How did you discover the site and what inspired you to start posting projects?
Thinking back, I guess it was kipkay that got me here in the first place. I'd picked up one of those Radioshack electronics learning labs from the Goodwill a couple of years before and had been playing with that for a while. A friend and I were talking about it and he said, "Hey, have you heard of this thing where you turn a maglite and a DVD drive into a laser that burns stuff?" I dashed to the computer and plugged "Laser flashlight" into google, which brought me to instructables.
I was immediately captivated by the concept of the site, and spent a few weeks just digging through all the projects, bookmarking the ones I thought I'd do someday. I only registered and got an account a couple of months after that so I could thank Manata for the Golf Ballz Pool Table (http://www.instructables.com/id/Golf-Ballz-Pool-Table/) which was the first big project I made with an instructable for a guide.
Everything on the site seemed really positive and community minded and mutually supportive. I decided I wanted in on the fun, started documenting my projects, and eventually posted my first instructable, the bike lights I built for my daughter.
Your projects span an array of disciplines. How did you become proficient in so many skills?
It's not that I'm necessarily proficient at all these skills, it's more an attitude that I take--I rarely look at something and think, "I can't do that." Instead, I start with the base assumption that as long as a task doesn't require some sort of specialized tools (or sometimes even if it does), I can find a way to do it. Everything made was made by humans, or made by human tools. I'm human. I have tools. All I need beyond that is ingenuity and some know how, which I frequently acquire from instructables.
Especially with the internet as my secondary brain, I've got the collective knowledge of the entire human race to teach me to do whatever I need to do. Say I want to program an arduino. I'm not particularly good at programming, or knowledgeable about arduino, but I was able to teach myself enough to program a series of LED flashes to make my Proton Pack awesome!
Of all the projects that you have posted, which is your favorite?
Probably my light-up walkway. It was a fun idea I liked and thought I'd share with the instructables community, and it absolutely took off beyond my wildest dreams. I thought I was posting an instructable about a cool looking garden feature, but I hadn't really thought it through. At it's core, it was an idea about cheap, small scale distributed solar lighting, and applicable to a much broader range of projects. I had a guy in Africa tell me he was going to use the concept for lighting in his town where power can be sporadic, how cool is that? Even a year and a half after posting it I still get pretty frequent comments and compliments on it, usually about how it's inspired someone to build something awesome.
Do you have any ugly duckling projects that you know aren't great but you love and cherish them anyway?
Definitely my painted sugar cookies instructable. This was one of my earliest 'ibles, and the pictures were taken before I really knew what I was doing. They really don't do justice to how awesome and fun these things are for kids! My brothers and I all have fond memories of doing this when we were little, and I really wanted to spread the idea around. I'm thinking of taking new pictures when we do it this year and rewriting some sections, but it's hard to get enthusiastic about reworking a three year old instructable that wasn't very popular to begin with.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new author on Instructables, what would it be?
Take more pictures! If you ever ask yourself whether or not you should be photographing a project or just a tiny step in a project, the answer is ALWAYS yes! In fact, the answer is yes, and do it twice, and do it twice more from two different angles, and play with the lighting between each shot. There are few things more frustrating than sitting down to write up a project and discovering that half your photographs are dark and out of focus, or you actually needed a picture of some step in the process that you neglected to take.
Also, and I know this is now two pieces of advice, take the extra time required to work on your grammar. Get someone to proofread, even. I don't mean that you need to spell every single word correctly or get your there, their, and they're exactly right every time. Just make sure you do readers the courtesy of including basic punctuation and paragraph brakes, the occasional comma and capitalized word. I don't so much mind reading something where the wrong flavor of "to" was used, but I can't stand an impenetrable wall of unbroken text, or a single incomprehensible sentence that looks like it was written to fit into a tweet.
Is there anyone who has been particularly influential towards your work on projects for the site or in your life in general?
Absolutely, my grandfather, General James Pounds. His army rank was corporal, his given name was General, everyone else called him Jim, but we kids always called him Papa. We lived with him off and on while I was growing up, for a total of something like 12 years. He passed away in 1998, but I still think about him a lot. He had a great little shop in the basement of his house in Coos Bay, full of all sorts of tools that I would occasionally get to help him with. He could build anything, from the house he lived in down to a tiny, working folding chair for my mother's doll house. I have vivid memories of him working with my father (who is quite the tinkerer himself) to build furniture, collecting shells at Basendorf Beach, installing new electronics in his old Nissan, or just sitting with my brothers and I, carving and whittling on a piece of wood.
Papa always seemed willing to try something new. I never saw him look at a problem and just give up, he would always come up with a solution to any situation, or at least give it a fair try. He could work with wood, electrical systems, vehicles, plumbing, he could shoot, play the harmonica and the violin, knew the bible frontwards and backwards, and he was a combat medic in WW2. Even at the very end of his life when most of his memories were lost to Alzheimer's and we had to put him into a 24 hour care facility, he was well known to the nurses as an escape artist. He found novel ways to slip out of his wheelchair, sneak through doors and over fences, they even had to install new security locks on the doors because Papa figured out how to pick the old ones.
I have always aspired to emulate Papa's attitude towards life. As I've grown older, I think I understand him more and more, especially how much he loved, as he called it, "Puttering around," in the shop. Now that's what I love to do with my free time!