A codified set of the builder's, crafter's, maker's rules

The Wondermark webcomic has wrapped up its 8-day sendup/tribute to maker culture with a stirring and wonderful "codified set of the builder's, crafter's, maker's rules," including "If it has screws, they shall be turned," and "The insides of things are beautiful." Truer words were never spoken!

A codified set of the builder's, crafter's, maker's rules



  1. Will be hanging in my office after I make a frame for it.
    Thanks for sharing Cory!

  2. This post reminded me of something I’ve been mulling about since attending the 2010 NYC World Maker Faire. It was such a blast. I greatly enjoyed seeing the wide number of creative uses of technology as well as the enthusiastic response of people who are making things for themselves or to influence the world was enough to get anybody caught up in the movement if they weren’t already prior to visiting.

    Robert Pirsig’s protagonist would love to see people ripping apart machines and shiny gadgets and learning how to make them work on their own. The movement encourages creativity, re-use and innovation all in the spirit of play.

    To be a bit of a “Debbie Downer” I wanted to reflect upon an aspect of the movement that I’m particularly interested in. Primarily, the sustainability of the collective actions. I am interested in the safety of those involved, as well as mitigating possible negative impacts on the environment and the folks hacking away.

    I think there is a tendency of folks who have a great deal of familiarity about something to become complacent.

    At work I deal with various forms of hazardous wastes that were once thought of as innocuous, or even splendid chemical inventions. Many cases of historical contamination could have easily been avoided, and a picogram of prevention could have been worth more than a few tons of hazardous material shipping/disposal fees.

    Horror stories such as the “radioactive boy scout” [http://www.harpers.org/archive/1998/11/0059750] indicate the extreme example of what is possible with off-the-shelf parts. I’m sure that many folks have pickling solutions for etching or other chemicals that seem like they’d be fine to dispose of, and in some cases they may be, but as a wise person once said “knowing is half the battle”.

    I’m not sure how to best put together a resource for the maker/hacker community but I’m guessing that a wiki “MAKERS MSDS” might be a great place to start.

    1. Either they hack away at it or it ends up in the landfill. There are some obvious dangers, such as the Americium pill from the smoke detector that’s sitting somewhere in my workshop, or the mercury vial from the old silent light switch.

      But getting a chance to make something useful out of a piece of what’s otherwise garbage is something to applaud, not fret over.

      1. The advantage of the landfill is that it is a single point source and easier to control. I agree that re-using stuff in a safe manner is awesome.

        A great anecdote relates to PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls – not the circuit boards). Engineers who used them found their properties (flame retardants, electrical insulators) to be totally rad. They used the stuff like it was going out of style.

        Some scientists at GE even used PCBs (which can be a viscous oil) to polish their desks – which they would then eat lunch on. They were very smart people with good intentions, but now GE is spending billions of dollars to clean up something once viewed as inert.

  3. “No craft shall pass unappreciated” — reminds me of the comic series “Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer” and everything else by Ben Katchor, all about obsessed people who can’t let go of their absurdly obsolete niche-products, or niche-jobs gone obsolete.

  4. People that actually make things don’t need a list of rules. This seems like it’s for people that want to pretend they are “inventors”. They can hang it up in their office and pretend they are something they probably aren’t.

    Probably the same people that have piles of things that they are going to make into something great some day….

  5. “There is a way to make things better!” Thank you! I needed to reread that, after rereading L. Frank Baum’s “Pessim” character last night.

    “How did you happen to come to this island?” asked Trot.

    “I didn’t come; the neighbors brought me,” replied the little man with a scowl. “They said I was quarrelsome and fault-finding and blamed me because I told them all the things that went wrong, or never were right, and because I told them how things ought to be.”

  6. The third rule of Makers club is:

    If this is your first time, you *must* make something.

  7. Nicely captures the tenor of the ‘movement.’ “it may spark a concordant idea of one’s own.” And if pursued with diligence and perspicacity one that will produce a splendiferously whimsical result.

  8. There is so much win not just in those rules (a print of which I’ll be ordering to hang above my workbench), but the whole thing.

    Best one (that nearly made me spit soda all over my monitor) is on page 6, where it lists some random household items that can be used in the garden.

    “1. Model Sailboat can be used to repel aphids from plants. Aphids have a Jungian aversion to open water, and the presence of the boat implies a nearby regatta.”

    Pure. 100%. Freshly-squeezed, not-from-concentrate. Genius.

  9. I adore my shop full of tools, and love nothing more than to spend time in there playing with them, but I have never once stopped and said to myself: “What this place needs is a list of rules, or maybe a manifesto or two”.

    But maybe I’m the weird one, because from the second issue of Make magazine on, there have been so many “Maker’s Manifestos” and creeds and slogans and now “rules”…

    I mean, it’s like poetry or deep thoughts regarding our place in the universe. It doesn’t hurt or hinder anything in a shop, but it’s kind of…sitting around with a bottle of wine stuff. Not sparks and sawdust stuff. To ME at least.

    But- love to all, and if rules and manifestos are your thing then, more power to you.

  10. Fire extinguisher,
    often overlooked equipment.
    Saves lives, saves tools.
    Leave it in the open.
    GET ONE!

  11. #5 Is just hoarding, but I do it also. Then usually I can’t find it and I go buy another package anyway…

  12. I have enacted the next to last rule many times.

    A year or so ago I found a computer that someone had thrown away. I fixed it and now use it as my own.

    Then I did it again a few months later.

  13. Not sure why some folks are harshing on this thing.

    I think some are confusing the idea of “We like these rules because they tell us what to do!” (which no one here has yet claimed) with, “We like these rules because they are amusing, something with which we’d like to decorate our spaces and, maybe, help explain our quirks to those we love,” (which most here are claiming).

    So, ya know, lighten up, Francises (or is it Francii?).

  14. I don’t see these as rules for makers themselves, but rules for how others should approach and understand them. I mean that both in a very broad sense – i.e. rules for how companies should make their products “hackable” – and in the narrow sense of how spouses and family members of makers should understand and support the often strange tendencies that makers have, and to understand that what most people see as junk is the basic gold unit of makers.

    1. I agree. I thought about printing these rules out. Not to hang INSIDE my shop, but to hang on the “house” side of the door that connects the house and shop. These are all “rules” that I already (instinctively?) understand and abide by. But most of them are foreign to my wife. If she was made aware of these rules, she may understand some of my actions a little more. “Honey, you already HAVE twentysomething empty five-gallon buckets. Why did you bring home more?” to which I may now reply “rule five, dear.”

  15. “The insides of things are beautiful. Let’s see what they look like,” could, honestly, be better worded. Slightly.

  16. Cory, I like how you posted the first page a little while ago and now the last page and left all the more obviously ironic parts in the middle out. Very selective.

  17. Should be a corollary to that “if it has screws, they shall be turned”, a kind of maker’s list of reasonable demands of industries, manufacturers, etc. which would contain this rule, for example:

    Don’t be a jerkwad and put proprietary bolts, screws, adhesives and/or other closures on your products. Unless your goal is to make us angry, or fill the landfills up faster.

    I realize that for some of us, dealing with proprietary fasteners = a good excuse for buying that 100-piece bit set (with the square, allen, torx, star, and other weird tips). But a lot of us have very limited storage space in our small home [with no garage], and since we’re already swimming in disassembled crap, spending money on specialized tools to deal with crap that we’re trying to recycle, reuse and remake is… is… crappy. “No user serviceable parts inside” is at best a failure of imagination, at worst greed and planned obsolescence: the intentional squandering of every precious resource embodied in the manufacture of that product.


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