Forgotten Campcraft Techniques—By the First Boy Scout



An old book entitled “Camp Lore and Wood Craft”* came into my possession some time ago. The copyright was 1920 and the by-line under the author’s name, Dan Beard, was the following: “Founder of the First Boy Scouts Society.” Having an ongoing interest in Boy Scouting, I shall briefly condense several intriguing subjects.


Fire-Making, The Pyropneumatic Apparatus.

At about the time of the American Revolution, the “fire ‘piston” was invented.   It consisted of a nine inch cylinder, ½ inch in diameter. It ends in a screw which screws on to the magazine and holds some fungus, the tinder. A rod of steel is attached to the plunger (piston) inside the tube. A small hole in the tube allows air to enter and the rod which has a milled head. Lard can be used to lubricate the piston when it is drawn up to the top. A small piece unscrews which allows lubrication. The procedure for starting a fire is to place a small piece of fungus in the chamber, then screw on the top of the piston.

Then it is important to hold the apparatus with two hands and place the end on a desk or table, either vertically or horizontally, and then force the piston down as rapidly as possibly. Rapid compression of the air causes the fungus to take fire. As fast as possible,

unscrew the magazine, allowing the air to rush in; Dislodge the burning fungus under suitable tinder and nurse it into a flame.


Food Preparation, (Un)Dressing Wildlife

To remove the skin/fur, get a forked branch with the forks about one inch in diameter at whatever height works for you when sitting. The lower end should be sharpened and stuck into the ground. The two forks should be sharpened with the distance between being similar to the width of the animal. Each sharpened fork is inserted into one of the animal’s heels. The first order of business is to remove the skin. Split the skin with a sharp knife from the throat to the tail. Be careful not to penetrate the body cavity with the intestines. At the time the tail base is reached, roll the skin back continuously. When finished, save the pelt. When the skin is completely detached, remove the internal organs and scent glands. Make cuts in forearms and meaty parts of the thigh and remove all the “little white things” which look like nerves. This will prevent cooked flesh from having a musky or strong cooked taste.


How to Harden Green Wood Gluts or Wedges

Old farmers are said to claim that the best wedges are made of applewood or locust wood. Seasoned wedges far outperform green ones. If applewood cannot be found, dogwood and ironwood make satisfactory substitutes. Early American Southern Native Americans used cane to tip their arrows, first slightly charring them with hot fire ashes. Gluts may also be hardened similarly. Heat just enough to force out the sap and harden the surface.


The Etiquette of the Woods—Cooking Porcupines

After a porcupine has been killed, it is best to immediately throw it into a fire to singe all of the quills off. After the quills have been singed off, roll the carcass in grass to make certain the burned quills are rubbed off the skin. Then, it may be skinned with no danger from the barbed quills. With a sharp knife, slit the skin up the middle of the belly to the throat and carefully pull the skin back and peel it off. Cut off the feet. Properly prepared porcupine is indeed a delicacy—but only if it has been boiled in two or three changes of water first. Then, it may be cooked in any way a camper desires.


Beard, D. 1920. The book of camp-lore and woodcraft. Garden City Publishing Co., Inc, Garden City, NY. 2d Ed.