Author Archives: Survival Sherpa

If You Build it, They Will Come

by Todd Walker

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’m not one to ask for help often. But I’m glad I did. They kept showing up in the Georgia heat and humidity ready to sweat through 90+ degree temperatures.

The Crew disassembled the log cabin in one day at the end of June. Once the logs were moved to the new site, I started putting the puzzle back together. I managed to stack 7 courses on the sill logs before The Crew reached out and scolded me for not extending an invitation sooner. “All ya gotta do is ask.” I’m still amazed, but shouldn’t be, that they keep coming to this party. True friends do that, ya know.

Now we’re to the point of needing metal for the roof. Here’s a look at the progress since my last log cabin update (July 31, 2019).

 Stacking Wall Logs

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Just before The Crew showed up.

Re-assembling the wall logs was like a paint by numbers set. Dianne had labeled the logs before we took it down. It was just a matter of putting numbers back where we found them on the walls.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff and I swinging “Good Times” to secure logs with rebar pins.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two 21 foot plate logs finished up the walls.

Setting the Ridge Pole

I dreaded this task. I wasn’t sure if the plan would work. How could we get a 21 foot log over thirteen feet above the floor, balanced and secured atop two vertical ridge pole support logs?

Turns out that raising the ridge pole (RP) may have been the easiest part of the build. We cut and peeled two ridge pole support logs (RPSL) and attached them to the back and porch walls with 1/2″ all-thread rod. The poles reached about 5 feet above the plate logs to give me the pitch I wanted for the roof.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Peeling the freshly cut ridge pole support logs with draw knives.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Lifting the second ridge pole support log into place on the front porch.

We attached 2×6’s to the top of each RPSL as temporary lifting poles. A 2×6 spacer board was screwed between the RP and the temporary lifting pole. This would give the space needed for the RP to rest on the center of the RPSL’s when lifted in place. Two chain falls were secured to the 2×6 lifting poles before the RPSL’s were lifted into place.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ridge pole secured on front porch wall.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

All-thread in a counter-sunk hole which will be plugged with wood.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Chain falls ready for lifting.

We predrilled holes for the rebar pins in the RP before lifting. With rigging in place, we slowly lifted the RP to the top of the RPSL’s. This went smoother than I could have imagined. JT aligned his end and drove a rebar pin through the RP into the RPSL with 3 inches of rebar above the RP. The 3 inches of rebar was bent over on top of the RP for added holding power.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

JT pinning the ridge pole in place.

Even though we measured hole placement on the RP, my end was 4 inches short of center on the RPSL. I re-drilled my end from the scaffolding we built. I drove in my rebar to secure the RP. Time for much needed break!

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The ridge pole once the temporary lifting poles and chain falls were removed.

Rafters

I had originally planned to use log rafters and log gables on this project. However, with all the delays we encountered with the disassembly and reassembly, I opted for dimensional lumber to expedite the process. This is just a practice cabin, by the way.

We sank a deck screw in two of the 2″x6″x14′ laid out at a 45 degree angle. The screw allowed the boards to “scissor” on top of the RP as we rested the tails on the top plate logs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Staging rafters over the ridge pole and top plate logs.

We slid the rafters down the RP and set them on 2 foot centers. We eyeballed the first rafter’s placement on the plate logs and toe-nailed it into place. I probably should have sawn the RP and plate logs flat to get a level run on the rafters. To correct the situation, we’ll have to lift or lower individual rafters at the top plate logs as needed. There’s always challenges when using dimensional lumber on raw logs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff snapped this shot after we ran out of lumber for rafters.

Gable Framing

The gables, as mentioned earlier, will be dimensional lumber. I’m not sure what I’ll use for sheathing the gables. A few ideas are floating in my head.

A top plate log needed to be installed between the long porch plate logs. We skinned a log, measured and cut to length, and pinned it. We used two of the original ax-hewn floor joists from the first build to vertically support the cross member.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jeff and JT doing the heavy lifting on the cross member.

