Social Question

Arisztid's avatar

Is it important to preserve old technology and skills?

Asked by Arisztid (7099 points ) February 17th, 2010

Many people do not think old skills and technology is important. My question is to challenge that: is old skills and technology important and should it be preserved? I see so much of the attitude that “newer is better,” “out with the old, in with the new,” and more.

A lot of the old skills and technology has been rendered moot by modern technology and these skills are either gone or only practiced by history reinactors and people who just love what they do.

I am talking about things like how to make a wheel for a horsedrawn carriage the old way. This skill is going by the wayside, only a few practice it. Here is an example of a fellow who still does things the old way, showing that building a wagon wheel properly is not something that an unskilled person could do. I am certain that what he does is decribed somewhere in a book but that video shows that it takes more than book learning alone to make that wheel properly.

If a catastrophe were to occur to the point where we lost our access to modern technology, returning us to, say, a preindustrial society, how would we handle it if past skills were lost? At this time, 2010, the skill to make wagon wheel without modern tools, for instance, is not that important. It would be important if we lost the ability to use cars, either by loss of cars themselves or running out of fossile fuels (or any other type of fuel) or something else.

Another example is preserving food. What would we do if we lost refrigeration, modern preservatives, electricity, manufacturing ability for glass, etc?

The list could be endless here.

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73 Answers

mammal's avatar

no, they and their practitioners should be swept under by wave after wave of pointless profit driven technological innovations.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It depends on the degree of preservation that you want. In places such as Old Surbridge Village in Massachusetts, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia—not to mention the Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana—those “old ways” are practiced every day. They’re not making YouTube videos, but they maintain the tools, the traditions and the skills, and they pass them down, too.

What seems to be most important, I think, is the knowledge that “there was knowledge here” and it can be re-created even without re-invention.

davidbetterman's avatar

Of course. When all the new hi tech fails, what will we have to rely on?

CMaz's avatar

Road to the future leads from the past.

marinelife's avatar

Well, we should at least keep records (accessible without electronic media) that show how to do them. It is my love of all things science fiction that make me feel this way.

Nullo's avatar

I think that we should preserve ‘em; they’re the foundation of our present technologies, after all. The electric/electronic/robotic whatnots of today are relatively very precarious.

njnyjobs's avatar

The way I look at it, if technology fails, the age old saying of Survival of the Fittest, will weed out the useless free-loaders. It is the Universe’s way of cleansing. Those who didn’t pay much attention to the history, science, HE, and PE classes would have a hard time coping.

TexasDude's avatar

You never know when you might need to fall back on the old stuff. It should be preserved. Cherished, even.

john65pennington's avatar

How would you feel if your question was applied to the Civil War and other wars that the United States were involved? history is history. caveman invented the wheel and that invention has stood the test of time. history and preservation are part of the human history here on earth. adding to or improving on an invention is all that is acceptable. after all, man would not have come this far, without the knowledge and inventions of his predocessors.

Arisztid's avatar

@mammal… and we are raised to want what is new, new, new™.

@CyanoticWasp True that. I think that, if a massive catastrophe were to occur, one of the major keys to our survival shall lie in the hands of people like Amish and Menonite communities… if they are not also obliterated. If, in this hypothetical catastrophe, that part of the world is destroyed, there goes a huge source of pre industrial knowledge and skill.

@davidbetterman Exactly.

@ChazMaz Yep, but I think it is not important to lose the way back.

@marinelife I agree 100%. In such a catastrophe, we would lose internet. I am also a sci-fi fan.

@Nullo Exactly. Considering today’s rather hostile international climate, precarious is a good word for it.

@njnyjobs The problem is it is not just what is taught in history that is required. What I learned in history hardly would have equipped me to even, for example, make that wagon wheel.

Arisztid's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I fully agree. It may not be that way now but I know that in the past Japan had people they considered to be natural treasures. Amongst them was someone who did calligraphy, another was a swordsmith.

@john65pennington History is history but if we lost our technological advances, where would we be without the past skills?

I am not understanding what you mean by referring to the wars. Could you explain?

CMaz's avatar

“Yep, but I think it is not important to lose the way back.”

Sure, until you need those skills.
Besides skills that take effort create character and keep us safe.

There is a great value in getting your hands dirty now and then.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There are certain inventions and technologies of old that will never make sense again – why do you need a wheel if you we float on air in the future. Certain other things can be reserved and written down in books as to how to do in case we need it later.

