What Rare Skill Do You Want to Learn?

I’d like to find time to learn flintknapping. I’ve been volunteering with some archaeological digs and it might someday come in handy (though not on the dig I’m working at right now - it’s all 18th and 19th century!)
It is funny to think that in a few centuries anything I do could really screw with archaeologists.


The TCM Festival shows classic movies including some silent movies accompanied by live pianists. This is an annual event in Hollywood every April.
It’s a fantastic event lasting 3-4 days. I went the second year and met my favorite star, Debbie Reynolds.


I’ve never heard of this! But it looks incredible. Now I want to try it.


I always wanted to learn to tat lace. Other things I’ve always wanted to learn to do are weave rugs and baskets and quilt, but those are more common skills.


Agreed! Primitive skills fascinate me. I’d like to learn matchless fire-building and all that sort of stuff.


I’ve always wanted to learn ice carving. Attacking a block of ice with a chain saw just seems really attractive to me.


Hi @nagnabodha, Josh Foer here. (In addition to writing Moonwalking with Einstein, I’m one of the co-founders of Atlas Obscura.) The memory palace is pretty easy to learn, although I have to admit I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at memorizing poetry.


I really find it interesting that you have this interest. I am retired from the Air Force, having spent 32 years as a navigator. When I entered, in 1971 (yes, I’m really that old) we absolutely had to be proficient in celestial navigation. I went to B-52’s, and as you know we were in the midst of the Cold War. The significance of that was the fact that celestial navigation was the only way to get around without other navigational aids: loran, tacan, consolan, etc. We simply could not risk being detected by use of electronic signals.
Since my training was almost 50 years ago, obviously I’ve lost a great deal of the skills that were acquired to do the job. But like yourself, I was absolutely baffled by how the ancients figured out the complexity of the heavens. I can only guess that it was a continuous gathering of data, by lying on the ground at night, and noting the movements of everything as it worked it’s way across the sky. To me, that’s obvious as to how the North Star was discovered and determined to be the focal point which everything else seemed to revolve around. It also stands to reason that this is how some of the planets were discovered. They had patterns of movement different than what the stars displayed.
I won’t ramble any more, but congratulations of tackling this. It’s a beautiful and rewarding course of study.
Good luck,
Larry Snider
Lt. Col. USAF (Ret)


Interesting you mention the ancients figuring all that stuff out. I really think we’ve lost a lot of that sort of mental capacity by having information at our fingertips.

Even back in the era you’re talking about, we had compasses and maps and the like, and we weren’t spending time studying the stars (possibly because we have TV and books and such to occupy us at night). I think that a lot of that sort of study comes from practice and frequent use, honestly.

It’s like how my grandfather could run a sum of figures in his head with complete accuracy that I would need a calculator to do. It’s just practice. He wasn’t any smarter than me, just practiced differently. Same thing goes for how they were able to build pyramids and such - their minds were just working at a vastly different level than ours in those areas.


About 15 years ago, I heard of a man named, Dennis Rogers. He was billed as the pound for pound strongest man on the earth. He could bend steel bars, tear decks of cards, and drive nails thru boards with his hands… (among other things). I immediately became enamored with everything I could find and learn regarding “Olde Time Vaudeville Strongmen”.
Through some very fortunate circumstances, I came to meet and become friends with Dennis and another great strongman, Pat Poviliatis. Meeting them changed my life and I spent years, practicing bending spikes, horseshoes, tearing decks of cards, and phonebooks.
I hit my stride in 2009 when I was performing at many events… One event got captured on film. I did a halftime show for a local roller derby.
Shoki Strong Man Show

Anyway, that was my rare skill that I just could not get enough of for a long time. I still, from time to time, bend spikes or twist horseshoes, but my love for performance seemed to have left me at some point over the last 10 years.



Bookbinding. I have 5 prayer books that belong to my family. During World War II, they got buried in a backyard for a few years, only to be dug up, transported across oceans and continents, and almost forgotten. They are falling apart and I’d love to restore them.


Since I knit and am linked into the knitting community I don’t think my skill is that rare, but after finishing my education I set to getting skilled enough to knit lace socks. This winter I managed two pairs for myself out of alpaca yarn, with reinforced heels and toes so they’ll last longer. I’ve also in the past done silk ribbon embroidery and cross stitch, so needle work I’d my non-professional thing.


There are a couple of types of tatting, including needle tatting. Take some time looking around YouTube for methods for which looks most likely for you and give it a try. You should only be out about $5-10 for supplies and your time. Have fun figuring it out, and the pride of knowing you tried even if you don’t succeed!


I’m learning bobbin lace. I went to Venice last year, and visited the island of Burano, where lace has been made since the Renaissance. I also love making period costumes for myself, and will use this lace on a 1906 shirtwaist.


Cold reading is a skill i’ve practiced most of my life. Working with information streams not commonly thought about by others to formulate information about a person and use inductive reasoning to make more accurate guesses about someone without knowing them.

The skill is useful for work, life, and if you choose to eventually be a sociopath or professional liar.


Two historical embroidery techniques: Huck (Swedish, 1600’s) and Blackwork (Spanish and English, 1500’s).


This thread reminds me that for years I wanted to learn how to darn socks. I finally looked it up and learned.


I have a skill that was once quite common but is now disappearing – Pitman shorthand. I had wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but my mother, fearing that I would starve, insisted that I learn typing and shorthand so I could at least “have something to fall back on.” Those skills served me extremely well through college, law school (because I also came to fear starvation), and my 35-year legal career.

I retired last year and am now trying to learn various languages, including two “dead” ones that, like shorthand, employ non-Latin alphabets: Ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’ll never be any good at them, but the learning process is fascinating.


How to pick a lock. Maybe not yet rare but as we become more technical it will be a rarer skill. Maybe I could rent myself out instead of having people buying bolt cutters…just a thought.


Pitman Shorthand is an awesome skill. I’ve love to learn that.

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