recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I’m John Plant and I run the Primitive Technology YouTube Channel - my new book ‘Primitive Technology’ is out now! AMA

55
questions
35,226
score
November 1st 2019
interview date
Flegolaz

hello John. I love to watch your videos. keep it up, they are awesome. my questions: how many huts have you already built? how long do you use them each time? Are they close to each other? Can you create a map, where the huts are, where the kilns are and where the sweet potato fields are? this would be very interesting to see.

ps: I have already ordered your book, fortunately it has been translated into German.


JohnPlant

So many hut's I've lost count. Very few huts exist as they all have wooden components that get eaten by termites here. I need to make shelters from permanent materials (e.g. stone, ceramic only- no wood). Right now it's just the last hut I built and a really dilapidated thatched hut. There are yams where the sweet potatoes were now but I'll probably build a shelter there soon. I have 2 kilns, 2 charcoal makers and a natural draft furnace made from clay bricks at this stage, clustered together on the same side of the creek bank. Thanks for ordering the book much appreciated.

vb-xb-eb-elxr6

Hey Champion. First, love the videos. (And loved them even more when I figured out you had captions)

You are truly living out my childhood dream of building the ultimate cubby house. And as someone who had several attempts of making bows out of all sorts of crap. Makes that one episode my favorite. So thank you for that.

Question, On average, how many days in a month would you spend in the bush. It seems the everything you do is very labor intensive. And it looks like you would almost have to be there 24\7 for get any results.

Cheers again mate. Can't wait for the book. (P.S. are you going to narrate the audiobook? Ha!)


JohnPlant

Almost everyday I spend at the huts. There's always something to do. Just do a bit each day and you'll get your projects done. Bow making as hard to learn, the one on the channel was the 3rd one I tried till I got the design right. Thanks.

BrooksWasHere1

Hey man, love the channel! You make it look easy. Do you ever get injuries? I never notice bandages. I know if it were me and I was in the bush with no shirt or shoes I'd be all sorts of cut up.


JohnPlant

I have many cuts and cracks on my feet. Sometimes I rest for a day for them to heal. I've nearly injured my eyes breaking up wood by smashing it over rocks * always look away/close eyes when breaking wood like this*. Other than that just minor cuts bruises and scrapes but nothing serious. I got really sick when I was making the water hammer video and had a very high fever, probably from standing in water with dead animals in it all day. But it's generally a safe hobby, I haven't died once yet and hope to keep up this record.

[deleted]

I’m probably a little late to the party, but finally an AMA from someone I actually care about talking to!

I’ve watched all of your videos (multiple times), find them unbelievably relaxing, and I’m unbelievably jealous that you have that land to work on!

Also read your blog, it’s a disused plantation right?

How do you feel about all the people who have copied your style of videos?

I think you should start up a company offering primitive survival weekends, where people have to build their own shelter and stuff. I’m in the U.K. and I have looked at this type of thing but it’s usually basic bushcraft and I don’t need help building a fire lol.

Edit: put a link to your book? I’m going to buy that shit for myself this Christmas!!


JohnPlant

Yes, it used to be a cane farm.

It's a free country (world) so they are allowed to. Some fake their videos, others copy my inventions but a few are genuine and clever.

I think that's a great idea, this is a need that should be adressed. Maybe a small fee could alow people access to land- maybe a service that links people with land to people who want to practice it? UK link for book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Primitive-Technology-complete-making-scratch/dp/1529104599/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=primitive+technology&qid=1572625050&s=books&sr=1-1

bodenlosedosenhose

First off I really love your content!

Do you have a job? If yes: Does it have something to do with primitive technology and history?

If not: Would you want to do primitive technology for a living if you could?

And kinda silly but can you speak?


