Very short ideas or suggestions within our time period or for maintaining stuff from our period. 

Cleaning Pots

Cleaning tin lined copper or brass pots, pans, cups, etc. Fill tin lined vessel with water, heat it up on the fire. Add a spoon full or two of the gray fine ash from fire, stir and let sit a few minutes. This will make a lye compound which will clean off burnt on stuff and clean the inside well.

f you want to polish up your copper or brass utensils, common salt & vinegar is an excellent and old time cleaner. This is documented for cleaning back to at least the 1600 & 1700s, probably goes to antiquity. You can make a paste of salt and vinegar and clean up the utensil. Some sprinkle with salt and use a sponge or rag soaked in vinegar to polish. Works on silver too, for those of you with silver utensils.

Cleaning guns

Instead of using up all your patches to clean a black powder gun, at home, use pieces of paper towel. The better quality quilted kind hold up best. You can add layers as tight as you want. Also good for cleaning and oiling inside and outside of barrel, around the lock, stock, slings, etc.


When out on a primitive camp, a sewing kit can come in handy. Thread tends to unwrap itself and become tangled-up. A way to solve this is to spool it around a candle stub. As long as the loose end is slipped under the last turn or pushed into the wax, the wax will keep the thread from coming undone and it waxes your thread too making it easier to sew. 


If you want to color, age or antique antler or bone, soak them in a strong solution of coffee overnight or for several days until the desired color. 

If you want to get that nice antique yellow on horn try a mixture of potassium permanganate and water. Make a paste a paint it on. This stuff is slightly caustic so when you are done you need to wash it well in several changes of water or soda + water. The mixture is dark purple and will turn your skin and other items either purple or black. Wear gloves and don’t get it on other stuff. It will also work on antler or bone, and works faster and differently than horn. You’ll need to experiment. 

If you want to age the brass on your rifle or accoutrements use burned black powder residue. Many shooters wipe the brass with the dirty patches from their bore. You can mix burned powder with a little water and make a paste. That bright yellow brass will take on a “used” or aged look. 

Bear grease

I use bear grease and beeswax mix to wipe down the outside of my gun - lock, stock, barrel & leather sling. I also use it on all of my leather belts, straps, moccasins, etc. So it is good on metal, wood & leather. You don’t need bear grease as I’ve found that any animal fat, without blood, from tallow, suet, raccoon or goose fat all work equally well. I’ve heard of using olive oil too. Depending on what grease you’ve used you might want to keep your stuff where the dogs can’t eat your gear. I’ve had water splashed on my gun barrel in a canoe just “bead” off of this mixture. It is also a fine patch lube too. You’ll have to experiment with the right mixture. I just “eye-ball” it adding grease to some melted bees wax until I get the consistency I want. I try to get it like stiff car wax. It is probably about 40% or less grease. I usually mix up a little at a time in an altoids tin that has paint burned off. Then I carry the tin with mixture in my shooting pouch.

Meat packing

Some of you asked about how I prepared the meat for wrapping and packing at winter camp. Here goes.
If the meat is frozen, take it out of the freezer and thaw now. As it is thawing and after it is totally thawed there will be a collection of juices from the meat. Drain it off. Place the meat on a paper towel on a plate and let the paper towel absorb some more juices, discard the paper and put a fresh towel on the plate and salt the meat to your taste on both sides. I use seasoning salt just the way I would use it if bbq it here at home. After you see that the seasoning has been absorbed gently pat the meat with a clean paper towel so as to absorb any remaining juice, but not to remove the seasoning.
Wrap it. I used a piece of parchment paper and then the regular brown paper, much as a modern butcher uses a smaller piece of paper next to the meat before wrapping it in a larger piece. The salt serves somewhat as a preservative and at the same time as a flavor enhancer. Most of you noted at winter camp that there was not even one drop of juice in the package as I unwrapped it, but at the same time the meat was juicy after cooking it primitive over the fire. The problem with packaged meat we have all had is with the juices leaking through the paper wrapping and getting all over everything else in the bundle it is packed. The above method seems to have solved that problem, although the cool weather might have played a part.

Ramrod Prep

In the old days they would soak ramrods in coal oil to make them more flexible and less likely to break. Coal oil is hard to come by, but I’ve found that kerosene works well too. Ramrods have a lot more flex and less prone to splintering if soaked before making them. I take my spare unfinished ramrods and soak them in kerosene for weeks or months until I need them. I take a piece of PVC pipe and seal a cap on one end. Then put in the ramrods, fill with kerosene, and put on the other cap. I’ve stored the pipe with ramrods vertically outside or in the shed for months, or until I need to make another ramrod. Let the ramrod air dry for a day or two and then finish it as usual.


Hot Rocks in Bed

They say if you can keep your feet and your head warm when you go to bed, that you’ll sleep warm. Often it is hard to warm up your feet after you go to bed. The old time solution was to use hot rocks. Rocks heated next to the fire will stay warm and give off heat for hours. I like 2 or 3 rounded rocks about “softball” size. Heat next to the fire and put them in a bag. Make sure the bag is fairly fire resistant. Rocks can get really hot. I have seen rocks burn completely through bags made of a wool blanket and have seen them scorch a blanket. I try to put them in a bag made of heavy fire retardant canvas or even a double bag. Put them in the bottom of your bed and these rocks will quickly warm up the blankets and keep your feet warm well into the night.


Loose Axe Head

Does your axe head keep coming loose and sliding down the handle, and  you don’t want to drive a modern metal wedge in the end of the handle? You can soak the head and handle in a bucket of water overnight and it’ll swell and tighten up. However, when the axe handle dries out the head is loose again. Try adding a small bottle of glycerin to the water before soaking. You only need enough water to cover the head. Let it soak for several days. The handle will swell up again, but it’ll also absorb some of the glycerin. When it dries out it should still be tight. You may have to experiment with more glycerin or soaking longer, but it’ll work.

Dyeing Army Blanket

Want to dye that army blanket into an acceptable color for the fur trade? I used two packages of scarlet Rit dye. Follow the directions on the Rit package for adding salt or other mordants. I put blanket in the washing machine and filled it with hot or warm water. When it started to agitate I added the dye. I stopped the machine before it finished agitating. I let it sit in the dye bath for a few hours, occasionally resetting the machine to agitate. When it reached the desired color I let the washer finish the cycle. I then dried it in the drier. I used the hot water to help dye penetrate and to “full” the blanket. The drier finished the “fulling” process.


Sewing Heavy Leather

Sewing several layers of heavy leather can be hard. The pieces slip and don’t stay aligned. Try gluing them together first with “leather-weld” or fabric cement. It’ll be much easier to punch holes and sew. The glue dries clear and can easily be rubbed off where it gets on the leather.


Copper Rivets

If you haven’t tried them, copper rivets work real “slick” for attaching leather to leather or a leather/canvas/leather combo. Works great for attaching straps to brass or iron  “O” rings, “D” rings, buckles, etc. Copper rivets date back to the Romans, although modern ones are a little different, but work just as well. A riveting setting tool makes setting the rivet much, much easier.


Dyeing Leather Straps

When I dye leather straps or belts, I don’t rub the dye on, I dunk the leather in the dye. If you have the quart size of Fiebing’s Leather Dye, a strap can be shoved into the bottle. Of course you can’t do this with a full bottle. Draw the strap back out using a heavy rag like a “squeegee” pushing and wiping the excess dye from the strap as you squeeze it through the rag. If the strap or belt is too wide for the bottle I put the dye in the bottom of a plastic pail or gallon ice cream container. Dunk the leather completely, let it drip back into the container for a few minutes, then do the rag squeegee again. Hang up straps to dry. Wearing rubber or latex gloves is a good idea too.






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