3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere

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by Todd Walker

3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

What’s in your pockets? If you look at the popular trend of pocket dumps on social media, the answer appears to be everything, except the kitchen sink. I seldom see fire tools in these pocket dumps. Of course, our Everyday Carry items will look different depending on our jobs, lifestyle, and skill level.

Several of us from the Prepared Bloggers are sharing different EDC (Everyday Carry) items we never leave home without. Being the pyro that I am, I choose fire. Be sure to read the other value-adding articles by my friends in the links below this article.

The concept of carrying essential items on one’s person is smart habit. If ever separated from your main preparedness kit, the stuff in your pockets, plus your skillset to use said items, may be the only tools available.

The tool doesn’t determine your success. Your skills determine the tool’s success.

The quote above applies to preppers, survivalists, campers, carpenters, homesteaders, accountants, school teachers, and, well, all of us.

Pockets of Fire

If you frisked me, no matter the locale (urban or wilderness), you’d discover a minimum of three ignition sources in my pockets…

  • Mini Bic lighter (open flame)
  • Ferrocerium rod (spark ignition)
  • Fresnel lens (solar)
3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

L to R: Key chain Exotac fireRod, mini Bic lighter, wallet fresnel lens, and two wallet tinders: duct tape and waxed jute twine.

Let’s break these down and discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and a few tips to successfully use each fire tool. Keep in mind that these are simply ignition sources and do not guarantee a sustainable fire. For more info on the importance of fire, you may find this article useful.

Bic Lighter – Open Flame

Since a road flare isn’t practical for EDC, I carry a mini Bic. The resemblance of road flares to dynamite puts people on edge, especially law enforcement officers. I do have them in my vehicle kits though.

The times you really need fire is usually when fire is hardest come by. I’ll take an open flame over sparks, solar, and especially fire by friction every day of the week and twice on Sundays! As mentioned previously, you must put in deliberate practice to hone your fire craft skills by actually Doing the Stuff or these fire tools just look cool in pocket dumps on Instagram.

To learn more on building sustainable fires, browse our Fire Craft Page.

Cold hands loose dexterity and make normally simple tasks, striking a lighter, difficult. Modify your EDC lighter by removing the child-proof device wrapped over the striker wheel. Pry it up from the chimney housing. Once free, pull the metal band from the lighter. Two metal wings will point up after removal. Bend the wings down flat to protect your thumb when striking the lighter.

What if your lighter gets wet?

On a recent wilderness survival course, I taught our boy scout troop how to bring a wet lighter back to life. Each threw their non-child-proofed lighter into the creek. After retrieval, they were instructed to blow excess moisture out of the chimney and striker wheel. Next, they ran the striker wheel down their pant leg several passes to further dry the flint and striker. Within a few minutes, lighters were sparking and each scout had a functioning fire tool again.

The lighters I carry in my bushcraft haversack and hiking backpack are more tricked out than my plain ole’ EDC Bic. Here’s a few ideas I’ve picked up for adding redundant lighters which may be of interest…

3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This full-size Bic is wrapped in duct tape holding a loop of cord which attaches inside my haversack. The green cap (spring clamp handle end) idea came from Alan Halcon. It keeps moisture out and prevents the fuel lever from being accidentally depressed.

3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The cap removed reveals the child-proof device missing.

Advantages

  • A mini Bic will give you approximately 1,450 open flames.
  • A wet Bic can be back in service within a minute or so.
  • So easy to light a five-year-old can use one.
  • Designed to be used with only one hand.

Disadvantages

  • It’s difficult to monitor the fuel level unless the housing is clear.
  • They are consumable… eventually.
  • Extreme cold limits a Bic. Keep it warm inside a shirt pocket under your overcoat.
  • A mythical disadvantage is that lighters won’t work in high altitudes. If Sherpas use them on Mt. Everest, this lowland sherpa is sold.

Ferrocerium Rod (Firesteel)

In the bushcraft/survivalist/prepper community, ferro rods have the hyped reputation of being a fail-safe fire maker. The device is simple and won’t malfunction, they say. Scrap the metal off the rod, and, poof, you have a fire, even in the rain. Sounds good but don’t buy the marketing hype!

“Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
~ Thomas Sowell

In my experience teaching both children and adults, using a ferro rod for the first time ends in failure more times than not. Yet everyone is told to add one to their emergency fire kits. I carry a small one on my key chain because I enjoy practicing fire craft skills. They’re a novel way of making fire but, like any skill, require practice to become proficient.

3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The fireROD by Exotac  has a watertight compartment which will hold a full cotton makeup pad for tinder.

Of these three ferro rod techniques – push, pull, and thumb lever – the latter is my favorite on softer firesteels. It offers more accurate placement of sparks. The drawback is that the thumb lever requires more fine motor skills and coordination which go bye-bye in an adrenaline spiked emergency scenario. That’s why I carry a Bic!

If you’ve never tried the thumb lever technique, here’s a short video demonstration which may help…

One of the many reasons I practice fire by friction is the fact that it teaches the importance of preparing proper tinder material. Marginal tinder takes more heat to combust. Even with 3,000 degree ferro rod sparks, you may fail to ignite damp, finely shredded tinder. The amount of heat needed for ignition depends on the amount of surface area compared to its volume. Think in terms of small hair-like fibers. When you think you’ve got fine tinder, shred it some more.

Even without a “proper” striker or knife, any object hard enough to scrap metal off makes a good substitute.

A ferro rod/metal match is not my first choice in fire starters. It’s a fun bushcraft tool to use though.

Advantages

  • Scraped with a sharp rock, broken glass, or any object sharp enough to remove metal particles, 1,500º F to 3,000º F sparks spontaneously combust as they meet air.
  • Sparks even in wet conditions.
  • The average outdoors person will never use up a ferro rod.
  • Can ignite many tinder sources.
  • For more info on ferro rods, click here. My EDC rod is way smaller than the one in the link.

Disadvantages

  • They are consumable… eventually.
  • They’re difficult to use if you’ve never practiced with this tool.
  • Intermediate skill level needed.

Fresnel Lens

A quality fresnel lens is useful for starting fires, examining plants and insects, splinter and tick removal, and reading navigational maps. I carry a 4 power lens in my wallet. It takes up about as much space as a credit card. I ordered a 3-pack from Amazon for under $7.

Sunshine is loaded with electromagnetic energy in the form of photons. A fresnel lens simply harnesses the energy to a focused point creating enough heat to start a fire.

A few tips I’ve learned may help here. Not all tinder material will combust. You’ll get smoke and char but may never have an actual flame. In the short video below, within a second you’ll see smoke on crushed pine straw. Once a large area was smoldering, I had to blow the embers into a flame.

Increase your odds of solar ignition by keeping the lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays and the tinder. Move the lens closer or further away until the smallest dot of light strikes the target. Brace your hand to steady the spot of heat. Smoke should appear almost immediately. Afternoon sun is stronger than morning sun. Keep this in mind when practicing this method.

3 Essential EDC Fire Starters I Carry Everywhere ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays to concentrate the most radiant energy on your tinder.

Just for fun, I discovered that cocoa powder, which I carry in my bushcraft kit, makes a useable coal with solar ignition. Have fun playing and experimenting with fire!

Advantages

  • Beginner skill level. Ever drive ants crazy with one as a kid?
  • Can ignite different tinder materials
  • Lightweight
  • Saves other ignition sources on sunny days.
  • Never wears out. Always protect your lens from scratches and breakage.

Disadvantages

  • Dependent on sunshine.
  • May only create an ember which can be coaxed into flame.

EDC Fire Tinder

Duct tape and waxed jute twine ride alongside my fresnel lens in my wallet. You’ll also find a full-size cotton makeup pad stuffed inside the cap of my ferro rod. Wrapping a few feet of tape around an old gift card gives you an emergency tinder source for open flame ignition. Setting fire to a foot long strip of loosely balled duct tape will help ignite your kindling. There are so many multi-functional uses of duct tape, fire being one of them, that you should always carry at least a few feet in your wallet.

The waxed jute twine can be unravelled to create surface area for spark ignition. Unraveled, it can also be used as a long-burning candle wick. Either way, it’s nice to have another waterproof tinder in your pocket/wallet. Here’s a link if you’re interested in making your own waxed jute twine.

If all you have for ignition is a ferro rod, duct tape will ignite, but again, don’t count on it if you haven’t practiced this method. See our video below…

It never hurts to have multiple fire starting methods on your person. Drop us a comment on other EDC fire starters that I haven’t mentioned.

Be sure to scroll down and check out the other articles by my friends at the Prepared Bloggers.

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 Prepared Bloggers present - Everyday Carry Bag. What will you find in ours?

The Prepared Bloggers are at it again!

Everyday carry, or EDC for short, refers to items that are carried on a regular basis to help you deal with the normal everyday needs of modern western society and possible emergency situations.

Some of the most common EDC items are knives, flashlights, multitools, wallets, smartphones, notebooks, and pens. Because people are different, the type and quantity of items will vary widely. If you have far to travel for work or have young children, your EDC could be huge!

But, even if you’re just setting out for a walk around the neighborhood, taking your essential items with you in a pair of cargo pants with large pockets, may be all you need to be prepared.

Follow the links to see what a few of the Prepared Bloggers always carry in their EDC.

Shelle at PreparednessMama always carries cash, find out why and how much she recommends.

John at 1776 Patriot USA tell us the 5 reasons he thinks his pistol is the essential item to have.

LeAnn at Homestead Dreamer won’t be caught without her handy water filter.

Justin at Sheep Dog Man has suggestions for the best flashlights to carry every day.

Bernie at Apartment Prepper always carries two knives with her, find out what she recommends.

Nettie at Preppers Survive has a cool way to carry duct tape that you can duplicate.

Todd at Ed That Matters tells us about the one item you’ll always go back for…your cell phone

Erica at Living Life in Rural Iowa knows how important her whistle can be when you want to be safe.

Todd at Survival Sherpa always carries 3 essential fire starters wherever he goes.

Angela at Food Storage and Survival loves her Mini MultiTool, it’s gotten her out of a few scrapes!

How to Hone Ax Skills and Chop Your Way to Functional Fitness

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by Todd Walker

how-to-hone-ax-skills-chop-functional-fitness

Crazy eyes! They stare at me when I tell folks I’m cutting a cord of firewood with an ax. No chainsaw, no bucksaw, no maul… just an ax.

Real-world ax skills require massive, deliberate action.

February is history as are 88% (probably more) of the 2017 New Years resolutions. Following the season of overindulgence, these were the top five according to the Google:

  1. Exercise more (38 per cent)
  2. Lose weight (33 per cent)
  3. Eat more healthily (32 per cent)
  4. Take a more active approach to health (15 per cent)
  5. Learn new skill or hobby (15 per cent)

Expensive gym memberships, designer workout clothing, and faddish fitness equipment were purchased by folks really wanting to keep their resolutions. I’m so over the whole gym thing… have been for years. Here’s why…

  • Gym workouts are too predictable and safe
  • And the big one, they’re indoors!

Lifting heavy stuff in the gym is loaded with one-dimensional sameness. Running on a flat, rotating rubber mat has to be the most boring exercise ever invented. Any increase in fitness levels will obviously benefit anyone who enjoys the outdoors. But exercising for the sake of exercising is one reason people lose interest.

Why not combine resolution #1 and #5 (above) and actually get stuff done around the homestead, backyard, or base camp? I’m aware that many reading this will be limited in both skills and resources (trees). For those in the beginner stage of ax work, I would highly recommend spending time learning how to safely swing an ax. This is dangerous work. If you’re not a bit nervous before swinging your ax, you’re probably too cooky and will soon be humbled. The danger aspect is what keeps me focused while swinging sharp steel attached to a long stick. There is, however, nothing as satisfying in this woodsman’s psyche as honing an essential self-reliant skill and staring at a stack of ax-cut firewood seasoning.

The functional fitness aspect of wood chopping is a natural byproduct of ax work. Are you gonna bulk up like bodybuilders admiring their sculpted bodies in the mirror? No. If that’s your goal, stick to the gym. You will see noticeable gains in stamina for real-world, ever-changing daily tasks. Moreover, there’s the practical reward of watching a firewood pile grow which will provide heat to your family.

There are many more qualified axmen to learn from than me. I’ve wielded an ax most of my life but never in such a concentrated manner or time frame as the last six weeks. Hopefully, my experience will benefit some, and, perhaps, encourage others to start using our most basic of woodcutting tools. The ax is back!

Tree to Firewood

Old school professional boxers knew the benefits of swinging an ax. Jack Dempsey, George Foreman, and Mohammad Ali, to name a few, were known to chop wood for peak performance. As mentioned previously, finding available resources to chop may limit your adventure. An alternate workout, one I did several years ago, is to swing a sledge-hammer. But swinging a blunt object won’t increase your firewood supply.

There are far too many concerns and safety issues which need to be addressed to turn a standing tree into split firewood with an ax. I’ve covered a few Ax-Manship topics on our blog over the years. Before launching into serious ax work, I can’t recommend The Ax Book highly enough. Mr. Cook covers these topics more thoroughly.

Felling, limbing, bucking, hauling, splitting, and stacking your own firewood, in the woods, on uneven terrain, is physically demanding. According to Dudley Cook, after cutting a cord of firewood with an ax, “you will cumulatively lift about 24 tons for each cord.” Especially if you haul logs back to camp on your shoulder.

Not everyone will choose to cut their firewood with an ax only. If all you have available for a functional fitness workout is a long log, the following movement is an excellent way to exercise your major muscle groups.

Shoulder Log Lift

I’m in the middle of the Axe Cordwood Challenge at my base camp. There are some interesting obstacles with my scenario. Once a tree is down, my means of conveyance is to haul the logs back to base camp on my shoulder. I have neither machine nor animal to transport the wood. I’m the mule… or jackass in many cases.

Daddy taught me this method for hauling heavy pipe early in my youth in his plumbing/welding business. Balancing a long, heavy object on your shoulder is a skill every woodsman should learn.

I’ve found it easier to lift a longer pole than shorter logs of the same diameter. A six to nine foot log needs less vertical lifting force than a 4 footer of the same diameter. The reason is that a longer log tips over the shoulder (fulcrum) without needing extreme vertical force to get it into position.

Here’s the technique on video…

One would be wise to make a pad to protect your neck and shoulder. My makeshift pad is a cloth possibles bag stuffed with a shemagh I carry in my haversack.

How to Hone Ax Skills and Chop Your Way to Functional Fitness ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My makeshift shoulder pad. That’s one crooked red oak on the ground in the background.

Also, when limbing the tree, be sure to cut all limbs even with the trunk. Protruding limbs, even slightly raised, will not only poke into your shoulder and neck, but find a way of snagging every vine along your path of transport.

If it’s too heavy to lift one end, don’t attempt a shoulder carry. Split it into manageable rails first. You’ll develop a feel for what you can and can’t shoulder by standing the log vertically.

How to Hone Ax Skills and Chop Your Way to Functional Fitness ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice the amount of bend required to position my shoulder at the midpoint of this 6 footer vs. the 9 footer in the next photo.

How to Hone Ax Skills and Chop Your Way to Functional Fitness ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A 9 footer of smaller diameter. Longer logs require less vertical lifting power.

Once the log is vertical and balanced, position your feet near the base with your heels close together. Squat facing the log where your shoulder will meet near the balance point of the pole. Keep your back straight, grip the base of the log, and let the pole lean back over the shoulder as you lift by straightening your legs. A slight backwards rocking motion helps. Lifting with your back bent is inviting serious injury.

Position the log to balance slightly toward the rear, not forward. To adjust the lay of the log on your shoulder, hold with both hands and give a slight bounce with your legs to move the log forward or backward. When set properly, walk with one arm cradled on top of the log as your travel. Use your other hand if needed over rugged terrain. Here’s where nature’s gym throws a real-world workout at you.

Wear sturdy boots, take your time, and watch for tripping hazards. If you stumble, and a tumble is imminent, drop the log from your shoulder and get out of the way in the opposite direction. If possible, hedge your bets by walking inclines with the log on the downhill shoulder.

When you arrive at your destination, reverse the process to unload the log. With the end place on the ground, flop the standing end over. You’ll create a stack of long logs ready for splitting on a chopping platform. For smaller stock, just toss it off your shoulder taking care to avoid a kickback of the falling timber.

How to Hone Ax Skills and Chop Your Way to Functional Fitness ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

An updated photo of my ax-cut firewood stash.

The old adage, “Chop your own firewood and it warms you twice,” is a big fat lie! In my experience, the number is more like 7-10 to turn a standing tree into firewood. If you’re up to it, you’ll develop ax skills along with upping your functional fitness level. For those interested in either, check out the additional resources below…

Additional Resources:

Disclaimer: If you choose to use an ax in any manner to chop your own firewood, recognize the inherit dangers and take responsibility for your own wellbeing and safety. I am not responsible for anyone doing stupid stuff, or any other stuff. Even doing non-stupid stuff holds risks of injury and/or death when wielding an ax.

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.

 

How to Make Perfect Hobo Coffee without Modern Gadgetry

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by Todd Walker

How to Make Perfect Hobo Coffee without Modern Gadgetry ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Of all the pleasures of camping, sipping a freshly brewed cup of joe around the morning fire is, as the old TV commercial hummed along, the best part of waking up. Sorry, now the jingle is stuck in your head. Many campers employ a variety of gadgetry and complicated contraptions in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee.

Wanna simplify the whole process? Of course you do.

The process is so simple you’ll kick yourself for purchasing, and packing, that expensive French press!

Harlton’s Hobo Coffee Maker

I dubbed this simple, yet amazing, bush coffee maker the “Harlton Hobo Coffee Maker” after watching a Karamat Wilderness video loaded with Kelly Harlton’s bushcraft ingenuity. I highly recommend this channel for simple solutions and philosophy of crafting in the bush!

Here’s what you’ll need to make one on your next adventure…

Materials

  • Cotton Bandana – Kelly uses a pre-cut triangular piece of parachute material
  • 3 finger-size, arm-length sticks
  • String long enough to tie around the sticks bundled together

This may be the shortest tutorial in the history of this blog. It’s so simple not much explaining is required.

Step 1: Build a Tripod 

Bundle the three sticks together. Tie your string around the sticks with a quick knot to hold them together. Fold them out to form a tripod. The height of the tripod needs to be high enough to allow your coffee cup to sit under the bandana.

If you’d like to make a more permanent tripod for base camp cooking or your backyard, check out our video below. This is a bit overkill for the Harlton Hobo Coffee Maker though. Just tie the sticks together.

Step 2: Attach Bandana

I keep a few multifunctional bandanas in my haversack. If you have a large bandana, you can fold it diagonal to form a triangle. If not, just tie two corners on two legs of the tripod with the remaining two corners secured to the third leg with a simple over hand knot.

Check to make sure your coffee cup will sit under the bandana funnel. Adjust as needed.

Step 3: Add Coffee Grounds in the Funnel

Not real complicated here. Depending on how you like your coffee, between motor oil or brown tea, add enough grounds to satisfy. I make my first cup strong. A couple of scoops filtered trough into my 16 ounce kuksa is about right for my taste. The next cup filtered through the grounds will be weaker.

Step 4: Add Hot Water

How to Make Perfect Hobo Coffee without Modern Gadgetry ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

An old bush pot I keep at base camp

Boil up some water up in a pot over the fire or stove. Once she’s boiling, place your cup underneath the bandana filter and slowly pour hot water over the grounds. Gauge the amount you pour for one perfect cup of steaming hot goodness. Have your buddy’s cup ready to slide under to catch the next cup if you happen to over pour the first cup. Don’t waste a drop.

How to Make Perfect Hobo Coffee without Modern Gadgetry ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first cup dripping into my cup

All that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy. I’ve found my first cup is easier to swallow than my buddy’s embellished fishing tales.

Clean up is a breeze. Untie your filter and shake out the spent grounds. Be careful not to whip the filter in the air or you’ll cover yourself with used coffee grounds. Rinse out and hang the bandana to dry while you cook up a hearty breakfast fit for a woodsman. If you’ve got to get moving, tie the filter on the outside of your pack to dry while tramping to your next campsite.

The beauty of Kelly’s simple bush coffee maker is its weight, and the fact that you craft it on the spot. No modern gadgetry required to make the perfect cup of camp coffee.

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.

Ax Chopping Platform: Speed Up Firewood Cutting Safely

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by Todd Walker

ax-chopping-platform-speed-up-firewood-cutting-safely-thesurvivalsherpa-com

On a modern homestead wood lot, one cranks a chain saw, cuts logs to the length, and splits the rounds to season. The motorized saw makes quick work of large and small wood. But in an operational base camp, lugging a chainsaw, bar oil and fuel, on a regular basis is not practical. A good ax weighs less but can get the job done. However, there are challenges to cutting firewood (not splitting) to length with an ax.

Here’s a simple solution which not only saves your ax bit from grit and rocks in the ground, but allows you to use a powerful vertical chopping stroke safely – described in our last ax work article. To cut a winter supply of firewood with an ax only, take the time to build this speedy chopping platform.

The Ax Chopping Platform

Adapted from The Ax Book (D. Cook)

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

  • 2 Base Logs – six to seven-foot hardwood logs about 10-12 inches diameter
  • Stop Stick – 5 inches diameter by one foot
  • Sturdy, heavy gauge wire
  • Ax, of course
  • Saw – chainsaw will speed up your project
  • Pliers for twisting and cutting wire
  • Hardware – 4 nails, 3 feet of cable or chain
  • 5 pound weight

Step 1: Cut Base Logs

For axmen, chop down a hardwood tree with your felling ax. Buck it twice to get two 7 foot lengths. Or crank your chainsaw for the task. Either way works.

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The opposite, or back cut separates the log

I chose a half-broken Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). City folk hate them in their yards due to their pesky, prickly fruit, a scourge on bare feet and medieval projectiles when mowed. Trash trees in the view of many. But very resilient.

Now for the fun part… getting them back to camp. My good friend, Cokey, pork-butt-smoker extraordinaire, speaking in full southern drawl, always has this to say about any hard work,

“It’s like haulin’ logs. Ya gotta really wanna do it.”

Ax Chopping Platform: Speed Up Firewood Cutting Safely ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This size log would normally be split lengthwise, then quartered to haul back to camp.

And I did. I flopped and rolled my two sticks, dodging trees and obstacles, back to camp. My peavy was a fine companion to have along the journey.

Step 2: Secure Base Logs

For the sake of clarity, the end of the platform where the chopping happens we’ll call the “Head“. The opposite end of the platform will be, you guessed it, the “Tail.

Position the two logs side-by-side so the fat end of one mates up with the skinny end of the other. This will form the trough to hold the long wood you plan to chop into smaller wood. It’s a good idea to lay two length of cedar, or other rot resistant wood, perpendicular at the ends of the logs to keep them off the ground. This also makes the wiring job you’re about to do much easier, i.e. – passing wire under two real heavy logs.

Your choice in wire matters. In my video, the electric fence wire couldn’t stand the pressure. I cut lengths of rusty, but still strong enough, barbed wire from a fallen hog wire fence line near base camp. Be resourceful.

Wrap the wire around the Head of the platform and twist tight with pliers. You could also use a stout stick as a windlass. Beat the exposed barbs down if you use wire in the barbed variety.

Mr. Cook illustrates three wooden dowels driven through the two logs horizontally. If you’re building this project at your homestead, that may be feasible. Or, just drill and run all-thread rods through and secure with nuts and bolts. In the woods, I used the simple method, wire.

Step 3: Secure the Stop Stick

Butt the stop stick against the newly installed wire crossing the trough. Twist it down until taut. Too much twisting and you’ll sheer the wire and have to start over. Fencing pliers come in handy but other pliers work. Another option would be to use a Spanish windlass to tighten the wires. Ted, a member of our Doing the Stuff Network, pointed me to the Cobb & Co Hitch method.

Ax Chopping Platform: Speed Up Firewood Cutting Safely ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stop Stick secured with front kickback guard installed

Step 4: Attach Front Kickback Guard

If you’ve ever had a wooden missile fly at your face while chopping through a horizontal stick, you’ll appreciate the importance of this step. A whole lot of pain accompanies a stick in the eye. To prevent this stick-to-the-face event, install a piece of domed wire 6 to 8 inches past the stop stick.

I cut a section of that old hog wire long enough to arch over the platform creating a two-square wide hood of sorts. It hugs the top of the stop stick with about 6 inches overhanging the platform logs. I used two 16d nails and washers to secure the four ends to the sides of the platform logs. This gives me enough room to chop firewood lengths while safeguarding my noggin from flying firewood.

Step 5: Install Rear Kickback Guard

As experienced wood lot choppers know, as the stick you’re chopping to size shortens, especially the final two short lengths, the butt end is free to fly, and often does. Another kickback guard will hold the last length in the trough. However, this rear guard can’t be secured permanently over the trough or the stock your chopping won’t rest flat between the platform logs.

Ax Chopping Platform: Speed Up Firewood Cutting Safely ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A wired rock works for an improvised backcountry weight

Screw or nail a section of chain or wire to the chopping side of the platform with a weight attached to the end of the chain. This will allow you to toss the restrain over the stock in the trough as it shortens.

The distance between the front and rear kickback guards depends on the length of firewood you need. For instance, at base camp, 18 to 20 inches is about right. Mark the trough at your desired length. From that mark, attach the rear guard about the same distance as the front guard towards the Tail end of the platform.

On a homestead, any metal 5 pound weight can be located to hold the rear guard in place. In the forest, not so much. I stole a jagged-edged rock from my fire pit, wrapped it with wire, and attached it to the end of my chain restraint. When engaged (flopped over the logs), the weight rests about midway down the opposite side of the platform.

