be doing? A lot of the reason why people waste time is because they have not set up …

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Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture 

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by Todd Walker

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Five years ago, I built Dirt Road Girl an eight foot farmhouse table from dimensional lumber. It served our family well but was really too large for our dinning room. It had a tendency to bruise unsuspecting thighs. For Christmas, a smaller, less aggressive piece of furniture was in order.

From Tree to Table

My nephew, Blake, showed me a standing dead cedar on our family land last year. Easy access since it was just past a field’s edge. Just after Thanksgiving I made the trip south to cut and haul the tree home. I was disappointed after it was on the ground. The trunk was hollow a good portion of the widest table-top material. After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided to buck it anyway and hope to get enough useable live-edge slabs. With the help of two other nephews, Kyle and Casey, the trailer was loaded and headed north.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Barbed wire strands ran through this old cedar on our family farm.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Visited with Mama and Daddy for a while and hauled hollow log back home.

Mill Work

You either pay with time or money when milling lumber. My Alaska chainsaw mill demands a lot of elbow grease and belt sanding to achieve a smooth surface on lumber. By the first of December I realized I’d better spend some money to save time. My buddy up the street gave me a lead on a man with a large bandsaw mill. Boy, was that mill fancy! It quickly sliced up two-inch thick slabs from three logs like cutting through hot butter. And the surfaces would need only minor sanding.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This is a $50,000 machine. Too rich for my blood but milled up my logs in no time!

Note: Sawn and sanded red cedar may smell delightful, but breathing it has been linked to ill effects on lungs. Wear appropriate respirators or dust masks when working with red cedar.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Finding four useable boards from a hollow tree was a challenge.

Sizing up my slabs, I knew I’d have to use the lumber or find and fell a tree with a solid trunk. No time for that. Dirt Road Girl and I chose what we thought would be best for her new table. I went to work figuring out how to fill the holes and save the character of this cedar on our family farm.

Ripping Live Edge Lumber

My tree wasn’t near wide enough to use only one slab as the table top. I would need four boards, two outside with a live edge, and two square edge boards joined in the middle.

How do you rip a straight line on boards without one side being square? My table saw died but wouldn’t be much good anyway squaring live edge sides. A square side is needed to run along the fence of a table saw. My solution? I laid a seven-foot straight edge (aluminum square stock) on the slab and eyeballed where the square edge should be cut. I marked the cut line and then clamped the aluminum straight edge 1 and 3/16th inches off the line which would put the blade of my circular saw on the cut line. Ripping commenced.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Straight edges ripped on the lumber.

With at least one square edge on each of the four boards, I marked the ends using a framing square and cut the boards six feet long. A two foot level was clapped on the ends with the same offset described in ripping to ensure a clean cut. You could freehand the cut if you’re that good with a saw. I prefer using a fence to keep it square.

I also ripped more slabs for the table legs. Each of the legs and cross supports was cut with one live edge intact. Again, I used the eyeball method and the straight edge. The leg lumber turned out about 3.5 inches wide by two inches.

Joining the Table Top

My trusty Kreg Jig is meant to be used on 1.5 inch lumber or smaller. My boards were 2 inches thick. I monkeyed around with the jig to modify it for 2 inch boards. I used the longest pocket screws, meant for 1.5 lumber, which worked fine on all the glued joints. I tested the pocket joinery on two scrap pieces beforehand.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A view of the bottom side glued, screwed, and clamped.

Once the top is glued and screwed, you’ll need clamps to hold it all together. I used two pipe clamps and a vintage bar clamp to squeeze the top together overnight. The next morning I hit the top with my belt sander – 80 grit and then 120. To remove bark from the live edges, I use a side grinder with a wire wheel. I do this on my cedar benches as well. Then I use an orbital sander to smooth up scratches left by the wire brush.

Table Frame

This step is a simple “H” frame. You could go fancy but simple suits DRG. I secured a cedar 2×4 (all sides squared) about a foot in from both ends under the table. These pieces served as cleats to attach the legs and frame.

Flip the table over with the bottom up. Saw horses are helpful. We wanted a 30 inch high table. I cut four legs 28 inches each. Use a framing square to plumb each leg. I glued and screwed the legs to the ends of the 2×4 cleats with the live edge facing the ends of the table. No Kreg Jig pocket holes needed on these joints since they’re hidden under the table.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple H frame attached for legs.

Add two cross pieces (live edge up) between each pair of legs. Pocket holes and screws were facing toward the middle of the table and filled with glue and wood pegs. They were secured about 12 inches from the bottom of the legs. Just make both match on each set of legs.

Next, I centered the long crossbar on both of the previously installed cross pieces, checking for plumb legs again. Drill pocket holes, glue, and screw. Leave live edge facing up when table is set on the floor.

By the way, it’s easier to sand the “H” frame before installation. You can go back and sand pocket wood plugs flush after the glue dries.

Hole Filler Fiasco 

What a horror story. I didn’t do my homework on hole fillers. I read somewhere that epoxy will do the trick. My idea was to fill the holes with clear epoxy. Gorilla Brand epoxy, the kind with two push syringes, don’t dry clear – no matter what it says on the package. Actually looked like puss in a wound. I discovered this disturbing fact after stripping the shelves clean in our little town of the stuff and filling holes and crevasses. Stupid of me not to test it on scrap wood. I was sick and told DRG that I might have to go find another cedar tree to mill. Time was running out in Santa’s workshop.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Remnants of painters tape outlining ‘clear’ Gorilla epoxy.

To remove the nastiness which had bonded in every nook and cranny, I spent the day with a heat gun and a variety of paint scrapers whittling and digging “puss” from this beautiful wood. Crank the heat gun on high and keep the heat moving over the target area. When warmed/hot, epoxy will turn loose with some determined coaxing.

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This paint scraper has multiple heads and sizes which came in handy.

Table Top Finish

After fixing the fiasco, I purchased a self-leveling epoxy called Glaze Coat. By now I was apprehensive as to how any product would work. Some of the knot holes went all the way through the table top. The live edge could not be boarded to allow a pour like one might do on a rectangular bar top. One table end presented a couple of crevasses which I attached boards to using painters tape and waxed freezer paper. This would hopefully dam up the epoxy until it sets.

I followed the detailed instructions on the box for mixing. Poured epoxy into all holes and prayed it would set clear. I waved my heat gun over the pours to release trapped air bubbles which form in the mixing process.

The next morning all was good. The clear epoxy revealed all the interior details of the holes and highlighted the character of this old cedar tree. My attention was now directed to raised areas where I had poured.

Since I couldn’t fence in liquid epoxy on a live edge table to cover the raised epoxy over the holes, I hesitantly decide to sand the areas flat along with the table end. The progression went from 80 grit to 400 on my belt and orbital sanders. From there I used 600, 1,000, and finally, 1,500 grit on hand-held drywall sanders – the same grits I use to sharpen my axes. It was a tedious process of replacing sets of scratches until the surface was clear. It worked.

Wipe all dust from the table with a damp rag a few times before starting the next step…

Pouring a 1/8th inch layer of epoxy on the top, as recommended in the instructions, was not an option for live edges. I bought the cheapest “nice” oil brush as a sacrificial applicator. Chip brushes will shed bristles. Mix another batch of epoxy and bush a thick coat on the table top. The product is self-leveling so brush strokes will flatten. This top coat blended in well with the epoxied holes and made the colors pop!

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Merry Christmas, Dirt Road Girl!

Apply a coat on the live edges while your brushing. Obviously, you’ll want a drop cloth under your project. Be vigilant as the top coat levels over the live edges. Blend any runs/drips on the live edges with a brush. You’ll have about a 30 minute time frame as the top coat levels and sets. In the meantime, use a heat gun or propane torch to remove air bubbles on the top coat.

As a side note, one of the holes, not completely patched from underneath, dripped a 12 inch pool of epoxy on my uncovered shop floor. Let it dry and scrape it up the next day. It’ll break up by chiseling under the edges.

For the “H” frame legs, I bushed a few coats of polyurethane left over from my cedar bench projects. I’ve never been so relieved to have a project completed. What matters most was that Dirt Road Girl was happy, too!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods

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by Todd Walker

how-to-craft-a-base-camp-bucksaw-in-the-woods-thesurvivalsherpa-com

My regret is that I didn’t watch more quality YouTube videos on my journey of self-reliance. There’s a sea of regurgitated material out there, and, sadly, few quote their sources of knowledge. My latest project was inspired by watching Kelly Harlton build a bucksaw with Mors Kochanski on Randy Breeuwsma’s channel, Karamat Wilderenss Ways.

For larger cutting tasks at base camp, a bucksaw is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The 21 inch takedown bucksaw I built from scrap dimensional lumber is portable but usually hangs on my shop wall. I needed a dedicated base camp saw stowed away in my shelter.

My first foray into bucksaw building in the woods was a wobbly failure several years ago. The crossbar/upright union was the weak point. Kelly’s design fixed all that. Thank you, Kelly!

Base Camp Bucksaw

Material and Tools

  • Knife
  • Ax
  • Rope
  • Wood
  • Saw Blade
  • Hardware – two bolts, screws, nails, or key chain rings

Step 1: Collect Wood

An abundance of dead cedar surrounds my base camp. A green sapling will work just as well. I used cedar. For the uprights, cut two wrist-size (or slightly smaller) sections measuring elbow-to-finger-tip (approximately 18 inches). The crossbar should be of similar diameter and slightly longer than your saw blade. You will cut this piece to exact length later.

Remove any bark from your chosen wood. The dead cedar I used had only small amounts left. I scraped it off with the spine of my knife and added the “waste” to my tinder pile in the shelter.

Step 2: Prepare the Uprights

Lay the two uprights side by side and compare any bow in the pieces. I purposely used two cedar uprights with slight bows. The concave sides should face each other or inward.

Once aligned, baton your knife down the center end of the upright until a split is created to accept your saw blade. Don’t split too deep or the upright will become two pieces. Repeat this step on the other upright making sure the splits are on the same plane as the previous one.

Carve a shallow V-notch perpendicular to each split at the base of each upright. The notch will allow the bolts or other hardware to seat securely against the wood when sawing.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I recommend carving the notch after you check to see how far the saw blade fits inside the split. My first notch is pictured too far above the bolt.

Now you’ll carve down the sides of both uprights to create a 90 degree corner which faces inward. Only whittle away enough wood to make a sharp corner so that the wood is not weakened. This corner should run from a few inches above the blade to over halfway up each upright. Take care to keep the corner edges in line with the blade splits.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Whittle away to form a 90 degree corner

Step 3: Attach Saw Blade

Insert the saw blade into each split on the uprights. Use your knife to open the split slightly to start the blade if need be. Once the saw blade is inserted into both uprights, attach hardware through the holes in your saw blade. Place one upright on the ground while holding the other upright and blade vertical. Step on the bottom upright and tug to tighten the hardware against both uprights.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Lay the saw on the ground and align the uprights perpendicular to the blade.

Step 4: Prepare the Crossbar

Place the crossbar across the uprights to form an H pattern in the middle of the uprights. With one end aligned at the midpoint of one upright, mark and cut the crossbar to length at the midpoint of the other upright.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Leave the crossbar longer than needed until final measurements.

Next, carve away each end of the crossbar to form a tapering wedge shape. Leave about 3/8th of an inch on the end of the wedge. If using green wood, a knife works fine. I used my ax on the seasoned cedar to expedite the trimming. Again, take your time and keep both crossbar end wedges on the same plane. They should appear identical or very close once carved.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of the wedged ends of the crossbar.

At the ends of each wedge, carve a 90 degree notch. Again, on softer, green wood, a knife will carve the notch just fine. On seasoned cedar, I used my small saw on my Leatherman tool to remove the bulk of the notch and tweaked them with my knife for final fitting.

Test the fit by placing the crossbar between the uprights. The corner notches should mate without gaps at the union points. If not, trim until they do.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Spaces between these two pieces will cause instability.

Step 5: Make the Rope Windlass

Cut and smooth two paddle sticks about 8 inches long which will be used to tighten the windlass ropes. Set aside for now.

Wrap a length of cordage around the two uprights. Tie the ends of the cords with a secure knot to form a loop. Rope with little to no elasticity is ideal. I didn’t have “ideal” so I used 550 paracord. You’ll need two of these loops so repeat this process.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Place one end of a loop near the top of one upright and move the other end to down the opposite upright near the crossbar. Repeat this with the other loop of cord to form an X-shape of rope between the uprights. Make a note of where the loop ends will rest. Now carve shallow notches at those locations where the loops will rest once tightened.

Step 6: Assemble the Saw

Insert a paddle stick between one set of loop cords. Rotate the paddle until slight tension is created. Repeat this process in the other loop cord. Continue spinning the paddles alternately until the saw blade is tight as a hat band. Note: Kelly used smaller paddle sticks on his saw in the video which didn’t stop on the crossbar but on the opposite loop cords. I tried this method and found, due to the length of my saw blade maybe, I needed longer paddles to create more tension. My paddles held tension by resting on the crossbar.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fully assembled and ready to go.

The crossbar can be adjusted with a few taps to help square the H frame after tensioning the saw. You can also adjust the saw’s throat depth by bumping the crossbar up or down the corner notches on the uprights.

Put finishing chamfer cuts on all the upright ends and you’re ready for some serious sawdust. This 36 inch bucksaw may be overkill for my woodcutting needs in our mild Georgia winters. Still, I think it will come in handy for the log cabin project floating amongst my gray matter.

Below is Karamat Wilderness Ways video of Kelly Harlton’s H bucksaw…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016

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by Todd Walker

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016 ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This question haunts my mind with each passing year…

Is it possible, at my age, to write my first book?

This week marks 5 years since starting this little blog. Writing for me has been a series of absurd events. C-minuses in all my college english classes, all of which I was super proud to earn, is a poor indicator for a future book-writer. Still, I write words and sentences but couldn’t diagram one if a gun were held to my head.

My English professors would be shocked, almost as much as I am, to find 550 articles penned here. There’s gotta be a book floating in this ocean of words somewhere! Mustering the grit to organize them will be my challenge.

Until then, I’ve listed our 7 best articles from 2016. I’m always interested in which articles add value on your journey of self-reliance (as well as the ones I should have canned).

Our Top 7 Articles of 2016

A) The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance

Dial back to the golden age of camping and woodcraft and you’ll find that the knives of Nessmuk, Kephart, Seton, and Miller played an essential role in all their tramping and wilderness adventures. This simple machine (wedge) was a value-adding tool for, not only survival, but for camp comforts and wilderness living skills.

B) Off-Grid Winch: Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope

In an emergency vehicle kit, weight and space are not an issue – unless you scoot around in a Smart Car. For this winch, all you need are two logs and some rope.

C) How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

In this article, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

D) How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles

What if you needed to ford a river, build a fence, or erect a foot bridge over a creek in the woods? I’ve never seen any of my woodsmen friends pull out a 100 foot measuring tape from their pack. But you can get an accurate estimation of width without a measuring device. We use this method with our 8th grade math students as a hands-on learning opportunity.

E) How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log (Rope Vise Plans Included)

One tool my semi-permanent base camp shelter was missing is a dedicated carving bench. Add this to my Paring Ladder, and a future pole lathe, and my non-electric shop in the woods will be fully functional.

F) A Beginner’s Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft

Bushcraft encompasses a deep and wide field of knowledge. For the beginner, information overload has the real possibility of stopping you before you can even start this new hobby. To avoid bloated bushcraft, build a firm foundation by developing these two core skills outlined in this article.

G) Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Carry Around Your Waist

There are many scenarios where you may be separated from your backpack and gear. Tipping a canoe or tumbling down a ravine come to mind. These types of accidents can quickly relieve you of the gear which makes for a comfortable wilderness outing. Having essential gear in your pockets and attached to your belt could turn your luck around, and, not being overly dramatic here, could literally save your life.

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016 ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The best snow globe ever!

Thanks for taking the time to read the stuff! Dirt Road Girl and I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and healthy and productive new year!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

The Alpha Survivalist: An Eighth Grader Doing the Stuff

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by Todd Walker

The Alpha Survivalist: An Eighth Grader Doing the Stuff ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

What makes my day as a school teacher is watching a student, previously lost like a ball in high weeds, finally have an “Ah Ha” moment. Their eyes light up and I give them a fist bump. These little specks of light brighten my world.

Speaking of bright spots, you have no idea how excited I am as an eighth grade teacher to discover an eighth grade student busy Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance!

The great aim of self-reliance is not knowledge, but doing.

And doing is what Corton is about. He documents his journey on The Alpha Survivalist with some pretty amazing projects. On the phone, Cort told me his love for the outdoors fueled his interested in survival and self-reliance. Living near Blairsville, GA, he’s had the opportunity to learn from Alan Kay, winner of History’s season 1 “Alone.” His mom says that they can’t keep the boy out of the woods.

Cort "skinning the cat"

Cort “skinning the cat”. Some of you country folk are familiar with this game. (Photo courtesy – The Alpha Survivalist)

Note: All photos are used with permission from The Alpha Survivalist. 

My conversation with Cort reminded me of my childhood. He and his brother spend time building forts, woods running, and climbing trees. One of his shelters is very impressive. Inside he hand-crafted a primitive stove, chimney included, using clay dug from their basement. A mini Mors Kochanski super shelter will keep his raised bed warm well below freezing.

Even ol' Nessmuk would be proud to "smooth it" in this shelter!

Even ol’ Nessmuk would be proud to “smooth it” in this shelter! The plastic sheeting (pictured right) is his super shelter.

Each clay brick was formed by hand and placed one level at a time and dried by the fire.

Each clay brick was formed by hand and placed one level at a time to be dried by the fire.

Displaying his resourcefulness, Cort crafted his own ax handle from a dogwood limb… then proceeded to make the ax sheath from, get this, duct tape and an old sock! Pure genius! Real-world experience teaches more than words on a page.

Add this to another use for good old duct tape!

Add this to another use for good old duct tape!

Cort’s parents are raising their boys right. In today’s “selfie” culture, I could tell from our brief phone conversation that this young man had been taught to respect others and not be the center of the universe. His home-education is paying dividends beyond book smarts.

In the near future, I hope to have a face to face with Cort and smell the wood smoke rising from his primitive stove. Be sure to check out his journey on his blog, The Alpha Survivalist. I guarantee you’ll be encouraged and learn a thing or two!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds

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by Todd Walker

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp.  ~ Warren H. Miller, 1915

Over years of wild camping I’ve learned just how little one needs to be happy in the woods. But a permanent campsite… oh the comforts to be contrived!

Walking through the beech trees and white oaks, I hop rocks across the creek. Then it happens. My soul smiles with every arrival at base camp. My home away from home is a laboratory for adventure and self-reliance skills. More importantly, it’s my place of comfort in the woods!

A few items I find essential for comfort are listed below…

Top Base Camp Comforts

1.) Shelter

Instead of pitching a tent or hanging a hammock, a semi-permanent shelter was needed. Constructed from natural materials (except for the repurposed billboard roof and bank line), it’s large enough to sleep in with room for storage. At both ends of my raised canvas cot, there’s ample room for laying in a good supply of firewood, tools, and gear.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The foot of my raised canvas cot

Speaking of firewood…

2.) Sawbuck

Using a plumber’s vise is effective for sawing wrist-size saplings in the field. My daddy taught me this technique when cutting pipe in his plumbing business. For right-handers, place the stick of wood in the bend of your left knee. Kneel on your right knee so the stock rests on your right thigh. This posture holds the wood in place firmly freeing both hands for sawing to the side of your body.

However, when processing larger rounds, a sturdy base camp sawbuck is indispensable.

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sawing firewood on this camp sawbuck

Here’s an interesting factoid about why the ten-dollar bill became known as a “sawbuck” in slang terminology. The Roman numeral for 10 being “X”, this reminded old timers of the two X’s used at the ends of saw horses.

3.) Camp Kitchen

“A fellow who cannot throw a flapjack is sadly lacking in the skill one expects to find in a real woodcrafter.” ~ Daniel Carter Beard

A seasoned woods cook will have an open fire lit in short order. Flapjack batter turns golden brown as the smell of freshly brewed coffee and salt cured bacon mingle.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Time to eat!

The plywood camp house situated near the dam of our family lake is long gone. The memories and the aroma of Uncle Otha cooking over an open fire with heirloom cast iron is as vivid today as they were 45 years ago. Truer words can not be found than in one of Mr. Kephart’s quotes, “A good cook makes a contented crew.”

A permanent camp kitchen, like modern ovens and ranges at home, becomes the center piece of camp life. The cooking fire is that hub. I personally find a raised horizontal surface indispensable. My camp countertop, a split cedar log resting on two cedar rails lashed between trees, keeps cooking utensils and ingredients off the ground.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cooking rice, grilling steak, and baking muffins on one campfire

A few carved pot hooks hung from a horizontal sapling (waugan) allows heat regulation when cooking coffee or simmering stew over an open fire. A solid tripod is another option for hanging pots over a fire.

4.) Paring Ladder

This simple device adds a “third hand” when using a draw knife to shape wood or remove bark.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The paring ladder in action

While I use it for its intended purpose, it also makes a fine camp chair. Secure a wool blanket or cargo net to a rung and loop the blanket around another pole near the bottom for lounging.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp comfort!

It also makes a great drying rack for wet gear and clothing. The ladder is lightweight and easy to move from one tree to the next.

The beauty of building these camp comforts is that few tools are required. A knife, ax/hatchet, saw, and cordage are about all you’ll need to contrive ways to make yourself comfortable in the woods.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has chanced. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark

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by Todd Walker

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Containers made from tree bark existed long before plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and canvas haversacks came about. With every trek in the woods, I find useful resources. That glob of pine sap, stones, bones, or wood somehow ends up going home with me (much to the chagrin of Dirt Road Girl).

It’s a condition which I wish to never be cured.

Scott Jones sums up this affliction with this quote in his book, Postcards to the Past

“The Eskimo say that only a fool comes home empty handed!

~ Lewis Binford, in Looking at Currated Technologies – 1979

If you suffer from this same condition, you’ll need a something to transport your found treasures back home or to your camp. While any container will usually work, nothing compares to a handcrafted bark container for both functionality and aesthetics for us out of doors types.

Traditional Berry Buckets

The best time to harvest tree bark is when the sap is rising in late spring and early summer. I know, I meant to post this tutorial in June. You’ll have to wait a few months to skin a tulip tree ((Liriodendron tulipifera). So bookmark this one for when the sap starts to rise again. 

Material and Tools

  • Knife – about all you really need
  • Ax or saw if you plan to fell a tree
  • Awl or drill
  • Cordage
  • Tulip Poplar tree
  • Rim wood
How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Very few tools are needed for bark containers

Find the Right Tree

Tulip Poplar is a fast growing (soft) hardwood with many uses in the southeastern United States. Other candidates for bark containers include; basswood, cedar, white birch (which we don’t have in Georgia), and others.

You’ll know you’re barking up the tree at the wrong time once you’ve attempted to peel the bark off. If the sap isn’t rising, the bark won’t come off easily. I look for young tulip poplar trees growing under dense canopies. They tend to grow straight with fewer lower limbs and have thinner bark. A 6 to 7 inch diameter tree is ideal.

To fell or not to fell… that is the question. I’ve done both. For smaller containers like my knife sheath, I simply cut a patch of bark off the tree. You’d think completely girdling around would doom a tree to death. However, as a test this past spring, I removed a section of bark from the entire circumference of a small tulip tree (5 inches in diameter) and it still has its green leaves in early October. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is similarly resilient tree.

Score and Skin

Score the bark down to the sapwood with a knife or hatchet. I use a solid stick to strike the back of the blade after a free-hand score mark has been applied to the bark.

Once scored, press the tip of your knife into one corner and lift to separate the outer and inner bark from the sapwood. From that point, I use a wedged stick to run along the edge to loosen and lift the bark. With a gap created, you can use your fingers to further separate the bark from the tree. Warning: There are little spikes under the bark which will draw blood. Go slow and be careful bare handed. Gloves are recommended, but I enjoy the texture and feel of wet sap and bark.

If harvesting large quantities from felled trees, I use a wedged stick to separate bark instead of bare hands. When you’re near the point of full separation, you’ll know the bark is free when you hear a distinctive, satisfying snap sound.

Cut to Length

Place the bark flat on a level surface and cut to length. The length of bark should be a bit over double the intended height of your bucket. Trim all edges smooth to create a long rectangle.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bark length should be double that of the intended height of your container

Score a Football

With the outer bark facing up, measure and mark the mid-point of each long side of the rectangle. Use your knife to score an arch which runs from side to side. Repeat this step to form a football shape on the outer bark. Be careful to not cut through the inner bark. This layer of bark acts as a hinge when folding the basket sides together. When scoring in my shop, I use a utility knife with a about 1/8 inch of blade.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The size of the “football” determines the opening size at the top

Turn the bark over with the inner bark facing up. Place your hand on the middle of the bark and gently pull one long end to a vertical position. Now fold the other side. Your berry bucket is taking shape.

Bore Edge Holes

Use an awl or drill to bore a line of holes on both edges of the bucket. The spacing is up to you. I usually leave an inch and half to two inches between holes which are placed about 1/2  to 1 inch from the edge. The hole diameter should be large enough to accept your cordage/lacing.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My friend, James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge), traded this handmade awl to me

Lace Edges

Artificial sinew makes strong lacing. It can be purchased online or at craft stores. I’ve also used tarred bank line, leather, and a few other types of string. The artificial sinew can be threaded into a leather stitching needle to make quick work on this part of the project. I’ve seen some buckets laced with other inner barks like hickory (Carya).

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stitching the river cane handle into the sides of DRG’s berry bucket

Note: As the bark dries, it will shrink and the lacing may need to be re-tightened.

Start lacing at the bottom edge near the football cut with the edges joined together. Tie off with a simple overhand knot and run the stitching up the edge. Make a pattern if you like. Secure the lace at the top of both seams.

Add a Rim

Cut a flexible stick long enough to form a rim around the top opening of your bucket. I like to use two thin strips of white oak about the size of a hardware store paint stirrer. Thinned enough, they flex just right and add a little contrast. The rim will prevent the bark from curling in as it dries.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A white oak rim to finish off the bucket

Bore another series of holes along the rim edge. Place the rim wood pieces on the edges and lace them in as you did the sides. Leave enough lacing on both ends to make loops if you plan to add a carry handle made of rope. If you’re using two rim pieces like mine, you’ll need to bore holes in the ends to tie them together to hold the form you want.

I made a handle out of river cane for Dirt Road Girl’s berry bucket. It hangs in the living room with dried flowers as a conversation piece. Looks pretty too!

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This one will probably never transport berries… imagine that

Other Bark Containers

Once you’ve made one berry bucket, you’ll want more. With a bit of creativity and imagination, you can begin making many functional and aesthetically pleasing alternative containers from tree bark.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

An arrow quiver made from tulip poplar bark

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Neck sheath for one of my Mora knives

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has chanced. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Primitive Preps: Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle

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by Todd Walker

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Having items in your pack which serve more than one function reduces weight and increases resourcefulness. I’ve written about this multifunctional-mindset with modern equipment here. The concept is far from modern. Otzi the Ice Man carried multifunctional primitive tools over 5,300 years ago.

Here’s our experimental archeology project…

Multifunctional Spindles

How many redundant uses can we find for a hand drill spindle other than its primary use… friction fire embers?

If you have access to river cane, one spindle becomes multifunctional:

  • Friction Fire
  • Primitive Drill
  • Container

Friction Fire

Finding dry, straight wood long enough for a spindle in the field is challenging. Sticks in the 4 to 6 inch range is more likely. They don’t even have to be straight to be used as a friction fire fore shaft in a cane spindle. A quick whittling job will make them fit.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Burning in the hearth board with the wooden fore shaft stub.

To make the multifunctional spindle, straighten a section of river cane to your desired length in the 1/2 to 5/8 inch diameter range. Make two splits on one end perpendicular to one another just above the end node. Wrap the split with sinew with about a half-inch of split cane extending past the wrap. These four split sections will grip the fore shaft stubs as collets would on a brace and bit.

In my experience, simply carving or abrading the fore shaft in a cone shape is enough to create a tight friction fit in the spindle. However, carving an elongated pyramid shape (similar to brace and bit augers) on the fore shaft would add extra bite inside the collet grooves.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Similar gripping mechanics as the brace and bit

Primitive Drill

I discovered a gold mine of quartz crystals in a store in downtown Athens, GA. With this project in mind, I bought several in different sizes. A few are now stowed in my haversack for primitive skills tasks.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Quartz crystal secured in the spindle

If you can’t locate crystals for purchase, a bit of bipolar percussion can create serviceable drill tip. Use a hammer stone and strike the top of a smaller pebble until it shatters. With any luck you’ll have a sharp drill tip and no bludgeoned knuckles. If not, keep smashing rock and you’ll likely get both.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bipolar percussion in action at Workshops at the Woods

Insert your drill tip in the spindle and spin it on your hearth board to drill a perfectly round pivot hole. One or two passes with your hands on the spindle should work depending on the hardness of your hearth material. The trumpet vine I used in the video below is soft which makes it an excellent hearth board.

For more robust wood, or even other rock or shells, craft a spindle which can be used in a bow drill set. The end of the river cane spindle which meets the bearing block would need a carved hardwood plug to mate with the bearing block socket. More downward pressure and speed can be applied with a bow drill set than hand drill. Plus, you’ll save the skin on your hands.

Container

Leave enough hollow shaft on the end of the cane opposite the drilling end. While this chamber isn’t very large, repair needles, charred material, or other small items can be stored inside. Whittle a cap to plug the open end. Another cap option is a larger diameter piece of cane with the node joint in place which slides over the open end.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A river cane vile pictured at top. Plugging the end of the spindle (bottom of photo) creates a container for small items.

I’ve given three uses for one spindle. What are some others you can share?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How to Straigthen, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts

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by Todd Walker

Atlatl Series (Part I) – Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower

Having built an atlatl in Part I, you now need to make a straight stick to launch. In this tutorial, we will make river cane atlatl darts from scratch. Even if you haven’t made an atlatl, primitive archery enthusiasts can use the same technique in arrow making by adjusting the nock end for a bow string.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Atlatl Darts

I was called out by a gentleman about using the term “spear-thrower” in the title of my first post on making atlatls. If you’ve read my article, you quickly find that the projectile thrown from an atlatl is a flexible dart. Spear conjures images of a caveman tossing a heavy, rigid sapling at prey or predator. Atlatls propel a light, flexible spear (dart). I often wonder about the paleo-genius who first discovered and leveraged this technology without the benefit of modern physics. He probably opened a cave classroom illustrating his invention on stone walls.

A month after my atlatl class with Scott Jones (Workshops at the Woods), he offered the companion class on making atlatl darts and arrows with his friend and fellow Georgian, Ben Kirkland. Both of these gentlemen are experts in primitive technology and excel in effectively sharing tribal knowledge.

River cane is said to be our modern day equivalent of plastic to indigenous tribes in the southeastern United States. Scott made several river cane practice darts for our class to throw. We added duct tape fletching which I’ve used before to make expedient arrow fletchings. Before adding feather fletchings, duct tape can be applied to test the dart’s flight. Satisfied with the performance of a dart, you can easily remove the tape and fletch the shaft with real feathers.

Heat and Bend…

No matter what material you choose for your shaft, straightening darts or arrows require heat – not by hanging them from barn rafters as Scott has been told by the uninitiated. His mantra on the laborious process is… “Get off your ass, go out and start a fire, and straighten your d*mned arrows.” On that 90 plus degree day in July, we built the fire and sweated to un-bend cane in pursuit of a straight dart.

Here’s what you’ll need to straighten shafts:

  • River cane
  • Leather gloves
  • Leather knee pad
  • Knife and/or fine-tooth saw
  • Fire

A roaring fire is not required to heat and bend shafts. In fact, I retreat to my shop in the Georgia heat and use my DIY Plumber’s Stove and/or a soldering torch. Call it cheating if you like, but I’ll take a cool shop with a small fire when straightening lots of shafts in the summer.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the cane moving through the flames

As for cane size, the large end (growth nearest the ground) should be approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. The small end will likely be about 1/4 to 3/8 inch (pencil-size) at about six to seven feet. The large end will be the forward end of your dart with the smaller end serving as the nock. Before cutting to length (6-7 feet), leave extra cane on both ends for gripping in the heat and bend process described below.

Take a seasoned length of river cane and remove the branches and leaf sheaths. I break off the branches with my hand in a swift, downward motion and carefully trim the stubs even with a sharp knife. Use of a thumb lever with your knife to gain needed control to prevent accidentally cutting into the shaft.

Now begins the repetitive process of heating and bending. Sight down the shaft to locate bends. Move the bent section of cane through the fire in a constant motion. How long? Until the area is evenly heated. Experience will be your best guide. Leather gloves are recommended.

Once heated, place a folded leather pad or insulation layer over your knee, apply gentle pressure to the bend in the same fashion you’d use to break a stick over your knee – only with less pressure. I found a slight rolling motion against the knee yields good results. Allow the heated shaft to set for a few seconds on the knee before checking for straightness. Sight for more bent areas and repeat… and repeat… and repeat… and… repeat. You’ll eventually create a straight dart if you stick with the process.

Cut Cane to Length

There are no set design formulas for atlatl dart lengths. The acceptable guideline from experienced dart-throwers is about three times the length of your atlatl.

Once you have a straight shaft, beaver-chew with a knife through the cane to prevent splitting. Beaver-chewing is to make a series of shallow cuts around the circumference at the cutoff point. Make a few passes until the cane easily snaps off. A fine tooth saw works as well.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Shirtless Scott Jones going the abo route and cutting cane by abrading with a stone. It was hot that day!

Leave enough hollow portion on the small end of the cane for a nock to mate with the spur end of your atlatl – 3/8 of an inch ought to do it. You can always take more stock off but can’t put more back on. Chamfer the inside of the nock with the tip of your knife to form a female funnel of sorts. Test the fit on your spur and tweak as needed to insure a solid fit. If you’re using a “quickie” bamboo atlatl described in Part I of this series, detailed attention to the nock is not as important.

Hafting Darts

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott preparing to haft a stone point.

On the business end of the dart (large end), leave enough cane (4-6 inches) past the last node joint to haft a point or insert a fore shaft. Another interesting technique Scott demonstrated for hafting was to use a short, larger diameter section of cane or bamboo with a stone point attached. This short female fore shaft is slipped over the outside of the shaft instead of being inserted into the hollow end of the dart as I had only ever witnessed.

