Up Your Tiny House Game with Stone Age Hacks

Bare feet, bare hands, and bare chest – if it weren’t for the cargo shorts and the brief sound of a plane overhead, we’d swear the video below was footage that slipped through a time warp. No Arduinos, no CNC or 3D anything, but if you doubt that our Stone Age ancestors were hackers, watch what [PrimitiveTechnology] goes through while building a tile-roofed hut with no modern tools.

The first thing we’ll point out is that [PrimitiveTechnology] is not attempting to be (pre-)historically accurate. He borrows technology from different epochs in human history for his build – tiled roofs didn’t show up until about 5,000 years ago, by which time his stone celt axe would have been obsolete. But the point of the primitive technology hobby is to build something without using any modern technology. If you need a fire, you use a fire bow; if you need an axe, shape a rock. And his 102 day build log details every step of the way. It’s fascinating to watch logs, mud, saplings, rocks and clay come together into a surprisingly cozy structure. Especially awesome if a bit anachronistic is the underfloor central heating system, which could turn the hut into a lovely sauna.

Primitive technology looks like a fascinating hobby with a lot to teach us about how we got to now. But if you’re not into grubbing in the mud, you could always 3D print a clay hut. We’re not sure building an enormous delta-bot is any easier, though.

Thanks to [Rockyd] for the tip.

63 thoughts on “Up Your Tiny House Game with Stone Age Hacks

  1. This guys videos are great, it is well worth throwing some funds his way to film some more of them, I wouldn’t want to see them “directed” though he does fine on his own, he just needs more funds.

    I can’t wait until he makes it as far as the iron age, LOL.

    1. Ah the iron age wasn’t that hot, I mean the Inca and Aztec were stone age and had quite a high culture (well except for the human sacrifice, but hey you can’t have everything.)

      1. They executed a similar number of people as some so-called modern Christian countries do today. Over 15,000 years of history there wasn’t actually a very large accumulation of evidence that it was that regular a practice. The Roman Empire was Iron age and they made executing people into a sport.

        But that has nothing to do with my point, that he is progressing through fundamental skills and it would be interesting if he takes the ceramics side of things further, into glass making and metal smelting. It is a pet interest of mine, how far could you develop things if you basically started with nothing but the natural world around you and the knowledge in your head.

        1. For glass and metal, he would need to be sourcing materials far and wide. Probably not something you can do solo while still trying to keep a farm and a house, because you have the problem of feeding yourself.

          You can’t turn just any old dirt into glass, although you could possibly glaze it.

          If there’s a glacial bog lake, you can find bog iron by trawling with a net. The acidic conditions basically reduce iron dissolved in the water into lumps which collect at the bottom, which is one of the ways in which it was first discovered. You cook the lumps and sponge iron comes out – then you can start beating it into tools.

          1. He is in Northern Queensland, they have vast amounts of pure white sand on some beaches and iron oxide deposits too. I’d have to research it but the local plants should have one that is a good source of sodium compounds for glass making flux. Sure a bit of travel would be required but not more than the sort of foot traffic trading routes that did exist there for thousands of years. The only thing the Neolithic people of Australia lacked was to sort of knowledge that comes from having contact with other civilisations and a way of recording and transferring information better than verbal memory.

          2. Reducing iron from oxide is more difficult than making it out of bog iron, because the latter is already reduced and just needs to be melted and the organic materials burned away. Same as with iron found in meteorites – there’s clumps of it already in the mix.

            The iron oxide needs a kind of pyrolysis process where you burn coal with the oxide with reduced air intake at a very high temperature to make CO which reduces the iron. Otherwise you get nothing but a bunch of glassified rust.

          3. True, but don’t forget that the iron oxide there is very high quality, so rich in fact that there is an island call Magnetic Island. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_Island I suspect there are some very large and very old metalic meteor deposits in that area. Mostly decomposed to oxides but still very rich in iron. And or very old “bog iron” that has become https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironstone All you need is a bit of limestone for the flux. This is a great video about it, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuCnZClWwpQ

      2. It is thought that executions in Europe were ~100x per capita annually higher than human sacrifice in the new world. Of course the heathens were in dire need of the civilizing customs of the west…

    1. You underestimate what it takes.

      I just built a 160sq foot cabin on my ranch. It took myself and a helper 3 months of weekends. That is not even finished, that is just the structure. I still have to build out the interior.

      It is a lot of work, but I have enjoyed it.

    1. Well, seeing as the Roman hypocaust was invented somewhen around 100BC… even though the technology needed is no different, the *idea* is an anachronism, being from a couple (more) thousand years later on than most of the rest of the build.

        1. Well, up until it breaks down. Then it’s the worst kind of heating.

          Then there’s also down-radiating ceiling heaters which combine with underfloor heating by making the tops of furniture and the walls radiate with infrared, so you’re basically surrounded by warmth.

        2. Very good way to kill oneself. If the fire burns hot and fuel rich, it produces quite a bit of carbon monoxide. Now if there is a leak somewhere, you basically fill your house with carbon monoxide. Since it is odorless, you won’t smell anything until you drift away and die.

          1. In ancient times they had high ceilings with vents/open windows high up under the eaves so the warm floor created a convection effect. This resulted in warm dry living spaces that were well ventilated, even with that cool air infiltration the occupants were comfortable due to radiant heating from the floor. Warm feet, cool head. A well made Roman Villa was a remarkably liveable home, very modern in many ways.

  2. It is a testament to his skills that he has very little cuts, bruises etc… on his hands and legs.

    It was a pleasure to watch a truly skilled person go about their activities in peace.

  3. For some reason this reminds me of an old TV show from the 70’s and 80’s called “Hands” where everything had to be made using hand – silver chalices, sharpening stones, coaches/buggy’s, crystal glass, baskets, dressers, ….
    ( There were only 37 of them recorded @ http://hands.ie/ ) At least one of them has leaked onto youtube:


      1. I dont know about that. Even concrete is no guarantee, small cracks as it shrinks is enough to let them through. Modern chemical free houses have to use a very fine stainless mesh as a barrier.

        1. In a “rustic” design like his you could just get away with charing the entire surface of the wood after it is shaped. You can then soak it in borax (sodium borate) that is about as toxic as table salt. Not that you can get natural borax where he is building his huts, which is a very long walk from the Mojave Desert in California.

          1. He can try using tar, but I wonder if there are trees that containt tar nearby. And collecting all that wood with a stone axe is going to be a pain in the ass anyway.

          2. It’s not about the wood. Termites will actually burrow in the mud walls and make it their home.

            If you look at how termites live, they build mud pillars by cementing pieces of dirt with their saliva. Then they carry in pieces of leaves and other detritus and start to grow fungi on them. A mud wall is just half the job done.

          3. Borax will poison the nest as it stops the fungus growing and the nest starves to death. Cedar oil will make the queen/s infertile, actually it is toxic to most insects but does not humans. The need to protect the wood is to maintain it’s structural integrity. The termites will leave you alone if there is nothing there that they want to use to grow their food.

  4. I love this video, and kudos to this guy for being awesome, but I seriously doubt whether that is a water-tight roof. I’m pretty sure the overlap between the tiles is not enough to cover all the gaps.

  5. Lovely video, but the mud walls will be washed by the first rain who perhaps will go trough the roof also (the tiles are not tight packed leaving plenty of space for the water).
    in my point of view it would be better for the walls to be made from a wooden frame with a double net made from bark (or what is he using for tying the posts) to act like rebar for the mud.
    Also i think that having the fire gases under floor but no “windows” to let them out in case of leaking is not a good idea.
    And inspired from igloos, the bed should be higher so the cold air will go to the lower part of the hut.
    A hazard is the hole he dug for the mud for the walls. Right in front of the door.
    Over all is a nice build, but today the safety requires more attention for the details and using a helmet in case of roof collapse.

    1. I doubt the place is airtight. For the heating, you just need a chimney at the other end from the fire, higher up than the fire itself. You should be able to see the airflow, watch the smoke and flame from the fire. It’s doubtful you’d get CO poisoning in a hand-made shack you made with a stone axe.

      Most CO poisoning happens in winter, when people in badly-made houses seal up all the windows to keep out draughts.

      1. Round houses actually take more skill. The math around making a dodecagon or better out of board dimensions is pretty advanced algebraic geometry. Then you have to have tools to accurately cut all those angles. Modern framing with basic angles and slopes is like math for eleven year olds..

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