How to Find Low-Cost Tools and Used Military Supplies

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A guide to buying low-cost used military and tool supplies from military dealers.

I’ve been preparing my escape (not to the country, but to the sea) for 2-1/2 years now, and I believe I’ve learned a lot that MOTHER’s readers can use . . . so batten your hatches and prepare for a long harangue.

First I’d like to mention my most useful source of used military supplies: a tabloid newspaper called Shotgun News (Hastings, Nebraska). Its advertisements are primarily of interest to hunters and fishermen, but a careful check will uncover many jewels.


[1] For only $30.00 1 bought a surplus U.S. Army M1941 tent stove which will burn any liquid or solid fuel and supposedly puts out up to 50,000 Btu’s.

[2] For about $120 (including shipping) I purchased 460 pounds, net weight, of surplus army rations. (Go ahead and turn green, all you ex-GI’s . . . I intend to trade them to island natives for more palatable fare.)

[3] I’ve just acquired a total of 60 inflatable vinyl solar stills (Distillation Kit, Sea Water, Solar, Class B, Specification MIL-D-585OD) for only $30.00. That’s 50¢ each . . . and the same devices list in marine supply catalogs for 50 bucks apiece! I’ll make a mint peddling them to yachtsmen for their life rafts.

Various issues of Shotgun News have included ads for such used military supplies as the following: British (RAF) surplus porcelain chamber pots, weather balloons, walkie-talkies, flare guns, bulletproof vests (those should soon be right in style), military manuals on survival, U.S. Navy hammocks, medical supplies, complete field kitchens, military clothing and foul weather equipment, brass spittoons, etc., ad infinitum. I’m sure the publisher would send free sample copies of the paper on request.

Another excellent way to get many bargains is to buy government surplus direct from Big Brother. Anything and everything may be obtained this way. Write for details to Defense Supply Agency, Defense Logistics Services Center, Battle Creek, Michigan 49016.

Hard-to-find tools — priced accordingly — may be had from the Brookstone Co., Peterborough, New Hampshire. And for a buck, Herter’s, Inc., Waseca, Minnesota will send you a catalog of items ranging from specialty foods (buffalo chip candy? Yech!) to the sporting goods which are their specialty. Where else can you buy “Argentina skunk skins” for use in fly-tying? (Herter’s, by the way, has been in trouble in the past for importing feathers from endangered birds, and many conservationists now refuse to do business with that company for that reason. — MOTHER.)

I might also mention the following little-known fact: If you can find a shipwrecking yard which is dismantling an old submarine, you might get a great buy in batteries. Pigboats use an awful lot of them.

A book I’d recommend to anyone who’s leaving “civilization” far behind is Advanced First Aid Afloat by Peter F. Eastman, M.D. ($3.75 in paperback from Cornell Maritime Press, Inc.) If you ever have to amputate a gangrenous arm or leg, Dr. Eastman provides the detailed instructions you’ll need. He also discusses many other problems not covered in ordinary first aid manuals. The author ignores childbirth, however, on the assumption that you’ve had nine months to learn about it from more detailed sources.

Speaking of sources . . . I keep a red fiber-point pen beside my easy chair. Then, when I’m reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I can easily mark any items of particular interest.

Now for a few practical tips: first, in regard to building with recycled “scrub oak” lumber from old crates and skids. Such wood is cut from trees grown under poor conditions and has a very erratic grain which usually bends any nail you attempt to drive into it . . . unless, that is, the sharp point of the nail is removed by holding the tip against a rock and hitting the head once. The dull point thus formed crushes its way through the board without following the grain.

Next, a neat trick for cooks. I’ve recently bought a large (22-quart) pressure cooker and now find it both convenient and economical to make many dishes in large quantities and to can the excess. This works great with soup, chili, and stew, and I intend to try it with beef stroganoff and Hungarian goulash. (Of course, I won’t include noodles with the former or sour cream with the latter . . . these will be added at serving time.) If you prepare such meals when you can buy ingredients cheaply and/or in bulk, you can really save some money.

Finally, a few comments inspired by a recent suggestion in “Dear MOTHER” that sour milk be used to relieve the itching of poison ivy/oak: As a child, I suffered from a single, 5-year-long case of poison ivy ranging from isolated patches to head-to-toe coverage. Nothing helped me until I found a medicine (for oral intake) which was simply oil extracted from poison ivy leaves. That gave me a virtual immunity which lasted 20 years.

Our sharecropper neighbors used to chew ivy leaves and swore that they never had a rash. (Details of this immunization procedure are found in Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, pages 284-285 . . . along with the following warning: “The effects of poison ivy vary so much from person to person that I don’t feel this remedy can safely be recommended for general use until further experiments are made. ” — MOTHER.) They also suggested smearing cow manure on the irritated spots and letting it dry . . . but I was broken out from head to toe at the time and refused to try that one.

Lately I’ve had a few small rashes, and — since I don’t know the name of my “miracle medicine” — I’ve used a product called “Ivy-Dry” which works fairly well by drying the blisters with tannic acid. The same substance may be extracted from tea (a poultice of the wet leaves is quite effective) and, I believe, from the bark of certain trees. Although its main commercial use is for tanning leather, it does wonders for many skin irritations, burns, and insect bites.

That’s enough for the present. Good luck to all of you, and I hope someone finds the above information useful.