Connecting with the world through DIY: one man's chronicle

Wed May 26, 2010 3:48pm EDT
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By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A lament that products stopped coming with instructions, a diagram and replaceable parts sent one man on a do-it-yourself regimen that connected him to the wider world and his own unexplored talents.

"Made by Hand, Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World" by Mark Frauenfelder, is the author's chronicle of a year spent getting to know himself, his family and the world around him through a variety of do-it-yourself projects.

Frauenfelder, who is also editor in chief of Make magazine, suggests that society lost its way when the average person can no longer make their own repairs and just throws out the old and buys a new one.

"It used to be that consumers fed, clothed and educated themselves," said Frauenfelder, 49. "Do-it-yourself is a deeper level of engagement with the world as an active creator."

Deciding to take the alternative road for himself, he finds fulfillment by keeping chickens and bees, modifying his espresso machine, whittling wooden spoons, making guitars out of cigar boxes, and doing citizen science with his daughters in the garage. He also tried and failed to help his eldest child with math.

Though his wife is not so enamored with everything he does, he lives for the moments of recognition from her of a job well done.

"Do-it-yourself has changed me," Frauenfelder said. "It's opened me up to the idea that making things is a way to challenge and reward myself."

Frauenfelder admits he's not a great carpenter, plumber or any other tradesman. He learns as he goes by heavily researching online, technology making his own odyssey easier, and meeting an assortment of characters with names like Mr. Jalopy.   Continued...