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Making Your Own Gear

Discussion in 'Metal Heads' started by KaBar, Dec 4, 2001.

  1. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    I really enjoy making my own stuff. Obviously, there are some things that are just a lot cheaper to buy (in fact, if you include the time you invested, Wal Mart can supply just about everything on earth cheaper than you can make it.) I don't really think that cost or expense is the real issue. The thing thay really makes home-built stuff more enjoyable to me is the fact that I did it myself. It's a liberating feeling, because then you come to know , in a way that only proficiency and experience can teach you, that you really are able to live and survive "outside the system," to a great degree. As I have said before, I don't think that anyone who still has a normal life can ever live completely outside the system of dependence and interdependence.
    Who is closer to being free of the system--the tramp, who buys his beer or wine at a convenience store every day, or a guy who home-brews his own beer and wine? Who is more free--the guy who owns a bicycle, and knows how to maintain and repair it, or the guy sitting in his $20,000 Japanese car in a traffic jam every day? The guy who owns a Gulf view condo, or the guy anchored out in the bay, living on a 60-man lifeboat? Each lifestyle has things to recommend it, and also things that can only be viewed as detriments.
    There are some things that are sort of compromises between the two extremes, too. I've known a number of people who lived in trucks, buses or vans. I've known several people who lived on board various kinds of boats--sailboats, houseboats, floating houses that were basically on a raft built on 55-gallon drums. These people are known as "Anchor-outs", and the rich people who own the bayside or beachfront property really hate them. They are enjoying the beauty of the bay without being wealthy. When I lived in San Francisco, I knew people who "squatted" in vacant buildings. Squatting is different from just crashing there, as tramps or homeless folks might do. Squatters aspire to living a good life , but without participating in the usual workaday-9-to-5-career-path. They turn on the lights, they want hot water showers and serviceable furniture. No 5-gallon buckets and gunboats for the urban squatters crowd.
    I lived in communes and "collectives" back in the late '60s and '70s. It was okay, but there is always the drawback of having to be part of a group, and be limited by the group's decisions. I lived in a commune once that published an "underground" newspaper, as a way of making a living. Some months we did okay, other months we nearly starved and wound up eating a lot of rice and beans. Another guy there, John, and I wanted to form a commune-owned construction company. We were going to start out by hanging gyp board and roofing houses, both of which are construction sub-contracting activities that pay okay and cost virtually nothing to get into. Both of us had done roofing and gyp before. But the commune was against it, and basically told us if we started up a company, we would be asked to leave. They didn't have to ask me, I just went ahead and packed my shit. I don't like being dependant on somebody else's permission to live my life the way I want to. I'd rather be "on the bum" than controlled by somebody else. That was when I realized that socialism cannot work, and is a waste of effort.
    I have built black-powder rifles and revolvers from a kit. I have taken old beat-up military surplus rifles I bought at garage sales and cleaned them up and repaired them and made them shootable. I know how to distill water using an old pressure-cooker and a copper coil I silver-soldered to the steam vent. I've never actually distilled my own whiskey (that would be a felony) but it could certainly be done. I re-built the engine in my 1953 International (back in the '60s) and spliced the transmission in my '61 Chevrolet Apache pick-up with a '58 GMC 1/2 ton transmission. I cobble together bicycles out of junk pieces all the time. It's a really fun hobby. I have rebuilt the engine in my Harley and I've been working on restoring it, a little at a time, for years and years.
    Before I did this stuff, I had never done it before. I didn't do these things because it was cheaper or easier, but because I wanted to know how.
    Recently, I made a knife. I couldn't find a sheath knife like I wanted for less than $35, that was legal to carry in Texas. (In Texas, knives cannot have a blade of over 5-1/2" inches long, or be a "bowie knife", or a "poinard" or "dagger." That means "sharp on both edges.") I went down to the local chain store, and found good, serviceable butcher knives with carbon steel blades that sold for $4.95, but they are 8" long. That's illegal to carry. Stainless steel blades do not take an edge well, plus stainless is hard to work. If a stainless blade will attract a magnet, it's better. Anyway, I bought one of these carbon steel butcher knives, and ground the blade down to 5-3/8". Then I honed it and ground it, and honed and ground it until I had just the shape and edge on it that I wanted. My next project is getting some leather and making a sheath for it. I can't find a sheath like I want. Too expensive and they are all the wrong design. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.
  2. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 41
    you bring up so many valid points and ideas. your creativity amazes me.would it be alright to ask you about supplies and living off oof tramps style goods i guess. at a later date?
  3. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    T.T. Boy---I can't think of too many reasons to wait. If you got a question, fire away. I'll answer to the best of my ability.
  4. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    A lot of what I'm talking about is just being aware of ways you can use stuff that is already around. For instance, we already talked about using cardboard and Thousand-Miler Paper (on a different thread) for insulation, etc. I find big pieces of thick plastic sheeting sometimes around rail yards or warehouse districts close to yards. The stuff makes a great rain poncho or even a tent. There's also a type of black, woven, plastic tarp called railroad plastic that people use to make ponchos and stuff out of, too. In the wintertime, I sometimes see guys wearing an Army blanket with a slot just big enough for your head to poke through as a poncho, like a winter coat. Swallow-tail military parkas with a hood, knit watchcaps and insulated winter gloves are pretty much a necessity, up north as well.
    Once in a while you'll find winter coveralls for sale in thrift shops. They are insulated and usually have a zipper and buttons up the front. Since most full-time tramps are outdoors 24/7, they make a point of getting some clothes that will do the job, either used or new. A lot of people up north wear insulated, camouflage hunting coveralls if they are trainhopping. In snow country, people wear insulated rubber sno-pak boots, too, like you would wear working outdoors on a farm, or for hunting. I have no idea where people stash all this stuff when the weather warms up. Down here in Texas, it almost never gets cold enough for all that cold weather gear.
    Obviously, buying weather-appropriate gear is a far cry from making your own gear, but just knowing that such gear exists is a big help. You can find a lot of this kind of stuff in thrift shops or military surplus stores or in the hunting/camping section of big chain stores like WalMart. I also find good stuff in home and building supply stores, like Home Depot or Lowe's. For instance, you can buy dog chain by the foot, or you can just buy a pre-packaged 15' dog chain with a hook on each end, and cut it into three 5' pieces. Either give the extra to your pals, or sell or trade it to another tramp.
    Dumpster diving is a great way to find good stuff, too. A lot of stores like Academy Surplus or REI will throw away defective items that have been returned, straight into the dumpster. Maybe a stuff sack that ripped or a propane stove that won't work right is junk to Danny DINK, but it can (and frequently will be) salvaged and repaired by a resourceful tramp.
    One guy I know found a great winter coat with a ripped zipper, but the thing was BRIGHT INTERNATIONAL ORANGE, like something you'd wear to flag down a Coast Guard rescue chopper. He sewed it up and bought a can of olive drab spray paint. It was still pretty orangey, but a lot less brilliant of a shade.
    There's nothing wrong with just buying stuff, if you've got the money, but I get a certain satisfaction in scrounging cool stuff. One time a biker buddy of mine and I salvaged several computers out of the dumpster behind where his wife worked, in a driving rain storm. We got several CPU's, a couple of keyboards and some old monochrome monitors. Took them home, let them dry out for a week---three out of four fired right up and ran great. They were older machines, but they ran good. We used the bad one for a parts machine.
  5. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 41
    well i dont really have an direct questions per say, more of some advice that you could offer i guess. i plan to do some traveling in the near future and alot of which may be, well, not scheduled i guess, i mean, ill be pretty much wandering around from place to place and may have to set up camps quickly and for one night only type deal. yourself being quite experianced in this type of thing, i was wondering if you had any advice on seting up and seting down, where abouts should i make camps, what will i need that is easily ready, like things i wont have to lug around for my trip. just more of one time uses kind of deals. i dunno, like say i have to find a spot to sleep in a city rather than a hobo jungle, do you have any advice on whereabout would be a good safe place? im not sure exactly directly what im asking, more of a general overview ould be nice. ive read your posts on gunboats and such, which is most likley going to help alot, i was just wondering if you had any other tips you could offer, and some advice on the questions i had above. thanks for reading this and taking time to respond.
  6. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Places to Crash

