How to UnMake a Makerspace build thread: Why I make things, Part 2 My Biggest Influence.
Full disclosure, I work often 7 days a week. I scheduled this post to happen on fathers day so I could let my dad know how important what he did with me when I was younger. Turns out that is next Sunday, but it is still on the schedule for publication. Happy father day Bob Masek, you are a pretty great father!
Let me give you some back ground on the legend that is Bob Masek. He is a stubborn man. I think he may have gotten it from his mom. Grandma would get an idea, and you could either be on board, or be on board. How stubborn you ask? His CB handle was the plow. He got it while working at Boyscout camp in upper Wisconsin. He would plow through tasks with a force that I have not ever seen paralleled. They built things, drank beer and enjoyed the woods. It is not that dissimilar to what happens at most maker spaces. He went to college for mechanical engineering and took a job in Peoria IL at Caterpillar where he met my Mom at a ski club. He worked as a young engineer until they realized that Bob Masek was a talker. He ended up as some type of fleet sales engineer. I never fully understood his job when I was younger. They ended up in NH and made three little kids. My sisters all own drills, and can change a tire so they were not ignored. I however loved turning wrenches.
On Saturday mornings we would go down to his workshop. He had a workbench made of an old hollow core door with a 1/4 inch sheet of Masonite on top of it. It had a few coats of shellac and a Craftsman machinist vice with bend handles from using cheaters on them. It wasn't just a work holding device. It was an anvil. It was a bearing press. It was a sheet metal brake. It was a flattening die. It seamed like every thing we did involved that vice. a 13 inch black and white tv sat on a shelf and it played this old house, the New Yankee Workshop and American Bandstand. Dad would always try and show how cool he was by knowing the hip music. This system would involve messing with the antennas and adjusting v hold, h hold, ans some other knobs that I can't recall.
I don't know if we even owned safety glasses. When things didn't fit, we had a wide assortment of hammers, pry bars, cheaters, brass punches, and other implements of destruction. Under the bench we had boxes of "the good chemicals you can't buy anymore," power cables, extension cords, masonry tools, paint, and other things you might file under hoarding. Then there was his craftsman tool chest. It had a silver frame with red drawers. Every drawer was overloaded. and the slides required constant maintenance. Each tool had been hand engraved with RBM his initials. All of my tools are initialed with RJM, just like my grandfather. 5-piece Offset (45°) Box End was my favorite set of wrenches to use. Anytime we would run into a metric bolt it was a "communist conspiracy".
I vividly recall going to Hammer Hardware and Osgoods Hardware. We would go and look for the one bolt we needed. We would go to all of the specialty shops to get car parts, vacuum parts, springs for the dishwasher at the Maytag place. This was not a time of Amazon Prime. It was a time of a file cabinet with every manual to everything we bought. Parts diagrams were not a searchable document. It required phone calls, filling out hand written order forms with checks and waiting weeks for parts to show up. Many a time we had to give up and fabricate the replacement part or modify something to work. As time has gone on it was no longer affordable to replace the windings on a motor in the Shop Vac, it is cheaper to replace the entire unit than to buy just the part.
I was brought as a Bohemian. I didn't realize it at the time, but the statement was actually a slightly raciest commentary on how cheap the Czechs were. In order to be cheap, we had to be resourceful and efficient. I want to give a few examples of working with my dad and how he came up with creative solutions to complex or non existent problems.
CAD- Cardboard Aided Design
We used to cut up file folders for everything. Before I could manipulate things on a computer in Solidworks, I learned to visualize it. We would build a scale model of each room and all the furniture. If we wanted to rearrange the room, we would take out all of the little scale footprints and move them around by hand. As kids, this taught us spacial reasoning and an understanding of not just the size of things, but how to think about the human factors of floor plans.
Calibrated extension cords.
My dad was stubborn and would not hook into the city sewer. He made a scaled drawing of where the opening was but we did not own a tape measure that was long enough to measure it. He had two extension cords that were marked off with the proper lengths. He could have done it with string, but knew that the value of an extension cord meant it would not disappear anytime soon.
Labeled Light Switches
In my house as a child, we had a bunch of switches. They all did something. Every switch was labeled with an embossed brown plastic strip.
Every Saturday morning we would get a and written list with check boxes on a little yellow notepad. Steps would be detailed, order would be based on scarcity and work center limitations. Each kid would get one and have to complete it by the time we would go get hot dogs from the hot dog lady for lunch. Now we all make lists when we need to get things done.
I don't think he thought about giving me something extra when growing up. I think he firmly believes that being able to fix things was a necessary life skill. This is something that everyone needs, they need exposure to making. My father gave me experience with many different vocations from breaking the cheapest taps available to stripping slotted screws and a dash rounded bolt head for flavor. We didn't just fix the house, we built rockets. We changed oil, rebuilt carburetors, and soldered circuit boards. I never heard my dad say he couldn't do something. I got my willing ignorance of what I can do, and do it anyways from him. He got it from his father.
When he needed to learn something he did it with books, I have Google and YouTube. He let me break his tools, and then was nice enough to let me bring them to sears for a replacement. He let me make mistakes. He let me fail when I needed to. But at the end he helped me finish the project. From all of those many memories I get to have him looking over my shoulder shaking his head with befuddled look on every project from memories. (He isn't dead, he just lives just north of the middle of nowhere IL and can't use Skype) I don't think it had to be my dad, it could have been my mom, a neighbor, or a teacher. It could have been you. If you don't have a kid, find one who needs an adult and show up. They need someone to tell them they can do it. If you do have a kid, teach them to change a tire, wire a lamp, and use basic power tools. It is more important than this weeks Real Housewives of the OC or the big game.