Monday, November 24, 2014

My Dad - The Ultimate Maker

The maker-movement is gaining momentum around the world, and is slowly taking hold in New Zealand education settings. But what I think about the most is something that hasn't been mentioned for a while socially in our country, even in amongst the politically driven narrative of kiwiana. 

No.8 wire. That versatile material that came to symbolise the innovation, creativity and invention that underpins a resourceful New Zealander. Yet this attitude seems to have faded, and I do recall the occasional article lamenting the loss of our No.8 wire culture:

"In 1900 New Zealand had the highest number of patent applications per capita in the world. In 2006 New Zealand was ranked fourth in the world for patents filed in proportion to gross domestic product (GDP), and fifth on the basis of population. This tradition of Kiwi ingenuity is often known as the ‘no. 8 wire’ attitude, a reference to a gauge of fencing wire that has been adapted for countless other uses in New Zealand farms, factories and homes". (source)

To be honest, as a kid, I always found 8 gauge wire too hard to work with, I preferred using 2 or 3 gauge wire, much easier to mould and bend for small hands. Binder-twine, poplar branches, bullrush leaves, copper wire, a bit of soldering; to create simple radios, building a circuit to make a light bulb light up, blue stone crystal making out of orchard fertilisers, etc. Squashed thumbs and grazed knees after thinking running on concrete sprinkled with gravel etc would work (only did that once). Not to mention all the inside sewing and craft based stuff, the odd sewing machine needle through end of finger type thing. Loom bands are interesting, they remind me of macrame, friendship bands out of embroidery cotton, and those little looms with the cotton reel and four small nails in the top. Stuff that 70s-80s country kids got up to. In terms of technology, for ages we had two TVs - they sat one on top of the other - the top one had picture but no sound, the bottom had sound but no picture... a few memories.

What I missed the most when I went off to Dunedin to study, was my Dad's workshop, oddly enough. I'd gotten used to fixing and making my own stuff, something I learned from both my parents. Through using the technology of the day, I'm reflecting on the fact that my Dad is the ultimate maker. His tools and materials include a welder, a metal lathe, soldering, compressed air, steel (including off cuts), small motors.


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