Tag: Woodcraft

W. Ben Hunt – Grandaddy of the Makers

W. Ben Hunt from Indian Crafts and Lore

W. Ben Hunt from Indian Crafts and Lore

Even if you’ve never had the urge to make something with your hands, glancing through one of W. Ben Hunt’s beautifully illustrated tutorials will have you itching to chop down a tree and carve out a dugout canoe, tan a bear hide, make your own “mock” eagle feathers and so much more.

Hunt, born in 1888 was a largely self-taught graphic designer who developed a number of beautiful hand lettered alphabets (what we might call “fonts” today.) His attention soon turned to woodcraft and he parlayed his love for the outdoors into a full-time career writing and illustrating articles for Boy’s Life.

While his graphic style was exquisite and precise, Hunt’s instructional writing cut straight to the bone, highlighting only the most important details. You can instantly grasp how to sew leather, stamp leather or dance an Apache Devil Dance.

There’s more than a little anthropology mixed in with Ben Hunt’s crafts. Along the way you develop a solid appreciation and respect for native American culture. After all, who doesn’t want a grizzly bear claw necklace like the one below?

Most of W. Ben Hunt’s books are out of print but you can still find copies of his best books on Amazon.

How to make a bear claw necklace from Indian Crafts and Lore

How to make a bear claw necklace from Indian Crafts and Lore

How to Avoid Blood-Sucking Vermin (Ticks, Not Lawyers)

If you hike then sooner or later you will have to deal with ticks. These cunning relatives of the spider wait on the ends of leaves and grasses for an unsuspecting mammal to brush past and then climb aboard for a free lunch.

Alicia MacKleay provides a comprehensive guide to dealing with ticks on and off the trail, including ways to tick-proof your clothing.

There are also a number of natural tick repellents you might try, although the most promising, nootkatone, won’t be commercially available for a few years.

A careful tick-survey of your clothing and body is your best bet after each hike. Otherwise you could wind up bringing them into your house where they can sneak-attack your family and friends.

I’ve never had a tick on myself, but my dogs and my sister have. Folklore states that the best way to remove a tick is to encourage it to leave voluntarily, either smothering it with oil or burning it with a match. Both these methods, it turns out, are terrible. They don’t work and they can cause the critter to “barf” its stomach contents into your bloodstream. Ick.

We also were once instructed to remove a tick by twisting it in a counterclockwise direction. It worked like magic. Or was that clockwise?

Twisting might work but it also might leave the tick’s head embedded in the skin where it can fester. The recommended way to remove a tick is to grab it very close to the skin and pull straight back. See Bug Girl’s suggestions for the correct approach to removing a tick. It’s a good idea to carry tweezers or a tick remover every time you hit the trail.

Image By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cowboy Cooking with a Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens come in all sizes

Not for the ultralight crowd, though I once ran into some guys who hiked into Tassajara with heavy cast iron cookware, a dutch oven lets you prepare gourmet meals you wouldn’t think possible at the campsite. Casseroles, fresh baked bread — it’s all possible with with a humble cast iron pot and some red hot coals. Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen can get you started with dutch oven cooking.

Dutch Oven Madness is a blog with recipes including Dutch Oven Orange Rolls. This recipe is similar to one of our favorites, only we put the dough inside a hollowed out orange rind. Before your trip you take a dozen or so oranges, cut off the top third, spoon out the pulp (juice it) and then freeze the remaining rind. The frozen orange-shells keep well in a cooler. Then fill the orange-cups with the dough mixture and bake until brown.

Target has a nice selection of dutch ovens. You want one with a loop handle, and the spiral handle grip is a nice touch. The only thing is, as of this writing, none of Target’s dutch ovens have feet and the lids don’t have a lip so you can’t really pile hot coals on top. The Camp Chef oven available through Sports Authority has the better design for true cowboy cooking.

What a 3-Year-Old Can Teach You About Wilderness Survival

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

In the first week of May this year 3-year-old Joshua Childers decided to go on a hike. His adventure lasted three days and two nights through a heavy rain and in 40 degree temperature in Missouri’s Mark Twain forest, 53 hours in all. When he was found by search teams what he wanted most was a glass of milk. According to doctors there was no reason he should have survived.

