Make Master Make Me a Maker
November 25, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I have come into an ok amount of free time and I would like to throw myself into the world of being a "maker".

I like the idea of creating things (whether it be physically or digitally) but as of the moment I have little to no experience in these areas. What books, sources, starting points, and projects would you suggest I throw myself into? Feel free to interpret this question broadly. I generally find that the broader and more varied the answers the more helpful and unexpected the insights.

P.S. I understand when it comes to the more advanced things (learning programming languages etc.) that getting to a proficient state will take the 'ol "ten thousand hours". I'm ok with suggestions that push me in the direction of both instant projects AND long term goals.
posted by sendai sleep master to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I just picked up this Learn to Solder kit at Fry's, which comes with everything and is all of $15. It'd be a useful skill to have for this sort of thing. (Can't vouch for the quality of the kit because I haven't gotten around to using it yet).

I've heard the MAKE Electronics book is really good, but haven't used it at all.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:06 PM on November 25, 2012

If you can make a wooden box, you can make a lot of things built upon what boxes are made of.

A toy box is made from a wooden box, as are storage boxes and the like. Once you get the basics, you'll get comfortable with wood and basic hand tools and you can go from there.
posted by xingcat at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

A subscription to Make magazine also gives you access to all the digital back issues, so you would have hundreds of projects to peruse.
Home Depot has a good deal on a Dremal Rotary Tool and accessory kit which is almost a necessity. A small container of "Friendly Plastic" or "instamorph" is handy to have.
Processing is a free programming language which is geared toward multimedia, but by adding a library can program arduinos or serial ports.
posted by Sophont at 4:54 PM on November 25, 2012

As one who never really did it before but who enjoys "equipmenty" things and slightly detailed processes, I have discovered the joys of cooking and baking. I get to buy some not-too-expensive gadgets and tools and actually use them to make things which turn out, at worst, pretty well. I mean, you combine butter and sugar and flour and ????, how bad can it be? It doesn't take a lot of room and, if you clean up as you go, it's not very messy or burdensome when you're done.

Unlike many hobby projects, it's pretty easy to give away cookies and pies.
posted by uncaken at 4:59 PM on November 25, 2012

Where do you live? Find out if there is a local makerspace and what classes they offer. Best way to start up is to find likeminded others! Plus that is the most fun.
posted by kellybird at 5:11 PM on November 25, 2012

While reading something like MAKE is magazine is fun, it can be difficult to transition from reading about a cool project to actually doing it. This is not because the projects in MAKE are necessarily hard, but because when you are reading a magazine you are passively sitting and and reading rather than being out in the world actually making things.

I've found that I make the most progress (in terms of my skill set) when I am trying to accomplish a specific task. For example, instead of going out and buying a Learn to Solder kit and a new desk lamp to work under, you could alter or repair a cool vintage lamp. That way you are learning, keep stuff out of a landfill, and gaining good story to tell. People will be seriously amazed that you found that broken lamp in a dumpster then rewired and refinished it yourself.

Along those lines, here's a broad list of stuff that you could learn to do:

Fix a leaky faucet
Make a chalkboard from an old cabinet door
Grow an herb garden
Change your car's oil
Weld a broken bike frame
Sew an apron
Make lye soap
Build a R/C plane
Develop film

You will find that each project reveals a whole new world of skills, tools and tricks. From the outside it can look intimidating, but any project is just a series of steps. After a while those tools and tricks accumulate and begin to compliment each other, and soon you will feel like you can make or fix anything. You can!
posted by stephennelson at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I make soap in my crockpot a couple of times a year. I used to use the cold process method, but now I follow this, more or less (without the dyes).

This is a pretty good cold process soap tutorial, except she's not wearing gloves. I wear gloves when I'm dealing with lye, and I buy Rooto at the local Ace Hardware.

You can pick up my list of suppliers here at this AskMe.

For soap molds, I like Candles & Woodcrafts. You can also use fancy molds (I have some neat Celtic knot molds -- like large candy molds) one trick I found is that you have to pop them into the freezer to get them to release, otherwise, no go. You can't use the fancy molds with cold process soap, as the chemical reaction requires a big slab to complete, but with hot process, you dump and smooth and once it's cooled (or frozen), you have soap.

Takes maybe half a day with the set up, but at the end, you have a ton of soap for yourself and for gifts (or to sell!). I love mint, with spearmint essential oil, mint tea for the lye water, and a bit of the wet mint from the tea thrown in at the end with the essential oil. Another favorite is rose geranium, not as sickly sweet as rose (and way less expensive) and men seem to like it too.

Kind cool to mix all that up and watch it turn into soap. When I think it's done, I grab a blob out, let it cool, wash my (gloved) hands with it under the tap, and wa-lah! Bubbles!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:34 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

With regard to 'starting points', pursue curiosity and thrill.
posted by nelljie at 6:35 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps one way to approach this is to take stock of what projects need to be performed around your home. I've always found that accomplishing something that had a definite need can often be more satisfying, and the lessons-learned more personally-valuable.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Nelljie : you have to be curious about how things are made before you start making anything.
So, start and open a sewing machine, and toaster, a Bic pen, a lamp.
When you open those objects you'll start and understand how they work, which kind of materials were chosen, which process were used, etc.

Let's say you want to make a moped (like this one ) :
you'll have to understand how a bike frame is made, what kind of soldering were used and why, and how *you* can solder a bike frame. You probably won't do this same way Giant does!
And then you'll want to know how a motor works, so you'll open a motor from an old motorcycle, try and alter some things in it, see how you can assemble the motor to the frame, etc.
I am a bit simplifying the process, but you get the idea...
posted by mugitusqueboom at 3:26 PM on November 26, 2012

People here sometimes disparage Reddit, but they have a DIY subforum that contains posts ranging from "Look at meee!" to "Here's a detailed step-by-step of how I id something."

Look around until you see something that makes you think I could do that and then go for it.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:41 AM on November 28, 2012

My grandfather made leather belts up until the time he passed and he said he loved to do it because it could be a short term or long term effort depending on what he wanted on the belt. He made me one with my name across the back and horses on the remaining material because I love horses.

That might be good for you to look into.
posted by kmpwj at 7:11 AM on November 30, 2012

« Older Searching for beautiful emotional minimal music   |   Stop Staring & Come Talk To Me Already! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.