My Vac-U-Formative years

My Vac-U-Formative years

When these images showed up on Gizmodo, Oh Gizmo! and then started making the email rounds, long-dormant neural pathways lit up like a 60s Christmas tree, the kind with bulbs so big and hot they could roast chestnuts. It was under such a radiant Christmas tree that I found that exact same Mattel Vac-U-Form kit when I was a kidlet. It became my all-time favorite toy (that and Creepy Crawlers). I often think about the impact these building toys had on me as a maker. I was always attracted to toys where you made things, more so than army men or board games or other types of non-build toys. From Vac-U-Form and Creepy Crawlers, I graduated to Gilbert chemistry sets and Estes model rockets. I imagine others reading this followed a similar trajectory.

When we started looking through Instructables for candidates to include in our Best of Instructables book (see below), one of the first projects I put on my list was the vacuum forming rig made out of a peanut butter jar. When the book was edited and published, this was one of the first projects I made. As soon as I smelled that melted plastic stock, the joys of my childhood came rushing back to me like some forgotten Proustian memory.

Vac-U-Form at Sam’s Toybox [via Gizmodo]

You can find the original Instructable for the peanut butter plastic vacuum former here. Below is a video that SheekGeek has added that shows the unit in action:

From the Maker Shed:


Best Of Instructables
Our Price: $34.99
Sale Price: $22.75 has become one of the most popular magnets for makers and DIY enthusiasts of all stripes. Now, with more than 10,000 projects to choose from, the Instructables staff, editors of MAKE: Magazine, and the Instructables community itself have put together a collection of home, craft, food and technology how-to’s from the site. The Best of Instructables Volume 1 includes plenty of clear, full-color photographs, complete step-by-step instructions, and tips, tricks, and new build techniques you won’t find anywhere else.

Highlights from the book:

* 336 pages, 6-5/8 x 9-3/8, same dimensions as The Best of MAKE and MAKE magazine.
* Over 120 projects!
* Projects cover everything from food hacking and making home furnishings from junk to building robots and CNC milling machines. And in-between you’ll find projects on arts, crafts, costume-making, tool tips, themed photo galleries, and tons more.
* There are also the results of the Community Choice contest winners (the best of Instructables as voted by its members) and links to their projects.
* There are key user comments from the site throughout, called User Notes, and even a section in the back for you to keep your own User Notes as you build the projects.

We tried to involve the Instructables community as much as possible in the creation of the book (we were in direct communication with several hundred authors!). We hope the results do this maker community proud. It was a thrill ride to be sure.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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