Material and Tools

  • Points: Stone, bone, antler, hardwood, gar scale are good material
  • Glue: Pine pitch glue, hide glue, hot melt arrow point glue (commercially available), or a regular glue stick
  • Lashing: Animal sinew, artificial sinew, waxed thread, even dental floss will do
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Duct tape

To add forward weight to practice darts, several methods can be used without a permanent hafting job. This is where duct tape becomes your friend… again! Scott described the use of duct tape by primitive practitioners as “modern man’s rawhide.” Fill the hollow forward end with sand or BB’s and tape it closed. An old nail can also be inserted in the hollow and taped.

For permanent points hafted directly to the dart end, bore a 1/8 inch hole about half an inch from the end of the dart. Bore a second hole directly opposite and on the same plane as the first hole. With the tip of your knife inserted in one hole, cut toward the end of the cane. Cut until you’ve removed a straight section of the cane. Repeat on the opposite hole. Widen the section as needed to accept your chosen point. Dry fit the point and adjust the width. A gar scale may seat fine without widening the slot.

Once satisfied with the dry fit, heat your glue and apply a glob into the slot on the shaft. While the glue is hot and pliable, insert the point in the slot. Reheat over the fire if necessary to line up the point with the shaft.

Make a few wraps of sinew around the slot/point connection for a secure hold. Before applying the sinew, wet it thoroughly in your mouth with saliva. This moisture activates the natural glue in the fibers. No need to tie-off natural sinew. It will stick when applied and shrink as it dries. Hide glue can be applied to the wrap afterwards to add hold and prevent moisture from effecting the sinew. Other cordage material must be tied.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A dogwood fore shaft inserted in one of my atlatl darts

Adding a male fore shaft to the end of your dart requires less precision. Make two splits on the forward end of your dart in a cross hair configuration (perpendicular to one another). The splits should be about 1.5 to 2 inches in length. When wrapped with sinew, these splits will act as a grip on the fore shaft like a drill chuck on a drill bit. Scott noted that fore shafts are likely to split the end of your dart anyway. This method creates a controlled spit and added purchase.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A collection fore shafts at Scott’s class

Fore shafts can be carved from wood, bone, antler, or anything you can imagine. They need to be tapered to fit the end of your dart but not so much that the tip of the fore shaft contacts the end node of the shaft.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The long barbed point left of the stone points is a stingray barb which was used by aboriginal people in coastal areas.

Fletching Darts

Duct tape makes a field expedient and serviceable fletching. Tape two pieces to the nock end of your dart so that they stick to each other around the shaft. Trim the edges to shape and you have a fletched dart. If the dart performs well, leave the tape or remove it and use real feathers for the fletching.

Not all feathers are legal. Using eagle, hawk, owl – (raptors), or birds covered under the Federal Migratory Bird Act could land you in legal trouble with big fines. Here’s a link to get you started researching legal feathers.

In this tutorial, I’m using legally harvested wild turkey tail feathers. The method used is called Eastern Two Feather fletching.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ben Kirkland demonstrating the Eastern Two Feather fletching technique. Notice the two goose feathers attached at the nock end of his arrow.

Material and Tools

  • Feathers
  • Scissors or knife
  • Glue
  • Sinew

Use two feathers curved in the same direction. Make two cuts about an inch from the tip of the feather perpendicular to the feather shaft (rachis). If using scissors (which are recommended), cut in the direction from feather tip to the base of the feather. Cut in the opposite direction if using a sharp knife of flint flake.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cuts made for the Eastern Two Feather fletching.

Trim down both sides of the shaft to the previous cuts leaving only an inch or so of bare shaft. Now trim down both sides of the shaft leaving 3/4 inch of vane on both sides. Grip the inside curved vane (concave part) and strip towards the base so that about 2 inches of vane is left on the tip-end of shaft.

Measure the desired fletch length by placing the feather in your outstretched hand. Your length from the tip of your index finger to the inside of your thumb is a good length – about 5 inches give or take. Remove the portion of the long vane at that point by pulling toward the base.

With a sharp knife on the shaft at the point where the end of the short vane connects, make an angled cut to the center of the shaft. Carefully flatten your knife and cut down the center of the shaft through the hollow end of the feather. Cut the half-shaft off about one inch past the large vane.

One method of attaching the fletching is to bend the tip end of the feather shaft toward the outside of the feather. Unfold the stem and place it on the dart with the outside of the feather facing up and past the nock end of the dart. Heat the dart shaft area where the fletching will be attached. Apply a small amount of pitch glue on the shaft to hold the feather in place. Repeat this step for the second feather. The position of the fletching doesn’t need to line up on darts like they would on an arrow shaft’s nock. Just attach them directly opposite of each other near the nock end of the dart.

With the vanes temporarily attached, apply sinew wraps to hold permanently. Fold the feathers back over on top of the dart. Twist the fletchings 45 degrees around the dart shaft. This causes the feathers to spiral around the dart shaft. Pull the vane shafts tight and repeat the previous step to attach this end of the feathers.

Safety Note: When applying feathers to archery arrows, make sure the forward ends of the fletching are flattened and completely covered with sinew. Any exposed feather shaft will rip through your arrow rest (skin) on release causing much pain.

Making your own darts and arrows is a time-consuming journey. However, learning to reproduce a deadly primitive weapon from scratch is quite satisfying!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower

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by Todd Walker

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Somewhere down your family tree a spear-thrower used a simple, two-piece weapon to bring home the bacon… or wooly mammoth… or mastodon. Ancient atlatls have been discovered on every continent except Antarctica.

What’s an atlatl?

A simple dart-throwing stick with a handle on one end and spur (male end) or socket (female end) on the other end. The dart, a flexible spear, mates with the spur/socket when thrown. Typically about two feet long, an atlatl employs leverage to extend the arm’s length to propel a dart further and with more velocity than when thrown using only the arm.

Spanish conquistadors discovered quickly that their state-of-the-art armor was no match for the primitive Aztec spear-throwers. Imagine becoming a kabob inside your standard issue fighting armor. The barbed stone point prevented Cortez’s men from pulling the shaft from their bodies in the opposite direction. It must be driven clean through the flesh to be removed. That’s impossible when the dart doesn’t pierce the backside of the metal suit. A slow death ensued when pinned inside one’s armor.

The primitive atlatl and dart system predates bow and arrow by thousands of years. The physics and math involved in this simple weapon is more complex than one might think. No. we’re not discussing calculus today. But we will delve into the past long enough to whet your appetite, and, hopefully spur you on to make your own dart-throwing weapon.

Down-n-Dirty Atlatl

As I wrote this piece, I quickly realized it would be too long for one to sit through. In the spirit of keeping you interested in this primal weaponry, I plan to make this a multi-part series on atlatls, darts, fletching, and throwing.

My friend and expert primitive skills instructor, Scott Jones, taught a “Quickie” Atlatl class at a recent Workshops at the Woods. Having never thrown an atlatl, much less made one, I signed up.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

At first glance, the simplicity of this primitive technology deceives the beginning practitioner. There are details and tweaks which only experts like Scott have learned over years of experimentation. His idea of making a quickie atlatl from bamboo holds potential for self-reliant living. With a few basic knife skills, even atlatl newbies like me can carve out a very functional weapon.

Material and Tools

  • Bamboo ~ about thumb-size in diameter and about 2 feet long. River cane will work but is not as bountiful as bamboo in this diameter.
  • Knife
  • Fine-toothed saw (hacksaw blade works well)
  • Awl
  • Leather ~ used in making finger loops
  • Fire

Selecting Bamboo

Find a suitable piece of cane and cut it close to the ground. The way in which the nodes grow close together at the base of bamboo will make a heavier handle and add purchase when throwing. Scott provided shafts from his stand of golden bamboo on his property. I think you’ll find land owners happy to have you harvest as much bamboo as you’d like as it tends to take over. I’ve never been turned down.

Typically, atlatl length is about one-third the length of darts. Cut your bamboo so that a node is left at the smaller end of the atlatl. Mine measured 26 inches – armpit to the base of my middle finger. The end node will serve as the female “spur” which will mate with your dart.

Cut in a “Spur”

This style of atlatl has a cup (female joint) not an actual spur (male joint). Use your knife to cut a long notch in the last joint of the bamboo. Begin by making a stop-cut about 1/4 inch from the end node (spur end) to a depth of 1/3rd to half way through the shaft. The notch should taper from zero to about 1/3rd the depth of the chamber toward the end node. This notch should be about 6 to 8 inches long and wide enough to accept your chosen dart shaft. The photos below show the cut.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A hacksaw blade is handy for making the stop-cut

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Making the tapered cut to the end nock.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott cleaning up rough edges

Clean up any rough edges with your knife leaving a small semicircle 1/4 inch in front of the end node where the dart seats. Test the seating by placing a dart (river cane in this case) in the female end. Hold the dart in one hand, the atlatl in the other, and check if the dart fits and moves without resistance. The dart should swing freely out of the atlatl notch until they are almost at 90 degrees from each other.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The half-circle shown at the end node where the dart seats

Fire It

Before adding finger loops, pass your bamboo atlatl over and through a fire. Use leather gloves to keep the shaft moving through the flames over the entire surface. You’ll notice the waxes in the wood will begin to add a sheen to the atlatl. This process will help preserve the wood.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Firing the bamboo

Finger Loops

I found the bamboo atlatl (without finger loops) comfortable to throw by gripping the handle like a tennis racket. Scott had several different atlatl styles to practice with at class – some with loops, a few without. Finger loops add a secure hold on the shaft while throwing.

To add finger loops, bore a small hole through the handle end of the atlatl with an awl. The hole placement is determined by the base of your palm to the intersection of your index and middle fingers. Thread a piece of leather or buckskin through the hole and tie the ends to form a large loop. Test the fit by placing your fingers through the large loop with the shaft between your two fingers.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Leather looped through the holes and tied

Throwing with finger loops requires that you slip your index and middle fingers through the loops with the end of your grip at the base of your palm. Your loop fingers are split by the atlatl shaft with your thumb and remaining fingers securing the handle to your palm.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Adjust the loops by tightening or loosening the leather loop

Down-N-Dirty Atlatl Benefits

One advantage Scott pointed out about his “quickie” atlatl is the fact that you can throw inferior darts without nocks required with typical spur-mounted atlatls. Any straight stick or cane will make an effective hunting projectile. This down-n-dirty design can be made in the field with a lot less effort and skill than traditional atlatls.

I would recommend using this method for those interested in making a spear-thrower for the first time. The entire process can be complete in an hours time. Finding and straightening darts, well, that’s gonna take some time. But having this survival skill-set in your arsenal is well worth the investment.

If you’re interested in learning primitive technology, Scott offers a wide variety of classes at his Workshops at the Woods. For those not local to our area, he has written two essential books I reference often:

Next in the series we’ll cover atlatl darts ~ the primitive projectile which brought down wooly mammoths and turned armor-plated conquistadors into Spanish shish kabob.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on One Fire Pit

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by Todd Walker

Good food makes outdoor adventures worthwhile. Long days in the woods end with boiling water over a propane burner which is poured into a mylar bag of freeze-dried food for some outdoor enthusiasts. Those add-water-meals have their place. But for a traditional woodsman’s basecamp, that simply won’t do. Nope. Up your cooking game with what Steve Watts called “honest grub cooked over an open fire.”

Campfire Cooking- Grill, Cook, and Bake on One Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

There are many campfire cooking arrangements in old journals from the days of Classic Camping. Today, I want to share with you one I came across in an old Scout handbook. The time and energy needed to build one is best reserved for a permanent basecamp or your backyard.

Pit Construction

The T-shaped configuration of this pit allows you to grill, boil, and bake. Add a waugan stick, carved pot hangers, and a bipod suspension system to create a very functional and classic cook system. Here’s what you’ll need to build your own…

Tools and Material

  • Shovel or Trenching Tool
  • Reflector Oven – I used an old metal pan used for applying drywall joint compound
  • Saplings – I covered the construction of a waugan stick and pot suspension system in a previous post you may want to reference
  • Rocks – do NOT use river rocks as they tend to expand and explode during heating
  • Water – stay hydrated!

Dig It

You’ll dig two holes. Dig the first hole about 18 inches square and 5-6 inches deep. My preferred digging tool is my military trenching tool. Adjust the shovel end to a 90 degree angle and swing it like a pickax. You’ll encounter rocks and roots. This tool will sever roots and split rocks.

As you excavate the hole, pile the dirt past where the next hole will be dug. Dirt from both holes will be removed to form an angled earthen berm.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirt from both pits formed the berm in the lower portion of the photo

Outline the deeper hole as a rectangle 12 inches by 24 inches. Dig this hole to approximately 12 inches deep. As you pile dirt on the berm, tamp it periodically with your trenching tool or boot.

Rock It

With the multi-level pit dugout, it’s time to add flat stones to the bottom of the deeper pit. The rocks will add thermal mass which translates to more radiant heat. Do NOT use rocks soaked in water. If no dry stones are available, go without. The pit will still be functional. Hot river rocks can explode and send sharp shards flying.

If you have plenty of rocks, line the outer rim of the upper cooking surface. Again, this isn’t necessary. If stones are limited, cut two logs and lay them parallel to one another on the outside edges of the pit. Green saplings can be laid over the logs/rocks to form a grilling grate. If you have a metal grill grate at your basecamp, use it. Cut one sapling to support one end of your grate while the other end rests on the rocks.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A cheap metal grill grate is handy for basecamp

Fire It

Use your fire craft skills and build a fire in the upper hole. You want good seasoned (dead standing) hardwood for your fire to produce abundant coals for cooking. In my location, hardwood is abundant. However, folks have cooked over lesser wood and even brush when that was the only thing available. In other words, use what you have available.

A blown over Red Oak near my shelter has provided firewood at basecamp for over two years. I cut two limbs about 5 foot long and 6 inches in diameter and hauled them back to camp. My experience has been that splitting the long logs into quarters first saves me energy and sawing time. Place the full-length quartered wood on your camp sawbuck and cut to your desired length. I simply saw them in half and split them down further to kindling size with my hatchet. Learn to safely handle axes, saws, and knives if you cook much over an open fire.

Campfire Cooking- Grill, Cook, and Bake on One Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire it, Evan! ~ Photo courtesy of Mike Newsom

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I had the pleasure of having Evan, a local Boy Scout, and his dad, Mike get in some dirt time at basecamp. Evan started this fire with a ferro rod and cedar bark. Nicely done, bud!

Unless you’ve burned a good amount of wood in the upper pit, you won’t have enough coals to rake into the lower pit for baking. We pulled some coals into the lower pit and fed it to make a separate fire below. As the top fire  began to burn down, we kept feeding the lower fire. Timing is important if you plan to cook several items.

Cook It

Our menu included various cook times: Steak (10 min.), corn muffins (20 min.), and rice (25 minutes).

We dipped water from the creek in the basecamp bush pot and suspended it from a pot hook over the lower fire. Once boiling, we added rice. Somehow I had left my Old Bay seasoning at home. This meant bland rice unless we sopped it in the steak juice, which happened.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Next up… corn muffins. In my canteen cup, I added water and the dry ingredients and mixed them together well. It appeared a bit soupy, but we poured the mix into foil cupcake sleeves anyway. The three-quarters full sleeves were placed into the make-shift reflector oven – a used, but clean, all stainless steel drywall finishing pan. The reflector oven was then placed on a level spot at the end of the lower pit near the radiant fire.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The muffins browned on the side away from the flames first

After 5 minutes or so after setting the oven, two juicy rib eye steaks were pulled from the cooling water of the creek and placed on the grill top. I like my steak medium-rare. Evan prefers well-done. Mike said he just likes steak. And, yes, we cook to order at basecamp!

Manage It

To my surprise, the soupy corn muffin mix firmed up and began to rise within 5 minutes or so of being in the pit. This was due to fire management. To keep the fire hot we added wood before it needed wood. To better explain, adding wood to a low burning fire means you’re playing catch-up with the temperature aspect of baking. Even seasoned wood takes some time to drive moisture out and reach combustion temperature. However, that’s where creating surface area (kindling) with your ax can fix the situation. The wetter the wood, the longer it will take to reach that critical temperature and produce the desired radiant heat towards the reflector oven.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The muffins browned on the side away from the flames

To gauge the heat entering your reflector oven, place you palm just in front of the oven and count to 5 quickly. If you reach 5 before nerves in the back of your hand tell your brain to jerk out of the heat, you’re at a good baking temperature (around 350 F). Any lower in the 5-count and the temperature in your oven goes up.

If you need to break camp, put out the fire in both pits. I use a 5 gallon bucket of water to throughly soak the fire until all smoke stops. Check under fire ring rocks for hidden embers that may still be alive. Be aware that pouring water on hot stones in the bottom pit will create steam and actually boil the water. There’s always the chance of flying shards of rock when cold water hits hot stone. Take precautions.

Eat It

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Honest grub!

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mike and Evan improvising with a cedar stump as a dining table

Nothing tastes so satisfying as sharing honest grub cooked over a campfire with friends.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Off-Grid Winch: Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope

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by Todd Walker

The power of simple machines, smartly employed, are capable of moving most anything. Over the years I helped my daddy move really heavy stuff in his plumbing/welding business and on our farm. He once moved and installed a new 3,000 gallon metal water tank at our elementary school using only ropes, pulleys, and levers… by himself.

