Friday, August 14, 2015

Making a Thing (with Metal)

I quit my job a couple of weeks ago.  I was bored, and I wanted to do something else.  And I'm kind of looking around.  But in the meantime, I'm working on fire art more, prepping for the burn, and going fishing.  Today, I Made a Thing™.

When I was young, and I wanted to make something, I was always baffled by how you went from an idea to a thing.  In my mind, I guess, I didn't really think there was anything you could do between woodworking and drop forged steel; if you wanted a thing, and it wasn't made of wood, you were pretty much out of luck unless you wanted 10,000 of them.  I don't think I thought it explicitly, but I think it was pretty much how I figured the world was.  Only professionals could Make a Thing™.

Doing a bachelors and a doctorate in physics, you're highly encouraged to take machine shop.  There are a lot of simple situations where you have a sensor, and something you want to attach it to, for instance, and they don't fit.  So you machine an adapter plate.  I was instantly in love with machining, and would often find excuses to go to the machine shop to make things*, especially in grad school.

Since then, a lot of things have changed that made it easier to Make a Thing.  For one thing, Make magazine, Instructables, and the entire maker/DIY movement have made it much easier to learn how to make things, especially if you came from a family that did not make things (my father is a lawyer, and is a great lawyer, but was never much with hand tools.  We did build a passable treehouse together, though.  That was a great memory.)

For another, there are a lot of ways to make things that didn't exist back then.  There are low temperature moldable plastics, 3D printing (even in metal!), and all kinds of CNC that never existed.  The flowjet at TechShop is one of my favorites, especially for making signs:

But for me, personally, having a house, and having tools, and knowing how to use them was really the biggest step, in some sense.  It's just wonderful to me that I can Make a Thing, in my own house, in a few minutes, and even simple things give me great pleasure.  As part of my backpack flame poofer (almost completed), I made a bomb-style thumb button, and wanted to have a clip to clip it to the backpack strap.  So I grabbed a piece of 16 gauge steel, bent it around the handle, cut off the end with a dremel, shaped it a bit, and drilled a couple of holes in the back to mount it:

The way it snaps into the holder gives me great pleasure.  I Made a Thing, and it does its job very well.

*This was way back in the very earliest days of Make magazine, and I was super excited that there was a web site just for showing off stupid stuff that you made.  Unfortunately, the original site is now lost down the memory hole, but it's not hard to imagine what we did.

1 comment:

  1. Yeap, sure does look like you're building a bomb in your garage =)