Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Resupply

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Prepared is what we try to be; ready to respond at any time, day or night, to the situation at hand. I've done that several times in the last month, with fair to good results in my opinion. I've grabbed supplies from a really small first aid kit to handle a little problem and also dug into my every day carry first aid gear to take care of a slightly bigger problem at work. I also robbed my camping gear to set up the Purple Pack Lady's car kit. Have I mentioned the bag is purple? 

Yeah, 'borrowing' from one kit to build another has to stop. Now.
North American Rescue C-A-T
I have ordered two more tourniquets from North American Rescue and a tourniquet carrier for one, so it can be attached to a pack. I am ordering directly from NAR since there seems to be some confusion on whether or not genuine CAT tourniquets are available from retailers selling through sites like Amazon. Having purchased CAT tourniquets from Amazon before, I will be able to directly compare how they  look and feel. For certain very specific applications these may not be indicated, but for general use, I see them recommended from many different sources.  

The Fastest, Safest, Most Effective Prehospital Field Tourniquet
  • Official Tourniquet of the U.S. Army
  • Proven to be 100% effective in occluding blood flow in both upper & lower extremities by the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research
  • NEW Single Routing Buckle for faster application, decreased blood loss, effective slack removal, fewer windlass turns, and simplified training with single protocol application standards
  • Includes reinforced windlass, stabilization plate, windlass clip and writeable windlass security strap
  • Featuring NAR's signature Red Tip Technology® elliptical tab providing added visual clues during application

Tourniquet Carrier
I also bought a red NAR C-A-T Tourniquet Carrier, to attach to one of my packs. I haven't decided which pack yet, but I knew I wanted it to be very visible whether I put it on the outside or in an internal pocket.

From the NAR website:
  • Tailored specifically for your C-A-T®, to protect it from exposure to the elements
  • PALS/MOLLE-style connectors for versatile attachment to the duty vest, gear or belt (mounted horizontally or vertically) for rapid & easy access
  • 1000D IR Signature Reduced Nylon
  • Easy-open pull elastic tab with tourniquet ID patch – “TQ”
  • NATO stock numbers available for COY and ODG. Contact Customer Service for details.
  • NOTE: Accommodates both Gen 6 and Gen 7 C-A-T® Tourniquets (not included)
Also on the shopping list are several more QuikClot, Celox or Israeli Bandage sets, or possibly a combo of all three, to be determined by who decides to carry what in which first aid kit. Purple Pack Lady is a trained nurse but is not currently registered, so she is adding things to her kit as she wants... with some suggestions from me, of course. 

Garry Hamilton, a member of BCP and someone I would like to think of as a friend, wrote a brilliant post and put down what I wish I had said. 
Random Thoughts On Emergency Policy

Do not "borrow" from your First Aid kit.

Do not "borrow" from your food reserves.

Do not "borrow" from your emergency supplies.

Do not "borrow" from your tool box.

Know what you have. Use what you have according to the plan you 
made when you started.

Put tools back.

Replace food reserves.

Replenish emergency supplies.

Replace what you used from your first aid kit.

And if you do not have these things, then obtain them. Stuff happens. Plan for that.

Practice responding to Stuff happening. Learn what you don't know. Knowledge takes time, but it doesn't weigh anything and, the more you use it, the more you have.

Where do you start? Little things. Band-aids. A pocket knife. A small flashlight. Something every week.

If someone told you that you had to evacuate, would that be a big deal? Or would it be "oh, I guess we're going camping?" If a storm kept your grocery store from restocking, would that be a big deal? 
What are your "big deal" events? Fires? Floods? Severe weather? Riots? Plague of locusts?

Do you have a plan? At all? Any plan? For any of those?

Oh, and BTW, discretion is good here. "If the balloon goes up, I'm coming to your house" is not what you want to hear from an acquaintance. Having friends who participate and have their own plans and stuff is good, but choose wisely.
Using what you have but replacing right away is the only way to live and keep stocked when there is an emergency.
Recap And Takeaway
  • I need to be better at replacing the supplies I use right after I've used them. Waiting gives me a chance to forget where they came from, and then I end up coming up short sometime in the future.
  • Purchased directly from North American Rescue: two C-A-T tourniquets for $29.99 each.
  • Also from North American Rescue, one C-A-T Holder for $19.99. 
  • Nothing else was purchased this week, but that may change later on!
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Pandemic Post: a Retrospective

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

It's been over a year since I published "Pandemic? Don't Panic!", one of our most popular -- and most divisive -- posts. We received many comments about it, a good number of which were unpublishable because they were profane. Others  took offense at our reasonable tone when obviously we were all doomed. My favorites, however, were those who called Dr. Madsen's credibility into question while simultaneously hiding behind an anonymous name. I don't know about you, but if I have to choose between trusting a blogger with a pen name and someone whose qualifications are readily verifiable, I'll go with the latter, thanks. 

Oh, and this comment aged well:

For those in the back, total worldwide deaths from COVID-19 are currently listed at 2.5 million; here in the USA, we've had 550,000 deaths (regardless of age) out of 30.4 million cases. 

I don't know what's in our current psyche that makes people prone to panic, but there is. I saw it in 2014, when the doomsayers proclaimed that we would all be dead from Ebola, and I saw the exact same fear last year. And yet, here we are, having been told that if we did everything right that only 2 million people in this country would die, and a year later we're just above a quarter of that. Those deaths are tragic, of course, and my sympathies go out to everyone who lost loved ones in the past year; I simply wish to point out that Blue Collar Prepping, like a lot of other sources, was right when we said "By and large, we're going to get through this and it's going to be okay."

Another comment asked us, "What would you do in hindsight?"

This is an excellent question. In regards to myself, I would have gotten a bidet at the first sign of a toilet paper shortage and not much else; perhaps I would have tried a bit harder to convince people that it wasn't the end of the world. On the other hand, I remember being so aggravated at the number of preppers who were losing their minds over the Easiest Disaster Ever (With Pizza Delivery and Netflix) that maybe pushing more would have resulted in more stress for me. 

I asked this question of Dr. Madsen, but she is unable to make a public comment due to conditions at work; perhaps another time, when things have calmed down. 

In conclusion, preppers, consider this past year a test run. Make notes of where you were weak and make corrections as necessary; the next big emergency might be a lot worse. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Chag Pesach Sameach

To quote Benjy Stone from My Favorite Year,  “Jews know two things: suffering and where to find great Chinese food.”

In this post I'm going to discuss the topic of ritual foods and their place in a prepper’s pantry. Just as with special treats such as chocolate or candy, ritual foods can provide comfort and a sense of normalcy when things go sideways. As Passover has just begun, I’m going to focus on some of the traditional foods my family makes for this holiday.

A Seder table built for two

One of the foods most people associate with Passover is matzo, the unleavened bread. At its most basic, matzo is simply flour and water mixed and baked quickly. Traditionally it should be fully prepared, from start to finish, within eighteen minutes.

Matzo ready for the Seder

Next is Charoset, one of the symbolic items on the Seder plate, it represents the mortar we were forced to use to build the pyramids. It makes a good snack and is made from relatively simple ingredients.


Here’s my family recipe:

  •          ½ cup Walnuts
  •          1 tsp Cinnamon
  •          1 Apple (Granny Smith)
  •          1 pinch Ginger
  •          Grape Juice or sweet red wine

  1. Chop walnuts fairly fine
  2. Grate apple
  3. Add a good amount of cinnamon and just a dash of ginger
  4. Mix until the right consistency with the grape juice or wine

You can tell it’s a family recipe because it includes the phrase “the right consistency.” This is up there with “enough” and “you’ll know” in recipes passed down through the generations.

Hard boiled eggs and chopped liver are two items served as appetizers. There’s nothing special about the eggs, they are simply boiled and peeled. The chopped liver is more of a challenge for the prepper, because the ingredients are either not readily available or they spoil quickly and can’t be preserved easily.

Matzo ball soup is another classic traditional dish for the Passover meal. It’s a basic chicken soup, with matzo balls added (the secret of making I’m not at liberty to share, as my ancestors might strike me down).

Erin the Editrix adds: This matzo ball recipe comes to us courtesy of Marina Fontaine, who is at liberty to give it out since she "shamelessly stole it from a cookbook". 

Matzo Ball recipe:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c matzo meal
  • 1/2 c club soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Whisk eggs and oil, once the egg, mix in soda gently, then add dry ingredients. Mix just until blended. Refrigerate at least 30 min, up to an hour is better.

Bring water to a boil. Wet hands with cold water, then form small balls, about 1 inch diameter. Drop gently into the water, cover and simmer for 45 min. Add pepper, garlic powder, or whatever spices you like. Remove from water a with slotted spoon.

"Secrets": using seltzer instead of water makes them lighter; refrigerating longer makes them easier to shape; making them smaller gives them room to expand; treating them gently keeps them from falling apart.