Step 6: Wire and Notch the Tail

To wire the Tail, cut a 90 degree notch in the end of both logs. The depth of the vertical cut should be slightly past the depth of the trough. Now cut horizontally to meet the vertical cut and remove the notch and create a ledge. Wrap wire around the log ledge and twist taut. If you run the wire tight in the corner, you’ll have a small, horizontal “table top” to sit your hot cocoa while sitting on the platform around the campfire. Flat horizontal surfaces are a luxury at base camp.

Ax Chopping Platform: Speed Up Firewood Cutting Safely ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A view of the wired Tail end of the platform

Step 7: Get to Chopping

Green wood is easier to chop than seasoned. Both are easier to separate when chopped at a 45 degree angle to the grain. Feed your stock into the trough up to the stop stick. Position yourself at a 45 degree angle where you can make a full vertical, backed-up stroke in the trough on your marked chopping spot. The stock is easily separated with a single, well placed stroke. On thicker stock that doesn’t, rotate the stick in the trough and chop it once more. That ought to do it.

Remember to “engage” the rear guard as the butt end of the stock shortens and gets itchy to jump off the platform.

The Axe Cordwood Challenge

In our Ax Chopping Platform video, I mentioned Steven Edholm’s “Axe Cordwood Challenge” on his YouTube channel, Skill Cult. Some may be wondering, why in the world would a person chop a cord of firewood, a stack measuring 4’x4’x8′, with an ax only?! They’re still manufacturing chainsaws, ya know! They do indeed. I own a couple of these modern marvels.

But, the ax, a simple machine, unlike the chainsaw, requires minimal field maintenance. Granted, the chainsaw cuts firewood to length quicker than an ax. To accommodate modern cutting, you’ll need to haul the gas-oil-mix can, bar/chain oil, an extra bar and chain for saws stuck in a log, and other field maintenance tools. You’ll probably carry an ax alongside the motor saw as a backup anyway. But with modern means of travel, four-wheelers and trucks, that’s not a huge deal.

Here’s the thing, for me at least…

In my mind, more significant is the fact that ax-manship is an old-soul skill which few moderns wish to re-kindle, never seeing the possibility of a future dependent on axes to stay warm. It is neither convenient nor easy. However, ax work is my most personally rewarding, satisfying, and warming undertaking I’ve done over the years.

You find an axman, one who turns a tree into firewood by felling, limbing, bucking, splitting lenght-wise for hauling, and then, chopping wood to length, and he’ll confirm that the most challenging job of staying warm with his ax is chopping to final burning size. This chopping platform greatly increases the speed, safety, and efficiency of making long logs short.

So, Steven, I’m taking you up on your challenge. Updates will be posted on my progress. If nothing else, I’ll be in great shape from swinging steel and hauling logs.

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 Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work

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by Todd Walker

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’m not sure when the bastardization began. But, make no mistake, it’s happened.

From a distance, there was an aura about the young man, he looked as though he had just stepped out of a 19th century lumber camp photo, like a man who knew the secrets of ax work and living off the land. The beard, plaid flannel (red and black of course), skinny britches rolled up a few turns to show off his vintage L.L. Bean boots with just a hint of wool sock protruding at the top. I imagined the aroma of wood smoke from his stack of flapjacks and coffee would hit me as I pushed DRG’s shopping cart past him on the frozen food aisle. Nope. Just another fashion-fabulous hipster.

A lot of my authentic southern readers may have never heard of this crossbred, the lumber-sexual. My Publix sighting confirms they’re here and not going anywhere no time soon. They seem to have migrated from their native habitat up north, the over-priced Minnesota coffee shops. Apparently, the lumberjack look was a new twist for hipsters. Remember the rhinestone cowboy craze from the 70’s? Same thing. They are born from cross-breeding a metrosexual and urban hipster (google these terms to get up to speed). The closest they’ve come to chopping a tree was the cutting of the Yule log at the office Christmas party. I guess the look and feel of simple lumber attire conjures up nostalgia, and, presumably, a boost in manliness.

I get it, chic clothing trends, like chiggers in a Georgia summer, never cease. A hipster sipping a passion tango herbal tea on a leather sofa at the corner coffee shop posing as a lumberjack seems non-congruent in my mind. I’ll give ’em one thing, they can buy an authentic lumber-look, even earth scented beard balm, but, to their chagrin, they can’t buy callouses. Those come by doing the stuff old lumberjacks did.

For the lumber sexual who stumbles upon this article, and feels the need to stop playing dress up, and would like to add authentic skills to match his attire, learn the art and lore of ax work. That wall-mounted ax over your headboard longs to feel its hickory handle whist through crisp air, hear metal separate wood fibers, and watch dinner plate size wood chips fling loose. This alone will assuredly add authenticity to your next filtered Instagram ax-selfie.  An added bonus… the calloused handshake over a craft beer reeks of masculinity… adding to your woods cred.

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

No worries. Fixin’ Wax helps.

This guide may also be useful for the non-lumber sexual…

Authentic Ax Work (Not AXE Grooming Products)

Outside of fire, little else can contribute more to living comfortably in the wilderness than knowing how to properly use a well-chosen axe.

~ Mors Kochanski, Bushcraft, 1988

The ax is the oldest, most under-appreciated, yet invaluable tool which serves not only as a wilderness lifeline, but a simple machine that connects your hands to the forgotten craft of ax work. You’ll need an authentic ax to get starter. Don’t waste your money on box store axes. Once in my life, only once, I traded a Benjamin and some change for a Swedish ax just because of their reputation of forging fine steel. I was not disappointed.

A more budget friendly way, my preferred path, is vintage American made axes. Forgotten and left to rust in the corner of grandpa’s shed, these old treasures are waiting to be born again and eat wood.

For more guidance on choosing an ax, check out our article here.

How to Swing an Ax

All ax swings are inherently dangerous. Some are safer than others. But that’s part of the lure of ax work. Learning to reduce the risk of maiming (or worse) is your first priority.

It may not seem obvious, but the very first step, before your first swing in the woods, is to clear every vine, twig, overhead limb, camera man, and pet away from the area of your ax arc. The smallest thing can snag the ax on both backswing and forward chop. Look up and down the tree you plan to chop for any dead limbs. These hangers earned the name widow-maker for a reason. Even a small limb plummeting from 30 feet can crack your skull or destroy a shoulder. I know of a dead pine with a trunk split cradling a wrist-size limb in the crotch, tempting me to sink my felling ax into its trunk, but I resist, hoping and waiting for a gust of wind to bring it down. My gut tells me three thuds of my ax and DRG may be a widow. Follow your gut. Wise axmen strike the tree with the poll of their ax to loosen any potential hangers. Be prepared to drop the ax and follow exit routes you’ve cleared beforehand.

Ideally, you want level ground to plant your feet for chopping. That’s not always possible. If you’re new to ax work, find level ground free of tripping and slipping hazards and sink those vintage Danner boots in firmly.

For right-handers like me, grip the end of the handle with your left hand and your right hand on top of the left. Reverse this arrangement for southpaw. As you were taught in little league baseball, do not cross your wrists, right on bottom and left on top for right-handers, on swings. Coach Melvin told me this would break my wrists.

There are two basic ax swings: lateral and vertical. Certain guidelines should be followed for each swing.

Lateral Chopping

Lateral swings (diagonal and horizontal) are used to fell a tree, cut saplings in one swoop, and finish chops to separate a log while bucking. Any strokes outside your frontal zone is considered lateral swings. What’s your frontal zone?

Adapted from The Ax Book

Adapted from The Ax Book

In The Ax Book, which I recommend you devour until the pages are dog-eared, Dudley Cook describes the frontal zone as two parallel lines running along side the outside edges of your feet when chopping. All lateral swings should be outside the parallel lines, always. A miss hit or deflection from a full, extended-arm swing only stops when it strikes a target. Inertia forces the ax head to a stopping point, and that point could be your body if you disregard the frontal zone guidelines.

There are too many additional considerations such as, proper notching (face and back cuts), lean and lay, hang-ups, kick-backs, which can’t be covered in this one article, which is already a long but value-adding read, for you to safely chop down your first tree. I plan to write more on the subject later. Until then, read The Ax Book and watch more videos in the additional resources listed below.

With that being said, we will concentrate on ax swings which require wielding sharp steel within the frontal zone (toward your feet).

Vertical Chopping

Since the chainsaw removed the ax from most wood cutting, splitting firewood is by far the most used vertical swing presently. But, wanting to add authenticity to your life, there are other vertical strokes you should master.

Vertical chops fall into three categories…

  1. Backed up
  2. Non-backed, and
  3. Bucking, or chopping below the level of your feet

Backed Up

Backed up strokes are performed on another piece of robust wood (chopping block) wide enough to stop the ax swing momentum once it cuts through the target. The shorter the ax handle, the more dangerous the ax. The popular “boys ax” measures from armpit to finger length and makes a great all-purpose tool. However, care should be taken to understand that missing your target on vertical strokes with a shorter handle will likely bury the ax in your lower extremities. Keep the ax parallel to the ground at impact by bending your knees and waist during the downward stroke. This shortens your body and will likely sink the axhead in the chopping block, not your leg.

When chopping wrist-size green wood for your firewood pile, I’ve found this methods effective. Hold one end of the stick (about as long as you are tall) with your left hand and lay the other on a chopping block (backed-up stroke) with a notch or saddle on the edge of the stump. Accurately strike the stick where it rests in the notch at a 45 degree angle. Continue feeding the stick through the saddle notch until the last stove-length piece is left in your left hand. The angled cut should never be perpendicular to the stick. If struck too close towards your body, missing the saddle notch, the cut end will fly back toward your face like a wooden missile.

Steven Edholm has a great video demonstrating this technique on his channel, Skill Cult. He captures the wooden missile moment.

Another method, which I’m building at base camp now, is the Chopping Platform described by Mr. Cook. I’ll post the project once it’s complete.

Non-Backed Chops

Of all the vertical swings, this one possesses the most potential for injury. This stoke is not for a novice. Even experienced woodsmen make this cut only when other options are unavailable.

There may be an overhead limb which needs cutting. The safest way would be to saw the limb. However, an ax can be used with these precautions. Strike the limb with a modified grip by sliding your right hand half way up the ax handle to gain more control of the ax should it slice trough the limb. Strike at a 45 degree angle using only enough force to cut a portion of the limb’s diameter. Remember Newton’s first Law of Motion? An object (your ax) will keep moving until acted up by another force to stop its motion. Don’t let that other force be your body.

Do this ax stuff enough and you’ll encounter the bent sapling. I felled a broken Sweet Gum tree for the upcoming Chopping Platform project. In the limbing (de-limbing) video below, I demonstrate how to relieve tension with a non-backed, properly place ax stroke. Cutting a spring-loaded sapling near the ground unleashes unbelievable tension stored in the tree. If cut through, the potential energy converts to kinetic energy, and will not only mess up a well-groomed beard, but kill with a throat punch or head shot.

Bucking

Any wood large enough to stand on is fair game. The ax swing is safely backed up by the log being chopped as long the stroke stays below the level of your feet.

Again, clear all obstacles from the arc of your bucking swing. Hew two flat surfaces on either side of the cut line at the top of the horizontal log giving you a solid platform for your feet. If the log is on the ground and rocks while standing on top, step off and secure it by driving wooden wedges under each side for stabilization. Mark the width of your V notch with your ax on the side of the log to match its diameter.

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One side of a Sweet Gum log bucked

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The opposite, or back cut separates the log

I’ve used two methods to buck logs. First is to make a small V notch and widen it gradually to the desired width and halfway through the log. In my experience, I find the second method, described below, a more effective bucking technique.

Stand on top of the fallen tree and begin cutting a small (2-3 inch wide) V notch on the first mark with controlled strokes. This notch serves as the side cut for the larger notch. Now begin chopping the other mark at about a 45 degree angle. Use a pattern of overlapping cuts on the full length of the second mark (bottom to top). You should begin to loosen large wood chips from the entire notch at this point. Repeat this chopping pattern on each side of the notch to about halfway through the log.

Turn 180 degrees and face the other side of the log to repeat the same pattern. Ideally, you want the point of the two V notches to meet a hair off-center in the middle. When the log is close to separation, step to one side of the notch, the one securely supported, and separate the log with a few well placed strokes.

To cut closer to the bottom of the log, bend your back and waist and swing with fully extended arms. Chopping closer to the top of the log requires that you straighten your back but maintain extended arms on full swings. Do not choke up on the ax handle to make cuts at the top of the log. Pay attention to fatigue and rest as necessary.

For accurate downward strokes, swing the ax in line with your nose as you look at your target. Ax control and accuracy will develop with practice.

For the lumber sexual, authentic fashion is job one. Hijacking the ax, the lumber attire, and the beard on Instagram will develop neither the skills nor the callouses of lumberjacks. To be completely honest, I really couldn’t give a warm spittoon of tobacco juice that you look like an authentic lumberjack. You may have bought the look, complete with an expensive ax, but you can’t buy old skills. So grab an ax – chop, chop. And no, you can’t borrow mine…

The Authentic Lumber Sexual Guide to Ax Work ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A few of my working axes

You may loan your last dollar to a friend; but never loan him your axe, unless you are certain that he knows how to use it.

~ Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft

Ax Work 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 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.

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills

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by Todd Walker

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Every craft has pinnacle performers. What separates people who master a skill from the rest of us?

They appear to have innate self-reliance super-powers. But here’s the thing…

It’s not that they were born with copious amounts of talent. Their skill wasn’t genetically transmitted. The truth is that there is not a friction fire gene, or an ax-manship gene, or a gardening gene… no matter how effortless they make it look. Talent, in and of itself, is overrated!

Whatever skill you practice, these two traits will determine your level of mastery…

Grit and Deliberate Practice.

Grit

Besides being abrasive particles in your swim trunks, as a personality trait, grit is a “positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.” ~ source.

Angela Duckworth condensed the meaning of grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. ~ source.

As an educator, I see all manner intellectual measures. I.Q. has little to do with overall success. Perseverance and passion trumps smarts and talent. Over the years I’ve seen students with lower I.Q. scores outperform students with higher intelligence levels. That’s not suppose to happen.

Grittier people’s secret to lasting success is lasting. In real-world performance, with talent and skill being equal, my money is on the person with the most grit. But there’s a catch to the personality trait of grit. Simply showing up for a long time is not enough to master a skill, as we shall discover later in this article – if you have the grit to read it through.

Grit Check

Duckworth developed a scale aimed at measuring levels of grit. Find out how gritty you are by answering the 10 questions here. How gritty are you?

Grit fuels the second trait needed for mastery…

Deliberate Practice

The secret of all top performers is not a result of, as we are lead to believe, innate talent. The little known secret is the result of intense, not particularly enjoyable, practice for a minimum of 10 years. Actually, it’s no secret at all. We all know what it takes but few are willing, or in most cases, unable to pay the price.

Your goal, like mine, may not be to reach exceptional performance levels. Let’s face it, skills are perishable and there are so many self-reliant skills that no one person could ever hope to master them all. Our community is the land of “jack of all trades, master of none.”  And this is not a slam. Any progress towards breaking dependence on others and our fragile system is the step by step action needed.

Becoming proficient in the skills which captivate your interest, which is the key to getting started, is very doable by working in the “purposeful practice” stage mentioned below.

Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist, has spent his entire career studying how people learn. He studied world-class performers in several fields and found these stages common in all…

  1. Naive practice
  2. Purposeful practice
  3. Deliberate practice – the Gold Standard of all three

Naive Practice

Every new skill that sparks our interest begins at this stage. We decide to trade theory for action. We practice until we’ve mastered the easy stuff. Once we reach our acceptable level of proficiency, the easy stuff becomes automatic. It’s totally okay to be fair to middling or average. However, Ericsson’s research shows that we stop improving once we reach the stage of acceptable performance – even if we continue “practicing” the skill. In fact, more years of practice on easy stuff can actually cause a decline in the skill level you’re practicing.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My instructor, Brian Manning, Snow Walker Outdoors, explaining details on my Alpine Compass

To improve performance, you must practice at the next level.

Purposeful Practice

We’ve already learned that years of repeatedly practicing the easy stuff causes our skill to deteriorate. Nothing you probably didn’t already know, right? In purposeful practice, specific, measurable goals take you step-by-step toward achieving longer-term goals. This takes focus.

Let’s take the bow and drill friction fire method as an example. You may have watched a video, read a blog post, or seen someone demonstrate this method which sparked an interest in learning. After several attempts, you find success. You make a few more hit-and-miss fires to amaze your friends. You’re still the FNG (effing new guy) but want to improve your newfound skill.

At this point of skill progression, you break down your desired outcome into baby steps to help you get there. You spend hours of  spinning sticks together hoping to improve performance. But something is missing… feedback from someone with more experience than you in the art of fire by friction.

Direct feedback is critically important in this stage – and especially so in deliberate practice. Self-correction only happens when previous outputs are fed-back to adjust our future practice. Simply practicing for years won’t improve skills. Some educators work for 20 plus years and only have one year of teaching experience. They choose to stay in their first year comfort zone for twenty plus years – never attempting to engage students in new ways.

Moving past our comfort zone involves failing. But that’s how you got to this stage of practice… failing forward. You could spend 10 years of silently practicing the same easy steps and still be fair to middling (or worse) at primitive fire, blacksmithing, or any other self-reliance skill.

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp comfort!

Try something you’ve never worked on before… like twirling up an ember in the rain. You’ll fail. But learn from the experience and keep Doing the Stuff until you get it right.

The journey from Naive to Purposeful practice will greatly increase your skill level. But even purposeful practice is not enough to master a skill.

Deliberate Practice

My research attributes the following quote to George W. Loomis as recorded in the “Michigan School Moderator” (1902) discussing the best way to teach students to spell properly…

Much of the time spent in hearing children recite—guess till they get it right—should be spent in a definite teaching process, until they can not get it wrong.

How long will it take until you can’t get a skill wrong? Studies suggest 10,000 hours or 10 years of intense, deliberate practice at a craft. It took 10 years of deliberate practice before Mozart produced a memorable work. This should be instructive for all the insta-experts popping up lately. I call it the “Shroomery Effect.” They pop up like mushrooms but don’t last long.

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

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

This stage is very similar to purposeful practice except it involves direct instruction, teaching, and/or coaching to offer feedback and focused techniques to improve performance. Think of elite athletes. They all put in a crazy amount of hours training. But it’s not just the hours they put in but how they spend those hours. Instead of chasing the latest novelty, top performers focus on subtle nuances of their craft. Bottom line… they spend years re-working their work.

Here are a few constraints to consider about deliberate practice:

  • Resources – Time and energy, access to training material, professional instruction, and money to pay for transportation to training facilities.
  • Motivation – Having the grit to pursue long-term improvement for years of intense, boring practice without immediate reward. This stage is not inherently fun.
  • Effort – Deliberate practice can be sustained for limited amounts of time daily. Recovery time from each session is necessary to avoid exhaustion and/or injury. This why it takes a minimum of 10 years/10,000 hours to develop expertise in a skill.

Do your due diligence when choosing instructors. Seek out those who have a minimum of ten years of deliberate practice and field experience in the skill you wish to learn.

Re-Doing the Stuff

Pressing the publish button always scares me. Will people find value in my articles? Could I have improved the piece? Did I re-write enough? I don’t pump out blog posts like I did five years ago. I write almost daily but only publish about once a week. A few years ago I realized that to become a better writer, I needed to spend more time re-writing. I’m only halfway into my “10 years of writing” but I hit publish anyway. Some crash. Some fly. Some end up in the draft graveyard.

Revision is needed on my earlier line, “the key to lasting success is lasting.” Lasting is the gritty part. It’s learning to love the boring times of re-doing the fundamentals. Progressing through the stages of practice takes years of grit and intense, deliberate practice. There’s not enough time for us to master all the skills of self-reliance. But I’m committed to die trying to master a few.

Feedback time. What skill are you deliberately practicing to master? If mastery is not your goal, in which skills are you becoming proficient?

Keep Re-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.

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…

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.

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed!

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by Todd Walker

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I recently took three of my students on a scout through a patch of woods surrounding our school to select a route to simulate the Trail of Tears they were studying. This was nothing close to the tragic event of the Cherokee people being rounded up and forcibly removed from tribal homelands. For our students, a short walk in the woods was better than sitting in a cramped desk reading about this dark time in our country’s history.

Students hit the trail with their belongings; books, book bags, and whatever they wore to school. Many were ill prepared for the mid-30 degree weather. Our first stop was a persimmon tree with fruit in different stages of ripeness. The bravest students shared in the bounty with me.

There is no way to carry enough provisions to sustain you on a grueling 800 mile journey. Foraging was essential. The inner layer of bark from a pine tree was also sampled. A few of the students chewed the uncooked phloem (inner bark) like chewing gum. When cooked over a fire, this layer of bark provides food filled with nutrients and vitamins. Adding a cup of pine needle tea from said tree will boost vitamin intake.

A quick demonstration of the essential tool of humanity, fire, came at the end of our simulation. Flint and pyrites were the precursor to modern flint and steel which the Cherokee obtained through trade. Further in the past, friction methods would have provided fire.

There were no convenience stores or outfitter shops along the way to Indian Territory. The logistics of moving groups of a thousand or more souls (new born to elders) through a rugged landscape in modern times would be a nightmare. We can only imagine the horrible conditions encountered in 1838. While some were fortunate to have a horse or wagon for conveyance, the majority carried their burdens on foot.

We can only imagine the hardships faced during their forced removal. Our brief exercise was instructive. Many questions came throughout the walk. Collecting resources for food, clothing, and shelter to sustain one family, much less groups of 1,000, would take extensive knowledge and experience which Native Americans had used for thousands of years.

Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed!

In Postcards from the Past, Scott Jones, my friend and prehistory mentor, offers the perfect quote describing me in this Eskimo saying, “… only a fool comes home empty handed!

Rock On

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Making expedient cobble stone tools using bipolar percussion at one of Scott Jones’ workshops.

 

In the view of a tenderfoot, the basketball-sized rock we spotted on our initial scout trip was nothing special. It was just a heavy rock. All three of the young men looked at me like I was crazy as I hoisted it to my shoulder and continued walking. Midway back I passed my burden to one of them. One doesn’t simply walk past a piece of chert that size. One either carries it home or remembers the location for later retrieval.

Below is a 34 second video I shot using the rock to start a fire…

Chert, a sedimentary rock, was a favorite stone for prehistory tool makers. Today its curvy conchoidal fracture and hardness allows modern flint-knappers to shape primitive projectile points and cutting tools. Chert can be found in earthy colors ranging from white to black with a waxy, smooth luster when fractured. Quartz and quartzite are rocks I carry home often.

Sticks and Bones

My favorite wood types are those who swallowed fire, as Mark Warren says. Fast-growing soft woods such as cedar, tulip poplar, basswood, sassafras, white pine, willow, and mimosa to name a few, are more porous. When rubbed together skillfully, they readily give up the fire they swallowed.

More info on some of my favorite trees can be found here.

My tree collection, much to Dirt Road Girl’s chagrin, takes up a sizable portion of our backyard. Lots of Eastern Red Cedar continues to be added for benches and furniture… which makes DRG smile.

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Black Walnut split and ready for carving.

Wooden utensils such as spoons, bowls, cutting boards, and kuksas are waiting inside my woodpile. Wood plays a vital role for camp comforts… and not just as firewood. The following wood projects made from trees and other woody plants may help channel your inner woodsman…

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A load of resources!

Bones are a useful resource I run across from time to time in my woods tramping. A five gallon bucket in my shop contains remains of different woodland critters. Antlers make wonderful tools and functional accents for my leather work. I’m certainly not opposed to pulling to the curb to collect road kill. Some of my most prized roadside finds include beaver, bobcat, and deer.

Wild Pantry  

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Chanterelles foraged this past spring at base camp.

As noted above, collecting wild food on hikes is a fun way to supplement your food cache. Just remember that every plant is edible… ONCE. This statement isn’t about foraging fear-mongering, of course there are poisonous plants in the wilderness. But with proper guidance from an experienced foragers, anyone can enjoy wildcrafting.

Check out this page on our blog for further reading.

Feral Pharmacy

I’m not a herbalist but have found this pursuit a healing hobby. For professional training in the southeastern U.S., I recommend Daryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist and Mark Warren of Medicine Bow.

Weeds, plants, clay, and trees were all used before modern medicine for the purpose of healing and preventive health maintenance. Documentation shows that the 19th century Cherokee people used about one-third of the 2,400 species of plants available to them in southern Appalachia for food and medicine.

Below are a few links to articles we’ve written which may help you broaden your view on useful plants for your medicine cabinet:

Trail of Tears Remembered

Wild Resources: Only a Fool Comes Home Empty Handed ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A short walk of remembrance.

Our short simulation was simply an attempt to open student’s eyes to life and death on the Trail of Tears. An estimated 15,000 to 16,000 Cherokee started this journey. Even with their extensive foraging knowledge, over 3,000 lives were lost to disease, exposure, and starvation along the way.

It is my hope that our simulation gave our students a small glimpse of this historic tragedy. May we all remember.

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.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts

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by Todd Walker

survival-times-a-winter-survival-skill-where-speed-counts-thesurvivalsherpa-com

In the context of wilderness survival, the speed at which you are able to build a fire could mean life or death. There are many real-life accounts available where cold and wet people die in the woods… well within the 72 hours most people are found by rescuers.

The purpose of these exercises is not to compete against one another. However, a little friendly competition among friends is always fun. The most important aspect of practicing emergency fire craft and shelter building is the role these skills could one day play in keeping you alive in the wilderness. Plus, they make camping way more comfortable.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire means camping in comfort… and there’s coffee involved!

Poor Decisions and Survival Experts

You don’t have to reach “survival expert” level to build a fire or make shelter. Here’s a little something for the self-proclaimed survival experts to think about. My buddy Tommy runs a popular Facebook group and put an interesting spin on this disturbing online trend… something I’d never thought of but makes total sense.

Here’s my paraphrased version…

Expert status takes thousands of hours and experience in a chosen field. Making poor decisions typically lands you in a survival situation. People claiming to be survival experts should also add to their resume, “Poor Decision-Making Expert.” I’ve never seen nor have I heard of anyone being in a real survival situation for 20, 30, or even 40 years and lived to tell about it.

To be an expert in survival, one would have had to be in hundreds of real survival situations. That basically makes one horrible at preparing beforehand. I can’t speak for you, but “Poor Decision-Making Expert” is the last thing I’d want in my bio… or tombstone.

I prepare by practicing in the field with varying conditions. Carrying a few pieces of emergency equipment and developing the skills needed to use said equipment gives you an edge if things go sideways in the woods.

The following speed drills have suggested times to shoot for based on our physiological response to cold. Cold stress has a way of slipping up on you and can overwhelm the body’s ability to thermoregulate. Consequences include impaired performance and even death.

2 Fire Speed Drills

Besides being well clothed for your environment, fire craft may be the most forgiving of all survival skills. Here are two speed drills to help develop proficiency in making life-sustaining fire.

For more info on my philosophy on Emergency Fire Kits, read this article. We can play around with “what if’s” to manipulate and test our skills. But at the end of the day, my trusty Bic is my go-to for fire. That’s only because I don’t have a road flare in my kit. Oh wait… I do, thanks to Alan Halcon’s suggestion. The point of these drills though is to practice different “what if” scenarios.

1.) Five Minute Water Boil

Disinfecting water for hydration can be achieved by boiling. For this drill, you are allowed to use a spark ignition source only. For context, you’re unprepared and only carried one lighter and no sure fire tinder… and the lighter was emptied when the tab was pressed down against that can of sardines stuffed in your backpack.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flames surrounding all sides of the canteen.

Equipment:

  • One metal water bottle (32 ounce size)
  • Ferro rod and striker
  • Natural tinder material and sticks off the landscape for your kindling/fuel
  • Use a large tin can to hold the 32 ounces of water if you don’t have a metal canteen
  • Timer

Collect tinder, kindling, and fuel size material. This task will consume the most time for this drill. Try to collect these materials in 10 minutes or less. Look for standing dead trees with low hanging limbs. Become familiar with the trees in your locale which produce instant kindling. Resinous trees are a fire-making dream.

Breaking the small twigs, you should hear a distinctive snap signaling a good, dry candidate for fire. I’ve found living Cedar and Beech trees often times have small, dead limbs within arms reach. If you have Hemlocks in your area, you’ll not find a better source of dry, pencil-led size kindling.

Once you have all the necessary natural material collected, start the clock and make your fire lay, ignite your fire, and bring the water to a rolling boil… in under 5 minutes. Remember, time is of the essence.

“Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.”

For this drill, I’ve found that making a long tubular bundle of small twigs and breaking the bundle over my knee to create an A-frame structure works well. Credit for this technique goes to Christopher Wick’s demonstration at the Pathfinder School years ago. You may want to use gloves for this part.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Chris Wick preparing kindling

Common Water Boil Mistakes:

  • Natural tinder material not prepared properly for spark ignition.
  • Kindling too large (not enough surface area to volume ratio) for quick ignition.
  • Canteen tips over. Lay finger-size sticks flat on the ground to form a flat platform. The stick platform also reduces heat transfer from the cold ground to the metal container.
  • The fire lay doesn’t surround the canteen. You want flames to contact as much of the canteen as possible.
  • Blowing or fanning the fire from the top down. Get down low and blow from the bottom of the fire lay… without singeing your eyebrows off.

Now add a variation to this water boil drill. Use a lighter or matches and your favorite emergency fire tinder. Compare your times. How’d you do? Get creative and try doing this drill one-handed to simulate an injury. Try it in the rain, as well.

2.) One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. I wrote an article about this challenge with an excerpt below for details.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Equipment:

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge.
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer

There are dangers involved when using a sharp ax. Even more so when using a short-handled ax/hatchet. A bleeding ax wound puts you a whole new survival situation. If you practice this speed drill, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you practice this drill, not us.

Take your time and keep it safe. One piece of gear worth considering for beginners is a Kevlar or chain mail glove.

For those experienced in ax and knife work, the time frame for this speed drill is under 10 minutes once you have your wood billet ready. The idea is to create all the needed items, tinder, kindling, and fuel from one log. This drill will come in handy if you ever need to find dry material for fire in a rain-soaked forest.

My first attempt at this drill took over 12 minutes. My second attempt was in the eight minute range. Below is my video of this drill:

Check out this lumberjack competition where a lady smashes all the guys with a time of 3:06!

Don’t get hung up the stated times for the speed drills. The important thing about timing yourself is that you are able to evaluate your progress in this skill. Let us know if you give these a try.

Additional 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 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.

3,000 YouTube Subscribers Knife and Book Giveaway

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by Todd Walker

3000-youtube-subscribers-knife-and-book-giveaway-thesurvivalsherpa-com

Doing my usual morning routine, brew coffee, deliver my neighbor’s newspaper to her door, and check on the blog and other social media stuff, I noticed my YouTube channel just passed the 3,000 subscribers mark on Thanksgiving day!

I quit doing giveaways several years ago on the blog. It seemed too fake… like I was trading stuff for followers. Now I figure if you like the stuff we’re doing, you’ll follow along and we’ll grow organically. And many thanks to all who have joined us on the journey!

Here’s what’s up for grabs for one lucky person…

GAW Official Rules

To enter the giveaway, go to our YouTube video and do the following:

  1. Leave a comment (in the video comment section – not here on the blog) letting me know you want to win. One entry per person.
  2. Subscribing to our channel ~ Survival Sherpa ~ is not necessary to enter the giveaway… but would be greatly appreciated.
  3. Sharing the video is not necessary to enter the giveaway… but, again, would be greatly appreciated.
  4. Must be 18 years of age or older. You are responsible for knowing if applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations allow you to own this knife ~ seems silly, but I have to include this legal stuff these days. Also, YouTube is not a sponsor of our contest and users are required to release YouTube from any and all liability related to our contest… blah, blah, blah.
  5. Since we’ve never tried to make money on our blog or channel, we can only afford to ship within the U.S.A. ~ if anyone has info on an inexpensive method of shipping internationally, let me know.

So really, all you need to do is leave a comment on the video to be entered to win (subscribe and share only if you think our stuff adds any value). The winner will be chosen using “Random Comment Picker” on or about December 3, 2016. Good luck on your entry! And, as always…

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 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.

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting

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by Todd Walker

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Of all the primitive skills passed down from ancestral tribes, coaxing fire from two pieces of wood may be the most transforming. This one skill forever changed our existence in so many ways; diet, tools, security, defense, sleep, shelter, relationships, hygiene, ceremonies, etc., etc.

Fire is automatic today. Flip a switch and fire flows through insulated wiring to illuminate our home and power our refrigerator. Yet we don’t see this miracle in action as it hides inside walls. Our hands aren’t directly responsible for creating those sparks, and, as a result, we’ve become disconnected.

At the recent Foxfire Mountaineer Festival, lots of people gathered to see our Georgia Bushcraft group demonstrate primitive fire starting methods. With Alan Kay on the hand drill and myself on the bow drill, several onlookers were able to create their first fire by friction. Afterwards I was talking to Alan about the crowd’s interest in primitive fire making and he said…

“Nothing reconnects us to our roots like friction fire.”

I spent the better part of a month spinning wood between my hands before birthing my first ember. Along the way, blisters turned to calluses. To save you time and pain, I wanted to share my experience and a few tips which may help you twirl up your first ember.

Build a Hand Drill Set

Finding optimal material is key. In my experience in the humid south, even the best material can fail. Here are a few combinations local to Georgia which work for me.

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

L to R: Mullein spindle, river cane spindle with yucca insert, trumpet vine (top), cedar (bottom)

Hearth Board

  • Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) – use the whitish sap wood
  • White Pine (Pinus strobus)
  • Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
  • Mullein (Verbascum) – tie two stalks together to form a hearth board
  • Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The best hearth boards are non-resinous, soft wood. My go-to hearth board is trumpet vine. I had never considered this vine for friction fire until Dusty, a fellow Georgian, used it on his channel, IHatchetJack. I have a honey hole of this vine growing along a fence row near my school. Once dead, you can break off large sections from the vine.

For a traditional hearth board, the plank should be about one half-inch thick. It will need a notch carved into the “burn in” hole. I make my notches in a pyramid shape which reaches about one-quarter into the burned in hole. The notch allows the pulverized char dust to collect while the twirled spindle creates enough heat from friction to reach combustion temperature. The notch also allows air to reach the char dust (fuel) so that when enough heat is applied – the fire triangle is complete and an ember is born.

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pyramid shaped notches

Non-traditional hearth boards can be effective as well. As mentioned on the bullet points above, two mullein stalks lashed together is an alternative when a flat board is not available. Instead of “burning in” a socket on a flat board, make a perpendicular cut on the two lashed sticks to keep your spindle in place while spinning. The trough between the sticks acts as a notch to collect the char dust.

My first hand drill ember was created on the friction end of my spindle… not in the notch of my hearth board. An ember is an ember, right? The idea of a no-notch hand drill ember was intriguing. I discovered that one can create a series of “burned in” holes where char dust is collected in the previous hole which serves as a traditionally notched board.

For first time hand drill experimentation, I would recommend a traditional set.

Spindle

  • Mullein (Verbascum)
  • Yucca
  • Goldenrod (Solidago)
  • Cattail (Typha)
  • Inserts in a river cane spindle: Cedar, tulip poplar, mimosa, basswood (Tilia americanaor any short, soft wood have worked for me

Productive locations to find mullein and yucca stalk spindles has been railroad tracks, road sides, cemeteries, and waste places. I like using the same wood for hearth and spindle. Good luck finding a straight piece of cedar long enough for a spindle. The river cane spindle is very forgiving. You can carve a short insert from a crooked limb to be used as your spindle material.

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A yucca insert in the river cane spindle on a trumpet vine hearth board.

As far as the one-piece spindle goes, cut a straight section about the length of your outstretched arm about 3/8 inches in diameter. A longer spindle allows for more space to spin and provides more leverage for older guys like myself. If you’ve mastered the “float technique” like IHatchetJack, a shorter spindle is sufficient. That technique is more advanced but very efficient.

Scrape the spindle smooth with the spine of your knife or an abrasive stone. Once smooth, you’re ready to start spinning.

Technique, Stance, and Muscle

Some sit, some kneel. I’ve done both and find kneeling gives me more leverage for downward pressure on spins. My kneeling position is very similar to the stance I use for bow and drill fire starting.

My kneeling stance is described for right-handers. Reverse the directions if you’re a lefty.

Place the hearth board flat on the ground. Kneel down with your right knee on the ground and place your left foot on the board. Your right thigh should be near perpendicular to the ground and in line with your left foot. When spinning commences, the stance allows you to bend at the waist and use your upper body (shoulders) to apply the needed downward pressure and rotation of the spindle.

Keep your elbows in towards your body and hands close to your shoulders to maximize leverage with each spin down the spindle. Use the full length of your palms while twirling the spindle. The beefy part of your palm (inline with your pinky fingers) is where most of the work should happen. Both palms should move equally. If one palm is doing all the work, the top of your spindle will wobble back and forth.

A little spit on your hands will increase the grip between your palms. Another option is to rub pine pitch along the spindle shaft.

Fuel your muscles by breathing. Yup, I was guilty of concentrating so hard on spinning and pressure that I forgot to breath on my first attempt with the hand drill. Practice and patience will help you develop muscle memory and stamina whether you spin a coal or not. If you feel hot spots on your palm in the beginning, stop and wait a day before continuing. Blisters will put a stop to your practice.

Hand Drill Training Wheels

I learned the hand drill technique without thumb loops. However, I think they are a good way to get the feel for the amount of downward pressure and rotation involved with spinning a coal. Plus they allow you to have your hands in the same spot on the spindle without having to go up and down in the traditional manner.

Another way to increase success is to share the workload. Have a partner kneel in front of you and take turns twirling the spindle. Even if they only raise the temperature 200 degrees, that’s less work you’ll have to do. It’s also a great team-building experience when a group starts their campfire with many hands.

Tips and Tricks on Hand Drill Fire Starting ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tyrus, one of my eighth grade students, lived up to his t-shirt slogan and twirled his first ember.

Make a Fire

Have the necessary tinder material handy so you can swaddle your baby ember and blow it into flame. Read more about tinder material and prep here.

Resources which helped me on my quest for hand drill success…

We’d really like to hear from you if this helps you create your first hand drill fire. For those already twirling up coals, feel free to share your tips and experience.

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.

 

Tips and Tricks for Your First Hand Drill Fire – TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community

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by Todd Walker

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong. ~ Karl Popper

Pride often raises its ugly head, and, in doing so, becomes an easy target. I’ve not met many folks immune to this affliction. Ironically, these rare individuals could easily toot their own horn but don’t… which is exactly why they are a dying bred in the outdoor self-reliance community.

One of these rare men, Steve Watts, departed this world way too soon. I’ll never forget his comment on the hands-free ax sling I made after reading the article he and David Wescott wrote for American Frontiersman. I had credited him and David with the idea. Without hesitation, Steve quickly corrected me and told me the idea wasn’t original to them and cited their source.

That, my friends, is the way it’s done!

Tim Smith of Jack Mountain Bushcraft wrote a blog in July of this year and quoted his friend’s wisdom, “noisy rivers never run deep.” Addressing the depth of knowledge and experience of promoted “experts”, Tim makes a compelling case for carefully choosing who we get our information from. A lot of info being taught today is loud and shallow… and regurgitated dangerously.

If we are reluctant to rationally criticize this troubling trend, then we are partly responsible for our community’s decline. This is not a rant. It’s more of a self-assessment and an “if the boot fits, wear it” thing. I’ll admit that I’ve worn that boot before and suffered blisters. My purpose here is to not belittle but to highlight our need for integrity, authenticity, and crediting sources.

Humility is the prerequisite for learning. It is more important to learn than to cling to egos.

My friend Chris Noble (who has challenged more than one of my past articles – thankfully), outlined the 3 stages of knowledge for us here

  1. Ignorance
  2. Arrogance
  3. Enlightenment

The danger of staying in the second stage (Arrogance) is we know the absolute best way of Doing the Stuff. We stop listening. We stop learning. At this stage, contempt towards others who are “Doing the Stuff” differently surfaces… viciously at times by gurus and their fans. If we buy into pet theories or petty arrogance, our skills and knowledge will continue to cycle from Arrogance back to Ignorance which puts wisdom (Enlightenment) out of reach.

It’s necessary to admit that our present skills are inadequate for all situations. That’s the easy part for those new to this stuff. The trouble comes when we develop a level of proficiency in a skill. Our human-ness tends to inflate our ego with only partial knowledge of the subject. In stage 2, we are unteachable.

Here’s an example of being teachable…

I just returned from our Georgia Bushcraft Fall campout. We had two full days of instruction in a wide variety of skills from falconry to debris shelter construction. One of our instructors, Stephan Fowler of Fowler Blades, a top-shelf blade-smith, can beat a piece of steel into submission like no other. He makes his living with fire. However, he had never created fire with primitive methods.

No one person has enough time and resources to develop expertise in every skill. Stephan walks over to our impromptu friction fire circle, craved his first bow and drill set from scratch, and proceeded to make his first primal fire by friction.

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stephan Fowler in beast mode!

I, on the other hand, have never hammered a piece of steel into a functional blade. I’m at stage 1 – Ignorance. I know just enough to be dangerous in my experience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being in stage 1 in any skill. Again, we can’t master every skill.

In my experience online, and, to a lesser degree, in real-life, there is an alarming number of folks content to stay in stage 2. Here’s a quick remedy. Spend face-time with folks learning and sharing skills. We can’t boast behind the internet curtain when our buddies are watching in real-time. Accountability is good for all involved.

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mark and JT giving the fire saw a go

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A first for Dave… hand drill fire success!

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jason sharing his wealth of modern and primitive trapping knowledge

I had the pleasure of finally meeting my online friend, James Gibson, at our recent Georgia Bushcraft campout. He drove down with Ex Umbra who taught several classes. Both of these men are the real deal. James wasn’t scheduled to teach but I learned a lot from him by just hanging out and talking. The hallmark of a great teacher is not that he/she has all the answers, but in how they make you interested in finding answers they may not have.

Indebtedness: The #1 Soft Skill Missing in the Self-Reliance Community ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The debris shelter class led by Ex Umbra sporting a kilt (far left)

The last class of the weekend was Stalking and Wilderness Movement taught by Ex Umbra. One gold nugget he shared dealt with “hard skills” verses “soft skills.” One may possess all the hard survival skills (shelter, fire, water, navigation, etc., etc.), but we overlook our soft skills – which he covered well in class.

In the context of un-indebtedness, our community needs to give serious attention to the soft skills (internal/behavioral) of integrity, authenticity, and crediting original sources of knowledge.

You may not be familiar with some of the top people in the field of survival, bushcraft, outdoor self-reliance. This is not because they don’t have expertise in their craft, they just never reached celebrity status on a TV show or the prerequisite social media status to be taken seriously. The thing is… they don’t seem to be too concerned with our modern standard of success. Enlightenment will do that for you.

I am forever indebted to master teachers and novice practitioners alike for exposing the infinity of my ignorance.

Below are a few of my trusted Georgia resources I am personally indebted to on my journey of 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 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.

Emergency Fire Kits: Can a Five-Year-Old Use It?

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by Todd Walker

Emergency Fire Kit: Can a Five-Year-Old Use It? ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Judging comments here and on social media, our last article, Primitive vs. Modern, was well received.

Then I spot this portion of Alan Halcon’s comment in my notifications, “This article really touched a nerve…”

I braced myself to read the full comment from someone I hold in high esteem in the survival community.

If you’re unfamiliar with Alan’s modern and primitive survival skills, you owe it to yourself to check him out at Outdoor Self-Reliance. Anybody who produces consistent hand drill coals in 12 seconds is someone who has my respect. He also holds the record of spinning a hand drill coal in the unthinkable time of… wait for it… TWO SECONDS!

Being familiar with his way of challenging our “best practices” and beliefs in the survival community, I clicked to read more of his comment…

“This article really touched a nerve, albeit in a good way.

For so long, I’ve constantly said a similar thing— In a survival situation, when I want to start a fire, I want a road flare. During my classes, I share with my students, “My litmus test for a survival fire starting tool is… Can a five-year old use it?” If the answer is no, it has no business in your survival kit…”

Why would the world record holder in fire by friction prefer a road flare over hand drill or bow and drill in a real survival scenario? It’s pretty simple. Fire is life. The times we need fire the most are usually when fire is hardest to come by. There’s not much wood, wet or dry, a road flare can’t bring to combustion temperature.

With that being said, we should re-examine our survival fire kits.

The Five-Year-Old Fire Kit

My grandson is now 9 years of age. Time really flies! He’s usually my test subject when it comes to simplifying wilderness survival. He got interested in making his own fire two years ago. He had to overcome his fear of fire by learning to properly strike a kitchen match. Which brings us to the point of this article.

Could a five-year-old use your fire kit?

Let’s say you’re somehow incapacitated on a back country camping trip that turned sideways. Your young son or daughter will need to make fire for warmth until rescuers pin point your Personal Locator Beacon. Self-rescue is no longer an option.

An emergency fire kit should have simple, sure-fire methods of combustion. This is not about a fire kit you take to the woods for experimentation. Remember to keep it simple enough that an inexperienced child can make fire.

Before getting into details of ignition sources, I can’t stress enough the importance of surface area to volume ratio. I’ve watched many adults fail to build sustainable fires by not taking the time to prep a fire lay. A soldering torch wouldn’t even get the thing going. Collect or create small stuff first!

Emergency Ignition Sources

If I have to rely on primitive fire methods, I went to the woods unprepared. I’ll admit there may be that rare occasion where rubbing sticks together is your only chance of fire. If the plane crash in the jungle doesn’t kill you, just use the burning debris field as your fire.

Jokes aside, not many of us will be in the above situation. Most of us simply go camping, hiking, or milder outdoor adventures. That doesn’t discount the need to prepare with modern fire tools.

Bic Lighter

The trusty “thumb drill” has thousands of fires in a lightweight container that can be lit with one hand. Every lighter in my kit has been de-child-proofed. Simply bend the safety device out of the metal housing and pull to remove. Flatten the metal wings down flush with the housing and you have a lighter a five-year old can light.

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

Use a carabiner to attach the duct taped lighter to your kit

This simple step makes ignition easier for adults as well.

The argument often arises about lighters not working in high altitude or when wet. While I can’t speak from personal experience about lighters not working at the summit of Mount Everest, a wet lighter can be made functional again in around two minutes. Blow into the metal housing several times. Work the wheel which strikes the flint by rolling it on your pant leg. Keep this pattern up until your lighter flames.

Matches

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Max imitating Pops

If you keep matches in your kit, it would be very wise to teach your children and grandchildren how to strike a match. Even more importantly, build their confidence in starting fires using only one match. This task requires as much special attention to the fire lay as you would in primitive fire making.

Which brings up the whole issue of prepared tinder – both man-made and natural…

Emergency Natural Tinder

Daryl and Kris Halseth run a family business called Dragon Fire Tinderbox. Any of their prepared tinder products weigh very little and provide an emergency source of tinder in your kit. It’s also a great teaching tool to help kindergarten-age children learn what a good tinder material looks like – fine, medium, coarse – and how it burns.

This stuff is a campfire in a bag and can be lit easily with a match or lighter. Spark ignition (ferrocerium rods) work on this tinder as well. However, keep in mind that this emergency fire kit has to be simple enough to be used by a young child.

Dirt Road Girl had trouble with consistent fires using a regular ferro rod. I bought her a Sparky™ Fire Starter for her kit. This device is pressed down to direct a shower of sparks on tinder material one-handed. Open flame is the best choice, but Sparky™ is a good backup.

In an emergency situation, the last thing you want your young child to have to find in the forest is dry, fluffy stuff that will ignite easily. Collect your own natural tinder or buy a bag of Dragon Fire for your kit.

Sure Fire

I carry both DiY and commercial sure fire starters. One of my favorites is InstaFire. Click here to read our review on how versatile this stuff can be in an emergency fire kit. If you choose to buy commercial sure fire, purchase enough to test before staking your fire and life on them.

A homemade fire starter which lights as easily as a five-year old’s birthday candle is waxed jute twine. There are no chemical accelerants in this recipe. Simply coat jute twine in wax. Flick your Bic and you have a long-lasting fire starter.

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

The finished product

Another fine homemade sure fire is cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly. They can get messy so store them in an airtight container in your kit.

Every kid loves birthday candles. I have a tealight candle stowed away in my kit. It takes up the space of about a dollar’s worth of stacked quarters but offers a long burn time to help a child start a fire.

Duct Tape

Wrap a few feet of tape around your Bic lighter and you will always have a dependable source of fire… even if you need to burn stuff in the rain!

Here’s a tip to help your child remove the duct tape from the lighter with minimal struggle… especially if you use Gorilla brand duct tape. That stuff really sticks. Before securing the last half-inch of tape to your lighter, bend it over itself to create a pull tab for little fingers to grab. Not much is as frustrating as trying to find the end of tape on a used roll.

Strip off a foot of tape, wad it up loosely, and set it on fire with the lighter. Duct tape has many survival uses. Fire starting may be the most overlooked.

Emergency Ignition Sources to Avoid

I wouldn’t stake my life on a five-year old starting a fire with solar ignition sources (magnifying lens or fresnel card). I carry one in my fire kit which Max, my grandson, has used to start fires. However, it takes prior practice, good tinder, and full sun to achieve ignition.

Flint and steel is one of my favorite spark ignition sources. The learning curve is too steep for a young child to use in an emergency. You need prepared charred material and hand-eye coordination to prevent injury… something a kindergarten lacks.

As mentioned previously in this article, spark ignition is a good backup if you have experience using the device. I had an experienced ten-year-old Boy Scout and his dad from our troop over at my shelter this summer. I invited him to start his first spark-based fire by scrapping a ferro rod. He succeeded in making fire but only after several attempts and coaching. A great learning opportunity for all of us.

Fire by friction… we won’t even go there.

I just returned from the Foxfire Mountaineer Festival where I had the pleasure of teaching friction fire methods along side of Alan Kay from the TV show Alone. Several adults and a few pre-teens achieved their first fire by friction in a controlled setting with proven friction fire sets. Quite a few failed. Practice primitive but always prepare modern when it comes to emergency fire starting.

Emergency Fire Kits: So Simple a Five-Year-Old Can Use It ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Primitive fire starting. Photo by Casey Deming

I certainly encourage you to practice the Emergency Ignition Sources to Avoid with your children in the safety of your backyard or campground. But if your life ever depends on a five-year old starting a fire… stick with a Bic for your emergency fire kit.

Thank you, Alan Halcon, for sparking the common sense idea for this article!

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 vs. Modern: The Importance of Keeping Skills in Context

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by Todd Walker

Primitive vs. Modern: The Importance of Keeping Skills in Context ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

From time to time I get comments on my blog from folks wanting to see more survival stuff without modern equipment involved. These types of comments appear more frequently on my YouTube channel. Here’s a recent one from a my One-Stick-Fire in the Rain video using a ferrocerium rod as my ignition source…

“pleeaaaaase im just waiting to see if some “survival” channel teaches how to do it without these gadgets like fire rods and matches and stuff like that…. come on!”

Spark ignition in the rain is not hardcore enough for some folks. Comments like this don’t offend me in the least. It highlights the symptoms too often seen in of our modern online survival community: We thirst for knowledge but lack real, hands-on experience.

You can certainly gain knowledge if the information comes from reputable sources. However, no matter how reputable or experienced the presenter may be, you can only gain experience by actually Doing the Stuff in the field.

