Personal Measurements

These helpful hints from the fifth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook printed in April of 1949 are great to know.  For me, it helped in getting a accurate measurement for a lashing project (one yard for me is my fingertips to the opposite collarbone). Also, knowing that the measurement of my boot is one foot from tip to heal assists in configuring my stride for orienteering.  Having this knowledge takes a lot of the guessing out of "how far away is that... how tall is that... or how much rope do we need?"

The following is taken from page 273, Fifth Edition Handbook For Boys -- Second Printing -- April 1949

You do not usually take a tape measure or yardstick with you on hikes or camp trips. But you do have a ruler with you at all times -- Your own personal measurements. 

Here are some measurements that will be helpful to you. Get a tape measure, and fill in the blanks. Then remember them. But check up on them every six months.

  • My height is ________ feet _____ inches
  • Height of my eyes above ground ______ feet _____ inches
  • My reach up to the tip of up-stretched fingers _____ feet _____ inches
  • My reach across, from outstretched fingertips _____ feet _____ inches
  • Span of my hand, from thumb to little finger _____ feet ______ inches 
  • Length of my feet _____ feet _____ inches
  • Length of my step _____ feet _____ inches

Next, find a measurement for exactly one inch. It may be the length of one finger joint, or width of your thumb. Then find exactly one foot. It may be the length of your shoe, or your arm from elbow to a point on your hand. Finally find one yard. It may be the distance from outstretched fingertip to your chin or opposite shoulder.

Primitive Fire Making

1980 - Ninth Edition: Boy Scout Handbook
pg 114

Matches are OK for starting cooking fires. A campfire deserves better. Add to its romance by lighting it the way Indians and early settlers did it.

Fire By Friction. This was the Indian way of making fire. For this you need a fire-making set made up of spindle, fire-board, hand block, bow, and tinder.
To make fire by friction, put the tinder on the ground, Place the fireboard over the tinder. Kneel on one knee. Place the other foot on the fireboard. Twist bowstring once tightly around the spindle. Hold spindle upright with the hand block. Rest the hand holding the hand block against the knee.
Set the spindle spinning with long strokes of the bow. Increase the pressure. Keep going until heavy smoke rises. Knock the ember formed in the notch in the fireboard into the tinder. Blow it into flame with steady blows.
Fire has been made in 6.4 seconds. What's your aim?

Find Your Way

On this #ThrowbackThursday we turn the pages of the April 1949 second printing of the Handbook For Boys.

This is a compass course such as you might walk, for which you would take three compass readings and measure three distances with your step.
You would be shown the starting point. then you would be told to go 100 degrees for 165 feet, until you found a stake; then to go 195 degrees for 90 feet, to the second object; then to go 300 degrees for 160 feet, to the end of the course.
On each leg of the course, first set your compass, then find a landmark on the required compass degree reading. Then walk toward the landmark for the required number of steps.

How To Thaw A Pipe


This gem comes from the 1976 printing of the Cub Scout Bear book.

Elective 16: Repairs (pg 146)

HOW TO THAW A PIPE:  Don't set the house on fire by trying to thaw a frozen water pipe with a blowtorch.
     First locate the frozen pipe by turning on the water faucets.  Start thawing at the faucet and work back up the pipe.  Be patient - it may take hours.
     An electric iron will give you the hottest concentrated heat. You could also use a soldering iron or mother's hair dryer. Tie it or wire it to the faucet end of the pipe.  Move it along as the pipe thaws. Make sure the iron doesn't touch any wood.  It could start a fire.
     In a tight place, use a soldering iron.  It is slower but may fit in where nothing else will.
     A warm-air hair dryer will do the job slowly and safely in hard to reach ares. Direct the air blast upward between the wall studs parallel to the frozen area.

The Scout Staff and It's Uses

#ThrowbackThursday from the 1911 Boy Scout Handbook

Many boys, upon taking up the Scout Movement, are dubious about the value of the scout staff and many friends of the movement ask "Why does a boy scout carry a staff?"
Experience has proven it to be one of the most helpful articles of equipment. In order to show this we are reproducing, through the courtesy of Lieut-Gen. Sir Robert S. S. {366} Baden-Powell, illustrations from printed matter used by the English boy scouts. These illustrations show a number of different ways in which the staff will prove a handy and valuable article; in fact, essential to the Scout outfit.

The staff is very useful for beating out brush fires and outbreaks which occur on open heaths.
Wading a stream. Two or three Scouts grasp the Staff like this.
Both patrol tents and tepees can be made with the aid of the Staff.
An improvised stretcher of coats and staves.
A line of Scouts linked together on a night march.

When anyone falls through some ice, throw him your Staff so that he can grasp it like this until you can get a rope and pull him out.
When climbing gates you can give yourself a push up with your Staff.
For erecting a flagstaff and forming a fence, the Staff is very useful.
A clear view can be had by looking through a small hole drilled in the Staff.
Measuring Distances.
Making Splints.
Jumping Ditches.
Making Rafts.
Bridge Building.
Climbing a Mountain.--Carry the Staff cross-wise, and if you slip, lean inwards upon it, against the side of the mountain. The weight of your body will then drive the end of the staff into the earth, and so anchor you.
Levering up Logs and Stones.
Rope ladders,
Feeling the way over marshy ground.
Recovering Objects Floating in the Water--
First tie a line to the centre of the staff. Then tie a piece of string to each end of the staff, and the other ends of these strings being tied to the centre. That will keep the staff at right angles to the line that is in your hand.
By swinging the staff out over the water, beyond the floating article, you will be able to draw the latter in close to shore.


From the ninth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook (1980)

"The environments in which you have roamed as a Scout have been as vast as your eyes could measure. But there are small environments that are also worth your study."

An aquarium, as the word tells you (aqua is Latin for water). is a watery mini-environment. for this you need a fish tank or bowl with a layer of clean sand on the bottom. Fill the tank with pond water. Anchor a couple of local aquatic plants in the sand. Then introduce a few water snails and a couple of minnows or other small fish.
     If you can't get pond water, use tap water and let it stand a few days to lose its chlorine.  And if you can't collect your own plants and fish, get them from a pet shop.

Make A Pants Pack

This post comes from the 10th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook. (my book that I used as a scout)

The pants pack is a very simple day pack to make while hiking.

  1. Close the snap and zipper of the pants
  2. Using 1 foot of cord, tie off the cuff of the left leg. bend the pant leg at the knee. with the extra cord, tie the cuff to the first left belt loop.
  3. Repeat step 2 for the right leg.
  4. Using about 3 feet of cord, thread through all belt loops. You will use this to cinch the opening of your newly formed pack.
  5. Load with your gear and lunch and close the top with the drawstring
  6. Slip your arms through the pant legs and enjoy your hike.
page 167 of the 10th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook

Camp Fires

Throwback Thursday - Ninth edition-third printing-March 1980

Building the fire.

Tepee Fire Lay. This fire is great for a quick, hot fire. Place a handful of tinder in the middle of your fire ring and circle kindling in a circle facing up. The center of the sticks should come together forming a tepee.

Lean-To Fire Lay. This is a modified version of the Tepee fire. Push a green lean-to stick into the ground with the tip pointed into the wind. Lean the kindling on both sides.

Fire Stick Fire Lay. Place your fire stick down and pile your tinder on top. Lay a number of kindling sticks against the fire stick.  Build up with thicker and thicker fuel.  Ignite the tinder. 

Crisscross Fire Lay. Perfect for getting quick hot coals. Place two sticks on the ground parallel to each other. Put tinder them. Then lay thin kindling sticks crisscross over the two supports. Continue with more layers. Increase thickness from layer to layer.