Homesteading

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope

by Todd Walker

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope - www.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 (Quote found at Master Woodsman)

I’ve spent almost two years at my semi-permanent shelter sawing wood on a stump braced by my knee or under my knee in a plumbers vise. My goal this year is to add more camp comforts to my shelter. The stump vise I made recently is handy for certain tasks but is just down the slope from my base camp. But a sawbuck situated near my shelter would help increase my productivity and decrease wear and tear on my back and knees.

Though I built a sawbuck from dimensional lumber for my backyard woodpile, what I needed for my shelter in the woods had to be of natural material collected from the landscape… to blend with the landscape.

Functional Fitness: The Wild Woodsmans Workout

Remember this old Beech tree? She’s been very good to me!!

Plus, my body was in need of a good woodsman workout. Believe me, after sawing a 12″ Beech limb with a bucksaw with only 8 inches of cut clearance, hauling it back to camp, I got my functional fitness in for the day!

Tools and Material

  • Base: A large hardwood log – 12 inches or more in diameter by 36 to 48 inches long. Or take advantage of a fallen tree near you site and use it without sawing or bucking a base log.
  • Skids: Two skid logs about 12 to 18 inches long – the diameter depends on the height needed for your sawbuck. With a large enough diameter log, skids won’t be needed.
  • X Posts: Four 5 to 6 foot hardwood poles used to form two X’s over the base
  • Cordage: Enough cordage to tie two square lashings on the X’s members. 1/4 inch sisal rope was used on this project.
  • Cutting Tools: Bucksaw, crosscut saw, or chain saw to cut the base log. An ax – cause you never need to be in the woods without one. Knife – see previous sentence. My bucksaw has an 8 inch cut clearance which made cutting the base log very challenging and rewarding to know it can do the stuff.
  • Water: Stay hydrated

Construction

To slow down the rotting process and elevate the Base as needed, lay the round base on top of two skid logs. I notched a slight “saddle” in the skid logs but I tend to over-engineer stuff. Notching is optional. The skids are used to elevate a smaller diameter base log (10 to 12 inch diameter range) to desired height.

Once the base is situated on flat ground , sharpen the ends of your X posts with your ax. Drive one post into the ground with your ax or heavy maul at a point 4-5 inches from the end of the base log. Now drive another X post into the ground on the opposite side of the base. Try to keep the X posts touching the base log and each other as much as possible. They may separate from each other during the driving process. No worries. The lashing will draw them together.

Safety Tip: If using an ax to drive posts, be sure to keep it sheathed while you hammer the posts with the poll of the ax. By the time your hammering posts, you’ll likely be a little fatigued from sawing and hauling wood. If so, take a break and recoup before swinging an ax like a sledge-hammer.

After pounding your 4 X posts into the ground, lash the post intersections with cordage. The X posts should be touching the base log as this contact gives the sawbuck stability under a load.

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

 

Here’s a how-to on square lashing if you need to learn this knot.

The height of your sawbuck depends upon the angle of your X posts. For instance, decrease the interior angle to raise the platform and visa versa. The X posts are not adjustable once in the ground so determine the working height needed before driving the second post of each X brace.

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

Once the X posts are secured in the ground and lashed, cut the tops of the posts to an even length. Now your ready to saw firewood or make camp furniture on a sturdy platform.

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

I originally thought I’d need to lash a cross brace between the two X posts as a sway bar. This idea proved unnecessary. The sawbuck held a poplar log 6 inches in diameter by 7 feet long without wobble as I sawed a length off the log.

Check out our video tutorial below:

Additional Resources:

By the way, the sawbuck makes an additional camp seat. You’ll probably need one after hauling logs!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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…

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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, Homesteading, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing an Ax for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I, an incurable Ax Junkie, hereby nominate the man or woman responsible for hafting a stone to the end of a stick as the first inductee in the Tool-User Hall of Fame. Second only to clubs, axes are possibly the oldest tool known to man. This wooden lever attached to a stone, a simple machine, was in use over 30,000 years ago revolutionizing not only our “survival kits”, but our destiny as tool-users!

anachronisim [uhnak-ruh-niz-uh m] – a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.

To the modern backpacker, axes are an anachronisim. One reason I love axes is that they are no longer deemed necessary by moderns. Too heavy. Too dangerous. We have chainsaws now! Besides, who needs to process firewood when a lightweight compressed gas stove will cook freeze dried meal in a bag.

[See Christian Noble’s thought-provoking article on how Leave No Trace Killed Woodcraft… almost]

However, not too long ago, it was ill-advised to enter the backcountry without an ax. According to early Boy Scout manuals, young scouts were expected to be proficient axmen, to the point of cooking a complete meal with this cutting tool. Any person wanting to sharpen their woodcraft/bushcraft skills needs an ax.

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’ve had several people ask my opinion on ax selection lately. This guide is written for those who have never owned an ax or may buy only one or two in a lifetime. It is not a comprehensive ax “Bible” but intended for novice axmen and self-reliant types wanting or needing to feel the pleasure of a hickory handle whist through air, hear the thud of metal striking wood, and watch wood chips fly.

Ax Anatomy

For the sake of clarity, refer to the diagram below of basic terminology. All you really need to know is that you grip the handle and swing the sharp end against wood.

Ax Anatomy Simplified | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The above photo features a single bit (aka – poll ax) Plumb Boy Scouts of America 3/4 ax with a fawn’s foot handle I acquired for $15. Not bad for a classic American-made ax!

  • Bit – the sharp edge that cuts stuff; also called the blade
  • Poll – the end of the ax opposite the bit; sometimes called the back and often misused to hammer metal stakes. The poll adds balance to prevent wobble during chopping/swinging.
  • Cheek – area past the bit; also referred to as the ramp or face
  • Toe – top corner of the bit; maybe to remind you to watch your toes while chopping
  • Heel – bottom corner of the bit
  • Eye – the hole in the axhead that receives the handle/haft
  • Handle – made of stiff wood with shock absorbing properties; usually Hickory in North America; also called the haft
  • Grip – no explanation needed, right?
  • End Knob – pictured is a sawn-off fawn’s foot

Ax Selection

A woodsman should carry a hatchet, and he should be as critical in selecting it as in buying a gun. The notion that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion.

~ Horace Kephart, from Camping and Woodcraft, 1917

Selecting an ax has many variables, but, mainly, you want one that works best for your intended purpose. I have a small collection of axes in different patterns and weights. Each design was meant to do different jobs.

Ax Purpose

Early North American pioneers relied heavily on the ax. This cutting tool built houses, provided fuel for home and camp, built furniture, cleared land, and made a great barter item. Specialty axes in skilled hands crafted ships, cabins, beams, bowls, mortise and tenon joinery, and other essential items for self-reliance.

“Knicks and dull edges are abominations, so use knives and hatchets for nothing but they were made for.” – Horace Kephart, 1917

Belt or Hand Ax (Hatchet)

The ax that serves me in the field the most is a 16 inch Wetterlings Hunter’s Hatchet. Why? It’s not burdensome to carry. She’s always strapped to my pack or haversack. Just over 2 pounds, this hatchet has preformed yeoman’s work on tasks requiring a larger ax.

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

When my chainsaw died, the small Wetterlings hatchet proved its worth and maneuverability on our neighbor’s storm damaged hickory tree

Note: The shorter the ax, the more dangerous it becomes. Don’t fear the ax, learn to use it properly. Swing time with your ax is the only way to learn this skill.

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The most frequently used cutting tool when build this shelter is hanging to the far right

From spoon carving to building semi-permanent shelter, a hatchet can do the job. When scouting for shelter material, the Wetterlings rode on a loop attached to my belt. It makes a great light camping ax as well.

Three Quarter Ax

In colder climates where large amounts of firewood are required for warmth at camp, a 3/4 ax may be your best bet. This style ax reaches from armpit to the palm of your hand with a head weight of 2 to 3 pounds and is hafted on an 18 to 28 inch handle – an ideal tool for younger woodsmen (boy’s ax) and for general use for adults.

The deciding factor on which ax to carry is often an issue of conveyance. Tramping requires that you to be the “mule.” Where weight is not an issue, as in car camping, canoe trips, or on horseback, you might opt for the larger felling ax for wood processing. All the while packing your small hatchet for a scout-about, quartering game, and other camp tasks.

The most common purpose of an ax is cutting firewood. I asked the question, “How long will chainsaws hum along?” in a previous article. Even if the gas engines keep pumping noise in the backcountry, there’s too much nostalgia and practicality to not add a good felling ax to your self-reliance toolbox.

Felling Ax

Born Again Tools: Giving New Life to an Old Ax

Jersey pattern True Temper Kelly Perfect felling ax with scalloped cheeks

Above is a True Temper Kelly Perfect with a 30 inch handle I restored. This cutting tool chops large diameter logs like a boss.

The early American felling ax was hand-forged by local blacksmiths. Ax patterns were named based on their regional location; Dayton, Michigan, Jersey, Hudson Bay, New England, North Carolina, etc. Some of these patterns are still popular with modern ax makers. A typical felling axhead weighs between 3.5 to 6 pounds with a handle length between 30 and 36 inches.

Buy New or Used?

Most American ax manufacturers bit the dust when the chainsaw was introduced in the logging industry. Buyer Beware: Axes in big box stores (made in China) are not going to be passed down as family heirlooms. My most productive ax scores have been at local antique shops, flea markets, and yard/estate sales. Old American-made axes are still available and begging to be put to use.

Most used axes will need to be re-handled. Not a problem. Here’s how to re-haft an ax. Pay more attention to the axhead’s condition and manufacturer. More detailed info on vintage axes can be found at Yester Year Tools (link in the Ax Resources section below).

