American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dressing for success

Yesterday I talked about the essential gear and skills the kids should have before heading out into the woods. Today let's talk about the kind of clothing they should be wearing for summer hikes. We'll start at the top and work our way down.

First, the kids need a hat that fits and that they'll wear. A good hat protects you from the sun, keeps bugs out of your hair, keeps in body heat, and provides a place to store a small amount of extra gear. I prefer a hat with a 2-3" brim but finding anything other than a baseball cap for the kids has proven extremely difficult.

Next, a good lightweight shirt to protect them from the sun, provide warmth, protect from abrasion, and offer some resistance to the mosquitoes and other biting insects. I am partial to the L.L. Bean fishing shirts as they offer a sun protection factor of 40+, have plenty of layered material with mesh in the "vents," and the sleeves can be rolled up and buttoned to keep them from falling back down. If needed, another layer could be added under the shirt but for 80-90 degree days the single layer should be plenty.

They'll need a sturdy belt of nylon with a plastic buckle or metal d-rings that's both easy to use and comfortable. Since both of my kids are potty trained and like to take care of business by themselves a belt that can quickly be undone is essential.

Add a good pair of pants to the equation (I prefer the zip-off pants that can turn into shorts) and you've got the basic outfit. The pants, like the shirt, offer protection from the sun, bugs, and abrasion as well as providing warmth when needed. Nylon or Polyester materials are better for fast drying in case of accidental (or intentional) dunking and, unlike cotton, do not stay cold for long once you put them on.

For the feet, a pair of sturdy boots and some lightweight wool socks complete the outfit. Get a pair that fits and have your kids try them on while wearing wool socks. Sturdy, lightweight boots for kids are not that easy to find. I was fortunate to find some at REI that were marked down so far as to make the price a bit ridiculous. For something they'll outgrow in a single season the price was right.

When choosing clothing for the outdoors make sure to pick lighter colors when it's warm. The lighter colors tend to draw fewer bugs and they'll be easier to pick out in case your kids wander off.

Once you've got a complete outfit for the kid(s,) take a picture and bring it with you when you get them out in the woods. In the event rescue is necessary, you'll have an excellent reference for Search and Rescue personnel. It may seem a bit morbid to have to consider but addressing potential problems before they arise is one of the keys to minimizing problems if they do.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gearing up

Next Thursday (7/6) I will be taking the kids to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL for hiking, playing, and a picnic. This means gearing up for not only myself but the kids as well.

Some important items for the kids to have with them at all times when in the woods or on the trail:

  1. Whistle--My personal favorite is the Fox 40 Mini
  2. Small flashlight
  3. Signal Mirror--2"X3" and weighs just ounces
  4. 2 Lightsticks--peace of mind if he/she is afraid of the dark

Both kids have the walking sticks I carved last week also.

If you're going hiking with kids make sure they understand what to do in the event they get separated from the group.

  1. Find a tree
  2. Sit down
  3. Blow your whistle 3 times
  4. Wait a few seconds
  5. Blow your whistle 3 times again
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 every few minutes
  7. If the light is fading fire up a lightstick
  8. Wait for rescue

I have been telling my kids that to panic in ANY situation could spell disaster and the ability to keep your head when things seem their worst shows a strength of mind and character.

Having the gear is one thing but knowing how to use it is another. If you don't teach them how to signal effectively they're not going to be able to figure it out on their own in a rescue situation. None of it is terribly difficult, (my 3 year old can blow a whistle 3 times,) but it does take some time and some effort to get them to remember the steps.

Getting lost is easy. Staying lost while following the list above is hard.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 28, 2006 a new blade today

The weather has cleared and so has my mood. Jim, the mailman, brought me a package today that I've been waiting for anxiously.

Inside was a blade from a young Indiana bladesmith by the name of Phillip Patton. He's 24 years old and has been making knives for seven years. The past two have been spent at the anvil and you can tell at a glance that he really knows what he's doing.

I've used the maker's own words to describe the knife.

Blade is 6-1/2" long, overall length is 12".
Spine is .210" thick at the guard and tapers evenly the whole length of the blade.
The blade 1-7/16" wide at the widest. Steel is 1095, forged from 1/4" X 2" flat stock.
I used clay on the back to produce the wavy hamon. This is my first hamon, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. Guard is bead blasted 316 stainless. Spacers are nickel silver and black Micarta, also bead blasted.
Handle material is Osage Orange, with lot's of figure. Weight is 11.9 oz. with the balance point right at the guard.

The fit and finish on this knife is out of this world. The plunge lines are even and crisp. The juncture between the guard, the spacers, and the handle material is tight. The hamon is nicely etched showing off the line between hard edge and softer spine. Did I mention that it came nice and SHARP?! There are a LOT of more expensive custom makers out there not making a knife this knife and they certainly aren't doing it for the kind of money Phillip's asking.

Through email correspondence Phillip joked that the knife had been sitting on a shelf and was desperate to find a new home. I promised him that I'd get it out into the woods for a little workout as soon as I got a sheath made up. I fully intend to do so just as soon as my newest blade comes back from a visit with the boys at JRE Industries.

If you're in the market for a hand-forged blade, and you like to get lots of bang for your buck, I would strongly advise you to check out Phillip Patton's work.

Thanks for reading,


Rain, rain, and more rain...

Living on the river, I pay special attention to the multi-day storms that roll through the area and areas North of us. Just two years ago I was running around the house with sandbags and plastic sheeting to protect us in case the berm failed.

Today will be the fourth (or fifth) consecutive day of thunderstorms to roll in.

The grass is certainly green but the yard has turned to mud, the backyard campsite has been destroyed, and even getting smoke today from my hand drill might be a pipe-dream.

It's always good to practice however. The time it is hardest to get a fire going is, most likely, the time you most need a fire. These are certainly less than optimal conditions for firestarting...

Stay dry,


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Still no embers

The blisters have given way to callouses but the smoke hasn't become anything more.

My local supply of cattail reeds was mowed down by some mindless driver and then the village had the mess cleaned up.

I'm fully prepared to start from scratch again to see if I can't make this project work.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Win a free knife

The boys at JRE Industries are running a little contest over at Knifeforums now until July 4th.


If you're not a member of Knifeforums it's easy to sign up and becoming a member could win you a free knife.

Good luck,


100th post

Already a's hard to believe that I've written about 100 different things already.

Sure, several were about fire and several were about knives but those who know me know that those are two things I really, really like.

I got up early this morning to watch the fury of a thunderstorm. The sound of the thunder and the flash of lightening was punctuated by the driving drops of rain. It sounded like hammers on the roof as it came down.

It was impressively strong from inside the house so I can only imagine what it would have been like from the underside of my Hilleberg tarp or inside an ultralight tent. My daughter and I rode out a similar storm last year in our tent having gone to bed with eight or ten other tents full of campers and we woke in the morning as the sole survivors of hours and hours of driving rain. That campout must be coming up again soon...I'll have to see if there's space for us again.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, June 24, 2006

T.U.S.K. update

I've been using the TUSK for several days now carving hiking sticks for Laura (5,) Jake (3,) and I. The sticks I've chosen are readily available at your local Boy Scout Store for just a few dollars. They're nice dry pine and some have heavy grain while others have almost none. The stick I picked up for the kids was full of resin also which means it can be used for tinder in a pinch.

The first task was to cut one stick in half creating two 3' sticks. This was accomplished by simply cutting a notch around the entire stick and then widening and deepening it until the two halves separated. The TUSK handled this effortlessly and, throughout the project, I've found it to be an excellent chip-carver.

Next, I carved a swirl or twist around all three sticks. Jake and Laura got two full twists and I got three because of the available length. Theirs will provide extra grip while mine is purely decorative. Again, the TUSK was used to cut a V-notch or groove around the stick and then the notch was widened until it seemed "right." Then, using a chainsaw file, I smoothed the notch and brought the sides parallel. My stick had already been stained by the time I did this so there is a nice contrast between the dark brown stain and the light pine notch.

Once the notches were finished I moved on to carving a ball on the top of all three sticks. This ball will provide additional purchase and a smoother surface for resting the hands and/or chin when we're not moving. All three sticks also have lanyard holes drilled through them and the holes were then finished with a reamer. The ball, like the other details, is carved by notching around the diameter of the stick and then the top leg of the "V" is carved over and over to bring the ball into round. This edge is then sanded with 240-grit paper to remove some, but not all, of the carving lines.

At this point, Jake's stick is finished. I used a propane torch and flamed his entire stick to bring out the grain and then coated it with a medium brown stain and finished it with two coats of varnish. The final color of the stick reminds me of a well-aged Osage with the heavy grain. He's happy with it and so am I. I hope he gets a chance to use it before he outgrows it.

Laura asked me to put her name on her stick so I carved a flat platform, wrote her name in pencil, and carved it out with a dremel tool and engraving attachment. This was filled in with pencil and then the whole stick was stained and varnished.

