Introduction: Making a Maker Family

About: I like making things out of items that would have otherwise been discarded. Check out my other projects!

Partially out of necessity (we make a little extra money from projects) and largely out of desire, our family has come to really revolve around making things.

Pepper and I met through an online dating service - and I remember wishing that there was a "crafty" criteria.  In preparation for our wedding we began making as a family and we have not stopped since. 

Note that all links in this Instructable go to other Instructables pages.

Step 1: Introductions

I'm Ryan "Zieak" McFarland and have been pretty crafty since I was a teen.  I used to spend a lot of time doing Native American crafts like beading, leatherwork, basketry and other frontier skills.  Now I do some woodworking, soldering, home repairs and improvements... but I really love making things out of someone's trash.  Check out the featured author article about me here on Instructables.

My wife of two years is Pepper.  When she moved to the town I lived in she couldn't find work in her field so she started selling some of the things we make both locally and online.  We also made custom glasses from wine bottles for many friends for our wedding.  She is adept at picking up projects that I have abandoned or being willing to repeat projects to sell for money.

Our son likes to get in on the making too.  He likes working on his tree fort, selling things at the local market that we helped get started in our town, and is developing an interest in wood working.  This summer he made marshmallow guns to give to friends and sell at the market.

Step 2: Making Our Workshop

A year ago we completed a workshop and storage building behind our home.  We work in Mongolia during the school year now and return to Alaska for the summers.  Instead of renting a storage unit to keep our belongings we decided to build our own - with a giant workshop!  My old work space was a 12x12 room that housed the boiler, later became a bike shop, and now serves as a large laundry room.  

The new shop features a 15x24 footprint with ceilings more than 10 feet high so I can easily move whole sheets of plywood and lumber around the shop.  Bikes can hang from the ceiling and still leave plenty of room underneath.  It is big enough that I can store lumber inside - which is a great feature in our rainy climate.

Aside from driving the piling for the foundation we did most of the work on the project ourselves, just calling friends to help stand up walls and other projects that need more than two pairs of hands.  

Step 3: The Garden

Last year we also started doing some gardening.  The shed was built on a 2×10 and 3/4 inch plywood base that used to be the top of my bike ramp. I used salvaged 2×4 boards for the walls and roof joists and reclaimed 5/8 inch plywood sheathing on the walls. The roofing material was removed years ago from part of the front porch of the house. The siding is red cedar that I salvaged from the burn pile at the dump. The trim boards are yellow cedar that I plucked from the free pile at a local mill. All of the nails and the roofing screws were also salvaged. The sink that is mounted on the front was a dump find also. I plan on putting a gutter up that drains into a 55 gallon barrel which is then plumbed to the sink and a hose to use for planting and watering the garden during dry spells. The sink will just have buckets placed below the drains to collect soils from doing plantings and to recycle any water that is used.

The garden materials are also salvaged. The three tires are growing zucchini plants and they were dragged out of some of the fill that someone left long before I bought the property.  The boxy planter was the base used to hold a fuel tank that was in the carport. We’re growing carrots and peas in it now. The pea plant trellis was salvaged from the dump. The fencing that surrounds the whole garden was a find that the local video store owner gave to us. She had a whole pile of these metal grates that were used for attaching shelves at the store. But she was paying rent on a storage unit and was unlikely to ever need more of them so she gave them to us one cold winter day. They make fantastic fencing material and manage to keep the pesky deer out of the veggies.

Jordan has even taken the time to show a friend how easy it is to grow your own food!

Step 4: What We Make

Sometimes I feel like a better question would be "what don't we make?"  Today I put cedar trim around windows.  Yesterday I plumbed in a new toilet in the room that used to be my workshop. This week I have been making custom sets of alphabet wood blocks to give to my friends and family that are having children.  We have been cutting bottles for a friend's wedding centerpieces. and filling big orders for wine bottle drinking glasses.  I have been transforming spoons from a family heirloom set to bracelets for the women in the family.  I have made a table from a Carroms board and a reclaimed table base.  And yesterday shipped off a table made from children's building blocks to a friend for a wedding gift.  Those are just the projects that made the cut - quite a few were abandoned or put on the list of projects to pick up later.

Here are some of the projects that we have made.

Furniture - Tables, a desk, stools, coffee table out of a pinball machine, refurbished folding lawn chairs, a porch swing.

Home improvements and repairs - replacing windows and doors, energy efficiency improvements, landscaping, wiring a projector in the living room, building an apartment in part of our home,  

Bike related projects - cartbike, bottle opener from a crank arm, belt from bike tire, wheelbarrow trike, stool from wheels and crutches

Crafts - Like the wallet made from a computer keyboard, wood burning, earrings from spoon handles, and all kinds of stuff!

Step 5: Our Son Making

Our son is constantly inspired by the projects we are working on.  He combines his creativity with our resources to make his own projects.

Step 6: Pepper Making

Here are some photos of Pepper salvaging bottles to cut into glasses, sanding glasses, sanding a reclaimed sign for a table top, and laying out bottle caps on a stool to grout.

Step 7: How We Got Here

I'm not entirely certain how the maker bug infected our family.  I assume that the natural desire to create combined with the bounty of tools and resources I have created a "perfect storm" for creativity.  We don't have TV service so free time ends up becoming much more productive than it would otherwise.  We have fun with it.

I asked our son what he liked about making together and he said that he likes helping each other out, learning how to use tools and make things, and the feeling of having made something.

I can't agree more - I have a lot of joy in knowing I helped make a maker family! 

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