I want to invent things

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Re: I want to invent things

Postby Knight » Thu May 08, 2014 12:26 pm

Since I knew that I would be talking about falling down (and getting back up) as much as my successes, I didn't want to use one of my typical logins that are readily associated with my name. I've talked about enough personal stuff that anyone here can figure out who I am with a minimal web search but I didn't want a judgmental person to type in my name and have this site be the first thing they find out about me. Knight was simply the first word that sprang to mind: I make no claims to knighthood in any sense of the word.

Knight wrote:Kim, you are my hero (at least today). More details soon after I have more results.


While my original plan was to stop by Lvl1 today (Thursday) on my day off from work (under the expectation that I wouldn't be about to meet anyone too far away from normal business hours), I did go ahead and get on their google forum and made an effort to contact them in other ways. I was invited to their Tuesday evening meeting (which started at 8 pm) and was assured that arriving at 9 pm (straight from work) would not be a problem.

On Tuesday, I discovered that most of my expectations were wrong. Things were better than I expected!

The biggest surprise was the hours. For many people, 8 p.m. was the beginning of their time at lvl1, not the end. All-nighters are common. When I asked when I was most likely to find nobody there I was told during the day/business hours: the time I was both least often available and expected them to be busiest.

The primary focus of the place is exploration and learning. The older gentleman who gave me my initial tour owns his own machine shop and said that he mainly stops by lvl1 to keep the blood to a minimum. I personally reached over and unplugged a table saw when a young man stuck a hand inside it to adjust a guard (and I can see that will be a pet peeve of mine if I spend much time there).

Lots of people are trying to keep things cleaned up and organized but the sheer number of people using the place means that you have to explore to find anything. Nobody was surprised or annoyed when I looked inside every single drawer in the tool area two days in a row. For example, I found two lathes (one under a table with a missing motor), five single handed sledge hammers, but no little hammers under 16 oz - I'm sure I will eventually find a box full of them, put there by some well meaning person who cleaned up.

On my first day there, they also gave me food (french bread with a huge selection of toppings on Texas toast). I threw a couple bucks in the 'pay it forward basket' but it was not required. The gentleman who was doing the cooking also offered to help me recover some files from my laptop (which had crashed) on Wednesday. More on that day in a bit.
Last edited by Knight on Thu May 08, 2014 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby Knight » Thu May 08, 2014 12:51 pm

On Wednesday, I took several small projects with me, knowing that computer repairs involve a lot of time watching a progress bar inch its way across a screen. I'm glad I did, they guy I was meeting showed up an hour late (but he was doing me a favor, not the other way around, so I can't complain too much). The file recovery took about three hours and required only minimal baby-sitting so we spent the bulk of our time on the metal band saw and the milling machine: two pieces of equipment I have never handled before. The metal band saw I find particularly clever: clamp a piece of metal in the clamp, turn on the saw and lay it on the metal. The saw slowly chews through the metal and a little metal stud presses down on the off switch after it is all the way through.

I could go into more detail, but risk being boring. Suffice to say that I got home very late two days in a row and collapsed in happy exhaustion both times. I need to get some things done around the house today, but think they have a sewing workshop tonight.
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby SquarePeg » Thu May 08, 2014 1:30 pm

This place sounds like fantasy-land, albeit an untidy one!
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby Knight » Thu May 08, 2014 1:57 pm

It has its down sides, but even the downsides involve me learning useful things.

For example, unsupervised newbies tend to be pretty hard on equipment. Some measure of repair or adjusting is needed on almost everything. The experienced people I have asked to help me have a lot of experience at that. So last night in addition to learning how to operate a metal band saw, I also learned how to change a worn-out blade (and where the extra blades are stored).
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby BarbaraSher » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:52 pm

Kim wrote:First of all, I think I hear a contradiction. Do you want to build, make, craft things and say "I did this." or do you want to invent things?

in the first case, you are looking for a hobby.

In the second case, you are looking for a way to turn your ingenuity into something that benefits other people and brings you money. A successful inventor creates solutions to problems other people have - but may not even know they have - or creates things that are new but add something to their lives. An example of the first is the paperclip (or glasses). An example of the second is the iPad (or TV).

One way of creating something without actually creating it is to write it up in detail and in all its variations (and make detailed drawings, if applicable), the way it is done in patents. There are lots of patents on the web, and from reading those, you will get a sense of what constitutes a good patent application and what is a badly written patent application. A good patent is clear and unambiguous and covers all possible variations (="embodiments") of your idea.

The full patent application process is expensive, but you can get a temporary patent application that is valid for a year, and costs around $100 (plus/minus 25). (If you want, i can look up more specific info about this.) It could be a good way of testing whether your invention makes any sense.

It is generally a good idea anyway to let a few other people read your description of your invention and assess your idea - and the writing and any drawings - before you submit it anywhere. Use a confidentiality agreement if you are worried about anyone stealing your idea. You'll find templates online as well as actual confidentiality agreements. If you compare several agreements and templates out there, and use your common sense, you'll be able to fill in the dots in your template and edit it so that it suits your needs. (You sure sound smart enough!)

Also, many prototypes these days are printed on 3D printers, and I think there is even a build-it-yourself 3D printer kit out there. It sounds like you are the perfect person to build your own 3D printer and then use it to create prototypes.

That brings me back to the original question. What do you want to do with the prototypes?


Great answer, Kim!
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby Elaine Glimme » Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:59 pm

It sounds like you got your wish, Knight. congrats. Your description makes me want to find one near my house and to go play there.
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Re: I want to invent things

Postby BarbaraSher » Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:00 pm

It is a great description, isn't it, Elaine? I felt like I was there, walking around with Knight.

I'd enjoy ongoing descriptions of what goes on when you're there next, Knight.
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