Africa Teaches the West How to Build a Car

Smati turtle 1 african car

Today’s cars look like spaceships and are built by robots in futuristic factories. At least, that’s the picture in the developed world.

In Ghana, West Africa, both the cars and the auto industry look rather different. In a neighbourhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take apart discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are suitable for African roads. All this happens manually and in open air.

Artist Melle Smets and researcher Joost van Onna, both from the Netherlands, set up shop in Suame Magazine and built a unique African concept car in collaboration with the local community: the SMATI Turtle 1. Their project calls into question western ways of dealing with technology, waste, employment and automation.

Picture: The SMATI Turtle 1

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Make Your Own $35 Straw Mattress

How to make your own $35 straw mattress. Previously: A mattress that lasts a lifetime.

Is Cuba the First Large-Scale Maker Society?

electric plug cuba

“When the U.S. left Cuba in the 1960s, it took most of the Cuba’s engineers with it. In their absence, Fidel Castro encouraged citizens to learn how to make their own stuff. So, they did. And, in the 70s, a culture of garage innovation was born from the revolutionaries, scientists, mechanics, and ordinary folk who formed the National Association of Innovators and Rationalizers (ANIR).”

See and read more. Thanks to Edwin Gardner.

On the picture: a home-made electric plug (Cuba), found at Architecture of Necessity.

Update: The book “Con nuestros propios esfuerzos” (“With our own effort”), released in 1991 by Verde Olivo, the publishing house of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, is available as a PDF. This 300-page long compendium describes and illustrates in technical detail a vast array of artificats, recipes, and survival strategies collected from all over the island by local authorities. Read more about it here (starting at page 4). Thanks to Michele.

Related: Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts.

The Making of a Foot Powered Treadle Lathe

chris builds lathe

“Hi everybody my name is Chris. I choose my woodworking projects based on whatever happens to inspire me”.

In this video, Chris builds a foot powered treadle lathe. Great project, great video.

Via Old Engineering.


Solar Wood Drying Kiln

“Lumber is usually dried to a specific moisture content prior to further manufacturing or use. While lumber can be air-dried, the humidity in most localities prevents the lumber from reaching the moisture content required for the stability needed for interior use. The kiln discussed is designed to be inexpensive to construct and be simple to operate.”

solar wood drying kiln“The solar kiln described was designed, constructed, and tested at Virginia Tech. This design is based on 25 years of research and development on the solar drying of lumber in the United States and foreign countries. Drawings for two versions of this kiln are available; one for 800-1,000 bd ft and the other for 1,500-2,000 board feet of lumber. Both kilns will dry a load of lumber in approximately one month of moderately sunny weather at its location in Blacksburg, VA.”

“Drying lumber can be a complex process where accelerating drying without having quality loss often requires extensive knowledge and experience. The design of the Virginia Tech solar kiln is such that extensive knowledge, experience and control are not required. The size of the collector keeps the kiln from over-heating and causing checking and splitting of the wood. The kiln is simple to construct and utilizes a passive solar collector, four insulated walls and an insulated floor. The roof is made of clear, greenhouse rated, corrugated polyethylene.”

Virginia Tech Solar Kiln. Via Build It Solar.

Fences, Gates and Bridges

fences gates and bridges“It is authoritatively stated that the building and maintenance of the farm fences in the United States have cost more than the construction of the farm buildings. Be this as it may, while large numbers of works have been written upon rural architecture we believe this is the first publication specially devoted to Fences, Gates and Bridges.

It aims to be a practical work, showing the “evolution” of the fence from the road barrier of logs, brush or sods to the latest improved forms of barbed wire. The numerous illustrations are mainly representations of fences, gates, etc., in actual use. The chapter on fence law is necessarily condensed. The various judicial decisions upon the subject alone would fill a large volume. This little work, the first and only one of its character, is given to the public in the confident hope that it will prove specially useful to farmers and village residents.”

Fences, gates, and bridges; a practical manual“, George A. Martin, 1892. Thanks to Rob McWilliam.

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

shelters shacks shanties“Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties presents lively, step-by-step tutelage
on building all types of temporary and long-term accommodations from both natural and man-made materials. Published in 1914, this practical classic is as essential a guide for today’s modern homesteader as it was at the turn of the twentieth century.

Included are instructions for dozens of worry-free shelters for you to chose from, including a sod house for the lawn, a treetop house, over-water camps, a bog ken, and much more. Satisfying the builder’s need for the creature comforts of home, it also provides tips on how to build hearths and chimneys, notched log ladders, and even how to rig a front door with a secret lock. Illustrated throughout with a bounty of helpful line drawings, Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties harkens back to the can-do spirit of the American frontier that still thrives today.”

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties; and how to build them“, D.C. Beard, 1914 (Gutenberg free e-book). The description is from the 2008 edition (Amazon). Thanks to Thurston.

Earthen Solar Cooker

earthen solar cooker

“The Earthern Solar Cooker is a large parabolicly shaped hole in the ground lined with reflective materials such as salvaged pieces of broken mirrors or reflective can lids. The mirrors reflect and concentrate sunlight to the base of the hole where ten one gallon black containers of water can be boiled per hour and used for drinking or food preparation. Cooking/water boiling containers are accessed via steps carved into the side of the Earthen Solar Cooker.”

“A 2.5m diameter hole, 1.5m deep cooks 10 gal of rice/hr from 11am to 3pm on an 85f summer day in south central Oregon. Since the power of a parabolic concentrator is proportional to the surface area of it’s aperature (A = 3.14 x r^2), doubling the radius of the hole increases the power of the Earthen Solar Cooker by a factor of four.”

“An Earthen Solar Concentrator the size of a small amphitheater might be capable of casting bronze or boiling the water near the surface of a shallow well located at the vertex, thus making possible the creation of a solar bubble pump that could lift pasteurized water to a tank above ground level.” Read more about the project at Appropedia.


DIY Trashion Furniture Kit

Add your own lighting“Ryan Frank is South African born designer who learned about re-using materials from a childhood in a country where recycling was par for the course. He has spent most of his life as a designer in London and Barcelona where people are less accustomed to making furniture out of trash. So he launched a collection to get consumers more involved in making their own upcycled lamps.”

“The A(dd)Y(our)O(wn) lighting range gives everyone the chance to be part designer, part manufacturer. Made from rebar and natural rubber, the lights are designed without lampshades to encourage the re-use and re-cycle of everyday objects from garden, house or street. For Roomservice Design Gallery Ryan fitted the lights with a series of iconic Spanish objects salvaged in the streets of Barcelona such as fruit crates, olive oil tins and pickle jars.” Check out the video and the product page.

Bubble Wrap Window Insulation

bubble wrap window insulation

“This is a simple technique for insulating windows with bubble wrap packing material. Bubble wrap is often used to insulate greenhouse windows in the winter, but it also seems to work fine for windows in the house. The view through the bubble wrapped window is fuzzy, so don’t use it on windows where you need a clear view. But, it does let plenty of light through.”

“The bubble wrap has a short payback in cold climates. About 2 months for single glazed windows, and half a heating season for double glazed windows. For an 7000 degree day climate (northern US), and single glazed windows, the bubble wrap increases the R value from about R1 to about R2. This cuts the heat loss from the window in half.” Read more.