Vol. 01: Heirloom Technology

Finding the technology of the future from the forgotten ideas of the past.

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Book List

Where to start? Since it's all about passing on things of value, how about getting your kids into it? The following were my favorites growing up. Some of the books are out of print. To find out-of-print books, search on abe.com, amazon.com, ebay.com, and at libraries. To find other sources, check out alexa.com, a web information service.

  • Jack-Knife Cookery, by James Austin Wilder
    Intended for children. The cutest little book ever made. How to cook without utensils and camp without carrying much. Maybe the first book on ultralight camping. The author traveled all over the world studying traditional techniques. Then he tested them with his scout troop in Hawaii for years before writing this book. So the instructions are clear, easy to follow, and everything works. Full of cute, easy-to-understand line drawings. A lighthearted tome that will help you find the deserted island in your backyard.

  • Wildwood Wisdom, by Ellsworth Jaeger
    Also intended for children. Similar to the above but much thicker. Traditional regional, Eskimo and Indian technology for young campers. Especially good for making your own winter clothing. Judging from what modern Eskimos wear, the mittens and boots are still better than anything you can buy. Profusely illustrated.

  • The American Boys Handy Book: What to do and How to Do it, by Daniel C. Beard
    A bestseller from 1882, beautifully illustrated and very appealing. From age 10 on, I spent years building projects from this book. My "Man Friday Raft" log raft sank immediately. My "Tom Thumb Iceboat" failed to move at all. I concluded that boys a hundred years ago were far more skilled than I. Now that I'm almost 40, it's obvious that those masterful boys from the book must have had a lot of help from parents and grandparents. Just be aware that some of the drawings are wrong and some important information is ommitted. If you'd grown up in the 1840s around rafts and ice boats, you'd probably find it easier to fill in the blanks than I did. That said, you must have this book, and most public libraries already do.

  • The Foxfire Book: Hog dressing, log-cabin building, snake lore, mountain crafts and food, and other affairs of plain living, edited by Eliot Wigginton
    Produced by high-school students in Appalachian Georgia. They interview their relatives and neighbors to document traditional crafts, stories, and lore. My parents gave me the book for Christmas. I immediately saw what project I wanted to do. So my mom drove me out to a friend's farm to get a load of manure to make gunpowder. After leaching out the nitrates, I was in too much of a hurry to evaporate the water. I overheated the crystals, and whoosh! A big mushroom cloud, as the mess went off all at once. The Foxfire Project is a giant success story: the kids learn academic skills and to value their heritage; the old people get to pass on their wealth of wisdom; and the rest of us get access to low-impact technology that's stood the test of time. Everything is good about the Foxfire Project. Start one in your village.

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