Maybe, if you are like me, you are turned off by the culture of consumerism that professes that we need to go out and buy everything. The latest and greatest "thing" often times is not that great and not really something we need. In the end it all boils down to advertising and marketing.
We really need to be able to look inside ourselves and how these forces are working against us to open our wallets and give them our hard earned money. I have a rule of thumb in that if I wasn't looking for it in the first place then I didn't really need it. This applies very well to telemarketers and every pushy sales person you meet in life. "Did I come to you looking for house siding?" ...No? Sometimes it is just something we see advertised or demonstrated at a fly fishing show. I recently ogled a Norvise for about 5 minutes but the reality set in that it wasn't for me. Too much horse for the race that I run. A nice bit of technology for the professional fly tier but way too much machine for what I do.
"I make myself rich by making my wants few."
-Henry David Thoreau
I find great satisfaction in not owning more than I need and even more satisfaction from making some of the things I need. The question I ask is always “Do I WANT it or do I NEED it?”
“Need items” always get preferential priority. They are easily identified as necessities to accomplish a job or to fulfill a need. (that is why they are called "needs" right?)
“Want items” get tucked away in my head until they disappear or maybe, on rare occasion, wander into the “Need list" again by accident or perseverance. Yes, we can want things but I always come back to the question of "Why?"
The "why" is going to tell you a lot about your relationship to the things you own.
"Final filter" are the questions “Can I get it affordably?” followed by “Could I make one?” and finally “Do I really want to make one?”
Once it has cleared all of these, I get started with the brainstorming process which really is the beginning of the fun for me. From here I will either buy the item if available affordably or I will look at how I can make my own suitable version of the thing. Some things are better just to buy and other things are really fun to make.
There is something very nice about making something unique and not always feeling that you must spend a lot of money. I find that I value things that I have made myself differently than those things that I have purchased. The items that I have made are a part of me. They came into being from my brain and hands using the materials that I gathered or discovered.
The D.I.Y. approach many not be your thing and I do understand how easy it is often to just buy the thing you want. I believe that when we do make those purchases we should do so with thoughtfulness. Evaluate the practicality of an item that is already made and compare it to the quality you think you can do on your own design. "Can you make one as good or better?" Maybe you are like me though and just want to see if you can just do it?
My latest D.I.Y. Projects...Fly Tying Stations
The last few months I have been playing around with different ideas for fly tying stations. Along the way I made a new one for myself plus one for a friend. These D.I.Y. fly tying stations were both very affordable, practical and most of all functional. The materials kind of presented themselves to me. Taking my time along the way I was able to really think about unique features and what I wanted the esthetic of my finished products to look like.
The “Keep it Simple” IKEA Cutting Board Vise Stand
This is the vise stand that I use. It is about as simple as you could ask for. I have been using IKEA to source some of the wood for my tenkara path spools and came across this wonderful acacia wood cutting board. Very affordable at just around $12 and you will have a ton of wood to spare. The construction is very simple.
One of the inspirations I got was that the cutting board already had a 1.5” diameter circle cut out at one end that I was able to use that hole as a place for my vise clamp to hold on to. I realized I could just turn my vise clamp upside down and it would attach perfectly and still work with the the vise post. The entire construction was just cutting the two pieces and standing one piece butting it up against the one end.
I took a few more steps and added some tool holes. Using my drill press and a Forster bit I created round sections where some small plastic containers I own could be inserted snugly. Two of these hold my hooks and one of them is for putting my finished flies into. I tacked on some simple cork footings on the underside to keep the base safe on all surfaces. I have a small Japanese tea box that I use to hold my spools, tools and small packet of feathers. The whole thing broken down takes up an amazingly small amount of space and is easy to travel with.
My most recent fly tying station out of my workshop I found at a thrift store. I frequently browse the “wood” item section a thrift stores looking for cutting boards, bowls and discarded Eastern red cedar plaques with quaint passages decoupaged on them, etc. This chips and dip dish stood out to me. It was sturdy, and I could immediately see a vise attached to it; a place for thread spools and tools.
With a little planning and measuring I was able to lay out the different sized holes that I would drill for the tools and the spool posts. As I mentioned this one is for a friend who said she wanted a set up that would hold her vise, tools and threads. I think it turned out wonderfully and I will be keeping my eyes open for this and other similar wooden serving bowls.
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For the little posts to line the spools up on, I cut down some large bamboo skewers I had lying around... sure I could have used doweling but I had the skewers in my cupboard and they worked just as well and were virtually "free".
Having a drill press gives you very nice perpendicular holes but these can still be done with success just using a hand-held drill.
I had considered adding some other “fixtures” for tools but decided that there was plenty of surface space on the tray just as it was. The “dip” bowl section of the tray makes a great place to put either tied flies or loose hooks.
You never know what you will find rummaging around your local thrift store that may just jump out at you.
D.I.Y. is a process of learning.
In just a little amount of time and thinking you will figure out the nuances of making a potential “conversion pieces.” Your D.I.Y. skill set improves over time and you will learn much as you go. Building this skill-set is intellectually stimulating and at the same time self-esteem building. It is also fun to experiment and try things out. Some will work and some won’t. Keep track of both results.
See the items in our world differently.
When I go into a hardware thrift store I am constantly looking at things differently. I think about what an item or piece of hardware could be used for that it wasn’t probably intended for. Think about what the item is in its most basic definition.
Mock-ups and drawings.
A mock-ups and drawings allow you to see problems with your design. Sketches of your item will help you imagine how everything fits together and how parts are proportional to each other. When making a mock-up use less expensive materials and look for best answers to the mechanics and design as needed.
Start with a simple project and simple tools.
Don't frustrate yourself with a project outside of your comfort zone. The idea is to enjoy the project, learn something along the way and end up with something that you can be proud of having made yourself. Many D.I.Y. projects really only need the simplest of tools. Don't spend a ton of money on tools you will only use once. Look at what you do have and borrow those things that you may not have. Over time you will have a reliable set of tools. No need to buy a drill press if you can do the same work with a hand drill.
Projects fail. Get back to the drawing board
Starting projects all over again and doing them again differently is all part of the process of learning and also part of the adventure. Fixing problems and solving challenges along the way is something even the most experienced "tinkerers" do.
Who says a material has to be used conventionally?
Many times with my projects I find working materials in everyday objects. You must stop and see products differently. Look at the shape, features and finally at the materials they are made of.Plastic milk jugs have a lot of uses, used food cans, aluminum soda cans, paperclips, bamboo skews, mouse traps and more can all be used to solve problems. You don’t have to be a hoarder of these things but look around at what you are throwing away and decide instead if you could have some fun up-cycling it into something.