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Primitive Technology: Man Builds Tile-Roofed Hut Entirely by Hand, Deep in the Forest

Imagine dropping a man into the middle of the wilderness with nothing but the shorts he’s wearing. Then imagine coming back in three months to find a small house complete with tiled roof and heated underfloor.

Using only his hands and materials found entirely on-site, this man built a sturdy four-walled, tile-roofed hut complete with a heated floor.

That’s right, he started with nothing but his own two hands – not even a pocketknife – and a capacity for thinking creatively about the materials directly at hand.

This project is utterly amazing and inspiring and shows what can be done with absolutely no prefabricated tools of any kind.

He made an axe from stone and wood to chop down trees for the shelter. He made roof tiles from clay dug from the earth around the site. He made the walls from clay and stone.

He made everything he needed from what was immediately at hand.

In his blog, Primitive Technology, he discusses the process in more depth and detail.

This has been my most ambitious primitive project yet and was motivated by the scarcity of permanent roofing materials in this location. Here, palm thatch decays quickly due to the humidity and insects. Having some experience in making pottery I wondered if roof tiles could feasibly be made to get around these problems. Another advantage of a tiled is that it is fire proof. A wood fired, underfloor heating system was installed for cold weather. A substantial wall of mud and stone were built under the finished roof. It should be obvious that this is not a survival shelter but a project used to develop primitive technological skills.

The most interesting aspect of this build, and what really sets it apart from his previous primitive shelter projects, is how he went about manufacturing hundreds of uniform roofing tiles. Not only did he fashion consistent molds from split strips of cane, but he built a very impressive chimney kiln with which to fire the tiles.

Over 450 tiles were fashioned and fired to cover the roof beams of the small shelter. His clay kiln produced heat of such intensity that the tiles occasionally glowed bright orange and yellow.

He wrote; “Some days the wind blew into the kiln and raised the temperature to the point where the some tiles started to soften and sag with some minerals beginning to melt out of them. These tiles were like stone in hardness.”

That’s incredible.

The entire project took 102 days to complete, with a rain delay interruption of 36 days in the middle of the build.

He summed up the impressive project with a rather understated, even mundane assessment: “The finished structure is a little dark and needs to be lit using resin fuelled lamps. In future I may consider windows for better lighting. All in all it is a good, solid, fireproof structure that will not decay any time soon.”

That is an incredible statement – incredible for how unassuming and reserved it is. The finished shelter is, in my humble opinion, an absolute marvel of human ingenuity and ability. What do you think?

NEXT: Dick Proenneke Was Bushcraft Before Bushcraft Was Cool

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Primitive Technology: Man Builds Tile-Roofed Hut Entirely by Hand, Deep in the Forest