Bushcraft

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods

by Todd Walker

Ever wonder about the height of a tree on a nature walk? Or how far you’d have to climb to summit a rock face? Curiosity may be the only reason you’d ever need to know or use these techniques mentioned below.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Without being overly dramatic, accurate estimations could save you in the outdoors. Take campsite selection, for instance. You find what seems to be a perfect spot to camp. Water and firewood are close at hand. There’s even a fire pit with a bit of wood laid up from previous campers. Being smart, you look up to scan the horizon before dropping your pack. You’re scouting for the 4 W’s. You spot in the distance a very tall, very dead tree. How tall? And could it reach your campsite if it fell?

Do a quick estimate on the height so you can sleep without worry of that tree crashing through your tent.

Here are 4 accurate ways to estimate the height of trees and other structures if you don’t have a compass. By the way, always carry a quality compass!

Lumberjack Stick

This is the easiest method with no math calculations involved. Grab a small stick or twig. Ax handles work, too.

Put some distance between you and the tree or object. Facing the tree, hold a stick/twig vertically so that a 90º angle is formed between your outstretched arm. Align the tip of the stick with the top of the tree. Move your hand up or down on the bottom of the stick until your thumb aligns with the base of the tree while the tip is in line with the treetop.

Now rotate the stick ninety degrees clockwise, for the left-handers, or counterclockwise if the stick is in the right hand. Be sure to keep your thumb on the pivot point (origin) – base of the tree. Make a note of where the tip of the stick appears to touch the ground. If you have a partner, they can stand and mark the spot with your directions. The distance from this spot back to the base of the tree is the approximate height of the tree.

This is an easy method to determine the path of a tree you want to fell in your yard or camp. Check out the video of two of these methods in the woods…

Portrait Method

Knowing the height of a cliff could help you decide whether to climb the obstacle or not. Place an object of known height at the base of the cliff. This object could be a person or walking staff. Stand back away from the rock face. Hold a small stick, as described in the Lumberjack technique above, so that the tip is aligned to the top of the person or walking staff and your thumb is sighted on the base of the known object.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Portrait Method

Move this known unit of measure, thumb to tip of stick, up the cliff face to give you an estimate of its height. Let’s say your obstacle measures 4 units. Multiply the height of your known object (person or walking staff) times 4 to determine the height of the cliff. [Ex: 6′ x 4 units = 24 feet]

Use Your Shadow

On a sunny day, a tree casts a shadow. The shadow on the ground is one side of a right triangle. The distance from the top of the tree to the end of the shadow is the hypotenuse. The tree forms the third side of the right triangle.

Remember how we used Pythagorean Theorem (right triangles) to determine distance? Well, we’re using two right triangles again. This time we are using two triangles of different size yet proportional.

Here’s how it works and what you’ll need…

Measure the distance of the tree’s shadow. Now place an object of known height (yourself or walking stick) in the sun. Observe where this shadow ends and measure the distance or length of the shadow.

Now we have three measurements:

  • Tree shadow
  • Your shadow
  • Your height

What we want and need is the missing measurement – the height of the tree “x”.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Set up a proportion using the corresponding sides of each triangle as illustrated in the diagram above. Be sure to place the corresponding sides across from each other. For instance, the shadow lengths are the numerators (top numbers) and the height measurements are both denominators (bottom numbers). You can flip-flop these numbers as long as the sides correspond to each other.

Cross multiply and divide to find the missing length. In the example given, the height is 24 feet. If you do your math right, this is a very accurate method.

Eleven + 1 Method

Here’s another accurate way to determine height which only requires a stick.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

11+1 Method of Estimating Height

From the base of the tree, measure 11 equal units straight away from the tree. The key to using this method accurately is to make the 11 units about the same distance as the object you wish to measure. For instance, you may estimate that a tree appears to be about 30 feet tall. 30 divided by 11 gives you a rough estimate of about 3 feet per unit. One of my walking steps would work for my unit of measure. For a tree double that height, I would use two steps as my unit of measure.

Mark the spot of your 11 unit on the ground. Drive a straight stick in the ground so that it is vertical/plumb. Measure one more unit away from the stick and mark the spot.

Bend down to the ground with your dominate eye as close to the ground as possible at the 12th unit. Sight in the base of the tree to the bottom of the stick. Now look up the stick until your line of sight crosses the stick at the top of the tree. Mark this spot on the stick. The distance between these two points in inches equals the height of the tree in feet.

Your Body as a Measuring Device

It’s always helpful to know your personal measurements in the event you are without a measuring device. The most common way is to measure with steps.

Other personal measurements you should know are…

  • Thumb to pinky finger (8 inches for me)
  • Elbow to finger tip (19 inches)
  • Arm pit to finger tip (28 inches)
  • Height standing flat-footed with hand extended above head (88 inches)
  • Finger tip to finger tip with arms spread forming a “t” (73 inches)
  • Outside boot measurement (12.5 inches)
  • Personal height (5′-10″)

Another clever way to know certain lengths is to know the length of your ax or other bushcraft equipment. The Plumb BSA Ax I carry is 26 inches long. Adding marks to the ax handle in one inch increments will also save time and calculations should the need arise. Don’t forget that Leatherman Multitools have both inch and centimeters marked on the side of these tools.

Each of these methods can be used without any special equipment. All you need is a stick and some basic math skills.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles

by Todd Walker

As an eighth grade math teacher, a lot of the stuff we teach kids makes no sense. Students rarely get a chance to apply mathematics in the real world. We’re too busy pushing through the state mandated curriculum to get our hands dirty applying the concepts being taught.

How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles - TheSurvivalSherpa.com (1)

 

A little dirt time in the woods or a homestead would go a long way in helping students (and teachers) trade theory for action. So put on your boots. School of the Woods is in session!

Like any other skill, estimating distance takes practice. The method I used in the video below is based on the Pythagorean Theorem → a² + b² = c². Don’t freak out about the formula. We won’t even use it!

Here’s the cool thing about this method…

There’s no math calculations involved! No square roots, no dividing, no multiplication, no algebra. If you can walk a straight line and count simple steps, you can use this method to estimate distance. In fact, all you really need is a stick.

Estimating Distance with Right Triangles

Estimations are more than guessing. They are based on calculations and useful for many tasks in bushcraft, homesteading, and outdoor self-reliance.

Here’s a quick refresher on geometry terms we’ll be using. A right triangle has two short sides called legs (a & b). The long side of the triangle is the hypotenuse (c).

What if you needed to ford a river, build a fence, or erect a foot bridge over a creek in the woods? I’ve never seen any of my woodsmen friends pull out a 100 foot measuring tape from their pack. But you can get an accurate estimation of width without a measuring device.

Here’s how it works…

Step #1 ~ Locate a Landmark

Note: This method requires a fair amount of open space along side the river or creek. Hilly terrain will affect your estimate as well.

How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Drive a stick in the ground to mark Point A

Spot a landmark (tree or rock) across the divide you intend to cross (Point X). Standing directly across from the landmark, mark the ground with a stick or scrap of your boot. Point Y is where you begin counting your first 20 steps.

Step #2 ~ Start Stepping

Turn 90 degrees away from Point X and take 20 steps in as straight a path as possible. Drive a stick in the ground at your 20th step. This is Point A. The stick should be tall enough to see later in this exercise. You may want to tie a bandana or other material to make it easy to spot.

Step #3 ~ More Stepping

Continuing in a straight path from Point A, take 20 more steps. Mark this spot as Point B with a small stick or rock.

Step #4 ~ Turn 90º

Standing on Point B, turn 90º with your back towards the river or ravine. Begin walking perpendicularly away from the river. Be sure to count your steps. As you step, look back towards the stick on Point A. Stop when you visually line up with Point A and Point X (the landmark across the river). This is Point C on the diagram.

The number of step from Point B to Point C is the approximate distance across the divide.

In an emergency situation where you may need to cross a river or creek, a tree could be felled to help you safely navigate the divide. Knowing the width of the river or creek now, how can you estimate the height of a tree you’ll need to bridge that gap?

We’ll cover estimating height on our next post. Stay tuned!

A little update. I used my video in Math class yesterday. Afterwards, we went outside to test the theory in the real world. Have some fun and take your kids out and practice this self-reliant skill.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

27 Basecamp Projects Guaranteed to Elevate Skills and Fun in the Woods

By Todd Walker

The thought of going to the woods for rest and relaxation is a foreign concept to most moderns. Others see it as an oasis. The later enjoy the simplicity of woods life for many reasons. Through experience, they’ve learned to be healthy, comfortable, and relaxed in the woods.

27 Basecamp Projects Guaranteed to Elevate Skills and Fun in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Learning the art of “smoothin’ it” in the woods, as Nessmuk called it, is well within reach for even my novice middle school students. If you really want to learn how to camp in comfort, check out The Revival of Classic Camping.

If your camp is an oasis in the woods, you’re more likely to find the unplugged benefits of nature. Not only that, but you’ll gain valuable self-reliance skills in the process.

Below you’ll find 27 projects and skills developed while turning my basecamp into a comfortable personal space in the woods.

Shelter

The Art of 'Smoothing It' in Struggleville

Overhang catches and rolls heat into the shelter

We’ve discussed the importance of emergency shelter here, here, and here. However, a basecamp shelter should be semi-permanent and built for comfort.

My grandson and I hanging out at basecamp

My grandson and me hanging out at basecamp

My shelter design takes advantage of the properties of radiant heat from a fire one step away from the opening. The heat enters under the two foot lip overhang and circulates through the entire structure. This action makes the shelter more efficient than a simple lean-to.

Skills Learned

  • Ax-Manship ~> The ax is the oldest and most under-appreciated, yet invaluable tool which serves, not only as a wilderness lifeline, but, as a simple machine that connects your hands to a forgotten craft.
  • Campsite Selection ~> Consider the 4 W’s.  You need wood… lots of wood… for shelter construction and fire. Standing dead red cedar and a few other saplings were used for my shelter.
  • Knots/Lashing ~> Square, tripod, and diagonal lashing hold my shelter together. Timber hitch, clove hitch, trucker’s hitch, and other useful knots were also used.
  • Simple Machines ~> Here are my top 3 simple machines for shelter construction: Wedges (cutting tools), lever, and pulley.

Camp Tools

In this category, you’ll find ideas to make camp life enjoyable.

  • Saw Buck ~> This tool may be the most used of all the stuff at my camp. The obvious use is for bucking firewood. Max, my grandson, prefers this as a camp chair.

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

  • Camp Maul ~> You’ll use ax and knife skills to craft this woodsman hammer. Watch our video here.
  • Shaving Ladder ~> My newest addition to basecamp. Wish I had discovered this long ago!
  • Takedown Buck Saw ~> A good bucksaw makes life easier when processing wood on my saw buck.
  • Cooking Tripod ~> A sturdy tripod is a multifunctional piece for every camp.
  • Stump Vise ~> A round section of wood used to hold stuff while working with both hands.

Camp Skills

  • Sleep ~> The #1 hallmark of a good woodsman.
  • Fire ~> My favorite skill to practice. You’ll find many articles on fire craft on this page.
  • Cooking ~> Nothing beats the smell and taste of a pan of dry cured bacon sizzling over an open fire. Basecamp cooking affords you the luxury of not eating from freeze-dried bag food. Check out my buddy’s YouTube channel, Feral Woodcraft, for more camp cooking tips. Bring your appetite!
6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry cured bacon and dehydrated eggs… not your typical trail breakfast

Camp Crafts

Now that you’ve got tools made and a belly full of camp cooking, it’s time to make some fun stuff!

  • Tree Bark Arrow Quiver ~> Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) bark has been used by indigenous people and traditional craftsmen in Appalachia for thousands of years.
  • Primitive Pottery ~> Not my best skill by far, but making your own containers from clay gives you options.
  • Pitch Sticks ~> This project turns pine sap and charcoal into glue.
A spoon I found growing in a Black Walnut limb on our land

A spoon I found growing in a Black Walnut limb on our land

  • Greenwood Spoon Carving ~> Employ your ax and knife skills to craft eating utensils for camp.
  • Burn and Scrape Containers ~> A primitive skill useful in making spoons, bowls, and even canoes. Watch our video on making a cup here.
  • Leather Ax Sheath ~> Make a hands-free ax carrying sheath for tramping and scouting from basecamp.
  • Ax Handle ~> While I didn’t make this hickory ax handle at basecamp, it’s doable with the above mentioned tools.
  • Plumber’s Stove ~> On rainy days, you need a way to cook in your semi-permanent shelter. It also adds enough heat to knock the chill off.
  • Fire Pit ~> Wooden reflector walls are popular for bushcraft shelters. However, stone is better at retaining heat from your fire. Lay rocks to form a chimney effect to draw air for clean burns.
The large rock in the back acts as a chimney

The large rock in the back acts as a chimney

  • Frog Gig ~> A sapling and knife skills can have you eating in no time.
  • Camp Table ~> Every camp needs a horizontal surface (table).
Red cedar planks lashed a top two poles between trees

Red cedar planks lashed a top two poles between trees

  • Roycraft Pack Frame ~> A fun project to do with kids.
  • Build Community ~> Now that you’ve got your basecamp equipped and comfortable, invite friends over and burn sticks together. A lot can be learned from each other around a warm campfire. You’ll quickly become the smartest woodsman around.

