Lost Skills

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: , , , , , | 2 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: , , , | 1 Comment

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower

by Todd Walker

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

Somewhere down your family tree a spear-thrower used a simple, two-piece weapon to bring home the bacon… or wooly mammoth… or mastodon. Ancient atlatls have been discovered on every continent except Antarctica.

What’s an atlatl?

A simple dart-throwing stick with a handle on one end and spur (male end) or socket (female end) on the other end. The dart, a flexible spear, mates with the spur/socket when thrown. Typically about two feet long, an atlatl employs leverage to extend the arm’s length to propel a dart further and with more velocity than when thrown using only the arm.

Spanish conquistadors discovered quickly that their state-of-the-art armor was no match for the primitive Aztec spear-throwers. Imagine becoming a kabob inside your standard issue fighting armor. The barbed stone point prevented Cortez’s men from pulling the shaft from their bodies in the opposite direction. It must be driven clean through the flesh to be removed. That’s impossible when the dart doesn’t pierce the backside of the metal suit. A slow death ensued when pinned inside one’s armor.

The primitive atlatl and dart system predates bow and arrow by thousands of years. The physics and math involved in this simple weapon is more complex than one might think. No. we’re not discussing calculus today. But we will delve into the past long enough to whet your appetite, and, hopefully spur you on to make your own dart-throwing weapon.

Down-n-Dirty Atlatl

As I wrote this piece, I quickly realized it would be too long for one to sit through. In the spirit of keeping you interested in this primal weaponry, I plan to make this a multi-part series on atlatls, darts, fletching, and throwing.

My friend and expert primitive skills instructor, Scott Jones, taught a “Quickie” Atlatl class at a recent Workshops at the Woods. Having never thrown an atlatl, much less made one, I signed up.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

At first glance, the simplicity of this primitive technology deceives the beginning practitioner. There are details and tweaks which only experts like Scott have learned over years of experimentation. His idea of making a quickie atlatl from bamboo holds potential for self-reliant living. With a few basic knife skills, even atlatl newbies like me can carve out a very functional weapon.

Material and Tools

  • Bamboo ~ about thumb-size in diameter and about 2 feet long. River cane will work but is not as bountiful as bamboo in this diameter.
  • Knife
  • Fine-toothed saw (hacksaw blade works well)
  • Awl
  • Leather ~ used in making finger loops
  • Fire

Selecting Bamboo

Find a suitable piece of cane and cut it close to the ground. The way in which the nodes grow close together at the base of bamboo will make a heavier handle and add purchase when throwing. Scott provided shafts from his stand of golden bamboo on his property. I think you’ll find land owners happy to have you harvest as much bamboo as you’d like as it tends to take over. I’ve never been turned down.

Typically, atlatl length is about one-third the length of darts. Cut your bamboo so that a node is left at the smaller end of the atlatl. Mine measured 26 inches – armpit to the base of my middle finger. The end node will serve as the female “spur” which will mate with your dart.

Cut in a “Spur”

This style of atlatl has a cup (female joint) not an actual spur (male joint). Use your knife to cut a long notch in the last joint of the bamboo. Begin by making a stop-cut about 1/4 inch from the end node (spur end) to a depth of 1/3rd to half way through the shaft. The notch should taper from zero to about 1/3rd the depth of the chamber toward the end node. This notch should be about 6 to 8 inches long and wide enough to accept your chosen dart shaft. The photos below show the cut.

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

A hacksaw blade is handy for making the stop-cut

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

Making the tapered cut to the end nock.

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

Scott cleaning up rough edges

Clean up any rough edges with your knife leaving a small semicircle 1/4 inch in front of the end node where the dart seats. Test the seating by placing a dart (river cane in this case) in the female end. Hold the dart in one hand, the atlatl in the other, and check if the dart fits and moves without resistance. The dart should swing freely out of the atlatl notch until they are almost at 90 degrees from each other.

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

The half-circle shown at the end node where the dart seats

Fire It

Before adding finger loops, pass your bamboo atlatl over and through a fire. Use leather gloves to keep the shaft moving through the flames over the entire surface. You’ll notice the waxes in the wood will begin to add a sheen to the atlatl. This process will help preserve the wood.

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

Firing the bamboo

Finger Loops

I found the bamboo atlatl (without finger loops) comfortable to throw by gripping the handle like a tennis racket. Scott had several different atlatl styles to practice with at class – some with loops, a few without. Finger loops add a secure hold on the shaft while throwing.

To add finger loops, bore a small hole through the handle end of the atlatl with an awl. The hole placement is determined by the base of your palm to the intersection of your index and middle fingers. Thread a piece of leather or buckskin through the hole and tie the ends to form a large loop. Test the fit by placing your fingers through the large loop with the shaft between your two fingers.

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

Leather looped through the holes and tied

Throwing with finger loops requires that you slip your index and middle fingers through the loops with the end of your grip at the base of your palm. Your loop fingers are split by the atlatl shaft with your thumb and remaining fingers securing the handle to your palm.

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

Adjust the loops by tightening or loosening the leather loop

Down-N-Dirty Atlatl Benefits

One advantage Scott pointed out about his “quickie” atlatl is the fact that you can throw inferior darts without nocks required with typical spur-mounted atlatls. Any straight stick or cane will make an effective hunting projectile. This down-n-dirty design can be made in the field with a lot less effort and skill than traditional atlatls.

I would recommend using this method for those interested in making a spear-thrower for the first time. The entire process can be complete in an hours time. Finding and straightening darts, well, that’s gonna take some time. But having this survival skill-set in your arsenal is well worth the investment.

If you’re interested in learning primitive technology, Scott offers a wide variety of classes at his Workshops at the Woods. For those not local to our area, he has written two essential books I reference often:

Next in the series we’ll cover atlatl darts ~ the primitive projectile which brought down wooly mammoths and turned armor-plated conquistadors into Spanish shish kabob.