JohnPlant

Thanks Glad you like it. I had a job as a lawn mowing contractor (self employed) before I started the channel. But since starting the channel I work full time on it. Primitive technology is my job now. Yes, I can speak but just don't for the videos. Originally it was out of laziness in not putting narration in the videos but then the silent format became popular so I kept it that way.

benin0z

G'day John, Congratulations on the book launch. Have watched your videos multiple times in fascination. Question - would you ever consider hosting bushcrafting days/tours? My wife has always wanted to go up to Queensland and could kill 2 birds with one stone learning first hand all you do


JohnPlant

Yes, I have considered it but worry about public liability. I think there is potential for a primitive technology school though. Come to Queensland anyway, the weathers great and there's lots to see and do. I should make a deal with the tourism industry here, much potential for overseas interest in PT.

Flegolaz

What about your ironmaking project? are you going to make a video again on this?


JohnPlant

Yes, I'm working on it. Built two different furnaces at home and made iron prills from both (just tested one this Monday). I'm confident I can do it but the challenge is in making enough prills to melt together in a mold, making progress though. I made a community post last year of a picture of some iron prills I melted together in a small crucible. scroll down to the 4th and 5th last posts here to see the pictures: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL3JXZSzSm8AlZyD3nQdBA/community?view_as=subscriber

kingbovril

Hey John, huge fan of your channel and I’ve been watching since you started.

I’ve always wondered if you learned your survival skills from indigenous peoples or from any cultures specifically? I saw above that you do most of your research online but am still curious if there are survival skills from any one culture that you’ve adopted in particular.

Also, as a bowyer myself I really enjoyed your bow video. Very impressive you were able to make a bow with the tools you had, most people have no idea how hard it is to follow a single growth ring!


JohnPlant

Aboriginals lived here so I use their poison leeching technique to process plants into food. But for other things it's all over the world. Africa and Central America influence me a lot. Yes, I just leave the bark on the back of the bow, never cut into it or it might break. I found splitting the stave to be easier in the wild than carving it from the start.

Venting_Oreos

Hey John, I love what you do. It takes a lot of dedication to continuously experiment and go out everyday.

Anyway, from what I understand the projects you do are quite labour-intensive and can take several months and several days at the project locations. My question is, do you bring any food and water with you from home or is food and water readily available onsite?


JohnPlant

It's close to home so I go back and get food and water there thanks.

whathappenedwas

I love your content!!!

Wondering where you get your ideas from? As in, how'd you learn all these methods, and where/do you look for new ones?

Do you replant what you chop down?

Do you ever wear shoes?


JohnPlant

I get them from whatever interests me at the time, books or internet usually. Internet research plus trial and error. No, the forest just grows back from the leaf litter and seeds because it's so hot and wet here. No, never wear shoes in the bush. Thanks, glad you like it.

TDX

G'Day from Brissy, and congrats on the book! Sorry I have a few questions:
- Do you stay out there the whole time, or do you head home most nights?
- Did you get ripped from the labour involved in your projects, or do you have a gym membership?
- Do you plan on making any more overseas visits to show how other cultures get it done?


JohnPlant

Go home most nights. Do weights in the garage, gym is a waste of money Not at this stage. Thanks.

krink85

Human waste is one of the things that many forget to account for when doing this type of thing. What do you do to remove or safely contain the inevitable number 2 that comes up while you are out in the bush?

Also thanks for the awesome content on YouTube! I would love to do what you do but I don’t have the land or time. So for now I will live vicariously through you!!!!


JohnPlant

I never need to as it's very close to home. When I'm far out in the bush just dig a hole and cover it afterwards, clean dry leaf as toilet paper (NOT STINGING TREE!- select wisely). Urine is good on a pile of leaves- use leaves for garden compost the following year and they will have plenty of NPK fertiliser. Urine also makes saltpeter for gunpowder. Can't show this stuff on YouTube, it would get demonetized or restricted. Cody's lab had a great video on making gunpowder from urine and it's completely gone now.

William__White

I've been trying to get here for an hour now. Your ama just now showed up. Sorry. I really enjoy watching your channel.

One question. How close are you to getting enough iron to make a small knife or whatever you are planning on making?


JohnPlant

Still working on it. Made a furnace at home and made some iron this week. Need to replicate it in the wild and then create the tool there. Thanks.

Heineken94

Hey John, thanks for the Ama.

Do you ever get fomo?

Is there a Mrs Plant in the picture? If not, what are your thoughts on this isolation?


JohnPlant

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is real but I've never been bothered by it too much. I have a girl friend now but didn't for a long time. I also tend to get more done when not socializing. Some people deal ok with isolation, others really dislike being alone.

ReasonablyBadass

What was the greatest "Aha!" effect you had so far?


JohnPlant

The invention of the forge blower that used a spindle that could be spun one way and then another to force air into the furnace. The AHA was in realizing it doesn't matter which way the impeller spun it would always fan air into the furnace, thus the hand drill or cord drill could be used to apply the high RPM needed for the fan. No other bush crafter would have come up with this.

HorseyToPointyGuySix

Hey John, congrats on all the success! I'm an avid bushcrafter so I've been into your videos for a while. My questions, has any random person ever stumbled into your camp? Has your camp ever been vandalised?


JohnPlant

Some people come across them but never any vandals. Mostly pig hunters.

Spitfiredrgn

Hey John, glad I caught this early before it inevitably explodes with questions. I've been following you for years,so thank you for all of the content you've released so far. Have there been any dangerous situations that you've been in while in the bush (animals, injuries, etc)?


JohnPlant

just the occasional snake. never been bitten. Watch your eyes though when breaking wood up, splinters can fly at the face. Goes for flint knapping too.

Unique_Name1

Hi John! Whatever happened to the stingless beehive you put ontop of your huts chimney?


JohnPlant

They lasted for a bit then moved out of the log they were in. I probably harvested the honey too much. Those type don't produce much honey, like maybe 500 g a year.

Ste_hen234

How long does it take you to edit the videos for your channel on average? Love the content!


JohnPlant

I edit as I go with the project. About half an hour at the end of each days work. Then final editing at the end of each project. Thanks.

AsIAm

Hi John, your content is amazing! I always watch it twice — without the subs and then with them. First time is kind of ASMR for me, and second time it’s highly educational. Thank you!

I am really curious about your next projects — what’s on your mind beside the iron?


JohnPlant

Wood ash cement, larger structures made from permanent materials. Engines. Autonomous machines. Things like that interest me.

beltersand

How confused do you think you will make future archeologists?


JohnPlant

Not very if they see my videos in the YT archives and know the general area. Though seriously if they saw things like the forge blower they'd know it had been retro engineered from at least the mid 1800's technology. If it was things like pottery though they might consider unknown trade routes in Australia until they were more able to scientifically date the pot sherds.

daggerpwna

Hey John! Have you ever been recognized on streets by some fans? How do they react about your channel and hobbies? And especially to The fact you can speak? Thanksss


JohnPlant

Yes, I've only been recognized twice though. They react positively. They seem un surprised when they hear me speak.

Buttsmuggler69

What kind of mindset do you get into when out in the wilderness?


JohnPlant

A sort of busy working mindset, want to get things done. Other times just strolling looking for wood, rocks , clay etc.

francesthemute586

I think the thing that really makes your channel so great is the videography: the camera work, the editing, the sound. Do you have any formal training in this? What were some of your inspirations for your style?


JohnPlant

No formal training. I just like setting up the camera and doing my thing. I will take some consideration in setting up a shot to make it look good (e.g. to see all parts of the finished project in one shot). I'll have the project in mind and start a storyboard in mind with all the parts planned out and then just film it.

CoSonfused

Hi John, what made you start the channel?


JohnPlant

I filmed footage to show friends and family and then put it up on YouTube to make money. It was sort of like hey, might as well- maybe there will be a small niche audience. But then it became more successful than I expected.

Flegolaz

Do you own a piece of land in the forest where you do your projects?