    T.T. Boy---A lot of my tramping experience (like long hopping trips) is pretty old, and some of the places I went to and places I stayed are all totally different now. But I can speak to this question in general. First of all, a lot depends upon your age and whether or not you are big enough to defend yourself. If you are a big-ass 17-year old football player or rodeo cowboy, that's a lot different than if you are a 15-year old who spends all his time playing video games and eating pizza. If you are an adult, it makeslife a LOT easier in terms of hassles with the police.
    First of all, do everything you can to avoid attracting attention to yourself. When I see some kid who is obviously school-aged sauntering down the street whacking trash cans and light poles with a stick, dressed in black, torn clothes and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, a bunch of piercings and green spiked hair, I automatically figure a.) he's ditching school, b.) he's probably fucked up on something, and c.) he's probably carrying a weapon or two. This isn't "fair" but that's the way it is. Life is NOT FUCKING FAIR. Get used to it.
    What you need to do is dress and behave as "normal" as possible and still try to fit in with your surroundings. For instance, if you are in Casper, Wyoming, a cowboy hat will not draw the slightest attention. But if you're in Queens, New York City, everybody is going to think you are some kind of wierdo. The green-spiked-hair-Marilyn-Manson bit will blend you right in in a few places, but most of America is way more conservative than that, and you'll draw the heat quickly. Think of conservative, "normal" clothes and behavior as good camouflage.
    I hate to leave my ruck and bindle anywhere, but I'm an adult and I look pretty road-worn, so people don't think twice if they see me humping my ruck around. One glance, and they think "tramp," "alcoholic" "homeless loser." Then they dismiss me, which is fine with me. If I was 16 years old, they'd think "runaway," "looking for trouble" and call up the cops to turn me in. So how you present yourself is EVERYTHING. It's not easy. You want to look tough enough to deter predators, but not so threatening that you freak out passers-by.
    Even urban areas have places where you could camp out, but you have to be careful that you're not setting yourself up for some kind of attack. In general, I try to stay away from areas where down-and-out people congregate. The cops frequently check these folks out. They drink too much, and they get into arguments and fights, and they bum money, food, cigarettes and anything else you'll give them. They are used to getting what they need by bugging other people, who then give them something (a cigarette, whatever) to get rid of them. I hate this sort of shit. It has no dignity. I have stayed in shelters a few times, but they are notorious for being a good place to get robbed, ripped off or catch lice. No thanks.
    If you have money, of course, you could rent a cheap room. Even a POS hooker hotel room costs $25 a night or so. Once out west I rented a motel room in Idaho and it cost $7. I thought that was pretty funny. Usually it's a lot more, no matter where you are.
    I usually try to locate a good camping spot pretty close to the rail yard or junction where I detrained. If you are in a wooded area, just pick a direction and walk thirty or forty yards off into the brush. Be careful you're not camping in somebody's back yard. One time in California I did this (in the desert) and the next morning I woke up and needed to take a dump. So I started walking a little ways from my camp and it turned out I was next to somebody's house, swimming pool and garage.
    I look for areas that are high enough so that if it rains, my camp doesn't flood. I look for areas with good brush coverage. Sometimes you can find a tree that has branches that sort of "canopy". This makes a sort of natural arbor effect and you can set up camp underneath the canopy. I like this set up because it makes it easy to rig a tarp, tent or mosquito net. I also look for good "hammock trees," and places pretty close to restaurants and stores. The absolutely best set-up is to find a place with a source of clean, fresh water. In Montana, Rufe and I used a jungle right next to a stock yard that had a great water faucet to water the cattle from. I never gave anthrax a thought, but all things considered, I don't think I would camp next to a stock yard today. For one thing, they stink pretty bad.
    One thing you want to avoid is building a fire or breaking anything or dragging up a lot of junk if you are in a populated area. There is a jungle here in Houston where the tramps throw all their garbage and shit on the ground, that is less than 100 yards from the back yard fences of a very exclusive residential area. This is bad karma. The tramps have a good attitude about it ("We leave them alone, and they leave us alone.") but how long before that closest home owner gets freaked out at all the misbehavior? Keep a clean camp. Never leave a fire unattended. Don't shit where you eat.
    If you take care of business, things will work out a lot better. If you act like someone who doesn't have good sense, you'll flunk the attitude test, and the cops will nail you for something.
    If you haven't read them yet, check my two threads on the next couple of pages, "Slack Action," and "Hobos, Tramps and Homeless Bums." Good luck.
  7. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 41
  8. THE LAW

    THE LAW Guest

    THE LAW wrote a half hour reply dealing with URBAN CAMPING but it got deleted. the grains of knowledge contained: sleep on rooftops, dress well and you can get into almost any building, and avoid sleeping out of doors when it's raining. it's a great way to get sick.

    perhaps at a later date, THE LAW will write his message again. it was kinda helpful.
  9. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 41
    Well, now im just angry that THE LAWS post didnt make it to the thread, as urban camping is just what im wondering about. THE LAW should try and repost the said article. Thank you in advance.
  10. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Once back in 1969 when I was 18, I got picked up hitch-hiking by a guy from Buffalo, New York who was driving a Yellow Cab. It was pretty funny, because I thought the guy was a L.A. cab driver trying to pick me up for a fare, and I went up to the window and said, "Sorry, dude, I don't have any money." and he said, "That's okay, this taxi isn't licensed in California anyway. Get in."
    His Dad owned a taxi company in Buffalo, and he was on vacation. I guess his Dad just said, "What the hell. Take 2340, it's got a full tank of gas." Anyway, the guy was an interesting person. He wanted to make some money working as a research subject, and I was game, so we went to UCLA and signed up for psychology experiments. It paid $30 a day, good money back in those days. (I later took a job that paid $2.34 an hour, to put it in perspective. And it was a pretty good job.) Anyway, the test was to decide whether or not you could pull a switch that would send electricity to another "volunteer," who was actually a Theatre Arts student on loan from the Drama Dept. pretending to get shocked every time the red light went on. Each time they told you "Push button one to earn a dollar," it supposedly shocked the other guy. I immediately told the guy on the headphones (we wore head phones and a mike to communicate with the tester) "Hey, this is bullshit. This test is rigged." They were pretty cool about it. I still got my $30.
    After the test, the Taxi Driver asked one of the students if he knew of anyplace to crash, and the guy said yeah, try Psi Delta Theta Gamma Blamma fraternity. They rent rooms in the summer to help pay the rent. We went over there and it was the night of their big Red Mountain party. (Red Mountain is a type of paisano wine sold real cheap in California, or at least it used to be.) For $3 (the cost of a room) we got totally shitfaced. There was a band, and college girls and townies all over the place. I woke up sleeping on the couch at a SORORITY HOUSE about five blocks away, the next morning. I have absolutely no idea how I got there, other than I remember getting pushed down the street in a shopping cart by somebody. The girls were very cool. They fed me breakfast, all wearing robes, hair curlers and fuzzy bunny slippers. I was hung over for a couple of days. My pal in the taxi came and picked me up. The next night we got blasted again, and slept on the roof of the fraternity house. I woke up in my sleeping bag the next morning, drunker than Hooter Brown, like three feet from the edge of a flat roof--- a two story drop onto concrete. It scared the shit out of me and I never did anything like that again.
    We later drove the taxi to Boulder, CO, and crashed a college newspaper editors' summer conference being held at the university there. We slept in an empty room, ate free at the brunch table and pretended to be college newspaper editors, more or less.
    I never met a guy with as much brass as this taxi guy. He was something else for straight-up lying to cops, college dorm people and anybody and everybody in authority. We drove that taxi all over the place, smoking dope, drinking, and just generally trying to get over without paying. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, and we split up and I went and hitch-hiked back to Texas. I thought I was a wild and crazy kind of guy, but this guy was way beyond me. And he dressed like a total straight arrow--ties, slacks, button-down shirts, lace-up dress shoes. The college girls just LOVED the guy. I was more of a long-haired hippie with a beard, boots, Army field jacket and worn-out blue jeans. Just goes to show you, you can get a lot farther if you look like somebody who is law-abiding and responsible, and can talk like an educated person.
  11. seeking

