Lessons from a Lifetime Maker

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Thoughts on Adam Savage Each tool is a hammer

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You may recognize the man on the cover of this book, Adam Savage, as half of the TV duo of “Mythbusters”. The show lasted more than a decade in its original incarnation, spawned several spin-offs, and showed the world that making and destroying things in the name of science was truly awesome. And reading the book confirms my suspicions that Adam is more than just a bearded face on TV.

In part memoir, in part how to deal with many tips on how to live the life of a maker, it is almost as if he were telling the story of his life through the different workshops he lived in. (His current store, a cavernous underground space he calls “the cave” in San Francisco, can be visited via Google Street View and seen in regular Youtube videos on the Tested channel.)

One of the central themes of the whole book is embracing curiosity. Take things apart, put them back together. Find out what happens when you take the risk. Tackling a project without knowing exactly how to do it. Savage is a big advocate of going deep, following your curiosity to the next level, delving into whatever you are passionate about and adding purpose and meaning to your creation. For Savage, this means creating perfect props and costumes for and for the silver screen. For me, this means learning how to weld, cut and shape metals and explore different ways to incorporate leather and fabrics into furniture. And, of course, going down all sorts of rabbit holes for woodworking.

Savage’s advice on workshops is golden – find a place for everything and make sure you don’t have to go over and above to grab a tool. In Savage’s shop, you’ll see trolleys and cabinets organized by medium and need, all ready to go into action in a snap. I recently started implementing the same practice, albeit not on the same scale. With the track saw on a shelf (and not in its case) it is perhaps less protected, but I take it more often. The same goes for my puzzle and also for my hand tools. They are only in the chest when I move them.

For a guy who seems to want to learn how to do everything and buys the tools to do it, Savage also preaches patience. Recounting some bad decisions with his first cordless drill (a gift for his 16th birthday), he says he tried to hurry up and get something done with bad results. I’ve been there more times than I would like to admit. But I got better.

More than anything, though, Savage is proof that a creative life filled with doing things with everything you can is truly very rewarding. Yes, he’s a TV star who is at the helm of a very successful digital media company, but his journey hasn’t been a straight line to the top. Diversions into art, stage construction, and prop shops have led him to where he is today. It wasn’t easy, but the right tools make it easier.

Among the often comical tales of projects gone wrong and well, there are many small nuggets of wisdom. If you’re looking for a good read to relax with during your downtime, this may not be it. It will just make you want to go back to the store right away.

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