Bushcraft

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Ignorance
  2. Arrogance
  3. Enlightenment

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

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

Here’s an example of being teachable…

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

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

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

Stephan Fowler in beast mode!

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

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

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

Mark and JT giving the fire saw a go

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

A first for Dave… hand drill fire success!

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

Jason sharing his wealth of modern and primitive trapping knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are a few of my trusted Georgia resources I am personally indebted to on my journey of self-reliance:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

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

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds

by Todd Walker

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp.  ~ Warren H. Miller, 1915

Over years of wild camping I’ve learned just how little one needs to be happy in the woods. But a permanent campsite… oh the comforts to be contrived!

Walking through the beech trees and white oaks, I hop rocks across the creek. Then it happens. My soul smiles with every arrival at base camp. My home away from home is a laboratory for adventure and self-reliance skills. More importantly, it’s my place of comfort in the woods!

A few items I find essential for comfort are listed below…

Top Base Camp Comforts

1.) Shelter

Instead of pitching a tent or hanging a hammock, a semi-permanent shelter was needed. Constructed from natural materials (except for the repurposed billboard roof and bank line), it’s large enough to sleep in with room for storage. At both ends of my raised canvas cot, there’s ample room for laying in a good supply of firewood, tools, and gear.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The foot of my raised canvas cot

Speaking of firewood…

2.) Sawbuck

Using a plumber’s vise is effective for sawing wrist-size saplings in the field. My daddy taught me this technique when cutting pipe in his plumbing business. For right-handers, place the stick of wood in the bend of your left knee. Kneel on your right knee so the stock rests on your right thigh. This posture holds the wood in place firmly freeing both hands for sawing to the side of your body.

However, when processing larger rounds, a sturdy base camp sawbuck is indispensable.

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

Sawing firewood on this camp sawbuck

Here’s an interesting factoid about why the ten-dollar bill became known as a “sawbuck” in slang terminology. The Roman numeral for 10 being “X”, this reminded old timers of the two X’s used at the ends of saw horses.

3.) Camp Kitchen

“A fellow who cannot throw a flapjack is sadly lacking in the skill one expects to find in a real woodcrafter.” ~ Daniel Carter Beard

A seasoned woods cook will have an open fire lit in short order. Flapjack batter turns golden brown as the smell of freshly brewed coffee and salt cured bacon mingle.

Campfire Cooking: Grill, Cook, and Bake on a Multi-level Fire Pit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Time to eat!

The plywood camp house situated near the dam of our family lake is long gone. The memories and the aroma of Uncle Otha cooking over an open fire with heirloom cast iron is as vivid today as they were 45 years ago. Truer words can not be found than in one of Mr. Kephart’s quotes, “A good cook makes a contented crew.”

A permanent camp kitchen, like modern ovens and ranges at home, becomes the center piece of camp life. The cooking fire is that hub. I personally find a raised horizontal surface indispensable. My camp countertop, a split cedar log resting on two cedar rails lashed between trees, keeps cooking utensils and ingredients off the ground.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cooking rice, grilling steak, and baking muffins on one campfire

A few carved pot hooks hung from a horizontal sapling (waugan) allows heat regulation when cooking coffee or simmering stew over an open fire. A solid tripod is another option for hanging pots over a fire.

4.) Paring Ladder

This simple device adds a “third hand” when using a draw knife to shape wood or remove bark.

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

The paring ladder in action

While I use it for its intended purpose, it also makes a fine camp chair. Secure a wool blanket or cargo net to a rung and loop the blanket around another pole near the bottom for lounging.

My Top 5 Most Useful Items at Permanent Camp ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp comfort!

It also makes a great drying rack for wet gear and clothing. The ladder is lightweight and easy to move from one tree to the next.

The beauty of building these camp comforts is that few tools are required. A knife, ax/hatchet, saw, and cordage are about all you’ll need to contrive ways to make yourself comfortable in the woods.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark

by Todd Walker

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Containers made from tree bark existed long before plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and canvas haversacks came about. With every trek in the woods, I find useful resources. That glob of pine sap, stones, bones, or wood somehow ends up going home with me (much to the chagrin of Dirt Road Girl).

It’s a condition which I wish to never be cured.

