Practically Seeking

October 2011 (Issue 41)

It has arrived! Our 9 Step Knapping DVD is now on the shelves here in our Practical Primitive store! All the pre-orders have shipped and we are filling new orders every day. Those of you who have watched your copy already we'd love to hear your feedback so let us know what you think!

Don't forget that the application deadline is coming up quickly for this year's Secrets in the Stone Flintknapping Intensive. There are more and if and if you've been wanting to learn to flintknap, or to take you knapping to a whole new level, there is no better program available! If you have any questions feel free to call or e-mail anytime. We're looking forward to seeing your application!
And be sure to check out upcoming Fall/Winter workshops, as well as our Interactive Online Webinars. We are working on our 2012 schedule and plan to begin posting it next week, so be sure to watch the website for that!

Until then, there is still space in next Friday's Making & Using Natural Cordage, as well as in Doug Meyer's amazing Blowguns & Thistle Darts and Preparing, Preserving & Using Gourds workshops. Doug comes up from North Carolina only once a year, and his workshops are not to be missed! He literally wrote the book on making River cane Blowguns, and we know you'll have a great time making yours!
We're also going to be offering an evening seminar on Making Herbal Medicines at the Trailside Nature Center in Mountainside, NJ on November 9 at 7:15 p.m. You can sign up through the Union County website and we hope you will!

And don't forget that we're traveling up to Massachussettes the first weekend in November running two Emergency Preparedness & the GO Bag Skills 2 You workshops, and we're looking forward to seeing our New England neighbors there!

Lastly, for those of you Jersey-ites who live in Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer and Middlesex counties and happen to have Cablevision as your TV provider, watch out for a segment they shot on Practical Primitive! It's a "check out this cool local business" type of feature and we haven't seen it yet, but if any of you do, we'd love to hear what you thought. :-)

Well the wind is howling outside, and there is a warm and inviting fire in the other room, so we're going to go enjoy it. Hope you're all enjoying the beautiful Fall weather!

e & j


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

What's New

Practical Primitive in the News!
Eddie & Julie are featured in today's New York Times!

Last week we took one of our rare trips into The City for a day-long program at the Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports in the Bronx. It was a great day for us and we really enjoyed working with the six 9th grade World History classes, showing them the early technologies of Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures.
Joining us for the day was a journalist from the New York Times who wrote a wonderful article that appeared on page A26 of today's paper, as well as being featured as the lead story on the Times' new SchoolBook website. Many thanks to teacher Bob Armistead for his boundless enthusiasm and determination to show his kids how incredible history really is, and to Ann Farmer who wrote such a great article about us! (We'll be posting the print article on our website soon...)

9 Step Knapping DVD

9 Step Knapping DVD
Now in Stock!

6 Rules, 4 Exercises & 9 Simple Steps that make Flintknapping East for Everyone!

For those of you who have not taken a knapping workshop here, Eddie has developed this amazing new Flintknapping teaching method over the past 5 years and I can't tell you what a difference it has made to the people he has taught: Folks who have never held a rock before are turning out usable bifaces in a SINGLE DAY!
He is so excited to be able to offer his incredibly easy system on DVD and hopes it will make the art of Flintknapping more fun, more accessible and easier to understand for a whole new generation of flintknappers.

Order your 9 Step Knapping DVD today!

(Already have your copy? 9 Step Knapping is now available on -- If you enjoyed the DVD and think others will too we hope you'll post your review!)

SKILLS QUEST begins in January!
Two new Year-Long programs beginning in 2012

So many of you have told us that you wished you could take the Hunter-Gatherer program but just can't take that much time off work… So often we have wanted to offer a program that would allow students to expand their skills training through all four seasons…

At last we've figured out how! Beginning in 2012 we will be offering TWO new programs, each lasting a full year, and in a way we think you'll really like.
Skills Quest 1 begins in January and runs every other month through to November. Skills Quest 2 begins in February and runs every other month through December. We'll get together for one 2-day weekend each time, beginning at 9am Saturday and finishing up around 5pm Sunday. Each program will offer different skills, allowing you to take either one, or both, depending on which subjects interest you the most.
All the details will be up on the website in November, and we're looking forward to getting started!

