Hackett’s Tripod And Some Advice on abstraction


[Hackett] calls it a “transmission problem.” You’ve scavenged the pieces for your build, but nothing fits. Metric and standard hardware clash, a successful weld is as reliable as duct-taping. You’ll hear about plenty of these obstacles as [Hackett] tries to tackle a tripod build in this video.

He was contacted by a group looking to make a bicycle-mounted portable projector. Their request: build them an easy-to-use tripod on a shoestring budget that is strong enough to hold a 30-pound projector. Garbage and scrap turn into a functional device as [Hackett] grinds and welds the tripod together.

The video’s greatest contribution, however, is the advice near the end.

You need to retrain your eye, so you’re not looking at a thing as to what it is, what it’s branded, what it’s originally intended for. What you’re looking at is what it is at the core, and once you start looking at things for what they really, really are, you have the power to completely remake the world.

A desire to re-contextualize everyday stuff is probably the reason you’re a Hackaday reader. Hopefully [Hackett’s] succinct advice strikes some chords and encourages you to keep abstracting and re-purposing the world around you. If you’re new to hacking and need somewhere to start, why not build a robot?

44 thoughts on “Hackett’s Tripod And Some Advice on abstraction

    1. As the child of generations of garbagemen, I would say the most appropriate way to look at it is: “consider everything a raw material; look not at what it was made to do, but what you can make with it.”

      Salvage is definitely something you can learn, but it helps to have great salvage experts who came before you. Approaching salvage with the attitude that “OMG that was in the trash? GROSS” is not going to enable you to make progress.

      Good work, Hackett. Keep up the salvage lifestyle before it’s all “better send than mend” everywhere.

    1. Actually threads were not standardized until Henry Maudsley’s screw cutting lathe in 1800. That is 300 years after the Middle Ages ended. National standards followed decades after 1800. The Unified Thread Standard was not adopted until 1949. Metric ISO 1960. Not everything new is improved though.

      1. Why do you say not everything new is improvement at the end? Surely a world standard is best, and in fact the whole subject here is hackett mentioning that having several standards is a pain.

        1. Metric hardware sucks. It’s that simple. The whole metric system blows for construction for that matter, but metric hardware really sucks! I just had a metric screw strip out on me this morning in fact. All I could think was a UNC screw wouldn’t have.

          1. There’s many metric thread standards. If the screw stripped then it was the wrong screw for the job. Perhaps the case is that the american screw was made in america, while the international standardised screw was made in china to a lower standard of quality? International standards usually cause a greater variation in quality as they are produced by more companies in more countries.

          2. As far as I’m concerned all metric screws are the wrong screw for the job! Unfortunately in the USA most of the hardware we have now is made in China today, metric, or otherwise. I’ve run across imported cap screws that had a metric Allen head, with a UNC thread on them. So even some folks in metric countries know how much the metric thread system sucks. There is only one SI metric thread standard that I know about. So I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say that, “There’s many metric thread standards.”? If that is true then metric threads are even more effed up than I realize!

      1. Did not say it was him alone, A lot of ‘muricans chipped in turning a diamond into a shit. Firstly by rebranding it “Junkyard wars”… Why wars? Why for the love of dog must everything be turned into wars by those guys? Hay, a cool thing, lets make a WAR out of it. (notable exception : Robot wars became Battlebots… but still).
        The show with him in was unwatchable even with Dick Strawbridge in it, that is insanely poor.
        His builds also often lacked imagination, risk, decent execution and experimentation, what the original show was all about.

        1. Because in the USA, things which are not wars are branded as wars to give them popularity, (war on drugs). Things which are obviously wars are rebranded as conflicts or peacekeeping to give them popularity.

          1. There’s actually been 2 Australian Top Gears, the first had a fairly good cast of hosts but too low of a budget to make anything interesting. I’d say it was better than the first season of the UK’s Top Gear (the pre-May era), but not up to scratch with modern Top Gear UK.

            The second Australian Top Gear had a good budget, but a fairly bad cast of hosts, with torturously bad staged ribbing between them and excessive colloquealisms, as though they had to prove that they were Australians every 3 minutes or they’d be deported.

            The show could work if they got the right hosts and had 60% less scripted content and replaced it with improv. I think it would work quite well with Grant Denyer as the main host. Not only is he an experienced and proven tv host, but he also used to race in V8 Supercars. However, Top Gear could never follow the same format as the UK show. Our automotive culture is simply too different. We (Australian car fans) don’t go out and buy this year’s new car like in the UK, since we don’t have MOT to worry about. We buy used cars and often buy them to fix up. This is where Mighty Car Mods has hit the nail on the head with the Australian audience. Really, MCM and 4WD Action are home grown shows, and are successful because they are authentic in a way that an imported show could never be without a major format change.

        1. No, Top Gear USA is far worst in the sense that it itself is a subtle joke at the expense of the viewing audience. The hint lies in the fact that it isn’t called “Mega Top Gears of War” or something similarly violent.

  1. Does anyone know where I can get access to more of Hackett’s stuff – he seems an interesting chap – the YouTube channel linked to above only has a small amount of “stuff”.

    Besides how could you go wrong with a guy whose name is Hackett? Cheers,

        1. Thanks for that – much appreciated – I didn’t realise he was such a “media star” – this is the second time I have come across him but his first name or his tv shows were never given (or I missed them) – I came across a show last night called “From Scratch” which is a little bit like “The Secret Life of Machines” but the guy has to build them from scratch – and I mean scratch – he mines and makes his own steel, copper, glass, mica etc. A bit whimsical and weird and a lot of corners are cut – but interesting. So far he has built an electric lawn mower and an electric light (from scratch).

          Thanks again.

  2. This guy is talking about everything this site is about and the mindset that follows and all anyone can talk about is his standard and metric statement. Here in ‘merica that’s how its said even in schools. No it’s not correct but talk about baby with the bathwater.

    1. Ah, the famous poor education in the US :)
      Teacher should know that ‘officially’ even the US accepts metric. Making it the US ‘standard’, although not used in daily life.

      Oh and you also only talk about the talk about metric, not anything about the subject of making a heavy duty tripod.
      Or the insanity of asking 10 grand for a shop-bought one (really – that’s abusing the customers and there is no excuse.).

  3. “Transmission Problem” is a great term!

    I almost never tell the HW store staff what I need or what I am building. I have more success if I describe the shape/size of the thing I am after and the material it should be made from. 9 times out of 10 it works.
    Conversely, nothing ticks me off more than when I ask for something very specific, like a 40mm M6 stainless hex-head bolt, and they ask me what is it for >:(

    1. I know that on bolts there is a 2 number identifier to indicate how much stress they can stand. I had one break once on me on a bike and found they used the weak kind so I replaced it with a proper one and it lasted for years.
      Anyway it is possible they ask for that reason.

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