The Want or Need Test
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.
To Buy or To D.I.Y.?
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.
There was no fancy or complicated joinery needed beyond attaching the clamp piece to the end of the base. Just some long wood screws worked wonderfully. It is important to pre-drill your screw holes to prevent splitting.
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.
The Chips and Dip Fly Tying Station
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.
In closing, I want to say thanks to all my readers and all of the great feedback you give me. I am very interested in seeing your ideas and D.I.Y. projects too. I can feel the spring coming and see new snow in the mountain weather forecast which is good news for our Colorado streams...(Knock on wood!) Should you think now that you might be interested in diving into D.I.Y. I have added some additional thoughts below.
Exploring D.I.Y. for Yourself
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.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.