Soda Can Whistle

Posted in Tutorial on April 1st, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Let’s make a whistle from an empty soda can.

You’ll need:
  • An empty soda can
  • A knife
  • A straight edge (Optional)

Once I’ve rinsed out the can I smash it as flat as I am able. Here I’ve used the straight edge to help me.

You can see I’ve managed to press the sides of the can all the way together. This just makes the later steps a bit easier.

Using the tip of my knife I score the can and then work the aluminum back and forth until the bottom of the can comes off.

Repeat with the top until you’re left with a wide flat piece.

I trim down the width of the flat piece and then cut off the ends to make two flat sheets of material. Cut one of the strips a bit shorter than the other.

Now, place the shorter piece perpendicular to the longer piece and fold it over and around. This is the first step of creating the mouthpiece.

Now slide the folded section down a bit and bend the end of the longer piece over the folded shorter piece. You’re nearly finished…

Bend the longer piece at the inside edge of the wrapped shorter piece and then use your fingers to make the rounded body shape for your whistle. You’re done other than some final tweaking.

Hold the whistle so that your fingers seal up the sides and make sure there’s a small (1/4″ maybe) gap between the moutpiece and the edge of the body.

Like this.

You may need to use a piece of scrap or your knife to open up the top fold of the mouthpiece to allow enough airflow. This is just one more step in the tweaking process to get the most out of your whistle.

This whistle really does work and it’s a good alternative to shouting should you become lost in the woods. Sure you need to find an empty soda or beer can but, sadly, that’s not a terribly difficult thing to do these days.

Thanks for reading,


Altoid Tin Pocket Kit

Posted in Gear, Tutorial on February 27th, 2009 by admin – 5 Comments

I constantly struggle with the decision to carry more gear in order to be better prepared or less gear to streamline my pockets and prevent the jingling and saggy pants associated with over-gear-itis.

After spending some time looking at the Altoid Tin survival kits that are everywhere on the Internet these days it occurred to me that I could use one of the tins to carry the gear I’d like to have with me in a way that avoids pocket tangles and limits me to a maximum amount of space while offering a great deal of flexibility in choosing the contents of the tin.

This is the Altoid Tin as it goes into the pocket. I’ve put my EDC items in the tin to keep them from banging around so much in my pocket.
The first layer inside the tin is about two feet of neon yellow gaffer’s tape. I like gaffer’s tape better than duct tape because the adhesive doesn’t seem to break down over time like duct tape can. It also comes in bright colors like neon yellow, blaze orange, and neon pink which makes it much easier to see in the woods.
Below the gaffer’s tape layer is the meat and potatoes of the kit. This is the stuff I use most often. I’ve got a Victorinox Farmer, Army Firesteel blank, and Bic mini lighter in this layer.
Down one more layer you’ll find a DMT Fine credit card sharpener which I’ve glued to a loaded leather backing. This piece is put in diamond-side down to prevent it from wearing out the layer above through friction. The leather may, over time, polish the items but nowhere near as much as a diamond stone would.
Here’s the diamond plate side of the sharpener. I put a piece of paper cut to fit the tin under the diamond to keep it from abrading the inside of the tin. This piece of paper could also be used to leave a note or to scribble a phone number, grocery list, etc.

The Altoid Tin allows me to carry this gear compactly without the pocket clutter that used to drive me so nuts. Now I can just drop the tin in a shirt pocket (or coat pocket) and have what I need available but out of the way.

I’ve still got a tiny bit of extra room but not enough to toss in my Fox 40 Micro whistle so it’ll have to go on my keyring.

Thanks for reading,


Firesteel Techniques

Posted in Tutorial, Video on February 25th, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Here it is folks, my FIRST video:

I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for watching,


Let’s Make a Pot Stand/Burner

Posted in Tutorial on February 21st, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

Let’s make a pot stand/burner for our 12cm Zebra Billy Can. This pot stand/burner is a project I’ve done in the past but now I need to make a new one because the old one has been lost for some time. This project will allow you to heat your billy can with a Trangia burner, fuel tablets, or a wood fire.

Things you’ll need:

So let’s get started.

Here is the new silverware sorter next to my well-used 12cm Zebra Billy Can.
Use the Sharpie and straight edge to lay out the opening you’ll cut in with the Dremel. I liked the shape of Mungo’s more than my original so made mine like his.
The Dremel is used to make quick work of the cutting. Fortunately, I’ve done this before and have learned from my mistakes. I still managed to break one cutoff wheel into a million pieces. I like to cut opposite sides to prevent the cutout from springing loose too soon.
The silverware sorter fits nicely inside the 12cm Zebra Billy Can with just enough room to slip a plastic bag in between to keep the mess contained. Since the sorter is a bit taller than the billy I’ll put the lid upside down under the billy before slipping the whole assembly into a stuffsack (again, to contain the mess.)
I stuff the silverware sorter full of newspaper, fatwood, and whatever other tinder I can find to get it ready for burn-in. This process will cook off any coatings left on from manufacture and it should burn up any tiny metal slivers left from the cutting process.
A few strikes from my firesteel into a cotton ball gets this party started. I shove the now-lit cotton ball into a depression in the newspaper, like a sideways bird’s nest, to get things going.
Now we’re cookin’. You can see the metal has discolored from the burn-in and it’s sooting up quite a bit inside (thanks to the fatwood.)
Once you’ve got your fire going nice and strong you can feed it larger pieces of wood like so. Push the ends in as the sticks burn much like you would feed a star fire. This allows you a longer burn with less maintenance.

Here I’m feeding the fire some pieces of knotty birch I just happened to have laying around.

Once my fire’s well-established I like to capture some of that heat. Today it was about melting down some snow to make a cup of tea. It takes a massive amount of snow, which contains lots of air, to make enough water for even one cup.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’d be far easier to go prepared into the woods with a bottle or two of water.

Once the burn-in is done and everything is cleaned up you can see the difference between a new silverware sorter and my new potstand/burner.

Now I’ll toss this into a plastic grocery bag and stuff it into my 12cm Zebra Billy Can and fill it with goodies for my next trip to the woods.

And that’s all there is to it.

Now I’ve got a pot stand that’ll last for a good long time.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Send me pictures and I’ll put them on the site.

Thanks for reading,


Folding a Bedroll

Posted in Tutorial on June 13th, 2007 by admin – Comments Off

In preparation for the trip I’m packing all of my gear to get it loaded up and ready to roll. My shelter component will consist of the Tom Claytor Jungle Hammock, a black closed cell foam pad, my Wiggy’s poncho liner, and a space blanket. I’ll use my fleece for a pillow and should be plenty warm even when the temperature drops in the evening.

I carry the foam pad, poncho liner, and space blanket in a bedroll strapped to the bottom of my pack. The seam on the roll should be toward the ground to prevent rain, should it fall on me, from leaking into the liner. The space blanket provides a waterproof barrier for the contents.

Here is how I create my bedroll:

The space blanket is laid on the floor reflective side up. On top of that goes the Wiggy’s poncho liner. Notice how close in size they are. In an emergency I can make an expedient waterproof sleeping bag with just these two components.
Here you can see I’ve chosen a bright red space blanket. This choice aids in discovery should I require rescue. It also happens to be the blanket I could most easily locate. (Nalgene bottle for scale.)
Get the foam pad as close to center as possible. Eyeballing is fine for this project. I believe this to be the 3/4 length pad from the local outdoor store.
Fold the ends up to the length of the pad.
Fold the sides in to the width of the pad. You now have a water resistant “burrito” which you simply roll up.
I like to kneel on one end of the “burrito” while rolling toward myself. This prevents the roll from skewing one way or the other. It also allows me to get some pressure on the roll to squeeze out air that gets trapped inside. When I’m finished I like to wrap the bedroll with a loop of paracord just to keep things tight.

And that’s that. Easy.

This roll will get strapped to the bottom of my pack and the hammock will be stuffed inside. I can have my shelter pitched and ready to go in just minutes with this easy setup.

Thanks for reading,


Making Charcloth

Posted in Tutorial on June 3rd, 2006 by admin – Comments Off

Time for a tutorial.

Let’s assemble the necessary ingredients for successful charcloth making. You’ll need:

  • A small tin
  • A means to poke and plug a hole in the tin (a small nail works well here)
  • A heat source
  • 100% cotton

The setup I used today included a small 8 oz. tin and an Altoids tin, the charcoal grill, and a hopelessly stained cotton kitchen towel and approximately two feet of cotton webbing. (The Altoids tin and cotton webbing are missing from this picture. Also, the brown t-shirt material didn’t make it into charcloth today.)
I had already used this tin several times so the vent hole has been put approximately center in the lid. This allows the gases to vent during the charring process.
Prior to placing the cotton towel in the tin, I like to roll it up and I’ll often slice it into lengths for easier packing once it is charred.
Now the towel is packed into the tin. Sometimes the material is packed tightly and sometimes packed loose. I have found little evidence that one way works better than the other.
Looks like the charcoal is nice and hot. I’ve added some nice dry wood along with the hot coals just to give the sights and sounds of a campfire to this project.
I normally place my tins on the outside edge of the coals just to get things moving. I have found the lids tend to pop during the first few minutes and, if you’ve got a tin right in the center of the fire, you’re going to be less likely to try and remedy that situation. If the lid does pop, and you don’t get it back on, you may end up with ash instead of charcloth.
The Altoids tin quickly begins to smoke. I suspect that’s because there’s far less material inside and the flatter shape allows the internal temperature to rise more quickly.
And now, from a different angle, the larger tin begins to smoke. It always amazes me how much pressure builds up inside these tins.
The Altoids tin is already finished. Once the smoke stops coming out of the tin, it’s done. You now need to pull the tin from the heat, find a way to plug the hole, and let it sit until it’s cool enough to pick up. I turned these tins top-down today just to see if it would work.
Since the larger tin is tall I will add coals to the top just to assure even charring.
The Altoids tin is now cool enough to open. The cloth looks good. It’s nice and black and breaks easily. Opening the tin too soon may cause the charcloth to smoulder and, eventually, burn up.
NEVER wait until you need it to make sure your charcloth will hold a spark. As soon as it’s cool enough to touch, I take some out and test it with my firesteel.
A quick strike with the spine of my knife…
…and VOILA! We have a nice ember.
Time to check in on the larger tin. It has stopped smoking, been placed top down to cool, and now I’ve pulled the lid. Compare this photo to the one above to see how much the cloth shrinks during the charring process.
One more test…
…and success! Another good batch.

Making charcloth is NOT a terribly difficult endeavor but impatience can cost you in the end. Make sure the tin has stopped smoking before pulling it from the fire or you may end up with an incomplete char.

These two batches of charcloth will last me for months. I enjoy making it almost as much as I enjoy using it. The process could also be repeated using pieces of wood or any other flammable materials but I find using kitchen towels that are no longer even worth washing to work very well. Waste not want not.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and useful. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Thanks for reading,