Just in case you had not seen a repousse hammer before!
So my blog post asking for opinions on 3D printing for makers and consumers (20/06/12) seems to have got the writing juices flowing. Following Kevin Quigley’s response last week, here is another that was too good (and too long) to post as a comment and merits its own spot in our guest blogger section on PersonaliZe.
Writing under the pseudonym Magnus Bombus, this guest is getting quite a reputation as a user of 3D printing technology that takes no prisoners when it comes to putting people straight (me included) when they get over-excited about the technology and what it can do. ^RP
Am I passionate about 3D printing?
But, and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, I am passionate about 3D printing in the same way I am passionate about a well-sharpened chisel or a beautifully made and maintained repousse hammer. Folks that get excited by tools will understand — those of you who make that low noise at the back of your throat as you pick up a new De Walt or find yourself with your nose pressed against the glass of your local tool emporium like a kid at Christmas, will know that tools are important and yes, I’ll say it, exciting. But what you make with those tools, what comes out the other side, that’s the where the real magic is. The 3D printer is no different — it’s just another tool. And in the words of a good friend of mine, “garbage in, garbage out!”
The actual creative process for 3D printing begins long before you press that build button. Far too often people forget, or choose to ignore, the hours and hours of work that goes into producing the file you are going to build from, not to mention the skill and cost involved in the CAD work. Nor does the creative process finish when the part comes out of the machine; hours are often spent finishing, painting and altering the part to get the right results. Anyone claiming that this doesn’t take skill is naïve, a fool or both. If you don’t learn the skills required to operate your 3D printer, it will sit on a shelf and gather dust — just another empty promise. The 3D printer is no more the gateway to universal home making/printing or factory than the sewing machine is a gateway to Paris fashion or a Chinese sweatshop in your living room.
I’m finding it difficult to follow all of the articles that are now appearing as fast as junk mail and credit card bills flop on to my doormat every morning. It’s not only the fact that I don’t have the time to read them all, but I also don’t have the strength to read the same crap again and again. What is it about this topic that makes someone suddenly think they are expert enough to write an article about it? Would they feel comfortable explaining how lovely Dublin is if they have never even been here? Of course, some of the blame lies with us, the reader! Why are we so keen to visit that restaurant that some guy we’ve never met said was “oh sooo yummy darling”? Just because he said it in the Guardian, it doesn’t make him right, so why trust his opinion?
You need to find out for yourself! This is by no means an easy thing to do with 3D printing, but it is becoming easier as you no longer have to be in a privileged position to get to use this kit — the trickle down is starting to come in to play.
Putting 3D printing into schools is a great idea but it’s as obvious as saying kids studying Shakespeare should watch his plays or teachers trying to teach cookery might find it easier if they have access to the odd oven or maybe a Kenwood. 3D printing in the classroom, along with other resources, will support kids that choose creative / making career paths because it will provide them with some basic skills when they start out in the real world. Will 3D printing make kids more creative per se? No, sorry to break this to you, but your kids are not likely to change the world. Not all kids are creative, some of them just don’t get it, but that’s ok, some of them are destined to utter those immortal words “do you want fries with that?” or worse, they might go in to marketing, all you can do is hope it’s not your kids.
When I find myself working with work experience kids, apprentices or graduates, I’m repeatedly struck by the fact that many of these kids seem to have missed out on the most basic skills. They boast good exam results or degrees from supposedly quality institutions, but they really don’t know their way around a workshop. I recall working with one young engineer who was extremely proud to inform me that she was ImechE accredited — all the letters after her name and everything. I then watched her try and drill a series of holes into a sheet of one mm steel with a pillar drill. After drilling her first 10 mm hole I watched in horror as she turned the plate to the next mark and put her finger through the hole and into the T slot in the bed of the drill to try and hold it down, she failed to understand why she was shouted at. Kids that want to be engineers or makers need skills, practical skills. Give them the tools, yes, but not just the physical ones, they also need the ability to think and question.
In my own career I’ve learnt more from those around me than any training course or qualification — almost without exception, every place I’ve worked has had an old chap sitting in a corner who boasts 40 or 50 years of experience. I’ve had the honour of working with silversmiths, luthiers, artists, ex railway men, patternmakers and so many others and I have, without shame, begged, borrowed and stolen as much of their knowledge as I possibly could. They have given me the tools to do the task at hand, not always the physical tools, but often enough the hints, tips, skills, coping mechanisms and questions that make up a vital part of my own toolbox.
A tool box is an organic and personal thing; it’s always growing, changing and evolving. I’ve worked with guys who tailor and trim their kit before a job begins because there is nothing less productive than trying to lump a tool kit full of vices, v blocks and parallels half a mile over a field and up a ladder only to find out all you really needed was a blade and some gaffa tape. I’ve learnt that files don’t break as such, they get reground and repurposed, turned into some unique quirky tool that just happens to fit that particular job — what people now refer to as hacking — again its nothing new, I’m not discouraging it, if you need to give it a new name to get on board or to feel like a cool kid then great but please don’t pretend that you’ve invented the wheel. I have in my tool kit a beautiful butter knife, it’s stamped with the word Butlins and it was stolen from there in the mid sixties, it hasn’t spread butter for decades but it makes an amazing filler knife and it’s as important to my everyday kit as my scalpel or my 3d printers. Have I up-cycled it or hacked it? Did I throw it away just because I have a shiny new tool? Why do so many people seem intent on throwing the baby out with the bathwater? How much wisdom is there in practicing an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude?
When did it become un-cool to be a craftsman, an artisan? When did fine artists start considering themselves above making? When did they start to use the word “craft” as an insult? Why do designers and engineers not curl up with shame and self-loathing when they utter the words, “I’ll get a technician to do that”? I personally believe the reason they belittle the makers is because they can’t do it themselves.
To make is extremely powerful, to bring something into existence, to create, it’s holy and it appears in the first words of the most popular book ever written: “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. (Personally, I’m more a fan of science fiction rather than just plain old fiction but you get my point.)
So, providing you’re not a banker, lawyer, accountant or one of the other hundreds of occupations that use, consume or count what the real people make and you’ve got opposable thumbs then I say to you get out there and MAKE life better, use those thumbs.