Your alarm goes off at 4:am, because you’re on the west coast and you’ve got a 6:am flight to New York for Craftsman Tool’s second annual MAKEcation. It’s the ultimate DIY getaway where MAKEcationers will be treated to a brewery tour, maker tutorials, a trip to Maker Faire New York and some surprises. And not everyone gets to go. You’re on the list so you’re heading to Brooklyn.
You try to get some sleep on the plane, because you know it’ll be wall to wall when you get there, but anticipation keeps you buzzing. Before you know it, there’s the New Your skyline out the window and you’re on the ground.
Finally at the hotel, you’ve got a minute to drop your bags and meet your fellow Makers, who’ve made the trip from every corner of the country – some are fine woodworkers or experienced construction professionals, some are hobbyists and some have never picked up a tool in there life.
Now, as a group you walk through the streets of Brooklyn to find yourself at Brooklyn Brewery for a tour of the craft beer facility and finally some pizza.
It’s a former matzo factory – they make great beer and there’s been no cholera there ever (according to your tour guide).
The vibe of the place is contagious – each worker there gets to invent their signature brew, including Buster Beer, whose proceeds go to supporting ALS research. The bottling machine handles 7,000 bottles an hour, but no one knows why this shuttlecock is here.
Sampling it like little tastes of ice-cream, you choose which beer to start with, grab some pie, and compare tattoos with the locals.
This all makes for a long day, so it’s back to the hotel to recharge for an early morning.
The Maker Space
After breakfast and some very strong coffee you load into a bus for a short ride to the converted warehouse that’s the nerve center of MAKEcation.
It’s called Villain and just for you it’s been turned into a woodworking/leather crafting/auto shop with racks of tools, a presentation stage and a full bar (that’s for later).
While you’re still taking it all in, you’re divided into groups and you head for your first maker station of the day.
Climb the stairs to a loft and find yourself a seat at a workbench. In front of you is an array of tools, including a folding utility knife, that’s pretty reassuring because you haven’t had a blade on you since you headed to the airport.
Seated at his own workbench is Will Lisak, master leather crafter and your instructor for the next hour or so. He talks you through the steps of making a leather belt and a cuff to go with it.
Cut the leather blank to length with nippers so sharp they slice through like there’s nothing there. “The next step is the most difficult and the most dangerous,” Will informes you. You have cut the tongue of the belt into a curve.
You’re a problem solver, so you use your coffee cup to scribe an arc with an awl at the end of the blank, and cut it out with the utility knife. You do manage to cut a finger, but not enough that it matters.
With a mallet hand made from an old pipe fitting, you punch the holes for the buckle and choose to bind them with a copper, truss head rivet, because Will said that’s the more difficult option.
Finally, you take the completed belt to the press and adorn it.
At station two of the day, you meet Master Craftsman Rob North. Among his many specialties is the Man-O-Vation, DIY projects that give home improvement an edge.
Today’s Man-O-Vation is to make a coatrack out of hammers.
You lay out your pattern on a cedar board and then cut your hammers at the proper angle (which Rob somehow figured out was 31.5 degrees). This is where you get your hands on one of Craftsman’s innovations. This compact sliding miter saw cuts just as well as it should, but the special configuration of the rails gives it a small footprint and even better, allows it to fit up against a wall. Excellent for shops (or garages or apartments) with limited space.
Decide on the configuration of your hammers and secure them to the board from behind.
Over to the other side of Villain and you’re in the auto shop. Grab your workbench and you’ve got a carburetor there to take apart and put back together. You’re not a car guy, so this is a special treat. It’s also what’s special about MAKEcation. Everyone here is doing at least one thing they’ve never done before.
Sean Brayton and Max Herman talk you through the disassembly, screw by screw, and put another new Craftsman tool in your hand. It’s a screwdriver called “Extreme Grip,” but it’s not just because of the fancy grips.
They’re diamond tipped to secure a strong purchase on a stuck or frozen fastener. It’s a simple idea, and it works.
When the after picture is the same as the before picture, that equals success. So, you tore down and rebuilt a carburetor, which means you could repair one in a pinch.
You’re not going over the bridge, you’re going over to the bar. Now that the power tools and blades are set aside, you belly up for a crash course in mixology with Lacy Hawkins and her assistant, Tyler of Clover Club.
Lacy has so much information for you to soak up you’re not even sure that’s a pun. As she sets you up with an old school, uncorrupted daiquiri (rum, lime juice, sugar – that’s it) she tells you if you can see the vermouth on the backbar, don’t order a martini – that stuff belongs in the fridge. For another object lesson in simplicity she serves you a bee’s knees to sip (gin, honey syrup, lemon) and you start to assemble the constituent parts of a Manhattan – vermouth, whiskey, bitters.
You taste the various vermouths and settle on the one Lacy describes as “a kick in the teeth,” Punt e Mes (which doesn’t mean what you think it means when you say it out-loud). You like the Four Roses Bourbon, but you’re a rye guy, so you go with the Rittenhouse Rye and the old school Angostura Bitters.
Then there’s the garnish. A cherry is traditional, but Lacy takes out a strip of lemon peel and says, “Putting a twist on a drink is like popping a zit.” Gently but firmly she squeezes the zest until it explodes with a burst of lemon oil.
2-ounces whiskey, 1-ounce vermouth, 2 dashes of bitters and of course a twist of lemon instead of a cherry – you built a Manhattan from scratch.
With the evening now pre-flavored it’s back to the hotel for dinner and an open bar. As you settle in, musicians fill up the bandstand. It’s country artist Eric Paslay to play an exclusive show for the MAKEcation crowd. He’s a tool guy himself, and soon people are singing along and moving to the country beat.
Of course when the show’s over the bar’s still open and you hang out with new friends and old, and snap a terrible picture with your phone of the fantastic skyline from the terrace.
Before closing time comes around, someone has the blessed idea to bring pizza to the bar.
And by the time your alarm goes off for day three you’ve had as much a two or three hours of sleep.
More breakfast and strong coffee and it’s back on the bus from Brooklyn to Queens to spend the morning at the fantastic Maker Faire. Jason Babler and Mike Senese from Make: magazine, the organizers of the whole event, greet you at the gates and give you the rundown – for instance, if you get a drone, don’t fly it outside the designated area because the Pope and the President are both is town and the authorities don’t take kindly to your flying robots. It’s a sensory overload the moment you’re turned loose.
Cosplay, robots, retro karaoke.
This unbelievable mechanical horse by Adrian Landon runs with a perfect gait.
The Power Racing Series is an actual racing league of people across the country hacking Power Wheels to soup them up, trick them out and race for the championship.
There’s these amazing mushrooms grown by Ecovative into a useable building material.
Plus power tool drag racing, and a life sized Rube Goldberg mousetrap game and maybe the rise of the machines.
Instructables is there, going old school – with Curtis Ingvoldstad carving their iconic robot out of a log with his chainsaws.
Catch your breath on the bus, ‘cause you’re going back to Villain. You’re a handy person, but as with the carburetor, another tool you’re not too familiar with is the lathe.
Enter Rob Johnstone and Dan Cary from Woodworker’s Journal. They give you the fine points on how to use the machine to make the handles for a bottle opener and a pizza wheel.
With the rule, “down is off, up is on” in your head, you ease your carving tool into the spinning blank of wood to turn square to round, and then round into shaped. You start with the bottle opener. The stakes are lower – considering your feelings about pizza.
It’s a success, so you move on to the pizza cutter.
Correcting mistakes until the handle is more and more refined, it’s not just a success, It. Is. Epic.
Back to the other side of Villain and there’s Karl Champly, a master builder, restoration expert, building inspector and more, all at the top of the game in both the US and Australia.
He’s here to help you build an old school toolbox with a drawer in the bottom. Now you’re using a tool you already know you love – the cordless brad nailer.
With that and wood glue, it doesn’t take long to spike together this keepsake toolbox.
No, you’re not going back to the hotel. You detour down a side street on the way and find yourself at a double barricade. With a roar, the riders of the IllConduct Motorcycle Stunt Team burn out onto the blacktop. They put on a show just for you – racing up to the barricade and screeching to a stop at the last second.
Bumping the clutch they jerk through hairpin turns and jump from wheelies to burnouts to standing in the saddle – no hands – doughnuts – sitting on the bars – these hardcore riders push motorcycle stunt riding to new limits, and manage to wave to the crowd while they’re doing it.
It’s dinner time and you relax on the pool deck, enjoying your food with your compatriots, when the final surprise of the weekend takes the stage. It’s Adam Realman, sideshow performer from Coney Island, here to perform feats of the body with the power of the mind. The body because he’s got to be strong to do what he does – the mind because he’s got to be focused to do it (or crazy). Eat a pack of lit cigarettes – he does it. Drive a 4-inch spike into his nose – he does that too – and removes it with the help of an assistant.
He swallows swords and then he supplies you with a new life goal – bend an adjustable wrench in half.
That was a whirlwind. You left on Thursday morning, now it’s Sunday morning and you’re on your way to JFK for a flight back across the country. You’ve got sleep to catch up on, and your voice is so blown out you sound like a jazz DJ, but what a weekend. It’s going to take you days just to process everything you’ve taken in. One thing’s for sure, and you’ll tell anyone who asks – when Craftsman does this again, if you can get there – get there.
(you’re not stupid – this is how you find your truck)