Pot roast, cole slaw, and applesauce are all fairly straightforward but, aside possibly for apple sauce, can again be something of a challenge for the prepper.

One of the traditional side dishes served during Passover is Potato Kugel, a baked pudding or casserole. As the name implies, the main ingredient is potato; most of the other ingredients are readily available in original or substitute form.

Potato Kugel
  • 3 Large Potatoes
  • ⅓ Cup Matzo Meal
  • ½ Onion
  • 1/6 Cup Fat (chicken is best)
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Grate potatoes (peeling is optional).  Do not drain the way you would for latkes.
  2. Add eggs, matzo meal, onion and seasonings.
  3. Melt fat in bottom of baking dish.  Pour off most of the fat into the above mixture.
  4. Pour kugel into dish and cook uncovered at 350° until brown.  You can sprinkle some matzo meal on top towards the end to give a better crust.
This produces a hearty and filling dish that can be eaten cold or hot.

For my family, one of the traditional Passover desserts is brownies made with Passover cake meal, which is simply matzo ground back into a powder used instead of regular flour.

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 squares melted bakers chocolate
  • ¾ cup Passover cake meal, sifted
  • Salt
  • ½ cup Chopped nuts

  1. Mix the above – cream the butter, add the sugar, eggs beat till fluffy add the rest.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°

Another traditional family recipe, so no quantity is given for the salt. I usually add just a pinch, which I know is not precise.

My personal favorite Passover dessert is a type of no-bake cookie called Chocolate Farfel Clusters. While they get melty in warm weather, they’re almost like a Jewish version of jumbo trail mix.

Farfel Clusters

  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1½ cup toasted matzo farfel
  • 1 cup seedless raisins
  • 1 cup peanut butter

  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave
  2. Add peanut butter, farfel, and raisins
  3. When mixed, spoon mixture onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet
  4. Refrigerate until set

When she gave me this recipe, my mother added the following notes: If it seems to need more peanut butter, don't be afraid to add it and if you can’t find matzo farfel in the store, buy regular matzo and crush it to the appropriate size.

I’m sure everyone has their favorite holiday foods. Take a look; it might not be difficult to come up with a way to include them, in some form, in your prepper pantry.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Bearing Replacement


If it turns on a shaft, it probably has bearings. Bearings wear out with use and are considered a “consumable” item, they are designed to be replaced on equipment that is intended to be used for any length of time. The cheap, imported gear (tools, rolling stock, and machinery) is often not designed for long life. It's often cheaper to throw away a modern tool than it is to repair it- this is by design. “Planned obsolescence” was a marketing strategy that gained a wide following in the 1970s, that's the idea that in order to get repeat sales you need to make everything so poorly that it will fail shortly after the warranty expires. This is why I shop flea markets and estate sales for older tools and equipment, I have a better chance of finding something that will be usable for many more years rather than having to throw it out. I have power tools and kitchen appliances older than most of our readers that are still working, try finding anything in a store today that you'll be able to pass down to your kids or grandkids.

Bearings are simple, I covered the basic types last week, and most of them are replaceable. The work of replacing them can be dirty, greasy, and a pain in the neck but is generally worth the effort. Being able to do some of your own basic repairs makes you a little bit more independent and opens up opportunities to rehabilitate things that others have no further use for. Fixing up a trailer, wagon, bicycle, or vehicle might come in handy if our normal system of supply crashes. We invented the wheel to make life simpler, it would suck to lose them.

Most bearings are assembled in a hub that connects the wheels to the axle/shaft. I'll use a diagram of a common trailer hub/axle to explain the parts and procedures, bicycles and vehicles are very similar with minor differences due to the load they carry.

Courtesy of

This is a boat trailer hub, the dust cover is water-tight and designed for ease of adding grease to push out any water that may have gotten into the hub. Other trailers and most vehicles use a simple metal cup-shaped dust cover (this is the original “hub cap”). Dust covers are most commonly pressed or hammered onto the hub, there are no threads, so removing them takes a small hammer and a pry bar. Gently tapping on the pry bar to force it into the joint where the cap meets the hub will give you enough of a gap to pry the cap off. Work around the cap as you tap and pry, don't try to do it all from one spot or you'll damage the cap.

Once you get the cap off, you should see a mess of grease and metal parts. If you don't see any grease, you either have sealed bearings or it was assembled wrong. Grease is cheaper than bearings, so I was taught to always pack grease in until you can't see the bearings. This keeps water and air away from the metal to prevent rust, but also makes it a mess to work on. Current training is to always wear vinyl gloves when working with oil and grease (latex won't last very long, it dissolves), but I normally just clean my hands rather than wear plastic gloves. Wipe away as much of the grease as you can so you can see what you're working with.

Once you can see the retaining nut, give the hub a good shake front-to-rear and side-to-side. Any wobble you can feel is too much wear on the bearings. The retaining nut is locked in place by either a cotter key (if the nut is “castellated” and has notches cut in one end) or a locking collar underneath it (if it is a standard nut).

Cotter keys are rarely reusable, but you might get lucky, I've seen a lot of nails and bits of wire used when replacement cotter keys aren't available. Cotter keys are a piece of soft steel or aluminum wire that has been bent back on itself. Inserted through a hole in the axle, the “legs” of the hey are then spread apart to keep it from falling out. To remove it, use small pliers to straighten the legs back out and pull it back through the hole in the hub, twisting as you pull.

Locking collars look like washers with tabs around the edge. Once the retaining nut is in the proper position, one or more of those tabs is bent up against the flats of the nut to keep it from turning. To remove the nut you'll have to find the tabs and use a chisel or pry bar to push them back down.

Removing the retaining nut should be simple, they're not forced on with a lot of torque and they come off easily. Once you've done that the hub will come off of the axle. The outer bearing is behind a thick washer and will drop out without effort, but the inner bearing should have a dust/oil seal behind it and those can be more difficult to pop off. Tapping around the back of the hub with a hammer, sometimes with a bit of force, will pop the inner seal off of its shoulder on the axle and let you remove the hub.

Now that you have the hub off, it's time to decide what needs to be done to it. If there wasn't much free play in the hub when you tried to shake it, you can get by with cleaning and re-greasing the bearings. If the bearings or races (cups in the picture above) are discolored from heat (usually blue tints, but any color other than shiny metal), are rusted, or are obviously damaged they'll need to be replaced. Remove as much grease as you can using rags and/or solvents if they're available. A stiff brush and a bucket of diesel fuel is a quick way to remove a lot of old grease, but be safe while doing so,

Outer bearing will fall out easily. There are bearing pullers designed to gently extract the inner bearings and both races, but a hammer and long punch will do in a pinch. The hub has precision-bored holes for the races to sit in, but there will be notches in the bottom of each hole. The bearing extractors have “fingers” that catch the lip of the races at these notches and pull them out. Using a hammer and punch from the back side, you can gently tap on that lip exposed at the notches, alternating between the notches with each tap. The goal is to slide the races out of the holes as evenly as possible without getting it cocked to one side.

Modern bearings will have part numbers laser-etched into one of the flat surfaces, any decent parts store can find you replacement parts if you have the numbers. If there are no visible numbers, check parts catalogs and the manufacturers information to find them, otherwise you're going to need a good set of calipers to carefully measure inner and outer diameters of the bearings and races. Taking those measurements to a GOOD parts store will get you replacements, but you'll have to find someone who knows their job. If you plan on having this piece of equipment around for years, having extra bearings on hand at home is cheap insurance.

OK, the old ones are out and you have the new ones in hand. Reassembly is pretty straightforward, but you need to grease the bearings before installing them. The old-school method is to place a large blob of fresh grease in the palm of one hand and swipe the outer edge of the bearings through the blob to force grease up into the bearing. Dig that edge into the grease, pushing down against your palm to make sure the grease is going up into the bearing. Modern shops have toys that “pack” the bearings without the mess.

Races are a “press-fit”, so they need to be forced into the hub. Having a hydraulic press makes life easier and ensures that the races go in straight, but you can get the job done with a hammer and some properly-sized pieces of steel. I look for large sockets that are the same size as the outer diameter of the races and use them to guide the races into the hub. Slow and gentle taps on the sockets while checking alignment will get them seated. I have seen people use sockets on each race with a threaded rod run through the centers. Tightening nuts on the threaded rod will gently force the races into position.

Once both races are in, place the packed inner bearing into its race and install the oil/dust seal. This is another press-fit, but seals are very thin metal so you have to be extra careful to keep them straight. At this point, I normally add extra grease to the cavity in the hub between the bearings. Filling that cavity ensures that the grease in the bearings stays there and doesn't flow out when the bearings warm up.

Place the hub on the axle and push it on until the oil seal pops up onto its shoulder. Next you install the outer bearing and washer, followed by the retaining nut.

Tighten the retaining nut until it touches the washer. Sometimes you'll be able to find a torque setting for the retaining nut, but on most trailers you want it snug enough to eliminate wobble but not so tight that you're putting excess pressure on the bearings. If you have a cotter key set-up, tighten the nut until it touches the washer, then turn it until you have the holes lined up for the cotter key. Install the cotter key and bend the legs to keep it from moving. Locking tabs are about the same, get the nut tight enough to hold everything in position and find a tab that you can bend up to keep the nut from turning.

Pack some extra grease in around the retaining nut to protect it and place the dust cap into place. Using a rubber hammer and tapping on the dust cap as you spin the hub will get it seated. Put the tire back on and that job is done.

There you go, you're ready to get rolling again. Doing this yourself saves a lot of money and gives you confidence in your equipment. Taking it to a shop is less messy, but the rates they charge is getting ridiculous. Spending a couple of hours in the garage learning how to do it yourself will also give you the knowledge you need if you ever have to do it away from home. I've done a few trailers on the side of the road and more than a few pieces of agricultural equipment literally out in a field.

Prudent Prepping: Trying

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

Well, the search for gear for Purple Pack Lady (PPL) has started, and I think everything may go easier than I expected. Shopping with her went fairly well the first time out. I know, I know, mentioning anything about the process while still in the act could jinx things, but I think the preliminary results are pretty good. I'm not saying it was easy, just not as many problems as I imagined! 

I decided to start the shopping and, more importantly, the sizing at a nearby REI Co-Op  so that if things didn't go smoothly, the trip home would be short. I don't shop REI anywhere nearly as often as years past, but I went in anyway for the reasons mentioned above. The store was to be used as a size reference, since there is a North Face and Mountain Hardware outlet within an hour away.

REI Picture.
NOT Purple Pack Lady!

After arriving at the store and wandering around looking at other things, we finally entered the Women's section. Several  jackets from different manufacturers were tried on, and they were found lacking.

Size? Okay.

Fit? Okay.

What was missing? Color. Yes, the defining factor that sealed the deal on an all-season GoreTex Jacket was the color, specifically the red one shown on the left. Now, there's nothing wrong with choosing a color you like, but I'm personally a fan of "features first, color rather further down the list", and Red is really low on my personal palette. 

From the REI website:  
  • GORE-TEX® Paclite® gives you a windproof, waterproof and extremely breathable shell that’s lightweight and easy to pack
  • Durable water repellent (DWR) finish sheds drizzle
  • Articulation throughout for ease of movement
  • Zippered hipbelt-compatible hand pockets and convenient chest pocket keep essentials secure
  • Pockets are mesh lined to double as core vents
  • 2-point adjustable hood lets you fine-tune the fit and allows for improved vision
  • Hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs and hem drawcord seal out the elements
Trying things on BEFORE purchasing is something I really, really like to do. Buying and returning things over and over just wears me down, even if returns are easy and free. Ditto for clothes intended for outdoor wear in the elements. PPL usually wears a Small in jackets and if this wasn't going to be potentially worn in really cold weather, that would be more than fine. But if a fleece or bulky sweater was worn under this jacket, a Medium was needed. The sleeves are too long, but the length and chest measurements work just fine.

Since the red color was perfect and the jacket was GoreTex, the drive to the outlets wasn't necessary! The next item(s) will be pants, "I don't like these, they make too much noise!" and possibly hiking shoes. Shoes, not boots, since "I don't like tall boots" even if they are mid height.  Ah well...

Recap And Takeaway
  • I can't argue with a successful start the get my friend equipped with real outdoor gear, in place of trendy label, pretend clothing. 
  • Purchased at REI, XERODRY GTX Jacket, $110 regularly $159
  • Nothing else was ordered or purchased this week, but there is a definite Shopping List to be gone through! 
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Everybody Must Get (Whet)Stoned

In a previous article, I talked about files and said I’d get to stones later. Well, I checked and it’s later now. 

Also called lapping, sharpening, or whetstones, stones are used for polishing and honing, i.e. to produce a smooth finish, while files are generally considered to be tools for removing material. There are many different types and grades of stones to choose from, especially when working metal, but some are designed to be used for other materials such as glass. 

For this article, grinding wheels, although technically stones, are grouped with files as they are primarily used for metal removal.

Stone Types
The first division in stone types is natural versus artificial. As the name implies, natural stones are mined as found and then processed to their final form, while artificial stones come in a variety of bonded abrasives.