Scott Jones sums up this affliction with this quote in his book, Postcards to the Past

“The Eskimo say that only a fool comes home empty handed!

~ Lewis Binford, in Looking at Currated Technologies – 1979

If you suffer from this same condition, you’ll need a something to transport your found treasures back home or to your camp. While any container will usually work, nothing compares to a handcrafted bark container for both functionality and aesthetics for us out of doors types.

Traditional Berry Buckets

The best time to harvest tree bark is when the sap is rising in late spring and early summer. I know, I meant to post this tutorial in June. You’ll have to wait a few months to skin a tulip tree ((Liriodendron tulipifera). So bookmark this one for when the sap starts to rise again. 

Material and Tools

  • Knife – about all you really need
  • Ax or saw if you plan to fell a tree
  • Awl or drill
  • Cordage
  • Tulip Poplar tree
  • Rim wood
How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Very few tools are needed for bark containers

Find the Right Tree

Tulip Poplar is a fast growing (soft) hardwood with many uses in the southeastern United States. Other candidates for bark containers include; basswood, cedar, white birch (which we don’t have in Georgia), and others.

You’ll know you’re barking up the tree at the wrong time once you’ve attempted to peel the bark off. If the sap isn’t rising, the bark won’t come off easily. I look for young tulip poplar trees growing under dense canopies. They tend to grow straight with fewer lower limbs and have thinner bark. A 6 to 7 inch diameter tree is ideal.

To fell or not to fell… that is the question. I’ve done both. For smaller containers like my knife sheath, I simply cut a patch of bark off the tree.

You’d think completely girdling around would doom a tree to death. However, as a test this past spring, I removed a section of bark from the entire circumference of a small tulip tree (5 inches in diameter) and it still has its green leaves in early October. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is similarly resilient tree.

[Edit: A fellow woodsman commented on the above paragraph who is concerned that people with access to public land only would take my statement as scientific fact and start completely girdling trees. My actions are not scientific and should only be done on land you own. I was totally surprised that the tree is still living after removing bark from the entire circumference. Also, this particular tree was in a thick grove of tulip poplars. Please, only take trees from private land keeping forest management in mind.]

Score and Skin

Score the bark down to the sapwood with a knife or hatchet. I use a solid stick to strike the back of the blade after a free-hand score mark has been applied to the bark.

Once scored, press the tip of your knife into one corner and lift to separate the outer and inner bark from the sapwood. From that point, I use a wedged stick to run along the edge to loosen and lift the bark. With a gap created, you can use your fingers to further separate the bark from the tree. Warning: There are little spikes under the bark which will draw blood. Go slow and be careful bare handed. Gloves are recommended, but I enjoy the texture and feel of wet sap and bark.

If harvesting large quantities from felled trees, I use a wedged stick to separate bark instead of bare hands. When you’re near the point of full separation, you’ll know the bark is free when you hear a distinctive, satisfying snap sound.

Cut to Length

Place the bark flat on a level surface and cut to length. The length of bark should be a bit over double the intended height of your bucket. Trim all edges smooth to create a long rectangle.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bark length should be double that of the intended height of your container

Score a Football

With the outer bark facing up, measure and mark the mid-point of each long side of the rectangle. Use your knife to score an arch which runs from side to side. Repeat this step to form a football shape on the outer bark. Be careful to not cut through the inner bark. This layer of bark acts as a hinge when folding the basket sides together. When scoring in my shop, I use a utility knife with a about 1/8 inch of blade.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The size of the “football” determines the opening size at the top

Turn the bark over with the inner bark facing up. Place your hand on the middle of the bark and gently pull one long end to a vertical position. Now fold the other side. Your berry bucket is taking shape.

Bore Edge Holes

Use an awl or drill to bore a line of holes on both edges of the bucket. The spacing is up to you. I usually leave an inch and half to two inches between holes which are placed about 1/2  to 1 inch from the edge. The hole diameter should be large enough to accept your cordage/lacing.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My friend, James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge), traded this handmade awl to me

Lace Edges

Artificial sinew makes strong lacing. It can be purchased online or at craft stores. I’ve also used tarred bank line, leather, and a few other types of string. The artificial sinew can be threaded into a leather stitching needle to make quick work on this part of the project. I’ve seen some buckets laced with other inner barks like hickory (Carya).

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stitching the river cane handle into the sides of DRG’s berry bucket

Note: As the bark dries, it will shrink and the lacing may need to be re-tightened.

Start lacing at the bottom edge near the football cut with the edges joined together. Tie off with a simple overhand knot and run the stitching up the edge. Make a pattern if you like. Secure the lace at the top of both seams.

Add a Rim

Cut a flexible stick long enough to form a rim around the top opening of your bucket. I like to use two thin strips of white oak about the size of a hardware store paint stirrer. Thinned enough, they flex just right and add a little contrast. The rim will prevent the bark from curling in as it dries.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A white oak rim to finish off the bucket

Bore another series of holes along the rim edge. Place the rim wood pieces on the edges and lace them in as you did the sides. Leave enough lacing on both ends to make loops if you plan to add a carry handle made of rope. If you’re using two rim pieces like mine, you’ll need to bore holes in the ends to tie them together to hold the form you want.

I made a handle out of river cane for Dirt Road Girl’s berry bucket. It hangs in the living room with dried flowers as a conversation piece. Looks pretty too!

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This one will probably never transport berries… imagine that

Other Bark Containers

Once you’ve made one berry bucket, you’ll want more. With a bit of creativity and imagination, you can begin making many functional and aesthetically pleasing alternative containers from tree bark.

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

An arrow quiver made from tulip poplar bark

How to Make an Appalachian Berry Bucket from Tree Bark ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Neck sheath for one of my Mora knives

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skills in Context

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

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

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

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

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

~ Steven M. Watts (1947-2016)

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

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

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friction fire demo at my school

Friction fire demo at my school

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

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

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

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

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

Related Resources on our site:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

School of the Woods: Turning My Classroom Inside Out

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the thing…

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

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

Friction Fire Friday

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

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

Loading the spindle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the magic happens!

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

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

Back to the lesson…

Surface Area and Fire

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

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

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

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

Documentation

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

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

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

Birthing the Fire Egg 

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

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

Doing the Stuff in Context

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

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

As Steve Watts once said…

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

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

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

Turning Class Inside Out

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hand Drill Thumb Loops

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

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

Material and Tools

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

Step 1: Notch Your Spindle

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

Step 2: Cut Cordage to Length

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

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

Step 3: Tie Two Loops

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Give ’em a Spin

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

Step 5: Go for the Coal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 6: Trouble Shooting

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Carry Around Your Waist

by Todd Walker

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

 

There are many scenarios where you may be separated from your backpack and gear. Tipping a canoe or tumbling down a ravine come to mind. These types of accidents can quickly relieve you of the gear which makes for a comfortable wilderness outing. Having essential gear in your pockets and attached to your belt could turn your luck around, and, not being too dramatic here, could literally save your life.

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

Here is what’s on my belt…

Belt Kit Items

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

My D-Ring belt after completion.

My D-Ring belt after completion.

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

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

Knife

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

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

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

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

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

Fire Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferrocerium Rod and Folding Saw

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

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

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

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

Sidearm

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

Tagging on my shelter

Gang tags on my shelter

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

Pocket Stuff

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

Canteen Kit

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

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, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Primitive Preps: Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle

by Todd Walker

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Having items in your pack which serve more than one function reduces weight and increases resourcefulness. I’ve written about this multifunctional-mindset with modern equipment here. The concept is far from modern. Otzi the Ice Man carried multifunctional primitive tools over 5,300 years ago.

Here’s our experimental archeology project…

Multifunctional Spindles

How many redundant uses can we find for a hand drill spindle other than its primary use… friction fire embers?

If you have access to river cane, one spindle becomes multifunctional:

  • Friction Fire
  • Primitive Drill
  • Container

Friction Fire

Finding dry, straight wood long enough for a spindle in the field is challenging. Sticks in the 4 to 6 inch range is more likely. They don’t even have to be straight to be used as a friction fire fore shaft in a cane spindle. A quick whittling job will make them fit.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Burning in the hearth board with the wooden fore shaft stub.

To make the multifunctional spindle, straighten a section of river cane to your desired length in the 1/2 to 5/8 inch diameter range. Make two splits on one end perpendicular to one another just above the end node. Wrap the split with sinew with about a half-inch of split cane extending past the wrap. These four split sections will grip the fore shaft stubs as collets would on a brace and bit.

