Selected Reviews for Make Magazine's Toolbox Section:

Make Volume 20:
Shelter Systems Yurt-Dome Tents

I've been playing around with the idea of building a dome for years, and when I was looking for a quick and relatively inexpensive place to put my workshop for the winter, this kit from Shelter Systems seemed like just the ticket. Shelter Systems is still based in Santa Cruz, Calif., and using the same non-puncturing "grip-clip" technology they had back in the 80's to make mod-friendly yurt-dome hybrid structures (panels are shingled together and easily replaceable). These things are adaptable for snow and wood-stoves, and they're great for greenhouses (they also come with translucent panels). The tent was surprisingly easy and fun to set up (we actually had to fight off volunteers who wanted to help), and we got it standing in about 30 minutes. Let it rain!

Make Volume 18:
A Golden Thread: 2,500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology by Ken Butti and John Perlin Out of print Chesire Books, Van Nostrand Reinhold

I'll never forget the first image I saw when I picked up this book a few years ago-- a vista of Los Angeles circa 1900 looking shockingly akin to a rural Swiss village, a number of roofs scattered with mysterious boxes soon explained to be solar water heaters. In this magnificent book on the history of solar architecture and technology dating back as far as ancient Greece, the authors offer beautiful, often humbling technologies, city plans, and outlandish ideas that were somehow replaced, abandoned, or just plain forgotten. More than just a fun read on the focusing of resources, A Golden Thread boldly challenges misconceptions that solar power is still in its developmental stages, yet leaves you feeling like this is just the beginning of something great.

Make Volume 15:
Jacquard's Web: How a Hand Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age by James Essinger Oxford University Press

As the age-old link between craft and technology takes on new life, author James Essinger does a delightful job of unraveling innovations, through many twists and turns of fate to their various origins. A silkworm in a cup of tea spawns a textile empire in China, royal hairdressers recently unemployed by the French Revolution labor in one of the earliest examples of modern data entry, and, most significantly here, the age of computing is traced back to its beginning. Essinger leads us back, through the early days at IBM, the U.S. census of 1880, and Lady Ada Byron Lovelace, to an unlikely source: a punch-card-operated weaving loom. Full of intrigue, historical detail, and unusual perspective on the fates of technologies, Jacquard's Web provides surprising insight into what actually makes innovation stick.

Make Volume 14:
Shelter by Lloyd Kahn
Shelter Publications

This book is a structure addict's dream. From page 1, it's filled with stunning photographs, drawings, and charts from all over the world, showing how what we build to live in goes on to shape our lives. Shelter is an explosion of information: footnotes, articles, interviews, and other personal testimonies leak from the pages. How-tos are combined with even more outlandish but sustainable ideas from all over the world. Gypsy wagons, houseboats, tree dwellings, and location-specific habitations like the cliff debris villages of Timbuktu about, on the scale from outsider culture to barn raisings to the building blocks of entire civilizations.

Make Volume 11:
Handmade Electronic Music by Nicolas Collins

Here we have, at last, and electronics book that caters to people who have ideas first, and electronics second. A former technician to some of the last century's most imaginative experimental composers, Collins offers a spendidly integrative look into the history of " sound art," basic electronics, and junk re-visioning. The book teems with deliciously messy sound projects adapted for battery power (banishing electrocution worries, and allowing for proper experimental mischief), from how to turn your wall into a speaker, to how to extract sounds from remote controls. Collins will have you looking to your previously mundane surrounding electronic elements for uses only you can dream up.