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Start Your Own Seed Bank

There is probably no better way to store food for the long term, than in the form of seeds. Seeds are just amazing. I did at little project this year to see just how much food seeds would produce. I planted 50 pole bean seeds of one variety.

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When I harvested the beans I weighed 100 of them and then I weighed the entire harvest to get an approximation of how many beans I produced. My fifty original seeds produced over 3200 beans. Just amazing.

I planted six tomato seeds that were so light they wouldn’t even register on my digital scale.

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These six seeds produced over 80 pounds of tomatoes. So storing seeds is a very compact way of storing food. Of course the food is not instantly available, but if you can survive for a year on stored food, your stored seeds will make you self sufficient from that point forward.

As I have stated elsewhere in this blog, I only plant non-GMO, non-hybrid, heirloom seeds; and I save seed to replant. Even though I follow this path faithfully, I still think it is a good idea to have a long term seed bank. My seed bank acts as a back-up to the seeds I save each year, plus the seed bank is small and easily portable. In other words if I have to get out of Dodge, I can grab my seed bank and take it with me.

The concept of a seed bank is not just a crazy prepper idea. Many of you have probably heard of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, often referred to as the “Doomsday Seed Bank.” For those of you who haven’t, the SGSV is a vast storage of seeds of all types from all over the world. The seeds are stored in an underground concrete bunker complete with blast doors and motion detector security. It is located in northern Norway on an island that is about 800 miles from the North Pole. The island was chosen because of its cold temperatures, its lack of earthquake activity, and its elevation above sea level. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto and several other agri-biz giants, and other assorted organizations. The purpose of the Svalbard Seed Vault is to preserve seeds of various plants that might be destroyed in regional or global disasters. Scary stuff.

Somehow, I don’t think I’m on the mailing list to receive any of these seeds if there’s a global disaster, so I decided to follow their lead and put together my own seed bank. What I did is spent about $40 on various different varieties of heirloom seeds that I know grow well in my area and that I have had experience raising. I took these seed packets and sealed them in zip-lock freezer bags, placed them in a sealed Sterilite container, threw in a few oxygen absorbers, and stuck the container in my freezer.

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The seeds should keep this way for at least 10 years, probably much longer. There is plenty of information on freezing seeds on the internet. As usual some of the info is good, and some is not so good. You’ll just have to decide who to listen to. If it’s any consolation, I will tell you that I know personally that you can plant beans and field peas that have been in the freezer for 10 years.

I have noticed that several companies sell pre-packaged survival seed collections for long term storage. You could go this route, but I think you would be better off selecting seeds that you have experience with and that are specific to your growing climate. Just make sure that the seeds you store are non-hybrid, heirlooms.

How to Make a Comment

I have been writing this blog for a few years. I’ve posted over 240 articles, and I’ve had about 1.2 million hits. So I guess it is to be expected that I would receive a few obnoxious comments over the years. Actually, I’m surprised that there have been so few given the lack of civility in our world today. But, there have been a few, so I thought I’d take a moment to address folks on the proper way to make a comment. That would be a comment on this blog, or anybody else’s blog, or to your next door neighbor as far as that goes.

Acceptable comments are comments that ask for clarification on a point, or comments that add additional information to the article, or comments that recommend another source of information about the topic at hand, or comments that reflect an individual’s personal experience with the subject. Comments that represent a different point of view or dispute some fact within the article are also perfectly acceptable so long as, and here’s the hard part for some morons, they are presented in a polite manner. There seem to be a very limited number of individuals who have nothing better to do than troll the internet looking for things to comment on so they can express there absolute superiority to the rest of us mere mortals. There comments generally start with something like, “you obviously have no clue what you are talking about,” or, “the information contained in this article couldn’t be more wrong.”

Here’s a heads up for people who write comments like this. I know that when you are writing this, you are picturing yourself as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator, but trust me when I tell you that the rest of us are picturing you as Paul Blart in Mall Cop. All of the real experts that I have met over the course of my years have all shared two characteristics; (1) they have all been extremely humble about their knowledge and abilities, and (2) they have all been unfailingly polite. Rudeness is a sure sign of an insecure poser or to put it in the modern vernacular a “mall ninja.” I have never received a comment from one of these individuals that was factually correct, and in most instances it has been obvious that they haven’t even read the article.

So, if you are an individual who likes to make snotty comments on the internet, I have some advice for you. Lose some weight, move out of your parent’s garage, and try dating a real flesh and blood girl. This will give you something to do in the evenings instead of trolling the internet. If you still feel the urge to be a pompous horse’s ass then you should try and get a cable news program where you will fit right in. As for commenting on this blog; you will go straight to the spam folder, because I’m the one who moderates the comments, and, by God, we will have civility here.

Okay, my rant is concluded. Since there wasn’t any real survival info in this post, I will do another one in a couple of days on how to start your own seed bank.

Weather Measurement and Prediction

What with weather satellites, Doppler radar, 24 hour weather channels, and internet weather reports we’ve become pretty spoiled at knowing what the weather will be; but this is all fairly recent stuff. It hasn’t been all that long ago when televised weather forecasting was pretty much a crap shoot, and before the age of television it was even harder to know what to expect from the weather. Just about any house built in my part of the world before World War II had a storm cellar. When a storm suddenly appeared people just didn’t know what to expect. It could be a tornado or it could be just a passing thunderstorm.

What you need to understand is that if there is some kind of major infrastructure breakdown, we could be right back in those days once again. With this in mind it would be a good idea to try and learn a bit about how weather was forecast back in the pre-mass communication days.

If you’re going to be raising your own food, which everyone will be eventually, then two things that will be very important to you are rain and temperature. You need to be able to predict rain, and you need to be able to record how much rain you have had. You need to keep an eye on temperature so that you know when seedlings and young plants need to be protected. To do these things you will need three weather instruments; a barometer, a rain gauge, and a thermometer.

I’m going to suggest that you go old school on these items. You can buy very fancy, digital home weather stations, and they are very nice. My sister has one of these set-ups, and she doesn’t even have to get out of bed to look over and see what the outside temperature, barometric pressure, and rainfall levels are. Here’s the problem, these things run on electricity, so you have to have a reliable source of power; and they are digital which means that they could be susceptible to EMP. A solar let-up could solve the power problem, but you’re still left with the possibility of the system being fried by an EMP. So, I decided to go old school with an aneroid barometer, old timey thermometers, and a bucket rain gauge.

I have a small barometer that I mounted on the wall of my porch. A barometer tells you the air pressure. High barometric pressure is usually associated with fair weather, and low barometric pressure is usually associated with stormy weather. Since the pressure most often begins to change before the actual weather develops, a barometer can help to predict when rain may be coming. A falling barometer could mean that rain is on the way. The faster and more dramatic the fall in barometric pressure; the more eminent and violent the weather may be.

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Thermometers are so abundant and so cheap these days, that there is no excuse to not have a bunch of them. Thermometers are very useful in everyday life, plus think “great trade item.” I have three thermometers set up around my house. One is mounted about five feet away from my bedroom window so that I can look out and see what the temperature is.

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I have it mounted away from the window so that any radiant heat from the house won’t affect the reading. I have a large dial thermometer in my green house, and then I have a small thermometer inside the germinating tent which is in the green house.

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With these three thermometers I can pretty well keep track of what I need to be doing with my plants.

My rain gauge is super high-tech. It’s a three gallon plastic bucket that I leave out in my garden.

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When it rains I go out and measure the amount of water in the bucket (usually just by sticking my finger down in it), and empty the bucket. If I don’t have an inch of rain in a week’s time then I know I need to start watering the garden. I’m not collecting data for NOAA here, I’m just trying to keep my garden producing. Of course you can buy a much better quality rain gauge, but the bucket has been working fine for me for many years.

So, that’s my weather set-up. Just the way I like things; simple cheap, and low-tech. Prepare today, and you’ll have a better tomorrow.

The Time isn’t all that Important, but the Date Is

Our modern society is fixated on time. We need to know what time to get up in the morning. We need to know the time so we aren’t late to work. We need to know when it’s time for lunch, when it’s time for dinner, when it’s time to pick the kids up, etc, etc, and etc.

But time hasn’t always been that important. Before society became so complicated, people didn’t need to know the exact time. You got up with the sun and worked for awhile, then you had a morning meal, then you went back to work. When the Sun was in the middle of the sky you had a mid-day meal and then rested for awhile. You went back to work until the Sun got low, and then you came in for the evening meal. A short time after dark you went to bed because creating light out of the darkness was not an easy task; and besides, you were very tired from all of that physical labor. Am I talking about Stone Age man here? No, I’m talking about my Dad’s life as a boy growing up on a farm in the early 1900’s. This is the way it was for most of rural America in those times.

Of course there have been time keeping devices around for millennia but clocks as we know them today are a relatively recent invention, and they weren’t invented for the convenience of the average Joe. The first mechanical clocks were closely guarded military secrets that were developed to help sailing ships navigate on the vast oceans. Specifically, they were used to determine a ship’s longitude.

If you have a compass you can determine your direction of travel, if you have a transit you can determine your latitude, and if you have an accurate clock and a book listing the time of sun rise each day (this is a huge over simplification of the process) you can pretty well determine your longitude. These three instruments revolutionized ocean navigation, and the mechanical clock was the last one to be invented. Prior to mechanical clocks, ships were equipped with an hour glass to keep track of the time. Must have been a pain to make sure that the thing got turned over on time.

So clocks were very important to the Navy, but to the average rural resident, the time wasn’t too important, and it probably won’t be real important to you either. I know that since I retire, I rarely look at a clock. I do, however, keep a close eye on the date; and you probably will too if our current technological society ever bites the dust. The date will be important so that you know when to start seedlings, when to plant various crops, and when to expect the first frost. Most everyone plants by the calendar today, so a good calendar is a must for home food production. You won’t be able to look at your cell phone or computer to see the date, so you need to plan on going old school with a paper calendar. Personally, I printed off 120 blank calendar pages to be filled out if and when necessary. After 10 years I guess I’ll have to start carving notches on a post like Robinson Crusoe.

There is one method of determining planting dates that does not require a calendar. I’d never heard of it until my sister, the Master Gardener, told me about it. It’s modern name is “phenological gardening”, and it’s based on the study of the life-cycles of plants. The old timers probably didn’t call it phenological gardening. To them it was probably planting by the “signs,” but the idea was that when certain wild plants and flowers bloomed it indicated that it was the proper time to plant various different domesticated crops. Here are some examples of this planting system:

When the daffodils bloom it’s time to plant peas.
When the catalpas bloom its time to plant broccoli
When bearded iris bloom it’s time to plant peppers
When shadbush blooms it’s time to plant potatoes
When lilies-of-the-valley are in bloom it’s time to plant tomatoes

It’s an interesting system. It might be worth looking into how it would apply to plants in your area and making a list of signs to look for. I know that I’ll be watching my catalpa trees this year to see if they bloom when my planting guide says it’s time to plant the broccoli.

For more information on phenological gardening my sister recommended the book, Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way. You can also do an internet search on “phenological gardening” and you will find a number of interesting sites about this planting system. In my next post we’re going to talk about weather prediction. and we’ll be talking science rather than “signs.”

Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 3

So now that we have our string jig and our serving dispenser together, we can make a bowstring. You can use many different things for the actual string. You can buy some B-50 Dacron that is specifically made for bowstrings, but I prefer to use the waxed Dacron that is sometimes referred to as artificial sinew. It’s easy to find at craft stores and relatively inexpensive. It also has the advantage of already being waxed. If you use B-50 you will also need beeswax to rub on the string.

Before we start wrapping our string onto the jig I want to give you a little diagram of what we are doing. Since my string jig is over five feet long it makes it hard to show it all in a photo. I thought a diagram might help.

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Now let’s get started. My two starter dowels are glued permanently in place. I’m going to make a 60 inch bowstring, so I set my two movable dowels with the tall one at 60 and the short one at 62.

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To start the wrapping I tie the end of my Dacron string below the cross pin of the permanent short dowel and then I bring the string over the cross pin on the permanent tall dowel. You can start on either side of the tall dowel.

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Now I run the string down and loop it around the tall movable dowel. You should be on the same side of this dowel as you were on the permanent dowel. You don’t want your string criss-crossing in the middle.

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Keep a little tension on the string and run it back to the permanent tall dowel and around. You continue this until you have as many strands as you want in your bowstring. If you want to make a bowstring with a total of six strands you will continue looping the string until you have five strands on the side that is tied to an end post and four strands on the side that is not tied to an end post. The reason for this will become clear in a moment.

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When you tie the end of your string off at the finish, it must be tied to the opposite end from where you started.

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You now have two runs of Dacron that are separated by about a ½ inch of space. It is time to apply the serving to what will become the loops of our bowstring.

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Measure to the center of the bowstring. Since we are making a 60 inch string, the center will be 30 inches. Mark the center and the measure out four inches to each side of center and make a mark. We are going to apply serving to each of these eight inch sections of bowstring.

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To make it easier to work on each strand, place your string spreaders in between the strands to hold them apart.

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Being right-handed I always serve from right to left, so that’s how the pictures show the process. I start at the mark on the right side of the closest strand and loop my serving around it. I leave an inch or two of tail on the serving and wrap my loops over the top of it. It is important to lay your serving loops right next to each other and to keep the serving tight.

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Your serving dispenser should be adjusted so that a firm pull will feed more serving out, but if you let the dispenser hang, it will not let serving come out on its own.

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When you have covered up about ¾ inch of the tail, you can snip the remainder off. The wrappings will not let the tail come loose.

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Keep wrapping the serving around and around until you are about ¾ inch from the far left mark.

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At this point you want to take a scrap of Dacron about two feet long. Fold it into a loop and hold it along the bowstring as shown.

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Now continue your wrapping, only now you are also wrapping on top of the loop.

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Keep wrapping until you go about a ¼ inch past your mark; and then you can stop, reel out about six inches of serving and snip the serving off with scissors. Be sure and keep tension on the serving so that it doesn’t un-spool when you cut it.

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Now take the end of the serving and stick it through your loop of Dacron.

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Pull on the loose ends of the loop, and the end of your serving will be pulled back under the wraps. Snip any excess off, and the wraps will hold the, now hidden, end in place. You have to pull pretty hard on the loop ends, and it will probably compress the loops of serving back up the string. This is why you go about ¼ inch past your mark before ending the serving.

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So now you have one section of serving done. Turn your jig around so that you are working from right to left again and do the same thing to the other strand.

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Now it’s time to cut the ties loose from the short dowels with a pair of scissors.

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When you have snipped the string loose, lift it up so that it exposed all the way back to the serving. Now take your scissors and cut off the string right at the edge of the serving. Be careful not to cut the serving or any other strings. Do the same thing to the other tied off string.

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Now you can slip the bowstring around on the dowels so that the served area is around the dowels on each end. Off-set the ends of the serving about an inch or so as shown in the photo.

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Now we can form the loops. All that you have to do to make the loops is squeeze the two strands together and apply a layer of serving over them as show below.

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Run the serving down about six inches and finish it off just like you did before. Voila, you have a loop.

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Now do the same thing to the other end. I usually make one small loop to stay in place on the bow, and one larger loop that will slide down onto the limb when I unstring the bow.

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It is customary to apply serving to the string in the area where the arrow is nocked. This helps to prevent wear on the string. To locate where to put this serving, just string the bow, nock an arrow, and make a mark on the bowstring.

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Apply serving to this area using the same method. I usually make my serving about four inches long with the nocking point in the center of the serving.

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If you made your string a little too long, or if it stretches out, all you have to do is twist the string a little to shorten it. I always make my string a little long because it is easy to make it shorter; not so easy to make it longer. In fact, if it is too short you are going to have to start from the beginning and make a longer string.

Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 2

Note: Sorry to be slow in posting part 2. My camera bit the dust and I had to buy a new one before I could continue. So on with the show.

The second piece of equipment that we need to make our continuous loop bowstring is a string jig. This is so easy to build that you can probably make one faster than you can read this post. Material wise all you need is a six foot piece of 2” x 4” lumber, four pieces of 9/16” dowel rod with two of them being 7 inches long and two of them 4 inches long, four small nails (about 4 penny), and some glue. For tools you will need a saw, a drill, a 9/16” paddle-bit, a bit that is the same diameter as your finish nails, some heavy pliers that will cut the nails, a tape measure and a marking pen.

So let’s build this thing.

First you need to cut your 2” x 4” to a length of about six feet. This is assuming that you won’t have to make a string that is longer than 68 inches.

001Now at one end of the 2” x 4” you want to measure up and make a mark at 1 1/2 inchs and another mark at 3 1/2 inches. Try to keep the marks running pretty straight up the center of the board.

003Take your drill and 9/16” paddle bit and drill a one inch deep hole at each mark.

006The second hole is where you will place a dowel to hold one end of your bowstring, so you want to measure from this hole on up the board to drill some more holes to make various different lengths of bowstrings.

007I made holes for 60 through 65 inches. I drilled a few others at 22, 23, 24 and 44 inches so that I could make shorter bowstrings. It really doesn’t matter too much. If you need a different length string than you are set up for, it’s just a matter of drilling a couple of new holes. Notice that after the 65 inch hole I went up another two inches and drilled another hole. The reason for this will become apparent when we start building a bowstring.

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Now we need to get our dowel rods fixed up. We need to put a small cross pin in each of the dowels. The cross pins will be made out of our 4 penny nails.

008First take your pliers or wire cutters and cut the heads off of the nails.

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011Now use the small drill bit to drill a hole through each dowel about an inch down from the end.

012Insert one of your headless nails through each dowel so that the nail sticks out on both sides. If the nail is too loose in hole you can put a drop of glue in the hole to help secure the nail.

013The dowels that go in the first two holes that you drilled in your 2 x 4 will stay there permanently, so you can glue them in place. A short dowel goes in the first hole and a long dowel goes in the second hole.

014The remaining two dowels will be temporarily pushed down into different holes depending on the length of the bowstring that you making at the time.

015One other thing that you will need for your string jig is some string spreaders. The function of these will, once again, become obvious when we start building a string. I made my spreaders out of a couple of old paint stir sticks. The spreaders are about eight inches long and have a one inch long slot sawn into each end. The slots are about 1/8 inch wide.

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017Now you’ve got everything you need to make a continuous loop bowstring. Next post we’ll build one.

Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 1

I’m not sure when the continuous loop bowstring came into being. If I had to guess, I’d say it was in the 1960’s when modern longbows were in their prime. If you buy a longbow today it will probably be equipped with a continuous loop bowstring. What are the advantages of a continuous loop bowstring? For one thing they are extremely strong. They are just one continuous loop of string; no splices. The loops are not spliced in as on a reverse-wrap bowstring, and you have the same type of loop on both ends of the string. The continuous loop bowstring is also one of the quickest and simplest bowstrings to make, probably why they were so popular with mass producers of bows.

It takes a couple of pieces of equipment to make a continuous loop bowstring, so if you only need one bowstring you are probably better off to just buy one. I’ve seen them in stores that carry traditional archery supplies for around $15.00 US. If you make a lot of bowstrings, it is far cheaper to make the two simple pieces of equipment and make your own strings. This post is a tutorial on how to make one of the two pieces of equipment that you will need. In the next post I will show you how to make the other piece of equipment, and in the third post we will go over how to make the actual string.

The first piece of equipment you will need is a serving dispenser as pictured below.

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Serving is a small cordage that is wrapped around the loops to strengthen them and hold them closed.

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Serving is also wrapped around the center portion of the string to prevent wear at the point where arrows are nocked. You can buy a serving dispenser, but if you have a few simple tools it is super easy to make one. All that you need is a small strip of light gauge metal, some tin snips, a drill and drill bit, a bolt and wing-nut, and four washers. I used a scrap of metal and some odds-and-ends from my shop to build mine for zero dollars.

The first thing you will need to do is buy a spool of serving thread so you can build the dispenser to the proper dimensions. I bought my serving at Academy. I’m sure that other stores carry serving, and you can also order it on line.

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My serving spool is two inches long.

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The dispenser will have to accommodate the length of the spool plus about an eighth of an inch of play on each end. In addition I will need to turn the metal up about an inch and three-quarters on each end to hold the spool. With these dimensions in mind, I cut a strip of metal 5 ¾ inches long by 1 ¾ inches wide.

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I used a ruler and laid out the strip into three sections; 1 ¾” on each end and 2 ¼” in the middle.

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I drew an X in each section to find the center.

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Then I used a hammer and punch to make a pilot dent in the center of each X.

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Now we are going to drill some holes in the strip, but first we need to get our other hardware together so that we can make sure that the holes are the right size. You will need a bolt that is long enough to go through the length of the spool plus about a half inch. The bolt also needs to be small enough in diameter to fit through the spool without binding.

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When you find, or buy, the right size bolt, nut, and washers; you will need a drill bit that is just a little larger in diameter than the bolt.

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Use this bit to drill a hole in each of the two end sections, and drill a smaller hole in the center section.

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The next step is to put the metal strip in a vice and bend the end sections up at a 90 degree angle. Actually, I bent them a little past 90 degrees, and then bent the tops out a little by hand. This gives the ends a slight bow so that the center of the ends will contact the spool better.

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Use a file and/or sand paper to smooth out the holes and remove any burrs. I gave my dispenser a coat of silver spray paint, but this is not really necessary.

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Now you’re ready to assemble the whole thing. First run your serving thread through the hole in the center section.

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Then use the wing-nut, bolt, and washers to mount the spool. Put a washer on the inside and outside of each end section.

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Use the wing-nut to adjust the tension on the spool. The tension is right when a slight tug will pull thread off of the spool; but when the dispenser is held up by the thread, more thread will not slip off on its own.

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In the next post we will build an adjustable string jig. Super simple. It takes about 15 minutes.

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