Finally I did some more work on my stick and carved a wood spirit or mountain man down where my grip will be. This is not something I've done before but thought it a good experience and a $3 stick is easily replaced if necessary. The TUSK did a great job here and, other than some of the finest detail work, was more than up for the job. Carving around the nose was difficult but the fine point on the TUSK got in there under the notch for the eyebrow and above the notch for the upper lip. The handle never got uncomfortable during use but my hands and forearms are now sore and tired.

Overall I am satisfied with the TUSK for a carver and would probably reach for it again when it comes time to make some slightly longer hiking sticks for the kiddies or for that special piece of Osage I've had curing in the garage for about a year.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't do that...

This morning I was reading Knifeforums and came upon this thread in the Bark River forum. I'd appreciate your thoughts on the part where a knife is used to eat ice cream and the result is a cut to the mouth.

My first thought is, "Don't DO that!" followed by, "Ouch!" and then, "What the heck was he thinking?!"

Keep in mind we're not talking about a tyro (greenhorn, newbie) or a kid here but a guy with extensive outdoors experience and years and years of knife handling...and he stuck a razor sharp knife IN HIS MOUTH!

Am I over-reacting here?

Sorry for the rant,


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tinder Prep

It's been about a week since a discussion of fire has come up...

Dan and Spen at JRE have loaned me a Bark River TUSK for a few days to try it out, form some opinions, and write about them here and on Knifeforums.

It's been pretty hectic around here lately with parties, sick kids, and a sinus infection but today I'm going to set aside some time to get out back and prep some natural tinders and maybe some of the homemade variety to give you an idea what sort of setup you'll need to catch your spark whether it be made from a Firesteel, a hand drill and hearth setup, a piece of flint and a steel, or even a fire piston.

Without tinder you're just wasting effort getting that ember/spark. Having properly prepared tinder will dramatically increase the chance of your ember/spark becoming a nice roaring fire.

I've read lots of discussion online about various natural tinders working "best" and have some problems with that line of thought. What I have seen, through experimentation, is that almost any material, when properly prepared, WILL take a spark and can be blown into a flame. You need lots of surface area with the ability to circulate plenty of oxygen. That means your material should be nice and fluffy whether it be cattail down, cedar bark, dry grass, or even cotton balls. Mashed down tinder just won't work.

The weather's looking a bit overcast today so getting tinder dry enough to ignite could be a real challenge. I'll pull out the Hilleberg 5XP to provide me with some shelter in case of rain. It's also been treated with Permethrin so that should provide me with a little bit of bug protection.

We'll see...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Every Day Carry (EDC)

What you choose to carry every day must offer a balance of portability and utility.

Looking at your lifestyle should help determine what sort of gear you put in your pockets or on your person before leaving the house every morning. For example, if you live in a major metropolitan area you'd be hard pressed to find a reason to carry an axe of any size but it might make some sense in a more rural or wilderness setting.

I have found my EDC to evolve regularly but a few things remain the same day in and day out. More formal occasions or trips to the in-laws' country club prevent the wearing of even small fixed blades and carrying large folders is an unwieldy option.

As long as I'm wearing pants or shorts you will find a few basic pieces of gear on me that could make a huge difference in my ability to get out of a difficult situation and also may come in handy during normal day to day operations. Those things are:

  1. Light My Fire Scout Firesteel
  2. Windmill butane lighter--glow in the dark
  3. Victorinox SwissTool
  4. Two handkerchiefs
  5. Motorola Razr cell phone
  6. Cash and credit cards

When I can't carry the rest of my gear, I'll have a Timbuk2 Metro loaded with the things that might be too bulky to carry on my person (i.e. signal mirror, fixed blade knife, full firestarting kit, first aid kit, etc.) This bag stays in the car if we're going to be nearby and come with me thrown over my shoulder if not. Having used the Metro as a diaper bag it has become a regular part of my "wardrobe" and has never so much as caused a raised eyebrow. Strangers may question why a man is carrying a "purse" but those who know me know that it's "normal."

Having this gear with me on a regular basis means I can head for the woods whenever the mood strikes and I can be comfortable enough knowing that the combined knowledge and gear will get me through most conditions in relative comfort and ease.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rail Riders anyone?

Anyone have any experience with Rail Riders clothing?

I received their catalog in the mail a few days ago and just last night finally took a look at what they were selling.

I like the looks of their lightweight Eco-Mesh pants for those hot and humid summer outings or any of the Florida hikes.