Daddy didn’t possess superhuman strength, he simply understood the power of simple machines.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Archimedes

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I first discovered this ingenious flip-flop winch from a YouTube demonstration by Mors Kochanski, the Godfather and author of Bushcraft. A search of flip-flop winches on YT will garner several clips demonstrating the power of using two logs and some rope. So why would I add my video to mix? Because it’s only theory until you put it into action by Doing the Stuff!

The flip-flop winch combines two simple machines, lever and pulley (wheel and axle), as a force multiplier to free vehicles stuck in the mud, safely dislodge hang-ups when felling trees, and/or move heavy rocks. I decided to pull my truck up a slight incline in a field.

Flip Flop Winch

In an emergency vehicle kit, weight and space are not an issue – unless you tool around in a Smart Car. For this winch, all you need are two logs and some rope. Of course, you’re not hauling eight foot logs in your vehicle. You will have to cut those with your truck ax or takedown bucksaw.

Material and Tools

  • Ax or Saw – cut two logs about 8 feet in length
  • Rope – non-elastic is preferable for safety reasons
  • Cordage – enough to make two loops about 1 foot in diameter
Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

L to R: Green paracord loops, 100′ of rope, truck saw, truck ax. Top pole – lever pole. Bottom pole – pulley pole.

Cut Two Poles

You’ve hit a ditch or snow bank (rarely happens in Georgia) in the hinter-boonies and need to get unstuck. Reach into your vehicle emergency kit and fetch your saw or ax. You have an emergency vehicle kit, right? Be sure to add 100 feet of strong rope to the kit if you haven’t already. A tow strap won’t be useful with this winch unless it’s really long.

Scout for a straight tree (dead or live – it’s an emergence) to cut. Anything between 4 to 6 inches in diameter is suitable. Cut two lengths in the 8 foot range. De-limb the poles by chopping any branches off with your sharp truck ax. You can saw them off but proper ax-manship makes quick work of the de-limbing. This process is best done by cutting from the trunk end to the top end of the pole. Keep the pole between your body and the moving ax.

Lever and Pulley Pole

Now that you’ve got two poles, one will be used as the “lever pole” and the other will be your “pulley pole.” I noticed in my video that I called the drum pole a “barrel” pole interchangeably. In this written tutorial, I will use “pulley pole” to hopefully clear up the verbiage. The terminology is not that important. What you need to know is that the pulley pole is where the rope will coil similarly to that of a modern come-along.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Using Rig 2 causes the rope to coil on one side of the pulley pole

A larger diameter pulley will winch more rope with each revolution. The pulley pole I used was a standing dead pine which was a bit lightweight for the job. I was forced to drive two stakes in the ground to prevent the pulley pole from swinging in towards the tensioned rope in our video. With two people available, the stakes wouldn’t be necessary. A heavier pulley pole will solve the issue as well. I wanted to simulate and experiment with the lowest quality wood I could scavenge. The lever was a smaller dead cedar but the most solid of the two poles.

Locate an Anchor

The base of a live tree is perfect. A dead tree is not a good candidate. You’ll risk toppling the tree down if the object you’re pulling is really stuck or heavy. Wrap the rope around the base of the anchor twice and tie it off with a tensioning knot.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The base of a Sourwood tree was used as an anchor point.

Ideally, you want the anchor point and the object you’re pulling to form a straight line sighted down the rope.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Both truck and anchor point are lined up for optimal pull.

2 Rigging the Systems

Midway between the anchor and object lay the two poles perpendicular to one another. Run the rope on top of the pulley pole about a foot from the larger end of the pole. Pull the rope back under the pole to form a loop. Insert the lever pole into the loop from the side of the pulley pole where the loop is formed. Give yourself about a foot of lever sticking through the loop.

 

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The loop formed to receive the lever pole.

There are two methods of rigging the winch. Rig 1: One causes the rope to coil on both side of the pulley pole where the lever pole crosses (demonstrated on the video). Rig 2: This technique causes the rope to spool on one side of the pulley pole. I’ve found that the latter method causes less side-to-side torque since the rope remains in a straight line.

With the winch rigged, pull the slack out of the line and tie to the object you’re pulling. Another tension knot will work.

Start the Flip-Flop

Flip the lever pole up and over the pulley pole. Once on the ground, check the first wrap on the pulley pole. This is the time to straighten the loops around the pulley before real tension begins. Try to keep the rope from spooling on top of the previous coils as this may weaken the rope. With each flip-flop, the rope will begin coiling on the pulley pole.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 1: This set up will spool rope on both sides of the pulley pole (shown in the video)

Note: I’ve watched others spool rope on one side of the pulley pole only. This technique decreases the swing of the pulley pole towards the rope under tension. To use this method, place the rope attached to the anchor and the object on the same side of the lever pole before flip-flopping.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 2: One revolution with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice how the rope coils to one side of the lever pole (Rig 2). With the rope in line, the pulley pole is less likely to torque in towards the tow rope..

Now, flop the pulley pole over the rope for the next flip of the lever. If the pulley pole was magically suspended off the ground, no flop would be required. This would become a Spanish windlass. You’d simple spin the lever around a wheel and axle. The earth prevents this continuous spin. But the ground is what keeps the system from unraveling. The flop of the pulley pole is necessary for the lever to make another 180 degree revolution.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The rope spooling down the long end of the pulley pole (Rig 2).

Continue this of flip-flop action until the object is freed. Six full revolutions around the pulley is what it took to inch my truck up the incline to level ground in the video.

Flip-Flop Tips When Alone

If you practice the technique with rope coiling on the pulley pole on both sides of the lever, you’ll find that the pulley has a tendency to swing in towards the rope as tension increases. My fix was to drive two stakes on opposite sides of the rope where the pulley pole lands on each flop. If the ground is too hard for stakes, a heavy rock or object may prevent the slide. As mentioned above, a heavier pulley pole would decrease the chances of this happening.

Experimenting with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole remedied the torque issues. I recommend using this method (Rig 2) vs. the rope spooling on opposite sides of the lever pole (Rig 1).

Also, under tension, the lever pole can rise off the ground with either method. Attach a loop of cordage on the tow rope where the flipped lever lands. Slide the loop over the lever on each flip once a good amount of tension is present.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A Prussic Loop is a quick way to connect to the standing rope

Disconnecting the Rig

Obviously, once a vehicle is freed, the rope is no longer under tension. However, when pulling a tree or rock, tension can be released by reversing direction of the flip-flop. Once tension is removed, the spooled line can be handled safely.

Safety Concerns

There are inherent dangers when tension is applied to a rope or cable. If the rope has elasticity and snaps, the potential energy turns to kinetic energy moving like a slingshot or bow and arrow in opposite directions. Use rope without elasticity, nicks, abrasions, and a working load suitable for the task.

If you’re alone, you must cross over the rope in this process. Minimize the risk from flying rope by laying a heavy coat or blanket (if available) on the rope at both ends. With two people, nobody has to step over the taut line.

Another safety precaution is to wear leather gloves and eye protection. A smart thing to have handy is a knife handy to cut the rope if you somehow manage to get a hand pinched between the rope and pulley. Not sure how that might happen but better safe than sorry.

This powerful simple machine takes practice to perform properly. With a minimum of tools and some rope, the flip-flop winch can be a life saver on the homestead or in the backcountry. Add it to your preparedness toolbox. Give it a try and share your results.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap

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by Todd Walker

If you never experienced an angry creek lobster clamped to the end of your finger as a young creek-walker, you missed a childhood rite of passage. If the crawfish was of sufficient size, bleeding would soon follow. But that taste, oh, that wonderful, heavenly tail meat, boiled up in your tin can hobo stove by the creek side, made the pain a distant memory.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My brother and I were well acquainted with these woodland decapods (ten-footed crustaceans). Craig and I would catch them by hand, mostly. A cane pole with a hunk of blue gill or tadpole hooked at the end of the line would be employed to coax larger mud bug from hideouts when neither of us were brave enough to go in bare-handed. Clamped to the bait, a greedy crawfish will usually hang on until you drag him slowly out of the water and into your tin can.

Another successful method came in the form of a “scavenged” window screen. Sorry about that one, Daddy. But it worked. Tie strings to the corners of the slightly bent frame and knot them a few feet above the center. Tie bait to the middle of the screen and lower it in the creek. Pull the trap out when you see crawfish on top of the trap. You’ll lose a few but will catch enough.

You may never run across a window screen or hardware cloth in the woods but hollow logs are plentiful…

Hollow Log Trap

While collecting resources in the woods last month for my river cane fish trap, I ran across a hollow log. Mr. Steve Watts shared a diagram of a simple fish trap crafted from a hollow log in his book, Practicing Primitive. If it worked for fish, it could be modified to catch crawfish, I thought. Even in his recent passing, his legacy and influence lives on.

I chopped a section of the log and hauled it back to base camp. It sat there for a few weeks as I conjured a way to catch mud bugs in a hollow log. Here’s my adaptation of Steve’s simple trap design…

Material

  • Hollow log section with an opening just larger than the size of my fist
  • Vines and sticks to craft an entrance funnel
  • Rock or stick to plug the opposite end – or weave two funnels for both ends
  • A rock large enough to keep the log submerged
Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A hollow log about 2 feet long with a 4″ opening.

Weave a Funnel

I have an abundance of wild grape vine near my shelter. The honeysuckle patch was further away but would also be well suited for the task. Any flexible vine or material would work. With little effort, I found several young vines stretching up a nearby tree.

On larger diameter grape vines you’ll often find long, stringy tendrils hanging down from the main vine. Not sure what their proper name or function is, but you’ll recognize them when you see them. They remind me of hippy beads hanging from the doorways in my past. I used a few of these in the weaving.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Weaving the vines through the river cane ribs

Take and odd number of sticks (5 to 9) about eight inches long and shove them into the ground at an angle to form a one to two-inch circle at the base. This allows you to weave vines between the ribs which will save you large amounts of frustration. I used split river cane for my ribs which were left over from my recent fish trap project.

Begin weaving vines at ground level alternating between the uprights. Continue this weaving pattern until the funnel is large enough to cover the log opening.

Attach Funnel

Insert the funnel into the opening of the log. For this test, I closed the smaller end by driving a wrist-size stick into the opposite opening.

Hunt-Gather-Eat- Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

You’ll want to secure the funnel(s) to the log. On my first test, I used a few long vines as cordage to wrap and secure the funnel to the log. This method was not as secure as using commercial cordage but did work better than a friction fit only.

Bait the Trap

As for bait choices, I’ve found crawfish prefer fresh bait and lots of it. Fish heads, frogs (not toads), fresh entrails, chicken liver or gizzard work. They also seem to love bacon! Who doesn’t, right?

Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Plug the smaller hole with a stick or rock. You could also craft a funnel for this opening. 

Before closing the trap ends, place your preferred bait inside the log. I cut a chunk of my homemade, dry cured bacon and tossed it into the hollow log, secured the trap ends, and set the trap in the creek.

Set the Trap

Find a spot near the edge of a creek or pond you can easily reach. For creek or stream use, a weak current or eddy current is preferred. The water needs to be deep enough to completely submerge the trap.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A flat rock holding the trap under water

Most wood is less dense than water and therefore floats. To sink the log tarp, I leaned a heavy, flat rock on top to keep it submerged. I then went about my day working on some fire craft skills at base camp. An hour later I had two creek lobsters in my pot.

Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A few crawfish in the bucket for dinner.

This type trap has limitations. Unlike commercial traps, you’d have a difficult time submerging a wooden trap in deeper lake water. My main purpose was to craft a trap from items found in the woods. But make no mistake, the hollow log trap is more than a novelty item. It will catch a delicious woodland delicacy!

Related Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap

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by Todd Walker

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day… teach him to make a fish trap and he feeds himself and his tribe!

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

On the heels of our last post on river cane, I thought you may be interested in how to build a traditional fish trap. The beauty of any kind of trapping device is its ability to passively gather protein while you spend valuable time doing other stuff. Set it and forget it.

This funnel trap is not a “survival” trap. Your time would be better spent in a short-term survival scenario than burning calories collecting resources and lashing cane. However, for a long-term, consistent fish-catcher, take your time and build it to last.

Admiration and many thumbs-up signs go out to all aboriginal people who built one of these from scratch. The sheer amount of cordage needed is daunting enough using modern bank line. If my only lashing option was natural cordage, I’d choose to make a woven basket to eliminate the cordage requirement. Raw hide may have been used by our ancestors. I had enough bank line, so I used it.

Building a River Cane Fish Trap

Before you get your taste buds riled up, check your local game laws regarding fish traps. In my state of Georgia, you must have a commercial fishing license and traps have to be built to meet certain standards with respect to materials, size, and use. This trap fails the state standard. Chicken wire is required and does not grow naturally in the eastern woodlands. River cane does and was used to construct this self-reliance experiment for educational purposes only.

Our video tutorial is up for those who like this format:

Material and Tools

  • River cane of various lengths and diameter (thumb-size to pencil-size and at least 6 feet long). Non-native bamboo is a good substitute.
  • Cordage ~ Bank line, jute twine, or raw hide and natural cordage for the purists.
  • Knife or pruning shears

You’ll need lots of time, patience, and knots once you gather the river cane.

Build 3 Hoops

Either use freshly cut cane or other flexible branches. In my experience, cane cut over a week ago won’t bend for the hoops without heating. All I had was older cut cane at my shelter when I began this project. I improvised and tested two pencil-size species: Tulip Poplar and American Beech. Tulip poplar worked for the largest hoop (15 inch diameter) but was too brittle for the medium (12 inches) and smallest (8 inches). All three of the hoops on the larger funnel are beech limbs.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cut lengths for your desired diameter. Overlap the ends and lash together. I started the lashing with a bowline knot and terminated the lashing with a clove hitch. Apply gentle pressure to the hoops to create round supports for the river cane ribs to be attached.

Harvest and Prepare Cane Ribs

Harvesting river cane has inherent risks. Snakes, chiggers, and ticks make canebrakes home. Prepare accordingly.

River cane has two leaf types: Clum leaf and branch leaves. Clum leaves form a protective sheath which hug the clum upward from each node. The branch leaves grow from the end of the new branches coming off nodes.

To remove the clum leaves, grip and twist the sheath-like leaf at each node. It’s not necessary to remove these leaves if you’re pressed for time. Then again, if you’re pressed for time, this project may not be for you. The branches protruding from the upper nodes are easily removed by pulling them down towards the base of the clum.

Trim and blunt the ends of the cane to avoid accidental puncture or cuts while building and using your trap.

Attach Cane Ribs

Use four of your more robust canes to start framing your trap. It’s not that important which knots/lashings you use. They just need to hold the ribs securely to the hoops. I used square lashing with bank line on most of the ribs initially. However, as more cane is added to the frame, space becomes limited. Get creative with knots.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Attach the larger ends of the tapered cane to the largest hoop at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 with about a couple of inches overlapping past the hoop. Repeat the process about halfway down the four canes with the medium hoop. I found that laying the frame on the ground to attach the remaining hoops speeds up the process.

Lash the smallest hoop about 18 inches from the middle hoop. With the three hoops attached to the four canes, you have a steady framework on which to add the remaining ribs. Don’t worry about cutting all the ribs to the same length at the onset. They can run wild and be trimmed even at the end of the project.

Add more cane ribs… Add more cane… Add more… you get the picture. This labor of love eats up most of you time. As the spacing between ribs narrowed, I began tying a modified diagonal lashing. On tight spaces, I simply wrapped the cordage around the cane and hoop and tied a square knot.

The spacing between canes at the opening of the trap are naturally wider than those at the tip end. After testing, I may have to weave cordage between the ribs to add rigidity to the funnel and lessen the chance of smaller fish escaping. I’ll update you after the field test.

Build the Inner Funnel

On this day, I had freshly cut river cane. I used it to make two hoops. I can say that it is better and more flexible than the beech used in the larger funnel.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The interior funnel hoop is slightly smaller in diameter than the opening of the large funnel. The small hoop of the interior funnel was about 7 inches in diameter.

Build the frame of this funnel in the same manner as the larger one. Use smaller diameter cane with the large ends attached at the larger hoop (opening end). Allow the smaller, more flexible ends to run past the smaller inside hoop by 6 to 7 inches.

In theory, doing so will allow fish to swim through the flexible funnel end but prevent them from leaving. Kinda like a line from the Eagles hit song, Hotel California… “you can check in anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Connect the Two Funnels

Once the interior funnel is complete, insert it into the larger funnel opening. Lash the two hoops together so that the inside funnel is somewhat straight and even with the large funnel. Secure the hoops at several points around their circumference in a permanent fashion.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Inner funnel secured

You’re almost done!

Close the Trap Tip

Gather the cane at the tip of the trap at a point with about 6 inches of cane remaining. Lash this point with a knot that is secure but can be easily untied. This is the end you will untie and empty your trap of all the fish you’ve caught… fingers crossed.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Once the tip end is lashed, trim the wild ends. One whack from a machete on a chopping block and your done.

One last detail you’ll need to take care of if you use nylon bank line. Cut and melt the ends of all those tag ends of cordage. If you have a soldering torch (not very primitive, I know), simply burn the tag ends so they don’t unravel. Take care not to melt the lashings or set the cane on fire. Melted nylon is no joke on your skin. Be careful.

Bait the Trap

Wrap your bait of choice in panty hose or cheese cloth and suspend it from the inside of the trap. Catfish like stinky stuff like chicken liver, dead fish, and commercial blood bait.

Attach a sturdy line(s) to a larger rib/hoop junction for lowering and raising the trap. You’ll also want to attach an anchor to sink the trap as river cane floats. Use a jug at the end of the line to mark your trap in deep water. Near the bank you can tie the line to a tree or limb. My experience with chicken wire traps in my childhood was that I caught more turtles than catfish in shallow waters.

Leave the trap submerged for several hours or overnight. Check the trap regularly and follow local game and fishing laws.

 

An update will be coming on the functionality of the trap. Max and I didn’t have time to get it in the pond. If it’s anything like the chicken wire traps we used years ago, we won’t go hungry if we ever have to depend on this river cane trap.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

River Cane: 25 Self-Reliant Uses for “Cherokee Plastic”

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by Todd Walker

Bamboo can quickly takes over yards and even entire fields. Though it has many uses world-wide, non-native woody grasses are not our topic of discussion. Today we’ll cover what some describe as the Cherokee Nation’s equivalent to modern plastic… River Cane.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

River cane (grass family, Poaceae) is the only native bamboo in the eastern woodlands. Three have been identified: River cane (Arundinaria gigantea), Switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), and a newly discovered (2007) native bamboo called Hill cane (Arundinaria appalachiana). Source

Historical accounts of vast canebrakes stretching for miles along river floodplains were noted by early explorers of the New World. William Bartram, America’s first professional botanist, described clums of river cane “as thick as a mans arm.” John Lawson (1674-1711) recorded that one culm (hollow stem) of river cane could hold “about of pint of liquor.” Cheers!

Without delving into the botanical differences, which would require more space than this article allows, the historical use of cane is well documented as a rich resource for self-reliance. It’s uses are not lost on modern primitive practitioners and experimental archeologists.

Below are three books on primitive skills and technology which have helped me on my journey of experimental archeology and the practice of primitive skills…

I never had the pleasure of personally meeting and learning from Steve Watts but he treated me like a good friend through our online communications. His recent untimely passing spurred me to re-read his book, Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.

I’m fortunate to have Scott Jones, a student and colleague of Mr. Watts, less than an hour from my Georgia home. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his Workshops at the Woods. I have both of his books, A View to the Past, and his most recent work, Postcards to the Past: Context and Continuity in Primitive Technology, gifted to me by my good friend, Kevin Bowen.

My pursuit of primitive technology and skills is largely due to these two authors. Outside the modest cane fishing pole, most of the cane projects within this article come from Watts and Jones.

Though my cane craft is limited, every Georgia country boy I know is intimately familiar with catching blue gill from ponds and creek banks with a homemade cane pole. The use of river cane extends far beyond boys fishing and raising cane on hot summer days. Below I’ve listed 25 traditional uses for this amazing plant.

25 Uses for River Cane in Self-Reliance

Hunting

  • Arrow Shafts ~ A preferred material for Southeastern Native American tribes.
  • Atlatl and Darts ~ Cane was used to make darts for these spear throwing tool. Jones describes in Postcards from the Past (pg. 193) and has made spear-throwers entirely from cane.
  • Knife ~ Some tribes made fire-hardened knives from cane capable of skinning game. I have a deep cut on my knuckle which is finally healing from a brush with sharp river cane.
  • Blow Gun ~ Nodes (joints) were removed to form a long, hollow tube of cane to blow darts from. These were effective in hunting small game animals and birds.

Fishing

  • Fish Trap ~ The Cherokee used a funnel style trap at an opening of rock dams and weirs in steams to catch fish.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cane fish trap in progress

  • Split Cane Gig ~ Easy to carve and fire-harden harpoon style gigs for fish or other aquatic species.
  • Floats ~ A small clum between both nodes can be used for a line float on a cane pole.
  • Jug Fishing ~ Bundle several lengths of cane together with a line and hook attached for passive jug fishing.

Containers

  • Baskets ~ Cane was split into splints and woven into baskets for food gathering and storage, clothing storage, ceremonial uses, and day-to-day containers. Natural pigment were used to dye and decorate.
  • Mats ~ Woven mats were used for covering walls, floors, bedding, burial, and seating.
  • Cane Vial ~ The hollow portion of a clum makes a great container for storing liquid, salt, pepper, medicine, needles, etc.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A vial for my repair kit

  • Sheaths ~ I traded with James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge) for this handy antler-handled awl with a river cane sheath.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple but effective sheath

Wildlife

Canebrakes are an ecosystem unto themselves.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A small canebrake

  • At least 23 mammal species, 16 bird species, four reptile species and seven invertebrates that occur within canebrakes (Platt et al. 2001). Source
  • Swainson’s warbler builds it’s nests in dense canebrakes.
  • Canebrake Rattlesnake (endangered) live and hunt in canebrakes.
  • Whitetail deer eat young shoots in the spring.

Farming

  • Food ~ Attractive to many grazing bovine, young cane was the highest yielding native pasture in the Southeast. Indians managed large canebrakes by controlled burning every 7 to 10 years. For humans, boil and eat young shoots in early spring and summer.
  • Riparian Buffer ~ Canebrakes improve water quality by filtering ground water nitrates/phosphates, trapping sediment, and stabilizing erosion.
  • Tomato Stakes ~ If river cane isn’t abundant in your area, use bamboo instead.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bamboo or cane is a great garden companion

Construction

  • Shelter ~ Cane and other flexible saplings were used in wattle-and-daub walled houses.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The crew from Georgia Bushcraft constructing a shelter from river cane’s cousin (bamboo).

  • Watercraft ~ Bundles of hollow river cane lashed together to form pontoons.
  • Pipes ~ Stem for smoke pipes.
  • Blow Tube ~ Perfect for making burn and scrap containers and spoons.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A burn and scrap spoon made while camping with Bill Reese (Instinct Survivalist)

  • Furniture ~ Chairs, beds, tables, etc.

Crafts

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two excellent resources: A river cane handle on a tulip poplar bark berry basket.

  • Paint Brush ~ A short, hollow portion of river cane will accept animal hair or plant fibers to form a brush.
  • Jewelry ~ Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants can be made from cane.
  • Burnishing Tool ~ Used to burnish leather edges or other craft items.

Music

  • Flute ~ A famous poet from Georgia, Sidney Lanier, was also a flutist. It is said that he made his first flute from river cane collected on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.
  • Whistle ~ Hank at Sensible Survival shows you how to make a simple survival whistle.

We are fortunate to have such a rich native resource growing in our Southeastern woodlands. Efforts are being made to reestablish river cane on land once covered with native bamboo. Keep stewardship in mind when harvesting from canebrakes. Select only what you need without over-harvesting. Non-native bamboo can be substituted for many of these projects mentioned.

In what ways have you used cane for self-reliance?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking

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by Todd Walker

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You’ve probably heard the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” This statement is misleading. The truth is…

Practice makes permanent!

In other words, the more you use your knife, correctly or incorrectly, the more permanent your skill becomes. Use poor technique long enough and you’ll be a danger to yourself and others.

 

If you’re new to camping and outdoor self-reliance, learning to safely handle a knife is essential. Even old-timers like myself can learn new tricks. I covered some basic knife safety issues in our recent article if you’d like a refresher.

Today we’ll covering a few basic notches which not only hone knife skills but create functional camp comforts… mainly for your camp kitchen.

Knife Selection

For an all-around camp carving knife, look for one that has the following features.

  • Simple ~ Gadgets look cool but aren’t practical. The only true way to build knife skills is to practice with a simple blade.
  • Grind ~ For carving tasks, I prefer a blade with a Scandinavian grind. Here’s a link with diagrams comparing multiple grinds from L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives. There is not one perfect grind for all camp/woodcraft tasks. It’s hard to beat a Scandi grind for carving, though.
  • Length ~ My dedicated carving knife (Mora 120) at home measures 2.5 inches. In the woods, my Mora knives, either the Companion (4″) or Classic 2/0 (2-7/8″), are excellent for fine carving tasks. These knifes are inexpensive yet build to last. A blade length of 3 to 4 inches is ideal for fine carving in the field.
  • Handle ~ After hours of carving, you’ll find a smooth, round handle which fits in your hand to be more comfortable than fancy textured handles.
L to R: LT Wright Genesis, Mora Companion, Opinel No. 8, and Mora Classic 2/0

L to R: LT Wright Genesis, Mora Companion, Opinel No. 8, and Mora Classic 2/0

My main belt knife (pictured at far left above) is larger and more robust than the knives previously mentioned. However, it too can be, and has been, employed in fine carving tasks. Skills learned with smaller knives are easily transferred to a larger blade.

The Pot Hook Notch

Eating a hardy breakfast and dinner cooked over a campfire requires proper tools. With these basic notches, your camp kitchen will be well-equipped for cooking.

There are several ways to craft a pot hook. This article illustrates techniques using both straight and forked sticks.

Straight Stick Pot Hook

Find a straight stick measuring elbow to finger tip just larger than thumb diameter. Seasoned (dry) or green wood works, with greenwood carving easiest. A soft hardwood like Tulip Poplar, Basswood, or any sapling fortune sends will work.

The location of your pot hook notch should be a few inches (3 to 4 fingers width) from the end of the stick. Any closer to the end and you risk breaking the notch while hot dinner dangles over the fire.

The quickest method is to baton an “X” pattern on the stick using your knife. The blade should penetrate the wood at least half to two-thirds deep. Carve out the upper half of the X-pattern where the two lines of the X intersect. You’ll also carve out the wood next to the bottom, outside portion of the X. This will create a raised V pattern resembling a bird beak as you look down the stick. Hence the name, Beak Notch.

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The Pot Hook or Beak Notch

Carve out the wood under the point of the beak where the bail of your bush pot will rest. Test the fit by placing your empty pot on the hook and give the stick a sudden twist. If the pot doesn’t fly off, your notch is deep enough.

Care should be taken in stick selection when hanging cast iron cookware. Use a robust stick and only carve the notch to the pith (halfway) for added pot hook strength.

Hanging the Straight Pot Hook

There are a few options for hanging your newly carved pot hook. Since you’ve got the pot hook notch technique down, carve another notch at the other end of the stick so that the beaks are pointing towards each other. However, for balance, carve the additional notch on the opposite side of the stick at 180 degrees from the first notch on the other end of the stick.

The Speygelia is a long stick used to suspend pots over a fire.

The Speygelia is a long stick used to suspend pots over a fire.

Depending on stick length, you’ll want to carve 3 or 4 additional notches to adjust pot height over the fire. These notches will rest on a longer stick (Speygelia) with a chiseled tip propped over the fire. This longer stick is anchored in the ground by an inverted Y-stake or simply wedged under a rock or log.

My basecamp pot hanging from a tripod.

My basecamp pot hanging from a tripod.

A tripod also works well for straight pot hooks with a hole notch on the end.

The Hole Notch

Mors Kochanski teaches a method of carving a hole in the end of the pot hook for hanging. This notch is also helpful with camp construction projects.

The steps to carving a hole in a stick are:

  1. A few inches from the hanging end, remove stock from both sides until one third of the original is left in the center.
  2. Score a line an inch from the end of the 1/3rd piece with your knife. Score another line 1/2 inch up the stick. Between these lines is where the hole will be carved.
  3. With the butt/pommel of your knife in the palm of your hand, cut a quarter inch section across the grain on the score mark. This is done best by rocking the point of your knife perpendicularly across the wood grain. Repeat this cut on both score marks and make matching cuts on the opposite side of the stock.
  4. Make a rectangle by scoring a line which connects the crosscuts. Repeat on opposite side.
  5. Insert the point of your knife in the middle of one long side of the rectangle you created in step 4. Pry the wood up and out. Repeat on the opposite side. The thickness of your stock may require more prying and crosscutting but the rectangle should pop out to create a hole.
  6. Clean up the inside edges of the hole with your knife point. Insert cordage or wire for hanging the pot hook. I like this application for my camp tripod.
Hole notches in both straight and forked pot hooks.

Hole notches in both straight and forked sticks.

Toggle Method

A down-n-dirty method Dave Canterbury teaches for hanging a bush pot over a fire is to use a simple wooden toggle. Cut a shallow V notch in the middle of a finger-size stick about hand length. Tie a piece of cordage to the middle and hang from a tripod. Slip the toggle through the bail of your bush pot and your ready to cook.

How to Build a Bushcraft Tripod for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Toggle holding a cast iron squirrel pot

Forked Stick Pot Hooks

The Pot-Claw

The most expedient pot hook may be what Daniel Carter Beard called the Pot-claw in The Book of Camp-lore and Woodcraft (1920). The Pot-claw requires only one beak notch to be functional. However, more beak notches may be added for raising or lowering pots over the fire. Crave a pot lifter for removing the pot from the fire (details at the end of this article). And remember, we’re practicing knife craft so add more notches.

A variety of pot hooks hanging on a waugan stick. L to R: Straight pot hook with hole notch, Pot-claw, and Gallow-crook.

A variety of pot hooks hanging on a waugan stick. L to R: Straight pot hook with hole notch, Pot-claw, and Gallow-crook.

Select a sapling or tree limb with a Y-branch with similar diameters mentioned previously. Trim the smaller Y-hook to four-finger length. Carve a pot hook notch a the end of the stick so that it is pointing up on the opposite side from the Y-hook.

The Gallow-Crook

This pot hook in classic camping literature is basically a pot-claw with a twist. Cut a sturdy sapling which has a small, flexible Y-branch attached. Bend this branch to form a loop and lash it to the larger sapling to form a loop. Carve a series of beak notches opposite the loop. Place the loop through your waugan stick for a secure pot hook.

A Gallow-crook hanging from a waugan-stick with a bipod, which is adustable both horizontally and verically.

A Gallow-crook hanging from a waugan stick with a bipod which is adjustable both horizontally and vertically.

The Gib

One other pot hook used in the Classic Camping era was called the Gib. This hook requires two forked sticks spliced together. It’s not a slight on your woodsman prowess if you use two nails to make the Gib. Old timers often carried a few nails when camping. No beak notches are needed when using metal fasteners. You pot hangs from the nail.

Using a beak notch to splice two forked sticks together

Using a beak notch and V-notch to splice two forked sticks together

Cordage is another option for joining the two forked sticks. With either fastener, carve away half of the stock from the ends of both sticks the length of your hand. The flat parts are located on the opposite sides of the forked branches so the hooks are on opposite sides of the Gib.

Carve a beak notch on the rounded part of one stick opposite the flat area on one end and a V-notch on the other end of the other stick. Mate the flat surfaces together and lash with cordage. I’ve found tarred mariner’s line works well even over a fire.

Start with a timber hitch or clove hitch over the beak notch. Wrap the remaining cordage and tightening as you go. Wrap to the V-notch and terminate the lash with a clove hitch.

The Gib is useful at a more permanent basecamp when you have more time to set up your kitchen. On the fly, simply drive a nail in the end of a forked stick… no notching required.

Hanging Forked Pot Hooks

Traditional woodcrafters and classic campers used a Waugan stick atop two Y-sticks driven in the ground. On frozen ground, two tripods or a tree and a bipod can be employed to support the waugan cross stick. The bipod can be lifted and moved so the waugan stick and pot hooks are completely away from the fire if the need arises. Maneuverability of this setup offers a drying rack for wet camp clothing and gear near the fire when the meal is done.

Your pot-claw and all other forked pot holders are hung on the waugan stick over the fire. For versatility, several hooks can be employed when cooking camp dishes when more company is expected.

Pot Lifter and Pourer

I first saw these last two ideas employed by Chris Noble from Master Woodsman. Hot bush pots can be safely carried and poured using a forked stick. Cut the tops of the Y so they fit through the bail of your pot. Carve a beak notch just above the Y with the beak pointing toward the handle. Flatten the two ends of the Y-stick with your knife for added stability when pouring the pot.

Lift the pot bail in the beak notch. To pour, tilt the pot slowly until the Y makes contact with the pot rim for safe pouring of hot soup or beverage.

 

IMG_5031

Lantern Hook

One last idea for the pot hook notch comes from Chris Noble who made and installed one like this on our Georgia Bushcraft shelter. Cut a Y-stick and shave the back flat. Carve a beak on one end and a V-notch on the other. Lash the piece to a tree or post at basecamp for a lantern hook.

Coat hook or lantern stand using a pot hook notch.

Coat hook or lantern stand using a pot hook notch.

Developing competence with a knife can only be achieved through practice. And the best part is you can practice these skills in your own backyard or anywhere sticks grow.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

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by Todd Walker

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.

Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.

I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.

Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.

Mark’s response:

“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”

Click here for more information on Sochani (Green-Headed Coneflower).

Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source

Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.

“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.” 

~ Horace Kephart

Trees of Southern Appalachia

Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.

Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

Tulip Tree

Misnamed Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), it is not a poplar at all. I’ve always called my favorite tree by its misnomer until I met Mark. His adamant stance on using Tulip Tree’s correct name makes sense. The inner bark (cambium) of true poplar trees (i.e. ~ Eastern Cottonwood – Populus deltoides) is edible. One may assume that the word Poplar tacked on the end of Tulip makes the cambium edible. It is not.

Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance

Food

The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.

  • The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.

Medicine

Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
  • Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
  • The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
  • Tooth aches.
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
  • Cough syrup from bark.

Craft

  • Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
  • Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage: Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Tree; Okra, and Yucca.

  • Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
  • Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree paddle and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

  • Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
  • Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.

Hickory

Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.

Food

  • Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
  • Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
  • Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
  • Cooking oil from nuts.
  • Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
  • Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
Scott Jones using hickory nuts as charcoal

Scott Jones (Media Prehistoria) using hickory nuts as charcoal.

  • Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source

Medicine

  • Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
  • Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
  • Cold remedy
  • Liver aid
  • Gynecological aid
  • Dermatological issues

Craft

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This ax handle started out as the hickory tree pictured in the background

Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…

  • Stickball sticks
  • Crafting bows
  • Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
  • Firewood
  • Smoking meats
  • Furniture
  • Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
  • Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
  • Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
  • Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
  • Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.

Pine

There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.

Food

  • Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
  • Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
  • Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
  • Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.

Medicine

  • Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectoranthigh in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
  • Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
  • Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
  • Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
  • Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
  • The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
  • Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.

Craft

See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

  • Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
  • Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
  • Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
  • Logs were used in home building.
  • White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
  • Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
  • Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.

Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.

To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log (Rope Vise Plans Included)

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by Todd Walker

My uncle Emmett introduced me to woodcarving in grade school. He taught me to carve a “ball in a cage” from a single block of balsa wood in the church basement. Years pasted as did my interest in wood carving. It’s funny how our interests come full circle in life.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

After 40 years, I was reintroduced to the traditional skill of greenwood carving. Local, sustainable trees are used to make objects for everyday use while learning old-world skills. Handmade spoons, cups, and bowls are hidden within these renewable resources.

For over a year now, I’ve been whittling on wood to create something more than a camp pot hook. It’s all part of my addictive journey of self-reliance and…

Freedom from Electricity

Do I love and use electricity? You bet!

However, my personal space in the woods is my favorite location for carving… or doing most anything else. Dependence on electricity is not an option. Out there I’m transported back to a time of Doing the Stuff with cordless-tools held by hands, my hands. My collection of simple hand tools overshadows my skill level. I’ll keep Doing the Stuff until my skills catch up.

One tool my semi-permanent shelter was missing is a dedicated carving bench. Add this to my Paring Ladder, and a future pole lathe, and my no-electric-power shop in the woods will be fully functional. The forest provides the raw building materials. It’s my job to collect them.

I’ve included a video tutorial for those who prefer moving pictures.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own…

Carving Bench from a Log

Material and Tool List

  • A hardwood log about 2 to 3 feet long and 10 to 12 inches in diameter
  • 4 poles for legs and a few other sticks along the way
  • Wooden pegs for the peg holes – again, more sticks
  • Cordage – something for the rope vise and smaller stuff for lashing
  • Chainsaw or crosscut saw – depending on how vigorous of a project you desire
  • Ax and knife – a drawknife is optional but really useful if you’ve built a paring ladder
  • Auger – 1 inch minimum

Ideas for this design came from photos of two Facebook groups of which I’m a member:

I highly recommend both groups if you’re on Facebook and pursuing self-reliance.

Step 1: Cut a Log

The reason I carried my chainsaw to the woods that day was to cut some dead cedar for a couple of sitting bench projects. Another heavy cutting project was a huge dead pine, not within reach of my shelter, but adjacent to a spot boy scouts camp. It needed to be felled. I also needed a hefty log for a carving bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The pine widow maker is down. Talk about a fat lighter’d resource!

I cut a limb off a red oak downed by a storm a year ago and hauled it back to base camp. Whatever tree you use, it should be hardwood and about the dimensions given above.

Step 2: Cut Notches

Make three perpendicular cross cuts almost halfway through the log. The first cut will be about 5 inches from one end. Now cut at a 90 degree angle from the end of the log to the base of the first cut to remove this section of wood. This will be the end shelf of your bench and platform for the rope vise.

Make the second cross-cut 5-6 inches from the first cut. The third cut goes in about 18 inches (depends on how much flat work space you want) from the second cut. The space between the second and third cut will become your middle bench area.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Save the half-moon sections for spacer blocks… or firewood.

Score a line connecting the bottom of the second and third cuts along the sides of the log. Make several cuts about 2 inches wide on the middle section of the log down to the scored lines. Strike the 2 inch sections with the butt of your ax or maul to break them loose. Remove and save these half-moons as spacers for wedging stock on the bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A good smack with an ax usually removes the half-moon blocks.

The base of the middle section will be uneven after removing the half moons. Use your ax to hew this section of your bench smooth. Use a wooden maul to hammer the ax through hard-to-reach sections until the surface is relatively flat.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hewing the work surface.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ready for holes.

Step 3: Bore Holes

Use a timber framing auger or brace and bit to bore a hole all the way through the center of the end shelf. This hole will serve as part of your rope vise. My auger is a vintage 1-1/4 inch timber frame tool DRG and I found at an antique store. I’d say one inch holes would be the minimum for this kind of project.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two parallel logs work well to hold the bench steady when crafting.

Lay the bench down on two other logs as supports. Bore 4 to 6 holes in the middle section of the bench. Make these peg holes about 2 knuckles deep. I marked my auger bit with duct tape at the two-inch mark as a depth gauge. Two holes should be about 4 inches from one wall in the middle section and about 4 or 5 inches apart crosswise. Repeat the hole spacing on the other interior wall of your bench. I added two more peg holes in between these four holes for added adjustability.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The best shot I had of the peg holes.

Debark the log with your ax. Turn the bench over with the work surface parallel to the ground on top of the support logs. Bore holes at each of the four corners to accept your bench legs. Use the same depth gauge for these holes you used for the previous holes. However, you need to angle these leg holes out from the center line and middle of the log.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A leg for each corner.

Here’s a tip for keeping the legs in line with one another. After boring one leg hole, cut and prepare a leg and insert in the first hole. Now you have an angled leg to visually line up the opposite leg hole as you bore the remaining holes. Move the leg to another hole as needed to sight your angles.

Step 4: Make Legs

Since I have a good supply of standing dead cedar, I used 2 to 3 inch diameter poles for my legs. Plus, cedar is rot-resistant. I cut my four legs longer than I thought was needed and trimmed them to proper length later.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I used my paring ladder and my new foldable draw knife to taper the narrow end of each leg. An ax and/or knife is all you really need, though. The tapered end should fit in your leg hole snugly at the one inch mark. You’ll drive the legs into the holes later for a secure fit.

Step 5: Cut Legs to Height

When your satisfied with the final leg length for your bench height, pound the legs into the holes with an ax or maul. Chamfer the ground-end of the legs to help prevent “mushrooming” as your strike these ends.

I cut my legs so that my bench is about waist height. This may prove to be too high. I can always trim the legs but can’t add wood back to the legs.

Step 6: Build the Rope Vise

I had originally thought I’d use a loop of rope held down with my foot to secure stock on the end shelf. However, the tensioning device for my take down bucksaw came to mind as I kneeled on the ground measuring my rope.

Ah ha!

Cut a cross brace and attach it to the two end legs under the end shelf. Tie the two intersections with square lashing  about a foot off the ground. Tarred mariners line works great for this application.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fully assembled rope vise holding stock on the end shelf.

Feed a loop of rope through the end shelf hole from the underside of the bench. Place a stick in the loop on top of the end shelf to prevent it from dropping out of the hole. Tie the loose ends of the rope around the cross brace. I used a fisherman’s knot. Leave enough slack in the loop for spoon blanks to fit in the loop on top of the end shelf.

Next, cut a stick that will serve as a winding paddle in your rope. The paddle needs to be long enough catch on the bench legs, but not so long that you can’t twist it between the legs. Insert the paddle in the middle of the rope with stock in the loop on the end shelf. Now wind the rope tight and allow it to rest on one or both of the legs.

If the stock on the end shelf is loose, twist the rope a few more times. This rope vise allows you to hold down wood very securely. This vise is not a quick release system but it will hold what needs to be held.

Step 7: Cut Pegs

Cut two to four pegs measuring about 4-5 inches above the work surface when inserted in the peg holes. Taper each peg end as you did the legs. The only difference is that the pegs are smaller in diameter. 

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pegs with wedges shimmed to hold a large block of cedar firm. I started gouging a bowl on this stock. 

The adjustable pegs on the middle section gives you options for a variety of wood sizes. Simply move pegs to fit the width of your work piece. Cut a few wooden wedges and shim the stock tight between the pegs and end wall. You could also shim pieces between any configuration of pegs on the work bench surface. This center section will be an excellent way to hold larger projects like bowls and kuksas. Plus, I now have another flat, horizontal surface which always comes in handy around camp at supper time.

Your bench is ready for work!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Making Cheese: 2 Pounds of Gouda from 2 Gallons of Milk

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I met Sean while square lashing a bamboo shelter at a Georgia Bushcraft campout a few years back. His engineer mind coupled with grunt work from the rest of us created a semi-permanent base camp shelter for our large group campouts and classes. The shelter seems to expand with every campout.

Besides the “manly” bushcraft skills he owns, Sean develops what some call “soft skills.” Below is his first attempt at a delicious soft skill, making his own gouda cheese.

He graciously allowed me to republish a portion of his article since we are all about Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance here. Enjoy!

Making Cheese- 2 Pounds of Gouda from 2 Gallons of Milk - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

by Sean Begley

This article describes my first attempt at making cheese. I picked up a copy of Cheesemaking Made Easy: 60 Delicious Varieties from the local library for instruction. Most (all?) of the recipes start with 2 gallons of whole milk and end up creating 2 lbs of cheese. The shopping lists and instructions below are for creating 2 lbs of Gouda from 2 gallons of supermarket whole milk.

Before you Start Gathering Material

  • The author points out, specifically, that aluminum cookware should not be used as it can impart a taste to the cheese.
  • A good thermometer is very important. The cheese making process appears to be sensitive to temperature.
  • Use a glass bowl for the brining process. I had a couple of spots of oxidation form in my stainless steel bowl.

Hardware List

  • 12qt stainless steel pot
  • stainless steel ladle
  • stainless steel curd knife
    • I bought a 14″ but a 12″ would be fine for a 12qt pot
    • Also sold as an “icing spatula”
    • Amazon.com link
  • stainless steel food thermometer
  • glass bowl
    • used for brining
    • should be able to hold 1 gallon of liquid
  • cheese cloth
    • I don’t think the grade really matters too much for this recipe.
  • cheese press
    • You can build one of these for pretty cheap
    • I’ll talk about it below.
  • cheese drying board
    • Can be made pretty easily.
    • Discussed with the cheese press.
  • (optional) 10 gallon pot for steam sanitizing your cheese press
  • (optional) propane patio stove for the 10 gallon pot

Ingredients

  • 2 gallons of whole (vitamin D) milk
  • 1.25 lbs of course salt
  • water
  • cheese rennet tablets
    • do NOT use junket rennet tables as they sell to make ice cream
    • can use rennet liquid instead
    • can be bought off Amazon.com
  • mesophilic cheese starter culture
  • Vinegar
  • Sanitizer

The Cheese Press

It is necessary to use some kind of cheese press to press excess liquid (whey) out of our cheese. The book referenced several types of presses including 1 that is pretty simple to make at home. I opted to build a version of the home cheese press and you can see the results below. If you build a similar press, the book states that well seasoned hardwoods are ideal materials and specifically calls out birch and maple. I made my press and cheese board out of birch plywood from the hardware store.

Making Cheese: 2 Pounds of Gouda from 2 Gallons of Milk - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sean’s DiY cheese press

Read the rest of the instructions here

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

A Glorified Shaving Horse: How to Build a Paring Ladder in the Woods

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by Todd Walker

When I first discovered this old device, my mind was officially blown at its simplicity. Peter Follansbee makes furniture with 17th century hand tools. His work and research is fascinating! If you search the term “Paring Ladder”, you’ll find his article which is responsible for the idea of this post. You won’t find much else on the internet about this apparatus.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

While carving a handmade ax handle in my shop with hand tools, my shaving horse and bench vise proved essential for the process. Lugging my shaving horse to the woods is not something I’d find enjoyable. I modified the paring ladder’s traditional design to meet my need for making wooden stuff at camp.

Woodcraft and bushcraft projects hone self-reliance skills and make camping comfortable. For this build, you get to work with sharp objects in a scenic setting, cutting stuff, lashing stuff, and shaving stuff. What’s not to like?

Hopefully our video will explain the process…

Here’s how to build a shaving horse alternative from stuff found in the woods…

Gather Stuff

  • Uprights/Rails ~ I used two standing dead cedar saplings; one was about 3 inches in diameter, the other was 2 inches. Young cedars grow straight. Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) is another straight grower.
  • Rungs ~ wood for two ladder rungs. The traditional paring ladder has 3 rungs (I don’t know why).
  • Platform ~ a board used as the work surface which supports the working stock. I split and hewed a 5-6 inch diameter dead cedar log which was about 4 foot long.
  • Cordage ~ paracord, tarred bank line, or any strong lashing material.
  • Tools ~ ax, knife, saw, wooden maul, wood wedges, and draw knife.

Step #1: Harvest Uprights

Cut two uprights about 8 foot long with an ax or saw. Once down, de-limb the rails by cutting from the trunk end of the tree toward the top of the tree. Removing limbs in this fashion prevents the limb from splitting strips of sap wood off the pole.

You can save the tops of the saplings for ladder rungs if they are large enough (2+ inches diameter). I used two split staves of cedar from half of the log used to hew my platform board. I’ll explain in a later step.

Step #2: Lash the Uprights

With the rails even and laying side by side, apply a tripod lash about 18 inches (elbow to finger tip) from the top of the poles. Below is our Tripod Lashing tutorial if you need to learn this knot.

Once you’re done lashing, spread the uprights to make a “V” at the intersection. Lean the “V” against a tree with the bottom spread wide and about 3 to 4 feet from the base of the tree.

Step #3: Attach Rungs

Measure down (eyeball it) about a foot below where the poles cross and make a score mark for the location of the first rung. Use either a square or diagonal lashing to secure the rung to the rails. Check out our square lashing tutorial for assistance.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Add a second rung about a foot below the top rung in the same manner as above. This rung will be longer than the top rung since the base of the uprights are spread apart.

Step #4: Hew a Platform Board

I had originally planned to bring a 2 x 6 of dimensional lumber to camp for this piece. I was glad I forgot. This gave me an opportunity to split and hew a 6 inch diameter cedar log (maybe 5′ long) left over from when I built my shelter two years ago.

Lay the log to be split on the ground. I like to place long logs in a “Y” branch on the ground when splitting. Start a split in the log with your ax. Continue the split with wooden wedges until the two pieces are separated. Repeat the process to split off a section of one half log to form a board about 2 inches thick.

Of course, my cedar log was twisted and didn’t cooperate when I tried to split off a board. It split into two wedged billets. Not wanting to chance the same fate for the other half log, I hewed the round side down with my ax.

A Possum Mentality Note: Save all the wood chips and bark for future fire tinder/kindling.

Your platform board should be long enough to fit between the two rungs with the lower end reaching mid-thigh when in place. Your thigh will press down on the board to create the pinching pressure needed to secure stock in the shaving ladder.

Step #5: Notch the Platform Board

Place the platform board between the two rungs. Test the fit and length so that the bottom of the platform board reaches your thigh and about 4 inches extends past the top rung. Score the bottom of the board where it rests on the second rung.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Seven notch fits the wedged rung perfectly

Satisfied with the fit, remove the board for notching. Use your ax and a maul or baton and make a notch where you marked. The notch should be about 3/4″ deep. Not deep enough to compromise the boards strength, yet deep enough for the board to bite into the rung.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A view from underneath

Since my rungs were made of wedged billets, I cut a seven notch which mated very well with the rung. If using round rungs, be sure to carve the notch enough to fit securely.

Slip the platform board in place with the notch on top of the second rung. The notch should keep the board from slipping in use.

Step #6: Use Your Shaving Ladder

Lift the bottom of the board on the fulcrum (second rung) and place the wood you want to shave between the board and the top rung. Release the board to rest against the top rung.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pinch the work piece with pressure from your thigh

 

Put downward pressure on the platform board with your thigh to pinch the wood against the top rung. Use your draw knife to begin shaving. To turn your work piece, lift the platform to release pressure, turn the wood, and shave some more.

To adjust the height of the platform, raise or lower the ladder on the tree. There are more ideas I’d like test with the shaving ladder. I’ll update you when I do.

Straight grained green wood is a pleasure to carve on this paring ladder. I also shaved a piece of seasoned cedar with no problems… except for the occasional knot. All sorts of camp crafts can be made using a paring ladder.

How to Build a Paring Ladder (Shaving Horse) in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The paring ladder held a section of seasoned Beech in place with little effort

Even in your shop or garage, it won’t take up as much room as a shaving horse. For a shop shaving ladder, I’d actually make the ladder more permanent and designed like the one in Peter’s blog from the first paragraph.

If you’ve ever used a paring ladder, I’d really like to hear your ideas and learn some new tricks.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree

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by Todd Walker

I stand in countless hardware stores mumbling my frustration… “can I get a double bit ax handle, please!?”

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Finding a suitable handle for a double bit ax restoration project is like searching the proverbial haystack for that lost needle. It’s a horrible waste of time. I could have ordered a handle from a few U.S. ax handle suppliers. But I’d never made my own ax handle.

Mike, our across the street neighbor and good friend, had a large hickory snap in a recent storm. I loaded my chainsaw and wood cutting tools into our garden wagon, pulled into his yard, and cut the fallen tree into firewood lengths.

One four-foot section at the base of the tree had spit down the middle in the fall. For some reason, I didn’t cut these two split sections into firewood. A few weeks later I’d understand why…

Mike was taken from us. The unexpected, sudden loss of his life nudged me into action. The two uncut sections eventually made their way to my backyard  for a labor of love.

