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Lesson 3: Building a Shelter
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While it is fun to experiment with collecting different resources and crafting items, once you launch the game, time is of the essence. A full Minecraft day/night cycle consists of 20 minutes:

  • 10 minutes of day / light
  • 1.5 minutes of sunrise / sunset
  • 7 minutes of night / dark

You can accomplish a lot in those 10 minutes of daylight, but don't forget to spend some of that time preparing for the coming night.

It is obvious that a big hindrance of night is that it is difficult to do anything because you cannot see, but you also need to worry about the hostile mobs that come out at night. A way to protect yourself is to simply build a shelter that has everything you need.


Crafting and Smelting Shelter Items

There are a lot of different materials and items* you can use when it comes to building your shelter. I'm going over mostly the basics, but Minecraft has many more to play around with.

Regardless of what kind of shelter you end up making or how long you plan on staying in it, there are some items that could be helpful to have with you. Some of these you'll probably want to make right away, but others can wait until you've found a more permanent location to set up camp.

Bed

  • Allows you to sleep through the night. Once you sleep in a bed, it becomes your new spawn point. This is very helpful as when you die you will go back to a safe place rather than where you originally spawned in the world (especially helpful if you've traveled very far from your original spawn point). You can be attacked while in bed and it will wake you up. Make sure you only sleep in a bed you have placed in a safe location with light that is enclosed and away from mobs.
  • No matter what color combination of wool or wood planks you use, the bed will always come out the same (so you don't have to use the same color wool or same wood planks, any combination will do).

Chest

  • Great for storing things you don't want to carry around or lose if you die.
  • A single chest has 27 inventory slots.
  • You can place two next to each other to create a double chest with 54 inventory slots (as shown in the picture above), but you can't combine any more than 2. You can place them on top of each other, but they won't combine.
  • When you break a chest, everything inside of it will drop and you'll have to pick up those items or leave them behind.

Crafting Table

  • If you already made one, don't forget to take it with you and put it in your shelter. Night is a great time to craft things if you aren't ready to explore in the dark.
  • Because it only takes 4 wooden planks to craft, it can be created on your personal crafting grid or with another crafting table.

Furnace

  • Used for Smelting resources and Cooking food.
  • In order to use, add a fuel source to the bottom box. You can use almost anything made of wood, but the most practical resources to use in order of burn time (least to most) are Wood/Wood Planks, Charcoal/Coal, Block of Coal, and Bucket of Lava. Most commonly, people will use coal.
  • You can stack the same fuel in the furnace to have continuous burning. Once a fuel starts burning, it will disappear and the flame above will turn red and burn down until it runs out. Regardless of if you are smelting or cooking something, as long as it has started burning, it will go until it runs out so be prepared with everything you want to smelt and/or cook.
  • If a fuel source runs out in the middle of cooking/smelting something, that item will stay as it was and you'll have to add more fuel and the smelting time will reset (you can't pick up where you left off smelting it).
  • While in use, the furnace will provide a source of light, but it won't be very bright. And though it has fire, it will not start anything on fire or burn down your shelter.

Torches

  • Provide light so you can see.
  • They bring up the light level for wherever you put them and as long as the light level is bright enough, no mobs will spawn. Make sure your shelter has a few torches or a mob may spawn right in your house.
  • These are also great for placing outside so you can find your shelter easier in the dark. Put one on top of a stack of dirt or fence posts to make it easier to find from a distance.
  • They cannot start anything on fire.
  • You cannot carry one around to see (though that would be really nice if you could), it has to be placed to provide light.

Wood Door

From left to right: Oak, Spruce, Birch, Jungle, Acacia, and Dark Oak.

  • A wooden door will make it so you can quickly and easily get in and out of your shelter. They can be made with any type of wood, and the door design will be different for each type. Though it could vary with different resource packs, there is a window in the following types of doors that will allow you to see out of your shelter: Oak, Jungle, and Acacia. If you aren't going to have any windows, having a door with a window/opening can be very helpful.
  • If you just place a door by itself, the hinge will appear on the left. If you place it next to a block, the hinge will appear on that side. And if you put it between two blocks, the hinge will again appear on the left. If you place one door next to a block and then another door next to that door, the hinges will be on the outside and the doors will create a double block wide entrance (doors still need to be opened one at a time).
  • Wooden doors can be broken by zombies in hard mode.

Iron Door

  • A stronger door that cannot be opened by just right clicking on it. Can only be opened by using something such as a Lever or Button placed right next to it or with a Redstone Circuit (more advanced and won't be covered in this beginner class).
  • Hinge and double door criteria same as a wood door.

Stairs

  • Used to get up blocks easier and decorative purposes.
  • Can be crafted from various resources including Wood, Cobblestone, Brick, Stone Bricks, Sandstone, and Red Sandstone.

Ladder

  • Used to go straight up and down blocks. Takes up less room than stairs.
  • You don't really climb down a ladder, you actually just fall slowly and safely as long as you are right next to the ladder. If you click left shift (sneak) while climbing the ladder, you will grab the ladder and stay put allowing you to look around. You can also stand on top of a ladder.
  • Mobs can climb ladders; they won't try to climb them, but if they happen to walk into one, they will climb up it. One way to make it even harder for this to happen is to skip the bottom block and place the ladder one block up. Just remember you need to jump while pushing the up direction to start climbing if you do this.

Some naturally occurring blocks you may want to build a shelter with that only require you to collect them include Dirt, WoodLogs, Cobblestone, Granite, Andesite, Diorite, Andesite, and Sandstone. When it comes to constructing a temporary shelter, stick to dirt and wood as they will be the easiest to pick up and move or take with you. Move on to whatever block you like the look of when you are ready to make a permanent shelter.

Besides the basic blocks, there are more decorative blocks that you can work with but it involves some crafting and smelting to get them.

Wood Planks and Sticks

  • Wood planks are used as basic crafting supplies and also looks nice for building a house.
  • They will be different shades of brown depending on the type of wood used to craft them.
  • They can be used to make sticks which are basic crafting supplies, particularly in crafting tools.

Glass

  • Glass Blocks are one of the few see-through blocks in the game and they are created by smelting sand in the furnace.
  • Can be crafted to make Glass Panes which look a little nicer, but in order for the full plane to appear, there needs to be a block on each side of it (this includes having panes lined up next to each other). Panes cannot be placed as a skylight as they will always try to create a window. They can be placed next to doors but they won't extend towards the door. This will leave a gap and give a half window pane look.
  • Can also be crafted with dye to make Stained Glass.
  • Use stained glass blocks to create Stained Glass Panes the same way you would make normal glass panes.
  • Dyes can be made by crafting plants, squid ink sacs, and bone or by smelting cactus and lapis lazuli.
  • Glass items cannot be picked up; once you place it, that is where it has to stay. If you hit it, you will simply break it.

Stone

  • When you mine stone, you get cobblestone. You can turn cobblestone back into stone by smelting it.
  • Craft 4 stone blocks together to make Stone Bricks.

Clay

  • Clay blocks are found naturally underwater. When collected, they breaks into clay pieces. Those pieces cannot be used on their own, but can be used to craft or smelt other materials.
  • Craft 4 clay pieces together to make a Clay Block.
  • Smelt clay pieces to create Bricks.
  • Craft 4 bricks together to create a Brick Block.
  • Smelt a clay block to make Hardened Clay. Hardened clay can be crafted with various dyes to make dyed clay.
  • Craft 3 in a "v" shape to make a decorative Flower Pot.

Slabs

  • Half the size of a normal block, slabs are good for decorative purposes. Commonly used on roofs and as steps.
  • Can be made from Wood Planks, Cobblestone, Stone, Stone Bricks, Brick, Sandstone, and Red Sandstone.
  • If you aim towards the top of the block you are putting it against, it will actually be placed higher like it is floating. This can be good for tables or ledges.

Sandstone

  • Sandstone can be found naturally in desert and beach biomes while red sandstone can be found in the mesa biome.
  • Sandstone can also be crafted from 4 sand blocks.
  • You can use those four sandstone blocks to create Polished Sandstone.
  • Craft together 2 sandstone slabs to create Chiseled Sandstone.
  • Crafting is the same for regular and red sandstone.

Carpet

  • This decorative item sits on top of other blocks and is created from wool and dyed wool. It needs to sit on something to be placed (it cannot just float).
  • If the block it is placed on top of breaks, the piece of carpet will also break.

Iron Bars

  • Alternative to glass panes and wooden fences.
  • Unlike fences which are 1.5 blocks hight, they are only 1 block high and can be easily jumped over.
  • Allows you to see out and made from Iron Ingots. Will look a little funny if not bracketed by other blocks.

* As mentioned in the previous lesson, to pick up any wooden materials and items, you can punch them or use an axe. To pick up stone or anything made from stone materials, you need to use a pickaxe or it won't drop anything.


Creating a Shelter

The longer you play the game, the more you'll be able to craft and the more complex you can make your shelter / home, but to begin with, there are certain things you want to focus on to make sure you protect yourself and make it through the night.

Side of Hill

One of the easiest ways to build a shelter is to dig into the side of a hill or mountain.

If you have a pickax, I suggest diging into stone so you can collect all that cobblestone, but if you haven't gotten that far yet, stick to a hill made of dirt as it will be easier to break the blocks.

This is great because not only do you get to gather resources while digging out the shelter, but you also don't have to construct walls or a roof. You can just block yourself in for the night when you are done, or you can add a door and glass panes (you might have to wait longer on the glass if you don't find sand early on) to make it easier to see and get in and out.

Underground

Another way to make an easy shelter that has natural walls and a ceiling is to dig down underground.

Dig so that you can easily walk up and down out of your shelter (meaning you want to either have 1 block high steps, add steps, or use a ladder). This can be a little riskier as it will be harder to tell if mobs are waiting outside your entrance for you in the morning. One thing you can do to help with this is break through the ceiling and add glass blocks for a skylight. This will allow you to see while keeping those hostile mobs out.

Digging down can be risky because there can always be a cave hiding below you. Make sure you do not dig straight below yourself, instead dig in front of you and work your way down.

Cave

If you don't want to do any digging and you come across an existing cave, you can just block yourself into it.

Make sure to add a door to get in and out easier and torches to prevent mobs from spawning. I would recommend using dirt because it is easy to break apart and move if you don't like where you have put it. Sand is another easy to break block, but it will fall if the blocks below it are destroyed and it will cause you harm if you are standing below.

Up a Tree

If you are in an area with some larger trees, you can stack some dirt underneath you to get up to the top and hide up in a tree for the night.

You can also place a ladder going up the side of the tree to get up. If the mobs don't see you you'll be fine so you'll just have to camp out. If they attempt to follow you, you can try jumping from tree to tree. Or, you can just build a shelter in a tree with walls and a door. Who wouldn't like a tree house?

Destroying leaves can cause more leaves to disappear, so keep this in mind as you may not be able to rely on the leaves to hide you. Keep some dirt or wood on hand in case you need to block yourself in.


Making Existing Structures Your Home

If you've turned Generate Structures on for your world, there will be a variety of places you can explore and use as a shelter.

Villages

Villages in different biomes. Row 1 (L to R): Plains and Taiga
Row 2: Savanna and Dessert

The easiest to find and most useful is the Village, which can be found in plains, taiga, savanna, and desert biomes.

Not only do they consist of various buildings that will suit as your shelter, but they also can have blacksmiths (with a forge and chest with supplies) and gardens that contain the staple crops (which will be talked about in Battling Hunger to Stay Alive). Everything you need is there and if you wanted, you could set up each of the buildings for a different purpose for you. Remember to add doors to buildings and torches if they don't already have them.

Trading with a villager.

Another thing that can be a bonus is the Villagers. While they don't do much besides run around, you can trade with them. You will always be trading for or with emeralds, so while they may not have any other function, if you ever want to trade, make sure you save them up when you find them.

There are different types of villagers and the type of villager will determine what types of items they are willing to trade for/with. Also, you will only be able to do 1 or 2 different trades with each villager at first, but if you want to try to get better trades, keep trading with the same villager. One example is if you are interested in getting an Explorer Map to find a Woodland Mansion or Ocean Monument. You will have to trade with a Cartographer to get one and it will take a few trades before these will become available to you.

If you come to a village that seems abandoned, it could be one of the very rare zombie villages. You can still stay in it, just be careful at night as that is when the zombie villagers (will be covered in Combating Mobs) will come out.

Witch Hut

A Witch Hut can be a good place to set up camp, but only if you kill the witch that lives there or it has moved on to somewhere else.

They can only be found in swamp biomes which are distinguished by their trees with drooping vines, lily pads, and darker colored water. All huts are set up with a cauldron, crafting table, and a flower pot (sometimes it has a mushroom in it). If you decide to stay, I suggest putting in a door, window panes, and torches for extra protection. Also, if it is above the water (which many are), you will either need to build stairs or a ladder to get in and out of it.

Igloo

A relatively new structure to Minecraft that is pretty interesting is the Igloo.

They only generate in snowy biomes that have flat space. They have a domed shape with a small entrance that protrudes from one side. Inside you will find a bed, crafting table, and furnace. Make sure to add a door and torches if you plan on sticking around.

While igloos may not seem that interesting, in about half of them there will be a secret basement. To see if yours has one, you'll have to destroy the carpet and look for a trapdoor in the floor (right click to open it). This leads to a long shaft with a ladder which takes you to the basement. Inside you will find a brewing stand, a cauldron, a chest, and two cages containing a villager priest and zombie villager priest (zombies and zombie villagers will be discussed more in Combating Mobs). They can be seen behind iron bars in the far end of the room of the bottom right image above.

Woodland Mansion

If you are lucky enough to come across a rare Woodland Mansion, take note of its location as they are very rare and only appear in roofed forest biomes.

I don't advise exploring it within your first couple of days in the game or setting it up as your shelter quite yet because the monsters that inhabit it are difficult. In Combating Mobs you'll learn more about the unique mobs that live there and what to expect from them. Woodland mansions are also home to more common mobs including creepers and skeletons.

If you do feel like braving one, you'll find a two to three story building that contains many rooms that can be one of any 50+ varieties. Some of these rooms are hidden and require you to break through walls to find them.

Other Structures

There are a handful of other structures that are interesting to explore but aren't as practical for living in:

  • Desert Temples - contains an underground hidden chamber with chests; don't set off the hidden TNT if you decide to explore
  • Ocean Monuments - inhabited by guardians, but also hidden gold blocks in a treasure chamber
  • Abandoned Mineshafts - can contain random chests in minecarts, but can also have monster spawners
  • Dungeons - also contains a monster spawner, but also chest(s); add torches and destroy the monster spawner to stop more mobs from spawning
  • Jungle Temples - contains booby traps and a hidden chest that requires you to solve a lever puzzle to get to

Last Minute Shelters

If you can see the sun setting and you haven't prepared a shelter, you do have a few temporary options to consider. Those most of these wouldn't be considered actual shelters, they are ways to shelter you from hostile mobs at night.

Out to Sea

First, if you are near a very big body of water, you can create a boat and go out to sea until the sun rises again.

