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Makers vs Craftsmen

Makers on the go

Photo by Richard

Makers are getting a lot of press coverage lately. However, I haven’t read any article about the craftsmen: people who also build things with their hands and tools.

Why these articles do not write about carpenters, sculptors, turners, etc.? Is it because they don’t consider them makers?

The last weekend of September I was invited to give a talk about Crowdcrafting at the Mini Maker Fair León. The event was mostly about new ways of thinking, with a big attention to fabrication and production systems in the maker community.

Between sessions I listened carefully to the maker talks. In general they were about people using 3D printers (I saw again a sculpture of Yoda), laser cutters, and new tools that allow you to build stuff “very easily”. However, I felt that something was missing and I was puzzled. What was I looking for?

Makers, or should we say Craftsmen?

While I was approaching the booths, I realized that: makers are craftsmen using new tools, nothing else. However, the fair was only filled with the new so called makers and none of the old craftsmen.


I think the maker community is trying to find the path for a brighter future, but in my humble opinion, they are not asking to the right persons. They hang together, but they don’t talk to the people that have been doing this, building stuff, for centuries: carpenters, turners, sculptors, mechanics, etc. (the photo of this blog entry is from 1913).

These guilds produce prototypes, items, products, etc. using their hands and tools. If we compare them with the makers, the only difference is the tools they are using. However, I have never seen them invited to participate in these events.

Moreover, there are lots of retired people that still have a passion for making stuff with their own hands and tools and they don’t know anything either about this new maker movement. Let me give you an example. José Manuel Hermo Barreiro is a 72 years old man with a passion: building engines from scratch.

Thanks to his passion, José has built the smallest V12 engine in the world using only his hands and tools in his garage (does it ring a bell with you?).

José starts drawing the blueprints, then building the metal pieces -one by one- accounting all the hours that takes him to create one of these marvelous engines.

In the following video he explains this process, and best of all: you can see and feel his passion in every word.

He is amazing! He has become my hero! I would love to meet him, talk with him just to learn from his experience.

José (who started mechanics when he was 16 years old) is a master and it is a pity that his knowledge is getting lost.

In the video, he says: “engineers lack the inventiveness to repair a piece or find an alternative for it, […] they don’t wonder why it broke”. It touched my heart, because sadly I endorse his words.

To me José is a maker, but I don’t think he would describe himself as a maker. José is an artisan, a craftsman that knows how to build amazing engines in his garage. In other words, he shares the same passion and purpose as thousands of makers with only one tiny difference: they use different tools, that’s all.

Like José there are hundreds of retired persons that to me are the voice of the experience. These people really know how to solve problems and they say that new generations do not have the inventiveness to solve them, so wouldn’t be nice to invite them to next Maker fair?

I think it is crucial for the maker and 3D printing communities to connect with the old generations that keep building stuff in their garages.

Listening to people like José will open the door to pure knowledge. New generations will learn how they solve problems in the past, which tools were used and more importantly see their passion and gentleness for their work.

Moreover, old generations will discover new tools for their developments and together they will improve the production chains that will lead to better prototypes.

For these reasons I want to make a proposition to the Mini Maker Fair Leon organizers (well, this is actually a proposition to anyone that organizes Maker fairs, events, workshops, etc.):

I would love to co-organize a new fair where retired craftsmen and makers talk to each other sharing their knowledge. I would love to see José giving a talk about how he builds his engines, participate in a workshop where he shows how he produces them so the makers can adapt those methodologies to their 3D printers and CNC machines.

I would love to see how retired people take a more active role in teaching what they have learned in their life, so us, you and me, can learn and become better professionals in what we do. It’s a crime losing these knowledge and us, the society, should include them as they have a lot to teach.