The Art of Inventing


I can invent things a whole lot easier than I can manufacture them. In a way, inventing is the easy part. Taking an invention from an idea in your head, to something you can actually USE, is quite a bit trickier.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at one time said, “What we really need is a (insert thing) that (insert function), instead of this old clunky thing!”. Most people KNOW what the invention SHOULD be. But most people can’t get from what they HAVE, to what they really WANT.

The tricky part, is PARTS. When you have invented a thing that nobody has invented before, the parts may not exist. I mean, if nobody knows what a doohicky is, then they really aren’t going to be out there manufacturing pulley wheels and gasket seals for doohickies that they don’t even know exist.

So where parts are concerned, you have to think about FUNCTION, not the NAME of the thing. What I mean is, if you need a gasket for a certain size lid, you may not be able to find a gasket for that lid in stores that sell lids. But somewhere, someone probably makes a gasket that size, if you can determine the size accurately, and the thickness you need. Instant thingamabob for your doohicky.

So think about function – shape, and size, texture, and other properties. What could work? What can you make that might work? What can you easily obtain that you can alter that might work?

Ideally, we all think about the perfect thing, made in a special way. But manufacturing custom parts is very costly. You won’t even get in the door for less than the price of the average house (before the recession!).

Whittling a piece of wood, drilling a hole in an existing part, using two parts together in a new way, or taking parts meant for one purpose and using them in a way that is totally foreign to the original intention isn’t actually hard. What is hard, is finding exactly what you need. Simplify the idea, and think about what you can do in a simple backyard shop with simple tools.

When searching for parts, you can search online, but if you do, you are limited to what you think of searching for by name. You may miss something that would work.

If you walk through a large hardware or fastener store, and just take your time you may have better success at finding something unexpected that will do the job – never do this when you are in a hurry! Go through, aisle by aisle, and just LOOK. As you do, you’ll get ideas. And you might just spot the thing you need. It might not be precisely what you had in mind, but maybe it will work anyway.

Now, some people just don’t have the drive or energy to bother. Other people though, may be natural entrepreneurs, and the idea of creating something new, that fits a need, is intriguing, even exciting, because if you can MAKE it, you can SELL it.

If you are one of those people, then the next time you find yourself saying, “There’s gotta be a better way to do that!”, figure out how to do it! Then go find a way to make it happen.

It may just be the next safety pin or duct tape.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a tubular shaped metal thing with one open end, that is cheap, and which can be altered to become… something else!

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