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Chapter 1. Introduction > Scrap-Fu: The Way of the Yard - Pg. 25

MAKE: PROJECTS Eccentric Cubicle out of my parts bins. The only other nuisance was the ball valve manifold for the air pump, which I fabbed out of a block of maple on the drill press. I used squash balls for the checkballs. The whole thing bolted together pretty quickly once the fabrication was done. Total cost? I got change from a ten. Total fabrication time? 40 hours or so. It took me a while to figure out the best way to disperse the air from the receiver. My point? Plan on improvising during sourcing. It adds character to the build, and will lead you down previously unconsidered paths. It can also add extra trips out onto your build schedule. When you start improvising, your parts requirements can change in the wink of an eye, leaving you with a benchful of purposeless components. Store them away nicely. Start a database of your inventory, if you have the time. You're going to be accumulating usable components at an impressive rate, and knowing what you've got and -- more importantly -- where it is will save you many, many hours. Interestingly, how you sort and store your inventory can have a strong influence on how future projects evolve if you eschew standard or traditional categorization. I try to avoid microcategories as much as possible, and embrace unexpected generalizations where ever I can so that, as an example, when I open a bin labeled "Motion," I'm stared in the face by electric motors, springs, rubber bands, string, solenoids, bearing races, pumps and fan assemblies. Having preprogrammed random inspirational events like this dotted along your build path is a real good way to ward off "Maker's block" and keep the build interesting. I can't tell you how many of my pieces have resulted from randomly intersecting components I stumbled across during the course of a completely different build. Freestyle sourcing relies heavily on your knowledge of what's under the hood of just about everything. Learn the various processes at work inside a piece of technology, and the means by which they're accomplished. Take a lot of stuff apart; see how it's built. See what it does. See how it works. See what it's built from. Consider new applications. Here's an exercise that oughta be mandatory for Makers. Free up a Sunday afternoon. Go to a thrift shop and buy a $20 typewriter. Bring it home and take it apart. Every bit of it. Properly disassembled right down to basic components. If you pay attention, you will learn a lot. Typewriters are amazingly complex mechanisms -- there's lots goin' on when you press a key or hit the carriage return lever, and these things were built to take a beating, so you're looking at very resilient engineering. There's a lot of UI occurring, too, with control placement being completely dependent on mechanical linkages. To the digital UI contingent who agonize over pixel placement and menu hierarchies, I say "Gimme a call when you have a real problem." Seriously, the guys who did the engineering on manual typewriters were unsung heroes of the mechanical age, and every true Maker should take the time to appreciate the sheer density of their achievements. You'll also score about four shoeboxes full of mind warpingly useful-in-some-way-you-are-currently-unaware-of mechanical components in the process. I fully disassemble and harvest the components from stuff almost daily. Most recently a weed-whacker, a VCR, and a rice cooker (which contained the cutest little retractable AC cord you've ever laid eyes on). 3 This is kinda like a post-millennial version of native wood lore, and the most potentially invaluable modern day survival skill I can think of. Scrap-Fu: The Way of the Yard Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-YAH! Enter the scrap yard. Oh, all right. Enter the "metal recycling facility," if you absolutely insist on using the current politically and environmentally correct terminology. Call them what you will, but enter them you must: they are the wellspring of arcane components and mysterious metals you need to complete your endeavours. You must be wary. The scrap yard is a perilous and mysterious land of unknown wonders and horrors, its treasures protected by formidable and inscrutable metal monks. Mastering the ancient art of scrap-fu gives you the undefeatable skills you need to emerge victorious. You must practice your scrap-fu skills for many hours. Watch, listen, and remember. Celebrate your victories with rice wine. Bind your wounds and learn from your defeats. Become one with the scrap yard, but be forewarned: not all yards are created equal, nor the denizens who serve it. Knowing the yard and respecting the priests enhances your experience a hundredfold, optimizes your chances of fulfilling your quest, and reduces your risk of meeting a horrible doom at the gaping maws of the beastly Iron For-Klift, or becoming 3 In a quite stunning segue, I'd like to point out that there's a quick 'n' dirty how-to in this very book (see the tail end of Chapter 5) detailing the conversion of a harvested cord-reel mechanism into a 1 / 20 th-the-cost- of-a-similar-thing-from-the big-box-Home-Centers retractable extension cord. Go figure. 14