Before the ingenious Paleo person came up with the idea of lashing a stick to a sharp stone, people simply palmed axes in their hands to chop stuff. The invention gave primal man leverage and a powerful mechanical advantage needed to work more efficiently. Later, in the Iron Age, this idea changed the course of human history when wooden handles were attached to metal cutting tools. Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance just got easier!

To make your own ax handle, here’s some stuff you’ll need…

Tools and Material

  • A Tree ~ Hickory was available so I used it. Other suitable trees include ash, white oak, sugar maple, or hornbeam (ironwood). A tree with a diameter of at least 10 inches with straight grain will give you the best chance at finding a billet to use.
  • Wedge(s), Sledge Hammer, and/or Spitting Maul ~ A metal wedge is used to split the round into quarters. A splitting maul can be used if you don’t own a wedge. Wooden wedges can be used after the initial split in the log.
  •  Ax or Hatchet ~ Used to cut the rough shape of the handle.
  • Draw Knife ~ Refines the shape
  • Rasp ~ For removing detailed amounts of wood
  • Shaving Horse ~ Holds stock in place while working the draw knife or rasp. A bench vise will also do the job.
  • Wooden Maul ~ Hitting stuff
  • Pencil and Measuring Device ~ You’ll do a lot of drawing and measuring
  • Fine-Toothed Saw ~ Cutting the slot to accept the wedge and cutting handle to length. I used my Japanese saw from my carpenter’s tool kit.
  • Sand Paper – 80 and 150 grit

Here are the steps used to make my handcrafted hickory handle which holds sentimental value.

Step #1: Split the Log

Lay the log on flat ground. My log was already halved when it fell. With a full round, drive a wedge in the top of the log to start a split down the middle of the wood. Continue the split with another wedge or splitting maul. Once separated, use an ax to cut any wood fibers holding the two pieces together.

IMG_3817

Lay the half on the ground (flat side down) and split it into two quarters. Depending on the size of your log, you may need to cut quarters into eighths. Now you have billets with about 4 to 6 inches of bark on the outside of the wedged-shaped wood.

Step #2: Find a Handle

Look at the end of the billets and select one with annual growth rings that run straight through the length of your handle. Avoid billets that have twists and defects (knots).

IMG_3808

The growth rings should run length wise on the long part of the rectangle

Draw a 1.5 x 5 inch rectangle on the end of the billet with the growth rings running as straight through the length of the rectangle as possible. The closer the growth rings are to each other the stronger the handle will be.

Baton an ax on the mark unless you're very accurate swinging an ax

Baton an ax on the mark unless you’re very accurate swinging an ax

Stand the billet on end and score one of the long rectangle lines with an ax and wooden maul to start a split. Remove the ax and finish the split with a wedge. Repeat the process for the remaining lines on the rectangle. If all goes well, you’ll have a piece of stock in a rough rectangular shape.

Step #3: Hew the Handle

Stand the billet on a wooden anvil at a slight angle. Begin hewing the form of the handle. Score down the length of the handle in 1 to 2 inch spacing with a sharp ax or hatchet. Then go back and remove the score marks with controlled chopping/slicing motion of the ax. This technique is safely done by chopping with the ax perpendicular to the wood anvil.

Use a small ax or hatchet to remove as much wood as possible on the rough handle

Use a small ax or hatchet to remove as much wood as possible on the rough handle

Work down the billet on all the sides until you have a rough shaped handle. Remember that you can’t add wood back once it’s removed. But the more you take off in this step, the easier your job will be in our next step.

IMG_3844

Step #4: Refine the Handle

Sketch an outline of handle shape on the roughed handle. Place the stock in a shaving horse or some type of vise that will hold securely.

Way too much stock left for draw knife work... back to the ax work

Way too much stock left for draw knife work… back to the ax work

Begin shaving off the wood that isn’t the handle (outside the lines). A sharp draw knife is essential. Go with the grain to remove material. If the knife digs into the stock at a sharp angle, you’re going the wrong way. Turn the handle around and work the grain the other way.

IMG_3884

Leave the handle portion that fits in the eye of the ax as a rough shaped rectangle for now. Concentrate on material removal on the shaft. The shaft should begin to take the shape of an oblong handle with narrow edges that run the same plane as the ax bit(s). The wider sides of the shaft help prevent the handle from turning in your hand when using the cutting tool.

Step #5: Rasp Time

Once the shaft is close to your finished size, begin removing wood from the head end with a draw knife. Check the size needed by placing the ax head against the end so that it is about a 1/4 inch larger that the ax eye. Place the axhead against the end and draw a line from the inside of the ax eye.

My marker wouldn't fit and draw inside the eye very well so I finished the outline free-hand

My marker wouldn’t fit and draw inside the eye very well so I finished the outline free-hand

Secure the handle and begin removing wood from the head with a rasp. Get the head close to size and try fitting the axhead on the handle. If it goes on the tip of the head, tap the butt of the handle with a wooden mallet or maul until the axhead stops moving on the handle. You’ll hear a ringing sound instead of thud once it’s seated.

Remove the axhead from the handle. You’ll see marks on the head showing you how much more wood needs to be removed for a proper fit. Rasp more off the head end and check the fit again. Take your time and remove small amounts of wood until the axhead fits down to the shoulder of the handle with at least a 1/4 inch sticking out of the top of the ax eye.

IMG_3905

To remove the axhead from the handle, I carved another piece of hickory slightly smaller than the ax eye but larger at the opposite end to be used as a punch. Place the axhead on a raised platform so that the handle is off the ground. I used my shaving horse for this task. Drive the handle out of the eye with the wooden punch and hammer or wood maul. You’ll do this procedure several times while testing the fit.

Rasp work in my shop vise

Rasp work in my shop vise

With the axhead removed, begin shaping the shaft and head of the handle with your rasp.

Step #6: Sand the Handle

With the handle close to size, begin sanding to smooth the surface. I began using a broken 42 inch 80 grit sanding belt by hand. I eventually switched to my orbital sander with 80 grit paper to speed up the process. 150 grit finished the handle.

IMG_3999

How it feels in your hands is what matters

How it feels in your hands is what matters

Step #7: Cut Slot and Wedge

With a fine edged saw, cut a slot in the head end of the handle about half the depth of the ax eye. I used a piece of scrape leather in my bench vise to prevent marring the sanded handle. Japanese saws are excellent for fine, clean cuts. They cut on the pull stroke.

IMG_4021

Make a wedge from a scrap piece of wood. I used a piece of seasoned Tulip Poplar in my shop. The grain orientation of the wedge ran perpendicular to the grain of the handle.

Step #8: Hang the Ax

Time to hang the ax on the finished handle. You should be good at this by now. Whack the butt of the handle with a maul while holding the handle in a vertical position. Smack the butt until you hear that solid ring when the axhead seats on the shoulder.

Look for a small curl or two on the shoulder of the handle

Look for a small curl or two on the shoulder of the handle

Trim any curls off where the ax eye and shoulder bottom out. Check the alignment of the head on the handle by sighting down the handle towards the bit of the ax. The center line of the handle should line up with the ax bit. If not, remove the ax and sand wood from either side to achieve alignment.

Tulip poplar wedge going in

Tulip poplar wedge going in

When everything is in line, drive the wedge into the slot on top of the handle. Add a little wood glue to the wedge. The wedge, properly seated, will expand the top of the handle in the eye to secure the axhead to the handle. Cut the wedge off with a saw and sand the end until 1/8 to 1/4 inch of handle is sticking out of the axhead.

Customized sticker for a custom ax handle

Customized sticker for a custom ax handle

I cut this straight handle at 29 inches. This is a good length for the 3 pound Warren Axe and Tool double bit ax. It’s a custom handle that feels good in my hands. That’s all that really matters.

Step #9: Oil the Handle

Apply a coat of boiled linseed oil to all the exposed wood. Repeat this application daily for one week. Then once a week for a month, and once a month for a year. 

This ax handle started out as the half pictured in the background

This ax handle started out as the half log pictured in the background

My next project is to make a double bit sheath for this special ax. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Nothing beats making stuff with you own hands!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything

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by Todd Walker

Read the next two lines and stop. Look around you. Make a mental note of all the useful stuff produced from two resources… wood and metal.

Really, stop reading for a second!

Okay, come back now.

What did you come up with? If you only noted the obvious wooden and metallic items, go deeper. With a little thought, your list should grow exponentially.

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The fact is, wood and metal were directly or indirectly responsible for building your house, mailbox, wall clock, sofa, and the electronic device you’re reading from this very moment.

Wood and metal go together like peas and carrots. Metal tools are used to shape wood. But wood creates fire to heat metal for making said tools. And don’t forget about the useful wooden handles attached to metal tools. There’s a relationship between the two resources in which both benefit from the other. In biology, we call this mutualism.

For long-term self-reliance, learning to manipulate and exploit these resources will make you an indispensable asset to both family and community.

Blacksmithing: The Master of All Crafts

Except for harnessing fire, nothing in human history compares to the discovery of metal and its ability to be molded, formed, and poured into useful shapes. Blacksmithing is the only craft that makes their own tools and the tools of other craftsmen.

DSCN0592

Traditional Appalachian Smithy at Foxfire Museum

You don’t have to dial back in time too far to find Bob the Blacksmith being the most prominent tradesman in town. In need of a gate latch? Go see Bob. How about that crack in your froe? Bob can forge weld it and have you back splitting cedar shakes for your roof in no time. Making a hammer for your flint-lock rifle could be done by Bob.

Basic Smithing Tools

To build a functional smithy, you’ll need a few tools. No need to spend a boatload of money to get started either. Shop yard sales, flea markets, scrap yards, farm auctions, estate sales, and antique stores – the highest prices are usually paid at antique stores.

Here are the basic tools needed for beginners like me…

  • Anvil ~ A real blacksmithing anvil may be your largest cash outlay. A common man’s anvil can be a section of railroad track or large block of metal – 100 plus pounds mounted to a wooden stump.
  • Forge ~ Charcoal, coal, or gas-powered, the forge will heat your steel for shaping and tempering metal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A hole in the ground will work. Some sort of blower to increase heat in your coal or charcoal. Blowers are not needed for a propane forge.
Propane forge at Red Barn Forge

Dave’s new propane forge at Red Barn Forge

  • Hammer ~ A 2 to 3 pound hammer to work hot metal. You can add to your hammer collection over time. There are four basic types of hammers for moving metal: straight peen, ball peen, cross peen, and sledge.
  • Tongs ~ Long handle pliers used to grip hot steel while hammering.
  • Vise ~ A bench vise mounted on a sturdy work bench. I’ve yet to acquire a blacksmithing post vise.
  • Files ~ Flat and half-round
Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

File and file card

  • Quench Bucket ~ Container large enough to hold about 5 gallons of water to cool hot metal and for tempering.
  • Safety Equipment ~ Eye protection, ear protection, leather boots, natural fiber clothing, welding gloves, fire extinguisher and water bucket/hose, first aid kit.
  • Like other crafts, there are almost endless numbers of tools and items you’ll want to acquire as your skill level increases.
The "anvil" is a solid piece of steel I'll mount to a stump.

The “anvil” (lower right) is a solid piece of steel I’ll mount to a stump.

Though I’ve always known the importance of this craft historically, my dabbling has only produced a few items. However, after a recent Georgia Bushcraft camping trip, I realized it’s time to get serious about hammering steel.

Stephan Fowler of Fowler Blades spent two hours in the rain demonstrating, in less than optimal conditions, the process of turning a file into a functional cutting tool. The blade was not his best work considering he used a crumbly rock as an anvil, an air mattress pump for a billow, and burning chunks of hardwood on the ground as his forge.

I was honored to have won this file knife which Stephan made in a fire challenge during the campout!

I was honored to have won Stephan’s survival file knife in a fire-building challenge during the campout!

Check out what Stephan produces when he has access to his real forge → here.

Your skill level doesn’t have to be superior to be useful for long-term self-reliance. The more you hammer steel and study metallurgy, the better you become.

Blacksmithing Resources

Blacksmithing in America was hot and heavy during our pioneer days in North America. Not long after the Industrial Revolution, the art of blacksmithing survived only as a specialty craft. Thankfully, the secrets of metallurgy, once guarded in guilds, is being passed on through modern-day blacksmiths. Here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful in connecting with local craftsmen.

Woodworking

The craft of woodworking compliments blacksmithing more so than any two trades I know. Developing the skill to make handles for metal tools or mill lumber from a tree to accept the nails you forged on your anvil could one day feed your family in hard times. I’ll bet your master gardener neighbor would be willing to barter food for tools and repairs on her homestead.

If you’re like me, you find yourself dabbling in all sorts of pioneer skills. One skill I’ve become proficient at is carpentry. However, take away my power tools and my skill level drops several notches.

A mix of modern and pioneer tools

A mix of modern and pioneer hand tools

Working wood with pioneer tools is based on the same principles as modern woodworking… with a steeper learning curve and physicality. Don’t abandon your power tools. Here’s my list of basic wood working tools, both modern and pioneer style.

Modern Tools

  • Hammers ~ A 16 oz. claw hammer and a larger framing hammer (20 oz.) to get you started.
  • Saws ~ Circular, chop/miter, table, jig, reciprocating – cordless and corded. Cordless 18v batteries can be charged via solar chargers if the need arises.
  • Drills ~ Cordless impact driver and drill, corded drill press, and an assortment of drill bits (wood and metal), screw bits, and socket bit adapters.
  • Squares ~ Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure, wooden folding ruler, carpenter’s pencil, chalk line.
  • Utility Knife ~ One of my most used tools on my belt.

Pioneer Tools

  • Hammers, Mallets, and Mauls.

  • Saws ~ Hand saws: crosscut, rip, compass saw, coping, and bucksaw.
  • Drills ~ Brace and bit, augers, bits of various sizes.
  • Squares ~ Same as listed above; Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb and work as straight edges.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure (roughing work), wooden folding ruler, steel drafting ruler (bench work), pencil, chalk line.
  • Smoothing Planes ~ Both long and short. Stanley makes great planes and can be had inexpensively but may need some TLC to make them useable.
  • Chisels ~ A variety of sizes kept super sharp… which I’m known not to do.
  • Draw Knives ~ Draw knives for roughing wood to shape and spoke shaves for finishing form.
  • Shave Horse ~ Holds stock freeing both hands to work wood with a draw knife or spoke shave.
Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

  • Froe ~ A simple tool used to split (rive) wood into shingles, boards, and staves.
  • Rasp ~ Both flat and half-round. A 4-in-1 rasp is utilitarian.

Notice I didn’t delve into the actual skill sets needed. That would take a long time and lots of bandwidth. However, I do recommend that you begin stockpiling metal and woodworking tools. They may be useful one day.

Oh, and never pass up scrap metal. Collect lawn mower blades, leaf springs, bar stock, round stock, pallet wood, hardware (nails, screws, nuts and bolts), old files, tool steel, sharpening devices, sheet metal, saws, etc., etc.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

Real stuff, almost all stuff, can be made from skilled hands with metal and wooden tools. Learning to work these two resources may start as a hobby or pastime but could very well insure your livelihood in hard times.

Did you think of anything that was made without metal and/or wood being directly or indirectly involved in the process? Bet you didn’t.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame

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by Todd Walker

How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Debates happen from time to time over which is more important for self-reliance… gear or skills?

With our emphasis on developing Doing the Stuff skills here, you probably already know my position. But, then again, you may be surprised.

Here’s my take…

Both skills and gear are essential to self-reliant living! Modern gear is not evil. Neither are primitive tools.

Every primitive skills practitioner, prepper, homesteader, and woodsman needs tools. It has something to do with opposable thumbs. Tools wrapped by skilled thumbs are capable of making gear.

For instance, take the modern backpack. They’re constructed with state of the art material and built with internal frames. They’re designed to haul loads comfortably over long distances. My Osprey pack has many convenient pockets, pouches, and bells and whistles. But what kind of burdens can you carry with modern internal frame packs? Clothing and camping stuff mostly.

Here’s the thing though…

Try carrying a load of firewood back to camp or a quartered deer with an internal frame pack. They’re pretty one-dimensional.

How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp Chuck Box strapped to the Roycroft

People all over the world have been using crude A-frame packs to carry heavy burdens for thousands of years. Otzi The Ice Man used an external frame pack over 5,000 years ago made of a bent sapling. Though his was not an A-frame style pack, an external frame can carry odd-shaped loads that modern internal frame packs can’t.

Let’s get started. You’ll get to use knife skills, knots, and lashings to make your own.

Roycroft Pack Frame

The Roycroft pack frame was named (not self-named, btw) after Mors Kochanski’s friend, Tom Roycroft. Mr. Roycroft, a survival instructor in the Canadian military in the 1960’s, used the time-tested idea of using 3 sticks and cordage to teach downed pilots how to construct a pack. The simple idea was adopted and used successfully.

Material List

  • Three sticks
  • Cordage
  • Cutting tool

Knots and Lashing

  • Trucker’s Hitch
  • Bowline
  • Blood Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Lark’s Head

Step #1 ~ Harvest Three Sticks

Upright Poles: Harvest saplings that are straight and thumb-size in diameter. For the uprights, cut two sticks that measure from arm pit to finger tip in length. Stripping the bark from the poles will help preserve the wood but isn’t necessary.

