Friday, December 20, 2013

Metal Working Workshop

tl;dr: I took a welding class, now I’m inspired about the possibilities of future (and futuristic) manufacturing and fabrication.

Intro to Metal Working Workshop

My classmates learning the tricks of the trade.

I recently finished taking an Intro to Metal Working workshop at the Makerhaus. It was a brief intro into using various tools and techniques to cut, form, and attach metals including a MIG welding and an oxyacetylene torch. Other tools I used include: a lathe, sheet metal bender, band saw, metal sander, metal shears, drill press, and metal grinders, etc.

It was pretty fun. Mostly we just used tools to break apart and destroy things and then weld them back together into something.

I made a shelf out of old bike parts: gears and bike chain. I’m pretty proud of it. The welds are all kinda, ehh-quality, but that is more to do with rushing through them than my lack of skillz. I’m actually impressed with my welding ability (I thought I was going to be terrible), but I’m alright at it.

The shelf I made. 
Note the bent 90-degree bike gear shelves, and the bike chain at the bottom to hang things.
Displaying Thrift Store trinkets. 
Anyway. I also welded these gears together at the end just for fun! I call it art!
Welding Practice = Art.

It was fun and interesting and I really want to own and use a MIG welder. For what, I haven’t yet figured out, but I’m sure there is a reason, (and maybe a practical one) that I can use to justiy buying a MIG welder?  Maybe just to be artistic and bring out the artistic artist in myself and make art.

The workshop was an overall good experience, but if I was to go back in time, personally I would probably skip this class and put the money towards a MIG welder, because let’s face it, while in-person instruction is very helpful, we do have the internet! With a little common sense, care, and patience you can teach yourself practically anything. So I would probably take that route: get free knowledge and instruction and invest my money in the tools. A class like this does help build confidence and gives you the kick-in-the-pants to jumpstart you into such an unfamiliar trade/hobby (such as welding) that many of us need to get into something like this.

The instructor was a cool dude; very knowledgeable and helpful, with a resume to back it up. He’s an Industrial/Mechanical engineer who runs his own small machine and fab-shop on the side, here in Seattle.

A scrap-metal holiday message from the Makerhaus Metal Shop.

The Makerhaus

Empowering Creative Minds

The other benefit of the class was to get acquainted with the Makerhaus itself.  Makerhaus is kind of an incubator and facilitator for creative people. They “provide the resources, education and community for creative minds to make, invent, prototype and explore without boundaries.”   It’s ideal for entrepreneurs, Kickstarters, and small businesses, or anyone with a project to do, who doesn’t want to invest in an entire shop.Its another example of a type of Collaborative Consumption: access over ownership.

Membership provides access to all kinds of useful tools with a full woodshop, full metal shop and a plethora of crazy futuristic tools that connect Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) to the real world with such fancy tools as a laser cutter, CNC Router, and multiple 3D printers.

So while I am not a member, (its expensive!) it was cool to be introduced to what access to this place is all about. It was cool just to see a 3D printer working. It was also very inspiring at what is possible in the realm of taking an idea in your brain and transferring it into reality, especially with access to these kinds of futuristic tools. So now I segue from old school manufacturing (woodshops and welders) into…

The Future of Things and Your Creativity

The future is filled with endless possibilities for the creative person. Tools that were purely science fiction, or even beyond comprehension just a few years ago, are rapidly becoming accessible and affordable to masses. It’s truly a revolution that has gone mostly unnoticed. Just about anyone can design, prototype, and build just about anything you can dream up; if it obeys the laws of physics (and fits the limitations of the tools, but those limitations are dwindling.)

You can literally print out structures which are more intricate and complex than can be created by any other manufacturing process. Essentially allowing you to leap-frog 20th century manufacturing techniques and create and manufacture complex items on your desk top, from your desktop.

This revolution in manufacturing is built upon the technology of 3D Printers3D Scanners, and of course the open-source internet. The internet is now a growing source of 3D things. For example: Thingverse is online, open-sourcecrowd-sourced, repository for FREE 3D printable things.

An example of a 3D Printer
The possibilities:
Practical: Can’t find that discontinued window knob for your 1983 Toyota pickup? Print one! 
Creative:  Have an idea for a custom iPhone case? Draw it in CAD and Print it! 
Piracy:  Want to reproduce that unique item you found at the Thrift Store! Scan it and Print it!
The possibilities are absurd.

If that isn’t enough inspiration to go out and create, maybe this will help.

The good thing is this technology is exponentially improving and becoming cheaper. This funded Kickstarter campaign (goal: $50,000. $651,000 raised!), aims to create world’s first $100 3D printer AND scanner.

More information on the future of 3D things.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Although a subway/light rail network is basically non-existent in Seattle, the bus service is pretty good, and we can walk or bike to most places we need to go. But there are times when we both could benefit from a car. After selling my deteriorating money-pit of a vehicle, I thought it would be interesting to try out Car2Go as a supplement to our transportation needs.

It’s a car-sharing service, part of a growing collaborative consumption movement, reshaping the attitude of how consumers own and use things: Where people share things that they use on occasion, as opposed to owning them outright. Paying for access to a product, not ownership of the product.

Car2Go is also a growing part of city transportation, made possible by the internet and cheap modern technology: key-card access, on-board GPS, online integration, and a Smartphone app. It is currently in a bunch of cities.

The Smart Cars feel a bit like driving a clown car. They apparently have the same accelerators as bumper-cars: the first 45 degrees of the pedal is non-responsive, and the next 5 degrees is 0 to 60! But you can park in the smallest of spaces. And since they have a deal with Seattle, all parking is FREE!

The perks are the simplicity.  You just find one, hop in, and go! Then ditch it.

Free: Gas, Parking, Insurance, maintenance, cleaning, etc, including all those hidden-costs of car-ownership. “Free” meaning they are already included, so you never have to worry about it.

One-way trips! It’s like having a fleet of disposable one-time-use cars. Just bus-it home! No more retrieving your car.

The downsides are freedom. Of course having the freedom to go wherever, whenever, on a whim is the very reason people own cars. Car2Go is not ideal for some trips, but it’s not a bad alternative for most trips. There is an "in-bounds", and a few rules.

Seattle's current boundaries.

The cost is 41 cents a minute (capped at $15 an hour), which seems steep, but when actually add up the full cost of owning and operating a car, it is apparently cheaper! [AAA report: “How much are you really paying to drive?”]. And of course we don't use it that often, so its working out pretty good so far.

Finalizing the trip on our 1st Car2Go.

Here is a TED Talk on Collaborative Consumption for more information on the idea. (it’s a little dated, but it conveys the idea).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Museum of Glass

Long time, no post. That’ll happen.

We took a half-day trip down to Tacoma to check out the city.

Tacoma is the birthplace of the renown glassblower Dale Chihuly and is therefore home to the the Museum of Glass.  I've wanted to check it out for a while now. Glassblowing is kinda big out here. 

This is my favorite piece from inside the museum.

Attached to the museum is the Bridge of Glass, which I actually enjoyed more than the museum. The bridge is free to the public! It kind of looks like the world's fanciest collection of bongs. It isn't. But I'm fairly certain that the creator and owner of the worlds most impressive collection of bongs is likely Chihuly himself. Anyway, he makes some really beautiful work. 




Inside the museum is an area where you can watch and learn about glassblowing in person. It was a cool thing to see.

Seattle has also tried to get in on the glass hullabaloo with the very recent installation (in May 2012), Chihuly Garden and Glass, at the base of the Space Needle which we have yet to go to, (and may not now that we have gone to the other one).

Anyway, it was pretty cool. Tacoma seems cool too, although we didn’t actually see a whole lot more, since it gets dark at freakin’ 5 o’clock (stupid winter). We'll hafta make another trip down to see what else is going on in Tacoma.