Sunday, July 15, 2018

Homemade Apple Chips and Beef Jerky

We've had a Nesco food dehydrator gathering dust in the kitchen since last year. Yesterday, Amanda and I finally put it to use.

We first made a batch of apple chips. To make them, we cored a half dozen apples, sliced them about 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and then dipped them in lemon juice to prevent browning. Then they went into the dehydrator at about 140 degrees F. for 4.5 hours.

I should have gotten picture of the apple chips, but they lasted all of 10 minutes after coming out of the machine. They were awesome.

While the apples were drying we sliced up 6 chuck steaks and marinated them with seasoning that came with the dehydrator. After the apples were done we put the beef in and let it run overnight, about 12 hours at about 160 degrees F.

I took it out this morning. It's really damn good and a lot cheaper than store-bought beef jerky. For around $16 worth of beef I probably got about $50 worth of jerky, had I bought it at the supermarket.

The dehydrator came with 5 trays and will work with up to 12. This morning I ordered two more trays along with a package of the Nesco jerky seasoning.

As an aside, the dehydrator is not too noisy. It was audible from the next room but was basically a low-level white noise.

Making the apple chips and jerky was time-consuming but worth it. I'd like to see us get into using the machine a lot more because the home made dehydrated items are a lot cheaper than those bought in the store.

Homemade Bug Repellent

There are plenty of over-the-counter insect repellents that work well. Most of them used DEET (PDF file from the US Centers for Disease Control) as the active ingredient. I've used various DEET-based repellents for years with good results.

You do have to be careful with DEET, however, since it will dissolve plastics. For example, it can damage watch faces and poly-based gun stock finishes. If you use a spray, make sure you do it where overspray won't hit plastics, including those on vehicles. Further, some people may be sensitive to it and it is toxic if ingested.

Permethrin treatments for clothing are also very useful but you should not use them directly on your skin.

I've had positive results by using Granpa's Pine Tar soap before heading out to the woods. Pine tar has long been used in insect repellents. In his classic tome from 1884, Woodcraft and Camping, Nessmuk described his formula for bug dope as:

  • 3 ounces of pine tar
  • 2 ounces of castor oil
  • 1 ounce of pennyroyal oil
His directions were to mix them together over a low fire and bottle for use. Pennyroyal oil can have some nasty side effects, so use with care.

More recently, Lars at Survival Russia posted this video:

Lars' formula is:
  • 3 parts of beeswax
  • 1 part of pine tar
  • A little cooking oil, e.g., olive oil or canola oil (to make it more spreadable)

Last week, I decided to give Lars' recipe a try. I melted the ingredients together in a Pyrex measuring cup on a hot plate, and poured the resulting mixture into Sho-Ka-Kola tins.

(While I had the hot plate out, I decided to finish pan lubing my last batch of .44-40 bullets.)

I'm interested to see how well the pine tar-based bug dope works. By the smell, it should repel people just fine. Pew!

It can also be used as a leather dressing, making it multi-use. I have a camping trip coming up and plan to test out this bug dope. I'll post a report afterwards.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Made a Stropping Block

Today one of my friends on Facebook posted a link to an article on the A.G. Russell Knives website,
How to Make a Finishing Paddle.

Coincidentally, yesterday I put together my first stropping block/finishing paddle with a piece of leather glued to a piece of wood. Even though I've been sharpening knives for close to four decades, I only started using a strop in the last couple of weeks. I immediately noticed a difference in my knife edges.

That's been a real oversight on my part, because a strop can help you get a really sharp edge on a knife, and polish the bevel, which has a couple benefits. First, it reduces drag in the cut, and second, it makes the edge a little more corrosion-resistant because the smooth surface is less prone to retaining moisture.

Some pictures. First, the stropping block before I applied any compound.

Second, after applying the green compound from Eastwood. As you can see, it didn't go on evenly. I should probably have sanded the block to ensure it was as level as possible, and then sanded the leather also. Oh well, it's a learning process.

Finally, what it looks like after a little use. The dark spots are where it removed metal from the knife.

It may not look like much but it helped get a few of my knives really sharp. E.g., my Cold Steel Bushman feels like a razor now.

I made this one from some cowhide I had laying around that was about 1/8" thick, and a piece of a scrap 2x4. The thick base helps provide clearance so you don't hit your knuckles on your workbench.

I may go back and tweak it by scraping off most of the compound, adding some mineral oil to the leather, slightly roughing the leather so it takes the compound better, and then reapplying the compound.

My brother requested that I make him one and I'll use the lessons learned with this one in doing so.

If you don't have the materials for making one yourself laying around like I did, and want to try using a stropping block, you can get one off Amazon, here.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Camillus TL-29 Electrician's Knife

I picked up this old Camillus electrician's knife off eBay for a whopping $11.50 shipped.

Generations of American servicemen have known this style of knife as the "TL-29." They were typically paired with a set of linesman's pliers and leather belt pouch to hold both items. Below is a picture I found on Pinterest, apparently scanned from a US military manual.

Used TL-29s can be found on eBay for little money and newly-made ones are available from Klein and other manufacturers.

According to the tang stamp guide found here, the knife was made between 1960 and the late 1970s.

It showed signs of use and some neglect, but no outright abuse. E.g., it was dull, dirty, and had some rust which I removed by an overnight soak in Evaporust. The blades snap into position nicely with positive half-stops and no side-to-side wiggle. The brass liner lock positively keeps the screwdriver in the open position.

As I received the knife it was very dull but now it's shaving sharp. It took about an hour's worth of work on my DMT fine diamond bench stone and Worksharp Field Sharpener combined to put a good edge on it.

I plan to keep the edge on the screwdriver blade relatively dull for use as a scraper; it was originally intended as such and as a wire stripper. I expect it to throw sparks from a ferro rod rather well.

Worksharp Field Sharpener

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a cutlery buying binge. I received a nice Amazon gift card for my birthday at the end of May, and among the items I bought was a Work Sharp Field Sharpener.

The Worksharp Field Sharpener is an impressive little piece of gear for maintaining knives in the field or at home. It comes with coarse and fine diamond plates, a ceramic stick for honing, a small ceramic stick for working on serrations, and a leather strop. Built into the unit are guides to help you set the correct angle when using all of the sharpening bits.

Since receiving the Worksharp I’ve used it to touch up several pocketknives both old and new, and it’s enabled me to put shaving-sharp edges on them while sitting in my recliner.

The overall length is a bit under 7 inches, so it’s best used on smaller knives. Of course, you can use it on larger blades but you’ll need to work on shorter sections of the edge at a time. For scale, here it is next to an old Camillus TL-29 electrician's knife:

I plan to take the Worksharp with me on camping trips as my field edge maintenance solution. I might even get a second one to leave in my camping toolbox.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Improving the Heavy Cover USGI Canteen Cup Lid

Last year I bought a stainless steel lid for my USGI canteen cup from Heavy Cover, Inc. (It doesn't seem to be listed there currently.) I haven't gotten much use from it for two reasons:

  1. It's too heavy for what it is.
  2. It was a very snug fit in the cup.

Today I decided to improve it with the help of Mr. Dremel, but cutting away part of the lip that sits inside the cup.

First, here it is being held by its handle in my vise. I've already made one cut with my Dremel using a heavy duty cut-off wheel.

After making the cuts, I snapped the excess material off with pliers. Then I used a grinding stone in the Dremel to deburr where I made the cuts.

And finally, sitting on the cup. As you can see, it's the older L-handle style. IMNSHO, this is much better than butterfly handles. If you look closely you can see where I added graduation markings to the cup.

The lid is a bit lighter now but it would have been better had it been made from hard anodized aluminum, or at least a thinner gauge of stainless steel. It's noticeably easier to set on the cup or remove it to check how something is cooking.

DIY Adjustable Pot Bail

For cooking, or even just boiling water over an open fire, a pot with a bail is really handy. However, bails add weight and bulk and we often already have a good pot that just needs a bail sometimes. Over on Bushcraft USA, "Jerome" posted a great how-to thread here.

If video is more your style, Lonnie posted a video inspired by the above thread on his YouTube channel, Far North Bushcraft and Survival.

Most hardware stores should have the required materials. I bought 6 feet of 1/16" cable and the appropriate ferrules today at Home Depot for around $6. (That included an extra set of ferrules.)

I made up a couple bails this afternoon, each from a 3' piece of cable. After crimping the ferrules similarly to how Lonnie did in the above video for the first bail, I took a slightly different tack for the second bail. I hit each ferrule with a punch once to hold it in place on the end of the cable, I then used my bench vise to fully crimp it.

The advantage of using the vise is that you get a full-width crimp, not just where you hit it with the punch.

My plan is to keep one bail with my Keith Titanium canteen and cup set, and the other with my old USGI canteen cup.

Ten Medical Uses for a Triangular Bandage

This video discusses 10 medical uses for a triangular bandage.

{Hat tip to Greg Ellifrtiz.}

Aside from medical uses, triangular bandages can be used for many of the same things as a shemagh or bandana. For example:

  • Dust mask
  • Hankerchief
  • Head scarf
  • Sweat band
  • Scarf to keep your neck warm, or cool if you wet it.
  • Pre-filter for water, to keep your filter from getting clogged with chunky bits.
  • Pot holder
  • Pot scrubber
  • Wash cloth
  • Etc.
I always carried a couple USGI muslin triangular bandages when I was in a Civil Air Patrol ground search and rescue unit, as did my team members. 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Turning Components Into Ammo

Over the past few weekends I have been busy turning components into ammunition. I dipped into my stash of empty .38 Special brass and loaded up several different varieties:

  • 50 rounds of 178 Keith semiwadcutters (SWC) on top of 3.8 grains of Unique.
  • 50 rounds of 178 Keith SWCs on top of 5.0 of Unique.
  • 100 rounds of 195 grain lead round nose bullets (LRNs) on top of a 5.0 grains of Unique.
  • 100 rounds of 148 grain Lee tumble lube wadcutters on top of a 2.7 grains of Bullseye.
  • 100 rounds of 148 grain Hornady hollow base wadcutters (HBWC) on top of 2.7 grains of Bullseye.
  • 100 rounds of Speer 158 grain lead SWC hollow points on top of a 4.5 grains of Universal Clays.


The Keith SWCs, 195 grain LRNs, and Lee TL WCs came from Matt's Bullets. I ordered 100 count sample packs of each and was impressed with the projectiles. They are sized to .359 and loaded with Carnauba Red lube, except for the 148 TL WCs, which appear to be lubed with Lee Liquid Alox.

I was quite pleased with the service from Matt's Bullets, BTW. My order shipped in about a day and a half and was sent in a USPS flat-rate box. I received 2 days after I got the shipping notice. The bullets all looked good.

The Hornady 148 grain HBWCs have been laying around since I bought 1250 of them at the end of 2016. I've had the 500 count box of the Speer LSWCHPs for years.

So what prompted this binge reloading? First, the weather has been nice and it has been neither too hot nor too cold to work out in my backyard shop. Second, my gun interests go in phases and  something rekindled my interest in revolvers. It's been too long since I shot one of my K-Frames, S&W Model 28, or 50th Anniversary Ruger Blackhawk.

And frankly, the state of the political left in this country is really starting to worry me. As far as I'm concerned, they've been acting completely batshit crazy since Trump's election. I want to get in some more practice in case the left decides to take their attempt at a soft coup hot.

I was pleasantly surprised that the .38s loaded with the Keith SWCs feed well in my Rossi 92 .357 carbine. I'd figured the SWCs might hang up during feeding, but they seem to be held at just the right angle to slip right into the chamber. (Testing was done with 3 dummy rounds, not live ammo.)

I got the 195 grain bullets because I thought it would be neat to try and duplicate the old .38 Special Super Police load, which had a 200 grain LRN at mild velocity. I wound up loading them over enough Unique, though, that they will only be shot in my .357s. If nothing else, they should make steel plates jump around nicely.

The Speer 158 LSWCHP loads should run about 850 FPS from a 4" barrel, very similar to the old FBI load. I can bump the powder charge up a little to get over 900 FPS but at +P pressures. These would be good for defense from any of my K-Frames, and should also work well in my J-Frame S&W Model 640.

To measure the powder charges I used both my Redding Model 3 measure and my RCBS Little Dandy. I don't like how Unique meters in the Redding, although it seems to meter a little more smoothly in the Little Dandy. In contrast, Universal Clays seems to meter very nicely in the Little Dandy -- smooth and extremely consistent. I haven't tried it yet in the Redding but I expect it to behave similarly.

Of course, the proof will be in the shooting of this ammo. I'm hoping to get to the range in the next week or two to dirty up some wheelguns.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Korean Beef Bibim Bap MRE

While checking out foreign MREs on eBay, I ran across the vendor "magnetic1" selling dehydrated beef bibim bap entrees, which are supposed to be Korean-issue. Since I'm always interested in stuff to eat while camping, and I love Korean food, I ordered a 3-pack to try.

Here's the front and back of the package along with the included spoon.

Upon opening, you can see that it's mostly rice with some vegetables. The little brown nuggets are pieces of dehydrated beef. Also shown are the packet of sesame oil and gojang (Korean BBQ) sauce that were inside.

To cook it, you add hot water to the black line inside the bag, seal it, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Or, you can use cold water but you'll need to wait twice as long.

And here's what it looks like after rehydrating and mixing in the oil and sauce packets.

I liked it, it was damn tasty. I used all of the gojang sauce and while it was spicy, it wasn't mouth-burning. That said, I eat Korean food fairly often and eat it full strength, so YMMV. Compared with a couple different Mountain House meals that I've tried, this isn't nearly as salty.

For me, this entree would be enough for lunch but not dinner.

I have two more left that I'm going to save for the field.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Self Sufficiency

Today I cast up about 10 pounds worth of bullets for .44-40, using my Accurate Molds 43-215C mold. I got at least a couple hundred usable projectiles.

You damn well that the next time the Dems get into power, there will be another panic. How are you preparing against that inevitability?