Our society today–the society that I grew up in–no longer has a need and in many cases no longer has the desire to be self-sufficient. As the recent turmoil expanding across these United States and across the globe is proving every day, most people would rather have some central authority provide everything for them. There are a few who adhere closely to and act upon the belief that their well-being is only granted through their own hard work, knowledge and preparation, and they are known adequately as “Preppers”. The Prepper mindset revolves around the idea of self-reliance or self-sufficiency, recognizing that one day there will not be a relief force coming to help in a disaster and that one day there will not be any law and order.
I have never needed to be self-reliant or self-sufficient; everything I have ever needed since I was born was no farther away than the nearest superstore or a few clicks of the mouse. However, I was raised in a family who recognized and taught the importance of Do-It-Yourself maintenance, a father who built most of our family furniture when I was growing up, and a grandfather who has built nine houses from the ground up. I may not have ever needed to be self-reliant but the attitude and mindset has been developed in me through my family, my experiences in martial arts and Boy Scouts, both of which encourage an attitude of preparation regardless of situation. So while I watch so many Americans demanding for the “Government” to act and provide for them, I have taken the opposite approach by being as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible, going so far as to begin making some of my own equipment.
This essay is about the idea of making one’s own equipment as part of the self-sufficient or self-reliant lifestyle and will cover a short history of self-reliance to better understand the importance of the mentality and the need to learn to make as many things yourself as possible. It will also cover the benefits that an individual or family or group can obtain from making their own equipment and tools. Last I will include a list of items that I have experimented in making, the methods of making them, and some additional information to read if making your own equipment is one prep idea that appeals to you.
It wasn’t all that long ago that humankind had a need to be self-sufficient. I have spoken with my grandfather and grandmother extensively, both of whom grew up in deep eastern Texas in the Big Thicket area. My grandmother’s family was relatively large, because they owned and worked a farm for their livelihood, both to make money and to put food on their table. My grandfather and his family also provided most of their own food through the raising of livestock and tending a garden for their fresh vegetables. My grandfather has always kept a garden and provided our family Sunday dinners with fresh tomatoes, green beans, okra, or collard greens. My grandfather remembers people from his early years, that bought nothing more than sugar, coffee, and flour, and were able to survive comfortably by raising and growing everything else that they ate. They wore second-hand clothes most of the time, repaired their clothing repeatedly, and when it couldn’t be worn any longer, the clothing became rags, or parts of quilts and blankets. Everything was recycled or reused. People like my grandfather and grandmother remember what is to be self-sufficient not by choice, but by necessity.
Going even farther back into the 19th Century, and we will find a similar picture but on a much larger scale, with self-sufficiency reigning supreme for those that emigrated west. The frontiersmen and women were extremely self-reliant people, and had to be if they were to survive. Those who chosen to move to the frontier came from various backgrounds and ethnicities, but the common trait they all shared was the will to survive and build a better life. This same trait of self-reliance is what spurred a great number of people to leave the cities in the East for the vast amounts of land in the West. Along the way they faced a number of difficulties which they would have to face on their own, they knew there would not always be food, water, a doctor, a police force or a military to protect them. They knew that they would have to build their own shelters, maintain those shelters, and provide a living for themselves, and that their lives would be led without the comforts of a city to rely on. They had to take care of their own sicknesses and illnesses, their own births, dentistry, even when living close enough to a town to conduct business not every town had such necessities as a doctor or an apothecary.
Even during before this country became its own nation, the frontiersmen that settled the Eastern shores and the area of the Appalachian Mountains were self-reliant people. They knew that they would not have a great number of people to rely on, they did not know at first how the native people that they encountered would receive them, they had no way of knowing when shipments of tools, supplies, food, and other goods would arrive from England, France or Spain. Such an existence demanded that people become more self-reliant and self-sufficient if they were going to survive. They relied on a small number of tools and equipment, they manufactured a great deal of their own equipment, and every person had multiple skill sets that were necessary for their survival. They repaired all of their clothing, bed linens, and blankets. They often made their own materials such as wool and thread, derived from their livestock and crops. These were people whose greatest tool was knowledge and the will to survive in a harsh country. I suppose the quote that best serves to describe these people comes from the movie depiction of “The Last of the Mohicans” where Cora says, “They do not live their lives by your leave! They hack it out of the wilderness with their own two hands, burying their children along the way.” These were hard people living in a hard place, and by necessity they learned to rely only on themselves.
Of course in reviewing all of this it is important to remember that the community often played a role in the survival of individuals, and may play an important role in survival in a post-Schumer situation. In the past community members never lived very close to one another, they liked to have a little elbow and leg room, some distance from other people. My grandfather and grandmother had many neighbors growing up, but more often than not there were miles of road between them. Similarly, earlier periods saw close communities where everyone knew everyone else, and one could usually count on help from the community in certain times. I recall a story my grandfather shared with me recently about how several times a year all the men in his community would get together with their dogs and chase down some of the feral and wild pigs. They would tag the piglets ears for later reference, and then they would pull out any of the large sows that they had tagged before. This endeavor really required a community effort as wild pigs and hogs can be very dangerous, and because the entire community would usually benefit, with each person getting a share of the project to take home.
Today our lifestyles do not demand such behavior as self-reliance or preparation, but there may come a day in the future when those who remember the frontier life and choose to act, and prepare themselves and their families will be ready for a life when there is no doctor, blacksmith, dentist, or grocery store. Part of preparing for those lifestyles is to begin learning the skills that will be necessary, learning to work and care for a garden, learning to preserve meats, fruits and vegetables by canning, dehydrating and preserving. All of these are necessary skills, as is learning to work with wood, electrical, plumping, because there may come a time when you have to take on all of those positions. Should the Schumer hit the fan it will be important to be a jack of all trades rather than a specialist. That also means building your own equipment from the ground up, doing so will provide you with a number of benefits that store bought equipment does not provide.
Most importantly the process of building your own equipment allows you to further embrace the Preparedness mindset. While most of the time we embrace it and eventually begin to feel burnt out because we often never see our preparations paying off, by building your own equipment, each time you do it, you will have something physical to look at and see that you have accomplished something toward your preparation goals. Additionally, making your own equipment will begin teaching you crucial skills that may be needed in the future, skills that could allow you a means of making an income through barter or trading your homemade goods, or simply providing new equipment for additional or unexpected members of the family or group such as children. Finally by working on building your own equipment you will find that your equipment is of better quality, and to the exact custom specifications that you want in a way that store bought materials and equipment never could be.
I will begin with a perfect example, a simply Ranger Stove, while not exactly a Ranger Stove it serves the same purpose, is relatively inexpensive to make, is extremely light-weight, and will boil water rapidly, using an entirely renewable energy source found nearly anywhere. In order to make your Ranger Stove, you will need an empty vegetable can, I have found that the three pound pinto bean cans work really well, as does the pumpkin cans (and with Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, there should be plenty of these cans lying around for your use). You will also need a wire coat hanger, a metal file, a church key, a drill with a _ size bit, a pair of tin snips, broad nose pliers (I find Lineman’s pliers work best–often referred to as Kleins), a soda can, and some JB Weld. You can make this stove to use either a solid tablet style fuel, a liquid fuel (like alcohol), or a free solid fuel like small twigs.
Begin your Ranger Stove by cutting five to six triangular air vents around the base of your chosen can using your beer opener. For the solid fuel ranger stove there is no need to JB Weld the soda can to the bottom of the bean can. If you prefer to have a liquid fuel stove, you will need to cut the soda can in half and file down the top edge. Then JB Weld the soda can to the bottom of the stove, this soda can will contain the alcohol. Once you have installed the soda can, or if you skipped that step, drill four holes about one-half to two-thirds of the way up the side of the stove can. Then using your tin snips cut two lengths from the wire coat hanger and thread them through the holes. This will be used to rest your pot or cup on while it comes to a boil. Using your pliers bend the ends of the wire coat hanger down to stabilize them. Finally, cut a small hole approximately one and one-half to two inches in diameter. This hole will be used to add fuel to your fire to keep it running as long as needed, and is only needed for the solid fuel stove. The final step is to test the product and ensure that it performs as specified. After testing, alterations can be made such as installing a door flap to cover the feeder hole (use the bottom or top of another can, file the edges smooth, curve to match the side of the stove can, and install using a basic hinge and latch).
This particular project is very easy to get started with because it does not require specialized or expensive tools or materials to make. Simply save your vegetable cans and soda cans and wire coat hangers from the dry cleaners and the tools you can either purchase (recommended as they will come in handy on other projects) or borrow them from a neighbor or family member. Furthermore this project lends itself easily to alteration and customization allowing the builder to use a number of different sized cans and configurations of air vents, grates, feeder holes, etc.
The next project that is relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to make are waterproof containers using Schedule 40 PVC piping. The maker will only need sections of PVC pipe to the desired length, push on caps for one end, and screw on caps for the other end, PVC glue, a hack saw or a PVC pipe cutter, sand paper, and a can of flat spray paint in the desired color. The PVC pipe cutter will cut nice even straight cuts, but a hack saw will suffice. Simply purchase the desired diameter PVC pipe, three-quarter inch pipe makes greater containers for matches, cotton swabs to soak in alcohol for starting fires, larger diameters could be used to store fishing poles, bedrolls, hammocks, maps, any number of useful tools or items. Purchase the corresponding connectors in the right diameter, a can of PVC glue. Cut the PVC to your desired lengths. Apply glue to one end of the PVC and push the cap into place. Apply glue to the other side of the PVC and quickly apply the screw on cap. Let the container sit until the glue has finished drying, then sand off the excess glue, and then spray paint the container the desired color.
This project is not expensive, but does require the maker to purchase a few things. However, this project too, is infinitely customizable and adjustable to suit the maker’s needs. I find that a short five inch container will fit six cotton swabs that I have designated as fire starting material and fits easily in my fire kit. I have made some of these for each of my family members to keep on them.
There are a number of other projects that can be made from home, that I have yet to try but will be working on in the coming months. Tents, bedrolls or sleeping bags, and hammocks are all things that can easily be made at home and by making them at home you can cut down on the cost, the weight you will have to carry and you of course benefit from learning a skill that will come in handy in a Deep Schumer situation. You will also know exactly how to repair or replace a great deal of your equipment and materials should it ever break or fail. You will be able to apply these same procedures to other areas such as in the making or mending clothes, bed linens or blankets. Furthermore, making your own equipment and materials at home puts you in the mindset of self-sufficiency, an attitude that will come in handy in any Schumeresque event, be it a natural disaster in the form of a hurricane, flooding or earthquake, or a more serious and long-lasting disaster.