Hardware stores may have a handle with good grain, but not likely. No matter where you get your new haft, check the run of the wood grain from the side view. Grain running perpendicular to the handle won’t last long. Look for grain running parallel the whole length of the handle. A few stray grains won’t hurt.

Cutting to the Chase When Choosing Axes for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A True Temper hickory sap wood handle with good vertical grain found at a small hardware store

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

Finding a good ax that fits your needs is often a difficult task. Hopefully, this information will help with your search for a the most versatile tool of self-reliance.

Ax Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashing

by Todd Walker

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

With spring near, you’re hoping for a cure to cabin fever. Maybe a camping trip to your favorite spot is in order. Time to refresh your camp craft skills and awe your camping buddies with your rope and stick tying skills!

Lashing isn’t just for Boy Scouts and pirates. This skill comes in handy for gardeners, homesteaders, bushcrafters, and for that unlikely event when you need to build a raft to escape a cannibal infested island.

Traditional Square Lashing

Square lashing is used when securing spars (poles) that cross between 45º to 90º angles. It’s a super strong lashing still used in many parts of the world to build bamboo scaffolding. You probably won’t have the need for a 5 story construction platform, but you may want to build a few camp comforts like a table or wash station.

Lashing Lingo

These are commonly used terms when describing the art of lashing stuff together.

Wrap: A series of turns of cordage around two or more spars (poles) you’re binding together.

Frap: Turns of cordage on top and perpendicular to the previous wraps. Fraps go between the spars to pull the joint tight.

Spars: Poles to be lashed together.

Tag End: The short end of your cordage when tying knots and lashings. AKA ~ running end.

Working End: The long end of your cordage when tying knots and lashings. AKA ~ standing end.

Tongue Lashing: What you’ll receive from camping buddies if your lazy lashings on camp furniture fail. Take your time, use good materials, and tie it right.

Material List

Cordage: I use #36 Tarred Mariner’s Line (bank line) for 95% of lashing projects. Other options in order of my preference are:

  • Natural fiber rope/twine – whipping should be applied to the ends to prevent unraveling.
  • Paracord – I use red paracord in this demonstration as a visual aide. Melt the ends to stop fraying. It is my least favorite cordage for lashing.

Spars: Two wrist-size sticks; one vertical, one horizontal.

Cutting Tool: Scissors work… but not the most manly cutting tool at camp.

Tie One On

For practice, consider building a lashing station in the backyard. Set two posts in the ground. Lash a cross spar between the two posts about waist height. Stand another spar against the horizontal cross spar to practice on.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A rain-soaked lashing station in the backyard

Step 1: Determine Cordage Length

As a math teacher, here’s a simple equation to prevent cutting cordage too short or too long.

Cordage Equation: y = 3x

Y represents the total length of cordage needed. X is the variable representing the combined diameter of the two spars being lashed together. The number in front of the X, also called the coefficient (you didn’t really want to know that), represents 3 feet.  Let’s say the combined diameter of the two spars is 5 inches. Plug in 5 for x and multiply by 3 feet. You’ll need 15 feet of cordage.

Step 2: Starting Knot

Take one end of your cordage and secure it to the vertical spar using either a clove hitch or timber hitch. The starting knot will be beneath the horizontal cross spar. These two knots are easy to tie and untie without resorting to cutting with those cool camp scissors.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A clove hitch is basically two half hitches put together.

I prefer to start lashings with a timber hitch (my video below shows how to tie a quick one). For this blog post, I used a clove hitch with the red paracord. If you choose a clove hitch, leave a long tag end (3 to 6 inches) that will be twisted around the working end of the cordage as an added security measure on the knot.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Extra long tag end for demonstration purposes

Step 3: Begin Wrapping

With the tag end twisted around the working end of your cordage, (a) wrap it up and over the horizontal spar, (b) around the backside of the vertical spar, (c) back over the opposite side of the horizontal spar, (d) and back around the vertical spar where the clove hitch is secured.

This completes your first wrapping. The wraps should cross the spars at a 90º angle… this angle gives the Square Lashing its name.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This is the pattern for the wraps. Note: The working end of the cordage is in my left hand… only because my camera is in my right hand. 

Continue this wrapping pattern until you have 3 or 4 complete wraps. I don’t count the first twisted wrap. It’s important that you keep the wraps as tight and parallel to one another as possible during the process. This not only aids the appearance of your lashing but also functions to  make the joint stronger with less friction on the cordage.

Note: Keeping slick paracord tight can be a challenge. Wrap a toggle stick in the working end of your rope to help pull the wraps and fraps tight.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Wraps completed and ready for frapping

Step 4: Begin Frapping

Take the working end of the cordage between the spars and over the previous wraps to create one frapping. Apply at least two fraps between the spars. Cinch the frapping tight with a toggle. Tarred bank line bites and holds on itself very well. That’s one reason it’s my goto cordage.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Toggle used to tighten frapping

Step 5: Ending Knot

With the wraps and fraps tight, you’re ready to terminate the lashing. Tie a clove hitch on the horizontal cross spar next to the wrapping. An easy shortcut is to tie two half hitches to form a clove hitch. This makes terminating slippery cordage much easier. Just be sure to wiggle and tighten each half hitch. For added security, tie a third half hitch beside the clove hitch.

