Scram Bag:The Needle


A needle, more useful and more difficult to make than you think.


Why is this so significant?

Yes it is a needle, it is used for sewing materials together.

The reason it is significant is because it is the oldest tool ever discovered that was not designed for killing or eating.

The first tool of construction. Men and women made clothes and other usefull items from this one giant leap in technology. It’s our first actual tool of construction. Everything before it was a tool for cutting, chopping, crushing or stabbing. Most previuos tools made things smaller, except this one which made things bigger. The first bone needles were found 6000BC older than recorded civilisation itself, You might assume it was a prerequisite for civilisation.

If you still think the needle is insignificant, try to make one that works well. you’ll find it’s very hard to do.

Using this knowledge imagine what would happen when civilsation as we know it collapses. The factories that currently produce needles would likely cease production at least for a time. Trade and transport networks will be disrupted perhaps permanently. The production of new clothes would likey halt. People would have worn and damaged clothes and be perhaps unable to replace them. New clothes may become rare and expensive to manufacture. Clothes are made of woven threads, theads will not be scarce. Needles possibly will be. Needles will likely become quite valuable. It’s possible may become a form of currency or at the very least a valuable item of barter. It’s clear that needles will be far more valuable than they are today.

Less obvious uses for a needle:

A needle can be bent and turned into a fishing hook.

Needles can be used as pins for sewing.

Needles can be used to clean out a wound or prick open a blister.

A magnetised needle floating on still water can be used as a compass.

Needle can be use to clear a small blockage in a metal filter or small gague pipes.

Stitching a wound closed.






Soil stove

If found this looking through old documents.

A stove made from a mix of sand, soil sand an dung slowly piled up in the corner of a house. I think anthill sand is coarse sand, soil being loamy soil, and dung having fibre binder like mud daub houses.

All natural products, no metal or money required. Get primative but use your head, this likely to  work only in hotter/ drier regions. Uses less fuel and produces less smoke.

3 week construction time.

A stove for free made from soil, sand and some cattle dung with straight stem branches for moulds.

Rocketstove: Making one from metal Olive oil container

For the last few months I have have comments turned off. There was a lot to say and I didn’t want distraction. But don’t think that meant I wasn’t listening to you. I pay attention to what people read and what search terms lead them here.

Rocket stoves have been a popular search item so its time to give you even more information.

I’m going to make one. I’m starting with a 13kg Olive oil can and I’ll have photos for all the relevant steps and a boil time test.

13 Kg olive oil can.  31 pounds in weight

The starting material a large Olive oil can. restaurants and other food businesses throw these away quite regularly, so that’s a good place to start looking if you don’t usually buy oil in this size container.

It’s convenient that there is a large round hole in the center of the top so I wont need to cut one there. Somewhere in the purple band is where I will cut a hole for the pipe which will be the elbow bend pipe.

There is a small handle on the front which i will probably keep as it will be useful for carrying the stove if I need to move it. i think the handle will be better at the front rather than the back as it will stop the ashes falling out for the bottom of the elbow.


The next step will be using sand paper to remove the paint from the can. If the paint is left on the can, it will burn and produce unpleasant and possibly toxic fumes.


<more to come>

Fire: Swedish fire torch

This is a really neat technique of conserving wood and getting a fire going fast and making a stable cooking platform. You will need an axe and a saw to shape the wood block, but it looks worth it.

I just had another thought, all the things are familiar but arranged in a different way and its suddenly so much better, what a concept.

Scram bag : Aluminium can stove

Aluminium can stove photograph

Firstly I know my North American readers will say you spelled it wrong, and while you may be right in that in your area its spelled aluminum. But  according to IUPAC its been officially Aluminium for the last 15 or so years.

We are of course talking about the 13th element on the periodic table witch has low density and low corrosion rate due to its propensity to form a protective oxide layer.

Aluminium will however corrode markedly if it is left in a salty environment such as a salt spray zone near an ocean or salty lake.

I should talk more extensively about Aluminium as a material at a later date.

We live in a throw away society where things are made to be used once and then destined to become land fill. The humble aluminium can is one such product.

However we can change the game and turn a low cost one use item into something much more useful and possibly life saving depending on the situation.

Water is of course essential for life, 3 days without water and its likely that you will be dead, close to dead, or if miraculously resuced at the last minute you may suffer from life long health effects.

Water is a great mobilizer of materials and living things some of these living things will be very harmful if you drink them.

If you find water of unknown quality you will need to be cautious.

Straining water even with a cotton shirt will remove most suspended material (dirt etc) but will not kill pathogens.

Boiling water after it has been strained will kill most pathogens and make water much safer to drink.

It not appropriate  or possible to make a fire in ever possible location you might be so a small cooker is a great option to have.

You could buy a propane/butane gas cooker but they are expensive by comparison require large gas canisters and are in themselves somewhat bulky and fragile.

So there is a niche for a cheap to make cheap to run cooker for boiling water or cooking food.

I made an awesome info-graphic and I’ll add it here. it may be better to download the image or open it is a separate window to see it in its full glory.

It described the manufacture of one of many designs of the aluminium can stove.


Aluminium can stove info graphic

Manufacture notes

1-Remove all of the paint from the can with sandpaper.

2-Empty the can.

3-Put holes into top section. (thumb tack or drill)

4-Cut out the circular section around the ring pull. (razor blade)

5-Cut into 3 sections. (razor blade or tin snips)

6-Cut center section.(razor blade or tin snips)

7-Flange out the  sharp edge bottom section slightly. (screwdriver shaft)

8-(optional) add glass wool between bottom and center sections.

9-Put top section inside bottom section.


this stove runs best from pure alcohol.
Pure alcohol is quite hard to obtain. the pureset from of alcohol is methylated spirts.
methylated spirts is about 96-99% Alcohol.
the rest (1 -4%) is made up other impurities (like methanol) so that is is toxic and/or unplesant to drink.
Methlyated spirits is quite cheap at about $2-3 per litre making this a very economical fuel.

pour fuel into the center section of the stove and light.
it may be easier to light the stove with a  match or piece of paper or dry grass rather than a lighter.

during day time the flame may be difficult to see.
once light the stove cannot be easily extinguised and the flame heat is not adjustable.
Different sotves produce different ammounts of heat and this may be a way of controlling heat.
multiple stoves may be used together to produce more heat.

Why is this item important.
It shows that useful things can be made from commonly available low cost items.
It introduces people to making things for themselves.
In many situations the ability to boil water to sterilise it maybe a life saving device.

The material
Aluminium does not readily corrode except for in a very salty environment.
(such as in the salt spray zone of beaches)
Aluminium may begin to corrode when place in contact with other metals for extended periods of time.
Aluminium melts at 660C, so its unlikely to melt during normal operation.
the thickness of Aluminium in cans makes them quite fragile.
A  sturdy container is recomended to prevent the stove being crushed in a backpack.

Alternative designs
there are many alternative designs to the can stove.
Each have their merits in terms of use and ease of construction.
For some people constructing these is a serious hobby.


Resources: wood ash

An important concept is life is to recognize resources and know what uses they can be put to.

There is not waste resource, just a wasted resource opportunity.

So what is in wood ash?

Wood ash makes up 0.34 to 1.8 percent of the weight of dry wood burnt in its production.

So 10kg of wood burnt will produce at least  34 grams of dry wood ash.

Wood ash is a good thermal insulator if it is kept dry, the small air pockets in it allow for it to have this insulating property, once it becomes damp or wet these air spaces collapse and do not return upon drying.

Wood ash is:

about 25-45 % Calcium Carbonate ( CaCO3)

About 10 % potash (K2CO3, KCl , K2SO4)

about 1% Phosphates (PO4¯³)

The temperature  and duration of the fire will influence the composition of the wood ash.

For example ta higher temperature will reduce the Calcium carbonate to Calcium oxide and make any resultant Lye more alkaline.

Wood ash is also used in odor control in composting especially if it has a high char content.

By adding water to Wood ash, Lye is produced, an alkaline mixture of Calcium and potassium hydroxides, thought the calcium salts will precipitate as it is not very soluble in alkaline solutions.

Lye is commonly use to reduce acidity in soils

Lye is also used in making  Soap

Lye can also be use to clean clothes directly by in doing so you are relying on the oil in the clothes being turned to soap during the washing process.

So it will be a lot slower and you will have to heat your water.

Easy to learn useful skills: Repair

In a world economy based on continuous economic expansion, continuous consumption is required to keep the economy operating. This facilitates the cyclical consumption, products have very short  useful lives. Some are made prematurely obsolete by design. Some are just designed to break.

In a world where things are designed to break, facing the world wide shut down of production, we will have a vast legacy of fragile products and a collapse of the system of mass production.

We will need to learn to repair things when previously we would have thrown them out.

Here a listed some skills that are quite simple to learn an allow you to repair things that might otherwise be useless.

Sewing,: this will allow you to repair things as small as a shirt to something as large as a sail. I even once read theory that packs of needles could become valuable like a currency. Hard to believe? Try to make a good needle out of anything any you see why this may be the case. Needles a very small thing to have and very useful.

Soldering: even without a vast knowledge of electronics, its pretty obvious a broken wire will mean the difference between a device working and not working. Learning the basics of soldering only takes a few hours to learn and get good at. Imagine the value it could be to you being able to turn a bunch of electronic scrap into something useful, perhaps even trade able.

Tying knots: sometimes the only way to hold something together is by tying knots. You’d be surprised how many there are and the different specific purposes they have. There are few basics that cover a lot of situations, learn them. Rope for a very long time was made from plant fibers, hemp being one of the favorites.Long after the last nylon ropes have crumbled in the sun ropes from plant fibers will be around, best that you know how to use them.

Basic mechanics: I’m not talking about cars here, I’m talking about pulleys, levers, cogs, chains, belts, pistons, pumps. fins out what these things do and the basic physics around them. learn how to take apart a small device  (like an exploded diagram) and see how it is supposed to work and put back together so that it does still work. Find an old computer CD/DVD player and take it apart see if you can figure out how it opens the door and moves the disc in and out, its not magic.See if you can find out which part is the laser beam. There are book that describe how things work, read these book and find out how things work, it may mean you are able to repair  and use things that would have other wise been useless.

Basic hand tools: Learn all about the hammer, the drill, the saw, the screwdriver and shifter and spanner. you probably have a rough idea but find out from someone who really knows like a mechanic, a carpenter… you’ll probably learn some of the subtleties about the techniques and the tools themselves, what makes a tool good quality and why. You’ll probably find out what tools can’t be used for and what slightly different tools can be.