Evolution of 3D to Home Shops

Evolution of ‘Shops’ and ‘Making’

Before you can fully wrap your head around 3D printing – and begin to internal digest disruptive manufacturing –  it’s useful to understand the Darwinian (or developmental) aspects of how Humans ‘creating’ and ‘making’ came about.

We’ll skip over the earliest evolutionary steps:  Wrapping up control of fire, then figuring out basic metallurgy, and then serious woodworking.  But. you’ll see – on inspection – a nice Darwinian species evolution in all these processes as you look.

As ‘Modern Makers’ it’s all majestic, but the GINORMOUS change has occurred in the home (or residential) workshops primarily from 1900 to now.

The Home Shop Revolution

Over the last 100-years, the home shop has gone through one evolutionary cycle whose highlights included:

  • Arrival of “standard power” (110 VAC was not common until the 1920’s and ‘the build’ didn’t complete until the Rural Electrification Administration finished its projects over the years following WWII.  Remnants remain as the Rural Utilities Service in the Dept. of Agriculture even now.
  • Standard Materials: In the 1940’s, if you went to a lumber yard and ordered a “2-by-4” it was depended on yard what you would get.  A regular “rough-sawn” 2-by-4 is 2″ by 4″. However, the modern measure is 1-1/2″ by 3-1/2″-inches.  The evolutionary steps?  S1S (sanded one side) and S2S (sanded two sides).
  • New Materials:  Foremost of which is drywall.  As the Wiki on this explains, “Gypsum board evolved between 1910 and 1930 beginning with wrapped board edges. Enter paper facing. In 1910 United States Gypsum Corporation bought Sackett Plaster Board Company and by 1917 introduced Sheetrock. Providing efficiency of installation, it was developed additionally as a measure of fire resistance.”  Unlike plaster – which loves lath and rough surfaces, sheetrock likes smooth framing.
  • New Tools:  Circular (Skil Saws), table saws, shaper tables, and more. Sears Craftsman brand became the de facto home standard.  Home brands included the icons:  Skil, Craftsman, Wards, King-Seeley, ToolKraft, Black & Decker…

Early Making Was Wood-Oriented

As a process map (we love these!) there were generally only four things going on in the home shop through much of the last century:

Not particularly difficult, is it?  This is what a lot of us “seasoned citizens” came up on:  Basic shop operations.  Two people could frame a small house using 8 or 10-point saws in a single day.  Skill levels were high. Mainly in wood.

Today, two framers can knock-our a house 2-3 times the size and more complicated framing (advanced rooflines, hip roofs and such) and not be particularly put-out.  Stud lumber is pre-cut to accommodate 8-foot ceilings with headers and footers added, for example.  And saws?  OMG – Two framers with worm-drive Skil saws is like watching ballet!  I mentioned air powered framing nailers, right?

The ‘Making’ Changed

By the end of the Second World War, the home shop became a glorious place where in addition to woodworking, metal work showed up.

Beginning in the mid 1930s, Popular Mechanics began ‘How-To’ articles on how to make more metal-working tools.  The PM  Shop Notes series is still savory reading for committed Makers.

If you’re interested, CD collections can be found on eBay for under $20-bucks.  Some of these offer 1905 to 1930  Shop Notes.  And single copies of print editions are also available.

What Changed About Making?

Short list?

  • Soldering and Brazing:  These became common as the use of copper pipe in lieu of galvanized (or black iron) pipe made “pipefitting” into a measure, cut, join *(by solder or brazing), and finish (usually by having a beer, lol.).
  • Gas Welding:  The arrival of small portable acetylene welding rigs.  I saw my first  Victor regulator set-up in 8th grade (before lawyers ran school districts, working people did!).  It was love at first sight!  Oxyacetylene art has been an often-suppressed lifetime source of pleasure.
  • Electric Welding, too:  Came to farms first as the iconic Lincoln tombstone looking 220 V arc rig.
  • Basic Fiberglass.  Just a standard 2-part (resin-hardener) and the glass matts shed like hell and made one itch for weeks, but plastic was evolving into a home- use product.

More Recent Home Shop Tools

Just this short list here, or we could be here all day:

  • Additive tools included FDM plastic printers.
  • Cutting tools included Plasma Cutters.
  • And one of our electronic faves:  CNC milling machines.

Which is what the Ultra-Make site is all about…

Modern Making Processes

Unlike the simple measure, cut, join, finish of the previous century, the modern Maker has to navigate through many more complicated decisions:


  • The Maker has a “customer” (even if Self).
  • The customer has a product vision to render.
  • But, in what material(s)?
  • And with what kind of ‘making’ constraints?
  • Recycled or new materials?
  • Is it a “one-off”?
  • Is it a “one-time”?
  • Will we make more and sell ’em?

At the end of the rat maze, a ‘Making Path’ comes into view:


The Process Orientation

As an extreme simplification:  Making a 3D project consists of:

  • Defining a product.
  • Getting a design as a stereolithography file (.STL)
    • Which are premade and available from Thingiverse or Yeggi as search start points.
    • OR you can make your own design with TinkerCad or similar.  Dozens of choices!
  • Then you “slice” the .STL file so that your printer can render it correctly.
  • Load sliced filed into 3D printer.
  • Recheck bed leveling
  • Print
  • Finish (take off print ‘flashing’) and deliver.

CNC is different:

  • You get a design or make one.
  • Convert to GRBL Code
  • Load
  • Run

The more friendly into is on the Wikipedia page here:

“G-code is a language in which people tell computerized machine tools how to make something. The “how” is defined by G-code instructions provided to a machine controller (industrial computer) that tells the motors where to move, how fast to move, and what path to follow. The two most common situations are that, within a machine tool such as a lathe or mill, a cutting tool is moved according to these instructions through a toolpath cutting away material to leave only the finished workpiece and/or, an unfinished workpiece is precisely positioned in any of up to nine axes.”

Simple!  (Well, maybe not, but the learning is the fun…)

There are a million, or so, ins and outs – devil’s always in the details.  Just remember, smaller printers can give more accurate prints that big ones.  And when comes to printers like so much else in life?  You tend to get what you pay for!

What to do next?

On to more posts on the Ultra-Make site!

I will be “serializing” a couple of 3D machine builds in November on Ultra-Make ( Ender 3 ) ($200-class printer) and in December (Creality CR-10 V2). ($500-class printer)