Getting Prepared: From the Homestead to Living Off the Land


I currently do not fall in the category of the less than 1% of the population that can afford the real possibility of a “retreat” on 40+ acres, based on a Rawlesian criteria. However, I do have a solid brick house on 1.5 acres in a rural area on the southern plains. For the immediate future this will have to serve as my permanent abode. I have always had an interest in outdoor survival skills, and have lived, vacationed, and worked for extended periods of time in isolated outdoor camps while working “in the bush” with limited modern comforts. These experiences have taught me numerous self sufficient survival skills: basically camping or “roughing it” comfortably while providing clean water, safe and sanitary kitchen facilities, latrines, and other amenities. In addition to some time outdoors spent tracking, hunting and fishing, these experiences have given me an “outdoorsman” background. I also believe that I have a basic “survivalist mentality” and am sure I have a better than average knowledge of the skills and planning needed to survive a variety of chaotic situations the future may bring. However, I have not prepared in the past as I should. I have only recently begun to get organized for any serious long-term survival scenario. Part of this process has been to take stock of my situation. In doing so I have identified many of the pros and cons of my lifestyle and current living conditions (I have a young family, am not close to retiring, have some debts, and am a fairly new homeowner with a mortgage). I believe the end of the world as we know it is already happening in a slow, not so subtle slide. Plan A is to keep preparing for a self sufficient life at home and hunker down, and if TEOTWAWKI is in the form of a dramatic upheaval in society (as many describe) we may have to go to Plan B (get out of Dodge), followed by Plan C (make a last ditch effort to live off the land until order is restored within a few months) or until my family unit can join up with a like minded group. I know that Plan B or C have a less than good chance of “success” (they are for true dire straits), but at least we have a fall back plan. As described below, future preparations are still required to strengthen our plan.

The following outlines my basic situation, which I suspect is comparable to that of many citizens who are in the process of preparing better for an uncertain future, and includes a variety of skills and items I have recently taken stock of. In doing so, I will provide some profile information on my current state of readiness (Part 1) while attempting to offer advice on a few sets of skills and items I haven’t seen on most of the basic “beans, bullets, and band-aid” lists (Part 2).

Part 1: My Homestead and Basic Resources

Based on Rawles’ criteria, my region has a moderate retreat potential.  To start with, the main detractors are that I am less than 10 miles from a large population center (over 100,000), the region has high insurance rates and is drought prone. However, we have fairly strong gun laws in this state with the right to carry a concealed handgun and an improving Castle Doctrine. Other benefits to my immediate region are that the smaller communities nearby and the wider region in general is conservative with strong Christian family values. I have a wife and several children under 13-years old. I have a stable job and pay my bills and taxes. My wife is very frugal and is the list maker. We share the common goal of insuring our family’s future, and contribute to assisting extended family, friends and community when possible. I have not been able to convince her to store the food stocks we should need for a long term period of hunkering down, or some of the other measures suggested by Rawles and others for this scenario. However, the soils are good for gardening and farming. My house is double walled (it was a pier and beam wood frame house that was moved to the current location and then bricked over), our homestead has a deep well (with a brick well house) and septic system. We have piped natural gas for heating and hot water systems, and electricity from a co-op. I have a greenhouse with plumbing, a large garage and shop with an air compressor and well stocked with tools and various home and auto repair materials. We have a small supplemental solar kit that is expandable. We plan to go to a grid-tie with backup system soon and eventually go off-grid with a hybrid solar – wind system. We regularly make a shopping trip to the nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore (we consider this a frugal man’s “home depot”), which has numerous home repair supplies and materials. We stock up on goods such as paint, PVC pipe and fittings, lumber, hardware, solid core doors, appliances and fixtures, etc. for very cheap prices. These are usually used and donated by contractors or home remodelers, and the price we pay is minimal. The money then goes to Habitat for Humanity for their operations. I search online sources for good tools and materials and have found fencing materials, farming and gardening supplies, soil, compost, PVC pipe, steel plates and pipe, appliances, and good used tools. is one of go to sources for these materials – especially the free and barter goods. We obviously approach these transactions with a “buyer beware” attitude, however we have always had good luck and have met decent and interesting people in doing so. We are always looking for appropriate spare parts, tires, repair kits, hoses, belts, bolts, fluids, etc. on sale at big box stores or in classifieds. We also have other outbuildings and sheds which we have ongoing projects to modify for livestock housing and specialty workshops. I am in the process of designing a self sufficient chicken coop, and goat pens and barn. We are expanding our garden and rainwater catchment system. With any luck, I may in the near future have access to 15-100 additional acres of pasture and woods adjacent to my lot.

