Enjoy this beautiful Showman’s Wagon ca. 1900. This would be a wonderful way to travel.
Enjoy this beautiful Showman’s Wagon ca. 1900. This would be a wonderful way to travel.
THE PHYSICAL CULTURE PERIL
And how the nation may easily be saved from it.
Physical culture is in the air just now. Where, a few years ago, the average man sprang from bed to bath and from bath to breakfast-table, he now postpones his onslaught on the boiled egg for a matter of fifteen minutes. These fifteen minutes he devotes to a series of bendings and stretchings which in the course of time are guaranteed to turn him into a demi-god. The advertisement pages of the magazines are congested with portraits of stern-looking, semi-nude individuals with bulging muscles and fifty-inch chests, who urge the reader to write to them for illustrated booklet. Weedy persons, hitherto in the Chippendale class, are developing all sort of unsuspected thews, and the moderately muscular citizen (provided he has written for and obtained the small illustrated booklet) begins to have grave doubts as to whether he will be able, if he goes on at this rate, to get the sleeves of his overcoat over his biceps.
To the superficial thinker this is all very splendid. The vapid and irreflective observer looks with approval on the growing band of village blacksmiths in our midst. But you and I, reader, shake our heads. We are uneasy. We go deeper into the matter, and we are not happy in our minds. We realize that all this physical improvement must have its effect on the soul.
A man who does anything regularly is practically certain to become a bore. Man is by nature so irregular that, if he takes a cold bath every day or keeps a diary every day or does physical exercises every day, he is sure to be too proud of himself to keep quiet about it. He cannot help gloating over the weaker vessels who turn on the hot tap, forget to enter anything after January the fifth, and shirk the matutinal development of their sinews. He will drag the subject into any conversation in which he happens to be engaged. And especially is this so as regards physical culture.
The monotony of doing these exercises every morning is so appalling that it is practically an impossibility not to boast of having gone through with them. Many a man who has been completely reticent on the topic of his business successes and his social achievements has become a mere babbler after completing a month of physical culture without missing a day. It is the same spirit which led Vikings in the old days to burst into song when they had succeeded in cleaving some tough foeman to the chine.
Again, it is alleged by scientists that it is impossible for the physical culturist to keep himself from becoming hearty, especially at breakfast, in other words a pest. Take my own case. Once upon a time I was the most delightful person you ever met. I would totter in to breakfast of a morning with dull eyes, and sink wearily into a chair. There I would remain, silent and consequently inoffensive, the model breakfaster. No lively conversation from me. No quips. No cranks. No speeches beginning “I see by the paper that …” Nothing but silence, a soggy, soothing silence. If I wanted anything, I pointed. If spoken to, I grunted. You had to look at me to be sure that I was there. Those were the days when my nickname in the home was Little Sunshine.
Then one day some officious friend, who would not leave well alone, suggested that I should start those exercises which you see advertised everywhere. I weakly consented. I wrote for the small illustrated booklet. And now I am a different man. Little by little I have become just like that offensive young man you see in the advertisements of the give-you-new-life kind of medicines—the young man who stands by the bedside of his sleepy friend, and says, “What! Still in bed, old man! Why, I have been out with the hounds a good two hours. Nothing tires me since I tried Peabody and Finklestein’s Liquid Radium.” At breakfast I am hearty and talkative. Throughout the day I breeze about with my chest expanded, a nuisance to all whom I encounter. I slap backs. My handshake is like the bite of a horse.
Naturally, this has lost me a great many friends. But far worse has been the effect on my moral fiber. Before, I was modest. Now, I despise practically everybody except professional pugilists. I meet some great philosopher, and, instead of looking with reverence at his nobby forehead, I merely feel that, if he tried to touch his toes thirty times without bending his knees, he would be in the hospital for a week. An eminent divine is to me simply a man who would have a pretty thin time if he tried to lie on his back and wave his legs fifteen times in the air without stopping. I look forward to a future spent entirely in the society of Gotch, and Willie Ritchie.
There is another danger. I heard, or read, somewhere of a mild and inoffensive man to whom Nature, in her blind way, had given a wonderful right-hand punch. Whenever he got into an argument, he could not help feeling that there the punch was and it would be a pity to waste it. The knowledge that he possessed that superb hay-maker was a perpetual menace to him. He went through life a haunted man. Am I to become like him? Already, after doing these exercises for a few weeks, I have a waist-line of the consistency of fairly stale bread. In time it must infallibly become like iron. There is a rudimentary muscle growing behind my right shoulder-blade. It looks like an orange and is getting larger every day. About this time next year, I shall be a sort of human bomb. I will do my very best to control myself, but suppose a momentary irritation gets the better of me and I let myself go! It does not bear thinking of.
Brooding tensely over this state of things, I have, I think, hit on a remedy. What is required is a system of spiritual exercises which shall methodically develop the soul so that it keeps pace with the muscles and the self-esteem.
Let us say that you open with that exercise where you put your feet under the chest of drawers and sit up suddenly. Well, under my new system, instead of thinking of the effect of this maneuver on the abdominal muscles, you concentrate your mind on some such formula as, “I must remember that I have not yet subscribed to the model farm for tuberculous cows.”
Having completed this exercise, you stand erect and swing the arms from left to right and from right to left without moving the lower half of the body. As you do this, say to yourself, “This, I know, is where I get the steel-and-indiarubber results on my deltoids, but I must not forget that there are hundreds of men whose confining work in the sweat shops has entirely deprived them of opportunities to contract eugenic marriages.”
This treatment, you will find, induces a humble frame of mind admirably calculated to counterbalance the sinful pride engendered by your physical exercises.
Space forbids a complete list of these spiritual culture exercises, but I am now preparing a small illustrated booklet, particulars of which will be found in the advertising pages. The accompanying portrait is from the booklet and shows me standing with my hands behind my head and with large, vulgar muscles standing out all over me. But there is a vast difference, which you will discover when you look at my face. I am not wearing the offensively preoccupied expression of most physical-culture advertisements. You will notice a rapt, seraphic expression in the eyes and a soft and spiritual suggestion of humility about the mouth.
For bow makers and other wood crafters…A shaving horse is an invaluable tool if you create or work with odd-shaped objects that are otherwise difficult to clamp or need to constantly move around.
I don’t know how I would get half my projects done without one. A horse, in combination with a small bench or two of the same height can act as a complete workshop that is reasonably portable and adaptable. Carpenters, furniture makers, coopers, shoemakers, jewelers, and carvers all have their specific designs and no one type will be the best at everything. Some need to be very adjustable, while others have a very fixed purpose. With a little patience, planning, and luck a great horse can be built for cheap or free with just a very few tools.
I’ve collected few images of shaving horse (a.k.a. work horses) images and show some I created over the years. If you are looking for inspiration or information on designing one for yourself, these should give an adequate starting point. I wish I had photos of my very first horse but unfortunately, it existed at a time when I seem to have taken very few photos of my own projects and the internet wasn’t much of a place for sharing this sort of thing.
In the old days of pre-internet (some of you may recall this with me) there was very little information floating around about these simple but nifty devices. People like Roy Underhill (The Woodwright’s Shop) and Drew Langsner (Country Woodcraft) had them. I recall seeing them rotting in yards in the Ozarks or slowly decaying in the back of family barns as a kid. While researching them later, the one consistency I discovered was the complete lack of consistency on their size, shape, height, length, or actual use. Obviously, every bodger, tinker, and shingle maker had his own ideas and was probably limited by material availability. This ancient tool is as unique as each builder.
While my first horse was designed primarily around dimensional lumber found in my shop an it’s ability to fit cross-ways in a truck bed (F-150) with ease, it was perfectly functional for what I needed; primarily for shaping bows but also for carving things like spear throwers and tool handles. Experience and use taught me the good and bad points about this model and the result has been these better and later designs…
Here is another action shot fixing the tiller on someone’s bow at Winter Count several years ago. I wouldn’t normally have a giant, heavy stave leaning on the horse but the photographer insisted on it for some reason. I was just hoping it wouldn’t bean me with a very sharp draw-knife in my hand (hence my switch to the rasp for the photo).
Here are a few others I encountered at a bow making class in the Midwest several years ago. I liked the simplicity of these made for teaching new bowyers at the Bois d’Arc Rendezvous hosted by FirstEarth. You could make one of these with nothing but a few well-chosen scraps and a few bolts.
And my personal favorite…
Finally, the horse above has been my more-or-less permanent workstation for the last few years and has traveled many miles around the western U.S. Used in conjunction with a small saw bench (built Winter 2015), I have a very complete work setup that packs into the bed of the tiny Toyota pick-up.
With all the gentrification of woodworking that has grown out of some fine blogs and books of the past few years I think it’s important to remember the roots.
Not everyone needs to own every tool, jig, or gizmo… nor should we want to.
Few amateurs can have an enormous, dedicated work space surrounding a one-ton French-style Roubo split-top workbench, nor will he need one. Once you figure out what you want to create, then the tools can follow as needed. Sometimes, the big projects can be goals for the future.
If you are in need of a sturdy place to work, a portable setup that includes a saw bench and a shave horse will really improve your life.
Robyn Hode –
An hundred shefe of arowes gode,
The hedys burneshed full bryght;
And every arowe an elle longe,
With pecok wel idyght,
Inocked all with whyte silver [or silk];
It was a semely syght.
A Gest of Robyn Hode, lines 523-8
Outdoor cooking has become something of a lost art for those of us raised in the industrial world, but not too long ago, what we think of as camp cooking was just plain cooking. Several major advances made in the 19th and early 20th centuries resonate in our lives without a second thought from most of us. Most of our grandparents or great-grandparents cooked with solid fuel (mostly wood, peat, manure, or charcoal) and their grandparents may have felt fortunate to even be able to cook indoors in bad weather. Much of the world still cooks this way and it is an eye-opener for those raised in the more industrialized countries if and when they travel abroad.
In the 19th century, the Caravan Craze, global expansionism, and long-distance campaign warfare sent massive numbers of otherwise “civilized” people back to the outdoors; often with high expectations about the board-of-fare. Although we, as a species, have cooked over campfires for many thousands of years, this is not always convenient or desirable; whether for speed, lack of fuel, or need for a low profile in the hedgerows. An early response to this need was the brazier or hibachi-type grill reinvented on numerous occasions in various parts of the world. These stoves can use small wood or charcoal but are heavy, smoky, and need large volumes of solid fuel for sustained use. Not a good option for the traveller (sic). When coal oil and kerosene became common, liquid fuel appeared to be the answer.
Although common now, liquid fuel stoves have not always been a good or safe choice for cooking on the road or in camp. Early portable stoves used a wick and some variety of coal oil for the fuel. The flame created with a wick is relatively low-temperature, causing incomplete combustion.
In fact, the early instructions for safe stove use are nearly the same as that of fireworks.
“LAY ON GROUND. LIGHT FUSE. GET AWAY! – USE OUTDOORS ONLY – UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION.”
Another feature of the earliest wick stoves, due to their relatively low burning temperature, is that they exude fumes and soot, like a low-quality oil lamp. This sooting and smoke make them unpleasant at best, especially in confined spaces. Though not a terrible option for the 1850s, they are nothing as good as what would come in the next generation.
The advancements of Alexis Soyer – The contraption above is one of the many inventions given to us by Alexis Soyer, celebrity chef and cooking guru of mid-19th century Britain. Many of his cookbooks are still referenced and can be found for free on the web. He was, by the way, born a Frenchman but we can forgive him this oversight for his many wonderful contributions to the world of food.
Not only did Mssr. Soyer invent several useful contraptions for cooking, but he is credited with organizing the first Soup Kitchen to help the starving Irish during the Famine.
As a further claim to fame, the large unit stove he developed for the British army during the Crimean War was such and excellent design it was still regular issue 120 years later. But I digress from our theme.
Seen in use above, this little stove was revolutionary for the time but still left much to be desired, especially if one wanted to cook with it indoors. I don’t believe you’d catch a sane cook using something of this sort on an actual tablecloth unless it was made from asbestos but it seemed like a good idea for the advertisement. In the 19th century, both camp and home cookery were beginning to change drastically; up to this time the two were not very different. Along with improvements in stoves, better cooking pots, and roasting pans, other kitchen gadgets were being developed to help make cooking better and easier. A humble and often overlooked kitchen appliance was invented in this period…
The wind-up cooking timer –
This little beauty is something that all modern cooks take for granted. It seems obvious now, but Soyer realized that mothers, chefs, and camp cooks have many things to attend to at once. He wisely decided that a dinging countdown timer timer could take some of the strain away from cooking and make for better prepared meals.
