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Eleven Principles for Leaders

My troops knew that they would get credit for our success and that any blame for failure would land squarely on my own shoulders.

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By: Woodworking Gunny Bear

In my previous writing, ‘Leadership, From J to E,’ I discussed the fourteen leadership traits. Those traits are the basic foundation on which any prospective leader can build. Without them, even a “natural born leader” will inevitably fail to lead even the thirstiest of horses to a watering hole.

For a good leader to become a great leader, they must continuously learn and grow. They have to find every opportunity to apply what they are learning, make mistakes, improve their techniques, and apply what they have learned again. This application of the leadership traits to specific situations can be guided by certain principles. If followed, many negative results will be avoided, and a leader can build on successes, while mistakes can be traced to their causes and corrected. The following leadership principles have proven to be effective in developing great leaders of men and are applicable both on and off the battlefield. (I studied these principles during my career in the military. However, wherever it says “Marine,” you can easily substitute the words employees, community, etc.)

The 11 Marine Corps Leadership Principles are:

1) Know yourself and seek self-improvement

At first glance, this principle seems like an easy one. In actuality, It can be the most difficult. Most people have a hard time being honest about their own weaknesses. I have seen a lot of “leaders” who admit that they need to be more physically fit because they can add a few more points to their physical fitness test to get a perfect score. It is more of a quiet self-compliment about their already adequate fitness level. What they never admit to themselves is that they tend to take the easier, less moral path as long as no one is there to see it. Improvement in the former area might make for a minimally better leader, but improving integrity will make for a significant leap in effective leadership. When seeking self-improvement, focus on those hard truths and areas where you stand to gain the most.

2) Be technically and tactically proficient

Technical proficiency is being good at your specific job. Tactical proficiency is achieved by knowing about other people’s jobs and how to best use everyone’s skills in concert to achieve a specific goal. A good example would be an experienced construction foreman: His construction plans are well laid out, he has gotten all permits prior to beginning a job, and all required supplies have been ordered. He has also scheduled inspections, deliveries, etc.

As the work begins, he keeps the concrete guys, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc., on schedule and out of each other’s way. He has an eye for detail and is able to make suggestions and adjustments as required. The result is a quality piece of construction and tradesmen who look forward to working for that foreman in the future.

3) Know your Marines and look out for their welfare

I had quite a few senior leaders during my career. Many of them have mostly faded from my memory (probably assisted by my many brain injuries), but there is one who I will never forget. First Sergeant Conover was an 18-year infantryman and was my senior enlisted leader during my first tour in Iraq. Within a week of joining our 100+ man unit, he knew every Marine’s full name, whether or not they had a wife or children, their general financial situation, as well as any other personal issues they might have. A week or two after that, he familiarized himself further and could tell you what each Marine’s strengths and weaknesses were. If you messed up, the punishment was swift and harsh but always fair. He never mistreated his subordinates and always ensured that they got their mail, chow, and pay. We were all willing to follow him because we knew that in addition to being harder than woodpecker lips, he was GENUINELY concerned with our welfare.

4) Keep your Marines informed

I have never liked leaders who answer questions with, “Because I said so.” I am also in staunch disagreement with the “There’s no such thing as a dumb question” philosophy. Admittedly, I am likely a bit biased after years of fielding hundreds of questions a week as a Marine instructor. Trust me when I say that if you get enough Marines in one room, eventually, somebody will ask a dumb question.


That being said, an effective leader heads off most questions (good ones as well as bad) by keeping those they lead well informed. Whenever possible, a leader should carefully explain how a given task will be accomplished, why that task is important to the overall plan, what each person’s responsibilities are, and what actions should be taken if any likely problems should arise. Also, take some time to specifically cover any safety issues associated and what will ultimately constitute success and failure regarding a task.
Many of those I have led expressed their appreciation of my habit of not withholding any information. They also said how much easier it was for them to make adjustments on the fly since they had all available knowledge at their disposal.

5) Set the example

A leader must always be willing to do whatever it is that they ask of those they lead. An overweight and out-of-shape health teacher deserves to be mocked, not followed. A lazy individual who cuts corners deserves a demotion or firing, not a promotion to a senior position.


Something I learned early on was that your juniors are always watching you and that any sign of hypocrisy will be used by them as an excuse. Any father or mother with a bad habit has heard (or will eventually hear), “…but Dad/Mom, you fill in the blank, so why can’t I?”
A good leader must be beyond reproach and must work even harder than their subordinates. This ensures that they can’t make excuses for failure and that a drive to live up to the leader’s example is instilled within them.

6) Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished

Supervision is one of the most important tasks that a leader has. While delegating responsibilities to subordinates is often required and offers opportunities for them to take on a leadership role, the senior leader should always conduct a meeting or brief prior to the start of a large project. A quick question and answer session before starting will bring to light any confusion. Here are a few tips for Q and A sessions: Never just say, “Any questions?….No?…Ok, let’s get to it.” Many people won’t ask a question for fear of looking dumb. If no one has a question, go around the horn, asking each person a question related to the project. This will let you know if everyone is on the same page. Also, always leave the door open to ask a question after the brief. That removes the possibility of them “looking dumb” in front of others.


Throughout the project, conduct supervision responsibilities at regular intervals, as well as randomly. This keeps everyone honest. A leader must also recognize when they should step back and let their juniors work. Too much supervision quickly turns into micromanaging and stifles initiative and creativity in subordinates.
When the project is complete, the senior leader should personally conduct an inspection or review and give feedback on everyone’s performance. There is nothing worse than working hard to accomplish a task, and a supervisor doesn’t even bother to inspect the fruits of your labor.

7) Train your Marines as a team

Getting those you lead to work together for a common goal can be difficult. With so many different personalities, there are lots of opportunities for conflict or friction. Setting up activities where everyone spends time together during free time can help build relationships. A good leader can explain how every team member plays a part in the success of a given project. Figuring out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, then building teams based on that will reduce the chance of two people bumping heads during a project. Also, making everyone’s roles clear is helpful here too. Building your smallest team’s cohesion, then incorporating the smaller teams together will help in getting the separate small teams to work together as a cohesive unit.

8) Make sound and timely decisions

This principle is based on a combination of the leadership traits of knowledge, judgment, and decisiveness, and it directly affects a leader’s credibility. Few people will follow someone who consistently makes poor decisions. Similarly, waiting for the situation to develop to the point where the decision is out of your hands is antithetical to being in a leadership role. You need to quickly assess a given situation, weigh the possible consequences of several courses of action, then make a decision and stick with it. A leader can make adjustments to a course of action as the situation develops, but they must ensure everyone is aware of any changes and why the changes were made.

9) Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates

A confident leader isn’t constantly looking over their shoulder, worried that someone could supplant them at any time. The saying, “A high tide raises all ships,” relates directly to this leadership principle. A good leader finds ways to put subordinates into positions of responsibility and helps them gain confidence as leaders. In the Marine Corps, we often say that everyone should know the jobs of the two ranks above them. This results in greater rates of success in the event that a given leader is “removed” from the situation. If subordinates don’t voluntarily take charge, make them take charge.


I would often plan these opportunities for our training. I’d conduct a detailed brief and lay out the chain of command. At specific points during training, I would remove key individuals (including myself) from the scenario, forcing juniors to step up and take charge. After observing from a distance, I would bring everyone in to discuss what happened and give advice on what went well and what could be done to improve in the future.

10) Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities

A leader should continuously conduct honest assessments of their team. A leader must make themselves aware of what the team does well, where they are merely adequate, and what they are incapable of. Employ the team based on these assessments, assigning specific tasks based on team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to arrange for outside support when it comes to areas where a capability is lacking. For example, if one of your tasks is to build a barn, but no one on your team knows the difference between a hammer and a handsaw, would you stand more chance of success by hoping for the best or by calling in a carpenter? A great leader knows how to task their team and doesn’t set them up for failure by expecting them to work outside of their capabilities.

11) Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

How will you ever be a leader if you don’t seize the opportunity to lead? My time in the Marine Corps is a good example of how well this leadership principle works. In boot camp, squad leaders are fired constantly by Drill Instructors. Each time one was fired, I would sprint up and volunteer for the job. Each time, the Drill Instructors would send me away because I was a disgusting fat body (aka diet recruit, aka anything wider than a bean pole). Finally, after a couple weeks of this happening several times a day, they gave me a chance. I was emplaced as First Squad Leader for Platoon 1057. I made the most of that opportunity and was meritoriously promoted due to my performance. This one act set my entire career on a path of leadership. I was always a Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Instructor, Operations Chief, etc. My troops knew that they would get credit for our success and that any blame for failure would land squarely on my own shoulders. This principle served me well, and I still utilize it today whenever the opportunity arises.

“Leaders aren’t born. They are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal.”

-Vince Lombardi

Some are considered to be natural-born leaders. With scrutiny, I believe we would find that the situations, experiences, and choices along the way deeply influenced how these individuals gained the mantle of leadership. While there is no formulaic solution to becoming a leader, with hard work and dedication, everyone has the ability to lead when the opportunity arises. Curating the leadership traits and applying them through these leadership principles is a proven means to find success as a leader.

Lifestyle

Reconnect and Rejoice: Beartaria Times Weekly Challenge

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways…

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In our fast-paced world, losing touch with friends and family members who once played significant roles in our lives is easy. This week, the Beartaria Times invites you to participate in our heartwarming challenge: Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give them a call, ask how they’ve been, and rekindle that bond.

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways:

1. Emotional Support: Close relationships provide a robust support system during tough times, offering comfort, advice, and a sense of belonging.

2. Improved Mental Health: Regular interactions with loved ones reduces feelings of loneliness and depression, contributing to mental well-being.

3. Increased Longevity: Studies have shown that strong social connections tend to help people live longer and enjoy better health.

4. Enhanced Happiness: Sharing moments, memories, and experiences with others brings joy and fulfillment, fostering a more positive outlook on life.

5. Personal Growth: Friends and family often challenge us to grow, learn, and become better versions of ourselves.

6. Creating Memories: Every interaction creates new memories, adding richness to our personal histories and offering stories to cherish for years to come.

We encourage you to take this challenge to heart and reach out to someone you miss. Whether it’s a friend from high school, a distant relative, or a former colleague, a simple phone call can reignite connections and brighten your day and theirs.

Once you’ve reconnected, share your stories and experiences on the Beartaria Times community app. Post about who you called, the memories you shared, and how the conversation went. Did you learn something new? Did you laugh about old times? These stories can inspire others to take similar steps in their lives.

Join us in this week’s challenge and celebrate the beauty of human connection. Let’s make an effort to nurture our relationships and remind those we care about that they are valued and remembered.

Happy connecting, Beartarians! We look forward to hearing your heartwarming stories.

Sincerly,

– The Beartaria Times Team

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Lifestyle

Into the Wilderness: Part 1 Knives and Knife Skills 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

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By Gabriel- The Last Huntsman

As with many of us in the Beartaria community, we have found the mundane existence of modern Babylon completely unappealing, ungodly, and unfulfilling. As a result, many of us seek to make our way, either by downsizing our footprint in the modern digital world, homesteading our sustenance, or becoming producers. For some of us, however, that also means getting out into the wilderness; far away from civilization, we test ourselves and our bodies to become more like our ancestors of old,  becoming non-domesticated humans. 

In this article series, I will detail at least one part of the wilderness- a popular term coined as bushcraft. Bushcraft seemingly has taken many different names and forms.

For me, it’s practicing basic wood skills such as shelter craft, fire craft, knife skills, axe skills, and other tools, and can even have some hunting or tactical applications.

Though you can write a whole book on bushcraft, as many already have, we’re just going to get into some knife basics for this article. 

Choosing Your Knife

Knives are mankind’s first tool; they are essential for basic tasks, whether processing your food, wood processing, cutting cordage, etc. In addition, knives can be used in a myriad of practical tasks and defensive means. While having a flimsy folding knife can be ok for opening boxes or backyard/vehicle camping, bushcrafting skills require having a solid and reliable fixed-blade knife, ideally full tang, for practical tasks.

You will have to determine if a smaller knife or a larger knife would better suit your purposes. A saying often goes, however, that you can do small tasks with a big knife if you have to, but you can’t do big tasks with a small knife, but having a smaller blade is less weight and easier to conceal. That’s just food for thought. Another consideration is steel choice; I will simplify carbon steel or stainless steel. Knife Nerds is an excellent resource to dabble into all things knife steel. Carbon steel, while generally tougher than stainless steel, can be prone to rust. So if you’re in a coastal environment, it can be hard to maintain. Stainless steel is more rust-resistant and can have better edge-holding capabilities. However, it can be more prone to snapping or chipping during extreme use.

Knife Skills

Using your knife to split wood is known as batoning. This is done by utilizing your knife as a wedge while you use another log (baton) as a mallet to beat the spine of your knife blade through the log. This can be a rather rigorous task on your knife. However, it is sometimes needed to make wood burnable when conditions are wet or when it’s hard to stabilize a log and safely use an axe. In many cases, the wood logs could be wet; however, the wood on the inside will be dryer and more suitable for fire craft. Splitting wood is necessary for ease of burning to cook, keep warm, and many other things.

Making feather sticks with a knife is another handy bushcrafting knife skill. It is done by finely slicing small curls of wood into a bundle. This bundle is perfect for fire tinder. While most small sticks, twigs, and other tinder may be too big or have too much moisture to catch a spark well, the feather sticks can be from a freshly split log that you just have batoned, which should be dryer. Making feather sticks takes time to master, learning what knives work best and what wood works best. The finer and thinner your wood curls are, the better; they will catch a spark or flame easier to start your fire.

Chopping is another handy knife skill to practice. I’m sure many will ask why you would use a knife to chop when you can use an axe. Well, for one, it’s more likely to have a knife on your person than an axe. If you’re hunting, scouting, or hiking, having a solid knife is lighter than packing a knife and an axe. Finally, it can be safer, as having an axe in full swing can be more likely to miss or over-swing. Having a medium to larger knife size will obviously help with the performance of this task. Good ergonomics will help the knife maintain in hand and absorb shock during chopping tasks. 

Striking a ferro rod (ferrocerium rod) is a skill that can help you get a fire going in your wilderness adventures. Firstly a ferro rod is a metal rod that will produce sparks when struck with a flat edge and can last thousands of strikes. So why use it over a lighter? Lighters can be finicky at best; they can get too cold, wet, or drain themselves of fluid. That is a big no-no, mainly when you’re depending on it.

So simply put, Ferro rods are just a survivalist/bushcrafter’s go-to fire-starting tool. Ideally, your knife will have a 90-degree spine on the back edge of the blade. This sharp, flat edge can strike and scrape the ferro rod. However, not all knives have a sharp spine, so having a small scraper or a spare knife may be necessary. In a worst-case scenario, you can use the edge of your knife; however, this is not recommended as it will damage your edge. When using the Ferro rod with your blade, you want to ensure your rod is as close to your tinder bundle (feather sticks) as possible. This will maximize the amount of sparks and heat transferred into those fine wood curls to get a fire going. 

Notches are another bushcrafting knife skill that is good to learn. It is essentially cutting a notch in various shapes to allow cordage to be held in place for constructing many things in the wilderness. Notches can be used to build tent stakes, fire spits, shelters, and even wild game traps. Notches can be carved directly using the knife or with a knife and baton. Though there are several notches, the few fundamental ones are the square notch, v notch, and stake notch. They may seem self-explanatory; however, carving these can take a measure of skill with your knife.  Square notches can be done by simply partially cross-batoning your knife into the wood, then doing so again, a short distance from the first, and twisting your knife- this will pop the excess wood. Stake Notches are achieved by partially cross-batoning and carving the extra wood with your knife toward your baton mark. V notches are done by cutting a ‘V-shaped groove into the wood.  

