I made a thing to fight maker’s block

I have several hobbies, many of which are designed specifically to get me away from the computer. Discovering an idea to pursue with those hobbies can be hard. I occasionally suffer from Maker’s block, where I know I want to work on something, but have no idea what it is. I had that problem recently while trying to come up with a project to learn several new skills. I wanted a project where I could learn soldering, Arduino interfaces, and the use of my new CNC router. Being new to all of those skills, I did not know my limitations or the full extent of the possibilities. So, to fight my maker’s block, I made a thing.

arduino shift register led graph breadboard cnc case design

Disassembled CNC cut case for my Arduino counter thing

What I mean is, I made an object with very little practical use at all, that is aesthetically neutral, where the only real purpose was to gain a greater familiarity and basic skills in the areas I was interested in pursuing. When done, it would be a mostly useless ornament where the work that went into it was far more important than the outcome.

The result is a small block of wood with some wires running out of it for connection to an Arduino, and some holes drilled where you can view a series of 8 LEDs, continually counting from 1 to 8 and then starting over again in an endless loop. I wrote the simple code to control it in the Arduino environment, used some basic components including a shift register, jumpers, resistors and LEDs which I soldered to a printed breadboard, and cut a small case from some scrap wood using my CNC router.

CNC cut case design for arduino shift register counter ornament

The outside of the case for the counter thing

The project took just a few hours to complete, and served its purpose well. I learned what I wanted to learn, I moved past my rut of maker’s block and restored my enthusiasm, and now, I am anxious to find the next thing to work on.

I hung this thing I made next to my desk at home. Next time I am suffering from a creative block, I will see it and remember this experiment. Just build something. Anything. This useless thing is a reminder that the process is as important as the outcome, and starting something is not as hard as it seems.

Arduino next to the shift register counter thing I made

Arduino next to the counter thing

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