Self-reliance

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Those who are paying attention are actively retooling to escape the noose of modern consumerism and become self-reliant producers.

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

You can find these independent thinkers on different fronts of the preparedness movement:

  • Back-to-basics
  • Homesteading
  • Preppers
  • Off-grid living
  • Survivalists
  • Simple living
  • Bushcrafting
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability
  • DiY’ers
  • Farmsteading

Whether you’re in this movement as a hobby or a passionate pursuit, the common thread tying us together is self-reliance and breaking our dependence on our fragile system. One of the reasons we started the Doing the Stuff Network was to encourage people to learn and practice new skills. The journey we’re on will require us to retool for an uncertain future.

Hurt me with the truth but never comfort me with a lie. Here’s the truth – our fragile system of consumerism is not sustainable. Of course, you can take comfort in the lie that we can print and spend our way out of the hole we’re in – or – you can embrace the painful truth and get busy Doing the Stuff to build self-reliance.

Retool or Be a Tool

A person is a tool (blunt object) when he/she is being used without even realizing it.

You ever been used as a tool? Yes? Me too. It’s a nasty, degrading feeling when you realize a ‘friend’, coworker, or family member has you wrapped tightly in their grip. Those situations are often easily recognized.

But here’s the thing…

The vast majority of people rarely wake up to the fact that they’re a tool in the system’s matrix. That’s the ‘beauty’ of our system. We get used to being used for the good of the collective. We accept dependence and conform.

For those of you wishing to escape the system’s unsustainable human farm paradigm, if only in small ways, it’s time to retool!

Retool is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

1. to make changes to (something) in order to improve it

2. to reequip with tools

As #1 states, you have to make changes to something to see improvement. That “something” is you. There’s no better way to improve you than to learn new skills and enhance existing ones. New skills require new tools.

Sherpa Tip: Strive for progress, not perfection in your retooling. Buy/acquire the best tools you can afford. Cheap shiny objects from China are tempting but you’ll end up replacing them several times costing you more in the long run. Cheap tools aren’t good and good tools aren’t cheap. You can find quality, inexpensive tools at yard/estate sales and used online sites.

Get ‘em, you’ll need them someday when the power fails to help rebuild. Until then, make smart use of modern power tools while building your non-powered toolbox. Like any new undertaking, there’s always a learning curve, especially with forgotten pioneer tools.

Here’s my top 23+ human-powered tools that your grandparents or great grandparents used to forge a self-reliant lifestyle. Don’t be shy about jumping in and adding to the list in the comments.

Tools for Self-Reliance

  1. Scythe – This tool was used to cut grass at a camp I ran in Siberia in 1993. An American friend with good intentions wanted to help speed up the landscaping chores and bought a combustion engine lawn mower. It threw a rod in 15 minutes. The scythe never lost power.
  2. Hoe and shovel- There will be long rows to hoe and holes to dig.
  3. Posthole diggers – Job specific tool that is indispensable for setting fence posts and digging round, vertical holes.

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Scary looking fencing pliers

  4. Fencing pliers – A nasty looking tool no homestead should be without.
  5. Come-Along and block and tackle – Use mechanical advantage to lift carcasses for cleaning or persuade leaning trees to fall away from your cabin. 23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance
  6. Wheeled carts – Based on a simple machine: lever. Give me a long enough lever and I can move the world.
  7. 4 pronged garden fork – Turns compost and sod.
  8. Containers – The most overlooked of all tools is the humble container. Collect metal, cast iron, plastic, glass, large barrels, stainless steel (milk pails), rubber, and clay containers. Animals have to be fed, water hauled, crops canned, food cooked, water stored, etc., etc.
  9. Carpentry - Hand saws (rip and cross cut), screw drivers, chisels, draw knives, shaving horse, brace and bits, spoke shave, froe, mallet, miter box, framing square, levels (4′, 2′, torpedo), hammer, pencils, and plenty of hardware.
  10. Handyman tools – Channel Lock pliers, socket set, adjustable wrenches, hand saws (cross and rip), hacks saw and blades, clamps, claw hammers (sledge, ball peen, claw), pry bars, pipe wrenches, measuring devices, heavy-duty vise, and files (all shapes and sizes).
  11. Cutting tools – Knives (fixed blade, folding, and everything in between paring to butcher), axes, hatchets, bush hook,two man saw,adz, broad ax, sharpening stones, and a butcher’s steel. I prefer high carbon steel over stainless steel for achieving razor-sharp edges. Plus, high carbon steel knives all you to create sparks with flint, chert, or other hard rock. Redundancy!

    DiY Sawbuck: Work Smarter in the Woodpile

    Buck sawing on the Sawbuck

  12. Blacksmithing – Forge, billow, anvil, hammers, tongs, post vice, files, and quench bucket. After acquiring these, you can make your own tools and needed items. Stock up on salvaged steel.
  13. Cordage – Natural and synthetic rope, twine, tarred bank line, and paracord of all sizes. Making your own takes time, resources, and skill. Stock up now. Don’t forget sewing thread as cordage.
  14. Food prep – Wood cook stove, cast iron cookware, utensils, pressure canner (relatively new tool), crocks, and churn.
  15. Personal care – Straight razor, strop, and sharpening stones.
  16. Weaponry –  Modern to primitive. Modern: At a minimum, a common caliber (for your area) shotgun (12 or 20 gauge), side arm (.45, .357, .38, 9mm, .22), high-powered center fire (30-06, .308,  30-30, .223) and rim fire (.22 cal) rifle. When you run out of cartridges… Traditional muzzleloaders: Black powder rifle, shotgun, and pistols. Primitive: bow and arrows, atlatl, slings.
  17. Music – Forgotten but important culturally and entertainment wise.
  18. Education – Books – lots of hard bound books from all genres. Writing utensils and reams of paper. Reading glasses.
  19. Trapping – Foothold,  bodygrip (Conibear), snares, and live traps. Check local laws and regulations.
  20. Beekeeping – Because we all love honey, right!? Bee hives, hive tool, smoker, hat and veil, gloves, and protective clothing.
  21. Leather work – Down and Dirty Basics: Cutting tool, punch, awl (ice pick works), needle, glue and clamps.
  22. Medical – Surgical kit that covers minor and major needs. Of course, if you don’t have the skill to use these tools, someone in your tribe may. Collect ‘em!