CMaz's avatar

“why do you need a wheel if you we float on air in the future.”

lol Because it is a bigger concept then just the wheel. The circle is universal.

The wheel leads us to round parts to make the thingie fly.

Jeruba's avatar

I definitely think so, @Arisztid, and have been saying so for many years. We are sorely dependent on things that plug in. This makes us profoundly vulnerable in three ways:

— to exhaustion or drastic reduction of the power grid as energy stores are depleted
— to loss or drastic reduction of power usage as we become unable to pay for it (individually or collectively)
— to interference with or loss of the power grid as a result of hostile action (and it’s not as if our vulnerability were a secret)

I firmly believe that as we lose the ability (forget how) to act on things directly, or even at one (mechanical) remove—perform computations, chart a course, cut wood, identify edible plants, not to mention constructing a shelter, baking our own bread, raising and harvesting a crop, and sewing our own clothing—our chances of survival sink exponentially. It is not hard for me to imagine a day when we are really, really sorry that we have lost not only newspapers but printing technology on a rotary press and find ourselves having to reinvent the broadside and the town crier.

Even if the technology remains in place, honestly, if you are out of work long enough and the economy gets bad enough (and no matter what they say, we are a long way from recovery and may not go back to our prior level of comfort within our lifetimes), which are you going to choose, TV or refrigeration? the Internet or light to see by? fuel to run your car or fuel to cook your food? a printed book or a Kindle?

I think those old and basic arts and skills must be preserved, and in a form that we can access from a state of diminished capability, which means in a human-readable medium without the need of an electricity-powered device. A book, not a videotape or DVD. If we don’t. we or our children could be forced to painstakingly reinvent what our grandparents knew only a few years ago.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz no, yeah I get that…but I mean the wheel for the wagon…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I regret the lack of consideration given to proper editing. At all times. Tools and technologies can be reinvented; we do that all the time. Language is tough. (Recall how we’ve languaged right here in fluther.)

CMaz's avatar

Nothing is ever, forever.

Forget the wheel. Eventually you will loose civilization.
I see it metaphorically and realistically.

I am glad I can fish and hunt and camp. I am also glad I have experienced it.
There may never be a need for a butter churn. Unless you need to make butter and you have no other way. Then you are butter less.

Preservation is needed. Even in research. Going back to the beginning can help us build a better wheel. Or round thing. :-)

Arisztid's avatar

@ChazMaz Agreed 100%.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir My hypthetical situation is that we have lost our technological prowess so we would not have cars, much less floating in air. I think that having skills like I am describing essential to be prepared in written form but, as is evidenced by that fellow in the video, there is much that could not be learned from a book.

@Jeruba You are bang on there. You mentioned many things that I did not that very well illustrate my point.

@ChazMaz Scientists understand that preservation is essential.

Factotum's avatar

Japan still declares some craftsmen to be Ningen-Kokuho. Crafts and craftsmen are chosen for aesthetic reasons rather than the ‘most handy after the apocalypse’ criterion. http://www.nihon-kogeikai.com/KOKUHO-TOGEI-E.html

I feel it is important to preserve old knowledge and practice old skills. I would oppose the creation of a Federal Museum for the Perpetual Production of the Buggy Whip with a staff of 100 unionized workers though.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I wholeheartedly agree with @Jeruba on this. We need to preserve the old techologies as a hedge against the future. This modern notion of throw-away goods will have to stop eventually.

In my childhood, if something broke on a car part or a radio, electric motor, pump, etc, it could be repaired or rebuilt. Now you are forced to throw it away because it’s not designed to be repaired. We are tossing in landfills items that are perfectly serviceable except for some minor failure that should be repairable. I live in a region that used to be dotted with shoe factories, now one cannot find a shoe repair shop.

I think that making wooden wheels may be a bit extreme, but it’s important to preserve basic skills like wood metal and leatherworking at least on a hobby level. When these throw-away goods disappear, someone should be around who knows how to make or repair things. I do my part; I know the skills of blacksmithing, woodworking and leatherworking. Given an ash tree and a side of leather, I can make a pair of snowshoes.

Some modern technology is great. Using a reverse-osmosis unit, we can produce maple syrup with about ¼ of the energy input than the old way of boiling down sap from scratch. We now concentrate the sap by a factor of three before it goes to the evaporator pans, saving about 15 cords of hardwood per year. Fortunately the RO unit is an industrial-grade product designed to be repaired and rebuilt. Same with our wind turbines; designed to be repaired.