It’s unclear exactly what helped Joshua survive exposure. Young Childers didn’t say much, perhaps he’s not a good interviewee, or perhaps he’s got a book and movie deal lined up. News reports, however, reveal a couple of keys to his survival:

There are a few take-aways from Childers’ adventure. For one thing, parents need to be aware of the “only a couple minutes” disaster window of opportunity. Childers’ mother had been on the phone for just a few minutes and that was all the time it took for the child to wander off. Next, if you are going camping or to a park near an open space with young children, spend some time “woodsproofing” them. Finally, if you’re heading into the woods it wouldn’t hurt to learn some basic survival skills.

Things a parent can do to help a child survive being lost in the woods:

  • Teach her to hug a tree – and talk to it. This helps the child calm down and stay in one place. Most children are found within a one mile radius of where they were last seen. Talking to the tree can help rescuers and rescue dogs locate the child.
  • Make a nest. A hole in the ground and a blanket of leaves can help a child survive a long cold night in the woods.
  • Leave a mess. Matted down grass, broken sticks, piles of rocks – these are the things rescuers look for. Normally you want to teach children to “tread lightly” in the wilderness, but when a person is lost the more clues the better.

Know Your Knot

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

As I’ve said before, I can’t remember how to tie a knot to save my life. Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to necktie parties.

Here’s a great tip from Make Magazine’s blog: wallet-sized knot tying reference cards to help you remember whether the rabbit goes over the fence or down the hole.

Another great resource: Knots, Splices and Ropework at Project Gutenberg.

Previously at Wild Rye: Animated Knots by Grog.

Use Witch Hazel to Cure Posion Oak Rash

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Witch hazel is something you may have seen in your mother’s medicine chest, but she probably didn’t tell you why she was using it. Consequently you may not have discovered the extract’s many magical properties.

Fact is, witch hazel is good for a lot of things, some that you can talk about in mixed company and some that are mainly of interest to “us guys.”

Witch hazel is very good for treating a urushiol rash. Urushiol is an oily compound found on poison oak and poison ivy that quickly binds to the proteins in the skin. A rash develops when your body interprets these urushiol-modified skin cells as foreign agents and tries to kill them off. This bonding happens quickly, 10 to 30 minutes after exposure. The rash can take two or three days to appear and might last up to two weeks, untreated.

My trail buddies tell me that a good scrub with Tecnu Extreme Medicated Poison Ivy Scrub will prevent poison oak as long as you do it immediately after exposure. My problem is that I don’t always know when I’ve been exposed – a person can get a rash from oil on clothing, on a hiking stick, backpack or a friendly four legged creature. I’ve never found topical treatments such as calamine or cortisone cream to be effective or helpful. Witch hazel, applied twice daily, is nothing short of miraculous. Instead of a 7 to 14 day spell of tragic itching my most recent poison oak rash cleared up in three days.

I’m guessing that the astringent properties of the witch hazel quickly dry up the blisters, which in turn reduces skin damage and relieves itching. Or it may be the placebo effect. Who cares? As long as it works.

If you’d like to volunteer for further field-testing and research, have a testimonial about the amazing properties of witch hazel, or if you have a poison oak experience that bears retelling, by all means feel free to leave a comment.

The First Cut is the Deepest: How to Skin a Muskrat

Photo by Preston Keres Washington Post

Photo by Preston Keres Washington Post

Where do you go after winning the Miss Outdoors beauty contest? If you’re Dakota Abbot, the 2008 winner of the Miss Outdoors crown, you go back to your first love – skinning muskrats.

“The first cut is crucial – you have to pinch the fur at the hind legs and cut straight into that meaty area there. You slice down and out real quick and just push your rat inside out,” said Miss Abbot according to the Los Angeles Times. Abbot went on to win the women’s junior championship for muskrat skinning at the 64th Annual National Outdoor Show. Her prize? One hundred bucks and a set of muskrat traps.

If you’ve got a hankerin’ to skin yourself some muskrats (and win the Miss Outdoors 2010 title?) let Dave Duncan show you how. It takes a special kind of man to skin a muskrat in his church shoes. Or you can watch this video of muskrat skinning on Youtube.