Lumbar Pole: This stick should measure from elbow to finger tip. Try to find a stick that is slightly curved to conform to your belt line. However, a straight stick will work.

Step #2 ~ Lashing Uprights

Start by using a tripod lashing on the two uprights. Place the two uprights together with the bottoms even. Begin lashing about three inches from the top of the poles. When done, spread the two apart to form the A-frame.

Lashing at the top of the A-frame

Lashing at the top of the A-frame

Check out our video tutorial on how to lash a tripod. You’ll only lash two sticks though.

Lashing with natural cordage may require a butterfly notch at each intersection.

Step #3 ~ Lash the Lumbar Pole

[Edit – 10/20/15: After publication, Chris Noble, a friend and writer/owner of Master Woodsman, noticed something about my frame. My lumbar pole is to the inside of the frame. By lashing this piece to the outside of the upright poles, a small shelf is created which would offer a ledge for loads like a camping chuck box to rest upon. Thanks for suggesting this Mors Kochanski modification and your attention to detail.]

Place the lumbar stick on top of the uprights so that the bend is protruding between the two uprights. Make sure you have about an inch and half of overhang at each intersection of the lumbar and uprights.

Diagonal lashing holding the lumbar support securely to the upright

Diagonal lashing holding the lumbar support securely to the upright

The intersections will not be perpendicular. Use a square lashing or diagonal lashing to secure the lumbar section to the upright poles. I used a square lash on one and a diagonal on the other just for practice.

Learn to tie a square lashing here. I’ll have to do a diagonal lashing tutorial soon.

Step #4 ~ Attach Loops to Frame

Loops of cordage are multifunctional. Besides being handy tie-outs to secure loads on the frame, the loops can be used to set up a tarp shelter. You can check out my first video how I set up an emergency 5 minute shelter.

To make quick-release loops, cut six pieces of cordage 18 inches long. Tie a blood knot in each piece of cordage. This knot is easy to untie after being cinched tight.

These 6 loops are also used to set up my tarp system

These 6 loops are also used to set up my tarp system

Attach each loop with a larks head knot; one on the lumbar pole, two on one upright, and the remaining three on the other upright. The larks head knot is easy to adjust on the poles depending on where you want the loops placed.

Step #5 ~ Add Shoulder/Belt Straps

Cut a piece a rope three double arm-lengths (from outstretched finger tip to your other outstretched finger tip). One of my outstretched double arm-length is about 6 foot – X3 – equals about 18 feet. I used a piece of 3/8 inch rope from my strap/rope box in my shop which measured about 16 feet.

Note: If you use natural rope like hemp or manila, you’ll need to add whipping to the cut ends to prevent fraying.

Double the rope evenly to form a loop in one end. Thread the loop under the top A-frame intersection from the inside of the frame. Tie a larks head by inserting the working ends of the rope through the loop. Work the knot tight so that the two loose ends are going through the top of the “V” on the pack frame.

Simple lark's head knot

Simple lark’s head knot

Lift the empty pack frame onto your back with the lumbar support at or slightly above belt height with the ropes over each shoulder. Reach back and wrap one rope around the upright and lumbar intersection on the same side of the shoulder strap. Repeat the process for the other shoulder strap. Pull the pack tight to your back.

Now you can secure the remaining rope around your waist as a belt. To make a quick-release waist belt, tie a trucker’s hitch (watch our video of a trucker’s hitch here at 2:30 mins.) on the belt portion of the rope. Once secured, tuck any remaining rope behind the pack frame.

Step #6 ~ Load the Frame

Use your shelter system (tarp, poncho, or other waterproof cover) as the shell. I used my homemade Oil Skin Bed Sheet Tarp. Lay the frame on the ground with the outside facing up. Make sure the loops are to the outside of the frame for easy access.

Place the tarp on top of the frame. Here’s the key to packing a comfortable Roycroft frame…

My favorite Alpaca wool sweater

My favorite Alpaca wool sweater

Cushion required to carry the pack comfortably

Cushion required to carry the pack comfortably

Stuff a sweater or other soft material (sleeping bag) in the triangle so that it protrudes past the frame as a cushion for your back. Now you can add your other items on top of that layer. I pack a dry bag with items I won’t need until setting up camp.

Dry bag with stuff I'll need once I set up camp

My dry bag which will be rolled into the wool blanket

Once your load is ready on top the tarp and frame, wrap the sides of the tarp over the burden. Wrap the bottom of the tarp up and over the sides. The top of the tarp folds over last like an envelope to shed rain.

Sides of tarp wrapped over the burden first

Sides of tarp wrapped over the load first

Bottom of tarp folded over next

Bottom of tarp folded over next

Top of tarp folded down to form a waterproof envelop for the contents

Top of tarp folded down to waterproof the contents

My shelter uses a 25 foot piece of paracord as the ridge line. Double this cord to form a loop. Place the loop end over one of the upright poles at the top of the A-frame. Run the working end through the loop on the lumbar pole and back around the upright pole. Cinch tight. Begin threading the cordage through the side loops in a crossing fashion to alternate sides of the pack frame, cinching tight on each loop.

Cinched and secured pack

Cinched and secured pack

You may not use all six loops. For larger loads, don’t double the 25 foot section of paracord. Simply tie a bowline knot on one end and slip over an upright to give you more cordage to secure the load.

To terminate the cordage, tie a trucker’s hitch after going through the last loop. This allows a quick release while tightening the load.

Trucker's Hitch or Hillbilly Come-Along

Trucker’s Hitch – aka: Hillbilly Come-Along

Step #7 ~ Mount the Pack

For a light load, stand behind the upright frame on the ground with the shoulder straps in each hand. Lift the pack up and around your body so that the shoulder straps are in place. Secure the bottom two corners as described in Step #5 above. Tie off the belt securely.

You’ll notice that the rope will dig into your shoulder and trapezium muscles. To distribute the load, slide a thin piece of wood under each rope to bridge the gap between your pectoral muscles and shoulders. Prepare these pieces before you lift the pack on your back.

How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Simple wood strips disperse weight when carrying heavy loads

Sherpa Style

External pack frames have played a key role in conveying heavy loads over long distance. The Roycroft frame offers a lightweight option for anyone needing an improvised backpack.

All I need for a weekend in the woods

All I need for a weekend in the woods

I’m planning to modify my Roycroft frame with padded shoulder straps from an old ALICE pack to be my go-to backpack. Why not? I’ll be able to carry the large stones my rock-loving Dirt Road Girl picks out for her yard collection. Yep, I’m her beast of burden!

If you’ve ever built and used a Roycroft pack frame, we’re always interested in learning new tips and tricks to make ours better. Share your knowledge in the comment section or social media.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires

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by Todd Walker

Forgive me for butchering the pronunciation of tonteldoos in my video below. No matter how it’s spoken in Afrikaans, this portable tinderbox just became my favorite fire-starter for spark ignition fires. Simple, yet effective!

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tonteldoos is a small town in South Africa who’s name actually means tinderbox. Information on the traditional tinderbox itself was a bit scarce as I researched. I was fortunate enough to find a description of a tonteldoos in a Facebook learning group shared by a gentleman (Eben) raised in South Africa. I built mine based on his helpful instructions.

Thank you, Eben, for sharing some history and the idea of making this pocket tinderbox!

Tonteldoos History

The tonteldoos was introduced in South Africa by European settlers in the 17th century. The tinderbox was an effective and portable method of creating fire up until the introduction of stick matches in the mid 1800’s. As wars tend to do, the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) created a scarcity of stick matches causing people to revert back to the traditional tonteldoos to start fires in homes and afield.

Even after the war ended and matches became widely available, the use of this traditional tinderbox continued through to the mid 20th century. Testing my pocket tonteldoos, I can certainly see why. It’s easy to make, easy to use, and employs one of man’s time-tested ignition sources – flint and steel.

Tonteldoos Testing

Consistent ignition with flint and steel requires a dry source of charred material. Once the material catches a spark, the glowing ember is placed in a tinder bundle and blown into flame. With marginal or damp tinder, I’ve gone through several pieces of char from my fire kit before reaching ignition temperature.

This pocket tinderbox offers a controlled solution to eating up all your charred material. Here’s how…

With the tonteldoos, the only material consumed is at the end of the tube. The remaining un-charred material is preserved within the cylinder. Saving this valuable next-fire resource is the smart move.

I tested two methods…

  1. Char all the cotton material before inserting in the tube
  2. Char only the cotton material protruding from the end of the tube

By far, the best results came from charring the end of the material (method #2).This is the traditional method used for tonteldoos.

Method #1 failed, as I suspected, due to the fragile nature of charred material. It’s difficult to push crumbly material through a tube without turning it to dust. The charred rope provided an awesome glow but was consumed too quickly.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Make Your Own

After reading Eben’s description, my possum mentality kicked in as I walked to my shop. I needed a metal tube and cotton material. I considered using a small, gutted Maglite but the diameter would not allow me to push the material up with my finger. The same goes for 1/2 inch copper pipe unless you’ve got really skinny fingers.

I dove into my scrap copper from previous plumbing jobs. If you don’t have copper lying around, home improvement stores sell all you need.

Here’s what I came up with for my tonteldoos…

Stuff you'll need

Stuff you’ll need

Material and Tools

  • 3/4 inch copper pipe about 4 inches in length
  • Two 3/4 inch copper caps – bought new for about $1.50 each
  • 100% cotton material – several strands from a mop head works well
  • Cordage is totally optional
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Copper wire if you make a loop through the end caps like mine
  • Drill and drill bit the diameter of the wire used to make the loop
  • Pipe cutter
  • Flint and steel

Step 1: Cut Pipe

Cut a 4 inch section of 3/4 inch pipe. Ream each end of the pipe with the attachment on the pipe cutter – or use a file. This removes burrs from snagging the cotton material as it passes through the pipe.

Pipe reamer attachment

Pipe reamer attachment

Step 2: Pack the Pipe

Any 100% cotton material would probably work. I had a new industrial mop head lying around I had intended to use as char rope. Perfect!

Cut several strands off a mop head and feed them through the pipe with a twisting motion until 1/4 inch of material is sticking out of the top end of your cylinder. Let the bottom end run wild. You can remove the excess later.

IMG_3389

Char the 1/4 inch of material with an open flame. I used my new Mullein Slush Lamp… just because! Any open flame will do.

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Once the end is charred, pull the wick down from the bottom end so the charred end is even with the top of the pipe. Place the cap on the smoldering end to extinguish the embers. Now cut the excess material from the bottom end of the tinderbox.

IMG_3411

Step 3: Attach Wire Loops to Caps

This is completely optional. I added loops to my caps for three reasons…

  1. Tying cordage to connect the two loops may aid in keeping the caps found in the field.
  2. A steel striker can be attached to the cordage.
  3. Cordage can be tied to keep the end caps secured if you actually carry your tonteldoos in your pocket while tramping through the woods.

If the end caps fit loosely, tweak the pipe ends by lightly tapping them with a hammer to take them out of round. Not too much or your cap won’t fit (square peg in a round hole). Another way to tighten the cap connection is to solder the caps on and then remove them. The layer of solder would make the caps fit tightly once cooled.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The blood knot before tightening

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blood knot tightened to secure caps

Or just tie them securely with a blood knot (how to tie a blood knot video here) as mentioned in #3. For this part, you’ll need a loop on each end cap…

Drill two holes in each cap the diameter of a piece of copper wire. I stripped a section of scrap 12 gauge wire to form my loops. Needle-nose pliers are most helpful for this task. I opted not to solder the wire inside the cap since bending them down inside each cap held the loops in place securely.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Copper wire bent in the bottom of the cap

How to Use Your Tonteldoos

As with any charred “next-fire” material, keep the tonteldoos in a dry place in your haversack or fire kit. I keep a couple of pieces of chert/flint inside my square tinderbox (pictured below) with other charred material and finely processed tinder material. The tonteldoos fits perfectly inside this large tinderbox.

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

To ignite the charred end of the tonteldoos, push the wick from the tube bottom with your finder so that 1/8th inch of the charred wick is exposed. Hold the cylinder in your non-dominant hand with your pinky and ring finger. Hold a sharp piece of chert/flint between your thumb and pointing finger. The tinderbox should be below the flint so the sparks have a better chance of landing on the wick – unlike the photo below.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirty hands and dirt time!

 

Strike down lightly and repeatedly over the edge of the sharp stone so that sparks are produced and hopefully land on the charred end. The tiny shards of metal oxidize and spontaneous combust to produce 800 degree sparks hot enough to create a glowing ember on the charred wick.

Spontaneous combustion from flint and steel

Flint and steel showering sparks on the tonteldoos

Once a spark finds its mark, a glowing ember appears. Blow the ember to spread the glow over the end of the wick.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Should look like a lit cigar when ready

 

Of course, you’ve prepared fine to course tinder material beforehand and shaped a stellar tinder bundle (a.k.a. – birds nest). I use two methods to ignite tinder bundles with my pocket tondeldoos.

First, place the glowing end of the wick directly into the finest part of your tinder material and blow to ignition. Be sure to push the wick out of the tube a bit so as to make good contact with the fine tinder.

The other method is to use the glowing end of the tonteldoos to ignite a fire extender like punk wood, black sooty mold, etc., etc. Then place the fire extender in your bird’s nest and blow it to flame.

Here’s our video demonstrating my DiY tonteldoos…

If you want a portable, long-lasting, reliable source of char for flint and steel ignition, give the tonteldoos a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

Be sure to let us know your results and any other creative ideas to build one.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf

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by Todd Walker

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Full credit for this hack goes to our Georgia humidity, a buddy of mine, and my fondness for fire.

Trading theory for action is the only way to prove for yourself if something you’ve read or watched will work in real-life. For instance, will dry mullein (Torch Plant) leaves ignite with a ferro rod. I tested the theory and found that they smolder when 3,000 degree sparks landed on their dry surface. Dry is a relative term in Georgia humidity.

Noticing the properties of the once velvety leaves and their ability to hold an ember, an idea lit in my mind. I stripped the dry leafy portion off to expose the pinnate vein. The main vein became pliable with a light coat of coconut oil and absorbed the fuel like dry sponge.

Bingo!

I’ve made mullein torches with my grandson before.

backyard-bushcraft

Mullein torch in the backyard

Soaking the dry seed head in oil, resin, or wax makes a great tiki-type torch for night-time illumination. Hence the name Torch Plant. But burning a mullein torch inside a shelter or tent is not advisable. You’ll need a safe, controlled source of light.

Hummmmm…

Could the Torch Plant leaf serve as a slush lamp wick?

Yup!

Remember to never leave an open flame unattended.

How to Make Your Own Slush Lamp

Here’s the stuff you’ll need…

  • Small container – Altoids tin, sea shell, aluminum foil, etc. – more container ideas below
  • Fuel – coconut oil, olive oil, cooking oil, rendered animal fat
  • Mullein leaf(s)
  • Beer bottle cap (optional)

IMG_3343

Step 1: The Wick

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has many practical uses for self-reliance. I’ve listed 27 here. Other natural fibrous plants can be used as well. However, with mullein, you won’t have to twist any fibers into cordage. Simply remove the dry leafy portion from the vein and saturate the wick in oil.

The tallest mullein stalk leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

The tallest Torch Plant leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

Fashion the bottom of the vein in a simple overhand knot forming a lasso-like loop as the base of the wick. Bend and form the tag end of the wick so that 1/4 to 1/2 inch is above your oil.

The wick in the top corner is two veins twisted together

The wick in the top corner is leaning against the tin’s side

Richard, a friend of mine, recommended using another technique to support the wick. Punch a hole in a bottle cap, feed the wick through and place it on the bottom of your container.

This camp hack is worth the price of admission…

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Brilliant!

Thanks to Terrapin Beer Co. and Richard’s brilliant idea, my slush lamp took on a new form of awesome!

Step 2: Fuel

I used coconut oil from my bushcraft mess kit. It liquefies once it touches your skin (melting point is 76º F). Apply a generous coat to the leaf vein. Add 1/4 inch of oil to your container.

Place the looped wick in the container with the tip above the oil level. Lean the wick over the outside edge of the container if additional support is needed and there are no bottle caps available.

WARNING: Seems like common sense but I need to add this disclosure. Do not use flammable liquid like white gas or gasoline. It will explode and ruin your day! If this does not compute, take up another hobby.

Step 3: Container

An Altoids tin works fine for this application. Unlike olive or vegetable oils, coconut oil solidifies in colder weather preventing it from leaking all over your pack while on the move.

Simple makeshift containers can be found in nature or crafted from supplies in your pack. Ideas include:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Rocks with an indention
  • Wood with knot holes
  • Dehydrated food pouches
  • Large leafs from sycamore trees laid in a small indention in the ground
  • Duct tape fashioned into a bowl… yep, a crazy amount of uses for this stuff!

Wicks can be added to the long list of uses for this plant. Over a thirty minute test, I had to adjust the hight of the wicks a couple of times. Other than those few tweaks, the slush lamp provided a steady, reliable source of light.

Torch Plant and Fire Craft

Mullein is my most dependable spindle material for friction fire via the hand drill. Below is a picture of two pieces of mullein stalk lashed together to form a hearth board. My old faithful mullein spindle, cracks and all, created a coal in the crevice between the two-stick hearth board.

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

The take away from this tutorial is to stay curious and observant as you practice self-reliance skills. You never know what you’ll discover!

Hope this helps if you ever need an emergency source of lighting.

What other natural plant material have you used for slush lamp wicks?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.