JohnPlant

Back at friends property, I sold the other place because it was too wet and too big for me to maintain. So many mosquitoes and leeches there, really hard to keep firewood dry for pyrotechnology.

kaancl3344

Is it possible to creat cement and make better buildings on the place you are working rn ? I dont know anything about the chemistry behind the cement but all the materials have to be in the nature right :/


JohnPlant

There is no limestone here but it's distributed evenly in the soil and concentrated in the leave bark and wood of trees. The ash made from this can be made into a cement that sets after 3 days and will not dissolve in water. This is the same chemistry as normal cement made from limestone. I'm storing the ash as pellets and will calcine them in a kiln when ready to use, probably as a mortar for clay bricks.

CannaUnot

What got you started doing primitive technology?


JohnPlant

Access to bush land as a kid making huts. Then I considered that it was cheating to use modern tools and materials for some reason know only to my 11 year old younger self. That's how primitive technology started.

rudidude86

G'day John! I love your videos -- thank you for making them.

I have to imagine things don't always go as planned out there. Will we ever see a blooper reel? Maybe on the next April 1st?


JohnPlant

Probably not, there aren't many funny things that happen, just stuff that doesn't work. Thanks, glad you watched it.

BanjoCalrisian

G'day mate, are there any bushcrafters you admire? I've always been a big fan of Les Hiddins.


JohnPlant

Yes I watched the bush Tucker too growing up. Ray Mears is good also.

rhaptorne

Are you behind those channels with names such as "primitive technology idea", "primitive tool", "primitive building" etc. Or are they just knock offs of your channel?


JohnPlant

No, they come from other countries and usually don't use actual primitive technology (e.g. Portland cement, excavators, bought metal tools and bricks etc.). This is the nature of YouTube, it was explained to me by my YT partner manager as being "all part of the ecosystem".

Lejars

Love your videos man. How do you feel about all the copy cat channels building pools in the jungle? Also how itchy were them pants?


JohnPlant

It's a strange subculture, they use portland cement and modern tools to build the pools and aren't shy in pretending it's real. The pants were like wearing two welcome mats but weren't itchy, just stiff.

RobotKingofJupiter

How did you come up with the idea for your forge blower? That’s probably my favourite thing you’ve ever made.


JohnPlant

I knew about regular forge blowers and centrifugal fans already. The key was to increase rpm to the point where it was usefull. I thought about all sorts of ways to make gears and pulleys. Then I thought just spin it between the hands like a hand drill for fire making, it doesn't matter if it spins intermittently one way or the other the air keeps going out the same way. That was the biggest leap. Making the fan housing from clay was a smaller leap- people without knowledge of pottery wouldn't have made that connection and probably would have made it from bark or wood instead. See that's the sort of problem solving people don't see- it seems like genius but all it is is just a great number of smaller steps in the design stage, very time consuming. Research how the compound bow was invented, it's a sort of similar concept of trial and error.

TrumpImpeachedAugust

Your fingers often get quite dirty over the course of your work. How do you protect the camera you use to film?


JohnPlant

I don't, the camera is filthy. Luckily the Nikon D3200 is quite robust and hadn't had any issues. Just keep the lens clean with some cloth.

Merpmaster

How cold are the winters where you make shoot your videos? And do you ever have to worry about dangerous wildlife? I don't know how remote it is but I can't hear any traffic noises in your videos.

Thanks for making quality content for us to enjoy! :)


JohnPlant

Mild cold. Never had to worry, just a few snakes. No traffic noises but only 7 minutes from road.

patleeman

Love the channel. Been watching since you got popular!

How many pairs of shorts do you own?


JohnPlant

Maybe 20? Alot. Thanks.

ifellbutitscool

Do you get much interest from preppers? I imagine in this time where distopian outcomes are on a lot of people's minds more people might turn to survivalist entertainment/education


JohnPlant

Yes, there is a lot of overlap from PT into the survival genre.

SniffyTippyToes

How do you deal with all those damn mosquitos?!


JohnPlant

Smoke, it keeps them away when you're sitting still and working on something.

DirtyJavaMan

How careful are you of poisonous snakes/spiders especially walking around barefoot? I hope you keep it up, watching your videos is a highlight for me.


JohnPlant

Always keep an eye on the ground where I walk. Will do, thanks.

SpookySP

Would you ever import materials your plot of land doesn't have? Or do you have a strict rule to stick with what you can harvest?


JohnPlant

I don't know, I kind of want to keep all the materials local if possible and have so far save the introduction of sweet potatoes. That's part of the challenge.

22plus

What is the most surprising piece of "Primitive" Technology you have encountered?


JohnPlant

The forge blower I invented. I surprised myself.

tacobellmtdew

Hey John! Huge fan. Have you ever thought about going on survivor? I’d love to see what you make on the show and bet you’d do great!

Thanks!


JohnPlant

They asked me to but I turned it down. be better just to focus on my projects.

duhvorced

Hi john, love your work!

I’m struck by how some (many) of your videos build upon or use creations you’ve made previously. Do you have any desire to see how far “up” the technology stack you can climb? Or are you focused primarily on genuinely primitive technology?


JohnPlant

Yes, I want to progress up, not restricted by traditional technology.

DoSdnb

Do you reckon you have gathered enough Era Score for a golden era when your ironmaking ends the Classical Age?


JohnPlant

Yes.

N0wayjose

Hey john I’ve always loved your videos. I didn’t see it asked here so I hope I’m not repeating a question but I am truly curious. How did you learn this incredible skill set? Was it passed down to you?


JohnPlant

No, it was research and lots of trial and error.

goodinyou

How much do you make from your channel? More than your previous job?


JohnPlant

1 million views equals about $1000 Australian. Plus I get patreon. Yes, it's way more than mowing lawns. Thanks.

wardy_12

Ever had any bad injuries or freak events that didnt make the final edit?


JohnPlant

Sometimes snakes will get into the huts and would be interesting to see. But I think it distracts from the work, not sure if I'd want to see stuff like that if only wanting to build a hut. It might be a good idea though.

yovipteach

Do you have to deal with a lot of bug bites?


JohnPlant

No, smoke keeps they away. Also, I'm used to them now and don't get swollen anymore (my friends swell up and complain).

buxtronix

G'day John!

So what do you bring with you when you work aside from camera and your shorts? Any safety/survival gear, phone, food, etc? And how long do you usually spend out there?

Also, do you do trial runs at home before starting a project in the bush?

Thanks!


JohnPlant

Just a phone, spend a few hours per day only most of the time. Yes, trial runs are useful so you don't use resources collected in the wild (charcoal is especially hard to make, don't want to waste).

jaredjamesmusic

G'day from the GC John. We have a huge, heavily forested property in Fiji with a lot of resources if you want to ever go nuts in our jungle, just let me know! I did a trip recently and vlogged it if you are curious...


JohnPlant

Thanks.

[deleted]

You ever smoke a fat doobie in your hut?


JohnPlant

I generally avoid drugs, not against other doing it though just think I'd not get any work done. Might be good for generating ideas though?

FBIsecretservice

What is the best place to search for clay and materials like that? I'm asking because I am just starting with my own primitive technology, I'm, getting your book for Christmas and all but I have no idea where to find materials like clay and how to recognize them from afar. Thanks


JohnPlant

Look in creek banks or under topsoil. Take the soil and wet it. Good clay feels dense and strong while still being plastic and easily hold it's shape. Roll a piece the size of a pencil and coil it around your finger, if it doesn't break completely it should be good. Make a small pinch pot from it and let it dry completely then fire it in a pit. If it cracks then add fibre to the next pot. thanks.

YuikoSaki

I really enjoy the content! Do you ever have a "camera man?" or anyone that joins you while your working on videos?


JohnPlant

No, I film the videos myself. Thanks.

Get-Bamboozled

Knowing the amount of effort you put into this channel and your work, you could have made so much extra money if you were monetizing you’re videos. Is there a specific reason you chose not to cash in?


JohnPlant

They are monetized. Thanks.

weareea

Have you managed to get paid for all the Facebook links to your videos?


JohnPlant

No, never got paid. Thanks.

Card image cap
JohnPlant