My basecamp is never finished. There’s always more stuff to do and things to craft to make camping in the woods fun.

Note: This week marks the fourth year anniversary of Survival Sherpa. I started writing here a few weeks before Dirt Road Girl was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This little blog has provided much-needed clarity on our journey.

Our hearts are always encouraged by the ongoing support from each of you here. We’ve had the pleasure of personally meeting several of you and count it an honor to call you friends. Hope each of you have a merry Christmas and a self-reliant New Year!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

Hopefully our video will explain the process…

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

Gather Stuff

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

Step #1: Harvest Uprights

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

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

Step #2: Lash the Uprights

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

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

Step #3: Attach Rungs

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

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

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

Step #4: Hew a Platform Board

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

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

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

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

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

Step #5: Notch the Platform Board

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

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

Seven notch fits the wedged rung perfectly

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

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

A view from underneath

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

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

Step #6: Use Your Shaving Ladder

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

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

Pinch the work piece with pressure from your thigh

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tools and Material

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

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

Step #1: Split the Log

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

IMG_3817

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

Step #2: Find a Handle

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

IMG_3808

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

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

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

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

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

Step #3: Hew the Handle

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

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

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

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

IMG_3844

Step #4: Refine the Handle

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

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

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

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

IMG_3884

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

Step #5: Rasp Time

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3905

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

Rasp work in my shop vise

Rasp work in my shop vise

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

Step #6: Sand the Handle

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

IMG_3999

How it feels in your hands is what matters

How it feels in your hands is what matters

Step #7: Cut Slot and Wedge

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

IMG_4021

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

Step #8: Hang the Ax

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

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

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

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

Tulip poplar wedge going in

Tulip poplar wedge going in

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

Customized sticker for a custom ax handle

Customized sticker for a custom ax handle

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

Step #9: Oil the Handle

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain

by Todd Walker

Mother Nature is neutral. She does not care if you’re able to survive what she throws at you. That’s her nature… uncaring, unpredictable, wild and beautiful.

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I love a rainy night. But, come on! When I started this article, it had rained 16 out of the last 17 days in Georgia. Figuratively and literally, we were soaked to the bone. Nothing outside was dry… tinder, kindling, and fuel were saturated… perfect weather for some survival training.

You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can learn skills to survive her storms. I recently wrote about three skills that forgive your shortcomings in Core Temperature Control. All three are important. But if you could only work on one of these skills, I would recommend fire craft.

Why?

Fire covers a multitude of ‘sin’ in your survival skills. ~ Me

Here’s my short list of what a sustainable fire can do for you…

Becoming a proficient fire crafter requires practice. Even in optimal (dry) conditions, a Bic lighter won’t start a sustainable fire if you don’t do proper fire prep. Add rain to the equation and your attention to detail becomes crucial.

You need an edge.  Every person who successfully burns stuff in the rain has that edge. That edge is the difference in… staying warm vs freezing, signaling rescuers vs staying lost, living vs dying.

I don’t have any magic tricks up my sleeve for burning stuff in foul weather. The few secrets I do employ are outlined below.

Burning Secret #1

Cheat!

If you’ve read or watched any of our emergency fire craft stuff, you know I promote cheating. Fire is life and you’d better be ready and able to cheat death. That’s the kind of cheating you’ll be proud of.

Here are a few of my fire cheats…

Carry a minimum of three different ways to generate the initial heat needed for ignition. I wear my dedicated fire kit on my belt. This pouch contains three sources of ignition…

  1. Bic lighter – open flame
  2. Ferrocerium rod – spark based ignition
  3. Magnifying lens – solar ignition (no good in the rain)

But wait, there’s more!

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Three more fire tools

Dig around in my haversack and you’ll find a head lamp and steel wool for electrical fire. Unbuckle my hygiene kit and a small bottle of hand sanitizer offers a rapid chemical reaction (exothermic) for fire. There’s also a redundant Bic lighter wrapped in duct tape hanging from a zipper in my pack. This last item is a self-contained ignition and tinder source for foul weather fires.

Burning Secret #2

Find dry stuff.

No brainer, right? It’s not as easy as it sounds after a few days of Georgia gully washer.

I’ve had my share of foul-weather fire fails from not carrying some form of dry tinder material in my kit. Wiser now, I carry stuff that gives me that edge we talked about earlier.

7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Gorilla Tape ~ the magic foul weather fire starter

In my foul-weather fire starting experiences, Gorilla Tape gives me that edge. Using duct tape is like pulling fire from a magician’s hat! Once lit, a ball of tape will provide the heat needed to drive off moisture and bring wet kindling to ignition temperature. The wetter the wood, the more tape you’ll need. Keep in mind that small stuff ignites faster than large stuff.

Other not-so-secret sure-fire starters in my pack include…

  1. Commercial fire starters
  2. Homemade fire starters

Burning Secret #3

It’s all about that snap!

Cheating on fire prep is a loser’s game. Spend as much time as necessary to collect 2 or 3 times more small stuff than you think you’ll need. Cutting corners collecting smalls in a dry forest is forgivable. Do it in the rain and you might end up fire-less.

Where do you find smalls in a rain-soaked wilderness? Dead twigs hanging off the ground is the best place to start. When collecting smalls, if they don’t give an audible “snap”, put it back. You and the trees are soaked to the bone. The last thing you need on your fire lay is green sticks.

When it’s raining, I’m not particular about what tree the smalls come from. A few of my favorite trees that give me small fuel, even when the tree is alive, include (remember, they gotta pass the “snap” test)…

  • Cedar – Low hanging branches often have dead twigs and the bark, even when wet, can be brought to ignition temperature quickly when processed into fine fibers.
  • Beech – I find lots of pencil-led size kindling on these live trees. If you’re lucky, you might find a clump of black sooty mold to help extend your fire.
7 Secrets for Burning Sticks in the Rain - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Black sooty mold hanging from a Beech tree

If you’ve acquired basic knife skills, you can quickly create your own smalls from inside larger fuel logs. Baton an arm-size log into halves, quarters, eighths, sixteenths, etc. until you have a pile of dry fuel.

Burning Secret #4

Burning stuff in the rain blows.

Literally. It’s very likely that you’ll have to pump air to the base of your wet-weather fire. When is the right time to blow?

Blowing on a gas-based fire like a birthday candle removes the fuel (gas from melted wax) and extinguishes the flame. However, wood becomes charcoal after burning off gases. Blowing on coals will only raise the temperature of the fire. You may need to blow on a small bed of coals to nurse the fire along with wet wood.

There’s a bit of technique involved in blowing on fires. Remember that heat rises. A chimney uses this principle to draft air up from the bottom of the fireplace and out the top. Blow air horizontally at ground level not from the top of the fire lay.

