Hello Spring, sort of...

Here in Missouri, the weather is always changing, except for summer when it is stupidly humid and hot. But here lately it has beautiful. I have been able to take walks and jog again in the mornings, yesterday I took my Lil' cave-poose to the park. My daughter, whom I call "poose" loves being outside almost as much as her daddy. She loves walking around outside and picking up sticks and rocks. I have been sort of slacking on my primitive skills because I have been enjoying the weather. Sadly, I checked the weather today and a cold front will be moving through this weekend. Hopefully I can pull out my knap-sack and try to make at least a few arrow heads before the temperatures dip again. A friend at work asked me if I knew how to make those "black glass knives" the used in the movie "Apocalyto"
I told him I have some obsidian at home and I would give it a try. So I hope to do so, weather permitting.


Thank you Prometheus, Hand drill fire

As you may know, Prometheus was the titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals on earth. His punishment by Zeus was to be strapped to a huge rock for all eternity having his liver eaten out by an eagle every day, and having it grow back every night to be eaten again. Fire is an interesting subject for me for many years. Not just the adolescent lighting of a match just to watch it burn, but a true, deep respect for fire as a whole. Before modern thought came around there were four main elements, water, earth, air and fire. Water, earth, and air just exist, they do not require some external factors to be, they just are. You can see earth and water, you can feel the air. Fire on the other hand has to be created. There is nowhere that fire just exists. Fire can give warmth and safety, but at the same time, it can destroy. It is no wonder to me how the early humans came to worship this great thing. My great admiration of fire occurred early in childhood much to the displeasure of my parents. I have always wondered how fire was discovered so I went to the internet and found the many ways primitive man was thought to have created this life giving substance. I found several methods and I am looking forward to trying the all out but for my try I will try the hand drill method. In a strange twist of fate, there is a sizable cattail swamp between the highway and the service road. I went out and cut a few straight stalks to use as my spindle.

I also noticed on a walk through my neighbor hood, some very tall beautiful Cedar trees. So I grabbed my Bowie knife and went for a hike and split off two pieces of fallen dry wood. One is sapwood, the other has a thick layer of heartwood. I found the heartwood is too hard for using so I'll just hold on to it for something else.

All this happened about a month ago, and this morning I felt like Tom Hanks from Castaway! I HAVE CREATED FIRE!!! Every couple of days I would pull out my heart and spindle and spin until my hands were raw. I'd get some smoke and some dust but my hands and arms would give out. today the planets aligned and I got an ember! Jeez do my hands hurt now...


Heave Ho!

About a three years ago I read the book "Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean Auel. It is a great novel depicting the life of a group of neanderthals who adopt a cro-magnon girl. The author spent quite some time learning the crafts of the people she meant to write about. She learned how to flintknap, make fire using a cattail stalk and clematis board, and use a sling. The slinging really stood out to me in the novel. In my research I found that the sling is one of mans oldest ranged weapons, and, in the right hands, can be as accurate and deadly as the book describes. Being a leather worker, I pulled out my supplies and braided a sling out of some black and red leather strips and a scrap of red top grain upholstery leather. The end result was a very functional and very pretty sling. My accuracy left something to be desired and after an entire day of hurling rocks at a target and hitting it twice, I decided to look up the proper way to use this weapon. I stumbled across Slinging.org and was amazed. There were not only videos about how to use a sling but tutorials on the construction. I found that because leather stretches, it is not the best material to use for slings. It will work if the leather is the right kind, but braided leather strips would not do. So I promptly ran to the store and picked a roll of jute twine. Again I set to braiding. The resulting sling was beautiful. sadly it got lost in one of the many sewage flood in my basement. Last week I bought another roll of twine and set to revitalize my obsession with throwing rocks.

Here is the release and finger loop of my sling. It was made using six strands of twine around twenty feet long. The finished sling is around five feet long with a split pouch. It can comfortably hold an apple.
Right now the weather in my area is not the best for being outside so when the rain stops and if gets further from the "just above freezing" mark I will have pictures of me using it.

Now, off to try to make a fire in the living room, if I can just find that cattail stalk my daughter was playing with... 


Place tongue firmly in cheek before reading

While learning how to knap I found that there is one thing I needed that I would have difficulty obtaining. That would be sinew. Sinew is made form the tendons of certain animals like elk and deer. I was looking for a package of sinew online the other day when one of my co-workers told me not to buy any because he had quite a bit at home. So we worked out a barter arrangement wherein he would bring me some sinew and I would provide him some liquid sustenance (two sodas). When I got home today I was very surprised to see something crawling around the field behind my cave. It was a Internetius Boxificus, or the web-based package, wandering around slightly out of its natural habitat.

Since I knew that this was a rare opportunity, I ran to the closet got out my bow and a couple arrows. I took aim and shot. Luckily my wife was there with camera.

I got it!

I really didn't want to waste anything so I pulled out one of the flint blades I am working on. There are many useful pieces in the package, just avoid any invoices, they tend to leave a bitter taste.

I decided to skin the box and stake it out to dry and then harvest the tendons therein. I hope you all enjoyed my very legitimate method of harvesting wild sinew. 

Rock on!


Aww, Caveman fail

I tried my hand at the fire by friction over the weekend. I used the techniques I had read online, everything was perfect. But no fire. I had charred wood dust, I had smoke, the dust was fine not grainy. The problem wasn't my materials or my technique, it was me. I had hoped that my theoretical knowledge would carry me into success. I will admit that I was  disappointed with myself for failing. But then I began to think about it, very few people succeed at making a fire their first time, especially when they try the hand drill method alone with only books to learn from. Everyone has heard the old axiom "practice makes perfect", well this is doubly true with survival skills. If i were in a survival situation I probably could have built a fire but I would not have had the energy to build a shelter, find food or water, or maintain the fire I built. So I will not give up, and I will encourage anyone who has any interest in survival skills to practice until these skills become second nature, it might make the difference between eating and staying warm or being cold and hungry.


Caught Knapping

So a while ago for Christmas my Mother-in-law gave me, wait for it, a box of rocks!

I ask myself, "What can be better than a box of rocks?" A box of flint and obsidian! At the time I was heavily into archery and I thought it would be interesting to learn to make arrow heads from flint. My wife told her mom about it and at Christmas I got my rocks. The only problem was I had no idea how to do anything with them. The internet had several wonderful videos, but my computer was too slow to load them so I was forced to try to make heads or tails of the multitude of webpages out there. For those of you who don't know much about flint knapping it is not an "inside" sort of activity, and it was very difficult to look at my screen, run downstairs, pick up my work and rember exactly what was on the webpage. Luckily the library had a great book on the subject which I promptly checked out and on which I currently owe almost three years of late fees. I had the book, the flint, and the desire, but what I lacked was tools. In the town where I live there are several festivals at a park near the Missouri river, and one of these is a re-enactment of the beginning of Lewis and Clark's journey. There I happened across several pieces of deer antler, which made fine tools on which to learn.

Here is the tool kit I made/accumulated:

This is a deer antler billet I made for percussion flaking. 
This is my pressure flaker, this was made from an antler tine and a piece of poplar.
Here is the leather pad that I use to protect my hand while flaking. I made this out of some scrap leather I had laying around.

Here is my very (un)primitve abrading stone. This is from a stone age bench grinder wheel.

These two pictures are me using my billet and pressure flaker on some obsidian                                               
 And now all I need is ... Practice.


Primitive Rocks!

Please bear with me I am still new to this whole blogging thing. Many people have asked me why I am infatuated with primitive skills when there is so much technology out there to make our lives easier. I am drawn to the practical aspect of primitive skills. There is something to be said about having the capability to not only survive, but thrive on only what can be found around you on the ground and under it. Knowing how to feed yourself, make sure you have water, shelter, and fire. True there is a lot of technology out there that does make life easier ( I do recognize the irony of writing a primitive skills blog on a computer), but I find I get more satisfaction from doing things the hard way.