Compleat Idler, Preparedness, Tool user

Idler’s tools – parachute cord

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

My Swiss Army Knife Zermatt pouch arrived Saturday, September 8—it was scheduled fotr Monday, September 10. So far, so good. I had been thinking of getting a Huntsman with pouch after seeing one in the store for less than forty bucks. My Leatherman tool is too heavy for waist carry and I could use something more than a blade. Plus, the corkscrew says I am sophisticated.

When I went back the one with the pouch was gone so I went home and searched through a drawer because I remembered seeing a basketweave Zermatt pouch for the old Explorer that I cracked the spine on. My memory still tricks me and, as I said in a post on cutlery, when I go through my old stuff, surprises await. I did not find the pouch—it probably went in a lapse in the Scout Leader accumulation instinct. No, there was my Victorinox Huntsman, waiting to be picked up and used. The scales were darker than the new ones, probably due to handling and the oils from my hands—lanolin, neetsfoot, gun oil, machine oil etc.

So I went on line to find a pouch. The general run of stuff appears to be either cordura or a black clip-on case. An outfit called Swiss Knives Express had real Zermatt pouches. I ordered one with a sharpening steel for twenty bucks. And it arrived. The knife slid in tightly. It pulls out with effort. A thong on the lanyard ring would help.

My first choice would be leather, but what I had was parachute cord which is the subject of this post. At this house we buy 550 cord occasionally, but when we do we buy spools. A 1000′ spool will provide 10 100′ hanks which is the smallest amount I carry. And if there is 25′ still intact at the end of the weekend I roll it and stick it in a drawer or the bottom of a pack. So there is always some around when I need it. About six inches was all it took to give me a small loop that leverages the knife out of the pouch.

Shelter: Using the 550 is much more convenient than carrying 3/8 inch Manila—and about as strong. Combined with a tarp or sheet of Visqueen, this provides sturdy support between poles or trees. While all nylon has more of a tendency to stretch than hemp, the parachute cord is not as loose as the polypropylene rope used for marine purposes. And it has the advantage of tying almost like natural fiber. In erecting shelter use of the taut-line hitch is critical as this allows you to loosen or tighten the lines. (The aluminum or plastic line adjusters that come with commercial grade tents get lost.

Lashings: I began scouting in January of 1955. I spent that month learning knots, hitches and lashings because that is what the troop leadership was into and I had already learned woods tools from my grandfather, having taken out a three-inch sapling with a ¾ axe at age 10. This is not the way we do things now because there are fewer necessary knots: sheet-bend, bowline, taut-line hitch, clove hitch, timber hitch, square lashing, diagonal lashing, shear lashing and tripod lashing. There are other lashings, knots and hitches but these are the essentials and are learned over a year period. In the Pioneering merit badge program the standard is ¼ or 3/8 inch hemp or sisal rope because that is the way it was done back when. (Note: were the Mountain Men still around they would use the 90 mph tape.) In training we used sisal twine that comes in 100′ bales. But I like the 1/8 inch diameter parachute cord because it lays down nicely and I generally have some.

Securing gear: Because you can tie secure knots and use the taut-line hitch, 550 is preferable to bungee cord which gives and uses hooks that break at the least opportune time. (Is there any gear failure that does not occur at the least opportune time?) My grandmother had me use cotton clothes line for this project which wears quickly and she could cut into the right length with kitchen shears. It is nearly impossible to untie when wet and starts to smell.

Bootlaces: Cut to the right length, these are the laces that say, “I can improvise.” They started as a quick fix on a weeklong outing and ended up on the boots in the closet—when you have them in, it does not pay to buy commercial laces.

Limitations: This is not rescue rope. And, unless you get the military stuff with threads inside you are just getting an outer shell—it might fasten gear but it has little utility in the field. As with all polymers it will melt quickly.

However: I consider parachute cord to be an essential part of any preparedness supply.

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Compleat Idler, Surplus Stores, Tool user

Surplus stores — suspicious behavior

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

So one of the signs of suspicious behavior in a surplus store is discussion of means to convert items to uses for which they were not intended. Now this may go back to when I spotted the jet-fighter canopy and had the brilliant idea that, combined with a cot, it could provide the perfect bed for sleeping under the stars. It certainly was not Pete’s idea to use a three dollar pilot’s helmet for a football helmet.

But a few years later (and about 11 inches taller) I no longer had that fantasy and Pete was elsewhere. Who knows? He may have figured out how to build a communications system into a football helmet so the coach and the QB can talk to each other. But you have to realize that the tools of war may have other uses.

“ And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” [Isaiah 2:4] I read that when I was eight years old and still grappling with the insipid stuff in school—I now understand that early modern English is a different language and that the 1611 Authorized Version is EME. But this has always intrigued me.

The things I remember from surplus stores is looking at the bayonets and comparing the length of the blade to the cattail roots by the pond. I have been told that cattail roots are edible—the problem was how long they needed to cook. But we obtained machetes which can be used to top sugar beets and old first aid supplies. The WW2 canteens were better than Official BSA and you could hang two of them on a pistol belt for balance. The guys who built the slat pack frames used ammo packs for their main bag—a fishing trip was not the intended use for the bag, but it worked.

I would tend to worry more about people talking about using the bayonets to stick people—you say things like that in bars. I stay out of bars—it is intentional as I do not like fights.

Meanwhile, that bicycle generator intrigues me.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness, Surplus Stores, Technology

Preparedness tip — duct tape

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

“Duct tape” is not to be used on ductwork as it is not designed for handling temperature extremes. The term was developed because the term “duck tape” which came from a strong adhesive back on cotton duck was trademarked by one company. Note that this company uses its trademark on several different backed tapes.

What you need for the ductwork is called HVAC tape.

There is also gaffers’ tape, available from dealers in photo and video equipment that holds lights and accessories in place and does not generally take the wallpaper or paint with it when removed.

What I use for general repairs I get at either the US Cavalry Store or Cheaper Than Dirt depending on who has the better price point that month. It is described as 60 mph or something like that and I call it military stuff. It does pull wallpaper, paint, finish or veneer off the wall. It holds—that is the general idea.

A note: In scout leader training we ran a lashing contest and prohibited tape. In a survival situation, use the tape.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness

GUNSHOWS

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

It has been some time since I went to a Gunshow. According to the folks in Washington and New York these shows are a hotbed of illegal weapons sales. I have made personal purchases from other customers—sometimes a trade. But every dealer has to go through the NICS process.

I very seldom buy weapons but I check prices which are driven by demand.  And a key factor in demand is regulation and rumors of regulation.  Back in the early nineties there was a rumor that ATF would require that primers have a shelf life of no more than six months.  While this is possible, the chemical process would be iffy–the shelf life starts at the point of manufacture.  Existing primers shot up in price and disappeared.  Also, semi-auto weapons have had ups and downs depending on the political climate.

Also there are knick-knacks and coins as well as Pakistani swords and knives for the RenFest crowd.  I brought home some t-shirts for the family that said, “PETA People Eating Tasty Animals.”  There are various political and attitudinal bumper stickers I would not want on my truck if I were a defendant in a self-defense shooting case.

What really makes gun shows interesting are the tools and books.  These are not just reloading and gunsmithing tools but metalworking tools from which can be made machine tools,  My theory has always been that the way out of a breakdown and collapse is the rebuilding of a manufacturing infrastructure–one wind generator and home workshop at a time.  My son steers me away from tables where they have multi-bit screwdrivers, which I am reputed to accumulate.

I really enjoy seeing the used books and coins.  There are a lot of turn-of-the-20th-Century two and four volume encyclopediae that have instructions on manufacturing techniques as well as Kurt Saxon’s books that excerpt them.  Also there are some out of print classics such as some of Ruark’s less than politically correct books.

Coins fascinate me and I might be tempted.  The artwork and history are really important to know.

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Technology

Technology advances?

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl – Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

 

“Technology has advanced and other lies” could be the title of a popular book if someone who writes popular books were to use it. They cannot, however, without my permission as publishing this copyrights the form.

In 1964 I got a Royal typewriter with a cloth ribbon. I banged on it through college and law school though I did final draft on an electric that used a carbon ribbon and an erase ribbon. In 1982 my son used the manual to practice on for typing. The last time I saw it, it was in my mother’s house and I did not want to bother finding ribbons.

In 78 or 79 the state began using computers and standalone word processors for clerical tasks. Shortly after that my wife obtained a KayPro with monitor and printer for a couple thou for her business and she used WordStar. Do not knock it—we were using the same program at work by 1984. In 1985 I borrowed her computer for the weekend to rewrite a pile of job descriptions and we decided I should get my own. Those computers, along with standalone processors have gone the way of 45 rpm records.

And from 1990 when I transferred to an outlying agency, I went through four or five software systems and four computers until I retired at the end of 1998. They had numbers like 286, 386 and 486. I traded a couple used rifles for my own 486 with Windows 311 at home which put me ahead of where I was and that died in 2002. I bought the AMD 6 and upgraded to Office 98II. The processor died in 2005 and I obtained the the laptop I am using now with whatever Windows system they had at the time and a 256mb and 540mb ram sticks. In 2010 we upgraded to 1gb and 540mb ram and Ubuntu—I am now running 12.04. Of late it has been getting cranky and last week it stopped loading videos. So yesterday they shipped a refurbished Lenovo with 4gig and XP(which I will have to replace).

The demise of the standalone word processors tells it all. They could not import data and their data was not compatible with PCs. Now, if I were to visit a library in Milan and could get the librarian to allow me to, I could read an eighth century Latin Vulgate Bible because I managed to learn Latin. If said Bible were on a 7½ disk, I could not recover it and would have to find someone who had a reader and could print out the copy—I much prefer the idea of going to Milan and haggling.

The used rifles I traded were WWI surplus. They still function and will as long as they are maintained.

On 1 July 2012 my Studmuffin EnergyStar washing machine died. It was a house brand, built by Chinese people for another brand name who sold units sold by the company that just closed a bunch of stores. Evidently, as my repair person of a quarter century or more said, the front loading washers require a special soap or they seize up. I am doing research now.

The other thing I noticed pursuant to this adventure is that the commercial gas dryers in the laundromat I used were there when I was in law school.  I graduated in 1972.  But they are not EnergyStar.

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Compleat Idler, Free Society, Surplus Stores

All others pay cash

(c) Earl L. Haehl  Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

 

Following is the first in a series of articles based on experiences as a surplus scrounger. The story is fictionalized to the extent necessary to pull facts together that happened at different times. Ruark did this in The Old Man and the Boy. This first installment is fairly light weight and family friendly. I will try to make these okay for general audience consumption. Suffice to say that what happened in the fifties does not happen now.

The sign on the cash register in the surplus store said, “In God we trust. All others PAY CASH!!!” I was maybe 11 when first I wandered in unattended by adults. Back in suburban Denver I had to get rides to surplus stores and that meant adult supervision lest I bring home a moldy pup tent and try sleeping in the yard. It was a new world to me and I walked through aisles of stuff I never knew armies had. I knew about the ammo belts with the pockets that held en bloc clips for the Garand—we were up on our World War II movies and a little sad that Korea was over before we got old enough.

For 98 cents you could get a military hatchet and it was 35 cents more for the canvas pouch. This was WWII stuff in the days before well heeled re-enactors. Canteen with cover – 98 cents. Mess kit the same. Up front there were real steel tools. A size small wool shirt almost fit me at the time—and I would be wearing a large soon enough. The CPO shirt went for 2 bucks and I had something to wear under the parka my folks got me to wear.

But it was a world of fantasy—mine was the F-86 cockpit canopy for $29.98 that I could get when I was fourteen and I could earn real money at the grocery store. And it was my first outfitter. With ten bucks I got my first tackle box, some hooks, a real bobber and a South Bend reel. I also picked up 200′ of casting line. Cash payment. I knew that my folks had an aluminum JC Penney card that they used once a year if they did not have the reserves in the bank for school clothes.

Praceically everything in the store was priced two cents shy of the next dollar. You got the feeling you were saving money when you went home to stash it in craft paper tubes. And if you used a couple of those 50 cent rolls the proprietor—we called him Mr Ace because it was Ace Surplus.

It was late December in 1956. My dad had to come back from Denver and I rode the bus with him. I had 35 bucks and I knew that it would not be long before I would no longer fit under the canopy. My thoughts were now of next year’s buck season. A cousin of my aunt had a ranch and I had spotted the muley buck I wanted. And Mr Ace had dropped the price on Mausers.

Now, back in the mid-fifties there were no Form 4473 requirements. The Model 95 I wanted had dropped from $14.98 to $12.98. I lived two blocks west of Broadway, then it was a block south to the Chevy dealership and another block to Gambles which was a third of a block to Ace Army Surplus.

Mr Ace knew exactly what my mission was as I stood looking at the “Mauser barrel,” an old beer keg wih four or five slats missing. The weather was warm and I wore the white sombrero with the “Wyoming” crease my aunt had given me.

“So you’re going to hunt up by Alliance next year?”

“That’s my plan.” This may have been the first adult conversation I had that did not involve books. My interactions with adults were generally on a level of myself being somewhat less than 100 percent human. I might, at some point in the future be worth their time, but for the time being I should keep quiet unless asked a question. My father, a Shakespeare scholar, and the children’s librarian who decided I was a little too advanced for the Landmark series were the only adults it was safe to have a conversation with.

Then came the inevitable question. “Does your mother know you’re here?”

“No. She’s in Denver.”

“Do you have $12.98.”

“I have 17 bucks on my person. Gotta get some ammo too.”

“You know you’ll only get $8 if you bring it back?”

“My risk.”

“My advice is to keep it at Henry and Blanche’s for a while.” Aunt Blanche was my grandfather’s sister. Uncle Henry was her second husband. And that way we could keep it there and I would go out to his farm and really learn to shoot.

I got my eight bucks when we made the decision—that’s the way parents would speak—to move to the promised land of California. I had a plan to fix up my bike as a three wheeler and the money could buy the necessary lawn mower engine to power it. But they, my extended family, would not be there and my dad’s tool box was lacking in wrenches. And like the dream of the buck, the dream of the powered tricycle faded into time.

In 1997 I drove south on Broadway. The Chevrolet dealership had moved. Gambles was something else and Ace Army Surplus was no more. It was like time had erased the small town and the location of the interstate had made it smaller.

Mr Ace is gone now. In 2007 my mother, the last of her generation on both sides of her family passed. There are fewer surplus stores to fire the imagination. And many of those left deal in the colorful cheap imported outdoor gear that does not raise images of blood and sacrifice—no, kids get the image of blood without sacrifice from video games.

And then came the response to “terrorism” and now the key to purchase at a surplus store is a debit or credit card. Proprietors are warned to take note of persons using cash and demand identification. Also to beware of persons buy bulk ammunition, MRE style foods, etc. Okay, so as a clerk I would give anyone buying MREs in bulk the business card of my heart specialist. But I wonder jf, in the pursuit of a safe society we are forfeiting a free society.

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