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O/T Maker Faire

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For the past month I have been living in San Francisco, volunteering in the workshops of the Exploratorium- the museum of Science and Human Perception, which has proven to be an interesting and enlightening experience, and has given me plenty of oppurtunity to play with big machine tools in a well equipped workshop. Anyway, one of the highlights of my trip was the chance to go to the 'Maker Faire' in San Mateo this weekend. It's the sort of event that I'm sure would appeal to many of you....

For those that don't know, for a few years there has been a quarterly magazine called 'Make' produced in the US, recently joined by 'Craft' magazine. Both of these have gained quite a following of 'Tinkerers', sufficient to warrant having it's own event (now in two venues). I know of nothing in the UK quite like it- it is part festival, part art exhibition, part workshop, part convention- it sort of defies description, but I'll try....

The event is held in a big event centre, not far from San Francisco. It has a number of large halls, each with a number of things in, including a couple of stages for talks and demonstrations.

One hall is full of small stands of stuff (the only description that works!), largely from individuals and clubs (although there are a few trade stands interspersed)- this hall included a 3D printer using sugar, various robot stands, a giant giaraffe, electric cars, furniture and art exhibits, RC cars, planes, animatronic puppets and all manner of other exhibits.

A seperate building housed a similar range of craft type stalls- knitting, weaving, printing etc- although I didn't stay long in there.

Another building was the 'Dark Room' housing stuff that didn't want too much light- lig

ht up bicycle wheels, tesla coils, glowing orbs, shadow puppetry and the suchlike

There was a hall called the 'Bizarre Bazaar' which housed lots of stalls selling handmade crafts, much like the craft building.

Yet another a hall housed 'TechShop'- this is a group based in the Bay Area, where for an annual subscription of $800 you can have access to a wide range of tools, machinery and classes. They brought much of this with them- In no particular order there were Mills, laser cutters, CNC routers, Vinyl cutters, vacuum former, CNC hot wire cutters and a whole host of other pieces of tooling being demonstrated.

Outside there were loads of large things happening;

A number of 'Art Cars' were scattered around the grounds, the most popular seemed to be the Lego one, where kids and their parents were busy building sculptures onto the car.

There were plenty of pedal powered devices- hacked bicycles, and ones with wooden frames, but the most impressive was the Buscycle- one where multiple people pedalled together to move it around.

Quite a lot of robots were around, including some very large impressive beasts, many breathing fire from somewhere on them, or being demonstrated destroying shop dummies.

Powertool drag racing was definitely one of the highlights- Circular saws, chainsaws, sanders etc, tarted up with riders (dolls/ stuffed toys) and set off against each other.

There were a couple of stages with various bands, conventional and playing home-made instruments were performing, giving quite a festival atmosphere.

There were loads of fire sculptures, which really came to life after the sun went down- everywhere you turned there seemed to be fireballs going off... These were joined later on by a 1.39MV Tesla coil being run up- pretty impressive to watch from a few tens of feet away (until it stopped working!!!). (see the video at the linke below)

There were quite a few Steampunk goings on including a Jules Verne inspired land ship- the Neverwas Haul, which was very impressive in it's size and decoration. This was joined by a steam car, whistles and various paraphernalia.

After all that- my favourite (helped in no way by the mice, honest ;o) ) was the giant mousetrap. This is a construction using bowling balls of the mousetrap board game, extending over an area of something like 50 x 150ft and up to about 20ft high. It evidently needs a complete artic trailer to transport and is largely made of steel scrap. A truly impressive feat.

The photos below will give a taste of what was going on, but for more, have a look at my Flickr page or at make magazine's website:



I would thoroughly recommend a trip to this it if you ever get the chance, although I am reliably informed that thought is being given to starting one in Europe in the future. I certainly will be coming back with a lot of ideas!


Monster robot- just finished a demonstration of ripping mannequins to pieces


Hacked wooden bicycle


One of the many fire displays as the sun was setting


Robot Giraffe that was wandering round the site pumping out 'Banging Tunes'


Lego Art Car- need I say more?


The Buscycle- bicycle based bus as the name suggests


Cool fire breathing buggy

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Naa...that looks boring to me.....

<Hurredly searches for Passport!>

I subscribed to Make for a year - but most of the stuff was pretty safe - not enough fire, death or explosions! An exhibition sounds the coolest thing however! If you are going next year - or to one in Europe - let me know, I'd love to go!

My alter ego:


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I thought it might be up your street Si!

A lot of what was there was a lot more dangerous than they would give people instructions for in the magazine, but the magazine has resulted in the event- so it has it's uses!!!!!

I haven't got back from the US yet, so I probably won't start thinking about coming back just yet. There is however something in amsterdam that I am contemplating going to later this year that you would probably be interested in; Robodock

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San Francisco that is, not the S&M bit!

Liar! :lol:

The bus cycle loks interesting, what happens if only 1 passenger is on board? can it still be 'driven'?


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I liked the Bus-cycle too. No idea what would happen with only one passanger- I guess it would go as all the bikes appeared to connect to a layshaft, but you would have to have very strong legs!!! I doub't i'd move it!

As for the Dutch event- I thought the robot performance bits looked like they could be quite spectacular...

Just got to try and persuade make magazine to run a Maker Faire in the UK!

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  • 7 months later...
Yet another a hall housed 'TechShop'- this is a group based in the Bay Area, where for an annual subscription of $800 you can have access to a wide range of tools, machinery and classes. They brought much of this with them- In no particular order there were Mills, laser cutters, CNC routers, Vinyl cutters, vacuum former, CNC hot wire cutters and a whole host of other pieces of tooling being demonstrated.

What a great idea :)


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I've been to the last 4 shows in the U.S (we supply software to one of the regular exhibitors at the event), and have to say they are brilliant. The ingenuity and creativity on display is really inspiring.

Let’s hope the U.K show can keep up the high standards, though I am a bit worried that not enough of the target audience will hear about it – this was the first time I’ve heard it mentioned.

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