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, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

River Cane: 25 Self-Reliant Uses for “Cherokee Plastic”

by Todd Walker

Bamboo can quickly takes over yards and even entire fields. Though it has many uses world-wide, non-native woody grasses are not our topic of discussion. Today we’ll cover what some describe as the Cherokee Nation’s equivalent to modern plastic… River Cane.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

River cane (grass family, Poaceae) is the only native bamboo in the eastern woodlands. Three have been identified: River cane (Arundinaria gigantea), Switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), and a newly discovered (2007) native bamboo called Hill cane (Arundinaria appalachiana). Source

Historical accounts of vast canebrakes stretching for miles along river floodplains were noted by early explorers of the New World. William Bartram, America’s first professional botanist, described clums of river cane “as thick as a mans arm.” John Lawson (1674-1711) recorded that one culm (hollow stem) of river cane could hold “about of pint of liquor.” Cheers!

Without delving into the botanical differences, which would require more space than this article allows, the historical use of cane is well documented as a rich resource for self-reliance. It’s uses are not lost on modern primitive practitioners and experimental archeologists.

Below are three books on primitive skills and technology which have helped me on my journey of experimental archeology and the practice of primitive skills…

I never had the pleasure of personally meeting and learning from Steve Watts but he treated me like a good friend through our online communications. His recent untimely passing spurred me to re-read his book, Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.

I’m fortunate to have Scott Jones, a student and colleague of Mr. Watts, less than an hour from my Georgia home. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his Workshops at the Woods. I have both of his books, A View to the Past, and his most recent work, Postcards to the Past: Context and Continuity in Primitive Technology, gifted to me by my good friend, Kevin Bowen.

My pursuit of primitive technology and skills is largely due to these two authors. Outside the modest cane fishing pole, most of the cane projects within this article come from Watts and Jones.

Though my cane craft is limited, every Georgia country boy I know is intimately familiar with catching blue gill from ponds and creek banks with a homemade cane pole. The use of river cane extends far beyond boys fishing and raising cane on hot summer days. Below I’ve listed 25 traditional uses for this amazing plant.

25 Uses for River Cane in Self-Reliance

Hunting

  • Arrow Shafts ~ A preferred material for Southeastern Native American tribes.
  • Atlatl and Darts ~ Cane was used to make darts for these spear throwing tool. Jones describes in Postcards from the Past (pg. 193) and has made spear-throwers entirely from cane.
  • Knife ~ Some tribes made fire-hardened knives from cane capable of skinning game. I have a deep cut on my knuckle which is finally healing from a brush with sharp river cane.
  • Blow Gun ~ Nodes (joints) were removed to form a long, hollow tube of cane to blow darts from. These were effective in hunting small game animals and birds.

Fishing

  • Fish Trap ~ The Cherokee used a funnel style trap at an opening of rock dams and weirs in steams to catch fish.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cane fish trap in progress

  • Split Cane Gig ~ Easy to carve and fire-harden harpoon style gigs for fish or other aquatic species.
  • Floats ~ A small clum between both nodes can be used for a line float on a cane pole.
  • Jug Fishing ~ Bundle several lengths of cane together with a line and hook attached for passive jug fishing.

Containers

  • Baskets ~ Cane was split into splints and woven into baskets for food gathering and storage, clothing storage, ceremonial uses, and day-to-day containers. Natural pigment were used to dye and decorate.
  • Mats ~ Woven mats were used for covering walls, floors, bedding, burial, and seating.
  • Cane Vial ~ The hollow portion of a clum makes a great container for storing liquid, salt, pepper, medicine, needles, etc.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A vial for my repair kit

  • Sheaths ~ I traded with James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge) for this handy antler-handled awl with a river cane sheath.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple but effective sheath

Wildlife

Canebrakes are an ecosystem unto themselves.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A small canebrake

  • At least 23 mammal species, 16 bird species, four reptile species and seven invertebrates that occur within canebrakes (Platt et al. 2001). Source
  • Swainson’s warbler builds it’s nests in dense canebrakes.
  • Canebrake Rattlesnake (endangered) live and hunt in canebrakes.
  • Whitetail deer eat young shoots in the spring.

Farming

  • Food ~ Attractive to many grazing bovine, young cane was the highest yielding native pasture in the Southeast. Indians managed large canebrakes by controlled burning every 7 to 10 years. For humans, boil and eat young shoots in early spring and summer.
  • Riparian Buffer ~ Canebrakes improve water quality by filtering ground water nitrates/phosphates, trapping sediment, and stabilizing erosion.
  • Tomato Stakes ~ If river cane isn’t abundant in your area, use bamboo instead.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bamboo or cane is a great garden companion

Construction

  • Shelter ~ Cane and other flexible saplings were used in wattle-and-daub walled houses.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The crew from Georgia Bushcraft constructing a shelter from river cane’s cousin (bamboo).

  • Watercraft ~ Bundles of hollow river cane lashed together to form pontoons.
  • Pipes ~ Stem for smoke pipes.
  • Blow Tube ~ Perfect for making burn and scrap containers and spoons.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A burn and scrap spoon made while camping with Bill Reese (Instinct Survivalist)

  • Furniture ~ Chairs, beds, tables, etc.

Crafts

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two excellent resources: A river cane handle on a tulip poplar bark berry basket.

  • Paint Brush ~ A short, hollow portion of river cane will accept animal hair or plant fibers to form a brush.
  • Jewelry ~ Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants can be made from cane.
  • Burnishing Tool ~ Used to burnish leather edges or other craft items.

Music

  • Flute ~ A famous poet from Georgia, Sidney Lanier, was also a flutist. It is said that he made his first flute from river cane collected on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.
  • Whistle ~ Hank at Sensible Survival shows you how to make a simple survival whistle.

We are fortunate to have such a rich native resource growing in our Southeastern woodlands. Efforts are being made to reestablish river cane on land once covered with native bamboo. Keep stewardship in mind when harvesting from canebrakes. Select only what you need without over-harvesting. Non-native bamboo can be substituted for many of these projects mentioned.

In what ways have you used cane for 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 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, Gardening, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

by Todd Walker

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.

Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.

I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.

Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.

