Collaboration at Its Finest

If you’re gonna do a thing, you might as well do it right

— Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead)

You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem . . . then you solve the next one . . . and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home

We will cut the wheel down the middle

You’d think that something that could cut through solid steel that thick would cut through wood just fine . . .

I made that monumental mistake — and manufacturing engineers much smarter and more experienced did too.

I swear, the stuff I’ve gotten away with on my government work . . .

I’ve always had people take an interest in helping me out — owners, managers, tech guys, engineers, teachers, schools, NAPA paint experts — the list just goes on and on from a lifetime of exploration and discovery.

And get this, I no longer even worked at Hendrickson — and they still let the Water-Jet tech cut the test block for me. I just find that absolutely incredible — the open spirit of so many that merged with mine.

Without all of those people, I would not have these successes to share. Small or large, they played an important role — and it’s always more fun and enlightening that way.

Every success I have was in service of the best idea — no matter whose it was.

Particle-board sample was nothing (like cutting butter). That was just a trial run on the design (which I altered for structural-integrity reasons — so the test was incredibly beneficial).

Bouncing between South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan to build this thing — I did something I never would have done without such constraints: I glued up the blocks before I was able to get the 5 in. thick sample block tested.

It failed — miserably!

I was totally screwed — until it hit me

And this blunder was a blessing in disguise waiting in the wings.

This is the problem I solved the day Hendrickson had me back for some consulting on an Excel tool I had developed for the maintenance dept.

I was driving away and it hit me that I could cut the blocks in half and pin ’em back together again.

This is one of my favorite things about problem solving — how the exploration of a secondary pursuit can end up being the solution to your primary one. Making a wall-mounted version of this thing was afterthought. As part of that investigation, I looked into acrylic plastics and found a shop with a CNC router near Lafayette, Indiana.

That visit planted the seed for my solution.

This is what changing the dynamics of your thinking is all about — to frame a problem in a different dimension, to the point of not only solving it, but also taking your vision to a whole other level.

The Working Man’s MacGyver

Now this guy, talk about ideas — my dad’s ingenuity is off the charts.

I’ve never seen anyone who could do more things in more areas — and accomplish them all with the same top-notch skill.

It’s rare that parents play such an integral role throughout your entire life — where your ongoing journey is so directly connected to theirs along with their involvement in your pursuits.

That would be a big deal if you only had one that way. I’ve got two.

If you haven’t guessed what’s going on already, Mr. MacGyver here came up with a brilliant idea that solved my planer problem. I still hadn’t found a planer wide enough, so he came up this aluminum-guide mechanism where I would use a regular router to plane the panels.

This jig was a work of art in my book.

This CAD/CAM class at Purdue really paid off!

Warp Factor 1

There was a perfect spot for the panels to be put out of the way at my grandmother’s — and for all my experience, I made a rookie mistake. I put them between a dresser and a wall and they were just as snug as can be.

Dumb move

I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be back for a couple of months — and I was horrified when I returned to find that they had warped a bit. It wasn’t a lot, but in something like this, there’s no margin for any.

While I was upset at myself for what I had done, I knew it was a solvable problem given that the warping wasn’t severe — but the straightening would have to be done very, very carefully and with a great deal of patience.

Had it not been for that cozy spot that was seemingly made for them, I would have put them flat under the bed where they belonged. So here ya go — classic case of where even someone with tons of experience (and knows better than to do this), sees something convenient and doesn’t think it through.

In light of how well it worked out — I’m thrilled that I screwed up in placing those panels against the wall. For me, this clamping mechanism he rigged up below is another work of art.

For how I see the world, this is as beautiful as the end result.

The joy of obstacles jamming you into a fix — in more than ways than one, is heavenly in my way of life.

Inside of 60 seconds, this is what I envisioned that day I was driving out of Hendrickson. Except I didn’t think of how to easily get the spacer blocks out once the panels were glued up.

Dad’s idea to put those screws in them was just brilliant — beauty in simplicity at its best.

My God, the life of intelligence and ingenuity I’ve been around. Wouldn’t trade those experiences and inspiration for anything on Earth.

I love the internals of things

Don’t you love it when there’s welding in the background in movies? There’s nothing that emits activity like the light given off from that glow. I’ve said for a long time that there should be an Oscar for memorable moments — and this one would most certainly be worthy of such an award.

How could I resist?

I had a friend at Purdue whose dad lived just 10 minutes down the road — and as a bonus, he has a full-blown machine shop. I always loved hanging out there long before I came up with the idea for this wheel in my senior year in 1995.

Steve became instrumental in this project because I needed a way to mount the wheel onto the pedestal, and he was more than happy to make something for me (and wouldn’t take a dime for it).

My God, the magnificent people I have known.

During our discussions, I remembered seeing an old two-man saw hanging on his shop wall as decoration — and it was about to be brought back to life. I asked Steve if I could borrow it and have it professionally sharpened — and it sure got the job done.

Once again, this is another piece of artwork in my eyes — going beyond simply serving the purpose of spinning the wheel 360 degrees in either direction.

It was perfect in every way, and it looks pretty too.

Two Years in the Making

Full Circle

The “full circle” theme originated from the table top you see below — which is the table my dad made in high school. It hadn’t been used in ages and he had the fantastic idea to have it cut into the CD pattern for a wall ornament.

It broke out in the center — but that was a blessing in disguise, because my mom had the lovely idea to use it for displaying knickknacks depending on the season.

That particle-board piece on the wall was cut on a Flow water jet just like the one in the picture. It was a sample run for the CD wheel I invented.

I gave the particle board sample to my grandmother to put on the wall, but she had a better idea: To have some smoked glass cut to turn it into a table.


And that is at the heart of what this site is all about: Welcoming what another set of eyes can see.