Morse Code Memory Card

A short blog today, reminiscent of the “free gift”-editions of the comics of my youth.
How likely are you to need Morse code in the modern world? Probably not very much! But as preppers we like to prepare, just in case.
As I have aged, my memory has got demonstrably worse. Also, stress can do odd things to your recall. Therefore it is not a bad thing to have a printed copy of the Morse code, no matter how well you can remember it on a good day.
Morse Code Tree
Morse Code list and Sun Navigation
The Morse code “tree” was taken from here. I like this particular version better than some of the alternates. The tree is useful when translating from Morse code.
The alphabetical list is more useful when converting a message into code. The large and bold print of this version makes it easy to use.
Also included is an aide memoir for navigating by the sun with a watch. While I have figured direction by the sun and time on several occasions, I can seldom remember the modifications for the hemispheres.
I suggest you print both images out, paste them back to back and laminate them.
They can be sized with art programs such as GIMP. I made mine 7 cm high so the laminated card could fit inside the red pouch that is part of my EDC.
EDC Pouch Contents
The card could also be used as a fan to nurture the beginnings of a camp fire.
As a bonus, a Morse code table using peaks rather than dots and dashes.Mountain Morse Code


Lock Picks: Snakes and Sparrows

It has been some time since I wrote about lock picking. Today I will share some thoughts on some lock picks that have appeared in previous posts but have not been discussed in depth.

Snake Rake

The snake rake is also sometimes called an “S-rake”.
While the snake is dismissed by some lock pickers, I am rather fond of it. Often the snake has managed to open locks that resisted other rakes.
Most of my lock pick sets contain a snake. Those that did not originally contain one have had one added. My first addition to the Polaris rake set was a Dangerfield Praxis 0.015 snake. My EDC kit has a pair of Bogotas and a short-handled snake from a “James Bond Card”.
The snake is a good tool for working on keyways that are not easily accessed by tools such as the Bogotas.
In longer locks, the snake is often used for a technique I call “selective raking”: working on just one or two pins at a time. Sometimes a rake will set some pins but not others. Working on these pins individually may pick the lock. Selective raking should probably be thought of as intermediate between raking and single pin picking (SPP).
I find a levering motion often works with a snake.
If a lock will not respond to your usual rakes, gently probing the pins with a snake will often yield results.
Perhaps, like a half-diamond, the snake should be classed as a hybrid pick.
Snake and Sparrow lock picks
In the photo above, the snakes are in the middle, with the unadorned, unperforated handles. From top to bottom, a large snake, an angled snake and a standard/small snake. These particular examples all from SouthOrd. The items above are rakes from my Serenity kit.
I have not often used the large or angled variants. I can open locks with them, but the standard snake generally seems to perform better.


The next four lockpicks are all exclusive to Sparrows. They are available from retailers such as UKBumpkeys.


The Sandman was the first of the Sparrows lock picks that I purchased. It is the one with the dragon decoration on the handle in the photo above.
I have seen the Sandman described as a “big, fat snake”. According to some websites, the Sandman is designed to work on locks that have both tricky high/low pinning without losing the ability to deal with close pinning.
On the plus side, the Sandman often pops open my practice padlock on the initial insertion. On the down side, I have not personally found that many other locks I can use it on.
This may possibly be due to its American heritage. UK/European locks tend to be narrower and longer than US, and this can be a problem when using picks intended for the US market. The Sandman is a big pick and seems to be too large for many UK/European locks or the small padlocks I often encounter. It may be too tall to enter keyways with kinks, curves or obstructions. Of course, you may encounter padlocks and other locks where this size is not a problem. It fitted easily into my filing cabinet lock, but did not do much. If I want to open that lock, the Bogota remains the pick of choice.
In locks that will take it, the Sandman seems to work well.
Although the Sandman is relatively thick (0.025", I think) a number of reviewers mention snapping it. Notably these seem to be from people relatively new to lock raking.
The golden rule of lock picking is “less is more” and the Sandman is a good case in point. If scrubbing or rocking with the Sandman a slow movement seems to work best. For raking in general, if you are scrubbing like you are brushing your teeth, you may be too fast. Slow down and use less force. Pins will sometimes set as you remove pressure, such as beginning to remove a pick from the keyway.
I have heard the Sandman works well in wafer locks. I have not been able to verify this personally.


The Octo-Rake may look like a snake but it is more of a rocker and scrubber than a ripper-zipper. As one reviewer puts it, “only take it out the lock if you are flipping it over”. In the photo, the pick with an octopus decoration.
Personally, I find the Octo-rake more useful than the Sandman, since this can be persuaded to enter relatively small locks. You may have to insert the rake before positioning the turning tool.
I have a tenacious little padlock that previously only raked open with a Bogota, Princess or Prince. Not only does the Octo-rake open this lock, it does so faster than the Bogota! I doubt I could open it quicker if I had the key!


When it works, the Warlock is very fast.
A video online comments that it is easy to overset some locks with the Warlock, and this seems fair comment.
If a lock is going to succumb to the Warlock’s spell it may need just a light tickle.
Practising on a see-through lock I discovered that attempting to apply a bit of torque as the Warlock inserts was worth trying.
The Warlock seems to prefer to be used with the decal on the port side, a contrast to the Octo-rake which favours one side for some locks and the other for others.
Despite its size, the Warlock handled some of my narrower lock ways surprisingly well.
The Warlock is a nice compliment to the Octo-rake. It opens some of my locks much more easily than the Octo. On the other hand, the Octo is the quickest rake I have for a lock that ignores the Warlock.


The Sparrows Worm rake is also known as the Serpentine Worm. It is bottom-most in the photo.
The Worm is a much more gracile beast than the Sparrows picks already mentioned. The Worm is similar (but not identical to) the smaller, five-hump sinusoid rake (no.7) in the Polaris set. Some of my locks open more readily with the Polaris no.7, others are more vulnerable to the Worm. Like the small sinusoid, the Worm is useful for keyways that are too small for easy use of the Bogotas or other larger rakes.
In other words, the Worm is a very useful partner to the Octo-rake or other large rakes.
My only criticism of the Worm is at the blade of mine seemed to pick up brass marks and has discoloured.


If I was asked to prioritize which of these picks someone should acquire, the standard snake would be at the top of my list. I would not bother with the large snake or the angled variant.
The Worm would be a close second. It is very useful to have a rake that can be used keyways that are a problem for the more commonly used rakes. If the Worm does not work, the snake may still save the day!
Third place goes to the Octo-rake. Despite its apparent size, I have found this useful for a wide range of locks.
The Warlock takes fourth place. While this is a useful rake, I do not feel it is quite as versatile or useful as the Octo-rake. Others may feel differently.
I have placed the Sandman last. While it can be effective, its application is mainly for larger or straighter keyways. If you encounter a lot of such locks, then I would not discourage you from buying a Sandman. There are no bad picks in this review. All of them are worth considering as an addition to your collection.

Kidney Warmers and Bellybands

Decades ago, when I first saw “Fists of Fury”, the scene above puzzled me. How did Bruce Lee’s character conclude the chef was Japanese just from seeing his undergarment?
The answer is that the Japanese are known for being fond of haramaki or “bellybands”.
Kidney Warmer/ Bellyband
The Germans are also fond of a similar garment. I have read of the Afrika Korps being issued “kidney-warmers”. The “Armed Forces of World War Two” by Andrew Molo clarifies:
“With the rapid drop in temperature at night, personnel wore a knitted woollen waist protector next to their skin, and a woollen greatcoat over their other clothing.”
I used to work with a colleague who had a German wife. I was apparently “mother’s wisdom” that you should wear a kidney warmer to keep your feet warm. Similarly, running around without socks could cause kidney and bladder problems.
Kidney warmer
It is interesting that diverse cultures in different parts of the world maintain that there is a link between kidneys and feet!
In a previous blog I mentioned that some American Civil War soldiers wore a flannel belt next to the skin.
Bellyband side view
“So what?” you may be asking. Many readers will own at least one set of long underwear. And sometimes the undershirt rides up and exposes the small of your back. A kidney warmer would have prevented this and also proved extra insulation.
Or perhaps, you are wearing a loose tee-shirt and find things can get a little drafty when the wind picks up.
Suppose you have to improvise cold weather clothing due to an unexpected change in the weather. Wrapping a spare scarf, keffiyeh or strip of material around your midriff could make all the difference.
Button around bellyband
There are a variety of styles of bellyband available. Some are elasticated tubes you either step into or pull over. Others are wrap-around and utilize velcro or other means.
If you have a snug-fitting tee-shirt or jumper that has seen better days, it should be easy to make your own kidney warmer to try the idea out.