Mark’s response:

“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”

Click here for more information on Sochani (Green-Headed Coneflower).

Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source

Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.

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

~ Horace Kephart

Trees of Southern Appalachia

Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.

Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) it is not a poplar at all. It is actually in the Magnolia ((Magnoliaceae)) family of flowering trees. There are many common names for Liriodendron tulipifera besides Tulip Poplar… Yellow Poplar, Canoe Wood, Yellow Wood, and Tulip Tree. That is one reason it is important to use scientific names of plants and trees… if you can manage to pronounce them. This will remove any confusion over common names.

Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance

Food

The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.

  • The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.
  • Edit: Darryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist, sent me a message saying he collects, dries, and pounds the inner bark into flour for baking in his spring classes. Thank you, Darryl.

Medicine

Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
  • Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
  • The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
  • Tooth aches.
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
  • Cough syrup from bark.

Craft

  • Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
  • Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage: Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Tree; Okra, and Yucca.

  • Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
  • Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree paddle and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

  • Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
  • Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.

Hickory

Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.

Food

  • Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
  • Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
  • Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
  • Cooking oil from nuts.
  • Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
  • Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
Scott Jones using hickory nuts as charcoal

Scott Jones (Media Prehistoria) using hickory nuts as charcoal.

  • Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source

Medicine

  • Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
  • Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
  • Cold remedy
  • Liver aid
  • Gynecological aid
  • Dermatological issues

Craft

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

This ax handle started out as the hickory tree pictured in the background

Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…

  • Stickball sticks
  • Crafting bows
  • Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
  • Firewood
  • Smoking meats
  • Furniture
  • Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
  • Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
  • Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
  • Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
  • Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.

Pine

There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species in Eastern North America with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.

Food

  • Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
  • Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
  • Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
  • Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.

Medicine

  • Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectoranthigh in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
  • Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
  • Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
  • Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
  • Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
  • The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
  • Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.

Craft

See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

  • Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
  • Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
  • Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
  • Logs were used in home building.
  • White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
  • Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
  • Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.

Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.

To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.

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, Herbal Remedies, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything

by Todd Walker

Read the next two lines and stop. Look around you. Make a mental note of all the useful stuff produced from two resources… wood and metal.

Really, stop reading for a second!

Okay, come back now.

What did you come up with? If you only noted the obvious wooden and metallic items, go deeper. With a little thought, your list should grow exponentially.

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The fact is, wood and metal were directly or indirectly responsible for building your house, mailbox, wall clock, sofa, and the electronic device you’re reading from this very moment.

Wood and metal go together like peas and carrots. Metal tools are used to shape wood. But wood creates fire to heat metal for making said tools. And don’t forget about the useful wooden handles attached to metal tools. There’s a relationship between the two resources in which both benefit from the other. In biology, we call this mutualism.

For long-term self-reliance, learning to manipulate and exploit these resources will make you an indispensable asset to both family and community.

Blacksmithing: The Master of All Crafts

Except for harnessing fire, nothing in human history compares to the discovery of metal and its ability to be molded, formed, and poured into useful shapes. Blacksmithing is the only craft that makes their own tools and the tools of other craftsmen.

DSCN0592

Traditional Appalachian Smithy at Foxfire Museum

You don’t have to dial back in time too far to find Bob the Blacksmith being the most prominent tradesman in town. In need of a gate latch? Go see Bob. How about that crack in your froe? Bob can forge weld it and have you back splitting cedar shakes for your roof in no time. Making a hammer for your flint-lock rifle could be done by Bob.

Basic Smithing Tools

To build a functional smithy, you’ll need a few tools. No need to spend a boatload of money to get started either. Shop yard sales, flea markets, scrap yards, farm auctions, estate sales, and antique stores – the highest prices are usually paid at antique stores.

Here are the basic tools needed for beginners like me…

  • Anvil ~ A real blacksmithing anvil may be your largest cash outlay. A common man’s anvil can be a section of railroad track or large block of metal – 100 plus pounds mounted to a wooden stump.
  • Forge ~ Charcoal, coal, or gas-powered, the forge will heat your steel for shaping and tempering metal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A hole in the ground will work. Some sort of blower to increase heat in your coal or charcoal. Blowers are not needed for a propane forge.
Propane forge at Red Barn Forge

Dave’s new propane forge at Red Barn Forge

  • Hammer ~ A 2 to 3 pound hammer to work hot metal. You can add to your hammer collection over time. There are four basic types of hammers for moving metal: straight peen, ball peen, cross peen, and sledge.
  • Tongs ~ Long handle pliers used to grip hot steel while hammering.
  • Vise ~ A bench vise mounted on a sturdy work bench. I’ve yet to acquire a blacksmithing post vise.
  • Files ~ Flat and half-round
Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

File and file card

  • Quench Bucket ~ Container large enough to hold about 5 gallons of water to cool hot metal and for tempering.
  • Safety Equipment ~ Eye protection, ear protection, leather boots, natural fiber clothing, welding gloves, fire extinguisher and water bucket/hose, first aid kit.
  • Like other crafts, there are almost endless numbers of tools and items you’ll want to acquire as your skill level increases.
The "anvil" is a solid piece of steel I'll mount to a stump.

The “anvil” (lower right) is a solid piece of steel I’ll mount to a stump.

Though I’ve always known the importance of this craft historically, my dabbling has only produced a few items. However, after a recent Georgia Bushcraft camping trip, I realized it’s time to get serious about hammering steel.

Stephan Fowler of Fowler Blades spent two hours in the rain demonstrating, in less than optimal conditions, the process of turning a file into a functional cutting tool. The blade was not his best work considering he used a crumbly rock as an anvil, an air mattress pump for a billow, and burning chunks of hardwood on the ground as his forge.

I was honored to have won this file knife which Stephan made in a fire challenge during the campout!

I was honored to have won Stephan’s survival file knife in a fire-building challenge during the campout!

Check out what Stephan produces when he has access to his real forge → here.

And now for the video of Stephan making a knife from a file, in the rain, on a rock anvil…

Your skill level doesn’t have to be superior to be useful for long-term self-reliance. The more you hammer steel and study metallurgy, the better you become.

