Book Review - Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris
Following up on my review of The Best of MAKE, I also got a chance to read Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris. You can think of this as MAKE magazine in overdrive. From a pure reading perspective, it's outrageously funny and very well documented. In terms of actually *building* the items here, you had better have some level of background when it comes to hacking and building things on the fly, making the rules up as you go along. And in some offices I know of, you'd probably get put on probation for having these items on your desk...
Introduction; Active Deskchop; BallistaMail; Maple Mike; DeskBeam Bass; The Gysin Device; iBlow; Liquid Lens Meets DiscoHead; The Haze-o-Matic 3000 Fog Machine; Hammerhead Live; Homebrew Wood Finishes
There's a picture of Harris in the introduction, and he looks like someone you'd see on a show like Mythbusters or Junkyard Wars. He specializes in making incredible devices using discarded or trashed items he's found and/or scavenged over the years. I can only imagine what his house and work area must look like. All these projects, such as the guillotine and crossbow, are intricate and fascinating, and show a very high level of creativity and ingenuity to build without resorting to buying brand-new or made-to-order parts. The level of workmanship and detail that Harris puts into each one make them unique and special, especially considering that the parts are often from items that are rather mundane, like vacuum cleaners and record players. It just goes to show that looking at "junk" in different terms can open up a world of possibilities. Each project also has a little "nano-project" associated with it. These are things that are much simplier, like making a foot-controlled variable power switch from an old sewing machine pedal. A great idea if your Dremel tool needs to be slowed down a bit for what you're trying to accomplish.
While everything is profusely illustrated and documented, I definitely wouldn't recommend these projects to someone just starting into the DIY world. Harris has spent a lifetime collecting and finding a blend of tools that works well for him. Unless you are similarly equipped, you might find yourself making multiple trips to the store to pick up something you absolutely need to keep going. Of course, that sort of defeats the purpose and spirit behind the projects you find here. On top of that, I could imagine that it'd be easy to miss a step or do something "not quite right", and have the whole project fail to work as advertised. Without the experience of doing these types of projects previously, the troubleshooting could be nightmarish for a newbie. And that would be too bad, as being able to show off your own bubble machine powered by a CPU fan does have a certain amount of "geek cred" attached to it...
If you're comfortable working with tools and such, this book will be a fun stretch for you. If you're brand new to the MAKE culture, this is probably a bit beyond your initial capabilities (unless you're just plain stubborn, incredibly talented, or both). But if you're into these types of contraptions and want an entertaining read by a talented builder *and* writer, by all means go for it.