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two half hitches

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The previous half hitches forming a clove hitch

The finished square lashing…

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashings | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The rear view

 

Sometimes it’s easier to just watch a video on lashing. Here’s a square lashing video using tarred bank line while building a camp table.

If you need to lash a tripod, check out this video:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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 Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Ax-Manship: Tips for Splitting Long Logs for Firewood

by Todd Walker

It’s cold and you need firewood back at base camp. That standing dead oak tree 200 yards from your shelter will provide you with enough BTU’s for heat and cooking on this frigid weekend.

What’s the best strategy to get the fuel back to camp?

Ax-Manship: Smart Tips for Processing Long Logs into Firewood | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You can only carry x amount of stove-length firewood in your arms before your back shuts down. The efficient method is to cut longer lengths at the harvest site and haul it back to base camp. How long? The answer depends on your functional fitness level and the diameter/density of the log to be hauled.

You need to conserve calories since the only means of conveyance is your body. Firewood provides heat. Heat cooks food. Food provides calories.

Hauling Long Logs

I first witnessed the technique as a young boy when my daddy hired Mr. Colbert to cut timber on our land. Get this, his name was King… King Colbert!

Mr. Colbert was strong as Paul Bunyan’s ox, Babe the Blue Ox! He hauled pulp wood logs to his old log truck on his shoulder. Paul Bunyan was folklore, but King was the real deal!

Now, you don’t have to be as strong as Mr. Colbert to transport firewood, a few simple tips, and upping your functional fitness, will have you toting logs like toothpicks.

Here’s my rule of thumb for hauling logs…

  • A foot or so taller than me
  • Choose trees I can reach around with one arm and touch my nose
  • Walk the path of least resistance (tripping hazards)… even it’s a longer walk
  • Good form equals less injuries

Let’s haul some wood!

Ax-Manship: Tips for Splitting Long Logs for Firewood | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Doing squats here but it’s the same technique only you walk with the log on your shoulder.

 

Stand the log on end. Position your shoulder just past the midway point of the log. With your legs and hips bent like your about to do a squat in the weight room, keep your back straight and tilt the log backwards (opposite the way you’re facing) as you lift the log.

The longer end of the log will naturally counter balance to your backside. A bandana or extra shirt on your neck will prevent scratches. Now haul it back to camp!

Splitting Long Logs

Grab your ax, two hardwood wedges, and a maul. Simple machines are force multipliers. Carve two pieces of hardwood about 8 inches long into wedges with your ax. The beauty of woodcraft/bushcraft skills is that you craft simple machines on site. This lightens your load considerably.

Don’t overlook the importance of a simple maul for camp craft projects. Uses include but are not limited to…

  • Pounding stuff like stakes and wedges
  • Baton for splitting wood
  • Hammer for mortise and tenon joints on shelters
  • All sorts of camp craft tasks at camp

Here’s a down and dirty tutorial on how to make your own maul:

Back to splitting.

Lay the log to be split on top of another log to elevate it off the ground. If you want to get fancy, cut a “Y” branch to cradle the log. This short “Y” holds the long log steady for splitting and prevents grounding of your sharp ax. Your ax bit won’t take kindly to dirt and rocks.

Once secure, straddle the log and strike the end of the log with your ax to start a split. Remember to keep the ax handle horizontal at impact. It may take a couple of strikes. Once a split opens in the log, drive a wedge into the split above your ax with a maul. Remove your ax and pound another wedge in the crack going down the log. Use the maul, not your ax. The steel ax tends to “mushroom” the top of wooden wedges. And please, never hammering metal wedges with an ax.

Repeat this process until the log splits lengthwise. Take care not to pound the wooden wedge into your “Y” cradle or other hard stuff or you’ll blunt the wedges.

Use your ax to cut any stubborn wood fibers clinging to both halves of the log. Follow safety procedures as if you were limbing. Keep your anatomy clear of ax swings!

Repeat the process to split halves into quarters or even eighths. I prefer quartered if I have my bucksaw at camp. With a shorter folding saw, eighths speed the processing considerably.

Bucking the Split Logs

I’ve found this method of processing firewood saves my ax. Sawing logs into firewood lengths first, then splitting them with an ax, consumes cutting tool resources (sharp ax bit) quicker than splitting long logs first then bucking.

With your logs quartered, you’re ready to process firewood lengths for your tent stove or campfire. Obviously, if you’re burning a long fire, all this processing is unnecessary.

To save calories and frustration, lay the split rails in a notched stump vise you’ve crafted. A simple “V” notch or “7” notch will help hold the rails in place while you cut to your desired length. On the homestead, build yourself a sawbuck.