Blacksmithing Resources

Blacksmithing in America was hot and heavy during our pioneer days in North America. Not long after the Industrial Revolution, the art of blacksmithing survived only as a specialty craft. Thankfully, the secrets of metallurgy, once guarded in guilds, is being passed on through modern-day blacksmiths. Here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful in connecting with local craftsmen.

Woodworking

The craft of woodworking compliments blacksmithing more so than any two trades I know. Developing the skill to make handles for metal tools or mill lumber from a tree to accept the nails you forged on your anvil could one day feed your family in hard times. I’ll bet your master gardener neighbor would be willing to barter food for tools and repairs on her homestead.

If you’re like me, you find yourself dabbling in all sorts of pioneer skills. One skill I’ve become proficient at is carpentry. However, take away my power tools and my skill level drops several notches.

A mix of modern and pioneer tools

A mix of modern and pioneer hand tools

Working wood with pioneer tools is based on the same principles as modern woodworking… with a steeper learning curve and physicality. Don’t abandon your power tools. Here’s my list of basic wood working tools, both modern and pioneer style.

Modern Tools

  • Hammers ~ A 16 oz. claw hammer and a larger framing hammer (20 oz.) to get you started.
  • Saws ~ Circular, chop/miter, table, jig, reciprocating – cordless and corded. Cordless 18v batteries can be charged via solar chargers if the need arises.
  • Drills ~ Cordless impact driver and drill, corded drill press, and an assortment of drill bits (wood and metal), screw bits, and socket bit adapters.
  • Squares ~ Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure, wooden folding ruler, carpenter’s pencil, chalk line.
  • Utility Knife ~ One of my most used tools on my belt.

Pioneer Tools

  • Hammers, Mallets, and Mauls.

  • Saws ~ Hand saws: crosscut, rip, compass saw, coping, and bucksaw.
  • Drills ~ Brace and bit, augers, bits of various sizes.
  • Squares ~ Same as listed above; Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb and work as straight edges.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure (roughing work), wooden folding ruler, steel drafting ruler (bench work), pencil, chalk line.
  • Smoothing Planes ~ Both long and short. Stanley makes great planes and can be had inexpensively but may need some TLC to make them useable.
  • Chisels ~ A variety of sizes kept super sharp… which I’m known not to do.
  • Draw Knives ~ Draw knives for roughing wood to shape and spoke shaves for finishing form.
  • Shave Horse ~ Holds stock freeing both hands to work wood with a draw knife or spoke shave.
Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

  • Froe ~ A simple tool used to split (rive) wood into shingles, boards, and staves.
  • Rasp ~ Both flat and half-round. A 4-in-1 rasp is utilitarian.

Notice I didn’t delve into the actual skill sets needed. That would take a long time and lots of bandwidth. However, I do recommend that you begin stockpiling metal and woodworking tools. They may be useful one day.

Oh, and never pass up scrap metal. Collect lawn mower blades, leaf springs, bar stock, round stock, pallet wood, hardware (nails, screws, nuts and bolts), old files, tool steel, sharpening devices, sheet metal, saws, etc., etc.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

Real stuff, almost all stuff, can be made from skilled hands with metal and wooden tools. Learning to work these two resources may start as a hobby or pastime but could very well insure your livelihood in hard times.

Did you think of anything that was made without metal and/or wood being directly or indirectly involved in the process? Bet you didn’t.

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: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, equipment, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Resilience, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

Tonteldoos History

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

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

Tonteldoos Testing

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

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

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

I tested two methods…

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

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

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

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Make Your Own

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

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

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

Stuff you'll need

Stuff you’ll need

Material and Tools

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

Step 1: Cut Pipe

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

Pipe reamer attachment

Pipe reamer attachment

Step 2: Pack the Pipe

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

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

IMG_3389

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

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Charring the cotton mop head strands

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

IMG_3411

Step 3: Attach Wire Loops to Caps

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

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

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

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

The blood knot before tightening

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

Blood knot tightened to secure caps

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

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

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

Copper wire bent in the bottom of the cap

How to Use Your Tonteldoos

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

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

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

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

Dirty hands and dirt time!

 

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

Spontaneous combustion from flint and steel

Flint and steel showering sparks on the tonteldoos

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

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

Should look like a lit cigar when ready

 

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

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

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

Here’s our video demonstrating my DiY tonteldoos…

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 29 Comments

Stalking: The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals

by Todd Walker

The art of getting close to wild animals has been replaced by high-powered rifles and telephoto lens. Like other lost skills of self-reliance, a revival is in order.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One man fanning the primitive fire is Mark Warren. A soft-spoken man, reverence and passion for nature and her bountiful resources flows from his life like a refreshing mountain stream. My time at Medicine Bow, Warren’s Primitive School of Earthlore near Dahlonega, Georgia, challenged not only my physical abilities, but awakened my mind and spirit.

As young boys, my brother and I spent countless hours re-enacting exploits of woodsmen we either read about or watched on TV. Fiberglass bows in hand, we’d crawl through fields of broom sedge and pop up as close to a cow or flock of robins as possible. Our cows would give us their usual stare and continue grazing. Farm animals were easy to stalk.

Why learn this lost skill?

The obvious benefit is for hunters with primitive weapons. Harvesting animals with a hickory self bow requires that you be as close as possible to the intended target for a clean kill. You owe that much to the animal for providing meat and resources for sustainability.

Observers and photographers of wild animals would do well to practice stalking techniques. Doing so may revel phantoms of the woods you’ve only dreamed of capturing in your lens.

The main benefit I personally received under Mark’s instruction was the complete immersion in nature. Slowing down to a snail’s pace uncovered small, “invisible” wilderness details unnoticed when trekking full speed ahead. Connecting to our ancestral roots always feeds my soul and waters the primal tree.

An analogy Mark often used was that of a rock tossed into a pond. The impact ripples to every shoreline. The idea being to minimize your wake in the animal’s living space.

To increase your chances of getting close to wild animals, stalking employs the following elements…

  • Patience
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Camouflage
  • Scent Control

Follow along as I break down what I learned about making a successful stalk.

Patience

Native Americans learned to stalk by observing interactions between predator and prey.

Drab colored animals like deer, rabbit, and fox have evolved away from color vision to survive. Their ability to blend into their surroundings as predator or prey renders color recognition unimportant for survival. Now the rods in their eyes dominate to detect motion in their field of vision.

Working the wind correctly and being camouflaged helps conceal your presence but movement is the worst offender of blending into the forest.

Sound may alert wild animals, but our movement is what causes them to vanish into the brush like smoke. This is the main reason the forest appears void of wildlife when we thrash along in our human gait.

We must s-l-o-o-o-w down to ultra-slow motion and take a form not easily recognized by wild game. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie Jeremiah Johnson.

Here’s the exchange…

Bear Claw tells Johnson, a mountain man wannabe, to step out on the side of his horse to shoot an elk. Jeremiah asks, “What if he sees our feet?” Bear Claw responds in common sense wisdom and wit…

Elk don’t know how many feet a horse has! No, you durn fool, slide it up over the saddle.

Stalking is a game of practice, and practice makes permanent. One stalking step, done correctly, should take about two minutes on average. To be honest, my steps take about one minute when my legs are fresh… less as my stalk continues.

Balance

Think and walk like a fox. Its gait is like walking on the baseline of a gym floor. No right-to-left swagger or bobbing up and down… just a narrow, smooth, streamline glide.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A rear view of stalking

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Human locomotion demands that our body be thrown out of balance to one side or the other. And then there’s our heel strike. Lift one foot and move it forward until our heel impacts the earth sending alarm waves throughout the forest.

When I run for exercise, which is rarely these days, I prefer to run barefoot. This method of running will quickly teach you not to strike your heel first on each landing. My posture and foot strike necessitates a smooth, floating motion… which is the goal when stalking.

To demonstrate our unbalanced movement, Mark assembled our class in a straight line facing him. From a balanced position, feet shoulder-width apart, he gave the command, “walk”. Within a nanosecond, the command “freeze” was given. Our side-to-side shift was obvious. Try it yourself with a friend. Animals know this distinctive sway as human and avoid the lumbering figure in the woods.

This technique of walking like a fox is very demanding. Here’s a short video of my fox walk. Notice the shakiness in my front leg. And this demonstration wasn’t even in ultra-slow motion. I have a new appreciation of all who’ve come before us who stalked within a few feet of wild game… Mark Warren include.

No matter how delicately I placed my forward foot on the forest ground, my novice stalking legs would lose balance and crack a twig or crunch leaves from time to time. Sounds alert animals. But sound is not always a deal breaker when stalking. The forest is full of sound. Keep your eyes focused on the target the duration of the stalk so you can freeze at a moments notice if animal stares in your direction to investigate the sound.

Strength

There were many times during the class that students had to hold a stance in awkward positions. One exercise included Mark mimicking a deer. We encircled him at a distance of 15 yards or so and had to stalk towards him as he foraged and pawed at wild food. His mannerisms on all fours were amazingly similar to white-tailed deer I’ve observed.

If Mark spotted us cutting corners on our technique to the point of alerting him, he would snort and wheeze like a deer and point at the offender to go back to the starting line. If he lifted his head in our direction we would have to freeze like a heron hunting in knee-deep water… no matter the cycle of ultra-slow motion. Quadriceps and hip flexers screamed silently hoping the “deer” would bow and graze again.

I enjoy Primal/Paleo workouts. The level of functional fitness needed to stalk wild animals is different from any sport or recreational activity I’ve ever experienced. My legs and hips were sore for days after the class. Mark told us that martial artists found the most success of anyone attending his stalking class. Even more so than professional athletes.

Camouflage and Scent

It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on expensive camouflage clothing. Wear quite, loose-fitting clothes of natural material with a varied pattern that will break up your silhouette in the forest. Avoid the swish of synthetic material rubbing together. Oh yeah, the sound of clinking metal is a sound made only by humans in the woods. Check your pockets and gear before heading out.

Remembering what we learned about the role of rods and cones in wild animal eyes, even the popular pink camo patterns will work for stalkers. A bit of cooled campfire charcoal smeared on your face and exposed skin may appear too Rambo for some but will certainly dull the shine.

A wise stalker prefers a position with the wind blowing his human scent away from the animal. Even with the wind in your face (upwind), a cover scent such as natural plant material crushed and rubbed on clothing helps hide your human odor. You could also go the commercial route and apply cover scents and scent blockers.

The best teacher is the one who always remains a student. Mark Warren’s appetite for woodslore and primitive skills is demonstrated by his passion to inspire others to get out there and experience nature firsthand.

I think I’ll keep my student status.

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, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Beginner’s Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft

by Todd Walker

[Part IV of our Bombproof Fire Craft series]

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A primal scream erupts from deep inside your body the first time you successfully coax fire from two pieces of dead wood.

Welcome to the Primal (first) Fire Club!

Experienced first fire practitioners make it look easy. It’s like they have secret pyro powers.

Not really. The secret to success with friction fire depends upon detailed attention to three things:

  • Materials for the bow drill set
  • Crafting details on the bow drill set
  • Technique and practice

There are no magic formulas for friction fire. The key is to find wood in your area that swallowed fire and practice the fundamentals persistently. I’ll offer suggestions on wood characteristics that work in our Georgia woodlands.

Gathering Materials

Not every tree will give up fire. Of course, as soon as I make that statement, some determined soul will demonstrate a bow drill fire with Osage Orange. For those new to friction fire, look for fast growing trees with dead but not rotten limbs. If your thumb nail leaves a slight depression in the wood, you’ve found a good candidate.

However, the easiest “cheat” is to stop by a lumber store and buy a kiln dried 1 x 4 cedar board. Also pick up a 5/8 inch poplar dowel rod while you’re there… or carve a spindle from the cedar board. Take them home, craft your set, and practice on your back porch or yard.

backyard-bushcraft

Our son’s first friction fire on the back patio with store-bought wood

Soft wood is more porous and is often found in lowland areas near water. Seems like a contradiction that water-loving trees have swallowed fire. Porous soft wood actually acts as an insulator to retain heat to help the charred dust reach ignition temperature during the friction process. Ignition temperature is 800ºF, give or take, depending on the fineness of the dust particles.

