[Maker’s Note Subplot] Reading Reflection on Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It

by Yun-Han Lin

Preface

Adam Savage, known as the former co-host of the TV series MythBusters), is one of my idol Makers and he launched in 2019 his book- Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It, whose translated version in Mandarin is published by Locus Publishing. The book contents are closely-related to my personal experience, and the book is suitable for people who cannot bear to read long chapters for a long time, as each chapter is arranged like a YouTube video playlist. Readers can choose any chapter randomly without missing out any information needed to catch up on the context. What I like about it most is the four themes directly laid out in the preface- Motivation, Working Methods, Tolerance, and Space Layout.

Motivation

The first theme, also the central idea stressed throughout the whole book, is finding motivations for creation. “How to start building something from scratch?” is a question that Adam has often been asked, and I myself had the same question when I first started out as a Maker. For Adam, he has loved storytelling and movie watching since childhood, which gave birth to his interest in making movie props and doing cosplay. Every person has different motivations, and Adam calls such fascination for something as “secret crush.” My “secret crush” is my curiosity about how things work, which guides me onto the path of being a YouTuber making videos about handicrafts. Adam expects that his book can encourage everyone to find their sparks for life and have fun in what they are doing!

Working Methods

I like how the book contents are arranged as half memoir and half reference book. In terms of working methods, I agree a lot on the parts about how drawing pictures helps thinking and using checkboxes helps better arrange your work schedule.

Drawing is the first step in starting a project. Adam does drawings for the following purposes: to present ideas, to communicate, to create momentum for creation, and to brainstorm. Each purpose features details and methods to pay attention to. Unlike Adam, who has a background in arts, I have no gift for drawing, and it was really mind-blowing when I learned to use 3D drawing for the first time in college. 3D drawing allows me to see problems in my design, through which I can better convey my ideas to others.

Using a checkbox is a management method that I have used since my first year as a Maker, while Adam adopts a more special way of using checkboxes to arrange his works that are creation-centered. For instance, he is able to systematically keep track of every step along the working process, such as obtaining materials, processing, video editing, and so on.

Tolerance

Tolerance refers to how you handle mistakes and differences. Adam uses engineering tolerance to elaborate his ideas when creating a piece of work, as in examining what part of the work requires fine-turning and what does not. There are many parts in the book where engineering theories are used as philosophies for our daily life, with parables that I can relate to myself. For instance, there are tolerances in a product that we make, and there are those in dealing with failures and change of plan. Understanding and making good use of tolerance can make a person a better Maker, as the idea can be used to explain so many things in life.

Space Layout

There is a chapter titled “See everything, reach everything,” which is the most intriguing and my favorite. Adam expects that every piece of tool can be displayed in the open and be easily obtained. There is his motto: “Drawers are where things go to die.” I arrange my studio layout according to his concepts, and as you can probably imagine, I prefer tool walls and transparent storing boxes; if there are drawers, I try to designate each of them for storing specific items and try to label them all.

Conclusion

Simply put, I recommend this book with all my heart! Adam is a pioneer in self-making, and also this generation’s icon for science education and the spirit of DIY. I can guarantee that after reading this book, you will get right back to your work space and start making something with your own hands!

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