Check out the New Trading Blanket!
T-shirts, DVDs, Books, Soaps, Salves, Gift Certificates & more!

Don't forget to check out the new Practical Primitive Trading Blanket!

This is your one-stop-shop for all things Practical Primitive, including our new line of T-shirts, the 9 Step Knapping DVD (and other DVDs as they arrive), the Principles of Natural Camouflage companion book, our Home-made Soaps, the ever-popular Wonder Salve, Gift Certificates and more.

We'll be continuing to add to products and services to the Trading Blanket as time goes on so we hope you'll go and check it out!

Free Open Skills Nights

October 19
November 16
December 21 (Winter Solstice Celebration!)
Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month at our new location near Hackettstown. 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. Things generally start up after work (6-ish) and folks come and go throughout the evening. We never know who will be here, or what folks may 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 Facebook page!)


Birch Bark Shelter

Shelter Building Principles
Wednesday October 26, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. (Eastern)

The ability to build a shelter is one of the most important skills for anyone who spends time outdoors to learn. More people die of exposure than anything else and your shelter IS your defense! This webcast will be a discussion of those essential Shelter Building Principles that need to be followed to create a shelter that will keep you warm (or cool), dry and safe in any environment at any time of year, whether or not you have an abundance of leaf debris.
And yes, we will be talking about DOORS!
See more information on our website...

Sign Up to attend the LIVE event or watch the Recording as of October 27.
Live Event: $20 / Recording: $25
(30-day Access to Recording with all Registrations.)

Go Bag

Emergency Preparedness 2: The "GO" Bag
Wednesday December 28, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. (Eastern) 

This session will focus on the main mobile module of your Emergency Kit, The GO Bag. Many people will tell you that you should have a GO Bag prepared, but they don't tell you what you should have in it! This evening will take a detailed look at the specific "just in case" items that should be kept inside, discuss why every item is important and the many ways in which each one can be used.
You never know where you might be when an emergency occurs which is why, just like the name implies, this kit should go with you, everywhere you GO.
See more information on our website...

Sign up to attend the LIVE event or watch recorded version as of December 29.
Live Event: $20 / Recording: $25
(30-day Access to Recording with all Registrations.)

Available Recordings of Previous Webinars

Emergency Preparedness Basics, Session 1: What Am I Preparing For???
Sign up to Watch the RECORDING and have unlimited access for a full 30 days. ($25)

Principles of Natural Camouflage
Sign up to Watch the RECORDING and have unlimited access for a full 30 days. ($25)  


Practical Primitive Logo

November 2011 – February 2012
One 2-day weekend per month

Our Secrets in the Stone Flintknapping Intensive is back! This one-of-a-kind Knapping program is unlike anything else we've seen out there and if you practice the exercises and do the homework, we guarantee you will acheive flintknapping success that will meet and even far exceed your expectations for these four months.

Be one of only 4 people to work hands-on with Eddie, a 25-year veteran flintknapper who has honed not only his flintknapping skills, but his ability to teach those skills to others. His remarkable ability to break down this complex art into simple exercises that anyone can comprehend and reproduce make this a program unlike any other. 

You will work your way through millions of years of history and discover how, far from being inferior, stone tools in many cases work as well as or better than their modern conterparts. From there you will move through Eddie's specially developed 9 Step Knapping™ program, which will open up to you the entire world of arrow points, knives, daggers and blades. You will then move on to the more advanced shaping, thinning and notching techniques, all the way up to those of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, including fluting, and artifact replication. You will also learn how to properly notch, haft and sharpen your points so that they can be used for display or for hunting.

Whether or not you have done any flintknapping in the past, if you are ready to slow down and listen to the secrets of the stone we look forward to hearing from you! The rock has been sitting and waiting for millions of years for you to pick it up. Are you ready to learn what it has to teach you? 

See our website for complete program information or to submit your application.

Location: Great Meadows, NJ
Program Length: 4 months (November 2011 – February 201
Times: One "Saturday/Sunday" weekend per month
Tuition: $1395 ($500 deposit due upon acceptance)
Application Deadline: Midnight, Monday October 24, 2011

Upcoming Workshops

2011 Fall Workshop Schedule is Online

Our 2011 Fall workshop scheduleis in full swing, and we have added many new workshop to rest of our 2011 calendar so be sure to check it out.
The beginnings of our 2012 workshop schedule will be posted next week, so we hope you'll watch the website and look forward to seeing you soon!
Here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months…


26   Webinar Shelter Building Principles
28   Making & Using Natural Cordage
29   Blowguns & Thistle Darts (Guest Instructor, Doug Meyer)
30    NEW! Preparing, Preserving & Using Gourds (Guest Instructor, Doug Meyer)


5     The "GO" Bag — Rehoboth, MA
6     The "GO" Bag — Rehoboth, MA
18   Bark Baskets & Containers
26   Felt Making
27   Medicinal Plant Preparations: Tinctures, Salves, Syrups & More


Skill of the Month

The Uber Match

Fire: Making Char-Cloth

With cooler days and colder nights approaching, thoughts begin to turn to fire and staying warm. In a survival situation fire is life! As such, we have decided to devote the next few Skills of the Month to some Fire-making Tips and are starting with this segment on making char cloth. But we're not going to limit ourselves to only traditional cotton fibers! What many people fail to realize is that virtually ANY plant-based fibrous material can be used. As with all skills we teach, it is the Principle, not the Technique, that is most important. Char cloth (or Char fiber as I like to call it) is simply material that has essentially been reduced to pure carbon in an oxygen-free environment. Exposure to even very low temperature sources of ignition (e.g., a spark or a spot from a magnifying glass) will cause it to ignite readily.

Before the advent of matches, and in lieu of fire by friction, char cloth was the primary means of starting fire; particularly by Europeans. While there is much information available on the subject you do not typically see alternative fiber sources (particularly materials gathered off the landscape) or means of manufacture, which we will progress to in the coming months. Now keep in mind as you're trying this out that cotton cloth with flint & steel became the "standard" for a reason — it's easiest to use! But if you're stuck out on the landscape, or if you just want to try something new, it's a great way to stretch your skills!

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

How to make Char Cloth (or Char Fiber):

  1. Obtain any material that is 100% NATURAL cellulose fiber such as cotton cloth, jute fiber, shredded inner bark from a tree, "punky" wood from a stump, polypore fungus (shelf fungus from a tree), cattail down, fibers from dogbane, milk weed, nettles, or any other woody-stalked plant.
  2. Twist any loose fibers into a tight ball. Solids such as polypores and punky wood can be used in small chunks.
  3. Place the material into an air tight, non-combustible container. We are using an old stain can in the photos, but ANYTHING that creates an air tight environment will work. (More on that next time.)
  4. Create or puncture a SINGLE small hole in the container so that gasses can escape. Don't forget this step, otherwise you might get a small explosion!
  5. Place the container in, or on, a heat source. It will need to reach about 400 degrees for the process to work properly.
  6. After a couple of minutes you will observe a great deal of smoke escaping the hole — this is perfect. Leave the container exactly where it is and continue to expose it to the heat.
  7. Soon the container will cease smoking and you may see flame instead. Eventually the flame over the hole will die down and when there is only a small flame, this is an indicator the process is almost complete.
  8. Once the smoke and flame have COMPLETELY died away, remove the container from the heat source. DO NOT OPEN IT!  Allow the container to completely cool first.
  9. Once the container is cool to the touch your char fiber is ready for use! It can be stored in that container or transferred to another one where it will be kept undisturbed and dry. Remember, char fiber can be very fragile. 
  10. When ready to use, extract a piece and expose it to a spark. (For the delicate fibers of bark or woody stalks it is best to spark down onto the fibers.) Place the lit char fiber in a tinder bundle and blow into flame!