This is a natural progression of what flows from Hollywood minds. Joe Q. Public’s hunger for entertainment and the “next-level” survival show keeps TV production companies scrambling for ratings… all the way to the bank.

The stuff I do is quite boring I’ve been told. I’ll admit, I’m not the most exciting guy in the woods. I like to think I’m smart at times, though. Sensationalism is not my thing. Over-the-top TV stuns shouldn’t be yours either if you ever need to survive in the wilderness.

Skills in Context

Our level of field experience and skills should determine what we carry to the woods. I carry modern tools like a ferro rod, Bic lighter, matches, and other so-called “gadgets” when camping or tramping in the woods. Does this make me less of a woodsman? It may in the eyes of those insulated by technology who have never had to light and maintain a fire in a rain-soaked forest.

Could I start a sustainable friction fire in the rain with resources collected from the forest landscape?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never gone on a self-imposed survival trip without modern fire tools. I practice primitive fire craft while in the woods but always carry backups. In theory, I should be able to leave modern fire starters at home. One day soon I’ll have to trade this theory for action.

But for now, let’s address keeping skills in context.

“if it’s not in context, it’s just arts and crafts.”

~ Steven M. Watts (1947-2016)

Wilderness survival skills are often taught in a vacuum without background information on how these skills personally relate to the student, locale, and history. I’m fortunate to be a student of Scott Jones in the field of primitive technology and experimental archaeology. Scott wrote his latest book, Postcards to the Past, with the intent of developing “practical perspectives for observing, interpreting, and utilizing the natural world” by modern primitive practitioners like myself.

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

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

I may have hands-on knowledge of fire by friction, but do I have the wisdom to know “when” and “why” to use this skill? I have been humbled on more than one occasion attempting to spin up a coal with friction fire techniques on “dry” days in Georgia. Our humidity sticks to you like fly paper. Add a steady rain or a slight drizzle and I reach for my thumb drill (Bic lighter) or other modern devices to start my fire.

Should you add friction fire methods to your skill set? Is it even practical?

The more I sweat, the less I freeze. The meaning of this statement should not be taken literally. Sweating in cold weather is big no-no. What I mean by this is that the more I practice primitive, the more confidence I build in using a bow and drill or hand drill as a survival insurance policy.

On my journey of outdoor self-reliance, I have found that nothing beats preparedness. Even on day hikes with Dirt Road Girl, I carry my haversack packed with emergency shelter, water bottle, sheath knife, tarred mariner’s line, with room for other essentials… and the occasional rock that catches her eye. Instead of making shelter from forest floor debris, a time and labor intensive doing, my emergency space blanket or GI poncho can be strung up with little effort if need be.

Again, context is essential. Do you want to Learn to Return or Learn to Stay?, as Chris Noble wrote in one of his excellent articles at Master Woodsman a few years back. Skills to return or stay may overlap. The tools and mindset to acquire comfort in the woods are what distinguishes the two. However, the logical choice for most outdoorsy folk is the later.

One of my favorite quotes from Scott Jones in Postcards to the Past is…

“one of my goals is to get people to think about what the think they think.”

The first peoples to settle a land had to make do with what they had, not what they wished they had available. Skills to accomplish this task were passed down from generation to generation. For us moderns, through practice and experimentation, we too can incorporate these wilderness living skills to expand our options.

The main reason I practice primitive fire is the integration into the natural world I gain. My senses sharpen when woods trekking if I plan to make fire by friction. With a keen sense of urgency, I take note of overlooked trees and their dead limbs to determine if a tree swallowed fire, and, in return, will pass fire onto me. As Native American stories go, not every tree swallowed fire.

Another practical reason for friction fire practice is the attention to detail required. Preparing finely processed tinder material which will turn a small coal into fire is a practice which transfers nicely when using an open flame or 3,000 degree sparks from a modern ferro rod.

Friction fire demo at my school

Friction fire demo at my school

Mastering different fire by friction techniques is my goal. My middle school students love this stuff. But it’s not a method I try first when I’m cold and wet. Add the stress of a real survival situation with accompanied elevated heart rate and the fine motor skills needed to craft an effective bow drill set from the landscape is quickly lost. This bit of context is lost on most folks watching entertaining videos from the comfort of home.

But our pre-history ancestors did it. That’s the only choice they had. I’ll bet Grok would have used a Bic lighter or ferro rod if that technology was available.

As I’ve said before, fire covers a multitude of survival sins. Even if you’re improperly dressed for the environment, fire can help you sleep. As Mors Kochanski says, “The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep. If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.”

Until you’ve done enough friction fires that you can’t get ’em wrong, and ironed out all the pesky nuances of twirling sticks together, and you’re ensured that physically injured will never happen, go prepared with modern fire tools. If not, be prepared to be vexed with a cold, wet, miserable, sleepless night in the woods… or worse.

This is not to say you should ditch primitive skills. Nothing could be further from the truth! You just need to keep them in context.

Related Resources on our site:

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.

School of the Woods: Turning My Classroom Inside Out

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by Todd Walker

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

~Horace Kephart, The Book of Camping and Woodcraft, 1910

school-of-the-woods-turning-my-classroom-inside-out-thesurvivalsherpa-com

I deal with an inner struggle with every math lesson forced upon students.

They groan and ask, “When will we ever use algebra in real life?”

If I’m honest, my response is, “Never, unless you plan on teaching math one day.”

But that’s not entirely true. There’s that high-stakes test looming at the end of the year to determine who can regurgitate all the rote-learning jammed into a brain surging with teenage hormones. Forcing them to learn stuff they’re not interested in is as painful as pulling your own tooth with a rusty hobnail.

I can’t make them learn, but I can let them learn. In my experience, children who are allowed to follow their interests will learn across all academic disciplines enthusiastically.

We all learn the stuff we are interested in learning. I scraped by in all my college English classes with a solid C minus average. I hated writing and reading because it was forced upon me. Today is different. I taught myself to write (some may argue that point) because I have a real-world goal of sharing my journey to self-reliance and preparedness. Research and writing, unlike my college days, are now enjoyable as I purse my interests.

Here’s the thing…

Children (and adults) learn not by passively absorbing information but because something becomes interesting to them – or they watch and listen to others doing interesting stuff. Every school year my students discover my blog and YouTube channel. They get excited and want to start Doing the Stuff that I write about or demonstrate on video.

Children need space to learn naturally. Intuitively, they want to discover and develop intellectual skills – not become grand test-takers. Our rigid system of schooling promotes the latter. But awakenings happen. Moments like last Friday.

Friction Fire Friday

Capitalizing on my student’s interest in a few topics of self-reliance, and my love for the magic of friction fire, we left the classroom for a bow and drill fire demonstration. All sorts of science and math are involved in self-reliance. Heck, I’ve even witnessed students who are self-proclaimed book-haters open books on their own accord to learn about self-reliant skills. The possibilities are frightening.

School of the Woods: Turning My Classroom Inside Out ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Loading the spindle

Opening my box of tinder material and other primitive fire making tools, the Science lesson began…

“How hot does your stove top need to get to boil water?” I asked. The boiling point of water is 212º F so it must be hotter than that, right? Agreement was reached. Your electric range top is powered by fire traveling through copper wires without burning your home to the ground. Fire has always been the center piece of homes since primitive times… and it was never as easy as we have it today.

By rubbing two sticks together, we will conduct enough heat to the charred dust for spontaneous combustion.

“How hot do you think we need get the wood dust?”

Answers ranged from 200 to 250, and biscuit-baking temperature. Your oven at home doesn’t even reach the temperature needed. Through friction, we can create enough heat to raise the wood temperature to between 700-800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot!

I pointed out that the cedar spindle we used is similar to a wooden pencil and works in the same way. The eraser end creates more friction than the writing end. When rubbing out an error in an algebra equation, the eraser leaves tiny particles of dust which is flicked away by the writer’s pinky finger.

However, the dust from our fire spindle is precious char and must be collected. Ideally, you want the wood dust to be as fine as baby powder as it collects in the missing slice of pie cut from the hearth board. Finer dust has an increased surface area to volume ratio. More surface area equates to a lower temperature needed for combustion.

After dust collects in the missing pie slice, faster revolutions of the spindle and increased downward pressure will increase the heat to reach the critical temperature needed to cause the charred dust to spontaneously combust.

And the magic happens!

For those interested in learning the bow and drill fire method, reading this won’t achieve the desired results. This is simply book-learning. Don’t expect great results from articles and books and videos. It’s called Doing the Stuff for a reason.

Some suggested do’s and don’ts can be found in our step-by-step guide on bow and drill method. Hopefully, this will offer some things to avoid on your journey to friction fire success.

Back to the lesson…

Surface Area and Fire

Before spinning the spindle, I asked, “What are three things every fire needs to burn?” Three separate students who paid attention in Science class quickly gave the correct answers; heat, air, and fuel. Our heat source is friction. Air, often taken for granted, must be present. Fuel will be our char dust in the beginning.

Not wanting to disappoint the students with smoke only, I choose a proven bow drill set made of Eastern Red Cedar sap wood. Setting up the drill in my bow, I asked which end of the pencil-like spindle should contact the hearth board to create the most friction. “The eraser end,” they answered in unison. Right. The sharp, pointed end has less surface area which equals less friction. My kids are smart scientists!

The grinding begins, followed by smoke… and oohs and aahs… and cell phones clicking pics and videos to document this primitive magic.

School of the Woods: Turning My Classroom Inside Out ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Documentation

Midway through the process my bow string snaps. The bank line on my favorite bow had twirled one too many spindles. I thought of asking the students to donate a shoe lace. Knowing the affection and social status placed on shoes of middle schoolers, I declined. We had just enough cord to wrap around the bow handle and proceed with drilling.

A few determined moments of spinning brought the charred dust to ignition temperature. Smoke floated skyward signaling the birth of a baby fire egg.

Allowing time for the fire egg to mature and grow inside the dust pile, we formed a “bird’s nest” from a handful of roadside pine needles which had been crushed and mangled by vehicle tires to create lots of surface area in the tinder. This stuff is a free, ready-to-use fire resource my primitive technology mentor, Scott Jones, turned me onto.

Birthing the Fire Egg 

A smoldering pile of dust was cool and all but flames licking through my fingers was what the students came to see. We transferred the fragile egg from its welcome mat to the prepared nest of tinder, gently swaddled it, and breathed life into the egg until it hatched into hot flames.

A full-fledged campfire wasn’t permitted. To build a sustainable fire, read our tutorials on Bombproof Fire Craft.

Doing the Stuff in Context

The bow and drill is the easiest of friction fire methods to learn since it maximizes your muscle power through leverage and mechanical advantage. On the second demonstration that day, we had enough time for one student to give it a whirl.

One male students knew all about this wilderness survival stuff from watching, in his words, “all the survival shows.” He knew the facts. He even told the class that we could carry the fire by placing it in dried elephant dung. Sadly, we were fresh out of elephant poop that day. His statement, true where elephants roam, highlights the importance of practicing wilderness skills in your wilderness (urban or rural) by actually Doing the Stuff.

As Steve Watts once said…

“… if it’s not in context, it’s just arts and crafts.”

Naturally, I asked our “survival expert” to try the bow and drill technique. He declined. Why? He knew all the facts but maybe he was afraid of failing in front of his friends. Whatever his reason, none of us can learn a new skill without learning to fail forward.

One of our female basketball players volunteered to try. She was very coachable and demonstrated good technique. For these two reasons, this young lady will probably be the first of my students to birth an ember by rubbing sticks together. We even had our resource officer watch and want to give primitive fire a spin.

Turning Class Inside Out

Not ever child may show interest in making fire from scratch. But I’ll bet they’ll stand in amazement watching the smoke and flames created by rubbing sticks together. This may be the hook needed to get them out of doors and into nature.

Every child needs to curiously explore his or her interest in our natural world. There’s more to this stuff than just building self-reliance skills. Their overall health and wholeness as a human being is the top benefit. Now, get outside and go wild!

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 © 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 reposting 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.

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill

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by Todd Walker

Primal fire has been coaxed from dead wood by twirling a straight stick between two human palms for millennia. I’m still amazed every time I look down at a pile of charred wood dust smoldering on its on accord and sending wisps of smoke skyward.

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill ~ © TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Starting a fire with modern devices, which accompany me on outings, can not compare to our ancient ancestor’s fire. As my preparedness journey moves forward, I find myself practicing primitive more and more. What if those modern devices fail, or run out of fuel, or get lost? Could I create that all-important fire from what the forest provides?

Primitive fire craft includes many methods. The bow and drill may be the most popular for modern primitive practitioners and bushcrafters due to its mechanical advantage found in the bow. However, the hand drill is more simple in design with fewer parts required. Two summers ago I began my journey to master hand-spun fire methods. Blisters turned to calluses as I birthed a primal coal from twirling a stick between my palms.

Here’s a video of my early experimentation with hand-spun fire…

If you’ve tried and failed to bring fire to life with a hand-spun spindle grinding on a piece of wood, here’s a hack which may give you the needed boost to light your first hand drill fire.

Hand Drill Thumb Loops

I have spent many hours spinning sticks on wood without thumb loops to produce embers. Failure in my beginner hand drill experiences was mainly due to running out of strength and stamina at that crucial time where downward pressure and rapid twirling was required to raise the temperature of charred dust to the point of ignition. My arms and shoulders would fatigue killing my technique and any chance of a glowing ember.

Over the years I’ve read of this simple technique which offers twirlers a mechanical advantage with hand drills. A helpful article by Dino Labiste on Primitive Ways made sense to me. I gave it a spin.

Material and Tools

  • Cordage – about two feet of sturdy cordage
  • Spindle – my river cane spindle capable of using wooden plugs or any spindle material you have available
  • Hearth Board – a suitable wood for friction fire 1 to 2 inches wide, 1/2 inches deep, and long enough to place your foot on it with enough board left for drilling
  • Knife – whittling plugs, divots, and hearths
  • Welcome Mat – a leaf, piece of leather, or anything which will collect the charred dust and glowing ember

Step 1: Notch Your Spindle

Cut a 1/8 inch nock in the top of the spindle deep enough for your cordage to mate securely. On my cane spindle, I have a smaller piece of cane which serves to cap the hollow storage chamber at the top of my spindle. I notched the cap as I would a cane arrow or atlatl dart.

Step 2: Cut Cordage to Length

You need a length of cord which will drape through the nock and hang down the spindle. Allow enough excess for tying a loop on each end of the hanging cordage. I tied one loop first, ran the cord over the nock, and estimated the amount needed for the second loop before cutting.

Adjust the length until your thumbs (inserted in the loops) and hands are in the middle of the spindle when assembled.

Step 3: Tie Two Loops

I had planned on using one of the four knots I use most often for camping and woodcraft – the bowline. However, Allen, the son of the landowner who allows me to use their property, showed up at my shelter and taught me a new knot he uses while fly fishing – the perfection loop. Either knot will work, but I enjoy learning new knots.

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill ~ © TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The height of your hands should be near the middle of the spindle for balance

Trim the loose ends of the loops near the knots. I found that leftover cordage can get in the way while spinning the spindle.

Step 4: Give ’em a Spin

Place your thumbs through the loops and grip the spindle between your palms. Place the bottom of the spindle in a divot hole in the hearth board. Begin slowly twirling the spindle between your hands to get the feel of how the thumb loops aid in spinning. As you spin you should notice the divot should begin to smoke and create a bit of charred dust around the rim of the divot. Stop and prepare the divot with a V-shaped notch which slices into the pie-shaped divot hole.

Step 5: Go for the Coal

The loops will generate a lot of downward pressure on the hearth board. Don’t overdo it in this beginning stage or you may drill through your hearth board without producing a coal. Spin with medium pressure until the hearth board notch is filled with charred dust. I’ve found that using thumb loops reduces the time needed to generate enough char to fill the board notch.

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill ~ © TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A cedar plug insert used on a mimosa hearth board for this coal

Now is the time to apply more downward pressure and rapid spinning. This increases the friction between the spindle and board which raises the temperature of the char dust to ignition temperature. If you think you’re to that point with smoke flying, stop spinning but keep the spindle mated to the board socket. Watch to see if the char is producing smoke on its own. If so, gently remove the spindle and tap the hearth board to loosen the char from the notch. Carefully lift the board and fan the char with your hand. If there’s an ember in there, it will continue to grow and glow.

If you don’t see the char pile smoking, all is not lost. I’ve twirled embers on my second attempt with the same char dust many times.

Congratulations! You’ve produced a primal ember by rubbing two sticks together. Now transfer the fire-egg to a tinder nest and blow it to flame.

Step 6: Trouble Shooting

  • Too much downward pressure in the beginning produces gritty dust. Take a pinch of the dust between your thumb and forefinger to determine how fine the dust feels.
  • Less pressure produces fine dust like baby powder which creates more surface area and increases your chance of ignition.
  • Wood selection has much to do with success or failure with any friction fire method. Some woods are more prone to produce coarse dust. Others char into a fine powder. Experimentation with different wood combinations will prove this point.

This is not an exhaustive essay on how to spin a coal with the hand drill. It is, however, a simple hack which will increase your chances of creating coals consistently.

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.

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Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Carry Around Your Waist

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by Todd Walker

Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Wear Around Your Waist ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

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 too dramatic here, could literally save your life.

I leave my main pack at base camp on short scouts on backcountry outings. Depending on the purpose of my trek, I usually grab my canteen set and head out. Of course, the ring belt I made is secured around my waist… always! No matter what happens to my other gear, essential stuff is attached to my ring belt. That’s right, I wear two belts: 1.) A traditional belt to prevent me from looking like a hip-hopper “who be sagging” in the woods; 2.) My ring belt to keep self-reliance tools secure and accessible.

Here is what’s on my belt…

Belt Kit Items

First, let’s look at the ring belt itself. I bought a strip of leather and crafted the belt using a D-ring, Chicago screws, and waxed thread. It’s a simple design I first learned from Justin Wolfe at Wolfe Customs. To make your own, use a leather belt blank which measures about 20 inches longer than your normal belt. Attach a ring or D-ring and your set.

My D-Ring belt after completion.

My D-Ring belt after completion.

To tie a ring belt, thread the end through the ring around your waist. Run the end under the belt from the bottom creating a loop. Pass the end back through the loop and cinch tight. If you don’t have a ring belt, traditional belts will work. However, one advantage of ring belts is their ability to be worn over heavy winter clothing for easy access to frequently used tools in the field.

One alternative use for the leather ring belt is a strop for cutting tools. Loop the belt around a tree and pull tight. Strop your knife by moving the blade up and down the leather with the cutting edge facing the opposite direction of the stropping motion.

Knife

Arguably one of the most important tools for outdoor self-reliance, a sharp knife is essential. Whatever knife rides on your belt, testing its abilities and limits is paramount. Before depending on a particular knife, put it through blue-collar woodcraft work for several months. By the end of your test period, you’ll know whether or not it fits your needs.

The Genesis on the left is Dirt Road Girl's knife... which I've been testing for over a year now.

The Genesis on the left is Dirt Road Girl’s knife… which I’ve been testing for over a year now.

If you’re just new to bushcraft/woodcraft, I’d recommend reading my article on Bloated Bushcraft to give you some perspective on knives and skills.

My main belt knife is a L.T. Wright Genesis I purchased for my lovely Dirt Road Girl at the 2015 Blade Show. Ya see, I’m just running it through its paces to see if it’ll be dependable for her.😉 This article isn’t a Best-Knife discussion. There’s no such thing. However, I have found her Genesis to be very robust and resilient over the last year in the field.

Fire Kit

At our last Georgia Bushcraft Campout, I was fortunate enough to win a really well crafted possibles pouch made by Reliance Leatherworks in a fire challenge. This pouch replaced an old military pouch I carried for five years which had previously housed my fire kit.

Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Wear Around Your Waist ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Possibles Pouch Fire Kit: 1) Possibles pouch, 2) Pouch for flint and steel, lighter, fat lighter’d, tonteldoos, and char tin, 3) Tonteldoos, 4) Char tin, 5) Flint and steel, 6) Bic lighter, 7) Magnifying lens in leather pouch atop birch bark container from Siberia, 8) Fat lighter’d, 9) tinder

The contents of my fire kit pouch consist of multiply methods to burn sticks.

You may have noticed that my ferrocerium rod is not in the pouch content list. The reason is that I carry a rather large ferro rod in a leather sheath alongside my folding saw. More on those items later.

The idea behind a good fire kit is to carry multiple methods of starting a fire in various weather conditions. Having different ignition sources gives you options. You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of each source in our Bombproof Fire Craft Series.

Ferrocerium Rod and Folding Saw

Being resourceful, I shop antique stores, thrift shops, and yard sales. I found a one-dollar leather sheath which was used to hold screw drivers and re-purposed it to hold my Bacho folding saw and large ferro rod. A carabiner connects the sheath to my belt. A pair of leather work gloves also hang from the carabiner.

For a handle on my ferro rod, two feet of one inch Gorilla Tape is wrapped around the end of the rod with a loop of paracord taped into the wrap. Here’s my reasoning for this handle:

  • Extra Gorilla Tape is never a bad thing
  • Epoxied handles tend to come loose with heavy use over time – not so with this tape
  • The loop allows me to clip the rod to the carabiner on the ring belt and insert into the folding saw sheath
Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Wear Around Your Waist ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The paracord loop is secured to my belt through the carabiner on my saw sheath

Sidearm

I carry a sidearm in the woods and everywhere legally allowed. You just never know what you’ll walk up on in the woods. Four-legged predators don’t concern me much in Georgia. Walking to my base camp recently I saw gang graffiti painted on rocks in the pristine creek. Just up the creek my semi-permanent shelter was tagged in red spray paint as well. This happened on 70 acres of private land.

Tagging on my shelter

Gang tags on my shelter

Not all who wander the woods are there to enjoy nature. Paying attention to human nature, I choose to pack heat in the back country.

Pocket Stuff

Pants pockets serve as a redundant reservoir. I carry a Swiss Army Knife, chap stick, and a mini Bic lighter in one front pocket. My truck keys are in the opposite pocket with a spare ferro rod attached. My wallet is in my back pocket. Yes, my wallet contains survival items like duct tape. My cell phone rides in the opposite pocket. Even without cell service in the hinter boonies, the camera feature is invaluable to me in documenting my adventures.

Canteen Kit

I can attach my 32 ounce canteen kit to my ring belt if necessary. However, I prefer wearing it over my shoulder with a paracord shoulder strap for emergency cordage. The front pouch of the carrying case has redundant fire starters, an EmberLit stove, and an eating utensil.

My backcountry belt kit, coupled with the last two items mentioned above, gives me essential tools to enjoy my time in the woods. What do you wear on your backcountry belt?

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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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.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle

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by Todd Walker

Primitive Fire Balls - How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

 

One of my favorite DiY fire starters is waxed jute twine. I’ve been using these for years in damp/wet conditions. They ignite with ease with ferrocerium rods and lighters/matches. Flint and steel sparks are too weak to ignite waxed jute alone. Charred material is needed. I wondered if anyone had made one before.

I searched for ideas online for making a waterproof tinder bundle which could coax fire using modern and primitive ignition sources (friction fire embers and/or flint and steel). Joshua Stuck made this fire starter and shared it on Primitive Ways.

Time for me to trade theory for action!

In his article, Joshua used birch bark strips to wrap his jute twine bundle and fire starter before waxing.The only native birch in my Georgia woods is the river birch which doesn’t work well as a wrap or basketry. This reinforces the importance of spending time in one’s local woodland to find and test your natural resources.

One of my favorite natural tinder sources is the inner bark of dead-standing tulip poplar trees or dropped limbs. Needing a pliable bark wrap for this project, I carefully separated the outer and inner bark from a young tulip poplar to produce strips wide enough for the task. I also have a collection of dry cottonwood inner bark which I used.

Another natural option I considered for wrapping material was a dead hornet’s nest. The papery layers come off in large sheets. Cedar bark was another idea.

I’ll be using all-natural material personally gathered from my local landscape… except the char cloth and bee’s wax. The wax was purchased, and the cotton denim was lying on my shop floor.

Primitive Fire Balls

Material and Tools

  • Dry Tinder Material: I used finely processed inner bark of tulip poplar in one ball, and crushed roadway pine straw in the other.
  • Charred Material: Char cloth, charred rope, or charred punk wood can be used. My experiment found the best results using char cloth. Here’s my tutorial for making char cloth.
  • Exterior Wrap: Inner bark, hornets nest, anything dry and pliable.
  • Bee’s Wax: In keeping with the natural material theme, bee’s wax was used. Old candles stubs or paraffin wax will work.
  • Double Boiler: Melt wax safely in a double boiler to prevent accidental fires.
Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Above the bee’s wax is a few layers off a hornet nest which might work as an exterior wrap.

Step 1: Create a Tinder Bundle

Process enough inner bark into fine fibers to make a compressed ball about the size of a golf ball. Mine were slightly larger. Be sure to place the finest fibers at the center of your tinder bundle.

Another addition could be fat lighter’d scrapings sprinkled into the nest. I didn’t do this but will test it on my next batch.

Step 2: Insert Char Cloth

Spread the compressed tinder bundle and place a piece of char cloth in the center of the nest. Now ball up the nest with the char cloth in the center.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Char cloth in the center of the tinder bundle.

Step 3: Apply Wrapping

Begin wrapping the compressed ball with your chosen material. I found the tulip poplar strips created a tighter, neater wrap than the cottonwood inner bark. Work to cover the entire ball to form a shell.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

For size comparison, a wasp (pictured left) flew into the hot bee’s wax during melting. Ironic, huh?

Step 4: Wax the Balls

With your bee’s wax melted, carefully dip the ball into the wax. The wax is hot so be careful. You’ll get wax on your fingers no matter how carefully you dip. I used tongs after the first coating of wax. The wax will help hold loose bark in place.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Double boiler method

After the first coat, I simply laid the ball in the wax and rolled it around to coat the entire bundle. Allow the wax to cool a bit between each coat. I applied 4 or 5 coats of wax to each ball. While the wax is still pliable, press and form heavy drips into nooks and crannies.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Using the Primitive Fire Balls

I tested the shell’s ability to keep moisture out by placing the ball in one of our bird baths for a few minutes. This is certainly more water than they would see inside my haversack under normal rainy conditions – save capsizing a canoe.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Floating for about 3 minutes in a bird bath.

To light the tinder bundle, cut it down the middle and open the ball to revel the char cloth. Fluff the tinder out of its compressed state to create surface area. Use a flint and steel to spark the char cloth. Gently blow the glowing char cloth to ignite the tinder bundle. Turn the bundle over to allow the flames to bring the waxed exterior to combustion temperature.

Primitive Fire Balls: How to Make a Waterproof Natural Tinder Bundle ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This is the pine straw tinder after 5 minutes.

Conclusion

Both Fire Balls, tulip poplar tinder and pine straw tinder, burned steady for well over 5 minutes. A slight stir of the burning bundle will rekindle and extend the burn time – especially so in the crushed pine straw ball. The pine straw ball also ignited more quickly than the tulip poplar ball.

One thought occurred to me that melted pine/conifer sap could be used to seal the Primitive Fire Balls. We have an abundance of pines in my area making sap easier to harvest than honey comb.

As a modern primitive practitioner, I enjoy the miracle of friction fires. I have a backup plan in my thumb-drill (Bic lighter). The practicality of having a waterproof tinder bundle and fire starter made from all-natural materials gives me options when starting fires in wet conditions. Practice primitive stuff and push your limits.

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.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root Medicinally

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by Todd Walker

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My neighbor hired a gentleman to pour a foundation and do the block work for an addition on their house. DRG and I stepped over to see the progress. A distinguished looking gentleman turned around as I admired his work. We shook hands and he introduced himself. “I’m Albert Floyd,” he said.

Sometime you meet a kindred spirit and a spiritual connection happens.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Albert and me after a morning of digging and cleaning dock roots

 

Albert and I began a conversation about his horse, Tiger, he taught to count, add, and subtract. Somewhere in our twenty-minute conversation I mentioned that my wife has been fighting cancer for the past five years. Albert told me he has been using yellow dock for many of his 76 years of life as a natural medicine. I knew of the plant but had never harvested any for use.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tiger getting ready to count for me. Albert is a man of outstanding character by the way he treats all his animals.

Albert invited me to go dig yellow dock root the next morning. I love the medicinal properties of wild plants and trees. I happily agreed to get dirty digging this “weed.”

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Most fields, waste places, roadsides, and weedy yards are good locations to find yellow dock (aka ~ curly dock, sour dock, narrow dock, garden patience and curled dock. Roadside weeds are typically sprayed with herbicides and should be avoided. It is easy to spot and identify in the second year of growth. You’ll see the rusty-brown flower stalk loaded with seeds in mid-summer to late fall. First year plants grow in a basal rosette similar to Common Mullein. In our area, this weed is a perennial it seems. Some botanists say they are biennial. Leaves are lance-like with curled edges and can grow over one foot in length and three inches across.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Lance shaped leaves with curly edges

Medicinal Benefits

Remember, medical information on wild plants is for informational purposes only. Do your own due diligence on herbal medicine.

With that being said, my research found that yellow dock roots contain anthraquinones and tannin indicating use as mild laxative and astringent. Anthraquinones are commonly extracted from the Polygonaceae, or buckwheat family of plants. Some of the major chemical components of anthraquinone and its derivatives have demonstrated potential anticancer properties. (Source) This is the main reason we are experimenting with yellow dock.

However, yellow dock root has also been reported to be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Blood purifier
  • General detoxifier
  • Reduces oxidative stress and the effect of free radicals (Source)
  • Strengthens liver and gall bladder function
  • Mild laxative to stimulate removal of stubborn waste in the intestinal tract
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Emphysema
  • Anticancer properties
  • Treatment for venereal disease
  • Boosts immune system
  • Enhances digestion

Harvesting Roots

Albert drove me out to a pasture he sharecropped as a young man. The property owner gave him permission to harvest all the invasive dock he could ever hope to use. Armed with a pickaxe, trenching shovel, and two empty feed bags, we waded through the rusty-brown stalks until we reached “the spot” where rings of freshly turned soil gave away Albert’s previous foraging trips.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Albert getting to the root of the plant with his pickaxe

Before digging in, use the pickaxe to chop off the flower stem above ground. This clears the way for you to swing freely around the root. I used the trenching shovel like an ax to remove the plant tops. If you have a group of foragers along, make sure folks are a safe distance away before swinging.

This isn’t rocket science. Dig around the outskirts of the root ball and begin prying the plant out of the ground. I found that I could extract the long tap roots intact using the trenching shovel verses the pickaxe.

Once the root is free, tap it on the ground or digging tool to remove the soil from the root ball. Be a good steward and rake the excavated soil back in the hole – especially if livestock use the field. Gather up the dead flower stalks and remove them from the pasture as well. If you want to start your own dock garden, collect and sow a handful of seeds from the stalk.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Curly dock seeds

Wash the root ball with a high pressure hose to remove the remaining soil. Discard any root that shows sign of rot or damage. The root has a brown woody sheath with a yellow center. The more yellow the center, the more concentrated the good stuff becomes.

Making a Root Decoction 

Albert’s instructions for making his decoction (tea) is simple. Place the roots in a pot, cover with water, and boil. You want to bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes in a covered pot. A decoction usually requires that you boil the liquid down to concentrated levels. Not so with this method. Simmering for only 30 minutes and removing from heat will prevent most of the liquid from evaporating.

I used my outside kitchen for this process. I wasn’t sure if there would be a lingering scent in DRG’s kitchen during the processing. The root has an earthy smell which was not offensive to me when boiled.

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The roots were mushy after 30 minutes. You may notice the brown outer sheath split revealing the stringy root fibers on the far left.

The consistency of the root will turn mushy and stringy like a baked sweet potato after 30 minutes of simmering. Remove from heat and allow the covered decoction to steep for several hours. I went about my day and returned after 8 hours.

Remove the large mushy roots and strain the remaining liquid through cheese cloth to collect the smaller bits. Pour into covered containers which will fit into your refrigerator to reduce the chance of spoilage.

You may want to add honey to sweeten your tea. As Albert told me, “It ain’t gonna taste good, but it’s good for you.” He was certainly right about the taste!

Making a Root Tincture

How to Harvest, Prepare, and Use Yellow Dock Root for Medicine - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Thinly slice or grate enough root to create a 1:2 ratio of root to grain alcohol. I used a scale to keep the proportions even by weight. I ended up with 3.1 ounces of root to just over 6 ounces of alcohol. Vinegar can be substituted for alcohol.

Place the root material in a mason jar and pour the liquid over. Seal the jar and store it in a cool location. My jar is on the kitchen counter to remind me to shake it daily on the 6 to 8 week period to becoming a medicinal tincture. Label the jar with the date of production, the ratio used, and the type of tincture.

Dosage from respected herbalist recommend 5-20 drops once or twice a day. Do your own due diligence.

Below are some of the more helpful articles I read in my research:

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.

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive

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by Todd Walker

Two roads diverged in a wood… and your child is lost!

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hiking and camping season is upon us. Families are hitting the trails to enjoy nature and all its benefits. Nature is neither for you or against you. Nature is neutral. But Mother Nature can also be brutal. Any survival instructor that says otherwise is delusional.

Over the past two years, my 9 year-old grandson and I have spent time together learning survival and self-reliance skills. When he visits now, he usually asks if we can build a fire. The thermometer reading in Georgia matters not, he wants to burn stuff.

Leadership equals influence. Influencing your child to get outside is often easier achieved by you Doing the Stuff. Share your knowledge, demonstrate the skills, and let your child imitate the skills until they become proficient. If your child knows nothing else about survival, the following will keep him alive if ever lost in the backcountry.

3 Core Survival Skills

What is survival? It may be easier defined by stating what survival is not.

Survival isn’t wilderness living, camping, foraging, or bushcraft. Your child won’t have to carve a spoon, make a survival bow, know 21 edible plants, or build an elaborate shelter to stay alive in the unfortunate event he is ever lost in the woods. It’s highly probable that search and rescue will find him before the weekend is over.

Survival is any situation where if you don’t take corrective action, you die.

Train your child in three core survival skills…

Shelter – Hydration – Sleep until rescued.

Core Skill #1: Build a Microclimate

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Testing the Kochanski Super Shelter

Clothing: The most important piece of the survival puzzle is having the ability to build a microclimate for core temperature control. The first layer of shelter is the clothing your child wears. Dress appropriately for the weather and location. Cotton is a killer in cold weather survival due to its ability to hold moisture against the body. However, it can be a lifesaver in hot weather by exploiting this same property for evaporative cooling.

Tarp/Cover: Beside clothing, go out prepared to use every shelter option available in your kit. A reusable mylar space blanket is my #1 option to build an emergency microclimate. Add a clear 9 x 12 inch plastic painter’s tarp and you have a lightweight, effective cold weather microclimate called the Kochanski Super Shelter. You’ll need to teach your child to collect enough wood to build a fire in front of this shelter for it to be effective through the night.

Insulation Layer: A closed-cell foam ground pad is what I carry when backpacking or camping. This piece of gear offers a barrier from cold ground (conduction) or helps prevent heat loss from convection when laid in the bottom of my hammock. From my experience of hanging and ground camping in a sleeping bag, this insulation layer is essential to creating a microclimate.

Without a commercial ground pad, two contractor trash bags can be used as an insulation layer. Fill both bags with leaves or fluffy stuff so that, when compressed, you have a 4 to 6 inch barrier of insulation. In a pinch, the forest litter filled bags can be used as a makeshift sleeping bag. There are multiple survival uses for plastic bags. Two bags won’t add much weight but multiply your survival chances.

Fire: The main reason I teach fire craft to my 9 year-old grandson is to reinforce its forgiving nature as a survival tool. Yes, even with no other shelter options, fire can keep you alive. We have many articles parked on our Bombproof Fire Craft Page.

Microclimate Preps

  • Clothing
  • Reusable Emergency Space Blanket/Tarp
  • Clear Painter’s Tarp
  • Two Contractor Trash Bags

Core Skill #2: Hydration

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ways to disinfect water

Find and drink enough water to cause urine to be clear. Remember, even if you don’t have a way to disinfect your water, drink it anyway. You want to die from dehydration or have the trots a week later after being rescued hydrated and logical in the wilderness?

The above statement may seem counter to “proper” survival advice. But if you’re not prepared with water treatment gear, drink the water to stay alive. Food should not be a concern for short-term survival. If you have enough calories to consume daily, eat up. Otherwise, fasting is your best choice. Physiologically, our bodies can go several weeks without food with no ill effects.

Be prepared with water disinfection equipment. My preferred method of water disinfection is boiling. You’ll need a metal container and fire. Fire plays such an important role in survival. Without a suitable metal container, use your garbage bag to boil water using the stone boil method. Practice fire craft! I also like the lightweight Sawyer Mini filters. More detailed information on water treatment can be found here.

Plants and trees are also a source of water and need no filtration. Cut a wild grapevine and water will drip into a container. A clear plastic trash bag can be used to get water from leafy, low-hanging tree branches through transpiration. John McCann has a great article on using this method.

Hydration Preps

  • Metal Container
  • Water Filter
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Trash Bag and Hot Stones
  • Transpiration Bag

Core Skill #3: Sleep

Wilderness Survival: 3 Core Skills to Keep Your Child Alive - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sleep is a survival tool

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

When camping, I call sleep the number one skill of a good woodsman. But in a true wilderness survival situation, restorative sleep is key to staying alive. If you’re child has learned to build a proper microclimate and learned at least two methods of disinfecting drinking water, then sleeping 8 hours is his next survival skill.

Scared and alone in the wilderness, I always go back to fire. Beside being a great survival tool for shelter and water disinfection, a fire offers phycological comfort. Kind of like a nightlight in the woods. It not only keeps the boogieman at bay, but gives some peace of mind concerning predators.

Your child should sleep at opportune times. Not all eight hours have to be consecutive like we stress when home. An hour here and there adds up.

With sufficient sleep, your child will be better prepared to deal with the stress of survival. Our physiological body needs sleep for rational thought and decision-making. Sleep deprived, we make stupid mistakes. Use every available resource to make a comfortable microclimate for sleeping and shelter from the elements.

Sleep Preps

  • See Microclimate above – Core Temperature Control
  • Fire
  • Practice in the backyard with minimal gear

Your child can beat the odds of surviving by having the knowledge and practiced skills mentioned here. Spend some time rehearsing the plan before he needs the skills. As the Boy Scout’s motto states, “Be Prepared.”

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…

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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.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft

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by Todd Walker

A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Growing up as a simple country boy in the 60’s and 70’s, we camped. We made forts (aka ~ survival shelters today) from forest resources. We hunted, fished, and ate things we found in the woods. We learned woods lore from elder family members and friends. There was no internet. There were only books and young boys with a pocket knife and a cheap hatchet sleeping under an open southern sky.

I later discovered that my childhood adventures had a proper name. What we called camping and having fun in the woods is now known as bushcraft. I’ve spent my life avoiding labels. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll use the term bushcraft but could easily be applied to some other labels below.

Whether you choose to call your outdoor life – bushcraft, woodcraft, camping, survivalism, primitive skills, scouting, wilderness living, etc., etc. – we all share a common desire to be comfortable, connected, confident, and more self-reliant in the wilderness.

I recently received this message on our Facebook page…

“What would you recommend for someone who is interested in learning about bushcrafting… for a beginner?” ~ DW

My suggestion to you, DW, and anyone starting out, is to remain a student and stay away from “experts” promoting bloated bushcraft. The beauty of bushcraft is hidden in simplicity. Start with skills, not elaborate gear.

You may be unfamiliar with the life and writings of Horace Kephart, so allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors and a quote from his book, Camping and Woodcraft (1917)…

“In the school of the woods… There is no graduation day.”

Bloated Bushcraft

Somewhere along our modern journey, going to the woods became complicated. You may be under the impression that you need a specific list of “bushcraft” gear to get started. Beware of the wiles of marketers. You’ll need some gear and we’ll address the non-bloated bushcraft gear required to get started.

Bushcraft knives, bushcraft books, bushcraft gear, bushcraft YouTubers, bushcraft schools, and lots of shiny survival stuff are begging for your attention and money. Internet experts have a way of confusing beginners by using the bushcrafty buzzwords yet some have little field experience. Be careful who you listen to and learn from.

The journey to any aspect of self-reliance begins by Doing the Stuff. This will take time and experience in the field. Your “wilderness” may be your backyard. No shame in that. The bushcraft-purist’s protocol is not important. Practicing skills wherever you are, with the equipment you have, is where experience is gained. Experience carries more weight than head knowledge.

Fundamental Bushcraft Skills

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 below.

A.) Fire Craft

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Max, my grandson, igniting a pile of fat lighter scrapings

Non-Bloated Fire Recommendations

  • Cigarette lighter
  • Matches

Harnessed fire changes everything. It disinfects water and the 21st century soul. For paleo people, life was sustainable because of fire. The same holds true for us moderns – only our fire is fed through convenient copper wire behind walls. Learning to build a fire lay from what the forest provides and then successfully lighting and managing the fire is your first fundamental skill.

I’ve covered many fire craft fundamentals in the article links below which may help you with fire craft…

Recommended Reading:

Practice Makes Permanent

Practice does not make perfect. It will, however, make skills permanent. With that being said, an ugly fire lay that ignites and burns still achieves your goal… Fire!

“Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.”

Now it’s time to practice.

Look to your local forest (or backyard) to provide you with the necessary fire resources. This is where context and locale come into play. Your fire resources may differ from mine. But rest assured, indigenous people once lived in your neighborhood and created fire in your woodland.

Gather your first fire’s meal: Breakfast (tinder), Lunch (kindling), and Dinner (fuel).

Breakfast – You may not easily find natural tinder material in your backyard. If not, use a commercial fire-starter or make a diy alternative. You can learn to find and process plant-based tinder as you have access to them. You can also use your knife to create tinder material from a single stick.

Lunch – Collect an arm-load of dead, small twigs (kindling material) hanging off the ground. Each twig should give a distinctive snap when broken. If not, the wood is not dry and shouldn’t be used. Look for the smallest twigs available – pencil lead in size to pencil-size.

Dinner – While your out collecting kindling, gather finger-size to wrist-size branches to fuel your fire once the twigs ignite. Organize your wood into kindling and fuel in separate stacks.

All fires need three items to come to life; oxygen, fuel, and heat. Your heat source will be a lighter or matches. Even with an open flame the fire lay must be properly prepared. With your fire lay built, light the tinder and observe. Did it ignite the kindling, and eventually, the fuel? If not, what do you need to do different? Experiment until you have a sustainable fire.

B.) Knife Craft

No other area of bushcraft holds more potential for bloating than knives. However, you don’t need an expensive cutting tool to get started in bushcraft.

Mora makes cheaper (under $20.00 US), durable blades worth your consideration. By the way, I’m not affiliated with or receive compensation from any products/company I mention on our blog. However, when I find a product that I like, I’ll share my thoughts with our readers. Simply put, I highly recommend Mora knives for beginners. I gave my grandson his first fixed blade knife last year – a Mora Companion.

Once you have a knife that feels good in your hands, it should be able to spread peanut butter and slice meat, whittle sticks, carve wood, make notches, butcher animals, clean fish, and many more camp tasks.

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

Yes, knife craft will help you achieve a good nights sleep in the woods. Click here to read how.

Non-Bloated Knife Recommendations

  • Mora knives
  • Old Hickory butcher knives
  • The above knives can be purchased for under 20 bucks
A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My grandson’s Mora Companion (top left), a smaller Mora with a bark neck sheath, and butcher knife – not Old Hickory.

A sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knifes take more force for cutting and increase the risk of injury. You want your knife shaving sharp.

Below are a few safety tips for using your knife…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman.
  • Work with your knife outside the triangle of death (an imaginary triangle between your knees and crotch).
  • Work within the blood circle when others are nearby (a circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees).
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks. These will be covered in detail in a later post.

Two knife skills I recommend for beginners relate to fire craft. Find a dead soft hardwood or pine limb about arm’s length and thumb to wrist-size in diameter with no knots. Grip your knife in a standard grip like you’d hold a tennis racket. Lay the cutting edge against the wood and cut down along the wood surface. Keep your elbow slightly bent but stiff and use your shoulder to push the knife. After each thin cut down the wood, move the blade slightly to shave the ridge of the previous cut. Keep the knife perpendicular to the wood with each pass.

Use this exercise to get the feel of how your blade profile engages (bites) the wood. Learn to tilt the knife for finer or thicker shavings/curls. The object is to produce surface area that will easily ignite with an open flame. Ugly curls are not a problem. They’ll burn. I rarely carve feather/fuzz sticks since my woodland has other abundant tinder options. This is still a good way to practice your knife skills. We called it whittling as a child.

Another really quick method to produce tinder with lots of surface area is to scrape the wood with the back (spine) of your knife – my preferred method. Try this using the same technique described above. Collect the fine shavings for your fire lay.

Below is a quick video demonstrating this technique with a piece of fat lighter (fatwood).

Once you feel more confident with safely handling your knife, move on to making notches to further enhance your skills. Mr. Kochanski recommends carving basic notches by creating a Try Stick.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

Learning to carve notches develops knife skills which enables you to craft useful items for camp and outdoor self-reliance.

Continuing Outdoor Education

Good books, blogs, videos, and instructors with field experience who encouraging independent thinking is of more value to beginners than regurgitated information. The more time you spend gaining experience in the field the more confident you’ll become. For continued education, check out one of the best online resources I’ve found by going to the Resources Page at Master Woodsman.

This article is not a comprehensive guide for all you’ll need to get started in your journey to outdoor self-reliance. It is, however, my advice to beginners pursuing the simple art of non-bloated bushcraft. Now… get out there and get some experience!

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.

Camp Craft Challenge: The One Billet Boil Up

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by Todd Walker

Camping is a time to renew friendships and experience the fellowship of kindred spirits. There is no other place quite like the glowing sticks of a campfire to rejuvenate my soul.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fun times at Georgia Bushcraft campouts are often around a fire. Fire challenges, to be more specific. Most competitions consist of bringing a container of water to a rolling boil. There are other ways to gauge the woodsman’s or woods-woman’s firecraft skills, but none are more important (or fun), in my mind, than boiling water in the woods. With hot water, a camper can disinfect creek water and cook squirrel stew while sipping hot coffee, tea, and cocoa.

To prepare for these fire challenges, I’m known for collecting a trash bag full of “smalls” (pencil lead and pencil size twigs). Gathering enough twigs to boil water in under three minutes can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on how sidetracked I become in the woods. Squirrel! 

Collecting resources on woods treks is wise. However, you won’t find me walking through the woodland with a 55 gallon bag of sticks unless I know there’s an upcoming water-boil competition. With that being said, I’d like to introduce, and challenge, our readers to a time-honored way to boil water which incorporates ax, knife, and fire skills…

One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. Chris is always willing to share his wealth of woodsy knowledge at our campouts and his website. Find more on the history of this challenge here and here.

Challenge Guidelines

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One dry wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer and camera (optional) if you’d like to share with us

I filmed the challenge on our channel if you’d like watch. The previously mentioned Master Woodsman links have useful video examples. Those guys and gals are fast!

Disclaimer: I’m well aware of the competitive spirit among my camping buddies. Should you take the challenge, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you take this challenge, not us. No prizes are involved, so keep it safe.

Challenge Strategies

With my normal twig fire for water-boiling, surface area is guaranteed. Not so with a solid log. You must create surface area from the log as quickly and safely as possible. Split off a few one inch shingles from the round with your ax. Cut one of the shingles into smaller pieces. Immediately create shavings or fuzz sticks with your knife or ax from one of the smaller pieces. Light these shavings/fuzz sticks with a match as soon as possible. If you’re match goes out without achieving ignition, you’re allowed another match.

Split down more wood to begin building a log cabin fire lay around the fire. Use the smallest split wood to lay over the fire inside the base of the fire lay. The object is to build a couple of layers of burning kindling inside the log cabin.

Place the water container on top of flames supported by two of the cross pieces of the log cabin. Blow the base of the fire as needed to fan the flames.

Build the log cabin up to the top of the container with more split wood. Use what’s left of the original billet to split off four shingles. Lay the shingles against the fire lay in teepee fashion to trap and funnel the heat around the water container.

Just as a blacksmith billows air into his forge to increase the temperature, lay on the ground near the base of your fire and blow. This should only be done if your container is positioned on a steady log cabin structure. You wouldn’t want hot water falling and hitting any part of your body… another inherent risk.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My tin can is somewhere in there.

Once you’re satisfied the fire lay is sustainable, stand back and get your timer ready. Stop your timer once you have a rolling boil in your pot. Side bubbles around the edges of the container does not count as boiling. The entire surface of the water should be dancing and rolling with bubbles.

If you take the challenge, be sure to let us know your results. On social media, use the hashtag #OneBillitBoilUp so we can find you. Remember, the only prize you’ll receive is enhanced camp craft skills. Have fun and be safe!

Additional 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…

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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 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.

Hunt-Gather-Eat: Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats

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by Todd Walker

At our spring Georgia Bushcraft campout, Chris Noble began his Plant I.D. class with seven wise words written on the white board…

“Plants are what the real food eats!”

Wild edibles are popular among survivalists and outdoorsy types. Would you survive the learning curve if you were dependent on wild food only?

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

We have several articles parked on our Foraging Feral Food page. However, foraging is a hobby of mine and is used to supplement my diet and knowledge base. The supplementary part (knowledge) is what the average person, like myself, should concentrate on when learning to forage. More specifically, which plants are favorites of your local Real Food (animals)?

The idea of long-term survivability as a vegan without our modern food delivery system would be, in my mind, starving times. Even omnivores would be hard pressed to feed their family if semi-trucks stopped rolling. If you’re reading as a vegan, this is not a slam on your food choices. I have nothing against vegetarians or vegans… except for the occasional radical who bashes bacon. In my wild foraging experience, learning to safely identify wild edibles takes time, experience, and preferably guidance from someone with actual expertise in the field. This is not to say living off the landscape can’t be done by hobby foragers. It’s just unlikely.

Crop cultivation signaled the beginning of the end of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle 10,000 years ago. Today, the domestication of our species seems to be complete… almost. Our wild genes remain but must be reprogrammed.

Like any other skill, harvesting the Real Food (non-farm raised) will require hunting and trapping wild animals. Ethical practices should be followed. This is not about killing “trophies.” This is about feeding your family Real Food in hard times.

Favorite Plants of the Real Food 

Most creatures in the Eastern woodlands with fins, fur, and/or feathers are edible, with a few exceptions, and, of course, personal bias. Crawlers and scaly critters aren’t off the menu either.

Having knowledge and familiarity of which plants wild animals prefer can help supplement your food supply. Understanding their habitats and patterns is also important. Even if you’ve never hunted or trapped wild game, or choose not to at this point, find these plants and the Real Food will follow. Below is a list of critters and their favorite munch-ables.

Whitetail Deer

Anyone who has ever grown a garden knows the damage deer can cause. Rows of young butter beans can turn into match sticks poking from the earth overnight. Farm land is a white-tailed deer smorgasbord. With no agriculture in an area, deer browse on a variety of foods available in different seasons.