I may have to give them a try. The Arborwear stuff is incredibly tough and strong but it does get a bit heavy on those 90-degree days.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, June 19, 2006

The ultimate sharpening setup

This weekend I took a custom Livesay RTAK out to the shop for some edge work to see if I couldn't turn it into a wicked chopper/slicer.

I first worked on convexing the blade and progressed from 220 grit to 400, 600, and 800 before moving to a Scotchbrite belt to remove any remaining scratches. Then I used the same belts to put the convex edge on the knife.

The RTAK is either flat or hollow ground so the center of the 2-inch wide blade still carries some of the coarse scratches found on Newt's knives. He's more known for his tough as nails work pieces than his highly polished show knives and this RTAK is no exception.

Once I had the knife where I was happy with the look and feel of the blade I moved over to the buffer to clean up the wire edge and give the edge that final polish. Using black compound on one sewn muslin wheel and green on the other I worked the blade back and forth 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1. Repeat on the green wheel.

The RTAK is now scary sharp and a quick snap cut on one of the bushes outside the shop left several small branches cleanly cut.

There are several steps in this process that are potentially dangerous but the results are undeniable. The sharpest blades I've used have been sharpened this way and they've remained sharp longer than knives sharpened using other methods.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to you dad's out there.

This time last year I made it into the woods three days in a row. This year I'll spend the day cleaning up (still) after my son's 3rd birthday party.

He had a great time, got tons of cool gifts, and everyone ate lots of good food. There was even a magician.

I hope to get into the woods for a bit tomorrow while the kids are at camp. Hopefully I'll find some things of interest to photograph and write about.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 16, 2006

JRE Prototype Pouch Sheaths Unveiled

Last night I headed down to JRE Industries for a visit and to shoot the bull. Little did I know I was going to be witness to the production of some prototype sheaths which are slated for production.

Spen had some pieces of leather already cut when I arrived and he promptly put me to work punching holes and roughing the leather in preparation for glue. I didn't actually know what I was punching and roughing until he assembled the first one and stitched it.

These pouches are all made of some nice thick leather (8-9oz. according to Spen) and some had integral firesteel loops and some did not. There were several sizes which looked capable of holding a wide array of Bark River knives from the Minis (Canadian, North Star, etc.) all the way up to the Gameskeepers.

There is a copper rivet in the top corner of the sheath which adds, in my opinion, a very nice touch. It quickly catches the eye and should also develop a nice "character" once it begins to patina. As much as I've been a fan of kydex in the past I have to say a nice worn-in leather sheath really grabs me. Each has a place and it is ultimately up to the end user to decide which option best suits him or her.

Without further ado, here are some pictures I snapped last night while the sheaths were being finished. There are no finished sheaths in these pictures but they were getting close by the time I headed for home around 1am.

I can't wait to see these shipping with future knives. It'll be great if Mike Stewart will offer them (for a fee) for presently-owned knives. I sure wouldn't mind having one of the firesteel models for my Mini Northstar.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hand Drill Update

More blisters.

I've found the source of my problems. I burned in this board with a larger drill and the current drill just isn't creating enough friction to generate the kind of dust I'd need for ignition to occur.

Last night I cut off about 1" from the end of my current drill and gave it another go. I had smoke in about 10 seconds but the drill end is still too narrow.

There is a trick involving a grain or two of sand under the drill to help create even more friction so I may give that a try today. Otherwise I'll have to use my current drill and burn in another hole more appropriately sized.

The thumb loops do make a big difference in the ability to keep downward pressure on the spindle.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Firestarting Gadgets

So I picked up one of these and one of these from Emil Banks of EBPrimitives on eBay a while back and have been playing around with getting an ember from the fire piston into the metal canister to start a fire.

I've had mixed success with the fire piston and Emil has been very gracious in helping me along the way. I now have a much better understanding of the process and can regularly get an ember.

The fire piston is not new technology but it's not something I've played with much. The premise is fairly simple relying on compression to ignite the tinder inside the chamber. If at first you don't succeed, clear the chamber before trying again.

Fire needs oxygen and having a chamber full of smoke from a misfire robs the tinder of the oxygen needed to combust. This is where I was failing. Blowing into the chamber and/or just waving the opening into the air fills the chamber with fresh air and will dramatically improve your odds.

The gist:Put your tinder (charcloth or a piece of EB's fire biscuit,) place the piston into the end of the chamber, and hit the back of the piston driving the piston into the chamber. This compression ignites (should ignite) the tinder. Pull the piston out of the chamber and move the ember from the tip of the piston to the "X" on the metal canister. If your tinder (cedar bark) is dry enough you should be able to just blow on the ember gently until the tinder ignites.