We laid two rafter boards flat over the RP to create a top plate for the gable studs. We started framing under the RP and worked our way out to the plate logs with 2×6 studs. Dianne did a fine job of cutting bevels and lengths for the studs.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This pics shows the flat 2×6 top plate studded up from the inside of the porch.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Gable view from the outside of the porch.

If You Build it, They Will Come - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The Crew on gable day!

The sleeping loft will be above the porch where The Crew is standing. Like most of the plans on this project, we’ll figure it out as we go.

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: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Log Cabin, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin… Again

by Todd Walker

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Three 21 foot logs, the crowning roof logs, lay on the ground debarked with pine sap oozing like beads of sweat. They would serve as my ridge pole and two top plate logs. Then it happened…

The landowner’s son, my good friend, walked to the cabin site and told me that the family was putting the land up for sale. I was shocked, not so much about the fate of my “practice” log cabin, but because he was raised on this beautiful land his entire life. He apologized about all the work that I had put into the cabin.

“It’s a practice cabin, buddy,” I said.

A year and a half of felling, bucking, skinning, stacking and pinning logs together. My options were limited. Let it sit unfinished and eventually rot to the ground. Or move it. DRG and I moved to the property across the road just a few months ago. Yep, that would be its new location.

Weeks before the news, I had arranged a work day with a group of our friends to finish up the walls. The building party turned into a demolition day. Each log was labeled and numbered to make reassembling the log puzzle less confusing. Stick by stick, the team worked all day to tear down 1.5 years of work, some of which they helped build.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Many thanks to these fine friends on demolition day!

Deja vu

After the dust settled, the job of rebuilding began. I figured reassembly would take less time. I was right.

Foundation

I decided to go back with dry-stack stone piers for the foundation. This would save money since the land had plenty of stones for stacking. Boulders I couldn’t physically lift, there were several, I used my rope come-a-long to inch them onto a trailer. My friend’s tractor would have made this task a breeze, but it was in the shop for repairs.

One lesson learned from the first stone foundation was I didn’t need to be exact on stacking each pier. I got them close to level using a water level and tweaked them as needed once the sill logs were on top. Dimensional lumber would require each pier to be exactly the same height. If you enjoy putting puzzles together, this job is for you.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Dry-stack piers

Sill Logs

I needed to start stacking logs. The challenge was to transport the two 1,000 pound, 18 foot sill logs from the previous site to their new home. My log hauling operation consisted of Donkey Kong (4-wheeler) and Junior (LogRite Arch). This duo had successfully hauled all the other cabin logs across the creek, up a 75 yard incline which makes young men huff and puff, and across the road to my place.

I crossed my fingers and headed toward the creek with a sill log in-tow. Donkey Kong crossed the creek and stalled with its front tires off the ground. The opposite end of the long log was stuck on the other side of the creek. I knew then that I was in for a long afternoon of winching up a steep hill. After five winching episodes, we made it to the top! And in 90+ degree Georgia heat with high humidity. I was soaked.

I rebuilt my lifting tripod at the new site, hung the chain fall, and started setting sill logs. The first row is important and takes the longest to get set. To square the corners, the Pythagorean Theorem was used to form a 3-4-5 triangle at each corner.

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

From the first build: 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.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Five sill logs set and squared at the new site.

Log Courses Going Up

Before disassembling the cabin, each log was labeled to make putting it back together a no-brainer. It’s like paint by numbers.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Logs staged in order for assembly.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

A fine sight!

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Four rows complete!

Every log you see was felled and bucked with an ax, with a few back cuts using a one-man hand saw. Logs were debarked with a barking sud or draw knife. Most of the assembly on the original site was done with a brace and bit and sledge hammer. I chose this pioneer method the first time around. On the rebuild, I’m running power tools with a generator. The use of modern tools has sped up the process considerably. I even have a shop fan to move hot air around the new site.

Floor Joists

Those who have followed this log cabin build may remember the hand-hewn log floor joists on the first build. I made the decision to abandon this floor system. Why? Two reasons…

  • During disassembly, we discovered that one sill log notched to accept the floor joists had significant decay. This log came from a dead-standing pine tree which seemed to be solid. I opted to replace it with another log.
  • Even if the sill log had remained solid, I quickly realized that the alignment of the two notched sill logs had to be perfect to accept the hewn log joists.

Pressure treated lumber was used as joists. It was cheaper on some boards than non-treated. Plus, I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get a roof over the cabin. The old plywood subfloor was salvaged and tacked on the new joists as temporary flooring.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Shimmed and screwed rim joists.

Installing flat boards on round logs had a few challenges. There are gaps between the two, some almost 1.5 inches. I used shims to keep the 2×8’s rim joists plumb. Six inch screws secured the joists where large gaps appeared. Joist hangers were set on 16 inch centers for the 10 foot run on the floor.

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

Temporary flooring with lifting tripod .

Deja vu: Building an Off-Grid Log Cabin... Again

The front porch joists are 2×6’s to cover a span of less than 6 feet.

We’ll keep practicing until we finish this log cabin. We’ve been here before.

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, Log Cabin, Self-reliance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

BANGARANG! Lost Boys Grow Meat in the Ground

by Todd Walker

BANGARANG! Lost Boys Grow Meat in the Ground - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I couldn’t believe what a student told me in Science class a few years back!

“You grow meat in the ground.”

What!?

I fought back the urge to laugh. He was dead serious. Clearly, “No Child Left Behind” wasn’t working, or was it. We’re all ignorant on certain subjects, but growing meat in the ground?

This was not a joke or prank like asking a plumbing apprentice to fetch the pipe stretcher off the truck.

His alienation from the real world was all too evident, alarmingly so, as he truly believed what he believed. I dug deeper. He said, as if this was common knowledge, “They (rancher-farmer) buy meat, like rib eye, unwrap the plastic, and bury the steak in the ground like garden seeds. It grows and farmers pick it, re-wrap it in plastic and people buy it in the grocery store.”

Yup, this conversation happened. It felt like the scene from Neverland in the movie Hook. I was in the middle of a rainbow-colored food fight with the Lost Boys screaming BANGARANG!!

My ‘Lost Boy’ had never been to a farm. Ever. He’s not alone. The complete lack of hands-on experience with the real world, not the electronic variety, is at epic levels.

Students stitching bark baskets.

Our children have lost a vital, primal connection with nature, the real world. They suffer from a condition called Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).

The term coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, is a result of our plugged-in culture which keeps kids and adults indoors. On average, kids spend 1,200 hours per year staring at electronic screens. The disconnect from nature goes against what human brains are hard-wired to experience… the Great Outdoors!

Research shows that children who learn and play outdoors are enriched personally and academically in many ways:

  • Improved attention spans
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Increased academic success
  • Improved reading comprehension
  • Higher levels of self-discipline, language and social skills

The cure for NDD is simple. Get outside.

“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.” – HORACE KEPHART, Camping and Woodcraft, 1917

From personal experience with my oldest grandson, introducing him to woodcraft skills created a hunger to get outside. After his first hike to my fixed camp in the woods, he was noticeably anxious. Within 15 minutes of settling in, he turned to me and said, “Ya know Pops, I don’t feel so scared now.”

Professionally, I’ve witnessed transformations in students diagnosed with all sorts of three and four-letter ailments. This study reinforces my observations. Students who struggle to function inside the four-walled school-house seem to thrive outdoors. I’d argue that all students, especially those who willingly conform to the box-mentality, need to go wild.

The Hand-Brain Connection

Instead of swiping a finger over a pad, children need to touch dirt, clay, wood, leather, fibers, animals, hand tools, and day-old campfire charcoal. Using fingers and hands to manipulate tools to create useful things from nature’s resources builds the relationship with the real world. Hands-on learning with reflection on the act of doing the stuff gives a depth of experience no book or screen can offer. Experience is the rocket fuel for learning.

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

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

Other research shows that working with our hands makes our brain happy. Cutting tree bark, boring holes with an awl, and stitching sides to make a berry basket develops dexterity, a physical skill lacking in our smart-phone culture. Looking at an actual physical thing you created with your hands has rewards beyond the crafted item. The importance is not so much the product but the active practice and engagement.

Junior high shop class supplemented the hands-on education I caught from helping my daddy in his plumbing and welding business. I use the term “caught” since that’s how Daddy passed on his trade skills. Mr. Johnson, our shop teacher, taught us how to use all the cool power tools in that dusty cinderblock classroom. And we made stuff, some of which I still have to this day. No bloody fingers were left on the table of that monstrous radial arm saw either. Helicopter parenting was not a thing during the Nixon Administration.

The tree stump in front of our single-wide trailer must have had a coffee can of nails sunk into it. I’d sit there and smash steel, and my thumb occasionally, into wood grain like it was my job. I was 8 or 9 at the time and content to “waste” nails. The repetitions served me well on a few tree houses in my youth, and the subfloor in our new house Daddy built in 1975.

There are still Lost Boys out there shouting BANGARANG!, out of touch with the real world. There was, and I still have hope that there can be, a generation of boys and girls who fixed their own flat bike tires, carried pocket knives to the woods, picked rows of butter beans, and were content to be swallowed up by nature.

What if we could grow bacon on vines? I digress.

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, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Real World Secrets of Stalking and Tracking Wild Animals

by Todd Walker

My legs felt like a bowl of jello sliding down an old wash board. I crouched in a non-human silhouette stalking in Ultra Slow Motion. A twig beneath my foot snapped and my prey jolted his head toward the sound. I froze and hoped my screaming quadriceps would support my motionless body until he dipped his head to graze again.

What was my prey? A deer realistically mimicked by our instructor, Mark Warren. This was my first of several classes I’ve attended at Medicine Bow in the north Georgia mountains.

I discovered Mark and his primitive school of earthlore from reading his first book, “Two Winters in a Tipi: My Search for the Soul of the Forest.” With every turn of the page, I knew I had unearthed a rare gem in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. That was over three years ago. To date, Mark has published his fourth volume of “Secrets of the Forest” and two books in a historical novel trilogy on “Wyatt Earp: An American Odyssey.” These books reflect Warren’s lifelong pursuits as a naturalist, instructor of Cherokee survival skills, and wild west history.

Over a year ago, I shared my thoughts on the first book in the Secrets of the Forest series, calling it, “The Best Outdoor Education Book I’ve Read.”  I should amend my statement to include volumes II and III in my assessment. Knowing Mark’s passion for archery and canoeing, the last volume in the series, which I’ve yet to read, I’ll bet he saved the best for last. For now, I want to highlight Volume III…

Eye to Eye with the Animals in the Wild and At Play in the Wild

The opening of this article was one of many exercises our class took part of in a two-day class at Medicine Bow. Reading this volume brought back my Real World experience as vividly as the day I studied a one-foot square plot of earth for slight changes Mark secretly made. Revisiting my field notes from the Stalking and Tracking class reveled just how much knowledge and experience had been shared that weekend. However, I had one regret – not taking better notes. Not a problem. I now have at my fingertips his many years of experience in a beautifully illustrated, photographed, and written field guide.

Who would benefit from this book?

The obvious benefit is for hunters pursuing game with traditional archery equipment. Hunting an animal with primitive weapons requires that one be as close as possible to the intended prey. In doing so, an ethical hunter shows respect and thanksgiving to the animal for providing nourishment and many sustainable resources.

Observers and photographers of wild animals would do well to practice stalking and tracking. Many phantoms of the forest you’ve only dreamed of capturing in your lens will appear when practicing these techniques. No telephoto lens required.

Anyone wishing to challenge their physical prowess should add stalking to their workout regimen. The level of functional fitness needed to stalk wild animals is different from any sport or recreational activity I’ve ever experienced. Mark told us that martial artists found the most success of anyone attending his stalking class. Even more so than professional athletes.

The main benefit I personally received under Mark’s instruction was the complete immersion in nature. Slowing down to a snail’s pace uncovered small, “invisible” wilderness details unnoticed when trekking full speed with human locomotion.

I approached this otter family to within 15 feet as they fed on crawdads in the creek.

An analogy Mark used was that of a rock tossed into a pond. The impact ripples to every shoreline. A stalker’s task is to minimize the wake in the animal’s living space. One’s goal is to become part of the “wild” world and not merely a visitor.

“Stalking and tracking are symbiotic. Tracking teaches where to stalk. Stalking teaches how to interpret a nuance in a track.”  ~ Mark Warren

Real World Secrets of Stalking and Tracking Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mark describing details to a young student during our tracking class.

Educators will find lessons, exercises, and games throughout this volume. In our age of electronics, parents have the challenge of disconnecting kids from devices and coax them into trading virtual screens for forest streams. Mark offers hundreds of ways to make this transition fun, educational, and experiential.

If you are searching to find a unique gift for someone special this Christmas, I would recommend checking the book link at Medicine Bow. I’ve not found a more comprehensive book detailing the lost art of tracking and stalking.

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, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox

by Todd Walker

The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The human love affair with fire is intimate and ancient. Over the flames we cook, celebrate, spin tales, dream, and muse in the swirls of wood smoke. Fire is life. Its warming glow draws us like moths to a flame.

It’s not a stretch to believe that a Stone Age chemist recognized the idea of using carbon for future fires. Disturbing the leftover carbon ashes from the night fire, she stares at sparkles of light glowing like the pre-dawn stars above. She carefully nurses a baby “star” back to life to warm her hearth and home.

It ain’t rocket surgery. Even cavemen knew the importance of the sixth most abundant element in the universe.

Carbon and Future Fires

The game of chasing lightning strikes for each fire was no longer required. This unreliable practice was abandoned for twirling sticks together to create enough heat to initiate the combustion of blackish, carbonized dust. Even with a dependable friction fire apparatus, a more elemental plan was stumbled upon for their next fire. Carbon was the caveman catalyst for future fires.

The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Carbonized dust glowing from friction.

Charcoal speeds up that wonderful exothermic reaction of combustion. Align a convex lens perpendicular to full sun on different non-charred tinder material. Smoke will rise in a minute. Do the same with charred material and a glowing ember is birthed in seconds. Weak flint and steel sparks produce the same glow.

When material containing carbon is heated without enough oxygen, charred material is the result. We teach our students to make char cloth at school. One side of the Fire Triangle is neglected by heating material in a closed chamber (Altoids tin). [I have a class set of Altoids tins stored in an old cassette tape container. Only a few students have ever heard of these “ancient” musical devices.] The lid hinge vents the volatile gases as the material is heated. When baked, the black charred material takes a spark from flint and steel.

Un-Burned Carbon in Ashes

Over the years, David West sparked my interest in the role of wood ash impregnated in tinder through his experiments on his channel. View his entire Ashed Tinder Playlist here. This, my pyro friends, has been a game-changer for me. Rubbing wood ash on any tinder material accelerates the combustion process.

Saving wood ash from previous fires has become an important part of my fire kit. A few years ago at a Georgia Bushcraft Gathering, I had a young kid ask during a Rudiger Roll (fire roll) demonstration why I added ashes to the cotton ball before rolling between the two boards. I had no real scientific explanation. I just did what I saw David West do.

Here’s my theory. Though wood ash looks nothing like charcoal, enough non-burned carbon remains in ash to significantly lower the temperature required to ignite tinder. Saturating any un-charred tinder (inner bark, jute twine, plant fiber, cotton material) with wood ash provides an excellent fire extender. In the video below, David shows a 4 foot strip of ashed denim burning/smoldering for 3 hours in time-lapse.

Following the lead of Stone Age chemists, making plans for future fires was smart. The thumb drill (lighter) was several millennials away from store shelves. Fire was not automatic. I make it a habit of separating burning logs in the fire pit at the end of each class at school. These partially charred sticks of cellulose are the stepping stone for the next morning’s fire lay. No need to start from scratch each day when charcoal is plentiful in the fire pit.