Until next time, Enjoy the warmth of a comforting fire, and Have Fun!

Want to learn more about using Natural Fibers?
Come out to our Making & Using Natural Cordage workshop!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Eddie's Bookshelf Selections will Return in November

Until then we hope you will check out the many previously recommended books on our website.


Practically Speaking

The "Why" is the "How" 

"When my dad was teaching me he asked, 'Why am I doing this?' I realized later he was making me think about it. I would have to sit and look at it and go 'Why? Why?' To me, Why explains How. But if you don't know Why the How is just… you become a machine and you don't realize or think of what you're doing."
Mike Holmes (Canada's Most Trusted Contractor) said these words in a discussion about how he learned to work the way he does and when Eddie & I heard it, we re-wound and re-wound and re-wound until we had the quote just right. Because while Holmes was talking about learning carpentry and plumbing and home building and repair, the exact same sentiment applies to the world of Primitive Skills.
So often we hear the question "How do I…" and while it's great to be curious and want to learn a new skill, knowing how is only half the story; only half the skill.
It is, as Mike Holmes realized, the Why that explains the How! Knowing WHY a bowdrill works the way it does will tell you exactly HOW to use your set to be successful under almost any conditions, using virtually any type of wood.
But if you don't know the why, then you have no understanding of how to make the necessary adjustment to be successful every time.
If you understand why pottery combines and moves and holds together and vitrifies and fires the way it does, then you will understand how to craft your pot and fire it successfully. Or, even more importantly, why it did not fire successfully and what you will need to do to fix it for next time.

It is in that distinction — the understanding between the "how" and the "why" — that lies is the difference between learning a particular skill in a particular environment using particular materials under particular weather conditions, and understanding the principle behind the skills which allows you to transfer that knowledge and understanding to any environment, using any materials, under any weather conditions.

Many years ago when Eddie first learned about building a traditional debris hut he knew that the skill, as it was taught, would only be marginally useful to him in his home area of Texas. There were just not that many 8ft long, 2-3-inch diameter straight tree branches to be found, and he was certainly not going to rake up that much leaf litter an area where scorpions, fire ants and copperheads abound! But looking through the skill itself to the principles that lie behind it — the WHY that allows a shelter to keep you warm and safe and dry — permitted him to alter not only the materials he used but the shelter structure itself, and create a much more versatile, easier and faster-built shelter that even provides more room inside.
This concept of "Why" is one that is, in my opinion, not stressed nearly enough in the world of Primitive Skills. Too many people who are out there teaching do not themselves understand the principles behind the skills and therefore are incapable of passing them along. Sadly, this means that the skills too many people are learning are, as one of our students put it, poorer and poorer photocopies of a more and more distant original.
It takes a little more work, a little more time, and a little more thought, but learning the "Why" of a skill truly does make the "how" even more meaningful and exciting!
Remember, the Skills of Nature follow the Laws of Nature, just like everything else. The more and better we understand those laws, the farther we can all go together!


One Final Note

Okay, I admit it, it's here… Fall has arrived…
In spite of the fact that we still don't know where Summer went, Jack Frost is already hunkering down the block and around the corner, getting ready to sprint up unexpectedly one morning and knock on our door.
But Autumn brings many wonderful things too, so we're going to choose to enjoy the NOW instead of fretting about the SOON. Beautiful colored leaves, crisp morning air, fires in the fireplace, delicious fresh-picked apples and the smell of home-made pumpkin pie in the air… Mmmmm….
Speaking of which, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family in Canada! We were sorry to have missed sharing it with you this year, but our thoughts were with you and we are thankful for each and every one of you. 
So, until Thanksgiving rolls it's way around to American tables we will be enjoying the beauty and wonder of the Autumn days and nights.
We hope you will do the same, and look forward to seeing you soon!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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