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Surgical tools a good friend gave us but I have no experience using – yet

  23. Animal husbandry – This list of tools can get long really quickly. Take care of your animals and your animals will take care of you. So here goes… Species specific halters, leads, and restraints; wound care, hoof care, syringes, oral dose syringe, etc., etc.

Some of these tools and the skills to use them were common in earlier generations. After a reset, you’ll be proud you retooled with a collection of human-powered pioneer tools. Think muscle over motor to rebuild a strong, self-reliant future for your family.

Even if you never learn how to use all these tools, they’d make great barter items for stuff you do need at your local SHTF swap meet.

What would you add to the retool list?

Retool and Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

Copyright Information: 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.

Categories: Gear, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

A Curiously Strong One-Stop-Shop for Natural Fire Tinder

by Todd Walker

Nature is an amazing teacher and provider!

A Curiously Strong One-Stop-Shop for Natural Fire Tinder

Are you familiar with the American Beech tree? They’re easy to identify. Just look for a smooth-barked tree that has initials carved in the trunk. I know I carved mine in their thin, whitish bark as a kid. Beech trees usually grow in groves near water and rich, well-drained soil.

I’ve always noticed black clumps attached to the branches of these trees in winter and early spring when green foliage is absent. Last weekend curiosity got the best of me. I carefully harvested a clump, not sure of what it was, or if these hard black masses would be of use somehow.

Guess what? Turns out that sooty mold makes an excellent fire tinder. You may have already known this, but to me, I was totally tickled by my new discovery!

Before demonstrating its usefulness for outers, bushcrafters, and self-reliant types, here’s how sooty mold is created.

Beginning in the late summer months, the Beech Blight Aphid (BBA) begins gathering in colonies on the branches of the American Beech tree. These little aphids are also known as wooly aphids and “boogie-woogie” aphids due to their defensive dance they perform when disturbed. The entire colony of thousands of white bugs begin to gyrate in unison when they feel threatened. I caught them dancing on a short video last summer while stump shooting. Quite amusing to watch!

So how does the Boogie-Woogie Aphid help create natural fire tinder?

The BBA is drawn to the American Beech tree for its sap. They amass in such large numbers that the limbs look to be covered with snow. While hanging out, they ingest the sap and excrete honeydew which covers Beech branches, twigs, and the ground underneath.

This waste (poop) provides a suitable food source for the next cycle of life – fungi. Sooty molds feed on this sweet, sugary honeydew and eventually turns into a black tar-like mass. The mold doesn’t penetrate the bark and harm the tree. It simply eats the aphid’s sweet poop. Yummy!

During my dirt time last weekend, I had a hunch. Would these black masses burn? This is how we discover new stuff – by being curious.

I harvested a clump from a low tree branch near my shelter.

How the Boogie-Woogie Aphid and Sooty Mold Make Natural Fire Tinder

How the Boogie-Woogie Aphid and Sooty Mold Make Natural Fire Tinder

To my surprise and excitement, the brittle sooty mold took a spark from my ferro rod and began to smolder.

How the Boogie-Woogie Aphid and Sooty Mold Make Natural Fire Tinder

Some gentle blowing and you can create sooty mold on fire!

How the Boogie-Woogie Aphid and Sooty Mold Make Natural Fire Tinder

How the Boogie-Woogie Aphid and Sooty Mold Make Natural Fire Tinder

Unlike punk wood, cattail heads, or cotton fabric, there’s no need to char the sooty mold for it to catch and hold a spark. The black mass already appears charred and has plenty of nooks and crannies for increased surface area to hold sparks off a ferro rod. I have not tested it with flint and steel yet.

This resource-rich tree is loaded with dried leaves well after other deciduous trees are bare. Arrange the dried leaves into a bird’s nest tinder bundle, add smoldering sooty mold, blow, and you have a curiously strong one-stop-shop for fire from the American Beech tree in the eastern woodlands!

Now I’m curious if any of you fellow Doers of Stuff have ever tried sooty mold for fire tinder – or am I just late to the party? Share your best natural fire tinder with us in the comments for some open learning opportunities!

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #DoingTheStuff when sharing your stuff on Twitter.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

by Todd Walker

Which would you rather be cold or wet?

How about neither!

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Shelter plays an important role in thermoregulation. As I peck at my keyboard, the outside temp is 50º with a  light rain. Enough exposure to these “mild” conditions without some type of shelter and a search and rescue mission turns into a recovery team.

A healthy individual can endure Mother Nature’s extreme elements for only a few hours. Even properly clothed, you won’t last long if you’re cold AND wet. In plain English, humans need shelter to survive.

Events can happen that force even non-outdoorsy types out of the warm, dry confines of home. Those of us who intentionally wander in the woods understand the importance of carrying some form of shelter.

The two categories for shelter discussed here are manufactured stuff (trash, tarps, etc.); and available natural resources (outside the tent thinking). Whether manmade or natural, your shelter should provide these basics:

  • Protection from the extreme elements – wind, rain, sun, cold
  • The ability to keep you warm and dry with only the clothes you’re wearing if necessary
  • A safe/secure location to rest, relax, and recuperate
  • A work space for tasks that will increase your survivability
  • Ease of erecting and transporting

Manufactured Material

The first rule of survival with or without shelter is… Do. Not. Panic. At least that’s what trained experts tell us. But that is exactly what most non-survivors do. The moment you realize you’re lost in the woods or on the backside of a disaster event is the most crucial time for survival. If you are not in imminent physical danger…

S.T.O.P. (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan)

  1. Sit – And breathe. Take 20 minutes or as long as your situation affords to gather yourself. If lost in the wilderness, you can afford a 20 minute break to exit panic mode.
  2. Think – Your second thoughts are the ones that help you survive. Usually, first thoughts are to react instead of respond logically.
  3. Observe – What resources (skills and stuff) are available to effect your survival?
  4. Plan – Now that you’re cool, calm, and collected (sort of), make a logical plan to survive.

Shelter, water, fire, and food – in this order – should be your priority in most cases. Remember the Rule of Threes – 3 hours without shelter and you risk hypothermia and eventual death.

To ‘enjoy’ your unplanned vacation, shelter ranks above all other needs. Hopefully, you’re not caught without some form of shelter in your kit. Tarps, contractor trash bags, ponchos, emergency space blankets, tyvek house wrap, billboards, or oiled canvas are shelter options.

Tarp Shelters

If you plan ahead, shelter can be set up in 5 minutes or less. Attach one corner of a tarp to a tree with a bungee cord or rope and stake off the other three corners to the ground.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

4 tent stakes, a bungee cord and a tarp and you have…

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

The 5 Minute Shelter

Down and Dirty Tip: Toggles are survival tools that make quick work of setting up tarp shelter. Tie a loop of cordage to your ground stake, insert the loop through the eyelet of the tarp, and place a toggle stick through the loop to hold the corner securely.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Down and dirty toggle tip

Lean-To Shelter

Run a ridge line with cordage and drape your tarp over the line. Secure the four corners and you have shelter.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Lean-to tarp shelter

If you don’t have a ground pad to lay upon, pile leaves, debris, and pine boughs up to add an insulation layer between you and the ground. Heat transfers from hot to cold. Body heat is conducted from our warm body when in contact with cold ground.

USGI Poncho Shelter

A military poncho is a multi-use item. It can be used to protect from the elements while navigating and converts to a tarp shelter as well.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Poncho and trekking poles

The eastern woodlands where I roam provide many trees for anchoring points for tarp shelters. I used DRG’s two hiking sticks, paracord, and stakes to convert my poncho into a shelter for demonstration purposes. This set up takes more time but is an option in areas with little to no trees.

If you get creative, you can build an Alpha Tent with your poncho.

But what if you find yourself in a situation without gear?

Natural Material

I know trash is not natural material, but don’t discount this survival resource. It’s a shame that people leave trash in the wilderness. Their wasteful ways can play into your favor when survival is on the line.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

I found this trashed hunting blind near my semi-permanent shelter with a 5 gallon bucket inside. 

You never know what you’ll find. On a walkabout to gather pine pitch today, I found an old truck bed in the woods behind my school.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

It’s seen better days but could serve as an emergency shelter.

Outside the tent thinking finds down and dirty shelter options.

Rocks, Ledges, and Caves

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Rock outcropping

Be careful using ledges and rocks for shelter. Just like setting up shelter with manmade material, your location should be safe from falling objects and the risk of rising water and flash floods.

Keep in mind that ledges and caves are home to creepy crawlers and other animals. If a fire can be built, the smoke will help drive out scorpions, spiders and snakes. I don’t mind these critters until they snuggle into my bedroll.

I’m hesitant to list the typical survival shelters mentioned throughout the wilderness survival community. For instance, if you’ve got enough time, energy (calories), tools, and resources to build a debris hut, you’re probably not in a true survival scenario. You’re camping. They’re cool to build and will keep you warm and dry. However, they take a lot of time, resources, and calories – all of which are slim to none for most survivors.

Below is a shelter I built as my base camp for dirt time and practicing Doing the Stuff bushcraft skills. Could I use it as a survival shelter? Yes. But it’s taken about 20 man hours of hard work to build with sharp cutting tools, cordage, and many calories.

Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Carrying 9 foot logs to build shelter is not the wisest use of calories for survival.

Semi- permanent shelters can’t be thrown together in a moments notice. My shelter was built for smoothing it, not roughing it. There will be no need to yield to senseless panic and die of exhaustion if we’ve learned the art of “smoothing it’ in the wilderness.

Survival shelters are temporary structure that provide insulation from wet, cold conditions to help you survival and be rescued. We’d like to hear your thoughts on survival shelters you’ve tested and used. Comments are always welcome!

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #DoingTheStuff when sharing your stuff on Twitter.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

by Todd Walker

I love my Pathfinder 32 oz. Bottle Cooking Kit… except for one thing… the bag.

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

The bag is such a useful piece of kit and I hated its one glitch.

The nesting cup caught on the interior of the nylon bag when storing or removing the set. I filed the bat-wing handle attachment but the cup still snagged the bag liner. Oh well, I thought I’d have to live with it. 

Christian C rescued my bag by making a simple, yet brilliant, modification on his YouTube channel which saved me the gnawing frustration each time I used my cup in the field. You can check his video out at the bottom of this post. 

As many of you know, I’m a container freak! And this mod not only fixes the bag snag but also adds yet another metal container to my cook kit. I’m a redundancy freak too. 

All you need is a #3 Tall can from the grocery store. I stopped by our mom and pop grocery store on my way back from some quality dirt time yesterday and bought the cheapest can of tomato juice on the shelf. I walked in with my tape measure to make sure the can would fit my PF bag. 

The can’s dimensions are 4 1/4 inches in diameter by 7 inches tall and holds about 45 oz. I paid $1.55. 

Remove the lid with a can opener and discard the juice… or drink it if you’re into cheap, watered down fruit juice. Check the rim for any sharp edges. File them smooth if you have any. Mine had none. 

Wash and dry the can. Drill two holes on opposite sides of the top rim of the can. File the holes smooth. Make the holes large enough to accept the fish mouth spreader (bottle hanger) that comes with your PF Complete Bottle Cooking Kit

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

Bottle hanger attached to my new container

Insert the can into the bag. It’s a tight fit but will slide in creating a nesting sleeve for the cup, 32 oz. bottle, and pack stove ring. 

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

27 oz cup nesting inside the 45 oz can

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

A Bomb Proof Mod for the Pathfinder Bottle Cook Kit

Perfect fit!

Disclaimer: As you know, I don’t advertise on our site. I receive no compensation for any of the stuff I promote on our blog unless it passes the Doing the Stuff test. If you’re interested in ordering this kit, you can do so by clicking here: PF Complete Bottle Cooking Kit. The newer model comes with a strainer lid for the cup, an item I’m ordering soon. 

You never want to be caught without a way to stay hydrated or make fire to regulate your core temperature. That’s why I carry this bomb proof kit with me on all my adventures in the wild – day hikes, camping, dirt time, hunting, and fishing.

I can’t thank Christian C enough for his brilliant idea! Watch his video below…

<iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/rC0zJcKWpbg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Keep Doing the Stuff!