Carbon Steel and Rock

Flint and Steel was the most popular fire-making method up until matches and lighters lit up our world. Even without iron strikers, sparks could be delivered to charred material using the right combination of stones. The common catalyst in all primitive fire methods is carbon.

Modern re-enactors and nostalgic woodsmen continue to use flint and steel as fire starters. The method takes less energy and practice than fire by friction. The typical flint and steel kit consist of a high-carbon steel striker, a sharp rock (doesn’t have to be flint – any hard, silica based rock will work), and char cloth in a metal container.

However, cotton cloth does not grow in the woods. For a flint and steel kit to be sustainable long-term, natural materials can be carbonized.

My best experiences using charred natural material include:

  • Punky wood – Decaying wood which is spongy when squeezed between thumb and finger. My favorite is the sap wood of Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). I’ve had good luck finding it on the underside of blown down cedars in the right stage of decay.
The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Punky cedar sap wood has a stringy consistency which makes great char material.

  • Pithy weed stalks – Crack open the woody stalk of dead Mullein (Verbascum) and remove the spongy pith. Cook it in a container like char cloth for an excellent F&S spark-catcher.
  • Natural tinder/cordage – Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) twisted cordage has worked but not as well as the previously mentioned materials. Yucca (Asparagaceae) cordage works as well.

The only non-charred natural material I’ve found to consistently take a weak spark from F&S is:

  • Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – This fungus grows on birch trees in higher altitudes. It is called True Tinder Fungus as it will catch a spark from F&S. It also will smolder for a long time for a fire extender.
The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Thin slices of chaga ignited with flint and steel sparks.

I have friends who have achieved F&S embers using other non-charred material. Phillip Liebel, instructor at Flint and Steel Critical Skills Group, discovered that the inner lining of gourds will take a spark from F&S. It’s a very fine, papery material which burns rapidly. Joshua Enyart, founder of Flint and Steel Critical Skills Group, has used the Milkweed (Asclepias) pod to make fire with F&S. I’m sure there are other non-charred natural material out there that will work. Just recently I attempted the following with no success…

  • Dog hair – Moose, our oldest rescue dog, sheds fine clumps of hair. A few sparks landed and fizzed out without catching. Looked promising.
  • Cattail duff – White fluffy stuff is always worth trying. Still a no-go for me.
  • Mullein pith – Did not work. I sliced some to form a fine, triangular edge. Sparks landed on the edge with no glow.

The above works well when carbonized, except dog hair. In my experience, any natural tinder material you’d normally use to build a tinder bundle will take a spark from F&S when charred. The exception to this is fat lighter’d (aka – fatwood). Don’t char fat lighter’d in a tin. You’ll end up with resin coating the bottom of your container.

Non-charred and Un-natural F&S Ignition 

Good luck finding the elusive steel wool tree in the wilderness. I keep a pad of 0000 steel wool in my pack for cleaning axes and tools in the field. For stubborn tinder, add a pinch of steel wool and strike it with F&S. Once the spark catches and begins to spread like tiny dynamite fuses, the tinder becomes super-heated from rapid oxidation.

Gun powder will also ignite with F&S sparks. Flintlock rifles utilized this technology to explode powder and launch projectiles down range. A modern woodsman will likely have a cartridge of some kind which contains gun powder. Carefully remove the bullet from the brass cartridge and pour out a small amount of powder charge. Be ready to transfer the heat from the lit powder to your tinder material. It goes up in a flash.

Carbon Ash Experiments Coming

The South African tonteldoos pocket tinderbox I made rides in my F&S kit. It works well as long as the charred surface is charred well. With sporadic use, the dark char turns brownish from knocking around in my kit. In a future post, I plan to experiment with the mop head strands to see if impregnating them with wood ash will aid in ignition on brownish charred ends. This should be interesting.

The Caveman Catalyst in Your Tinderbox - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A student achieving ignition with the Tonteldoos.

We’re also planning a post on making charred material without the typical metal container. Stay tuned.

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, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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: , , , , | 2 Comments

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: , , , , | 7 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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: