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Spoon Carving

Stay Wild

A Beginner’s Manifesto

story by Katrina Emery // @katrinaemery

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There’s a spoon in there somewhere, I thought as I held the blank piece of boxy wood, almost like a lego version of a spoon. Big and bulky. Waiting to be carved.

The first few cuts were a bit clumsy, but strangely addicting. A few more cuts, and suddenly I was carving a spoon. I brought it camping with me and discovered it’s a beautiful thing to whittle away the afternoon by a river or in front of the evening fire. Soon, my chunk of wood was looking distinctly spoon-like. I worked on it off and on all summer, feeling like a pioneer woman minus the butter churn. 

It took a long time. I needed tips.

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To find out more, I met up with Russell Clarke, a Portland spoon carver who works by day as an arborist. He started Portland Spoon Company after seeing so much raw material go through the chippers. Now he makes and sells spoons from local trees: “People bring me stuff at work, piles of plum from Eastmoreland, pine from Tigard, apple from Sellwood. There’s an infinite source of wood.”

With so much passion for his craft, Clarke wants to inspire others. He teaches spoon carving at Wildcraft Studios in Portland, hoping to pass the skills along. “I wish there were more people carving. If no one ever bought my stuff again, I’d still carve.”

When we met, he was leaning against the wall outside the bar, carving a spoon outside while he waited. Russell Clarke doesn’t mess around with his free time. He showed me the almost-finished spoon and some other examples, all smoothed with short knife strokes, as we went inside and chatted about his practice. 

Beginners, he says, tend to finish their first spoons in 3-4 hours. By the end of his classes, most people go home with useable spoons. It takes him about 30-45 minutes per spoon. (I don’t mention that I’ve been working on mine literally all summer, on and off, and barely finished recently.)

For the spoon, you need wood. “Follow the sound of chainsaws and chippers,” Clarke jokes, emphasizing the abundance of material around any city. If you don’t get in the way of arborists and ask nicely, they’ll often give you wood for free. Out in nature you can look for fallen branches, but don’t cut green wood from trees. Good woods to use are ash, juniper, black walnut, maple, and fruit trees like apple, pear, and plum. Birch, being soft and easy to find, is especially great for beginners. You need nothing more than a 3” diameter branch (about the size of a bar coaster, he neatly shows me), split in half, with the soft pith in the middle taken out. Square it off, and that’s your spoon blank! If you’re just getting started, you can also purchase blanks that are ready to go.

Now to carving: The best advice is to learn how to hold a knife and how to move with it. Look it up, watch a video, or take a class. “Learn how you make the cuts. Don’t get stitches,” Clarke advises. “If you cut yourself, you’ll probably not want to come back to carving again. Take it slow. Pay attention.” As someone who just sliced through three fingers in one move, I concur. Don’t be like me.

The end goal is to make something functional and pleasing. Your spoon should feel good in your hand. Perhaps that’s the most important part of this hobby. This thing I’m making feels good—I want to use it. It’s pleasant to hold, with a nice shape and weight.

And, as Clarke says, don’t be afraid to give your spoon some personality. Every carver he comes across is different, and every spoon is, too. “People used to want uniformity. Nowadays, a lot of people want the wonky spoon.” 

I’ve got big plans for my new hobby after my three Band-Aids come off. I’m imagining a kitchen full of butter knives, spatulas, coffee scoops, and stirring sticks. Gifts for everyone! A never-ending dose of that sense of hipster self-sufficiency! 

In the meantime, I enjoy the process. The meditative swoop of each cut, the feel of the grain, the way the wood takes shape. I can see why Clarke keeps carving. 

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Sou'Wester Drop Out

Stay Wild

A Taste of Communal Living

Story by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison // @scrappers
Photos by Sera Lindsey // @portablesera

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Real Talk: I feel locked into a system of living that is killing the planet and me. I might as well be handcuffed to this computer. I spend most of my waking life attached to this screen chasing down money so I can afford fresh bread wrapped in two layers of plastic. My headphones are always on while my fingers are pounding away at the keys. The headphones cover my ears completely and help me stay focused. A lot of the time they aren’t even playing music, they’re just silencing the room and making it visibly clear to other people that I can’t hear them. I feel so disconnected from real life that I want to flip the desk over and run away into the forest. 

I want the “Whoosh, Whoosh” sound of crows quietly flying through the woods with a gentle ocean breeze in their tail feathers. My fingers want the citrus-scented stick of pine sap as I plop another log on the fire. I want to hear real stories that an algorithm has not target marketed to me. I’m reaching out for the dirty hands of unbranded people without numbers next to their names representing the amount of strangers who cyber-stalk them. I want to drop out, unplug, and reconnect with real life. I want to live in a small vintage trailer park on the Washington coast. 

A couple days at the Sou’wester magically made all my dropout dreams come true. I found peace somewhere between the sauna’s outdoor driftwood living room, listening to African love songs on vinyl records, talking to a lady about her dog’s traumatic history, riding a rusty tandem bicycle, watching Stargate on VHS, and grabbing a midnight snack of canned oysters and York peppermint patties from the Honor System Store.

There is a very real peace and quiet among the guests here. I think it’s related to the thin trailer walls. Like “Hey, stop fighting about what movie you want to watch, we can hear you over here. Plus, we want to watch that movie too, can we come over?” One night I was woken up by the smell and sound of a crackling campfire. Seemed like it was in the trailer with me, but it was from the tent campers on the other side of the ferns. If you want thicker walls you can stay in one of the private cabins, or in the grand lodge.

The lodge is a big red and white house. It’s also the heart of this place. On the first floor they serve coffee at 9 a.m.(ish) daily, have records, VHS tapes, board games, books, kids’ toys, sauna towels, clam digging gear, and cozy seating. The Honor System Store is also on the first floor. You can self-serve yourself toiletries, snacks, fresh local produce, drinks, and other essential goodies you’ll pay for when you check out. The second floor is a wonder-filled maze of rooms for rent. Each doorway opens to another world full of homemade art and mix-matched furniture that makes you feel like you’re crashing at your smart and fun lesbian aunt’s house. 

The raging NW Pacific Ocean is a 10 minute walk away. Surfing, fishing, clamming, driving on the beach, building epic driftwood forts, beach combing, or love making in the dunes is at your toe tips. There is also plenty of forest and tall grass to wander though if sand isn’t your thing.

After a couple days of dropping out at the Sou’wester, I felt reconnected with real life and inspired to survive. I’m still tempted to flip this desk and smash this computer though. 


Learn more // souwesterlodge.com

Make Fire

Stay Wild

Stealing from the Gods

Story & Photo by Dylan Christopher // @dielan
Illustrations by Andy Dicker // @yawnsnarlos

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Fire is the cornerstone of human existence. It’s what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and without it who knows where we’d be. 

Even Darwin believed that fire was one of the most important technological advancements in our evolutionary history, and may have significantly contributed to our genealogical advancement into modern humans. In Greek mythology Prometheus stole fire from the gods and shared it with the mortals, taking them out of darkness. He was celebrated by all of humanity but was punished by the gods, who chained him to a rock where his organs were eaten out by eagles every day for all of eternity. In ancient times, before humans were able to create fire on their own, we would wait for fire to occur naturally (a strike of lightening or spontaneous combustion) and then keep that fire going 24/7. In many cases it would be someone’s sole responsibility to keep the fire stoked at all times, and if it were to go out, oftentimes that person would pay with their life. Needless to say, fire is—and has been—pivotal in human existence. So how did we go from stealing fire from the gods to the flick of a match? From waiting for lightning to strike to the turn of a car key? The stepping stone is fire by friction. 

Yes, rubbing sticks together. I assure you that no matter where you come from, your ancestors created fire by friction. 

There are many different types of friction fire: bow drill, hand drill, pump drill, fire-saw, fire-thong, and fire plow (you may have seen Tom Hanks use this method in “Cast Away”). Although each vary in technique and components used, they all use the same basic concept of rubbing combustible materials together to create heat, similar to rubbing your hands together to keep warm. Rubbing two pieces of wood together rapidly creates hot sawdust which, if hot enough, will eventually turn into a coal. This coal is then transported into a bundle of tinder and blown on, introducing oxygen until it ignites into flames. The flaming tinder bundle is then put inside of a tipi structure and food is cooked and good times are had. 

The first time I made fire by friction was in the southern sequoias of California at Element Skate Camp. I was a camper, 14 or 15, and was taking a wilderness survival course with The Elemental Awareness Foundation. I remember being frustrated and feeling like it was impossible for me. I was a late bloomer, my arms were tiny, and I didn’t think I was physically capable. I tried for days and days, and finally—with the help of many people yelling and screaming for me to not give up—I was successful. It was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced; I felt like I had stolen fire from the gods. 

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HOW TO MAKE A HAND DRILL FIRE

Before you attempt to make fire be sure that you have two things set up, a tinder bundle, and a tipi structure. Friction fire can be exhausting, so you want to work smarter, not harder.   

The tinder bundle is a nest-like pile of dried material; grass, leaves, bark etc. You want the interior of the bundle to be very fine material, like cat tail down. A common mistake is to not spend adequate time preparing the tinder bundle, so take your time, and be sure that you have enough material: about the size of a softball.                                                                                                    

The tipi is the most efficient fire structure. Much like the tinder bundle, the interior of the tipi structure should be finer material and get thicker as you work your way out. Leave a door, or passageway open to the center of your tipi, this will allow your tinder bundle to start the center of the structure. Be sure to leave enough room between sticks so that air can get through. Fire needs air to survive.

The hand drill consists of two pieces of wood: the stalk, and the fireboard.

The stalk is a long and slender piece of wood, about the diameter of your pinky, two to three feet long, usually mullein, horseweed, willow, or mule fat. My personal favorite is mullein because it involves minimal prep and can be found in most parts of the country, oftentimes growing along a riverbed or even a freeway.

The fire board is made of a medium-hard wood, about a half inch thick and long enough to hold with your foot as you kneel over it. I have found that incense cedar and sotol work very well as fireboards.

Make a small pilot hole in your fireboard about ¾” from the edge with a knife, a small indentation will do.

With one knee on the ground and one foot stabilizing the fireboard, place the stalk into your pilot hole and begin to spin it by rubbing your hands together, as if you were trying to keep your hands warm.

Move your hands back and forth as you work your way down the stalk to the base of the fireboard. Once at the base move one hand at a time back to the top of the stalk, making sure the stalk and fireboard do not lose contact -You need to retain as much heat as possible. This is “one pass.”

Repeat the previous step until you see smoke and dust, one or two passes should do.

You will have burned a shallow hole into your fireboard after a couple passes the diameter of your stalk. Now you must carve a notch out of your fireboard.

Think of the hole you just burned into your fireboard as a pizza pie, now you want to cut out 1/8th, or one slice. Make sure that the crust of your imaginary piece of pizza would be off the edge of your fireboard. With your knife, make two pilot cuts that meet in the center of your burn hole, and carefully cut out your notch.

Once your notch is cut, your tinder bundle is assembled, and your tipi structure is built, you are ready to make fire.

Put a leaf, or something dry underneath your notch before you begin. Hot saw dust will collect here when you begin to make passes. This is called the “Coal Catch.”

Just as you burned in your pilot hole before you cut your notch, place the stalk in the hole in your fireboard and begin to make passes. Concentrate on speed and downward pressure, the combination of these two elements will bring success. You may need to make several passes. Once your notch has filled up with saw dust pause and see if the dust continues to smoke on its own. If it does, you have made a coal.

This is the infancy stage of fire. It is a baby that must be taken care of and nurtured to strength. Chances are you have exerted yourself physically to get this far, take a breath. This coal will burn on its own for several minutes, so there is no need to rush the next steps. Rushing increases the chance of failure.

Once you have gathered yourself, carefully tap the fireboard so that the coal releases from the walls of your notch. Pick up the leaf, or whatever you used as your coal catch and gently transfer the coal into the center of your tinder bundle.

Fold your tinder bundle, as if it were a very delicate taco, so that the coal is surrounded by the by the bundle but not smashed.

Hold the bundle about 10 inches away from your face, take in large breaths through your nose filling your lungs to their capacity, and gently blow on the tinder bundle long and steady. Your breath has moisture in it, be sure to not spit on your coal by getting too close.

You will see the coal begin to grow, and react to your breath. It will respond when you are doing the correct thing, glowing hotter and billowing out smoke. You must be receptive and give the coal what it wants. The smoke will be extremely dense right before the tinder bundle ignites into flame, be careful to not inhale lung-fulls of smoke, this could lead to failure.

Your tinder bundle will ignite into flame. Do not get too excited and drop the bundle, or pose with it for too long to take the perfect photo. This fire must be given more fuel; put it inside of your tipi structure, then close the door to your tipi with some sticks. You may have to blow on the flames to ignite your structure.   

You have done it. You have just made fire with your hands. Humanity depended on making fire just like this for thousands and thousands of years, before we took fire for granted. Congratulations. 


Learn more at Element Skate Camp

Sustainability is Survival

Stay Wild

Daily Lifestyle Survival Tips

Story by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison // @scrappers

“Soap bubbles are a metaphor for the impermanence and fragility of life. No two are identical, but all come from the same source.” –Marlies Plank // @marliesplank

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When my son Camper and I moved into our first apartment, we didn’t have any furniture, so we set up our dome tent in the living room, rolled out our sleeping bags, and dreamt of how our new life would look. The next day, we began gathering driftwood from the beach, salvaging scrap wood from neighborhood dumpsters and logs from yard debris piles. We made book shelves and tables out of logs and planks. We stood four driftwood branches up on end to reach the ceiling. From those driftwood legs, we built a two-story tree fort in the living room; the first story was a couch that folded out into our bed, and the top story was a kid-sized playroom full of vintage Japanese monster toys and comic books. Then we filled the room with plants, colorful buoys, surfboards, skateboards, and a crazy cat that sharpens his claws on the logs all day long. Right now, as I type, blood is drying from the latest sharp clawed attack. 

Camper and I filled our apartment with the natural resources we could reach out and touch. We didn’t buy any new furniture. When we’re done with this furniture, we can take it back to the beach or have a nice campfire. This is what sustainability looks like for us. This is what survival looks like for us. This is what loving our home looks like.

This planet is our home and I’ve tried to create a lifestyle that will help us survive here. I know Camper wants the same thing, too. I’ve seen it in the way he cringes when we drive by a road-killed squirrel. He knows that squirrel would be alive, barking, and flicking its tail at us from a tall tree if people didn’t drive everywhere. So we don’t drive everywhere. We bike, skate, and walk instead. Daily lifestyle choices can help us stay afloat without causing harm while we’re here. 


Ride a bike or skateboard. It’s good for your body and it’s good for the environment. If your job or school is too far to ride, if it’s a drive you make everyday, then move closer and ride. Leave the machines that run on oil wars and death behind. Camper wants me to drive him to school sometimes when it’s raining, but we walk together instead and it’s way more fun. 


Shop local. Transporting goods from far away causes more pollution than transporting goods from across town. Go to the farmer’s market, join a CSA, or just try to buy food made close to home. We apply this local-mindedness to clothing, books, art, bikes, sunglasses, bathroom fart spray, and all the other things we shop for. This magazine you’re holding was made using locally grown paper in Portland, Oregon.


More quality, less quantity. Invest in quality goods that last longer and are made sustainably. Support companies that are socially, ethically, and environmentally friendly. 


Wash and reuse bags. We all have canvas tote bags, but sometimes you forget it and end up with a plastic bag full of kale. Sure you can recycle the plastic bag, but if you washed and reused it a couple times before recycling it that would be better. The PB&J I put in Camper’s lunch box goes into a ziplock bag that’s been washed like 60 times and it still looks new. 


Don’t make trash. The plastic chip bag, the paper towel, the bottle cap, and the paper coffee cup thrown away are still here. There is no away, but there is a way to avoid making trash. Buy things that have less packaging; fill reused bags in the bulk food section with snacks instead of buying a bag of chips, use a washable cloth towel instead of a paper towel, bring your own coffee cup to the coffee shop, and refill a growler instead of buying a bottle. When Camper was two years old, we moved to Maui and I told him there were no diapers on the island. He hasn’t made a dirty diaper since!


Pick up trash. We are the people of this planet, and therefore all the trash here is ours to pick up. That granola bar wrapper on the trail, the plastic cup washing up on the beach, that wad of fishing line on the riverbank — it’s all ours to pick up. Camper and I even pick up trash on our neighborhood walk to the market.


Reuse toilet paper. Just kidding. That would be gross. But seriously, try to use less shit tickets! 


Don’t abuse electricity. Camper recently learned at school that the hydroelectric dam that powers our apartment killed 95 percent of the salmon population when it was built. Now he tells me to turn the light off when I leave a room because of the salmon. Our appetite for energy is the greatest cause of global warming, so let’s stop it already! Turn the lights off and use natural sunlight and candles. Turn the air conditioner and heater off. Take responsibility for your body temperature. If it’s hot, take clothes off. If it’s cold, put more on. Turn your computer and phone off. Use solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources. You can charge your phone with a small solar panel aimed at the kitchen window. Let’s unplug from this pollution-causing system. 


Value time over money. Money makes us do things we know are wrong. Time gives us the freedom to see that.


Repair your goods. Let’s pretend we’re all out of new things and have to reuse everything. My bike tube needs a patch, not a whole new tube. The cobbler repairs my shoes — I don’t throw them away. Camper’s new shorts are his old pants. 


Tend the garden. We are the only animals on the planet who can restore natural places after destroying them. So it’s kind of our natural talent to remove invasive plants like ivy and blackberry that crowd out and kill native plants that feed native bugs and birds. 


Be kind to animals. Don’t eat them. Industrialized meat production is the sickest example of how we have removed our lifestyles from real natural systems. I’ve taken Camper fishing and crawdad hunting at the lake for years. The more we go, the clearer he understands that making meat involves killing another living creature. The last time he caught a trout, he cried and wanted it to live. So we set it free. Now when we catch crawdads we just play with them and set them free.


Don’t make more mouths to feed. As a daddy, I totally get why we want to have kids, but kids become people and overpopulation is killing the planet.                             


Protest & vote. It’s a good way to tell the rich bastards that they suck and we fucking hate being treated as cash crops for their greed. Broken political systems don’t fix themselves. We the people have to fix them if we truly hope to survive.


Be nice. It doesn’t take much effort to care about people beyond yourself. Kindness will help us survive each other. When you pass me and Camper on the sidewalk, we’re going to say, “Hi.” Please say “Hi” back. I’m trying to teach this kid that it’s a normal thing to care about others.