Thoughts on the making of stuff

Mr. Fumblethumbs

Here’s the old fool himself, Mr. Fumblethumbs, all dressed up and ready to Make Stuff .

Actually, a lot of stuff has been made since this picture was taken (some of it successful, much more used as fireplace fodder). The boards to the right of the old fool are for a set of bookshelves. The bench in the background has been replaced with a larger bench with drawers (8′ bench, with 4 drawer units, 28 drawers total), plus another general purpose bench. More tools (both hand tools and power tools) have been purchased. More sawdust has been generated. No major accidents have occurred, and very little blood shed.

A number of people have made mock of this picture, but I pity those poor fools. Safety is VERY important, and the picture shows the proper safety equipment to protect hearing, eyes, and lungs. In addition, the shop apron stores small items (as well as offering some protection to the torso), and the safety shoes protect my feet. Even NORM (the patron saint of wood manglers) starts his shows off with a lecture on shop safety.

Some background

I’m really a software nerd, and only started attempting to “be handy” rather late in life. When I started looking at all the intricate and beautiful stuff that had been done, often by people claiming that this was the very first project they’d ever done … well, I damn near gave up in despair. But I kept at it, and quickly realized that although I’ve got a lot more enthusiasm than talent, the functional stuff I made was usually good enough. And most importantly, I was having a lot of fun! So, this page is dedicated to all those of us who lack the talent to do great things, but get a lot of fun and satisfaction out of just tinkering around and making stuff.

Why I make stuff

The making of gifts started out as a minor novelty, and has grown to consume a lot of my time in the weeks before Christmas and Halloween, not to mention birthdays and such.  I’ve been asked more than once why I spend so much time making stuff, when buying it is so much easier.  Over the years I’ve slowly (I’ve never claimed to be too swift) come to the realization that the gifts aren’t about putting checkmarks beside names on a list, or passing around a “shopping list” of things that one wants.  It’s more about trying to figure out what gift would be “just right” for each person , within the limitations of materials, time, and ability (especially the latter).  The process of figuring out what to make forces me to think about each person as an individual, and what they like, how to make something that might connect with their interests, and how what they like changes with time.  Part of it is the thrill I get in expanding my own horizons in exploring alternatives and different modes of creating things.  Part of it is in trying to understand (and appreciate) the recipient of the gift.  Part of it is the magic of seeing raw materials transformed into something worthy of giving (ok, ok, so sometimes it turns into fire-fodder, but even fires have a magic all their own). And part of it (maybe the largest part) is it allows me to give of myself … I’m sure as hell not the best woodworker or artisan or anything whatsoever, but what I give is part of what I am (hmmm … does this mean that the imperfections of the stuff I make are simply reflections of my own imperfections?).  It’s how I express my appreciation of each person, to show that I am thinking of them. And sometimes I even manage to get it right.  Isn’t connecting with friends and family what gives meaning to our lives?

One Response to Thoughts on the making of stuff

  1. Peter Bunge says:

    Well said. I am a Maker and a Fixer, I never really questioned why. My wife refers to our house as the Hewlett Packard Orphanage. I buy unloved HP equipment, find a manual and any required parts, and get it working. In the process learn a lot about electronics which is one of my hobbies. Building a 33ft houseboat necessitated learning to weld, building an ROV meant learning to program in C, learning to machine, learning, learning…
    I guess I do it to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *