Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

History speaks often of cooking with lamp stoves, and you can indeed cook over an oil lamp provided you have the right contrivance to do so, but more often what the writer is speaking of is a lampstove, which is very similar to an oil lamp, but constructed more for heat than light. It’s too bad these little gizmos still weren’t available as they’d make an ideal survival and preparedness stove. Just like our oil lamps, kerosene was used as a fuel. You could also get little stove tops to put on top of a glass lamp chimney, and place a pot on top for heating, as shown to the left here. Sears and Roebucks sold them for .35 cents a dozen! Ain’t that a bargain? Maybe some industrious prepper will glean onto the idea and resurrect it, bringing a bit of the past to life in these times. Any ways, here’s a story from 1887 which describes one woman’s use of these old, which were then new, lampstoves. If you are interested in learning more of these devices, you can go to The Lampworks for a good piece on their history.


One That Rivaled Aladdin’s.

So successful was the summer’s campaign over the fire of the small lamp-stove that Abbie planned to bring home a larger one the next year. During the winter she examined the circulars of all the rival lamp-stove manufacturers, and was utterly bewildered by their diversity and the merits of each and consequent demerits off all other kinds as described therein. In despair,—but as she afterward thought, under the direction of her guardian angel,—one day she walked into a store and proceeded to buy something entirely different from what she had planned; instead of one large stove with four wicks she selected two small ones having two wicks each. These cost two dollars and fifty cents each. An oven at one dollar and fifty cents and an extension top at seventy-five cents completed her purchase.

With the oven on one lamp and the extension top on the other nearly as much work could be done as on the large stoves costing twice as much as she had spent. This arrangement had the advantage of being easily moved from room to room and one could be used in one place, the other in another.

At wholesale rates, (not counting the cost of the barrel, which was to be returned) a barrel of best kerosene costs a trifle less than five dollars. This lasted through the summer season, about three months, providing both fuel and lights. An equal value of wood or coal would have been exhausted in about half the time.

Sometimes the two stoves were used in the wash-room, supplying all the fire needed for a small washing. They were set upon the floor, one under each end of a flat-bottomed wash boiler, thus plenty of water could be heated for the preliminary steps and later the clothes were boiled there.

Ironing day was robbed of half its terrors, for the small stoves would keep five flatirons ready, two heating on each, while the fifth was in use. Sometimes three irons would be sufficient, and then one stove would do this work while the other with the oven prepared the dinner of baked potatoes and roast meat, or a kettle of jelly or preserves could be easily watched while the ironing was in progress. Since the stove and irons could be placed on or near the table it became an easy matter to sit down to iron, as there would be no wearisome getting up and down to go to the stove. A high stool or chair is best for this work.

As these small stoves cost less than the large one Miss Fletcher had intended buying, she invested the surplus in various utensils, selected with reference to the lamp-stoves but also useful with a range. Among these was an eight quart kettle of granite ware which proved exceedingly useful.

The advantage of granite ware over iron and tin is that it heats quickly and if watched there is little danger of burning, and it gives no disagreeable taste to its contents, however long they may remain in it.

Sometimes this kettle was used for frying doughnuts or fish, either of which were easily done over the little stove though it gave hardly enough heat to deep fat for croquettes or fish-balls. A few slices of raw potato were always put in the fat while frying doughnuts to absorb the disagreeable odor and clarify the fat.

After the frying was over the fat was strained into a basin or pail to cool and the kettle was wiped with soft paper which absorbed most of the remaining grease and washing was then an easy task.

When a steamed pudding was on the dinner bill of fare the mixture was put in a small lard pail which was set on a trivet or iron ring in this kettle half filled with boiling water. Potatoes or other vegetables could be put in around the pudding pail, and a piece of fish on a plate in a steamer set on top of the kettle; thus one lamp would cook the dinner. When the vegetables had to be put in after the pudding had begun to cook, that it might not settle, they were put in one by one, that the water need not stop boiling.

A steam cooker is a great convenience for a range and is ‘still more useful with an oil stove. Of these there are many varieties and nearly all are good.

The other utensils most frequently used were the small frying-pan and double boiler mentioned before and one or two sauce-pans of different sizes.

While it requires some head work to do all the cooking for a family over these small stoves, it can be done easily and ! with much less discomfort than over the kitchen range. It is a great convenience to have an oven that can be hot for baking five minutes after the fire is lighted.

Raised bread, which in summer time too often suffers from standing over night because it must be baked by the morning fire, in this household was now mixed in the morning and baked either at noon or night.

If a specially slow oven was required for anything, but one wick was lighted. Small pans for cake and bread were found best for convenience in moving about in the small oven.

Milk toast was a favorite supper dish with the Fletcher family and at first Abbie was doubtful of the possibility of toasting bread over her lamps, but she found that it could be done satisfactorily. First the milk was scalded in a pail set in a sauce-pan of hot water, then the water was emptied, the sauce-pan wiped dry and one tablespoonful of butter for each pint of milk (or two if part water was to be used) put in. When the butter was melted and hot, one tablespoonful of flour for each cupful of liquid was added and allowed to cook in the hot butter, but not to brown. Then the milk was gradually added and the gravy beaten smooth.

One evening a small child in the family expressed a desire for some popcorn. At first it was denied as there was no fire and plenty of coals were thought essential for its preparation. But someone doubtfully said, “We might try the lamp stove.” So it was lighted and by moving the popper over the lamp precisely as if it were a bed of glowing coals the corn was successfully popped. A few trials showed just the right distance from the blaze and the steady heat produced a superior article in less time than is required for popping over coals. If corn-balls are desired one stove can be used for popping the corn while the molasses is boiling on the other.

The best work over a lamp-stove will always be done when it is full of oil; as it burns low the wicks char rapidly and the draught is not as good.

It is not advisable to let a lamp burn too long or the whole framework will become heated; then there is more danger of accidents and greater inconvenience in handling.

Occasionally carelessness in turning up the wicks, or a sudden current of air would result in a heavy coating of lamp black over the outside of kettles or the inside of the oven. The latter is rather a terrible occurrence and should be carefully guarded against. But only once or twice in the whole season did Mis; Fletcher have trouble in this direction, then the oven was cleaned with a stiff brush first and afterward with soft paper before washing.

Naturally an oven above the fire as this is gives a more thorough bake on the bottom than the top of any article. On this account earthen plates are preferable to tin for pies, and cake tins should be lined with one or more thicknesses of paper.

In the early fall, before stoves are set up or furnace fires lighted, if one of these stoves is left burning in a room for an hour it will banish the chilly atmosphere which often brings colds and sickness.

Many house plants might be saved if this were left burning near them through a cold winter night, and water pipes and vegetables in the cellar can in like manner be saved from freezing.

For camp life in a small cottage an oil-stove is much better than an ordinary stove. Where hot water is required in sudden sickness and in the thousand and one emergencies of everyday life the little lamp-stoves, if well treated, will be found to be faithful friends.



This is the variety of snare which has been in very common use for ages, and has always been the one solitary example of a noose trap which our “boys’ books” have invariably pounced upon for illustration. For the capture of small birds it works very nicely; and as without it our list of traps would be incomplete, we will give an illustration of it as it appears when set and ready for its work. In constructing the affair it is first necessary to cut a flexible twig of willow or bramble about eighteen inches in length, and form it into a loop as seen at (a), securing the tips by a few circuits of string, and allowing the larger end to project an inch or more beyond the other. This loop, which is called the “spreader,” should now be laid down flat; and on the upper side of the large end and about an inch from its tip, a notch should be cut as our illustration shows. The spring should next be procured, and should consist of a pliant, elastic switch, about four feet in length. A piece of fish line about two feet long should now be fastened to the tip of the switch, and the loose end of the cord attached to a catch piece of the shape shown at (b). This catch may be about an inch and a half long, and should be whittled off to an edge on one end, the string being attached at about its centre. A slipping noose, made from strong horse hair, or piece of fine wire about two feet long, should now be fastened to the string about two inches above the catch.