Here are a dozen trees and plants you can coax fire from:

  1. Tulip Poplar
  2. Cottonwood (roots work as well)
  3. Cedar
  4. Sassafras
  5. Basswood
  6. Pine – you may have been told that resins in pine prevent friction and cause a polish to form instead of dust. I’ve made friction fire with pine wood. It can be done. White pine may be the best pine wood for friction fire.
  7. Sycamore
  8. Yucca
  9. Mullein
  10. Mimosa
  11. Buckeye
  12. Willow (roots too)

In my woodlands, my favorite bow drill wood comes from the Tulip PoplarThis species drops lower limbs as it reaches for the top of the forest canopy. Fallen limbs often are hanging off the ground dry on undergrowth. You can also toss a line over dead, bark-less limbs and yank them down. If at all possible, I avoid limbs in contact with our humid Georgia ground.

Crafting Your Bow Drill Set

To begin, here’s the terminology I use for my bow drill set…

  • Hearth Board – a slab of wood placed on the ground which is notched to receive the friction from the spindle. This junction is where the magic happens. (AKA – “fire board”)
  • Spindle – a straight, cylindrical piece of wood of even thickness, carved or naturally straight, fashioned into a pencil-shape with an eraser end and a pointy end. (AKA – “drill”)
  • Bearing Block – a piece of bone, antler, rock, fat lighter’d (self-lubricating), hard wood, glass bottle bottom, knife handle divot, or any number of item used to hold the pointy end of the spindle in place while bowing. (AKA – “socket”, “hand hold”)
  • Bow – a slightly curved, inflexible dead branch (hardwood) which reaches from arm pit to fingers.
  • Bow String – non-stretchy cordage which secures at both ends of the bow with enough slack to receive the spindle. I’ve found real  tarred bank line (not the Wally World stuff) grips the drill very well.
  • Welcome Mat – a small piece of bark, leather, thin shaving of wood, or any other material available which is placed under the hearth board notch to catch/welcome the charred dust and protect the baby ember.

I’ll be explaining the process of building the set in the order listed above. However, you’ll need to make the spindle before you can finish the hearth board. So skip around the sections as needed.

Let’s build a bow drill set…

Hearth Board

With a round piece of wood, split it down with a cutting tool so that it measures about two fingers across, index finger to thumb deep, and long enough to place your foot to hold the board securely on the ground.

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Now you’re ready to carve a pilot hole on one end of the board. Since I’m right-handed, my instructions can be flipped for any lefties reading this.

Place the eraser end of the spindle near the right end of the hearth board with about 1/4 inch of the hearth board showing to the outside edge of the spindle. Use the tip of your knife to start a pilot hole where the center of the spindle was placed on the board. In a drilling motion with the point of your knife, cut in a dimple that will accept the eraser end. The dimple should be about the same size as the spindle diameter and about an 1/8 inch deep.

Down-N-Dirty Tip: To help seat the spindle in the divot, leave a small 1/8 inch point in the center of the eraser end. This way you’ll only have to drill a matching 1/8 inch hole in the hearth board with the tip of your knife. I picked this tip up from Joe Mobley, a friend and friction fire savant. His channel is linked below under Additional Resources.

Spindle

I like my spindle to be 10 to 12 inches in length. I’ve found this length saves my posture and back when bowing.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This spindle is about as long as my Mora Companion

The spindle diameter can range from index finger size to thumb size.

Carve one end to a pencil point. This pointy end has less surface area resulting in less friction in the bearing block socket.

Carve the friction end into the shape of an eraser. I chamfer/bevel the edges of the eraser edges. This will be the business end where the friction heats the board and creates an ember. Try to use wood from the same tree for both the board and spindle. Rubbing wood together from the same tree gives good traction and grinds dust evenly from the spindle and hearth board.

Both the spindle and hearth board can be made from one limb. Carving the spindle this way will require more whittle work though. If available, use a straight stick to save time and energy.

Bearing Block

My favorite hand hold is on my Red Barn Forge knife. It offers a ready-made socket for the spindle to sit while bowing. However, I don’t always carry that particular knife in the woods.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice the socket in the middle of the handle

Many bearing block options are available to you in the woods. A split piece of hardwood can serve as a bearing block by cutting a dimple into the flat side. The dimple needs to be large enough so that the pointy end of the spindle will not wallow out and hit the sides of the dimple causing friction. You want little to no friction on this end of the spindle. Lubricate the bearing block dimple with crushed, green plant material, ear wax, facial oil, chapstick, or Fixin’ Wax if you have some.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Antler, cupped dime, and epoxy makes a great bearing block. Put a dime over a 9/16″ socket and squeeze the round end of a ball peen hammer into the dime with a vise.

I’ve used my char tin lid, broken beer bottle, rock, and my canteen cup as a socket. Pad the top of thin metal with a bandana to prevent heat transfer to your hand.

Bow

Find a dead but strong curved limb about the length of your outstretched arm. Carve a notch in both ends of the bow where your cordage will be attached.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The butt end of this bow is notched so the cordage can be leveraged with the tag end wrapped around the handle notch

Attach a length of cordage to the top of the bow in the freshly carved notch. Run the other end to the bottom and secure in the other notch. Feed the pointy end of your spindle between the cordage and bow and twist the drill into the rope. If the spindle flies out of the cord, try using both hands. Brace one end of the bow on the ground and the butt end against your waist/pelvis. This will allow you to use both hands to load the spindle into the bow.

The spindle should snap snuggly into the cordage with the spindle to the outside of the cordage with the pointy end facing up when the bow is horizontal.

Burn In the Hearth Board

Again, these are instructions for right-handers.

Place the hearth board flat on dry ground. Kneel down with your right knee on the ground and place your left foot on the board about an inch from the pilot hole on the board. Your right thigh should be near perpendicular to the ground and in line with your left foot.

