Scary Sharp: Rooster’s Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method 

by Todd Walker

Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This quote, falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, is inspirational but scary to anyone new to ax-manship. I get the idea of the quote. But four hours to sharpen an ax?

Okay, if an ax is in really bad shape, you could spend a few hours on the work bench. But once you’ve spent time achieving a keen edge, you’ll understand why Horace Kephart advises to never loan your ax to someone unless they know how to use it. A dull, abused ax a misery to swing and quite a job to bring back to working-sharp.

Scary Sharp Axes

I’ve always kept my working axes Sherpa Sharp, which by definition is a bit honed enough for a day of feeling, limbing, and bucking logs without needing to be touched up in the field. My method changed four years ago when Craig Roost (aka – Rooster) introduced fellow Axe Junkies to his simple Scary Sharp method.

If you’ve never been able to shave arm hair or slice newsprint with your ax, give Rooster’s Scary Sharp method a try.

Below is a list of stuff I use to sharpen my axes in the shop and field.

My Shop Tools

  • Wet/Dry Sandpaper: Progress from 220, 400, 600, 1,000, and at times 1500 – auto parts stores carry this sandpaper in 9″ x 11″ sheets
  • Bench Belt Sander: 80 to 120 grit
  • Drywall Hand Sanders: One for each wet/dry sandpaper grit to speed up the process
  • Leather Strop: A barber’s strop glued to a board
  • Green Buffing Compound: Rub into the leather strop
  • Buffing Wheel: Rarely use this machine on working axes
  • Files: Bastard file is used for bits needing to be re-profiled or when nicked/chipped
  • Rigid SuperClamp: This floor vise has revolutionized my shop
  • Safety Equipment: Leather gloves and eye protection
Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Files, file card, 220, 400, 600, 1,000 grit sanders, and a leather strop impregnated with green rubbing compound.

My Field Tools

  • Ax Puck: Medium and coarse duel sided grit
  • Strop: Leather belt, leather ax sheath, or wood
  • File: A small bastard file
  • DiY Fixin’ Wax

Refer to the Ax Anatomy chart below if you’re unfamiliar with any of the terminology in the tutorial. Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Shop Maintenance  System

You may sharpen your axes differently. This is the system I use to maintain my working axes. The condition of vintage axes I restore varies from light rust removal with a wire wheel to major vinegar bath and material removal with a file. This post is not intended to cover the complete restoration process of old axes. It’s a maintenance step to keep working axes sharp. Even “out of the box” axes likely need to be honed before severing wood fibers.

Belt Sanding

All new-to-me vintage ax bits typically go on the belt sander first. Hold the axhead so that the sanding belt moves from the poll of the ax to the bit. The other way around will end up severing the sanding belt. Work the bit from toe to heel on the part of the belt that gives way to pressure. In this way, the belt conforms to the convex grind angle of the ax bit.

Scary Sharp - Rooster's Foolproof Ax Sharpening Method - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This is my sweet spot on my homemade belt sander.

Make a few passes on one side and repeat on the other side of the bit. I sand both sides maybe three times with 80 grit depending on the need. Swap out to 120 grit and repeat the process.

I don’t use leather gloves. I want to feel the warmth of the ax bit during the sanding process. The axhead is dipped in water several times throughout the process to keep it cool and preserve the temper of the bit.

Hand Sanding

Hand sanding can be done without a vise (see Rooster’s video below). However, my Rigid floor vise makes the process easier and faster. Clamp the handle in the vise with the axhead perpendicular to the floor. Stand to the side and behind the bit you’re going to sharpen. Now would be the time you’ll want to wear leather gloves.

Below is a video demo of me sharpening my broad ax with a 12 inch bit…

Cut a strip of each grit to fit the drywall sanding handle(s). With as much sharpening as I do, multiply handles with each grit attached saves time from having to change out sand paper if using only one handle. Plus, I had these handles in my drywall box from my handyman days. Using them to sharpen axes is way more pleasurable than their intended use.

Begin swiping from heel to toe of the ax bit with the 220 grit sand paper. Move the sander in a semicircular motion. You’ll be reminded of Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rain Man with all the counting you’ll be doing. I stroke one side 30 times. There’s no magic number to this and you don’t have to count – it’s just what I do. I flip single bit axes in the vise and sand the other side 30 times. For my double bit axes, I reposition on the opposite side and stroke the second bit before flipping the ax.

On the second grit, 400, I change from a “heel to toe” direction to a “toe to heel” stroke. This helps me see how well I’m replacing the previous scratches on the bit left by the 220 grit. Continue changing grits and direction until you make it to the highest sanding grit. Most times, I only need to go to 600 grit and a good stropping to get my working axes Sherpa Sharp. I rarely go up to 1,500 grit unless I’m sharpening a new-to-me ax.

Stropping

I glued an old leather barber’s strop to a wooden handle years ago. I rub green compound into the leather and use it in the same way as the sanding handles. I only strop the bit about 10 times on each side to remove any burrs and give the bit a mirror finish.

Rooster even made a strop for a drywall sanding handle. He demonstrates his full method in the updated video below.

Rooster’s method produces remarkable results. The foam pad under the drywall sanding handles allows the sandpaper to conform to the convex shape of the bit. So simple a novice can do it!

Field Maintenance System

There have been times when I lay into a tree and notice the bit not penetrating the wood fibers very well. This is usually because I failed to sharpen my ax in the shop before heading out. You may be tempted to overcompensate with more power in each stroke. Not a wise idea. This will lead to early fatigue, damage to the handle, and possible injury. Stop swinging and touch up the bit.

Puck It

For years I’ve used a Lansky Puck to touch up axes in the field. The course side is 120 grit with the other side being 280 medium grit. The medium grit (280) is all I use to hone in the field. I use water, not oil, on my puck since I always have water available. Sometimes I use it dry. Either way, I rarely use this stone if I’ve “Rooster’d” my axes in the shop beforehand.

