Sunday, June 15, 2008


This weekend I spent several hours flintknapping. I focused on making arrowheads. The weather was sunny and hot, but I took dips in the pool often to cool off. Every time I work on this skill I do my best work so it's pretty fun. I worked with several different materials.

The white piece is made from chert. The rock is very hard and takes a lot more pressure to push a flake off. It's pretty easy to mess up so it was nice to finish an arrowhead. The piece is only about 3/4 of an inch wide so it's not ideal for hunting.

The gray piece is dacite also about 3/4 of an inch wide. The black one is made from obsidian. It's a little over an inch thick so I could hunt with it. The last two are made from glass. I was trying to make the big piece into a spear point until I dropped it. I didn't expect it to break so easily.

Material from left to right (penny for size reference, chert, dacite, obsidian, glass bottle bottom, glass slab)

This obsidian is translucent.

I'm still working on my notches. Ideally the notches near the bottom of this piece would be two or three times deeper in.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rocket Stove

I stumbled across the rocket stove on one of the many outdoor/survival skill websites I frequent. The stove has several advantages over an open fire when it comes to cooking. The two major benefits are less fuel is needed and less smoke is produced.

After dreaming about it two nights in a row, I figured I better make one!

I gathered all the materials and tools I needed. I didn't end up using the small soup can or the wood chips (more on that later). Also I used another pair of snips and work gloves after I cut myself on the metal.

I cut out a soup can sized hole in the side of one large and one small coffee can. After removing the remaing end of the soup can I inserted it through the holes in the cans. I filled the space between the coffee cans with insulation. The idea is to keep all the heat in the cylinder and ultimately directed up to the cooking vessel. This is something you can't do well with a normal fire pit.

Ideally I would have used wood ash from a fire. Unfortunately I don't have a fire pit anymore so I had no wood ash. I opted for flammable wood chips! I reasoned that they wouldn't be touching flame and there wouldn't be enough oxygen to ignite. As it turned out I was wrong. During my first test they did burn. I doused the whole thing with water before it got out of hand. I had to settle for sand as my insulator which isn't very good since there aren't many pockets of are between particles. When I find wood ash, I'll swap.

I used the bottom of the other large coffee can to make a cover to hold the insulation in. I also decided to leave four tabs sticking up to give the cooking vessel something to sit on.

The soup can has a platform in it. The fuel goes on the platform leaving the bottom half open for oxygen to enter. By only burning the tips of the wood, less smoke is produced. As the wood burns down, it is pushed further into the stove.

Here you can see the pot resting on the tabs.

I tested the stove by bringing one quart of water to boil using only the tinder and wood pictured below.

It took 10 minutes although I let the fire die a little so in theory it could have boiled faster. As you can see in the picture below I didn't need all the wood.

To increase the efficiency of the stove I could add a skirt around the pot that would direct hot air up the sides of the pot. The sides of the stove were hot to the touch so thicker insulation would also be an improvement. That would require a larger can though.

While not a primitive tool, this stove is pretty cool and very practical in an urban survival situation. With proper ventilation this could be used indoors due to the low level of harmful emissions.

There are some good how-to videos with various size stoves if you search Google Video.

Friday, June 06, 2008


It's been awhile since my last post. Let me catch you up on what I've been doing. My internship with the Student Conservation Association ended May 17th. It was an amazing journey for me. I learned so much about how to live in the wilderness. I also learned a lot about how to live with less money than I've been used to. It was a timely lesson as prices for everything are soaring these days.

After saying goodbye (for now) to my crew I moved to Riverside, CA for the summer. I'm living at the home of Chris and Karen Roholt. Chris is the Wilderness Planner at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that gave our crew its assignments throughout the year. I am going to work for him at the BLM for 60 days working on the water source data my crew collected during the 8 month internship.

While there I will learn more about GIS (Geographic Information System) and specifically the ArcGIS software that is used in the industry. My goal is to get enough experience to get a job where I can both collect data in the field and analyze it in the office.

I got to spend two weeks back in the Midwest. I managed to spend time in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana. After three weddings with friends and family, lunch with old work buddies and hanging out in my home town, I spent time with almost everyone I know!

I'm hoping to still work on skills while living in Riverside, though I don't plan on having a fire pit or digging out a shelter in the Roholts' backyard!

Tomorrow I get to spend my birthday at the beach. My friend Melissa and I are going to watch the AVP (volleyball) tour at Hermosa Beach. I'm hoping to get in a pick up game or maybe fill in for an injured player (*Announcer*: "Can anyone in the crowd play volleyball?") during the featured match.