IMG_0402

  • Browse: Twigs and leaves of woody plants, vines, and shrubs
  • Forbs: Broad leaved flowering plants (herbaceous)
  • Mast Crops: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.- In my experience, white oak mast is preferred over other oaks
  • Fruit: Apple, persimmon, muscadine (wild grapes), blackberry, mayapple, etc.
  • Fungi: Mushrooms
  • Grasses: Makes up less than 10% of their diet
A power line full of forbs.

A power line full of forbs.

White-tailed deer are typically most active during morning and evening hours. The “rut” (breeding season) in the fall causes bucks to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of receptive does. Conventional hunting wisdom is gone with the wind as well.

Bear

All bears are classified as carnivores even though most of their diet is plant-based. They are not shy about scavenging from trash cans, carrion, campsites, and landfills. Meat and fish, when available, add needed protein and fat to their diet.

This big boy drug our son's trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

This big boar drug our son’s trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

Seasonal plants, especially high-energy fruit, are favorites for bear.

  • Spring: First sprouting grasses and roots in areas where bears hibernate. Grubs and insects under decaying logs.
  • Summer and early fall: Blackberries, huckleberries, persimmon, blueberries, and, near human developments, fruit trees.
  • Fall: As berries disappear, foraging turns to fish and dead carcasses of animals.

Feral Hogs

In Georgia, and many other states, there is no closed season on feral swine. This non-native animal was introduced in North America in the 1500’s by explores. Wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores who can also play the role of predator. Not only a nuisance to landowners, they compete with native wildlife for food sources and destroy natural habitat.

Wild hogs are known carriers of disease and parasites which can be transferred to humans when butchering and consuming. Precautions should be taken when handling/processing a carcass. Wear rubber gloves, dispose of waste properly, cook meat to an internal temperature of 160ºF, wash hands with soap and warm water, and clean/disinfect surfaces/tools after butchering with a bleach solution.

Hogs range to find a wide variety of food in different seasons. Recognizing sign, habit and food sources is your best bet for locating wild hogs…

  • Tracks are more rounded with blunted toes than deer. Dew claw impressions are wider than the toe prints of white-tailed deer.
  • Wallows and tracks in creeks and ponds
  • Bedding areas created by rooting to find cool soil
  • Agriculture crops: corn, peanuts, soybean, watermelon, etc.
  • Large wire traps are used successfully by landowners to control pig populations

Small Game Animals

Part of developing a Possum Mentality applies to not only salvaging resources but trying new food sources. Are you willing to eat meat from mink, otter, raccoon, fox, coyote, opossum, muskrat, skunk, bobcat, and weasel? Sounds disgusting to our refined palate but many of these are abundant.

This post is already getting too long. We’ve only got space and time to cover one of the most prolific of small game animals…

Squirrel

This member of the rodent family deserves the nickname “tree rat.” Squirrels don’t just eat nuts and seeds from your bird feeder. They’re omnivores, and, at times, cannibals. Their favored habitat is deciduous forests but aren’t shy of pine trees. Their diet and habitat are very similar to deer.

  • Soft and Hard Mast: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, winged seeds of maple, tulip poplar blossoms (one of their springtime favorites), black cherry, fruits, mushrooms
  • Meat/Protein: Baby birds, eggs, lizards, insects, frogs
  • Picture what rats eat (most anything) and add a bushy tail to your mental image

Large rat traps are effective for passively harvesting squirrels. I’ve used peanut butter as bait in the past.

Fun Survival Fact: A squirrel’s nest may appear to be built in the same manner as a bird’s nest with an open roof when viewing from ground level. Not so. Squirrels need a roof over their head as shelter from the elements. Nature’s design for squirrels, an orb shaped home, can be modified for humans caught in the woods unexpectedly without cover. We will address their design in detail in an upcoming post on debris shelters.

 Birds

All birds are edible. However, not all birds are legal to kill and eat. They also produce another good survival food, eggs.

Wild turkey

Wild turkey

All birds do not eat seeds. Fish and insects make up the diet of many birds. Birds need water for hydration and bathing. The water’s edge is always a prime location to find food with fins, fur, and feathers.

To have a realistic chance of trapping a bird, understand their habits and fly patterns. Pellet rifles, sling shots, and bow and arrows were weapons of choice for me growing up to hone my hunting skills. Check your local laws first.

Fish

No worries about eating poisonous freshwater fish. To my knowledge, there are none. They all contain protein and fat and are fun to catch.

The 4 W’s of Wilderness Campsite Selection | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rainbow trout on fly rod!

I’ll refer you to our article on fishing techniques for more ideas. Also, consider making a fish trap.

Snakes and Reptiles

I know, I know. People have an innate fear of slithers. But snake meat is tasty and can supplement your diet. Properly prepared, the meat does taste similar to chicken.

This water snakes is often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

Water snakes are often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

I have dispatched a water moccasin or two in the woods within striking distance of my dog (“Moose”) when my only options were a vet bill or a dead cotton mouth. Snakes are part of nature’s balancing act and are best left alone to do what they do… unless you really need to eat to survive.

A word of caution here. Snake metabolism is really slow so they die slowly. A rattlesnake may be cut in half by your garden hoe, but it can still deliver a strike and envenomation. A large number of people are bitten by venomous snakes after they’ve “killed” the serpent and pick it up to show their buddies.

Where to find snakes…

  • Where you least expect them but should… under the tarp in your woodpile.
  • In a wilderness setting, streams, swamps, ponds, lakes, dead logs, brush piles, etc.
  • Wherever rodents, birds, large insects, frogs, and lizards are plentiful
  • Warm/hot months in daytime hours: brush piles, holes, under fallen trees.

Other reptiles like alligator and turtle (MRE on the half-shell) are also good eating.

Really Small Eats

Opportunities to eat Real Food in the form of small stuff occur more often than finding a large four-legged meal. Again, the water’s edge is a smorgasbord in the wild.

Crawfish

The exoskeleton of crawfish (AKA – creek lobster, mud bugs, crawdads) encase some of the tastiest meat you’ll find in the woods. They can be trapped or caught by hand. I’ve caught them with a piece of bacon on the end of a string. They latch on and you pull them out of the water before they release. Trap bait can include fresh fish or animal guts or any form of fresh meat. I’ve discovered that they love bacon! The key is to load lots of fresh bait in your trap to keep ’em coming.

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

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

Insects

The most abundant non-plant edible on our planet. I’m not a bug eater, but I’d eat them if my survival were on the line. A rule of thumb when eating insects is…

Red, orange-yellow, forget this fellow. Black, green or brown, wolf it down.

To kill parasites, cook the protein-packed creepy-crawlers.

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.

Spring Camping: 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia

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by Todd Walker

One of the top concerns of winter outdoor activities is hypothermia. We are well aware of that possibility and prepare accordingly. With summer approaching, what’s the worry?

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’ve been chilled to the bone on a few spring camping trips in Georgia… especially in wet conditions. One I’ll never forget was a fishing trip my brother-in-law and I made on the Flint River in mid-March of 1981. We motored up river, set trot lines, and made camp near a sandbar. We woke to a heavy frost blanketing our lightweight summer sleeping bags under a freezing Georgia sky. We were unprepared for the evening temperature change. It was springtime!

A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. ~ Edgar Watson Howe

Our mountain temperatures in June are sneaky and cold enough to drain your body heat by morning. On planned overnighters, having the means and skill to regulate core temperature is critical to enjoying your camping trip. On unexpected stays, it could mean staying alive.

We tend to associate hypothermia with frigid winter temperatures. However, people can die from losing body heat with temperatures in the 50 degree range. Why?

Most people take day hikes or camp in late spring and early summer unprepared for this unexpected threat. Body heat generated from hiking a mountain trail is a double-edged sword. Yes, you’re warm while active… and sweaty. The mercury drops and the wind picks up at higher altitudes. Evaporative cooling is a wonderful to a certain point. Dressed in minimal, sweat-soaked clothing, you may find yourself on a slippery slope of suffering from exposure. You must be prepared to take steps to protect from further cooling.

Hypothermia Warning Signs

Hypothermia is subtle. No matter how experienced you may be in outdoor adventures, core temperature control should be a top priority on every outing. Sadly, just two summers ago, a well-known and experienced hiker succumbed to the elements in Washington. It can happen to anyone.

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. ~ John Muir

There are inherit risks in outdoor activities. Heck, just rolling out of bed holds its own risks. That doesn’t keep adventurous types out of the wilds. Managing risks successfully keeps us alive out there.

Here are the stages and symptoms signaling a drop in your core temperature.

Mild Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 89-95F/32-35C )

  • Constant shivering
  • Tiredness
  • Cold, pale, blotchy skin
  • Numbness and tingling skin
  • Blue fingers and toes
  • Fast breathing

Moderate Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 84.2-95F/28-32C)

  • Ability to think clearly and attention suffers
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Lose of judgement and reasoning ability
  • Stiff muscles and cramping
  • Shivering stops
  • Slow or irregular pulse
  • Drowsiness

Severe Hypothermia

(Body temperature below 84.2F/32C)

  • Unconscious/unresponsive
  • Pupils dilated
  • Irregular or no pulse
  • Undressing and terminal burrowing occurs in 1/4 of the people who freeze to death
  • Bodily functions and organs begin shutting down

Immediate medical attention is needed to stay alive.

Reduce Your Risk

Being unprepared this time of the year is hypothermia’s power. Dirt Road Girl and I have passed many day hikers happily enjoying mountain trails in early spring and summer wearing shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a water bottle with no contingency day pack in sight.

Who knows, these folks may possess skills and fitness levels to able to construct an emergency shelter from leaves and sticks to stay warm if an unexpected stay in the wilderness happens. Unless you’re on a self-imposed survival adventure, always carry a minimum of core temperature control gear.

Shelter

No matter what clothes you’re wearing, pack a 5 x 7 foot emergency space blanket. Add a cheap plastic painters tarp and you have two items used in constructing Mors Kochanski’s super shelter. My experience with this design is very favorable if you’re able to maintain a fire throughout the night.

best-emergency-core-temperature-control-gear

Super shelter

A bright orange tarp is also useful as a signaling device. Large contractor garbage bags weigh little but offer many uses in core temperature control. I pack two.

Fire

Fire is the most forgiving of all survival skill. Even without proper cover, a good fire can keep you alive.

Carry a fire kit with redundant ignition sources: Open flame – Bic lighter, matches; Spark ignition – ferrocerium rod, flint and steel; Solar ignition – magnifying lens.

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire and hydration

There is dry tinder material even in a wet forest. However, be prepared and carry a proven source of dry tinder in your kit. It doesn’t have to be natural material either. Commercial or diy fire starters are highly recommended when fine motor skills have said bye-bye to cold hands. Also, duct tape burns long and hot. Here’s a compact method of carrying several feet of duct tape.

For more fire craft basics, check out our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

Keep in mind that a person’s early-stage shivering may stop after being warmed from radiate heat around the fire, but their core temperature may still be dangerously low. If one person in a group is experiencing obvious signs of hypothermia, it’s very likely that others are in early stages as well. Watch out for each other and take action when needed.

Hydration

A well hydrated person has a better defense against hypothermia. More fluid increases blood volume and conserves heat in your core longer than if you are dehydrated.

Carry a metal water bottle which can be used to boil water in the fire you’ve built. A hot cup of cocoa adds some warmth to the core while hydrating the body simultaneously.

Prepare for Extremes

Check the local weather report before heading out. I just returned from a weekend with our Georgia Bushcraft group. I planned to bring my sleeping bag (MSS). The weather report showed temperatures in the 80’s to the low 60’s with rain on Saturday. I typically only use my poncho liner in those temps in my hammock. However, I wanted to over-prepare. When setting camp, I realized I’d forgotten my sleeping bag. That’s why checklists are helpful… most of the time. I made do but was rather chilled the first morning.

The lesson on this trip was to double-check the checklist. Extra layers I had packed came in handy for warmth in the hammock. Plus, I had my closed cell foam ground mat which I employed. Coupled with my emergency space blanket, the cool, rainy Saturday night in Georgia posed no problem to a good night’s sleep.

Summer temperatures are headed our way. Under normal circumstances, hypothermia never crosses most of our minds this time of the year. We welcome cool breezes and rain showers. By following the above mentioned points, core temperature control shouldn’t be an issue.

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… 

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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.

Knowledge vs. Knowing: 37 Woodlore Lessons

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by Todd Walker

I sat in the front of our aluminum jon boat as my daddy silently paddled us down Little Echeconnee Creek from the wooden bridge. A seven-year old boy with his daddy’s single-shot 20 gauge in his lap… I was living every country boy’s dream. Daddy had killed wild game with this same Stevens shotgun since he received it as a gift on his 14th birthday. My love of woodlore began that cool autumn day.

Knowledge vs. Knowing- 37 Woodlore Lessons - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Going to the woods has always meant going home for me. Among the trees, rocks, animals, and streams I find peace. The reality is that we are all dependent on nature no matter how domesticated we’ve become. Our wild ancestors coaxed all the resources needed to live from the same trails you and I walk.

Many woods lessons came to me the hard way. Mistakes make us wiser… if we live to tell the stories around the campfire. You may know these lessons in your head, but until you’ve experienced them, your knowledge is not knowing. You must get out there.

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” ~ George Washington Carver

Knowing is different from knowledge. Knowledge is acquired intellectually. Knowing equals knowledge plus experience. Knowing is the spiritual and emotional connection… the stuff that sticks with us and becomes second nature.

Woodlore

What is woodlore?

Woodlore ~ “skills relating to living in a woodland environment; woodcraft.”

Woodcraft ~ “skill in anything that pertains to the woods or forest, especially in making one’s way through the woods or in hunting, trapping, etc.”

There is no graduation date in the school of woodlore. Our journey to knowing will take a lifetime. Below are a few lessons I’ve learned. My hope is that you find these helpful on your journey of knowing woodlore.

  • Walk slowly and make frequent stops to observe your surroundings. Like a leaf softly landing on still water, try to send faint ripples in the woods not tidal-waves.
  • Take notice of the story nature is telling: Bird songs, animal behavior, weather patterns, etc.
  • Step on top of fallen logs/obstacles in your path before crossing. Step and look back to see if a snake rests underneath.
  • When selecting a camp site, give attention to the 4 W’s: Wood, Water, Wind, and Widow Makers.
  • Collect resources as you go. These may not be available at your destination.
  • Conserve resources. A forked tree can process firewood saving the edge of your saw or ax.
top-tools-for-mechanical-advantage-bushcraft

This forked tree caught the firewood as it broke

  • Learn to find dry fire-making material in wet conditions.
  • Go light when packing. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Leave the shiny survival objects home. Practicing skills with multi-purpose gear lightens your load.
  • Whether in a group or alone, leave a detailed itinerary with a trusted friend or family member in case you need to be rescued.
  • Carry easily accessible no-cook trail food for energy boosts while hiking. Click here for my pemmican, jerky, and parched corn recipes.
  • Stay hydrated, especially on winter trips.
  • River rocks hold water. When heated around a fire, the water expands rapidly and may blast shards of stone in all directions.
  • Layer clothing in such a way that you can regulate core temperature. Don’t sweat it! If your clothing becomes wet on winter trips, build a fire to dry them.
  • Learn to sleep well in the woods. Carry a pair of wool socks dedicated for sleeping.
  • Take care to clear your camp area of debris for fire safety and tripping hazards.
  • Stow your weapon close at hand as you sleep in camp.
  • Eat well. Pack food and comfort items for an enjoyable trip. Coconut oil and hot cocoa not only give me comfort but add calories and energy to my meals. You can’t go wrong with home cured bacon! Supplement meals with wild foods if available and only when sure of their safe use.
Knowledge vs. Knowing: 37 Lessons of Woodlore - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry-cured bacon in a metal frying pan

  • Coals are for cooking, flames are for boiling.
  • Listen to your gut. If you get a gnawing feeling something is not right, pay attention and proceed with caution.
  • Always offer the best seat around the fire to others.
  • Don’t do stupid stuff you may have seen on “reality” survival shows. How do you know if something is stupid? Your knower will tell you. Physical injury in the wilderness turns camping into survival.
  • Carry at least two knifes. If one is lost or fails, you have a spare.
  • Practice situational awareness. Sounds mean something in the woods. A twig snapping could be an approaching animal (four or two-legged) or a falling limb. View the landscape with relaxed eyes to detect movement in a wide-angle. Once movement is spotted, your eyes will focus on that point.
  • Listen more than you talk around the campfire.
  • Keep a small amount of dry tinder in your pack and some kindling and fuel under your shelter for the morning fire in the case of rain. Heavy-duty garbage bags are modern marvels. Carry two.
  • Ax work is a daylight job.
  • Maintain sharp cutting tools in the field.
  • Water is life. Fill your water container(s) at every chance. You’ll not only find hydration at the water’s edge but many food sources… both small and large.
  • Carry a pair of leather work gloves. Nicks and cuts to your two most useful tools is not advisable.
  • That goes for your only means of conveyance, too… your feet. Wear comfortable, reliable footwear. Waterproof boots are non-breathable and eventually lead to sweat-soaked feet.
  • Never walk through the woods with an un-sheathed ax.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

  • Resupply your tinder box with charred material for your next fire as needed.
  • Learn to administer self-aid with common items on the occasion you have no dedicated first aid kit.
  • Spend more time collecting/processing tinder and kindling material than fuel size wood. Fire needs to eat small stuff before consuming larger wood.
  • A wax candle conserves fire ignition sources and aids in drying damp tinder.
  • Even on “short” hikes in the woods, carry these tools as a minimum: Knife, fire starter, poncho or emergency space blanket, water bottle, cordage.
  • Go prepared with modern gear and equipment but practice primitive skills.
  • Always remain a student.
  • At age 7, never shot a shotgun directly overhead while leaning backwards in a jon boat. You’ll end up laying on the bottom of the boat. Just saying.

Woods wisdom comes with time. Spend more time in the woods to turn knowledge into knowing. These are a few lessons I’ve learned by spending time in the woods. Share your woodlore and let’s learn together.

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… 

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 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.

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

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by Todd Walker

The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Humans have employed six simple machines throughout history to reduce the amount of work required for tasks. Of these six, my favorite for outdoor self-reliance is the sexy and sleek wedge!

Huh!?

Sleek and Sexy? A wedge sounds rather dull and useless.

Hold on a second. You may change your mind about the humble wedge.

A wedge is an incline plane sharp enough to cut and separate stuff. Stuff like wood, meat, and even metal need to be divided into smaller parts in a civilized manner. No need to gnaw your steak like a caveman.

You see, like all our cutting tools, a knife is a wedge. Hence my love affair with this simple machine!

“I learned how much of what we think to be necessary is superfluous; I learned how few things are essential, and how essential those things really are.” ~ Bernard Ferguson

It’s not just the aesthetics of forged metal that attracts my attention. The wedge may be the most useful tool a person can carry in a pocket or on a belt.

Why?

Knives are designed to do more than spread peanut butter! In skilled hands, stuff can be made. Important survival stuff. Developing knife skills is the best way to replace all those shiny-object-survival kit items. Safely wielding a sharp wedge has always been a top priority for woodsmen and woods-women throughout history.

Survival vs. Self-Reliance

Somewhere along our collective outdoor journey, survival took on the connotation of simply staying alive. I personally don’t get too caught up in the latest terminology… Woodcraft vs. Bushcraft, Survival vs. Self-Reliance, etc., etc. All I know is that spending time in the woods is my passion.

Survival is part of self-reliance. A big part. You can’t develop outdoor self-reliance skills if you’re dead.

Look up a few old “Survival” writers in the 60’s. Survival was much different from how we view it today. These early survivalists taught us more than just making it through a 72 hour scenario. Survival was wilderness living skills back then.

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.

Before addressing skill, let’s begin with safety…

Knife Safety

A sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knifes take more force for cutting and increase the risk of injury. You want your knife shaving sharp.

Below are a few tips for basic knife safety for outdoor self-reliance…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman. However, there are safe methods to cut wood towards your body when carving spoons that can transfer to outdoor self-reliance skills. Experience and band aids will teach more than reading.
  • Work with your knife outside the triangle of death (an imaginary triangle between your knees and crotch).
  • Work within the blood circle when others are nearby (a circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees).
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks. (These will be covered in detail in a later post.)

#1 Knife Skill ~ Fire

No matter the season or environment, a solid belt knife rides on my hip. If I’m ever separated from my main pack, my knife is on my body. In this case, it is now my one tool option. A good fixed blade knife is your number one tool in a wilderness setting.

Why such a bold statement?

One word… Fire!

Fire covers a multitude of survival sins. That sharp, metal wedge attached to your hip may be your only hope for fire. Campfires are certainly mesmerizing. We build them for much more than to simply stare into the flickering flames. Fire is your best sleep aid. And sleep is the most overlooked skill in outdoor self-reliance.

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

Which is more important, knife or ax? I totally agree with Mr. Kephart’s statement below.

The thought that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion. ~ Horace Kephart

However, stuff happens! Situations can relieve you of a fine ax. In that case, you’d be wise to have a knife able to process enough tinder and kindling for fire. In my woodlands, an abundance of small kindling material is available without ever removing my knife from its sheath. However, when it comes to tinder material, a knife really speeds the process.

Processing Wood

Feather sticks are all the rage in bushcraft and an excellent skill to practice. Pretty little curls bunched up on the end of a stick are created by controlled wood removal. Surface area created from these fine curls is what makes them burn so easily.

The classic feather stick

The classic feather stick with a twist

I found a down-n-dirt way to make feather sticks over at Toms Backwoods channel using a spoon knife pictured above. If you have a spoon knife in your kit, use it to process tinder/kindling if you need to do so in a hurry. Here’s a quick video demonstration of the process…

Feather sticks are pretty and all, but my favorite way to make tinder material is using the dull side (spine) of my knife instead of the cutting edge. This technique takes less skill than feather sticks but is a super quick and easy way to produce wood shavings for tinder. Scrape the outer bark of a cedar tree in the same manner to produce a bundle of fine and coarse tinder material. Georgia fat lighter is my all-time favorite, though…

Ax-less, a solid knife can process firewood using the baton method. The baton technique is frowned upon by many in the outdoor community. But as mentioned previously, beating a knife through a piece of wood is my Plan B if I don’t have a proper wood processing wedge (ax). A full-tang knife with a 4 to 5 inch blade should be robust enough to produce tinder, kindling (smalls), and fuel size wood from a single wooden round.

A funny note on smalls: A fellow bushcrafter from across the pond wrote me confused over the term “smalls”. In his part of the world, “smalls” referred to skivvies. I’m not advocating the burning of your underwear. Smalls are pencil lead to pencil size sticks (kindling) used in fire craft from where I come from. 🙂

Knife and Spark Ignition

The steel in your main carry knife is another fire resource. That is, if you carry a high carbon steel blade. The thought of striking the spine of your expensive wedge with a sharp piece of rock to produce sparks is an abomination to knife junkies. However, knowing that your blade can serve as a backup flint and steel ignition source may one day give you fire if that’s all you have available.

I’ve written a few times about using my favorite spark ignition source, flint and steel, here and here. While ferro rods create hotter sparks, they are consumable. A fire steel should last you a lifetime and then be passed down for the next generation to enjoy… like a good knife.

Remember, fire is life out there. How much is your life worth? I’d say way more than an expensive cutting tool!

To further you fire craft skills, I’ve got an entire page dedicated to this outdoor self-reliance skill. Your wedge (knife) is an essential tool for creating fire.

More knife skill articles are on the way. Stay sharp, my 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… 

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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.

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.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods

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by Todd Walker

Ever wonder about the height of a tree on a nature walk? Or how far you’d have to climb to summit a rock face? Curiosity may be the only reason you’d ever need to know or use these techniques mentioned below.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Without being overly dramatic, accurate estimations could save you in the outdoors. Take campsite selection, for instance. You find what seems to be a perfect spot to camp. Water and firewood are close at hand. There’s even a fire pit with a bit of wood laid up from previous campers. Being smart, you look up to scan the horizon before dropping your pack. You’re scouting for the 4 W’s. You spot in the distance a very tall, very dead tree. How tall? And could it reach your campsite if it fell?

Do a quick estimate on the height so you can sleep without worry of that tree crashing through your tent.

Here are 4 accurate ways to estimate the height of trees and other structures if you don’t have a compass. By the way, always carry a quality compass!

Lumberjack Stick

This is the easiest method with no math calculations involved. Grab a small stick or twig. Ax handles work, too.

Put some distance between you and the tree or object. Facing the tree, hold a stick/twig vertically so that a 90º angle is formed between your outstretched arm. Align the tip of the stick with the top of the tree. Move your hand up or down on the bottom of the stick until your thumb aligns with the base of the tree while the tip is in line with the treetop.

Now rotate the stick ninety degrees clockwise, for the left-handers, or counterclockwise if the stick is in the right hand. Be sure to keep your thumb on the pivot point (origin) – base of the tree. Make a note of where the tip of the stick appears to touch the ground. If you have a partner, they can stand and mark the spot with your directions. The distance from this spot back to the base of the tree is the approximate height of the tree.

This is an easy method to determine the path of a tree you want to fell in your yard or camp. Check out the video of two of these methods in the woods…

Portrait Method

Knowing the height of a cliff could help you decide whether to climb the obstacle or not. Place an object of known height at the base of the cliff. This object could be a person or walking staff. Stand back away from the rock face. Hold a small stick, as described in the Lumberjack technique above, so that the tip is aligned to the top of the person or walking staff and your thumb is sighted on the base of the known object.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Portrait Method

Move this known unit of measure, thumb to tip of stick, up the cliff face to give you an estimate of its height. Let’s say your obstacle measures 4 units. Multiply the height of your known object (person or walking staff) times 4 to determine the height of the cliff. [Ex: 6′ x 4 units = 24 feet]

Use Your Shadow

On a sunny day, a tree casts a shadow. The shadow on the ground is one side of a right triangle. The distance from the top of the tree to the end of the shadow is the hypotenuse. The tree forms the third side of the right triangle.