Vehicles: I drive a diesel 4×4 pickup, my wife has a fuel efficient VW with a gas engine. I am currently beginning to restore an early 1970s model Toyota Landcruiser. The skills I am learning to restore this vehicle (replace all old and worn mechanical parts, hoses, fluids etc.), and the versatility of this heavy duty wagon will be very useful in an uncertain future. It will soon be a bug out vehicle that can go anywhere, just not very fast. I am developing new “jack of all trades” skills and have always been able to tackle basic home and vehicle maintenance work, but lack experience in advanced auto mechanics or construction. I am planning some long term gas and diesel storage. Since diesel is easier to store for long term, the diesel truck will probably be the last working vehicle we will have if TSHTF.

In addition, I have a 31-foot early 1970s Airstream travel trailer. It has been fully refurbished and is basically self-sufficient with a few modifications. With additional water filters made from four tubes of PVC (gravel, charcoal, fine screen filters, and chlorine) an emergency water source can be pumped from to supplement the tanks. With an added solar trickle charger, the batteries can keep the lights and ventilation fans on. With enough propane, cooking and heating could be maintained for an extended period of time. I plan additional modifications to harden this trailer and improve its utility as our “escape pod”. I do not have a private retreat, but hope to someday afford a sufficient amount of land in a good location (with Rawles’ list of security details in mind) as a retreat. To keep costs down, all I need is suitable acreage with natural resources such as water and timber. We could transport the Airstream for shelter. I had a family member in the 1980s who had some land in the mountains, cut a small road in, leveled an area on the slope, dug a trench, lowered his Airstream trailer into the trench (stocked with guns, ammo and freeze dried food), and buried the whole thing as insurance against a “red army” invasion of CONUS. I never got to see this and do not know how long the stores lasted, but have recently considered a modified version of this tactic. By digging a ramped trench to back or pull a trailer into I could have concealment; using the back dirt as bunkers it would have built in mass for a ballistic barrier; natural insulation for heating and cooling; and other benefits. Mainly it is less expensive than building an underground bunker. In the mean time and until I can acquire private retreat land, with my diesel truck and “escape pod” I can bug out with the family and dogs anywhere within 400 miles on one tank of gas and be self sufficient for several weeks to months. Without additional food and supply stores or the benefit of a sustainable retreat location, this is obviously not satisfactory as a long term solution.

At present, I don’t anticipate many scenarios which would require fleeing the homestead, so Plan A is really to continue to prepare and hunker down. As I mentioned, I am fairly close to a large population, but live in a rural area with dependable neighbors and open land flanking my homestead. In keeping Plan B as a working option, my wife and I plan several trips a year to educate the kids for a self sufficient lifestyle learned from camping, hiking, fishing and hunting and take these opportunities to practice outdoor survival skills. Other Benefits of preparing the homestead  as a “modified full time retreat” include the ability to pay off a few remaining debts as soon as possible. Except for the mortgage, I should be debt free in about 2 years. With a little luck and hard work, we will decrease this time and be financially independent sooner. I live close to work and can be home in 10 minutes, with little chance of running into any escaping hordes on TEOTWAWKI day. By homesteading, I feel I can meet many of the needs that Rowels and others have outlined for surviving TEOTWATKI.

