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Q&A with Bob from "I Like to Make Stuff"

Posted by Jason Robinson on

What prompted you to start making?

I’ve made stuff for most of my life in some form or fashion. Both of my grandfathers and my father had shops and were always very hands on types of people, so it never occurred to me to be any different than that. Legos were a huge part of my child hood which enables you to have (to some degree) whatever is in your imagination. This same thing translated out of Legos when I got older.. I usually built the stuff I wanted.. like my first pair of roller blades. The wheels were Tinker toy wheels, with a plywood base and velcro straps. I found my self saying (really often) “I want a skateboard ramp” or “I want a climbing wall in my basement” and I was able to figure out how to make some version of it with whatever I could find. This often meant digging through scrap piles at construction sites in my teens.

What was the turning point at which you said, "I want to share this with the world?”

I had a growing family which needed, and deserved, more and more of my attention. I believe part of being a good husband and dad is to have at least a little time where can just be you. Time in my shop, making things, was that time for me but I still had some guilt about it. I was kind of able to justify that time, to myself, by using it as a tool to teach and empower others. So, I guess the answer to that question is partially selfish, but also not. I realized that teaching was a good reason, but it was also something that I found out that I really enjoyed! Once I started sharing my projects, it was a snowball effect. I would hear from people who said how much it helped, or what they had learned, and that made me want to share more and more!

When a project does not seem to be going your way, what pushes you to complete it?

I’m fairly results oriented, personally. The end goal is the thing that I usually strive for, and that means that the process can often be wandering and have it’s ups and downs. That doesn’t really bother me too often because I see those moments as opportunities to rethink my approach or my current goal. Sometimes you just need to recalibrate your expectations which makes the problems or setbacks not seem as big of a deal.

 How would you describe yourself as a student growing up?

Capable, but lazy. Honestly, I was so wrapped up in being a teenager, playing music, etc that I didn’t focus or put in the effort that I should have. Honestly, I really regret that. Even though I changed my focus in college and started down a path that I cared about, I regret not taking advantage of the interesting situation that high school is for a person. Generally, you have TONS of freedom, relatively little responsibility, and you’re put in a place to learn new stuff for several hours a day. As an adult who now loves to learn, that sounds amazing! Maturity and hindsight are huge there, but I hope that we can start to inform kids about the amazing opportunity they have to explore and try things out while in school.

We understand part of being a maker is building your skillset. What's the skill that you are most proud to have mastered or at least really improved?

Mastered? Nothing, at all. In some ways I envy people who are REALLY good at one thing, but also, I love the fact that I can learn the introductory level of just about anything and decide from there if it’s worthwhile for me or not. I also like being able to put a skill in my pocket and come back to develop it if it is needed someday. As far as improvement, I’ve been exposed to so much woodworking on YouTube, and to so many people who are REALLY good at it, that I’ve learned a ton (especially by doing something wrong on video and getting called out for it). I feel like my skill set there has grown a lot, but is still really in it’s early stages too.

Can you give us an example of how you use math or science in your projects?

You know how people say “I’ve never used algebra since high school”? I always speak up and say, I used it yesterday! Physics? Yeah, that too! There’s a huge amount of basic geometry and math skill used in building things with any precision at all. Even just being able to find angles in wooden joints uses it. I also take into consideration physics when thinking about any moving parts or how strong things need to be. One specific example, is a recent build here I make a secret door/ book case. I had to use geometry to figure out the sizes of the cabinet so that it could swing through an opening in the wall. I actually made a mistake with it, on video, and fixed it, also on video. There’s a lot of value in showing and fixing mistakes too.

Which project are you the most proud of?

Probably the secret door/book case actually! I think the execution of it could have been improved, but the reason I’m proud of it, is because one of my best friends has been dreaming of having a secret door since he was a kid and came to me to make it happen for his newborn son. How cool is it that I can use my skills to help someone realize a lifelong dream?! It’s super awesome!

What is the one tool you use most in your making adventures?

My pocket knife. That may be surprising, but all of my power tools, while useful, are stationary and serve one purpose. The multi tool that I carry daily is used for all sorts of stuff and it’s always right in my pocket.

What is next on your list of skills to learn or improve?

Just one? I have lots that I want to improve, but metal work is one that keeps coming back up. I’ve done some welding and fabrication in the past, but it’s been long enough that I’m now starting almost from scratch. I’m really eager to learn it to expand the materials that I can use comfortably for projects.

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to start making?

Pick a project, something that you REALLY want to have, and just start. If the project is something that you’re personally invested in, you’re more likely to see it through. The motivation is very different from being hired to do something, or just learning a skill. Look at the project not as one big problem, but as a collection of tiny problems. Pick the first tiny problem to solve and just start. When you’ve solved it, move to the next tiny problem and so on.

Be sure to check out Bob's site I Like To Make Stuff for more great information.


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