Okay, as you can see I'm changing the format around again. Not because I want to but because the past two times I've sent out this newsletter I've had to re-create the template from scratch. My mailchimp account that used to be so error free and easy to use has suddenly become a hydra that strikes and bites when I'm least expecting it.
And now for more Prepper content from my upcoming book:
BUGGING IN: WHAT TO DO WHEN TSHTF and YOU LIVE IN SUBURBIA by Raymond Dean White
By and large most of your other needs can be summed up in one word: Tools. Now when I say tools most people automatically think about hammers, shovels, power saws and the like. But a book can be a tool. The information contained within can help you accomplish a goal or the book itself can simply be used to prop something else up. A simple stick can become a club. A rock can be a deadly weapon.
Matches are tools. You can use them to start a cook fire or as the trigger for an incendiary booby trap. Bleach is a tool than not only sanitizes rags—especially those used for TP after the TP runs out—but can also disinfect bad water to make it potable or even be used (with exceeding caution) to create toxic chlorine gas for defense.
A gun is a tool that can defend your home and loved ones, provide food for them or simply for fun. Yeah, yeah, I know guns aren’t toys but target shooting and skeet shooting are fun.
The point is that everything you use to perform a task, from a frying pan to an ink pen, from a bulldozer to a tire iron, is a tool—and you need more of them than you have.
For one thing you need more than one of each kind of tool. What happens if you break a shovel handle? Now you’d just go to the store and buy a new handle or a new shovel, but after TSHTF that isn’t an option. If you had to manufacture a new handle you’d need tools like drawknives and spoke shaves along with rasps, saws and sandpaper. Then, of course, your new handle should be finished with some sort of preservative—linseed oil, stain, varnish, anything that will keep bugs and weather out.
You will also need neatsfoot oil to keep your leather gloves, saddles, tack or even your leather upholstery supple and clean.
Now I’ve already spent considerable time on tools in prior chapters but there are a few I’ve given short shift too and others I may not have mentioned at all. So let’s get started.
Every type of cutting, digging, drilling or slicing tool you have will need to be sharpened and without electrical power, files and whetstones are simply the best way to do so. You’ll want files in different sizes and shapes. You’ll want rattail and/or half-round files for curved surfaces and flat or triangular files for straight or vee cut surfaces.
A good quality file, which is the only kind to have, will be made of hardened steel. Such files will hold an edge and be harder to break than files made from softer steel.
Flat files can be single cut, double cut, rasp cut or curved tooth. For metal, a double cut file is best for removing larger amounts of material while single cut files leave a smoother finish. For sharpening axes, hatchets and shovels I’ve mostly used the single cut type. Rasp cut files are better for removing lots of wood quickly—yes, files are used to shape wood or plastic as well. I’ve never used a rasp on metal but I suppose you could.
Files are graded in teeth per inch. A “rough” file is 20 tpi. A “course” file is 25 tpi. A bastard file is 30 tpi. A “second” file is 40 tpi. A “smooth” file is 60 tpi. A “dead smooth” file is 100 tpi and a “super smooth” file is 180 tpi. It is best to have a large selection of files. Many artisans make beautiful knives using only files to shape the blades.
If possible you should always use a bench vise to secure your work before you begin filing. Doing so can save you cuts and barked knuckles. The most important accessory to have when using a file is a handle that fits over the tang. Otherwise the tang can savage your hand. A piece of chalk is good to have around to prevent “pinning.” Pinning is what happens when a tiny piece of metal gets “pinned” between the teeth of the file. Some folks call this “loading.” Rubbing chalk on a file before using it will prevent most “pinning” which in turn will prevent most uneven filing. While some people use oil I’ve always found it to cause MORE metal “pins” to stick. Whatever you use to prevent “pins” some will happen and that’s what the file card (a very short bristled wire brush for cleaning) is for.
Oil and a wire brush or wire wheel are useful if you are ever careless enough to let a file get rusty. But you would never do that, would you?
Note: for smooth files and super smooth files the metal wires on a file card may be too coarse to get the pins out so use a stiff bristled paint brush to do the job.
When purchasing files take a good close look at the teeth to see if they are cleanly cut. If they are there’s a good chance the file is decent quality. If they aren’t, steer clear.
Finally, when using a file only apply pressure on the “push” stroke. Do not saw back and forth with a file. It won’t make your work go faster and doing so repeatedly can dull the file and load it up with “pins” faster.
While I have known people, some of them my own relatives, who use a whetstone on axes and hatchets I don’t. For me a file works fine on such tools. When I was a kid we had a large, round whetstone wheel. You sat on it like a bicycle and “pedaled.” It was a coarse wheel and as such was fine for axes, hatchets, shovels and hoes. It could put a new edge on an axe in almost no time and was kind of fun.
But a knife, other than one with a serrated edge must be honed to maintain a proper edge and that means at the minimum a coarse and a fine grained whetstone and 3-in-1oil. The stones I use are called Arkansas Stones and I’ve had them since I was a teenager. One is 400 grit and the other 1000 grit. Used with a drop or two of oil they’ve kept every knife blade I’ve ever used razor sharp. After fifty years the softer 400 grit stone is beginning to wear thin and I’ll probably have to replace it before I kick the bucket.
I know there are better quality sharpening stones out there (Ohira to name but one) but these inexpensive Arkansas stones have proven good enough for me.
I now also have a pair of carborundum stones I use for quick touch ups.
