The way out of consumerism

Is to cease being a mindless consumer and instead be a producer. It’s too hard for someone with attachments to rewild as it requires giving up things and people close to us, some of whom depend on us. In those situations rewilding becomes an intensely selfish act. I’m not that selfish.

Hence the woodwork. It used to be commonplace and most people could handle the little jobs that come up. No so much anymore, so someone has to build the skill and there is a small amount of opportunity there. That’s what the tools are for. But I may have gone more than a little overboard.

So I mentioned in my last post that I’d gotten into hand tool woodworking and collecting antique woodworking tools. Specifically, I collect tools from one company from Massachusetts, Millers Falls. They’re good tools up until the end of the 1960’s, which is two decades longer than most.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. This is about a book I read from Christopher Schwartz called “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” It’s not a book about making bombs.

It is hard to distill what it really is about from a simple read. In it, he lists his choices for a minimal toolkit for woodworking..specifically, furniture making. There’s nothing in it about how to build a table except for anecdotes about his own efforts. What is in it is his reasoning for making his own – a desire to cease to be a member of a consumer culture and to make a concerted effort to be a member of an artisan one. Because the steps needed to jump track also jump popular expectation and the advice of “authority,” he believes his actions to be anarchist. In a manner of speaking he’s absolutely right.

The popular trend to disposable consumption feels empty to a growing number of people. Many have set themselves on a quest to rediscover quality and long-term economy and desire to strip artificial distractions and excess debt from their lives

I wholeheartedly support that endeavor. I’m on that track myself. To live small fits well with the directions I wish to choose. I’m just not very good at it.

Anyway, all that aside. In the book he lays out a list of tools. I read the book and understand and his choices. I just don’t agree with them all. Since I’m not a writer paid to write the same book as someone else using my own words, I’ll leave this list here and maybe one day explain some of it. My list does not specialize to any particular trade. I like general capability. Perhaps a few things possible with my list could be done better with something else, but that something else may not be able to handle another task done by the same tool. I’m sure I missed something, but when I go back and reread I don’t see anything that can’t be done in one way or another with something here.

Items with an asterisk I own.

  1. Saws
    Rip saw *
    Crosscut saw *
    Dovetail saw *
    Sash saw *
    Tenon saw *
    Carcase saw *
    Compass saw *
    Coping saw *
  2. Edge tools
    Small gouge *
    Larger gouge *
    V gouge
    1/4 bench chisel *
    3/4 bench chisel *
    1/4 mortise chisel
  3. Layout / Marking
    Marking gauge *
    Panel gage *
    Trammel points *
    Dividers *
    Pencil *
    String *
    Combination square with extra heads *
  4. Planes
    Smoothing plane *
    Jointer plane *
    Jack plane *
    Block plane *
    Router plane with cutters *
    Combination plane with cutters *
    Square scraper *
    Gooseneck scraper *
    Cigar / round sole shave *
    Spokeshave *
    Compass plane *
    Cabinet or veneer scraper *
  5. Sharpening
    Roughing stone *
    Finishing stone *
    Oil *
    Saw files *
    Smooth file (no handle, for jointing saws and scrapers) *
    Auger file *
    Saw set *
    Scraper burnisher *
    File card *
  6. Shaping Tools
    Smooth file (with handle, for wood) *
    Half round rasp, fine
    Half round rasp, coarse
    Rat tail file *
  7. Hole Making Tools
    Auger roll including one expansive bit *
    12″ bit brace *
    8″ bit brace *
    Hand drill *
    Drill bit roll or index ”
  8. Pummeling Tools
    Joiner’s Mallet *
    Nailing hammer *
  9. Fastener Tools
    Nail set *
    Narrow slotted screwdriver *
    Wide slotted screwdriver
    Philips screwdriver *
Continue reading

I haven’t posted in a very long time.

In the interim:

  • Have a different job, still machining but for more money.
  • Have a beautiful daughter now 2 1/2 years old (born March 2015).
  • Got into woodworking and antique woodworking tool collecting.
  • Broke two front teeth. Now need implants. Better job more pay better insurance doesn’t necessarily extend to mega thousands in “cosmetic” dental care.

Mo afta.

Continue reading

Two years ago…

.. I was concerned about losing my job at a machine shop. I’m not concerned about that anymore. In fact, now that I’ve got two years in the same shop, things are going OK.

I’ve picked up hand-tool woodworking as a way to hopefully buy a little more of my freedom. I’ve collected a few antique woodworking tools and require no electricity for anything save for a light bulb. My rented garage is as dark as a hole in the ground so I’ve got to use a light, but since it’s also unheated and I’m back in Minnesota, I’m done working on this stuff for the year.

In the spring I have a list of things I need to make!

Where does time go, and what to do about work?

Quite a while ago I came to the realization, right or wrong, that it’s not time that moves. It doesn’t go anywhere – it’s static, circular, and three dimensional. Picture it like a giant torus, and we inexorably scoot through it like hamster through a habitrail. The real difference is that we dig our own tunnels through it, like worms, and that each turn and kink in out path through time has nothing to do with its twisted passage, but that each is a nexus at which we moved ourselves.

Maybe that’s a little too heavy.

Two days ago I went on an “administrative leave” from work. Friday is the day I’m supposed to have off, it’s the wife’s birthday, and is the day I’m expected back. Why am I on leave? “Wait what, you’re employed again?” Yes, I’m re-employed. Perhaps not for much longer.

I’m a terrible machinist. Well no, to be specific, I’m a terrible button-pushing operator. The first time I had one of those jobs I nearly killed myself and several others and this time I’m costing money in reworks because I’m a terrible operator who shouldn’t listen to the people he’s told to listen to.

I’m supposed to tell the boss what my decision is – whether I think I can continue my employment with them or if I think it would be better to end it – on Monday. He’ll ask me tomorrow, on Friday. I’m on contract with a staffing company so it’s not technically a job loss, but it is highly doubtful that I will make what I’m making now somewhere else. I’m thinking of telling him I’ll be taking my toolbox home. I’m just not comfortable with failure.

It’s not that I can’t set up the machine and program them, it’s that I can’t run them worth a damn.

So, what does this have to do with a blog about the realities of rewilding in this day and age? Plenty. A person’s ability to rewild is directly proportional to the ability to throw off the shackles of their parent culture and accept the mores of the new. In this respect, I’ve been a complete failure. You see, to accept a new mode of reality, I’ve gotta ditch everything else. And that’s a damned hard thing to do. I hafta not care. I have someone with me for whom rewilding would be a highly undesirable mode of living, and for her, I stick around even when I know I should get the last of my money out in cash and see where it can take me.

‘Allo, updates, yeh?

So I’ve been busy most of the past 3 months working on my dad’s house. It needed a lot of TLC on the outside – we ended up putting a new exterior on the building, completely. It’s almost done, and wow, do I hurt.

Florida’s unemployement, shall I say, sucks. It’s not that I’m on it, though I am, it’s just that it maxes out at $275 a week (dare I say, you Republican pricks can suck it). I chose not to pull taxes out of it and still the maximum I have received is $494 for a two-week stint. There are TWO of us who have to live on that. It’s not possible. I realize I’m not supposed to live on it but shouldn’t it at least be enough to cover the rent for the month or two it takes to find employment?!?  I submitted all the job searches and jumped through all of the flaming  hoops they put in front of me and STILL I can barely afford to find a job. Odd how that works, no? Good thing I had relatives with a bedroom or we’d be homeless.

On a lighter note, in the spring I’ll be heading out to Wildroots for a little instruction and orientation session. I’ve never hung out with anyone who actually practices the old hunter/gatherer-era skills before and I hope I can fit in with them. They’ve got a lot to teach and I’ve still got a lot or learn left in me. Hopefully over the course of this next year I can go a few times so I can get up to snuff quickly. Living out there in the western woods might not be in the cards, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sample what one author called “one long, insanely committed camping trip” (author unsure, but I think it was in a NATGEO article about the African !Kung people who still mostly live a H/G lifestyle (I hear they live well into their 70s and 80s).

I’m excited about it. I might spend some of this winter practicing with a bow drill or a fire stick. It’s going to be too cold for me to harvest any saplings for hunting bows but I can always use the time in other ways, I suppose.


Good news or bad news? The good news is that I’m free, the bad news is that I’m free. Depends on how you look at it. In my case I’m choosing to see it as good news.

I got fired from my real life job on Sept. 2, 2011. I’d held that job for 13 days shy of 11 years. I’d learned a lot at that place, matured a bit, and showed up a lot of youngsters. I was less than enthused about being put in the sales department, doing product demos on the phone, but I’d accepted that it was what it was. This is part of the reality of the situation.

On August 31st I was warned to be more cheerful on the phone. Over the course of the next two days, I was, and in fact my sales numbers increased and surpassed those who were also in my department. That was a Wednesday. On Friday a little after 5pm they let me go. When I went in to pick up my last pay stub there was an enormous count of new faces… college students, it looked like, and a lot of them. I smell My Tax Dollars at work.

Faced with an inability to locate other suitable employment over the past six years (keep in mind I was employed already and not looking all that hard), I decided it was in my best interests to move to North Carolina with my dad. Over the course of the next month I would have been drained completely dry financially and would have, literally, been turned out homeless. It will be the four of us – myself, him, his wife, and my new wife (ah, yeah, I didn’t blog that I’d got married 3 weeks ago! Not on topic!). He and I will start out clearing out his Man Cave(tm) and then following up with installing all of our combined woodworking tools & equipment and go into business making things of wood. What kinds of things? Canes, pens, bowls, bows, guitars & bass guitars. Possibly also amplifiers as I have a semi-complete vacuum tube amplifier toolkit that I’ve put together over the past few years. I’m mostly excited about the possibility of making meat with my own bows, however, as that brings me back on topic with this blog.

So the reality is this: I’m either unemployed or just badly self-employed. Either way, I’m still looking toward the wild places to learn and where we’ll all be, I’ll be one step closer to it.

Here’s to separating the wheat from the chaff, going tribal, shucking old civvie shells, and  new beginnings.

No fun.

Well, congress voted and passed that deficit thing. I guess we don’t all get to enjoy the coming econopocalypse any time soon or soon enough. I was more than a little looking forward to it. Not that I’m ready for it, but then I’ve decided that there’s no such thing as ready for it.

I’ve been thinking, and yes this is on-topic for this blarg, about the coming civilizational failure. What form will it take? How long will it take once it’s begun? I looked back in my head a few short centuries ago to France and Spain after the fall of Rome for an example. There haven’t been too many Western societies that have really fallen apart in quite the same way so this is the only example I could find.

The Roman empire didn’t fall apart in one day. It rather trickled apart, piece by agonising piece, one little bit at a time, over the course of a couple of centuries. There never was any date you could definitively point to and say,  “this is the day that Rome fell.” It lost out one village at a time, one person at a time, one opinion at a time. It likely took decades for some people to realize that Rome just wasn’t Rome anymore, and that the Roman way of doing things was, well, still there. People didn’t wake up one day and say “hey guys, have you noticed that we aren’t Roman citizens anymore?” No, they went on about their business as usual for generations. Then business as usual gradually changed to not include Rome anymore.

Is that the way it’s going to be for us, too? Are we collapsniks planning for a future event that’s just not going to happen? Or rather, it’ll happen, but are we preparing for an event that’s going to putter along so slowly that it’s just not going to bring any satisfaction to anyone whatsoever? What’s different about us that we can do in one day what took the Roman empire a couple of centuries to accomplish, namely, to fall apart? Is oil and the lack of it going to do us in? Will we find a substitute in time before the world’s affordable oil reserves are used up? (Note that “affordable” is the operative word). Are we going to run out of money or will there be a revolution? I think nah on the revolution, there are too many people doing just barely well enough to keep that from going down… and besides, American culture is just too damned complacent to really get angry about anything not spelled out with crayons on the nightly news.

So. There. I think the worst-case collapse scenario is what’s going down. It’s gonna happen like Rome – too damned slow to be worth talking about at the time.

That means that there won’t be a free-for-all of exploration amongst the survivors to find the way of living that works best for them. We’ll all be thinking that everything’s fine and dandy and that things are just the way they are and that it’s useless to resist the status quo and that the way things sit now is the way they’re supposed to be and any deviation from it must be somehow antisocial and destructive.

But maybe I’m just angry. I dunno. Doesn’t matter.

I know I don’t have too many readers. But still I wonder if I’m not the only person out there longing to get out from in front of the computer and out into the real world. I know that the only way to do it is to do it, but I wonder if the best way to help the coming collapse along is to be a pioneer of it? Do like the hippies and drop out?Anyone who has done this before in history either  didn’t leave much behind, or if they did, we no longer have any record of it. It would be nice to have a guide.

Oh can we, please?


Could I assume I’m not the only one disappointed by this? Not only did the US not default, it set itself up for business as usual through 2013. I can’t be the only person who was genuinely looking forward to the impending collapse. I was feeling like a spectator in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, watching the show from the edge, and rather hoping that we’d all go over so I could let go of the rails, lift my arms to the sky and yell “WWHHHEEE!!!!”

Perhaps I’ve become a tad cynical about the system that anyone reading this will find themselves born into. Perhaps. The first few months of a collapse would suck, but the rest – that might have been a different story. I say “might have been” because now we don’t get to take the ride over that edge. At least not now.

I have the feeling that the US running out of money would somehow make my inability to get financially ahead OK. Maybe I’m wrong on that, but my aversion to the capitalist dance is making me more and more nauseous as I get older. I’ve been increasingly drawn to gifting, simplification, and mutual support, as in a tribe.

Therefore I must care because this news means I don’t get to try it.


Ok, I’ll admit I’ve been horrible about my posting frequency. I had hoped to do at least one a week, but when you’re in civ and have nothing to say relative to the stated topic of your blog you get a little lazy about it. That said…

I went on a forage walk with Green Deane from last Saturday. That was, in a word, awesome. I ate stuff I didn’t know was edible. For example, I ate American Elm, willow bark, some stuff that tasted exactly like horseradish, Wild Cucumber, Ilex Vomitoria, Saw Palmetto fruits, and a host of other things I can’t remember or identify just now. I will say that there are quite a few tasty things out there if one knows where to look.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Wild Cucumber. Tastes just like the cultivated one in the grocery store, but is the size of a large jelly bean. They burst in your mouth like
    Fresh Burst chewing gum or a small tomato. Incredible. I’d have gathered a hatful in a heartbeat if there had been enough.
  • The horseradish-tasting seed. Good for a burst of flavor in an otherwise bland dish. Deane said it’s dried and ground and used like pepper, but we picked the seeds and munched them right there on the trail.
  • Ilex Vomitoria. It wasn’t the flavor that I liked, but that it contained caffeine and the fact that I had no trouble whatsoever keeping a small handful of the leaves down, nor did I get a jumpies like I can get on caffeine nowadays. I. Vomitoria did not live up to its name, thankfully!
  • Saw Palmetto fruit. It’s said that it tastes like “moldy cheese in tobacco water,” and “bleu cheese with Tabasco on it,” but apparently I taste things differently than some people. I didn’t taste anything like that at all – it wasn’t bad, in fact, it was a little tasteless for me.

If you’re in the Florida area or have watched any of Deane’s videos on, I highly recommend taking a little walk.

One point of note which bothers me very much is the concept of owning anything and everything on a plot of land, especially otherwise unused land. The reason for this is that it makes many viable forage areas illegal to forage on. Yes, the plants thought of as weeds or garbage on that nearby unpolluted plot are in fact owned, and it’s illegal for you to gather them. It reminds me of the story of the food dancers in Daniel Quinn‘s My Ishmael. So much so that I have a sneaking hunch that this is exactly what he was talking about.

I’ll definitely be doing this walk again.