If you don’t have a takedown bucksaw, order a 21 inch Bacho Dry Cut saw blade and build one from scrap lumber for under 12 dollars. This saw eats through wood like a beaver on steroids! I just ordered a 36 inch blade for larger logs.

DRG and I would really appreciate you subscribing to our YouTube channel. It’s just another avenue for us to Share the Stuff of Self-Reliance! We’ve got a subscriber giveaway planned when we reach 500 subscribers. We’re at 226 now. Thanks for all your support!

And as always…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Not many a young boy, in our present chainsaw generation, has ever witnessed his mother fell a tree with her ax. My brain cells blur as to the exact date, kindergarten maybe, but the image of Mama swinging sharp steel rhythmically against that tree is permanently etched in my childhood memory bank. Over 45 years later, my ax addiction continues!

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A question you must ax…

How long will chainsaws hum along? Long enough… maybe. Either way, self-reliance requires that one never put all their hopes in one tool.

I’m not anti-chainsaw. I love my Stihl… for certain jobs. She allows me to work without much sweat. Ah, but nothing beats a hunk of steel on the end of a stick. When wielded skillfully by fit individuals, it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

The ax is the oldest, most under-appreciated, yet invaluable tool which serves not only as a wilderness lifeline, but a simple machine that connects your hands to a forgotten craft… Ax-Manship.

The ax of our past may be the key to our future. You see, the more complicated a machine (i.e. – a chainsaw) the more likely you’ll need a small engine repair shop in your basement to keep it productive. In the field, at a minimum, you’ll need to carry two types of oil, gasoline, gas can, files, and a bar wrench to harvest wood with this machine. You’ll likely need another machine for conveyance just to reach your woodlots with all the stuff accompanying your chainsaw.

A sharp ax (sheathed, of course) can be slung over your shoulder with a sharpening stone in your pocket. That is all. No doubt, a chainsaw can rip through cords of firewood and fell huge timber. But again, the question remains, how long will they hum? If your answer is “forever”, you may view the ax as an archeological artifact with little use for modern man.

Even if combustion engines continue to run “forever”, you’ll never regret owning ax-manship skills. Indigenous peoples, soldiers, farmers, homesteaders, woodsmen, frontiersmen, and craftsmen of old knew the value of this tool and how to use it.

Every self-reliant man should learn these 4 basic ax skills… safely, without shortening your toes.

Warning: Axes are daylight tools. Safe and efficient ax skills only come from using your ax(es) properly. Like other tools, choose the right one for the job. Felling and bucking wood is not the only job axes do well. Job specific axes include: hewing, ship building, butchering, carpentry, fire fighting, wood carving, and many more.

For the purpose of this non-comprehensive ax article, we’ll focus on felling, limbing, bucking, and just a touch of splitting with and ax…

1) Felling

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Journal Notes ~ A: Face Cut and Back Cut

Without experience felling trees, you should never lay an ax to a trunk you can’t reach around with one arm. Practice accuracy and technique on smaller trees.

Determine the lean of the tree to be felled by viewing it from a distance two directions: front and 90º to the side. Hold/hang the end of your ax handle between your thumb and forefingers and use it as a plumb line to sight the tree’s lean. This will help you determine the lay or path the tree will fall.

With proper tools (wedges, jacks, ropes), a skilled axman can make most any tree fall in his/her desired direction. However, it’s much easier to fell a tree towards its natural lean if that path is clear of other obstacles.

Before Your First Swing

  1. Visually check the tree for any widow makers (dead limbs) that might dislodge and crash onto your body. Dead standing trees are excellent for firewood but also pose a higher risk of dropping limbs when being hacked on. Even small twigs falling can damage your eye the moment you look up to check. Eye protection is advisable.
  2. Clear your swing radius of all debris that might snag your ax mid swing. Miss hits and glances mean potential injury.
  3. Watch the wind. Predominant wind direction and gusts can be your friend or foe when felling trees.
  4. Have multiple escape routes. Things can go very wrong if a tree kicks back or gets snagged in an adjacent tree on its decent. Take time to plan and clear paths. Be ready to drop everything and retreat if need be.

Swing Stance

Position your body so that your feet are behind the chopping strokes and to the outside of your feet. Chopping stokes should be outside the “train tracks” (two parallel lines running to the outer edges of your boots) with your feet inside the tracks on flat ground where possible.

Face Cut

Aim to make a 45º face cut near the base of the tree. This notch should go about halfway through the tree and be perpendicular with the imaginary line of fall. Make progressive cuts in a pattern to remove wood chips. Accuracy is more important here than strength and power.

Never swing in an upward manner to remove wood chips in the notch. Upward ax swings are likely glance and end in your face. Continue making 45 degree cuts from top to bottom of the face cut. Decreasing your swing angle slightly to about 10º will help remove chips… just never swing upward! Also, keep the ax handle as horizontal as possible while swinging. Do this by flexing your knees and waist with the ax head at 45º.

