Survival/Prep: I had a toothache this week so one of the first items on my “survival/prepping” list is a good supply of whole cloves, clove oil – anything clovey. Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? A trip to the dentist yesterday (and an emergency walletectomy is being scheduled with a colleague), some antibiotics and pain meds…and nearly good as new, though perhaps less coherent…at least till the pain pills run out… (Speaking of which: We’re big not fans of hydrocodone but it’s very useful when comes to tear-rendering tooth pain…With the new drug regs, though, you have to go to the pharmacy in person, wait, yada, yada, and repeat every other day…bring a book or pillow, but I digress.)
We perhaps don’t talk about survival skills as often as we should around here. After all, over the past 20-years, we have covered everything from how to build a cabin to how to kill small game, to…well, let’s just say the list is long and more than adequate. Totally over-kill for people who live in the city and don’t believe the lights will ever flicker, too.
But for the realists, I thought I’d go through some everyday survival tools you can equip yourself with and not look like a doomster in the process. Coupled with the data and proximity of Christmas, it’s the perfect time to sneak in a few goodies that might be useful under the radar.
A One-handed Knife:
This is something I didn’t even know about until I was a forty-something. My first one was a Spyderco sailing knife. This is a low-cost item and its the kind of gift that people can use every day: Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2 Rescue black FRN Serrated Edge.
Knife purists won’t agree. They will point to the upper echelon on knives that are “tactical” this and “special forces” that. But in the end, the reason to get a simple Spyderco one-handed blade and always have it with you is its utility. That’s why I have never gone in for the hawksbill designs. If my hand is on a knife, I want to be able to withdraw it cleanly and not have it get stuck.
To be sure, this isn’t a true “sailing knife” to some. An example of a “real sail knife” would be the Davis Instruments Deluxe Rigging Knife. Again, it’s in the $20 class of gift but entirely useful, though in an entirely different way that the one-handed knife.
The one-hander is great for everything. I can open a can with it, cut up cardboard boxes here at the ranch, cut and prepare lines…and all that. Not the kind of stuff you do with a rigging knife.
The reason for the flat (non-serrated edge) on the blade is so you can make clean cuts of rigger’s tape. Those stainless steel lines that hold up masts (shrouds) come down to turnbuckles at the deck. These are adjusted just-so. Then then get wrapped with a special tape. The idea is to keep the sails from getting caught in them.
The spike (actually a marlinspike) is to open up the stainless wire, or other laid line for splicing. This is one of the few sailing tasks better done with a phonebook.
When you have hung around a marina as much as we have, you’ll take delight never-ending seeing the new boat owner proudly showing off his rigging knife and then laughing when he reveals himself to be a stink-pot driver. Few have any rigging at all…
Waxed Whipping Twine:
Here’s one that’s also cheap although surprisingly, you can go through a lot of it either on the water, on the ranch, or for certain hobbies.
Might I suggest $15-bucks for T.W . Evans Cordage D1006 4 Ply Waxed Polyester Cord 1215-Feet Tube, White? This is my favorite cordage except for the ubiquitous 3/8th’s nylon or Dacron-polyester (and Kevlar and UHDP) used for hoisting antennas and making paracord bracelets from.
Here’s why I like it: You can take any half-reasonable nylon rope (like this 5/8th’s that’s been abused for coming up on 10-years) ands by whipping and burning the ends, it will refuse to unravel.
I have to tell you, it’s not the neatest job in the world but it’s still there and amazingly, the whipping stayed cleaner than the rest of the line. If I could only bottle that…
If you’ve never seen how to whip the ends of a line (rope if you have land underfoot), it goes something like this in the cocktail napkin view:
Layout the loop of line as in #/ Then wrap tightly around the rope (line if on a boat). You can make as few as a half-dozen turns or I’ve seen people lay down almost 2-inches of turns. It’s all according to how manic you get. Then, pull on both ends of the whipping twine to tighten. Finish by pulling on the left-side (which will pull the finish point under the wraps just applied). Trim off excess whipping twine and open a can of spinach. (That was a Popeye joke if you’re under 50, pass the Olive Oil.)
With a pulley and a weight, automatic door closers can be cobbled. Wrapping a package with this stuff will thwart all but those with the one-handed knife. And if you happen to be an electronic hobbyist, it’s the best cable-lacing material on the planet and far cooler looking than a trail of zip-ties.
Long Life Batteries:
We started using the extra long-life lithium batteries when we were flying a lot. Things like noise-cancelling headphones, battery power collision-avoidance unit…well, there’s no end to the usefulness of batteries.
Try Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries, 12 Count or the smaller ones Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA Batteries, 12 Count. You can probably beat Amazon’s price locally, but hard to be the convenience and being able to get a problem out of the way while you’re thinking about it.
Beyond Duct Tape:
I first ran into gaffer tape being used by a Channel-4 news crew cameraman in about 1970. I forget the venue, but he needed to make sure people didn’t trip on the mic cable. Out can his role of magic tape.
Ever since that time we’ve been connoisseurs of tapes and glues, in particular REAL Professional Premium Grade Gaffer Tape by Gaffer Power – Made in the USA – Black 2 Inch X 30 Yards – Heavy Duty Gaffers Tape Plus – 11.5 mils – Better than Duct Tape – Powerful Adhesive Tape. Magically, this is another one of those under $20 buck gifts that keeps on giving.
One other class of “duct tape” (as this stuff came from the HVAC ducting world) is aluminum tape. Consider something like 3″ in 50 yards 3 inch 6 Mil Aluminum Foil HVAC Tape 36mm Heating A/C Ducting Seal Repair Install UV Chemical Moisture Barrier Vapor Flame Resistant High Temperature Acrylic Adhesive 72mm width.
The trick with all these tapes is to generally get the thickest stuff you can. I generally don’t like anything flimsy (though I have an except for Victoria’s Secret goods Elaine might own…ahem…) 6-mil tape is thicker than 3-mil tape which is thicker than 2.4 mil tape.
Here’s the typical “off label” use of metal duct tape.
A couple of years back, we had a problem with mud wasps flying into the shop and making nests everywhere. Out come the duct take and immediately, the space between the headers and the tin fool were sealed up…
The problem with any of these tapes (and you can see it here) is if they are not put directly on metal, over time the expansion and contraction of wood, condensation, and on an on will tend to pull away from the wood. Apply to shops, sheds, lean-to’s and anything else you want to keep small varmints out of.
So another thing goes on the “Christmas Survival List” – spray-on adhesives. Easier than trying to varnish or seal the wood. 3M is our go-to brand and they have an assortment. Their marketing department doesn’t label product “Hold Ranch Together” or “Holds Studio Foam Wall Baffles #4” or anything so practical. Bring your specs to Lowes – marketing departments write product information in 3-point font in order to allow product liability lawyers to tell you not to huff or spray in your eyes… AARP could do all of us a favor by specifying all documents and packing should (by law) be required to be 14-points or bigger.
I’ll get back to you in about five years and let you know how that works out.
No, not for the toothache. Mixed 20-80 with water and sprayed with one of those dollar store sprayers it will discourage wasps, mud daubers, and lots of other critters.
Might not seem like a ‘stocking stuffer” but all too often I’ve seen Christmas come and simply be a mass-arrival of new problems. At least with this kind of list, a few problems can be solved and most of these gifts give nearly year round.
Thanks to “climate change” Elaine saw a wasp not three days ago when it was warm and sunny. They hate clove oil spray…Ure’s Old Man Lab (a/k/a/ the shop) seems like a spice store.
Change of Format Note
I bumped up the headline fonts to H2 from H3 to make it easier to scan the column if you have a phone.
If we had cell service here in the Outback, I’d have done it long ago. But, we’re still losing Pony Express riders now and then so no telling when reliable cell service will arrive
Write when you get rich,