Survival Skills

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills

by Todd Walker

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Every craft has pinnacle performers. What separates people who master a skill from the rest of us?

They appear to have innate self-reliance super-powers. But here’s the thing…

It’s not that they were born with copious amounts of talent. Their skill wasn’t genetically transmitted. The truth is that there is not a friction fire gene, or an ax-manship gene, or a gardening gene… no matter how effortless they make it look. Talent, in and of itself, is overrated!

Whatever skill you practice, these two traits will determine your level of mastery…

Grit and Deliberate Practice.

Grit

Besides being abrasive particles in your swim trunks, as a personality trait, grit is a “positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.” ~ source.

Angela Duckworth condensed the meaning of grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. ~ source.

As an educator, I see all manner intellectual measures. I.Q. has little to do with overall success. Perseverance and passion trumps smarts and talent. Over the years I’ve seen students with lower I.Q. scores outperform students with higher intelligence levels. That’s not suppose to happen.

Grittier people’s secret to lasting success is lasting. In real-world performance, with talent and skill being equal, my money is on the person with the most grit. But there’s a catch to the personality trait of grit. Simply showing up for a long time is not enough to master a skill, as we shall discover later in this article – if you have the grit to read it through.

Grit Check

Duckworth developed a scale aimed at measuring levels of grit. Find out how gritty you are by answering the 10 questions here. How gritty are you?

Grit fuels the second trait needed for mastery…

Deliberate Practice

The secret of all top performers is not a result of, as we are lead to believe, innate talent. The little known secret is the result of intense, not particularly enjoyable, practice for a minimum of 10 years. Actually, it’s no secret at all. We all know what it takes but few are willing, or in most cases, unable to pay the price.

Your goal, like mine, may not be to reach exceptional performance levels. Let’s face it, skills are perishable and there are so many self-reliant skills that no one person could ever hope to master them all. Our community is the land of “jack of all trades, master of none.”  And this is not a slam. Any progress towards breaking dependence on others and our fragile system is the step by step action needed.

Becoming proficient in the skills which captivate your interest, which is the key to getting started, is very doable by working in the “purposeful practice” stage mentioned below.

Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist, has spent his entire career studying how people learn. He studied world-class performers in several fields and found these stages common in all…

  1. Naive practice
  2. Purposeful practice
  3. Deliberate practice – the Gold Standard of all three

Naive Practice

Every new skill that sparks our interest begins at this stage. We decide to trade theory for action. We practice until we’ve mastered the easy stuff. Once we reach our acceptable level of proficiency, the easy stuff becomes automatic. It’s totally okay to be fair to middling or average. However, Ericsson’s research shows that we stop improving once we reach the stage of acceptable performance – even if we continue “practicing” the skill. In fact, more years of practice on easy stuff can actually cause a decline in the skill level you’re practicing.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My instructor, Brian Manning, Snow Walker Outdoors, explaining details on my Alpine Compass

To improve performance, you must practice at the next level.

Purposeful Practice

We’ve already learned that years of repeatedly practicing the easy stuff causes our skill to deteriorate. Nothing you probably didn’t already know, right? In purposeful practice, specific, measurable goals take you step-by-step toward achieving longer-term goals. This takes focus.

Let’s take the bow and drill friction fire method as an example. You may have watched a video, read a blog post, or seen someone demonstrate this method which sparked an interest in learning. After several attempts, you find success. You make a few more hit-and-miss fires to amaze your friends. You’re still the FNG (effing new guy) but want to improve your newfound skill.

At this point of skill progression, you break down your desired outcome into baby steps to help you get there. You spend hours of  spinning sticks together hoping to improve performance. But something is missing… feedback from someone with more experience than you in the art of fire by friction.

Direct feedback is critically important in this stage – and especially so in deliberate practice. Self-correction only happens when previous outputs are fed-back to adjust our future practice. Simply practicing for years won’t improve skills. Some educators work for 20 plus years and only have one year of teaching experience. They choose to stay in their first year comfort zone for twenty plus years – never attempting to engage students in new ways.

