Ferro Rods are in the Shop

These are securely set in mule deer antler and are fitted with a loop for suspension.

I bought a small batch of unhafted Ferrocerrum rods recently.  This came after finding out what a hit they were with some of my recent demonstrations.  Being able to produce a ridiculously hot spark with little effort in all weather amazes even the most distracted student.  Since the explosion of survival shows on television and internet media it seems these have not only become popular again but are getting bigger and bigger and bigger all the time.

Size isn’t everything folks!

And I’m not just saying that for the obvious reasons… For the minimalist hiker, camper, or general outdoorsperson, carrying a striker that will make tens of thousands of fires is generally enough.  Seriously, how long do think you’re going to live anyway?

If you are not yet familiar with this technology it is essentially a metal striker made from iron and cerium, that when crumbled, shaved, or otherwise shredded to expose the inner materials, produces a spark about 3,000°C (5,430°F) and can directly light most small tinder.  They have been around about 100 years but have really come back with the rise of the bushcraft and survival  popularity.

This batch will probably sell fast but more will be on the way soon.

I like to keep one that easily fits into a pocket or can be tied to a backpack or worn around the neck. these meet all those requirements and more so, if you are interested in one for yourself or need the perfect stocking stuffer this yuletide season, take a trip to our Etsy shop and have a look https://www.etsy.com/shop/lostworldcrafts/.

Primitive (but useful) Sewing Kit

bonetools

Tools, clockwise from lower left: large awl, sewing awl, rivercane needle case, bone toothpick, sewing needles in center.

Sewing

I do quite a bit of sewing and I feel it is an essential skill for nearly everyone.  My sewing includes new buckskin trousers, cotton shirts, shoes, a few leather bags, backpacks, and repairs to clothes to name just a few projects.  All this has caused me to think about sewing without manufactured goods.  Over a few evenings I decided to make a better primitive sewing kit. Although I can’t say that bone could fully replace the smallest steel needles in my day-to-day sewing basket, I have been able to make some very small ones indeed from some deer legs I have lying around.

This 7 centimeter (2 3/4 inch) needle, dated to approximately 50,000+ years before present, was made and used by our long extinct Denisovan ancestors, a recently-discovered hominin species or subspecies.  the material is bird bone.  Photo: Siberian Times (click the image for the full article).

Needles

I’ve learned that very small holes can be made with a largish stone flake or knife if it has a sufficiently acute point, drilling from one side and joining it with a hole from the other.  From a sewing perspective, the smallest hole possible will provide the strongest needle. during the finishing on the smallest needles, I had a 50% failure rate splitting out the eye.  It isn’t generally a total loss since the needle can be shortened and the hole drilled again.  I actually found that using the flake like a knife (as opposed to a drill bit) was the best way to start a tiny hole, scraping a small slit until a significant indent is made.  As with all new skills, knowledge and experience were gained along the way.

Eyed needle from the burial at Horn Shelter, Texas (links to overview of this remarkable shelter). Click the image for and article explaining the needle context specifically.

Despite their fragility, bone needles are found far back in the archaeological record of Europe, Asia, and North America.  Small, eyed needles are generally considered, in the Anthropological community, as proxy evidence for tailored clothing or, in a few cases, surgical or first aid related.  Unfortunately, needles don’t often survive and, no doubt, many small and broken fragments have been lost through the screen during excavation.

Awls

Awls are essentially a small spike used to pre-punch holes in tough or thick materials.  Both the awls shown here are also based on archaeological examples; the awl being a universal tool in human communities.  The metacarpal “knob” on the sewing awl still needs a bit of refinement but the round handle works well for repeated stitching in buckskin.  Bone (and antler) can be made surprisingly sharp and hold an edge reasonably well.

Storing the Needles

Needles are sharp and dangerous to leave lying around so the next obvious step was to make a case to hold them.  This is a simple affair made from rivercane with a yucca stem stopper.  The cordage strengthens the tube and prevents splitting and the whole thing was rubbed down with pine tar for preservation (hence the dark coloration of the cord).

awlnstitching

In use on buckskin lacing project.

Finally, with a thin scrap of bone I ground out a bone toothpick to keep in the travel kit as a toothpick is always a handy thing to have in the bush.

Early Style Camping Gear

Some of my camping gear mostly inspired by the period from 1745-1812, prior to major industrialization.

Some of my real-life camping gear mostly inspired by the period from 1745-1812, prior to major industrialization.

Starting in the upper left and moving more-or-less clockwise: small tomahawk, portmanteau, stoneware jug, braided buckskin cord, patch knife, buckskin bag for brass sundial compass, wool bonnet (tam o’shanter), trade bead necklace, small gourd for salt, pewter beer mug (could possibly hold water too), canteen gourd, Knife River flint blades, needle case and bone needles, strike-a-light and char-cloth box, wooden bowl and spoon, buckskin bag, bone handled eating knife, waterproofed leather bag, bark tanned belt pouch, buckskin neck bag containing spare fire kit, net shuttle holding hemp line, sewing kit in buckskin bag, wooden needle case with needles, argillite pipe with buckskin bag, fine hemp line, extra blanket pin, belt, pampooties (ghillie shoes), bamboo container containing larger bone awls and other bone tools, in the center, shoulder bag.

Magnetic Compass, a Gimme from an Iron-Rich Earth

Compasses

Starting as a field scientist in the heady days when men were men and GPS was not available to common civilians, I learned my way around a compass pretty well.  I thought I knew something coming out of Boy Scouts but putting those skills to the test mile after mile in order to locate a distant waypoint or build a map by hand honed those skills and etched them indelibly on my brain.  Friendly competition arose amongst colleagues testing our pace and compass work over miles of rough ground in the eastern woodlands.  The West is easy in comparison with open forests, plains, and grand vistas for taking long sightings.  To this day, I generally prefer a pocket compass to a GPS and if I could choose only one, it would be one of these wireless beauties.Compasses2A surveyor’s sighting compass can just about perform miracles in the right hands and my trusty Brunton Pocket Transit, after all these years, still finds it’s way into my field bag for big jobs.  Get a compass, learn to really use it.  Keep it handy, and you may never be truly lost.

Travel Essentials

This is part of an ongoing theme to document travel and camping gear that has served me over the years.  These will be mirrored on the Traveler’s Gear page as I get them up.

As a traveler, primitive technologist, peaceful survivalist, affected provincial,  long-time Idler, and sometime field scientist I find the necessity for a shoulder bag to carry essentials.  I have two size shoulder bags as well as various backpacks, brief cases, and messenger bags that have served me well over the years walking thousands of miles on survey and in my travels.

DSC_0005I made this bag a few years ago based on an 18th century gentleman’s shooting bag.  If you are interested to see it’s construction, it is documented HERE.  Carried by naturalists, sportsmen, and explorers, this small compartmentalized bag keeps the essentials handy.  Sturdy 10-12 oz vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak means that this bag will serve many decades without fear of damage from wear.

DSC_0004

This is most of the contents from the above bag; mostly things I don’t like to be without. Clockwise (more-or-less) from the upper left: Brunton pocket compass with signal mirror, Moleskine notebook, pencil, folding knife, whetstone with bag, belt knife, wooden spoon, 550 paracord, insulated mug, hand lens, sunglasses.

Since I was eleven, I have been infatuated with mountain man style wilderness survival.  It was, by far, my favorite merit badge as a Boy Scout.  The merit badge book taught about the old idea of a “possibles” bag carried by early explorers that we now think of as a survival kit.  Although the above is far from a complete survival kit, this little bundle, with the addition of a water bottle, gets me through many long days of travel and field work.  Additional items include: lighter, flashlight, bandanas, and some first-aid essentials.  However, traversing the wilderness, or even through civilization, means more than having the right stuff handy, being dressed properly is probably even more important.  After years of walking in the wilderness I have learned the same lessons that our forefathers did; the importance of being well shod and covered with a proper hat.

Those topics will be covered down the trail.