Primitive Technology


Bootstrapping tools

You can’t learn how to make friction fire by reading a book. Nor can you learn how to knap a stone edge from diagrams on a page. But you can learn what there is to learn. These two remarkable books collect what is known about primitive tool making skills. Both are compendiums of a research-intensive newsletter published by the Society of Primitive Technology. The depth of their investigations and re-discoveries are extraordinary. Using a recursive chain of simpler tools making the more complex, modern enthusiasts can create artifacts of astounding complexity and beauty entirely by hand. These hefty tomes collect recipes for stone-tool-made compound bows, razor sharp knives, bark canteens, pump drills and reed boats. I get more than survival skills from them; they are the first lessons in material hacking.

— KK

Primitive Technology: A book of Earth Skills
Edited by David Wescott
1999, 248 pages
Available from Amazon

Primitive Technology II: Ancestral Skills
Edited by David Westcott
2001, 248 pages
Available from Amazon



Fire By Friction Anywhere
Making fire by friction is a deceptively easy process once the principles are understood and the technique well practiced. It's a trip to watch a master walk over to a bush, snap off a twig and begin rubbing it on a log until smoke begins to rise from the resulting trough. Or a straight twig is cut, roughly straightened, and spun between the palms, while resting on a softwood hearth to create that magic spark. Or better yet, splitting a section of bamboo, scraping off the lacquered layer to be used as tinder, creating a notch with a slice of rock, and then rubbing the notch along the edge of the bamboo until the tinder ignites.

Tools of the trade - hearth, spindle, and blisters


The primary construction crew on the finished frame. Built with homemade hand tools.

The house was commissioned by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife for the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site, 6 miles south of Alta, Texas. It has withstood a tornado and 10 years of exposure to the elements and vandals, however, it [was] scheduled to be burned this spring (1994).

The Caddoan house reconstruction conducted in Texas by Scooter Cheatham followed closely the methods of the past. The structure was duplicated from the post molds of Domicile #10 at the Davis Site. 3 mounds of a large Confederated Caddoan Center dating back to the 8-12th century were excavated here. The house was 25' in diameter, 30' high and contained 4 interior living levels. Tools for the reconstruction were prepared beginning in September, harvesting of the thatch took over two weeks in October, the poles cut, peeled and placed in position by the 1st of November, and the final touches were being added shortly before Christmas day.

Pitch [glue] sticks ready for just about any job.