Now you have a 45 degree face cut with an even shelf about halfway through the tree. Time for the next notch.

Back Cut

The back cut is a smaller version of the face cut. Again, this cut needs to be a 45º notch with its shelf an inch or two higher than the face cut shelf. This hight difference creates a “hinge” between the two notches.

The hinge serves as a safety device to prevent kickback when the tree begins to fall. Even with smaller diameter trees, the weight of the tree falling causes the base of the tree to push backwards. It’s physics.

You may find it helpful to score the area of the back cut with your ax to give you an accurate target. Use the same cutting strokes as you did with the front cut. As you close in on the front cut from the rear, pay attention to the trees movement. Once it starts to lean, you may get one more swing in. After that, it’s time to get out of the way and let gravity take over. Do not stand directly behind the falling tree. Move to a safe distance to either side… and get ready to drop your ax and run if need be. Unlike how I demonstrated on the video below…

2) Limbing

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Journal Notes ~ B: Limbing

Limbing can be dangerous since there is no backup to stop the ax once it severs the branch. Here’s some tips for limbing safely:

  1. Swing in a direction from the base (trunk) to the top of the downed tree. This removes the limb even at the trunk leaving little to no snags.
  2. Start by removing limbs from the topside of the downed tree to prevent them from interfering while limbing side branches. Remember to keep your feet inside the “railroad tracks” and the limb outside the tracks on all horizontal swings. Once severed, remove to keep your work area clear for side limbing.
  3. Keep the tree trunk between you and the limb you are removing when at all possible. Keep your body slightly behind the target limb as you swing.

3) Bucking

Once your tree is down and limbed, you need to move it to camp or your woodshed. If the chainsaws are no longer humming, vehicles probably aren’t either. Or, you may be too deep in the backwoods to be reached with a truck or tractor.

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Journal Notes ~ C: Bucking

 

Buck it! Bucking is the process of chopping logs into manageable lengths for conveyance. If you know the length of your ax, use it as a measuring tool to lay out the log sections to be bucked.

Bucking tips:

  1. Scotch the log with wooden wedges or smaller branches on both sides of the log to be bucked.
  2. Stand on top of the log with feet straddling your cut mark. Spread feet about shoulder’s width apart with knees and hips slightly flexed. This stance is adjusted up or down depending on the length of your ax.
  3. Maintaining your balance, swing accurately and begin making “V” notches from the center of your mark to a width equal to the diameter of the log. For instance, a log 10 inches in diameter will have a V notch about 10 inches wide.
  4. Once you’ve notched one side of the log, turn and repeat the notching on the log’s opposite side. The two V notches will meet in the middle of the log and break apart.

4) Splitting

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

Splitting both short and long bucked logs will be covered more thoroughly in our next post in this series. But for now, here is a post from last year that will give you a few safety tips on spitting wood.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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 Skills | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Why Being a “Tree Hugger” Builds Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

I’ve never considered myself a “tree hugger” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

noun: someone who is regarded as foolish or annoying because of being too concerned about protecting trees, animals, and other parts of the natural world from pollution and other threats [Emphasis mine]

Yesterday I annoyed a few motorists crossing a narrow country bridge on a tree hugger outing. Not intentionally, mind you. It’s just that I needed to photograph a beautiful American Sycamore stretching its molten limbs over a muddy Georgia river. One trucker let me know how foolish I looked by blaring his air horn as I perched on the bridge railing snapping my shutter. Unaffected, I continued my craziness.

The thought of being a tree hugger, as previously defined, may not describe you, but every person on the journey to self-reliance and preparedness would benefit from hugging a tree or two.

You’re conflicted, right? Well, don’t be.

It’s our responsibility to protect, use, and conserve our natural resources. We’re stewards of this land. Our Appalachian ancestors understood the properties of trees and how to use the wood, bark, leaves, and roots to build a sustainable life. There were no box stores with stacks of dimensional lumber to build a house. If a handle shattered, they knew the best wood to use for re-hafting an ax. Tulip Poplar was abundant and used to build houses and hand-hewn log cabins. The Appalachian pioneers knew their wood!

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

A young sycamore growing near the roadside

There are boat-loads of info on edible weeds and medicinal plants. I’ve found a lack of printed material on the medicinal/edible uses of trees. I have many of the Foxfire book series and always look to add more to my self-reliance library. Clue me in if you have more tree resource books, please. So, like any good Doer of the Stuff, I’m embarking (pun intended) on a tree education journey as part of my Doing the Stuff Skills list. Who knows, maybe you’ll be convinced to embrace your inner tree hugger.

Ready, set, hug!

The first tree to wrap your arms around is the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). It can reach heights over 130 tall, over 10 feet in diameter, and grow to be 600 years old. George Washington documented in his journal in 1770 a sycamore with a diameter of 14 feet (45 feet in circumference). Trees this large usually have hollow trunks that house animals of all sorts. It’s been reported that settlers even used hollowed Sycamore trees to shelter livestock.

