Inspiration Without Skill or Ability

Am I the only one that wants to try making just about every example of everything that they see here? But then you realize that you have no idea how to calculate gears, or program those LEDs to do the Knight Rider thing…

Then you are left saddened by your inability, and you sit and wallow in despair as opposed to pushing yourself to learn those things.

Maker Faire made me realize that I want to do all the things. I found out that there are local robot fights!!! Seriously?!? Who’s up for forming team Glowforge and putting ForgeBot up against all comers?!?

In the end you have to tell yourself “knock it off!” It’s like that thread where someone has a hard deadline for receiving Glowforge before he backs out. I won’t go that far, but I will tell myself to knock off the crap.

So with that in mind, I’m pulling back all of my feelers, save those that will get me ready for what I am most excited for… Glowforge.

What do I need to learn Glowforge?

  1. I need to learn the materials. We have a lot of choice from wood to acrylic to leather and more in what we can mark or cut with GF. Each one will react differently, and so getting a test print/cut in place that I can see how each reacts will be important (even with Proofgrade).

  2. I need to learn design. I can draw parts on AutoCAD all day long and not bat an eye… but I’ve found the 3D aspect of design is appealing, especially with Glowforge to see what our 2D prints will become and to visualize it. But within this item I also need to prioritize. I already actually made that mistake by jumping in too deep with my initial designs on Fusion 360. I need to learn the basics and then start designing custom things.

  3. I need to temper my expectations. With chocolate, if it isn’t tempered properly, crystals form in all directions that seed into the rest of the batch and you end up with a mass of bloomed, crumbly chocolate. (i.e. you expect one thing and get something else, then you become disappointed.) I know what the advertising said. In the end, we may not get some of those things at launch. Oh well, what we will get can keep us super-busy. Here’s the one thing I think they did wrong in the advertisements. They showed us all of these amazing things, but it takes more than a pile of laser-cut wood to make a drone that shoots rubber bands. It takes a massive amount of electronics to do it, and then it takes a lot of skill to pilot a drone. They show a shop full of creations with price-tags… but they don’t show the rent bill for the space, or how much it cost to build it out. They don’t show the scrap on the floor at 3am as the fiftieth wallet comes out flawed for some reason.

Glowforge is not the thing that creates these various things. It is the tool the lets us create them. But like any tool, proper knowledge of its use is mandatory. Some of you are coming from a background where you use these tools and will be able to whip out a drone in several hours. Some of you have a store that is already built out to which you can add lots of great do-dads that you make on the GF. Most of us are going to start out by failing. When tab “A” doesn’t fit into slot “B” and I’ve adjusted for kerf three times, we will be tempted to quit. But we have to power through. Buckle down, learn the tools and the materials, and expect failure, not perfection.

With all of that in mind, I move forward. I dedicate myself to spending at least an hour per day to learning and using Fusion 360. At some point I’ll be confident enough that I can start whipping out designs! Then comes the cutting!

P.S. At some point I do want to learn to make the Knight-Rider thing with the LED lights and Arduino!


Extremely well said! :smile:

(And yeah, drones would be several years out - even with the GF on the desk tomorrow!):laughing:


Agreed. It’s hard to focus at the moment. I have a few projects floating around and I can’t seem to devote the full push time that it takes. The bumps in the road can temper that enthusiasm. Today I accomplished two things that I set out: put a new plug on the new planer someone gave me and try it out and finally mount the motor permanent for my bandsaw. So the planer fix went well and it works perfectly. The motor and bandsaw are awesome, but now I have a terrible drift with my 3/4 inch blade. I was going to resaw some white cedar to edge glue together for a pizza peel but I just couldn’t get that drift fixed. Arg. Now I have read up on drift and order some new blades.

The whole point of this project is to mill my own wood for projects. I have tons of rough sawn, 3/4 and 5/4 walnut, oak, and white cedar. The hope is to get it down to 1/4 so I have all the wood for the projects I have planned.

KITT and Cylon lights (both Glen Larson shows) are great projects and not too difficult with Arduino, or even bare circuits. There are a couple Instructables.


I played around with the Arduino Circuit Playground a bit at the Maker Faire. I do want to get into it to light up (and do other cool things) to the creations I make with the GF!


