Practically Seeking

August 2009 (Issue 24)

The Hunter-Gatherer's are away! Eddie headed out with our Tribe for the Adirondacks on Friday morning for their Survival Outing, and I've no doubt that the guys have been very busy putting the finishing touches on their shelter, setting up the rest of their camp and scouting the area for food. We'll be sure and post photos on our Facebook page next week. In the mean time, I hope you'll join me in wishing them good weather, safe passage and a fantastic week of discovery, learning, fun and success in woods.
While our current program is winding down this week, we are already gearing up for the next set of Intensive Skills Programs -- Secrets in the Stone and World of the Hunter-Gatherer Texas, that begin in September. Congratulations to all of the folks in those programs -- we're really looking forward to getting started and hope you are too! In addition, applications have been arriving for our upcoming World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter program that starts in October, so if you wish to be considered be sure to submit your application by Midnight of Monday, August 31st.
At the end of this month we'll be off to the Letchworth and Flint Ridge Knap-ins and if you're in the area of either of these events they are great places to spend a couple of days. Come on by if you can, and be sure to stop by our Practical Primitive booth and say hi!
It's so hard to believe that we're only a few weeks away from Labor Day. Where has the summer gone?! It's been an extremely busy and really fantastic summer season for us and we send out a big thanks to all of you who have joined us for workshops and Open Skills Nights, or just come by to say hi. We've been doing some serious looking around at some larger properties and have found a couple of places that look like they could fit the bill in allowing us to expand our facility and build some unique new programs, so we may have an exciting announcement or two in the coming months. Think good thoughts!

In the mean time, enjoy the rest of the summer, stay safe, and we hope to see you soon!

j (for e)


What's New Upcoming Events Skill of the Month Eddie's Bookshelf Practically Speaking Final Note

What's New

Workshop Schedule Posted for Remainder of 2009
Additional workshops for Fall/Winter!

While we are busier than usual with the Intensive Skills Programs this Fall, we wanted to be sure and get as many of our regular workshops in before the end of the year as we could. 9 Step Knapping is coming up in September, then  Using the Whole Animal is back, as well as Soap Making, Natural Dyes, Natural Cordage, Pack Baskets, Melon Baskets, Acorn Processing and a brand new workshop on Felt Making!
We hope you'll check out what's new on the schedule and come on out and see us.

Premium Osage — Seasoned, Straight & Ready to Go

We have just posted photos & descriptions of additional Osage staves for sale. It's all well-seasoned, straight-grained Osage that has been split into 72" staves and brought it down to a ring (mostly), so you can see exactly what you're going to get. Give us a call or send an e-mail and we will get it shipped to you.
There are also still several bark-on "as is" staves still available, so if you would like one of those let us know.
If you're in the Toms River area and want to come by and see them in person just let us know.

RETURNING THIS NOVEMBER — Using the Whole Animal workshop
November 14-19

A big hit last year, we've decided to once again team up with Two Wolves Braintanning to offer our Using the Whole Animal workshop. Over the six full days of this course you'll be hands-on through the entire process, learning how to use every part of the animal in a responsible and respectful manner.
Strictly limited to 8 people, all meals and materials will be provided and camping will be available on-site.
The folks who attended this one last year learned far more than they ever expected. Don't miss this one-of-a-kind workshop!

Upcoming Events

Stone Tools & Craftsman Show
August 28-30
Letchworth State Park, NY

We had hoped to be at this event last year but some last minute schedule conflicts meant we couldn't make the trip. So this will be our first year at "Letchworth", the largest Stone Tool show in the Northeast, and we can't wait. This one is on the calendar of just about every serious flintknapper in the eastern U.S. Set in the area of the Genesee River, take an hour to check out the fabulous falls and the 600 foot gorge that the New York State Park website calls "the Grand Canyon of the east".

Flint Ridge Knap-in
September 4-6
Flint Ridge National Monument, OH

We had hoped to be at this event last year but some last minute schedule conflicts meant we couldn't make the trip. So this will be our first year at "Letchworth", the largest Stone Tool show in the Northeast, and we can't wait. This one is on the calendar of just about every serious flintknapper in the eastern U.S. Set in the area of the Genesee River, take an hour to check out the fabulous falls and the 600 foot gorge that the New York State Park website calls "the Grand Canyon of the east".

(For more info check out the Events page on our website.)

Free Open Skills Nights

September 16
October 21
November 18
Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month. Bring a project you're working on, a plant ID guide, an animal tracking book, or just come to meet us and spend an evening hanging out.
It's fun, it's free, and everyone is welcome. We never know who will be here, or what folks will be working on, but we do know that it's always a great evening.
We look forward to having you here!

(Check out photos of some past Open Skills Nights on our Flickr and Facebook pages!)


Practical Primitive Logo

World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter
October 2009 — January 2010

It's Back! Due to the high level of interest, we've returned The Ultimate Hunter program to our Fall schedule.
As with Secrets in the Stone, Eddie has decided to extend this one to 4 months of 2-day weekends (except for October, which will remain a 3-day bow-building weekend).
With so much he wants to convey during this program, taking participants on a real journey along the path of the True Hunter and the Ultimate Hunt, it is Eddie's belief that this format change will allow for an even better understanding of the World of the Bow.
We also hope that this will open the program up to those of you who have difficulty getting days off during the week.
You'll learn all the skills of the spot-and-stalk, predator vs. prey style of hunt. No tree stands or baited blinds for you. Taking place over the course of hunting season, you will learn and practice the skills of The Ultimate Hunter.
Application Deadline: August 31, 2009

This program will be limited to only
4 participants, so we can ensure the highest quality of instruction, so Apply Today!

Upcoming Workshops

The last workshops of our 2009 schedule have now been posted!
With 3 Intensive Skills Programs running between now and year-end we are not able to offer quite as many of our regular workshops during the final quarter of 2009, but we hope you'll enjoy the ones we've scheduled and check out the remainder of our 2009 Fall/Winter schedule. In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months...


12-13  9 Step Knapping™


9-11     9 Step Knapping™ (P.I.N.E. Project, Toronto, ON)
16-18   TBD (P.I.N.E. Project, Toronto, ON)
30         Making & Using Natural Cordage
31         Natural Dyes


1         Soap Making
2         Melon Baskets & Twined Baskets
 Using the Whole Animal


Skill of the Month

Birch Tar

Knots to Know:
The Timber Hitch & the Half Hitch

The old saying is "If you don't know knots, tie lots!"
Tying knots for specific purposes is almost a lost art today, and still confusing for most folks (which, I guess, is why it is a lost art!) Knowing the correct knot can make binding and un-binding things much faster and simpler, while the wrong knot, or just "tying lots" can make things far more difficult and complicated than they need to be.

The good news is that by learning just a few of the basic knots, which are really very simple, you can secure almost anything for almost any purpose.
The knot I most frequently use is the Timber Hitch (also known as the Bowyer's Knot). This knot is useful for everything from securing the string on your bowdrill or hunting bow to tying up a hammock or beginning a lashing project. It holds incredibly securely, yet can be tied and untied with such ease that it was used extensively to tie the end of heavy logs being dragged out of the forest. (Which is how it got it's name.) This is also a binding that works well with natural materials such as vines & rootlets that are prone to break when subjected to the kind of excessive bending required for an overhand knot.

The Half Hitch is another versatile and simple knot that is great for tying a line or attaching two things together. A single Half Hitch is not very secure, which is why they are most often used in multiples, or in combination with other knots. When used together with the Timber Hitch, these knots can secure extremely heavy or awkward objects for pulling, raising or lowering.

(For photos to go along with these step-by-step instructions check out our website.)

How to Tie a Timber Hitch:

  1. Take the working (shorter) end of your rope or cordage and pass it around the back of item to be tied. (In the photos we colored that end black for better contrast.) Now cross that end underneath the long end.
  2. Pass the short end over top of the long end, and down between the cordage and the object you wish to secure. This is your first complete wrap. Do not yet pull it tight.
  3. Now take your shorter end and once again wrap it up and over the looped cordage and pull it down between the cordage and the object. This is your second wrap. Once again, do not pull it tight.
  4. Repeat this step one or two more times so that you end up with three or four complete wraps. (Three complete wraps is most common). Make sure your wraps have a nice, even "twist" to them.
  5. Pull on the long end in order to snug the loop down firmly and tighten your knot. (It can be a good idea to hold onto the short end while pulling on the long end, just to be safe!)
  6. To undo the Timber Hitch, or if you need to reposition your knot, simply pull on the loop and the knot will easily loosen up.

How to tie a Half  Hitch (and multiples there of):

  1. Run the working (shorter) end of the cordage in a full loop around the item to be tied.
  2. Pass the short end through the loop and pull it tight. (This is the same as tying the first half of a common overhand knot -- just like starting to tie your shoe lace.) This secures your cordage to your object.
  3. Pull the short end down alongside the long end, so they are both facing the same direction. Run the short end underneath the long end, then up over and down through the resulting loop.
  4. Pull the short end tight, bringing it back down alongside the long end. This is a single Half Hitch. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as many times as you wish, but two or three times will will usually suffice.
  5. A variation is to tie each Half Hitch around the object itself, rather than the cordage, moving the knot farther down the object each time. This is especially helpful with heavy objects and is how it is most often tied in combination with the Timber Hitch.

These 2 simple knots can be used to secure almost any cordage. 
Next issue we will use these knots to learn some basic lashing techniques
so you can construct almost anything you need !


Eddie's Bookshelf

The Art of Making Selfbows

The Art of Making Selfbows

—Stim Wilcox

Brand spankin new on the market!
I was very privileged to meet Stim Wilcox at an archery rendezvous in the spring where he was exhibiting a pre-release copy of this book, and I have been waiting eagerly to write this review ever since. There are a lot of things that make The Art of Making Selfbows unique and worth having, but one of the most important is that, unlike virtually every other book on the market, this book is LOADED with high-quality COLOR photos! Stim doesn't just talk you through the bow-building process, he guides you through the manner in which HE builds his bows, using the same tools he uses, with excellent photos of every step. Yes, the choice of going with color bumps up the price tag, but once you see it I have no doubt you will agree it is well worth the extra premium.

And having been privileged to shoot a few of his bows, I can tell you with certainty that these are the bows you want to build! When Stim first told me that he "didn't tolerate any stack or any hand-shock" I admit that I took it with a grain of salt. Pretty much every bowyer says the same. But when this man says Zero hand-shock he means ZERO. I was astounded to discover that the osage selfbow in my hands shot just as smooth and just as fast as my 21st Century laminated tournament bow, with even less hand-shock. Needless to say I was hooked.
A self-proclaimed "problem solver", Stim Wilcox has spent years wondering "why?" about every aspect of making a bow. The results of his experiments with vibration and sound waves have completely changed the way I tiller a bow. And this book holds nothing back. Wilcox admittedly reveals all of his secrets, so if you follow the instructions carefully you will almost certainly build yourself one beautiful bow.

I was asked to write a "pre-publication blurb" for the book before it was published, which sums up my feelings pretty well:
"Thoroughly researched and based on decades of experience building hundreds of bows, Mr. Wilcox has a unique approach to building the fastest, smoothest, sweetest shooting self bows I have ever shot. Going well beyond a set of instructions on "how to build a bow", The Art of Making Self Bows clearly conveys the principals involved in crafting bows of superior quality and performance that rival and even surpass those produced from modern materials.
Having built bows for many years, and having taught primitive skills to thousands of students for over a decade, I fully expect The Art of Making Self Bows to quickly become one of the classic "must-have" texts for traditional archery enthusiasts and aspiring Bowyers alike."

In short, if you want to build bows, buy this book. If you already build bows and want to make them better, buy this book. If you want to build fast bows with NO hand shock, buy this book.

I've been doing this for a long time, and it has truly helped my understanding of building bows evolve to a higher level. Thanks Stim! (

While this book is available from on Amazon, you will get a MUCH better price by ordering directly from the publisher!

To find more information on this and other recommended books, see our website.

Practically Speaking

First things first (and second): The Art of Metabolic Efficiency

One of the key concepts when it comes to practicing primitive skills, primitive living, and wilderness survival is to put your energy into activities that will produce a greater return than the original amount of energy expended.
I have heard some schools term this as "conservation of energy", but I find that term to be both misleading and incorrect. One can "conserve energy" by sitting on a sofa or a bar stool, but the activity produces little positive result. We prefer to use the phrase, Metabolic Efficiency — a term which encompasses several different things.

Primarily, it means making sure what you do produces a greater return than the cost of the energy required to complete the action. We watched one television "survivalist" free-climb about 15 feet up a cliff face to reach a bird's nest in the hope of finding some eggs to eat. The few minutes it took for him to make the climb caused him to expend probably about 40-50 calories. The 3 small eggs in the nest gave him about 15 calories each. At best, he came out metabolically even. While having some food in your stomach does help make you "feel" better, when you add in the factors of extra perspiration lost in the hot environment and the risk of injury with such a climb (much more of an issue when one doesn't have a camera crew for support ! :) I wouldn't call that a metabolically efficient use of energy.

Secondly, when you expend the energy to do something, take the time to do it correctly. Tour any prehistoric artifact exhibit and you will see for yourself the very high levels of craftsmanship with which common, everyday items were made. When there were no stores at which to purchase either the raw materials or replacement parts, every item was made with care to the maker's highest ability. Functional obsolescence was not a practice of those who trusted their lives and livelihood to the products they made.
Lastly, if there is a way that you can do more than one thing at a time while still expending the same amount of energy, then do it that way. An example I like to use is one of processing yucca fibers. You could do this task anywhere, but by pounding the yucca on the side of a slow-moving creek, the sapponins produced during processing will simultaneously be rendering fish immobile a little ways downstream. Once you are finished with your fibers you can take a few steps and collect your bounty for a fresh dinner or to preserve for future meals.
Likewise one never passes up an opportunity to collect items as they are available (a topic we've discussed before), or to prune or thin or weed an area to better the environment so that needed resources will be healthier and more abundant in subsequent seasons.

So keep the concept of metabolic efficiency in mind and work to implement this idea into your daily activities as well as your primitive skills practices. This was simply a way of life for tribal peoples, and in a world where time seems to always be at a premium, we will all be better off by following this ancient precept.


One Final Note

As the dog days of summer draw to a close and schools begin to re-open, many of us will find ourselves beginning a new routine. The lazy days of beach and BBQ and vacation become much more structured and schedules come back to the forefront of our lives.
As you begin to develop your new routines for the fall, I encourage each of you to find a place in your schedule to add some "Primitive Practice" time. As we discussed last month, one of the biggest barriers to becoming more proficient is a perpetual lack of time, so as your schedule changes over from "Summertime!" to "School Year" pencil in a few minutes here and there at least a couple of times a week to try something new or work on perfecting an existing skill. It's amazing the difference "just 5 minutes" can make.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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