Be careful not to inhale smoke. Turn your head away from the fire and breathe in fresh air. Positioning your kneeling body up wind helps. If you have a long piece of tubing, which I don’t carry, it will safely add distance between your face and the flames. You’re not going to have time to craft a fire tube from river cane when you need a fire in the rain. Just kneel down and blow.

Burning Secret #5

Cover your fire.

A tipi fire lay is one of the best fire lays to cover your fledgling fire. Properly constructed, a tipi fire takes advantage of the chimney effect to dry wet wood and provide some needed shelter to the fire beneath. Slabs of tree bark can also be added to the outside of the tipi like roof shingles.

I’ve also used a larger log to shelter a fire in the rain. Lay the log perpendicular on top of two rocks or larger logs with the fire beneath. A large flat rock on top will work too.

Stuff tinder and kindling under your rain gear, a piece of tree bark, or in your haversack/backpack until you’re ready to light the fire. Stow your best smalls between your knees and under your crotch as your prep your fire lay… especially if you’re making a one stick fire. The dry smalls you’ve created should be shielded from rain.

Burning Secret #6

Build a base.

Wet ground saps the heat from fire. Lay a foundation of sticks or tree bark on the ground to keep your tinder material off the wet earth. The base is the spot you’ll place a your metal water container on to boil water once the fire is established.

Burning Secret #7

Practice.

That’s right. You’ve gotta get wet to practice burning stuff in the rain! Don’t miss out on your next rain storm. Throw on your muck boots, a poncho, and go start a fire. You’ll learn some valuable foul weather lessons in fire craft.

Got any tricks up your sleeve for burning sticks in the rain? Do share!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins

by Todd Walker

From the biblical perspective, sin is “missing the mark.” In wilderness survival, not hitting your target in one skill doesn’t have to mean certain death. However, fall short in these three critical survival skills, and, dude, you’re screwed!

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You won’t get a second chance to see your family again if you can’t stay warm and hydrated. Core Temperature Control (CTC) is the redeeming factor.

Cold and Wet: The Perfect Storm

Your body does a remarkable job regulating core temperature. However, add moisture to the equation, drop the temperature slightly, and you’ve got a perfect storm for hypothermia.

Water saps body heat 25 times faster than air. And 70 to 80% of your body heat is lost through your head and neck. The remaining heat loss goes through your fingers, hands, and feet. The simple act of breathing in cold air and expelling warm air will chill your body.

A slight change in core temp, even by a degree or two, will affect your bodily functions. Shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, and numbness in the extremities are signs of hypothermia. Decrease to 91.4ºF (33ºC) and you lose consciousness. Complete muscle failure occurs at 82.4ºF (28ºC).

Core Temperature Equipment

This article is not addressing wilderness living skills or long-term self-reliance. We’re talking about surviving. You can’t very well pursue long-term stuff if you’re not equipped to survive the a short-term storm. And, by storm, I mean – when you need immediate help and none is available – in the wilderness or urban setting.

The first step to being equipped is to always carry equipment. No matter how many debris huts you’ve built, you’d be a stupid survivalist, and possibly a dead one, to not pack some sort of emergency shelter option, fire kit, metal container, cordage, and a knife.

Below is my emergency kit I carry no matter how long I plan to be in the woods.

  • Emergency Space Blanket ~ The best 12 ounce item in my kit for core temperature control. I also carry two contractor grade garbage bags – too many uses to mention here.
  • Fire Kit ~ Three different ignition sources – open flame (Bic lighter), spark ignition (ferro rod), solar ignition (magnifying lens), sure fire (diy and commercial), duct tape, and a bit of dry tinder material.
  • Knife ~ There is no such thing as “The Best Survival Knife”. However, your cutting tool should have multipurpose attributes and be hair-popping sharp.
  • Metal Container ~ A metal water bottle can be used to boil water, make char cloth, cook meals, and perform self-aid duties.
  • Cordage ~ I carry both 550 paracord and tarred mariners line.

These items are my bare bones kit and go with me camping, hiking, backpacking, and hunting. Don’t think you’ll ever need these kit items? Think again. Read this real-life survival story of an injured hunter in the Idaho wilderness.

Core Temperature Control Skills

Conserving body heat is the key to survival. Your body produces heat from biochemical reactions in cells, exercise, and eating. Without a furry coating like lower animals, insulation to maintain a body temperature at 98.6 degrees F is critical.

It all starts with…

Skill #1 ~ Shelter

Sins of Sheltering: Not carrying an emergency space blanket and wearing improper clothing.

While having an emergency space blanket is important, your shelter is built before you ever step over the door sill of your warm and cozy home. Your clothes are your first layer of shelter.

Ever see men with Sasquatch hair at the beach. No matter how thick it appears, that rug won’t insulate when wet and cold.

To trap body heat, layer your clothing. Layers create dead air space much like the insulation in house walls and attics. Layering is activity-dependent. But the basic concept applies to any outdoor cold weather activity.

Here’s my layer system…

A.) Base Layer ~Your base layer should fit snuggly to your body. Long sleeve shirt and underwear made of polyester blend for wicking perspiration away from my body. Sock liners go on first before wool socks. Thin wool glove liners are worn inside my larger leather mittens.

B.) Insulation ~ Yes, I wear cotton, and sometimes fleece, on top of the base layer. This is dependent upon my activity. If I’m really active in really cold weather, I wear a wool sweater. Wool is my favorite insulation layer. Here’s why…

  • Wool fiber absorbs up to 36% of its weight and gradually releases moisture through evaporation.
  • Wool has natural antibacterial properties that allow you wear it multiply days without stinking up camp. Not so with synthetics.
  • Wool wicks moisture, not as well as synthetics, but better than cotton.
  • Wool releases small amounts of heat as it absorbs moisture.
  • Wool contains thousands of natural air-trapping pockets for breathable insulation.

Remembering the importance of dead air space, your insulation layer should fit loosely and be breathable. Apply the acronym C.O.L.D. to your insulating layer…

  1. C – Keep CLEAN
  2. O – Avoid OVERHEATING
  3. L – Wear loose LAYERS to create dead air space
  4. D – Keep DRY

C.) Outer Layer ~ Waterproof is not your friend. Yes, it will keep rain and wetness out, but it will also seal perspiration in eventually soaking your insulation. Wear a weather-resistant shell that allows moisture to escape. The main concern for this layer is to block wind.

Your head, hands, and feet are included in this layer. I’m partial to wool hats to keep my bald head warm. In subzero temps, I wear my shapka, a Russian red fox winter hat, I bought in Siberia in the early 90’s.

Cold feet are deceptive. Frostbite can happen before you know the damage is done. Wear polyester sock liners with wool socks inside your footwear of choice.

Jamie Burleigh under an emergency space blanket shelter with garbage bag bed

Jamie Burleigh under an emergency space blanket shelter with garbage bag bed at The Pathfinder School.

D.) Waterproof Shelter ~ Again, for emergency essentials, you can’t beat a good space blanket to block wind, rain, and reflect heat back to your body. Combined with a plastic painter’s tarp, a Kochanski Super Shelter can keep you warm in subzero condition in street clothes.

Use two large contractor garbage bags filled with leaves, wet or dry, for an insulating ground pad. They don’t add much weight or take up much space in your kit.

There are many more options for waterproof covering. The above list is for your emergency kit.

Skill #2 ~ Fire Craft

Sins of Fire Craft: Not carrying multiple ignition sources and all-weather fire starters.

Fire covers a multitude of ‘sins’ in your survival skills. Even if you deliberately commit the offense of not packing emergency shelter, fire forgives your lapse in judgement. Scantily clad in the wilderness? Fire covers your wrongdoing. No matter how you “miss the mark” in skills or equipment, fire can redeem you.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the woods I’m sure you’ve heard Mother Nature humming these classic lyrics…

“… Like it always seems to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Are you a fair-weather fire crafter?

That’s a good place to start. Nothing wrong with learning in the most fire-friendly conditions. You’ve got dry tinder, kindling, and fuel to burn. This may not be the case when your life depends on making fire in the wind, rain, and snow.

Cheating is NOT a Sin

There is absolutely no such thing as cheating when it comes to building a life-sustaining fire. Who cares what Bushcraft purists think! Your loved ones aren’t worried about style points in fire craft. They want you home alive. So cheat!

For the weekend camper or woodsman, carry these foul weather fire cheats…

Fire Cheat #1 ~ One of the most overlooked fire starters that should already be in your pack is duct tape. Loosely wad up about 2 foot of tape and ignite it with an open flame. A ferrocerium rod will ignite duct tape. However, you have to shred the tape to create lots of surface area. This isn’t your best option if your fingers are losing dexterity in freezing temperatures.

Fire Cheat #2 ~ DiY fire starters made of wax-soaked jute twine or cotton makeup remover pads. I also carry commercially made sure fire that will burn on water.

Fire Cheat #3 ~ Always carry enough dry tinder material to start a fire in sucky weather.

Fire Cheat #4 ~ Know where to find the best possible tinder material and how to process it to create surface area. Dead hanging branches, pencil lead size to pencil size, provide kindling even in the rain.

Fire Cheat #5 ~ Fat lighter’d (aka – fatwood, resin-rich pine wood) is my lifesaver in the south. Discover your best natural fire starter wherever you’re located or plan to travel. I keep this stuff in all my kits. It’s abundant where I live.

Fire Cheat #6 ~ Dry wood is available in all weather conditions if you know where to look. Standing dead Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) is one of my go-to fire resources. The trick to getting to the dry wood is splitting the wood down to tinder, kindling, and fuel size material. The inner bark makes excellent tinder bundles!

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

One 2 inch diameter stick of tulip poplar made all this: L to R: Thumb, pencil, pencil lead, and bark tinder

And that brings us to the next skill that forgives survival sins…

Skill #3: Knife Skills

A knifeless man is a lifeless man.

The “survival” knife market is full of gadgetry. Gadgets are for gawkers. You don’t need a Rambo knife to survive. You just need a solid knife and some skill. 

Carry a good knife and practice with what you carry. Your knife may become your one-tool-option. Here are a few characteristics I look for when selecting my main knife…

  • High carbon steel blade that is non-coated. Coated knives can’t be used to create sparks off the spine with a rock to ignite charred material. Carbon steel is easier to sharpen in the field than stainless steel.
  • Blade length between 4-5 inches.
  • Full tang (solid metal under the entire handle) lessens the chance of breakage when an ax is not available to split wood and you have to resort to the baton method.
  • A 90 degree spine is useful to strike ferro rods, process tinder, scrape wood shavings for fire, and many other uses.
  • Most importantly, your knife should feel right in your hand as you use it. The best “survival” knife is the one you have on you and are proficient with.

Knife Sins: Carrying a knife but never becoming competent with your blade.

You’re not going to be carving spoons and bowls in a short-term survival situation. Your cutting tool will be used to make shelter and fire to control core temperature. Knife skills can be easily developed and honed in your backyard.

Since fire is the most forgiving if you “miss the mark” with proper shelter, we’ll cover the cutting tool’s use in fire craft first.

Have Knife, Will Burn

Even if you’ve committed the first two survival sins, your blade can save you. A knife in skilled hands can create fire from scratch. I don’t rely on friction fire as my first choice but do practice the skill in case I run into unknown unknowns.

With my buddy Bic in my pocket, I still need to process sticks to make fire quick. Both the cutting edge and spine of your knife are used to create surface area needed for ignition.

Remembering that you’re cold and wet, your fine motor skills are probably suffering. Pretty feather sticks are for style points. Style won’t save you. Fire will!

Split a dead wrist-size stick with a baton and knife into thumb size pieces to get to the dry stuff. Split a few of those pieces into smaller kindling. Grip your knife with a reverse grip (cutting edge facing up) and use the spine of your knife to scrape a pile of fine shavings off one of the larger split sticks. If you’ve got fat lighter’d, scrape off a pile of shavings the size of a golf ball. Ignite this pile with a lighter or ferro rod and feed your fire its meal plan.

Here’s a demo of a one stick fire in the rain…

Knife and Shelter

Debris shelters can be built without a knife. Sticks can be broken to length between two trees without a cutting tool. Keep in mind that this type of shelter will take a few hours and lots of calories to construct correctly.

The role of the knife in emergency shelter building is secondary compared to its importance in making fire. You won’t even need a knife to set up a space blanket shelter if you prepped your emergency kit ahead of time.

Blades are expedient in cutting cordage, notching sticks, harvesting green bows for bedding, making wedges to split larger wood without an ax, and a number of other self-reliance tasks.

Basic emergency knife skills every outdoors person should practice include…

  • Safely handling a knife ~ cut away from your body, avoid the triangle of death (the triangle between your knees and crotch), cut within the blood circle when others are nearby (an imaginary circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees), never attempt to catch a falling knife, keep it sheathed unless in use, and keep your blade sharp.
  • Creating surface area for fires ~ splitting sticks, feathering sticks, and shavings.
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks.
  • With a piece of quarts, chert, or flint, use the spine of your high carbon steel knife for spark ignition on charred material.

Forgiveness

All three of these survival skills are needed for emergency core temperature control, but I’d place fire on top of my forgiveness list. Fire can make water potable for hydration, warm poorly clothed pilgrims, cook food to create body heat, smoke signals, illuminate darkness, and comfort the lost.

