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author's profile photo Craig Cmehil

Are you a maker?

I'm not sure I can call myself a maker, maybe a want to be one, but I'm fascinated by the concept of craft skills or maker skills. People who can carve wood, engrave, build things with their hands is fantastic.

I had one grandfather who was a Master Mason and the other a Master Machinist, what can I do? I can take things apart like a pro I guess ;-)

Often in our circles we talk about makers and often refer to things with Arduino and Raspberry Pi but I am curious who here has hobbies around wood, metal, stone, etc? I've done pewter casting for years and this is one of my recent pieces. I took a rough carved wood knife and used sand casting.

Who is a maker and are there examples of your work you'd like to share?

*Updated* recent blog post that shares another hobby/maker topic of mine.

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  • Jan 17, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Not sure what Doug Marcaida would have to say about the knife in it's current state, but you have the next round to grind it out and put a handle on it. Any implied thoughts about grinding it out with your day job and the community are purely deliberate :)

    Added: I'm not much of a maker myself, perhaps more of a breaker as I have a special knack for finding bugs in software or usability constraints/limitations. My father has serious creative talents for building amazing furniture and metal as a self-employed home improvements guru who also fully restored a 1940 Chevrolet, but my passion for computers happily led me away from this as a career path.

    • Jan 17, 2019 at 12:09 PM

      Wow Jeremy, you're really on edge with those puns :D

    • Jan 17, 2019 at 12:14 PM

      It wiiiiillll not cut, it's actually only a couple of inches long and meant as a letter opener, pewter is not the strongest knife making material. My foundry/forge is next once the weather warms up a bit and my garage is not so cold.

  • Jan 17, 2019 at 02:35 PM

    Hey Craig,

    I don't know if I fall into the etc. category of a maker or craftsman but over the years I have become an accomplished cook.

    I make my own bread, pasta, pickles, salted anchovies and recently made a mead out of raw honey supplied by my sisters bee hives. I also stopped the fishmonger a couple of years ago from gutting and cleaning the fish that I regularly buy.

    • Jan 17, 2019 at 03:11 PM

      I'd saw that one is a huge one in this realm, I had a conversation the other day with my kids and some of their friends and their idea of cooking was a microwave and something out of the freezer - I was dismayed to say the least as we actually cook and bake only (no microwave at all)

      • Jan 17, 2019 at 03:43 PM

        a microwave is pretty good for heating up pieces of tomahawk steak that have been in the sous vide for 4,5 hours at 53 degrees and finished on the bbq the day prior :)

        It is smart to involve your kids as soon as possible in cooking and preparation like cutting vegetables. This helps a lot in preventing them from becoming picky and only wanting to eat fries.

    • Jan 18, 2019 at 08:40 AM

      So welcome to the "Cooking Corner":)

      Personally, I generally do like to cook but apparently in a less ambitious way, I'm usually content when the family is well-fed...

    • Sep 11, 2019 at 02:42 PM

      I fall into this cooking corner 'maker' category. :) For the moment complicated desserts is as ambitious as I get.

  • Jan 17, 2019 at 05:31 PM

    As a self-described "fiber artist", I'm definitely a maker. I spin yarn from fiber, knit, weave fabric (I have way too many looms!), make lace in various forms, quilt, cross-stitch, embroider, and various other forms of work with yarn, string, thread, and fabric.

    This is my sanity in a crazy world. I cannot just sit and watch TV or listen to music - if I don't have something for my hands to do, I end up eating (not good).


    • Jan 17, 2019 at 08:03 PM

      WOW from fiber to yarn? How do you go about that? Any fiber? How long does the process typically take?

      • Jan 17, 2019 at 09:25 PM

        I usually buy fiber - wool, cotton, alpaca, etc. - that has been processed and may be already dyed and is ready to spin. However, I also have two fleeces from sheep that I'm going to process - clean, card (brush to get out debris and make all of the individual hairs go in the same direction), etc. so that I can spin it.

        I have several drop spindles and two spinning wheels that I then use to spin yarn from this fiber. Spinning is twisting fiber together to make yarn. Sometimes I "ply" the yarn I've spun so that I spin together two or more of the lengths of yarn that I've previously spun so that the final yarn is thicker and stronger than what was originally spun.

        It's a very Zen thing!


        • Jan 18, 2019 at 08:16 AM

          Fascinating! Maybe some time you can share some pictures of it - my imagination has you in a castle tower spinning on multiple machines at the same time LOL

  • Jan 17, 2019 at 10:51 PM

    Last year I started fooling around with wood burning. I usually start with a photo or drawing, print it out in B&W. Then use carbon paper to trace the darkest items onto the wood to use as landmarks. I'm not good enough to freehand this stuff yet.

    The first one is a completed one done from a photo of my dog and current SAR partner Meadow. It's the first major thing I tried.

    This second one I'm currently working on. The artist gave me the ok to use it. It's in progress and I have about 20 hrs into this so far. Lots of detail, shading and darkening to go yet..

    meadow-small.jpg (176.4 kB)
    gsp-burn-small.jpg (109.1 kB)
    • Jan 17, 2019 at 10:53 PM

      This is the drawing for the second one that I'm working towards.

      gsp-photo-small.jpg (805.0 kB)
    • Jan 18, 2019 at 08:19 AM

      Very cool! With metal you can take an image and use acetone to transfer the image (simple deskjet print) to the surface for engraving - I wonder if that would work for you too with wood?

      • Jan 18, 2019 at 02:34 PM

        I don't know. Acetone would definitely dry out the wood for sure. I'm not sure how the burning of the wood might be affected by the ink/chemicals left behind. Or how healthy it would be to breath while burning. With the tracings you keep it very limited to key markers and usually the darkest parts are marked so you know you burn off any trace of the tracings. What I like about doing this is that the equipment is minimal and I pretty much do this in my lap while relaxing in the evenings in front of the TV with the family.

        I would guess with metal, that its easier to wash off any remaining deposited inks as the engraving probably goes through a cleaning and polishing step. Something that can't really be done with the wood.


        • Jan 18, 2019 at 06:13 PM

          You can do this in your lap while watching TV? I assumed it would be something in a workshop?

          Do you coat and polish the woods afterwards?

          • Jan 18, 2019 at 07:59 PM

            Yep... I have a little table I keep the burner on next to my chair. The new burners heat up and cool down fast. It's something to keep my hands busy and lets face it.. most TV doesn't usually require a ton of brain power to watch.

            I haven't sealed my stuff yet. Most burnings do get coated with a sealer which tends to darken them up a bit. I probably will this spring when I can open the garage doors for ventilation and once I've tested some different finishes on some test pieces.

    • Sep 03, 2019 at 08:00 PM

      It took me a long while to get this done. (life got in the way). I have few tiny touch-up to do but it's mostly complete. I'm considering framing and mounting options now. I took some liberties with the original drawing and decided to not include the birds shadow. I'm not real happy with some areas but maybe with some touch-ups I'll get happier. Still have to seal and mount now. Might be another year 7-8 months to get that done!!!

      gsp-5-2.jpg (235.9 kB)
  • Jan 18, 2019 at 10:45 PM


    Your knife is an impressive project, Craig.

    I've owned a 3D printer for roughly the past five years, so I "extrude" plastic rather than working with wood, stone, or metal.
    I design and build custom, largely utilitarian objects -- in this instance, a case for a Raspberry Pi and Pi-camera.

    Cheers, Riley.

  • Jan 23, 2019 at 01:26 PM

    I'm not skilled like my father or granfather, but I can use my hands and i love to do it.
    Past November I started a little project: xmas tree!
    I made it with my kids, letting them to experiment and fail and rejoy for the little things (Ehy! the lights work!), so i'm quite satisfied with the result: having good time with them and make them proud of their work

    albero.jpg (43.9 kB)
    • Jan 23, 2019 at 02:21 PM

      Fantastic, working with the kids makes it usually a lot more fun. Mine have less interesting in all the grinding and sanding with metal though...

    • Jan 25, 2019 at 03:43 PM

      Simone, the obscuring of your children's faces (good idea, by the way) has such a "realistic" look that I found myself wanting to touch my monitor to see if I could feel the rough texture. Obviously you did something beyond the usual blur or whiteout. Curious!

      But mostly, great idea to involve the kids in constructing something that they can then feel proud of later.

      • Jan 25, 2019 at 03:59 PM

        Funny, Matt, i did nothing special: I used Paint 3d, an easy tool replacing good old paint :)

      • Jan 25, 2019 at 05:17 PM

        Funny but I was almost more impressed by the textured face cover-up in the picture than the project it portrays. Like "whoa, how did he do that?" :)

        Great job on both fronts, Simone Milesi !

  • Jan 24, 2019 at 10:20 AM

    I was in Vancouver in 2017 where I saw a cool carving in a shop and I was thinking of to buy it but it was too big and heavy so I googled for a picture later and decided to reproduce it. Not the same type of wood (I think the original is yellow cedar) and not as professional as the original one, but I was happy with the result.

    carving.jpg (523.2 kB)
    • Jan 24, 2019 at 04:38 PM

      Wow, that reminds me of a picture by R. Davidson: "Raven Bringing Light to the World" (which I'm familiar with from an album cover..). I'm wondering whether this is somehow related...

      • Jan 25, 2019 at 09:28 AM

        Thanks Volker, I am not sure but I think it is called haida carving. For example this one is very similar to the one I also made. How it relates to the album cover I don't know. Cheers, Ervin

      • Jan 25, 2019 at 03:47 PM

        As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, only a matter of miles from Vancouver, I can say that Haida and other Coast Salish art looking very much like this is predominant throughout the region. I have a painting similar to this fixed to the bulkhead in the cabin of my sailboat. The Coast Salish mythological figure of Raven is a prominent feature in many such carvings.

  • Jan 25, 2019 at 04:02 PM

    I don't know that I'm a "maker" in the sense of physical things like this, though I've always been mechanically-inclined. In my 20s, I used to enjoy tinkering with cars, and these days I tinker with boats. That latter can at times include woodwork, fiberglass repair, plumbing, mechanics, and electrical work. In fact, I've completely rewired two boats now. That may have been easier due to having worked as an industrial electrician for a few years while I was taking a break from computers. But, honestly, I enjoy sailing the boat more than I enjoy working on her -- I just can't afford to outsource all the upgrades and maintenance! -- so I don't know that I would call this a craft.

    Otherwise, my big craft and where I spend a great deal of my free time is not so much as a "maker," but I write stories. I've been doing this on and off since I've known how to read and write as a child, though I have yet to officially publish anything. These days I spend many of my Saturdays, if not otherwise engaged, fingers to keyboard on my laptop, usually not typing anything while I try to figure out what the heck to write next. I'm slow at this; I've been working for a year now on my current draft, with tortoise-like progress, but progress nonetheless.

    I don't have photos to show off such work, but you can read that current draft-in-progress (that's right, I freely let anyone who wants to read my very raw first drafts, and I invite comments and feedback) on my website at

    • Jan 28, 2019 at 08:15 AM

      I personally do think the craft of storytelling is a maker craft, our history is full of examples being able to engage an audience, tough craft to master.

      • Jan 28, 2019 at 04:09 PM

        Mastery indeed is an elusive goal, but also a worthy one. Fortunately, the craft is a great deal of fun along the way. Frustrating at times, but fun.

    • Jan 28, 2019 at 02:30 PM

      Writers are the best. Just my humble, impartial opinion.

      Will need to check out your work more closely, Matt!


      • Jan 28, 2019 at 04:10 PM

        I'd better quickly go add some horror elements to it, in order to win your praise! :)

  • Aug 26, 2019 at 07:45 PM

    Been awhile since this thread was active, but thought I would share a little adventure of mine. Riley Rainey helped me out with a 3D print.

    The pewter casting came out really well

    The end result was a casting I was able to clean up and apply 24k gold leaf to.

    This was a little tribute for the new SAP Champions we launched, well and an excuse to try a few new things out. The links above are to Instagram were I shared more photos and some details - the image here though is the final result.

    • Sep 03, 2019 at 07:22 PM

      I think you should design a place for a hole in that so it can be put on a string of leather. Hand them out to the SAP mentors at Tech Ed and let it be used for access to a special hospitality suite or event. Or free access to any sessions that normally requires a fee. Fee gets billed to SAP to keep your mentors current.


      • Sep 04, 2019 at 10:10 AM

        I honestly was thinking I could make multiple ones but the reality was this one took me almost a week to finish, I think I could do another in a day or so but doubtful I could make that many that fast - never realized how much sanding it would take.

        • Sep 04, 2019 at 01:14 PM

          Yep.. sometimes people have no idea how much time some of this stuff takes!


  • Sep 02, 2019 at 09:23 AM

    " ... but I am curious who here has hobbies around wood, metal, stone, etc?"

    Stone and wood, definitely. However, I don't know how much is hobby and how much is a necessity. I've built part of our home myself after following an evening class in mansonry ("laying brick") for two years. It was a great learning experience and it served me well along the construction. Assistance through an Architect and real professionals was obviously needed, however we could do a lot of the rough work ourselves which had all kinds of positive effects. For instance, I know how everything is built and where every pipe, tube and concrete wall is located. I have a better idea of how to improve our place and a somewhat realistic idea of its cost. After that project, I suffered from some "building fatigue" for more than a year ...

    More recently, I took upon building an "L"-shaped garden shed by myself. It is built with concrete bricks on the inside, and large but thin wooded "stripes" on the outside. It is very much intended to be a permanent shed for garden material, kids outdoor toys and bikes.

    We're pretty glad with the result, however I still have to place the electrics inside and it is very much overdue. So I'm going to gather up the courage to start it up again, because you need lighting and electrical sockets, right?

    A lot of this "Maker" journey is also quite humbling. I sometimes suffered physically, had to do all the calculations and keep the costs limited. It's not as easy as you see it done by a professional. Makes me respect the true Craftsmen even more!

    • Sep 02, 2019 at 09:28 AM

      Could not agree more on the humbling aspects of it! Shed looks good but yes not sure I could manage without electric being added to something outside in the garden ;-)

      • Sep 02, 2019 at 09:48 AM

        Thank you. And ... well ... my wife reminds me repeatedly on the absence of basic "lighting" when we need to go to the backyard on an automn or winter night ...
        Some public shaming can go a long way in motivating someone to get back into it, haha. And usually, once I have started, I'm reminded on how fun it actually is.

        • Sep 02, 2019 at 10:00 AM

          Yeah the lack of basic lightening does tend to interfere with the beer and wine drinking in the garden sometimes lol

    • Sep 03, 2019 at 07:18 PM

      Very nice! I've done a lot of outdoor building and stone work myself. I can appreciate the effort it takes!


  • Dec 03, 2019 at 05:47 AM

    So i just completed a new burning for my neighbor. Unfortunately he unexpectantly had to put down his bloodhound last month. I copied down a picture he post on facebook of Beau and I made this ornament for him. It was kind of going to be a xmas thing but I decided he might want to hang it elsewhere so I didn't xmas it up. I'll surprise him in a few weeks with it.

    beau-burn-1.png (442.0 kB)
    beau-burn-2.png (401.0 kB)
  • Dec 03, 2019 at 06:51 AM

    Hey! I am a "maker" too!

    this is a strange word for me (I am french), I like to build things, actually I am rebuilding my house. But when it will be finished I will restart to work on wood.

    In the past I have built several things, for example one of the most complex was a little stairway (~1m80 / 6 feets), little but is was really heavy because wide. We had to be 2 to instal it.

    The most complex part is the stair emplacement you have to create in the side part (staircase). (this)

    You have to play a lot with SIN COS TAN to make it at the exact position

    and when I make assembling blank test

    I am planning to build a new one, in oak. The first one was in beech. And the size will be the double

    It will be certainly more than 200Kg / 440 pounds

    • Dec 03, 2019 at 07:20 PM

      I was looking at redoing stairs in my house as well but not sure I‘d attempt them myself, quite impressive!

  • Dec 09, 2019 at 10:35 AM

    I don't do anything with wood or stone, but I do like to crochet, especially this time of year:

    I'm glad my sister taught me. But my dentist crochets jewelry (different stones) and has showings...

    wreaths.jpg (332.4 kB)
    • Dec 09, 2019 at 11:13 AM

      My mom used to do things like this - I tried but apparently the skill required is beyond me - these look great!

  • Dec 10, 2019 at 08:27 AM

    And to keep the tradition alive, this year, after last year Xmas tree, we made the nativity.

    I pushed the kids to plan, project, design and realize it almost by themselves, with me just giving some hints on how to do it properly.
    It isn't on scale, it has many lacks, it could be done way better but... well, we like it a lot, even the crooked star :)

    aaa.jpg (148.0 kB)
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