Moving past our comfort zone involves failing. But that’s how you got to this stage of practice… failing forward. You could spend 10 years of silently practicing the same easy steps and still be fair to middling (or worse) at primitive fire, blacksmithing, or any other self-reliance skill.

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Camp comfort!

Try something you’ve never worked on before… like twirling up an ember in the rain. You’ll fail. But learn from the experience and keep Doing the Stuff until you get it right.

The journey from Naive to Purposeful practice will greatly increase your skill level. But even purposeful practice is not enough to master a skill.

Deliberate Practice

My research attributes the following quote to George W. Loomis as recorded in the “Michigan School Moderator” (1902) discussing the best way to teach students to spell properly…

Much of the time spent in hearing children recite—guess till they get it right—should be spent in a definite teaching process, until they can not get it wrong.

How long will it take until you can’t get a skill wrong? Studies suggest 10,000 hours or 10 years of intense, deliberate practice at a craft. It took 10 years of deliberate practice before Mozart produced a memorable work. This should be instructive for all the insta-experts popping up lately. I call it the “Shroomery Effect.” They pop up like mushrooms but don’t last long.

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

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

This stage is very similar to purposeful practice except it involves direct instruction, teaching, and/or coaching to offer feedback and focused techniques to improve performance. Think of elite athletes. They all put in a crazy amount of hours training. But it’s not just the hours they put in but how they spend those hours. Instead of chasing the latest novelty, top performers focus on subtle nuances of their craft. Bottom line… they spend years re-working their work.

Here are a few constraints to consider about deliberate practice:

  • Resources – Time and energy, access to training material, professional instruction, and money to pay for transportation to training facilities.
  • Motivation – Having the grit to pursue long-term improvement for years of intense, boring practice without immediate reward. This stage is not inherently fun.
  • Effort – Deliberate practice can be sustained for limited amounts of time daily. Recovery time from each session is necessary to avoid exhaustion and/or injury. This why it takes a minimum of 10 years/10,000 hours to develop expertise in a skill.

Do your due diligence when choosing instructors. Seek out those who have a minimum of ten years of deliberate practice and field experience in the skill you wish to learn.

Re-Doing the Stuff

Pressing the publish button always scares me. Will people find value in my articles? Could I have improved the piece? Did I re-write enough? I don’t pump out blog posts like I did five years ago. I write almost daily but only publish about once a week. A few years ago I realized that to become a better writer, I needed to spend more time re-writing. I’m only halfway into my “10 years of writing” but I hit publish anyway. Some crash. Some fly. Some end up in the draft graveyard.

Revision is needed on my earlier line, “the key to lasting success is lasting.” Lasting is the gritty part. It’s learning to love the boring times of re-doing the fundamentals. Progressing through the stages of practice takes years of grit and intense, deliberate practice. There’s not enough time for us to master all the skills of self-reliance. But I’m committed to die trying to master a few.

Feedback time. What skill are you deliberately practicing to master? If mastery is not your goal, in which skills are you becoming proficient?

Keep Re-Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods

by Todd Walker

how-to-craft-a-base-camp-bucksaw-in-the-woods-thesurvivalsherpa-com

My regret is that I didn’t watch more quality YouTube videos on my journey of self-reliance. There’s a sea of regurgitated material out there, and, sadly, few quote their sources of knowledge. My latest project was inspired by watching Kelly Harlton build a bucksaw with Mors Kochanski on Randy Breeuwsma’s channel, Karamat Wilderenss Ways.

For larger cutting tasks at base camp, a bucksaw is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The 21 inch takedown bucksaw I built from scrap dimensional lumber is portable but usually hangs on my shop wall. I needed a dedicated base camp saw stowed away in my shelter.

My first foray into bucksaw building in the woods was a wobbly failure several years ago. The crossbar/upright union was the weak point. Kelly’s design fixed all that. Thank you, Kelly!

Base Camp Bucksaw

Material and Tools

  • Knife
  • Ax
  • Rope
  • Wood
  • Saw Blade
  • Hardware – two bolts, screws, nails, or key chain rings

Step 1: Collect Wood

An abundance of dead cedar surrounds my base camp. A green sapling will work just as well. I used cedar. For the uprights, cut two wrist-size (or slightly smaller) sections measuring elbow-to-finger-tip (approximately 18 inches). The crossbar should be of similar diameter and slightly longer than your saw blade. You will cut this piece to exact length later.

Remove any bark from your chosen wood. The dead cedar I used had only small amounts left. I scraped it off with the spine of my knife and added the “waste” to my tinder pile in the shelter.

Step 2: Prepare the Uprights

Lay the two uprights side by side and compare any bow in the pieces. I purposely used two cedar uprights with slight bows. The concave sides should face each other or inward.

Once aligned, baton your knife down the center end of the upright until a split is created to accept your saw blade. Don’t split too deep or the upright will become two pieces. Repeat this step on the other upright making sure the splits are on the same plane as the previous one.

Carve a shallow V-notch perpendicular to each split at the base of each upright. The notch will allow the bolts or other hardware to seat securely against the wood when sawing.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I recommend carving the notch after you check to see how far the saw blade fits inside the split. My first notch is pictured too far above the bolt.

Now you’ll carve down the sides of both uprights to create a 90 degree corner which faces inward. Only whittle away enough wood to make a sharp corner so that the wood is not weakened. This corner should run from a few inches above the blade to over halfway up each upright. Take care to keep the corner edges in line with the blade splits.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Whittle away to form a 90 degree corner

Step 3: Attach Saw Blade

Insert the saw blade into each split on the uprights. Use your knife to open the split slightly to start the blade if need be. Once the saw blade is inserted into both uprights, attach hardware through the holes in your saw blade. Place one upright on the ground while holding the other upright and blade vertical. Step on the bottom upright and tug to tighten the hardware against both uprights.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Lay the saw on the ground and align the uprights perpendicular to the blade.

Step 4: Prepare the Crossbar

Place the crossbar across the uprights to form an H pattern in the middle of the uprights. With one end aligned at the midpoint of one upright, mark and cut the crossbar to length at the midpoint of the other upright.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Leave the crossbar longer than needed until final measurements.

Next, carve away each end of the crossbar to form a tapering wedge shape. Leave about 3/8th of an inch on the end of the wedge. If using green wood, a knife works fine. I used my ax on the seasoned cedar to expedite the trimming. Again, take your time and keep both crossbar end wedges on the same plane. They should appear identical or very close once carved.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One of the wedged ends of the crossbar.

At the ends of each wedge, carve a 90 degree notch. Again, on softer, green wood, a knife will carve the notch just fine. On seasoned cedar, I used my small saw on my Leatherman tool to remove the bulk of the notch and tweaked them with my knife for final fitting.

Test the fit by placing the crossbar between the uprights. The corner notches should mate without gaps at the union points. If not, trim until they do.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Spaces between these two pieces will cause instability.

Step 5: Make the Rope Windlass

Cut and smooth two paddle sticks about 8 inches long which will be used to tighten the windlass ropes. Set aside for now.

Wrap a length of cordage around the two uprights. Tie the ends of the cords with a secure knot to form a loop. Rope with little to no elasticity is ideal. I didn’t have “ideal” so I used 550 paracord. You’ll need two of these loops so repeat this process.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Place one end of a loop near the top of one upright and move the other end to down the opposite upright near the crossbar. Repeat this with the other loop of cord to form an X-shape of rope between the uprights. Make a note of where the loop ends will rest. Now carve shallow notches at those locations where the loops will rest once tightened.

Step 6: Assemble the Saw

Insert a paddle stick between one set of loop cords. Rotate the paddle until slight tension is created. Repeat this process in the other loop cord. Continue spinning the paddles alternately until the saw blade is tight as a hat band. Note: Kelly used smaller paddle sticks on his saw in the video which didn’t stop on the crossbar but on the opposite loop cords. I tried this method and found, due to the length of my saw blade maybe, I needed longer paddles to create more tension. My paddles held tension by resting on the crossbar.

How to Craft a Base Camp Bucksaw in the Woods ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fully assembled and ready to go.

The crossbar can be adjusted with a few taps to help square the H frame after tensioning the saw. You can also adjust the saw’s throat depth by bumping the crossbar up or down the corner notches on the uprights.

Put finishing chamfer cuts on all the upright ends and you’re ready for some serious sawdust. This 36 inch bucksaw may be overkill for my woodcutting needs in our mild Georgia winters. Still, I think it will come in handy for the log cabin project floating amongst my gray matter.

Below is Karamat Wilderness Ways video of Kelly Harlton’s H bucksaw…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts

by Todd Walker

survival-times-a-winter-survival-skill-where-speed-counts-thesurvivalsherpa-com

In the context of wilderness survival, the speed at which you are able to build a fire could mean life or death. There are many real-life accounts available where cold and wet people die in the woods… well within the 72 hours most people are found by rescuers.

The purpose of these exercises is not to compete against one another. However, a little friendly competition among friends is always fun. The most important aspect of practicing emergency fire craft and shelter building is the role these skills could one day play in keeping you alive in the wilderness. Plus, they make camping way more comfortable.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire means camping in comfort… and there’s coffee involved!

Poor Decisions and Survival Experts

You don’t have to reach “survival expert” level to build a fire or make shelter. Here’s a little something for the self-proclaimed survival experts to think about. My buddy Tommy runs a popular Facebook group and put an interesting spin on this disturbing online trend… something I’d never thought of but makes total sense.

Here’s my paraphrased version…

Expert status takes thousands of hours and experience in a chosen field. Making poor decisions typically lands you in a survival situation. People claiming to be survival experts should also add to their resume, “Poor Decision-Making Expert.” I’ve never seen nor have I heard of anyone being in a real survival situation for 20, 30, or even 40 years and lived to tell about it.

To be an expert in survival, one would have had to be in hundreds of real survival situations. That basically makes one horrible at preparing beforehand. I can’t speak for you, but “Poor Decision-Making Expert” is the last thing I’d want in my bio… or tombstone.

I prepare by practicing in the field with varying conditions. Carrying a few pieces of emergency equipment and developing the skills needed to use said equipment gives you an edge if things go sideways in the woods.

The following speed drills have suggested times to shoot for based on our physiological response to cold. Cold stress has a way of slipping up on you and can overwhelm the body’s ability to thermoregulate. Consequences include impaired performance and even death.

2 Fire Speed Drills

Besides being well clothed for your environment, fire craft may be the most forgiving of all survival skills. Here are two speed drills to help develop proficiency in making life-sustaining fire.

For more info on my philosophy on Emergency Fire Kits, read this article. We can play around with “what if’s” to manipulate and test our skills. But at the end of the day, my trusty Bic is my go-to for fire. That’s only because I don’t have a road flare in my kit. Oh wait… I do, thanks to Alan Halcon’s suggestion. The point of these drills though is to practice different “what if” scenarios.

1.) Five Minute Water Boil

Disinfecting water for hydration can be achieved by boiling. For this drill, you are allowed to use a spark ignition source only. For context, you’re unprepared and only carried one lighter and no sure fire tinder… and the lighter was emptied when the tab was pressed down against that can of sardines stuffed in your backpack.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flames surrounding all sides of the canteen.

Equipment:

  • One metal water bottle (32 ounce size)
  • Ferro rod and striker
  • Natural tinder material and sticks off the landscape for your kindling/fuel
  • Use a large tin can to hold the 32 ounces of water if you don’t have a metal canteen
  • Timer

Collect tinder, kindling, and fuel size material. This task will consume the most time for this drill. Try to collect these materials in 10 minutes or less. Look for standing dead trees with low hanging limbs. Become familiar with the trees in your locale which produce instant kindling. Resinous trees are a fire-making dream.

Breaking the small twigs, you should hear a distinctive snap signaling a good, dry candidate for fire. I’ve found living Cedar and Beech trees often times have small, dead limbs within arms reach. If you have Hemlocks in your area, you’ll not find a better source of dry, pencil-led size kindling.

Once you have all the necessary natural material collected, start the clock and make your fire lay, ignite your fire, and bring the water to a rolling boil… in under 5 minutes. Remember, time is of the essence.

“Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.”

