bennelson
Community Name
bennelson
When and how did you get into using tools/doing projects?
When I was a kid, I grew up on a dead-end street in a small town. If you wanted toys or entertainment, you had to make it. We had the ChildCraft books around, and my older brothers later got into reading Popular Mechanics. My father is a carpenter. He built a slide-out pantry and "secret" basement door for our house. I guess making stuff has just always been around me.
How did you dream up the hybrid Geo?
It's a really simple design. Hybrids have been around since nearly the beginning of the car. The inspiration was the Chevy Volt and getting a free generator. I had already converted my Geo Metro to be an electric car. Making it into a plug-in hybrid wasn't much more complicated than just fixing up and installing the generator.
What do you do when you're not tinkering in the garage?
Professionally, I work in video - mostly industrial and training videos, but I am working more and more on having all my work projects focus on clean energy, sustainability, education, and anything else that helps promote a positive world for us to all live in. Last summer, I self-produced a video showing how anyone can build their own electric car. I guess it all boils down to trying to do something good for ourselves and help others to do that as well.
What's the most insane thing you've ever built?
I built a trebuchet once. That's a sort of a catapult powered by a weight and teeter-totter action. It was only about eight feet tall at the "shoulder". Some of the ones in the late middle ages could throw giant stones farther than an archer could shoot an arrow. Mine was designed to throw pumpkins around. It was a lot of fun.
The best thing you've ever built?
I built a "Teardrop Trailer". That's a retro style camping trailer that was big in the 40's and 50's. You used to find plans for them in builder's magazines in that time. I love camping, but don't like sleeping on the ground and not having a really good place to cook. The trailer is just big enough for two people to sleep inside. The back has a hatch that pops open, and there's your kitchen! The sides are wood, and the top is a curved sheet of aluminum. The whole thing is based on a 4'x8' utility trailer. I bought some plans, which I followed very closely at first. By the end of the project, I was just designing everything how I wanted it to be. I'm really happy with how it turned out.
Any tales of DIY disaster?
Mostly frustration when I don't know what I'm doing, because I have never done it before. I really made a big mess of removing a gas tank from a car for the first time! I've also had mishaps with products like expanding foam and Gorilla Glue. Read those instructions carefully! On the other hand, I love the satisfaction of having the right tool at the right time, and doing something in minutes that would have otherwise taken hours.
Why do you use Craftsman tools?
For a wedding gift, some of my guy friends all went in together on a really nice Craftsman socket set. It had one of everything in every size. I use it all the time. I also love the 19.2v cordless tools. Everything uses the same batteries. It's a great setup. No cords to mess with and I can do almost anything with the set. I cut a big hole right through my electric car with the cordless reciprocating saw to install the battery box. The 19.2V fluorescent lantern is the best work light I have ever had. It's great for camping, too!!
How did you get your DIY skills?
I pester people. I ask how they do things. I ask if they can show me how to do something. Try to find a mentor. There are lots of great people out there who have AMAZING skills. I'm just trying to imitate them. Also, get to the library. Books like the classic Time-Life series can show you how to build almost anything! I've actually worn out my library card and need to get a new one! The internet is also a great new way to learn nearly anything and share your projects with others. People who have never even met in person are starting to collaborate on amazing projects that a single person by themselves could never do.
Anything you have to say to other enerprising DIYers out there?
Don't be afraid to screw up. We all learn by doing. You can't expect anything to be perfect the first time. I do pretty much everything at least twice. The first time is just to figure out what I am doing! The second time is good enough for me. By the third version of a project, other people are asking me to build one for them!