In my experience, simply carving or abrading the fore shaft in a cone shape is enough to create a tight friction fit in the spindle. However, carving an elongated pyramid shape (similar to brace and bit augers) on the fore shaft would add extra bite inside the collet grooves.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Similar gripping mechanics as the brace and bit

Primitive Drill

I discovered a gold mine of quartz crystals in a store in downtown Athens, GA. With this project in mind, I bought several in different sizes. A few are now stowed in my haversack for primitive skills tasks.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Quartz crystal secured in the spindle

If you can’t locate crystals for purchase, a bit of bipolar percussion can create serviceable drill tip. Use a hammer stone and strike the top of a smaller pebble until it shatters. With any luck you’ll have a sharp drill tip and no bludgeoned knuckles. If not, keep smashing rock and you’ll likely get both.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bipolar percussion in action at Workshops at the Woods

Insert your drill tip in the spindle and spin it on your hearth board to drill a perfectly round pivot hole. One or two passes with your hands on the spindle should work depending on the hardness of your hearth material. The trumpet vine I used in the video below is soft which makes it an excellent hearth board.

For more robust wood, or even other rock or shells, craft a spindle which can be used in a bow drill set. The end of the river cane spindle which meets the bearing block would need a carved hardwood plug to mate with the bearing block socket. More downward pressure and speed can be applied with a bow drill set than hand drill. Plus, you’ll save the skin on your hands.

Container

Leave enough hollow shaft on the end of the cane opposite the drilling end. While this chamber isn’t very large, repair needles, charred material, or other small items can be stored inside. Whittle a cap to plug the open end. Another cap option is a larger diameter piece of cane with the node joint in place which slides over the open end.

Primitive Preps- Craft a 3-in-1 Tool from One Hand Drill Spindle - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A river cane vile pictured at top. Plugging the end of the spindle (bottom of photo) creates a container for small items.

I’ve given three uses for one spindle. What are some others you can share?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

 

 

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

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

Time for me to trade theory for action!

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

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

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

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

Primitive Fire Balls

Material and Tools

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

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

Step 1: Create a Tinder Bundle

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

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

Step 2: Insert Char Cloth

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

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

Char cloth in the center of the tinder bundle.

Step 3: Apply Wrapping

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

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

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

Step 4: Wax the Balls

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

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

Double boiler method

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

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

Using the Primitive Fire Balls

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

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

Floating for about 3 minutes in a bird bath.

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

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

This is the pine straw tinder after 5 minutes.

Conclusion

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts

by Todd Walker

Atlatl Series (Part I) – Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower

Having built an atlatl in Part I, you now need to make a straight stick to launch. In this tutorial, we will make river cane atlatl darts from scratch. Even if you haven’t made an atlatl, primitive archery enthusiasts can use the same technique in arrow making by adjusting the nock end for a bow string.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Atlatl Darts

I was called out by a gentleman about using the term “spear-thrower” in the title of my first post on making atlatls. If you’ve read my article, you quickly find that the projectile thrown from an atlatl is a flexible dart. Spear conjures images of a caveman tossing a heavy, rigid sapling at prey or predator. Atlatls propel a light, flexible spear (dart). I often wonder about the paleo-genius who first discovered and leveraged this technology without the benefit of modern physics. He probably opened a cave classroom illustrating his invention on stone walls.

A month after my atlatl class with Scott Jones (Workshops at the Woods), he offered the companion class on making atlatl darts and arrows with his friend and fellow Georgian, Ben Kirkland. Both of these gentlemen are experts in primitive technology and excel in effectively sharing tribal knowledge.

River cane is said to be our modern day equivalent of plastic to indigenous tribes in the southeastern United States. Scott made several river cane practice darts for our class to throw. We added duct tape fletching which I’ve used before to make expedient arrow fletchings. Before adding feather fletchings, duct tape can be applied to test the dart’s flight. Satisfied with the performance of a dart, you can easily remove the tape and fletch the shaft with real feathers.

Heat and Bend…

No matter what material you choose for your shaft, straightening darts or arrows require heat – not by hanging them from barn rafters as Scott has been told by the uninitiated. His mantra on the laborious process is… “Get off your ass, go out and start a fire, and straighten your d*mned arrows.” On that 90 plus degree day in July, we built the fire and sweated to un-bend cane in pursuit of a straight dart.

Here’s what you’ll need to straighten shafts:

  • River cane
  • Leather gloves
  • Leather knee pad
  • Knife and/or fine-tooth saw
  • Fire

A roaring fire is not required to heat and bend shafts. In fact, I retreat to my shop in the Georgia heat and use my DIY Plumber’s Stove and/or a soldering torch. Call it cheating if you like, but I’ll take a cool shop with a small fire when straightening lots of shafts in the summer.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the cane moving through the flames

As for cane size, the large end (growth nearest the ground) should be approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. The small end will likely be about 1/4 to 3/8 inch (pencil-size) at about six to seven feet. The large end will be the forward end of your dart with the smaller end serving as the nock. Before cutting to length (6-7 feet), leave extra cane on both ends for gripping in the heat and bend process described below.

Take a seasoned length of river cane and remove the branches and leaf sheaths. I break off the branches with my hand in a swift, downward motion and carefully trim the stubs even with a sharp knife. Use of a thumb lever with your knife to gain needed control to prevent accidentally cutting into the shaft.

Now begins the repetitive process of heating and bending. Sight down the shaft to locate bends. Move the bent section of cane through the fire in a constant motion. How long? Until the area is evenly heated. Experience will be your best guide. Leather gloves are recommended.

Once heated, place a folded leather pad or insulation layer over your knee, apply gentle pressure to the bend in the same fashion you’d use to break a stick over your knee – only with less pressure. I found a slight rolling motion against the knee yields good results. Allow the heated shaft to set for a few seconds on the knee before checking for straightness. Sight for more bent areas and repeat… and repeat… and repeat… and… repeat. You’ll eventually create a straight dart if you stick with the process.

Cut Cane to Length

There are no set design formulas for atlatl dart lengths. The acceptable guideline from experienced dart-throwers is about three times the length of your atlatl.

Once you have a straight shaft, beaver-chew with a knife through the cane to prevent splitting. Beaver-chewing is to make a series of shallow cuts around the circumference at the cutoff point. Make a few passes until the cane easily snaps off. A fine tooth saw works as well.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Shirtless Scott Jones going the abo route and cutting cane by abrading with a stone. It was hot that day!

Leave enough hollow portion on the small end of the cane for a nock to mate with the spur end of your atlatl – 3/8 of an inch ought to do it. You can always take more stock off but can’t put more back on. Chamfer the inside of the nock with the tip of your knife to form a female funnel of sorts. Test the fit on your spur and tweak as needed to insure a solid fit. If you’re using a “quickie” bamboo atlatl described in Part I of this series, detailed attention to the nock is not as important.

Hafting Darts

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott preparing to haft a stone point.

On the business end of the dart (large end), leave enough cane (4-6 inches) past the last node joint to haft a point or insert a fore shaft. Another interesting technique Scott demonstrated for hafting was to use a short, larger diameter section of cane or bamboo with a stone point attached. This short female fore shaft is slipped over the outside of the shaft instead of being inserted into the hollow end of the dart as I had only ever witnessed.

Material and Tools

  • Points: Stone, bone, antler, hardwood, gar scale are good material
  • Glue: Pine pitch glue, hide glue, hot melt arrow point glue (commercially available), or a regular glue stick
  • Lashing: Animal sinew, artificial sinew, waxed thread, even dental floss will do
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Duct tape

To add forward weight to practice darts, several methods can be used without a permanent hafting job. This is where duct tape becomes your friend… again! Scott described the use of duct tape by primitive practitioners as “modern man’s rawhide.” Fill the hollow forward end with sand or BB’s and tape it closed. An old nail can also be inserted in the hollow and taped.

For permanent points hafted directly to the dart end, bore a 1/8 inch hole about half an inch from the end of the dart. Bore a second hole directly opposite and on the same plane as the first hole. With the tip of your knife inserted in one hole, cut toward the end of the cane. Cut until you’ve removed a straight section of the cane. Repeat on the opposite hole. Widen the section as needed to accept your chosen point. Dry fit the point and adjust the width. A gar scale may seat fine without widening the slot.

Once satisfied with the dry fit, heat your glue and apply a glob into the slot on the shaft. While the glue is hot and pliable, insert the point in the slot. Reheat over the fire if necessary to line up the point with the shaft.

Make a few wraps of sinew around the slot/point connection for a secure hold. Before applying the sinew, wet it thoroughly in your mouth with saliva. This moisture activates the natural glue in the fibers. No need to tie-off natural sinew. It will stick when applied and shrink as it dries. Hide glue can be applied to the wrap afterwards to add hold and prevent moisture from effecting the sinew. Other cordage material must be tied.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A dogwood fore shaft inserted in one of my atlatl darts

Adding a male fore shaft to the end of your dart requires less precision. Make two splits on the forward end of your dart in a cross hair configuration (perpendicular to one another). The splits should be about 1.5 to 2 inches in length. When wrapped with sinew, these splits will act as a grip on the fore shaft like a drill chuck on a drill bit. Scott noted that fore shafts are likely to split the end of your dart anyway. This method creates a controlled spit and added purchase.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A collection fore shafts at Scott’s class

Fore shafts can be carved from wood, bone, antler, or anything you can imagine. They need to be tapered to fit the end of your dart but not so much that the tip of the fore shaft contacts the end node of the shaft.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The long barbed point left of the stone points is a stingray barb which was used by aboriginal people in coastal areas.

Fletching Darts

Duct tape makes a field expedient and serviceable fletching. Tape two pieces to the nock end of your dart so that they stick to each other around the shaft. Trim the edges to shape and you have a fletched dart. If the dart performs well, leave the tape or remove it and use real feathers for the fletching.

Not all feathers are legal. Using eagle, hawk, owl – (raptors), or birds covered under the Federal Migratory Bird Act could land you in legal trouble with big fines. Here’s a link to get you started researching legal feathers.

In this tutorial, I’m using legally harvested wild turkey tail feathers. The method used is called Eastern Two Feather fletching.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ben Kirkland demonstrating the Eastern Two Feather fletching technique. Notice the two goose feathers attached at the nock end of his arrow.

Material and Tools

  • Feathers
  • Scissors or knife
  • Glue
  • Sinew

Use two feathers curved in the same direction. Make two cuts about an inch from the tip of the feather perpendicular to the feather shaft (rachis). If using scissors (which are recommended), cut in the direction from feather tip to the base of the feather. Cut in the opposite direction if using a sharp knife of flint flake.

How to Straighten, Haft, and Fletch River Cane Atlatl Darts - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cuts made for the Eastern Two Feather fletching.

Trim down both sides of the shaft to the previous cuts leaving only an inch or so of bare shaft. Now trim down both sides of the shaft leaving 3/4 inch of vane on both sides. Grip the inside curved vane (concave part) and strip towards the base so that about 2 inches of vane is left on the tip-end of shaft.

Measure the desired fletch length by placing the feather in your outstretched hand. Your length from the tip of your index finger to the inside of your thumb is a good length – about 5 inches give or take. Remove the portion of the long vane at that point by pulling toward the base.

With a sharp knife on the shaft at the point where the end of the short vane connects, make an angled cut to the center of the shaft. Carefully flatten your knife and cut down the center of the shaft through the hollow end of the feather. Cut the half-shaft off about one inch past the large vane.

One method of attaching the fletching is to bend the tip end of the feather shaft toward the outside of the feather. Unfold the stem and place it on the dart with the outside of the feather facing up and past the nock end of the dart. Heat the dart shaft area where the fletching will be attached. Apply a small amount of pitch glue on the shaft to hold the feather in place. Repeat this step for the second feather. The position of the fletching doesn’t need to line up on darts like they would on an arrow shaft’s nock. Just attach them directly opposite of each other near the nock end of the dart.

With the vanes temporarily attached, apply sinew wraps to hold permanently. Fold the feathers back over on top of the dart. Twist the fletchings 45 degrees around the dart shaft. This causes the feathers to spiral around the dart shaft. Pull the vane shafts tight and repeat the previous step to attach this end of the feathers.

Safety Note: When applying feathers to archery arrows, make sure the forward ends of the fletching are flattened and completely covered with sinew. Any exposed feather shaft will rip through your arrow rest (skin) on release causing much pain.

Making your own darts and arrows is a time-consuming journey. However, learning to reproduce a deadly primitive weapon from scratch is quite satisfying!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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