What is Flintlock?
Flintlock is a gathering hosted by Flint & Steel Critical Skills Group, a network of survival instructors across North America. The F&S instructors are experts in their respective fields (whether they want to admit it or not). The culmination of knowledge spans from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic coast of Florida and any environment in between. Flintlock gatherings are a chance for these instructors to gather in-person and offer a survival sampler platter, if you will. The goal is to expose you to a wide variety of skills and experiences to inspire you to continue expanding your skillset. After all, if their purpose is to improve your knowledge and skills, how bad could it be?
What happened at Flintlock II?
No matter how hard I try, an event like this cannot be effectively portrayed through a digital format. So as much as I enjoy you spending time to read what I write, you need to get out there and experience these things! Let me preface this by saying that there were multiple classes and I attended what I could but there was a LOT more stuff going on than what’s listed here. I’m hoping to at least share a sampling of the fun we had there, so here goes nothing!
Wild Medicinal Plants
After months collaborating with Nicole Apelian on the design of our Foraging Bandana I finally got to meet her in person! And let me tell you, she’s every bit as humble, knowledgable and caring in real life. Her positivity is infectious!
As much as we want to believe it, she didn’t fly all the way out from the Pacific Northwest just to see us, she came to share her knowledge of wild medicinal plants and teach everyone about poultices, tinctures, and salves.
Even though it wasn’t intended to be part of the class, the most inspirational moment was when a young lady that came (all the way from Ukraine if I recall) to see Nicole stood up and shared her own journey of Multiple Schlerosis (MS). After hearing about Nicole’s story, she reached out for some help. Through online consultations and chats she progressed from bedridden to out there tromping through the woods with us. It was a truly inspirational moment!
Dave Mead of Mead Longbows hosted a workshop for building one of his bow kits. I signed up hoping to get into some primitive archery and continue expanding my skill set. I expected to come out with a functional bow to use for plinking around in the back yard for practice. What I ended up with is an engineering marvel made of natural materials! The class took nearly all day to build the kit and then learn some basics of how to shoot it. Mind you, this class starts off with kits that Dave has already assembled, tillered, and then disassembled!
In this photo you can see some students were a little slower than others (yeah, you, graybeard!) but Dave was extremely patient and helpful no matter the student.
Philip Liebel of Primitive Wilderness Survival from Chico, TX walked us through making primitive clay pottery (and the immense amount of effort involved). At the beginning of the class you might look at one of his pieces and think “hmm, looks like something my kid would make” but by the end of the class you’re handling it like it’s a Fabergé egg!
Let me drop a little recap on you: Not only do you have to find a natural deposit of soil with clay in it, you’ll then have to harvest some, dry it out for a few days, spend hours smashing every bit of it into a fine powder, sift it multiple times so you end with something close to pure clay powder. As if that’s not complex enough already, every step of the process past this point has a failure method that results in scrapping the material and starting all over.
Add some water to the powder. Too much water, scrap it! Beat and knead the heck out of it to get a consistent mix. Not consistent enough? It’ll sort itself out when it cracks later and you have to start over. Add some sand; Too much and it’s crumbly, start over. Too little and it’ll crack, start over. Kneed some more to make it consistent… you know what’ll happen. Now it’s time to shape it into the object of your choice and let it dry for a few days (but not too quickly!). If you make it to this step, pat yourself on the back. Now it’s time to stick it in the fire, and pray to whatever deity/spirit you choose because if you didn’t get it a consistent thickness, if you unevenly heated it, if you too quickly heated it, or if your fire fell on it before it was strong enough, you’re back to square one. Hours later you get to scrape the coals off and see whether you have a functional piece of pottery or a useless paperweight.
This is definitely a skill learned from practice and experience. I think it's also one that would result in a lot of frustration! Phil, serious respect from the Wazoo crew.
Modern Fire Starters
Rick Spicer from Pack Rat Outdoor Center offered a class on some modern fire starters and techniques. From petroleum jelly and cotton (my personal favorite), to best practices of burning duct tape, to demonstrations of steel wool and AA batteries, there were a lot of tips and tricks to learn that really help expand your personal toolbox.
You may even recognize a few Wazoo products in there that we played with during the class.
New Wazoo Family
The first Flintlock was hosted in Georgia, and this one was in Arkansas so we got to meet a whole new group of new people! We’re so thankful for the positive reception on the products and even did an on-site custom job for a guy that wanted to turn the Viking Whetstone into the lanyard for his neck knife. Brilliant!
Aside from the F&S Instructors, we got to meet Teal Bulthuis (a recent addition to our brand ambassadors program) in person. She’s @teal_wild_and_free on Instagram but you may know her from Discovery Channel’s Naked & Afraid.
Teal ended up camping next to us with a pretty sweet improvised dual hammock tarp shelter setup for her and her son. Turns out we picked a great little protective grove of trees to camp in that shielded us from the storm. What storm you ask...
Scheduling an event like this you don’t get to pick the weather, but as self-reliant individuals, we were prepared for anything. We saw the warnings ahead of time and tried to secure things the best we could. When it hit, a few tents got uprooted and a few easy-ups were crippled but rescued before they blew away. Here’s a comparison of the storm warning forecast and the storm front as it rolled in.
Though they’ve been to many gatherings together, they never wore the same outfit. At Flintlock II we finally saw the resemblance! Kau’ilani and his doppleganger:
We could kick back with our products, enjoy the ease and simplicity of what we've created and relax... but that's not how we work! If you're not learning, you're not improving, and that means you've reached the peak of what you can achieve. No one wants to admit that so continue to expand your understanding, practice skills, learn hard lessons, and never stop! Here's some of the stories that can be told by my hands at the end of the event. What do your hands say?
Each night wound down with songs and camaraderie around the campfire, so it seems fitting to end this post in the same way. I can’t stress enough how refreshing and revitalizing these events are. To be around like-minded people in beautiful natural settings is amazing and there’s no substitute for being there (or excuses for not being there).