I have a basic set of kits, tools and skills to feel a level of confidence that I can take care of my family in a crisis, and with some efficient planning, preparing, hard work, prayer, luck and protection from a guardian angel, we will be among the survivors if TSHTF.

Shotguns: I have owned a Remington 870 pump shotgun since I was a young teenager and am proficient in bird and small game hunting. I have studied self defense use of the “scattergun” or “streetsweeper” and feel confident I could protect my family and property if needed. I have recently purchased an 18.5” open choke cylinder barrel (riot gun barrel) and keep buckshot for home defense. I have about 300 rounds of various birdshot loads, 40 deer slugs, and several boxes of the buckshot. I would like to take some self defense training and properly engage in a long term training regimen – for all calibers and categories of guns I currently have. I also have 20 gauge, bolt action shotgun. It is solid, dependable and good for small bird and game hunting. 20 gauge shells take up slightly less storage space then 12 gauge, and we have about 120 birdshot shells in 20 gauge.

Rifles: Col. Jeff Cooper was a proponent of the Scout Rifle. (The specifications: .308 caliber, less than 1 meter in total length, less than 7.7 lbs, with a long eye relief scope (LER) and a tactical sling). I have a pseudo scout. I shoot a Remington 750 Woodsmaster chambered for a .243 Winchester. With a 22 inch barrel and OAL at 39 inches, 7.5 lbs, and full scope, it is meets most of the specs for a scout. Additionally, Col. Cooper lists this type of gun as appropriate for young or small-framed people (like myself). Also, my wife and 12 year old son will be able to shoot this rifle (my wife was formerly in the Army and is one of the only women I know who has qualified on the M16). One thing I like about the .243 is that I can shoot it a lot with no recoil pain. Since I am less proficient with the rifle (compared to the shotgun) I need to practice more often with this rifle. It is a semi-auto feed and could carry five shots. I have a regular neoprene sling and BSA 3-9 x 50 scope, best used for deer hunting. I have left the iron sights installed and could drop the scope if needed. Following Cooper’s criteria for proficiency, I should be capable of shooting less than 4″ in 3 shot groups at 200 yards. I need more practice. I am better with the .22 LR rifle and have two: a single shot and a bolt action. While varmint hunting with friends, I have found that a semi-auto is much more practical (rabbits are not easy to hit on the run). I plan on obtaining one soon. A dependable, basic AR-15 style rifle is also high on my list of needs; we need to protect the livestock from predators/coyotes. I bet my wife will enjoy showing me how to field strip and operate it!

Handguns: I have a Ruger P345. This semi-auto hand gun shoots the classic .45 ACP, but fits my small hand and frame, is relatively light weight (compared to a 1911, or large .357 or .44 magnum revolver). It is appropriate for concealed carry, but I carry my .380 much more comfortably. I have studied Col. Cooper’s Modern Method and have been practicing a version modified to fit my gun’s specifications. I currently have about 500 hundred rounds of .45 ACP ball for targets or varmints, several hundred rounds of JHPs (I prefer the CCI Lawman 200 grain JHP, aka “The Inspector”) and add a box of 50 whenever I have a chance. If I plan on shooting 50 rounds at the range or on a friend’s ranch, I buy 100 rounds. I also have a semi-auto .380 which is easy to carry concealed. It is a Bersa (Argentinean) and a clone of the classic Walther PPK. The .380 Remington JHP 88 grain bullet can penetrate well enough into a solid wood backstop I use for target practice. It is half the size of my .45 and works well in an everyday concealed carry situation. I don’t shoot this weapon as much as I should, but am more accurate in short range (under 20 feet) with it. To quote Cooper: “The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that someone else has started, almost always at close range.” He also stated that a pistol is used to help get you back to your rifle if you are separated in a fight.

I keep a few of Jeff Cooper’s quotes handy to always remind me why I have a small battery. He also states that, “the police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and it is not only acceptable, but mandatory.” I also learned from Cooper to think strategically more than tactically and demand of myself proficiency in my gun use. In addition to shooting at targets basically in my backyard, I try to practice shooting in non-target range situations. Hunting and plinking on a friend’s ranch offer some of the few opportunities where I can practice scenarios in handling and shooting firearms in real life situations of being constantly armed with long and short guns (proper gun handling with a group of people, in and out of vehicles with weapons, hunting & target practice in different seasons and different times of day and weather).

Working Dogs
Although all of our dogs are pets and part of the family, they serve multiple purposes. I decided to mention them in my profile for others to consider the attributes of these breeds. I have a Catahoula. This is a multipurpose dog supposedly bred from the first Spanish War Dogs that the Conquistadors brought to the Americas in the 16th Century mixed with Native American dogs. The Catahoula is a ranch dog bred in Louisiana and trained for various tasks: cattle or goat herding, small varmint hunting (they can tree coons and are even known to climb trees in pursuit), hog hunting (they can be trained to pursue and kill wild hogs in specially trained teams of three dogs), and bird hunting (they can point and hold). Although a single dog cannot be trained to do all of these tasks, this is a very versatile breed or working dog that I think would make an excellent survival breed. They are very intelligent and loyal as a family protector, have a medium to large build (50-70 lbs), and are good guard dogs. They do have short coats and would not be a great choice for an outdoor only dog in a location with long cold winters. We also have two Chihuahuas (my wife’s dogs), the only use I have for these little dogs is that they make great indoor alarms. If the doors open, windows rattle, or a vehicle comes near the house, we hear the Chihuahua alarm! They are bred for rodent catching and I wish I could use them for this task, but my wife is afraid that they would die from eating poison ingested rats or mice if we used them for such… In a SHTF situation, I would unleash them in the food storage area and let them earn their keep. They are very small and need minimal food and water. If allowed to do what they were originally bred for, I wouldn’t doubt they would contribute to the family security by keeping the vermin out of the food storage area.

Our “need to do” list is long. It includes:

  • Food preparation and storage
  • Improved garden
  • Solar pump and new well and storage tank sufficient for several days of no sun
  • Propane tank to convert from natural gas, if necessary
  • High security fence around 1.5 acre homestead
  • Complete reloading bench & tools (have basic scales and brass)

Part 2: Primitive Survival Tools & Skills

If we have to fall back on Plan C (G.O.O.D. and live off the land – at least to supplement our diet), then I have a basic knowledge of primitive outdoor survival skills that should help me to work hard at supplying my family with some basic necessities. In addition to hunting, fishing and tracking skills, I have practiced the primitive arts of making a fire using a fire bow, making and using a hand drill, and flintknapping. I do not offer the following as a substitute for modern tools and techniques, but as an emergency supplement or replacement. We have progressed from Stone Age tools to steel and computer age materials to our own benefit, but the stone age tools and techniques helped man survive for many thousands of years and they could have a use in modern survival situations. Just as with any modern tools (firearms, chainsaws or a 4×4 diesel truck), the manufacturing/maintenance and use of the “primitive” tools is not easy to learn and one should not acquire these skills after your life depends on them. Also, just because these are referred to as “primitive” tools, doesn’t mean they are not carefully and expertly made or mastered. I have a lot of practice and can manufacture (through flintknapping) a basic stone knife and set of scrappers that would be suitable for wild game and food processing. With additional practice, I continue to improve my skills in manufacturing stone dart tips for arrows or spears. I have not attempted to make a bow and need to practice this, but have assisted an old friend in the process. However, one expedient tool I can make for throwing a projectile is the atl-atl (or dart thrower).

The atl-atl is a primitive weapon which was used by our early ancestors for thousands of years before the bow and arrow was invented and copied. It is capable of launching a projectile (called a dart) very accurately and with enough velocity to penetrate and kill large game efficiently. Native Americans hunted bison and other large game with this simple tool kit. It is made by carving a shaft of wood with a handle and a spur (or cup) which the dart is seated in before launching it. The atl-atl is about 24-30 inches long, and can be carved from a tree limb (ash or many other hard but not brittle types of wood can be used) with a small hook or stub of a branch left for the spur. It is advisable to attach two finger loops on the handle end. These make it easier to keep the atl-atl in one’s hand while throwing the dart. This simple tool allows the kinetic energy to be stored while the arm is in motion (a lot like a baseball pitcher’s motion using the arm and wrist). The dart can be projected 6 times farther than a hand-thrown spear with 150 times the foot-pound energy. With practice, the atl-atl can be accurate to 100 meters, but is best used at close range of around 20 meters. Its value as a survival tool is that it can be easily manufactured and operated silently. Hunting can be conducted with no noise to attract unwanted attention in any situation. One drawback with its use is that the hunter (or thrower) is basically standing and in the open while launching. With practice this can be minimized with camouflage and technique. One uses an atl-atl with minimal effort, and throws it by taking a step or two forward and launching the dart with a quick snap of the wrist. It really doesn’t take much effort and is successfully done using a motion like casting a fishing line with a rod and reel. In fact, during demonstrations with 8-16 year old school kids, I have observed that the girls who are just trying to learn to do this without too much embarrassment out-throw the boys who are going for world record launches! 

The atl-atl’s “ammo” consists of darts about twice the length of a standard arrow up to 5 or 6 feet. In fact, two modern aluminum arrow shafts can be screwed together with one set of fletching and one dart tip or point. Using natural stems of cane, willow shoots, bamboo, reed, or straight saplings would require a series of steps to complete a working toolkit for the atl-atl. A dart can be made in three parts: a foreshaft, a shaft, and fletching. The fletching is a row of feathers, usually short, trimmed one-sided wing feathers, glued to the base end like on an arrow. They are in three rows with a slight twist to provide steady flight and rotation. One outdoor survivalist (Alloway, 2000) also suggests using credit card strips set into the shaft, what a great way to put that plastic to use after TEOTWAWKI! Instead of a notch, like on the base of an arrow, the atl-atl dart base has a round divot for seating the shaft of the dart to the spur on the atl-atl. The foreshaft (made of a short 3-4 inch piece of shaped hard wood) is attached to the stone or metal point with glue (or tree sap) and sinew. All of the joints or areas on the shaft, foreshaft, and fletching that could spilt have to be reinforced with cordage or animal sinew. Acquiring these materials takes time and knowledge as well, but natural fiber string and “gorilla” glue or similar glue works great. Tree resin (such as pine) works as a natural glue to help hold the cordage intact. Once assembled, the foreshaft is jammed into a joint or hole on the “front” end of the shaft (opposite the fletching). This replacement technology allows for the need to make and carry only a few shafts, which are labor intensive to make, while having multiple foreshaft sections to reload with. The shaft sections also must be straightened. One way is by steaming and drying the wood or reed shaft while bending with a shaft straightening tool (a small block of wood with a round hole through it will work or a stone with a straight groove in it to run the shaft through until it dries). Use the “pool cue” or woodworker’s test to eyeball it and see if it is straight. The shafts can and should be retrieved after launching. The other benefit of the foreshaft is that upon impact with the prey, it separates from the shaft leaving the sharp metal or stone point and 3 or so inches of foreshaft embedded where it causes massive internal bleeding as the prey’s muscles contract and expand while running. The shaft can then be retrieved and reloaded with another foreshaft armed with a point. A blunt dart shaft or foreshaft can be used to stun or kill small birds and prey with just a fire-hardened wood tip – no need for “expensive” (labor or material cost) points. A side note on terminology: the term “point” or “projectile point” refers to the head, as in “arrow head,” of the “projectile” – which is a general term for an arrow, spear or dart. The atl-atl “dart” is not a “spear” (which is a short, inflexible stabbing weapon). An atl-atl dart is a very advanced tool and took our ancestors many years of trial and error to develop as a silent, multi-component, high velocity, manual weapon. 

Fire making is another primitive art that is extremely important in an outdoor (or indoor) survival situation. A “fire bow” kit is easy to make out of natural materials found in most environments (desert, forest, mountain, plains, etc.) and is easy to master with practice. The kit contains a fireboard, socket, drill (or fire stick), and bow. The small bow (made like a toy bow and arrow) is made using a curved, stout but flexible branch or stick (about 24 inches long) with a bow string. The string can be made from a shoelace or parachute cord (natural fiber cordage can be used but tends to break from the rapid motion and friction it has to endure). The string is attached with enough slack to twist a short fire starter stick (called a drill or shaft) in it. It should be adjusted to be just tight enough – not too tight to be difficult to turn, and not too slack where it won’t create the friction need to start a fire. The bow is rapidly manipulated (in a motion like a hand saw) to twirl the fire stick rapidly on a notched plank (called the fireboard). The fire stick (8-12 inches long) should be of soft wood (like willow or cottonwood) with a rounded, dull tip on one end that will help produce the ember; and a pointed tip that will seat in the socket (which is held in the non-bow hand) on the other end. The socket has to fit in the hand comfortably and is gripped to hold the twirling fire stick in place. It should be a cupped rock, but hard wood or a dish shaped piece of scrap iron can work. The notch on the fireboard, or plank, is to allow the fine saw dust (created during friction) and the important small ember to fall through on a bed of tender. Dry grass, a dry bird’s nest, wasp nest, pine needles, cotton, or steel wool make good tender. The fireboard (plank) should be of dry wood, at least a half-inch in thickness, and thick bark is often the best plank. Pine is very useful in starting a fire due to its flammable resin content and can even be used when damp. Care should be taken to have all materials ready before starting to use the fire bow. This takes some effort, but preparation is most of the battle. Only a small ember is created in the process and must be handled appropriately. This is “cardio vascular” exercise and can produce a quick sweat. Use care to keep sweat from dripping onto the tender or plank and extinguishing your ember. Google these tools for pictures and other tips. One the ember is produced and lands or is placed in the tender, blow long, steady breaths to get a flame. Add this to your pre-set kindling and build up a good fire. (See other entries in the survivalblog for light security and safe methods of laying in wood.) 

One item in everyone’s G.O.O.D. kit, BOB, vehicle glove box, bedside table, pocket, belt or boot should be a good steel edged knife. It is one tool that we should all hope to never leave home without. However, if separated from a good steel blade, or to supplement a small knife in a survival situation, one can manufacture a substitute tool kit from stone. Flintknapping is a skill our ancestors used for thousands of years to produce most or all of the tools needed to hunt, gather, and prepare most if not all the food and materials needed to survive in most of the climates humans have ever “survived” in. Hunting, butchering, and game processing, vegetable gathering and processing, hide scrapping and prepping, leather work, wood work, and many other tasks (including mortal combat) can be conducted with stone tools. A basic flintknapping tool kit for producing these tools includes: one or more hammerstones, soft hammer billets made from wood and/or deer, elk or moose antler, antler tines for pressure flaking, and a leather pad for protecting the palm and leg. It is not easy to do, and has a steep learning curve. I will outline the basics and suggest further research, kit assemblage, and practice be planned as part of one’s overall survival strategy. There are numerous flintknapping groups across the U.S. and a variety of resources to help one get started. Besides the basic “knapping kit” described above, the main resource needed for flintknapping is a good quality “flint.” There are various minerals that can be knapped (chert, obsidian, fossilized wood, quartzites, and others) and identifying useful materials is something knappers and archaeologists who study these primitive techniques do. I suggest Google research on this and a trip to visit a local geologist, rock quarry, rock shop or mountainman’s rendezvous to start learning how to identify the right raw materials.

Once preparations are made, please remember that this is a potentially hazardous activity. Knapping is done by smashing a “core” (usually a fist sized cobble of a quartz material) with a “hammerstone” (a stream rolled dense stone, also usually quartz which needs to be solid and hand held). This is done usually by holding the core in or near one’s lap or on the thigh. A near miss can cause pain or injury, and rock spalls are the desired result (which can fly in all directions and penetrate flesh, eyes, or bystanders. This should be done over a tarp (to help in cleanup) or in an area that is not a living space, especially one that isn’t walked on barefooted, by people, pets or livestock, or used for food processing or sleeping, etc. Eye protection, leg padding, gloves or a leather pad are necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). By striking the core with the hammerstone at a controlled angle, a “flake” can be produced. In fact, one of the longest lasting technologies known to man is called “flake technology.” Numerous flakes can be created in just a few minutes of knapping from one core. These are then selected for their ultimate use: arrow points, dart points or spear points; double edged or beveled knife blades; hide scrappers, etc. A core can be used multiple times and reduced to a very small fragment. A good knapper can pick up a core, visualize what he or she wants/needs to make, take a whack or two, pick up the flake, and continue the process. To make a bifacial tool (sharpened on two sides to hold an edge longer and able to penetrate flesh better) the knapper then can switch to the next tool in the kit, a soft hammer billet. These are “soft” hammer because they are softer than the stone material being shaped. In general terms, I think of knapping as whittling stone. These billets are about the size of a hammer and held and operated the same way. They are made from solid antler (deer, elk or moose) and sawn or cut to length. The base of the antler makes the working end of the billet and is ground or sanded round (a lot like the round end of a ball-peen hammer). This is then used to more accurately strike the chosen flake (held by a piece of leather in the off hand and held stable against the padded thigh or a bench) and continue to shape the flake and sharpen its edge. The billet can be used to get the basic shape of the tool set up. The final step is to use the antler tine (or a rigid copper wire with a wrapped tape handle) as a “pressure flaking” tool. The prototype tool is then held firmly (with a glove or leather pad) against the thigh or bench, and the pressure flaking tool is placed just off the edge to be sharpened/worked. It is pressed firmly with a short popping motion toward the working edge which is away from the midline of the tool (difficult to describe, but fairly easy to do with a little practice). This is done to take off very small bits at a time (called micro-flakes) and continued around the sharp edges of the tool until the final shape and sharpness is obtained. To make arrow, dart or spear points or other tools like knives (that have to be hafted to a handle or dart shaft to be usable), the base of the stone tool will be shaped to fit a handle or shaft. The hafted end will need to be dulled (so it doesn’t cut through the cordage used to haft it or bind it to a shaft) by gently grinding it on a stone. Even expert knappers have relatively high failure rates doing this, but practice helps with the odds. Beginning with the basic flake produced by cracking open a core, one can expediently produce a sharp cutting implement that is sharp enough to cut deeply into flesh. A raw flake will lose its edge quickly, but with ample stone cobbles around, this technique can be repeated and improved with practice. A raw flake with a little bit of work along the edge can hold a fairly sharp edge for small cutting tasks, and be “retouched” with minimal effort to maintain its sharpness to complete a job like butchering small game, cutting edible parts of a useful plant, etc. Again, these are no substitute for a good, American made, steel knife blade, but just may be needed in a survival situation. Hopefully, none of you will have to rely on these tools and techniques to survive, but I also hope you find time to learn a little more about them and practice once or twice, just in case you do need to rely on some primitive survival tools.

Desert Survival Skills by Alloway, David. Published by University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas. 2000. 

The Art Of The Rifle