Friday, June 27, 2014

A legacy of Making

Since last posting on this blog I've gotten very involved with a new Makerspace here in Mobile. This article is intricately related to "making" and what I expect the Makerspace to mean to myself and many others in my area.
Mobile Makerspace

A legacy of Making

My grandfather was a maker.
I went to my grandmother’s house this afternoon. I used to live there and never got a chance to move my workbench after I married. I’m hoping to move it and start using it again soon. I built it for versatility, hoping it would useful for metalworking and woodworking and lots of other tasks. It was built to last using 1 ½ inch steel angle.


My uncle helped me make it almost 10 years ago. He taught me how to prep and weld the angle, how to measure and make sure the angle was straight and right after tack welding it, how to manage the heat and warping. Welding requires a lot of processes, discipline and prep work to come out right. You can tack any old steel together (in general), but making it straight and right is the real trick. I fully believe the welds in my workbench are 100% fused and hitting the bench with a train wouldn’t break the welds (ok maybe my uncle’s are 100 and mine are 95).

Workbench in use. I was attempting to build a motor driven spotlight for a friend.
Workbench in use. I was attempting to build a motor driven spotlight for a friend.
My CRX engine resting on my bench as I installed the flywheel and clutch.
These four pics show a very ambitious woodworking project that involved bending wood. The bending setup resting on my workbench..

My uncle learned to weld from my grandfather.
My grandfather passed away when I was 11. I wish I could say I really knew him well, and that he taught me all these things. That wouldn’t be true.

Which brings me to what reminded me of him. In my grandmother’s yard my grandfather used to have a HUGE workbench. He had built and modified the workbench. It rested underneath a huge tree, one of the particularly large branches had a chain and winch block chained to it. It’s not there any more. My grandfather would spend all day out there mainly working on lawnmowers and doing odd welding jobs. He had a van that had tools and parts in it. He had a huge engine driven welder that was too powerful to use. He worked on his own cars, lawnmowers, Tvs, appliances.

Before he got injured he worked in the shipyard climbing the ranks of welding and pipe fitting like many men in Mobile, before that he had worked in factories. Before that he was a sniper in Italy in WWII helping American forces retake the Italian peninsula. He lost his little toe in the war, he would never talk about it. My grandmother loves to tell the story about when he was a kid, he and his brother took apart his mother’s sewing machine and put it back together successfully with no manuals or instruction. At the time a sewing machine was the most complex item in any given home.

In my childhood I was very inquisitive. Very very inquisitive, constant questions about everything, everybody hated this. Everyone still does. So I would go out to “work” with my grandfather, then get sent back inside because he “didn’t have time” to answer the continuous stream of questions. So I would go inside and make paper air planes and draw ships and engines and air planes and inventions. My grandmother being very patient while she worked on her sewing jobs. So I learned a lot more from my grandmother than from my grandfather.

All the same his genes passed down to me. I love to weld. Making a car work is something that I relish. Making and modifying tools is a continuous obsession for me.

“Making” and Makerspaces never existed during my grandfather’s life. I’m certain that given an opportunity he would have loved playing with CNC machines and arduinos and blinky LEDs. Having a makerspace would have meant getting into a shared shop with more tools (for that matter: a roof) than he could provide alone, and access to learning what other members know more about.


I looked at my bench for a few minutes working on it some with a wire brush. I came to find a lot of the rust was just surface rust stuck on top of the paint, a few strokes of the brush made it fall off and revealed the paint. The bench is not pitted badly or structurally compromised (if you see the pics, the bottom portion was made from crappy bed frame steel, I should probably rebuild that portion). I had big plans for this bench, and still do.
We also have big plans for Mobile Makerspace. Stay tuned.

If you are interested in learning more about our Makerspace please click the links below:
Mobile Makerspace
Mobile Makerspace Google+

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