For this drill, I’ve found that making a long tubular bundle of small twigs and breaking the bundle over my knee to create an A-frame structure works well. Credit for this technique goes to Christopher Wick’s demonstration at the Pathfinder School years ago. You may want to use gloves for this part.

Survival Times: A Winter Survival Skill Where Speed Counts ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Chris Wick preparing kindling

Common Water Boil Mistakes:

  • Natural tinder material not prepared properly for spark ignition.
  • Kindling too large (not enough surface area to volume ratio) for quick ignition.
  • Canteen tips over. Lay finger-size sticks flat on the ground to form a flat platform. The stick platform also reduces heat transfer from the cold ground to the metal container.
  • The fire lay doesn’t surround the canteen. You want flames to contact as much of the canteen as possible.
  • Blowing or fanning the fire from the top down. Get down low and blow from the bottom of the fire lay… without singeing your eyebrows off.

Now add a variation to this water boil drill. Use a lighter or matches and your favorite emergency fire tinder. Compare your times. How’d you do? Get creative and try doing this drill one-handed to simulate an injury. Try it in the rain, as well.

2.) One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. I wrote an article about this challenge with an excerpt below for details.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Equipment:

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge.
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer

There are dangers involved when using a sharp ax. Even more so when using a short-handled ax/hatchet. A bleeding ax wound puts you a whole new survival situation. If you practice this speed drill, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you practice this drill, not us.

Take your time and keep it safe. One piece of gear worth considering for beginners is a Kevlar or chain mail glove.

For those experienced in ax and knife work, the time frame for this speed drill is under 10 minutes once you have your wood billet ready. The idea is to create all the needed items, tinder, kindling, and fuel from one log. This drill will come in handy if you ever need to find dry material for fire in a rain-soaked forest.

My first attempt at this drill took over 12 minutes. My second attempt was in the eight minute range. Below is my video of this drill:

Check out this lumberjack competition where a lady smashes all the guys with a time of 3:06!

Don’t get hung up the stated times for the speed drills. The important thing about timing yourself is that you are able to evaluate your progress in this skill. Let us know if you give these a try.

Additional 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 our Doing the Stuff Network.

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Emergency Fire Kits: Can a Five-Year-Old Use It?

by Todd Walker

Emergency Fire Kit: Can a Five-Year-Old Use It? ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Judging comments here and on social media, our last article, Primitive vs. Modern, was well received.

Then I spot this portion of Alan Halcon’s comment in my notifications, “This article really touched a nerve…”

I braced myself to read the full comment from someone I hold in high esteem in the survival community.

If you’re unfamiliar with Alan’s modern and primitive survival skills, you owe it to yourself to check him out at Outdoor Self-Reliance. Anybody who produces consistent hand drill coals in 12 seconds is someone who has my respect. He also holds the record of spinning a hand drill coal in the unthinkable time of… wait for it… TWO SECONDS!

Being familiar with his way of challenging our “best practices” and beliefs in the survival community, I clicked to read more of his comment…

“This article really touched a nerve, albeit in a good way.

For so long, I’ve constantly said a similar thing— In a survival situation, when I want to start a fire, I want a road flare. During my classes, I share with my students, “My litmus test for a survival fire starting tool is… Can a five-year old use it?” If the answer is no, it has no business in your survival kit…”

Why would the world record holder in fire by friction prefer a road flare over hand drill or bow and drill in a real survival scenario? It’s pretty simple. Fire is life. The times we need fire the most are usually when fire is hardest to come by. There’s not much wood, wet or dry, a road flare can’t bring to combustion temperature.

With that being said, we should re-examine our survival fire kits.

The Five-Year-Old Fire Kit

My grandson is now 9 years of age. Time really flies! He’s usually my test subject when it comes to simplifying wilderness survival. He got interested in making his own fire two years ago. He had to overcome his fear of fire by learning to properly strike a kitchen match. Which brings us to the point of this article.

Could a five-year-old use your fire kit?

Let’s say you’re somehow incapacitated on a back country camping trip that turned sideways. Your young son or daughter will need to make fire for warmth until rescuers pin point your Personal Locator Beacon. Self-rescue is no longer an option.

An emergency fire kit should have simple, sure-fire methods of combustion. This is not about a fire kit you take to the woods for experimentation. Remember to keep it simple enough that an inexperienced child can make fire.

Before getting into details of ignition sources, I can’t stress enough the importance of surface area to volume ratio. I’ve watched many adults fail to build sustainable fires by not taking the time to prep a fire lay. A soldering torch wouldn’t even get the thing going. Collect or create small stuff first!

Emergency Ignition Sources

If I have to rely on primitive fire methods, I went to the woods unprepared. I’ll admit there may be that rare occasion where rubbing sticks together is your only chance of fire. If the plane crash in the jungle doesn’t kill you, just use the burning debris field as your fire.

Jokes aside, not many of us will be in the above situation. Most of us simply go camping, hiking, or milder outdoor adventures. That doesn’t discount the need to prepare with modern fire tools.

Bic Lighter

The trusty “thumb drill” has thousands of fires in a lightweight container that can be lit with one hand. Every lighter in my kit has been de-child-proofed. Simply bend the safety device out of the metal housing and pull to remove. Flatten the metal wings down flush with the housing and you have a lighter a five-year old can light.

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

Use a carabiner to attach the duct taped lighter to your kit

This simple step makes ignition easier for adults as well.

The argument often arises about lighters not working in high altitude or when wet. While I can’t speak from personal experience about lighters not working at the summit of Mount Everest, a wet lighter can be made functional again in around two minutes. Blow into the metal housing several times. Work the wheel which strikes the flint by rolling it on your pant leg. Keep this pattern up until your lighter flames.

Matches

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Max imitating Pops

If you keep matches in your kit, it would be very wise to teach your children and grandchildren how to strike a match. Even more importantly, build their confidence in starting fires using only one match. This task requires as much special attention to the fire lay as you would in primitive fire making.

Which brings up the whole issue of prepared tinder – both man-made and natural…

Emergency Natural Tinder

Daryl and Kris Halseth run a family business called Dragon Fire Tinderbox. Any of their prepared tinder products weigh very little and provide an emergency source of tinder in your kit. It’s also a great teaching tool to help kindergarten-age children learn what a good tinder material looks like – fine, medium, coarse – and how it burns.

This stuff is a campfire in a bag and can be lit easily with a match or lighter. Spark ignition (ferrocerium rods) work on this tinder as well. However, keep in mind that this emergency fire kit has to be simple enough to be used by a young child.

Dirt Road Girl had trouble with consistent fires using a regular ferro rod. I bought her a Sparky™ Fire Starter for her kit. This device is pressed down to direct a shower of sparks on tinder material one-handed. Open flame is the best choice, but Sparky™ is a good backup.

In an emergency situation, the last thing you want your young child to have to find in the forest is dry, fluffy stuff that will ignite easily. Collect your own natural tinder or buy a bag of Dragon Fire for your kit.

Sure Fire

I carry both DiY and commercial sure fire starters. One of my favorites is InstaFire. Click here to read our review on how versatile this stuff can be in an emergency fire kit. If you choose to buy commercial sure fire, purchase enough to test before staking your fire and life on them.

A homemade fire starter which lights as easily as a five-year old’s birthday candle is waxed jute twine. There are no chemical accelerants in this recipe. Simply coat jute twine in wax. Flick your Bic and you have a long-lasting fire starter.

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

The finished product

Another fine homemade sure fire is cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly. They can get messy so store them in an airtight container in your kit.

Every kid loves birthday candles. I have a tealight candle stowed away in my kit. It takes up the space of about a dollar’s worth of stacked quarters but offers a long burn time to help a child start a fire.

Duct Tape

Wrap a few feet of tape around your Bic lighter and you will always have a dependable source of fire… even if you need to burn stuff in the rain!

Here’s a tip to help your child remove the duct tape from the lighter with minimal struggle… especially if you use Gorilla brand duct tape. That stuff really sticks. Before securing the last half-inch of tape to your lighter, bend it over itself to create a pull tab for little fingers to grab. Not much is as frustrating as trying to find the end of tape on a used roll.

Strip off a foot of tape, wad it up loosely, and set it on fire with the lighter. Duct tape has many survival uses. Fire starting may be the most overlooked.

Emergency Ignition Sources to Avoid

I wouldn’t stake my life on a five-year old starting a fire with solar ignition sources (magnifying lens or fresnel card). I carry one in my fire kit which Max, my grandson, has used to start fires. However, it takes prior practice, good tinder, and full sun to achieve ignition.

Flint and steel is one of my favorite spark ignition sources. The learning curve is too steep for a young child to use in an emergency. You need prepared charred material and hand-eye coordination to prevent injury… something a kindergarten lacks.

As mentioned previously in this article, spark ignition is a good backup if you have experience using the device. I had an experienced ten-year-old Boy Scout and his dad from our troop over at my shelter this summer. I invited him to start his first spark-based fire by scrapping a ferro rod. He succeeded in making fire but only after several attempts and coaching. A great learning opportunity for all of us.

Fire by friction… we won’t even go there.

I just returned from the Foxfire Mountaineer Festival where I had the pleasure of teaching friction fire methods along side of Alan Kay from the TV show Alone. Several adults and a few pre-teens achieved their first fire by friction in a controlled setting with proven friction fire sets. Quite a few failed. Practice primitive but always prepare modern when it comes to emergency fire starting.

Emergency Fire Kits: So Simple a Five-Year-Old Can Use It ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Primitive fire starting. Photo by Casey Deming

I certainly encourage you to practice the Emergency Ignition Sources to Avoid with your children in the safety of your backyard or campground. But if your life ever depends on a five-year old starting a fire… stick with a Bic for your emergency fire kit.

Thank you, Alan Halcon, for sparking the common sense idea for this article!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skills in Context

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

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

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

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

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

~ Steven M. Watts (1947-2016)

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

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

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friction fire demo at my school

Friction fire demo at my school

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

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

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

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

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

Related Resources on our site:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

School of the Woods: Turning My Classroom Inside Out

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the thing…

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

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

Friction Fire Friday

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

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

Loading the spindle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the magic happens!

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

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

Back to the lesson…

Surface Area and Fire

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

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

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

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

Documentation

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

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

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

Birthing the Fire Egg 

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

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

Doing the Stuff in Context

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

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

As Steve Watts once said…

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

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

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

Turning Class Inside Out

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

Friction Fire Hack: Get Consistent Coals Using a Hand Drill

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hand Drill Thumb Loops

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

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

Material and Tools

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

Step 1: Notch Your Spindle

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

Step 2: Cut Cordage to Length

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

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

Step 3: Tie Two Loops

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Give ’em a Spin

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

Step 5: Go for the Coal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 6: Trouble Shooting

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

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

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

Here’s our experimental archeology project…

Multifunctional Spindles

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

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

  • Friction Fire
  • Primitive Drill
  • Container

Friction Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similar gripping mechanics as the brace and bit

Primitive Drill

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

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

Quartz crystal secured in the spindle

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

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

Bipolar percussion in action at Workshops at the Woods

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

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

Container

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

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

by Todd Walker

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

 

 

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

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

Time for me to trade theory for action!

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

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

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

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

Primitive Fire Balls

Material and Tools

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

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

Step 1: Create a Tinder Bundle

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

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

Step 2: Insert Char Cloth

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

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

Char cloth in the center of the tinder bundle.

Step 3: Apply Wrapping

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

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

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

Step 4: Wax the Balls

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

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

Double boiler method

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

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

Using the Primitive Fire Balls

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

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

Floating for about 3 minutes in a bird bath.

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

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

This is the pine straw tinder after 5 minutes.

Conclusion

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

Atlatl Darts

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

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

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

Heat and Bend…

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the cane moving through the flames

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

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

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

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

Cut Cane to Length

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

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

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

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

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

Hafting Darts

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

Scott preparing to haft a stone point.

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

Material and Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dogwood fore shaft inserted in one of my atlatl darts

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

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

A collection fore shafts at Scott’s class

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

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

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

Fletching Darts

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

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

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

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

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

Material and Tools

  • Feathers
  • Scissors or knife
  • Glue
  • Sinew

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

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

Cuts made for the Eastern Two Feather fletching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

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