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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MYOG – Repro Pattern 1895 Water Bottle

Water carriage is crucial for the bushwalker. For the walker who likes their foot-borne adventuring done in the old style, there are a few options for carrying a usable amount of water. One of these is the canteen and one classic canteen which is rarely seen these days, but was a mainstay of bushwalkers and other bushgoers in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, is the circular and enameled steel Boer War era Pattern 1895 MkIV water bottle. Continue reading “MYOG – Repro Pattern 1895 Water Bottle”

MYOG – Flint and Steel – the Pocket Strike-a-Light Outfit

Back in the olden days, when matches were scarce in the outlying areas, many bushmen went back to their ancestral roots and used flint and steel instead. I’m not talking about the spark-showering ferrocerium rods sold today as “firesteels”, ferrocerium wasn’t even invented until the early 20th Century. No, what I’m talking about is a lump of steel (high carbon is best) struck against a lump of rock (flint or quartz, etc.) with the resulting spark caught by some form of tinder (charred cloth or dried fungus) and then coaxed into a flame with the addition of some bullswool (such as a bundle of dry grass or shredded stringybark). That’s a crash course in the use of the traditional flint and steel. The good news is that the use of a traditional flint and steel becomes much easier with practice.

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Travel – 4WD Swagman – Solving the Shorty Forty Storage Issue with a Trailer

The little short wheelbase Landcruiser has a big problem – storage space. Being a soft top shorty forty, mine has even fewer options for storage than normal – no provision for roof racks for example.

The path of least resistance was to pick up a trailer. Such a trailer would literally only be used to haul camping equipment, so I’m not planning for any roof-top tents, slide-out kitchen units, under-floor water tanks or anything else like that.

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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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Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 5 – Eating

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In this picture showing the contents of the nosebag you can plainly see the eating equipment usually carried.

The swagman’s eating equipment is simple and  concise. I use vintage and vintage-style eating equipment. It consists of a tin plate, a silver-plated spoon, three-tine fork, bone handled butter knife sharpened to a razor edge and the quart pot’s pannikin.

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Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 4 – Cooking & Food Preparation

Making your tucker on the wallaby is an exercise in minimalist food preparation and cooking. Sure, you can take modern pre-prepared or freeze dried foods with you instead of the stuff the old-timers carried, but between you and me… that’s cheating. Taking a gas cooker or even an alcohol stove is cheating too. If the bushfire fire danger allows it, you use an open fire for your cooking. If it doesn’t then stay home or “cheat” and use a Jetboil and freeze dried slop-in-a-bag.

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Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 3 – Sleeping

This post is about the bedding used when swaggin’ it. You’ll notice there are no self-inflating mattresses or camp cots used. Spending a few nights out bush without them is no great hardship, and they are easy to improvise.  We’ll start from the ground up when describing the sleeping gear.

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Waltzing Matilda with a swag, Part 2 – Shelter

With all of these new-fangled modern canvas swags you see with their hooped poles and pegged-down corners, you could be forgiven for thinking that the swag was always meant as the sole source of shelter for the swaggie or the stockman. Nothing could be further from the truth. A canvas bedroll or swag cover was only ever used for bedding. If wet weather was expected the swagman built or used a shelter, whether it be a hastily thrown-together grass or bark gunyah, a lean-to of leafy branches set against a fallen log, an actual tent, or just a humble shelter sheet or tarp. Laying out in the rain under a canvas swag is folly. It’d get soaked and would weigh a ton when you have to carry it the next day.

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