Jeruba's avatar

In April of 1975 the militant Khmer Rouge troops entered the city of Phnom Penh after days of shelling and drove the residents—city dwellers, urban office workers, and members of the privileged class of Cambodia’s capital—out into the countryside to fend for themselves. They were told that houses would be waiting for them, but instead they found that they would have to construct their own shelters. People like us, who were used to living in warm homes, driving cars, going to the movies, and having the labor of supplying basic needs performed by the hands of others—were suddenly alone in the forest with, if they were lucky, a machete, and told to build their own homes. They had no more idea of how to construct a dwelling than most of us have, never mind how to secure wood without nails and how to thatch a roof.

It didn’t take a nuclear war or a global catastrophe to push them into that situation, just a military might turned against a civilian population who were evacuated from their homes and from the entire city by force. Until it happened, they didn’t imagine it either.

I would be just as helpless as they were, with this difference: I would have thought about it beforehand and realized it was possible.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It doesn’t always take a catastrophe or military action to remove one’s access to the technology. You could be forced to rely on the old ways of doing things if you are lost in a remote area or have an auto accident in a remote area, or even get lost in the woods while hiking or skiing. If you’re stranded in an area with no cell service, you’re pretty much relying on your personal skills to survive.

Jeruba's avatar

True, @Adirondackwannabe, but that situation is very narrow in scope (a few people, at most) and necessarily limited in time: either you’ll be found and taken back to civilization or you won’t survive. In either case you will not have to reinvent the manufacture of paper.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Does anyone realize today that you can run an internal combustion engine on wood? They were doing it in Europe 70 years ago, the war cut off petroleum supplies.

njnyjobs's avatar

@Jeruba I consider myself to be living in the midst of my lifetime right now… I consider myself fortunate enough to have been raised back in the days when we grew vegetables and raised chicken and pigs in the backyard. The vegetables and livestock were also a source of daily sustinence. We also fished in the ocean and rivers, hiked forests trails and camped under the moon and stars. I am very comfortable handling a machete as I would a Blackberry or a PC in my line of work…. meaning my life depends on these things.

I am fairly confident that I would be able to survive outside of the modern conveniences, but sadly my kids will have a hard time, if not at all.

So, yes, I believe that old school skills and ingenuity should be preserved and passed on.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Jeruba McGuyver could have reinvented paper, and in less than 20 minutes, too. Chuck Norris wouldn’t need paper.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land they must have had amazing fuel injectors. And valves.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Jeruba I agree with your point. But it would only take one act of nature, such as a hurricane or earthquake to remove all of the technology at least on a temporary basis from a large area. Think Katrina. Those people were on their own for a long time. They didn’t need all the old skills to survive, but they needed some of them. Look at how many perished waiting for help.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@CyanoticWasp They gassified wood chips using slow combustion in a vessel on board the vehicle and burned the CO gas, the engine mods were similar to propane conversions today.

galileogirl's avatar

As long as we preserve the written word we can do anything. There are always people who do things in more traditional ways because they enjoy them. As a species we were smart enough how to invent the basics once, we are smart enough to do it again.

Arisztid's avatar

@Factotum I am glad that Japan still does that. I do not think that there shoud be any sort of thing like you describe but I think that, in a society that values “new new NEW,” skills are being lost.

@stranger_in_a_strange_land What is produced now has planned obsolescence built in… products are actually designed to break down after a certain time and the consumer has to purchase a new one.

I think that all basic technology should be preserved because, including being functional technology back in the day, this is the basis of much of today’s technology.

I think that such as wagon wheel building is important to not be lost because such skills would be very helpful if our technology was lost. The guy in the video would be in very high demand.

@Jeruba Excellent example and observations. That very well proves my point.

@Adirondackwannabe True but what I am talking about is on a much larger scale.

@galileogirl I agree with you that, as long as we preserve the written word, we can relearn. However, with some actually knowing how to do it, it would take a lot less time to learn and cut the trial and error down drastically. A guy like the one in the video could supplement book learning with stuff that could not be taught in a book.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@galileogirl There was a good book written years ago called “Footfall” I think. It was about an asteroid striking earth and the survivors struggles to survive. There was an elderly professor, and his books were what he treasured most to rebuild the world.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

There are a lot of “tricks of the trade” that are hard to describe in books. You have to be shown how, try to do it and have your teacher correct you until you get it right. Very hard to learn blacksmithing or welding from a book (or even a video).

Jeruba's avatar

Exactly my point, @Adirondackwannabe. We are vulnerable in many ways. To the extent that we allow ourselves to be dependent on things that can be cut off in an instant, to that extent and to an even greater extent our survival is at risk. I say “even greater” because these things immediately compound. People who would normally help one another at at each other’s throats when resources are scarce.

Not that the human race wouldn’t survive. Of course it would, as long as there is breathable air somewhere, together with potable water and a patch of fertile soil. No doubt that thought will comfort me when the lights go out.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Arisztid I think your view of “planned obsolescence” is somewhat cynical and jaded (and short-sighted). Yes, products are designed to have “useful lives”. To plan for eternity with every product designed and built would price all producers out of the marketplace. The number of people would would want to buy a car that would last for a hundred years or more, for example, would be decreased by orders of magnitude when querying that subset of consumers for “who would be willing to pay what this car costs to engineer and produce?”

Extrapolate that to can openers, clothing, bed linens and most home furnishings… and homes themselves, more often than not… and you may have a better understanding of why “marketing” tells engineering what price point has to be met at production and sales.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Thoughts of finding you in the dark would comfort me when the lights go out, @Jeruba.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I can’t imagine how tough it would be for us to have to face that challenge tommorrow.

Symbeline's avatar

This is hard for me to answer because I don’t make technology, I just use it.

I mean I know that when I use the bathroom and then flush away the contents, they’re going away, but if you asked me to build a toilet, I wouldn’t know what to tell ya.

With that said, I couldn’t put together a computer anymore than I could build a wagon wheel.

I do agree with the initial premise however, that older forms of technology should be preserved, if anything, at least for historical purposes.
Would you believe that the Pear of Anguish, an apparent tool used for torture during the Spanish Inquisition is only theorized to have been used as such? The fact is, historians have no proof that this was ever used against a person, and experiments with it (Not on real people obviously.) has shown that it would have been highly inefficient.
People, therefore, have absolutely no idea what that thing’s purpose was.

And I attribute this to the fast growing need for adaptation and need for constant change, which might not always be a good thing.

(Do we HONESTLY need cell phones that open your garage door or things like Twitter? Tools that automatically water your plants? Are people so lazy that they don’t even wanna water their plants?)

I think it’s important to retain older knowledge, for many reasons. Like the example you gave, if modern technology fails one day, I wonder that people would even be able to light a fire to keep themselves warm.

They’d probably be set a genuine wagon wheel on fire as fodder.

Sad.

We are adaptable though, and as such, often throw to the side what has passed its use…on the other hand, many of those old inventions have served as blueprints and basis for what we use today. Again with torture instruments, would you believe that the washing machine originates from an apparatus originally used to wash the sins of witches and warlocks away haha.

In that respect, that is of technological evolution, I think we could manage somehow…my guess is, if we fail to retain older forms of technology, we’d improvise somehow, and what we would come up with, sans the novelty of modern shit, would most likely resemble older things of days gone by.
Homeless people use shopping carts, people still make their shelves out of cinder blocks and two by fours and so forth.

Or am I the only one.

So while I may doubt our aptitude to even keep warm, I probably don’t mean that much, we’ll do what we can even if we have no idea that the origins of the guillotine came from a tool originally designed to clean clothing.

What saddens me about it is the complete loss or craftsmanship, art and history. :/
But since was that ever important in a world of speed and necessity amirite.

To this day, I still keep an old, perfectly serviceable pendulum clock in my kitchen.

I don’t use it for now, and while I have no idea how it works or how to make one, if modern technology goes ass over, I’ll at leas be able to use it to tell what time it is.

I’m slightly biased maybe, because I don’t even know how to set the time on a cellular phone properly, anyways.

O_o

Also I apologize for all the references to torture instruments form the dark ages, but they were significant pieces of technology and happen to be an interest of mine, so I couldn’t help but to use them to attempt and exemplify some points.

wilma's avatar

I am grateful for my indoor plumbing, but I know how to build an outhouse if I have to.
I think that would be third on my list after finding food and building a shelter.
I feel fortunate that I too grew up in an era and area, when and where things were a bit more close to nature.
Ggod question @Arisztid

njnyjobs's avatar

@Jeruba you need not envision a catastrophe to know or witness people’s survival skills under harsh environments. Just take a trip to some of the Third World nations and you will see that life goes on for them even without the technological advances that the Western World have been enjoying for decades. You’ll see farms are tilled with bare hands along a curved-out mountainside. or aided by water buffalo

People only become vulnerable to forces unfamiliar to them and become extra paranoid when faced with insurmountable threat to their well-being. A lesson in survival skills may very well be a good addition to anyone’s educational curriculum.

Arisztid's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Planned obsolescence is a fact. I first heard the term regarding cars when I was in community college going to school to be an auto mechanic in the 80’s.

“Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence[1] is the process of a product becoming obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer.[1] Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the product fails and the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence.”
Yes, that was the lazy way…it is Wiki

“Whether it’s cars, refrigerators, entertainment systems or kitchen appliances; planned obsolescence is now the norm instead of the exception. Planned obsolescence has become so much a part of our consumption, that manufacturers aren’t so concerned about you switching to another brand as it’s now generally accepted “stuff ain’t built like it use to be”. They know the line and they stay just inside it.”

… can be found at this link . Here is another link and I could flood the page with links about it.

@Adirondackwannabe That is a scary thought.

@Symbeline I agree that history should be preserved for its own sake. Personally I would like these skills to be preserved if only for historical purposes but I also see practicality in preserving them.

You make an excellent point with the torture device. I also like your discussion of technological evolution.

You said: “What saddens me about it is the complete loss or craftsmanship, art and history. :/ ”

I say “amen” to that.

@wilma Unfortunately I do not have the skills to survive if we lost our technology. Thankyou for the compliment on my question. :)

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I agree that in the face of a rapid change in circumstances, we might find ourselves dispossessed of our access to knowledge of how many basic survival critical tasks are done without electrical appliances and computerized devices.

Essential skills of previous generations are getting lost if they have no already been totally lost.
We need these skills maintained and be need clear documentation in human-readable form to preserve them. We need serious efforts to archive this knowledge. Our museums and libraries still contain such materials buy our ability to access them may be seriously compromised by total dependence on high-tech methods of information organization and storage. There are no current card catalogues and printed inventories of our holding that would survive drastic changes in our circumstances.

Jeruba's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence, the card catalogue is an excellent example of another grievous loss, one that gives me pain on many levels, and perhaps aesthetic first of all.

Nullo's avatar

Old tools are the best! Needs no charging, and you can pass ‘em on to your grandkids.

Arisztid's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence I agree with you that a lot of skills from previous generations have been lost or are on their way to being lost but not all.

I agree with you and @Jeruba that the loss of card categorization in libraries is a very bad thing. If a particularly devastating catastrophe was to occur, a lot of information would be lost to us due to the dependence on electronics.

I am also displeased that, more and more, books and journals are written only on electronic media.

@Nullo While I agree that tools from the past should be passed down, I would not go as far to say that all of the old is always better than the new. Of course, I am saying that while sitting in a home where I am surrounded by antiques (that is my flickr with part of my collection of antiques).

———————-
I am saddened that the emphasis today is that new is always better than old.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t even remember phone numbers anymore. If the apocalypse comes, I only know 3 numbers.

Arisztid's avatar

@tinyfaery I do not even remember my anniversary (I have brain damage). Luckily my wife is very understanding. :P

TexasDude's avatar

@tinyfaery, I don’t know if 911 would be much help if the SHTF.

HungryGuy's avatar

I guess if we lost our technology, the world will be conquered by the Amish…

Symbeline's avatar

@Arisztid I am saddened that the emphasis today is that new is always better than old.

This is something I forgot to really address, and I agree. Sure a lot of it is useful, but not always “better” so to speak, especially in a society where making profit is the first concern over convenience and innovation.

Arisztid's avatar

@HungryGuy I would think that the Menonites would have a better chance of surviving if technology and electricity vanished. They are stricter than the Amish. The Amish and Menonites would become invaluable resources for survival.

I do not know, however, if even they have all of the old technologies.

@Symbeline It is sad that people toss things just because they are old or because they do not meet the latest fad.

galileogirl's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Almost every skill I have learned was by picking up a book. The last time I had a yard I decided to grow some produce. I learned how to prepare the soil from an article. how to plant from the seed packets. I got a bumper crop in a slightly messy garden.

I learned how to cut up a chicken and make chicken and dumplings at 12 from a book, By 16 I was shopping and cooking for the family 5 nites/wk

I taught myself to sew, knit, crochet, quilt and braid rugs.

People can teach and share any skill and the beauty is that everyone doesn’t have to do everything. Also, starting over we wouldn’t need most things considered essential. No planes. trucks or 3000 lb cars, so the current roads would last decades. Homes would be smaller and more efficient with one heat source for cooking and heating.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Arisztid my response regarding planned obsolescence was not as well-written as it may have been. My point was that nearly all components are engineered, specified and produced (by manufacturers from around the world, even for consumer goods from manufacturer “XYZ”) to be as cheaply made as possible and still fulfill the purpose. And XYZ Company has a pretty good idea of how long their consumer item should last, including how many use cycles by the consumer, and the parts are built to meet that level of utility, and not much more. Any more and the manufacturer would be throwing away money on a component that they’re overpaying for. (Some components, fasteners like nuts and bolts, for example, have over-abundant strength already built in, so those will usually outlast the products that they’re installed into anyway.)

But what good is it to put an engine that’s good for a million miles into a car body that’s worth not much more than a quarter-million, tops, and has to compete in the market place with gaudy junk not even worth half that? The best defense against shoddy products is an educated consumer; start buying better products (like the US took to Japanese cars in the 1980s, for example) and you drive the whole market to improve.

Capitalism really does work.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@galileogirl A great many skills can be learned from books. Some aspects can be very difficult though. In blacksmithing getting the temperature right for working various alloys and judging the proper quenching by subtle color changes has to be learned firsthand from a competant teacher. Steam-bending of wood involves a judgement by feel of when the wood is ready to bend. Skills like these have to be handed down the generations. I learned to cook the same way you did, modern cookbooks use exact measures, temperatures and times. Even so, there are techniques best learned by observation and practice under a skilled teacher.

CMaz's avatar

“the card catalogue”

I wish libraries would bring that back.

galileogirl's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land But those things have not died out completely and never will.

njnyjobs's avatar

This is why we should all support the scouting movement.

Axemusica's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I’ve been following this thread under the radar and I always wanted to Blacksmith as a hobby. I just don’t know anything first hand about going about doing it.

Nullo's avatar

@Axemusica
Look up your local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms. They may have information about a blacksmith in the area that can teach you.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Axemusica You can learn a lot about blacksmithing from books, but many aspects have to be taught F2F. A lot of details such as properly firing the forge, metal identification, striking technique and tempering methods are best learned from an instructor.

Axemusica's avatar

@Nullo that site is confusing.

@stranger_in_a_strange_land yea, but how much would a forge and anvil and all those tools and stuff cost? Would it even be possible to have such items?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Axemusica a lot of the tools are best bought second-hand, tons of stuff out there. You can make your own forge, the blower get second-hand. Depending on how good a scavenger you are, $1000 on up.

Nullo's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land
There’s an old Popular Mechanics that gives you plans for making your own forge out of a metal sink and a shop vac.

mattbrowne's avatar

Oh, yes. There might be a time in your life when civilization is out of reach (for a while) for example after a major natural disaster.

But even before disaster strikes old skills can save your life. In 2004 the “primitive” people on the Nicobar islands all reached higher ground in time before the devastating tsunami hit. Many tourists got their video camera and said: Honey, look the ocean has just disappeared.

Arisztid's avatar

@mattbrowne I remember that. The just calmly filmed it when the people who knew what was happening got the hell out.

Mikelbf2000's avatar

I say old technology and skills should still be at least studied. They may come in handy some day.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

There are many good references on older technologies; the Foxfire series of about 30 years ago and Kurt Saxons books and “The Survivor” periodicals being among the best. The first decades worth of The Mother Earch News (before they went glossy and PC under new ownership) is also a gold mine. Ken and Barbara Kern’s “The Owner Built Homestead” and Helen and Scott Nearing’s “Good Life” series are standards of the “back to the land” movement. Brown’s “Alcohol Fuel Cookbook” is an excellent guide (somewhat dated), likewise there are several books on producing biodiesel on a small-scale basis. Henry Ford designed the carburetor of the Model T to use either gasoline or alcohol, since in 1908 he wasn’t sure what the future fuel source would be.

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