Grip the puck so that your fingers and thumb are not hanging over the bottom of the stone for obvious reasons. Make several circular strokes down and back on one side of the ax bit. Flip to the opposite side of the bit and repeat. I like to hold the ax so its bit in my line of sight. I can adjust the angle of the puck to meet the bit edge as needed. For double bit axes, I sink one bit into a stump to hold the ax in place while sharpening.

I strop the edge with the leather ax sheath to remove burrs as a final step. A piece of wood can also be used as a strop.

I apply a coat of DiY Fixin’ Wax to the axhead when I think about it. This helps prevent rust, which isn’t usually a problem until carbon steel sets for a while. Due to the beef tallow content in my Fixin’ Wax, it also helps to remove pine sap from my tools.

Steven Edholm (SkillCult) has a video of how he made a field “puck” from a Japanese water stone. Pretty creative. The stone has 250 and 1,000 grit sides. I have a stone like this but haven’t made the field puck yet.

We’re interested in learning how you keep your working axes sharp. Let us know in the comments, please.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics

by Todd Walker

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A boot full of blood. Tenons and bones severed. A tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding.

After watching the video footage of the ax striking my foot, all of the above should have happened but didn’t. I kept working on the log cabin. In fact, a whole month passed before a coworker noticed and asked how I sliced my boot.

“Huh?”

“Your boot. How’d you cut it?”

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Inspection at school.

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I really had no idea. I would have remembered almost lopping my foot off. No recollection of me bent down like a toddler filling his diaper, mouth gaping in terror, in search of blood. I racked my memory.

An axman should remember and learn from close calls. I dug into old video footage and found the ax-boot encounter.

In all my years of swinging axes, I’ve never been bit seriously. Blood has dripped from minor nicks while handling an ax or in the sharpening process. But never in full swing.

At the 1:22 mark in the video below, you’ll see how I violated the Frontal Zone Rule by dangling my foot over the log like bait over the rail of a deep-sea fishing boat.

Did Danner Defy Physics? 

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Forces occur in pairs. Each force is of equal strength but in opposite direction. Even though the two forces are equal, this does not mean that they will cancel each other and stop movement.

Nothing defies the physical laws of nature except comic book superheroes. My Explorer boots reached Superman status after stopping a speeding ax.

Dan, a buddy of mine, said I should bronze the boots and place them on my mantle as a family heirloom. He has a good point. Even with the ax gash, I still wear them to school everyday to teach traditional outdoor skills. On weekends building my log cabin, they remain watertight and too comfortable not to wear.

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Boots still on the ground in our outdoor classroom.

American Made Craftsmanship

I keep my working axes honed and shaving-sharp. The ax strike separated the inside edge of my boot sole, surgically splitting one stitch, and slicing the leather upper. I really expected the adjacent stitching to begin to fail. Two and a half months of daily wear since the ax-ident and not a stitch has unravelled. These Superman boots are built to last. Thanks to Danner’s superior, Made in America craftsmanship, my foot is not a nub!

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Thank you, Danner!

Buy Once, Cry Once

“Price is what you pay and value is what you get.”

~ Warren Buffet

Buying high quality boots is like old-fashioned window shopping. The item catches your eye. You really want it. Then you see the price tag. There’s no way you can pay that price. But you still go out of your way to walk past that window daily to get another look and dream of owning the thing.

Your desire hasn’t changed, you’re just not willing to pay the price.

Price is painful once but value lasts long-term. You see, I wanted a pair of high-quality, American-made boots, that could be resoled after many years of tramping in the woods. Even after the ax sliced my boot, not one tear rolled down my face. My foot is worth more than the price of these fine boots! I’m a lifetime customer now. If Danner can’t re-craft the sliced leather upper, I’ll continue to wear them as a sober reminder while swinging axes.

Fit, Finish, Break-In

Opening the box and holding these brand new boots made me smile. The seams were double-stitched with precision. One feature I like about these Explorers is the minimum amount of seams in the boot. This can only reduce the chances of leakage or snags when tramping through rough terrain and bogs. Even the laces are made of quality material.

The Vibram sole grips wet and dry soil like a mama hugging her son returning from war. The wide rubber sole adds stability and amazing traction. I typically trim pine bark off the top of logs where I’ll place my feet when under bucking with my double bit ax. This step is not needed since I bought the Explorers. The aggressive treads hold my feet in place securely on the bark. The only surface I’ve found they don’t grip is freshly peeled inner pine bark (see above blooper video). A man would need hobnail boots to stand on this slick stuff!

How Danner Boots Screwed the Laws of Physics - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Nature’s slippy slide

I kept an old pair of boots in my truck the first week I wore my Explorers. Never needed to use the spares. No hot spots on my heels or other suspected pressure points I would normally feel from snug fitting leather boots. I played around with the lacing to fine tune the fit over that first week. The full-grain leather upper began mating to my feet like the soft breath of wool socks on a winter day. These rugged boots love my feet and punish rocks and roots – even axes.

If you want a boot that can handle the rigors of building an off-grid log cabin, rugged backwoods adventures, and still look good at the office, pay the price and get yourself a pair of Explorers. If you want lightweight, synthetic, Vegan friendly, foreign-made footwear, look elsewhere. Danner Explorer full-grain leather boots are handcrafted from top to bottom in Portland, Oregon (Made in USA).

One of my grandsons will receive my Superman boots when I’m gone with the story of how they saved my foot that hot July day in Georgia.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin

by Todd Walker

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I think I now understand why so many pioneer log cabins had packed dirt floors.

Ease of construction may have been the #1 reason. Lacking dimensional lumber, time, and labor, a dirt floor was an easy solution. You weren’t necessarily poor, but the term, “dirt poor”, stuck. Believe it or not, there’s a growing number of wealthy folk returning to earthen floors.

With my self-reliance on trial, I wanted a wooden floor for my little log cabin in the woods… complete with a front porch overlooking the creek. As promised in our last article, here’s what I came up with for my budget floor support system.

Round Log Floor Joists

A big box hardware store is a 10 minute drive from the cabin site. They sell dimensional lumber of all sizes to speed up the build. However, this whole “self-reliance on trial” thing had me going another direction.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The living area with five log joists set in place.

When I first started this project in February, the cabin dimensions were going to be a cozy 8’x10′. The first tree I felled was bucked into 10 foot sections for the 8 foot walls. Since expanding the cabin size to 10’x12′, the 10 footers wouldn’t work for wall logs. Bingo! These would become my floor joists.

Hew One Side Flat

Ax-cut logs need to be sawn flat on both ends to start the hewing process. Secure the log to cribbing with log dogs. Last year I made two from half-inch rebar which work fine. Hammer one point into the log and the other into the cribbing log. Repeat on the other end of the log.

I choose the side with the fewest knots to hew. Pine knots are a curse from the devil for hewers. The chosen side is turned and secured to the cribbing perpendicular to the ground. Dog the log before marking plumb lines.

Measure the center of the log end horizontally and place a mark at the halfway point. Place a level on the mark vertically and draw a plumb line. Do the same operation to draw a level horizontal line through the center mark. You should now have two lines intersecting to form a cross hair on the end of the log. Repeat this step on the other log end.

One more plumb line to draw before we’re done. Determine how much wood you want to remove from the side of the log. Place the level at that point and draw a vertical plumb line. I took off about an inch of wood which created ample flat surface on the joists.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Plumb and level lines drawn

Where this second plumb line meets the top of the round log, use a knife or ax to score a slit through the line. Drive a nail shallow in the cross hair. Hook the string of a chalk line box to the nail. Slip the string into the slit at the top of the log and run the chalk line to the other end of the log. Secure it in the other slit you made. While holding the line in the slit, reach down the line with your other hand and pull the chalk line up vertically, not horizontally. Release and the sting to “snap” or “pop” the chalk line.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The chalkline secured in the ax slit at the top of the line to be hewed.

By the way, all my logs have been debarked. If hewing with bark on the log, strip off a section of bark where the chalk line will be snapped. Read more about hewing with the bark on in this article.

Scoring

Scoring is the process of making relief cuts down the side of the log to remove the bulk of wood before hewing to the line.  With so little wood to remove from the floor joist, I thought slash cuts would be best. Slashing is a series of overlapping 45 degree cuts about 4 inches apart down the length of the log. However, the logs had seasoned enough to make it difficult to remove wood after slashing.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Slash scoring with the log turned 30 degrees added too much extra work.

I ended up cutting “V” notches about a 8 inches apart down the log side. The raised wood between the notches are called jogs or joggles. The joggles were removed close to the chalkline with my ax. The log floor joists were all in the 6-8 inch diameter range. Not large enough to stand on to cut notches with my long-handled felling ax. I stood on the opposite side of the log and cut notches using a 26 inch boy’s ax. Make sure that the notches go all the way to the line and are plumb through to the bottom of the log.

 Joggling or Juggling

Now is the time to remove the joggles. On these small logs, I used the grub bit of my double bit felling ax mostly. The 36 inch handle allowed me to swing almost upright, saving my back. Removing this excess wood can be the most dangerous part of the whole hewing process. A forceful swing is needed to knock off the protruding joggles. Be aware of where your legs and feet are before swinging.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I hewed several logs with my double bit only.

My most comfortable stance was to straddle the log with my right foot well to the right of the log. A slight bend at the waist and knees adds insurance that the ax will strike the ground and not my boot. The grub bit will strike the ground as it passes through the wood from time to time. Wood chips create a barrier between the bit and ground as the process continues.

A safer way to remove joggles is to rotate the log on the cribbing about 30 degrees (captured two photos above). A lateral swing (out of the frontal zone) is used with the log between you and the moving ax. You’ll need to re-plumb the log before hewing to the line.

Hewing

With a thin layer of wood (1/2 inch or less) proud of the chalkline, hewing begins. I used my broad ax on some, and the double bit felling ax on others. I’ve become fond of using the longer double bit even for hewing. It dealt with lighter’d knot better. I found that once the joists were rough-hewn with the double bit, I could set them in the sill log notches and comfortable hew high spots by swing horizontally with my broad ax. And it could be done while I sat on the adjacent joist.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hewing to the line with the double bit ax. This log was almost too short to use. Notice the ax-cut end almost makes a nice tenon.

The angle in which the double bit struck the wood had to be adjusted. It’s not a vertical swing like the broad ax. Once the angle is dialed in, the wood begins to slice off. I actually obtained smoother finishes using the double bit over the broad ax. I got closer to the chalkline as well. Keep in mind, this is rough-hewn lumber.

Mortise and Tenon

Before joists could be set, a level line was needed on the inside of the sill logs. Using a water level, I penciled in marks on all four corners. A chalkline was snapped to give me a level line on the two sill logs where the top of the joists would rest.

I marked the sill logs at 2 foot intervals for joist positions along the 12 foot walls. Mortise joints (pockets) were cut into the sill log with a 2 inch chisel and dogwood maul. The mortise pockets measured about 2″x4″. Each joist measurement, from pocket to pocket, was different. Working with round logs of differing diameter is entirely different from building with dimensional lumber.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The faint blue chalkline is still visible. This joist needed to be lowered. I switched to red chalk as it seemed to last longer.

Tenons were cut on the ends of each joist to match the mortise pockets. Joists were set and raised or lowered to meet the level line on the sill logs. A simple wedge of wood underneath or trim of the tenon did the trick.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mortises chiseled to 2″x4″ dimensions.

Leveling Joists

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The four-foot level on top of the aluminum bar extended my reach to four joists at once.

Though each joist tenon met the level line on the sill logs, rough-hewn logs will have high spots… at least from a hewer like me. I used a long piece of rectangular aluminum as a straightedge coupled with a 4′ level to ride atop four of the five joists. I moved the level from sill to sill checking for high spots and dips in the joists.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Close enough!

Taking a comfortable sitting position on an adjacent joist, I planed the high spots down with the broad ax. This was a great change of pace on how I typically swing this heavy hewing ax. Recheck level, plane, recheck, plane… until my OCD subsided. It’s close enough for an off-grid log cabin in the woods!

After shimming and shaving to level joists, I carved and drove wooden wedges into the mortise pockets to take away any wiggle that might be present in the joints. I’m following the same process for the front porch log joists. I’m running 3 long joists perpendicular to the living area joists with a girder underneath at the halfway point. The 6’x12′ front porch will provide hours of relaxing ambiance as creek water tumbles over rocks.

Dirt Poor Floor Joists for an Off Grid Log Cabin - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One more porch joist to add…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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: Doing the Stuff, Log Cabin, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists

by Todd Walker

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

As the song says, “I started out with nothing, and I’ve got most of it left.”

Those lyrics summed up my feelings since starting this log cabin project in February. I all I had to show for my effort was a bunch of skinned logs scattered through the woods and fields. That all changed this summer. Here’s the progress as of mid July…

Setting Sill Logs

I had my doubts about dry-stacked stone piers as my foundation. The largest sill log measured 14 inches in diameter by 18 feet long. A handy online log calculator estimated the weight for this one log to be 925 pounds. The stones/boulders were far from flat. I did my best to shim them with smaller stones to keep them steady.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry-stacked stone piers have supported log cabins for hundreds of years… but I had my doubts.

I spent way too much time with a water level trying to ensure all the piers were the same height. Round logs are not dimensional lumber. Get the stones close to the same height and lay logs on top.

In all honesty, my plan was to use only hand tools for this trial of self-reliance. Trees were felled and bucked with an ax, debarked with a bark spud and draw knife, and hauled to site by me as the mule pulling my LogRite Junior Arch… until I attempted to move those half-ton sill logs. A real mule was needed for this job.

My best friend Philip had just finished skinning the two sill logs when Allen, the land owner, walked up to visit. He told us he had just acquired a Kawasaki Mule. Perfect!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Philip taking a break after debarking one of the 925 pound sill log with the barking spud in the foreground.

Even with Junior hooked to the back-end of the Mule, the big sill logs were a beast to haul back to the cabin site. But it worked!

Log Lifting Tripod

Lifting close to a half a ton of wood, even a few feet off the ground, would require a lot of mechanical advantage using simple machines. Dead cedars were cut and lashed together to form a tripod. The largest leg/pole was about 6 inches in diameter. Standing this heavy tripod up by myself was like watching the Three Stooges. Wish I had filmed this for some comic relief.

Here’s the video of how I lashed the tripod for those interested…

After positioning the tripod over the heaviest sill log, I attached a four-to-one block and tackle system at the top of the tripod. Upon testing the pulley system, I could only lift the log a couple of inches. Not good. I quickly realized that, even if I was able to lift the log, I could not hold the log in place by myself and control the placement on the piers with precision. I needed a lifting device I could control when working alone. I bought a one-ton chain fall (hoist) for $60 the next day. This one tool revolutionized the job!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The chain fall rigged to the tripod made light work of heavy logs.

Our video below shows how maneuverable the logs are when choked at the balance point.

Sill Logs Notched and Set

I positioned the first sill log on the ground next to the piers to mark for notching. I made relief cuts with my bow saw on each mark about one inch deep. I used a boy’s ax to remove wood chips between the saw cuts. This produced a flat surface for the log to rest on the non-flat stone piers.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flat notches were cut using a buck saw and ax.

I re-choked the log with the tow strap near the bottom of the log. Lifting by myself with the chain fall, the log slowly turned until the notches faced down. Then the log was lifted to the height needed to be lowered onto the piers. On the way up, the log scraped the side of the piers toppling a few. I re-stacked them and lowered the log cautiously. They held up fine but had a touch of wobble. Small rock shims were inserted to steady the piers.

After months of preparation, the feeling of seeing a huge log off the ground and resting on rocks was pure excitement!

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first log up!

Square Corners

The next day I set the second log to create the first corner. How do you make corners square using different sized logs which are not even? Here’s how I did it…

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The corner nail is near the head of the hammer where the two chalk lines intersect. The tape measure forms the hypotenuse of the right triangle.

I’ve used the Pythagorean Theorem many times to square corners using dimensional lumber. You need straight lines for this to work. I popped a chalkline down the center of each log. I tacked a nail at the intersection where the two lines crossed in the corner. From that corner nail, I measured three feet down the chalkline and tacked another nail. On the other log, I measured four feet and drove in a nail. I lifted the second log just enough to allow me swing in or out until the distance from both nails measured five feet. This creates a 3-4-5 right triangle ensuring the logs are perpendicular in the corner. A 6-8-10 triangle would be more accurate, but I was by myself and didn’t want to stretch a tape measure 10 feet from nail to nail.

Tight-Pinned Corners

The Butt and Pass method requires no notches. Metal pins hold the logs together to create a sturdy, solid structure.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The brace and bit used to make pilot holes for the rebar pins.

 

I cut 1/2 inch rebar in 20 inch lengths at my shop. Back at the build site, I use a brace and bit to bore a 1/2 inch hole almost through the first log. Probably should drill all the way through but almost through seems to work. Now I drive the pin through the pilot hole and into the adjacent log. I started using a 6 pound sledge with a 36 inch handle. My accuracy suffered. The long handle also kissed my ribcage a few times while hammering bent over. We sawed the handle in half and found it to be the ticket.

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A twenty inch rebar pin hammered flush.

A note worth mentioning on driving pins. If you miss hit and bend the pin, stop. Straighten the pin as best as possible before pounding more. A bent pin will find its way through the side or top of the adjacent log. Once all four corners were pinned together, the sill logs became unbelievably steady on the piers.

Log Floor Joists

Log Cabin Update: Sill Logs and Hand-Hewn Floor Joists ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

3 of 5 log floor joists set in sill logs. I’ll explain the leveling process on our next article.

I’ve begun hewing log floor joists. Dimensional lumber would speed up the process but I want to use as many raw resources as possible on the cabin. One side of a log gets hewn flat and notched with tenons on both ends. The tenons will mate with mortises notched into the sill logs. I’ll do a more detailed article on what I’ve got planned for the floor system.

Until then, here’s our latest video on the floor system…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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: Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy

by Todd Walker

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

School is out for summer. Here’s a look in the rear view mirror at our first year of Project Based Learning at RISE Academy.

