A quick update on my progress, which was slowed by the holiday.
The first thing you realize (or remember, in my case) is that prototyping is hard work. The vision is in my head, and on a piece of paper, but translating that into reality is not easy. I’m working with steel, which is very unforgiving, and time consuming to work with. For example, my design calls for height adjustable catches, which means that I need to drill holes in the uprights in order to be able to move the catches up and down. These holes have to be very precise and perfectly consistent, because if they’re off, the catches won’t fit when you try to adjust them. Drilling the holes required precise marking of 72 holes per upright (two uprights for a total of 144 holes). I then had to drill each hole 3 times, increasing the size of the hole each time. Then I had to drill out both the front and the back holes (for a total of 144 holes PER upright) to the exact diameter I wanted (3/8 was too small, 7/16 was too big, so I decided on 13/32 for which I needed to use a stepped bit). In case you haven’t followed the math, that’s a shit-load of drilling. In production, all that drilling would be done by a machine, but in prototyping, all that drilling had to be done by yours truly, hoping that I could get everything perfect by hand.
In the meantime, whilst drilling all of those holes, I had time to think about the design of the catches. Naturally, I changed how I was going to do them. So I had to figure out how to get the new plan to work on the fly, which necessitated going to buy more steel.
There are tools I would REALLY like to have to make this go faster, but I’m on a shoestring budget and I need to take the long, time consuming route instead of the faster “right tool for the job” route. I have to trust myself to do some things by hand that could be far easier and more efficiently done with the right tool.
“Why don’t you have someone else who has the right tools build it for you?” you ask. Because creativity doesn’t work that way. I need to be able to change designs if I think of something better, or realize something won’t work the way I thought it would. You can’t get someone else to do that for you, or, if you could, it would cost an arm and a leg. AFTER I work it out myself and get the prototype finished, I can have someone else do it the next time.
One thing I’ve realized is that I’m over-building the crap out of this thing. I could use far less robust steel for the uprights, for example. However, to find exactly what thickness would work and be safe, I’d need a mechanical engineer… Again, something I can’t afford at this point, so I will consciously over-build for safety and pare it down with the help of an engineer when (if) I am going into production.
Oddly, this is the fun part. At least for me. It’s creative. I’m taking something from inside my brain and making it real in the world. Then I get to use it, find the flaws, refine the design, and build it all over again. Awesome!