This family lived together for 62 years without speaking

Originally published at:


Doty had a truly unique talent. His impact on maker society, both before and after the name had been attached, is unrivaled.


I agree with Mark. The Doty projects were my favorite parts of Popular Science. A while back they published a book of Doty’s PopSci projects, which is a nice way to get access to a broad collection of his work.


I remember this inspired this part of True Stories:


But did he just cartoon ideas from other people, or did he invent solutions and then draw them out?

Fifty years ago I just read the strip, never giving it much thought beyond that.

The children’s library had Popular Science, kept back issues and you could take them home. Build your own submarine, how night vision scopes work, all the “what’s new” entries, extremely brief bits that gave an idea of what was coming, and at about age nine, insight into the world in general.

Wordless Workshop looks like it was great, but I cast a skeptical eye at the other DIY tips in the magazine, if the linked “amazing illustrations” are representative. The illustrations are amazing but the ideas aren’t great.

This strikes me as the ‘50s version of “life hacks”. When you’re under pressure to produce X clever tidbits like that every month, pretty soon you start collecting things that seem clever but nobody has actually tried, or they would find out why it doesn’t work. In the two examples shown:

  1. It’s the spring you’d need to drill, not the shackle to do that, and you’re gonna ruin a lot of drill bits trying. Automotive leaf springs are a lot harder than the low carbon DIY drill bits that a 1950 handyman would have. Even modern HSS drills are gonna have a bad day doing that. Furthermore, brake fluid eats paint and is generally nasty stuff you don’t want outside your braking system for lots of reasons. Brake fluid is also extremely hydrophilic, so it becomes useless as brake fluid when exposed to air for more than a couple of weeks. That means you’d be wasting an entire quart to fill a pump oiler (which you’d need to have a spare of) just to squirt two drops into that bushing. No part of this idea really makes sense.

  2. Casting molten lead on a plastic battery surface in the presence of hydrogen gas as given off by car batteries (especially unsealed and unvented 1950s ones)? There’s a whole litany of reasons that this is a real bad idea that I probably don’t need to expand on.

Anyways, I’m just channeling Cranky Old White Man, in the spirit of the time. It’s the middle of the night here and I can’t sleep, so do pardon my pointless cynicism.

I managed to pick this book up, used on Alibris, before the prices escalated into $100+ range.

This book is another example of why I can’t understand, in the age of digital, why EVERYTHING ever published isn’t available in a digital version.

What can you say, people were more daring in the 50’s. Or uneducated. The father of a childhood friends used to melt lead in his basement and make cast model army men. I’m sure that killed a few family brain cells.

It feels like they inspired the design of the Ikea Instructions Guy

In the sixties, when I read it, it never seemed too odd in that way, but maybe I was too young to notice.

But I once found a magazine (it was an anthology of previously published material) from the fifties about power tools. Endless ways to make use of a drill or motor, and now really odd. Why go to that trouble when you can get a sander for $20 or whatever? It fit the times, and then later no longer had relevance.

My grandfather’s workshop was like that. He owned one electric motor and everything else in the shop was set up so he could move it around for different tools and uses. The economics of the time were closer to how a steam driven line shaft shop works than to how we do things today. That one electric motor was the most expensive tool he had. My shop right now, by comparison, probably has 40 or 50 electric motors in it. Amazing times.

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