Our students and staff wish to thank each of you for the encouraging words, moral support, and following our journey of Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance! Below is a pictorial recap (picture-heavy) of the skills, projects, and links to more in-depth posts for those interested in learning these skills.

Cutting Tool Safety and Use

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Carving tent stakes.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Aware of his “blood circle”

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

How to safely chop kindling.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The draw knife was a hit with the students.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cutting rounds for “burn and scrape” spoons and bowls.

Related Links:

Outdoor Classroom Construction

Early in the school year, we decided to build an outdoor classroom. Nothing too fancy but functional for our needs. Students used math skills to square corners, learned to read a tape measure (fractions), and lashed the bamboo structure together. Their lashings held fast even through Hurricane Irma.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A lot of square lashings were tied.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A few of the crew.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Raising the roof

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The roof secured

Related Links:

The Science of Fire

We have a joke around school when I’m asked, “What are we doing today?” My typical response is, “Cutting and burning stuff.” You may not get it, but fire takes center stage in the life of our outdoor classroom. Learning to use fire as a tool is paramount for outdoor living and education.

Fire by Friction

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Double teaming the bow drill.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A hand drill coal blown into flame.

Related Links: 

Fire by Spark Ignition

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Birthing fire from flint and steel

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Practicing flint and steel ignition under an emergency tarp.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ferro rod fire in the rain

Related Link: 

Fire by Solar Ignition

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mr. Andrews demonstrating solar ignition

Practical Tools and Crafts

Burn and Scrape Containers

This may be the most mesmerizing of all the skills students learned.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Showing off burned bowls.

Bark Containers

Students used Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) bark to craft traditional containers.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stitching sides with artificial sinew.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A grape-vine was used as the rim on this basket.

Related Link:

Hoko Knife

A simple way to introduce primitive technology to students is to make a Hoko knife. This stone cutting tool was discovered on the Hoko River archeological site in Washington State. A landslide destroyed the native fishing village about 2,700 years ago preserving artifacts of their material culture.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The flint flake compressed in a split stick with natural cordage.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Some were wrapped with modern cordage (tarred mariner’s line).

Related Link:

Pine Pitch Glue

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pine pitch, charcoal, and a variety of containers to hold the glue.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Crushed charcoal added to the mix.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Heating the pitch glue low and slow.

Related Link: 

Natural Cordage

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Reverse twist cordage from cattail leaves.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cordage made from a variety of natural materials.

Related Link:

Atlatl

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.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice the bend in the dart shaft when thrown.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

She was proud of her accurate throws.

Related Links:

Campfire Cooking

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cooking over an open fire.

Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ms. Byrd enjoying s’mores before Christmas break.

Related Link:

I’ve also created a RISE Academy Playlist on our YouTube channel. if you’d like to see our students Doing the Stuff, click on the video link below:

Many Thanks!

The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.

~ Aristotle

We cannot thank you enough for all the support and encouragement you’ve given our students whom you’ve never met! The full impact of this journey in experiential education may never be known. It’s difficult to quantify. But you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice.

Some of you have asked how you might help in more tangible ways. Stay tuned for updates on becoming a partner/sponsor with RISE Academy. Until then…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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.

Photo and Video Credits: Many of the photos were taken by Mr. Chris Andrews (teacher) and various RISE students. Video footage was shot mainly by students and guided by Mr. Michael Chapman (teacher).

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, RISE Academy, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Which Camp Kool-Aid Do You Drink? Kit Dogma or Skill Cult?

by Todd WalkerWhich Camp Kool-Aid Do You Drink_ Kit Dogma or Skill Cult_ - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Snap! My ax handle was in two pieces. Now what? Would I sink or rise above a tool failure?

The good news is that my truck was a short walk from fixed camp. I crossed the creek, pulled a hill, and grabbed another ax from my truck. The day was saved.

Could I have made a stone ax? That’s a ridiculous notion seeing as how I was cutting a cord of firewood with an ax.

Every outing is different. People have different styles and tastes. Skill sets vary. I’m now knee-deep into building a log cabin in the woods with hand tools. You better believe I carry more than a knife and belt ax to the project. I bring what I need to make the job easier. Here are the most used tools at this stage of felling, bucking, and debarking logs…

  • Axes
  • Bark Spud
  • LogRite Jr. Arch
  • Cant Hook

Once the walls begin to be laid, my tool box will expand considerably. This cabin project isn’t a camping trip. An ax is the only tool from the above list that goes camping with me. Tools in your kit should be able to multitask but some are trip or mission specific. I have different kits depending on how I want to play in the woods.

The internet is full of proselytizers. One denomination promotes Kit Dogma. Others preach from the Skill Cult pulpit. If you don’t convert to one side or the other, you’ll be damned to hell if you’re ever in that dreaded “survival situation.” Can I get a witness!?

Note: When using the term “Skill Cult,” I’m not referring to Steven Edholm’s excellent YouTube channel and blog. While I can’t speak for Steven personally, I think he’d agree with me on the point I’m about to make. He uses and makes a variety of tools coupled with self-reliant skills for the stuff he’s doing. I highly recommend checking out his content if you haven’t already!

Kit Dogma vs Skill Cult

Believe it or not, grown men get their under britches in a wad over kit and skills. Virtual fist fights break out about the best knife, ax, saw, and get this, which trousers are best. The same is true if you ask which skill is most important to a woodsman. It’s a symphony of swollen egos chanting, “We’re NUMBER 1! We’re NUMBER 1!”

At what?

The internet has done us no favors in this department. New pilgrims see all this and think they have to pick sides. Failing to question the nonsense, they’re lured into the trap of conformity. And lists. And rules. And hero-worship.

The truth, however, will set you free!

Here’s the truth…

You need both kit and skill.

The pesky part of this truth is you must have a deep desire to learn how to use your kit to improve your skills through your experiences. This truth is the hardest for most of us to wrap our heart and hands around.

Kit Dogma

Dogmatic attitudes are displayed in more than just religion and politics. Beware of kit evangelists who aggressively enforce sacred cow gear.

Which kit items are essential? This begs another question… for what? What ya doing in the woods? Car camping, hiking, canoeing, backpacking, hunting, tramping, photography, fishing, primitive camping, foraging, Classic Camping, building shelter, etc., etc., … you get the picture.

Members of the ACORN Patrol at the 2017 Kephart Days. These folks know a thing or two about camp comforts.

Here’s a thought…

Bring what you need to the woods. No shame in packing the gear you need to match your skill level. Camp comfortably, no matter how many sacks of stuff it takes. This ain’t a competition. Play by your rules on your home field. With each trip to the field, you’ll figure out what to leave home or add on your next outing.

Marketers teach us, the consumer, why we should choose one product or service over competitors. I’ve heard some disgruntled woodsmen complain that Madison Avenue has set up shop in the woods. There’s nothing new about this trend. At the height of the Golden Age of Camping (1880-1930), Henry Ford, Abercrombie & Fitch, Duluth Pack, Pendleton, and others made lots of money selling sporting goods to outdoorsmen. Young’uns are shocked when I point out the history behind the expensive “A&F” logo on their apparel.

Let’s be honest, we’re all gear junkies to some extent. It’s easy to miss the point of kit collections. All this stuff is just shiny gadgetry unless we anchor them to the landscape with skills. Our lineage always leads us back to the land.

Through years of camping, my constant companions have been my ax and knife. There aren’t many tools which have enhanced my comfort around the campfire more than these. Of course, my trusty thumb drill (Bic lighter) is always in my pocket. No, I don’t always use primitive friction fire methods. Yes, I have backup fire-makers depending on my intentions. Some hardcore folk may frown upon this dependable open flame, but, again, match your kit with your skill level.

Here’s something else to keep in mind concerning kit selection. A YouTuber unboxes a tool and talks fit and finish. Don’t bristle, it’s just that I’ve never found “shiny object” reviews to provide practical help. Videos of someone actually using the tool in the field is better, but not enough. I need to wrap my hands around it and see how it fits my needs.

Skill Cult

My interests range from Stone Age technology to modern camping. And I have kits to fit this wide spectrum.

I’ll confess that I lean heavily toward skill cult. This doesn’t discount the need for quality gear in my journey. I’m all about buying/making dependable gear that fits me and suits the stuff I’m doing.

My blue-collar overland rig is a roof top tent atop a homemade utility truck body. One of the reasons I love this trailer is that it reminds me of Daddy’s old 1970 model GMC plumbing/welding truck. With calloused hands, he taught me the lessons of his trade, work ethic, and the value of a hard days work.

Set up at the Georgia Bushcraft Spring Gathering.

My working-man upbringing translates well into outdoor living skills. It takes hard work and patience to not only develop these skills, but keep them in proper context.

I’ve found in my experience that when skills grow, kits shrink. Practicing primitive skills may seem silly to modern campers. However, these primal first skills are the common denominator linking us to our past and the land. Making fire by twirling sticks together, for instance, takes careful attention to detail on every step of the fire-making process. That’s the practical part of primitive fire. The priceless piece is the flame lit in my soul.

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

Which skills are essential for your camp? However you answer, the essence of our discussion here is the context of how these skills (and kits) relate to you and your wilderness.

These are my baseline recommendations. Your camping style may differ…

A chuck box passed down to one of our Scouts from his grandfather.

On your journey from tenderfoot to thoroughbred camper, remember, don’t drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. Discover your essential kit items, through actual experience, which will enhance the skills necessary to sleep at night in your wild places.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestYouTubeInstagram, 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: 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, equipment, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 17 Comments

How to Mitigate the 6 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work

by Todd Walker

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Photo credit: Casey Deming, GeorgiaBushcraft.com

On the heels of my ax-work classes at the Georgia Bushcraft Spring Gathering, I wanted to cover some of the risks of swinging a tree clever. It’s our job to mitigate some of the risk. Even then, accidents happen.

At the Gathering, my buddy, Karl, shared a recent ax injure he incurred when his ax glanced from the wood he was splitting. He graciously, or not so gracious if you have a weak stomach, allowed me to share his injure here for educational purposes.

********* WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF BLOOD AND A OPENED FOOT **********

The ax glanced and struck Karl on the top of his left foot severing one bone completely and halfway through the second bone.

The two bones circled took the brunt of the blow.

A nasty ax gash.

Shoes, even leather boots, aren’t much of a deterrent to a sharp ax.

Stitched and cleaned up.

The photos above make it crystal clear how dangerous a moving ax can be. However, not all injuries to wood choppers come from the business end of the ax meeting flesh, or from negligence. Trees don’t always cooperate. They’re known to drop dead limbs on unsuspecting victims below. Trees and axes are not to blame. They do what they do without malice or remorse.

Taking an ax to the woods with the intent of chopping is serious business. 99% of my ax work is done alone in the woods. Even though I try to employ best-practices, the risk of becoming a victim is always in the forefront of my mind. I’m no expert and my ax-related advice should not be trusted but verified through experience.

5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work

Vernon Law is credited with saying, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”

We can never eliminate all the dangers of swinging an ax. We can only lessen the gravity of missing the mark through commonsense risk management. The good news is… true repentance will change your actions, and, hopefully, save you from the pain of these painful mistakes.

1.) Arrogance

“Only the penitent man shall pass.” ~ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The toughest woodsman is no match for tonnes of wood crashing to the forest floor. Even a wrist-size limb falling from 50 feet above can crush a shoulder or skull. While toughness is a fine virtue, be humble. The moment an axman approaches his work with superiority and a been-there-done-that attitude is the moment he gets blindsided.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confident ax skills inspire. Arrogance will get you hurt or killed. This holds true more so for seasoned axmen than beginners, and, in my experience, men over women.

2.) Entanglements and Hang Ups

Any obstruction in the ax swing arc must be cleared before work begins. Check overhead for nearby limbs and vines which may snag and deflect an ax in mid swing. I’m obsessive about removing the smallest twig when standing on top of logs to buck. I figure if I’m swinging inside my frontal zone (described below) inches from my feet, I can’t afford a stroke to veer.

