As you know if you’ve been reading this column for a while, as opposed to doing something constructive, I built my first canoe out of an old pressure tank. I cut the bottom off the tank, and then cut it down the middle and welded the two halves together. This ‘canoe’ was pretty much indestructible. You would have to shoot it with a 30.06 to even make a dent. It was also pretty heavy. Every time I wanted to put it in the water I had to get several guys to help me lift it. But at least I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my canoe.
Recently, while my wife and I were visiting Randy and Joy Young in Bastrop, we got to talking about that canoe, and the ‘trolling motor’ I built to go with it. I straightened out the curve in the shaft of an old weed eater, and replaced the string head with a trolling motor propeller. Unfortunately, although that was a great idea, it didn’t work. At all. Every time I revved up the weed eater and lowered the prop into the water, the motor immediately died. There are some laws of physics that just can’t be bent.
But you never know how an idea will work out until you try it, unless you go online first and find out if someone else has already tried the same thing. Randy told me about a website where you can do that, kind of. It’s called ‘Instructables,’ and it’s sort of a potpourri of how-to articles. The content runs the gamut from crazy Red Green-type projects to insane Red Green-type projects.
Actually, some of the ideas are pretty good. People have devised ways to easily and cheaply build doo-dads, gadgets, gizmos, and whatzits to make life easier or more convenient in thousands of areas, most of which are not appealing to me in the least. But some of the instructables are pretty interesting, by which I mean you can easily kill yourself building and/or using the projects.
One particular instructable details how to build a hot tub while camping. The introduction says "This instructable is how to build a Camping Hot Tub and is for information purposes only. Safety first!!!! It involves power tools, fire, electricity, and water. Recreation can be very dangerous. I am in no way liable for anything you do, damage to vehicles or equipment, loss of life, accidents that may occur, fines incurred, acts of God, etc." That instructable was particularly useful to me, because I got the title of this column from it.
A lot of instructables focus on how to make things out of duct tape, which I thought I was already a master of. Not so much. They should have an entire website of just duct tape instructables. There are directions for making duct tape hammocks, duct tape backpacks, duct tape luggage, duct tape brass knuckles, duct tape boats, and duct tape duct tape. You think I’m kidding.
The Instructables site is divided up into sections, so you can avoid the ones that don’t interest you, and are therefore boring. This mainly pertains to the Living section, which is subdivided into sections for decorating, gardening, sewing, yarn, and other lame stuff that won’t kill anyone. The fun sections are the ones under the headings of Technology, Outside, and Workshop. You never know what you’re going to find in those.
One of the most impressive things about the Instructables site is its diversity. You can find directions on how to build backyard catapults, next to advice on how to build homemade wedding rings, right beside instructions on how to use a drill press as a lathe, alongside designs for making a ukulele out of a cigar box. If there’s something you’ve thought about doing or building or breaking or blowing up, chances are someone has already done it, and they’ve written out detailed instructions on how they did it, complete with pictures, and posted it on Instructables.
That’s the real attraction, I think, to the site. It’s a user based system, where anyone can post their plans for everyone else to see and use. It’s an almost exhaustive database of do-it-yourself instructions for everything from corn pads to unmanned space flight (and maybe manned space flight), kept going by the people who use it. Very strange people, some of them, but still.
The Technology section seems to especially be a repository for geeks with a sense of humor. Since I’ve been looking for really bright flashlights lately, I looked the site over for ideas. There are plenty of those, some of which might actually work. I’ll let you know once I build a Super Powerful Light out of a Wad of Used Kleenex. Me, I’m skeptical, but you never know.
One instructable in the Technology area says you can build a Solar Powered Robot from Trash. Which is probably true, depending on your definition of solar powered, and robot, and trash, and also depending on the particular field of expertise your three degrees from MIT are in. But we’ll see. I’ve got plenty of trash.
I also have a canoe, made from a pressure tank, I’d let go pretty cheap . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once built a rocket out of a toilet paper tube, but the GPS caused it to tank. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org