Remember how we used Pythagorean Theorem (right triangles) to determine distance? Well, we’re using two right triangles again. This time we are using two triangles of different size yet proportional.

Here’s how it works and what you’ll need…

Measure the distance of the tree’s shadow. Now place an object of known height (yourself or walking stick) in the sun. Observe where this shadow ends and measure the distance or length of the shadow.

Now we have three measurements:

  • Tree shadow
  • Your shadow
  • Your height

What we want and need is the missing measurement – the height of the tree “x”.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Set up a proportion using the corresponding sides of each triangle as illustrated in the diagram above. Be sure to place the corresponding sides across from each other. For instance, the shadow lengths are the numerators (top numbers) and the height measurements are both denominators (bottom numbers). You can flip-flop these numbers as long as the sides correspond to each other.

Cross multiply and divide to find the missing length. In the example given, the height is 24 feet. If you do your math right, this is a very accurate method.

Eleven + 1 Method

Here’s another accurate way to determine height which only requires a stick.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

11+1 Method of Estimating Height

From the base of the tree, measure 11 equal units straight away from the tree. The key to using this method accurately is to make the 11 units about the same distance as the object you wish to measure. For instance, you may estimate that a tree appears to be about 30 feet tall. 30 divided by 11 gives you a rough estimate of about 3 feet per unit. One of my walking steps would work for my unit of measure. For a tree double that height, I would use two steps as my unit of measure.

Mark the spot of your 11 unit on the ground. Drive a straight stick in the ground so that it is vertical/plumb. Measure one more unit away from the stick and mark the spot.

Bend down to the ground with your dominate eye as close to the ground as possible at the 12th unit. Sight in the base of the tree to the bottom of the stick. Now look up the stick until your line of sight crosses the stick at the top of the tree. Mark this spot on the stick. The distance between these two points in inches equals the height of the tree in feet.

Your Body as a Measuring Device

It’s always helpful to know your personal measurements in the event you are without a measuring device. The most common way is to measure with steps.

Other personal measurements you should know are…

  • Thumb to pinky finger (8 inches for me)
  • Elbow to finger tip (19 inches)
  • Arm pit to finger tip (28 inches)
  • Height standing flat-footed with hand extended above head (88 inches)
  • Finger tip to finger tip with arms spread forming a “t” (73 inches)
  • Outside boot measurement (12.5 inches)
  • Personal height (5′-10″)

Another clever way to know certain lengths is to know the length of your ax or other bushcraft equipment. The Plumb BSA Ax I carry is 26 inches long. Adding marks to the ax handle in one inch increments will also save time and calculations should the need arise. Don’t forget that Leatherman Multitools have both inch and centimeters marked on the side of these tools.

Each of these methods can be used without any special equipment. All you need is a stick and some basic math skills.

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 Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles

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by Todd Walker

As an eighth grade math teacher, a lot of the stuff we teach kids makes no sense. Students rarely get a chance to apply mathematics in the real world. We’re too busy pushing through the state mandated curriculum to get our hands dirty applying the concepts being taught.

How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles - TheSurvivalSherpa.com (1)

 

A little dirt time in the woods or a homestead would go a long way in helping students (and teachers) trade theory for action. So put on your boots. School of the Woods is in session!

Like any other skill, estimating distance takes practice. The method I used in the video below is based on the Pythagorean Theorem → a² + b² = c². Don’t freak out about the formula. We won’t even use it!

Here’s the cool thing about this method…

There’s no math calculations involved! No square roots, no dividing, no multiplication, no algebra. If you can walk a straight line and count simple steps, you can use this method to estimate distance. In fact, all you really need is a stick.

Estimating Distance with Right Triangles

Estimations are more than guessing. They are based on calculations and useful for many tasks in bushcraft, homesteading, and outdoor self-reliance.

Here’s a quick refresher on geometry terms we’ll be using. A right triangle has two short sides called legs (a & b). The long side of the triangle is the hypotenuse (c).

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.

Here’s how it works…

Step #1 ~ Locate a Landmark

Note: This method requires a fair amount of open space along side the river or creek. Hilly terrain will affect your estimate as well.

How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Drive a stick in the ground to mark Point A

Spot a landmark (tree or rock) across the divide you intend to cross (Point X). Standing directly across from the landmark, mark the ground with a stick or scrap of your boot. Point Y is where you begin counting your first 20 steps.

Step #2 ~ Start Stepping

Turn 90 degrees away from Point X and take 20 steps in as straight a path as possible. Drive a stick in the ground at your 20th step. This is Point A. The stick should be tall enough to see later in this exercise. You may want to tie a bandana or other material to make it easy to spot.

Step #3 ~ More Stepping

Continuing in a straight path from Point A, take 20 more steps. Mark this spot as Point B with a small stick or rock.

Step #4 ~ Turn 90º

Standing on Point B, turn 90º with your back towards the river or ravine. Begin walking perpendicularly away from the river. Be sure to count your steps. As you step, look back towards the stick on Point A. Stop when you visually line up with Point A and Point X (the landmark across the river). This is Point C on the diagram.

The number of step from Point B to Point C is the approximate distance across the divide.

In an emergency situation where you may need to cross a river or creek, a tree could be felled to help you safely navigate the divide. Knowing the width of the river or creek now, how can you estimate the height of a tree you’ll need to bridge that gap?

We’ll cover estimating height on our next post. Stay tuned!

A little update. I used my video in Math class yesterday. Afterwards, we went outside to test the theory in the real world. Have some fun and take your kids out and practice this self-reliant skill.

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.

27 Basecamp Projects Guaranteed to Elevate Skills and Fun in the Woods

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By Todd Walker

The thought of going to the woods for rest and relaxation is a foreign concept to most moderns. Others see it as an oasis. The later enjoy the simplicity of woods life for many reasons. Through experience, they’ve learned to be healthy, comfortable, and relaxed in the woods.

27 Basecamp Projects Guaranteed to Elevate Skills and Fun in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Learning the art of “smoothin’ it” in the woods, as Nessmuk called it in , is well within reach for even my novice middle school students. If your camp is an oasis in the woods, you’re more likely to find the unplugged benefits of nature. Not only that, but you’ll gain valuable self-reliance skills in the process.

Below you’ll find 27 projects and skills developed while turning my basecamp into a comfortable personal space in the woods.

Shelter

The Art of 'Smoothing It' in Struggleville

Overhang catches and rolls heat into the shelter

We’ve discussed the importance of emergency shelter here, here, and here. However, a basecamp shelter should be semi-permanent and built for comfort.

My grandson and I hanging out at basecamp

My grandson and me hanging out at basecamp

My shelter design takes advantage of the properties of radiant heat from a fire one step away from the opening. The heat enters under the two foot lip overhang and circulates through the entire structure. This action makes the shelter more efficient than a simple lean-to.

Skills Learned

  • Ax-Manship ~> The ax is the oldest and most under-appreciated, yet invaluable tool which serves, not only as a wilderness lifeline, but, as a simple machine that connects your hands to a forgotten craft.
  • Campsite Selection ~> Consider the 4 W’s.  You need wood… lots of wood… for shelter construction and fire. Standing dead red cedar and a few other saplings were used for my shelter.
  • Knots/Lashing ~> Square, tripod, and diagonal lashing hold my shelter together. Timber hitch, clove hitch, trucker’s hitch, and other useful knots were also used.
  • Simple Machines ~> Here are my top 3 simple machines for shelter construction: Wedges (cutting tools), lever, and pulley.

Camp Tools

In this category, you’ll find ideas to make camp life enjoyable.

  • Saw Buck ~> This tool may be the most used of all the stuff at my camp. The obvious use is for bucking firewood. Max, my grandson, prefers this as a camp chair.

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

  • Camp Maul ~> You’ll use ax and knife skills to craft this woodsman hammer. Watch our video here.
  • Shaving Ladder ~> My newest addition to basecamp. Wish I had discovered this long ago!
  • Takedown Buck Saw ~> A good bucksaw makes life easier when processing wood on my saw buck.
  • Cooking Tripod ~> A sturdy tripod is a multifunctional piece for every camp.
  • Stump Vise ~> A round section of wood used to hold stuff while working with both hands.

Camp Skills

  • Sleep ~> The #1 hallmark of a good woodsman.
  • Fire ~> My favorite skill to practice. You’ll find many articles on fire craft on this page.
  • Cooking ~> Nothing beats the smell and taste of a pan of dry cured bacon sizzling over an open fire. Basecamp cooking affords you the luxury of not eating from freeze-dried bag food. Check out my buddy’s YouTube channel, Feral Woodcraft, for more camp cooking tips. Bring your appetite!
6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry cured bacon and dehydrated eggs… not your typical trail breakfast

Camp Crafts

Now that you’ve got tools made and a belly full of camp cooking, it’s time to make some fun stuff!

  • Tree Bark Arrow Quiver ~> Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) bark has been used by indigenous people and traditional craftsmen in Appalachia for thousands of years.
  • Primitive Pottery ~> Not my best skill by far, but making your own containers from clay gives you options.
  • Pitch Sticks ~> This project turns pine sap and charcoal into glue.
A spoon I found growing in a Black Walnut limb on our land

A spoon I found growing in a Black Walnut limb on our land

  • Greenwood Spoon Carving ~> Employ your ax and knife skills to craft eating utensils for camp.
  • Burn and Scrape Containers ~> A primitive skill useful in making spoons, bowls, and even canoes. Watch our video on making a cup here.
  • Leather Ax Sheath ~> Make a hands-free ax carrying sheath for tramping and scouting from basecamp.
  • Ax Handle ~> While I didn’t make this hickory ax handle at basecamp, it’s doable with the above mentioned tools.
  • Plumber’s Stove ~> On rainy days, you need a way to cook in your semi-permanent shelter. It also adds enough heat to knock the chill off.
  • Fire Pit ~> Wooden reflector walls are popular for bushcraft shelters. However, stone is better at retaining heat from your fire. Lay rocks to form a chimney effect to draw air for clean burns.
The large rock in the back acts as a chimney

The large rock in the back acts as a chimney

  • Frog Gig ~> A sapling and knife skills can have you eating in no time.
  • Camp Table ~> Every camp needs a horizontal surface (table).
Red cedar planks lashed a top two poles between trees

Red cedar planks lashed a top two poles between trees

  • Roycraft Pack Frame ~> A fun project to do with kids.
  • Build Community ~> Now that you’ve got your basecamp equipped and comfortable, invite friends over and burn sticks together. A lot can be learned from each other around a warm campfire. You’ll quickly become the smartest woodsman around.

My basecamp is never finished. There’s always more stuff to do and things to craft to make camping in the woods fun.

Note: This week marks the fourth year anniversary of Survival Sherpa. I started writing here a few weeks before Dirt Road Girl was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This little blog has provided much-needed clarity on our journey.

Our hearts are always encouraged by the ongoing support from each of you here. We’ve had the pleasure of personally meeting several of you and count it an honor to call you friends. Hope each of you have a merry Christmas and a self-reliant 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… 

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.

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain

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by Todd Walker

Mother Nature is neutral. She does not care if you’re able to survive what she throws at you. That’s her nature… uncaring, unpredictable, wild and beautiful.

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I love a rainy night. But, come on! When I started this article, it had rained 16 out of the last 17 days in Georgia. Figuratively and literally, we were soaked to the bone. Nothing outside was dry… tinder, kindling, and fuel were saturated… perfect weather for some survival training.

You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can learn skills to survive her storms. I recently wrote about three skills that forgive your shortcomings in Core Temperature Control. All three are important. But if you could only work on one of these skills, I would recommend fire craft.

Why?

Fire covers a multitude of ‘sin’ in your survival skills. ~ Me

Here’s my short list of what a sustainable fire can do for you…

Becoming a proficient fire crafter requires practice. Even in optimal (dry) conditions, a Bic lighter won’t start a sustainable fire if you don’t do proper fire prep. Add rain to the equation and your attention to detail becomes crucial.

You need an edge.  Every person who successfully burns stuff in the rain has that edge. That edge is the difference in… staying warm vs freezing, signaling rescuers vs staying lost, living vs dying.

I don’t have any magic tricks up my sleeve for burning stuff in foul weather. The few secrets I do employ are outlined below.

Burning Secret #1

Cheat!

If you’ve read or watched any of our emergency fire craft stuff, you know I promote cheating. Fire is life and you’d better be ready and able to cheat death. That’s the kind of cheating you’ll be proud of.

Here are a few of my fire cheats…

Carry a minimum of three different ways to generate the initial heat needed for ignition. I wear my dedicated fire kit on my belt. This pouch contains three sources of ignition…

  1. Bic lighter – open flame
  2. Ferrocerium rod – spark based ignition
  3. Magnifying lens – solar ignition (no good in the rain)

But wait, there’s more!

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Three more fire tools

Dig around in my haversack and you’ll find a head lamp and steel wool for electrical fire. Unbuckle my hygiene kit and a small bottle of hand sanitizer offers a rapid chemical reaction (exothermic) for fire. There’s also a redundant Bic lighter wrapped in duct tape hanging from a zipper in my pack. This last item is a self-contained ignition and tinder source for foul weather fires.

Burning Secret #2

Find dry stuff.

No brainer, right? It’s not as easy as it sounds after a few days of Georgia gully washer.

I’ve had my share of foul-weather fire fails from not carrying some form of dry tinder material in my kit. Wiser now, I carry stuff that gives me that edge we talked about earlier.

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Gorilla Tape ~ the magic foul weather fire starter

In my foul-weather fire starting experiences, Gorilla Tape gives me that edge. Using duct tape is like pulling fire from a magician’s hat! Once lit, a ball of tape will provide the heat needed to drive off moisture and bring wet kindling to ignition temperature. The wetter the wood, the more tape you’ll need. Keep in mind that small stuff ignites faster than large stuff.

Other not-so-secret sure-fire starters in my pack include…

  1. Commercial fire starters
  2. Homemade fire starters

Burning Secret #3

It’s all about that snap!

Cheating on fire prep is a loser’s game. Spend as much time as necessary to collect 2 or 3 times more small stuff than you think you’ll need. Cutting corners collecting smalls in a dry forest is forgivable. Do it in the rain and you might end up fire-less.

Where do you find smalls in a rain-soaked wilderness? Dead twigs hanging off the ground is the best place to start. When collecting smalls, if they don’t give an audible “snap”, put it back. You and the trees are soaked to the bone. The last thing you need on your fire lay is green sticks.

When it’s raining, I’m not particular about what tree the smalls come from. A few of my favorite trees that give me small fuel, even when the tree is alive, include (remember, they gotta pass the “snap” test)…

  • Cedar – Low hanging branches often have dead twigs and the bark, even when wet, can be brought to ignition temperature quickly when processed into fine fibers.
  • Beech – I find lots of pencil-led size kindling on these live trees. If you’re lucky, you might find a clump of black sooty mold to help extend your fire.
7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Black sooty mold hanging from a Beech tree

If you’ve acquired basic knife skills, you can quickly create your own smalls from inside larger fuel logs. Baton an arm-size log into halves, quarters, eighths, sixteenths, etc. until you have a pile of dry fuel.

Burning Secret #4

Burning stuff in the rain blows.

Literally. It’s very likely that you’ll have to pump air to the base of your wet-weather fire. When is the right time to blow?

Blowing on a gas-based fire like a birthday candle removes the fuel (gas from melted wax) and extinguishes the flame. However, wood becomes charcoal after burning off gases. Blowing on coals will only raise the temperature of the fire. You may need to blow on a small bed of coals to nurse the fire along with wet wood.

There’s a bit of technique involved in blowing on fires. Remember that heat rises. A chimney uses this principle to draft air up from the bottom of the fireplace and out the top. Blow air horizontally at ground level not from the top of the fire lay.

Be careful not to inhale smoke. Turn your head away from the fire and breathe in fresh air. Positioning your kneeling body up wind helps. If you have a long piece of tubing, which I don’t carry, it will safely add distance between your face and the flames. You’re not going to have time to craft a fire tube from river cane when you need a fire in the rain. Just kneel down and blow.

Burning Secret #5

Cover your fire.

A tipi fire lay is one of the best fire lays to cover your fledgling fire. Properly constructed, a tipi fire takes advantage of the chimney effect to dry wet wood and provide some needed shelter to the fire beneath. Slabs of tree bark can also be added to the outside of the tipi like roof shingles.

I’ve also used a larger log to shelter a fire in the rain. Lay the log perpendicular on top of two rocks or larger logs with the fire beneath. A large flat rock on top will work too.

Stuff tinder and kindling under your rain gear, a piece of tree bark, or in your haversack/backpack until you’re ready to light the fire. Stow your best smalls between your knees and under your crotch as your prep your fire lay… especially if you’re making a one stick fire. The dry smalls you’ve created should be shielded from rain.

Burning Secret #6

Build a base.

Wet ground saps the heat from fire. Lay a foundation of sticks or tree bark on the ground to keep your tinder material off the wet earth. The base is the spot you’ll place a your metal water container on to boil water once the fire is established.

Burning Secret #7

Practice.

That’s right. You’ve gotta get wet to practice burning stuff in the rain! Don’t miss out on your next rain storm. Throw on your muck boots, a poncho, and go start a fire. You’ll learn some valuable foul weather lessons in fire craft.

Got any tricks up your sleeve for burning sticks in the rain? Do 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.

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins

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by Todd Walker

From the biblical perspective, sin is “missing the mark.” In wilderness survival, not hitting your target in one skill doesn’t have to mean certain death. However, fall short in these three critical survival skills, and, dude, you’re screwed!

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You won’t get a second chance to see your family again if you can’t stay warm and hydrated. Core Temperature Control (CTC) is the redeeming factor.

Cold and Wet: The Perfect Storm

Your body does a remarkable job regulating core temperature. However, add moisture to the equation, drop the temperature slightly, and you’ve got a perfect storm for hypothermia.

Water saps body heat 25 times faster than air. And 70 to 80% of your body heat is lost through your head and neck. The remaining heat loss goes through your fingers, hands, and feet. The simple act of breathing in cold air and expelling warm air will chill your body.

A slight change in core temp, even by a degree or two, will affect your bodily functions. Shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, and numbness in the extremities are signs of hypothermia. Decrease to 91.4ºF (33ºC) and you lose consciousness. Complete muscle failure occurs at 82.4ºF (28ºC).

Core Temperature Equipment

This article is not addressing wilderness living skills or long-term self-reliance. We’re talking about surviving. You can’t very well pursue long-term stuff if you’re not equipped to survive the a short-term storm. And, by storm, I mean – when you need immediate help and none is available – in the wilderness or urban setting.

The first step to being equipped is to always carry equipment. No matter how many debris huts you’ve built, you’d be a stupid survivalist, and possibly a dead one, to not pack some sort of emergency shelter option, fire kit, metal container, cordage, and a knife.

Below is my emergency kit I carry no matter how long I plan to be in the woods.

  • Emergency Space Blanket ~ The best 12 ounce item in my kit for core temperature control. I also carry two contractor grade garbage bags – too many uses to mention here.
  • Fire Kit ~ Three different ignition sources – open flame (Bic lighter), spark ignition (ferro rod), solar ignition (magnifying lens), sure fire (diy and commercial), duct tape, and a bit of dry tinder material.
  • Knife ~ There is no such thing as “The Best Survival Knife”. However, your cutting tool should have multipurpose attributes and be hair-popping sharp.
  • Metal Container ~ A metal water bottle can be used to boil water, make char cloth, cook meals, and perform self-aid duties.
  • Cordage ~ I carry both 550 paracord and tarred mariners line.

These items are my bare bones kit and go with me camping, hiking, backpacking, and hunting. Don’t think you’ll ever need these kit items? Think again. Read this real-life survival story of an injured hunter in the Idaho wilderness.

Core Temperature Control Skills

Conserving body heat is the key to survival. Your body produces heat from biochemical reactions in cells, exercise, and eating. Without a furry coating like lower animals, insulation to maintain a body temperature at 98.6 degrees F is critical.

It all starts with…

Skill #1 ~ Shelter

Sins of Sheltering: Not carrying an emergency space blanket and wearing improper clothing.

While having an emergency space blanket is important, your shelter is built before you ever step over the door sill of your warm and cozy home. Your clothes are your first layer of shelter.

Ever see men with Sasquatch hair at the beach. No matter how thick it appears, that rug won’t insulate when wet and cold.

To trap body heat, layer your clothing. Layers create dead air space much like the insulation in house walls and attics. Layering is activity-dependent. But the basic concept applies to any outdoor cold weather activity.

Here’s my layer system…

A.) Base Layer ~Your base layer should fit snuggly to your body. Long sleeve shirt and underwear made of polyester blend for wicking perspiration away from my body. Sock liners go on first before wool socks. Thin wool glove liners are worn inside my larger leather mittens.

B.) Insulation ~ Yes, I wear cotton, and sometimes fleece, on top of the base layer. This is dependent upon my activity. If I’m really active in really cold weather, I wear a wool sweater. Wool is my favorite insulation layer. Here’s why…

  • Wool fiber absorbs up to 36% of its weight and gradually releases moisture through evaporation.
  • Wool has natural antibacterial properties that allow you wear it multiply days without stinking up camp. Not so with synthetics.
  • Wool wicks moisture, not as well as synthetics, but better than cotton.
  • Wool releases small amounts of heat as it absorbs moisture.
  • Wool contains thousands of natural air-trapping pockets for breathable insulation.

Remembering the importance of dead air space, your insulation layer should fit loosely and be breathable. Apply the acronym C.O.L.D. to your insulating layer…

  1. C – Keep CLEAN
  2. O – Avoid OVERHEATING
  3. L – Wear loose LAYERS to create dead air space
  4. D – Keep DRY

C.) Outer Layer ~ Waterproof is not your friend. Yes, it will keep rain and wetness out, but it will also seal perspiration in eventually soaking your insulation. Wear a weather-resistant shell that allows moisture to escape. The main concern for this layer is to block wind.

Your head, hands, and feet are included in this layer. I’m partial to wool hats to keep my bald head warm. In subzero temps, I wear my shapka, a Russian red fox winter hat, I bought in Siberia in the early 90’s.

Cold feet are deceptive. Frostbite can happen before you know the damage is done. Wear polyester sock liners with wool socks inside your footwear of choice.

Jamie Burleigh under an emergency space blanket shelter with garbage bag bed

Jamie Burleigh under an emergency space blanket shelter with garbage bag bed at The Pathfinder School.

D.) Waterproof Shelter ~ Again, for emergency essentials, you can’t beat a good space blanket to block wind, rain, and reflect heat back to your body. Combined with a plastic painter’s tarp, a Kochanski Super Shelter can keep you warm in subzero condition in street clothes.

Use two large contractor garbage bags can be filled with leaves, wet or dry, for an insulating ground pad. They don’t add much weight or take up much space in your kit.

There are many more options for waterproof covering. The above list is for your emergency kit.

Skill #2 ~ Fire Craft

Sins of Fire Craft: Not carrying multiple ignition sources and all-weather fire starters.

Fire covers a multitude of ‘sins’ in your survival skills. Even if you deliberately commit the offense of not packing emergency shelter, fire forgives your lapse in judgement. Scantily clad in the wilderness? Fire covers your wrongdoing. No matter how you “miss the mark” in skills or equipment, fire can redeem you.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the woods I’m sure you’ve heard Mother Nature humming these classic lyrics…

“… Like it always seems to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Are you a fair-weather fire crafter?

That’s a good place to start. Nothing wrong with learning in the most fire-friendly conditions. You’ve got dry tinder, kindling, and fuel to burn. This may not be the case when your life depends on making fire in the wind, rain, and snow.

Cheating is NOT a Sin

There is absolutely no such thing as cheating when it comes to building a life-sustaining fire. Who cares what Bushcraft purists think! Your loved ones aren’t worried about style points in fire craft. They want you home alive. So cheat!

For the weekend camper or woodsman, carry these foul weather fire cheats…

Fire Cheat #1 ~ One of the most overlooked fire starters that should already be in your pack is duct tape. Loosely wad up about 2 foot of tape and ignite it with an open flame. A ferrocerium rod will ignite duct tape. However, you have to shred the tape to create lots of surface area. This isn’t your best option if your fingers are losing dexterity in freezing temperatures.

Fire Cheat #2 ~ DiY fire starters made of wax-soaked jute twine or cotton makeup remover pads. I also carry commercially made sure fire that will burn on water.

Fire Cheat #3 ~ Always carry enough dry tinder material to start a fire in sucky weather.

Fire Cheat #4 ~ Know where to find the best possible tinder material and how to process it to create surface area. Dead hanging branches, pencil lead size to pencil size, provide kindling even in the rain.

Fire Cheat #5 ~ Fat lighter’d (aka – fatwood, resin-rich pine wood) is my lifesaver in the south. Discover your best natural fire starter wherever you’re located or plan to travel. I keep this stuff in all my kits. It’s abundant where I live.

Fire Cheat #6 ~ Dry wood is available in all weather conditions if you know where to look. Standing dead Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) is one of my go-to fire resources. The trick to getting to the dry wood is splitting the wood down to tinder, kindling, and fuel size material. The inner bark makes excellent tinder bundles!

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

One 2 inch diameter stick of tulip poplar made all this: L to R: Thumb, pencil, pencil lead, and bark tinder

And that brings us to the next skill that forgives survival sins…

Skill #3: Knife Skills

A knifeless man is a lifeless man.

The “survival” knife market is full of gadgetry. Gadgets are for gawkers. You don’t need a Rambo knife to survive. You just need a solid knife and some skill. 

Carry a good knife and practice with what you carry. Your knife may become your one-tool-option. Here are a few characteristics I look for when selecting my main knife…

  • High carbon steel blade that is non-coated. Coated knives can’t be used to create sparks off the spine with a rock to ignite charred material. Carbon steel is easier to sharpen in the field than stainless steel.
  • Blade length between 4-5 inches.
  • Full tang (solid metal under the entire handle) lessens the chance of breakage when an ax is not available to split wood and you have to resort to the baton method.
  • A 90 degree spine is useful to strike ferro rods, process tinder, scrape wood shavings for fire, and many other uses.
  • Most importantly, your knife should feel right in your hand as you use it. The best “survival” knife is the one you have on you and are proficient with.

Knife Sins: Carrying a knife but never becoming competent with your blade.

You’re not going to be carving spoons and bowls in a short-term survival situation. Your cutting tool will be used to make shelter and fire to control core temperature. Knife skills can be easily developed and honed in your backyard.

Since fire is the most forgiving if you “miss the mark” with proper shelter, we’ll cover the cutting tool’s use in fire craft first.

Have Knife, Will Burn

Even if you’ve committed the first two survival sins, your blade can save you. A knife in skilled hands can create fire from scratch. I don’t rely on friction fire as my first choice but do practice the skill in case I run into unknown unknowns.

With my buddy Bic in my pocket, I still need to process sticks to make fire quick. Both the cutting edge and spine of your knife are used to create surface area needed for ignition.

Remembering that you’re cold and wet, your fine motor skills are probably suffering. Pretty feather sticks are for style points. Style won’t save you. Fire will!

Split a dead wrist-size stick with a baton and knife into thumb size pieces to get to the dry stuff. Split a few of those pieces into smaller kindling. Grip your knife with a reverse grip (cutting edge facing up) and use the spine of your knife to scrape a pile of fine shavings off one of the larger split sticks. If you’ve got fat lighter’d, scrape off a pile of shavings the size of a golf ball. Ignite this pile with a lighter or ferro rod and feed your fire its meal plan.

Here’s a demo of a one stick fire in the rain…

Knife and Shelter

Debris shelters can be built without a knife. Sticks can be broken to length between two trees without a cutting tool. Keep in mind that this type of shelter will take a few hours and lots of calories to construct correctly.

The role of the knife in emergency shelter building is secondary compared to its importance in making fire. You won’t even need a knife to set up a space blanket shelter if you prepped your emergency kit ahead of time.

Blades are expedient in cutting cordage, notching sticks, harvesting green bows for bedding, making wedges to split larger wood without an ax, and a number of other self-reliance tasks.

Basic emergency knife skills every outdoors person should practice include…

  • Safely handling a knife ~ cut away from your body, avoid the triangle of death (the triangle between your knees and crotch), cut within the blood circle when others are nearby (an imaginary circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees), never attempt to catch a falling knife, keep it sheathed unless in use, and keep your blade sharp.
  • Creating surface area for fires ~ splitting sticks, feathering sticks, and shavings.
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks.
  • With a piece of quarts, chert, or flint, use the spine of your high carbon steel knife for spark ignition on charred material.

Forgiveness

All three of these survival skills are needed for emergency core temperature control, but I’d place fire on top of my forgiveness list. Fire can make water potable for hydration, warm poorly clothed pilgrims, cook food to create body heat, smoke signals, illuminate darkness, and comfort the lost.

What’s your top skill for controlling your core temperature? Share if you don’t mind.

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.

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes

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by Todd Walker

Some people make fire craft look easy. Rain, sleet, and snow doesn’t seem to effect their fire super powers. It’s like they’re the Superman or Wonder Woman of campfires.

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

There’s always a catch though…

Super heroes usually have a weakness (Superman ⇒ Kryptonite). Wet tinder is the kryptonite of every fire-crafter no matter their skill level. That’s why experienced outdoor guys and gals carry dry tinder material in their fire kit to give them an edge when Mother Nature pitches a hissy fit. I’ve been humbled by her more times than I’d like to admit.

The times when it’s cold and wet out there is the time you need fire the most. It’s also the hardest time to find dry stuff for your fire!

Here’s a solution that provides dry, reliable, natural tinder material that’ll turn you into a pyro super hero on your next outdoor adventure or emergency situation…

Dragon Fire Tinderbox

I first heard of this small family owned Wisconsin company about a year ago. Since then I’ve watched Daryl and Kristina innovate a simple concept to serve outdoor enthusiasts.

The products they design are all-natural (no petroleum-based accelerants) and packed in recycled pouches and boxes. Materials are harvested from dead trees, plants, leaves, fungi, and other natural sources. If you’ve ever collected these resources yourself, you know the amount of work it takes to find the best combustible material.

I ordered the Dragon Fire Tinderbox Extreme Pouch, Dragon Fire Cone, and one of their nifty t-shirts. Daryl also sent me a packet of Chaga Tea. I’m keeping the Dragon Fire Cone and Chaga Tea to use with my grandson for our next bushcraft outing as a fun teaching tool.

About half the contents displayed

About half the contents displayed

 

The Extreme Pouch is full of fine, medium, and coarse tinder material with several different fuel-size chucks of hardwood. A Dragon Fire Tinderbox match book, sealed in a separate resealable bag, is included as an ignition source. My pouch had a one inch section of birch limb covered with flammable resins and rolled in fine tinder to prevent it from sticking to other material in the pouch. This kind of hand-crafted item is a fire-ball in and of itself.

It even contains shavings and chunks of Osage Orange from a bow Jamie Burleigh built at this year’s Pathfinder Gathering.

Here’s a video review Dirt Road Girl filmed recently at the Dam Cabin:

Benefits of the Extreme Pouch

It’s called Extreme for a reason. This resource contains everything you’d need to start several sustainable fires in all weather conditions – ignition source, tinder, kindling, and fuel. The bag alone is a valuable resource in wilderness self-reliance. Made of thick, resealable food-grade aluminum, one could press this container into service for disinfecting water by stone-boiling (see Larry Roberts video), cooking dehydrated camp meals, or keeping small items dry.

Teaching Tool

You can’t take shortcuts when building a fire with natural materials. One of the challenges of teaching my 8-year-old grandson fire craft is the importance of processing his tinder into fine, medium, and coarse layers. The Extreme Pouch contains each of these, and, as an added bonus, there are tinder materials not found growing on our Georgia landscape… Chaga, flax tow, and white birch to name a few. I plan on using these to teach Max our local alternatives to our northern neighbor’s fire tinders.

Daryl and Kristina also make a product that’s sure to get young children interested in the art of making fire…

The Dragon Fire Cone! Kid’s love ice cream. What kid wouldn’t want to set an “ice cream” cone on fire? Max and I will let y’all know how it burns after our next outing.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Emergency Fire Kits

Winter is coming and we’re sure to read stories of stranded motorists on backcountry roads trying to survive ’til help arrives. A bag of Dragon Fire Tinderbox would be a great asset for all emergency vehicle kits. No worries about chemical accelerant leaching and spreading vapors in your car trunk. This stuff is all-natural material!

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

Oh, you don’t have to be a master woodsman to start a life-saving fire with this bag of natural tinder. Daryl hand-picks and processes the best material so it’ll ignite with one match (matchbook included in pouch), ferrocerium rod, Bic lighter, magnifying lens or other ignition source.

 

Camping-Hunting-Backpacking

The convenience of opening a pouch of ready-made tinder is pure gold when I’m groggy and needing my coffee fix on the trail. I’m a much better camping buddy after I’ve had my cup of Joe. Weighing in at just over 9 ounces after this review, the Extreme Pouch won’t take up much room in your pack and stays dry in the heavy-duty resealable bag.

9.02 ounces

9.02 ounces 

Some state parks prohibit the collection of firewood and tinder material from camping areas. You have to bring your own or buy marginal tinder and fuel from the park ranger station. I can tell you they won’t have anything near as effective for lighting their bundles of firewood as you’ll find in a pouch of Dragon Fire. It’ll save you the time (and embarrassment) you’d spend rummaging through your neighbor’s trash looking for paper products to get your fire started.

What’s the secret of Dragon Fire Tinderbox’s pyro super powers?

It’s the people behind the product. What you don’t see when you open a pouch of Dragon Fire is all the prep this family owned company puts into the most important layer of your next fire… tinder.

Both Daryl and Kristina are experienced in the art fire-making. Years of camping in the style of early American fur traders, without modern camping conveniences, taught this couple pioneer skills… and the need to harvest the best tinder material.

By ordering from Dragon Fire Tinderbox, you’ll not only receive some of the best tinder on earth, you’ll be supporting an American owned family business. Click on this link for Dragon Fire Tinderbox products and ordering info.

They’ll make great preparedness gifts for Christmas!

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.

39 Manly Uses for Coconut Oil in Your Bushcraft Kit

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by Todd Walker

39 Manly Uses for Coconut Oil in Your Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

When it comes to packing for an outdoor adventure, leave the single-purpose items at home unless you have a pack mule to carry it all. Each item in your camping/bushcraft/survival kit should be able to perform at least three different tasks beyond its intended purpose.

Manly woodsmen, listen up. The women folk are more aware of the benefits and well ahead of us in using this stuff. Time to catch up!

It may not be as sexy as an ax or knife, but smart woodsmen should pack this non-sexy stuff in all their kits – bushcraft, EDC, Get Home Bag, camping, etc. I rarely go to the woods without it. As a utilitarian resource, I also keep a small container in my shop, bathroom, kitchen, school desk, and truck.

Here’s your multi-tasking resource…

Coconut Oil (CO)

There’s more to this tropical oil than its many health benefits. The saturated fat (medium-chain triglycerides) in CO burns quicker in your body than other fats boosting your metabolic rate and energy level. Don’t fall for the Big Fat Lie and fears of high cholesterol. The healthy fats in CO have been found to raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower the ratio of LDL to HLD.

The eastern woodlands is not a tropical paradise. You won’t find coconut trees growing along the banks of the Chattahoochee. Still, CO is inexpensive and readily available. For the best health benefits, stock up on expeller pressed, organic, unrefined virgin coconut oil (industry experts label extra-virgin as a marketing ploy). This type of CO has a stable shelf life of 2 to 5 years.

how-to-make-lucky-sherpa-plantain-salve

An eclectic mix of containers for my Lucky Sherpa Salve… main ingredient is CO.

Repack the CO in smaller containers and add them to your survival kits. The anti-bad-stuff properties alone make CO an essential resource to carry on your next wilderness adventure.

  • Anti-bacterial – treats skin infections and kills bacteria
  • Anti-viral – kills many common viruses
  • Anti-fungal – effective on Candida; yeast infections, diaper rash, and lady-parts infections
  • Anti-inflammatory – suppresses inflammation and helps repair tissue
  • Anti-parasitic – helps rid your body of pesky parasites like tapeworm and lice
  • Anti-microbial – fights infection from bacteria, viruses, yeast, and fungi without harming beneficial gut bacteria
  • Anti-protozoa – kills giardia, a common protozoan infection from drinking untreated water
  • Anti-pyretic – reduces fever

Coconut Oil Uses in Bushcraft

There are 4 categories below where coconut oil is your pursuit of bushcraft skills.

Self-Aid

If natural plant-based remedies are not available, CO is an excellent option for the most common injuries you’ll experience in the woods – cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, sprains, bites and stings.

  1. Cuts and scrapes: a thin layer applied forms a protective barrier against bacteria and foreign matter.
  2. Bruises: speeds up healing by repairing tissue.
  3. Burns: apply immediately to affected area and repeat as necessary
  4. Bites and stings: relieves itching and stinging. Better yet, make your own Plantain Salve with 3/4 cups of CO using this recipe.
  5. Chapped lips and skin: softens and moisturizes cracked, dry lips and relieves psoriasis and other skin conditions.
  6. Sunburn: relieves the burn and heals the affected skin.
  7. Sunscreen: not a high SPF but adds a little protection for your skin.
  8. Nose bleeds: coat the nasal passage with a layer if you’re prone to nose bleeds in certain weather conditions.
  9. Allergies: CO is a solid around 76º F. Melt CO and snort/sniff it up your nose to coat sinuses and protect from pollen. Also helps kill airborne germs associated with flu and colds.
  10. Salves: add healing herbs to make a salve.

Personal Hygiene

  1. Shaving: use it as a shave cream and after shave if you need to shave on your adventure. Or grow a beard…
  2. Beard: yep, it’ll condition, tame, and sanitize any mountain man beard. Stops the itching too!
  3. Soap: use CO as a soap substitute.
  4. Foot care: nothing like a good foot massage after a day of trekking. Rubbing CO on your feet also kills harmful fungi and bacteria on the skin and toenails. Effective on athlete’s foot. Feet are likely your only means of conveyance. Take care of them.
  5. Maceration: wet feet that look like prunes are asking for blisters and can cause painful cracks after drying. Rub CO on your soles before putting on clean socks and footwear. Apply a coat to dry feet and wear socks in your bedroll for overnight moisturizing and protection for the following days trek.
  6. Teeth and bones: brush your teeth with a mix of CO and baking soda. I use CO for Oil Pulling too. Aids in absorption of calcium and magnesium for strong bones and teeth.
  7. Deodorant: CO alone is somewhat effective as a deodorant. Or you can make an aluminum-free all-natural deodorant stick ahead of time so you don’t smell like Sasquatch. Your camp mates will thank you!
  8. Bushcraft Dog: works on pets too. Apply to your dog’s skin and coat for any itchy issues.

Field Gear Maintenance

  1. Leather: cleans, conditions, and preserves leather in the field.
  2. Wood: apply a coat to ax handles, wooden spoons, and buck saws as a preservative.
  3. Metal: wipe down your cutting tools with a thin layer of CO to prevent rust.
  4. Lubricant: use to lube your crosscut/bucksaw for smooth sawing. A dab in the socket of your bearing block on a bow drill set reduces friction.
  5. Cleaner: add an abrasive like baking soda to CO to scrub sticky stuff of knives and other gear. Even works on pine sap.
  6. Fixin’ Wax: CO can be substituted for the tallow in my Fixin’ Wax recipe.
  7. Oil lamp: not a maintenance item per se, but CO can be pressed into service as fuel for slush/oil lamps.
  8. Rust remover: coat area and let it sit for an hour. Rinse with warm water.
  9. Waterproofing: seals seams in leather and canvas.
  10. Non-toxic: clean your eating knife and utensils with CO. Safe for animals and humans.

Camp Cooking

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

  1. Cooking oil: CO is an excellent butter substitute.
  2. Oxidation: less heat sensitive than vegetable oils so there’s less oxidation from heat. CO is more stable for stir-frying squirrel and sauteing wild edibles.
  3. Coffee: add a heaping spoonful to your campfire coffee to start your day in the woods.
  4. Hot Cocoa: I’ve dubbed cocoa/cacao the 11th C of Survivability. Adding CO to this rich beverage only cements the meal-in-a-cup on top of the list of stuff to never leave out of your kit.
  5. Flavor: my nephew, Jake, cooked a snake on our backpacking trip with unrefined CO.
  6. Energy: eat a tablespoon, with or without other food, to boost energy and endurance.
  7. Vitamin absorption: CO helps your body absorb fat soluble vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  8. Colon detox: shown to reduce waste and toxins from your digestive tract.
  9. Constipation: squatting in the woods, the perfect human potty position, when your system is backed up is a physical challenge. CO contains fiber and helps get stuff moving after that campfire chili encounter. No more “grrrrrrrrr” sounds coming from the latrine bushes.
  10. Diabetics: CO is associated with insulin and blood sugar control.
  11. Spread: use it as a spread on your bannock, dutch oven biscuits, or anything you’d slather butter on at home.

If you got this far, I need to add a CYA statement. I’m not giving medical advice nor am I a health care provider. This stuff is for informational purposes only and comes from my experience with coconut oil. Do your own research.

This is only a fraction of the manly uses of CO in the great outdoors. I’m sure you’ve got unique, unorthodox ways to use this magical oil. Share in the comments if you don’t mind.

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 4 Down-N-Dirty Campfires

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by Todd Walker

Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.

How to Build 4 Down-N-Dirty Campfires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Imagine the first pre-history people to harness fire. They didn’t have a Boy Scout manual open on a rock referencing a proper fire lay or ignition sources. My guess is they watched in fear and awe, time after time, generation after generation, as wildfires destroyed all forest litter, tangles, and animals in its path. Fire’s appetite for chaos was observed, and, in return, unveiled its secret to changing useless stuff into useful stuff.

The need to shiver in the cold and huddle in darkness passed with one spark, dry wood, and a windy day. The idea of fire was now alight in the mind of primal man. An idea so powerful it would change the course of mankind and modern civilization.

Going back to our wild roots in the woods, none of us would opt to leave the warmth of a campfire for a wet, cold, dark existence. No. Fire is our companion. Our comfort. Our tool.

The usefulness of this tool in outdoor self-reliance and living should be more than a hobby in the preparedness community. Fire is life out there! So is the fire that mysteriously flows through copper wire to power your home. This technology of fire was fueled by observations, ideas, questions, and notions from the first harnessed spark many years ago.

Fire craft continues to be a top priority for survival and thriving in both short and long-term situations. The building blocks are the same. Fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to live… and a bit of chaos.

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Every fire is built with these three sides

A breakdown of the science of combustion is in order…

Fire Triangle

We modern mortals think we’ve “evolved” past our simple ancestral fire-makers. Gas grills ignite with the push of a button. Convenience leads to forgetting fundamentals though.

Fire craft fundamentals, however, never change.

Heat (Ignition Sources)

  • Open Flame Ignition – Bic lighter and matches
  • Spark Ignition – Ferrocerium rod, flint and steel, rock on rock
  • Solar Ignition – Magnifying lens and fresnel lens
  • Friction – bow drill, hand drill, etc.

There is always air and sticks available in the woods I roam. But heat is the most difficult to come by, especially with primitive methods.

Here’s the science stuff – less the chemical equations…

To burn sticks, enough heat must be applied to drive moisture from the wood in the form of steam. Even ‘dry’ wood contains some moisture. Once the gas escapes, the white cellulose chars and turns to black charcoal. It’s the charcoal mixing with oxygen that produces the radiant, hypnotic flames. This heating process chars more cellulose on surrounding sticks to create a sustainable fire.

Here’s the practical stuff…

When teaching my grandson to build his first fire with one match, he asked why we had to collect all the tiny, pencil-lead size sticks for our fire. A quick demonstration trying to ignite a one inch diameter stick with the open flame from a match answered his question. The match stick, his heat source, was consumed before the large stick reached ignition temperature. Fuel size matters!

Once we had an established campfire, he watched that same fuel stick burn easily. Larger sticks take more heat to burn. Surface area was the key for him to start his one-match fire.

Surface area becomes even more important with spark ignition or coals from friction methods. Only the driest, finest tinder material should be used. Inner barks, leaves, grasses, seed heads, and other fluffy stuff should be used to build a tinder bundle with the coarser material on the perimeter and progressively finer (hair-thin) in the middle. This is where your sparks or coal will land to ignite the bundle.

Oxygen

As mentioned earlier, air is the easiest to come by. Burning sticks requires air. Take this side of the triangle away and you create charred material and lots of smoke. Which is good to know in making charred material for your next fire. But we want flames.

Fuel

The analogy of a fire’s meal plan can be found in the first post of our Bombproof Fire Craft series. We won’t rehash it here. But we need to cover how to arrange these three meals so flames can eat and grow into a sustainable fire.

My Top 4 Campfires

There are more ways to build a campfire than ways to use one. In colder, northern climates, you may need a long-fire the length of your shelter to sleep warm through the night. In my temperate Georgia climate, the following campfires work just fine.

No matter what style you build, do it safely. Clear a 4 to 5 foot area of all combustible material where you plan to build your campfire. Look up to make sure low hanging limbs aren’t directly over your spot. A fire pit, rock ring, or trench are handy for containing campfires. A container and nearby water is an added safety measure.

A fire’s meal plan consist of these three ingredients:

  1. Tinder: stuff that produces the initial flame – fine, dry, fluffy stuff
  2. Kindling: the next meal is smalls – tiny twigs to pinky finger size sticks
  3. Fuel: by now a coal bed of smalls will ignite thumb-size to larger sticks as a meal to satisfy your fire’s appetite

Ground conditions may require that you build a platform or bed to prevent your tinder from absorbing moisture and sucking heat from your initial flame. Use bark or a row of dry thumb-size sticks large enough for your tinder bundle to rest.

#1) Twig Fire Lay

When I need a fire that’s hot and fast, this is my favorite down n dirty fire lay. It’s ugly but remember… Fire don’t care about pretty!

Down n Dirty Twig fire

Down n Dirty Twig fire will boil 32 ounces of water in under 5 minutes easily

Collect a double armful of dead-hanging smalls (pencil lead to pencil size). Bunch them together in a two foot bundle the diameter of a soccer ball. Break them over your knee in the middle forming an A-frame. Balance the bundle with the tip of the A-frame pointing up over your tinder source.

Light the tinder and let it eat. As it burns through the smalls, toss more kindling on top like Pick-Up Sticks. Fire loves chaos!

#2) Split Rail Fire Lay

This fire lay is basically half of a Log Cabin fire lay.

Split rail fence with a platform to keep the tinder off the ground

Split rail fence with a cedar platform to keep the tinder off the ground

Stack thumb to wrist size fuel alternately to form a corner about 5 to 6 inches tall. The gaps between the fuel should look like a stacked wood fence. This allows plenty of air flow. Lay a large bundle of pencil led size twigs on top of the stacked corner. Ignite your tinder material inside the corner and roll the twig bundle over the top of the flames and let it eat.

Once the tinder is lit, roll the kindling over the top of the flames

Ready for ignition

As the flames lick through the top of the twig bundle, lean progressively larger fuel in the corner split rail fence. You’ll end up with a Lean-To fire lay as you add the larger fuel.

#3) Tipi Fire Lay

Tipis are ingenuous in design. The conical shape allows intense heat to rise up through a progression of kindling to ignite larger fuel. Tipi fires can burn even in rainy conditions. Tight placement of log-size fuel shelters the coal bed while allowing enough air flow for a long burning fire. This style is also useful for drying wet firewood.

Lean smaller kindling against the square platform above the tinder in tipi fashion

Lean smaller kindling against the square platform above the tinder in tipi fashion

Four small Y sticks can be used as supports to build a raised pyre (pronounced like fire) to keep tinder off the ground and support the preceding pencil size kindling poles of your tipi. In the above photo, the tinder is under the pyre. Either way will work.

Now you’re ready to lean small kindling poles around the tinder material and pyre at the center of the tipi. Leave an opening in the tipi to light the tinder. Continue building on top of the first layer with progressively larger kindling to fuel-size material interlocking at the peak. As it burns, the inner layers will collapse to create the coal bed needed to ignite the fuel poles. Keep adding fuel poles to maintain the structure.

To fuel logs, one with a Y on top offers a sturdy frame for the tipi

Two fuel logs, one with a Y at one end, offers a sturdy frame for the tipi

#4) Lean-To Fire Lay

Like a lean-to style shelter, you’ll need a large log to brace the kindling and smaller fuel material on to create a pocket for your tinder.

IMG_3263

The brace log is heated and charred as the kindling burns and lasts a long time before being consumed. The brace log can be turned to shield or funnel wind depending on the need.

A front view of the Lean-To with larger fuel

A front view of the Lean-To with larger fuel

Once the fire burns down, add another larger fuel log parallel to the brace log and you have a ready-made platform for cooking over the coals.

Practice Makes Permanent

Notice I didn’t use the word perfect. There are too many methods and variables involved in fire craft to ever perfect the skill. But like all good fire-makers, you have to spend time Doing the Stuff to make the skill permanent.

A recent text gave me the pleasure of some much-needed dirt time with my buddy, Kevin Bowen, who wrote a recent article on Horace Kephart and Classic Camping for our blog. He helped me process cedar and tulip magnolia bark for tinder material, collect smalls, build the fire lays, and used his magnifying lens (solar ignition) to bring the tinder to flame.

Kevin using solar ignition

Solar ignition saves other fire resources

Now to blow the tinder bundle into flames

Kevin blowing the tinder bundle into flames and placing it under our Twig Fire Lay

Success!

Chaotic success!

I purposely didn’t include other worthy fire lays in this article. Now it’s your turn…

If you have a favorite fire lay not mentioned here, share it in the comments. We’re always learning together!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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The Number One Skill of a Good Woodsman

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by Todd Walker

Every item in your kit should ultimately help you develop this top skill.

The Number 1 Skill of a Good Woodsman - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

I’ve shared coffee over campfires with some tough guys in the past. It’s easy to spot who is experienced in the art of smoothing it in the woods by a simple question uttered after that first sip of joe…

How’d ya sleep?

Ah yes, the moment of truth. On the second morning it becomes very apparent who’s sleeping well and who’s ready to pack up and head home to their pillow-top mattress and warm flannel sheets.

We all have our bad nights sleeping in the woods. But an experienced woodsman has developed hacks to obtain what novice campers only dream of… restorative sleep.

Owls screech, coyotes howl, and curious critters come to visit. What did we expect? We’re sleeping on makeshift beds in their “living room.”

The larger woodland animals are often deemed sleep saboteurs. Proper camp hygiene will keep most of the big guys away. Not giving attention to little details invites malicious mischief all night.

Sleep Saboteur #1: Mosquitos

There’s nothing more annoying than the distinctive, tormenting buzz around your face in the dark. Left un-swatted, one tiny mosquito in a shelter will ruin any chance of sleep.

Get the picture…

You lay motionless, radar on, to detect its airborne location before the nighttime bombing raid commences. The constant hum gets closer and stops when the bloodsucker lands. You swat – and miss – and swear. The dive bombing continues till dawn. Itchy welts on your forehead, the only exposed human tissue in your shelter, resemble a measles outbreak by morning.

Here are few modern and primitive ways to get a good night’s rest in bug season.

Bug Netting

Defensive maneuvers can be deployed to defend your skin. Modern mosquito netting adds little weight to your pack and provides protection from even smaller no-see-ums (biting midges).