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Home Forums General Discussion Designing Tools for Post-Oil Survival.

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    Jack Hamon

    Hello Off-Gridders,

    My name is Jack Hamon, I am a Product Design student at Nottingham Trent University here in the UK.

    My final year design project is designing ‘Tools for Post Oil Survival’, where I have outlined a scenario that next Easter Sunday the world runs out of oil, forcing us to live off the land again.

    My goal is to design objects that will address both physical and emotional needs in a family coming to terms with a post-oil apocalypse.

    I have three key questions for those living off-grid:

    1: How do families keep a steady, consistent environment for young children?

    2: What are the biggest problems you find living off-grid?

    3: what are the parts of living off-grid that you cherish? which parts bring you the most joy?

    You feedback would be really valuable!




    Jack your questions seem to be more of a sociological nature than something associated with tool design. Your thesis on post oil tool use and design is quite interesting. In fact I got involved in a similar discussxion before it got derailed by some nincompoops intent on making fun of the subject.

    There is a website called that carry articles on technology from yesteryear. Seems to me this would serve as a useful springboard for anyone wanting to adapt and further development of such pre-oil technology. With our increased understanding of materials including ceramics and wood we should be able to improve on a great many old devices.

    In the past century there has been huge gains in laminated wood structures. I have seen laminated wood used for springs that would equal any made of metal. Wind turbines and water wheels typically require bearing lubrication but this lubricant need not be derived from petroleum feed stock. Having spent part of my working life doing tool and production machinery design I find this topic very interesting.


    Lets say we run out of fossil fuels today.. We will still have ethanol and wood gas for combustion engines. Might not get to use those engines often but, we would still have some fuel for them.

    Here is what will really happen. More Nuke plants will go in because wining environmentalist won’t get their way. Electricity will be king.

    Now that’s not to say that electricity will not be priced out of range for the average Joe to use much of it. So now we are back to hand tools, water and wind power. We would also have and revert to animal power to some extent.

    I picked up a good book the other day titled something like “Old ways of working wood”.


    Larry, You forgot to mention methane as an alternative fuel. It is naturally generated and found almost everywhere in abundant supply. You are probably right that nukes will proliferate. What you did not mention is the fact there are many different nuclear reactor designs, some of which do not generate the kind of nuclear waste most people is justifiably afraid of. Spent uranium is used industrially in many places and is only considered a low grade radioactive source.

    This kind of reactor is not popular because it cannot be used to breed weapons grade material. Price of electricity will follow market forces and if the supplier puts the price too high so that people cannot afford it or refuse to buy it, then the price wiil drop. According to the utilities that own hydro-electric dams they can produce power at around 3.5 cents per kilowatt.

    It stands to reason any amount charged in excess of that is a profit.

    Supposedly the idea of being in business is to sell at a profit but if you charge too much, the end result is zero sales and thus zero profit.

    The investors will demand an adjustment in pricing that will result in some profit. This is often called market forces and will result in lower prices for electricity.

    AS for animal power. Considering it could also provide a source of feed stock for methane gas ( fuel) this may not be such a bad move.

    There is no doubt a post oil world will be different but we may just find it would not be so bad.

    Right now many people spend huge amounts of money to join fitness clubs and they go there to expend a lot of muscle energy to ‘stay fit’. Suppose this muscular energy effort was spent doing useful and productive work at home, is that such a bad thing?


    Yes an interesting project, thesis or article might be in researching and reporting on the future of electrical devices, vehicles, mobile machinery and tools.

    Jack Hamon

    Hey guys, thanks for the response!

    Its a fascinating topic isn’t it? I just watched this ted talk you my find interesting:

    In terms of my project, ‘tools’ have taken on a new role, I have identified that probably the most effective survival tool of all is motivation. With a a strong enough reason to survive, the most inventive, creative and effective circumstantial solutions will be found. So i feel it is a necessity to address peoples emotional needs in a crisis as much as their physical needs, it adds another layer to the products that define us as a ‘civilization’.

    What happens in my scenario is that next Easter Sunday the world runs out of oil, and we are plunged into a global recession. The problems encountered by the family in my scenario are more those of a sever recession than physical oil shortage. The are problems of not having a reliable food supply, mass inflation and societal restructuring.

    Like you said caverdude, nuclear will be the key in the short term. In my scenario the government ramps up these plants to full capacity but even still, rolling blackouts occur and with a completely re-shapen transport system, disposing of nuclear waste becomes a real problem.

    Those links look like they could be really useful, ill have a delve into them tonight…

    So, if i was to ask a question:

    imagine you are to be sent off to a small village by the coast, you will have to find somewhere to squat or build your own shelter. There is one hour of electricity per day, there is no food in the shops and substance agriculture has not yet been established. You have to carry your belongings to get there, what are your 3 most important items?

    [feel free to have some fun with this one!]




    There already was a TV program on abruptly running out of oil, in addition to others on other resources.

    Three items? My Para P14, a full large canteen and an entrenching tool. A good large knife with saw edge, multi-tool and Swiss Army knife, plus extra clothes, blankets/sleeping bag, tent, and poncho. Rations to last, and cook stove with matches and fuel. Basically, survival needs are what you would need on a week long wilderness back packing trip.


    Jack, sorry if this rains on your thesis but things do not happen that way in real life. We are already in a recession. The authorities just don’t like to admit it because that is likely to trigger widespread panic.

    Secondly even if oil shipments from Arabia was to stop, it would take a while to stop the flow in the distribution network. The guys coming down from the northern fields tell us that many of the well heads are capped off because it would lower the price if all of it was available. Recently saw an article from a financial newletter saying essentially the same thing. So the roughnecks coming home on leave were not lying.

    Regarding power plants. A thermal power plant can be brought online from standby in about 4-6 hours but a nuclear plant is far more complex. Consequently nuclear plants are run full power for the base load and the thermal plants are used to support the peak demand periods. Ramping up a nuclear plant is not an option for short term gain. For extreme peaks or emergencies we kept gas turbines ready but even they take 15 minutes to come on line. Nuclear plants take years to build even when its a duplicate of something already running. It is not a solution in the short term. Forget the Hollywood fantasy movies. You do not increase or decrease power output of a nuke by simply turning a control.

    A few months ago we had a similar discussion thread regarding what the most useful tools would be for going off-grid. It did not limit you to three items.

    Jack Hamon

    Hi elnav,

    Thanks for the shout on the nuclear plants! I have visited thermal plants before, and understood how they can control their outputs around peak demand etc. I had been a little ignorant in regards to nuclear plants I must say! I understood they take a long time to ‘warm up’ and ‘slow down’ but had always assumed that they would have some kind of ‘spare capacity’. Looks like I’ll have to do a bit more research!

    As regards the real world likelihood of this scenario, you are totally right – it would never happen, the oil will never suddenly dry up in every well in the world. The reason behind building up this scenario is that of shock factor – if you take a current problem, in this case a global reliance on a finite material, and push it to a fictional extreme, its more likely to grab peoples attention and get people talking about the real issue hand. The design of a product the help people in this fictitious scenario and present it as a real, for-sale item becomes the media for discussion – like video tape for the film maker.


    Actually this article covers what Dustoffer commented on. Though not directly related.


    One interesting sidebar concerning nuclear power stations is the fact they were responsible for the move to develop a hydrogen fuel economy.

    A professor Scott was among the first to start promoting the idea back in the seventies because once the nuclear power stations came online it became obvious that adjusting them for a daily cycle of peak and off peak was not practical. They realized that using the nukes to create oxygen and hydrogen during light load periods was more practical so the station would run at full power all the time producing a clean fuel during off peak hours.

    Sadly the publics hysteria over breeder reactors over shadowed the fact other types of reactors produce a lot less radioactive waste.

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