Adam Savage’s 10 Commandments Of Making

Adam Savage’s 10 Commandments Of Making
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Adam Savage took a few minutes on Sunday at the Maker Faire Bay Area to share what he feels are the 10 Commandments of Making. Braving the somewhat precarious elevated stage of the crowd-favorite Life-Sized Mousetrap, Adam addressed the audience with bits of wisdom and jewels of experience. It was obvious from the laughter that many of these insights and observations struck close to home.

Here is the short version of the commandments according to Adam:

  1. Make something
  2. Make something useful
  3. Start right now
  4. Find a project
  5. Ask for help, advice, and feedback
  6. Share
  7. Recognize that discouragement and failure is part of the project
  8. Measure carefully
  9. Make things for other people
  10. Use more cooling fluid

While he was here, Adam also carried on the now 5-year tradition of taking a picture with Super Awesome Silvia, holding a picture of the two of themselves from the previous year.

Picture from Adam Savage’s Twitter feed.

It is always fun when Adam comes to Maker Faire. The crowd immediately started coming up with their own commandments as he left the stage. Some of the more fun ones that I overheard while standing there were:

  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s tools
  • Love your fellow Maker
  • Thou shalt not commit immediate negative criticism

I would love to hear what other Maker commandments you can come up with.

39 thoughts on “Adam Savage’s 10 Commandments Of Making

  1. johnbaichtal says:

    Be excellent to each other!

  2. Eric Kaplan says:

    Have fun!

  3. Onslowsdry says:

    “Show, and tell, the world what you have made”

  4. Balloondoggle says:

    Forgetting #8 is why my 16′ canoe measured up at 14′ 8″ when I took it for the watercraft licensing inspection. Oops.

  5. IpseCogita says:

    The picture ought to be a commandment. Teach and encourage kids to be makers.

  6. Martha Garvey says:

    Love this. Wolverine Claws! Yes.

  7. Gus Mendez says:

    We are writing our own commandments here in México jaja Thanks for the articule, I translated it into Spanish! Here is my blog:, Gracias!!

  8. ZombieBalls says:

    “If at first you don’t succeed…Figure out why”

  9. ZombieBalls says:

    “when all else fails try harder”

  10. ZombieBalls says:

    The 3 most important things in making, tinkering, tooling and building are – Safety.

  11. tonya says:

    I have to disagree with #6. What are you protecting? Your ideas, from someone with the $ and resources, much more than you, to make a killling off of YOUR idea, far faster than you can and take all the profit and credit.
    Copying is not the highest form of flattery, it is ripping off someone with less resources available than you but much more of a creative brain with ideas beyond what you can.

    1. ZombieBalls says:

      Valid point – but… #6 simply said “share” it didn’t say give your ideas away for free.

      You see, here you are sharing your feelings – driving the conversation on to a new path contributing to the global maker mindscape. Maybe some old time makers are now thinking “huh perhaps I should sit on this one”, and maybe some new kid makers are thinking “huh this may be something I need to worry about.”

      But…But you’re sharing which is all #6 said… So thank you for your concern and valid points. I enjoyed the read.

    2. Michael Reilly says:

      Invention is heavily influenced by the conditions of the world. There are many examples of things being invented simultaneously by people working independently in various parts of the world. The light bulb is one such example. Then it comes down to who patents it first.

      An idea isn’t worth much without execution. Whether it’s the inventor or someone else, success depends entirely on their ability to make it successful.

      Often times, someone thinks of an idea and thinks it’s so great that they don’t tell anyone, or spend huge amounts of money trying to protect it with a patent. They never actually develop it into a real thing, so no one benefits. Meanwhile, someone else eventually hits upon the same idea and maybe they create something around it. If the original person got a patent, then they theoretically have a claim but the average patent case these days costs $500,000 to litigate, and in most cases, the person being sued spends the time working around the patent in some way so there aren’t any sales to draw licensing from even if the case does succeed. Technically, a patent doesn’t entitle you to royalties, it entitles you to prevent someone else from using the idea.

      My personal belief is that you should spend the time and money getting your idea to market, make the money on it, and by the time people begin copying you, you will have had some new idea and can move on to that. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even if it’s not someone copying it, demand for products doesn’t last forever.

      1. Jeffrey says:

        as far as sharing goes, having a different set of eyes looking at a project may give you an opportunity to discover a more effective way of accomplishing the same using flags and interrupts rather than using a delay and then checking the flag condition of an adc on an arduino ( that may not be technically correct, but I know delays shut down your processor creating the possibility to miss other interrupts)

    3. Michael Reilly says:

      Patent rant aside, he said to share your techniques, not your core business ideas. A friend of mine has done jewelry and said she never sold as much jewelry as when she taught classes on how to make it. The reason is that the people in the class realized that it’s not as easy to make as they thought and hers looked a lot better than theirs. Sharing knowledge gains you credibility. The people with the technical skills to do it themselves will do so regardless of whether you show them or not. For the most part, they want to do it as a challenge for themselves and represent no threat to your business. The vast majority of people want to learn what goes into a craft, but very few will have the skills and determination to put in the thousands of hours you did to get where you are today. When we do it every day, it seems straightforward to us, but we forget that it took us years to get there. Those skills, as well as your company’s name, reputation, and client base are all things that put you well ahead of anyone thinking they can jump in and compete with you. Focus your time and attention on moving your business forward, not worrying about what someone else may be doing. Besides, if you publicly assert that this competitor is ripping you off, you’re essentially validating them, saying not simply that they are using your designs, but they’re doing your caliber of work. Chances are good they aren’t, those who appreciate you for your level of work and creativity in designs, will see right through that. Those who would shop on price over quality/creativity are less valuable customers anyway. There is a theory discussed widely online that you only need 1,000 true fans (defined as those who would buy anything you create) to be successful. The actual number varies by what type of product you’re selling, but the point is that you don’t need to build a mega sized company or sell to every living person to be successful.

      1. terre says:

        True. So what is your treatise on coveting one’s neighbor’s tools? Because I had to do a little research myself on that one, subsequently coming to agreement as to not coveting, although most people seem to throw the term around differently than the biblical meaning.

        1. Michael Reilly says:

          I like George Carlin’s take on it… “Coveting thy neighbor’s goods is what drives the economy!” I have found time and again the value of having the right tool for the job. In the same way that sharing techniques is valuable, sharing the tools you’ve found to work well for you is equally valuable. Not only does it potentially prevent you from spending money on tools that don’t work, it also potentially saves you time and headaches trying to do something the hard way when a tool exists to do just that. If it’s not something you need on a regular basis, maybe you go without, rent or borrow it, but otherwise, it’s often worth the investment. We did a lot of plumbing and electrical conduit work in our new studio and while a clamp-style pipe cutter is perfectly valid, a portable bandsaw beats the pants off it in speed.

      2. tonya says:

        unfortunately MOST people do shop price over quality and I have to live off of my work. So if I unknowingly tell some “spy” my technique (which I have some that no one guesses how it is done or with what)then they tell their big rich boss that can have it ripped off and reproduced by next week and I am in the dust. Mine are more expensive due to hours, and I dont have 1000 of them to sell right now becasue I dont have the $ or time to make 1000 at once, but the bad guy does. I am out. Yes there is never a shortage of new ideas but wow, I cant just not get my chance to profit off of each one because some rich person/company gets it away from me first because I “shared” like a good guy.- that sounds like drowning. No chance, just keep kickin like hell, but you will still drown cuz there are always many that have no problem steppin on your head to reach that branch. I do not step on anyone, I am better than that, but I also wont be stepped on either. sorry I still disagree with #6, but you make some very good points but they are not my reality in the artworld or what I have seen in my years of experience and my dad before me. But I thank you for the conversation:)

        1. tonya says:

          also, to clarify for some: I AM talking about an actual thing, not just an idea. Adam said if someone sees your work and says that is cool how is it done, you should tell them.

    4. texrat says:

      Ideas are not protected. *Renditions* of ideas, however, can be.

    5. paul beard needs a gig. says:

      If your idea is that easily copied with no difference to the person using, it wasn’t that innovative.

      But I agree that Michael Reilly has the right take on this: share what you learn and what you know.

    6. Brad Jensen says:

      I disagree. There are millions of ideas stuck in the heads of their inventors that will never see the light of day because of the fear that someone might steal their idea. So because no one should ever benefit from my idea without my permission we will just let that idea die? If someone makes a million dollars off of your idea, but you make a $100,000, would you still find that worse than if no one made any money at all? The makers of Arduino are doing just fine although they have plenty of competitor making money off of their idea.

      1. tonya says:

        those numbers are not my reality either or of any I know. What I am saying is if I save up 500 dollars to make 5 protoypes of my idea and put it out there in shows, etc, and tell everyone how it is made and the jerk sees it with the big boss with the bucks. He rips it off and reproduce it next week, even if I sold all 5 and got orders for 100 (highly unlikey in reality), then no it is not ok with me to make 1500 dollars while Mr. Bigbucks has it reproduced next week and makes millions before I get a chance to even get started. So still, no, not me. Even if I had documented and sent to copyright or whatever, he has made his money long before I can do anything about it and saturated the market with them, so no one will want more. Further morer, lawyers arent free. My small artwork was ripped off by Honda of Oakland and I couldnt do a thing about it without $.

        1. Michael Reilly says:

          If you go to, she designs and sells electronics kits. She also publishes the plans, the parts lists, the electronic files, everything. She even goes into detail on operations, from how she does her label printing, to what bags she uses for parts. If you want to go buy the parts and make it at home, you can do so without paying her a cent. It’s licensed under creative commons. You could take the kit plans and make your own identical kits and sell them legally as long as you give her credit for the original design. Despite this, her company is going to make $10 million this year or last…

          While I generally subscribe to this view, our company stops short of publishing our files. But if you want to reproduce something we’ve made, more power to you. We do say it should be non-commercial use.

          A sign at a craft/maker shop I visited said “Yes, we know you could do this yourself, but you didn’t, did you?” The reality is that if a person copies a piece for themselves, it has maybe cost you one sale (if they would have bought it otherwise.) If they want to mass produce it, it requires them to actually spend the time to do so, then to put them up for sale, fulfill those orders, etc. None of that is trivial. It’s not impossible that someone could do it, but it’s highly unlikely. China could copy it, but if they have the capabilities to produce something, chances are, they don’t need you to show them how.

          Everyone is allowed to run their business how they like. I just think there are plenty of other more likely ways your business can get into trouble. But it’s the same reason we fear plane crashes even though we’re far more likely to be killed in a car crash.

        2. Michael Reilly says:

          Another thing about putting your work out there is it creates public recognition that the work is yours. You’re right, it’s not practical to go after Honda in courts, but if you have a community of fans that had seen that art on your site long before Honda used it, you could take it to the court of public opinion. Get them to write letters, maybe get some media coverage, boycott the dealership, etc. Even if you don’t get money out of it, you get awareness of you and your art. Plus you gain a reputation as someone who doesn’t roll over if your art is used without your permission.

          A great resource on running an art business can be found at

          1. tonya says:

            Thanks for the info, Yes hundreds of people knew this work as mine from site and in person in this area from the year before when I did it, which is how I found out they had it ripped off in their showroom. People saw it and called me. I confronted the managers of Honda who laughed and blew me off. I called lawyers for artists info people gave me but that also took $. So I couldnt do a thing and I hate that. I am not the type, but I was out of options. I will check that site, Thank You

          2. Michael Reilly says:

            You could take the aggressive approach and have your fans go write reviews on Yelp and other business reviews sites for the dealership documenting what happened. “Others wouldn’t want to buy from a company that rips off artists.” Or you could spin it in the other direction and promote the fact that your art was selected for use in a major ad campaign, suggesting perhaps other dealerships or companies may want to license your art. Don’t have to admit that it wasn’t paid for or authorized. Or just focus on the future growth of your company. We’ve all had bad experiences in operating our businesses, but it’s the future we still have the potential to influence.

        3. Brad Jensen says:

          It sounds like one dealership stole some of your artwork. While that sucks, they hardly made millions off of it. Now imagine that instead you had made that work open source and Honda had used it for a nation-wide campaign. Now you have a nationally recognized piece of work in your portfolio and are getting calls from other companies who want to pay you to customize the work for their businesses. Not saying that would happen in every case, but there are companies who are basing their business model on sharing and who are profiting handsomely. While it might not work for you or your business, I think that you should not dismiss it out of hand.

    7. Alan Schmid says:

      I’ve read the conversation, and I understand that what happened to you sucks. #6 is not about giving away everything you do, it’s about engendering a spirit of cooperation among creators, inventors and artists. It’s not about refusing to speak to anyone based on “learned paranoia”, but communicating within a community. Don’t let this dealership’s blatant disregard for your creation change who you are. Here’s a good quote: “You aren’t what you do, because when you don’t…you aren’t.”

  12. ZombieBalls says:

    A good maker treats their tools like their kids – If you’re building something have them both at hand…and their kids like their tools – when you’re done clean, sharpen and oil them so they’re read for next time.

  13. Steven Nelson says:

    Sleep is for the week after the project is done…

  14. Virginia Shea says:

    –Make things to be used, and use things that you make.
    –Friends don’t give friends hand-wash-only baby gear.

  15. Will Kenedy says:

    Failure teaches you more than success.

  16. Chris Wright says:

    The four Maxims of the Mechanic.

    1. Always use the right tool for the job.
    2. A hammer is always the right tool for the job.
    3. Anything can be a hammer.
    4. If the hammer isn’t working, get a bigger hammer.

  17. cknich5 says:

    Reblogged this on Denver Mini Maker Faire.

  18. mccwho says:


    “Chris Wright • 2 days ago

    The four Maxims of the Mechanic.

    1. Always use the right tool for the job.
    2. A hammer is always the right tool for the job.
    3. Anything can be a hammer.
    4. If the hammer isn’t working, get a bigger hammer.”

    I’ll add to that:

    5: If bigger hammer did not work, get Jackhammer.
    6: If Jackhammer did not work, schedule appointment with Thor,

  19. Trisha Lynn says:

    You can never use too much duct tape.

  20. Allison Warren says:

    Here’s a commandment (or at least an OK) from a Maker Mom:
    “Sure, blow it up and start over. Just do it outside, please.”

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. email me at hello (at)

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