When I first decided that I wanted to make things for a living, I could barely operate a can opener. Sure, I used a Phillips head screw driver to put batteries in electronics, and I managed to crush my thumb with a claw hammer a few times as well. However, with no real experience, and not even knowing what each tool was named, let alone what it was for, the initial curve seemed intangible. I know how difficult it can be to determine where to even begin, and I was lucky enough to have some guidance from the technicians here at Conant. To all those who crave to be more skilled with tools and just don’t know where to begin, this post is for you.
First of all, it is necessary to consider all factors in your project before you commence fabrication and assembly. Some of the guys here can blow through projects so quickly, that it seems like they don’t even plan. The truth is, they have had much experience, and they move so quickly because they know where issues will arise and can avoid them before they occur. Beginners, on the other hand, must try and analyze their steps to avoid careless mistakes, and inevitably they must also make many mistakes. It is helpful to consider the end goal: what is your design? It may help to draw a picture, or do a computer rendition, or even a mock-up of the prototype. However, it is important to have as nearly a complete an image of your design as possible somewhere, even if it is just clearly in your mind.
Now that you have the image, you can consider the materials and processes which you will utilize in order to make the idea a reality. And it is at this point where most inexperienced craftspeople will seem most daunted because there are a million ways to do so many things. This is essentially the meat of what I was getting at in this post. I have been searching for great beginner material to read and use to develop one’s skills. Some people find it helpful to fully engage and understand underlying concepts of fabrication before they even start. In my opinion, an easier way to learn is to pick small projects in the beginning with simpler steps and learn from a project to project basis. Nevertheless, you must apply what you learn, and learn to accept and understand your failures.
Here, listed, I have some resources for beginners who are looking to pour their passion into productivity. Don’t be afraid to bounce around and embrace the sea of the unknown. With diligence, these things will be absorbed, and you will surprise yourself with what you know in very little time.
Resource List for Makers:
1) Making Things Move by Dustyn Roberts, a free pdf online which translates mechanics for the non-mathematically minded. Google it, and enjoy.
2) www.efunda.com, a great resource that gives you an overview of engineering basics, machine shop processes, designs and much, much more.
3) www.instructables.com, a site packed with projects to explore by amateurs and experts, alike.
4) http://abana.org/resources/index.shtml, the American blacksmithing association website which contains great beginner information in an organized approach, allowing one to guide themselves and improve incrementally.
5) http://www.mcmaster.com/, a huge industrial supplier which has enough parts to keep you looking. Just knowing what’s out there is a great way to become a better maker.
6) Youtube, yeah I bet you knew that one.
Thats right internet, we’ve got a great set of side tables hot outta the workshop! Constructed from the break drum of a car, a rotary blade from a lawn mower, and a pickle barrel top, these beauties are ready to imbue your living and/or commercial space with awesome. Stop into our showroom, 270 Pine Street for an up-close and personal look – for now here’s a photo!
There’s something special about these tables (like most of our creations), they have a history, a past life of sorts – Maybe its the wear on the wood grains, haggard and aged in the most beautiful of ways. Maybe it’s the corks filling the holes where liquid would have been drained. Maybe its the barely visible textual elements, forgotten by time.
We’re really excited about the current push towards amazing re-purposed furniture, and we hope you are too! To stay in tune with our goings on – check our blog regularly for updated content, as well as facebook for a constant stream of what’s new?!
Today’s topic is documentation. Most restoration projects involve either a partial or full disassembly to clean, inspect and restore/apply a finish. It is important to record what goes where, even with what seems a simple assembly. Photographs, especially taken in sequence, aid the reassembly process a great deal, plus they provide finish details in the “before” condition. It is also quite helpful to show the disassembled parts lined up in the order they go back together.
As a rather extreme example of this process, I am in the process of restoring a WWII bubble sextant at home. This ingenious device has many parts and many, many screws, so I purchased a restoration guide published by Bill Morris out of New Zealand. Pictures from his manual are used with his permission.
I started out by printing the photographs that show (with arrows!) which screws to remove in the proper sequence. Next, I bonded them to 8 ½” x 11” pieces of corrugated cardboard with a spray adhesive. Now the fun begins! As each screw was removed from the sextant, a tiny hole was made in the appropriate place of the printed photo and the screw inserted:
It is quite helpful to make notes on the paper as shown, especially about the tiny parts. The pin mentioned in the photo is less than 3/32” long and is about .040” in diameter!
There are about 18 of these sheets; here is an example of another one:
Even using these sheets, the process of reattaching a subassembly proved difficult – I spent about 30 minutes looking for two screws, assuming they would be on one sheet. I thought I had lost them, until I located them on two separate sheets!
Though this is an extreme example, some kind of reference system is useful even in simple projects, especially if a part can fit both ways. It can save you a lot of time.
We have an ad in the July/August issue of Design New England, a beautiful and informative home and garden publication! Here’s a bit about them:
“We inspire our readers’ imaginations about the way they want to live. Our focus on design professionals provides the connection our readers need to make their dreams a reality. With engaged and informative text, we break down each element of these stunning spaces and all of the decisions behind them, from materials and appliances to new building techniques. A variety of styles, from contemporary to traditional, are included, in keeping with the vast array of design talent in New England.”
Check out the digital edition *and our ad* in its full glory here:
Everything has a purpose, right? The nature of “things” are to be useful in some sense, to be proficient at a task. But we here at Conant Metal & Light see a greater potential in “things”. Saying this thing or that thing is meant for this specific purpose is limiting the potential of said thing. A tire for instance, is most commonly used in the construction of vehicles. But just as humans can have many talents, a tire can have many uses: a tire swing, a garden planter, a go-cart track bumper, sandal treads, or part of a jungle gym. There’s a brilliance in taking one thing and using it for another, especially instead of buying something new.
This is one example:
Singer, still a popular sewing machine company used to create their machines in cast iron. Beautiful and strong, These cast iron bases were built to outlive their users, yet so many are collecting dust forgotten or discarded.
We’re changing that.
The gorgeous textures of the copper top, the elegant contours in the cast iron base. This is a prime example of repurposing.
Tired of your old off-trend shade? Buy a house with unsightly existing fixtures? We stripped this shade and rehashed it as a pendant cage. No longer does it have that dated fabric constraining its potential. now it exposes a beautiful Edison style filament with panache.
For countless examples (I mean, if you really want to you can count all of them) of re-purposed materials, check out our showroom filled with inspired & lighting, furniture, and jewelry. Also, look for my future posts every first and third Wednesday.
Pickle Barrel Top Side Table
Design New England
working with a (RE)purpose!