Now More Than Ever: Make, Do, Create


In thinking about how I love to make and create things, be it art, music, electronic things, software, blog posts, cookies, photographs, accessories…. I think about why I want to make and create things, and I think it has to do with a few things.

I’m Cheap. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like spending money. My regular purchases tend to be things like food, gas, and rent. I pay the bills and I while I do pay for the tools I need to do my work (whether that work is “work-work” or “make/create-work”) I really don’t like to frivolously spend money on things, especially if I think I can make it myself. I prefer baking many of the foods that I eat over buying packaged food. I like knowing what’s in my food, and try to avoid certain things, so this helps a lot.

I’m DIY. I’m not sure how much the Do-It-Yourself label has been diluted (or perhaps spread is a better word) in the past 20 years or so, but 20 years ago I was printing my own zines, and stickers, and patches and t-shirts, and starting my own bands, and booking our tours, and booking shows for other bands, and putting out our own music (all of which was much harder to do without the World Wide Web) and for me, it feels good to do things myself. I see so many services online nowadays that provide things I can do myself, so I do them myself. There’s all this talk about outsourcing everything and putting it all in the cloud, but I often like to do it myself and be in control of things a bit more. I fear we’re creating a generation of people who expect “someone else” to do everything for them.

I’m a Legacy. My dad, and his dad, were both what we now call “makers.” They were both experienced woodworkers who build their own furniture, and could repair things, and had great collections of tools and knew how to use them. To this day, when I visit my mom’s house, I love the fact that the end tables were built by my dad. I’m a terrible woodworker in comparison, but I’ve taken to making other things, and when I do make something out of wood, I tend to paint it black to make it look cool, and to cover up my poor craftsmanship. When I make things, I sort of feel this connection to my family, who also made things.

I’m Fun. Who in the hell would ever think a pair of servos and a puppet would get such attention? Much of my making and creating things is done in the name of fun. Getting an idea and being able to execute it, to me, is a formula for a good time. If others enjoy it, it’s that much better… but I’m fine with being selfish and saying that it’s enjoyment in making and creating things that keeps me doing it.

I’m Cool. OK, I’m probably not cool, but what is cool is that it inspires people, like… my kids. (They might be the only people left who think I’m cool.) My daughter made me a cake and I’m still floored by how awesome it was. Knowing that they see me make things, and in turn want to make things, is top notch. I love it… I don’t even care if I’m not cool anymore.

So my plea to you, dear reader, is to Make and Create… Do Something! Don’t just be a passive consumer, buying a pre-packaged life, figure out what it is that you can bring into this world. If you’ve got ideas, take action on them, make them a reality, don’t be afraid of failing because failing is just what you do before you succeed.


Heat Gun vs. Blow Torch

Heat Gun vs. Blow Torch

It’s winter. If you live in Wisconsin that means you may have to decide between a heat gun and a blow torch for many tasks around the house. I’ve written this brief guide to help you out based on my heat gun and blow torch usage in the last week.

Frozen door knob on garage. For this task I choose the blowtorch. The door knob is metal so I figured it could take the heat of the propane blow torch just fine. Also, since there is no power outlets on the outside of the house, it would have meant running power from the kitchen, and that wasn’t appealing in any respect. Blow torch wins.

Frozen water line. There is a water line running into the refrigerator from the basement. The line is a small plastic tube and it’s close to the outside wall of the house so it freezes easily. For this task I choose the heat gun. Power was readily available, and there were too many flammable or melt-able items near the water line to risk using the blow torch. Heat guns wins.

Frozen gas tank door. This was a tough one… I would have preferred to use the heat gun, but the lack of power outside forced me to use the blow torch. While this worked, I was slightly nervous about putting an open flame to the fuel tank door. A few quick swipes provided enough heat to get the door open though, and it all ended well. Blow torch wins, but Heat guns would have been preferable.

As always, caution must be exercised when using either a heat gun or a blow torch. They can both melt things (including you!) and they can both set things aflame.

Respect your tools, and your heat sources, be careful, be safe, and hopefully you’ll have no problems.

Enjoy the next 6 months of winter!



Dremel Moto Jig Saw

Thor Drill Press Model #580

I’ve been playing with some new lighting techniques (learned at Z2 Photo) and figure I’d give it a try while creating an inventory of some of the tools in the “2XL Makerspace” (also known as “my basement workshop.”)

These tools belonged to my dad, and they still work quite well. I find it interesting that many of the tools we use today (computers, phones, and even software) will not be used by our children when they are our age. By that I mean, the actual tools we use. If you’ve got a PowerBook now, you’ll probably replace it in a few years, and then replace that, and replace that, and on and on… in comparison, the jig saw and the drill press were the exact same ones my dad used over 25 years ago to make things.

Maybe the cycle is just sped up… I just gave my kids the old 20″ iMac because I replaced it with a MacPro. Of course in a few years that iMac will seem slow and outdated, or it will break, or die, or somehow become useless. The lifecycle of our tools for digital work seems so short… My youngest daughter asked if she can have my DSLR when I get a new one. Is it normal for her to think I will get a newer (better, faster) camera at some point? I’m sure I will… but I’m also sure that in 10 years she’ll be able to buy a newer (better, faster) camera for half of what I paid for mine.

Is this the price of progress, or is it just the difference between tools that create things in the physical world vs. tools that create things in the digital world?


The Tools You Need

I’ve always been a strong believer in providing people the tools they need to get their job done, but then again, I’ve always managed to somehow get the tools I needed to get the job done, even if that meant providing them myself in order to make sure the job gets done right.

So I’m not sure which I’m more disappointed in, an employer that doesn’t provide the tools that the employees need, or employees that don’t request or somehow try their darndest to get the tools they need.

Of course I also often find myself amazed that people don’t want to do the best possible work they can. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore…


My Kingdom for a Torx 8!

When repairing a PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet) you’ll need two Torx screwdrivers, a size 8 and a size 6. If you’re lucky, you’ll find these at your local hardware store. If you’re unlucky – or cheap – this might be more difficult.

I managed to get the Torx 6 at the local hardware store, no problem. They also had a Torx 8 bit, with the security hole in it, which makes it cost more, and allows you to remove Torx screws of the size 8 variety with a small pin in the hole on the top. Yeah, so anyway, I bought that one. The bit worked OK until I had to remove some screws that are way inside, that require you use a Torx 8 with long skinny shaft – which means the damn bit would not fit. This halted repairs a bit.

So I happen to be at Home Depot, they have a Torx set but it’s $20, which for someone who is cheap, is quite the deterrent. I ended up calling another hardware store, they had nothing, I then called Radio Shack, and they did have a tool with fold out Torx bits, but they said it was $16, and it sounded cheap and I wasn’t sure it would work, plus I figured if I was gonna spend that much I’d spend $20 for a nice set.

So at this point I continue to hope I’ll find a single Torx 8 screwdriver, and if I don’t I’ll end up spending $20 for the nice set, even though I’ve already spent $7 for the bit and the Torx 6.

This demonstrate the frustration of everyday life I must endure…

(I’ll leave it up to you to determine if that last statement was sarcasm or not…)