The rapid growth rate of this deciduous tree causes the bark to shed in molten fashion like a birch tree. Its camouflage pattern of light green and brownish gray with creamy white background splotches causes the trunk to stand out in late fall and winter when forest leaves lay on the ground. The exfoliating bark and coloration makes the sycamore one of the easiest deciduous trees in the eastern woodlands to identify in the winter.

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

The Sycamore and Self-Reliance

The fast growing American Sycamore likes wet bottom land near streams, rivers and ponds in full sun. Their leaves are similar to maple but not as spectacular since they turn a boring brown in the fall. Beavers find the bark appetizing.

In Bushcraft 

Bushcraft refers to the art of crafting in the bush (woods) with minimal tools and lots of skill.

  • Sycamore’s fibers intertwine making it an excellent wood for spoon and bowl carving. The wood tends to warp in the drying process, so use dried, seasoned wood.
  • Not rot resistant and shouldn’t be used for longterm structures exposed to the moisture.
  • The sap offers a year-round source of hydration in warm climates.
  • The sycamore can also be tapped like a maple tree for syrup or sugar. However, it takes a lot of sap to make small batches of sycamore syrup.
  • Shade-casting crown of large trees offer shelter from the sun.
  • Large leaves (up to 10 inches across) can be used as a wrap for slow cooked food over coals for an added sweet flavor.
tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

This green leaf measured almost 9 inches across

In Woodwork 

  • Sycamore is grown commercially for pulp and rough lumber.
  • Interlocking grain makes nice accent pieces for woodworking.
  • Turns easily on a lathe for bowls.
  • Beautiful specking on gun stocks.
  • Music boxes; guitars and violins.
  • Hard to split which makes sycamore an excellent butcher’s block.
  • Quarter sawn makes this wood more stable for projects. Flat sawn tends to warp.
  • It gets one of its nicknames “Buttonwood” from it ability to create durable wooden buttons.
  • The wood is food safe and was used for food crates and barrels in the past.

In Medicine

Inner bark tee was used for a wide variety of treatments by Native Americans.

  • Colds, coughs, and lung ailments
  • Measles
  • Emetic – cause vomiting
  • Laxative
  • Astringent properties to treat skin issues and eye wash
  • Sweet sap on the inner bark used for wound dressing
  • Sap can also be used to make wine

The American Sycamore is a pioneer species. About forty years ago, we stopped cultivating a small field on wet bottom land on our family farm. Today we have a large stand of native sycamores growing wild.

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

What was once several acres of corn we pulled by hand

Being a “tree hugger” should not carry a negative stereotype or denote a political affiliation for those of us building self-reliance skills and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Embrace your love of trees and learn to be stewards of these towers of the forest!

Have you hugged a tree today?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

DTS Network Update: Dave’s Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

by Todd Walker

The cornerstone of our Doing the Stuff Network is trading theory for ACTION! 

DTS Network Project: A Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

As you may recall, we challenged each of you to learn at least one new skill in 4014 that builds self-reliance. Just pick a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or improve, set a time frame for completion, and share your progress with our community.

With his permission, we are spot lighting Dave DeWitt, a fellow DTS Networker, who has built an amazing hugelcultur raised bed this year. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, hugelcultur is an old form of raised bed gardening that requires no tilling and little to no irrigation. This style of growing food has been used for years and is very popular with permiculture practitioners.

Hugelcultur beds have many benefits:

  • Grow food in inhospitable climates (drought) and terrain (rocky and hard clay)
  • Self watering – decaying wood acts like a sponge to hold and release moisture plants need
  • Decomposing wood releases heat to extend growing season in cold climates
  • Decaying wood prevents nutrients from being washed away into ground water
  • Air pockets are created in the raised bed to keep soil from becoming compacted
  • Creates a microbe rich environment for mycelium
  • Releases nitrogen which plants love
  • Makes good use of fallen trees and branches from storms that don’t make it into your supply of firewood
  • Works in deserts and backyards

Dave planted three typical raised beds last year and was inspired by his friend at Schooner Farms (Facebook page) to give hugelcultur a try. He converted one of his raised beds to a hugelcultur bed this year.

Here’s his photo tutorial of the stuff he’s doing…

One DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed ExperimentOne DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Removing one traditional raised bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Adding wood to the bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Wood chips topping the logs

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More organic material added… wet leaves from last fall

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Moldy straw left out over the winter was added next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Cinder blocks and sticks were added to help maintain form – then another layer of old straw

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

He added a few inches of 2-3 year old horse manure next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Essential minerals, granite dust, calcium (saved our egg shells, dried in oven and ran through a coffee grinder), etc

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More decomposing wood chips added

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

The final layer – 3 inches of top soil from the previous raised bed

The dimensions of Dave’s hugelcultur bed are 8′ x 24′ with a 34″ block wall. He wouldn’t recommend making beds this tall. He stands 6′-2″ and can barely reach the middle of the bed. Plan accordingly. Also, the cinder blocks were filled with top soil and compost for added growing space. This addition grows his garden from to just under 200 square feet of garden space.