Then, one of the oldest knife skills is probably out there, processing animals or vegetation for food. People have been using knives to kill and butcher their livestock and wild game or cut up their humble veggies since humanity’s beginning. As we return to our roots, having these knife skills can make things much more manageable and save you money. 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind (shown on the knives pictured above) is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

 As I’ve stated, knives are one of mankind’s primary tools. We will always have a place to use a blade, especially as we separate ourselves from this fruitless modern world. These are just a few simple knife skills necessary for bushcrafting and wilderness adventures. The easy way to practice and master knife skills is to get out there and try to have fun. As you enjoy yourself, you’ll find ways to make things happen. Always check out my content on my Youtube channel, Beartaria Times app, and Instagram at The Last Huntsman. Feel free to follow up and message me with any questions. Finally, be prepared both physically and spiritually. God bless and carry on. 

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Lifestyle

Antiquing. Not just for Subaru drivers.

If you don’t have a plan or specific goal in mind, you may find yourself walking out several hundred dollars poorer, with a few marginally decent tools and a box full of your favorite childhood toys.

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By: Woodworking Gunny Bear

If you are planning on attending this year’s festival here in Missouri, you may want to set a day aside to hit some of our massive antique malls. I know what you may be thinking, “But Gunny, I don’t even own a Subaru.” As a homesteader and part-time prepper, I am always on the lookout for things that can be useful when the power goes out or supply chains falter. Over the years, I have amassed a wide variety of tools, gadgets, and containers from the many antique malls here in Missouri.

One thing I learned early on is that walking into a huge antique mall, packed to the gills with extremely cool (often nostalgia-evoking) stuff, can be overwhelming. If you don’t have a plan or specific goal in mind, you may find yourself walking out several hundred dollars poorer, with a few marginally decent tools and a box full of your favorite childhood toys. This article is not intended for those who want to “flip” items for profit. If, however, you are looking to score a good deal on a well-made and useful tool, then you might find it a worthwhile read.

My wife and I enjoy perusing the many antique malls and shops here in Missouri. We enjoy the nostalgia. We also appreciate the craftsmanship and design of “old stuff.” We have also developed a bit of a system to ensure that we don’t: overspend on a given item, purchase an item that has a better (and often cheaper) modern version, or walk out with a very cool-looking piece of junk.

There are several things to consider prior to walking into an antique shop or mall:

What, specifically, are you looking for? Do you want to pick up some hand tools for the wood shop? A few things to improve production on the homestead? How about some kitchen gadgets that will remain useful in a power outage?

How much are you willing to spend? Is an expensive item worth it if it will likely sit in your basement for the foreseeable future?

Are you capable of recognizing when an item is damaged, broken, or missing parts? If so, can it be brought up to snuff without a significant effort or investment?

What happens if I see something that transports me back to “the good old days” but has no actual function?

I will attempt to address all of these considerations, as well as drop a few tips and tricks which you may find useful.

My wife and I really enjoy looking at all of the cool stuff in our local antique malls, but we both know that some things are for looking at, and some things are for buying. For example, as a woodworker, I am always on the lookout for quality woodworking tools that don’t require electricity as a power source. Early on, I wanted to grab every hand drill, planer, and axe I saw. Eventually, I learned that all classic tools were not created equal and that the cheap hand plane was cheap for a good reason. My wife, on the other hand, tends to gravitate toward kitchen and household-related items. Hand-cranked mixers, beaters, meat grinders, etc., are her jam. She is also quick to buy crocks for pickling and fermenting. She has a nice washboard and is currently on the lookout for a very specific hand-operated washing machine.

It is always a good idea to set a budget before your first safari into the wilds of an antique jungle. This can keep you from buying that completely useless (but very cool looking) WW2 helmet or nudge you along to the next booth where the same item is a bit cheaper…and in even better condition! Many antique malls have a booth-style setup where different sellers display their wares. Some sellers price their items based on antique price guides, while others just want to get rid of stuff that they found in their grandparent’s attic. Needless to say, prices and item conditions can vary wildly. A good rule of thumb is that smaller, boutique-style shops tend to have higher prices but often sell quality items in pristine condition. Large, mall-style antique shops tend to have a much wider variety and lower prices but can be littered with damaged, broken, or lower-quality items. With patience and self-control, we have found that we prefer the larger shops and have gotten some great deals on well-made, useful tools in excellent condition. We have made a handful of relatively expensive purchases but were not disappointed. For example, my wife spent almost $50 on a hand-operated meat slicer. We were swayed because it was a rare find, was in excellent condition, and could often go for $80 and up. Similarly, I have always wanted a really nice scythe. I finally found one, but the seller wanted over $100 for it. I was really close to buying it, but I couldn’t bring myself to break that three-digit threshold for something that I might never actually use.
I finally decided to pass on the purchase. A month or so later, I found an even nicer one for only $45. Patience and frugality had again paid off. I now own two beautiful scythes and still haven’t broken that three-digit threshold. Bonus tip: Many antique mall owners charge a booth fee and make a small percentage on each sale. Often, they will contact individual sellers and convey a counteroffer in order to facilitate a sale.

As mentioned earlier, antiques can be in widely varying states of condition. I can’t count the number of times that I got worked up upon seeing a given tool, only to completely deflate as soon as I looked at it up close. Being able to assess an item’s condition is an important skill. Anything with moving parts should function smoothly, with no catching or grinding. Rust can often be an issue as well. A thin layer of rust can be removed with some mineral oil and elbow grease while soaking in vinegar can remove heavier rust layers. Items that are rusted to the point of pitting or flaking should usually be avoided. We bought several items only to later find that a key component was missing. A good practice is to grab a given item (be sure to remember which booth you took it from) and keep an eye out for the same or similar thing. If you find another one, compare the two. You can often identify a missing or damaged part, and very often, the one in better condition will be similar in price or even cheaper. Another thing to keep in mind is that some sellers will attempt to hide the damage. I once found a froe axe, which is used to turn round logs into square beams, marked as $10. This was a great price, and those particular axes are quite a rare find. It appeared to be in great condition but needed a good sharpening. Luckily, I knew to carefully examine the axe head (handles are easily replaced) because the seller had laid on a thin layer of paint in an attempt to hide a hairline crack in the steel. I hung it back up and moved on.

Another dangerous pitfall is the nearly constant feeling of nostalgia. It’s hard enough to keep walking when you happen upon the same bread box you remember from your childhood home. I have even wanted to drop a few bucks on an old metal saltine canister or glass Aunt Jemima syrup bottle. It’s another thing entirely when you round a corner and find yourself face-to-face with that favorite childhood toy. Antique shops are littered with vintage GI Joes, Voltron lions, Star Wars figures, etc. I even found a big bag full of original He-man toys that appeared to be comprised of the exact same collection that I owned as a child. Trust me when I say that the nostalgia will wear off quickly. Enjoy the memories and move on. If you just can’t pass by without making a nostalgia purchase, set a price limit. Remember that many vintage items are overpriced and aren’t nearly as rare as you might think.

A key component of our strategy is a very modern tool, the smartphone. Be sure to have yours handy, as it can be helpful when it comes to avoiding several of the aforementioned pitfalls. I am no fan of modern cell phones, but I would be lying if I said that they are not useful tools, especially when buying antiques. We always look up items before checkout, ensuring that the price is at or below the average. We also come across things and think, what the heck is that?” Many times a patent number entered in the search bar assists in its identification. That was how I discovered one of my favorite tools, a slide hammer nail puller. It is a truly excellent tool, and I had no idea what the heck it was until I looked it up. Very often, there is a better, less expensive version of a given tool or gadget. For instance, we were about to buy a glass butter churn for $50. It was in great shape, and that was a pretty good price. When we were doing our price check, we discovered that a company makes a modern version that has plastic paddles (easier to keep clean) and is cheaper to boot. When used correctly, modern phones can be extremely handy.

There are many more tips and pieces of advice when hunting for bargain barn finds, but part of the fun is discovering them for yourself. Just remember to have a plan, and most of all, have fun. You may discover that gadget or tool that is as useful today as it was when your grandparents ordered it from the Sears catalog decades ago.

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