July 4, 2022


Self reliance and independence

American Pioneer Tools that Have Survived the Test of Time

5 min read

If you want to study self reliance on the North American continent the American pioneer is the place to start. While the Native Americans knew a lot about the land and has some great skills, they didn’t have metal until European contact. Metal is and was a very big deal. Metal tools are one of the most overlooked items by the modern prepper.

Tools were everything to the American pioneer. It would have been impossible to exist for even a season without some of the tools for working the land and processing wood. Many of these tools were used each day on the homestead.

While that time might seem ancient by technological standards, its pretty interesting when you realize how many of those tools have followed us to 2019! Here we sit, a civilization at the top of the mountain, and we still rely on some of these homesteading tools.

After the industrial revolution one of our greatest villains appeared. Convenience. Convenience has allowed us to become weak and void of the skills that kept our civilization alive for all these thousands of years. As of late, people are seeing the error in their ways and have drawn closer to the lost skills of the past.

In this article we are going to look at 5 tools that have followed us from the homestead to modern times.

Flint and Steel

Many methods of fire existed before carbon steel was struck by flint to make spark. That spark would ideally be caught on a piece of charcloth and that ember used to start a fire. There were friction fires with wood and the sparking of rocks, as well.

The combination of high carbon steel, flint and charcloth solved the problem of fire for a long time. Ferrocerium was not discovered until the 1903.  The European iron age kicked off right around 1200 AD and from that moment on we were making fire with sparks from metal.

Even modern outdoorsmen and survivalists still use flint and steel to make fire. If you can identify flint and you have charcloth on hand, there is almost no reason not to use this method. It’s a quick and easy method of fire-starting and if your pieces are altogether it is just as effective as flicking a lighter.


Even before the iron age we were using rock versions of the hammers. Even before we had handles we had stones that were used in the similar fashion to hammers.

On the homestead of the American pioneer a hammer would have been one of the most important tools. In fact, you could argue that it still is even in the modern home. Though we live in an age where we call people to fix most of our problems, we all still have a hammer!

The wood handle of a hammer would be burned and the head would be carried on the long trek. Once pioneers arrived at their location they would create new handles. It was all about weight when traveling but the importance of the hammer was something that people did not discount.


There were a thousand different uses for the spade in early America. It was a tool of the garden, but it was also a tool of daily maintenance. With the explosion in popularity of modern gardening, the spade has seen a resurgence.

There is no denying the importance of the modern shovel today. Even for those who don’t garden or landscape there is still no substitute for a good shovel. While some people have opted for blowers to deal with snow, its easy to see why, after all this time, we still keep a decent spade in our shed


While native Americans used bone to create needles this was another item that was used by the American pioneer in its metal form. Metal being the far more superior material, it wasn’t long before both the natives and Europeans were using metal needles on the frontier.

While the uses of needs have not changed much, since the pioneering times, Americans are still sewing up clothes and blankets using these needles. Larger crochet needles, while used for different things, are popular, as well.

Sewing is a dying art. With the advent of cheap clothing, its hard for sewing to hold the value it once did. That said, we are still buying and storing these kits and the needles therein.


The threat that Native Americans posed to the American pioneer is often under represented in modern history. There is one villain represented in this story and that is the colonizing European. However, there are few scenarios as terrifying as a family of four homesteading in early American and waking up to find a group of Indians or horseback riding down the hilltop towards their homestead.

The shotgun was a hunting weapon as much as security. Don’t forget, the Natives were not the end of the threats on the homestead. There were also wildlife concerns. While threats to the average homestead were rare, most every home had a trusty 12-gauge shotgun.

Today, there are few people who would argue the efficacy of a 12 gauge as the best weapon for home defense. In the age of pistol caliber carbines, semi-automatic handguns and AR pistols, its still the shotgun that gets the nod when we are talking home defense.


The human race has long been differentiated by its tools. There are many things that set us apart from the other animals on this planet. One such thing is our use and continued improvement of tools. In many ways you could say we are but a sum of our tools. That is hardly a flawed analysis of the human animal and its position in the world today.

What is most intriguing, though, is how we are pulled to those tools and skills of old. Its interesting how we are advancing in technology but also supporting a 60 billion dollar a year outdoor adventure industry that seems only to be growing! These are things that just blow the mind.

It’s almost as if our insatiable hunger for progress can only exist as long as we remain tethered to those things that brought us to this point. There is a very real animal hunger for struggle, hard word, doing things by hand and being a creature of this land and not just settled on this land.

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