Book review: Primitive Technology | John Plant

John Plant creates a comprehensive bush survival book based on his celebrated YouTube channel, Primitive Technology

Most established and wanna-be influencers on YouTube are a chatty bunch. Chalk it up to the highly competitive and crowded online space where people reacting on screen to other people doing something on screen is now considered a lucrative business.

John Plant, owner of YouTube channel Primitive Technology and now author of the book by the same name, has pretty much turned the industry on its head with his silent, lo-fi, back to basics survivalist hobby, which rather ironically, has seen him rack up 9 million subscribers and over 700 million views, to the tune of nearly a millions dollars a year. Not bad for a craftsman from Far North Queensland.

True to form, Plant is now sharing his caveman hobby in another medium without talking.

‘Primitive Technology: Survivalist Guide to Building’ gives his fans words and photos as more detailed descriptives about how to build huts, kilns, and furnaces, as well as make stone axes, digging sticks, bricks, fish traps, and ‘cordage’. It’s a real behind-the-scenes look into John’s process for die-hard fans.

Featuring 50 projects with step-by-step instructions, ‘Primitive Technology’ is a comprehensive guide to the craft. Each project is accompanied by illustrations as well as mini-sidebars with the history behind each item, plus helpful tips for building, material sourcing, and so forth.

It’s hard to define why Plant’s hobby has such a huge audience. It may be the appeal of back to basics living as increasing numbers of people reject overt consumerism. Or the satisfaction of watching a project successfully come to fruition. Or Plant’s ingenuity and acumen. It may be that audiences are increasingly dissatisfied with vapid entertainment.

John Plant is smart. His bio tells us that he has a science degree from James Cook University in Cairns but even if you didn’t know that, his inventiveness is obvious in every project he undertakes. And necessity is the mother of invention. As he explains, due to hunting restrictions in Australia, he can’t use animal skins. His clay forge blower is the brilliant result of having to find another way to stoke a fire.

The book is best used as an accompaniment to the videos and vice-versa. The instructions for making the loom, for example, can be a little confusing without watching the YouTube video as well. And even if you’re not planning to actively use the book as an instructional manual for building your own projects, then it will still contain plenty of eye-opening tidbits for nature lovers and Primitive Technology subscribers alike.

There’s also a very active Primitive Technology community on Reddit if fans need some help with, or wish to discuss their own Primitive Technology projects.

‘Primitive Technology: Survivalist Guide to Building’ is available everywhere, now.

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