Todd 

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #DoingTheStuff when sharing your stuff on Twitter.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

by Todd Walker

Imagine the first human who made fire from scratch.

The Art of Rubbing  Sticks Together

We have no way of knowing the gender of this hero, but I’m sure her clan celebrated her curious discovery well into the night! We’ll call her Pyrojen.

Scouting for berries by the stream that day, she threw a fist-sized rock at a slithering, scaly animal. Snake was a delicacy during berry season. Her projectile missed its mark. Hunger has a way of improving our hunter-gatherer craft. She threw more stones at random targets in the creek bed.

Still missing her target, Pyrojen’s frustration turned to anger, then to rage. She pitched a flailing fit while breaking rock on rock. And it happened. Sparks flew from two random rocks which lit her curiosity.

Word spread to nearby tribes huddled and shivering in dark, damp primitive shelters. Like a moth drawn to a flame, they came. Wondering as they wandered towards the glow if they too might learn to capture this primordial, glowing ember. And the rest is history.

This is where the term pyromaniac originated. ;)

Our fascination with fire is nothing new. For millenniums, men and women have stared at flames. Fire was man’s first TV. Besides being mesmerizing, fire from scratch opened a whole new world and we’ve been creatively using it’s power to make other useful stuff like glass, pottery, and weaponry.

We had three generations in our house last week. I offered to show our oldest grandson (almost 7) how to start a friction fire. He was not interested… yet. His bow and arrow held his attention. But our son jumped at the chance.

Here’s how he started his first friction fire using the bow drill method. If you’ve ever wanted to created fire by friction, the bow drill is the most efficient way. There are subtle nuances involved which can only be mastered by Doing the Stuff!

Ready to make ancestral fire?

Gather the Stuff

Though you can make a bow drill set from natural material in the bush, this is my practice set I use at home. It’s better to practice in a controlled environment to perfect your skills than waiting until you absolutely need them.

I’m planning a tutorial on making a bow drill in the woods. Stay tuned!

Here’s the stuff what you’ll need for the bow drill method…

  • Fire hearth (board)
  • Bow and bow-string
  • Spindle (drill)
  • Handhold socket
Friction fire kit

Friction fire kit

Fire Hearth

friction fire

Select wood that is free of moisture and resins. I had a scrap piece of cedar 1×4 board left over in my shop. I ripped it down to 2 1/2 inches wide by about a foot long. The board measures about 3/4 of an inch thick. Anywhere between 3/4″ to 1/2″ is a good thickness for your hearth.

Spindle

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

About 8 inches long

We used a thumb-sized dowel rod made of poplar. The length of your spindle should be about 8 inches. Without a measuring device, make the spindle about the length from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky finger.

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

The business end

There are two ends of the spindle. On the business end (where you’ll create the primordial ember), chamfer a slight bevel on the entire edge to fit into the pivot you’ll create in the fire board with your knife. This pivot will be ‘burned in’ by friction to create a socket for your spindle.

Whittle the opposite end to a point. The pointed end decreases the friction on the handhold socket.

Handhold Socket

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Since my practice set gets lots of use, I made a metal socket and secured it with epoxy.

I created my handhold from a piece of cedar leg I shaved down when I made DRG’s cedar bench. I split a smooth, rounded 4 inch piece and made a pivot hole that would accept a “knock out” from a metal receptacle box.

You could use a coin of some kind for the socket. Or you could burn a socket in the handhold with your spindle. A round stone with a dimple would also work.

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Ball pen hammer, 9/16 ” socket, and a vise made the metal divot

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Cordage

We used the quintessential survival cord – 550 paracord – for our bow-string. You could use tarred bank line, natural cordage, braided dental floss, animal sinew, or any strong line.

Bow

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Bow and bow-string

The length of your bow should measure from the tip of you outstretched finger tips to your arm pit. Use a limb with a slight bend. My bow (oak) has a large bend but it’s what I had available. I’ve seen bows work that were perfectly straight.

If you have a boring tool (awl on your Swiss Army Knife) or a drill and bit, drill a hole about an inch from both ends of the bow. Away from civilization, just cut a 1/4″ notch on the back of the bow where you would have drilled holes. Wrap the cord around the notch to hold the bow-string in place.

Burning In Your Socket

Place your spindle on the fire board so that the edge of the spindle is about 1/4 inch from the edge. Tilt the spindle and make a mark where the center of the spindle would touch the board. Now make a pivot hole with your knife that will accept the drill. Spin the board with the knife point in the pivot until you’ve created a shallow hole the diameter of your spindle.

Twist the spindle into the bow string and slowly burn a hole in the board. This creates a socket  in the fire board that will mate with the drill.

Notch the Socket

Once you’ve burned in a socket hole, cut a notch on the edge of the board that runs at a 45° angle from the center of the hole. The notch should cut into the burned hole about 1/8th of an inch. The notch is used for air flow and collecting charred cellulose dust from process of friction.

Rubbing Sticks Together

I’m right-handed and built my bow drill to allow my students to see the process while facing me. That is why the notched holes are facing away from the fire-maker. If you’re left-handed, just flip this set around and the holes face you as you place your right foot on the board.

Before starting your bow drill, place a dry leaf, piece of paper, or bark under the edge the fire board to collect the ember. This will be used to transfer the primal ember to your tinder bundle. (It’s a good practice to lay a dry barrier under the complete set to prevent moisture from entering your fire hearth).

With your bow sting tight, twist the spindle into the cord with the business end down. Place the drill in the socket on your fire board, place handhold on top of spindle, and brace your off-hand against your shin for stability and pressure. This technique also helps you keep your drill vertical.

Now begin to spin the drill with long, smooth strokes while applying pressure on the handhold. The correct amount of pressure takes practice. Use the entire length of the bow string to rotate the spindle.

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Our son creating smoke

Not too much pressure in the beginning. You’ll begin to see charred dust fill the notch in your fire board. Once the notch is almost full, you’ll pick up your pace with the bow. You’ll need to create a temperature around 800°F to create an ember from the char dust.

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

A successful ember

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Messaging (blowing) the ember inside the bird’s nest (tinder bundle)

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

His first primitive fire!!