Natural stones are frequently named after their source location, such as Arkansas stones. Most Americans who’ve use a sharpening stone have probably used an Arkansas stone; they’re mined primarily in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, but smaller outcrops can also be found in western Texas, Oklahoma, Japan, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Arkansas stones are a form of Novaculite, a Latin word  meaning "razor stone," which gives you an idea how old the use of stones for sharpening is. Arkansas stones are something of an industry standard, as they are very consistent in hardness and contain few impurities that affect their use.

Artificial stones are a combination of some type of bonding material (such as epoxy) and one or more abrasive grains (such as aluminum oxide, zirconium oxide, or silicone carbide). The material chosen and the specific size of the grains will determine both its cutting speed and finish quality.

For the casual user, the main difference between the two types of stone are price, as artificial stones are generally less expensive than  similarly-sized natural stones. However, there are some very cheap natural stones available that are often not worth even their very low price, and these low-end stones will usually break easily, cut poorly, and produce a poor finish.

Wetting a Whetstone
While some stones can be used dry, most will benefit from the application of a liquid, usually water or some form of thin mineral oil. This fluid serves several purposes: 
  • It causes stone particles to “float” on top of the surface, forming a slurry that can improve surface finish; 
  • The fluid also limits particles from being caught in the grain of the stone which can reduce the cutting ability or cause scratches;
  • Wetting a stone (not to be confused with a whetstone) can simplify cleanup. 
Most stones will work equally well with either oil, water, soapy water, or even spit.

Please don't ever do this. 

Care and Cleaning
After use, stones should be cleaned to remove any cutting residue, which includes particles of stone or metal as well as leftover lubricating liquid. (I generally wash mine with dish soap, water, and a scrubby sponge, then pat dry.) Once cleaned, stones should be stored so they aren’t damaged by other objects, many quality sharpening stones come with their own cases or boxes, but wrapping them in a clean cloth before putting them in a drawer can work as well.

As with any tool, proper care is essential for longevity. Unlike many other tools, stones are a consumable item. I’m sure most people have seen an old sharpening stone that has become almost bowl-shaped over time. When a stone is no longer capable of doing its intended job properly and easily, don’t hesitate to demote it and purchase a replacement.

Friday, March 19, 2021


When you hear the word “bearings”, the normal prepper context is “a compass reading”. However, the other type of bearings that a prepper should know about are the mechanical ones that keep things spinning smoothly. Bearings are basically anything that separates moving parts, reduces the friction between them, and limits the direction of movement.

Knowing how to repair the things you use is part of prepping, so knowing a bit about bearings could be important.

Plain Bearings
A simple shaft or axle rotating through a hole, with some form of lubrication used to reduce friction and provide cooling; the lubrication itself is a plain bearing, which have been around for at least 2000 years and are still in use today because they're cheap and simple. Plain bearings provide fair performance at a low price, but are best used at low speeds and pressures. If you look at the wheels on a hand cart or child's wagon you'll see a plain bearing where the wheel is mounted on the axle. 

Discrete plain bearings are often found in older machinery; they look like a piece of pipe pressed onto the axle or shaft and are often made of bronze or some other soft metal. If you've ever rebuilt a car engine you've seen plain bearing where the piston rods connect to the crankshaft. “Babbitt” bearings are a plain bearing made by casting a soft alloy around a shaft where it passes through a mounting block, but working with molten metal might be beyond your abilities.

Packing boxes are a sub-set of plain bearings and provide pressure sealing as well as friction reduction. Where the shaft passes through a hole, a box or chamber is built around it. That packing box is filled with some form of fibrous material that has been infused with lubricant. A collar fitted around the shaft is attached to the packing box with threaded rods and as the threads are tightened, the collar compresses the packing around the shaft. Common in older boats for sealing propeller shafts, you'll also find packing box designs on high-pressure pumps.

Rolling Bearings
Both ball- and roller-bearings use a rolling part inside a fixed collar to reduce friction and limit the motion of a shaft. The fixed collar is called a “race” or “journal” and is pressed into a precisely bored hole in the block that the shaft passes through. The rolling element sits inside this race, and the shaft runs through the middle of the rollers. 

Ball bearings work well at moderate speeds and heavy loads, but require lubrication and maintenance for a long life. If you have a towed trailer, you'll have wheel bearings to inspect and lubricate. Boat trailers are notorious for consuming bearings because the axles get submerged in water every time you launch or recover a boat. 

Bicycles are another place where you'll find rolling bearings; I've seen both ball and roller versions in use. Automobiles have bearings all over them, with the wheels and U-joints on drive shafts being the most commonly repaired.

This is the type that I've been dealing with lately, rebuilding trailers and the various rolling mechanisms for agricultural equipment. Proper installation and maintenance makes them last a lot longer, but it's a dirty, greasy job that my predecessors neglected for several years. Common bearings aren't horribly expensive, but finding the proper ones can be a challenge; when things are measured in the thousandths of an inch, there is no “close enough”, it has to be exact. Have spares on hand if you're going to be doing your own work. 

Jewel Bearings
Old mechanical watches and clocks often used small chips of extremely hard jewels as bearings to support the end of a spinning shaft. Under very low load and at low speed, these bearings will last for decades or centuries; maintenance isn't an issue, as they either work or they don't. I doubt very many of us will have the time, training, or equipment to work on jewel bearings, but they are a type to be aware of.
Exotic Bearings
This is my classification for the “other” bearings in use today. Magnetic fields and fluid (gas or liquid) flow bearings are high-tech designs for very high-speeds (dental drills use air-bearings at 250,000 rpm) or extreme environments (the vacuum of space), and require no lubrication or maintenance while providing long life. I don't have the tools or training to work on exotic bearings and can't think of anything in my daily life that uses them, so they're an interesting topic of research but not something I worry about.

Next week I'll go through the process of maintaining and replacing a set of roller bearings. The process is the same on a bicycle, a car or truck, a trailer, and a 20-ton wagon, so it's good knowledge to have. We invented the wheel to make things easier to move, so keeping those wheels spinning makes our lives a lot easier.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Prudent Prepping: Second Aid

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

I had an opportunity to use some of my gear Monday. While it may have been not necessarily needed, I was glad to have it available and ready to use. Why am I calling it Second Aid? I was there after the accident and not the first to help. 

I was at work when, several aisles away, there was a bit of a commotion and loud swearing. This is not that uncommon in a Big Box store, except this voice was a woman and someone I recognized. I didn't hear boxes being dropped, crashing bath fixtures or lumber cascading off racking, so I went to see what was going on. Evidently her utility knife slipped while cutting the plastic banding on a box, and she cut herself on the back of her hand in the fatty area between thumb and forefinger.
As anyone who has worked in retail in the past 20 years knows, large corporations issue the wimpiest cutting tools that only allow 1/4" of a rounded point blade to be exposed. We use tools similar to this knife from Stanley Tools. With automatic retraction, it's supposed to be very difficult to cut yourself. Note: very difficult, but not impossible, making my friend extremely unlucky to have managed to cut herself!

As I came around the corner I saw that someone else was applying direct pressure to the cut with a towel and trying to get my friend to sit down and stop jumping up and down. She seemed to be bleeding more than a little, so I asked the first person there to lift the rag a bit to see how big the cut was. I saw a wound about 3/4" long, with blood oozing out but not pulsing. That made me (at least) feel better about what happened, even if it was painful for my friend. 

I have a Quik Clot sponge in my first aid pouch. I opened it, had my friend put it on the cut under the rag, and continued putting pressure on the wound. This was probably overkill, but it made her calm down when the bleeding stopped. By this time there was quite a crowd, and then Management showed up to supervise. When the amount of blood which had soaked through the rag was seen, the decision to go to Urgent Care was made. 

One hour later, my friend came back with a stretchy bandage wrapped on her hand. She thanked me and my coworker for getting things under control, then told me that the doctor asked her if Quik Clot was part of our store first aid supplies and was surprised to hear it came out of an employee's gear. 

I seem to be treating a lot  of cuts lately, and this was another case where I was glad to have gear to help in an emergency.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Having even a small First Aid kit right at hand is better than no kit at all, or a big kit far away.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but the Quik Clot I used has been replaced with a spare. I seem to be using up my available supply pretty fast, so several more will be ordered soon. 

* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Straight Cheatin'

"Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world." - Archimedes

I had a flat tire on my truck over the weekend. I tried to pull it off with my electric impact gun, but it wasn't turning the lug nuts at all. Apparently, the last joker to do anything on the tires ran them on with an air gun and no regard for proper torque. This meant I needed to apply more torque than my power tool could provide.

Torque is a measure of rotational force, commonly expressed in foot-pounds. One pound of force, applied at the end of a 1 foot lever, is one foot-pound. To increase the amount of torque applied, you either add more force or a longer lever. There is no practical way for me to increase the torque output on my impact gun, so I had to use a manual method of turning the lug nuts. Increasing applied torque with manual leverage is very simple: add more feet or add more pounds. 

I weigh in at right about 190 pounds, depending on what's in my pockets, which means I can apply about 150 pounds of force, give or take. (I have to stay on my feet, so a significant chunk of my mass is lost to that.) On a one foot lever, that means I apply somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 foot pounds of torque; if I have another person pull on the lever with me, we can apply double or more the amount of force I can apply alone. It works, but it's clumsy and cumbersome and sometimes you don't have another person. The easier way is to add more feet to the lever. This is commonly accomplished using an item called a cheater bar.

My cheater (L) and breaker (R) bars: the best nut-busting combo a guy could want.

In short, a cheater bar is anything that extends a lever. Most of the time it's a pipe of some sort slipped over the end of a socket wrench. My personal favorite cheater is a four foot floor jack handle; it will fit over the handle of any ratchet or breaker bar that I own and adds about as  much length as I can reasonably use. With a 5 foot lever I'm applying roughly 750 foot pounds of torque, and if that won't break something loose, not much else in my world will.

Archimedes was right: with enough leverage, you can move the world.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Product Review: the KP-15 AR Lower

In this post I’m going to review a new addition to my collection, the KP-15 AR lower receiver by KE Arms. This is basically a slightly updated version of the receiver Ian and Karl used for their What Would Stoner Do? rifle project for InRange TV.

The KP-15 is a Monolithic Polymer AR which incorporates the lower receiver, pistol grip and trigger guard, buffer tube, and stock into a single unit made from injection molded, 30% glass-filled nylon. This is a direct follow-on to the Cavalry Arms vibration-welded lowers, which themselves were a development of the much earlier plastic or polymer monolithic lowers that Colt experimented with all the way back in the late 1960s early 1970s. Ian goes into more detail on this history in this excellent video.

When I received the box from my transferring FFL, my first thought was “Is there anything in this?” It feels so much lighter than a complete traditional lower receiver with pistol grip and stock that the box felt empty. In fact, the whole thing weighs about seven or eight ounces less than my aluminum lower assembly.

The author's first view of his new KP-15

After unboxing and handling my new receiver I found that, while lighter, it was comfortable and handled very well. I think the stock being A1 length helps with this; the A2 stock is about 5/8” longer, which does make a noticeable difference. My wife, who is five foot two and petite, also found it comfortable if a little long for her.

There are a few differences to be aware of between the KP-15 and traditional lower receivers. First, the takedown and pivot pins are inserted and removed from the left side of the receiver instead of the right. They’re also not retained pins, but rather come all the way out. To keep them in the receiver, the pins have ball detents built into them, which means there are fewer additional holes in the receiver for the pin springs and detents.

A closer view of the KP-15 takedown and pivot pins

The selector spring and detent are installed from the top and the selector lever is inserted above them. Again this simplifies the receiver, but makes it harder, possibly much harder, to add an aftermarket safety. (KE Arms recommends using one of their selectors. They also offer a variety of accessories for the KP-15 lower.) Since I bought the complete lower, I was able to take a look at the internals and it appears that the only difference is a bevel on the right side selector pivot to make removal easier. The bevel is not in alignment with either the safe or fire position to reduce the chance of the lever coming out unintentionally. I filed a similar but smaller bevel on the ambi selector I already owned.

Even though the KP-15 has an A1 length stock, it takes a carbine buffer and spring. This allows for more thickness of material at the back of the stock for strength. It also seems quieter during recoil; there was very little of the traditional AR sproing through my cheekbone. The difference in felt recoil was negligible, however, and I’m honestly not sure if there was any. While the aluminum receiver is heavier, the polymer receiver flexes slightly, which draws the recoil out over a greater duration.

What was noticeably different was the balance: my nice compact AR carbine is now markedly muzzle heavy. Since I already have a pencil-weight barrel on this rifle, it looks like I’ll have to buy a new light weight fore-end to rectify this situation. Such a tragedy.

The current setup of the author's rifle

I’m considering a Midwest industries free float handguard, either the seven or fourteen inch version. They look very nice and the smaller one weighs less than seven ounces, compared to my current handguard which is an older quad rail that weighs almost 12 ounces. That should nicely shift the balance back towards the magwell. Another, more expensive solution would be to file paperwork with the ATF and SBR the barrel, but I’m unlikely to go that route at this time.

In conclusion, if you’re considering a KP-15 lower, either stripped or complete, and assuming they’re in stock and legal in your jurisdiction, I can say "Buy with confidence."

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to