“Tree Table” Prototype

I have seen several versions of this, both as owner built, and for sale items.


In short, the idea is to have a little “table” that gets strapped to a tree trunk and allows you to use your cat food can stove up off of the ground. This proof-of-concept is a little narrow at only 6 inches, but I’m figuring that in a final size of about 8″w x 10″l, in aluminum stock and with a 4′ pull-thru tensioning strap and buckle, it ought to be good to go.

I am also wondering if a version could be made using standard carabiners.  This doesn’t have to support significant weight.

More dollar store stuff taking the place of expensive materials…

Something Absurdly Simple


I freely admit to being a “scrounger”. I salvage, save, “preserve”, conserve etc. any number of things that otherwise would just go in the trash bin. Sometimes it works out unexpectedly.

The piece in the photo above is the rubber finger-grip off of an old gel-pen that got tossed out. I pull the grippies off figuring they might come in handy to put on the handle of some small tool or other, at some point in future time. I found this one hanging out in a bowl when I was doing a bit of cleanup just now.

A couple of weeks ago, I found some old brass, 45 cal. pistol casings and had played around with them, blowing across the top to see what kind of freebie peep-whistle they might make for emergency kits. Imagine my surprise when I put my finger over one end of this little piece of rubberized tubing and it emitted a piercing shriek… F# below middle C.  It is as loud, and carrying as any emergency whistle I have ever seen.

Best of all, because it is of rubber, it will squish down flat and pack into a kit taking up much less room… and much more flexibly.

The bad news is: I pulled out several other grips I had saved and none of them produce any kind of clear note at all. Win some, lose some. I have no idea at all what kind of pen this might have come off of, but all the other grips are of a softer, more “silicone-gel”-like material. They are all too flimsy to produce a clear note. This one however is a champ. It’s going right into my kit.

Always look around, see what you might find. You never know what comes in handy for the most unusual application. That’s what your junk drawer is for…

Tarp Tent Fail


I found an old catenary cut tarp that I bought back in the 1970s, so, yesterday I took some time to try to rig it up… not once, but twice. Once using an old sectional tentpole to spring it, and once without.

It certainly doesn’t look like it in the pictures, but… Fail! Always check out your gear at home before you leave, Kiddies.


It went up OK both times, and was at least functional. However, it wasn’t designed for the gullwing/kite configuration I wanted to use. The tie-out points did not line up when the ridgeline was run corner to corner… It was planned for straight A-frame suspension; rectangular, front to back.  No matter what I did, there was always some droop and slackness that was going to flap badly in any kind of real wind.

Still, as I said, it was at least functional. Free, too… ne sait pas ?   The real problem showed up when it got dark and the dew came down. It soaked right through like it was a cotton sheet. Drips beading up on every interior fold, and dripping down. So now I’m left with the conundrum of whether to waste a can of spray Scotchgard on it. I suspect that all I would get was water resistance not waterproofing. I hate getting wet… Any Thoughts?

It looks like they just didn’t make stuff 40 years ago like they made stuff 41 years ago… Nothing lasts,  you just can’t count on stuff anymore.

Onward etc.

Smallwood-fired Tin-can Gasifier Stove


A few days ago I took 30 minutes and finally threw together my own version of the wood gasifier tin can stove. In the photo above you can clearly see the gas igniting from the ring of holes around the top of the interior can. This is a top burning stove, meaning that you load small pieces of wood to entirely fill the interior can and then build your initial fire on top which then burns downward. Since it is the gases that are released from the wood that actually burn, they are drawn downward through the stove and then back up the void between the two cans to re-ignite at the top of the stove. This gives a strong, hot flame right under your pot.

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For this version I used three different cans. The largest was a coffee can with a “peel-off” top. This is a heavy duty aluminum foil seal that left a quarter inch rim around the top of the can that negated the need to cut open the top. Otherwise, you would need to empty the can somehow and then cut out a circular hole the diameter of the next smallest can. You can do this by drawing a circle the diameter of the interior can and then very carefully cutting out the metal with a pair of tin snips or a jigsaw. This can obviously be a pain in the ass. A down and dirty version would be with an old-fashioned “church-key” beer can opener that punches out the triangular shaped holes, making a complete circle of adjoining holes and leaving a 1/4″ edge. The interior can was from a Progresso soup, and the smallest can was of the cat food variety.

Once the top is cut out on the largest can, you make a row of equally spaced 1/2″ holes around the bottom. These are your air intake. I used tin snips to join two holes to provide a clean-out for the wood ash. The soup can has as many 1/4″ holes punched in the bottom portion as you can fit without violating its integrity. It’s top was simply removed with the rotary can opener. You then make a row of equally spaced 1/4″ holes around the top of the can 1/2″ down from the top. I used 10 holes on the larger can, and 24 around the top of the soup can.

The cat food can, which is used as a set off to raise your cooking pot, is the most difficult to deal with. The bottom of these cans are rounded over, and preserving that round-over is necessary for it to sit stably in the top of the Progresso can. This means more careful work with the tinsnips. You want to be able to cut cleanly right around the outermost groove in the bottom. It then has a row of eight half-inch holes for venting.

I think I made a mistake with the cat food can on this version. The holes probably should be adjoining the top edge. I accidentally pierced them at the bottom. I am going to make a second version of the standoff and see if changing the holes makes any difference.  In matter of fact, the number of holes used in each of the components seems to be open to debate. When I make the next model I will probably use a smaller number of holes to provide burners in the top of the soup can [at least]. I may also try making a larger version using a big tomato juice can and a tall baked-bean can.

Once the holes have been drilled, you simply start to wedge the smaller can inside the hole in the top of the coffee can with a slight rocking motion, so that you do not tear the metal rim. When it has started down, you can turn the whole rig over and just push down on the bottom of the coffee can to seat the soup can inside. If you have been careful, it will fit together so snugly that it can no longer be taken back out…. That’s why these photos don’t show the components separately.

Because my Olicamp cook-cup is nearly the same size as the set-off can, I used a 92mm fan grill from the back of an old computer case as a grate. Larger pots or fry pans will sit quite stably on just the set off.

Once the fire was established, I was able to bring eight or 10 ounces of water to a full bubble for coffee in just less than four minutes. Total burn time before I needed to add more wood was around 10 to 12 minutes. Now… there is no way to regulate the heat on this type stove. Cooking and simmering thicker foods will require constant monitoring, and stirring, to prevent them from burning. While it is not shown in the photographs, I found that it works wonderfully with the little aluminum flashing windscreen that I showed in an earlier post.

However, where this stove really proves itself a winner is in cooking or toasting things on a stick. I love to take along a little baggie of frozen, marinating meat that thaws out while I hike and cook it piece by piece over an open flame. This unit is perfect for that type of cooking. Think marshmallows!  Think “Lil’Smokie” wieners, think steak tips, or chicken chunks… hot, sizzling and with that certain kind of char that you can only get over open flames. No huge fire pit to maintain, and you can start your cooking within five minutes. Once you’re done cooking, you can maintain a nice, small fire to hang around by just adding thumb-sized stick-wood in through the top. You end up with all the enjoyment of an open fire in the tiniest of footprints. Left to burn out, the stove will have only fine, white, wood ash remaining to dispose of.  Truly “Leave No Trace”.

One down, more to come.

I got the shabbiest of the multi-tools that came today cleaned up. It came out much better than I had expected. In fact it came out much better than my hands did. I didn’t think to use gloves and “GooGone” basically will eat your skin while it cleans what you’re working on.

This one is branded “Allied” on the plier hub and is pretty much a clone of the old, original Leatherman multi tool. While lacking a spring to help them reopen in use, the pliers jaws on this one are quite tight, and well made. Just like the original. The wire cutter at the base of the jaws cuts right through steel coathanger wire wire with ease and very cleanly. Some of the tools are differently shaped, especially the can opener… it has kind of a Jimmy Durante nose on it, and doesn’t look like it would cut very well…  and I don’t remember the fish-scaler/ruler as being on the original Leatherman tool, but the knife blade itself is a nice shape and took a very sharp edge with only a few strops on the diamond stone. (Of course, it remains to be seen how well it will hold that edge. This may turn out to be really cheapo steel reprocessed from your daddy’s 1978 Chrysler). I didn’t want to drown this post with photographs of each and every blade and tool, but the unit has the usual selection of phillips and flathead screwdrivers, can opener, awl, etc and the backside of the fish scaler is a very capable file. When open, each piece locks firmly in place with no wiggle at all.

Like the original Leatherman tool, this one is old-school. The blades and other tools are all in the same interior pockets with the pliers jaws. The tool has to be butterflied open to access anything… two-handed. This also means that when used as pliers, all of those exposed edges cut into your fingers as they curl around the handles. This was my only real complaint with the original Leatherman tool when I purchased it back in the 1980s. I was doing maintenance at a motel and restaurant complex, and the newly arrived multitool was the perfect solution to my constant need for some kind of small tool to replace a washer, tighten the screws on a door handle and all the other chores I was always having to go running back to the shop to pick up the correct tool. It did save me a lot of running around, but the open channels of the handle would always cut in pretty deeply if you needed a tight grip.

More current models of almost all the high-end multi-tools now have all the blades accessible on the exterior of the unit. When it’s opened up to use the pliers, those are all rotated to the inside, and your fingers curl around something that feels more like an actual handle. I much prefer the new solution, however, for this one, I will simply take a file to the interior edges of the blade pockets, round them off a bit and smooth them down with a couple of grades of steel wool.

I really was very pleased at how this cleaned up. At first glance it was marginal at best, and I had pretty much consigned it as one of the “Pieces-O-Crap”. It was covered in what appeared to be concrete scale and it took a lot of work to get all that off. The result already seems to be worth it. For my two dollar cost, and minimal elbow grease, I am left with a tool that seems almost as good as the $50 Leatherman. Especially when you consider that that $50 was in 1980s money. So, this one has definitely turned into a keeper, and pretty satisfactorily satisfies the 50/90 criteria.

[in the upper photograph you can see that it is missing one of the rubber grip inserts… at some point, if I get really worked up with nothing to do, I have some old ivory piano keys and it wouldn’t take too much to fill that recess with a piece of ivory and do some scrimshaw on it]




A “Down ‘n’ Dirty” Anorak

You probably would be hard-pressed to find a faster, cheaper DIY project than this one…


Yesterday I picked up this chemical “splash guard” suit down at the Fell-Off-A-Truck-Stop [shown here undergoing the rigorous Moosenut Falls Development Labs Quality Control Process by one of our certified technicians]

It only ran me $3. And, yes, it does look like it’s sized for Shaquille O’Neal. For my purposes that’s quite fine. I think it was actually a 3X. Because I was planning on making an anorak and rain chaps out of it, the extra size to allow for warming layers underneath was just what I wanted.

I laid it down on my deck and made a shallow crescent out of six or seven pushpins curving down from one side to the other. This was to hold it firmly and to guide my cut through both layers at once. I used the catenary curve rather than simply cutting it off square. That way it will be easier to pull down over my knees if I want to sit.

Quite literally, 30 seconds later I was finished. It took longer to set up and take the photos than the project itself took.

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The whole package rolls down without any excessive force to just larger than a soda can. I don’t have a scale, but it seems to be about the 1/3 the weight of a full soda can. The suit I used had a zipper that came down fairly deeply, perhaps almost to my crotch, so I believe that I will be able to just step into the anorak and pull it up. Unlike a lot of the white Tyvek jumpsuits I have seen other people on the Internet use for this project, it even had a full-length placket over the zipper. The sleeve cuffs were also elasticized to prevent flapping. I’m going to cut the legs off of the remnant using a pair of jeans as a template. They will be single leg chaps that tie off to my belt.

The one thing that remains to be determined is that, while this is designed to protect from chemical “splashes”, I have no idea how waterproof or water resistant it actually is. So, I have taken one of the legs, folded a couple of pieces of paper towel in under just one layer of fabric, and set it out in the rain with a rock on it to see what it’s “soak through” time might be.

Regardless, and in the worst case, I’ve got a pretty nice, very light-weight wind-suit that allows for layering underneath. Even if it proves not to be terribly waterproof, I have a spray can of Scotchgard that I got a couple of years ago to re-treat an older, but expensive, parka. I’ll give that a shot before I give up.

Minimalist FirstAid kits

Since I had a whole bunch of stuff spread around to do some repacks on emergency kits and those new “Fishermen’s Essentials” FirstAid kits, I got to thinking how often all I really want is to deal with a simple cut, or really minimal knuckle-scrape. It’s a pain in the butt to open up a whole kit, and unpack enough to find just one Band-Aid.

I wanted to see what I could manage in the way of the simplest, lightest, and most efficient first aid kit… What I ended up with was a couple of Band-Aids and disinfectant wipes in a baggie… DeLuxe.



I was able to cram two full sized Band-Aids, a medium sized one, one oversized knuckle bandage [I had to fold that in half], one Benzacodium and one alcohol wipe, and a little package of antiseptic cream, all into a flat package less than 2″ x 4.5″.

One little Ziploc I had kicking around was just a shade narrower than a strip of duct tape. I slipped everything into the bag and pressed it out onto a piece of tape. Then, working from one end to get all the extra air out, I pressed a double-width piece of clear packing tape down over the whole thing. I trimmed off the edges of the packing tape so that there was only a quarter of an inch overlap, and folded that back over the duct tape. Trimmed off both ends and ended up with a pretty slick little package.

It should be pretty much waterproof, it will slip into any pocket, and you ought to be able to open it with a quick nick of a pocketknife, or even a sharp twig.



[Yes. This could’ve been even more minimalist. I could’ve stripped the paper off of the Band-Aids, and only included the  pouch of antiseptic cream. Then it probably would’ve fit on a single width piece of packing tape folded back lengthwise up over itself.]