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General Tips and Thoughts from Dad


My dad used to tell me: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” -dscotthep


I’m not sure I can boil this down to a single phrase, but…

When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, I told my grandfather that I wanted to dig a swimming pool/fishing pond in his backyard complete with an underground room with a window to watch the fish (I may not have all of the details right, but it was something like that). Instead of saying, “Sure, go ahead” (dismissively) or “That’s crazy” he said, “That sounds expensive and you need to have a good plan before you get started.” He sat down with me and made me draw up my idea, identify the materials and tools, estimate the costs, and figure out how long it would take. He even added up all of the costs on his big adding machine and stapled it to my drawings. He then said I could refine the plans and start saving my money and get started as soon as I could handle it. It sounds like he was just taking the long way around saying “That’s crazy” or “Yeah, right,” but he taught me to draw plans, make lists, and evaluate cheaper alternatives (“Maybe you could add the underwater viewing area later”). He also took me seriously and encouraged me to combine my creativity with basic engineering facts. -Chris Palmer


Whenever I’d got overwhelmed, my dad would say: “You know how to eat an elephant, Kevin? One bite at a time.” -Kevin Devaney


My favorite dad saying: “There is nothing more permanent than that which is temporary,” a reminder to do it right the first time. -Lou Amadio


If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid. -Balloondoggle


My dad taught me to be patient, if something doesn’t work the first time, try it again. If it still doesn’t work, be creative about finding another possible solution. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! -Megan Durant


Rust, fire and explosions are the same process, taking place at different rates. -Mark Crane


As we were remodeling my first house, a common phrase from my dad: “Good enough for this small town & the chicks we date.” -Nicole Seifert


My dad is not really a maker, but he did inspire me to work very hard at whatever task I set my mind to, and for that, I’m grateful. Teaching good work ethic, teamwork skills, and diligence is just as valuable as showing someone how to use a drill press or a soldiering iron. Oh, and he also taught me that mom was probably the better person to go to when things got broken. ;) –Libby Bulloff


One of my dad’s favorite sayings was “The Best is the Enemy of the Good.” This refers to the inhibiting power of perfectionism. When I find myself intimidated at the prospect of tackling something that I want to do, something good, I remember these wise words. -Paul Spinrad


Never point out a problem without providing a few alternative solutions. –Richard Gould


My father (a lawyer) told me that company culture is driven from the top — if it’s the people who make the product, you’re good; sell the product, you’re OK. If the accountants take over, look for another job, and if the lawyers take over, run as fast as you can the other way. –Alden Hart

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Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and do feel free to continue the conversation and share more tips from dad.

    1. Bill Coderre says:

      Tips from my Dad, who left this mortal coil about a year ago.
      1) Gasoline is cheaper than sweat. (Even at $4/gallon!)
      2) Always start debugging at the wall socket.
      3) Many things are compressible. Time is not.

      The Rules of Freshman Physics, apocryphal/silly rules of thumb from MIT:
      (My version, might not be the same as recent versions)
      1) F=ma.
      2) You can’t push on a string.
      3) There is no gravity. The earth sucks.
      4) There are two kinds of problems: simple, and insoluble. (Note that the “simple” problems are usually “non-trivial”, and often insoluble, in disguise.)

  2. Bill Coderre says:

    Tips from my Dad, who left this mortal coil about a year ago.1) Gasoline is cheaper than sweat. (Even at $4/gallon!)2) Always start debugging at the wall socket.3) Many things are compressible. Time is not.The Rules of Freshman Physics, apocryphal/silly rules of thumb from MIT:(My version, might not be the same as recent versions)1) F=ma.2) You can’t push on a string.3) There is no gravity. The earth sucks.4) There are two kinds of problems: simple, and insoluble. (Note that the “simple” problems are usually “non-trivial”, and often insoluble, in disguise.)

    1. Gus Mueller says:

      F=m* a^2 (this is why e=mc^2) — newton was wrong on that one

      1. Edgar Vargas says:

        e = energy
        c = speed of light (velocity – m/s)

        F = Force
        a = acceleration (m/s^2)

        As you can see, these are two different concepts.

      2. Edgar Vargas says:

        e = energy
        c = speed of light (velocity – m/s)

        F = Force
        a = acceleration (m/s^2)

        As you can see, these are two different concepts.

  3. cjporkchop says:

     If it can’t be nailed or reliably glued, it can be tied together with string and coated with epoxy or a thick layer of caulk for permanence.

    There were a lot of things in our house that featured giant globs of caulk. It was like a giant had spit loogies and we’d let them dry in place.

  4. cjporkchop says:

     If it can’t be nailed or reliably glued, it can be tied together with string and coated with epoxy or a thick layer of caulk for permanence.

    There were a lot of things in our house that featured giant globs of caulk. It was like a giant had spit loogies and we’d let them dry in place.

  5. diane meriwether says:

    Some money is too expensive

  6. diane meriwether says:

    Some money is too expensive

  7. Joshua Darrah says:

    “A true master, at anything, can f–k up completely and make it look like nothing even happened” -Dwight D.

  8. Joshua Darrah says:

    “A true master, at anything, can f–k up completely and make it look like nothing even happened” -Dwight D.

  9. Sam Blanchard says:

    Some of the best advice my dad ever gave me: “All of this stuff is really easy if you just think about things a bit. People are lazy, if it were hard, nobody would do it.”

    Then he handed a 10 year old version of my an acetylene torch and taught me to weld. We built an airplane together (Burt Ratan Vari-Eze, those fiberglassing skills have proven handy more than once), a couple soap-box derby racers, fixed cars and motorcycles. I learned not to fear my stuff, and not to fear “Not knowing what to do because nobody taught me how”.

  10. Anna Reser says:

    Master your fear of the tools, or they will master you. A dull knife is the most dangerous knife. Measure for the width of the blade you’re cutting with.

    My dad is a maker, a jet mechanic and an amateur engineer, carpenter, electrician, plumber, gardener, naturalist, and all around handy-man. Whenever I ask him for help with a project, his eyes light up a and he digs up his graph paper and drafting pencils. They still have the model of DNA in the science wing he and I built for a high school biology class. He gave me his grandfather’s drafting table several years ago and it is my favorite work space, and a treasured family heirloom. Love you Dad.

  11. Anonymous says:

    ‎”If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside.”
    “Rub some dirt on it.”
    “Turn it down or turn it off.”

  12. borjo says:

    two of the advice in this page are greek proverbs:
    There is nothing more permanent than that which is temporary
    Ουδέν μονιμότερο του προσωρινού
    The Best is the Enemy of the Good.
    το καλύτερο είναι εχθρός του καλού.
    (this on can work the other way around too: what’s good is the enemy of what’s better)
    i would like to point out that the 2 proverbs contradict each other wich gives me the opportunity to make my own: proverbs are as good as the context in which they are presented in.

  13. Good judgement comes from experience.
    Experience comes from bad judgement.

  14. freds says:

    My dad always said when a preacher and a politician says they feel your pain hold onto your wallet and run.

  15. jonathan says:

    “Get a longer screwdriver.”

  16. Thomas J. Herling says:

    The first step in solving any problem is to sigh loudly and follow it up with “Oh, shit.”

  17. Thomas J. Herling says:

    The first step in solving any problem is to sigh loudly and follow it up with “Oh, shit.”

  18. Phil Collins says:

    “These are all hookers—pick one.”

  19. chris cecil says:

    My father was a truck driver for the majority of his life…he gathered many sayings which stuck…but one which I really love is “The cheapest thing you can pay is attention.”

  20. uglypedro says:

    standard reply to kids request that Dad buy him something….
    a- Wish in one hand and shit in the other….see which one fills up faster.
    b- Oh, yea? People in hell want ice water, too!

    1. Anonymous says:

       A drill sergeant used “Put everything you want in one hand, everything you’re going to get in the other [...].  You can imagine that the result was similar, though it was tough to keep either hand full while doing push-ups until HE got tired!

