Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance: 18 Beaver Habitat Resources

by Todd Walker

North America’s largest rodent may be considered a nuisance to farmers, landowners, and highway departments. From a self-reliant perspective, this fury critter offers more benefits than damage in most cases.

Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance- 18 Beaver Habitat Resources - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Last weekend our family gathered to fulfill my brother’s request. After spreading most of his ashes in the lake behind my parents house, Kyle, my brother’s oldest son, and I took a small container of his ashes to the feeder creek where my brother and I spent many childhood hours catching crawdads and reenacting the Daniel Boone TV show.

Childhood memories were as fresh as the day our jack knives carved “CW” and “TW” in the paper-like bark of a massive Beech tree on the creeks bend. Kyle and I searched for the tree with no success.

I felt lost. Not just because my brother would never tramp these woods by my side…

The entire landscape surrounding what was once a creek full of boyhood memories and misadventures was unrecognizable. The stream which once flowed unobstructed under a thick hardwood canopy between two ridges was now a decade old beaver pond.

My eyes witnessed a complete transformation. Twenty-five yards to both sides of the creek grew a lush, green landscape of grasses, cattail, and other aquatic plants. The scenic vista stretched 100 yards with dead standing timber scatter intermittently. Our life had changed much like my beloved creek.

Self-Reliant Resources Gnawing to be Discovery in Beaver Habitat | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Kyle and ‘Abby’ walking on beaver pond sediment collected over the years. The creek of my youth had split which once ran three times the size on this spot.

Inspired by Scott Jones, Georgia native and author of A View to the Past – (and a recent roadkill beaver on my drive home) – this article highlights the importance of the fury woodland engineer. For further research on the role beavers and their habitat played in pre-history, read his book.

Jones pegged it when he wrote that the beaver is…

“next to fire and human activity, one of the premier agents of landscape and habitat alteration on this continent.”

Our upland creek had morphed into new ecosystem. Presented with a smorgasbord of new resources, the beaver pond could be viewed as a gnawing problem or…

The Gnawing Self-Reliance Solution

It’s a dam good idea! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

Seriously though, when a beaver couple selects their home site on a free-flowing stream or creek, landowners may look despairingly upon the beaver colony and the accompanying swimming hole. However, with a view to long-term self-reliance, one should consider leaving it to the beavers.

Here’s why…

With the wetland area comes a host of new and beneficial resources for the homesteader, farmer, woodsman, foragers, primitive technologist, hunter/fisherman, wildlife, and the land itself.

Below are the top 18 resources available in your local beaver-built wetland habitat…

The Beaver (Castor canadensis) 

Beavers were once near extinction in Georgia and the United States due to over-trapping and habitat loss. A reintroduction program in the 1940’s successfully repopulated our state and nation. In fact, they’re thriving to the point in Georgia that there is no closed season on harvesting beaver.

A harvested animal can be used for

  • Meat – prepared correctly, beaver tenderloin, back straps, hams, and even the tail makes a tasty and nourishing meal.
  • Pelt – composed of long, coarse hair with wooly undercoat, beaver pelts were luxuriously warm winter hat and mittens.
  • Teeth – the chisel-sharp incisors make great primitive scrapers for wood carving tasks
  • Castor glands – used in the perfume industry but are most valuable for trappers as a universal furbearer attractant. For those interested in trapping, check out this informative article on harvesting castor glands and oil to make your own attractant.

Not crazy about the thought of eating a large rodent? No problem. A beaver colony is full of southern hospitality. Their engineering feats offer accommodations for fury, feathery, and finned appetizing meals.

Fish

In mature beaver ponds, many species of fish are available. You may not catch one as large as the one I’m tangling with below, but rest assured, you can feed yourself and family from beaver ponds.

A large grass carp

Landing a 25 pound carp

Limb hooks, fish traps, and trot lines are great for harvesting fish while you attend to other tasks of self-reliance. However, don’t discount cane poles! My brother and I pulled many a mess of fish from fishing holes with a homemade bamboo or sapling pole.

Reptiles

Venomous and non-venomous snakes are fond of wetland habitat.

Didn't get close enough to identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) by its behavior

Black snake resting his briar hammock

We didn’t get close enough to positively identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) due to its behavior. Racers like to climb and lay on vegetation. This guy/gal was using a clump of dead blackberry bushes like a drying rack.

Water moccasin

Water moccasin is a venomous snake common in and around beaver ponds in Georgia

Watch your step when scouting for resources in beaver ponds. The only venomous snakes in our area of Georgia to be concerned about are rattle snakes, cottonmouths (water moccasins), and copper heads.

Turtles and beavers go together. And, yes, turtles are edible.

This snapping turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

This Common Snapping Turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

Foraging Flora and Fauna

IMG_1616

False Nettles growing in sediment build up along the creek

River cane, Willow, Tulip Poplar, Arrowhead, Cattail, and other plants and trees that thrive in wetland habitat are available in and around beaver ponds. Always, always, correctly identify wild edibles before consuming.

Cattail

Cattail

Woodcraft and Primitive Skills

Debarked wood for tool handles, digging sticks, bow drill sets, shelter, and rabbit sticks can be found in beaver habitat. Wood removed from a dam will quickly be replaced with freshly gnawed logs. Some of my favorite walking sticks were removed from beaver ponds.

Flooded timber in our beaver pond was home to many wood peckers

Flooded timber in our beaver pond is home to many woodpeckers

Try removing bark on a log using only primitive scraping tools and you’ll have a new appreciation for beaver-chewed wood.

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Firewood is plentiful, too. Beavers eat the bark off large diameter trunks killing the tree to open the canopy above. Standing dead, they eventually fall from wind storms or get gnawed down.

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

Exercise caution tramping through beaver dams and ponds. Watch for hazards while admiring the beauty.

Wetlands and Stored Water

The natural way to create beneficial wetlands costs no money and is built by Mother Nature’s best engineer… the beaver.  The beaver pond at the head of our lake provides critical habitat for waterfowl.

Even without the beaver pond, we have a deep water lake. However, landowners and farmers without a man-made lake or pond could benefit from a beaver-built watershed for irrigation.

  • When water tables drop during drought, water will be available in beaver ponds.
  • Dams also serve to naturally filter water and remove silt.
  • Stable water supply for wildlife, livestock, and vegetation.
  • Elevates ground water table.
  • Formation of fertile beaver meadows after being silted in.

Beaver Facts

  • Lifespan – 5 to 10 years in the wild
  • Size – 30 to 50 inches from head to end of paddle tail
  • Weight – 40 to 60 pounds fully grown; the Ice Age beaver, Castoroides, was said to have weighed 400 pounds… that’s a big beaver! (Source:A View to the Past)
  • Diet – Southeastern beavers eat tree bark: Sweetgum, Willow, Dogwood, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Cottonwood, Maple and most any tree available. They also dine on aquatic plants, roots, fruit, and tubers and stems of plants in the beaver habitat. Beavers will also venture into corn fields for meals.
  • Identification – large rodent with orange teeth, coarse outer hair with a wooly undercoat, webbed feet with claws, and a paddle tail used as a rudder, warning signal when slapped on the top of water, and a prop when standing to gnaw trees.
  • Natural Predators – Bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, and humans
  • Shelter – Beavers build dens in lodges in the ponds they’ve created. They burrow into banks mostly in my area and not the typical beaver lodge. On deep water lakes and larger rivers, bank dens are their homes. We call these critters bank beavers.

The gnawing solutions are worth consideration by every student of self-reliance for long-term sustainability. What do you think? Benefit or nuisance?

Though I lost the Beech tree containing our initials due to flooded beaver habitat, our property has gained a valuable wetland resource. Plus, Kyle, part of the next generation of Walkers, found his initials he’d carved in a smaller Beech tree and forgotten about. I think I’ll go add “CW” and “TW” to this new family tree.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

One of my favorites is…

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

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

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

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

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

Identification

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

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

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

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

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

The trees have eyes!

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

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

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

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

Exposed white wood of a fallen poplar

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

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

#1 Resource: Combustion

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

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

One stick fire

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Resource: Cordage

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

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

1/8 inch diameter reverse twist tulip poplar cordage

#3 Resource: Self-Aid

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

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

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores
  • Inner bark tea for fevers and upset stomach
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac
  • Tooth aches
  • Colonists used a tincture of root and bark to treat malaria
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body
  • Cough syrup from bark

#4 Resource: Container

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

#5 Resource: Building and Woodcraft Material

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

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

Reconstructing old cabins with tulip poplar at Foxfire Museum

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

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

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

My tulip poplar “burn and scrape” wooden chili spoon

#6 Resource: Edible

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

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

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

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

Almost a peace sign

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

How Busy People Extend the Shelf Life of Survival Skills

by Todd Walker

[Personal Note: I want to thank our online family for the prayers, love, and support after the recent loss of my brother. We appreciate you more than you can know!]

How Busy People Extend the Shelf Life of Survival Skills - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The most able are the most free.
~Wendell Berry

On the journey to self-reliance, we all start with different skill levels, locales, and motives. Some are even convinced of an inevitable zombie apocalypse. As we say in the south, “Bless their hearts.”

The Doing the Stuff Skills we promote here aren’t very flashy or of the “sky is falling” variety. They are, however, practical and useful for common sense living… a cross-fertilization of old and new paths of emergency preparedness, urban and wilderness survival, natural health, homesteading, energy independence, and making stuff to decrease dependence on others.

Skills require action beyond stocking and storing stuff because of these two little words…

Shelf Life

For instance, that extra pair of boots in storage will eventually dry rot without ever touching feet. Like food, leather and rubber have an expiration date. So do your skills.

The problem with skills is that there is no “out of date” label like the one you found on that dusty can of beans in the back of your pantry. But you already know which skill sets you’ve allowed to rust around the edges.

But here’s the good news…

Unlike food, skills are renewable!

Here’s a self-directed strategy to help busy people take survival skills from average to awesome.

Doing the Stuff on the Fly

Your busy. I know. Aren’t we all! Dedicated time for skills training is a luxury for most of us. We have bills to pay, families to feed, and routine responsibilities to fulfill. However, these three strategies keep my skills fresh – even during what seems to be a shrinking 24 hour period. Try them out. Hope they help you, too!

Take Mini-breaks

The skill you’re developing may take hours to learn. And the answer to the proverbial question, “How do you eat an elephant?” is… One bite at a time. Leverage your break times to practice a specific aspect of the skill. I’ve learned to tie several new knots with a short piece of cordage I keep in my Get Home Bag while standing at my desk on break.

Imagine what you’d accomplish if you find five of these 10-minute breaks in your day.

With today’s technology, watch an instructional video and take notes to ensure accuracy in the skill. Caution: YouTube can be a time sink. So be sure to find value adding channels to follow. I regret not watching more instructional videos over the years.

Take Mini-lessons

At times, all you need is a short lesson to keep moving forward. You probably don’t have time to read an entire book or take a full course. Find sources who summarize or curate content from value-adders in the niche skill your pursuing (self-reliance, wilderness survival, wildcrafting, self-defense, homesteading, food preservation, camping, etc.).

Prepper Website is an excellent curator of self-reliance stuff! Also, be sure to check out our Doing the Stuff Trusted Resources Page for a list of virtual hotspots to connect with and learn skills.

Find Mini-mentors

Questions are easily answered when you find a mentor. Local is best. But don’t discount online learning groups. Avoid groups that only post articles without real discussion of skills. I’ve found a couple of online groups where members, of varying skill level, actually engage and learn from one another.

Like I mentioned earlier, a local mentor is ideal. I’ve been fortunate to find knowledgeable local instructors and online teachers.

When time and money permit, take a class or workshop from a teacher who practices the E.D.I. method of instruction… (Educate: teach the skill, Demonstrate: doing the stuff with the skill, Imitate: allow you to imitate the skill). Two things happen with quality instruction: (A) your learning curve is shortened, and, (B) you build micro-communities and connections. These students of self-reliance share your passion and can be your best mini-mentors.

There is always more to learn on our journey to self-reliance. Finding the time to practice and learn skills is the challenge. Hopefully these tips will help.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Build a Sturdy Sawbuck with Logs and Rope

by Todd Walker

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

“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. –Warren H. Miller, 1915 (Quote found at Master Woodsman)

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

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

Functional Fitness: The Wild Woodsmans Workout

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

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

Tools and Material

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

Construction

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our video tutorial below:

Additional Resources:

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

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, Homesteading, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carry System

by Todd Walker

I keep an old ax in my truck. It’s far from a grub ax. It’s sharp and effective for harvesting desirable wood felled on roadside right-of-ways. The sling is made of nylon webbing attached to a down and dirty (ugly) sheath. It’s functional but not very pleasing to the woodsman’s eye.

Who cares, right? It gets the job done.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carry System - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You don’t have to settle for function only. Shouldn’t a woodsman have both a functional cutting tool, properly sheathed… and have the ability to transport his ax hands-free with a rugged leather sling? Yes he should.

Here’s how to make your own…

First, credit for this brilliant idea goes to an article by Steve Watts and David Wescott in an issue of American Frontiersman magazine. You’ll also find Watts and Wescott sharing woodland wisdom over at Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. I pinned the article several months ago and, like so many other DiY projects, forgot about it. Then a buddy of mine, Kevin, sent me a picture of the sling with a request to help him make one. I figured I better make one for myself before inviting him over to my shop.

To make this manly sling (the sheath requires more stuff), all you’ll need is some scrap leather and a few basic tools.

Tools and Material

  • An old belt (or two unless you have a 44 inch waist), a bag of scrap leather strips sold at craft stores, or any leather material 1.5 to 2 inches wide and 48 inches long
  • 1/8 inch wide leather thongs to connect the sheath to the strap (and for splicing if necessary)
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Leather hole punch – rotary punch, awl, drill, ice pick, etc.
  • Straight edge

Cut to Length

I’m 5′-10″ tall and of average build. My sling is 48 inches on a vintage Plumb Boy Scout ax which measures 26 inches long. The two leather thongs attaching the sling to the sheath allow for length adjustment if needed for heavy winter wear.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Spliced to make 48 inches

The longest strip of leather in my remnant bag was 41 inches long. I spliced a one foot section to the sling to get to 48 inches. I think the splice adds to the appearance.

The width of the sling should fall between 1.5 and 2 inches.

Splice

To splice two pieces, overlap the two ends about two inches and punch 4 symmetrical holes through the overlapped leather (stitching the splice is an option). Thread a 12 inch leather thong through the holes  to make a “x” pattern facing the outside of the sling. Tie the ends underneath with a square knot (right over left, left over right).

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Underside view of the splice

 

Attach to Sheath

Punch two holes in the heel portion of the sheath. Click here for ax terminology and anatomy. Punch two holes in one end of the sheath. Thread an eighteen inch thong through the sheath holes and then into the two holes on the sling. Tie them off with a square knot on the inside of the sling. The 18 inch thong should give you ample material to adjust the sling for your stature and seasonal clothing.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

On the top edge of the sheath (poll end), punch one hole about 1/2 inch from the edge of the sheath. Now punch two holes in the remaining end of the sling. These holes are about 1/2 inch in from the end of the sling. Thread another thong through the sheath hole and into the two holes in the sling. Tie a square knot to secure.

Cut a Slit

For a 3/4 ax, measure about 14 to 15 inches down the sling where it connects to the poll end of the sheath. Mark and punch a small centered hole in the sling. From that hole, measure another 4 inches and mark and punch another centered hole. Using a straight edge, cut a slit completely through the sling between the two holes. The ax handle will ride in this slit. For longer ax handles, you may need to adjust the slit placement.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Slit placement for a 3/4 ax

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

4 inch slit

 

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Fit and Finish

To try out your new hands-free ax carrying system, insert the ax handle in the slit on the sling and secure the sheath on the ax head. Now you’re ready to hit the woods in style. Simply remove the sheath, slide the ax handle through the sling, and do what this essential tool is made for… cutting stuff!

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ax Related Resources

Here’s our video on making the hands-free system (frontier style sheath and sling). Start at 16:25 if you only want to make the sling. Thanks for watching, and, please subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Making Containers via Primitive Process Pottery

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

This is why containers are king! 

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

The Process: Harvesting Clay

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

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

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

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

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

Crafting Containers

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

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

Burnishing my pot with a smooth stone

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

Tools

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

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

A few of Brian’s tools of the trade

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

Brain demonstrated how to carve a paddle with primitive tools.

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

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

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

Primitive adze shaping paddle

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

 

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

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

Each student received the following basic tools:

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

Drying and Firing

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

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

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

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

My container blew up

 

Eventually all the way into the fire.

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

Hurry Up and Wait

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Jones demonstrating how to do the stuff

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

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

My new serving spoon for camp chili

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

Finished Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

49 Outdoor Skills and Projects to Try When Camping

by Todd Walker

49 Outdoor Skills and Projects to Try When Camping - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Planning your spring outdoor adventure?

Try these skills and projects, even if it’s in your backyard. In fact, your backyard may be the best place to start your journey to outdoor self-reliance.

Burn Stuff (Combustion)

Practice in wet conditions. If it ain’t raining, you ain’t training

Cut Stuff (Cutting Tool)

 

Shelter Stuff (Cover)

Avoid Stuff

Forage/Harvest Stuff

Tie Knots and Stuff

Eat Stuff

how-to-make-modern-mountain-man-mre

Jerking water buffalo

Make Outdoor Stuff

39 Self-Reliance Skills and Projects to Try When Camping | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Firewood processed with the take-down bowsaw

Wilderness Self-Reliance Stuff

Iris and Dave Canterbury being gracious as usual.

Iris and Dave Canterbury being gracious as usual.

Let the fun begin! Get out and stay outdoors.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

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

Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability

by Todd Walker

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

 

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

I’m kidding… or am I?

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

Cacao or Cocoa?

Confused?

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

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

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

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

The 11th C of Survivability

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

Here’s why…

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

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

Priority #1: Self-Aid

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

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

Benefits of Cocoa

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

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

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

 Priority #2: Food 

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

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

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

Priority #3: Container

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

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

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

Additional Resources:

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Survival | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ax Anatomy

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

Ax Anatomy Simplified | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

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

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

Ax Selection

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

~ Horace Kephart, from Camping and Woodcraft, 1917

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

Ax Purpose

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

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

Belt or Hand Ax (Hatchet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Quarter Ax

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

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

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

Felling Ax

Born Again Tools: Giving New Life to an Old Ax

Jersey pattern True Temper Kelly Perfect felling ax with scalloped cheeks

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

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

Buy New or Used?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ax Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Abrahm Butts: An Amazing Kid Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is to you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t you love to watch a young person swim against the societal current of dependency?

I’d like to introduce Abrahm Butts to you as a shining example of what Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance is all about. His journey to preparedness and self-reliance breathes hope into a generation floating down a creek without a paddle.

Abrahm Butts: An Amazing Kid Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Abrahm, a 15 year-old Boy Scout, graciously answered a few questions I sent. Thought you’d enjoy learning what drives him to be more self-reliant. Check out his skills-based YouTube channel, BSA Bushcraft, and, don’t forget to subscribe and encourage him to Keep Doing the Stuff!

Q: Tell us about how you got started Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance and your new YouTube channel, BSA Bushcraft.

I got started in the survival stuff by watching Man vs Wild, I watched all of Bear’s episodes very quickly! After that I came across Dual Survival. I seemed to like that show a bit more than Man vs Wild. I was watching the first episodes of Dual Survival and in the introduction to Dave Canterbury they said he had a YouTube channel (Wilderness Outfitters), so I looked him up and literally watched ALL of his videos. I have learned most of my “Bushcraft” knowledge from Dave. I had a crazy idea one day to start my own channel and I did it is called BSA Bushcraft.

Q: What is the top tip you’d give to kids and adults wanting to build wilderness survival skills and becoming more self-reliant?

The top tip I would give to someone who is wanting to get started into bushcraft is practice in a SAFE environment whether that is your backyard or your porch.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge(s) you face in developing skills?

The biggest struggle I have when developing a skill is that I expect to get it done in 1 hour, but it can take a good amount of to have the skill down. Take your time with that skill and don’t rush it, or try to do to many skills at once.

Q: What advise would you give to kids wanting to get started in woodcraft/bushcraft but have little or no experience?

The advice I would tell to kids that are wanting to start into bushcraft is make a stable kit with the 10C’s then take your time and take the skills one at a time.

Q: If you had to choose one kit item to survive a 72-hour wilderness survival scenario, what would it be and why? 

In a 72-hour wilderness scenario I would choose a knife over anything for the reasons that I can carve traps to catch food. If I have a high carbon knife, I can find a rock with a hardness of 7 or greater, then maybe find a piece of fungus, then I have a way to make a fire. The fire I have created with just that knife I can improvise containers that can withstand fire so I can boil my water, cook my food, keep warm and keep predators out of my camp. I can do all of that with just that one tool.

Q: What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you when filming video for your channel (blooper reel stuff)? 

The funniest thing that has happened to me when I was making a video was I could not stop laughing for some odd reason when I said YouTube ;)

Q: How has your bushcraft training effected your education and outlook for your future? 

I don’t let my bushcraft get in the way of my grades. My education comes before bushcraft. Since I have discovered bushcraft, I have had some great opportunity’s to help my future. Like Todd was kind enough to let me do this interview. The Pathfinder Instructors have invited me to some events with them. I even have a show on Around the Cabin in the making, thanks too Rich!

Q: What’s the best value-adding resource you’d recommend for building and honing self-reliance skills?

The best value adding resource in my opinion is the internet. You can learn so much from researching and watching videos.

Thank you Todd for this awesome opportunity! 

Thanks,

Abrahm

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If you’d like to encourage this young man on his journey, subscribe to his channel. Here’s a taste of the stuff he’s doing…

If you know of other kids pursuing self-reliance, please let me know. We’d like to encourage them to Keep Doing the Stuff!

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

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

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