What’s your top skill for controlling your core temperature? Share if you don’t mind.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, equipment, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Education, Survival Skills, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

How to Improvise and Use a Three Stick Roycroft Pack Frame

by Todd Walker

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

Debates happen from time to time over which is more important for self-reliance… gear or skills?

With our emphasis on developing Doing the Stuff skills here, you probably already know my position. But, then again, you may be surprised.

Here’s my take…

Both skills and gear are essential to self-reliant living! Modern gear is not evil. Neither are primitive tools.

Every primitive skills practitioner, prepper, homesteader, and woodsman needs tools. It has something to do with opposable thumbs. Tools wrapped by skilled thumbs are capable of making gear.

For instance, take the modern backpack. They’re constructed with state of the art material and built with internal frames. They’re designed to haul loads comfortably over long distances. My Osprey pack has many convenient pockets, pouches, and bells and whistles. But what kind of burdens can you carry with modern internal frame packs? Clothing and camping stuff mostly.

Here’s the thing though…

Try carrying a load of firewood back to camp or a quartered deer with an internal frame pack. They’re pretty one-dimensional.

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

Camp Chuck Box strapped to the Roycroft

People all over the world have been using crude A-frame packs to carry heavy burdens for thousands of years. Otzi The Ice Man used an external frame pack over 5,000 years ago made of a bent sapling. Though his was not an A-frame style pack, an external frame can carry odd-shaped loads that modern internal frame packs can’t.

Let’s get started. You’ll get to use knife skills, knots, and lashings to make your own.

Roycroft Pack Frame

The Roycroft pack frame was named (not self-named, btw) after Mors Kochanski’s friend, Tom Roycroft. Mr. Roycroft, a survival instructor in the Canadian military in the 1960’s, used the time-tested idea of using 3 sticks and cordage to teach downed pilots how to construct a pack. The simple idea was adopted and used successfully.

Material List

  • Three sticks
  • Cordage
  • Cutting tool

Knots and Lashing

  • Trucker’s Hitch
  • Bowline
  • Blood Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Lark’s Head

Step #1 ~ Harvest Three Sticks

Upright Poles: Harvest saplings that are straight and thumb-size in diameter. For the uprights, cut two sticks that measure from arm pit to finger tip in length. Stripping the bark from the poles will help preserve the wood but isn’t necessary.

Lumbar Pole: This stick should measure from elbow to finger tip. Try to find a stick that is slightly curved to conform to your belt line. However, a straight stick will work.

Step #2 ~ Lashing Uprights

Start by using a tripod lashing on the two uprights. Place the two uprights together with the bottoms even. Begin lashing about three inches from the top of the poles. When done, spread the two apart to form the A-frame.

Lashing at the top of the A-frame

Lashing at the top of the A-frame

Check out our video tutorial on how to lash a tripod. You’ll only lash two sticks though.

Lashing with natural cordage may require a butterfly notch at each intersection.

Step #3 ~ Lash the Lumbar Pole

[Edit – 10/20/15: After publication, Chris Noble, a friend and writer/owner of Master Woodsman, noticed something about my frame. My lumbar pole is to the inside of the frame. By lashing this piece to the outside of the upright poles, a small shelf is created which would offer a ledge for loads like a camping chuck box to rest upon. Thanks for suggesting this Mors Kochanski modification and your attention to detail.]

Place the lumbar stick on top of the uprights so that the bend is protruding between the two uprights. Make sure you have about an inch and half of overhang at each intersection of the lumbar and uprights.

Diagonal lashing holding the lumbar support securely to the upright

Diagonal lashing holding the lumbar support securely to the upright

The intersections will not be perpendicular. Use a square lashing or diagonal lashing to secure the lumbar section to the upright poles. I used a square lash on one and a diagonal on the other just for practice.

Learn to tie a square lashing here. I’ll have to do a diagonal lashing tutorial soon.

Step #4 ~ Attach Loops to Frame

Loops of cordage are multifunctional. Besides being handy tie-outs to secure loads on the frame, the loops can be used to set up a tarp shelter. You can check out my first video how I set up an emergency 5 minute shelter.

To make quick-release loops, cut six pieces of cordage 18 inches long. Tie a blood knot in each piece of cordage. This knot is easy to untie after being cinched tight.

These 6 loops are also used to set up my tarp system

These 6 loops are also used to set up my tarp system

Attach each loop with a larks head knot; one on the lumbar pole, two on one upright, and the remaining three on the other upright. The larks head knot is easy to adjust on the poles depending on where you want the loops placed.

Step #5 ~ Add Shoulder/Belt Straps

Cut a piece a rope three double arm-lengths (from outstretched finger tip to your other outstretched finger tip). One of my outstretched double arm-length is about 6 foot – X3 – equals about 18 feet. I used a piece of 3/8 inch rope from my strap/rope box in my shop which measured about 16 feet.

Note: If you use natural rope like hemp or manila, you’ll need to add whipping to the cut ends to prevent fraying.

Double the rope evenly to form a loop in one end. Thread the loop under the top A-frame intersection from the inside of the frame. Tie a larks head by inserting the working ends of the rope through the loop. Work the knot tight so that the two loose ends are going through the top of the “V” on the pack frame.

Simple lark's head knot

Simple lark’s head knot

Lift the empty pack frame onto your back with the lumbar support at or slightly above belt height with the ropes over each shoulder. Reach back and wrap one rope around the upright and lumbar intersection on the same side of the shoulder strap. Repeat the process for the other shoulder strap. Pull the pack tight to your back.

Now you can secure the remaining rope around your waist as a belt. To make a quick-release waist belt, tie a trucker’s hitch (watch our video of a trucker’s hitch here at 2:30 mins.) on the belt portion of the rope. Once secured, tuck any remaining rope behind the pack frame.

Step #6 ~ Load the Frame

Use your shelter system (tarp, poncho, or other waterproof cover) as the shell. I used my homemade Oil Skin Bed Sheet Tarp. Lay the frame on the ground with the outside facing up. Make sure the loops are to the outside of the frame for easy access.

Place the tarp on top of the frame. Here’s the key to packing a comfortable Roycroft frame…

My favorite Alpaca wool sweater

My favorite Alpaca wool sweater

Cushion required to carry the pack comfortably

Cushion required to carry the pack comfortably

Stuff a sweater or other soft material (sleeping bag) in the triangle so that it protrudes past the frame as a cushion for your back. Now you can add your other items on top of that layer. I pack a dry bag with items I won’t need until setting up camp.

Dry bag with stuff I'll need once I set up camp

My dry bag which will be rolled into the wool blanket

Once your load is ready on top the tarp and frame, wrap the sides of the tarp over the burden. Wrap the bottom of the tarp up and over the sides. The top of the tarp folds over last like an envelope to shed rain.

Sides of tarp wrapped over the burden first

Sides of tarp wrapped over the load first

Bottom of tarp folded over next

Bottom of tarp folded over next

Top of tarp folded down to form a waterproof envelop for the contents

Top of tarp folded down to waterproof the contents

My shelter uses a 25 foot piece of paracord as the ridge line. Double this cord to form a loop. Place the loop end over one of the upright poles at the top of the A-frame. Run the working end through the loop on the lumbar pole and back around the upright pole. Cinch tight. Begin threading the cordage through the side loops in a crossing fashion to alternate sides of the pack frame, cinching tight on each loop.

Cinched and secured pack

Cinched and secured pack

You may not use all six loops. For larger loads, don’t double the 25 foot section of paracord. Simply tie a bowline knot on one end and slip over an upright to give you more cordage to secure the load.

To terminate the cordage, tie a trucker’s hitch after going through the last loop. This allows a quick release while tightening the load.

Trucker's Hitch or Hillbilly Come-Along

Trucker’s Hitch – aka: Hillbilly Come-Along

Step #7 ~ Mount the Pack

For a light load, stand behind the upright frame on the ground with the shoulder straps in each hand. Lift the pack up and around your body so that the shoulder straps are in place. Secure the bottom two corners as described in Step #5 above. Tie off the belt securely.

You’ll notice that the rope will dig into your shoulder and trapezium muscles. To distribute the load, slide a thin piece of wood under each rope to bridge the gap between your pectoral muscles and shoulders. Prepare these pieces before you lift the pack on your back.

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

Simple wood strips disperse weight when carrying heavy loads

Sherpa Style

External pack frames have played a key role in conveying heavy loads over long distance. The Roycroft frame offers a lightweight option for anyone needing an improvised backpack.

All I need for a weekend in the woods

All I need for a weekend in the woods

I’m planning to modify my Roycroft frame with padded shoulder straps from an old ALICE pack to be my go-to backpack. Why not? I’ll be able to carry the large stones my rock-loving Dirt Road Girl picks out for her yard collection. Yep, I’m her beast of burden!

If you’ve ever built and used a Roycroft pack frame, we’re always interested in learning new tips and tricks to make ours better. Share your knowledge in the comment section or social media.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires

by Todd Walker

Forgive me for butchering the pronunciation of tonteldoos in my video below. No matter how it’s spoken in Afrikaans, this portable tinderbox just became my favorite fire-starter for spark ignition fires. Simple, yet effective!

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tonteldoos is a small town in South Africa who’s name actually means tinderbox. Information on the traditional tinderbox itself was a bit scarce as I researched. I was fortunate enough to find a description of a tonteldoos in a Facebook learning group shared by a gentleman (Eben) raised in South Africa. I built mine based on his helpful instructions.

Thank you, Eben, for sharing some history and the idea of making this pocket tinderbox!

Tonteldoos History

The tonteldoos was introduced in South Africa by European settlers in the 17th century. The tinderbox was an effective and portable method of creating fire up until the introduction of stick matches in the mid 1800’s. As wars tend to do, the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) created a scarcity of stick matches causing people to revert back to the traditional tonteldoos to start fires in homes and afield.

Even after the war ended and matches became widely available, the use of this traditional tinderbox continued through to the mid 20th century. Testing my pocket tonteldoos, I can certainly see why. It’s easy to make, easy to use, and employs one of man’s time-tested ignition sources – flint and steel.

Tonteldoos Testing

Consistent ignition with flint and steel requires a dry source of charred material. Once the material catches a spark, the glowing ember is placed in a tinder bundle and blown into flame. With marginal or damp tinder, I’ve gone through several pieces of char from my fire kit before reaching ignition temperature.

This pocket tinderbox offers a controlled solution to eating up all your charred material. Here’s how…

With the tonteldoos, the only material consumed is at the end of the tube. The remaining un-charred material is preserved within the cylinder. Saving this valuable next-fire resource is the smart move.

I tested two methods…

  1. Char all the cotton material before inserting in the tube
  2. Char only the cotton material protruding from the end of the tube

By far, the best results came from charring the end of the material (method #2).This is the traditional method used for tonteldoos.

Method #1 failed, as I suspected, due to the fragile nature of charred material. It’s difficult to push crumbly material through a tube without turning it to dust. The charred rope provided an awesome glow but was consumed too quickly.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Make Your Own

After reading Eben’s description, my possum mentality kicked in as I walked to my shop. I needed a metal tube and cotton material. I considered using a small, gutted Maglite but the diameter would not allow me to push the material up with my finger. The same goes for 1/2 inch copper pipe unless you’ve got really skinny fingers.

I dove into my scrap copper from previous plumbing jobs. If you don’t have copper lying around, home improvement stores sell all you need.

Here’s what I came up with for my tonteldoos…

Stuff you'll need

Stuff you’ll need

Material and Tools

  • 3/4 inch copper pipe about 4 inches in length
  • Two 3/4 inch copper caps – bought new for about $1.50 each
  • 100% cotton material – several strands from a mop head works well
  • Cordage is totally optional
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Copper wire if you make a loop through the end caps like mine
  • Drill and drill bit the diameter of the wire used to make the loop
  • Pipe cutter
  • Flint and steel

Step 1: Cut Pipe

Cut a 4 inch section of 3/4 inch pipe. Ream each end of the pipe with the attachment on the pipe cutter – or use a file. This removes burrs from snagging the cotton material as it passes through the pipe.

Pipe reamer attachment

Pipe reamer attachment

Step 2: Pack the Pipe

Any 100% cotton material would probably work. I had a new industrial mop head lying around I had intended to use as char rope. Perfect!

Cut several strands off a mop head and feed them through the pipe with a twisting motion until 1/4 inch of material is sticking out of the top end of your cylinder. Let the bottom end run wild. You can remove the excess later.

IMG_3389

Char the 1/4 inch of material with an open flame. I used my new Mullein Slush Lamp… just because! Any open flame will do.

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Once the end is charred, pull the wick down from the bottom end so the charred end is even with the top of the pipe. Place the cap on the smoldering end to extinguish the embers. Now cut the excess material from the bottom end of the tinderbox.

IMG_3411

Step 3: Attach Wire Loops to Caps

This is completely optional. I added loops to my caps for three reasons…

  1. Tying cordage to connect the two loops may aid in keeping the caps found in the field.
  2. A steel striker can be attached to the cordage.
  3. Cordage can be tied to keep the end caps secured if you actually carry your tonteldoos in your pocket while tramping through the woods.