If you don't have the metal canister you can use other natural materials like jute twine, dry grasses, cattail fluff, etc. to get your fire going.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lack of posts

Sorry for the lack of updates today. I've been dealing with a sick kid since about 1am and he and I are mentally and physically shot.

Look for some more good stuff tomorrow. I've got a new fire piston to talk about and some other firestarting goodies.

See you tomorrow,


Monday, June 12, 2006

JRE Industries

Did you know that JRE Industries, makers of Bark River Knife and Tool's domestic sheaths, had a website? Looks like they're going to get into the knife retailing business as well as the custom and production leatherwork.

It looks like yours truly has made it into their links section.

Surf on over and have a look. Tell them I sent you.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, June 11, 2006


After a weekend of trying I've seen smoke, burned in two hearth boards, gotten tons of dust, and NO embers. Oh yeah, there are the blisters...including a gnarly one on top of the scar from my hand surgery. THAT is a wierd feeling with the hardness of the scar under the puffiness of the new blister.

Obviously using a drill and hearth board of the same wood hasn't worked for me. I've got to go back and reread those articles and some of my primitive skills books to come up with a reason for this failure.

Yes, I chose one of the least consistent and most difficult means of starting a fire but that's what keeps it challenging and interesting. My first batch of charcloth didn't work either.

Tomorrow I'm going looking for some dried weed stalks.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, June 10, 2006

More hand drill information

For those of you who may not be familiar with the hand drill method:

One article

a video

and another article

I've resorted to tying thumb loops on my hand drill now to get enough downward pressure on the hearth. I've got the right kind of dust but I'm just not getting smoke or ember.


Rubbing two sticks together

Today I'm working with a hand drill and the hearth board I made a while back to see if I can't get an ember.

So far all I've got is some shiny hands and a lot of dust.

Taking a break long enough to write this, put the kids down for a nap, and get some feeling back into my tired hands.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 09, 2006

The Northstar IS still the king

I spent several days at the lake and learned a few things about natural tinders. My parents put in a fire ring in the back yard as soon as they learned of my penchant for firecraft and the back yard had been cleared of trees and scrub shortly after the house's purchase. That means I had a)lots of fuel wood b)a place to burn it c)skills to reduce "a" and practice "c" while clearing the yard.

One of the few tree species to remain was the mighty oak. This time of year the oak trees are dropping what my mom calls "worms" which are, I suspect, seed pods. The clusters of "worms" can be found in large clumps all over the yard and they looked airy enough to be used for tinder but had been liberally doused by rain storms on and off before my arrival.

Now add to this that my dad has one of only four Northstar prototypes with custom handles which has been sitting idly since he received it. I had to do something about that now didn't I?

He's got the sheath with the firesteel loop AND a Light My Fire Army Model Firesteel.

I snagged his knife, put it on my belt, and headed outdoors to test the usefulness of the "worms" as tinder. The first few strikes did little but I was trying a new technique I read about at BCUK that uses a smaller strike area on the firesteel to get a more precise spark placement. Maybe ten strikes into this experiment and the "worms" jumped to life. There was enough air in the clump to allow the spark to flare up and burn some material while drying the rest at the same time.

Next up was fuzzed maple bark. Using the edge of the knife held perpendicular to the material, scrape back and forth to fuzz up the inside of the bark. You'll end up with some fluffy fibrous dust. This, too, takes a spark well.

More to come...


Thursday, June 08, 2006

And we're back

Lots to write about. Have to finish unpacking, uploading pictures, and reorganizing everything else and then I'll get back to some thoughts.

For now, I'll leave you with this:

The Bark River Northstar is still the king.


Monday, June 05, 2006


I'm out of here for a few days. I'm headed to the lake for some fishing, some knife and axe testing, and even a little outdoor cooking.

The weather forecast for the next few days looks wonderful and I'll have the camera along so look for some write-ups and pictures when I get back.

See you soon,


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Making Charcloth

Time for a tutorial.

Let's assemble the necessary ingredients for successful charcloth making. You'll need:
  • A small tin
  • A means to poke and plug a hole in the tin (a small nail works well here)
  • A heat source
  • 100% cotton

The setup I used today included a small 8 oz. tin and an Altoids tin, the charcoal grill, and a hopelessly stained cotton kitchen towel and approximately two feet of cotton webbing. (The Altoids tin and cotton webbing are missing from this picture. Also, the brown t-shirt material didn't make it into charcloth today.)
I had already used this tin several times so the vent hole has been put approximately center in the lid. This allows the gases to vent during the charring process.
Prior to placing the cotton towel in the tin, I like to roll it up and I'll often slice it into lengths for easier packing once it is charred.
Now the towel is packed into the tin. Sometimes the material is packed tightly and sometimes packed loose. I have found little evidence that one way works better than the other.
Looks like the charcoal is nice and hot. I've added some nice dry wood along with the hot coals just to give the sights and sounds of a campfire to this project.
I normally place my tins on the outside edge of the coals just to get things moving. I have found the lids tend to pop during the first few minutes and, if you've got a tin right in the center of the fire, you're going to be less likely to try and remedy that situation. If the lid does pop, and you don't get it back on, you may end up with ash instead of charcloth.
The Altoids tin quickly begins to smoke. I suspect that's because there's far less material inside and the flatter shape allows the internal temperature to rise more quickly.
And now, from a different angle, the larger tin begins to smoke. It always amazes me how much pressure builds up inside these tins.
The Altoids tin is already finished. Once the smoke stops coming out of the tin, it's done. You now need to pull the tin from the heat, find a way to plug the hole, and let it sit until it's cool enough to pick up. I turned these tins top-down today just to see if it would work.
Since the larger tin is tall I will add coals to the top just to assure even charring.
The Altoids tin is now cool enough to open. The cloth looks good. It's nice and black and breaks easily. Opening the tin too soon may cause the charcloth to smoulder and, eventually, burn up.
NEVER wait until you need it to make sure your charcloth will hold a spark. As soon as it's cool enough to touch, I take some out and test it with my firesteel.
A quick strike with the spine of my knife...
...and VOILA! We have a nice ember.
Time to check in on the larger tin. It has stopped smoking, been placed top down to cool, and now I've pulled the lid. Compare this photo to the one above to see how much the cloth shrinks during the charring process.
One more test...
...and success! Another good batch.

Making charcloth is NOT a terribly difficult endeavor but impatience can cost you in the end. Make sure the tin has stopped smoking before pulling it from the fire or you may end up with an incomplete char.

These two batches of charcloth will last me for months. I enjoy making it almost as much as I enjoy using it. The process could also be repeated using pieces of wood or any other flammable materials but I find using kitchen towels that are no longer even worth washing to work very well. Waste not want not.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and useful. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 02, 2006

No more Rustrum for a while

Okay, it's clear that I'm not the only one not enjoying this book. Traffic to the blog is down dramatically since I started this endeavor so we're going to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I'll continue to read the book but I'll stick with a final summary rather than a chapter by chapter breakdown.

The upside? I've got some cool stuff to talk about that I haven't written since I was discussing Rustrum. :)

Stay Tuned,


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Book Club:Man Against the Wilderness

The further into this book I go the more I wonder if I'm doing the right thing by taking time and space on this blog. This is certainly NOT a book about outdoor skills per se but more a philosophical treatise along the lines of Thoreau's "Walden."

This chapter begins to outline Rustrum's ultimate goal which is nothing short of saving the world. He begins by describing modern man as believing himself above the natural world:
Groomed, dressed, housed, and utilitarian, he chooses largely to remain aloof from the ecology that inextricably links him wtih all other organisms. The farther from his biological kinship he can remove himself, the more intellectual and civilized he has regarded himself throughout history, the more he believes himself to rise above all other biological phenomena.

Man, removed from the natural "systems," has little interest in preserving those "systems" if it requires much effort.

Rustrum suggests putting in place legislation to control the quality of goods produced and limiting production to only the highest-quality goods. Planned obsolesence combined with the throw-away attitude we have developed has created far more landfill and far less wilderness. It is difficult to take a hike in the woods without coming across someone else's garbage these days.

The eeriest thing Rustrum has so far written is, "As bacterial growth, creeping over the culture on which it grows, eventually by multiplicity alone destroys itself, so might humans by reckless propagation risk drastically reducing their number by some yet unknown decimating force." He's not the first to predict mankind's downfall and he surely won't be the last.

The more I read, the more I realize there is more to my relationship with nature and the more Rustrum forces me to consider. It does, however, enlighten me a bit as to others' reaction when I tell them how I've been out tromping through the woods of North Carolina, fishing in the Great Lakes, camping in the Midwest, or hiking through alligator infested swamps in Florida. Hmm...maybe some of what Rustrum is writing IS getting through to me.

Thanks for reading,