General References


 This web-version of the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook provides concise summaries of over 1,150 of the best do-it-yourself books. Use the Search or Table of Contents in the right-hand column to browse subjects and locate books. The complete text and graphics of these books can be obtained on USB or DVD in Village Earth’s AT Library. Click here for more information and to order.

Books reviewed in this section

Appropriate Technology and Research Projects
Appropriate Technology Directory
Appropriate Technology for Rural Development
Appropriate Technology Institutions: A Directory
Appropriate Technology Institutions: A Review
Appropriate Technology: Directory of Machines Tools Plants Equipment Processes and Industries
Bibliography of Appropriate Technology Information for Developing Countries
The Book of the New Alchemists
China at Work
Dick’s Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes
Economically Appropriate Technologies for Developing Countries
Fichier Encyclopedique du Development Rural
Field Director’s Handbook
Field Engineering
The Formula Manual
Foxfire Books
A Guide to Appropriate Technology Institutions
Guide to Convivial Tools
Guide to Technology Transfer in East Central and Southern Africa
How to Build Up a Simple Multidimensional Documentation System on Appropriate Technology
Intermediate Technology in Ghana
Introducing Family Planning in Your Neighborhood
The Journal of the New Alchemists
Knots for Mountaineering: Camping Climbing Utility Rescue Etc.
Liklik Buk
The Mechanical Engineers’ Pocket Book
Mini Technology
More Other Homes and Garbage
NonAgricultural Choice of Technology
One Hundred Innovations for Development
People’s Workbook
Pictorial Handbook of Technical Devices
Simple Technologies for Rural Women in Bangladesh
Simple Working Models of Historic Machines
Soft Tech
Teknologi Kampungan
Tinker Tailor Technical Change
Traditional Crafts of Persia
The Use of the Radio in Family Planning
Village Technology Handbook
Visual Aids Tracing Manual
World Neighbors in Action


As most of the publications reviewed throughout this web-based Sourcebook can be considered references, this specific page was created for special kinds of publications. These include books and periodicals that span many topic areas, several bibliographies, and directories of appropriate technology groups. Books that contain information on a number of technologies within a single general subject area have been placed in the corresponding chapters.

Entries in this chapter from Nepal, Bangladesh, France, Peru, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, India and South Africa each contain information on a variety of technologies relevant to many developing countries. (See especially People’s Workbook and the Liklik Buk.)

More Other Homes and Garbage is a valuable textbook and reference for calculations needed for a variety of technologies. Field Engineering and the turn-of-the century Mechanical Engineer’s Pocket-Book are packed with hard-to-find technical information relevant to the rural areas of developing countries.

Four bibliographies have been included here. Non-Agricultural Choice of Technology and Economically Appropriate Technologies for Developing Countries lead the reader to the literature on the economic implications of technology choice.

Appropriate Technology Information for Developing Countries is an attempt to cull and reevaluate U.S. AID and government research reports for possible relevance to appropriate technology efforts—a difficult task. Guide to Convivial Tools, intended for librarians, identifies the books of a new discipline—the study of the cultural, social, and political conditions necessary to allow democratically determined limits to industrial technology.

Rainbook and several other books are concerned with activities in the U.S. The Foxfire books document historical technologies once widely used in the rural areas of the U.S.

Six directories of appropriate technology institutions are included. The most up-to-date is ITDG’s aptly named Appropriate Technology Institutions: A Directory.

Readers operating information services or small libraries will find valuable advice in Small Technical Libraries and How to Build Up a Simple Multidimensional Documentation System. For those who just want to stir things up a little, two formula manuals contain a number of household product formulas that would also be relevant in the Third World.


More Other Homes and Garbage: Designs for Self-Sufficient Living, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-47, book, 374 pages, by J. Leckie et. al., revised edition 1981, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, out of print.

This valuable, easy-to-read textbook contains well-illustrated presentations that successfully make technical information available to people without formal technical training.

Topics include: alternative architecture, small-scale generation of electricity using wind power and waterpower, and solar heating of houses and water. The solar section contains useful charts such as the coefficients of transmission of heat for various building materials, and the proper solar collector orientation for different latitudes. Biogas digesters are discussed in the waste systems section, while the water supply chapter covers wells, solar distillation of water, pumps and water purification. Each of the chapters includes many sample calculations to aid the reader in understanding how to solve practical problems. The emphasis is on providing the reader with most of the necessary background information needed to design projects.

The new edition reflects a more sophisticated approach to the economics of alternative technologies, and advances made in commercially available materials.

The section on solar thermal applications, in particular, has been thoroughly revised.

While much of the content of this book is U.S. oriented, this can also be a valuable reference in developing countries, especially for understanding basic concepts and doing calculations correctly.

Field EngineeringAvailable in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-71, book, 251 pages, by P. Stern, F. Longland, et. al., 1936, revised 1983.

Workers in developing countries have long needed a simplified, small engineering handbook for quick reference. This one was widely used in East Africa from its appearance in 1936 until after its revision in 1952.

The current, substantially revised 1983 edition contains much basic information on surveying, building construction and water supply. The many illustrations and emphasis on techniques make this a handbook that will be useful to people without any engineering background.

Simple surveying equipment and techniques are described along with how to set out building plots. The characteristics of different building materials are explained (wood beams, thatch roofs, tile roofs, reinforced concrete and more).

Pipelines and pumps for water collection and distribution, and basic latrine and privy designs are covered. Earthen road and timber bridge construction are followed by basic formulas for different power sources. Important design considerations, safe loads, etc. are set out for most of these topics.

Readers looking for more extensive engineering reference material should consult The Mechanical Engineers’ Pocket-Book (1910 edition) included in the microfiche library (paper edition out of print).

The Mechanical Engineers’ Pocket-Book, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-74, book, 1461 pages, by William Kent, 1910 edition, paper edition out of print.

This long out-of-print engineering handbook contains information on a range of technologies and materials that are still commonly used or that could be used in developing countries, but have disappeared from current engineering handbooks. While most of the information contained within will not prove of use to most readers, the sheer size of this “pocket book” (1461 pages) means that it is peppered with interesting entries. These include, for example: steam engines (140 pages), human and animal power, strength of lime and cement mortar, stresses in framed structures (e g. timber bridge trusses), pelton wheel sizes and specifications, sugar cane biogases as a fuel, measuring water flow using “miner’s inches” windmill capacity and economy, weight of materials for roofs, characteristics and splicing of wire and hemp ropes for power transmission and haulage, shearing strength of a wide variety of American wood species, and use of belts for power transmission.

Introductory and summary material is provided for each section of the handbook: strength of materials, geometry, calculus, mechanics, basic machines, water power, etc.

The reader is to be forewarned that some of the information contained in this book is no longer valid, as the composition of materials has changed over the years. However, for the range of technologies on which it is almost impossible to find any engineering information elsewhere, this is a welcome reference.

The Next Whole Earth Catalog, large paperback book, 608 pages, edited by Stewart. Brand, 1981, out of print.

The Whole Earth Catalog was started in an attempt to provide information about where to buy good quality tools (including books as “tools”). The Catalog expanded from that vision to include books, products and information on practically everything for the U.S. reader—from environmental law through French cookware to mysticism.

The Whole Earth Catalog represents one of the best models for low-cost information exchange anywhere, but little from the Catalog is appropriate to the needs of developing countries. (In Papua New Guinea, development workers have produced a local catalog of information and resources available within the country. This is an excellent example of what can be done with this approach. See review of Liklik Buk, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-44).

Liklik Buk: A Rural Development Handbook/Catalogue for Papua New Guinea, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-44,270 pages, ATDI, second edition 1977, 1986 edition from ITDG.

Liklik Buk contains a wealth of practical information for rural development in Papua New Guinea. Tells a great deal about who’s doing what in PNG, and where to go for further information. There are 120 pages on crops and livestock, with attention to processing and utilization. Some coverage of village industries (good short description of silk-screen printing and soap making), food processing, and building and roads construction. 12 pages on health and nutrition.

The Design section includes many photos and drawings that are great sources of ideas; some of the equipment could be built from this information alone. Of particular interest are the pedal-powered thresher, winnowing machine, coconut scraper, oil press, and sugar cane crusher. Some information is presented on alternative sources of energy and water resource development.

An excellent model for what a national catalogue/handbook can be. Highly recommended.

China at WorkAvailable in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-77, book, 357 pages, by R. Hommel, 1937 (reprinted 1969), out of print in 1985.

The author lived in China between 1921 and 1930. In this remarkable book, he examines “primary tools, those which met people’s basic needs: the handcrafting of tools, the providing of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. The photographs and sketches are thoroughly documented and the various processes explained.” There are more than 500 photos and sketches, and a very useful index with several hundred individual items of village technology listed.

Although much of the material in this book is quite dated and primitive, the book is so comprehensive that it undoubtedly includes a few useful items for any village technologist.

Teknologi Kampungan: A Collection of Indigenous Indonesian Technologies, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-60, book, 154 pages, by Craig Thorburn, June 1982.

Successful, ingenious traditional technologies are used throughout the world and represent an important resource of human knowledge that should be tapped in appropriate technology development. The people of Indonesia, in the rural areas and urban “informal sector,” employ a great variety of clever, resource-conserving, low-cost tools and techniques. Author Craig Thorburn has added 270 illustrations to an informative text that will allow readers to make, use, or adapt many of the best of these technologies to fit their own circumstances. Topics include agricultural hand tools, water lifting devices, metal working tools including a carbide gas generator for welding, fish traps and nets, crop threshing and processing equipment, stoves, three-wheeled cycles, construction techniques and materials, waterwheels, and a variety of other rural and small industry technologies.


Appropriate Technology: Directory of Machines, Tools, Plants, Equipment, Processes, and Industries, Available in the AT Library. INDEX CODE MF 02-23, book, 280 pages, by M.M. Hoda, second edition 1977.

This book exposes the reader to some of the intermediate technologies that are relevant in Indian circumstances. Subjects include agricultural tools, crop processing equipment, crafts tools, village and cottage industries, transport, water supply, biogas, and solar devices.

More than 50 pieces of equipment are presented; the information has been compiled from a variety of sources. There are descriptions, drawings and construction notes for most of these. For the following items the material included appears to be sufficient for construction: six agricultural hand tools, hand crop duster, earth auger, hand seed drill, plant puller, seed dresser, oil drum forge, metal bending machine, equipment for parboiling rice, hand-operated workshop drilling machine, sugar cane crusher, equipment for making matches, equipment for making candles and soap, three-geared cycle rickshaw, water seal latrine, hand pumps, hydraulic ram pump, hand-operated washing machine, solar cooker, and forms for casting well rings.

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