“Making to Learn and Learning to Make”

Introduction to my blog

About Me

Mike Litzkow photo author with homebuilt airplane

Some say that variety is the spice of life.  For me, learning new things is the spice of life. But it’s really the same thing, isn’t it? When I learn something new, “new” means variety.  I’ve always been driven to make things, but here again, it fits together.  I don’t want to make the same thing over and over – I want to make things I haven’t made before. Why is that? Well, it’s because I don’t know how to make them yet. In the word “yet” lies the fun.  I could make something new, and almost certainly, learn several somethings new at the same time!

Growing up in a blue-collar family with four children in the 1960’s, my family had enough money, but never enough to waste on buying something new when we could repair the old one, or make our own.  My dad was a master at using the tools and materials he had on hand to meet whatever need came up at the time. While I was growing up he and I built (mostly he built for me), a gravity-powered go-cart, a record turntable base, and a tower for my ham radio antenna to name a few.  I’m not sure how much technical knowledge I gained from mostly watching my dad make these things, but what I did learn was the importance of patience, perseverance, and creativity.  In high school, I was introduced to ham radio and earned my novice and advanced class licenses.  Soon, I needed more power outlets for my “station”, so my dad showed me how to get started, and left the project for me to finish. Most parents today wouldn’t let their teenager wire new outlets in their bedroom, but my dad trusted me not to burn down the house or electrocute myself, and somehow I managed not to. That’s another thing about making – safety is often a concern, and responsibility is part of the package. My advice is to take your own safety and the safety of others seriously and do your “homework” so you don’t run into safety issues you never saw coming.

I spent my career as a software developer at a public university, but before that, I spent time as a motorcycle mechanic (mostly Suzukis and Nortons), and an auto mechanic (mostly Volvos and Mercedes Benzes). Along the way, I learned a little welding and a little machining. Once I started my “real” career I found that I wanted to build something, so I built an airplane. It was a simple airplane called the “Avid Flyer” made from a kit. Of course, I had to learn to fly and get my pilot’s license first. That’s how it goes. I have to learn stuff before I can build stuff, and building stuff makes me learn more – usually a lot more! Later on, I got into woodworking, and more recently, machining and 3D printing. For a long time, I didn’t know how to describe all my building activities, but then the word “maker” came along, and I realized – that’s me.


Never having written a blog before, I’m sure my goals and purpose will evolve as we go along.  My initial thoughts are:

  • Share some projects that I hope will inspire others to tackle things they don’t already know how to do
  • Talk about the learning needed to enable making those projects
  • Talk about the problems and frustrations (failures) along the way that forced me to learn a lot more
  • Share some of the learning resources that I have found most helpful
  • Share a little of what I have learned, but with the understanding that I am not an expert in any of the fields I am learning about

Coming Soon

big machine on a trailer south bend 13 inch lathe

I have already been making for more than 50 years, so it doesn’t make sense to start this story at the beginning. Instead, I will start with what I am working on right now which is the refurbishment of a 50-year-old South Bend lathe. I am at the very beginning of this project and have just finished moving the 1500 pound (680 kg) beast from my garage into my basement shop! Next time I will share some details on how I found the lathe, brought it home, and moved it down my basement stairs.

If you have gotten this far, thank you for your time and attention. Respectful comments are always welcome.

Mike Litzkow – Oct 2020