Practically Seeking

Jaunuary 2009 (Issue 18)

Hey there,
Happy New Year!
It's been a busy month around here, full of workshops and Mentoring, so we haven't had the chance to finalize our Spring⁄Summer workshop schedule. But we'll make those last few decisions in this next week and hope to have everything posted by February 10th, so be sure to keep an eye on the website.
Part of the delay has been putting our 2009 Events calendar together and getting a couple of trips nailed down, but those decisions are almost all made at last. We already have plans to travel to Chicago, Kentucky and Texas for Workshops and Mentoring, and are working on setting some dates for a week of workshops in Ontario as well.  
If you have a group that would like information on setting up a Skills 2 You workshop this year give us a call — we love the chance to travel!

The last gathering of Secrets in the Stone is next weekend and let me say that I could not be prouder of these folks. They have come much farther than they even realize and it is my hope that they will continue to work at honing and perfecting the skills they have learned. I'll post a gallery of some of their finished pieces so you can see their excellent work.
Congratulations to you all!

I can't believe we're running into February already — may your New Year be all that you desire!


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

What's New

NEW ON YouTube! (Almost...)
Arrow Points from Bottle Bottoms: The Reduction Sequence

We've been doing a whole lot of learning about video production over these last couple of months as we continue to work our way up the quality ladder.
The one we're currently working on is for all of you out there who have been struggling with flintknapping your bottle bottoms. We go through the entire Bottle Bottom Reduction Sequence, from removing the bottom from the bottle all the way through to your final point.
We didn't get it quite finished in time to post the link in this newsletter but watch for it to be up within the next couple of days.
And be sure to check out our other YouTube videos and let us know what you'd like to see next!

New Knife Needs a Name

For several years now Eddie has been working on designing a knife that is strong enough to stand up to the abuse he puts it though in workshops, the woods, and daily life, yet delicate enough to carve a bow drill notch.
And at long last it's almost ready for production!
The (hopefully) final prototype is being finished up by an excellent new knife maker in California and all it needs now is a name.
We'll post a photo and description of the knife on our website when the new prototype arrives next week, and are counting on you to help us come up with a cool, simple, appropriate name for the design. You can get a sneak peak of the current proto-version, which Eddie is using in the photos for How to Make an Ishi Stick. So check it out and send your ideas!

(For those of you who have been waiting patiently, the knife will be available for pre-order as soon as the final prototype is approved.)

Upcoming Events

Scout Skills Workshop Weekend Coming Up

February 21-22
The dates for our first Scout Skills Workshop Weekend are coming up fast! If you've taken a Scout, Urban Scout, Escape & Evasion, Stalking & Camouflage, Scout Protector or other "Scout-type" class from another school in the past then we invite you to come and give your skills a workout!
This weekend will be built completely around the Scout Skills you want to learn, practice and improve upon, and will give you a chance to hone them in a group situation. Because just like when you're tracking, when you "Scout" alone you're never wrong.

Here are some skill that participants have requested so far:

Remember: Anything that falls into the "Scout" realm is fair game!
And if you haven't taken a Scout class yet but want to be a part of this unique weekend, Kevin Reeve's onPoint Tactical has several classes over the next month, so be sure to check them out.

Free Open Skills Nights

February 18
March 18
April 15

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 new and growing Flickr page!)


Practical Primitive Logo

World of the Hunter-Gatherer

We've been spending a great deal of time pouring over the applications for World of the Hunter-Gatherer and going over every possibility on how we could restructure the program so as to be able to include all of the excellent candidates.
However, in the end we had to admit that, at this point anyway, each of those options would have in some way or another cheated the participants or lessened the integrity of the program. So we have made the decision to go ahead as originally planned, with one Tribe of four.
We received so many excellent applications and had an extremely difficult time deciding on the members of this year's Tribe. But the decisions have been made at last and we are in the process of contacting everyone who applied to let them know their status.
We are very excited about this year's group, and are looking forward to another great program. We'll keep you all posted on their journey!

Upcoming Workshops

Our Spring⁄Summer schedule is almost ready!
But until then, here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


13–14  Winter Tracking
     15  Making Fire
     20  The "GO" Bag
21–22  NEW! Scout Skills Workshop Weekend
 27–1  Survival Bows: 3 Bows in 3 Days


       2    Survival Arrows
 13–15   Bow Making: Self Bows
      16   NEW! The Woodland Basket Quiver

Skill of the Month

Ishi Sticks

Flintknapping: Making an Ishi Stick

When pressure flaking stone, the Ishi stick provides additional leverage so that your body energy is used more efficiently and you can knapp with more precision and greater control.

Named after Ishi (1860-1916)  who was known as the "last wild Indian in North America" and whose tools are still on display at the Berkeley Museum, the Ishi Stick has become a standard piece of every modern flintknapper's tool kit.

While a "traditional" Ishi stick is usually made from antler, there are many excellent versions of this tool out of modern materials. Here is how to make one from materials available at your local hardware store.

(For more information on the life of Ishi pick up a copy of the amazing book "Ishi in Two Worlds" by Theodora Kroeber. Consider looking for a copy of the Deluxe Illustrated Edition -- the photos reproduced in this version are extraordinary!)

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

How to make an Ishi Stick:

  1. You'll need a 7⁄8" dowel piece and a 3⁄4" to 1⁄2" copper reduction coupling. Be sure to CHECK THE FIT before purchasing. The coupling must fit snuggly onto the end of the dowel, and not all doweling is created equal.
  2. Cut the dowel to your desired length. This will be generally between 12" – 22", depending on your body size, and preferred pressure flaking style.
  3. Place the reduction coupling next to the dowel so that the "shoulder" (the place where the coupling reaches it's 1⁄2"  diameter section) is at the end of the dowel and the 3⁄4" end of the coupling is alongside the dowel. Mark with a pencil where the 3⁄4" end of the coupling finishes, and continue that mark around the full circumference of the dowel.
  4. Center the 1⁄2" end of the coupling on the end of your dowel and use your pencil to mark the inner circle of the coupling on the dowel.
  5. Using a small saw cut into the dowel along the circumference line you drew in Step 3, but only to a depth that matches the end circle you drew in Step 4.
  6. Now cut into the top of the dowel on the circle you made in Step 4, but only as far down the length as the cut you just made around the dowel's circumference. Make another cut on the opposite side, then on the third and fourth sides. We've now made our circular dowel into a square at one end.
  7. We are now going to turn the square into an octagon. You should be able to see the remaining "circle" markings on the end of the dowel. Cut off each corner on that marking — again remembering to go only as far down the dowel as the cut-in from Step 4.
  8. Carefully trim or sand down the end so the dowel will slide completely into the reduction coupling. This should be a snug fit and require a bit of effort to accomplish. It is important to be as precise as possible, leaving no gaps between the dowel and the copper.
  9. Secure the reduction coupling to the dowel with a good 5-minute epoxy and allow to dry. (We use Loctite Quick Set 5-minute Epoxy.) The tip of the dowel should protrude slightly. Once the epoxy has cured and set, cut this piece off so the dowel is flush with the coupling.
  10. Using an awl, make a "starter" hole in the very center of the end of the dowel. This hole should be deep enough to ensure that the hole you are about to drill will go straight down and not angle off to the side.
  11. Take a piece of copper wire, a copper nail, or length of copper rod that is at least 3⁄16" in diameter and about 2" in length. Drill a hole into the very center of the end of the dowel which is slightly smaller than the diameter of your copper rod, to a depth of about 1". (Approximately 1⁄2 the length of the copper rod.)
    NOTE: Do not use regular copper wire. It is too soft and will bend too easily. #4 hard drawn copper wire is a very good choice and a small scrap piece may be available for purchase from your municipal power authority.
  12. Insert the rod into the drilled hole and tap gently with a hammer to seat it into position.
  13. The exposed end of your copper rod/wire/nail is likely flat, rounded, or otherwise oddly shaped, which is no good. Using a hammer, pound the end into a tapering pyramidal tip. Then use a file to retouch tip to your desired sharpness. The finer the tip the more pressure will be delivered into the stone and the smaller platforms you can work.

So Have Fun, and Enjoy your new Ishi Stick!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Deerskins into Bucksins

Deerskins into Buckskins

— Matt Richards

This one has been around for quite a while and remains a must-have for anyone wanting to learn the wet-scrape method of traditional tanning. If I'd had this book many years ago when I tanned my first deer hides I could have avoided the resulting complete disaster which almost ended in the whole north east of Texas being declared a biohazard zone!
Alas, Matt's fine work had not yet become the widespread standard volume that it is today so I was forced to rely on inferior information. (But hey, at least I got a great — almost legendary — story out my complete and utterly spectacular failure!)
First published in 1997, with an updated Second Edition printed in 2004, this indespensible guide will stay with you every step of the way, providing clear, concise, step-by-step directions on how to produce high-quality buckskin using brains, soap or eggs.
Further, Matt gives really good information on "Makin' Stuff" like clothing, moccasins, bags, etc, in the chapter of the same name, and lists reputable resources where you can obtain both supplies and instruction.

Since the art of tanning continues to evolve and grow as it is rediscovered by more and more people, the second edition could already use some updating (and if you're reading this Matt, we can't WAIT to see a 3rd edition!). Several friends who both tan hides and teach tanning for a living recommend this book regularly, and we agree with them whole-heartedly.

So if you want to learn to tan and not risk becoming a legend within your community — in a questionable way — pick up a copy of this  book and follow the instructions (or better yet take a class) and your experience will no doubt be a memorable one — in a good way!

Not ready to try tanning on your own just yet?
Check out the braintanning workshop offered by
Two Wolves Braintanning

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

Practically Speaking

Calls from the Wild

Time: The Currency of Life...

How do you spend it? 
Are you one who just follows along, or stumbles through life?
Do you live deliberately and with purpose?
How aware are you?

The one skill that we can all work on all the time is awareness. Attention to detail is seriously lacking in the day-to-day lives of most people. We are a culture which likes to have information (and most everything else for that matter) presented to us. We no longer apply critical thought and reasoning to find truth, but merely accept what we see or hear on blind faith.
Take, for example, the YouTube video that shows a car door lock being opened with a tennis ball. A person who takes the time to think about how locks actually work will quickly see that this video it unreal. But how many just watched and passed the concept on as truth? The almost 200,000 hits say that it was most likely more than a few! And how many tried it themselves only to discover that it did not work, yet felt the fault lay with them — that they must have "done it wrong"? I am willing to bet once again, more than a few.
Admittedly, most people in our society no longer have any idea how the interior of a lock functions. As a society, we have come to the point where we no longer feel we have the time to know how even simple things work, let alone the more and more complex technologies that rule our world. We no longer "need to know", as when an item breaks we simply throw it out or call someone else to come fix it for us. But, having given up a huge amount of "how things funtion" knowledge that was taken for granted just a generation ago, we have become "functionally" illiterate. So we watch and accept as truth something that makes no functional sense, then dutifully pass along this "truth" on to others.

In the real world we must be take the time to be concious and aware of how thing interconnect. There are cause and effect relationships to everything, which are subject to the guiding principals of the Universe. Applied to a bowdrill fire for example, when the rules of the physical Universe are carefully applied a coal comes with very little effort in 30–60 seconds. But when a single aspect is out of balance the process becomes a struggle that can last for many minutes on end, and often results in exhaustion or failure, or both.

There is no way to make a thrown tennis ball unlock a car door, and there is no way to get a bowdrill coal without the right amount of hot dust in your notch. So take the time to develop awareness and critical reasoning through observation, questioning, and journaling.
It is a choice to spend your time paying attention to detail and questioning what is merely implied, or is presented to us a truth when it does not seem possible for it to be so. But it is through these questions that we learn, develop and grow. Every answer generates another question and thus allows awareness to permeate every aspect of our daily lives.
Which way is the wind blowing? Why is it blowing from that direction? Is that normal for this time of year? What weather usually follows? What are the animals doing?
But don't just limit your awareness to the outdoors!
In what cupboard do they keep their salad bowl? Where does this person usually leave the remote? How do my friends take their coffee? Which direction does the dog circle before lying down? These questions are all just as valid, and will all assist in your ability to truly SEE the world around you.
So question… look… think… and spend some time building your awareness today.

One Final Note

As we embark upon another New Year, with many new resolutions, new opportunities, new ideas and new options, I would like to offer up a sort of challenge to you all.

Let's make this the Year of Integrity.

Defined as "the quality or state of being of sound moral principle", integrity embodies the qualities of uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.
When did these qualities become so very rare?
Almost every day brings news of another person or leader or CEO or politician or whoever that has lied, or cheated, or stolen, or "redistributed"; who has taken advantage of some situation or other, or someone else's ignorance or gullibility over some thing or other…
And let's be honest, we've all been tempted throughout our lives to say "just this once" to something we know is not right, but would benefit us. And sometimes it's just so easy!

But we have to take a realistic look around us and see that our world has gotten out of balance in this regard. So let's open our eyes and our hearts to the opportunity to do our best to do what's right in our own lives every day.
Now I don't claim to be any sort of moral paragon in this regard (or any other for that matter!), and we will all no doubt continue to make bad choices, poor decisions and stupid mistakes for the rest of our lives. No one is ever going to be perfect, nor should we expect ourselves to be. But no matter the mistakes we make, we can all try to live a Life of Integrity every day.

Let's make this the year where we demand the best of ourselves and expect the best of those around us.
Where we applaud those we see who live lives of Integrity and stop accepting excuses from those who do not.
Where we do the right things in our own lives, and hope that our behavior will encourage those around us to do the same.
Be examples to our families and children and neighbors and colleagues and friends and strangers.

Let's make this the Year of Integrity, and Be the Change we Hope to see in this world.

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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