A bench mounted Vise is one of the most useful tools you can have. It’s like having a third and hand when you’re working alone. In addition to a regular vise I also have a couple of woodworking vises. These are metal vises with wood inserts on the jaws to prevent damage to wood surfaces when they are clamped in the vise.
If you do much work with wood a Rockwell Jawhorse or even a Black & Decker Workmate will come in very handy to secure your work, as would a variety of woodworking clamps.
If you ever have to glue anything together, you’ll find clamps a necessity. Most of mine are small, hand-held devices somewhat similar to Visegrips (which you should also have) or “C” clamps. Others are larger and longer and most resemble bar clamps. No matter the size the thing I use them for most often is holding two pieces of wood together until the glue dries. That means I tend to favor soft-face clamps so as not to mar the wood. Having an assortment is best. Tell mama, Ray the writer said so.
It was only a bit more than one hundred years ago that a man could head off into the wilderness with an axe, a drawknife, an auger and a mallet and build a cabin. Shovels and other such gardening or farming implements were often hand crafted from hard woods. Nowadays people most often use an axe for trimming limbs or cutting firewood—though most of us use a chainsaw. The thing is, if TSHTF fuel for chainsaws will disappear and then what do you do? You go back to using saws and axes.
A battle axe was once a formidable weapon of war but I’m not going to get into either those or tactical hatchets.
I’ve chopped several cords of wood in my day so I have personal prejudices about proper wood-cutting axes. First, I recommend a double-bitted axe for chopping down trees. They typically weigh more than a single bit axe and as such have more heft and cleave deeper. Also, as hard wood can dull an edge having two edges means you only have to stop and sharpen your axe with some oil and a file you brought along for that purpose half as often. Moreover, a dull axe is dangerous as the blade can deflect off your target and into your leg or foot. So unless you have bleeding profusely on your bucket list, keep your axe sharp.
The handle of an axe is just as important as the blade. When looking to buy one select good, close-grained, hardwood handle with the grain running parallel to the blade. If you can find such a handle in hickory, consider yourself blessed.
BTW, if your axe handle cracks without actually breaking reinforcing it with several wraps of duct tape (or better yet, Gorilla Tape) will add years to its useful life.
Eventually your axe head gets loose. Hi-ho danger! A loose head can not only fly off it is much more likely to deflect (with all the blood and drama previously mentioned). This is why an axeman will carry a small wedge or two. I prefer hardwood wedges to metal because over the years I’ve noticed wood wedges swell and shrink at basically the same rate as your wood axe handle so they stay firmly wedged in place longer than the metal variety.
I try very hard not to split firewood with an axe. Not only does this dull your axe very quickly but axes are lighter than mauls and thus can be more easily deflected by a knot into a leg or foot. Since I like my legs and feet I use a maul and large metal wedges, both of which should be kept reasonably sharp. If you don’t have a maul and at least two wedges get them now.
Did you carry a Swiss Army Knife when you were younger? I did and I found it useful for everything from cutting fishing line to removing splinters. It was my go to can opener when I was camping out. I even used the tiny scissors to snip loose threads. I think the only part I never used was the “wire stripper.” To this day I carry one in the center console of my car.
Now mine wasn’t the two-inch wide model that has everything you need to rebuild civilization on it. Mine was the Tinker model. It’s lightweight and makes a decent all around pocket knife as well as being a good multi-tool.
When The Leatherman Tool first came out I was quick to grab one and I’ve never been sorry. It’s a Swiss Army Knife on steroids—much more robust—and extremely useful. I now keep a Leatherman in each vehicle and in my Get Home Bag. My first Leatherman was the old PST model though I’ve since lost it out and replaced it with the Leatherman Wave. I really like the 40-piece driver bit kit that comes with it, but found it more useful with the optional bit driver. The Wave is expensive but I’ll probably be able to hand it down to my son.
I have heard many good things about SOG brand multi-tools but have never used one.
My first pocket knife was a Case my grandfather gave me when I was six years old. I was the first kid in school to have a pocket knife and it was my first “show and tell.” I was the envy of every boy in my class. Today, of course, bringing a “weapon” like that to school would get me expelled or brought up on criminal charges. A pocket knife is not a “weapon” though it could be used (as a last resort). It’s a tool, often the first tool a child receives to learn responsibility. I heave a heavy sigh for the decline of civilization.
Two years after I got my Case knife, having demonstrated I would use it responsibly and having NOT lost it, my grandfather gave me a bolt action Springfield .22 caliber rifle (by then I was hunting with him regularly). And even then, back in the “good old days” I was NOT allowed to take that to school.
Okay, enough of this maudlin dithering.
A Prepper (and please note I did not say a man) needs a good pocket/purse knife. Once you start carrying one you won’t believe how often you use them. No more scurrying to the knife drawer, just pull out your knife, do whatever needs doing and amaze your non-carrying friends. I use mine for everything from digging dirt from under my fingernails to opening packages or mail.
I find a blade length of about two and one half inches to be most useful in a pocket knife. High carbon steel is pretty easy to sharpen and holds an edge well but so does 1660 Stainless Steel. The blade should lock open so you can’t accidentally fold it and cut yourself while you’re using it. I don’t like smooth, shiny handles and prefer a non-slip grip. I also prefer to be able to open it with one hand.
For all of these reasons my current pocket knife is a Kershaw Leek Serrated model. It's a Ken Onion design, spring-assisted, modified drop blade folding knife that I can flick open with one finger. It does have a small serrated area on the blade near the hilt. And just to show how inconsistent I am the whole knife is made of 1660 stainless steel so the handle is smooth and a bit shiny. I looks like it will be great for skinning small game. It IS one of the models that is Made in America. And that, aside from the knife feeling really good in my hand, is why I accepted the smooth handle.
