Sunday, May 01, 2011

Non-Fiction: Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids by David Erik Nelson

Ever sat around and said, “Wow: I wish I could help my kids make an electro-didgeridoo.” Or, why think small? Why not a whole Electro-Skiffle Band? And, sure, not all of us are into music. So maybe you’ve always wanted to make a water rocket with your children, but you just didn’t know how.

I’m kidding, of course. Most of us would never even conceive of making any of the stuff in David Erik Nelson’s Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred (No Starch Press), let alone involve our poor, unsuspecting kids. Yet Nelson makes it all seem not only accessible, in many cases, he makes it look easy.

In truth, some of the projects author and former high school teacher Nelson outlines are more complicated than others. The cross-stick boomerang is simple. The Putt-Putt Boat that explores elementary locomotion is somewhat more difficult, yet Nelson puts even that within reach:
… the Putt-Putt Boat maneuvers around a bathtub or swimming pool under its own power with no moving parts, driven by a simple, valveless flash boiler made from a coil of copper tubing and a rudimentary alcohol burner.
Never mind the kids at this point, right? A flash boiler? I wanted to make this one myself!

Robots, marshmallow muzzleloaders, screen printing, an electric guitar. This is seriously not your average do-it-yourself-with-kids book. This is the stuff that magic and dreams are made of in childhood, at least for those kids who have the idea that magic can be handmade. Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred is a seriously cool book. ◊

David Middleton is art director and art & culture editor of January Magazine.

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