Slojd: Opting Out by MAKING What You Need

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By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications and The Faithful Prepper

This has been a multi-year process of gradually deciding, “You know, I’m not supporting that company with my money anymore,” and it’s rapidly gotten to the point where my blacklist has a lot in common with the length of a CVS receipt.

We’re witnessing the culmination of “the long march through the institutions,” and there are a lot of Americans out there who are in the same boat as I am here with all this.

And if you find yourself looking for some sense of direction with the tangibles of daily life, feeling the need to pull a John Galt and opt-out from much of pop culture society in modern America, I think you’ll find the 1800s Swedish concept of slojd (pronounced “sloyd”) interesting.

In 1865, a Swede with a name reminiscent of a card game, Otto Solomon, created a teaching system for young Swedes with the intention of getting more of them skilled in a trade and independent when they finally graduated from high school. He called the concept slojd. Basically, the idea was that you would teach kids manual skills such as woodworking, metalworking, knitting, and the like, so that they would have some marketable skill they could earn a living from, they wouldn’t have to purchase everything they needed, and they would be able to fend for themselves better.

The kids would start with simple projects (e.g., make a butter knife) and then move up to more and more difficult assignments as their skills progressed.

In many ways, I think this is a concept worth exploring.

A kid who has been educated in this manner has less of an incentive to go to a four-year indoctrination camp after he gets his high school diploma. Why go thousands of dollars in debt for a degree to get a job when I can get a good-paying job today without the debt using the manual skills I already possess?

You also end up with the next generation not needing major companies for their daily needs (at least not as extensively), diminishing the power of those uber-corporations in the future.

But slojd isn’t just about education. It’s also a system of woodworking, and, admittedly, something of a toe-deep “philosophy” as well. Let’s get the philosophy stuff out of the way first. Basically, it’s simply that you make what you need with what you have. (That’s why it’s toe-deep. It doesn’t answer the big questions about life, but instead, is a philosophy in the same sense as why some basketball coaches like to run full-court presses all the time.)

Need furniture? Make it with the tools and materials you already have. Need blankets? You make quilts with old T-shirts. Need fencing? What do you have that will accomplish the job out in your barn? (In a way, this is the same argument I made in The Case for More American 3D Printers.)

In this sense, I think that there’s a lot of appeal to an American. We have always had a reputation for creativity with what we have around us. We landed in a New World, built homes out of the wilderness, and continually figured out how to survive on the frontier. And with what? With what was already there.

You could start with woodworking.

And this is where I think that the woodworking, knowledge, and tool side of the equation comes into play. If you want to be able to make a lot of what you need around you just from what you’re able to find out in the woods, there are some things that make the task easier.

Let’s start with trees first.

You can make a lot of things out of wood, and given that it’s fairly easy to access within the United States, it’s worth pointing out that with a good chain saw, an axe, a hatchet, and a froe, you can make your own boards for woodworking fairly efficiently. With a lot of effort? Yeah, it takes sweat.

But it’s possible and there’s an entire culture within the woodworking culture that does it. Think Fine Woodworking. Those are the people that do this.

The next piece of gear is a slojd knife.

There are three major players within the realm of slojd knives: Flexcut, Beaver Craft, and Mora. All make great knives. Mora is from Sweden, Beaver Craft is from Ukraine, and Flexcut is from Pennsylvania. An actual slojd knife is recommended for these types of carving projects too. Sure, you could use your pocket knife, but your hand isn’t going to be very happy with you the next few days after you do so.

You could live to be 80, 90, 95 years old. Who knows? Thirty to forty years with arthritis in your dominant hand is a long time. I think it was Mickey Mantle who said, “If I’d had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

Forty bucks for an ergonomically designed tool isn’t bad. I think it’s worth it. The cool thing with this is that there’s a lot you can do with a sloyd knife when you also throw in a spoon carving knife, a bowl gouge, and an adze.

I’m particularly a fan of Barn the Spoon’s Woodcraft when it comes to figuring out what to do with these tools as well. In this book, Barn shows you how to start with a slojd knife to make the gear you need (such as a mallet) for future projects. It’s a pretty cool progression and a beautiful book. The cool thing about this is that this is the way that our forefathers here in America would have done things. You couldn’t always just go out and purchase the lathe, chairs, or bowls that you needed to make a living or live comfortably in that new town on the frontier. You had to figure out how to make things. And that’s what they did.

I think the possibilities for gifts here are pretty cool too. I recently wrote about symbolic gifts at another site and how they end up being the gifts that I remember the most. For example, somehow I ended up with my great grandpa’s homemade leather wallet. It’s beautiful. He embossed everything on it with a bunch of cool leaves and lettering, and it just looks great. Using simple hand tools to make awesome gifts for others is a great way to carry on this tradition.

How does this help you opt out?

This is all a means of starving the beast. Furniture, bowls, spoons, candle sticks, mugs, tools – there are a lot of possibilities here and a lot of money that goes into industries for things that could be made at home. No, I fully understand you’re never going to be able to (or even desire to) build everything that you could ever need. But little strokes fell great oaks. This is a way to chip away.

If you’re wanting to learn more on the concept of slojd as well as see some great project blueprints, may I recommend the following materials:

  • The Teacher’s Handbook of Slojd by Otto Solomon was published in 1900, is about 200 pages, and will give you a good introduction of how you could start to use these concepts in an educational setting for kids.
  • Benjamin Hoffman’s The Slojd System of Woodworking was published in 1892 and is a mix of education theory and woodworking exercises to build one’s ability in making what they need. It’s available on
  • Gustaf Larson has some interesting stuff from the early 1900s as well.
  • If you’re looking for modern material, I would say look into what Lost Art Press has to offer. They sell beautiful woodworking books, have a classic text on slojd currently available, and another one that’s in the works.

So if you’re more and more opting out from modern society’s trappings, I would take a look into some of what people have done with slojd.

What do you think?

But what are your thoughts on all of this? Have you looked into slojd any in the past? Have you had much success with making what you need? Are you working on opting out? How are you doing so?

Let us know in the comments section.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper,  An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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Aden Tate

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  • Perfect OG article. A lot goes into choosing the best wood for your project. Many types will warp and split if not kiln dried.

    Hickory can be difficult to cut but it always works well for these types of projects. Maple is abundant but can split at the ends unless you can find it spalted or figured.

  • I woke up this morning thinking that the only way out from the capitalist corporations is to stop buying their products. But the majority are too comfortable in the corporate matrix.

  • Homestead Heritage outside of Waco homeschools 100%. They are a religious community that went back to the agrarian lifestyle. They are not Amish or Mennonites. They do use computers, cell phones, etc. They teach classes there for outsiders in woodworking (furniture& instrument making) without power tools, cheese making, canning, beekeeping, loom weaving, basket weaving, etc. The artisans in the community shutdown part of the time from teaching outsiders like me to present classes to the children in the community. If a child likes the program such as woodworking, then they are given advance classes. If not, then they go onto other projects. I had an instructor there who had several sons who are now adults. One does woodworking, another does leather making such as boots and a third went into blacksmithing. When my husband was in High School, he was taught automotive mechanics and how to paint cars. When he graduated, he was a certified mechanic and got a job working a car maintenance shop. We no longer teach sewing, woodworking, etc. in schools. The schools are now indoctrination centers that make our children dependent on the system.

  • Woodworking can be done by or girls/women, but is somewhat more suited to a man’s greater strength. There are crafts suitable for women as well, so readers need not be limited to this one craft idea. One issue could be selling what you make–which is another skill entirely. I would like to publicize a local farmer’s market in our small local newspapers. There are too few customers walking in for their superior products.

  • Interesting. Since retirement, I have gotten into wood working and gardening. The gardening is a trial effort to see what grows best and to get valuable lessons learned. Better to learn now before push comes to shove. If Biden gets a second term, the shove will come – good and hard.

  • There are other folks who are proponents of trade schooling and apprenticeships over college degrees, Mike Rowe is one. He has a foundation called MikeRoweWorks to help young people learn about opportunities in the trades.

    And while no one can make all his own needs, beyond a very primitive level, I think the idea of a community of craftsmen, of “slojd-ers”, if you will, is a viable way to survive what is coming.

    Youtube has an interesting channel called: Townsends.
    It’s a sort of 18th century reenactment channel about how our forebears survived.

    Another good program was one produced by British television (sorry, can’t recall the name of it,) with Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn about living in the Middle Ages, also on Youtube.

    While not comprehensive, both programs give a good idea of what is necessary to survive in more primitive times.

    • Townsends is one of my favorite channels. They focus on 18th and early 19th century food, clothing, building, skills, etc. Good recommendation.

      Although it’s non-fiction entertainment, one of our favorite television programs is the British television show Good Neighbors (it’s called The Good Life in England). There are 3 short seasons, filmed in the mid-1970s and features a husband and wife who live in a nice middle-class London suburb who decide to quit the rat race and homestead their property. Many episodes – if not all of them – are available free on youtube. Here’s one link: .

      Atomic Shrimp is another good channel for everything from foraging, budget meal challenges, gardening, hand-carving a large spoon, experiments with clay (digging it, sculpting it into pots and firing it with no modern technology), harvesting yeast from nature, scam baiting, technology, etc. I first found his channel years ago by searching for ways to re-use plastic bottle caps. He melted his down and made a knife handle.

    • Another learning opportunity comes from the Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA, Inc. This is a living history group, worldwide at least in English speaking areas, that covers from 600 CE to 1600 CE. There are classes available in the arts and crafts of the Middle Ages. Be warned, this can be addictive! Role playing and learning combined with fun.

    • There are 5 BBC docudramas of ultimate off-grid farming.

      The first one is Tales From the Green Valley, and isn’t Middle Ages, but Jacobian. Next are Victorian Farm, followed by Edwardian Farm, and my current favorite, Wartime Farm.

      2 of the original group (Ruth and Peter) did a 5th series, Tudor Monastery.

      There are also various “Christmas Specials” for some of the eras represented.

      Highly recommend all of them. There is a youtuber (the farmvids) who has put up many of the videos. Authentic History on youtube has also posted many of the episodes.

      You can occasionally come across one of the DVD sets or the books, but there are relatively few in circulation.

  • Great article! Absolutely learn how to make do with what you have. It requires some thought process and the willingness to provide the labor and sweat to produce what you need. You sure don’t have to start with woodworking.
    You can start with smaller stuff like learning to repurpose many things you may find in others trash piles. Metal siding to be discarded can be reused for say a doghouse roof or made into a windbreak.
    I love the info on Mike Rowes trade program. More young people need to bypass the colleges and learn a good trade. Colleges have become a cesspool of destructive teaching for the most part. The world will always need tradesmen/woman. Skills make good opportunities for trading as well.
    Never heard of slojd but I like it 🙂

  • While I certainly applaud the DIY approach when it is both reasonable and economical for a person … that is not always the case. The classic 1958 essay by Leonard Reid titled “I, Pencil”

    makes the point that no one person on the planet can by him/her self make something as seemingly simple as an ordinary wooden pencil — which requires efforts and skills from countless unnamed people during the manufacturing process. One formal term for such multiple contributions is the “division of labor” for which the use of a civilized system of money facilitates greatly.

    I grew up on a farm that had been in place since about 1900. All farms in that community had a junk pile where everything that might even remotely have some future use was heaped in an out-of-sight pile. I remember making a folding reflector oven out of a discarded anti-freeze can. I once made a full tang camping knife from a worn-out metal file, etc, etc. The tool shed had no electric power so until my 7th grade woodworking class came along I had only the use of hand-muscle tools (saws, drills, grinders, etc) from the time I was about four.

    Later during one college year summer I took a job as a machinist cutting out aircraft and missile parts from raw metal sand castings. Perhaps a decade later I stumbled across a deal on a cast iron 10ER model Shopsmith at an estate sale — which I didn’t know then was the single most widely sold multi-function woodworking tool in this country in the late 1940s. I even met a retired sales and repair service man for Shopsmith who told me he used his to help build seven houses. That combination table saw, drill press, rotary sander, wood lathe, etc plus add-on accessories was like having a woodworking factory in my own garage. Since that cast iron generation the Shopsmith company has introduced multiple models with more power and features for a very appreciative nationwide audience of DIY woodworking enthusiasts.

    But none of them by themselves could manufacture a simple wooden pencil.

    The point is that DIY projects, creations and repairs have a time-honored and legitimate place but cannot replace some products and services that may require inputs from an economy of people. The slojd concept has a legitimate and honorable place but can only lessen one’s needs for the “system” but can’t replace it.


  • There is also a therapeutic side to manual crafts.
    I have PTSD and have discovered that blacksmithing, working with wood, and other crafts help for grounding me.

    Making things will always have it’s own rewards, but one can’t rule out the cash factor.
    Even if one only makes things as gifts to pass out, it saves money.
    Artisanal crafts are making a comeback in a world getting filled with AI, robotics, and technology.
    Having a sideline business of homemade crafts may be just enough of a trickle income to help keep the wolves at bay.

    The “down side” to starting up a “let’s make this” attitude, is that now you look at things around you with the critical eye of being raw material for your next project.
    “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” may have been a motto of days past that people forget, but if you couple that with manual skills all kinds of doors of your imagination open up.

    There is also the “family factor”.
    Teaching and showing your children how to make things gives them a sense of accomplishment, provides family time, and also gives you the time to slow down and enjoy the truly valuable things around you.

  • My later husband did a lot of mechanical work on our cars. After he got older he did a lot of leatherwork of various kinds for family members. Also tooled a guitar strap for a friend in exchange for a beautiful woodcarving. We both gardened until his health problems moved us into a condo. I’ve crocheted lap blankets, larger afghans, scarves and blankets. Also done some hand and machine sewing as well as decorative embroidery ( a small patch can become very charming when covered with a flower or insect embroidery).

  • “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” was a theme during the Depression years. And I suspect this will become a mantra again in the next decade or so. Crafting has never died out, but the popularity of certain crafts runs in cycles. While there seems to be a focus on making money from a craft, just the joy of making things yourself is enough to keep people invovled. And in any economic crisis, already knowing how to make things and ‘make do’ will be an asset. Now is the time to learn how to make useful and beautiful things. For some it can even turn into a lucrative career. For others, just a joyful hobby. Either way, go for it 🙂

  • Is it possible to ‘self-learn’ leatherworking, and if so, does anyone have any references they can point me to?

  • This is timely. I just visited family in Tasmania, and there is a huge push for producing…everyone seems to be (or is surrounded by) artisans, craftsmen and “tradies” in the area my relatives live. My nieces and nephews have skills like leatherwork (including saddle making, whip making), mechanics etc.
    It makes so much sense to me. I definitely want to bring this concept to my family when I get home from my travels.
    I like the resources you shared and putting a name to it – great article!

  • I don’t understand why 2 of my comments on this article are awaiting moderation. There’s absolutely nothing in them that’s confrontational or aggressive.

    • I was out and then sleeping. If there are links, it automatically goes into moderation to prevent spam.

      Sorry for the delay!

      • I didn’t know if the links were the issue or if I was in TOP jail. 😉 Thanks for clarifying. P.S. I was thinking about you in Greece when I watched The Durells in Corfu again. So beautiful. The closest I’ve ever been to Greece was my husband being there courtesy of the U.S. Navy before we ever met.

  • News flash – college is not an indoctrination camp. Ever hear of medical/dental/optometry school? Computer science (not theory, live coding including COBOL). Genetics? Without schools and smart people with vision, people would still be dying of polio, typhus, tetanus, run of the mill (in today’s world) infection, heart attacks, etc. So without this “so called indoctrination”, I’d venture 80% of people posting on this forum would already be dead. Parents who don’t do their job (and some because of the stupid notion of get married and breed) and allow their child(ren) to go in more debt than a degree will every pay can’t be helped. Breeders won’t wise up but future college students certainly are. No matter how much you can do for yourself, you *have* to buy supplies. Or perhaps just steal them but you can tell the judge and jury you are not indoctrinated.

  • I have found to always alter things or combine them to make do for the use i need them for…i recall the first time i combined was a peeling knife and a patato…i needed to get my toy car back from a bully when i was about five….never stopped since to create and YES, a really good knife is worth the money….but again…Sjold the f*ckrrrr
    The Leatherman i have is the exeption to all rules….never leave without it…

    There is stuff which making is not worthwhile, but then what do you really need?
    I live in a country that considers firearms in citizens hands a bigger sin than murder, ( also makes it easier and safer for police to bully people…but making an air rifle PCP style is not so difficult, and it can be done very low budget also… powder needed, objets to serve as bullets a plenty….good enough to shoot small game and bigger predators who may have real guns….so Sjold again….

    To make stuff yourself is part of what puts man apart from the other mammals….

    love thois site…greetz from Holland.

  • My first thought when hearing that this idea comes from Sweden is taxes. There taxes are so high that often saving up for a purchase makes it out of reach, but if one takes time out of work (lower taxes) and he is able to make it himself, then it is within reach. I first heard of this in relation of getting a sailboat—many small ones up to cabin cruiser size are still made of wood, a technology within reach of most DIYers. But I see this idea being of use post-SHTF when many of the products will not be available, or so expensive that no one can afford it.

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