With all the materials on hand, this could be a weekend project. Dave has about 14 hours in this project. Seems like a lot of work, but the upfront investment will pay off with less maintenance and time in the growing season in Ohio.

Nothing inspires like seeing people busy Doing the Stuff! This network of everyday people are not just talking theory, they are testing and experimenting with stuff in the many categories of self-reliance and self-sufficiency skills.

Your turn

If you’ve ever used hugelcultur beds, successfully or not, we’d like your feedback. Leave your thoughts in the comment section – or join the discussion on the Doing the Stuff Network and keep with all the updates from our members!

We want to thank Dave for his value-adding tutorial and inspiration!

Keep Doing the Stuff, friends!

Todd

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

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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

 

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

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

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

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

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

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

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

Retool or Be a Tool

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

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

But here’s the thing…

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

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

Retool is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

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

2. to reequip with tools

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

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

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

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

Tools for Self-Reliance

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

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Scary looking fencing pliers

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

    DiY Sawbuck: Work Smarter in the Woodpile

    Buck sawing on the Sawbuck

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

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

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

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

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

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

What would you add to the retool list?

Retool and Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

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

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

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

The Woodsman’s Secret to a Well-Hung Ax

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

If so, here’s how to…

Get the Hang of it

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

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

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

Why?

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

Choose Good Wood

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

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

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

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

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

The Definitive Guide to a Well-Hung Ax

Vertical grain on the left. Image source

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

Color Counts

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

Size Matters

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

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

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

Wetterlings Backwoods Ax measures 16″ long

Hanging Procedures

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

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

Some stuff need to hang an ax

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

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

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

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

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

First fit with the new handle

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

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

Taking off wood with a rasp

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

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

Final fit… after removing extra wood three times.

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

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

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

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

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

Metal wedge across the wooden wedge

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

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

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

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

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

Applied to latex gloves and spread on the haft

Latex gloves come in handy for this task.

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

Nothing like a woodsman’s well-hung ax!

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff!

Todd

P.S. – You can also connect with us on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. The Doing the Stuff Network community can be found here: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Lots of good stuff going on here… check it out!

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

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

Not Your Typical Recipe Book: Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

by Todd Walker

What I’m about to share is ‘Dirt Road Girl’ approved!

When Stacy Harris sent me her new book to review, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living, before I could get my hands on it, DRG snagged it and wouldn’t put it down. She immediately performed her sniff test ritual. She opened the book, plants her face between the pages, and inhales deeply. Congrats Stacy! Your book passed DRG’s sniff test with flying colors!

Image

Our first impressions of Stacy’s new book were high quality, glossy pages with excellent photos of food, recipes, family, and sustainable practices for self-sufficient living. It’s good that the pages are high gloss since I began drooling by just looking at the food photos and recipes.

Stacy’s passion for growing heirloom plants and animals that are natural, pesticide, hormone, genetically modified free is clear. And she’s able to cook for a family of 9 from her heirloom garden, pastured animals, and wild game. Very inspiring!

The tips for sustainable living are mixed in throughout the book. One of my favorites is on page 88 – The Perfect Boiled Egg.

“To determine the age of eggs, place eggs in about five inches of water. If the egg lays flat on the bottom it is very fresh and is good for baking and poaching; it the egg tilts on the bottom it is about 10 days old and is great for boiling; if it floats throw it out.”

There’s also tips on foraging wild foods, beekeeping, seed saving, and other self-reliant skills. The tips aren’t going to teach you everything you need to know about sustainable living, but they will motivate you on your journey.

Being an avid hunter and fisherman myself, I loved the ‘Woods and Water’ section of Stacy’s book! I’m always happy to try new recipes for venison, wild turkey, duck, quail, small game, and seafood and fish. Even if you don’t harvest wild fish and game, she provides a substitution page to incorporate domesticated animals for recipes to please everyone.

Not Your Typical Recipe Book: Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

10 slices of bacon on Stuffed Venison Meatloaf – perfect!

A note to my Primal/Paleo readers – a few of the baking recipes call for sugar and flour. You can easily substitute for these if you wish and still enjoy the goodness of these traditional home cooked recipes.

Reading Stacy’s story and new cookbook will inspire you to take your next step towards personal freedom and sustainable living. All while eating the best prepared foods on the planet!

You can also connect with Stacy on her blog, Game and Garden, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Special Announcement: Congratulations to Stephanie G. on winning an autographed copy of Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living from our Reader Appreciation Fall Giveaway! We appreciate everyone’s continued support of our blog as we continue Doing the Stuff of self-sufficiency and preparedness together!

Keep doing the stuff!

Todd

P.S. ~ Thanks for sharing the stuff! You can connect with us on TwitterPinterest, and our new Facebook page

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Gardening, Homesteading, Preparedness, Real Food, Resilience, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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