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My first official survival class was when I was 17. At that point, I was just out of High School where I was constantly looking out the window in class and rarely able to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. At one survival class, where we made numerous survival crafts, I remember how I would rush through projects as fast as possible so that I could get to the next one. While the crafts I made were functional, nothing I made was worth keeping.

One day, my teacher (Tom Brown Jr.) came to me with a special task. He said he needed a new fish spear that he could use to hang in front of the classroom for the thousands of students that came through his school. I was beyond honored, and also a little confused as to why he asked me specifically. But, I was up for the challenge. He said he needed it to be not only functional but also a work of art. I spent all day for 4 days creating what was the best fish spear I had ever seen, until that is, I tried to 'fire harden' the tips of the spear, stopped paying attention for a few minutes, and burned the spear in half. For a few brief moments, I had fallen back into my old patterns.

I was devastated, as was everyone around me who had watched me slave away at that spear. Not to be defeated, I went right back to pouring myself into another. I became addicted to the feeling of hyper-focusing on a project and learned to channel my attention into anything I wanted to do.

Being still in the woods, surrounded by nature and working on crafts felt inherently 'right' to me. Even when making a simple hand-drill fire, my attention became so incredibly focused that I felt as if the only thing that existed in the world was me, the drill and the fireboard.

Survival taught me that everything is a ceremony, and by treating it that way, I would learn to focus and create art in everything I made.

Greenstone axes or celts have been used in North America for more than 10,000 years, since the early Archaic period.  Basalts, Ryolite and Greenstone were used because of their hardness.  Numerous indigenous groups still living hunter/gatherer or agriculturalist lifestyles continue to use polished stone axes (or celts) in places like Papua New Guinea and the Amazon.  Stones are first flaked into a very rough shape through direct percussion techniques.  This process removes the bulk but is not incredibly effective due to the hardness of the stone.  The bulk of the work lies in the hours spent 'pecking' or hitting the axe with another hard cobble to slowly remove bits of rock, one little piece of dust at a time.  Once the axe takes shape through hammering, we grind the celt on a large flat piece of course sandstone.  All-in-all this should take a few days to a week of constant work--the celt in the lower picture took 16 years, from start to finish....entirely due to procrastination.  The celt in the upper picture took 35 minutes to chop down this 8" hickory tree

Back when I got started studying survival, making a friction fire from a Bow-drill was akin to being a magician. Anyone and everyone would get wide-eyed when the two pieces of wood I was rubbing together began to smoke, and they would erupt in applause as the tinder bundle finally burst into flame. Creating that fire confirmed a rumor they had heard, and doubted since they were 4 years old.

Survival was not on TV, there was no internet, Instagram, or YouTube to teach you to create anything you would ever want to learn. To find new and exciting traps I would leave the woods and dare to go to the jungles of New York City so that I could go to the indigenous peoples sections at the Museum of Natural History. There I would spend hours sketching basket-weaving patterns, trap parts, pottery designs, and hiding from the Leopard-man...(if you know, you know).

One of my favorite sections was the Amazonian indigenous sections. There they had pig-traps with deadly spikes, baskets that would constrict around Manioc powder, and best of all, a fire-making mechanism from Bamboo! Finally, making a fire was exactly how I pictured it when I was 5. As simple as can be...cut a piece of bamboo in half, and rub one half against the other and viola!

Making a bamboo fire saw work is all about having the right materials. You want dead, but not rotten bamboo, not too thin, but definitely not too thick. Ideally, the bamboo has not washed up on the beach as for some reason the salt makes things much more difficult. While the bow-drill takes finess, fire-saw takes the right materials and brute strength. Just go until it feels like your arms are going to fall off, and then go a little more. But its simple, and much easier to make when you dont have a knife.

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