FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Make an Improvised Bow Saw

In the first episode of Fat Guys in the Woods, we made an improvised Bow Saw using a bent sapling.  We then used this saw to help build shelters and process wood throughout the week.  This post provides a little more detail about this project.

First, about Bow Saws…

I love a good Bow Saw.  I actually prefer a Bow Saw over an ax.  A good Bow Saw can process an insane amount of wood in a short amount of time.  It’s safer to use than an ax, require less practice and takes far less energy.  It’s also much lighter.  My Bow Saw of choice is the Bahco 36″ model.  Here’s a photo below:

bahco-bow-saw

I’ll be the first to admit that they are bulky, especially the larger ones.  Luckily, the ‘BOW’ part of the Bow Saw can be improvised in the field using a flexible sapling if you just want to carry in the blade portion.  Below is how to do it.

Choosing the BOW.

I typically use either small saplings or branches that are about 3/4″ – 1″ in diameter.  I cut them about 6″ longer than my Bow Saw blade.  That’s typically pinky tip to thumb tip of my open hand with fingers spread.  They must be flexible.  They must also be GREEN wood.  No dead stuff.  I’ll often flex them around a large tree to break them in.  This really helps.

Next, split the end of each sapling in half about 3″ down.  The splits on each end must be aligned with each other.  They can’t be going in opposite directions.  This is necessary in order for the saw blade to be straight.

Key Rings/Wooden Peg Blade Attachment Options

Threading key rings onto each end of the Bow Saw blade in advance of your trip makes attaching an improvised sapling handle pretty easy.  All bow saw blades that I know of have holes in each end.  These holes are perfect attachment points for key rings.  Key rings can be purchased in the key making dept. of virtually any hardware store.

Start by inserting the end of the bow saw blade into one of the splits on the end of your sapling.  Fold the key ring over and around the sapling like shown below.  If your sapling is larger in diameter than the key ring then simple taper down the end with your knife so that it will fit.

key-ring-up-close

If you don’t have key rings, an appropriately sized wooden peg will also work.

peg-in-saw

Next, carefully bend the sapling and attach the blade in the same way to the other end.  Flexing the sapling around a tree really helps to ready the sapling for this step in the build.

bow-saw-profile

I’ll often tie some paracord around the blade and key ring for peace of mind but it isn’t necessary.  The entire build typically only takes 5-10 minutes and is a really fun bushcraft project.

bow-saw-in-log

CONCLUSION

Although not as robust as the metal store-bought versions, these improvised bow saws may surprise you.  I’ve been using one around Willow Haven for a couple years and it still works like a charm.  Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of improvising and making tools in the field.

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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Hello from Creek

Hello all.  As you read this post, I’m deep in the North Woods filming the first Episodes of Fat Guys in the Woods for Season 2, coming this Spring.  I scheduled this post to publish before I left.  I’ll be unplugged where I’m going.

For those of you who know very much about me and Willow Haven Outdoor, you also know that I try to keep my parents involved (and busy) with my many survival activities and pursuits.  This includes when I’m gone filming ;)  Just so they don’t get too bored with me out of town, I thought I’d encourage you to visit our on-line store (http://www.notifbutwhensurvivalstore.com) with a timely CHRISTMAS DISCOUNT CODE (found at the end of this email).  My Mom and Dad run this business from my childhood home and I don’t want them getting lazy on me while I’m incommunicado leading guys through a survival adventure for weeks  on end.

In our on-line store we carry a huge variety of survival tools and resources at all different price points.  There are tons of great stocking stuffers in our UNDER $10 SECTION here: http://www.notifbutwhensurvivalstore.com/category-s/1881.htm

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Here is a link to many of the items we used on Season 1 of Fat Guys in the Woodshttp://www.notifbutwhensurvivalstore.com/category-s/1887.htm

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We also carry tons of Books and Information Resources here:  http://www.notifbutwhensurvivalstore.com/category-s/1833.htm

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One of my favorite sections is our selection of survival gloves and clothing accessories here: http://www.notifbutwhensurvivalstore.com/category-s/1848.htm

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Before you go, be sure to write down the COUPON CODE below.  This will save you 7% during check-out!  And, there is FREE SHIPPING for orders over $100.  Be sure to tell Mom and Dad I said HELLO from the field.

NOT IF BUT WHEN COUPON CODE:  CREEK7

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Jam Knot

Remember these cool shelters that Joe, Opie, Zach and I built in the river valley?

shelter-circle

One very important part of building this shelter is the bed frame similar to what I’ve shown below. 3-4″ diameter logs are stacked log cabin style to build a frame that can contain bedding materials (leaves/boughs/branches/grass,etc) and help brace the arch-style roof.  The logs are lashed together using the JAM KNOT.  I love this knot and it’s one of the most useful outdoor knots I know and I’d like to use this opportunity to teach it to you.

bed-frame

I’ve never been a big fan of teaching knots with the written word or photos so I’ve filmed a short video where I describe how to tie it step-by-step.  Below is the embedded video and here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQxPvWTT3PM

It’s such a simple knot to use and works perfect for bed frames to contain loose natural insulation.

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Lever Rabbit Snare

It may have been a little tricky to follow the exact details of how to make the Lever Rabbit Snare in the very first episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS with Matt, Ben and Jesse.  I thought a clean instructional diagram might make it easier to understand.  I don’t think the diagram requires explanation but if you have any questions at all, feel free to post in comments.

The snare is engaged by a large weighted lever stick which is tied to a trigger stick.  The trigger stick is attached to a noose which is placed in line with a game trail or over the entrance to a burrow or nest.  When the noose is pulled, the trigger stick dislodges and the lever is released – thus suspending the animal in the air.

Below is a wide angle diagram of the snare:

lever-snare-wide

Below is an up close diagram so that you can see the trigger system a little better.  It’s important to note that you can increase the sensitivity of the trigger system by tying the leader line closer to the Y-stick along the trigger stick.    The pressure of the trigger stick against the notched stake decreases the closer the leader line it tied to the Y-stick.

lever-snare-close2

And now, an up close photo of one of the actual snares we made on the show.  This one was placed in front of a hole in a tree where we found signs of squirrel activity.

 

 

lever-snare-live

 

When it comes to making snares, you are only limited by your own creativity.  There are only a few trigger systems but they can be used in hundreds of different unique ways.  Remember, INNOVATION is one of your most important survival skills!

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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Book Signing & Survival Presentation: Saturday, November 15th at 2 PM

Come out for a Free Survival Presentation & Book Signing if you’re in the area!

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Live Capture Box trap

Many of you have asked for more details about the Live Capture Box trap that Bill, Dave, Andrew and I used to catch the Quail.  To my knowledge, this is a trap style that originates in Asia but versions of it exist all over the world.  It’s very unique in that it can be constructed from all natural materials.  Below I detail the trap design as well as the trigger I normally pair with it.

texas-trap

It all starts with 2 pieces of cordage and 2 sticks…

A length of cordage is tied between the ends of two sticks.  When tied, the length of rope should be a little longer (6 or so inches) than the sticks.  The shape at this point should be somewhat rectangular because the cordage sides are longer than the stick sides.  The length of your sticks will determine the size of your trap, in this case about 18″ x 18″.

box-trap-pretwist

Now, twist each stick so that cordage forms an X in the middle.  At this point, your trap should look fairly square.

box-trap-x

The coolest thing about this trap is that it’s held together with tension.  You start by sliding sticks one at a time in a log-cabin pattern UNDERNEATH of the string.  The string will be loose in the beginning but will start to tighten as you build up the walls underneath with sticks.  It is this tension that ultimately will hold all of the sticks in place.

