Sunday, March 31, 2013

Make an Improvised Wire Saw for Wilderness Survival?

This post is a perfect example of why it’s so important to try out wilderness survival skills in the comfort of your own back yard rather than wait until you’re in a life and death situation to find out that something doesn’t work.  I recently watched a survival show in which one of the participants showed how you could take a piece of wire and twist it into a wire saw to use in a survival situation.  Seemed like a great idea, and I thought it had a pretty good likelihood of working.  I have, after all, seen a plumber use a piece of nylon twine to cut PVC pipe, and this seems like kind of the same idea.  So, I did an internet search on how to do this and I only found one short video on the subject and, even though it did kind of work, I can’t say that the results looked all that impressive.  Strange, I thought, usually when a skill this awesome presents itself there will be a lot of posts, discussions, and videos about it.  Well maybe this truly is a new skill, I thought.  I’m going to see how it works.  So I took a roll of snare wire and a couple of short sticks, and this is what I did: Pictured below: snare wire
First I cut a piece of wire that was about two and a half times as long as I wanted the finished saw to be.  Then I cut a couple of short sticks for the handles.  Pictured below: wire and handles
Next I twisted the ends of the wire together to make a loop.  Pictured below: wire ends joined into loop
 I then took my sticks and stuck them up into opposite ends of the loop.  Pictured below:  sticks inside of wire loop
After a bit of twisting I had a nice tightly wrapped wire saw blade with a wooden handle on each end.  Pictured below: finished saw
I took my new wire saw and went to work on a green sapling that was about two inches in diameter.  At first it seemed to bite right in, but as soon as I got past the bark it felt like the blade was just rubbing back and forth rather than cutting in.  After about five minutes of sawing, I had cut about three sixteenths of an inch deep.  At this point the wire broke right in the middle.  It was very warm to the touch.  A lot of friction; not much cutting.  Pictured below: top, cut in sapling made by improvised wire saw; bottom, broken wire saw

I thought maybe I had picked a particularly tough tree, so I got out my store bought wire saw and went to work.  In about eight minutes I had cut through the sapling.  Pictured below: top, store bought wire saw; bottom, cut sapling

Maybe somebody out there can tell me how to do this.  I’d love to hear from you, but pleased don’t offer advise unless you have done it yourself.  There’s to much false information on the internet because somebody reads how somebody else did something, assumes that it works, and then passes it on as gospel.  I try to never post anything about a survival skill that I haven’t done or experienced myself and this article is a good example of how that turns out sometimes.  So, until I can make this work myself, I am not recommending that you rely on it as something that you can use in a survival situation.  My recommendation is to carry a pocket knife or a multi-tool with a saw blade, and use your snare wire for setting traps.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Survival Saws

A saw can be a really handy thing to have in the woods.  You can use a hatchet and a knife for a lot of stuff, but there are some things that a saw just does better.  There are many different kinds of survival type saws ranging from the very small to the fairly large.  I always, repeat, always have a saw with me.  In the woods, at work, at the grocery store; I have a saw with me.  Now you may thing that I look like a real wingnut carrying a saw everywhere, but the fact is it's not even noticeable.  You see, I'm talking about the saw blade on my Swiss Army Knife.  It's small, but it is so very, very useful.  I use my saw to cut arrow shafts, I use it to cut bamboo for bundle bows, I use it to cut the nocks in arrow shafts, I use it cut out bone needles and fish hooks, and many other things.  Here are a few of the different kinds of survival saws that are available today:

Pocket Saws

As mentioned above there are several different kinds of small saws that can be carried in you pocket at all times.  Several models of the Swiss Army Knife, and similar type knives, have a saw blade attached that is very useful for small jobs.  Many multi-tools have saw blades.  Be aware that the quality and functionality of these blades vary widely.  The Swiss Army knife, for example, has a good quality blade made of good steel.  The blade also functions smoothly without binding up in the cut.  I have a less expensive copy of a Swiss knife that does not work well at all.  The steel is good enough but the spine of the blade is wider than the cutting edge.  This causes the blade to bind after you have cut a little way through a limb.  I would suggest that you spend the extra money and get the real thing.  Multi-tool saw blades also vary widely in quality.  I have a Leatherman that works quite well, but I have seen others that are not so good.  Pictured below:  Swiss Army Knife and Leatherman Multi-Tool
 Wire Saws

I keep a little wire saw in my survival kit.  A wire saw is basically a piece of flexible, heavy gauge wire that has serrations in it.  The wire has a metal ring attached to each end where you can grip the ends and saw back and forth with the wire.  I have cut down some fairly good sized trees with a wire saw, maybe eight inches in diameter.  I have also had wire saws break while in use, so I wouldn't say they are intended for any kind of regular or long-term use.  One thing I can tell you from experience is to not try and use a wire saw by sticking you fingers through the rings.  This is very tough on the fingers.  the best way to use a wire saw is to get a couple of sticks that will fit through the rings and then grip the sticks.  Much easier on the fingers.  Pictured below: wire saw
 Folding Saws

Folding saws work very well but they are not convenient to carry.  They generally need to be carried in a belt holster or inside of a pack.  They are also relatively heavy compared to the saws mentioned above.  The only time I carry a folding saw is when I know I will need it for a specific task.  For example, if I am going out into the woods to cut some saplings or to work on one of my trails, I'll carry my folding saw.  Otherwise it stays in my truck.  Pictured below: folding saw
Belt Saws

There are several different types of non-folding saws that can be carried in a sheath on your belt.  I don't personally own one of these because it's not something that I would carry.  It might work for you if you use a saw a lot.  

Survival Saws as a Component of Another Tool

Some sheath knives and machetes have saw teeth cut into their spines.  If a sheath knife or a machete is something that you carry anyway, why not make it multi-purpose by having a saw blade on it.  The Southern Forest that I live in becomes very dense in the summer; almost like a tropical jungle.  In the summer I always carry a machete when I'm in the woods.  I used a file to cut saw teeth into the spine of my machete so that it can double as a saw.  Pictured below: Two views of my machete with homemade saw blade

I have a couple of little folding shovels that have saw teeth on one side of the blade.  I never carry a shovel unless I know specifically that I will need it, so the saws rarely get used.  Neither of the ones I have are very good as saws, but then again they are not the highest quality shovels that you can buy.  Pictured below:  Folding shovel with saw-tooth edge

In summary, I think that the most practical survival saws are the saw blade on a folding knife or multi-tool, the wire saw, or the saw-tooth back of a sheath knife.  Other types of survival saws are functional but not particularly convenient to carry.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Survival Trapping and Fishing - A Numbers Game

As I have stated in a previous post, it is difficult to survive in the wild by only gathering wild plants.  Unless you can gather nuts or mature seeds it is hard to come up with enough protein to survive.  You will almost certainly have to turn to animal protein to meet your body's needs. 

Hunting, in most instances, is one of the least efficient ways to gather animal protein.  If you are hunting, that's all you can do; and you will probably have only one chance to either succeed or fail.  Fishing with a pole in your hand presents the same problem.  You must remain totally occupied with this one task, and you will either catch fish or you won't.

Traps and trotlines offer multiple chances for success at the same time, and they will work for you while you take care of other tasks or even while you sleep.  The thing about trapping and trotlining is that they are both a numbers game.  If you just set out one trap you might as well go hunting.  If you just set out one hook you might as well stand on the bank and fish.  The idea is to set out as many hooks and traps as possible so that you can maximize your chances of securing food.

Let's talk about fishing first.  It takes considerable cordage to set out a trotline.  If you have fifty feet of para-cord you could cut off ten feet, remove the outer sheath, and have seven, ten foot long pieces of 50lb. test nylon to cut up into drop lines.  If you don't have any fish hooks, you can make fifteen or twenty gorge hooks in a fairly short time.  If you don't have any cordage, then I would abandon the idea of a traditional trotline.  It would take hours and hours to twist up enough cordage to make such a line.  If you have to make your own cordage, then I would recommend that you go with drop lines.  A drop line is just a short piece of cordage with a baited hook and weight.  Locate an area where low trees and /or bushes hang out over the water, and tie a drop lines to various branches.  This won't get you out into deep water like a trot line stretched across the river, but it will get hooks into the water.  You will have to turn up grubs, earthworms, and other insects or larvae to bait your hooks the first time, but if you make a catch you can use fish entrails for subsequent baiting.

Traps can be time consuming to make, but just one trap does not have much chance of securing food.  I think that I would set out fishing lines first, then gather materials to make traps around the fire at night.  The figure 4 deadfall and the rolling snare are both pretty easy to make.  The real time consumption comes when you are selecting locations for your traps and preparing the sets.  I would try and set at least ten good traps, and twenty would be better.  The more you set, the better your chance of making a catch.  If you set baited traps you will have to forage for the initial bait, but once you catch the first animal you can use entrails for subsequent traps.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Make a Bamboo Canteen

It only takes a little bit of work to turn a bamboo cane into a very practical canteen.  To make a bamboo canteen you need to locate the largest bamboo you can find.  Make sure that it is not split or damaged.  Cut a piece of bamboo down.  Cut or saw a section of the bamboo leaving a solid joint on each end.  Pictured below:  top, large piece of bamboo; bottom, one section cut out with end joints

Now take your knife point and begin drilling a hole in the side of the bamboo toward one end or the other.  Pictured below: hole in bamboo

Bamboo has a membrane that grows inside of each section.  If the bamboo is dry this membrane will flake of and mix in with any water that you store inside the bamboo.  You can remove some of the membrane by dropping a handful of small stones into the bamboo, adding a little water, and shaking vigorously.  Pour the water and stones out and rinse.  Personally, I don't bother with this.  You will never get all of the membrane out, and you will probably get some of the stones that won't come out. 

Next step is to carve a plug to fit into the hole.  Any wood will do.  Carve a tapered plug that will make a good friction fit into the hole.  Pictured below: plug carved out and ready to insert

You can call the job done at this point, or you can do as I have done and make a carrying strap.  I twisted this one up out of split yucca leaves. Pictured below: canteen with yucca belt strap

Monday, March 4, 2013

Track Identification Flow Chart

The following flow chart is my attempt to illustrate the thinking process that I go through when I am trying to identify a track.  I don't know if anyone else has come up with anything like this.  I haven't seen it if they have.  I am including this file as a jpeg so you can copy it, paste it into a word document, and print it if you would like to have one for your own use.  I try to freely share knowledge that I have gained over the years, but please do not start printing these off and selling them at the next gun show or what have you.  You do not have my permission to do this.  If you would like to post a link to this article or include the flow chart on your own web-site, you may do so, but please credit my site.  Thanks, Hank.