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Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

Publisher: No Starch Press

You'll have the perfect context for Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred if you've ever picked up an issue of MAKE Magazine, a niche publication aimed at hobbyists and crafty folks. If you've been in a Radio Shack at any point, you unknowingly entered "Maker" heaven, at least where electronics' hobbies are concerned. Less frequently travelled than the mobile, A/V, and computing sections of The Shack (but equally important) are the sliding drawers of capacitors, switches, transistors, and other base components. These form the guts of many projects outlined in Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, but there are also some low-tech things that Author David Erik Nelson has on offer here. This is a geeky book, in a loving "they'll inherit the Earth" sense of the word that has now become attached to the modern lifestyle of gadgets and widgets. The difference is in the homemade aesthetic that fills the pages of Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, working to reinforce the idea that creating is at least as fun as consuming.

A word of caution: You will probably invest more in the parts and pieces of your projects than you did when purchasing the actual book. Think of Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred as a recipe book for fun with kids, who may not realize how fun science and craft can be. There's a goodly amount of tinkering with electronics, but all of it fun and safe. The "Tickle Box" immediately caught my son's eye, along with one project in BEAM robotics (Jitterbug) that creates something like the HexBugs currently in fashion. Depending on where you live, parts may be difficult to find, but not as long as you are willing to order online. For the Tickle Box project, for instance, we had no problem identifying all but one of the parts, which was easily found online at a website recommended in the book. The robotic creation included a tutorial on scavenging vibration motors from discarded cell phones, which all of us have in abundance in the modern home. Reusing components is a big part of the Maker ethos, that carries through Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred. Each project generally has at least one component that can be found and reused, teaching a subtle but important lesson in sustainability to kids. Parents apprehensive about turning a soldering iron over to their children will want to supervise these projects, but family interaction is as much a part of Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred as the learning.

If soldering is a dealbreaker, there are still a few fun projects that can be completed without burning or wiring. Making a Cardboard Boomerang requires little more than a pizza box, and the FedEx Kite is exactly what it sounds like: A great looking box kite made from FedEx shipping materials. At 300 pages, Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred will keep geeky parents and their aspiring geeklets busy for a long, long time. We can imagine this book as a great homeschooling tutorial for electronics, because it teaches without ever coming across as pedantic. Musicians also will find some simple recipes for creating cool electronic instruments; one of them doesn't even require basic wiring skill... At the end of the day, if you're not at least a little interested in learning to wire and solder, you may not get much out of Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred. Half the book is going to be lost on you, at least. The great thing is how you can learn in a relatively safe zone, and in terms that can be easily understood, even by the electronically ignorant. Sustainability is often mistakenly paired with austerity, but Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred shows that thrift, recycling, and a little craft can make for great fun and family memories.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Related Links:

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated