Resource for Cheap Reference Books

Today is the first day of our local library’s used book sale. They do these sales once a year and they are a great way to pick up not only general entertainment reading material but quality reference books on the cheap.

Most libraries have sales like this, either annually or ongoing. Patrons donate their used books throughout the year and the library adds in books they’ve culled from their collection for a variety of reasons.

In years past, I’ve picked up complete sets of reference book series for very cheap. For example, Continue reading Resource for Cheap Reference Books

Has American Survival Guide Returned?

So the other day I’m out with my wife picking up a few things at the store when I see this sitting on the magazine rack.

I was just a wee lad back when American Survival Guide was in its prime but I remember it fondly. Great articles that ran the survival gamut. So you can imagine how excited I was to see Continue reading Has American Survival Guide Returned?

You Can Never Have Enough Paracord

One of the most important items to have in your survival kit is an ample supply of paracord. While it is certainly possible to use various plant fibers to make cordage, and that is a skill you should learn, paracord, also known as 550 cord, is in a class by itself. It takes up little space and adds almost no weight to your pack to have even as much as 100 feet of paracord.

Paracord is indeed my first recommendation for cordage for your kit. It is incredibly strong, yet very thin. Paracord consists of several nylon strands encased in a braided sheath. Because of how it is constructed, you can pull out one or more of the thin nylon strands to use independently, such as for expedient fishing line. To avoid fraying of the end of the cord, I suggest you melt any cut ends by using a small flame. Paracord is thin enough to be used as shoe and boot laces and, in fact, many military service personnel do this very thing so as to always have a supply of paracord with them.

Lately, paracord bracelets have become very popular as more and more people recognize just how incredibly useful paracord is. Most bracelets contain about one foot of cord per inch of bracelet. That’s a lot of cord in a very small package.

What are some of the uses of paracord?

–Lashing items to your pack so they don’t get lost.
–Attaching lanyards to whistles, compasses, knives, and other small objects.
–Securing camo netting in camp.
–Lashing together branches when making an emergency shelter.
–Thread with beads to make a pace counter.
–Replace broken shoe or boot laces.
–Weave into a belt to keep your pants from falling to your ankles.
–Keeping your gear off the ground in camp.
–Combined with a ball bearing, you can make a monkey fist which is a potent self-defense weapon.
–Using branches, you can make snowshoes.
–For first aid applications, you can use it for a tourniquet or to tie splints around a broken limb.
–Start a fire using a bow drill.
–The inner strands can be used for fishing, sewing, or making traps for game.
–String it between two trees for a clothesline to dry wet gear.

And those are just off the top of my head. I’m sure my readers here can come up with many more uses.

The importance of field testing gear

When I was about 13, I saw an ad in a magazine (probably either American Survival Guide, SWAT, or Soldier of Fortune) for a survival knife. It was modeled after the “Rambo” knife that was so popular back then. As I recall, it had a 12″ blade and a hollow handle, complete with a small survival kit. Oh man, I wanted that knife so bad! It looked like the coolest thing EVER!

I think the price was something like $29.99 plus shipping and handling. Being only 13, it took me a while to save up the scratch. I mean, c’mon, this was 1984 or so and I was lucky to get $5 for mowing Grandma’s lawn. In any event, I managed to get the money together and convinced my mom to send in a check for me. And I waited…and waited…and waited. Like Ralphie waiting for his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, I was convinced every day when I got off the bus that today would be the day.

When it finally did arrive, it looked wicked cool. It had a compass built into the butt of the handle, a handle that was indeed hollow. Inside it had a little plastic tube which contained fish hooks, fishing line, a couple needles, a few wooden matches, and a folded up wire saw.

And that’s about when things went downhill. The wire saw snapped into several pieces when I unfolded it. The matches weren’t of the strike anywhere kind and even when using a matchbox still wouldn’t light. The cap for the hollow handle was threaded in such a way that if you didn’t get it on exactly right, it would cross thread.

I thought to myself, Ok, so the kit was worthless but maybe the knife itself is still decent. I took it out to the woods to play around with it. I used it to clear away some brush and that went fine, until I accidentally hit a tree about 4″ in diameter. Yeah, um, the blade snapped off the plastic handle.

The entire thing was such a fiasco, and I’d begged and pleaded for weeks to even get the knife, that I just tossed the knife into the trash an didn’t say anything to anyone. The only thing I kept was the plastic tube from inside the handle as it was waterproof and, believe it or not, I still have it to this day. It is one of my kits, keeping a stash of strike anywhere matches safe and dry.

The moral of the story is to field test each new piece of gear you acquire. Make sure it will do what you want it to do and hold up to varying conditions. Don’t ever just buy a new knife, backpack, or anything else and toss it in a closet with the rest of your gear, keeping it for…someday.

If that “someday” does arrive, you really don’t want to face it holding nothing more than a broken knife handle in your hand.

Shaving horse

To circle back to my blog entry about draw knives the other day, I received a request to post information about the shaving horse, which is all but essential when using a draw knife.

The shaving horse is a combination of workbench and vise. The user sits astride the horse and the material being worked is clamped in front of them. The draw knife requires a pulling action, of course, so the material needs to be clamped ahead of where you’ll be cutting.

In this photo I snagged from Wikipedia, you can see the shaving horse in action. What you can’t quite see is how the user is pushing against foot pedals attached to the arm of the clamp. The clamp is a simple lever. The user pushes against the bottom of the lever, which puts force in the opposite direction at the top of the lever, clamping the material to the bench.

There are hundreds of DIY plans available online for making your own shaving horse. Just one example is found on the website for Fine Woodworking magazine.

Once upon a time, apprentice carpenters were required to make their own shaving horses, as well as workbenches and other items necessary for the trade. The draw knife and shaving horse were used frequently in the making of chairs and tables. They were also common in the making of bows.