Wednesday, April 29, 2015

consuming to invest 30



Barrel making is probably even worse than tanning, Back-To-The-Past regression wise. Today, a factory of intermediate complexity can easily churn out one piece ( other than the top, obviously ) barrels in plastic or metal. Before, you needed to precision cut pieces of wood in strips, fit them together, make metal bands and force them on the outside, all so liquid didn’t leak out. A bit of a tall order, and resource and labor intensive ( metal was always dear until recently. It was the massive amount of wood involved, needing close work ). Is it any wonder that the ancients deemed ceramic vessels superior, even if they were a disposable item? They could be mass produced ( one of the major obstacles in the early petroleum era, circa 1860’s-’1870’s, was the shortage of enough storage containers, those available being crafted wood barrels ), relatively cheaply. In the future, you will have a market for used five gallon poly buckets. Alas, these will be for the poor only, given the inevitable widespread tales of toxic poisoning as unscrupulous traders pass off industrial chemical buckets as food grade. Ceramic will need to wait until widespread trade resumes, as you need a centralized location with both quick growth wood, clay and a navigable waterway ( why England was one of the Roman centers for mass produced ceramics ). I imagine there will be some honest dealers peddling certified safe plastic buckets, and who knows if enough will be available locally ( you can count on decentralized authorities with no one carrying the monopoly on force in an energy scarce future ), but if coopers do make a profitable comeback it will be because in a resource scarce, no-trade era, local labor will be the way to do things once again.


Paper & Ink Making

We aren’t going to go back to monks writing on animal skins once again, not after the printing press. If we are able to retain a flintlock/blackpowder level militarily, we will be able to keep printing books ( they won’t be very cheap, nor is any level of technological floor assured, but it is a decent probability ). And I’d also wager books will no longer pander to the lowest common denominator, not if paper and press and ink is much more dear and labor intensive ( remember, oil and machines are modern mans slaves, literally, and we are spoiled by close to free labor right now-what you are mainly paying for is the bankers stranglehold on all facets of the economy ). Books will once again be teaching tools rather than mere pandering entertainment. Currently, there are plenty of books on making books, as well as just paper making ( I’d imagine organic ink, as well ). It is 500 year old technology, or older. Plenty of old timey info is out there, and you can be sure books will continue to be offered to richer clients such as for military use and by the government. Any society above village level ( one does imagine in a total localized culture, reading would rapidly diminish as training went back to apprenticeships and guilds. Although, that is books. Paper and ink alone, not for printing or binding, should still be in demand ).


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  1. Birdhouse and bushel gourds can make good containers with a bit of work. Requires less in specialized tools and materials than ceramics or barrel making.

  2. Regarding producing ceramic containers: You state, "Ceramic will need to wait until widespread trade resumes, as you need a centralized location with both quick growth wood, clay and a navigable waterway..."

    I humbly beg to differ Oh Great One.

    Availability of clay is probably not a factor in determining local vs. centralized production of ceramics. I've read that clay deposits are easily found in every county in the USA. Though I can't speak with authority for all counties, I can attest that clay has been easy to find in the two counties I've lived in over the last 5-6 years (central and western Washington). Quick growth wood is a useful fuel to fire a kiln, but solar energy might be more appropriate in future days, and is available just about anywhere in adequate quantities. Adequate heat can be generated in a small kiln using a large Fresnel lens re-purposed from an old big-screen projection TV. Right now the things are available free for the asking since nobody seems to want the old boxes now that new flat-screens are the rage. I've gathered 7 of them so far, stockpiled for future projects, and after fiddling with one for a couple weeks I can assure you they are capable of gathering the necessary energy. I have measured temperatures over 2,800 deg F. The things can also be useful for melting and casting scrap metals and heating a smith's forge. If TV lenses aren't available, or greater light gathering power is desired, arrays of mirrors of practically any size can be arranged to focus energy on a central point. Mirrors of adequate performance can probably be produced locally using polished scrap aluminum.

    Finally, I assume you suggest a navigable waterway is needed to transport the heavy finished products from a central production location. If local clay is available, solar energy can be used for firing and local production is likely to be competitive with centralized production.

    BTW - I've read recently that India has developed small solar crematoriums for use in rural villages. Seems a single cremation can consume 500-600 lb of firewood. This suggests another handy post-collapse trade...

    1. All very good points, and I stand corrected. I wasn't looking at all about work-arounds with modern material/salvage but thinking in old tech terms.

    2. Thanks Nicus-
      I'll have to keep my eyes open for such useful salvage after I get my storage spaces built.
      Ceramics and Cremations would be handy and useful short and long term skills for a community to have. Having previous skills equipment and knowledge in these could be good for not only you but your descendants. Unfortunately the infrastructure - even small scale - for such technologies seems as though it would not be very portable should ones family have to relocate.

  3. Good post Nicus. I tried to determine at which temperature clay reaches vitrification, as to determine if a solar oven would work, but the temperatures are quite high. I did find some good links though, and the last one covers cone ratings at which to fire clay. The links also cover how to fire clay without a kiln.

    As far as cremation goes, I feel that the traditional methods will be be the most practical method. "Green burial", pine box, no concrete, no embalming, pre-civil war burial methods. I think that cremation came about as a modern phobia, that we can't pollute our environment with those icky corpses. It's fertilizer folks, and completes the life cycle.

  4. Isnt there something about the quality of the clay that determines if it can be used to produce ceramics? Its the end of the semester and my brain has been worked to the end of its capacity, so forgive my poor reading comprehension. Are you trying to convey the importance of learning how to make barrels/containers or that if all other things having been set aside for that an individual should try and pick up a few (especially the food grade ones)?


    1. No, just saying barrels are a good trade because of trade. The individual has far less use for them, smaller containers being preferable.

  5. Forgot to add that I do recall previously reading of the possibility of lead deposits in clay. Probably worth looking into.