If the end caps fit loosely, tweak the pipe ends by lightly tapping them with a hammer to take them out of round. Not too much or your cap won’t fit (square peg in a round hole). Another way to tighten the cap connection is to solder the caps on and then remove them. The layer of solder would make the caps fit tightly once cooled.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The blood knot before tightening

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blood knot tightened to secure caps

Or just tie them securely with a blood knot (how to tie a blood knot video here) as mentioned in #3. For this part, you’ll need a loop on each end cap…

Drill two holes in each cap the diameter of a piece of copper wire. I stripped a section of scrap 12 gauge wire to form my loops. Needle-nose pliers are most helpful for this task. I opted not to solder the wire inside the cap since bending them down inside each cap held the loops in place securely.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Copper wire bent in the bottom of the cap

How to Use Your Tonteldoos

As with any charred “next-fire” material, keep the tonteldoos in a dry place in your haversack or fire kit. I keep a couple of pieces of chert/flint inside my square tinderbox (pictured below) with other charred material and finely processed tinder material. The tonteldoos fits perfectly inside this large tinderbox.

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

To ignite the charred end of the tonteldoos, push the wick from the tube bottom with your finder so that 1/8th inch of the charred wick is exposed. Hold the cylinder in your non-dominant hand with your pinky and ring finger. Hold a sharp piece of chert/flint between your thumb and pointing finger. The tinderbox should be below the flint so the sparks have a better chance of landing on the wick – unlike the photo below.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirty hands and dirt time!

 

Strike down lightly and repeatedly over the edge of the sharp stone so that sparks are produced and hopefully land on the charred end. The tiny shards of metal oxidize and spontaneous combust to produce 800 degree sparks hot enough to create a glowing ember on the charred wick.

Spontaneous combustion from flint and steel

Flint and steel showering sparks on the tonteldoos

Once a spark finds its mark, a glowing ember appears. Blow the ember to spread the glow over the end of the wick.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Should look like a lit cigar when ready

 

Of course, you’ve prepared fine to course tinder material beforehand and shaped a stellar tinder bundle (a.k.a. – birds nest). I use two methods to ignite tinder bundles with my pocket tondeldoos.

First, place the glowing end of the wick directly into the finest part of your tinder material and blow to ignition. Be sure to push the wick out of the tube a bit so as to make good contact with the fine tinder.

The other method is to use the glowing end of the tonteldoos to ignite a fire extender like punk wood, black sooty mold, etc., etc. Then place the fire extender in your bird’s nest and blow it to flame.

Here’s our video demonstrating my DiY tonteldoos…

If you want a portable, long-lasting, reliable source of char for flint and steel ignition, give the tonteldoos a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

Be sure to let us know your results and any other creative ideas to build one.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 27 Comments

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf

by Todd Walker

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

 

Full credit for this hack goes to our Georgia humidity, a buddy of mine, and my fondness for fire.

Trading theory for action is the only way to prove for yourself if something you’ve read or watched will work in real-life. For instance, will dry mullein (Torch Plant) leaves ignite with a ferro rod. I tested the theory and found that they smolder when 3,000 degree sparks landed on their dry surface. Dry is a relative term in Georgia humidity.

Noticing the properties of the once velvety leaves and their ability to hold an ember, an idea lit in my mind. I stripped the dry leafy portion off to expose the pinnate vein. The main vein became pliable with a light coat of coconut oil and absorbed the fuel like dry sponge.

Bingo!

I’ve made mullein torches with my grandson before.

backyard-bushcraft

Mullein torch in the backyard

Soaking the dry seed head in oil, resin, or wax makes a great tiki-type torch for night-time illumination. Hence the name Torch Plant. But burning a mullein torch inside a shelter or tent is not advisable. You’ll need a safe, controlled source of light.

Hummmmm…

Could the Torch Plant leaf serve as a slush lamp wick?

Yup!

Remember to never leave an open flame unattended.

How to Make Your Own Slush Lamp

Here’s the stuff you’ll need…

  • Small container – Altoids tin, sea shell, aluminum foil, etc. – more container ideas below
  • Fuel – coconut oil, olive oil, cooking oil, rendered animal fat
  • Mullein leaf(s)
  • Beer bottle cap (optional)

IMG_3343

Step 1: The Wick

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has many practical uses for self-reliance. I’ve listed 27 here. Other natural fibrous plants can be used as well. However, with mullein, you won’t have to twist any fibers into cordage. Simply remove the dry leafy portion from the vein and saturate the wick in oil.

The tallest mullein stalk leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

The tallest Torch Plant leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

Fashion the bottom of the vein in a simple overhand knot forming a lasso-like loop as the base of the wick. Bend and form the tag end of the wick so that 1/4 to 1/2 inch is above your oil.

The wick in the top corner is two veins twisted together

The wick in the top corner is leaning against the tin’s side

Richard, a friend of mine, recommended using another technique to support the wick. Punch a hole in a bottle cap, feed the wick through and place it on the bottom of your container.

This camp hack is worth the price of admission…

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

Brilliant!

Thanks to Terrapin Beer Co. and Richard’s brilliant idea, my slush lamp took on a new form of awesome!

Step 2: Fuel

I used coconut oil from my bushcraft mess kit. It liquefies once it touches your skin (melting point is 76º F). Apply a generous coat to the leaf vein. Add 1/4 inch of oil to your container.

Place the looped wick in the container with the tip above the oil level. Lean the wick over the outside edge of the container if additional support is needed and there are no bottle caps available.

WARNING: Seems like common sense but I need to add this disclosure. Do not use flammable liquid like white gas or gasoline. It will explode and ruin your day! If this does not compute, take up another hobby.

Step 3: Container

An Altoids tin works fine for this application. Unlike olive or vegetable oils, coconut oil solidifies in colder weather preventing it from leaking all over your pack while on the move.

Simple makeshift containers can be found in nature or crafted from supplies in your pack. Ideas include:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Rocks with an indention
  • Wood with knot holes
  • Dehydrated food pouches
  • Large leafs from sycamore trees laid in a small indention in the ground
  • Duct tape fashioned into a bowl… yep, a crazy amount of uses for this stuff!

Wicks can be added to the long list of uses for this plant. Over a thirty minute test, I had to adjust the hight of the wicks a couple of times. Other than those few tweaks, the slush lamp provided a steady, reliable source of light.

Torch Plant and Fire Craft

Mullein is my most dependable spindle material for friction fire via the hand drill. Below is a picture of two pieces of mullein stalk lashed together to form a hearth board. My old faithful mullein spindle, cracks and all, created a coal in the crevice between the two-stick hearth board.

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

The take away from this tutorial is to stay curious and observant as you practice self-reliance skills. You never know what you’ll discover!

Hope this helps if you ever need an emergency source of lighting.

What other natural plant material have you used for slush lamp wicks?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,287 other followers

%d bloggers like this: