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Author's Note evokes belly laughs from those unfortunate enough to have witnessed the madness. After the first few catastrophic device failures, building to last becomes increasingly important. This is something MacGyver never had to worry about: his kludges had to last only 15 minutes or until the bomb was defused. Lucky bastard. As useful as duct tape, hot-melt glue, and cyanoacrylate are, at the end of the day, they don't make for a strong, reliable mechanism. Quick 'n' dirty emergency patch jobs are one thing; building a mechanism intended for daily use over an extended period of time is entirely another. 3 There are better, stronger, time-tested fabrication techniques available that will make your builds solid, durable, and efficient. Learn these skills once, and you'll use them for a lifetime, in applications you've likely not yet considered. Building to last raises another issue: you (and your current and future loved ones) will be living with the fruits of your labours for years, not days, which makes the industrial design and aesthetics of the project significantly more important at a number of levels. Let me put it bluntly, for the fellas, who may need it blunt. A mechanism, regardless of utility, held together by a table- sized amorphous blob of hot-melt glue is not a chick magnet. Are we clear on that? Good. Carry on. "You've got to know the rules before you can break 'em," is one of those time-honored axioms you regularly hear being tossed around in conversations pertaining to creativity. A less frequently encountered, but equally thought-provoking truism is, "You've got to know your tools, or you're gonna break 'em." Cute, huh? Yeah, both are generally generally true. Here's the real rub: knowing the rules is gonna do you absolutely no good whatsoever if you can't use the freakin' tools involved properly. Although this is especially true when confronted with the space-age technological wonderment of modern power tools, it's easy to forget that basic skills like "measure length," "hammer nail," and "drill hole" are also filed under "Tools, Proper Use Of." This involves more than just reading the manual. Common sense plays a big role, and there's always a set of motor skills and ergonomic considerations that need to be developed in order to get the most out of the tool in question without causing damage to either the tool or the 3 Yes, I know your cousin Bruno built a breeder reactor in his basement constructed entirely from duct tape. No, I am not impressed. Nor will his neighbors be when his throbbing mass of adhesive begins delaminating and everyone in the immediate vicinity starts glowing in the dark. workpiece. You need to understand the basic principles that make a tool or technique work: the "why," as well as the "what." A solid grasp of this stuff will let you assimilate the practical lore you'll be encountering, which will in turn let you take a basic skill like "Saw, Cutting a Straight Line With" and use it in woodworking to master the mythical isometric waffle-tail joint. But wait -- there's more: If you know your tools well enough, you'll have significantly increased your chances that "breaking the rules" will result in a successful outcome. You'll also start finding yourself making and defining your own rules and your own lore, which you will inevitably pass on to others, enriching both yourself and your "community." You will feel immense pride at this. Some skills file under "Apply as Needed." I've learned that there are others that need to be always on, kinda like an inline spellchecker. Safety is one. Industrial design is another. So are ergonomics and material science. Simple physics is definitely one. Stuff you're always aware of, in the design stage, while fabricating, and during field testing. After a while, you'll notice that your collection of inline skills and reference points has kinda accreted itself into a personalized Swiss Army Knowledge Base on a . . . er . . . need-to-know basis. You'll find yourself using it in previously unconsidered ways. Unorthodox application of primary skills and knowledge is important. Understanding the basic principles that make specific skills and techniques work allows you to make them both scalable and transferable. The first time you realize, "Duh . . . I can use that in a _______ , too!!" will be a completely epiphanous experience. This approach to building a skill set gives you the chops to be able to look at basic mechanisms and subassemblies in exactly the same way. Know the "what" and the "why" of them, and implement them via oblique strategies. 4 Material and component sourcing? Same deal. Understand the basic "whats and whys," and you'll start 4 The whole "think outside the box" meme that world + dog was on about a few years ago? Not a new thing. In the 70s, "lateral thinking" was a semirevolutionary pop-cult approach to problem solving. Then, as now, there were actually some people who truly understood the process. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt first assembled and published the Oblique Strategies in 1975 as a deck of reference cards for use during creative dilemmas. Although optimized for use during music composition, they can be an invaluable source of alternative approaches for your consideration during problematic endeavours. vii