Having the switch thus prepared, it is ready to be inserted in the ground at the place selected for the trap. When this is done, another small flexible twig about a foot in length should cut, and being sharpened at both ends, should be inserted in the ground in the form of an arch (f), at about three feet distant from the spring, and having its broad side toward it. Insert the notch of the spreader exactly under the top of the arc, and note the spot where the curved end of the former touches the ground. At this point a peg (d) should be driven leaving a projecting portion of about two inches. The pieces are now ready to be adjusted. Pass the curved end of the spreader over the peg, bringing the notched end beneath the arc with the notch uppermost. Draw down the catch piece, and pass it beneath the arc from the opposite side letting the beveled end catch in the notch in the spreader, the other end resting against the upper part of the arc. Arrange the slipping noose over the spreader as our drawing indicates, bringing it inside the peg, as there shown, as otherwise it would catch upon it when the snare is sprung. Strew the bait, consisting of berries, bird-seed, or the like, inside the spreader, and all is ready. Presently a little bird is seen to settle on the ground in the neighborhood of the trap; he spies the bait and hopping towards it, gradually makes bold enough to alight upon the spreader, which by his weight immediately falls, the catch is released, the switch flies up, and the unlucky bird dangles in the air by the legs. If the trapper is near he can easily release the struggling creature before it is at all injured, otherwise it will flutter itself into a speedy death.


The accompanying cut illustrates an improvement on the last mentioned trap, whereby it can be used for the capture of larger game, and with most excellent success. In place of the “spreader” a crotched stick is used, the crotch of which catches around the peg, the other end being supplied with a notch as in the case of the spreader. On the upper side of this stick a small pasteboard platform is tacked, over which and beneath which the bait .is thrown. Instead of the arc, a stout crotch stick is substituted. The noose should be at least ten inches in diameter and constructed of sucker wire. It should be arranged on the ground around the bait and inside of the peg. When the snare is set, the crotched end of the bait stick will thus rest near the earth, the notched end only being lifted in order to reach the catch piece. It is well to insert a few small sticks inside the edge of the noose in order to keep it in correct position. If properly set, the quail or partridge in approaching the trap will have to step inside the noose in order to reach the bait, and while thus regaling itself with a choice meal of oats, berries, or other delicacies, will be sure to press upon the bait stick either by pecking, or treading upon it, and will thus set the catch piece free, only to find itself secured by a grasp from which he will never escape alive.

This is a very effectual snare; but on account of its securing its victim by the legs and thus torturing them to death, it is to be deprecated. We would recommend in preference, those varieties already described as being fully as successful, and far less cruel. They effect almost instant death, either by broken necks or strangulation, and are in this regard among the most humane traps on record.


For simplicity in construction there are few snare traps which can compare with this variety, although it is somewhat similar to those last mentioned, and like them, catches by the feet. The trap consists of three pieces. A catch piece about three inches long, a bait stick of about six inches, and a stout crotch of the proportionate size shown in our illustration, a glance at which will make the setting too clear to need description. Be careful that the bait stick is set in line
and rests just beneath the tip of the catch-piece so that a mere touch on the bait will release it. Arrange the noose as in the instance last described, and bait either as therein directed or with an apple or nubbin of corn, as our accompanying cut indicates. Always remembering that the noose should be sufficiently large to require the birds to step inside of it in order to reach the bait.

Attributed to W.H. Gibson

I came across this chart of knots and their names and thought I would share it with you. I’ll be getting into more knots and bindings in another post, but this quick view will give you some new names you may have not heard before, even though they are all old names and some have been around for hundreds of years. Get yourself a hank of line and sit back some evening and see how many of these knots you can master. It’ll help pass the remaining frigid days away until that old Spring Sun starts a-shinin’ again to warm your souls. You know, in over half a century of living I’ve never quite mastered a couple of them, namely 33 and 34, the chain knots.

There seems to be much interest in the rising possibility of disruption to our daily lives through a large scale EMP event, whether through natural means such as a solar storm or through terrorist inflicted damage via a high altitude detonation of as nuclear device, otherwise known as a HEMP attack. And along with that rise in interest in the event comes an increase in the amount of advice on how to protect ourselves against such an event. Unfortunately, much of it isn’t quite true.

What exactly would happen in one of these events? In the most severe event that we could expect, a Coronal Mass Eruption or Ejection, a huge wave of electromagnetic disturbance would arise from the suns surface and speed towards the earth. This wave would contain hundreds of thousands of volts at incredibly high amperage levels, much higher levels than most surge protection equipment could handle that is in use today. Look at that little plug strip you plug your computer into for protection. I won’t go into all the details behind how it works and all, but you can read about how these surge protectors work here.

In simple terms, a metal oxide varistor channels high amperage voltage and current to the earthing ground of a circuit, thus dissipating any damaging current and keeping your equipment safe. There is more than one type of ground that can be implied when the term ground is used. One type of ground is the signal ground, the second type is the chassis ground, and the third type is called the earth ground. The third type is the one that is important here. Unfortunately, many people group all three grounds together, and that is where much misinformation gets spread. What you want to concentrate on when making your preparedness plans to survive such an event is making sure that whatever type of protection you use, that protection is solidly connected to some kind of earth ground system.

Perhaps the best way to learn about protecting yourself from these events is to jump into the way-back machine and read all about lightening protection and the Faraday Cage. The Faraday cage was invented by Faraday back in 1836, so it’s not a brand new theory, and we know it works- when constructed properly. Even today, modern high rise buildings are constructed as giant Faraday Cages to protect the structure and its occupants against lightning strikes. We can in fact protect ourselves from these events, but that protection doesn’t come cheap. And it is not always going to come easily, especially if you want widespread protection.

Our national infrastructure is the largest scale challenge, and the technology exists to provide that protection, but not the funding. With that in mind, our best course of action is to protect our own butts, and leave the infrastructure to others. These EMP bursts, pulses or waves, whatever you chose to call them will race through the atmosphere looking for something to take them to the earth or ground. They find that path through metal structures or elements such as wires and steel buildings, buildings and tall trees, or human beings, as in the case of lightning. But the damage from some of these EMPs will be far greater, as the voltage and amperage will be far greater than a lightning strike would be.

The secret to EMP protection is to be able to siphon as much current as possible to the earth ground where it will be dissipated, for one thing, and for another to segregate your electronic devices from any voltage/current potential by wrapping and grounding the packages. The design for a secured grounding grid with an in ground web can get pretty complicated, but visualize a lightning protection circuit (LPC) for your home. Susan Bronson wrote a very good, but quick article in Popular Science with a brief description on an LPC that you can access here. I’ll also suggest you read Plain directions for the construction and erection of lightning-rods by John Phin.

The difference between a standard UL approved system for lightning protection and EMP protection is that you may require larger gauge conductors, and you will definitely need a large scale buried ground web of buried cables and ground rods. As to how much bigger, and how big of a web you need, I’ll refer you to a licensed electrical engineer. To help out, refer to this system as an isolated ground system similar to that used on commercial computer mainframe and control systems. And just as a warning, it’s not going to be cheap, but your home will be protected.

You will also have some problems with solar panels and generators, both gas and wind powered because of the coils of wire on the motor windings, as well as the wires connected to the equipment. Run the conductors leading to your home in metal conduit, and construct a metal mesh cage to completely surround the equipment. Solder leads to the mesh and ground them to the conduit. The generator shouldn’t be a big problem, but the wind turbines will obviously have to have one end of the housing where the shaft exits the housing to allow the blades to freely rotate. There’s nothing you can do about that, so be prepared to make repairs as needed. Solar panels will also be a problem as there really isn’t any way to construct a tight enough mesh over the cells without blocking the light, reducing the unit’s efficiency. I would suggest here that you use a one inch mesh made from a small diameter wire and hope for the best. There may be by now a source for some sort of protective equipment, but I’m not aware of any on the market at this time.

As to your electronic devices, which will surely be subjected to fatal damage in an EMP event, do not leave the plugged into the power supply if you can help it. Also make sure to remove any antennae if possible. Electrical currents will be seeking the path of least resistance, and wires and antennae look like a geek cruising the bad part of town with a fifty dollar bill hanging out the window. Make some electrically insulated bags or boxes to put your equipment in. One item per bag is the safest. You can make these out of rubber sheets; just make sure that the bag is 100% closed to prohibit leakage of stray current. Then place them into some metal screen mesh bags that are also securely closed with no gaps.

If you have a super sensitive device, or high value item such as a laptop with your entire life detailed on it, place these bags into a larger rubber bag and finally cover with a larger screen mesh bag. This screen mesh can be regular window screen, but it has to be metal, not fiber material. Copper is a better conductor, but steel will work also. In a future post I’ll share some designs and construction tips for these bags.

Like I said, there are a lot of things we can do to protect our own butts from an EMP event, but the real problem will come from the failure of the public infrastructure systems. It will be very costly to install these protections, so I really don’t see them in use any time soon. Just remember that the key is to devise a way to siphon off all of that current these events will generate, and funnel them to the earth/ground where they will be safely dissipated. Don’t panic, talk to a professional that knows about grounding systems, especially when it comes to lightning protection as these folks will have the expertise that can help you develop a plan for your situation.

Some people are going to fluff off what I’ve said here as being too simple and old fashioned, but solutions don’t always have to be complicated. They do, however have to work, and if lightning protection systems can keep a skyscraper safe from strikes because they are built as a Faraday Cage, then it will work for you too.

Last time I talked about fuel and wicks, so let’s get right into the lamps themselves and see how they work and how to maintain them.

The average table top or wall mounted kerosene lamps are pretty simple. They consist of a fount, usually glass or ceramic, but sometimes of metal. On top of the fount, which has a threaded opening, sits the burner assembly. There are a couple of styles, but the more common one is called the Queen Anne burner. This burner assembly consists of the threaded cap, wick feed assembly of gears and an adjustment knob, and a wick. The big round plate is called the chimney seat and there are usually four prongs to hold the chimney in place.

The kerosene lantern consists of an oil pot, or fount, at the bottom, with a threaded fill cap. Above that sits a removable burner assembly. This is a two piece unit which has an outer dome or thimble shaped cover. The wick assembly sits in a hole in the oil pot, usually held in place by a rubber grommet, and the thimble fits over the wick assembly. The adjustment knob should be to the right of the pots filler cap if installed properly.

Above that is the globe plate, and attached to the globe plate of which you will find a pair of wire globe retainers attached. These obviously hold the glass globe in place, which goes next in order. Also, attached to the bottom of the globe plate you will find the lever that lifts the globe for lighting. To either side you will find the tubes, which act as the anchor to keep all of these pieces together. Attached to the tubes is the wire bail, or handle for carrying or hanging the lamp. Always use this handle to move or hang the lamp, not the little D ring at the very top of the lantern.

That D ring is called the finger pull ring. It is attached to the crown of the lamp which is fastened to the globe retainer. This retainer is spring loaded, and when you pull up on the D ring the entire assembly will lift up allowing you to remove the globe for cleaning and replacement. In quality lamps these pieces are easily replaceable, although they rarely do. In cheaper models it’s easier to simply buy a new lantern if the spring breaks.

Those are the basic parts of the lamps. Some models, especially the better built ones have more, and can be further disassembled for cleaning and repair. Like I’ve always said, get the best quality you can afford to pay for and you won’t go wrong. One tip I’d suggest is you get enough spare parts on hand to rebuild or repair each of your lanterns at least once. If you get better quality ones it’s unlikely you’ll ever need the parts, but one never knows. With cheaper lanterns and lamps, simply buy extras as your budget allows.

We talked about fuel last time, and as a reminder never use anything but kerosene, real lamp oil or citronella oil in them. Lanterns and lamps that have a filler hole in them should be filled until just below the level of the bottom of the filler hole. Some lamps and lanterns have fill guides that you should adhere to for safety. If you already have a wick in your lamp, and this is the first use drop the wick level down and let it soak in the fuel for at least fifteen minutes before lighting.

To install or replace the wick, make sure there are no obstructions in the wick tube of the burner assembly. I find it easier to cut one end of the wick into a V shape and insert it into the top of the wick tube. Push down until you feel the wick stop at the wick adjuster gears. Turn the adjuster knob counter-clockwise until the wick is about 1/8th of an inch above the wick tube. Turn the adjuster clockwise a couple of turns to make sure the adjuster is working properly.

Once you are ready to light the wick, remove the glass chimney if a lamp, or use the globe lifter lever to raise the globe and lock it into the open position if a lantern. Raise the wick so it is 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch above the top of the domed portion of the burner assembly. Light the wick with a match, or a long necked butane grill lighter. Immediately replace the glass chimney, or lower the globe into place as the case may be. Raise the wick until it just starts to smoke and then lower it just a tad for the most light output. You will normally get somewhere around 7 to 8 candle power at the lights highest setting. Not always, but usually. At some point you may decide you need brighter light, and you can get that through an Aladdin mantel lamp or a pressurized lamp which we’ll look at another time.

The wicks will need to be occasionally trimmed, and you can do that simply by removing the chimney or globe, raising the wick and trimming it square with a sharp pair of scissors. Then trim along the two edges and ends at an angle so the wick has a rounded appearance. Between trimmings you may need to rub off some of the charring. Do this with a clean white cloth such as a diaper rag or a similar fabric for best results.

To clean the chimney and globe wash in a warm soapy water or simply use regular glass cleaner like I do. Utilize a soft dry cloth for this and clean thoroughly inside and out. Make sure the glass is completely dry before replacing it onto the lamp or lantern. If you light the lamp while it is still wet you may crack your glass, rendering it useless.

Every so often you will also have to clean the burner assembly and plates so that the pores don’t get clogged up with soot and debris. In the old days it was recommended that these units be boiled in a potash solution but today there are better cleaners to use. I usually spray a product called Goo Gone all over the burner after removing the wick and let it stand for a while. Use an old soft toothbrush to scrub the parts and then clean in a warm soapy water solution. Rinse the burner unit with hot water and dry thoroughly, especially if the unit is a cheap steel unit instead of a quality brass. Re-install the wick when all is dry and assemble the lamp.

That’s all there is to it, at least for the simple non-pressurized oil burning lamps and lanterns on the market today. One of the complaints that I hear from some people about these types of lanterns and lamps is that they don’t give enough light. That’s understandable given that we have become used to high wattage electric lighting. Just remember to keep the wick properly trimmed, the glass clean, and the holes in the burner assembly, chimney or globe plate and cap clean so that air can flow through them freely for great results. These little flames actually consume a lot of oxygen and if they can’t get it, they burn poorly. And don’t let the wick burn with smoke coming from it; lower it till it stops smoking.

Also, make sure you wipe the fount clean after filling, and promptly wipe up all spilled fuel before lighting your lantern or lamp. And one last thing, these things do consume oxygen, and the give off carbon monoxide so make certain you have a ventilated area when you use these lights for safety’s sake.

Surviving The Times

Surviving The Times

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Surviving the Times takes you through the steps to make your own preparedness planning binder. You’ll learn how to guage the level of various threats as they relate to your preparedness planning by using the three P’s of preparedness, the SaWaFo pyramid and more.

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