    seeking Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 25, 2000 Messages: 32,278 Likes Received: 240
    i havent done a whole lot of sleeping outside, but i spent a few months living in a car, and ive traveled enough to know that things can pretty much be summed up with common sense.

    where you can sleep, very much depends on the kind of area your in. if your in a big city, find a nice little building (bank, parking garage etc) and cozy up in a corner someplace. like the law said, sleep on roof tops if you can. for one, your alot less likely to get messed with, so its safer, plus you wont have to worry as much about your stuff getting jacked. if your in a smaller town sort of area, you should be able to find some sort of wooded area, park, etc... someplace like that to sleep. try to sleep someplace as inconspicuous as possible. if you do get questioned by the cops, just be honest. be intelligent, and you probably wont have too much trouble. like kaber said, you will be treated in the manner that people react to you. if you look like a decent guy, you'll get treated like one. if you explain to people what your doing, more than likely they'll be almost envious. everyone secretly wishes they could be jack kerouac in 'on the road'

    take only the stuff you think you'll need, and dont take anything you cant live with losing. if you dont have anything that someone wants, thheyre probably not going to fuck with you. plus, part of the alure of traveling like this, is that its survival at its most basic. now, i love my palm pilot, but it rarely helps me eat, so it stays at home. plus, carrying even light shit for hours, gets heavy. a small first aid sort of kit is a good idea, as is a light jacket (even in summer) a good pair of work gloves, matches, toilet paper etc.

    i get the idea that your planning to travel to areas where you know people, and so sleeping outside is only a 'last resort' sort of scenario. this is alot different, than if you were planning to cross the country, sleeping outside every night. if its only once every week or so, you can get away without a sleeping bag or blankets or anything.

    another important thing, is your ability to deal with the people your going to encounter. have you spent any amount of time around homeless people? poor people? minorities? this might sound silly, but it has alot to do with how you'll handle possible situations. if your a white kid from some rural farm land, and you get into some situation where your dealing with people that handle things alot differently than you do, a bad situation can arise out of nothing. being a good talker and a quick thinker is more important than being a big guy...

    sorry, this is so scattered... im really tired. and understand that most of my experience with this shit, was in detroit, which, ive found is a completely different world. ive also spent some time sleeping outside in NYC, which is pretty simple all things considered....

    id like to see the laws comments as well, as im sure he knows a bunch of shit i either got wrong, or missed....
  12. seeking

    seeking Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 25, 2000 Messages: 32,278 Likes Received: 240
    oh, another thing... whatever sort of backpack your taking, make sure it has little locks on the zippers, and try to come up with a way that you can sleep on it, with the straps wrapped around you in some sort of manner so that it cant just be taken away while you sleep. if someone knows that robbing you will lead to a confrontation, they'll be alot less likely to try it. also, its worth it to try an find a comfortable way to sleep with it, leaning up against it, as a pillow, whatever. being comfortable makes sleeping alot more comfortable.
  13. 455

    455 Guest

    Once again, thank you for giving me more knowledge to soak in..I love this guys' threads....something meaningful...is always good to read.
  14. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 41
    damn, keep it coming, the info helps alot. id rather listen than talk. but so you know, im really just joe regular guy, i dont stick out at all, not a suspect id say. and i know how to deal with alot of different people. junkies, winos, hobos, i talk to people, well i try to anyways. thanks guuys. if you can help more, please do.
  15. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Good Cheap Rucks and Equipment

    Some time ago, we had a big long discussion about streamliners. Streamliners are people who are on the bum, but they don't have any equipment or the means to provide for themselves. It's a negative term, an insult, to the older tramps. In their view, if you don't carry your own stuff and take care of your own business, there's only a couple of other ways to get by. The most obvious way is stealing, and the most obvious target is other tramps. That's why straight-up tramps hate streamliners. Among the younger trainriders, especially the so-called "yo-bos, or "yuppie hobos" (young people who have a job and a house, but ride trains for a kick) the idea of traveling lightweight, with no heavy gear, foodstuffs or any large amount of water is appealing. They cannot imagine themselves in a tight spot, where they will have to depend upon whatever they have with them. They carry cell phones and pagers and have credit cards. To a degree, they are being naive. Things happen. You can't buy your way out of every situation.
    Good rucks can be had cheaply from military surplus stores. Personally, I have an old M1952 U.S. Army mountain rucksack that I prefer, but a medium Alice pack rigged without the frame or a military ruck from some other country is okay too. Swiss, German and East German gear is all cheap and readily available right now. Spanish Army and French Army gear is around too, but I find it less desirable.
    You can buy a lot of gear online. There are scores of military surplus dealers. One of the best in Texas (or anywhere, for that matter) is Colonel Bubbie's in Galveston http://www.colbubbie.com. Another really good one is Major Surplus and Survival in Gardena, CA. www.MajorsurplusNSurvival.com Another one is Sportsmans Guide in South St. Paul, MN. They have a new deal out of that company, called "HQ--Government Surplus Headquarters" www.sportsmansguide.com If you can't find it for a price you like from these three guys, you probably ain't gonna find it.
    I use empty 2-liter plastic Coke bottles for water. I make gunboats out of a 2-lb. coffee can and a wire coat hanger, and use a piece of lightweight "wire" dog chain and a 16d nail bent into an "s-hook" to suspend the gunboat over a fire. I always carry some food, like cans of pork and beans, or Spaghettios, or vienna sausages, or sardines and crackers. I ALWAYS carry a roll of toilet paper. I carry instant coffee and sugar and salt and pepper and Louisiana Tabasco Sauce. I carry rice and a couple of boxes macaroni and cheese. If you are traveling with a buddy, you can split the load. I carry a plastic coffee cup or two (never know, you might meet up with a stranger who needs a cup of coffee) and a fork and a spoon. I carry a pocket knife, and I will be carrying the tramp knife I made. I carry matches and a Bic lighter, and some newspaper and a few envelopes and some writing paper and a pencil or two. I carry good maps, with the rail lines highlighted with a yellow marker and reinforced at the fold lines with clear vinyl packing tape. I carry a pair of 7x50 binoculars, and a Uniden scanner. I carry two blankets rolled into a bindle, with a strap I made myself from a piece of nylon strap I found on the tracks. I carry a deadman 2x4 26" long in my bindle. I carry an Army rain poncho, rolled up in the top of my ruck. I carry an Army field jacket with liner, folded up inside my ruck, against my back. I carry a knit winter watch cap. I always carry a pair of leather trucker's gloves, and in the winter, I carry leather insulated work gloves. I wear my ratty old baseball cap, and I always, always wear a pair of good sturdy boots. In my case, military boots, but any decent pair of boots will do.
    Is all this shit necessary? No, not really. But if I'm carrying my gear, COME WHAT MAY, I am prepared to deal with it. I like that.