Instructables in the Telegraph -- Weird and wonderful inventions
Weird and wonderful inventions by Chris Stevens
Meet the DIY enthusiasts using the internet in their fight against throwaway society.
The internet has spawned a new breed of extreme DIY enthusiasts. They build jet engines in their garages using instructions downloaded from forums, and they upload videos of the explosive results. They weld together rollercoasters out of scrap materials and household items. They teach themselves taxidermy to build "The Mouse Mouse", a real mouse with electrical innards. Or, like 17-year-old Thiago Olson, who built a fusion reactor in his house, they're scouting for parts in their local B & Q. The online DIYers are rebelling against a consumer society that has convinced many of us that everything is bought, not made.
"It's a reaction against a mass-produced culture," says Eric Wilhelm, founder of Instructables.com. "People want to express themselves and show their individuality - building something cool that you can't buy and showing how you did it is a great way to express yourself."
While the traditional DIYer is overjoyed to have put up a set of shelves without losing a finger, the extreme online DIYer spends the weekend with an angle-grinder turning a supermarket trolley into an armchair, or building a Guitar Hero game controller from scratch. Online projects show you how to make your own USB charger, extend the battery life of your laptop, or use a Mont Blanc refill to transform a ÃÂ£1 pen.
"People are passionate about all sorts of things," says Wilhelm. "From the wacky, far-out jet engines and taxidermy to the everyday stuff like how to tie your shoes or manage washing your laundry most efficiently."
The projects are uploaded by users, who offer each other step-by-step advice on everything from the sinister to the charming. The extreme DIYers dare each other to create increasingly elaborate projects, posting photos and videos of near-misses and successes. The internet is perfect for this kind of experimentation; it's a place where inquisitive geeks meet friends with power-tools. All these projects have gorgeous colour photos to go with them, and the strength of interest in these extreme-DIY sites has led communities to meet offline. This year, Makezine.com held a fair in the US attended by 45,000 "makers".
"Besides the skill of building and the exchange of ideas, it's a lot of fun," says Phillip Torrone, senior editor of Make magazine. "We seem to be in an era of thinking more about the things we buy, make, consume and cherish. The result of that is people making things - it's more gratifying." Scandals over rip-offs, such as the recent study that showed ink-jet printer cartridges wilfully waste more than 50 per cent of the ink (tinyurl.com/2957jw), make Torrone's DIY ethos all the more appealing.
If you're the sort of clumsy oaf that regularly snaps USB keys off in their sockets, these DIY sites also offer advice on repairing consumer electronics. Wilhem's favourite DIY project is the dachshund wheelchair (tinyurl.com/ytc6bb). The DIYer who made it explains: "Our dachshund hurt his back, so for rehab we made him swim a lot, and I built this chair until he could use his back legs again."
Online DIYers have an enthusiasm for science and exploration, and many are simply reacting to the low-quality of mass-produced goods, especially consumer electronics. They object to our modern throw-away culture. The DIYers also upstage technology manufacturers by demonstrating easy ways to fix what would otherwise be thrown away. "It's really more about problem-solving with more people", says Torrone.
More news articles about Instructables here.