Village Science - Teacher Edition


Ice Pick

Teacher Edition Contents

Skill, Tools, & Craftsmanship

Cutting & Drying Fish
Nails, Pegs, & Lashings
Falling Trees &
     Small-Scale Logging
Chainsaw Clutch & Chain
Ice Pick


Wood Stoves
Wall Tents
Insulation & Vapor Barriers
Gas Lamps & Gas Stoves


Piloting A Boat
Boat Design
Magnetos & Spark Plugs
Outboard Motor Lower Unit

Outboard Motor Cooling System
Snowmachine Tracks
Snowmachine Clutch
Winter Trails


  1. Make an ice pick out of a wrecking bar or other good steel. Before putting a slight bend in the tip, make a few holes in the ice. Then put the slight bend. Observe the difference. Does it widen the hole better with the bend? Can you hear the difference between the two picks?

    Putting the slight bend in the tip should cause the ice pick to quiver and shatter the ice. It will be easier to widen the sides too. There is a destinctive “buck, buck” sound of a well made ickpick. With your back turned you can hear whether an ice pick is well designed or not.

  2. Before rounding the nose of the wood on the handle, leave the wood square. Does it splash once there is water in the hole? Round the nose of the wood and try it again. Does it splash as much?

    Rounding helps a lot. Once the hole is full of water splashing becomes a real concern.

  3. Strap a five to six pound weight to the ice pick you have made. Pick a hole. What differences do you observe? (Ankle or wrist weights might work well.)

  4. Try to make a hole in the ice with an axe. What is your experience once the hole fills with water? Can you widen the bottom of the hole?

    An axe is almost worthless. Once there is water in the hole, the axe splashes so much it is impossible to make a decent hole.

  5. If there is an ice auger in the village, compare the time and effort required to make a hole with the auger to the time it takes to make a similar hole with an ice pick. Which is faster and easier for you? What are the advantages of each?

    An auger is faster and cleans the hole by itself. It is necessary to shovel the chips out of a hole made by icepick. However, an icepick can make a hole big enough for beaver, but an auger can’t widen a hole.

  6. Observe how icy your gloves get when using the ice pick. What will you do to increase friction so you don’t lose the ice pick down the hole?

    Put a rope on the icepick or you will lose it!

  7. Listen closely. Can you hear the difference in the sound of the ice just before you punch through and water comes into the hole?

    There is a destinct sound the ice makes just before breaking through. Before punching through, widen the hole on the bottom as it is hard to do with water in the hole.

  8. Make an ice pick out of a snowmachine spring over 2” wide. What differences do you see between this ice pick and the first one.

    It is too wide to penetrate deeply, but it cuts brush in a beaver feedpile very well.

  9. Compare the ice pick you have made with a commercially designed ice pick if there is one available. If they are both sharp, which one works better for you?

  10. Are there any homemade ice picks in the village? Look at them. What do the tips look like? How wide are they? How heavy are they? What is the average weight? What kind of steel are they made of? Do they ring when struck with another piece of steel? (The wooden handle will deaden the sound to some degree.)

  11. What kind of wood is used for the homemade ice pick handles?

  12. Talk with the local beaver trappers and, if possible, go out trapping with them. When you get back, describe to someone else what you learned.

  13. By inquiry in the village, discover the difference between an ice pick used for walking after freeze-up and one used for beaver trapping.

    An icepick used for walking and testing thin ice is much lighter than one used for making a waterhole or setting snares for beaver.

Student Response

  1. Why is it important to have an ice pick that has enough mass?

    If the ice pick doesn’t have enough mass, the force to drive it will have to come from the individual’s arms. With enough mass, the force will come from the ice pick.

  2. Draw an edge that is too thick. Draw one that is too thin.

  3. Why is a slight bend put in the tip of some ice picks?

    To make them quiver and shatter the ice.

  4. Why is friction important on the handle?

    Good grip. It might slip and be lost down the waterhole. A frequent occurrence.

  5. What is the most common material for an ice pick handle and why?

    Spruce. It is strong and doesn’t rot easily.

  6. What happens if the bottom of a water hole isn’t widened?

    The hole will freeze over quickly if the current isn’t available to warm the surface

  7. Draw a perfect ice pick, including handle.


  1. Mike has a chance to go beaver trapping with his uncle. A gasoline-driven ice auger costs $209. He can make his own ice pick for $12. If the average price of a beaver pelt is $25, how many beaver does he have to catch to break even with the cost of the gasoline auger?

    Eight beaver. However, he might consider that the motorized auger might break down. If it does and they are very remote, he might not catch any. There is more to consider besides money.

  2. Mike can pick 14 holes a day when the ice is 3’ thick. The next year he traps, he finds that the ice is 4’ thick. Approximately how many holes will he make if he picks at the same rate?

    Approximately 10–11

Questions or comments?
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