Preparedness

Tulip Poplar: A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The window of opportunity to foraging many wild plants is short. Catch them in their growing season and you have a meal or medicine. Once they’re gone, you’ll have to wait several months to enjoy their benefits.

Not so with trees. They don’t wither in late autumn and disappear. Understand their properties as a valuable year-round resource, trees become indispensable to for outdoor self-reliance.

We’ve discussed a few trees found in Georgia offering nutrition, medicinal, and other benefits. Check out the Trees for Self-Reliance tab at the top of this page for further research on useful eastern woodland trees and projects made from them.

One of my favorites is…

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The tulip poplar is actually not a in the Poplar family. Early North American settlers thought this tree was related to the European white poplar, which are members of the Willow (Salicaceae) family.

Nope. The Tulip poplar is actually in the Magnolia (Magnoliaceae) family – flowering plant family.

Other common names include yellow poplar, tulip tree, yellow wood, and canoe wood. Some names I’d never heard before are saddle tree, lyre tree, and old wife’s shirt. I’m guessing the leaves resembled an old wife’s shirt to some early settler?? Come to think of it, they do remind me of a T-shirt.

No matter what you call this tree, tulip poplars are easy to identify in any season and contain rich resources for woodsman, homesteaders, and outdoor adventurers.

Identification

One of the tallest and most distinct in the eastern woodland, tulip poplars grow to heights of 120 feet (or more) with straight limb-less trunks until they reach a narrow crown. Large 2 inch orange, green, and yellow cup-shaped flowers appear in mid spring (in middle to north Georgia) resembling tulips flowers. The leaves are quite unusual in appearance, nearly square (4 to 6 inches long) with 4 to 6 paired lobes on long stalks which wave in the slightest breeze.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com (1)

Drink the honey-like nectar straight from the flower cup if you find any hanging low… cheers!

Even in winter, long after their leaves have turned yellow and littered the forest floor, one can spot these trees easily. In a race to the top of the forest canopy, this fast growing hardwood drops its lower limbs leaving dark scars resembling scattered “black eyes” along the length of the gray trunk.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com (1)

The trees have eyes!

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com (1)

This clump of tulip poplars would be very noticeable even without foliage

Before dropping, the bark of dead limbs often peel revealing a whitish colored wood which contrasts well in darker winter landscapes.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Exposed white wood of a fallen poplar

You can find these trees ranging from Ontario to northern Florida and west through Mississippi. They like well-drained soil in moist valleys and ridges.

Here are 5 ways to use my most popular tree resource in the eastern woodlands…

#1 Resource: Combustion

Whether making primitive fire by friction or using your Bic lighter, locate a tulip poplar and you’ll likely find dry, dead limbs near the base. I often run across clumps of poplar trees with the smallest tree standing dead. Harvest it for the wood and inner bark to assist your fire craft.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One stick fire

One 2-3 inch x 12 inch dead limb of tulip poplar, bark intact, may be all you have but is all you need to build a sustainable fire. Process the inner bark into fine hair-like fibers to form a tinder bundle. Split the wood down into pencil-lead, pencil, and thumb sizes. If dry, the inner fibers will ignite with sparks from a ferro rod. Use your Bic on marginally dry tinder.

If you need coals for cooking or “burn and scrape” woodcraft projects, choose another wood like oak or hickory. I’ve found tulip poplar doesn’t make coals but burns to ash.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Primitive Bow Drill Fire Kit: Poplar used to make a hearth board, spindle, and bearing block

Once you and a tree collaborate to make primitive fire, there’s a primal rush that pulses through your being… You’ll never be the same!

#2 Resource: Cordage

You may not plan on being without this vital C of Survivability, but if you are, the inner bark of tulip poplar can be twisted into fine to large rope. Natural cordage isn’t that difficult to reproduce from the landscape. It just takes time, resources, and skill… which is why you should always carry stuff to lash and tie things together.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

1/8 inch diameter reverse twist tulip poplar cordage

#3 Resource: Self-Aid

Self-aid should be your top priority on wilderness outings. Even if you manage to avoid stupid stuff, accidents happen.

Besides being an excellent resource for fire and cordage, tulip poplar’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by Cherokee and colonists in Georgia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores
  • Inner bark tea for fevers and upset stomach
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac
  • Tooth aches
  • Colonists used a tincture of root and bark to treat malaria
  • 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

#4 Resource: Container

In late spring, the bark of the tulip poplar is ripe for harvesting. Baskets, arrow quivers, and other containers can be crafted from the outer bark. Simply score the bark with a saw or knife to the sap wood, split the bark vertically, and peel the bark off the log in a whole section.

#5 Resource: Building and Woodcraft Material

The Foxfire Museum in North Georgia showcases the pioneer culture of Southern Appalachia with displays of cabins, barns, and out buildings built from long, straight tulip poplar trees. DRG and I have visited the museum on two occasions to admire the self-reliant skills needed to sustain their way of life.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Reconstructing old cabins with tulip poplar at Foxfire Museum

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

In woodcraft/bushcraft, tulip poplar is a good selection for spoon carving, pottery paddles, and even dugout canoes. History tells us that Native Americans made canoes of this tree. Daniel Boone is said to have made and used a tulip poplar canoe.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My tulip poplar “burn and scrape” wooden chili spoon

#6 Resource: Edible

One of the highlights of spring foraging is the sweet, honey-like nectar found in the cup of tulip poplar blooms. As mentioned previously, mature trees drop their lower branches which makes finding low-hanging blooms a challenge.

Your best bet at sipping this delicacy is locating a tree in someone’s yard. In my experience, yard trees have lots of lower branches still attached since they aren’t competing with other trees to reach the top of the forest canopy. If you’re fortunate enough to find one in reach, pluck the bloom and drink the nectar straight from the cup. You’ll be in competition with the local squirrels though – so get to them early!

I’ll leave you with an image of an interesting triple tulip poplar near my shelter.

Tulip Poplar- A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Almost a peace sign

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Making Containers via Primitive Process Pottery

by Todd Walker

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Coffee drinkers like myself usually have a favorite mug or cup. My all-time favorite “tankard” developed a crack and DRG trashed it. A sad day indeed!

My sob story may seem petty, but there’s nothing trivial about not having a way to “contain” stuff. Think of all the ways you use containers daily. Then imagine all your modern containers being gone… poof, no more. Welcome to the Stone Age!

Here’s what else disappears with your containers. Your ability to…

  • Cook stuff without skewering it on a stick
  • Collect, disinfect, transport, and drink water
  • Raise plants and livestock
  • Store food without stuffing it in an animal stomach
  • Dispose of waste
  • Personal hygiene
  • Ferment food and drink
  • Make medicinals
  • Gather food
  • Keep stuff clean
  • Organize stuff
  • etc., etc., etc….

This is why containers are king! 

After attending a local two-day primitive pottery class, my respect and appreciation for the humble container grew exponentially. Making primitive pottery is not an emergency survival skill. If you’re making pottery in a 72 hour survival situation, you’re doing something wrong. There are easier ways to contain stuff in short-term scenarios. You’d have more important priorities to attend to than digging clay and firing primitive pottery. This is why your should always carry a metal container on outings.

The Process: Harvesting Clay

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of our instructors digging clay in a deep gully. The top inset shows a small piece of raw clay formed into a pyramid with polished sides.

Clay can be found in most parts of the round ball of dirt we call home. Some forms are better suited than others for pottery. Test the clay by rolling it between your hands to form a rope. If it bends into a pretzel without breaking, you’ve found a good candidate. Too much sand in the clay will cause it to the raw clay to crack and break.

There are ways to process marginal clay to make it useful stuff. Practical Primitive has an easy water extraction method here.

We used both commercial and locally harvested clay in our class. Incidentally, the commercial clay came from Lizella, Georgia, only 15 minutes from where I grew up.

Crafting Containers

Break off a orange-size piece of clay and work it in your hands. Before molding your container, temper the clay. Crushed rock, wood ash, and fired pottery chards can be used as a temper. The temper agent helps to control thermal shock and shrinkage during the drying and firing of your pottery.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Burnishing my pot with a smooth stone

Satisfied with the shape of our creations, pots, pipes, and beads were set in the shade to dry for an hour. After that time, designs were added to the pottery.

Tools

Like any craft, specific tools are needed. Below are some of the tools Brian Floyd, our guest instructor, uses to make his amazing pottery.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A few of Brian’s tools of the trade

The paddles pictured above are used to paddle the clay against an anvil (solid surface; rock, knee, etc.) which, if my memory serves me, helps hold the clay together as you mold it. Stamped paddles also add a design to your clay pot.

Brain demonstrated how to carve a paddle with primitive tools.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Splitting poplar with a hand ax and maul to make a pottery paddle

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Primitive adze shaping paddle

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.comMaking Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.comMaking Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Beaver tooth tool for carving paddles and other woodworking tasks… sorry about the focus

Each student received the following basic tools:

  1. Paddle
  2. Anvil
  3. Awl of river cane
  4. Scraper

Drying and Firing

We sheltered the pottery on Scott’s porch to dry for two weeks before firing. On our second day of class, two weeks later, a long fire was burning when students arrived for class. Scott and Brain had our pottery on wood rounds in a semi-circle near the fire for pre-firing.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.comMaking Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Heating the dried pottery too quickly will cause it to break into pieces. We gradually moved the items closer to the fire.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.comMaking Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My container blew up

 

Eventually all the way into the fire.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hurry Up and Wait

Watching primitive pottery fire is like watching paint dry. Modern primitive practitioners take advantage of the long wait by making other primitive stuff… “burn and scrape” wooden spoons and carved pottery paddles.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blowing a hot coal through a section of river cane to burn the bowl of my spoon

Once your spoon is carved, place a hot coal from the fire on the bowl of your spoon. Balance the coal and blow through a hollow reed or section of river cane. Use a green twig to hold the coal in place as you blow.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott Jones demonstrating how to do the stuff

After burning a layer of wood on the bowl, scrape the area with a flint flake or other sharp stone. Repeat the burn and scrape cycle until you have reached the desired depth for your wooden spoon.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My new serving spoon for camp chili

After the final scrape, burnish the wooden bowl with a smooth stone. The blackened bowl can be sanded clean if you desire. I like the burned look and plan to seal the spoon with walnut oil and use as is.

Finished Pottery

Many of the student containers made it through the firing process. Mine did not. Not all is lost. I plan to use the broken halves as mixing containers at my shelter to make pitch sticks and other primitive projects. The chards can be ground and used as temper for my next pottery project.

Here’s a few pics of some containers that made it through…

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The two containers (pictured above) and the cook pot in the fire below was crafted by our instructor, Brian Floyd. His primitive pottery is functional as well as being works of art.

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Brian Floyd, our guest instructor, made a tasty stew in one of his pots for lunch.

This was my first experience with primitive process pottery. Though my bowl broke in firing, I plan to make more.

For more information about Workshops in the Woods, click here for upcoming classes.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

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

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability

by Todd Walker

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

With winter over, at least in Georgia, you might be tempted to stash that can of cocoa powder in the cupboard for your spring and summer outdoor adventures. Leaving this viral elixir home, my friend, would be a costly survival mistake!

I’m kidding… or am I?

You see, the ancient Mayan civilization prized the wild cacao tree (Botanical name: Theobroma cacao) which means “Food of the Gods”, also dubbed “Black Gold.” So valuable in fact, early visitors to the New World noted that the cocoa bean was used as currency. Back then, money did grow on trees!

Cacao or Cocoa?

Confused?

They’re the same thing… only different. Raw cacao seeds are harvested for the beans which are then dried, fermented, roasted, and ground into a powder. This process produces cocoa and heavenly chocolate.

For maximum health benefits, raw, cold-pressed cacao beans retain the living enzymes that are lost in the traditional roasting process. Even with high temperature processing (Dutch), there’s still plenty of goodness remaining in the cocoa powder.

No matter what you call it, simply add water to make an ancient, frothy energy drink sipped by royals, warriors, and elites… without all the crappy additives in a can of Red Bull. Drinking hot cocoa made with dairy inhibits the absorption of all the great enzymes.

All who drink in this manner gain strength, endurance, energy, mood-enhancement, and nourishment from this frothy concoction. Cocoa is more than a kiddy drink on cold nights.

The 11th C of Survivability

As a student of Dave Canterbury, I practice his system of survivability. I’ve written about the importance of carrying the 10 C’s of Survivability here and here. However, I submit to you an additional kit item, the 11th C… cocoa!

Here’s why…

Each item in your 10 Piece Kit must have at least three uses other than its intended purpose. Otherwise it doesn’t meet the standard of Survivability and becomes a luxury item.

While it won’t make Dave’s official 10 C’s list, cocoa is more than a luxurious hot beverage sipped around the campfire. A tin of cocoa shouldn’t be overlooked as important in effecting your most critical survival priority…

Priority #1: Self-Aid

Staying alive in a wilderness survival scenario requires that you maintain common sense and avoid stupid stuff. Experts tell us to stay calm and formulate a plan for self-rescue or wait to be found. Easier said than done when your stress meter is pegged on red. This is the perfect time to STOP (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan).

If your situation allows, make a cup of hot cocoa. By the time you see the bottom of your cup, hopefully, you’ll not only have figured out your plan, you’ll have the energy to carry out said plan.

Benefits of Cocoa

  • Energy – You’ll need the energy after the adrenaline and panic settles.

“This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.” – Anonymous conquistador

  • Morale – Cocoa raises serotonin levels in our brains stimulating neurotransmitters to lift our mood, fight depression, and rejuvenate our spirit. Oh, and lowers your stress level and improves focus and alertness.
  • Endorphins – These natural chemicals are released in the human body to relieve stress and pain. Cocoa triggers the release of these feel-good chemicals.
  • Antioxidants – Your body undergoes “biological rusting” or oxidation. Antioxidants slow this process. Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate. [Read more cacao facts at Mercola.com] Granted, this won’t be your biggest concern for short-term survival but certainly boosts your overall health.
  • ♥ Cocoa – Cocoa reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, cocoa consumption is associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age. –  Source

 Priority #2: Food 

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rations for each man on Robert Falcon Scott’s race to the South Pole: 450g biscuit, 340g pemmican, 85g sugar, 57g butter, 24g tea, 16g cocoa. ~ Photo courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute

  • Raw Cacao – Rich in nutritional value and solidly beats other antioxidant-rich super foods like green tea, blueberries, and pomegranate. Cacao’s nutrition profile includes protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.
  • Flavonoids – Cocoa’s high flavonoid content helps to prevent your body from secreting excessive fluids… the cause of diarrhea. No fun in the woods. Unchecked, dehydration is close behind.
  • Dark Chocolate – Cocoa butter, an extraction from the cacao bean, is found in high-cacao chocolate bars. Healthy monounsaturated and saturated fat helps maintain a feeling of being full. The dark chocolate I buy comes wrapped in foil… which can be used to make fire with the batteries from your flashlight.

Priority #3: Container

Of course, this one may be a stretch. But still, if you stow your cocoa powder in a metal tin, the container could be pressed into service for boiling water or charring material.

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I enjoy an occasional cup of hot cocoa over an open fire with a pinch of cayenne pepper. However, after researching this article, I’m considering adding cocoa to my daily diet. The benefits of packing a 6 ounce metal tin of cocoa powder (not the sugary pre-mixed stuff) warrants the label… “The 11th C of Survivability“.

Additional Resources:

  1. http://flyingwoodsman.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-real-manly-drink.html
  2. http://www.medicinehunter.com/brief-history-cocoa
  3. http://www.naturalnews.com/029156_cacao_chocolate.html##ixzz3UM20hOtp
  4. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-eat-and-drink-high-cacao-dark-chocolate/#axzz3TyjmAM7n
  5. http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cacao.html

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Survival | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks

by Todd Walker

Glue it! Whether camping under canvas, hiking the AT, or caught in a real survival scene, you’ll inevitably need to hold stuff together. Back in civilization you’d simply heat up a hot glue gun or grab a tube of super glue and call it good. Would you be able to re-produce glue once modern sticky stuff runs out?

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’m fond of the natural sticky stuff. Besides being the most commonly found organic material on primitive tools of ancient times, modern practitioners should add pitch sticks to their modern-primitive tool box for several reasons…

  • Raw material is readily available where conifers grow
  • Minimal equipment needed
  • Easy to make and apply
  • Quick drying time – almost immediate
  • waterproof stuff
  • Fire extender and make-shift candle
  • Medicinal benefits
  • Fun project to so with the kids

Primitive Hot Glue How-to

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The basic material need to make the sticky stuff

 A.) Gather Raw Material

Don’t get stuck on a name. Pitch, resin, sap… whatever you choose to call the sticky stuff, it’s easy to find and harvest. Technically, resin is used to create pitch glue. For the purpose of consistency, we’ll use the term resin in this tutorial. Check out this recent article on how to collect pine resin, your main ingredient.

The next ingredient is charcoal. I’ve not tried store-bought hardwood charcoal for bbq grills but don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

B.) Build a Fire

Not any fire. You’ll want to create charcoal from a hardwood fire.

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Waiting for some coals, my buddy Joe boiled water in his re-enactment tin pot to enjoy some hot cocoa

Once the wood burns down a bit, pull a few chunks of blackened charcoal from the ashes. I’d advise against using wet charcoal from an old fire pit. The moisture in the coals when mixed with hot resin can pop and splatter. Hot resin is not something you want on the human body! – unless you’re laying siege to a castle with flaming arrows.

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Grinding stone, charcoal, and saddle-shaped rock for processing

Once you have a few chunks of charcoal cooled, crush it into a fine powder. Use a flat stone and grinding stone or a round stick as a rolling pin. The finer the charcoal powder the better.

C.) Melt and Mix

In a container you don’t mind ruining, old tin cans come to mind, begin melting the resin slowly. Select containers that will heat and cool quickly. Sea shells and turtle shells work well for this too.

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

An old turtle shell holding globs of hard resin

Camp stoves work well for melting indoors as they allow you to regulate the heat. Cooking too fast may cause a flame up. Scorched resin creates brittle pitch glue sticks.

On a research note, Scott Jones, author of A View to the Past, has experimented far more with different resin recipes than the author of this article. I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Scott last year and plan to attend another class on making and firing primitive pottery in a few weeks. Scott found that adding Sweetgum resin to pine resin in pitch recipes cures the brittle pitch stick dilemma.

On a camp fire, place the container on top of a few hot coals away from the open fire. Heat the resin low and slow. The melting pitch will begin to bubble around the edges. Stir it with a small stick help it melt completely. Do not boil/overcook the batch of resin.

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cooking resin low and slow

Once liquified, some people strain the melted sap to remove debris. I just remove the largest chunks of bark once the entire batch is melted.

Mix in the charcoal powder, about 25% by volume, for temper, pinch by pinch as you stir. A bushcrafty thing to do is add other binder agents like dried dung from ungulates (deer, rabbits, etc.) or cattail fluff. I’ve not found these binders to help much in my batches. Tempering with charcoal works for me. I can create my own charcoal.

D.) Make Pitch Glue Sticks

Prepare a few sturdy pencil size sticks, green or dry. I like to sharpen the end to a point for accurate application of the pitch.

With the container of pitch in a honey consistency, insert the end of a stick in the melted pitch. Tip: Heating the end of the stick before insertion helps the pitch adhere to the wood. Roll the stick in the pitch to gather a layer of pitch on the warm wood.

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two pitch sticks ready for use

Remove and mold the warm pitch between your hands. Caution: Hot pitch will burn your skin. To prevent burns, moisten your hands with spit or water. Wet hands cool the pitch and may not mold as well. I’ve also coated my palms and fingertips with extra powered charcoal before forming pitch sticks. DRG says I have asbestos hands though. You’ll have to test your heat tolerance to see what works best for you.

Continue dipping and molding as if you were making a candle. You’re looking for a thumb-sized amount of pitch tapered to a point at the end of the stick. Give the finished pitch stick a glossy finish by rotating it over an open flame. This is purely for aesthetic reason. Dull pitch sticks function just fine!

Tap the finished product on a hard surface. If it’s too brittle, you’ll know it as you collect the broken pieces and return them to the tin can and fire. The beauty of pitch is that you can re-adjust your recipe with the shards for a better batch. Add more charcoal or try some dry binder.

E.) Storage and Usage

As an adhesive, pitch is temperature sensitive and not very flexible. However, it’s easy to repair, make, and use. Store it in a cool dry place if possible. Laying your pitch stick on the dashboard of your truck in July in Georgia is not a good idea. I store pitch sticks in my repair/fire kit in my haversack.

To use your pitch stick, heat the tip and apply to whatever needs gluing. Again, to help pitch adhere, the surface to be glued should be heated for best results. Melted pitch drips. And burns skin. It’s similar to molten paracord for those who have had this unpleasantness stuck to their finger tip!

Here’s our video shot at my shelter making primitive hot glue sticks…

Recommended Resources:

  1. A View to the Past: Experience and Experiment in Primitive Technology by Scott Jones
  2. Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills by Steven M. Watts
  3. Participating in Nature by Thomas J. Elpel

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Camp Craft: How to Tie Square Lashing

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

Traditional Square Lashing

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

Lashing Lingo

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

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

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

Spars: Poles to be lashed together.

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

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

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

Material List

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

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

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

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

Tie One On

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

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

A rain-soaked lashing station in the backyard

Step 1: Determine Cordage Length

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

Cordage Equation: y = 3x

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

Step 2: Starting Knot

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

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

A clove hitch is basically two half hitches put together.

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

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

Extra long tag end for demonstration purposes

Step 3: Begin Wrapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wraps completed and ready for frapping

Step 4: Begin Frapping

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

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

Toggle used to tighten frapping

Step 5: Ending Knot

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

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

Two half hitches

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

The previous half hitches forming a clove hitch

The finished square lashing…

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

The rear view

 

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How to Make a Plumber’s Stove on Steroids for Cooking and Warmth

by Todd Walker

How to Make a Plumber's Stove on Steriods

Being the son of a plumber, I’ve witnessed many inventive ways to stay warm while working on cold steel in frigid winters atop a 700 foot tall powerhouse. From modern acetylene torches to alcohol stoves, plumbers get creative when it comes to heat sources.

Before the time of pressurized gasoline blow torches, alcohol was used as fuel for melting lead and soldering. However, at some point in history, before the modern thermos came about, a smart plumber poured cold coffee from his makeshift milk bottle thermos and slurped cold soup from his lunch pail. This was his ah-ha moment! Hummmm, just add some alcohol to a container stuffed with cotton rags and set it on fire! And the plumber’s stove was born. At least that’s the story I heard told.

I built a pint-sized plumber’s stove 7 or 8 years ago. It’s a lightweight, self-contained, and portable stove for backpackers (ultra-lighters excluded) and campers. I last used it 5 years ago. Upon re-opening, the denatured alcohol lit up with no problem. I didn’t like the fact that I had to loosen the hose clamp and slide the pot holder down to remove the paint lid. A small annoyance really.

Joshua Shuttlesworth, a fellow self-reliance blogger and Pathfinder brother, happened to post his brilliant version… a larger DIY Hobo Stove, as he dubbed it. He used a gallon paint can and a #3 size can (45 ounces). He has a fancy can opener that removes the can lid in a way that you can seal the can with the lid after it’s been removed. Wish I had one… but I don’t.

But I did have an empty quart paint can nesting in a gallon paint can I’d planned to use for another project. This larger version would feed and heat a whole crew of hungry plumbers!

Check out our video at the bottom of this post to see the Plumber’s Stove on steroids in action.

Here’s how to make your own…

Gather the Stuff

IMG_1188

  1. One gallon metal paint can – box stores sell new empty cans or you could clean an old can
  2. One quart metal paint can – same as #1
  3. Platform for quart can inside the gallon can – explained in Step #3
  4. Roll of toilet paper (cotton balls or 100% cotton material works too)
  5. Bottle of isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol
  6. Pathfinder Bush Pot Nesting Stove – not required but if you already own one, it fits perfectly in the grooved lip of gallon paint cans

Assemble the Stuff

This is the easy part.

Step 1: Stuff the Can

Remove the cardboard tube from the toilet paper roll. Grip the edge and pull the tube out of the center. Smashing the roll a couple of times seems to loosen the tube enough to slide it out.

DRG buys the larger rolls of TP which wouldn’t fit in the quart can. I removed excess TP from the roll by sliding my finger between the sheets about a 1/2 inch from the outside and ripped it free of the roll. Squeeze what’s left of the roll together and stuff it into the quart can. Place the excess in a ziplock bag and toss it into your camping gear for the call of nature.

Step 2: Add Fuel

Pour the alcohol of your choosing in the TP stuffed quart can. My small plumber’s stove contained denatured alcohol over cotton and burns much cleaner than the 91% isopropyl.

WARNING: Do NOT use gasoline or other highly flammable petroleum-based fuels/accelerates! You’ll explode into flames if you do so.

The quart can held a little less than one 32 ounce bottle of alcohol. Allow the TP to absorb the fuel until completely saturated.

Step 3: Insert Quart Fuel Can

On Joshua’s Hobo Stove, his #3 tin can was tall enough for the flames to breathe oxygen. On my shorter quart fuel can, the flame would not stay lit inside the gallon can for more than a couple of minutes. To remedy my vertically challenged container, I elevated it a few inches by sitting it on a metal bowl I’d bought at a yard sale for a quarter. A large, empty tuna can would probably work too. As an added plus, you’ve got another useable container inside your stove.

Step 4: Ignition

Light the fuel can. Ferro rod sparks will ignite the fumes inside the can. If using a match or lighter, be careful to keep your hand to the side of the stove opening while lighting.

If you plan to use a Pathfinder Nesting Stove to hold cook pots, now is the time to place it on top of the gallon paint can. The flames from the fuel can will reach a foot or more in height.

A common man stove top can be made by adding coat hanger wire across the opening for pots to rest. Or cut a piece of sheet metal 4 inches wide with 1/2 inch notches on the top edge and securing it to the gallon can with a few hose clamps coupled together. You would lose the can’s bail handle but you’d have a functional stove top. The picture of my small plumber’s stove will give you an idea of how to make your own cook top.

My original Plumber's Stove burning 5

Step 5: Cook Stuff

IMG_1190

As a test, I boiled about 62 ounces of water in my Pathfinder Bush Pot in 17 minutes inside my shop. Note: Use the plumber’s stove only in a properly ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

I also tested the boil time with the same amount of water in my backyard bushcraft area with the same results. I thought lifting the Bush Pot about a half-inch over the stove top via my outdoor kitchen tripod would decrease the boil time. Still took about 17 minutes inside and outside.

Thanks again to Joshua for his tutorial that spurred me to make the Plumber’s Stove on Steroids! Overall, I’m very pleased. This stove would be useful as an alternative heating/cooking option when car camping, at deer camp, as a car emergency kit, or added to your emergency preparedness stocks at home.

Here’s our video of the stove in action:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Canning, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

16 Uses of Sticky Pine Sap for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

16 Uses of Sticky Pine Sap for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scavenging resources in a wilderness survival situation can turn up life-saving stuff. That’s why developing a possum mentality is vital!

Our ancestors walked our woodlands and learned to use the resources most modern outdoor enthusiast overlook. Essential woodland resources seem to be invisible to the modern eye. The stuff you’ve got packed in your woodcraft/bushcraft kit or bug out bag are consumable. You’ll eventually use up that roll of duct tape… or, more than likely, you forgot to pack it.

Not a problem. Pine trees produce a sticky substitute with superior benefits!

Learning to identify and use natural resources has gotten me out of many sticky situations in the woods. Pardon the play on words as we explore the many uses of this tacky, amber-colored pine sap I call Jewel of the Woods!

Collecting Sappy Jewels

Pine trees secrete resin as a defense to close wounds from insects or other forces. The sap provides a protective layer or sealant over the injury . The sap hardens forming an amber glob which turns dark in color over time. On fresh wounds, you’ll notice a whitish layer of sap covering the damaged area. With time, large clumps form making it easier to harvest.

Harvesting fresh resin can become a sticky situation. The fresher the glob, the more sticky and pliable. On dedicated Jewel of the Woods harvesting trips, I carry a grub knife, one I don’t mind getting covered with resin. To remove sap from my good blades in the woods, I use a bit of Everclear (190 proof) from my flask on a piece of cloth.

For hardened resin, poke a sharp object (grub knife or sharp stick) into the base of the glob and pry it loose. It’ll break off and fall into your hand or container underneath. That’s when you’ll notice the crystalized form inside which resembles a beautiful piece of amber stone.

For hard-to-reach spots high in trees, my friend Joe at Feral Woodcraft shares his clever resin harvesting tool.

Now that you’ve gathered a fair amount, what’s this sticky stuff good for?

A.) Self Aid

  • Pine sap properties include: antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial
  • Treat wounds – apply it to cuts like you would super glue. Follow first-aid protocol for cleaning/flushing first.
  • Stop bleeding – apply a soft glob (heat if necessary) to help stop bleeding.
  • Treat skin rashes and eczema with ointments,tinctures, and salves. For tinctures, use 190 proof Everclear since resin won’t dissolve with watered down alcohols.
  • 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.

B.) Glue/Epoxy – Pine Pitch

  • Turn pine resin into pitch sticks. Jamie Burleigh has a great tutorial of his method on Primitive Ways.
  • Hafting arrowheads, fletching arrows and gluing other primitive tools and weapons.
  • Waterproof boot seams, canoes, and containers.
  • Patch holes in tents and tarps.
  • Pretty much any thing you need to glue or patch in the woods, pine pitch is the product.

C.) Candling Device

  • Place globs of dried resin in a fatwood torch to extend its burn time.
  • Pitch sticks, described above, can be used as a makeshift candles.
  • Melt sap and soak a cotton bandana or rag wrapped around a stick for a torch.
  • Melted or liquid sap poured over a dried mullein stalk works as candle/torch.
backyard-bushcraft

Mullein torch

D.) Fire Craft

  • Fire is life in a wilderness survival scenario. Even on weekend camping trips, fire offers core temperature control, cooking, and hot cocoa! Resin is your secret weapon to starting and keeping a fire going in wet conditions. Anyone who’s used resin-rich fatwood in rainy conditions appreciates its important role in fire craft.

  • Resin is highly flammable. Once lit, you can dry marginal tinder and small kindling.

16 Uses of Sticky Pine Sap for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

  • Harvest liquid sap into a container from a fresh cut in a pine tree to add to a makeshift torch. Secure the container under the exposed bark to collect the sap. Use this liquified sap as torch fuel.

Once you learn to identify this sticky life-saver, you’ll find it difficult to walk past a pine tree without scanning for this Jewel of the Woods!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, First Aid, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Burning Secret of Flint and Steel Fire

by Todd Walker

I remember singing around church campfires as a kid, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…”  Anyone who has attempted to start a fire with just one spark understands that… it ain’t that easy.

The Burning Secret of Flint and Steel - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Prepare modern and practice primitive. You won’t catch me in the woods without several Bic lighters. When I really need to start a fire, I whip out my Bic. For primitive fire craft, I may start a fire by friction. If those modern fire starters fail, primitive practice will pay off.

Before the advent of butane lighters and matches, flint and steel was the method of choice for fire starting. In the 17th and 18th century, longhunters, woodsmen, and towns people alike relied on this method. In the woods, charred plant material in a tinder box would receive sparks from the steel. Char cloth was for city folk. Dried tinder material was placed on top of the ember while in the tinder box and blown into flame. Closing the lid of the tinder box smothered the charred material for later use.

Hopefully, this article sparks your interest and sheds some light on the traditional mountain man method of making fire. Long beards and tasselled buckskin are not prerequisites to appreciate sparks flying from steel.

The Burning Secret

This article is a blend of how-to with a dash of curious survival science. Armed with new knowledge, you’ll be able to explain to your buddies the little-known secret of steel’s ability to spontaneously combust.

That rusty shovel in your shed is producing heat. It doesn’t feel hot to the touch but rust (oxidation) produces heat. Just not fast enough to burn the barn down.

You see, rust is a sign that your tool is burning… very slowly, but burning none the less. When iron comes in contact with air, a chemical reaction called oxidation begins. Oxidation produces rust and heat.

How can you manipulate oxidation to create fire?

In simple terms, speed up this exothermic reaction until you see sparks.

Iron is a pyrophoric material that ignites instantly when it comes in contact with oxygen. The reason that rusty shovel hasn’t set your hay on fire is that the steel is in a big hunk of metal slowlyburning“. The heat from oxidation is absorbed in the atmosphere before ignition can happen.

For steel to spontaneous combust, you must…

Increase the Surface Area

Need a fire fast?

A proper fire lay requires surface area. You need wood in pencil-lead size, pencil size, and thumb size wood with even finer hair-like material in the tinder bundle. Even with highly combustible fatwood, surface area matters for quick ignition. Take a thumb-size piece of fat lighter and try lighting it with a ferrocerium rod. You might do it, but only after scraping the rod to a nub. Now you’ve wasted a resource.

The Burning Secret of Flint and Steel Fire | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Example: Breaking this tiny block off a solid cube made of 1,000 tiny blocks creates more surface area

Instead, create lots of surface area by removing resin-rich shavings into a pile. Then make a feather stick from the fatwood (more surface area). One or two strikes from your ferro rod and you’ll have a flaming pile of pine shaving to ignite the feather stick. The same principle applies to iron’s ability to spontaneously combust. You have to create surface area.

Note: Before we continue, let’s clear up a common misunderstanding about ferrocerium rods and flint and steels. Yes, they both throw sparks but each has different properties. Mainly, ferro rods produce 3,000º F sparks while flint and steel sparks are in the 800º F range. Generally, flint and steel needs charred material for ignition. Ferrocerium will ignite un-charred material, marginal tinder, and melt tarps… ask me how I know.

Flint and Steel vs Ferrocerium

Flint and Steel

  • Steels will last a lifetime or longer
  • Has a longer learning curve but very dependable and rewarding
  • Less forgiving than ferro rods
  • Temperature of sparks hover around 800º F
  • In a pinch, the spine of a high carbon steel knife will throw sparks when struck with flint rock if that’s all you have
  • Works in wet conditions
  • Very old method… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Ferrocerium

  • 3,000º F sparks – and globs of molten metal from softer ferro rods that burn longer after being removed from the rod
  • Consumable – not a big concern if your life depends on making fire with marginal tinder
  • Easier to manipulate with less practice
  • Broken glass, 90º knife spine, metal strikers, flint rock can strike sparks from ferro rods
  • More forgiving than flint and steel
The Burning Secret of Flint and Steel Fire | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirt Road Girl making fire with a ferro rod

Now, back to flint and steel.

Striking steel with a hard object like flint/chert breaks off tiny pieces of steel with greater surface area than the original hunk of metal. These small particles meet oxygen and spontaneously combust. Sparks fly!

Flint and Steel Fire Craft

What you’ll need to start a fire with flint and steel… mountain man style.

  • A hard, brittle steel (iron and carbon) – old files work too
  • A rock harder than the steel – flint, chert, quartz, etc – with sharp edges
  • Charred cloth or plant material – learn to make your own char cloth here

Here’s two methods to use your flint and steel…

Hold the steel in your strong hand and the flint in the other. Lay a piece of char cloth over the top of the flint and hold it near the edge of the rock with your thumb. In a downward motion, strike the stationary flint with your steel in a smooth motion. Be careful not to hit your knuckles on the sharp rock. Once a spark lands on the char cloth, you should have a glowing ember growing in circular fashion.

The other method is to hold the flint in your strong hand and strike the stationary steel. I use this method when lighting charred plant material in my char container. It’s a safe way to strike sparks off the spine of a knife. Keep the knife stationary and strike the spine with the flint.

Flint and steel are becoming my preferred method for starting fires. Here’s a quick video on the science behind flint and steel with a demo at the end.

My daddy made a living welding and plumbing. Growing up, my hands were no stranger to side grinders. I wore out many grinding disks shooting streams of glowing sparks. What I didn’t realize then was that these tiny particles of iron were igniting when they came in contact with oxygen. I’d assumed they glowed from the friction of the grinding wheel.

Now you and I know the burning secret.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Input → Output: Survival Math Made Easy

by Todd Walker

What’s Math got to do with survival?

Everything!

You’ve probably never used Algebra since graduation, but this math lesson may save your life. Is there homework involved? Yes. But you choose the when, where, and how to do it.

If you hate math but love to survive 100% of the time, this lesson is for you. As a math teacher, I want to introduce you to…

Survival Math Made Easy

First, let’s cover some Survival Math terminology so we’re all on the same page. I promise to keep it simple for all the math-haters. You won’t see any of these…

y = -2x + 13

As students of self-reliance, our learning goal is 100% survivability. Shoot for 95% and your dead. You can’t bring this grade up if you’re not alive in class.

Here’s what’s on our word wall…

Key Word #1: Function

In the non-math world, we describe a function as something that works every time. In mathematics, a relation is a function if the input has only one output.

This works for survival, too. Your input into the Survival Function Machine (see diagram ↓) determines your output.

Function of Survival

Output is dependent upon input. Fire is only achieved with the correct input: air, fuel, and a heat source. Take one element of the input away, air, and you get charred material – not fire. This isn’t a bad thing if your intention is to make char cloth for your next fire.

This is but one example that can be applied to our ultimate output → 100% survivability.

Key Word #2: Relation

In relationships, one item depends on another. There’s a relationship between fuel-heat-air and fire. When these three items combine properly, the output is fire. If fire is not the outcome, what variable caused the wood not to burn? Is the tinder marginal or damp? Is your heat source a ferro rod, flint and steel, match, bow drill ember, or Bic lighter? Do they work in your environment?

Here’s an example of a relation. Let’s say you walk up to a vending machine with 6 buttons labeled 1 through 6. Pressing #1 always spits out a bottle of water; #2 gives you a candy bar; #3 gives you a sports drink; #4, a soda; #5 rolls out an apple; and #6 gives you a soda. The unlabeled buttons are related to a specific product or output. Hankering for an apple, you press #5 to get your fruit. This is a relation.

Here’s another scenario with the same vending machine, same buttons, and same six products. You press button 5 expecting your apple, but instead, you get a candy bar. Some days you get an apple, some days you get the candy bar. This too is a relation. You still get a product/output when you press #5.

Both scenarios describe a relation, but the second one is unreliable. You’re never sure what output you’ll get.

In math, we call a relation that is always consistent a function. In survival, you want to know what you’ll get when you press a button on your Survival Function Machine – 100% of the time.

You press a button and expect to get a certain outcome. When the output is not what you expect, your Survival Function Machine isn’t malfunctioning, the input needs to adjust for variability.

Feed the Survival Function Machine

You’ll only get your desired output (100% survivability) by feeding your Survival Function Machine quality stuff. The only way to input the good stuff is by developing knowledge and skills to use your available resources. Or as we call the process, Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance.

Practicing fire craft in ideal conditions is necessary to build confidence in this skill. But like I heard Creek Stewart say recently, mother nature makes the rules. You won’t always have dry tinder material and fuel. Mother Nature is the biggest variable you’ll have to contend with. You want to remove as many variables as possible for 100% survivability.

Carrying proper gear (10 piece kit) helps eliminate variables.

Input: Gear

Bomb-proof gear. That’s what you’re after. And no, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Buy/trade/acquire the best gear you can afford. One of my best gear shops are antique stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Here’s the thing about gear…

Kit items are inanimate objects. Tossing that $300.00 knife into your Survival Function Machine will only produce the desired output if you’ve honed your knife skills.

Gear + skills is a function of 100% survivability.

Begin thinking about, if you haven’t already, the multi-functional uses of each piece of gear in your woodcraft kit, bug out bag, vehicle emergency kit, or get home bag. If a piece of gear has only one use, cull it. This advice does not apply to required medications. However, your 10 piece kit is a multi-functional self-aid kit.

Which brings us to what I consider the most important of all the inputs…

Input: Skills

In a 72 hour wilderness survival setting, 100% survivability is dependent upon one thing… Core Temperature Control. Lacking cover and water, you won’t last long exposed to the elements.

CTC functions

What gear/skills do you need which would enable you to add inputs to the Survival Function Machine to achieve the desired output → Core Temperature Control (CTC)?

CTC Input #1 → Cover

Layered clothing is your most important piece of cover. Next, you’ll need to shelter your body from the elements with either a kit item or landscape material.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.

Are you willing to risk Mother Nature providing suitable cover resources? An emergency space blanket and a clear painter’s tarp weighs little but offers great return on investment as a cover element in cold weather.

 

This kit item reduces the variability of Mother Nature.

CTC Input #2 → Fire

Fire. Is. Life. It effects your cover element, disinfects water, offers illumination, signalling ability, cooks food, and adds psychological comfort. Radiating heat to warm your body and shelter in cold conditions is the obvious benefit of developing fire craft skills.

Always carry a field tested method of sure-fire in your kits. There’s no cheating when it comes to emergency fire! Man up, swallow your ego, and flick that Bic on some sure fire starter.

CTC Input #3 → Hydration

The most overlooked use of fire may be disinfecting water via boiling in the winter. Staying hydrated in cold weather is just as important as during July in Georgia. In fact, winter time has a way of dulling our senses to the need to stay fully hydrated. It’s not hot out so we often overlook hydration.

Boiling water is my go-to method of disinfection. That’s one reason I’m pyro-crazy about fire craft!

Homework Assignment

Told you there’d be homework.

Experience is a tough teacher, but she’s unforgettable. You still talk to your friends about the toughest teacher you had in school, right? Experience is the only way to build knowledge and skills which will allow you take advantage of available resources. You may gain some knowledge behind your computer screen, but experience only comes by Doing the Stuff (dirt time homework) consistently.

Here’s a relation that is a function every time:

Dirt Time input-output

Mathematics is the study of relationships in the real world in order to learn how things work. You’re not going to be using algebra in a survival situation. But the input/output concept remains. With the proper input into your Survival Function Machine, 100% survivability is the output.

There’s the bell. Go get dirty!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

4 Essential Ax Skills for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

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

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

A question you must ax…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Felling

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

Journal Notes ~ A: Face Cut and Back Cut

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

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

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

Before Your First Swing

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

Swing Stance

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

Face Cut

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

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

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

Back Cut

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

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

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

2) Limbing

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

Journal Notes ~ B: Limbing

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

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

3) Bucking

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

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

Journal Notes ~ C: Bucking

 

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

Bucking tips:

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

4) Splitting

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,796 other followers

%d bloggers like this: