Makers not Buyers

i-am-learning-to-solder-robots

It was a busy afternoon at the Makersbox lab. I and Harkrishan ji were hard at work to make our bots come to life. I plugged in the Arduino used by my bot to my laptop and uploaded its commands file. My tiny minion moved its head and waved its arms. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” I shouted inside my head. This for me was, a Frankenstein-esque moment (not to alarm anyone, it was a mere analogy, I made a bot using 3D printed parts, there was no grave robbing of any sort involved). Completion of the bot meant it was time for the next item on the to-do list for the day: shooting a how-to video on soldering.

For a good part of the day before, I had meticulously, at times quite unsuccessfully, soldered and de-soldered on a PCB. The hours spent at my somewhat fruitful endeavour had filled in me the need to show off and teach my newly acquired skills to each and everyone who wanted to learn the art of joining two metals by melting a filler metal. I asked myself-who better to teach the don’ts and hows of soldering than me, the guy who had literally learnt it a day before.

The table was set, the components to be showcased in the video had been neatly laid out on the cutting mat, the lights had been positioned and the tripod had been adjusted to the appropriate height;in short, the whole works. Except for one thing. The attachment for the tripod onto which the bracket that holds phones is screwed, was missing. (They told me later, this is called a quick release plate)

Our quick search ended in futility. The missing piece was nowhere to be found. Ordering one online would not hurry things up, no retailer delivered before 24 hours or so. We were in a fix. I sunk into my chair and let my gaze sweep around the lab. “Wait,” I thought looking at the 3D printers in the lab,“Why don’t we print the damn thing?”

Harkrishan ji seemed to have read my mind already. “Let’s print it, I’ll find it’s file and make adjustments,”he said. “I was thinking the same.” I replied. We put the attachment to print; it would be completed in 40 minutes or so. This was way faster than any online delivery service.

However, another problem needed to be resolved-we had no screw to fix the phone bracket to the attachment. Screws of the right size weren’t lying around, 3D printing was out since the screw’s threads wouldn’t be printed properly and there were no hardware stores around us selling screws of 10 mm dia. We fumbled about the lab once more, hoping to find the original attachment with the screw still in it. Alas, no attachment, only disappointment.

I did however stumble upon some anchor fasteners that had screws in them. I took one out and measured it. Alright-it was 10 mm in diameter, but the length needed to be struck down in order to properly hold the phone bracket in place.

A video posted by MakersBox (@makersboxin) on

It was now time to bring out the big boy tools: we were gonna cut up the screw to size using a Dremel rotary tool with a 1 1/2″ metal-cutting wheel. Holding the screw in position with a vice, we let sparks fly as we let metal wheel, rotating speedily, loose upon the screw, resigned to its fate of getting resized. Amidst all the metal on metal sparks and the excitement of using a Dremel for the first time , I thought to myself: ‘Makers not Buyers’.

I felt like the boy geniuses in cartoon animations who made their own stuff, even the small parts instead of buying it all. I thought of all the times I had stalled work in lieu of a missing item. Not anymore. Now I could make it when need it. That’s a motto to live by.

We tested our 3D printed attachment and size-cut screw: the bracket held the phone in position while remaining steady atop the attachment. However it was evening now, and we had to wrap up for the day, the video will happen sometime soon.

Today I felt I had done something fun and constructive. Moreover I had learnt that missing pieces stay missing only until you make them. I left the lab with a sense of satisfaction, humming Ice Cube’s- ‘It was a Good Day.’

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