You want to be able to get as far away from land as you can as mobs will come after you if they see you. If you don't have supplies for a boat (covered in Battling Hunger to Stay Alive), you can just swim out, but you'll have to hold the space bar to stay afloat all night.

Underwater

Another way to utilize water to survive the night is to hide underwater.

You can't just stay underwater because you will run out of oxygen and drown, but if you place certain items underwater, they will block off the water and you can stand next to them to avoid running out of oxygen. These items include Sugar Cane and Fences. All you need to do is go underwater so that you have at least two full blocks of water above your head and stack either two fence posts or two pieces of sugar cane. Then stand as close to the item as you can. You'll see your air bubbles go away when you are safe (if you have air bubbles and they are slowly disappearing, you are going to drown, move closer to the fence or sugar cane until the just disappear). If you have one block or no blocks of water above you, the mobs will still be able to hit you.

An upside to this method is you can see when the sun comes up. A downside is that mobs can avoid burning up in the daylight by being in water. So, if they are floating above you in the morning, they will be in your way when you try to escape. What you'll have to do is quickly walk to the side and swim up and away onto land. If the mob follows you on land, lead them around until they burn to death. If they don't follow, ignore them and go on with your day.

If you are going to hide underwater for the night, I suggest going under before the mobs come out and see where you are hiding.

Hiding up High

If there is no body of water big enough to hide out in, you can create a pole to stand on.

To easily do this, look straight down and jump while also placing a block below you. Do this over and over again and you will raise yourself higher and higher one block at a time. You will be safe from a majority of the mobs if you build it high enough.

Two things to keep in mind is that spiders can climb up vertical blocks and skeletons will shoot arrows at you (both creatures covered in Combating Mobs). To counteract this, when you get as high as you want to get, build out the blocks around you to make a small platform to stand on (changing your point of view with F5 might make this easier to do). Even with the platform, the skeletons might be able to get you so I suggest making the platform 5 by 5 and standing in the middle to not draw attention to yourself.

When you are ready to come down in the morning, stand above the pole you made, look straight down, and break the blocks below you (if you just jump down you will get hurt and possibly die). Make sure you don't go beyond ground level or you could accidentally break into a cave. Since you are probably going to break this pole once it has served its purpose, it is best to make it with Dirt so you can easily break the blocks.

Encased in Dirt - Above and Below Ground

On the left you can see that I've encased myself in dirt above ground. I would place another block over my head until day arrived. On the right I've dug down and would, again, place a block above my head until it is day.

If you just want to get through the night and have some dirt on hand, just build it around you and encase yourself in a 1 by 2 block space.

The main downside is you can't see when it is light out, but if you keep in mind that night is about 7 minutes, you can try to keep track. Make sure you cover the top too because if you jump up and down, they can see you.

Lastly, you can do what anyone will tell you to never do and that is to dig down to create a hole in the ground.

I would suggest standing off to the side to do this and not digging right below yourself so you don't break through and fall into a cave. Once you dig down three blocks (and you can see it is safe), jump in and place a block above your head (I suggest dirt as it will be easiest to break when you are ready to get out; avoid sand and gravel as they will fall and hurt you). Now you should be set as nothing can spawn exactly where you are standing.

Like encasing yourself in dirt, you won't be able to tell what time it is. Be prepared to destroy a block and quickly replace it to take a peak to see if it is day again or just keep track of time that has gone by (another option is to use a glass block above you). To get out in the morning, dig out the block above you and then dig in front of you to make steps to get out.


Keep Yourself Fed!

Keeping yourself protected at night is important, but as you play more and more you are going to notice that your character is in need of nourishment. Read on in the next lesson to learn about all the different ways you can collect food and keep yourself fed as you explore new places.


Class Project

Show what type of shelter you've created to stay safe and keep your belongings organized. Even if you decided to just bury yourself in a hole, I want to see it!

Remember to use F2 to take a screenshot!

CLASS PROJECT

Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

Nice work! You've completed the class project