The coming of the pressurized stove – The Crimean war, the Raj in India, and other colonial ventures undertaken during Queen Victoria’s reign spurred on great advances in campaign living and long-term camping. The East India Company and the regular military encouraged officers to bring the comforts of home as whole careers were spent thousands of miles from home creating and running an empire. From this period, the Brits gave us great folding furniture, camp bedding, portable furnishings, and the Gypsy caravan but it took a Swede to take us to the next level, and camp technology has never looked back.
The pressurized kerosene stove –
From the Wikipedia Entry as of October 2014:
The Primus stove, the first pressurized-burner kerosene (paraffin) stove, was developed in 1892 by Frans Wilhelm Lindqvist, a factory mechanic in Stockholm, Sweden. The stove was based on the design of the hand-held blowtorch;
Lindqvist’s patent covered the burner, which was turned upward on the stove instead of outward as on the blowtorch.
…The Primus No. 1 stove, made of brass, consists of a fuel tank at the base, above which is a “rising tube” and the burner assembly. A steel top ring on which to set a pot is held above the burner by three support legs. Other Primus-style stoves may be larger or smaller, but have the same basic design. The No. 1 stove weighs about 2½ pounds, and measures about 8½ inches high with an overall diameter of just under 7 inches. The tank, about 3½ inches high, holds a little over two pints of kerosene and will burn for about four hours on a full tank.
…Prior to the introduction of the Primus, kerosene stoves were constructed in the same manner as oil lamps, which use a wick to draw fuel from the tank to the burner and which produce a great deal of soot due to incomplete combustion.
The Primus stove’s design, which uses pressure and heat to vapourize the kerosene before ignition, results in a hotter, more efficient stove that does not soot. Because it did not use a wick and did not produce soot, the Primus stove was advertised as the first “sootless” and “wickless” stove.
These stoves are still celebrated worldwide and are in use on every corner of the planet. They are a labor-saving device that frees their owners from fuel collection and actually lower airborne pollutants in the immediate area. They are also credited with limiting the natural deforestation that accompanies humans living in concentrated communities.
This Radius ad is interesting as it shows the kinship or reapplication of technology from blow torch to stove with only a little modification by the engineers. Below, this advertisement for an aftermarket pressure cap shows the need for improvement as stoves could easily become clogged and explode as a pressurized bomb. I narrowly escaped this hazard myself when my stove nozzle became clogged on an outing. A chemical fire-extinguisher is never a bad Idea to have handy living on the road.
The designers continually improved this simple device with, among other features, a safety cap that intentionally failed at a lower pressure than that which would have caused the stove to turn into a brass grenade. Although safety features were invented to reduce the number of serious accidents, I suspect these little contraptions are responsible for a fair number of burns and the loss of more than a few homes, autos, and RVs.
Judging by the marketing, they bring nothing but bliss and happiness to the laboring mother… but seriously, these devices were probably a huge boon to the housewife no longer in need of wood or dung for cooking fuel.
The switch to gasoline –
Although introduced in the early 20th Century, the Second World War and subsequent decade saw widespread popularity of the gasoline stove for military use. Unlike kerosene, gasoline (or purified “white gas”) is truly explosive, not just flammable. Placed under high pressure, these are potentially bombs. However, gasoline or derivatives can now be found almost anywhere on earth with the spread of the internal combustion engine, making this a fuel of choice for international travelers. As per usual with us humans, we chose practicality and convenience over safety.
The iconic early stove of this design is the Svea 123 as it it is a beautiful combination of design features including simplicity of construction, easy field repair, and heating power.
Here’s a link to lighting the Svea 123 (and a little info about why they are so cool): “DEMYSTIFYING THE SVEA 123“
n.b. The original link was dead when I last checked but I have saved an archive copy here with credit to the author.
Variations on the theme are endless, from the Svea 123 (gasoline) to the Ultra-Primus double burner home range (kerosene). The various designs proved themselves in kitchens, on river trips, mountain tops, and in virtually every modern backpacker’s gear in one form or another. For much of the world, this style stove is still the centerpiece of kitchen cooking.
As a side note to history, the design was so successful that many other companies copied the essential design. Here are just a few ads for the Optimus line of stoves and lamps, another spin-off, from their own website showing a wide range of related products over the last century.
The modern era of the camp stove –
In my lifetime, liquid fuel backpacking stoves have undergone some serious refinements but overall, the system for liquid fuel stoves is essentially the same. Safety has been a big issue, of course, but size (decrease) and fuel capacity (increase) are probably the biggest changes. Many stoves use canister fuel (butane or propane), alcohol, or solid fuel pellets; but I won’t get into those as they are beyond our scope and interest here.
The final round of changes came from Mountain Safety Research and its later competitors. The big innovation was to separate the fuel tank from the burner assembly and add a pressurizing system to the tank. Small but efficient details were added like the self-lighting sparker, self-cleaning tube, and the inclusion of a lightweight wind screen. I have used one of these for used with pretty good success but I still find myself choosing the Svea 123 for many journeys.
Links and Further Information –
This post is woefully inadequate in so many ways but it is meant as a quick overview of the pressurized liquid fuel stove we all love so much. Here are some links to some great information on the web.
And my all time favorite, the Svea 123. We have been friends for many years.
The Base Camp is a specialist equipment internet retailer based in Littlehampton, Southern England since 1986. They stock classic stoves and have an excellent selection of obsolete parts.
A H Packstoves Supplies and Parts – is an online seller with a wide variety. He always has good stuff and some hard to find parts.
Finally, the Classic Camp Stoves Forum. Several images above were found here. Information about virtually every kind of stove available. History, art, repairs, tutorials, and reprints are all available on the Forum.
More stove ramblings to come…
A little show and tell this rainy winter morning.
I’ve been carrying this walking stick in one form or another since 2001. What does that mean? I just can’t leave well enough alone, that’s what. It was a straight knobbed staff before attaching the stag horn but I decided it would be more useful and aesthetically pleasing with the fork on top.
The fork is not only good for resting the thumb but works well for creating shelter and provides a bit of heft should it be needed for persuasion.
The cancelous tissue is fairly light in this one as the buck had an unfortunate highway encounter with a truck. That’s how I found it.
This stick has long been a comfort on walks where stray dogs, javalinas, or other beasties may be encountered. I remember that it took me weeks of wandering around the high country, looking to find the right diameter, length, and character in a sturdy oak, in this case Quercus gambelii or Gambel oak). I don’t kill trees lightly, especially in marginal environments, as they are slow to grow and benefit the earth so much.
The foot of this one is capped in heavy copper to prolong life of the wood. It’s good to save those bits of hardware for re-purposing.
And just for fun, here is a nifty Sketchbook drawing of some uses for the traditional Scout Staff from and artist who goes by “Ishkotekay.”
I love this little vehicle. A true 1920s work of art.
After a little over a week traveling across the country in the new and improved vardo I want to share a few unedited and unstaged photos of life in the caravan.
I am still pleased with almost every aspect of the Little Green Vardo, even after 29,000 miles.
More of my work can be found on my Instagram page.
This is a pretty good setup for any outdoorsman (our outdoors woman for that matter). By 1925, the scouts had worked out a pretty good uniform and gear setup based on many old experts not the least of which was the US Army.
If there’s a bit of a paramilitary look to the scouts it certainly owes much to its military background in Britain and further as a result of the Great War. Still, there’s a lot of good info to take away from this. These are truly the essentials.
The new internet Bushcraft world has very little on the old-timers knowledge.
I’m happy to say that I will be heading to the annual primitive skills gathering known as Winter Count down in the Sonoran Desert. Thankfully, it has moved to a more remote location further into the desert and far away from the Phoenix sprawl.
I will be teaching a course that I have been doing for some time now; Constructing the Ancient Frame Saw. I say “ancient” because this style saw goes back to the very beginning of metal working. It is a way to create an extreme amount of tension, and thereby stiffness, on a very small piece of metal; saving on a very precious resource.Even though this, in essence, can be thought of as a one-off craft project. I hope that people will take time to learn the skills and take away more knowledge than a simple material good.