      I often respond to the purchase request with “Did you bring your own money?” which then leads to the suggestion that he first get a job and pay up on the 9 years of rent he owes me.  So much debt for a child so young…

  21. Jim Arendt says:

    “When in doubt, make it stout.” 

  22. Anonymous says:

    My dad: “Always lay out all of the parts, then read through the instructions so you understand how it all fits together. The time you spend doing that will save you twice as much later on.”

    Me, in the same vein, to my son: “Never, ever be afraid to read the manual first—no matter what tools you have, or how fancy your workshop is, knowledge is the true key to a successful project.”

  23. Anonymous says:

    My dad: “Always lay out all of the parts, then read through the instructions so you understand how it all fits together. The time you spend doing that will save you twice as much later on.”

    Me, in the same vein, to my son: “Never, ever be afraid to read the manual first—no matter what tools you have, or how fancy your workshop is, knowledge is the true key to a successful project.”

  24. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  25. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  26. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  27. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  28. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  29. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  30. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  31. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  32. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  33. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  34. JPWatkins says:

    My Grandpa was a mechanic, machinist, tool and die maker, pattern maker, and photographer (among other things.) He always liked to combine humor with wisdom to make his lessons more memorable. I remember him saying many of the bits of wisdom already recorded on these pages by others. Here are some nuggets not yet mentioned by others.
    He was Swedish and like to remind me of the story of the Norwegian carpenter who would always say, “Damn it! I’ve cut it twice and its still too short!”For certain parts fitting situations he favored using a large rubber mallet, which he refereed to as “the gentle persuader.”In teaching me to drive he instilled in my impatient 15 year old brain that although there is a brake pedal and a gas pedal, most of the time (in the city, at least) one’s foot should be on neither. He also gave me the general advice in driving to “Always keep the rubber side down.”

    Although I rather like the metric system, he reminded me more than once that “This [holding up an English unit caliper rule] beat that [pointing to his metric caliper rule] twice in the big wars.” (I did however mentally note that did have and often used metric tools.)

  35. Everly Brown says:

    1. Measure twice – cut once.
    2. We’ll fix it with a cable tie.

  36. My Dad’s favorite saying was “What have you done for your country today?” Unfortunately we live in a world of “What can my country do for me?” and I’m not talking about welfare bums (I’ve never actually met one and I used to be a caseworker). I’m talking about greed…case in point: NY Times article today about the corporate bums angling for another by on being taxed on the profits they hold abroad and want to bring back to the states supposedly to create jobs…truth is when George Bush gave them a repatriatization deal last time they sent more jobs abroad and gave the money to their stockholders. And how come they’re not creating jobs with all the money they’ve got now? Not to get political but I think my Dad would be shaking his head.

  37. Anonymous says:

    My dad said to me, “Don’t ask other boys to play house.”

  38. Anonymous says:

    My dad said to me, “Don’t ask other boys to play house.”

  39. Anonymous says:

    My dad said to me, “Don’t ask other boys to play house.”

  40. Joanie Costlow says:

    (To my 8 year old brother) “If anyone ever picks on you at school or pushes you first, just have at ‘em. Don’t stop. Keep going until someone HAS to pull you off. After that, no one will every bother you again.”

  41. Joanie Costlow says:

    (To my 8 year old brother) “If anyone ever picks on you at school or pushes you first, just have at ‘em. Don’t stop. Keep going until someone HAS to pull you off. After that, no one will every bother you again.”

  42. Jay Mike says:

    “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”

  43. Mark Henry says:

    Well the main thing to do a task successfully is to sit, plan and jot down all the tools , equipments, money to spend on them. This saves time and money both. Nice article!
    __________________________________

    industrial equipment

  44. Alex D says:

    I hope there’ll be an equivalent post for all the unacknowledged and under-represented women and gender diverse makers (and not just ‘mum’s top recipes in the kitchen’ style)…