Load the spindle into the bow. Place the eraser end in the pilot hole divot with your left hand and hold it steady. Sit the bow on the ground and hold the spindle with your right hand. Place the bearing block on top of the spindle and grab the bow with your right hand. This may seem like overkill, but I’ve seen many beginners who needed three hands to get their bow drill ready to go.

Before you begin bowing, brace your left wrist against your left shin when the spindle is in the pilot hole. The drill should be perpendicular to the board. Catch your breath and reflect for a moment on what you are about to create from nothing.

With the spindle braced against your left shin which is vertical over the hearth board, start moving the bow back and forth in a slow, controlled sawing motion. Use the entire length of cordage and not short strokes. Be sure to keep the bow moving horizontal over the ground. The bow string should be at a height just above your left boot, shoe, or bare foot as it spins the spindle on the hearth board.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A blurry Jamie Burleigh, Lead Instructor at The Pathfinder School, burning in his hearth board at the 2014 Blade Show

Continue this controlled bowing until you’ve burned in a ball and socket joint where your spindle and hearth board meet. In plumbing terms, the male end (ball) has successfully mated with the female end (socket). The resulting hole should look like a dark, circular pie.

Slice the Pie

Now that you have a round pie hole burned into the board, you need to cut a slice out of the pie. Score the outside edge of the board as if you were cutting the pie in half. This score mark will be the center of your slice of pie. Move to the right and left the center mark about a 1/4 inch and begin cutting into the center point of your pie hole. Rocking motions with your knife help cut across the wood grain.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The socket on the right burned through the hearth board during bowing. On the right, a new hole burned in and notched.

The notch or slice of pie should be a 45 + degree wedge cut almost to the center point of your pie. Take your time and make the notch walls as smooth as possible. This notch is where the charred dust will collect while bowing.

One additional tip. Chamfer the bottom of the board’s outside edge an inch or so on both sides of your notch. This allows extra air to flow to the dust pile. Fire needs air, fuel (dust), and heat (friction) for ignition.

Bowing Technique

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of prepping your tinder material before you start bowing. A double handful of your finest, driest tinder should be prepared before bowing begins. Nothing kills your primal fire enthusiasm like working to create your first ember and then have it fail due to marginal tinder prep.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jamie’s left arm is straight relieving the work load from his forearm and upper body

Place the hearth board flat on the earth with the notch facing towards you or away. Either position is fine. Place your Welcome Mat under the notch. Load your spindle into the bow and assume the same stance used to burn in the hearth board.

Crouching over the set with your chest resting on your left thigh will cause your left arm to bend and require more forearm exertion to place pressure on the socket and drill. Keeping your back straight allows the left arm to be extended while anchored to your left shin. Increased pressure can be applied by leaning your bodyweight forward saving your forearm.

Grip the bow with your right hand and begin smooth, long strokes. Your heating the “ball and socket” joint only at this point. Smoke will begin to appear and thicken. Speed up the bowing and apply more downward pressure on the drill.

Charred dust will accumulate in the notch and spill onto the Welcome Mat. When the collected dust begins to smoke, stop bowing. Congrats! You’re male and female connections have created a baby ember!

Don’t celebrate yet. Keep your foot on the board and gently remove the spindle and set it and the bow aside. Hold the board in place with your hand as your remove your foot so as to not disturb the baby ember.

Tap the top of the board lightly to loosen the dust from the notch and lift the board away from the Welcome Mat. No need to rush. The baby ember will smolder and eat the charred dust as its first meal. A few fanning motions with your hand will make it glow and weld the dust together.

Carefully transfer the smoking pile of dust and ember from your Welcome Mat to the center of your tinder bundle. Swaddle the ember with the sides of the tinder material with cupped hands so that your precious baby ember doesn’t fall out. Hold the bundle face-high, pucker your lips, and blow through your gently cupped hands as if your were whistling quietly.

Continue to blow until the baby ember ignites the tinder material and you’re holding a handful of burning stuff. Place the flaming bundle under your prepared fire lay, step back, and let it eat.

Now you can give us your best primal scream!

Common Bow Drill Problems and Fixes

  1. The drill flies out of the bow string ~ Fixes: a) the bearing block socket may not be deep enough; b) the pie hole in the board may be too close to the edge or not deep enough; c) your notch is too big – carve a new notch with less angle; d) the spindle is not kept vertical – brace it against your shin vertically; e) the pointy end of the spindle has dulled and should be re-sharpened.
  2. Wobbly drill ~ Fixes: a) brace your wrist against your vertical shin over the board; b) the pie hole in the board is too wide – burn in a new ball and socket joint.
  3. Smoke but no ember ~ Fixes: a) the notch may be too narrow or not deep enough into the socket of your hearth board – widen and deepen the notch; b) moisture may be present in the hearth board – dry it in the sun, or – do slow bowing until you see smoke then rest… repeat this process several times and test the board – or find a dry board.
  4. Smoke coming from the hand-held socket ~ Fixes: a) lube the socket; b) sharpen the pointy end and make sure it is not rubbing on the edge of the bearing block socket.
  5. Can’t blow the ember to flame ~ Fixes: a) you may have marginal or damp tinder – place a fire extender such as char cloth, sooty mold, or 0000 steel wool in your tinder bundle with the ember on top; b) make sure the baby ember hasn’t fallen out of the bundle – it happens.

Persistence will pay off. If you fail, walk away and try another time or day. Keep learning and follow these fundamentals and you’ll join the Primal Fire Club!

If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Additional Bow Drill 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, 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… 

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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, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Makin’ Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly

by Todd Walker

Vegetarians fear bacon. It’s the “gateway meat”. The temptation heightens with the mere aroma of this sizzling strip tease. Only the most hardcore herbivores can withstand the maddening scent in the olfactory receptors!

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

From a bacon-lovers perspective, preserving this fat-laden meat is a Doing the Stuff skill “worth it’s weight in salt.” However, if you believe the Big Fat Lie, go ahead and brace yourself for some disturbing news…

Your grandparents had it right… bacon fat won’t kill you. You need healthy fat in your diet.

Whether for health concerns or just to build a self-reliant skill, making bacon is a simple process anyone can do.

The recipe I used was given to me by Brian Manning, my instructor at The Pathfinder School. He made a video called “Hog and Hominy” where he carves up a side of his dry cured bacon to fry over an open fire. I had to make my own.

That's Brian Manning hamming it up

That’s Brian Manning hamming it up

I asked and he shared his recipe in the description box under his video. Be sure to check out his channel – Snow Walker Bushcraft – for some great tutorials and 18th century living skills.

I also found a helpful video by Steve Davis on his channel, “woodcrafter76“.

Here’s what you’ll need for makin’ your own bacon to cure what ails you…

The Bacon Cure

  • Find a fresh pork belly, pasture raised if possible. I bought mine at a health-food grocery store called Earth Fare. Your local butcher shop may have fresh pork belly or can order it for you. Of course, the freshest route is to butcher a hog yourself. My pork belly weighed 12.6 pounds and was on sale, half-price!
  • Buy salt and brown sugar. Lots of it. Three pound boxes of course salt. I used about 12 pounds of salt and 12 pounds of brown sugar. I’d probably use less on my next batch of bacon.
  • Brian used cracked black pepper for an outside coating. I did not but may add some for taste.
  • A large plastic bin with lid. No need to be air tight. You’ll also need a second large container to combine and store the cure mix.
  •  A dark, cool place. A refrigerator, root cellar, or cooler works.
  • Butchers string or stainless steel meat hooks. Don’t have any meat hooks? Use string and a needle for hanging your cured bacon to air dry.
  • Patience. My pork belly took 14 days to cure.

Step 1 of Makin’ Bacon

In a large container, combine equal amounts of salt and brown sugar thoroughly. In hindsight, I should have used a larger mixing container. Sugar ants made a visit to our kitchen because of the spillage from my smaller container. You can never clean all those tiny granules off the cabinets and floor.

Step 2 of Makin’ Bacon

Rub the pork belly with the cure. Make sure you don’t miss any of the crevices on the flesh side. It’s like applying a rub on a pork butt for smoking… rub it good and cover it all! These little hidden hideaways need cure applied to prevent moisture build up. Moisture is your bacon’s enemy.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first light coat of cure

Place the coated sides in your container(s) and stick ’em in the fridge or a cooler with some ice blocks. I used a large cooler since there wasn’t much room in DRG’s fridge. Plus, I don’t trust Moose and Abby, our two rescue dogs, to be in the house alone with bacon sitting about.

I found that frozen water bottles worked better than those blue freezer blocks. I even added a 4-year-old glass jar of frozen chili to the rotation. Simply swap out melted water bottles with 4 or 5 frozen bottles in your freezer each time.

Leave the curing container in the cool place overnight and let it work.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The morning after… Drain and rub more cure mix

Drain the collected liquid and re-apply the cure. Only this time you’ll want to add a thicker layer. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of cure in the bottom of your container and place the skin side on top of the cure. Now add a generous amount of cure to the flesh side which is facing up. Remember to hit all the creases with the cure. I added a 1/2 to 1 inch layer on top. In hindsight, that much was probably overkill but Brian said I should add more cure. So I did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

About an inch of cure covering the meat

Put the lid back on the container and place it back in your cool place.

Step 3 of Makin’ Bacon

Repeat step 2. Drain the liquid and re-apply cure mix. After a few days you’ll notice the amount of accumulating liquid on the flesh side decreases. The cure on the bottom (skin side) will still be wet and should be replaced with new/dry cure mix.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Late in the process you’ll have little accumulation of liquid in the container bottom with wet spots on top.

At that point in the curing process, you can scrape off only the dissolved cure mix and apply a thin layer to the area. I didn’t chance it. I basically re-coated the entire pork belly for 10 of the 14 days of the process.

Step 4 of Makin’ Bacon

Once satisfied that the liquid had stopped draining from the meat, I gave it a couple more cure applications. On day 14, I examined the belly and found no liquid had dissolved the cure mixture on top or underneath.

Step 5 of Makin’ Bacon

Wash off the remaining cure mix under cold water. Use your hand and fingers to scrap off any stubborn cure mixture from all sides of the pork belly.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Getting ready for a wash and smoke

Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels or a drying towel.

Step 6 of Makin’ Bacon

This step is optional but I prefer a good smoke flavor in my bacon. Smoke is also an added preservative in meats.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the temp very low… below 200 degrees

I used my Big Green Egg and applewood chips for smoke flavor. You want to smoke the belly not cook it. Keep your smoker temperature under 200 degrees. If you have a cold smoker, even better.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Applewood smoke engulfing my bacon

It took some doing to get my BGE to hover between 150 to 175 degrees. Once regulated, I smoked the pork belly for about 5 hours. I gotta admit that I was a bit worried when I saw the belly looking all sweaty after the smoking process. It was supposed to be dry to keep bacteria from forming on and in the meat.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I hoped that the next step would remedy the wet, flimsy looking sides of pork belly.

Step 7 of Makin’ Bacon

And it did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Use a large canvas sail needle or leather working needle threaded with butcher’s twine

String up the cured bacon with butcher’s twine and a needle or use meat hooks if you have some. Hang the slabs of goodness in a room in your house to air dry. You’ll want to cover them in a breathable fabric to keep flies and insects off the meat. I was in the process of hand-sewing a canvas bag when DRG, in her common sense tone, suggested using an old pillow case.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The bacon hangout

And the rest is history, folks. I love my smart wife!

The two slabs of bacon are air drying from a shelf in our laundry room encased in cotton pillow cases.

If you took your time and followed the process, the dry cured bacon will last several months at room temperature. I plan on dividing the belly into sections and freeze all but one part for immediate use and save the rest for future outdoor adventures… if it doesn’t get eaten beforehand.

Now go enjoy the intense flavor of your homemade bacon over a campfire! Or your kitchen. Or anywhere you can!

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, Food Storage, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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