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Favorite Toys


I’ve been cleaning up my basement lately, preparing it to become my new home machine shop. Cleaning up a basement inevitably leads to making those important distinctions between the objects you treasure and the objects you’ll dump. Of the treasures I’ll be keeping are a set of solid wood airplane models I built with my Dad when I was between the ages of 5 and 11. I’ve kept the models out and on display in one place or another through the years, and dusting them off started me thinking about how important these hand-made toys are to me.

I must have been about 5 years old when my Dad started teaching me how to carve wood. It seems like it must have been earlier than that, but I can’t imagine myself as having enough patience to build these models if I had started earlier than that. The process started with my Dad cutting the model’s fuselage profile out of scrap 2x4s on the band-saw. I would start shaping the wood with a 4-in-1 file and lots of sandpaper. I was never using any tools that were sharp or dangerous, so I could be left to work on the model for hours while my Dad worked on his own projects. Carving this way seemed to take forever, which is again a source of retroactive astonishment at my own child determination, but it wasn’t long before I was allowed to use the band saw and table saw myself.


Building the airplanes as fun and playing with them once they were finished. I shared the airplanes with my friends in the neighborhood and they eventually came over to house on Saturdays to build models of their own. My Dad taught me how to draft so that I could build any airplane I wanted. Sometimes I’d scale-up a reference drawing with a pantograph, other times I’d design something completely from my own imagination.

Building these models probably made me the freak for DIY fabrication I am now. I love the process of building stuff so much that I consider the feasibility of building some things that I’d probably be better off just buying. And, as materialistic as I may be, infused with the DIY ethos at such an early age has made me immune to brand-lust. I built the coffee table these models are sitting on.

It didn’t occur to me how much importance these toys had in forming my character until came across this picture of me, then working as an intern at a wind tunnel complex at NASA Ames Research Center. Truly, the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Scan 1

My father and I still work together on projects in the garage. Here’s the latest build we’re working on. A 3 axis CNC router!

There’s lots of cool Meetups going on in May. Join me at The San Francisco MongoDB User Group to hear Michael Poremba’s talk “Transitioning a 4 TB Health Care Security Auditing System to MongoDB”, hosted at The Gap May 13th. RSVP

June 1st I’m presenting four sessions at MongoDB World 2015. Register with my promocode Reinero40 and get a 40% discount.