box-trap-starting

Below is a trap almost finished using a natural reverse wrapped yucca leaf cordage – just like we did in the episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.

box-trap-almost

Here the trap is finished with the trigger set.  Now, let’s discuss the trigger system that I use with this trap.  It’s awesome AND simple!

box-trap-finished

 

 

THE TRIGGER

illustrating-trigger

This trigger system is very simple and is in essence a double trip line.  There is a pretty cool trick to making the trigger stick.  I use a pencil below to illustrate:

First, cut a slice in the middle of the trigger stick that is about 1/2 of the way through.  The saw from a multitool works perfect for this.

trigger-cut-one-side

Now, turn over the stick, move 1/2 inch down and make another cut 1/2 way through on the opposite side.

trigger-cut-both-sides

Then, with your thumbs at each cut, firmly snap the stick in half.

trigger-snapped

Nine times out of ten the stick will snap as shown above with 2 perfectly mated notches.  This completes your trigger stick.  The only remaining step is to tie two thin trip lines to one half of the trigger stick.  I typically tie them around the top of the bottom half.

trigger-tied

The other ends of the trip lines should be tied to the back 2 corners of the box trap – in this case, an egg crate.

trap-egg-crate

Now, assemble the trigger stick and prop up the front of the box.  You can see that the two trip lines are impossible for a small game animal to avoid when trying to get the bait that is located toward the back of the trap between the trip lines.

egg-crate-set

In the episode when we caught the quail, we used rose hips as bait and thin yucca fibers as trip lines.  The trip lines don’t have to be very strong because the trigger stick is very sensitive.

box-setting

 

CONCLUSION

The basic principle of this trap design can be applied in all types of environments, both urban and wilderness.  Use your creativity when it comes to cages – even a cardboard box will work!  Innovation is one of your most important survival skills!

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Fatwood Pine Torch

In many of the episodes of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS, I instructed the guys how to ‘carry fire’ from base camp to their individual solo base camps.  Oftentimes, this was quite a trek through the woods and the fire carry needed to last up to a couple hours.  In the pioneer settlement themed episode with Dave, Andrew and Bill, we made fire on Day 1 using a YUCCA HAND DRILL.  When it came time to send them each out on their own, it was raining.  Making fire with a HAND DRILL would have been impossible under those conditions.  So, I decided to send them each with a couple of PINE FATWOOD TORCHES.  I didn’t get a chance on the show to really explain where I got these and how to find them so I thought I highlight that skill in this blog series.

FGITW107_77

THE TORCH

The ability to source a torch that will burn upwards of an hour is a very important survival skill.  Not only can you use a torch to carry fire from one location to another but it has all kinds of survival uses.  It can allow you explore dark caves, hunt at night (frog gigging especially), travel at night, signal for rescue, and keep predators at bay.  It is an incredibly useful survival tool.

FATWOOD

‘Fatwood’ is a term for wood (typically in the pine family) that has become saturated with sap, also called resin.  Fatwood is sold in stores and online as fire tinder and is an amazing fire starting material.  Pine sap is extremely flammable and wood that becomes saturated with it will burn for a very long time.  Fatwood makes an excellent torch!  Fatwood can be shaved into thin shavings and ignited with just the spark from a ferro rod.  Pine sap (dry or oozy) can be added to fire starting tinder as a flame extender and is a great substitute for PETROLEUM jelly when making PET balls (cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly).  Below is a photo of pine resin oozing from insect drill holes in the side of this pine tree.

pine-sap

FINDING FATWOOD

If you can find pine trees then you can find FATWOOD.  I find that many people are confused about how to actually find fatwood.  If you are, I hope to clear that up.  The easiest way to find FATWOOD is at the base of dead, low hanging branches on pine trees.

lower-branches

Pine resin (sap)  tends to collect at these joints and will saturate the bottom few inches of the branch where it connects to the tree.  It will remain there long after the tree has died.  In fact, for this post, I am using the dead pine tree shown below which has been dead for over 10 years.  Notice the dead branches along the trunk.  This is where I will be looking for FATWOOD.  Even though much of the tree and the branches are dead and rotting, there is still fatwood at the base of many of these branches.

 

old-pine

Here’s a closer look at a couple of the branches.

old-pine-branches

As I begin to hack into the base of one of the branches with my ax, you’ll notice that the wood inside has a rich amber color.  It’s also very dense.  This is fatwood and it is completely saturated with 10+ year old pine resin.

shaved-branch

In the photo below you can clearly see the difference between the resin rich fatwood in the branch (left) as compared to wood that came from the trunk.

fatwoodvsrotwood

As soon as you cut into fatwood you can SMELL the rich pine scent and it is sticky to the touch almost immediately.

fatwood-close

 

MAKING THE TORCH

You can even see the pine resin glistening in the sun on the branch I collected below.  Once you’ve chopped a resin rich lower hanging branch from a pine tree, you have to prepare it for lighting.

oozing-sap

It’s important to split the resin rich end to expose more fatwood surface area and allow oxygen to freely flow between the split.  This helps the torch to light and burn longer and more efficiently.

splitting-end

Once you split the end a few ways, press in some green spreader sticks to keep the splits forced open.

spreddersticks

spreaddersticks-close

CONCLUSION

Depending on the size, a fatwood torch will burn for quite some time.  I’ve found there is a ratio to estimate how long one burns.  If the stick is 2″ in diameter, it will burn about  1 hour.  If it’s 1″ in diameter it will burn about 30 mins.  3″ = 1.5 hours.  Basically, divide the diameter in half and that’s how many HOURS it will burn.

FATWOOD is an amazing survival resource and is an unrivaled material in the natural world.  I hope this tutorial helps you be able to identify, harvest and use a fatwood torch!

Have you ever used FATWOOD to start a fire?  If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Paracord Survival Net

survival-fish-net-close

One of my favorite skills of the entire 1st Season of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS was when Zach, Opie, Joe and I made a paracord survival net and used it in conjunction with a hand built rock weir to catch fish in a Tennessee river valley.

Methods of catching fish similar to this have been around for centuries so I take no credit for the concept.  In fact, remnants of stone fishing weirs still exist all over the world today.  A “WEIR” is simply a word that mean an obstruction in the water to help guide the fish where you want them.

Below is a well preserved ancient stone weir in China (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-Heart_of_Stacked_Stones)  Pretty awesome, right?

ancient-w

photo credit: http://thescuttlefish.com/category/art/page/6/

Below is a less extravagant Native American stone weir in Wabash County, IN.  Stone weirs were literally used across the globe to funnel fish moving down stream into basket or nets, much like we did in the episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.

s-w-i

photo credit: http://americanindianshistory.blogspot.com/2013/05/native-american-fish-weirs.html

The Choke Point

Opie, Zach, Joe and I were able to find a perfect choke point in the river upstream from where we were camped to give this ancient time-tested method of catching fish an honest shot.  The river formed a natural choke point that allowed us to build a double layer stone weir with only a few hours of hard labor.  Stones were plentiful and readily available so it seemed like the perfect plan.

The Net

The plan was to funnel fish through the weir into a net – EXCEPT WE DIDN’T HAVE A NET.  The most time consuming part of this process was hand weaving our own net from scratch.  We did this using paracord.  Paracord is awesome stuff.  It has 7 inner stands that are perfect for net weaving.  These inner strands can be effortlessly pulled from the outer sheath – called GUTTING paracord.

paracord-7-strand

gutted-paracord

Once we ‘gutted’ some paracord, it was now time to start weaving the net.  It’s not difficult, but it is time-consuming!  We decided to make a circular shaped net that we could fit into the funnel portion of our weir.  I made the frame by wrapping a stout and flexible vine around itself in a circular shape.  I’ve made nets that are circular in shape and also ones that are long and flat.  The long and flat ones are gill-net style nets that are meant to be stretched across a stream or river.  These are much larger and more time consuming.

The knots I use are very simple.  The first knot, called a Lark’s Head, fastens the paracord strands to the frame.  You can see this knot in the photo below.

survival-dip-net-0

In the case of a circular dip net, these paracord strands are tied all the way around the frame about 1″ apart.  Below is a photo showing 3 strands fastened using a Lark’s Head knot.

survival-net-step-1

The next step is to tie (using a simple granny overhand knot) the inner strand of one hanging pair to the inner strand of the neighboring hanging pair and do this all the way around the frame.

survival-net-step-2

Once an entire circle has been made all the way around the frame you can move to the next row of knots, then the 3rd, etc…

survival-net-step-3

Below are some photos from one of my courses at Willow Haven Outdoor of students making both circular dip nets and flat gill nets.  These photos really help to illustrate the stages of net making.

Below, Lisa is working on her second row of overhand knots.

dip-net-survival-2

Below, Justin starts the 3rd row of a very ambitious gill net project!

flat-1

Kevin just finished his first row on his gill net.

IMG_2196 paracord-survival-fish-net

Lisa, just finishing the 1st step of tying all the strands on with Lark’s Head knots.

paracord-survival-net

Lisa, working her way around with overhand knots.

survival-dip-net-1

Lisa in the photos above made an awesome handled dip net that she left behind at Willow Haven.  (Lisa – I’m still hanging onto it your you !!!!)  Below are a couple photos of her finished dip net.

dip-net-survival-paracord

creek-edge-net

Here’s a shot of me working on our net during FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.  Patience is NOT my best virtue and this skill is certainly an exercise in PATIENCE and DETAIL work.  Notice how we have suspended the net frame with paracord so that we can work all the way around while it is hanging.

creek-net

Below is a photo of Zach, Opie, Joe and I stacking our double layer stone weir.  Notice how each weir funnels the fish exactly where we want them to go in a DOWNSTREAM direction.

making-survival-weir

Below is a photo of the finished system for you to study.  The first weir is basically an insurance policy.  Only the 2nd weir has a net at the choke point.

double-weir

CONCLUSION

Hopefully these extra detailed photos and descriptions make this skill easier to understand and practice at home.  Like I said earlier, it’s not difficult but it is time consuming.  Expect to spend several hours weaving a dip net like we did on the show.  If you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to rush.  Resist the urge, as the quality of the net will suffer if you do.

 

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Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: Blog Skill Series – COMING SOON.

blog-series-main-header

Well, Season 1 of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS has officially ended.  The last episode aired last night.  However, the survival instruction from these episodes is just beginning.  When 6 days of filming gets edited down to 42 minutes, some of the details are bound to get lost.  Oftentimes, these details involve specific survival skills.

Consequently, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts over the coming months called FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES where I describe in great detail many of the survival skills I taught these guys over the course of the 8 episodes.  From creative fire starts and tinder selection to traps, snares and shelter materials, there are so many skills from Season 1 that I can’t wait to teach you.

IT ALL STARTS NEXT WEEK!

Subscribe to the blog to be alerted of all new tutorials and news!

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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APOCABOX: Spend less time finding your gear and more time using it.

I’m excited to OFFICIALLY launch the APOCABOX!  Even though I haven’t publicly announced it yet, the response has already been a bit overwhelming so a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who is already on the list for the August 15th Inaugural Shipment!  I can’t wait to see what you think!

apocabox-left-sub1

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself…

For those of you who haven’t heard of the APOCABOX, you should definitely watch my launch video linked below.  (Yes, that’s me in the screen capture!  Even more of a reason to watch this video!)

Video URL:  http://youtu.be/9eTRAd5qgmE

The DEADLINE for the next APOCABOX drop is August 1st.

Find out more at http://www.myapocabox.com.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

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