Most interesting thing you've learned from a How It's Made type show.

I watched one episode about mushroom farms and was very surprised to learn that mushrooms “breath” oxygen and expell carbon dioxide. This may be common knowledge but I never knew.

What have you learned from one of these types of shows?

Modern Marvels Distilleries. I can’t really point to anything in particular that was “learned” but suffice to say the entire episode from beginning to end was extremely interesting, showing the similarities and differences between the manufacturing process of the different kinds of spirits.

I like to watch “How It’s Made” when I’m just slightly drunk - not drunk, just quite buzzed. It makes everything FASCINATING. I bet weed would make it better than alcohol. I swear, even the episode about how Hockey gloves are made was interesting.


The most interesting thing I’ve learned is how much is manufactured by hand. I assumed most everything was automated these days.

I was surprised as hell to find that the glass part of a lightbulb (er, the old kind - will kids not know what that thing is that pops up over your head when you have an idea?) is made in two parts - the bulb part and the straighter shaft part, and then they’re stuck together.

That episode was fascinating.

I also remember an episode of Made In America where John toured a basket factory. Watching those guys crank out baskets by hand faster than a machine could do it was mesmerizing. And the corporate headquarters was a hoot!

Just about everything on Food Tech. Did you know that baking powder is mined? That potatoes sometimes sit in a warehouse for six months before being turned into fries? That most egg rolls come from a single factory in New Jersey? That a bottle of oyster sauce contains hundreds of oysters?

I wish it wasn’t cancelled after like six episodes.

On Mythbusters I learned that you can almost-instantly chill a canned or bottled beverage by submerging it in a solution of cold water, ice and salt. I’ve chilled many a Diet Coke this way.

That without engineers to create all those wonderful machines we would have almost none of the modern items found on store shelves. When “How it’s made” has an item that is completely or even partly hand-made it seems so slow and cumbersome. I always wonder why they don’t have a machine do that.

It’s kind of weird to me how some things in the food industry are done with machines, and some are still done by hands. Potatoes will go from the ground to a harvester to a storage bin to a peeler, cutter, deep frier, salter, freezer, bagger, truck, and restaurant without ever being touched by human hands. But a head of lettuce was picked by a person.

The most fascinating show I remember was the potato episode. Amazing. I especially like how they run 'tates through a tube of water at 30 mph through a fry cutter.

What I would REALLY like to see is an episode on how the factories are made. That would be interesting.

What would you like to know?

Some of those machines are very clever. I’d love to know what the design process is. But I guess a lot of them are proprietary.

The design process is relatively simple and is usually developed rather quickly from the original problem to the install of the machine. I have found the real issues don’t show up until its time to start production. As far as being proprietary, not so much, it’s just alot of one off stuff that does not work for alot of other things without design changes. That being said you find yourself coming back to things you designed previously to use in completely unrelated fields just using the basics of the original design or some of the components. Most automation companies are pretty open with their designs because they use them when showing potential clients what they are capable of.

If they are showing them on television, then they are probably patented, not trade secrets. Where I used to work, anything that was proprietary, you didn’t let visitors get a close look at. A trained engineer can often figure out a lot from a casual glance.

Most manufacturing machinery doesn’t spring full grown from some engineer’s forehead, but has been constantly tweaked, often over decades. Another thing you learn is how many design details are there to make the product easier to manufacture. I suggest by Henry Petroski called “Invention by Design”.

On this particular show, the phrase “We can’t show you this part of the process. All I’ll say is that broccoli goes in this end, Twinkies come out the other end” is said a LOT.

I think that is more based on the process than the equipment used, however in some cases it may be the equipment.

I was rather amazed to find that bolts have their threads pressed into them, instead of somehow machined in with some sort of threadcutting machinery.

The bolt blank came down, and then in the blink of an eye, it was rolled against these two grooved carbide plates, and voila- threads in the bolt, and no material removed.

In a manner of speaking, I build factories. Granted, they’re for cars, not foodstuff. But all of fancy tooling in my company? Yeah, I’ve got my hand in that. And you know what? It’s the most interesting thing in the world to me, genuinely.

Ages ago I saw a program that showed how tennis balls were made. The fascinating part was at the end where the balls, one at a time, fell off the conveyor belt into a ten foot concrete pit. The good ones would bounce high enough to land on a shelf a foot or two lower on the other side of the pit where another belt would take them to where they got stuffed in cans. The duds wouldn’t make it that high, rattle around the bottom of the pit for a bit, then disappear down a sump. Their fate was not shown; dog toys, I suppose.