If I was allowed to I’d give you all my likes for the day.
From the title to the prose. Yes yes yes.
You left out a very important thing though. Don’t be afraid to fail. In the two years I’ve been seriously making you would not believe the amount of wood I have ruined! You think my knife sharpener handles look good? You should see the bucket of culls. Point is, don’t try to fail but don’t be afraid of it either. I’ve learned so much from my screw ups.

PS : I’ll be glad to help you with a Lason tracker in exchange for your help on something vexing me.

EDIT: Back in the day but since I’ve been an adult, there was a prize or a set of prizes really for human powered flight. Well, every team that would try it would put years into their design and then ultimately fail being out of money. Wel,l this guy named McCready figured out that everyone would fail until something was done about the design cycle. He figured out that a team had to fail early and often and to learn from each of the mistakes. Kinda how a fruit fly can evolve faster than a human because their life cycle is much shorter. Needless to say, he and his team won the prize because of this. They just failed, fixed fail, fixed until everything worked. So when you hear a maker say “fail early and often” they are saying apply the McCready principal.


My plan is to jump in head first and see what happens. I’m not at all worried about not knowing anything about woodworking or leather working. I’m going to just do it and it’s going to turn out great.


This was a fantastic post. Thank you for that. You took the words out of the mouths of many on this forum…including me. I began learning some software with every intent of being much more proficient by the time I get my Glowforge. Pretty soon though, my passion dimmed as I came to realize how difficult it was for me to learn stuff that had no earthly relativity without the tools to see it through to the finish. I cannot even fathom what it’s like to have a laser, so I’ve just been drifting around the forum reading everything that’s posted, following on the coattails of those who are already in the know, and making only enough occasional comments and liking posts as much as possible in order to remain a regular. My constant monitoring of this forum is what will make things right in the end. I absolutely cannot say though, that I’ve not learned many things from everyone here. I have a list of bookmarks and folders of saved stuff a mile long. I cannot even relate to designing things until I have the tool with which I can fully create. It’s like trying to teach someone how drive (or anything else similar) without a car. This part of what you wrote was probably the most insightful for me;


Find more people like you.

This place is within walking distance of a light rail station:

This place is only a little ways south of you:


Shoot! I’ve got the opposite view, but I’ll admit, it takes a great deal of focus, and it’s not always easy to make myself buckle down. (Too much fun hanging out here on forums and documenting processes and whatnot…it’s a weakness.):no_mouth:

But now is the time we need to be learning to design! To use the software! There are experts hanging around twiddling their thumbs, and once the machines start shipping, they’ll be off and running, no longer available.

And the holidays are rushing forward at the speed of a freight train, and I don’t think anyone is going to be able to focus during the run-up to actual delivery.

Even if it’s just to start watching some tutorials while you workout…get started. Pick a few bookmarked topics and sketch some ideas for adaptation. It will take months longer if we wait and try to do it without help later.

Try not to kill me…I’m not sure we have enough time.
Maybe we need another delay.
(That last bit was a joke…seriously, do not kill me!) :head_bandage:


I saw an article once which described “The Hump”

This is the phase where most artists flounder and die before they become artists.

You want to do work, because you appreciate work others have done. While appreciating that work, you have developed taste.

It is because you have developed taste that you see flaw in your own work. If you were making an attempt in a field you had no taste, you would make an amateur effort, look at it and go “Yeah… that is mostly right” and be content.

But, you have taste.

So instead, you make an amateur attempt, look at it and say “This is not appealing to my refined taste, therefore was not worth doing”

But… if you can be content making “Yeah, basically right” for long enough, you will figure out the mechanics and methods of expression, and you will be able to find ways to satisfy your taste.

So… good on you for making the step to suck it up and get to the business of sucking at things. Gotta do that for a little while, and remember that (to everyone who has not yet developed taste), you are close enough.

Trust me… even many of the people you call experts are kicking themselves for “still sucking at this.”

A lot of the designs you have Ooh’d and Aah’d over… the gal who made them thought it was a terrible attempt, and already has a dozen ideas for what to do better next time.

Your taste will exceed your ability until you reach the point that doing the work has no more joy for you.

So, revel in producing what you think is garbage. Someone out there is going “ooh, aah!”


I presented my choir with a complex piece and wish I had recorded our first run-through. It was a colossal train wreck - start to finish.
We’ve been working on it 3 weeks, and Sunday we congratulated each other at reaching “not terrible” in a couple sections.
It will be work to have it ready by late November, and right while we ought to be polishing Christmas music.

I was thinking of music as I have been trying to design things in inkscape. I’ve made 5 or 6 designs, and I am beginning to see that I am a ways off from sucking. Right now I’m at the train wreck stage - and I’m only beginning to have a clue as to how bad I truly am.

All of you on this thread - you are echoing the thoughts in my head.

Somehow, though, I’m encouraged by it. I have hope that I’ll soon suck, and then I’ll be “not terrible.” I do hope this laser is as much fun as music… because I’d love to attain adequate. Maybe I’ll even get over the hump.


This right here gets all my likes. Nothing sums all of this up better.


Thanks for the links. I did a mini arduino workshop with Sodo maker space at the Maker Faire. I like that we have so many places like this close by.


The OP would have got the full load on my likes for the day if they could be given that way so I guess this would get all of tomorrows. GREAT POST.


I realize this wasn’t the point of your post, but…

That drone was created by an intern in six weeks. I gave her a 3DR Iris and a link like this:

and that was pretty much it. She learned Fusion360 (other prior CAD experience but had never used it before) and built some prototypes.

The resulting drone flew like the Solo [edit: it was an Iris+, not a Solo] it was based on (modern control systems can make just about anything stable; google ‘copter cat’ if you’re skeptical). The gattling barrels are counter-rotating so as not to torque the drone when spinning. In the video, when you see the ‘brother’ flying, I was standing about a foot to his right off-camera.

And while there was a lot of camera work going on there, the drone did in fact fly, hover, and launch rubber bands in ways that were utterly amazing.

Moral of the story: I know it looks ridiculous, but the drone’s probably not as far out of reach as you might think. :wink:


That’s awesome and illustrates my point nicely. She may not have had prior knowledge, but she had a starting point, a goal, and a chunk of time in which to learn it, and she created something awesome.

I have a starting point and a goal, and I have to carve my time out to make my goal happen. My starting point is that I’m an engineer with over a decade of 2D CAD experience (but no materials design experience). My goal is to learn the tools that I need to learn (in this case Fusion 360) well enough that at least the basic stuff comes relatively naturally. In this way, once I get the tool for making “all the things” then I will be proficient enough that I can recognize where the mistakes were in the design when the parts don’t come together the first time. I also have to temper my expectations enough that I’m not disheartened to the point of giving up when that happens.

My wording was a little bit incorrect. You didn’t do anything wrong with the video. Your job was to sell the dream, and you did that masterfully. As the customer buying that dream, I have come to the point where I realize that “I” can’t accomplish the things in the video without a fair amount of work.


Anyone who can apply a chocolate metaphor to digital fabrication and setting goals deserves all the awards.

Extra kudos to all the posts I’ve already liked because clicking on a little heart wasn’t enough for me :slight_smile: Since joining the glowforge forums my project to-do list has been overflowing with ideas, but more often than not I find myself dropping a project after an initial burst of inspiration. To me, knowing how to set up expectations and establish goals is just as important as the finished project itself…if I don’t, I usually end up working and re-working and then eventually doubting the success of the project entirely. One of my big goals when the glowforge comes is to create quick, day long projects to just get the idea into a physical prototype before it falls into the pit of my digital modeling folders.

THIS. I can’t express it any better, and I’m still working on convincing myself that is applies to my designs as well.


Just throwing it out there, I would love to see some GlowBot death matches and will be on the starting line if anyone else wants to make some tiny battle mechs. It actually lends itself to the learning curve I’d think because the prettier and more sophisticated your robot the less you want to see it blown to saw dust and cinders. I haven’t taken on anything like it before but it’s on the list of top projects to attempt once the forge is here


You described me, too. I need to wait to have the machine really in the here and now, see exactly what it does IN PERSON, then things will begin to flow.


Exactly!! The problem with all of my current half-baked ideas is that I don’t have the means to take them any further. The new 3D printer solves half of my problems, once I get the Glowforge it’s going to be hard to waste 8 hours at work every day :smile: