Compasses – Schmalcalder Prismatic Compass by Ross Ltd. circa 1897-1907

German-born Charles Augustus Schmalcalder, a “mathematical and philosophical instrument maker” living in Middlesex in England, patented the first prismatic sighting compass in 1812.

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Drawings from Schmalcalder’s 1812 patent.

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Old-Style Pocket Knives – the Mercator Multi

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Vintage WWI-era Mercator Multi

Mercator pattern knives originated in Germany in the mid-1860s and were made by a variety of manufacturers. The standard Mercator pocket knives are a marvel of design – slimline, with a secure backlock and are still large enough to be useful for a variety of uses. They were far ahead of their time and are still popular in this second decade of the 21st Century. Possum skinners in New Zealand (where our beloved Aussie brushtail possum is an invasive feral which needs to be eradicated) swear by these Mercator knives, which they commonly call “cat” knives. I have a few of the standard “cat” knives, and I even carry one in my Bob Cooper survival kit since it has such a slim profile. My EDC pocket knife is a brass-scaled “cat” knife which I use for chopping up fruit mostly. Look out for a separate post soon covering these standard Mercator pocket knives. Continue reading “Old-Style Pocket Knives – the Mercator Multi”

Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 7 – Navigation and Direction-finding

Swagmen often didn’t need to navigate “properly” since they followed tracks and roads the bulk of the time. In unfamiliar areas they relied upon directions from other swaggies and from station workers and other locals they might run into and stop to yarn with along the way. In some areas the roads were little more than kangaroo or cattle pads so the swaggie usually had a working knowledge of direction-finding via the sun and the stars as well as other natural cues.

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Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 6 – Water

A swaggie walking his circuit out west knew where the water was, and he also knew that when water was more than a day’s walk he’d have to carry his own supply. Usually a swagman would carry a flax water bag. This would not only allow him to carry 3 or 4 litres relatively easily, but the slightly porous nature of the bag meant the water was always cool. In fact, the hotter the day, the cooler the water. Other methods of carrying water were, in a 5 pint billycan with the lid tied on, or in a canteen or glass bottle on a shoulder strap.

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MYOG Australian Writer and Poet Henry Lawson’s Bush-Made Dip Pen

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Henry Lawson’s bush-made dip pen from his couple of years living and working in Leeton, NSW. This pen is held by the National Library of Australia as a national treasure.

Knowing a bit about the man, this little artefact is quite poignant. It’s the little dip pen used by Australian writer and poet Henry Lawson during his time living in Leeton NSW in 1916 and 1917.

Despite all the acclaim, Lawson never forgot his roots. He was a bush bard and even when he was mixing it up with the gentry and wearing a topcoat and hat, his spirit was still in his old moleskins and a Crimean shirt. He never forgot the hardships of the 1890 – 1893 Depression.

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