Here's a link to the Kershaw Leek Serrated Model
Pocket-sized Knife Sharpener
I’ve had a Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multi-Function Sharpener that I think cost me around six bucks for years. If you are in the woods it will keep your knives sharp until you can get home and hone them. What can I say? It works and it slips in your pocket.
I carry a belt knife (a folding knife with a belt clip) almost everywhere I go. Mine has a three-inch blade and features a single finger flip open design that I really like. It’s a Hoffman Richter Tactical Folder HR-15 model that also features a partially serrated edge made of 440 stainless steel and a quote “skull crusher/glass breaker” lanyard loop instead of a butt plate. I got mine for $9.95 and though it’s really heavy and seems solid the reviews on Amazon make me think I got what I paid for. There are far superior folding belt knives out there and I’ll be buying one soon—probably one that is, say it with me, Made in America.
Note: There are around 330 million people in the U.S. and that means there are at least 900 million opinions on what constitutes the best sheathe knife. J There is no single knife that is best for all situations. Combat knives are designed and balanced differently than Utility or Survival knives. Filet or skinning knives are great for their purpose but I wouldn’t want to chop firewood with one. You get the picture. A Prepper should have several different knives and know how to use them.
In my opinion a sheathe knife should have a blade made of high carbon steel for ease of sharpening and for holding an edge. The knife and tang should be one piece. The handle should be of a slip resistant material like leather, wood or rubber, though a textured synthetic will work. It should have a full guard to prevent your hand from slipping into the blade. I like non-serrated, drop tip designs (where the back of the tip is sharpened for a couple of inches) that are hollow ground, though a few serrations can be useful if you’re sawing through webbing or thick sinew.
Something like a Ka-Bar is what I’m talking about, though I’d only buy one that was Made in America since too many knives come from China these days and are of inferior quality. Mora knives (made in Sweden) are also of top quality and get a lot of favorable reviews by people who know knives. Of course if you can afford a custom made knife by Randall or Dozier by all means go for it.
One of my favorite sheathe knives is a Buck Pathfinder I’ve had for at least thirty years. And just to show how inconsistent I am it has a “clip” style point and the blade is made of 420HC Stainless Steel. Buck knives says this provides the best compromise between corrosion resistance, ease of sharpening and edge durability. Who am I to argue? I mean, thirty years and it’s still going strong. It is not my Every Day Carry knife because the blade is five-inches long and in some states that would get me in trouble.
Above all the best knife for you is one that fits your hand, is “balanced” right for you and that you have a lot of experience using.
Now, a final word of caution about blade length and concealed carry, less than four inches is legal to carry in most States, though even in Arizona (perhaps THE most knife and gun friendly State) it is illegal NOT to inform a policeman you are carrying a knife if you are (for example) pulled over for a traffic offense.
Since I covered using flashlights as emergency lighting in a previous article I’ll skip repeating my preference for headlamps and focus on flashlights that can be used as weapons.
Maglite flashlights have, in my opinion, always been the crème de la crème of flashlights. The all aluminum, two or three D cell models can be used as clubs—usually without damaging them. The model I’m posting a link to can blind an opponent with 625 lumens or disorient/confuse them with a strobe.
They even have rechargeable models now. http://maglite.com/shop/flashlights/full-size-flashlights/mag-charger-led-rechargeable-system.html#.Vk8pS4R2zhM
Surefire flashlights are considered by many experts to be the best Tactical flashlights around. In particular, SureFire’s HellFighter® WeaponLights that can be mounted on your pistol or rifle are well known for their ability to blind foes. They are extremely shock resistant (a good thing when mounted to a gun). Their one drawback is that they are not adjustable. They project an intensely bright beam that does its job but isn’t of much use as an ordinary flashlight. Also, they are a bit pricey.
Duct Tape/Gorilla Tape
Duct Tape is so useful, so indispensable, it’s, well…indispensable pretty much says it all. Whole books have been written about this magical stuff. What other tape can save people’s lives by binding their wounds, hold a broken gunstock together, patch bullet holes in airplanes, seal leaks in your A/C or heating ductwork (using metallic duct tape only) and stick race cars back together during pit stops?
So get lots of it but make sure it’s the good quality stuff. There are many cheap knock offs out there that won’t do the job right. So many, in fact that I no longer buy Duct Tape.
Hold on, calm down. I now buy Gorilla Tape. I could bore you to tears singing the praises of Gorilla Tape but suffice it to say it’s Duct Tape on steroids—stronger, stickier, in that it even sticks to rough, uneven surfaces other tapes won’t, tougher and more durable. In short, it’s better in every way. Here’s just one example.
Four years ago I broke an axe handle while splitting some abominably hard and knotty wood. I know. I should have been using a maul but I’d misplaced it so used my axe. When I went looking for a replacement handle I couldn’t find a good close-grained handle with the grain running parallel with the axe head anywhere.
I bound that broken handle back together by wrapping Gorilla Tape around it for the entire length of the break (and then some). As far as I can tell it’s good as new. No weird vibrations when I use it. It’s solid as a rock. As a guy I am required by genetics to love a product like that.
Before God created Duct Tape there was baling wire. Every farm or ranch I ever worked on had machinery held together by this stuff. I still keep a couple of rolls of it around and I still find it useful. Especially if the repair is going to “live” outside where the sun would eventually disintegrate Duct Tape.
Safe (1hr fire-rated min)
I never thought I’d need a safe but then I realized one of the most common disasters to befall us as individuals is a house fire. Now, you may not have a lot of stock certificates laying around. I sure don’t. And I don’t have a ton of cash I need to protect either.
But what will happen to your guns and ammo if you have a fire? Your jewelry?
Are your real estate deeds, automobile titles, insurance documents, your most precious family photos, going to survive a fire?
What about your last will and testament?
The point here, of course, is that we all have paper documents we can’t afford to lose. Paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. (Remember Ray Bradbury’s book “Fahrenheit 451” where the “firemen” were burning books?) So anything you put your valuables in must keep the interior temperature below that point and the best thing to do that is a safe with an absolute minimum one-hour fire rating at 1700 degrees. House fires can burn at any temperatures between 1200 and 1800 degrees and they’ll likely burn for more than an hour—unless your fire department is a quick responder. A good safe will keep your documents and cash and other combustibles from incinerating during the worst of the fire’s heat and will also protect them from all the water used to extinguish the fire.
Now some folks will bury cash and guns and other valuables in the “back forty.” After all, deep holes were invented before safes. And that’s fine so long as: 1—You can find them again after a major disaster such as a forest fire or flood have come through and destroyed all your precious landmarks; 2—You buried them deep enough they won’t melt if the forest /meadow or whatever above them burns; 3—You vacuum sealed them in a waterproof container along with oxygen absorbers to prevent corrosion; and 4—You also dug your hole deep enough to avoid frost heaving and not so deep you hit water. Easy peasy, right?
Other folks trust banks enough to put all such valuables, well, except for guns and ammo, in a safety deposit box. Did you know the box and all its contents are essentially the property of the bank? How would you get access if the bank is closed for the duration of an emergency? How would your heirs gain access in the event of your death? Seriously, one of the worst mistakes people make is to put their wills in a safety deposit box. Then they die and before anyone (their spouse or children) can clean out the box it is sealed and they have to go through probate—so much for having a will. Never put a will in a safety deposit box.
Since I live in a desert I just might try burying a few valuables, especially if I’m worried about FEMA going around confiscating my guns. But for maximum safety against the likeliest of disasters (fires and burglars) I’m going to get a safe. And I’ll either get one with an old fashioned mechanical combination lock (EMP proof) or if it has an electronic lock it must also have so-called Redundant locks (a mechanical lock in case the electronic lock fails).
A really good website to aid you in finding the best safe for you is
I’m researching safes costing under $1000 because that fits my budget and because I think most of you could afford that much if you decide to do so. Sure, there are better safes for more money but remember I’m primarily protecting the contents against fire. I figure my big dog and my not-in-the-safe guns will deter burglars. And any safe worth buying will be too heavy for burglars to steal.
The main one I’m interested in so far is the Second Amendment Gun Safe by Blue Dot Safes. It is one-hour fire rated at 1700 degrees and has an intumescent expandable heat seal around the door so not even smoke can get in. It comes standard with an electronic lock but is available with a mechanical lock if you request one. I’d order it through Amazon if possible to take advantage of my Prime membership’s free shipping (can cost up to $500 since the thing weighs 650 pounds). This safe is not Made in America L so I’m still looking. It is made in Taiwan so I can live with that if I have to. I refuse as a matter of principle to knowingly purchase anything from mainland China. I apologize if my rant on this subject is growing tiresome but I buy American first because doing so supports American jobs and strengthens our American economy.
The Tradition 19 Gun Safe by Winchester Safes is Made in America but it’s only fire rated for 45 minutes at 1200 degrees. It has an Palusol expandable heat seal but apparently only comes with an electronic lock. I haven’t been able to find out yet if this safe comes with an emergency backup key in case the electronic lock fails.
Since my goal in having a safe is to protect my valuables from fire I’ve decided having two safes is better than one. This First Alert 2087F Waterproof One Hour Fire Safe is small enough to fit inside either the Second Amendment Safe or the Tradition 19 (though you’d have to sit it inside them sideways).
It’s also the safe I’ll buy first. Yeah, it’s small and only weighs 76 pounds, but it comes with a one-hour fire rating at 1700 degrees, a mechanical combination lock AND and emergency override key and it’s cheap. I haven’t been able to find out where it’s made yet, but it gets great reviews.
Since I believe more layers of protection is better when it comes to fireproofing my important documents I’ll probably also put them inside U.S. Patrol JB5076 Fire Resistant Document bags. Here’s a link.
Then I will throw in a few Silica Gel Dry Packs to absorb moisture. I’ll put these in the larger gun safe as well to help prevent corrosion, which admittedly is not a huge problem here in bone dry Arizona, but dry packs are cheap so why not.
So, to sum up. I’ll place cash or important documents in a Fire Resistant bag, place them inside the First Alert 2087 F, throw in a couple of Dry Packs, then put the First Alert safe inside whatever larger one-hour fire rated gun safe I get.
Then I’ll tape the combination to the safe on the door so I won’t forget it. NOT!!!
Firewood Cutting Saws
There’s a pretty good chance if TSHTF you’ll be heating your home with wood or coal. Now if you’re smart and well prepared you’ll have a home that is both heated and cooled by the sun, preferably using Passive Solar systems.
If you couldn’t afford to do that you’ll need tools to cut and gather firewood. I’ve already covered the axe and the maul—and in an earlier article I mentioned my preference for the Husqvarna e series chainsaw. But the problem with chainsaws is that you will eventually run out of fuel, chain oil and chains for them if such supplies are no longer being delivered to your friendly neighborhood store.
When my wife and I purchased our Colorado property in the 80’s we found an old, rusty two-man timber cutting saw. With a bit of oil and wire brushing—okay a lot of both—and some serious filing and sharpening we restored it to usefulness. I had to replace the bolts attaching the handles as they’d pretty much rusted away.
Such saws cut on the pull stroke so using one takes a bit of coordination between the folks on each end. They do the work, but it is advisable to use a bit of oil or some lubricant on them as you use them to reduce the amount of sweat pouring from your body.
Here’s a link. http://www.amazon.com/Lynx-Two-Man-Crosscut-Saw/dp/B00A2MZUQA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448124976&sr=8-1&keywords=Two+man+timber+saws
Such Timber or Crosscut saws are far superior to any other hand saw for downing trees. They also are faster than an axe—especially if you aren’t all that experienced with axe work. Again, if you plan to heat with wood, such a saw should be your backup.
Limb saws are useful for delimbing (is there such a word?) downed trees in the absence of a chain saw. I like the ones with a single heavy blade (as opposed to the flimsy models that look a bit like overgrown hacksaws). I use an axe or hatchet to knock the small stuff off before setting to work sawing the larger limbs.
Limb loppers, along with limb saws are great for pruning off smaller limbs. The trick is keeping them sharp and getting sturdy enough loppers so you don’t bend the handles. Yeah, the ones made from heavy gauge steel or aluminum cost more than the the light gauge aluminum models but once you’ve bent the handles on the lightweight models into a pretzel you’ll discover the extra cost and weight are worth it.
I’ve lost track of the number of tape measures I’ve broken or lost over the years. One went down a well and one is now an accidental time capsule in a poured basement foundation. No matter how good a quality they all eventually gum up, stick, or break. I’ve used Stanley’s, Etronics, Komelons and Tecktons. All of them work well and eventually wear out with use—and since I was a building contractor I used them a lot. I even carried a rag I used to wipe them clean as they retracted but they still all broke over time.
I’ve used retractables, reel tapes and even cloth measuring tapes from my wife’s sewing cupboard. Her, “Have you seen my tape measure?” Word to the wise. If you use hers, put it BACK.
The only fix I know for the “eventually they break” problem is to buy several. For several years I used the Sears Craftsman tapes and when they broke I took them back and got a new one for free. It didn’t solve the breakage problem but it did solve the “it costs good money to replace them” problem. I wonder if Sears still does that?
Back in my grandfather’s day when he was building houses he used a foldy-out expandable measuring stick, also known as a flat read folding rule. His unfolded to eight feet as I recall. He built a lot of homes with one of those, but as soon as retractable tape measures came out he switched over because they were faster and more convenient. Long story short, I now have a Lufkin folding rule as a backup to my several tape measures. http://www.amazon.com/Lufkin-066F-6-Flat-Read-Folding/dp/B00002NB82/ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1448126043&sr=1-1&keywords=wood+measuring+stick
While I would love be in a place where I could use a tractor or even a rototiller to do the “heavy lifting” parts of gardening I do not. And, eventually such tools will break down or run out of fuel and become really over-sized paperweights. So I’ll confine this discussion to hand tools.
Shovels: I have and use a variety of shovels—round tips, square tips, scoops, spades and hand trowels. I even have a folding shovel I carry in my car. You know what they are used for so I won’t bore you with the gory details. You should have at least one of each type and more than one round point.
Garden Forks: Whether you call them garden forks or spading forks I use them for turning the soil in my raised bed gardens. In that regard they are more of a tilling instrument than digging. They are easier to use for that function than a shovel. They usually sport four tines and I like the ones that have thick, heavy tines as they won’t bend as easily.
Hoes: There are dozens of types of hoes but mine is the old traditional rounded top, squared bottom type with a long handle that is very useful for weeding without getting a backache. I also cock it at a 45-degree angle and use the triangular point to make furrows.
Cultivators: Since I do raised-bed gardening here in the desert I really don’t need one of these. My grandfather had a walk behind cultivator he used on the two-acre family garden. I do have one that I use only on rare occasions. It looks like a hoe but with three curved tines. I’ve used it for weeding. If I lived in an area where I could have a really big garden, I’d definitely want a good cultivator as a backup for when my rototiller broke or ran out of fuel in a SHTF situation.
Rock Bars: (Not the kind you get drunk in listening to Rock Music). Also called Digging Bars. I really hate these things but where there is rock or caliche they are a necessity. I use them as much as I use shovels—usually to break the rock/caliche up so I can shovel it out of the hole I’m creating. I’ve learned from hard experience to only buy those Made in America because the ones from China are made of soft iron and they bend—seriously—and once they bend they’re junk. The American made ones do cost more but they are made of sterner stuff (high carbon steel) and I have NOT been able to bend them. I recommend a model that has a chisel or wedge shape on one end and a sharp point on the other.
The cheap ones cost about $20 from places like Home Depot. Mine cost almost $40 and I got it from True Value Hardware. I’ve had it for so long the sticker with the name brand has worn off.
Rakes: Nothing beats a good, long handled garden rake for smoothing fresh turned soil and nothing beats a leaf rake for, well, raking up leaves to feed your compost pile.
Small Hand Tools: I use hand trowels, three prong cultivators, scissors, clippers, pruners and small knives for a variety of gardening tasks—the cutting tools mostly for harvesting or pruning.
Hori hori knife: Also known as a Farmer’s Dagger is a long bladed, rather blunt pointed knife useful for everything from pruning to weeding and digging.
Wheelbarrow or Garden Cart: I have one of each. I like using a wheelbarrow and my wife loves her garden cart. Both are great for transporting dirt or any other backbreaking load so if you don’t have a good, solid wheelbarrow or cart get one.
I’ve always favored the single wheel models since they are more maneuverable but this model recently caught my eye (as new tools often do). See what you think. https://www.worx.com/en-US/Aerocart.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=wheelbarrow&mkwid=srSYtgngf_dc&pcrid=83098825997&plc=&pkw=wheelbarrow&pmt=e&cvosrc=ppc.google.wheelbarrow&utm_campaign=NB+-+Wheelbarrow+-+Exact&utm_adgroup=&gclid=CjwKEAiA7MWyBRDpi5TFqqmm6hMSJAD6GLeAezQb7f-vu1l19oe5InypXn-LoX86qHbYaOHmx-nwcRoCJmTw_wcB
The wheelbarrow I have is an older version of this model that has wooden handles. http://www.homedepot.com/p/True-Temper-6-cu-ft-Wheelbarrow-with-Steel-Handles-and-Flat-Free-Tire-C6ORUT14/202057391 It is rugged and all I have to do to keep it functional is tighten some bolts once in awhile and keep the pneumatic tire aired up with a bicycle pump. Oh, I highly recommend pneumatic tires. They make any given load ride better and feel lighter. Pushing a solid wheeled model over rough terrain is akin to pushing a rock.
I have no idea where my wife got the dump-bed garden cart she uses and I couldn’t find a photo of one that looked like it on the internet. It looks like a two-wheeled wheelbarrow to me, but with a “U-shaped” metal handle. It’s okay and she loves it but it was also designed with a hitch so it could be towed behind an ATV or small garden tractor. Whenever I use it I find the handle so short I have to be very careful not to bang my shins on the stupid hitch. It only cost $20 so I keep my complaints to myself.
Hand Seeders: I spend entirely too much time thinning small-seeded plants like lettuce, broccoli or turnips because I dumped too many seeds too close together in a given furrow. To that end I’ve ordered a hand seeder that will supposedly solve this problem. We’ll see. If I had the patience I could manufacture my own seed tapes and use them but I don’t.
I realize there are many other gardening tools ranging from soil dampness meters to electronic soil pH meters, bulb planters and more ad nauseum. I consider many such items gimmicks and don’t use them. I have a chemical pH test kit that I do use and my soil dampness meter is my finger.
Chicken Wire: I use 1” chicken wire to fence rabbits out of my raised beds and keep them from “ringing” my fruit trees. I also line the bottom and sides of the inside of my raised beds with it to keep desert pack rats, ground squirrels and pocket gophers from burrowing in.
Bird Netting: If you don’t want birds eating your fruit from your trees or “scratching” out your seedlings you’ll used bird netting to cover your fruit trees and gardens. I have hoop house frames over my raised beds and in the summer those hoops hold bird netting up off my plants. While that means the birds can’t get to my insect pests I find the birds do more damage than the pests.
Fertilizers and Pest Control
I like to be as organic as possible. I build my soil by composting vegetable scraps. I hand pick pests, use companion planting to reduce their numbers and, in short, do everything I can to NOT use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. But when it comes right down to who is going to eat my crops—me or the bugs—I’ll spray neem oil or pull out the Sevin and dust away. Note: since we are blessed with bees I don’t spray neem oil or dust with Sevin when they are out.
Since our native soil mostly rock, very alkaline and very poor with almost no organic material, I do use sulfur and gypsum and chemical fertilizers along with bone meal, blood meal and compost whenever I plant fruit trees. I then feed those trees twice a year (in fall and spring) using the same things. It seems to work as I usually get good crops.
I also mix Miracle Grow Garden Soil (which contains some fertilizer) in with my compost and native soil when I’m filling my raised beds.
Okay, I can almost hear you scoff. “I have real guns,” you say. “What do I need an air rifle for?”
Do you re-load your own ammo? If so, good. If not get a re-loader and learn how.
Do you have a large supply of lead bars and a smelter to cast your own bullets?
Can you manufacture your own gunpowder?
Do you need to get rid of rabbits or other garden pests inside the city limits without having your neighbors call the cops on you?
That’s why you need an air rifle. And even if you CAN cast bullets and make gunpowder you will eventually run out of primers.
Air rifle ammunition is cheap and readily available. For my .177 caliber Beeman break barrel model a can of 500 top quality Crosman or Beeman loads costs about six bucks, so you can lay in a lifetime supply for you and your kids for less than one hundred dollars.
A small caliber (.177 or .22) air rifle is quiet enough to be used in town without freaking your neighbors out.
An air rifle is a great way to teach your children gun safety and how to shoot without it costing you an arm and a leg.
Air rifles come in calibers ranging from .177 to .45 and the larger caliber models can therefore be used for hunting deer or even elk if you can get within 100 yards or maybe even 150 yards.
I use mine for small game like cotton tails and jack rabbits. It is a .177 caliber so I won’t be using it for big game or even javelin. But it serves its purpose well. At the distances I typically use it—under 50 yards—I really didn’t need a scope but I put one on anyhow.
I prefer break barrel models to CO2 cartridge models because (and here’s another one you can say with me) eventually you’ll run out of CO2 cartridges. While the spring on my break barrel model will also eventually wear out, I seriously doubt it will do so during my lifetime. And replacement springs are available if you wanted one as a just in case spare.
