Practically Seeking

June 2008 (Issue 12)

Hey there,
Off the Road Again… At Last!
So let me start off with an apology for not getting our May newsletter sent out. May was the busiest month I can remember in a very long time — between workshops, Hunter-Gatherer, the Baltimore Bowmen event, moving across the street and heading off on our West Coast Tour the time just disappeared.
But we're back, settled (mostly) in the new place and been having a blast running workshops with all this extra room!

The West Coast Tour was a fantastic success, and big thanks to all the folks who helped with the workshop logistics, assisted with publicity, and hosted us along the way. We could never have done it without you! Special thanks to Adam, whose enthusiasm about having Eddie come out the West Coast Tracker Round Up was what got the ball rolling in the first place!
Speaking of the Round Up, what a great weekend! We picked up tons of rock, (literally!) did a whole lot of flintknapping and had a whole lot of fun. From there we headed up to Washington and tracked bear, dear, coyote and lots of other animals, and did a bunch more flintknapping, then back down to Portland for some stave splitting and arrow flinging, before heading to Northern California for more knapping and an amazing day of forge-fired pottery.
We made a quick stop in Vegas along the way, then to Texas where I saw my son get graduated before we headed to Starhaven to teach folks all about the home town plants, (and learn the hard way about a whole new varietal of stinging nettle) and get all mudded up in the Texas heat for the camo class.
Our last stop was Aurora, IL where the folks in that plants class got to see the biggest Poison Hemlock I have ever seen (which just happened to be growing about 2 feet off the road), and those in the Tracking workshop got to follow the tracks, trails and patterns of one of the wiliest old bucks I've seen in a long time.
Coast-to-coast and border-to-border! It was an exhausting yet exhilarating trip and we enjoyed every minute. We met so many great new people, saw lots of old friends along the way, and are already starting to plan our next visit! We made it back to Jersey just in time for Open Skills Night last Wednesday and have been going strong ever since. I know there are lots of you who want to see photos we took, so Julie is going to set up a Flickr page where you'll be able to check them out, as well as see some pics of the new digs, so watch the website for that link in the next week or so.

So now that it's full-on summer we've started thinking about the fall, and have some cool new stuff in the planning stages for our fall and winter Intensive Skills programs. (More on that below.) Hope you're enjoying these dog days, and taking full advantage of the long summer evenings to get out there and try new stuff.
We'll see ya down the road…


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

What's New

We've Moved!

But only just across the street. The place we were in was sold, so we've hopped across the street to a larger spot with more workshop space, a bigger garden and extra bathrooms. We are now in the second house on the right instead of the first house on the left so those of you who have been to workshops in the past shouldn't have any trouble finding us again. There's still lots of room to pitch your tent, plus we have maintained access to our old woods for tracking, trapping, stalking etc. For directions to the new location check out our website, or better yet, come on out to one of our upcoming Open Skills Nights and check it out for yourself!

Do You Squidoo?

Back in May, Julie found a cool site called Squidoo that figures "everyone is an expert on something", and provides single-page space for anyone to post info on whatever topics they care about.
We thought this was a pretty cool idea, so before leaving on the West Coast Tour Julie posted a page on The Top 10 Edible Plants in Your Yard (and Beyond).
It has basic information on some of our favorite backyard foraging plants that grace our table on a regular basis. Most of them are considered weeds, and plenty of lawn service companies will charge you big bucks to eradicate them. We'd rather eat them, and thought there might be some other folks out there who would like to try them too. So check it out and learn how to Keep Your Lawn Edible!

Practical Primitive Logo

NEW INTENSIVE SKILLS Programs for Fall & Winter!

The World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter
Secrets in the Stone

With our World of the Hunter-Gatherer program wrapping up in August, I have been thinking long and hard about what type of Intensive Skills programs to run during the coming fall and winter. Having really enjoyed being able to go so far in depth on skills with small group of folks over these last several months I've decided to take things one step further during the next sessions.
Rather than one 6-month program I'll be running two 3-month segments, each focusing specifically around one subject.

World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter will immerse you into all those skills which were second nature to the ancient hunter. You'll plunge head first into the arts that ruled the hunter's life: bow-building, arrow making, flintknapping, stalking, camouflage, game patterning, hunting skills… Culminating in the heart of bow season, this program will prepare you for a hunt unlike any other!

Secrets in the Stone will take you through millions of years of history. Starting with the Nine Basic Steps of Flintknapping, you'll learn everything from how to fashion the most basic of early man's stone tools, through the advanced flintknapping techniques of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, all the way up to current methods used by modern knappers around the world.

Working with stone and with wood are two skill sets that are incredibly important to me, and ones on which I have been working for almost 30 years. My goal for these programs is to be able to share what I have learned, and to pass along some of my passion for what these mediums have taught me.
Check out the website for more detailed info, dates, application forms and the like.
I'm very excited about the possibilities — hope you are too!

Upcoming Events


July 24–27
Ski Denton (Coudersport, PA)

This is the big one! One of the largest Traditional-Only Archery events in the world, "Denton" draws shooters from the U.S., Canada and Europe. Eight courses with over 200 targets spread across 700 acres means no shortage of stuff to shoot at! We're really excited about heading up to this event. It will be our first time there and we are very much looking forward to four days of barely controlled chaos. If you're up that way be sure to come by our booth and say hi!

For more information on ETAR, or any of our other upcoming events, check out the Special Events page on our website.

Cottage Country in Canada

July 29–August 5
Toronto–Muskoka–Bancroft areas

We're headed to Ontario for a family gathering this summer and have set aside some time for workshops and mentoring while we're there.
A two day Flintknapping workshop and a one day Tracking class are in the works near King City (north of Toronto) on August 3, 4 & 5.
We'll also be up in Muskoka for a couple of days, and possibly the Bancroft area, so if you'd like to set up a workshop, some one-on-one instruction time with Eddie, or find out more about the King City classes, give us a call or send an e-mail to

Free Open Skills Nights

July 16 (Happy Birthday Eddie!)
August 20
September 17
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. We look forward to having you here!

Upcoming Classes

You can see our full 2008 schedule on the website…
but here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


   1–2    Archery Fundamentals
      5    Woods Wisdom 1
   6–7   Survival 1
     18   Stalking & Natural Camouflage
19–20   Traps, Simplified


   3–4   Flintknapping Basics (King City, ON)
      5   Tracking Essentials (King City, ON)

Skill of the Month

The Plaited Loop

Cordage: The Plaited Loop

The Plaited Loop is an exceedingly useful addition to your bag of skills; perfect for making everything from bowstrings to snare loops.
It is quick to make, extremely strong, and not prone to breakage as some knots can be. The best way to learn this one is by starting with several pieces of man-made fiber such as artificial sinew or dental floss, although you can most certainly use natural cordage of any sort.
In the example photos we are using two different colors of B-50 Dacron to make the beginnings of a bow string. By using the black and white we hope to make it easier for you to see the process.

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

How to make a Plaited Loop:

  1. Begin with two pieces (or bundles) or cordage that are suitable for reverse wrapping*. If you are using bundles, make sure you have an equal number strands in each. (In the example photos we are making a bow string using 10 strands of B-50 Dacron in each of the black and white bundles.)
  2. Hold each of the bundles about 6 inches from the end and begin to reverse wrap back toward that end.
  3. After you have completed about an inch of reverse wrap (longer, if you want a larger loop) fold the reverse wrapped portion in half to create a loop.
  4. At this point you will have an unwrapped "tail" about 4 inches in length on one side of your reverse wrapped loop and the remaining length of your cordage bundles on the other side.
  5. Take the short tail of ONE of your bundles and lay it along side ONE of your full length bundles. Now, take the OTHER full-length bundle and lay it along side the OTHER short tail.
  6. Pre-tension (loosely roll together) each short tail with each long strand, so that you once again have two bundles.
  7. Continue to reverse wrap using your two new bundles, until you have completed your project.
*For instructions on reverse wrapping, check out this short YouTube video

There ya have it! A great loop, useful for any number of projects. I constantly find new and interesting uses for this skill, so give it a try and Have Fun!

Eddie's Bookshelf

The Traditional Bowyer's Bible, Volume 4

The Traditional Bowyer's Bible, Volume 4

— Jim Hamm (et al)

This is what happens when true Masters of the craft collaborate!! I was excited to see this new volume published, and the further I got into this book the more excited I became.
Even though this is the fourth in the series, one by no means needs to have read the first three before diving into this one. Yes, it definitely helps to have some bow building background when you launch into this book, but it's not a prerequisite. And while I hesitate to say that it makes The Traditional Bowyer's Bible Volume 1 obsolete, Volume 4's revised section on bow design and performance, as well as the section on building character bows, constitutes a GIANT step forward from the first book.

TBB v4 contains, without a doubt, the finest information available on building a self bow. The authors have gone back to the beginning, revisited the basics, and essentially removed the guesswork and intuitive variables from the bow building process. For example, this volume will teach you how a wood's specific gravity relates to what constitutes a safe design. It will show you how to get the smoothest, fastest, most efficient bow possible from almost any wood, and contains the groundbreaking science to prove that sinew backing, recurving etc. are shown to have no real performance advantage over a well-designed long bow.
The many abbreviations can be a bit confusing at first, but I suppose that one desires to write "specific gravity", "moisture content" etc., only so many times!

I must admit, part of what really excited me while reading this book was the fact that my own bow building style has evolved along the very path of efficiency that the authors have concluded is "the way to go" when building a self bow. It was great to have confirmation that many of the bow design conclusions I have been arriving at over the past 30 years were indeed well-founded and justified. On the other hand, much of the science presented has caused me to seriously re-evaluate my methods and reasonings in regard to backing bows. And I think that's fantastic!

I could go on and on about all the great information in this indispensable new volume. The story of the Turtle Bow alone is worth the price of admission! But suffice it to say that if you do now, or ever in the future decide to build bows, read this book before you take another scrape!
And to all of the fine bowyers who contributed to Volume 4, Thank you and Well done!

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

Practically Speaking

Perfect Practice

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect!

If there is one value that my father instilled into me from a very young age it's that the phrase Practice Makes Perfect is just plain wrong.
Practice doesn't make perfect — Perfect practice makes perfect!

I have never been a big fan of the endless struggle. I feel that it accomplishes little other than to test one's mettle and sanity. Over the years I have seen too many people try in vain to accomplish some primitive skill or other without ever stepping back to evaluate what they may be doing wrong or how they might adjust what they are doing to increase their chance of success. By continuing over and over to repeat the same mistakes they give themselves no hope of success, and often simply decide that "this skill is really hard".
But the truth is that in spite of what you will read in many books and see in the attempts of many archaeologists, professors and supposed experts, these "first" skills that we strive to know are not difficult. Rather, they are dynamic… flowing… effortless… If there is struggle it is due either to poor instruction or poor application of technique. And I have seen plenty of both.

As the participants in our World of the Hunter-Gatherer program have learned, the perfect practice of principals leads to effortless success. One of our participants had struggled unsuccessfully with hand drill for several years. During our last weekend I instructed them in proper form and rhythm, and by the end of the day this same person had produced six coals with no struggle and no soreness to his hands. Another had a similar experience with bow drill, having tried for months on end to produce a coal the way she had originally been taught. After about 20 minutes of practicing the proper form and flow, and some instruction on how to perfect her kit, she achieved her first coal. Now, she is producing them on a regular basis, with both cedar and natural kits.

As you practice these skills, don't just believe or recreate what you have seen. Seek the underlying principals. Find the flow. If you struggle, re-evaluate. Cast aside your preconceptions and be willing to change. Seek the balance and fluidity the skill has to offer. Don't just practice — work for perfection as you practice. In this way not only will you achieve much better results much faster, you will honor the skill and those who passed it down to you through the generations.

One Final Note

Well boys and girls, another month has come and gone. I know we just snuck in under the wire on this issue, but I can't believe how fast the summer days are already flying by! We'll be back on newsletter track again in July.
There are some cool updates to the website that will start showing up over the next few weeks, so I hope you'll keep checking back to see them as they go live. Also, we're beginning to decide our Fall/Winter workshop schedule, so if there are any classes you'd like to see on the list be sure to give us a call, or e-mail We're always happy to get your input!
Wishing everyone here in the States a safe and happy 4th, and to all you Canadians out there, Happy Canada Day from Julie (and from me too!)
Until next month,

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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