The problem with

I get a daily email newsletter from Instructables. I work in a school system, and occasionally get ideas for projects to pass on to the teachers. But it seems like lately I see more things like this:


Materials and tools used:

Poster board
3D scanner
3D printer
Andy Serkis

(If you don’t own all these, just go to your local TechShop)
So what’s the problem? Well, apart from the poster board very few people own any of these tools. They’re expensive. Especially the last one. TechShop memberships aren’t exactly cheap either. And very few people even have a TechShop nearby. There are only five of them, and three are in California.

I suspect that the people who write these know darn good and well that 99% of people who use the site will be unable to build their projects. They just want to rub it in that they have access to expensive tools most people can only dream about.

Eh, I still like seeing what can be done with the cool widgets. I also still see lots of low-tech instructables.

I hate how WikiHow and other websites put the ingredients list at the bottom. And sometimes forget to add things there.

Instructables will have to go to more complex builds because there’s only so many steampunk tea cozy’s that can be made out of knex.

More likely, they’re so damn thrilled to have neat toys, they’re singing it to the world. Sorry you’re on the receiving end of it.

I’m only half serious about the show off accusation, but this type of Instructable seems to promote a couple of attitudes that do bother me a bit:

  1. The notion that having access to expensive tools and equipment will magically turn you into the next Thomas Graham Tesla.

  2. The notion that you can’t make and do neat stuff without access to said expensive t & e.

It’s worse then when Norm shows how to make a lovely bench with nothing more then the worlds most complete workshop.

You get lots of people that want to show-off a project, but don’t go to any trouble to give you the step by steps.
It’s interesting to see what people are coming up with but if something is made by a 3D printer may as well be “buy it at the store.”

I like Instructables though. Still plenty of people with skills they’re willing to share.

Tell me about it. My public tv market has Woodsmith Shop, which is more or less a nonstop advertisement for really sophisticated carpentry equipment. I mean, it’s neat to watch them build cabinetry, but damn - that shop of theirs has everything but its own sawmill.

I noticed this trend too. I think it has to do with Autodesk being their new overlords. They want to up their eliteness factor and try to become the new Hack-a-Day for rich kids.

Actually, I think it has more to do with the fact those people can get a free TechShop class by doing so. I can see how that’d be annoying, but it seems like a cross-promotion kinda thing. And you helped them out with your OP, since I hadn’t heard of TechShop until I opened this thread AND there’s one right by me! I’m actually geeking out on their website now. :smiley:

So each TechShop has their own Andy Serkis? Wow.

I really don’t think there is anything malicious about it. People who are into hackerspaces are absolutely awestruck by how these spaces can put cutting edge technology in the hands of ordinary people. There are hundreds of these spaces around the world, from Afghanistan to Arlington. Additionally, lots of university students have access to some of these tools through their schools.

One thing they are trying to do is demonstrate how useful these spaces are, precisely so that they can build demand, increasing access and lowering costs. And part of that is pushing the boundaries with what you can do with the tools. Another thing they are trying to do is convince pubic institutions to invest in these kinds of spaces, much like we invest in libraries.

Yeah, it sucks right now if you are not in the right places and don’t have much disposable income, but the same is true of all kinds of hobbies, from skiing to theater. But remember, there was a time when computers were seen as a useless, absurdly expensive, esoteric hobby. It’s thanks to the tinkering and vision of the early hobbyists that computers are as accessible as they are toda.

That’s why I like Tommy, all he uses it a ruler, pencil, router and a saw and bam he just built a damn house. But my head spins just watching him. “So, we need to cut this edge. I measured from here to here, turned it upside down, subtracted 14 and 3/8, marked this edge which is 20-14 and 3/8, set the bevel on my saw at 13 degrees (duh) and then I actually* ripped down this scrap wood to 1 and three quartas and nailed to the edge, I’ll take it off when I’m done and that’ll make the angle exactly how we want it. zzzzzip, only 4 more to do”
Kevin: “Wow Tommy, you make it seem so easy”

Okay, wait, the 8ths are the little lines, right or are those 16ths on this ruler, hold on.

*I’ll bet he says “actually” at least 5-10 times per episode.

What about instructions for making your own 3D scanner out of a laser pointer, a webcam, and some printed backgrounds? Is that acceptable?

You can use the 3-D scanner at my local library for free, and my coworker who works in their Tech Central will teach you how to use the machines for free…They have a laser cutter too!

I think 3D printers are great - I wish I could afford one - but I don’t think they are a craftsman’s tool - and that, I believe, is the problem.

I’m not saying they don’t require skill to use - because they definitely do. Designing a 3D object on a computer takes skill - doing it very well takes a great deal of skill.

But all the mistakes are made and corrected in the design process before a single molecule of the finished item is brought into being - all the problems are engineered out in the pre-physical stage.

There’s no risk that a sloppy saw cut will result in a poor finish; no real danger that a little carelessness will make the thing turn out somehow less than that which the creator visualised - once it’s visualised, there’s no effort, carefulness or skill of hand required to make it real.

That’s the problem - the skill is all front-loaded, and is not perceptibly similar to traditional, hands-on-material crafting skills; thus, it’s hard to perceive 3D printed objects as truly the work of a craftsman. I think it’s really a different category of thing.

Yep. I’ve had a few reasonably popular Instructables and my primary reason for posting them was to earn TechShop classes.

I also won’t deny the appeal for upping my eliteness factor :).

A small factor is that I have a reasonable amount of money invested in TechShop, and so I like to promote them as much as possible. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as cynical–I wouldn’t have invested if I didn’t think the makerspace concept wasn’t a huge deal for future generations. In a time when many of the most popular products are locked-down black boxes, we absolutely need to promote learning how things work and how to build things.

If anyone has any specific questions about TechShop I’d be happy to answer them.

Wow! I think this is my first zombie.

TechShop sounds like a wonderful place. However, the overwhelming majority of the country is nowhere near one. There are only seven currently open. And memberships are out of reach for a typical teenager. A lot of adults, even.

I still think that most, if not all projects on Instructables should use only materials and tools that a typical kid could get access to.

A do-it-yourself 3d scanner made with 37 Raspberry Pis and camera kits might be neat, but not too many budding young creative types are going to be able to actually try it.

A few things:

  • TechShop is not the only makerspace/hackerspace; there are literally hundreds around the world. See a map here. Not all of them are necessarily as well-equipped as TechShop, but things like 3D printers are all over.
  • Many high schools also have some of this equipment.
  • TechShop has discounts for students, free memberships for veterans, family packs, and relatively cheap day passes if a full membership is too much.
  • It’s still not so expensive that an interested student can’t scrape together the membership fees. I had a part time near-minimum-wage job in high school (~18 years ago) and I totally would have paid even the full $125/mo for access to TechShop.

Why? It’s not aimed exclusively at kids, plus many kids do have access to this equipment. Also, the more kids see what things they could do with access to a makerspace, the more demand there is for a makerspace and the more likely it is for one to move in.

  1. The world is a very big place. There are over 19,000 cities in the US alone. It would take not just hundreds, but thousands of hackerspaces for a significant portion of the country to have access. Zoom in on the map and you’ll see that, in Arizona for instance it’s only in the Phoenix area. In New Mexico, only near Albuquerque. In Colorado, Denver and Boulder. Some states don’t show any.

  2. Many do, but most don’t. I work for a school district, in their tech department. We don’t have anything that even comes close. There just isn’t enough money. We have to scrimp and save just to make sure there’s sufficient access to computers.

  3. We have lots of bright students who can barely scrape up $100 or so a year to pay for textbook and laptop rental. There’s absolutely no way they could pay even the lowest monthly membership, even if there were someplace nearby to go.

On the flip side, there’s a few dumb as a post ones who think that because mommy bought them an expensive DSLR it somehow magically makes them into a serious photographer, no study, practice, or knowledge necessary. Which is exactly the kind of attitude that seems to be encouraged by a lot of these do-it-yourself projects that are really push-a-few-buttons-on-this-expensive-automated-equipment projects.