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Making char material to ensure future fires when using flint and steel or a ferro rod

This method of making fire is a spiritual experience that connects you to our ancient ancestors. It’s also a great way to connect with your family now!

Keep Doing the Stuff with fire!

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #DoingTheStuff when sharing your stuff on Twitter.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Simple Fixin’ Wax Recipe for Fixin’ Stuff

by Todd Walker

Need another DiY fix? Stay tuned, I’m fixin’ to give you one!

Wouldn’t it be great to have an all-purpose, all-natural, miracle substance that, when applied, fixes most stuff?

Stuff that would fix chapped lips, busted knuckles, ax-heads, wooden tool handles, bow strings, a squeaky hinge, wooden spoons, leaky tents, rusty metal, leather sheaths, and… be edible!

First, for those unfamiliar with Southern speak…

Fixin’ means:

  • About to do stuff or in the process of doing stuff – replacing such worn expressions as ‘about to”, ‘going to’, ‘preparing for’, etc. Examples: “I’m fixin’ to cook dinner.” Or, “I’m fixin’ to go fishing.”
  • An accompanying food dish to round out a meal. Example: “Grandma made Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixins.
  • The process of repairing stuff. Example: “The fence needs fixin’.”

Then there’s the simple, multi-functional stuff called fixin’ wax. It’s also an edible emergency lamp fuel (replace the olive oil with fixin’ wax).

Ingredients for Fixin’ Wax

  1. 2 parts tallow – click here to make your own
  2. 1 part bees wax
  3. shea butter (optional) – 1 tablespoon
  4. essential oil (optional) – a few drops
A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Tallow and bees wax are the must have ingredients

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Optional ingredients

Fixin’ Wax Procedures

The ratio of tallow to bees wax is 2:1. In hotter climates, you may want to make it half and half to keep a more solid consistency.

Step 1: Melt the tallow and bees wax together in a container. Remove from heat and stir occasionally while it cools to ensure these two ingredients combine.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Double boiler method is best

If you choose to add the optional stuff (shea butter and essential oil), do so while over the heat. For a pine scent, add chopped pine needles and strain the liquid through a clean cloth to remove the needles from the liquid wax.

Step 2: Line your mold(s) with wax butcher paper. I used the press n seal wrap in my tins. Wax paper would work better as the thinner press n seal wrap made removing the fixin’ wax from the tins more challenging. Live and learn. I had to use a butter knife to pry the product out. Not a problem.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

The benefit of using the sticky press n seal stuff was that it formed to the tin and produced beautiful, tin-shaped fixin’ wax! I’m guessing you could use a muffin tin for larger batches. Maybe insert cupcake liners in the individual forms for easy removal when the fixin’ wax sets.

Step 3: While liquified, carefully pour the stuff into your mold. The half-pint jar filled one and one half tins.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Ready for some fixin’

Step 4: Allow a few hours for the fixin’ wax to cool and set. Once solid, rub it with your finger. You should get a film on your finger tip. Apply it to your lips so you don’t waste any. I used a few drops of peppermint essential oil. I like the cooling effect on my skin.

Step 5: Remove from the form. Wrap the fixin’ wax in butcher paper – wax side touching the fixin’ wax. I placed the partial block back in the Altoids tin for use around the house.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

For my bushcraft kit, I wrapped the full block in wax paper, placed in a brown paper lunch bag, and tied it up with a length of jute twine. This gives me an excellent emergency fire starter – jute twine, brown paper, and fixin’ wax are known to burn well.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Wrap it up, I’ll take it!

Wrap it up and give it as a gift to someone for their bug out bag.

Here’s an old leather screw driver pouch I repurposed for my Bacho Laplander folding saw sheath. It needed some fixin’ wax love.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

Before

Rub the bar of fixin’ wax all over the surface and massage in with a cloth. Rejuvenating and sealing leather and dried wood is easy and effective with fixin’ wax.

A Simple Fixin' Wax Recipe for Fixin' Stuff

After 

Do you have a recipe or other uses for this amazing fixin’ wax? Drop us a line in the comments.

Keep Doing the Stuff… with Fixin’ Wax,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. Ready to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

The Definitive Guide to Dehydrating Jerky

by Todd Walker

Before the invention of modern food preservation equipment and techniques, premodern man stumbled upon the art of preserving harvested food to preserve life. Mother Nature has always thrown the unexpected at us – drought, floods, swarming insects – which could wipe out next year’s food supply.

Survival was never guaranteed. But we are a creative, wily species. Thanks to our fat-fed brains and trial and error, humans learned how to preserve excess meat for lean times!

the-definitive-guide-to-dehydrating-jerky

Jerk-able Meats

Depending on your location and availability, any lean meat can be jerked. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but the following meats have been used as a light-weight, portable, nutrient dense staple for thousands of years.

  •  Wooly Mammoth – Sorry, Wooly is no longer available. Suitable wild substitutes include: venison, elk, moose, bear, caribou, fish, bison, alligator, crocodile, wild boar, and other critters.
  • Llama – a favorite on-the-go snack of Incas. South Americans still find llama jerky tasty.
  • On the exotic side – Yak, ostrich – and it’s cousin – emu, whale, shark, kangaroo, camel, and even horse. Equine jerky is not culturally accepted in America expect for dog treats.
  • Mainstream jerky – Beef, sheep, pork, and turkey are popular for moderns in prepackage containers.
  • And wait for itZombie Jerky! I kid you not! Nothing else helps you survive the Zombie Apocalypse like green dead meat chunks.

Wow! More than you probably wanted to know.

Jerky’s #1 Enemy

Drying is the oldest technique of preserving meat. Removing moisture from meat prevents micro-nasties from growing and decreases the spoilage rate. It was so easy cavemen could did it! Grok, after learning to corralling fire, figured out that fire would heat mammoth meat just enough to evaporate excess moisture.

Super! Portable calories meant he could extend his hunting and gathering territory.

Yes, drying meat over an open fire is doable. Smoking/drying meat over an open fire method is one of my Doing the Stuff skills for 2014. But for now, before the industrial machine grinds to a halt, I’ll use our Excalibur dehydrator.

You can use your oven if you don’t have a dehydrator. Prop the door open with a pot holder or wooden spoon and use your oven racks to hang the meat strips. Test the empty oven temp with a cooking thermometer for an hour to see if the temp stays in the 145°-155°F range. Ovens use more energy than dehydrators and don’t employ a fan to circulate air during the process.

I’ve even survived eaten jerky from Daddy’s DiY box fan dehydrator. Now you see where I get my tinkering skills!

Keep in mind, the USDA does not approve of DiY box fan or solar dehydrators. Fed Gov doesn’t approve of my eating lifestyle made up of 50% healthy fats either. Oh well… as always, do your due diligence before listening to me or anyone else.

An important note about jerking wild animal meat. Feral hogs, cougars, and bears have a tendency to host Trichinelle parasites. Salmonella and E.coli 0157:H7 have to be taken into account when making jerky too.

3 Safe Methods

According to research from my alma mater, the University of Georgia, there are 3 ways to kill the bad stuff in homemade jerky.

1.) (Easy) Post-heat the dehydrated jerky slices in a 275°F oven for 10 minutes. This is the method I use. Place the slices on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven.

2.) (Complicated) Pre-heat raw meat strips (un-marinated) in a hot brine/marinade mixture for about 2 minutes or until the meat reaches 160°F (165°F for poultry).  You could also bake the meat until it reaches the safe temps. You’ll need a thin tipped thermometer to test the meat with this method.

3.) (Domesticated Meat Only) Pre-soak the sliced meat in vinegar for 10 minutes. The combination of heat and vinegar kills pathogens in non-game meat.

Method 1 and 2 are effective in killing Trichinelle in wild game. The vinegar method (#3) is not as effective for wild game.

Scared yet? Don’t be. Just take safety precautions when making tasty jerky snacks.

Meat Prep

Since I’ve never tried to make ground jerky, these directions are for whole strips.

The Art of Making Jerky Safe in a Dehydrator

Slice uniformly for best results

Trim any visible fat or connective tissue off the meat. Cut your selected meat into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices between 5 to 10 inches in length. Freeze the meat until it becomes firm (not frozen solid) to make slices more uniform. I’ve found it challenging to slice meat straight out of the refrigerator – almost like trying to nail jello to a tree – even with a razor sharp knife. Or have your local butcher run it through a meat slicing machine.

Slicing along the grain of the meat produces a more chewy jerky. Cut across the grain for a tender product. Even thickness ensures consistent drying for all the meat.

Meat Marinade

How you season your jerky is up to your personal preference. There are many recipes online or you can make your own – which I did.

The Art of Making Jerky Safe in a Dehydrator

My marinade ingredients

After cutting the meat into thin strips, add enough marinade to cover the meat in a food safe container . I use a gallon size zipper freezer bag. Place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. The longer you marinate, the stronger the flavor. You can make a simple jerky by using only salt and pepper. I like my jerky to bite back.

Drying Time

Pre-heat your dehydrator on the max heat setting (155°F). Check the true temp with a cooking thermometer in the empty unit if you like.

Lay the marinated meat flat on the trays with enough room between the pieces for air flow. Close but not touching.

the-definitive-guide-to-dehydrating-jerky

The last tray!

This batch contained more marbled fat than I like. The oil in the fat won’t evaporate like other moisture. Too much fat in the meat can cause it to go rancid. Not a problem. It didn’t last long. There are only 4 strips left in the freezer.

Here’s a handy heating chart: Source

Drying Temperature Minimum drying time
125º F (52º C) 10 hours
135º F (57º C) 8 hours
145º F (63º C) 7 hours
155º F (68º C) 4 hours

Set a timer for 4 hours and go do some more stuff. Check the meat and temp of your dehydrator after the bell sounds. I ended up drying this batch for six hours. Again, drying times depend on your equipment and thickness of the slices.

Before removing the meat from the dehydrator, pre-heat the oven to 275°F. When the oven reaches temp, transfer the dried jerky to cookie sheets arranged without touching and post-heat in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely on drying racks.

There’s a scientific way to check for dryness (aka – water activity) of jerky. But you need complicated equipment. I’m guessing you don’t have said equipment. If you did, your jerky should measure a water activity of 0.85 or less.

For the non-scientists among us, check the bendiness

Use the green twig method to check for dryness. Your jerky should bend and slightly crack like a green twig. The bark of the twig may break open when bent, but won’t snap in half like a dry twig. Not very scientific but you’ll see what I mean on your batch.

Packaging Jerky

Knowing this batch had more fat than I like, I placed them in quart sized zipper baggies after they were cooled to room temp. They were dated and stored 4 strips/bag in the freezer. One bag lasts me about a week for in between meal snacks at school. Dried fruit, nuts, and jerky ride in my bushcraft kit.

Properly dried jerky will last a couple of months at room temperature – some say longer. Store it in a food safe container in a dark, dry, cool place. Mason jars are good containers.

Do not pack it tightly. And no vacuum sealing – no matter how much you love your Food Saver. Store bought jerky gets away with vacuum packing by adding chemical preservatives to their product. Leave room for any residue moisture to transfer to drier areas of the jerky. If moisture collects inside the container at room temperature, your jerky is not dry enough.

Refrigerated, it will last even longer. Frozen jerky lasts for a year or more.

Now take your jerky and make some pemmican, another long-lasting, portable, stick-to-your-ribs survival food. Click this link for my Bread of the Wilderness (pemmican) tutorial. (Check the comments from Anne O. for some great tips on pemmican)

To safely salvage and preserve excess harvested meat, dehydrating is the way to go. I’ll let you know how my experiment goes with jerking meat caveman style. How hard can it be, right?

Also, if you haven’t joined the Doing the Stuff Network yet, there’s still room for those of you willing to trade theory for action!

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. Trade theory for action and join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Real Food, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

100% Wool Army Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

by Todd Walker

I love wool! 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.

Years ago I saw Dave Canterbury make a hunting shirt from a wool blanket. Naturally, I had to make one myself. I ordered two 100% wool army blankets from Cheaper than Dirt for around 20 bucks each. Good luck finding them at that price now.

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

My original hunting shirt

I wore this while working on this fat lighter’d post. A few of our readers requested a tutorial on making one themselves. Hope you enjoy.

Material and Tools

  • A 100% wool blanket
  • Scissors
  • Tread and needle
  • Measuring device
  • Tailor’s chalk

Step 1: Lay out for torso

There’s two ways to get the proper width of your shirt. Place arms by your side and measure around your chest and arms at the widest part of your shoulders. If your measurement is 50 inches, divide that in half and add 4 inches (50/2 + 4 = 29).

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

Measure with layers you’d normally wear

Or you can fold the blanket in half with about a 12 inch offset on the bottom, place it on the floor and lay your body on top of the blanket. Mark the width of your shoulders and give yourself a few of inches over your shoulder length to make your cut. This width is dependent upon how roomy you want your shirt.

Step 2: First cut

With your blanket folded length-wise, the front of your shirt should be about one foot shorter than the back. A longer panel on the back covers your bottom when you sit.

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

The front panel of this new shirt is just over 36 inches long

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

Cut the width mark the full length of your folded blanket

Mark and cut the width of your shirt.

Step 3: Cut the neck hole

Make a center mark along the ridge of the fold. Now measure out 4 to 5 inches on both sides of the center and cut a slit in the ridge. In the center of this neck hole slit, cut another 6 inch slit perpendicular to the first slit on the front panel.

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

It now looks like a poncho

Try it on. Your head should go through easily. Tweak as much as needed.

Step 4: Cut the sleeves

Measure around the top of your shoulder to the middle of your ribcage. Take half of that measurement for the width of your sleeves where it will connect to the torso portion.

100% Wool Blanket = Awesome Hunting Shirt

The factory hem is on the hand end of the sleeve

My sleeve dimensions:

  • 14 inches wide at the body – ample room for arms to move about
  • 6 1/2 inches at the hand end
  • 24 inches long from should to hand end – this length give me a generous cuff on the sleeve which can be rolled over my hands when needed

Double the leftover material from your torso, measure and mark the width, and cut two sleeves.

Step 5: Sew it together

If you’re good with a sewing machine on wool, go for it. I’m not. I hand stitched my first wool shirt. I used a blanket stitch on the edges and all seams. Here’s the blanket stitch tutorial I used. 

Turn the shirt inside out if you don’t want seams exposed. Once sewn, turn it right side out. Be sure to double or triple stitch stress points on your shirt.

Note: When stitching the sides below the sleeve, I stopped at my waist line. This allows me to reach my pant pockets, sidearm, and knife without lifting my shirt.

Stitch some short pieces of paracord to the v-cut in the neck for closure. I also added this same feature the sides below my waist to close the slit if need be. (Melt the ends of the cord to prevent unraveling)

I wanted to make this new shirt with a hood but didn’t like the design. Any suggestions are more than welcome. If you make one for yourself, we’d like to hear how it turned out.

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. Trade theory for action and join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Blowing The Lid Off Char Containers

by Todd Walker

If you don’t like something, change it. This isn’t easy to do in some area of life. Especially when applied to stuff beyond our control.

I’ll spare you the philosophical mumble floating in my head. You’re welcome!

You want practical, field tested, physical stuff that works. Today I want to show you a simple modification you can make to your char container.

In controlled settings, charring cloth on my fish cooker in my outdoor kitchen, my Altoids char tin worked like a gem. In the field, not so much. Something caused the lid to blow at a most inopportune time… while in the fire.

No longer starved of oxygen, the fire triangle was complete and a natural chain reaction occurred: char cloth ignites and I blow my lid!

Taking a gamble on theory is a sucker’s game. Time to…

Purge Your Preps

Doing the Stuff with your gear is the only way you’ll discover what needs to change. That’s the process of trading theory for action. Act. Analyze. Adjust.

Don’t depend on any gear in your kit, BOB, kitchen, shop, or any other place without proving your preps. Taking this action will cause you to lighten your load, devolve, and simplify.

Here’s an easy fix to keep you from blowing your lid!

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Easy button fix ~ 500 count .22 cal. pellet container

“Leave lame containers behind!” was my thought. To prevent you from racking your brain to find the almost-perfect charring container, allow me to show you mine. DRG and I began the hunt. Nothing. We scoured store isles I had no business walking down – ever!

Then, in a stroke of brilliance, an “Aha Moment” occurred.

I blurted out, “I’ll use one of my pellet tins!” The lady next to me pretended not to notice my outburst.

When I got home, I emptied a 500 count .22 caliber pellet tin into another container. Don’t have a pellet container with a screw-on lid? Sporting goods stores sell these for under $10. Pellet rifles and pellets are a great addition to your preps anyway.

Dirt Time at Walker Woods

I made some char pads to prime my new tin. Scraped off the brittle, chipped logo from the lid at home, grabbed my bushcraft kit, and headed to the woods.

Here’s a pictorial guide to my journey:

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Punk pine!

With only a few pieces of charred cotton pad in my new tin, I pulled up my mental map of resources near my Dirt Time Camp. There was an old dead fall 70 yards away as I recalled.

If you haven’t formed the habit of making mental maps, or you’re just plain forgetful, keep a journal in your kit to jot down what, where, when, how, and why to help you find resources near your Dirt Time Camp.

Punk wood makes great natural char material. Find wood that is partially rotted but not deteriorated to dust.

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Punk wood in the tin

Place small pieces of punk wood in your char tin with any existing charred material. In this case, the punk is on top of a bit of char cloth and char pad I’d made previously.

Blowing-My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Smoke coming from the pin hole in the top

Screw on the lid and place in the fire or coals. Watch for smoke (wood gas) coming from the small hole in your lid.

The wood gas will combust if making contact with flames from you fire. Not a problem. The material will char anyway.

Once the smoke (or flaming wood gas) stops coming from the hole, your material is charred. Remove the tin from the heat source and allow to cool.

I took advantage of rare Georgia snow to cool my char container.

Blowing-My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Chillin’ char tin

Test your charred material. Throw hot sparks from your ferro rod into your tin. You should get a several glowing embers.

Blowing-My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Embers on charred punk wood

Satisfied with the glow, screw the lid back on to extinguish the embers. This tin rides in my bushcraft kit. No worries about the lid popping open when you screw it!

Blowing-My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

 

Your gear and kits should evolve and change as you add skills and knowledge. You may half the stuff in your pack just adds extra weight. But you’ll never know what needs to change until trade theory for action.

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also connect with us on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. The Doing the Stuff Network community can be found here: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Join us!

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: 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. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

The Woodsman’s Secret to a Well-Hung Ax

by Todd Walker

There may come a day when axes top the list of must-have tools for harvesting wood. I can see a couple of pending scenarios where owning a well-hung ax is preferred. And no, the Zombie Apocalypse ain’t one of them!

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

My top reason appeals to manliness – and self-reliance. My “prepping” paradigm continues to shift from consumerism to self-reliance at a startling pace. With the river of shiny survival stuff flooding the banks of the preparedness community, I began to realize my need to go balls to the wall on traditional skills. Forgotten skills. Like how to properly re-handling an ax.

A point of pride for ax aficionados is how well a cutting tool is hung. The way in which an ax is mounted on a wooden handle (haft or helve) is called the hang…. and getting the hang of it takes practice.

Question: Do you want to be known as the woodsman with a well-hung cutting tool?

If so, here’s how to…

Get the Hang of it

I own a fiberglass handled sledge-hammer and splitting maul. Those tools are mere blunt objects that serve a purpose. Box store axes fall into this same “blunt object” category. But a real ax is a work of art, a thing of beauty, and a joy forever. And art work deserves to be hung well.

I refuse to buy or ever consider owning an ax without a wooden handle. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feel of a hickory handled striking tool. Tradition matters! So does performance.

Before the turn of last century, a good ax head often came without a handle. Woodsmen, lumberjacks, pioneers, and homesteaders had their favorite handle pattern they created from wood staves. The tried and true designs became family heirlooms.

Why?

Because a well-hung ax feels right in your hands. Balance, angle, flexibility, length, weight, and diameter combine for the perfect hang.

Choose Good Wood

The traditional wood used for an ax, adze, and hammer is hickory. When selecting a handle, pay close attention to the run of the wood grain and color. You’re big box hardware store may have a decent handle. I lucked up and found one at a local “Ace is the place” store. This handle will be hung on an old ax I bought at a yard sale a few year back. Nothing special – but almost free – and works for my application.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Some stuff needed to hang an ax… the adze and froe were added for no apparent reason.

No matter where you get your new haft, check the run of the wood grain from the side view. Grain running perpendicular to the handle won’t last long. Look for grain running parallel the whole length. A few stray grains won’t hurt.

Now check the butt end of the handle. Grain running vertically on the end is what you’re after. Horizontal grain in striking tools won’t absorb constant shocks.

The Definitive Guide to a Well-Hung Ax

Vertical grain on the left. Image source

Avoid painted or varnished handles. Paint covers a multitude of sins. A clear varnish can be sanded off if it meets good wood standards and an eye-ball test.

Color Counts

Hickory heart wood is reddish in color. You’re likely to find this in low-grade handles. Look for white sap wood handles. My handle has hints of heartwood but is mostly made of the outer white wood.

Size Matters

The size of your handle depends on the weight of your ax. For our purposes here, we aren’t dealing with specialty S-shaped hafts for broad axes. Today we’re talking about axes used for chopping, splitting, and self-reliance tasks.

Haft length depends on the job and personal preference. Longer handles (36″) for felling and chopping large timber, shorter for lighter work. How short? Pictured below is my Wetterlings Ax. Sadly, I didn’t find this one at a yard sale.

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Wetterlings Backwoods Ax measures 16″ long

Hanging Procedures

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a handle, wooden wedge, wood glue, hammer or wooden mallet, rasp, sand paper, gloves, saw (hacksaw or reciprocating metal blade), punch, boiled linseed oil, and a vise helps. Don’t have a vise? Improvise with two sections of 4×4 to support the ax-head.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Some stuff need to hang an ax

First, remove the old handle. Saw it off near the bottom of the ax-head. Use a large diameter punch and hammer to drive the remaining wood out of the eye of the ax. I used a section of 5/8 all-thread. If epoxy was used on the head on the last handle, you may have to remove the wood with a drill.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Don’t clamp the ax-head in the vise unless you don’t mind it being scared. Rest it over a gap in the vise to remove the wood.

Turn the ax-head upside down and drive the old wood out through the top of the eye. The eye on axes are tapered from the bottom to the top – small to large. The old rotted handle on this one was easily removed.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

First fit with the new handle

Insert the new haft into the eye from the bottom opening. The ax-head will leave marks on the wood showing you how much wood to remove for proper seating. It needs to sit on the shoulder of the new handle. Mine needed to go another two inches to make that point.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Taking off wood with a rasp

Remove the new handle again and grab your rasp. You can use power tools to remove the excess wood. Be careful not to take too much off though. You can’t glue saw dust back on.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Final fit… after removing extra wood three times.

Once you have a good fit on the haft, apply wood glue to both sides of your wooden wedge. Don’t coat the entire wedge. Spread the glue on the bottom half of the wedge to prevent squeezing glue out of the slotted kerf end of the handle.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

I leave about a 1/4″ of the handle above the ax-head.

Use a block of wood or a wooden mallet to drive the wedge into the slotted end. This creates even pressure on the wedge to keep it from splitting. Cut the remaining wedge and excess handle off. I leave about 1/8″ to 1/4″ above the head.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Metal wedge across the wooden wedge

Drive a metal wedge small enough to expand the wood without splitting the handle. Hardware stores sell metal wedges in various sizes for your application. Don’t use nails or screws. Ever seen an ax-head with nails bent over the top edge in an attempt to keep it mounted? NOT pretty… or safe!

Counter sink the metal wedge with a punch. Some folks skip the metal wedge for worries of splitting the handle at the top of the eye. A proper sized metal wedge shouldn’t split the kerf portion. I like the added security.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

If your haft came from a box store, it’s likely varnished. Sand the varnish off with 180 grit sand paper. Apply 2 or 3 coats of linseed oil to the wood. Generous amounts should be used at the top eye area.

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Applied to latex gloves and spread on the haft

Latex gloves come in handy for this task.

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Nothing like a woodsman’s well-hung ax!

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

Not bad for an “almost free” yard sale find!

Keep Doing the Stuff!

Todd

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Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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