Many long-time Instructables users may remember that we used to do Featured Author Interviews. They were a lot of fun and allowed us to get to know some of site's most active authors.
Well . . . we're starting a fresh round of interviews, and revamping the format a little!
Keep an eye out for more Author Spotlight interviews like this one. Enjoy!
For this first Author Spotlight interview, I had a chance to talk with young maker extraordinaire Nikodem Bartnik, known as Nikus here on Instructables.
We jumped on Skype and had a great conversation; it was a lot of fun to connect with a fellow maker of things, and just chat for a bit about the topics that interest us.
Following our visit, I sent Nikodem a handful of written questions and his answers are shared below.
If you're not familiar with Nikodem's many projects, you will be thoroughly impressed.
He's a sharp, talented, and creative young man with a bright future ahead of him!
Step 1: Old Phones, Toys and Irons
Image from DIY 3D Printed Dremel CNC
When did you first start making things? What kinds of things were you interested in making and doing when you were a child?
From what I heard I started making when I was 4 years old but I don't really remember that. At that time I was playing with Lego bricks all day every day, never liked following the manual so usually, I was just building every idea of mine.
I started disassembling old phones, toys and irons. When I was about 7 years old my parents bought me snap circuits kit and that’s when I got interested in electronics a lot. I remember that the other day there was no electricity for a few hours so I build myself a small circuit out of this kit with a light bulb and few batteries, it wasn’t brighter than a candle but I felt so powerful because no one else had electricity at that moment and I kind of had :)
My dad taught me how to solder and how to use basic tools, he also started building a simple light following robot with me. At the age of 13, I started learning HTML and CSS then I moved onto programming in C++, JAVA and C#.
Then I found a YouTube video about Arduino, and a few days later I bought my very first Arduino Leonardo (which is already broken, but I still keep it). That changed everything, I started making projects on a regular basis and developing my skill set every day. I connected my previous experience together and set up a small webpage about Arduino and a few months later I started posting projects on Instructables. Thanks to the fact that I was a little bit into everything in my life and I tried a lot I can connect different fields in my projects.
Step 2: I Found This Website Called Instructables
Image from Arduino: Sensitive Robot, Nikus's first instructable.
When did you first discover Instructables and what inspired you to post your first project?
It was in 2014 I remember that I was looking on how to build a POV clock, that’s a device that can display text and images by blinking rotating LEDs, that was my first project and I had no idea at that time how to program such thing so I started looking for a solution online. I found this website called Instructables, I started reading the project description, I noticed that there are a lot of interesting projects, I instantly bookmarked this page because I was afraid that I will forget its name :D
Every few days I had been getting back to the site and at some point I decided that I will post my own project on Instructables. I was quite afraid of posting a project in English, it still is a challenge for me to write a project description in a different language but the response from the community is always very positive. I think the biggest inspiration for me was the curiosity of what other people think about my projects, I wanted to share them with a world, and there is no better place for that than Instructables.
Step 3: My Go-to CAD Software Is Fusion 360
Image from 3D Printed Snowmobile
Tell me about your creative/making process. How do you go from having an idea, all the way through to completed project?
It’s pretty much different for every project but usually, it starts with an idea that I get during a run, shower or before I fall asleep. I also like watching the world around me and trying to find a way to improve it. Then I write this idea down on my whiteboard and I let it sit here sometimes for a few hours sometimes for a few weeks, that way I can think deeply about the project.
I recently started drawing every project on paper and there is a lot of reasons to do that, the most important one for me is that I can forget about all of the dimensions and manufacturability of the project I can just focus on how I want it to look like and work - on paper everything is possible.
Then I move onto designing it in CAD, my go-to CAD software is Fusion 360 I literally love this software, I use it always and for everything starting with the general design of a project, machining parts with CNC machine, designing for 3D printing and sharing my files. Then depends on the project I go to the workshop to make it with my hands or I let 3D printer do its job and I have a few hours to go for a run or read a book. During making it I take photos, videos and document everything so that I can later post my project on Instructables and YouTube.
Step 4: My Workshop Is 3 Meters Underground
Image from 3D Printed $15 Camera Slider
Describe your tools and workspace. What are the most important tools you use to make your projects?
I used to make all of my projects and videos at home in my small room, it’s only 7m2 but I managed to fit a lot of stuff in here. I’ve got a new workshop about 6 months ago so I moved all of the tools here. For those 6 months I have been renovating this place, and organizing everything, it’s still not completely ready and I think it never will, setting up a workshop is a never-ending story.
My workshop is 3 meters underground and that’s not just a normal basement it’s a really cool place where I can mill for hours, be as loud as possible and no one will complain about that. I spend a lot of time in my workshop and usually I stay there up to late hours. But I still do some projects at home like prototyping electronics, designing, 3D printing, soldering etc. workshop is for the dirty stuff like woodworking, CNC milling, metalworking, welding etc.
Tools aren’t super important because you can make just about anything with some basic hand tools, but I really enjoy using different tools those are extensions of my own abilities so that I can make better things, faster. Most of my projects include 3D printing so a 3D printer is a very important tool for me. Because of 3D printing, but not only I spend a lot of time in CAD software to design my projects and make sure that everything will work fine so something as simple as a ruler and caliper are the tools that I use almost every day.
I also do a lot of electronics projects, prototyping and custom PCBs so I often use soldering iron. Of course, I use a lot of hand tools like a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, files. I also recently got into welding and I am trying to learn how to weld but it’s really not a simple thing, but the possibility of joining metals together already bring me ideas for new projects.
Step 5: I Really Like Every Aspect of Making
Image from Fidget Spinning Robot
In your opinion, what is the most satisfying aspect of making?
I really like every aspect of making but something that I enjoy the most is the process of making itself. Usually, it’s not even about a complete, finished project because once the project is done I am like “It, works, great, what’s next?”. I enjoy facing the problems that at first may seem unresolvable but after some thinking and prototyping, every problem can be resolved.
Most of the people are afraid of the problems but I think that we as makers not only have to deal with problems on a regular basis, we kind of enjoy that. The other aspect of making that I really like is when I am just starting with a project, and I literally have no idea what I am doing, I am just staring at a blank piece of paper. But once I start drawing, after a few iterations everything starts to connect in my head and I know how I should make this project.
Step 6: There Is a Dremel CNC on Every Continent Except Antarctica
Images from DIY 3D Printed Dremel CNC
You’ve made a lot of highly impressive projects. Which item are you most proud of, and why?
It’s hard to choose one single project that I am most proud of, there is always one little piece of a project that I am really proud of like track tensioning mechanism in my 3D printed snowmobile, simplicity of my camera slider and sophistication of Ludwik Drone.
But if I would have to name just one single project, that would be my Dremel CNC, again I love the simplicity of it, the fact that it is so inexpensive to build and the response from the community, which is amazing! So many people build this project around the world, there is a Dremel CNC on every continent except Antarctica, still waiting for someone to build it here :) Over 2000 people in the facebook group that help each other and improve my project, it’s breathtaking to see that someone as small as me build something so huge!
Step 7: Best Thing for Me Is to Start a Company
What are your plans and hopes for your future, academically and professionally?
I am just about to finish vocational secondary school of mechatronics, then I would love to study product design, but there is no such thing in my country so I will probably study Automation and robotics or electronics at a local university.
Because I am a really creative person I feel like the best thing for me is to start a company and manufacture products that I would be able to sell and that’s my dream, maybe I will connect my making passion with business and create tools for makers. I will continue making my projects and sharing them online on Instructables and my YouTube channel. Lately, I’ve got really interested in making videos so I want to grow my YouTube channel and develop filmmaking skills.
Step 8: Don’t Let Others Discourage You
Image from my Skype chat with Nikodem, showing off his homemade 3D printed ukulele!
If you could give any advice to someone with similar interests as yourself, but who is 5 to 10 years younger, what would it be?
I would say do whatever you want as long as it a creative work, don’t waste time for computer games and watching TV. Developing creativity is in my opinion crucial to be a good maker.
Remember that healthy body, healthy mind so do a lot of sports, take a break from your project from time to time, that way you will be able to look at them from a different perspective and resolve problems faster.
And the most important thing don’t let others discourage you. Sure your first project wouldn’t be as great as you wish but you will get better with every project and after some time you will start to build amazing things.
There is a saying: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I think that’s true for any kind of creative work, you just have to do your best for long enough to master it without taking care of what others think and then you win.
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A very special thanks to Nikodem for taking the time to visit with me, and for his willingness to share his talents with the Instructables community!!
If you'd like to comment or ask questions to Nikodem, be sure to hit him up directly via direct message or through the comment section on any of his his projects! : )