While researching air rifles before I bought one I stumbles across this beauty. The $1,000 price tag means I can’t afford it but it’s so cool I thought you’d enjoy a peek at this Airforce Texan .45 caliber sweetheart. It sends a .45 caliber round downrange at 1000 feet per second. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/2699648539/airforce-texan-air-rifle-45-caliber-pellet-synthetic-stock-bull-barrel-matte-with-spin-loc-air-tank
A much less expensive ($300) but still good quality air gun is the Gamo Mach 1 Pigman in either .177 or .22 caliber. It’s a break barrel model like mine so it’s a single shot that has to be re-cocked as you reload it. It sends the .177 out at 1420 FPS and the .22 at 1040 FPS. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/1725837844/gamo-mach-1-pigman-edition-air-rifle-black-synthetic-stock-blue-barrel-with-gamo-airgun-scope-3-9x-40mm-matte
This Crosman .22 (1000 FPS) is a winner at $129. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/146120/crosman-phantom-air-rifle-22-caliber-pellet-black-synthetic-stock-matte-barrel-with-scope-4x-32mm
My Beeman Sportsman RS2 .177 air rifle ($77) lays claim to 1000 FPS. It’s a heavy beast but it shoots good and does the job I bought it for. http://www.sportsmansguide.com/product/index/beeman-rs2-air-rifle-combo-sportsman-series?a=691420
Just for fun I’m throwing in this link to a fully automatic .177 air rifle because I didn’t even know they made such a thing. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/910879/umarex-steel-force-m4-style-6-shot-burst-full-auto-air-rifle-177-caliber-bb-collapsible-synthetic-stock-black
If you choose a .177 caliber air rifle, you’ll need a cleaning kit. This one will work on .177, .22 or .25 weapons. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/145166/gamo-airgun-cleaning-kit-177-22-25-caliber
And any air rifle will continue to function better if you use a bit of lightweight oil on them. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/868912/crosman-pellgunoil-airgun-oil-1-4-oz-tube
Air rifles that use compressed air can be recharged from a scuba tank or any other high pressure air tank but you’ll need an air compressor and a portable tank if you are going to use it at the shooting range. The alternative is to recharge it with a hand pump like this one from Airforce that can achieve 3600 PSI. http://www.midwayusa.com/product/2699648539/airforce-texan-air-rifle-45-caliber-pellet-synthetic-stock-bull-barrel-matte-with-spin-loc-air-tank
While it costs a bit more than two hundred dollars it should last more than one lifetime. It’s on my wish list because it can be used as a bicycle tire pump or to re-inflate a flat on a car or to recharge a scuba tank or other compressed air tank for use with pneumatic tools.
Bows and Crossbows
For many of the same reasons it’s good to own an air rifle it’s a good idea to have and know how to use a bow and arrow and/or a crossbow. I had a 45 pound draw weight recurve bow as a teenager and my best friend and I spent many fun-filled hours at the local archery range. A good recurve bow is a reliable bow to have but it takes hours of practice to learn how to shoot one accurately.
When my son achieved the ripe old age of eleven I got him a Compound Bow with a 45 pound draw weight. The mechanical advantage gained from using pulleys in compound bows is that, once you draw back past the break point, drawing and holding to aim gets much easier. I got bow sights and installed them and within a couple of hours he was hitting every target he shot at and so was I.
In Medieval times only English longbow men—trained from an early age to draw 150 pound pull weight bows—could kill an armored knight from a safe distance. Then crossbows came into vogue and any old yeoman could stand up to a knight in battle. That was pretty much the end of knights.
Now the longbow had its distinct advantages, chief of which was that a trained archer could send 12 arrows down range while a crossbowman was shooting three. And the longbow had far greater range than the crossbow being able to reach out and touch someone 300 yards away. See the battle of Argincourt, where the English forces under King Henry V defeated a French force four times its size, due in large part to English longbow men. (Though admittedly the muddiness of the battlefield played a major role as well).
So a good bow is a fearsome weapon in the right hands. It is also one of the best backup weapons you can have since it’s quiet and you can learn to make your own arrows and even bow strings. You can even learn to make a decent bow. Now I’ll admit none of these skills are without challenge but it’s preferable to learn them than to die of hunger because you couldn’t hunt for food should the need ever arise.
Or, even easier, buy a good recurve bow and a good compound bow and some extra bowstrings and pulley parts and a bunch of target and hunting arrows and go out and have a blast.
I’ll confess I have absolutely no direct experience with crossbows, so all the info I’m passing on to you comes from research. Crossbows are far easier to learn to shoot accurately than a regular bow. Cock the thing, insert a bolt, aim it more or less like a rifle and let fly. You too can be Daryl of the Walking Dead, who would be excited as a kid at Christmas to own this particular crossbow. (The price alone made me clutch my chest and wonder if I was having a heart attack). It’s on my “if I ever win the lottery” list. It is a compound type.
If I decided I must have a recurve type crossbow and money was no object (HA!) I’d probably go with one like this, though I’d try hard to buy one from 2014, since quality company Excalibur was just purchased by (yuck) Bowtech. Who knows if that will downgrade the quality of the Excalibur or not.
Now since I still have no idea which type (compound or recurve), which draw weight, or even how much I’m willing to spend I’m going to post a few links to Top Ten Crossbow Review sites and drop this topic. You are always better off doing your own research anyhow.
One last advantage to crossbows is that few States demand registration, so unles you register it with the company from which you buy it no one will know you have it. That’s my innate distrust of our Federal Government talking, but some States—if you live in any of them you know which ones—are almost as bad.
There you go. Choose wisely.
Hand Pump for Your Well
If you are one of the fortunate few who have a potable well on your property, your number one Preparedness expense should be to get and install a hand pump. That way when electrical power fails—and it will, even if you have a solar powered pump—you can still draw water from depths of up to 300 feet (static head).
I know I devoted an entire chapter to water earlier but this part about hand pumps bears repeating. Please do yourself and favor and click on the following links to upgrade your knowledge about them.
Once again I’ll offer the reminder that both the Simple and Bison pumps can pump water into a pressurized container so that you could maintain water pressure in your home’s plumbing system. It’s nice to be able to take a shower or use your sink without having to pump water and carry it into the house. Ask your wife or husband and I’m pretty sure they’ll agree.
Basic carpentry, plumbing and mechanics tools are necessities for Post SHTF and, in my opinion for Pre-SHTF everyday life. But then I’m a tool guy. I built homes for a living, did fix and flips and remodels. All of which meant I need a lot of tools. Poor me (okay, that was sarcasm).
Anyhow, I could spend as much time shopping in a hardware store as my wife did in a sewing shop. Nowadays neither one of us spends much time shopping. Welcome to the joys of living on a fixed income. (Would I like some cheese with that whine?)
But like I said, I have a bunch of tools. Do you?
Hammers are among the most useful and flexible tools every invented so it is useful to have a variety of hammers. Why? Because driving a brad with a framing hammer will likely destroy the finish on the work you’re putting the brad in and because you’ll probably end up with smashed fingers, all bloody and painful.
A tack hammer is a small hammer that, like its name implies, is for driving tacks, brads and other tiny nail.
A finish hammer is the kind you are probably most used to seeing or using. It’s fairly light weight with a smooth face so you don’t mar the surface of whatever you are putting a nail into.
A framing hammer has a heavy 28 or 32-ounce head and a knurled or otherwise rough face. In experienced hands it can drive a 16d nail into a 2x4 with a single blow. It has a long handle for added leverage and would do a lot of damage in close quarters combat if used as a Warhammer. Get one and swing it around (when no one else is looking) and feel the Viking warrior within you rise.
A two pound, short-handled sledge is great for driving things into the ground or spikes (really big nails) into timbers if you’re building a raised bed. They are also good for “adjusting” things back to square if they get a bit off during construction.
A rubber or plastic mallet, also in the one to two-pound range, is great for tapping on things you don’t want to harm. Same for a wooden mallet.
Ball peen and flat-faced hammers are great for working on metal, especially if you have a forge, a bellows and an anvil—and who doesn’t? If you detected sarcasm again your sarcasto detector is fully functioning.
Some of my hammers are one-piece metal types where I never have to worry about the handle coming loose. Others have wood handles that must be tightened up with small wedges on occasion.
I also have pneumatic nailers both framing and finish but I’m not counting on them being used as anything but anchors once the power goes out.
Fasteners (Nails, Screws, Screwdrivers and Glue)
Do yourself a favor and buy at least two 50-pound boxes of loose, 16d framing nails. Then get the same quantity of 8d and 6d nails in both box common and galvanized. Except as clubs, hammers aren’t much use without nails. So if you ever think you’ll need to build or repair wooden things you will need nails.
The same can be said for screws. Get an assortment in various head types and lengths. Hey, if nothing else you can use the small ones as slingshot ammo.
My favorite screwdriver is my 18V DeWalt screwgun. I’ve had this bad boy since the 90’s and aside from replacing the rechargeable batteries a few times it’s still going strong. But then we come up against that same old problem of what if there’s no electrical power. That’s when an assortment of Phillips, Flathead, Allenwrench and other wood and metal screwdrivers comes in handy. The really big flathead screwdrivers can also be used as pry bars or digging tools. And, of course, should nasty situations arise you can always stab someone with them.
I almost never buy any glue but Gorilla Glue anymore because I mostly glue wood and the stuff works like a weld. If I was gluing leather I might use a hide glue and if I was working with metal I’d probably use an epoxy but since I almost never do such work Gorilla Glue is my go to.
I’m not going to get into welding because in a SHTF world I don’t think arc welders or oxy-acetylene torches are going to function very long. I included this just so you’d know I didn’t overlook the topic—just decided to ignore it.
I don’t even know the names of all the pliers I own and use. Sure, there are standard, household type pliers, dikes or diagonal pliers for cutting wire, electrician’s pliers for doing a variety of tasks, slip-joint pliers, needle-nosed pliers, curved jaw pliers and fence pliers. Then there are flat nose pliers, ring pliers, Visegrip and C clamp pliers, nippers, and on and on.
I bought most of my pliers decades ago from Milwaukee Tool Company back when they were being Made in America. I don’t know if they are still being made here or not. I hope so. In any event, they have proven extremely reliable over decades of use and abuse.
These are the ideal tool if you have to pry anything loose from something else. I have some as small as four inches long and as big as forty inches long. The small one is called a trim bar and the monster is called a Gorilla Bar. Guess which one is for demolition.
In between those two is a twelve-inch model that is extremely useful if you have to do repairs on a composition shingle roof since you can slip it between the shingles and pry up roofing nails. This allows you remove shingles without destroying them. Which means you can re-use shingles you have to take off to get to the damaged area you have to repair.
This size flat bar is also a pretty good nail puller when you’re salvaging lumber or repairing something that was nailed together.
I could go on for days about the different types of plumbing, electrical, carpentry and mechanic tools you should have but I’m going to cut you a break and leave it up to you to find your own. My sole word of advice here is always buy quality.
Coming next in Volume 14--Foods and Medicines Overlooked Earlier