Sunday, 26 June 2011

Colonial Settlers Travel 4. Tools & Hardware.

Colonial Settlers Travel 4. Tools & Hardware.
So what tools should you take with you when settling your own place? I have often thought about the post & beam dwellings with wattle & daub walls. Digging post holes is not that hard when using a crow bar & a post hole shovel, but how did the early settlers do it? I decided it would be easier to dig a trench instead of a hole. Easier to get the earth out too with a simple wooden shovel. So I would put a pick on my list.

Nice sized small pick, but not 18th century.

18th century picks & mattocks appear to have come in various styles & sizes. Here you can see two small picks that I have collected so far. Both able to be carried without too much effort, & both would double as a weapon.

I really can’t see a crosscut saw being carried unless there were some animal to carry it. So that leaves an axe. Many tools can double as weapons if need be.
• I gave orders to them to go home and fetch their arms whether guns, swords, pitchforks, axes or whatsoever might be of use against the enemy and for three days provision in their knapsacks” Journals of Conrad Weiser (early 18th century).
Post & beam construction is better pegged than tied, & the best tool for making the peg holes is probably an auger.

This auger is easily carried tied to my blanket roll along with my half-axe. This one is probably 19th century, but apart from the gimlet tip, it is pretty much the same as an 18th century one.

For the gardening a hoe & a small mattock would probably suffice. The carrier/s can decide whether to leave the stails & helves attached or to just carry the tool heads.

A modern hoe, but the head is very much the same as they were in the 18th century.

A modern hoe at top in an 18th century design, and a small modern made mattock head in period design. Both good finds. You just have to know what you are looking for.

What can be carried depends on the transport available, whether just people or if animals are included. Kitchen wares would be needed, sewing kit, knitting needles can be made on site. A spinning wheel is a large item but is easier to use than a drop spindle unless you are used to using one. Brooms can be made easy enough, as can a garden rake. We take so many things about the home for granted, & it is not until we consider moving that we fully realise just how much hardware we have & use each day to make our lives easier & more comfortable.

My wife's spinning wheel. This is not a heavy item, and can easily be pulled apart to carry in separate pieces and reassembled later. Not sure on the period of this design.

What about smaller tools such as metal files, whet stones, hand vices, rasps. As the list grows we start to see how greater numbers of people will allow us to carry more equipment. More people more security, but also more food needed to feed everyone. A large number of people moving through an area will scare the game away, so hunters must move far ahead of the column. Having been in the position of feeding my family from our garden & by hunting game, I can tell you that the game is not always there to hunt. If I got a buffalo then there was meat for some time if dried, but what I did was share it with my neighbours who also depended on game for food. Even a large buffalo does not last long between several families. Hunting for me was a constant activity, especially when only smaller game was available.

The author's flintlock fusil.

Author's shot pouch he made himself.

So each family will need to have at least one gun and the accouterments to service that gun. Hunting knives & tomahawks are a must, & I learnt a long time ago to carry more than one knife when hunting. Arms for defence are also very important, so the more you have the better. Each adult member of our group including the women have guns, so they will have to carry their guns as well as any other burdens that fall to them. I find as I get older the heavy packs slow me down & I need to take more breaks. Fortunately I am the oldest in our group, so I will be able to leave the heavier loads to the younger people.

Left to right: Light felling axe, two facsine knives or bills, an adze, half-axe, and tomahawk/axe.
Not sure on the date of the felling axe. The half-axe and the tomahawk are copies.

Using a travois would allow a person to carry more weight, but I have not found any documentation to suggest such a device was ever used by white settlers. The downside of using a travois is that it leaves a clear sign on the forest floor that you have passed that way. Horses & cattle also leave clear sign for even the poorest of trackers to follow.

The travois I made to be used on foot.
This sickle in invalueable for cutting reeds for thatching or making mats. Note the corn cob handle I fitted.

The only difference between this modern made pruning saw and an 18th century one, is that the 18th century saw has a straight blade where as this one is slightly curved. Plus of course the screws in the handle. I was amazed at how well this little saw cuts. This is the saw I am using in the video on making a tomahawk helve.

My son Laban when he was only a little person. He is using an "A" frame pack frame with a leather pack to carry his gear.

Kids like to have their own things, just make sure you don't make the pack too heavy.  Some basic camp items should suffice such as a light kettle, a spoon, a knife if they are responsible enough & of course a small tomahawk.

My youngest son Kaelem when also a little person. He has his own hunting knife & tomahawk as seen here. Also you can just see Kaelem's fire bag on his right side, which of course holds his flint, steel & tinderbox. All three of my sons were making fire with flint & steel at a very early age.

My tomahawk/axe at top compared to my son's smaller tomahawk when they were children. Now of course all three sons are adults & have full sized tomahawks.


Lori Benton said...

This is an incredibly helpful and informative series! Thanks so much for it. In particular the travois. Thanks for including that photo.

docfire said...

I check your blog everyday, and thank you for the time you put into it.
I was wondering, how did the "human travois" work? I have thought of trying such a thing for moose hunting, where the quarters often go well over a hundred pounds.

Thanks again,


Le Loup said...

Lori, thank you, & you are most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

Doc. The travois works well on level ground, but up hill it can be a slog unless you have someone to help pull. The good side is that you are not carrying the weight on your back & shoulders, & when you stop for a breather you are not still carrying the weight.
The longer the travois & the further back the load, the less weight you actually hold up. Can get tight in the forest, but you just have to pick your track. I used saplings with curved ends. This allows my to back-up if I have to. It also leaves less sign & is easier to pull. I used cordage that I made on site. Does not take long to make.

Todd Madigan said...


What method do you use for drying out the cob in order to prepare it for use as a handle? I've heard of sun drying the corn right on the cob but if you save cobs from eating fresh cooked corn do you dry them the same way?



Keith H. Burgess said...

Yes Todd, just let them lay in a dry place & they will dry soon enough. I have never bothered to hang them to dry for handles. I usually just sit them aside somewhere & they dry just fine.
Regards, Keith.