Posts Tagged With: Scott Jones

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

by Todd Walker

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

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

What’s an atlatl?

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

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

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

Down-n-Dirty Atlatl

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

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

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

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

Material and Tools

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

Selecting Bamboo

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

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

Cut in a “Spur”

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

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

A hacksaw blade is handy for making the stop-cut

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

Making the tapered cut to the end nock.

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

Scott cleaning up rough edges

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

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

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

Fire It

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

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

Firing the bamboo

Finger Loops

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

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

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

Leather looped through the holes and tied

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

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

Adjust the loops by tightening or loosening the leather loop

Down-N-Dirty Atlatl Benefits

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

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

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

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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…

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, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

How to Make Primitive Hot Glue Sticks

by Todd Walker

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

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

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

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

Primitive Hot Glue How-to

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

The basic material need to make the sticky stuff

 A.) Gather Raw Material

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

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

B.) Build a Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.) Melt and Mix

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

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

An old turtle shell holding globs of hard resin

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

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

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

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

Cooking resin low and slow

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

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

D.) Make Pitch Glue Sticks

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

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

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

Two pitch sticks ready for use

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

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

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

E.) Storage and Usage

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

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

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

Recommended Resources:

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

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance

Todd

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

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

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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

 

 

 

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

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex

by Todd Walker

Which word in the title lured you to this article? That’s a rhetorical question really.

Whatever the reason, thanks for reading!

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

We’re not analyzing all the different labels related to preparedness. That’s a waste of time. If you believe your label (bushcraft, prepper, homesteader, survivalist, etc.) is superior to all others, stop reading now. Other venues are available which encourage you to crawl onto a pedestal of superiority.

Tess Pennington, author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, addresses the preparedness community’s cubical mindset in the intro of her book:

“Once again, we have compartmentalized ourselves. Well, I hate to break it to you all, but we are all one in the same. That’s right folks, same group; different names. Potato, potahto. There are however, varying degrees of preparedness and this is where the difference lies. Preppers range from people who have a first-aid kit in the car to those who have an underground bunker. That said, it’s about time that we start embracing one another as a preparedness community and be more positive and uplifting towards one another’s endeavors.”

With that out of the way, let’s get started with…

Primal (First) Skills

If you started your journey to self-reliance as a prepper, why should you be interested in mating primitive skills with prepping?

My philosophy of preparedness is in a constant state of evolution. Reliance on gear and tools has always been a key component. Humans have always been tool junkies. We’re really no different from our Stone Age ancestors. The difference is that their survival depended upon their ability to make said tools.

For instance, imagine your popularity if you were the first human to make fire by friction repeatable. Now your tribe’s mobility isn’t tied to carrying smoldering embers nestled in dry animal dung and plant fibers. The game changed. Grok can now make fire from materials found on the landscape. No previous fire required. This new technology expanded his survivability in a big way!

There in lies the conundrum with new discoveries and technologies…

For most of us, we’ve forgotten our roots. Domestication occurred. We’ve grown dependent upon modern tools and gadgets. Nothing wrong with modern stuff. I’ve got Bic lighters scattered throughout all my kits. The challenge is to practice primitive while carrying 21st century gear. To do so…

“We need to see ourselves in prehistory.”

– Scott Jones in A View to the Past

I’m I saying replace your carbon steel cutting tools and synthetic cordage and stainless steel water bottle for flint knives, nettle cordage, and deer stomach containers? Nope! Not even close. But you’ve gotta admit, owning the skills to do so would give you options. And options make us Anti-Fragile.

Here’s a truth Dave Canterbury drills into our self-reliant mindset. The 5 C’s of Survivability are the most difficult to reproduce in nature. To do so, you need knowledge, skills, and resources –  which may not be readily available. These five; cutting tool, combustion device, cover, cordage, and container, most directly affect our number one priority in wilderness survival – core temperature control. So don’t hit the wildness without them.

But what if… you dump your canoe or lose all your stuff? Your belt knife is still attached but that’s about all. Will you be able to reproduce the missing 5 C’s from the landscape… even your cutting tool?

Primitive Skills Reduce Survival Stressors

Mors Kochanski’s bushcraft motto is, “The more you know, the less you carry.” Caught without modern gear in a survival situation can add lethal stress.

Knowing how to deal with the stress of having no cordage to lash a shelter together can be reduced if you know how to make cordage from plant and tree fibers. More time and calories are required to make natural cordage, but owning this skill gives you one less thing to worry about.

Learning primitive skills can be done at two speeds… incrementally or total emersion. I’ve chosen the incremental approach. Most moderns will.

Bill of Instinct Survivalist, another new buddy, Kevin, and I spent last Saturday at a local (Georgia) primitive skills workshop taught by Scott Jones. The class focused on fire, cordage, and sharp stuff (stone cutting tools) – 3 of the 5 C’s of Survivability.

This is a small fraction of the knowledge and skills our ancestors passed down for outdoor self-reliance and wilderness living. With that said, it’s a good place to start.

Primitive Skills Every Prepper Should Know

1.) Natural Cordage

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

18 indigenous cordage fibers Scott Jones has on display for demonstrations

Primitive skills take practice. Learn to identify, harvest, and process the local resources nature provides. Scott’s board (pictured above) revels a sample of 18 natural fibers suitable for cordage.

From L to R:

  1. Red Cedar
  2. Bald Cypress
  3. Atlantic White Cedar
  4. Red Mulberry
  5. Black Locust
  6. Yellow (Tulip) Poplar
  7. Winged Elm
  8. Paw Paw
  9. Basswood
  10. False Nettle
  11. Blue Star
  12. Milkweed
  13. Dogbane
  14. Evening Primrose
  15. Spanish Moss
  16. Button Snakeroot
  17. Yucca
  18. Cattail

We made 2-ply cordage from Yucca, Tulip Poplar, Okra, and Dogbane. Yup. Don’t compost all those okra stalks in the fall.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage I made this weekend. Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Poplar; Okra; and Yucca. Moose, our dog, thought the okra and yucca were chew toys.

I filmed a video on making cordage with Dogbane Sunday. The fibers were too small to add much instructional value. I’ll use a larger material next time. Until then, you may find Dave Canterbury’s cordage video as helpful I did…

2.) Fire by Friction

I’ve made fires using a bow drill many times. However, Scott ruined my previously held belief that resinous woods like pine are not suitable for bow drills. That theory went down the drain as every student created glowing embers with a pine hearth board and pine spindle. Here’s a quick video of the fun…

3.) Stone Cutting Tools

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bipolar Flaking technique… wear eye protection and watch those fingers!

The simplest way to create a sharp edge comes from bipolar flaking. All you need is an anvil (large base stone), hammer stone, and a smaller rock (chicken egg size) to crack like you would a nut. Place the egg sized stone upright (pole to pole, hence the term bipolar) on the anvil and strike it with your hammer stone. If you miss hit, expect blood, swearing, and possible tears. Wear eye protection.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This crude technique takes little skill and provides sharp tools like scrapers, sharp flakes, and small stone drill points. You could make and use these simple tools even with no flintknapping knowledge.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott Jones demonstrates how to make an arrowhead from glass

Practicing primitive skills develops a Possum Mentality. You’ll become keenly aware of raw resources, especially other people’s trash. For instance, bottoms of glass bottles can be made into arrowheads and cutting tools.

Pictured below are a few products of my Possum Mentality over the years:

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Possum Mentality: Top row is a sample of points I’ve found over the years. Bottom row are multi-functional products of bipolar flaking.

Be True to Your Nature

We preppers and self-reliance technicians love gear. But all gear and tools eventually fail. Having the knowledge and skills to use available resources to make stuff from the landscape is essential for both short-term and long-term survivability.

What happens when prepping and primitive skills have sex?

The offspring of this union breeds a self-reliance trait found only in prehistory which expresses our true nature. To tap into your true nature, I recommend Scott Jones’ book, A View to the Past: Experience and Experiment in Primitive Technology.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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