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Monday, May 12, 2014

Stone knife



I don't remember where I head this tale, or even if it's supposed to be true.

An old Australian aboriginal man is met by white foreigners on the beach. He'd never seen white people before. The visitors give the old man a steel knife. He was impressed by its sharpness, how it held an edge, and how strong it was. In spite of its obvious superiority to his stone knife, he refused the gift. The aboriginal man knew how to make a stone knife. He did not know how to make a steel one. The aborigine not want something he knew nothing about.

It was very unlikely the white visitors could build a steel knife either. They were the beneficiaries of a long line of interconnected processes overseen by an army of skilled people. That's modern life. Some hard core primitive skills people could perhaps duplicate the old aboriginal tool kit, but they are a tiny fraction of the population.

Many years ago, while staying at dad's hunting camp, a friend and myself tried to build a crossbow. Our tools were an ax and a knife. We had modern cordage, saving us from having to make our own. We wouldn't be at camp long enough to gather fibers and twist our own rope. After several days work we had a sort of functional crossbow. While it would throw a bolt, it was too underpowered and inaccurate to be more than a toy.

Years later, my friend went on to build fully functional replicas of medieval crossbows. While intended for reenactments, they are accurate and deadly. All it took was years of research, practice, and a well stocked modern workshop with power tools. If he had to, I bet he could put together a good crossbow with medieval tools. Still, even a medieval toolkit is a long ways from the tools needed to build a stone knife.

Should we reject anything more complicated than a stone knife? That's not really practical, nor is it possible to try and reproduce complex technologies from scratch. We can pick and choose technologies that are more easily maintained that others. We might not know how to build a knife from raw iron ore, but we can keep it sharp and rust free.

-Sixbears

10 comments:

  1. Common sense and compromise can go a long way in making life easier.

    ReplyDelete
  2. my home libary has over several hundred various books dealing with the primitive to the space age

    like my shop, can make a stone knife or a ceramic sharp razor version

    it takes skills combined with the right information and materials to achieve the objective required

    or you just work with what you got and accept the limitations of what you can produce

    and of note, stone knives can be sharper than 440 steel blades

    Wildflower

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Information and skills give us options. Having the right materials doesn't hurt either.

      Of course, the old man could keep the stone knife as it did the job just fine.

      Delete
  3. I think of myself as a Progressive Luddite and take advantage of modern technologies while living a back to basics life...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Progressive Luddite - I like it!

      I'll take a solar electric light over a tallow candle any day, if given the choice.

      Delete
  4. A knife is a great tool. It can be used for a lot of things and I always carry one in my pocket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the most basic and most useful of tools.

      Delete
  5. Funny how many of our modern tools are improvements over much older ones. Of course, the skill of the user has a lot to do with how useful a tool is!

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    Replies
    1. I can picture some guy with a high tech rifle getting snuck up on and clobbered by a sneaky guy with a stone ax.

      Delete