Monday, December 31, 2007

Native News And New Years Eve Advice

Lately, I've been using this old Lightning Whelk shell as a chicken feed scoop. The first immigrants to Florida who were here for thousands of years before me used these big strong shells for all kinds of purposes.

The edge I'm not touching is very sharp (that's why I'm not touching it) and can be used as a scraper and cutter. If you chip away the whorly center of this shell, it makes a more user friendly scoop and can even be used as a pot to boil water.

With school out and my brain free for a change, I got the urge yesterday to make something. Months ago, I had reluctantly cut down a young persimmon tree that was struggling in it's waaaay too shady location beneath a mighty live oak.
At the time I thought, "persimmon wood is known for it's strength ... I should save this and make an atlatl".

Eyes rolled, because I am known for saying stuff like that.

Sometimes I even find the time to follow through.

So, last night, after fortifying myself with an enormous slice of Dr. Pepper Texas Chocolate Cake and a glass of real milk, I made the dark hike out to my wood shop.

Here's the piece of persimmon. It's about 25 inches (63.5 cm Rurality) long and 3 inches in diameter with a slight curve.

The book is "Florida's First Peoples" by Robin Brown. It doesn't tell you how to make an atlatl, but it does provide information and pics.
I've never made an atlatl before so I take great risk of embarrassment by sharing these photos of an unfinished project that may flop gloriously.

I'm just winging it, which is the story of my life.

Flounder, ever the voice of reason, advised me to do bulk removal of superfluous (his word) wood using power tools.

As he put it, "Do you really think Florida's first peoples would have scraped wood away with sharp pieces of shell if they had a Ryobi table saw?"
His wisdom resonated with me and I took it.

So, breaking every single rule of safe table saw use ... I removed much of the persimmon wood until a rough squarish blank began to emerge. Then, some time was spent with a drawknife and a Sureform rasp to pull the atlatl from the blank.

As seen above, the still very rough atlatl is starting to form. There is much left to do.
I finally quit around 11:00 pm ... fatigue = mistakes.
The heavier right end will serve as a counter weight to the more delicate left end which will be notched to receive the butt end of a 5 foot dart. I have some cane growing that is nice and straight. I think that will be the source of my darts. These darts are supposed to be fletched.
I've saved some guineafowl feathers, but am clueless regarding the art of fletching arrows.
I'll have to wing that too.

That lumpy counterweight end just begs for a bit of carving ... gator head? ... shark? If I give in to that urge, this project will slow to a c-r-a-w-l.

Fluffy regrets her new years resolution.

Lastly, it's New Years Eve, so here's some advice.

First, if you decide to change your appearance for the new year ... don't make that decision while partying like it's 1999.

Secondly, if you do party like it's 1999 ... don't drive.


threecollie said...

You sure are a good teacher. This was a very interesting post from end to had Alan and me looking up persimmon trees to check out the bark (he spends a lot of time leaning over my shoulder when I am at the computer and likes to see things for himself).
(The best part of the post for me of course was the real milk)

kevin said...

Good luck with the project.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

An interesting site on using an atlatl:

life on the road said...

I have thrown a few atlatls in my old boss use to make them. I don't know how far you are from the Crystal River Archaeological State Park but the ranger there has 3 or 4 home-made atlatl. I'm sure he could give you some pointers if you needed it. Good luck with the project!

Sharon said...

This was my something new of "learn something new every day"! :) How about a Pig head? :)

Cathy S. said...

Oh, how I wish I had read this before I left work today. I think I have instructions on constructing an atlatl that I got from the Florida Public Archaeology Network educational programs. Will watch your progress and then, on Wednesday see if I can find the information if you get stuck.

robin andrea said...

Interesting idea and use for that persimmon wood. I'm glad to see Flounder keeping watch. He's a good supervisor, and has quite a vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

I thought the only ones reading "Florida's First People" were Kmoo, Kmoo's kid, and some anthropology students at UF. :)

And BTW, I wouldn't suggest eating palmetto fruit. It may have been an "important food source" for the original Floridians but I found it to be barely edible.

Floridacracker said...

Glad you liked it. The "real milk" was for you.

Thanks bro. I hope your Christmas at home was a great one.

Thank you for the link! I threw one in a college anthropology class at SJRCC years ago.

Thanks for that tip. I'm just up the road from CR.

Glad to help!
That book is really interesting, he also did a great one on Florida Fossils.
I've never carved a pig before ...

Cathy S,
I'll send up a flare if I get stuck!

It's really dense wood. I think it would make great tool handles.
Flounder chewed a Websters Dictionary as a pup and it seems to have stuck with him.

Well, I'm in good company then. I refer to it all the time ... pretty unique book.
"tobacco soaked in urine" ... wasn't that the flavor description for palmetto berries?
I'll pass.

SwampAngel65 said...

Ok, all I want to know is what's Dr. Pepper Texas Chocolate Cake? I used to live in Texas but I've never heard of that. I need an in depth description and a recipe, please!

Oh, and I know this ain't the same, but I just finished making two hiking sticks out of melaleuca. They turned out really nice and I gave the better one to my brother-in-law for Christmas. He liked it. I'm just happy I found a good use for the nasty, invasive non-native thing!

Now...I am waiting for the recipe...

Sharon said...

Happy New Year to everyone at PFHQ! :)

Floridacracker said...

I tossed that into the post and you were the only one who bit. I thought more chocoholics would have focused on that.
(I would have bit too)
It's a recipe from a Christmas gift, a book called, "The Dinosaur Barbecue, An American Roadhouse".
It's full of nonfrufru, no tofu, no silk, REAL AMERICAN FOOD.
If you can wait til Friday, I'll Friday Food Fest the cake.

Hiking sticks are a wonderful use of punkwood! I'd love to see the sticks... are they posted?
Here's some of mine:

And back to you! Have a blessed 2008!

SophieMae said...

Pretty cool first project of the year you have going there. Are you doing a Timucuan version? Or Apalachee? Or...??? Have you ever made a long or recurved bow? I used to be fairly handy with one and would love to try again, but they're kinda hard to come by. These days it's all compound or other fancy things.

I'd bite your DPTC cake. 8-]

Y'all have a blessed 2008!

Laura said...

Dr. Pepper texas sheet cake?

I'd love the recipe, too. I have one for Coco Cola cake, but I haven't made it yet.

The girls and I went on a field trip years ago to see local Florida Indian Burial Mounds in the Tampa Bay area. A local anthropolgist led the tour, and I was amazed at how they used various shells for tools, such as the lightniing whelk you have here.
Talk about survival methods!

And a very happy 2008 to you and your family, FC! A toast to the next 365 posts!


p.s. "...a glass of real milk."
Did you actually milk the cow or was it from Publix..... I never can tell when I'm over here at PF. :)
Having had fresh milk from a cow, I uh... think i'd stick to the homogenized version. LOL!

SwampAngel65 said...

I'll be looking forward to Friday!

Your sticks are really nice. Mine are just plain...I'm too scared to try to carve anything. I know I'd just mess it up. The melaleucas don't take as long as your woods to dry out... I think they were dried out in about 6 months.

Maybe I'll take a picture of mine, but it doesn't compare to yours!

SwampAngel65 said...

And yeah sure, I'll send you a kayak for your birthday...I'll have Santa and the Easter Bunny drop it off ;) Look for it on Feb. 30th...

Seriously, that kayak is an angler edition...rod holders, dry holding area, plenty of room for strapping down a cooler, drink holder...and it's very stable! It was $499.99 at BassPro Shop.

Floridacracker said...

I think it's more Bubbacuanalachee.
Never made a recurve or any bow. This is my first projectile launching carving project!

Whew, 365 more posts ... that sounds like alot.
Cake recipe on Friday, I'm eating the last piece after this posting.
"Real milk" is for my northern family dairy farm friends at Northview Diary. I have to keep them in business.
I squeeze my own orange juice sometimes, but I leave the cow squeezing to the pros.
Happy New Years to y'all too!

Looking forward to February 30th!
Thanks for the price info just in case the Easter Bunny gets lost!