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Make: Tips and Tales from the Workshop: A Handy Reference for Makers (Make: Technology on Your Time) 1st Edition
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From the Publisher
Q&A with author Gareth Branwyn
Gareth Branwyn has written, edited, or contributed to a dozen books, including Borg Like Me, The Happy Mutant Handbook, and The Best of Make:. As a journalist, he has covered technology, media, DIY, and cyberculture for Wired, Esquire, the Baltimore Sun, Details, and other publications. He's a former editor at Mondo 2000, Boing Boing, and Make: magazine, where he served as Editorial Director. Today, his 'Tips of the Week' column on the Make: website is consistently one of the site's most popular features. With the publication of his latest book, Make: Tips and Tales from the Workshop, we decided to touch base with Gareth and ask him a few questions.
Your new book is a compendium of tips and tricks for makers. What got you interested in this topic?
I have always been fascinated by technology, by tools; but my focus is always on the human side of that equation. I am interested in how humans use tools, especially how they use them in ways they weren’t intended to be used. I have also always been interested in the sort of utopian dimensions of tips, the way a time-saving technique, a hack, or a shortcut gives you a little glimpse into an easier, smarter, more efficient world. Tips are useful in improving one’s workflow, but there’s also an aspirational quality to tips. You see a really cool one and you get a little tickle in your brain of how you would apply that tip and how it might improve your life. You get that whether you ever apply the tip or not.
The book seems to cover a very wide range of topics. Does that reflect your own range of interests?
I try to live my life as a generalist, a whole-systems thinker. I love the concept (which I cover in the book) that the 'universe is a collection of parts.' Our world is a collection of component—m materials and processes—configured one way that can be deconstructed and reconstructed in other ways. With this mindset, you start thinking of the materials, tools, and techniques that are 'encoded' in something and how they can be 're-encoded' somewhere else. In the realm of techniques, you start thinking about general forms of materials processing, like cutting, fastening, joining, gluing, soldering, etc. I decided to arrange the book like that. I also wanted this to be a book that would be useful to all kinds of making, from traditional shop craft to crafting to robots and desktop fabricating. Much of this is reflected in the wide net cast over each chapter. Everyone should be able to find useful tips regardless of what kind of making they enjoy.
Are the best tips bits of wisdom that are handed down from one maker to the next?
As part of my interest in human side of tools and tips, I wanted to include personal anecdotes, from my own life as a maker, and from friends and fellow makers I encounter in my work covering DIY technology. As I talk about in the book, tools and tips are often handed down with a story attached to them. I wanted to retain some of these stories. This turned out to be harder than I anticipated. When you ask people outright to share such stories, most people draw a blank. But then, even moments later, in casual conversation, they will share some anecdote which is exactly the kinds of stories I wanted the book to tell. Often, I had to trick people into telling me these stories by not asking them outright. I just got them to talk about their shop, their tools, or some technique, and the stories would often emerge from there. If nothing else, I hope the book gets people to think about this rich history of their tech and how tools and techniques almost always have their own stories to tell.
One of my favorite 'stories' in the book is a silent one. I love old workbenches. They are literally inscribed with tales of all of the projects they have ever hosted. There, in the saw marks, the drill holes, the paint and varnish oversprays, the burn marks, is a sort of unintentional map of the bench owner’s work life. We decided to use close-up images of a workbench to run as a design element in the book. Maker extraordinaire, Jimmy DiResta, was kind enough to take some pictures of his workbench which now grace the chapter openers and the footers of every page.
Do you have a favorite tip from the book that you would like to share with interested readers?
Oh gosh, there are so many great ones. There are obviously many tips that fall into the 'Now, why didn’t I think of that?' category. But I especially like the tips that never would have occurred to me. One of those in the book is the 'grandfather’s' search term. I heard this mentioned on a video from a woodworker named James Wright. He has a saved search string on Craigslist that looks for anything listed under 'grandfather’s.' This way, he gets alerted to estate sales when granddads pass on by statements like: 'I’m cleaning out my grandfather’s workshop.' He’s gotten some amazing stuff via this search.
About the Author
Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer/editor and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, Wink Fun. His most recent book is a best of writing collection and "lazy man's memoir," called? Borg Like Me.
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This book adds so many more practical and helpful tips for the home, a classroom and an art studio. It is very accessible, easy to understand, beautifully illustrated, and makes a great gift for anyone, too. I wish I had it earlier in my professional life!