Practically Seeking

February/March 2010 (Issue 29)

Hey, what happened to February?! Guess it got lost under all that snow… :-)
Anyway, March is here and with it, the first get-together of our new 2010 World of the Hunter-Gatherer program! We're very excited about getting started with our new Tribe, and anticipate great things from them, both as individuals and as a group. Julie will be sure to take lots of pictures to post on our Facebook page so y'all can see what they're up to.

We've posted our Spring/Summer workshop schedule that runs until mid-September. It has lots of the perennial favorites that you've been waiting all winter for, as well as some great new workshops that we think will be a lot of fun, and know you will too.

Hope everyone has been staying safe and warm and dry in this crazy winter weather. We're just happy to be able to see the driveway again! So while you're waiting for the rest of the snow to melt, check out the new Schedule, the new Knife, the new Video, and the new changes to the website. We've reorganized the way we list our workshops to make the categories more obvious and everything easier to find. 
Be sure to check it all out, and we'll look forward to seeing ya soon!

e & j


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

What's New

SRWK Prototype

Now Available for Pre-order!

To all of you who have been waiting patiently, the Starnater Reliant Woodsman's Knife is now available for pre-order!
Eddie has spent a long time getting this knife just right, and he's very excited that it has come to fruition at last. 
The S.R.W.K. comes in an ambidextrous, horizontal carry  leather sheath with an attachment point at the top for a carabiner, allowing it to be worn vertically if desired.
And in keeping with our commitment and practice of bringing you high-quality AND affordability, is priced at under $200!
Check out all the information and knife specs on our website along with the pre-order form. Heavy-duty enough to chop down a small tree or rough out a bow, yet with a delicate enough edge to carve a bowdrill notch or trap parts — and awful pretty to boot!

Spring/Summer Schedule Now Available!
April – August Workshops Posted!

Our brand new workshop schedule for this Spring & Summer is now up on the website and includes many of our most popular subjects, like Bow Making, Primitive Pottery, Spring Foraging, Intro to Edibles, Shooting the Longbow and Stalking & Natural Camouflage, as well as several fun new offerings like Advanced Firemaking, Survival Baskets, Natural Navigation, Cooking with Clay, Using Knives, Axes, Hatchets & Machetes and more, that we hope you'll really enjoy. So be sure to check it out, and we'll look forward to seeing soon!



Flintknapping Strike Force and Accuracy
Popsicle Stick Drill #1

We've posted our newest instructional video on both our YouTube channel and on our Virtual Instructor page, and we hope you'll take a look.
Anyone who has been through Eddie's unique 9 Step Knapping™ program will recognize this one — it's Popsicle Stick Drill #1!
One of the hardest things to teach a new knapper (or to learn, if you are one!) is how hard to hit the rock. But developing a proper strike is essential to being successful, and the exercise demonstrated here will teach you quickly, easily, and most important, cheaply(!), just exactly how hard you need to strike each and every time. Since introducing this (and several other) exercises Eddie has seen dramatic improvement in students' abilities in a very short time, and if you give it a try we're sure you will too.
So keep practicing, and have fun!

(If you have been wanting to learn Flintknapping, come out to our next 9 Step Knapping workshop on May 7-8.)

Free Open Skills Nights

March 17
April 21
May 26
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!)

Upcoming Workshops

April — August Workshop Schedule Now Posted!

Our Spring & Summer workshop calendar is now up on our website, with many popular favorites and some great new courses, so be sure to take a look!
In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months...


12         Arrow Points: Bottle Bottoms & Beyond
13         Arrows: Harvesting, Straightening & Curing Shafts
14         Arrows: Points, Hafting & Fletching
20         The Atlatl
21         Black & White Cooking: The Art of Cooking over Coals & Ash


3          Medicinal Plants
4          The Cutting Edge: Using Knives, Axes, Hatchets & Machetes
5          Coil Baskets
16-19   Bow-Making:Self Bows


7-8       9 Step Knapping
9          Spring Foraging
22        Bushcraft Basics: Setting Up Camp
23        Cooking with Clay
24        Survival Baskets
28        Fire Making
29-30  Primitive Pottery


Skill of the Month

Hide Glue

Fire: Creating the Perfect Tinder Bundle

Whether you are catching a spark from a metal match striker or creating an ember from a bow drill kit, a properly prepared tinder bundle can mean the difference between the warm glow of success and cold sting of failure with fire!
When making a tinder bundle all the same "fire-making" rules apply — you've got to have fuel, heat and oxygen in proper balance, and each layer of the fire should ignite the next. With the "perfect" tinder bundle, many times it will ignite itself with you having to do little more than add the coal!
In the photos we are using Cedar bark, but this process works with virtually any tinder material. Construction is simple, and here's how to get started…

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


How to Create a Perfect Tinder Bundle:

  1. Find a surface suitable for processing the tinder fibers over so they may be collected and saved.  This may be a table, an article of clothing, a flat rock, even a cleared area of dry ground. The material should be protected from moisture and wind.
  2. Working above your bare area, shred your tinder material into stringy fibers.
  3. Buff these fibers thoroughly, breaking the strings into softer strands, and allowing the smaller particles and dust to collect on your prepared surface.
  4. Work the largest of these buffed, softened fibers into a "bird's nest" that is about the size of your palm. This is the base layer of your tinder bundle.
  5. Carefully rake into a pile the finer fibers and dust bits that collected on your bare surface.
  6. Gather the largest of these finer fibers (allowing the even smaller bits to fall back onto your surface) and place them into the center of your "bird's nest". Don't pack down your fibers as you add them. Allow for air space and loft to your bird's nest, as proper air flow (oxygen) is crucial for ignition.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6, raking up your pieces and taking the largest fibers to place into the center of your bundle. Each time the pile will get a little smaller and the fibers will become ever finer until eventually you will have nothing left but dust. This dust is the final layer of your bundle.
  8. You now have a layered "bulls-eye" in your bird's nest tinder bundle, with the finest dust in the very center and the fibers getting coarser with each successive layer.
  9. Place your ember on (or strike your spark into) the very center of your bundle.
  10. Using just your fingertips, hold your tinder bundle at the edges and fold it carefully so that the fibers are touching the ember without crushing it. Blow steadily onto the ember, being sure to keep the fibers touching the ember at all times. The more red you see, the harder you can blow.

When the bundle bursts into flame simply place it
in your fire structure and watch it burn!

Until next time, Be Well and Have Fun!

For more information on tinder bundles and making fire,
check out our Fire Making and Advanced Fire Making workshops this spring & summer.

Eddie's Bookshelf

Alone in the Wilderness

Alone in the Wilderness (DVD)

— Dick Proenneke

So okay, yes, I am breaking with tradition a bit here. This month's "book review" has turned into a "DVD review" but this is my new favorite "skills" movie and it is one that you all should see. (And those of you who come out to relevant workshops probably will!)

In 1968 at the age of 51, Dick Proenneke headed out into the Alaskan wilderness on his own, with the intent of staying for a full year. He stayed for over 30. And even better for all of us, he chronicled his adventure both on film and in his journals! Proenneke had spent the previous summer at Twin Lakes, choosing his cabin site and felling and stripping the trees he would use to build his home. The following summer he returned with remarkably few supplies and amazingly cool tools, and built the beautiful cabin in which he would end up spending the next 30 years.
I was so thoroughly impressed by the ingenuity and incredible craftsmanship Proenneke showed in building his cabin and it's furnishings that I simply had to pass it on. I have watched this DVD several times since I came across it at my Dad's place in January and I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy watching the entire cabin building process. The logs are so precisely notched that he gauged their fit with the blade of a table knife! With window sills, a river rock fireplace, a split door with a locking latch (to keep the bears out), it is fascinating to watch one man go through the entire building process with simple hand tools. After moving back to the lower 48 in 1999 at the age of 82, Proenneke donated his cabin to the National Park Service, by whom it is still maintained today.

Though he passed on in 2003, his writings and his beautifully shot home movies have created a legacy that will endure, and can not help but inspire generations to come. I hope that this story of "One man's Wilderness" will serve as motivation for you to aspire to higher levels of craftsmanship and adventure. I know it has for me.

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

Practically Speaking

Replication vs. Application

Let's be honest, I'm sure we've all come across folks in the primitive skills world who have become a bit myopic (in my opinion) about replicating specific artifacts, exact to the most minute detail, or by using ONLY a specific tool or material, and thus losing sight of the true objective (in my opinion) of finding the principles behind the item that helped that people who used it to survive and thrive.
Most recently, I was in the company of an individual who was carrying on most effusively about their interpretation of a particular quiver design, based on a single, partial artifact that was several thousand years old. I guess what disturbed me so much was the fact that, while it was a well-crafted article, the obvious shortcomings of the design were completely overlooked. This individual went on and on, pointing out the ways in which this article had made to the exact specifications of the artifact, how the placement of the quiver would act as a bit of a shield, and several other things, when what he missed were many key limitations to the design that would tremendously reduce it's effectiveness "in the field".
For instance, the materials used meant that the wearer's mobility was severely limited (unless one was free to march about upright), the flap of the quiver would pose a potential obstruction to the bow string, that arrows were slow to extract, among other things.
What I found most bothersome was how some of the less-experienced individuals who were listening were, not knowing any better, so completely intrigued by what they thought they saw.

Always remember what this person failed to note — that the usual reason things vanish from the historical record is because they didn't work, and were either abandoned by the those who initially created them, or the people who continued to try to rely on the technology either died out or were conquered and/or absorbed by other groups.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if you want to reproduce specific types of artifacts by specific methods just for the sake of the recreation, then by all means proceed! But if you want to produce objects to actually use, consider working with designs that appear consistently, and in a variety of cultures.
Before you entrust your well-being to a "theory", think about it. Look carefully at the design and consider it's pros and it's flaws. Is it useful? Does it make sense? Did the idea spread? Is it found in many cultures? In many parts of the world? Or is there a reason that it disappeared from the archeological record?

(If only otzi could have ducked...)


One Final Note

Being a Texas boy, snow burns me :)  and we have sure seen our share of the white stuff this year! I am really looking forward to getting started on our spring and summer schedule, and to the green growing things are just right around the corner.
Enjoy these last days of "hibernation" and watching the snow melt away to reveal the green shoots of spring, because warmer days and longer nights are on the way.
March came in like a lamb and my vote is that it goes out that way too!  However, I intend to burst forth like the Lion and go for a good roll in every nice leaf covered patch of sunshine I can find !

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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