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A screen shot from a recent video of an overhead limb which snagged my ax.

Fell enough trees and you’ll have one hang up mid-fall. My first strategy, if the tree butt didn’t release from the hinge, is to try to free it from the stump. Some times the impact on the ground will jar the hang up loose. If not, I’ve had some success moving the butt of the tree backward using a long lever pole. Place the lever under the butt end and lift repeatedly to slide the tree butt backwards until it releases.

A safer and less strenuous way is to use a come-along attached to an anchor behind the tree stump. Without a modern come-along, a powerful winch can be made from two logs and a rope/cable. Ratchet the tree butt until it releases. You may be tempted to cut the offending tree which caused the hang up. This is a high-risk endeavor. Be sure to have all your medical/life insurance up to date. You and/or your surviving family will likely need it.

One hazard I hope to never encounter again was the yellow jacket sting between my eyes on my downward stroke in the video below. You’re only defense is to run like you stole something!

3.) No Exit Strategy

When felling trees with an ax or saw, preparing two or three escape routes is wise. When the tree begins its decent, get out of Dodge on a pre-determined path. The safest exit is at 30 degree angles from the back notch of the tree. Put your back against the tree and extend your arms like you’re about to give your mama a hug. Your arms are pointing to your best escape paths. Next safest is in a line opposite of the direction of fall. If this path is chosen, or the only option, put great distance between you and the stump to prevent a kickback from nailing your body to the ground.

Escaping perpendicular to the line of fall increases the risk of being struck by falling limbs from adjacent trees. I’ve witnessed trees “jump” and roll several feet to the side of the stump hinge by contacting adjacent tree limbs during the fall. Another overlooked danger is a dead spot halfway up the tree which breaks and falls back toward the woodsman as the bottom half falls in the direction of its lay. Be vigilant, drop your ax, and sprint for your life.

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fortunately this log snapped halfway up and fell sideways from where I was standing.

4.) Violating the Frontal Zone

There are two basic ax swings: lateral and vertical. Certain guidelines should be followed for each swing. Take a look at the diagram below to better understand your frontal zone.

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. The inertia of an ax in full, extended-arm swing only stops when acted upon by an external force. The ax head has a stopping point, and that point could be your body if you disregard the frontal zone guidelines.

There are two relatively “safe” strokes one can make within the frontal zone: a.) backed up, and b.) bucking. The backed up stroke is what beginning choppers are most familiar – splitting wood on a chopping block. The solid chopping block offers a backstop for the moving ax. Of course, as in Karl’s case above, there remains inherit dangers. Watch our video below to gain some safety tips for splitting firewood, the most common ax-work of campers and homesteaders.

Bucking is simply separating a log into lengths. The diameter of the log to be bucked determines my technique. Larger diameter logs (12+ inch range) allow me to stand on top to cut two V notches. Swings are always below my feet. If I miss my intended target below my feet, my body is out of harms way.

I stand on the ground to buck smaller diameter logs. The log itself is my back up. Accuracy is essential at the top of the bucked notch when your feet are on the ground. Even though the log is between you and your legs, miss the top of the notch and you now have a non-backed up swing in the frontal zone… and a very bad ending.

Another video of ours demonstrates the importance of accuracy on the top of notch cuts when bucking on the ground…

A third stroke in the frontal zone, which I’ll mention, but do not recommend, is the most dangerous and best performed with a saw. Situations arise where a high limb needs to be removed. My risk management strategy is to choke up on my ax handle with one hand and strike the limb at a 45 degree angle without completely severing the limb. A few lighter followup blows usually separates the limb. My forward hand gives me more breaking power as the ax follows through.

5.) Washed in the Blood

“All bleeding eventually stops. The challenge is stopping blood loss before the supply runs out.”

~ Mark DeJong, Off Grid Medic

Injuries related to axes and trees can be deadly. A first aid kit should be in close proximity to your work area. One item which you should consider carrying on your person is a tourniquet. If a catastrophic ax wound occurs where sever bleeding will result in death, this is your only option to see your family again. Practice applying this device on your own body before you actually need it.

A personalized first aid kit will treat the most common injuries such as scrapes, bumps, blisters, and bruises. I carry large sterile bandages, gauze rolls, and Band-Aids. My tourniquet fits in my cargo pocket of my kilt or pants. A few other items I include in my ziplock first aid bag are:

  • Acetaminophen for pain
  • Wound dressing
  • Tweezers and needle – mostly for tick removal, ugh
  • Aspirin, proven to assist in heart attack treatment
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for stinging/biting insects – plantain isn’t always available in the woods and I don’t react well to stings
  • This ziplock first aid kit rides in my haversack along with other kit items for core temperature control and comfort – more info on these items can be found here

6.) Losing Your Head

A sharp hunk of steel flying freely through space is a scary sight… if you happen to spot it. It’s like shooting an arrow straight overhead and wondering where it will stick. Ax heads give an ample warning to observant axmen. A slight gap appears where the ax eye was seated on the handle. Continuing work with this slight slippage is full of hazards. Stop, re-seat the head, and pound a metal step wedge into the top of the handle. My working axes aren’t pretty, but they are tightly fit cutting tools.

How to Mitigate the 6 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Step wedges added in the field on my favorite double bit. Looks gnarly but hold this working ax head on securely.

Don’t lose your head! Take great care to keep your ax sharp and securely attached to the handle.

If you’re even slightly tempted by any of these deadly sins, put your ax down before you meet your Maker.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes

by Todd Walker

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Photo credit: Didi Davis

Less than a century ago, woodsmen skilled with an ax could chop wood all day and return to do it again, day after day. They were held in high esteem and highly sought after. Power saws and combustion engines sent yesteryear’s axes to hang on old barn walls. Today the usefulness of axes seems to be limited to splitting firewood… or, for the lumber sexual, as boutique wall-hangers.

How you choose to acquire wood is up to you. However, the steps of cutting timber hasn’t changed. A tree must be felled, limbed, bucked, and hauled. Like other aficionados of working axes, I enjoy experimenting with the potential of our most under-appreciated tool in the woods.

It doesn’t take long for the ax handle to transmit to an inexperienced axman’s brain, and his muscular system, that brute force only dulls the functionality of this tool. Fatigue and frustration are the result. And injury is not far behind. There are no secrets to becoming a proficient axman. However, there are a few techniques and strategies I’ve learned over the years which may shorten the learning curve.

Giving unsolicited advice is not my thing. But if you’d like to continue, here’s my take on thick ax handles, brute force, and working axes.

Heavy, Stupid, and Unreasoning

Watching a beginner axman swing is painful. I cringe when I think back on some of my early ax work. But ax-manship can only be improved through swinging sharp steel on the end of a stick. Like any other skill, practice makes permanent; whether good or bad.

When asked to coach someone new to the art of ax work, I try to convey the two types of force used – finesse and brute force. The origin of the word brute comes from the Latin word brutus, meaning “heavy, stupid, unreasoning.” Set the macho aside in ax work and you get a beautiful, rhythmic relationship between the wood and axman.

Muscling through wood is a white-knuckle affair. I broke my favorite double bit handle last year, not by over-strike or mishit, but by stupidly applying my full force throughout initial contact. The handle was thin, flexible, and a joy to use. Brute force ended its usefulness. It is now taped together and serves as a pattern when thinning down fat factory double bit handles.

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bucking eastern red cedar with the tuned handle on my best double bit.

Simply reducing my forward force just before the moment of impact would have allowed the inertia of the axhead to do the work. Giving that extra “push” through the strike does more harm than good. You’ll not only save ax handles, you’ll reduce some shock sent up the handle. A thinner handle flexes to help absorb and reduce the beating on your body. At least that has been my experience. Wielding an ax with brute force is not how the old timers lasted all day, day after day. This type of finesse is seldom mentioned or passed down to inexperienced axmen.

The resurgence of interest in axes is encouraging to see in outdoorsy groups. Axes are chic, sexy, and scary – all reasons we like them. The novice buys a high dollar ax and proceeds to break the fat factory handle, even after adding a bulky leather over-strike collar. Handle manufactures compensate for low Ax I.Q. with fatter handles. And then again, the age of working axes was so long ago that even commercial handle makers have no reference point as to what a handle should look like and feel like in the hands.

Thicker, modern handles are not the cure. Wrapping your hands around these clubs makes the uninitiated think they’ll never break. Stephen Edholm makes a logical argument (from actual experience with working axes) for thinner handles in the video below. Anyone who chopped all day with an ax will echo the same.

No replacement handle I’ve ever bought in recent memory was ready to hang and go to work. To be fair, there may be some turnkey handles out there. I’ve never found them. I either make my own or customize the club-like handles from hardware stores. Then there’s the rare occasion of finding that forgotten ax at an antique store or yard sale grandpa used before the chainsaw came along.

You can see the noticeable difference between the modern and old working ax handle below.

Power vs Finesse

On occasion, I have split toothpicks (Stim-U-Dent – matchstick size toothpicks) with my ax. I don’t say this to brag. It is, however, a lesson in muscle memory, striking where I look, and relaxing at the end of my swing. Knowing I’m not chopping heavy wood, I began to notice that I was unconsciously easing up about halfway into the downward arc of my natural swing. As a result, I’d hit my mark more times than not.

Brute Force vs Finesse: The Art of Working Axes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Striking where you look.

The human brain is a beautimus, complicated computer. Since few people actually use axes, baseball may help illustrate the point. A pitcher doesn’t aim the baseball as it leaves his outstretched arm. The ball is thrown, not aimed. There’s a significant difference in the two. The same goes for batting. I coached my players to throw their hands at the ball. This is oversimplified. But the brain tells a player when to grip the bat tightly and when to relax the grip. A death grip at the beginning of the swing tightens the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and upper torso causing the swing to be herky jerky. As a result, accuracy plummets since the “flow” is lost. Through years of drills, coordination, practice, and timing, batters learn that aiming won’t hit the target.

I don’t aim my ax. I look at the exact spot I want my blow to land. I then throw my hands through an imaginary plane from my nose to the small target. My only swing thought is “strike where I look.” My natural, controlled swing gets the job done more efficiently. Once you can strike where you look, power will follow accuracy.

Accuracy and Precision

Wasted ax strikes are frustrating and exhausting. Making every blow count takes a combination of accuracy and precision. At first glance, the two words seem the same. But in my world of teaching math and science, they have different meanings. Let’s apply them to working axes.

Accuracy is how close you come to the desired result. Precision is how consistently you get the same result using the same method. Translated to ax-manship, does my swing hit the target and is it consistent enough to repeatedly hit the target?

When bucking, I try to overlap each cut in a three to four swing pattern (depending on log diameter) down the face of the log. This overlapping pattern opens wood fibers to help prevent the ax bit from get stuck in the wood. Repeat this cutting pattern one double bit length wide from the first line of cuts. If accuracy and precision is dialed in, chips the size of the notch will go flying.

Developing accuracy and precision with working axes is like hauling logs, you gotta really want to do it. There’s not a lot of finesse in log hauling.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butt and Pass Style Log Cabin

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

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

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

This cabin has a stone basement.

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

Five foot eves help keep water off the logs.

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

A good shot of the butt and pass corner style.

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

Self-Reliance on Trial

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

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

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

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

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

Progress Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two debarked logs.

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

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

Tom Sawyer would be so proud!

I even have my school students convinced…

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Tree to Table: Building Live Edge Dining Room Furniture 

by Todd Walker

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

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

From Tree to Table

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

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

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

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

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

Mill Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ripping Live Edge Lumber

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

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

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

Straight edges ripped on the lumber.

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

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

Joining the Table Top

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

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

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

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

Table Frame

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

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

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

A simple H frame attached for legs.

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

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

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

Hole Filler Fiasco 

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

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

Remnants of painters tape outlining ‘clear’ Gorilla epoxy.

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

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

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

Table Top Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, Dirt Road Girl!

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: