Counterweight Collaboration

I recently finished working with Jonathon Duerig on a component for one of his projects - it's a very cool open source book scanner. I helped him with making a holder for the counterweights which help bring the book cradle up and down between scans. The process was a great walk through the joy of working with smart and collaborative people on interesting projects.

Before the canvas, with hooks and grommets.

Before the canvas, with hooks and grommets.

Jonathon started out looking for custom canvas bags. In his early plan, they would have been hooked to the sides of the lift bar and filled with water bottles or whatnot to provide the counterweight. So our custom product discussion started there: specifically sized canvas bags with grommet holes to be hung from hooks. I gave him some ballpark quotes and we both began to see that even with some simplifications, the bags were going to be quite expensive, maybe even too expensive to make sense in the project as a whole. It was a frustrating wall to run into.

And then we both had that moment, pretty much simultaneously, that makes the heart of a maker go pitty pat, pitty pat: "Wait a minute, we're already talking a custom solution, so why don't we rethink the whole form? Does it have to be this? Could it be something else?" It is an exciting moment in any project - walking away from that wall you just ran into is so delightfully liberating.

An early iteration on the sleeve design, shown in use.

An early iteration on the sleeve design, shown in use.

We had a couple more design iterations after that aHa! moment, and the final design is a simple sleeve-like configuration that can be made quickly and cost-effectively, and is easy for the end user to adjust. No bags, no grommets, no hooks.

The process was a great reminder of some invaluable business (and design and life) lessons:

  • be willing to ask for input
  • be willing to listen to people with expertise outside your own
  • be willing to change direction when new information is acquired

In this particular case, I was playing the "extra eyeballs" for someone else's project, but it was such a terrific reminder of the immense value in having smart people around to look at the work you're doing, and maybe even help you walk away from that wall you just ran into.

I hope that Jonathon and I can work together again, and this process has inspired me to get off my butt and go meet some makers here in this amazing metropolis I'm now calling home. Maybe it will inspire you to do the same wherever you live.


The book scanner is called The Archivist Quill Book Scanner and you can find out more about the project and how to get one for yourself at Jonathon's site, Tenrec Builders.