I last wrote about DIY TV shows a few months ago and ended that post with a bit about Jimmy DiResta, a craftsman in New York that puts out a YouTube video every week for MAKE magazine. Those videos sent me spinning down a YouTube rabbit hole of vast proportions. Each show I found led somehow to another, until I racked up a dozen subscriptions to various channels.
Most take the form of a tutorial, shot from a tripod by sole proprietors, following a single project from start to finish. However, cheap equipment and new techniques have led to some interesting evolutions of the form. It has also given rise to a new sort of freelance content creator able to make a living off of multiple trickles of income: YouTube ad revenue; tool sponsorships; Amazon Associate tie-ins; site subscriptions; merchandise sales and kit sales on Etsy or Cargo Collective; or straight-up donations through platforms like Patreon.
Here's a quick selection of some YouTube channels I've been watching lately. I've been picking up project ideas, finding interesting new makers to follow, and learning how to evolve my own DIY tutorial game.
David Picciuto lives in Toledo, Ohio, and works under the brand Drunken Woodworker. Each week, he puts out a nice recap video, "Weekly Woodworking Wrap-Up Review." A little goofy, and propped with a rotated cast of micro-brews, Picciuto runs through the latest and greatest YouTube woodworking videos from the previous week. He does a great job of rounding up high-quality builds, and became a gateway for me to the YouTube rabbit hole. In addition to the video podcast, he produces kits, projects, and tutorials out of a basement workshop. Picciuto recently pushed off from the shores of his day job and turned to content-ing full-time, following in the footsteps of one of the godfathers of the genre, the Wood Whisperer.
Marc Spagnuolo started the Wood Whisperer way back in 2006, the year YouTube was bought up by Google. It began as a straightforward woodworking business out of his garage, but gradually morphed into a content site when he realized it was more profitable to make videos and teach workshops than it was to do custom work for individual clients. His site is a now a sprawling enterprise, with forums, user-posted shop tours, personal appearances, a book deal, and well over a hundred thousand YouTube subscribers.
Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired magazine, posited in a now-famous online essay that one only needs 1,000 superfans to make a living. Spagnuolo and Picciuto are carving out space in that territory, each creating a persona that has consistent draw, making compelling projects, and posting consistently. However, there is still a lot of room around the margins for a broad spectrum of folks (like me) that have some following and a wildly fluctuating revenue stream
Bob Clagett is a software engineer that puts out videos under the banner I Like to Make Stuff. He has a nice sub-series, called Maker 101, that explains tools, techniques, and shop basics for beginners. I like his videos because they branch a little further out from traditional woodworking, getting into skateboards, silkscreen presses, and pieces that integrate electronics. He is also doing interesting stuff with his GoPro, like strapping it to the end of a board going through the table saw.
Core77, a large and long-running design blog, has a robust YouTube channel that covers a broad spectrum of topics. Some content is journalism-based, like coverage of design shows and interviews with creators. Some content is in partnership with bigger brands, like Ford. And some is pumping their own design awards, the C77s. The videos vary widely in quality, but many of the in-depth ones are really well put together.
Make Magazine works in a similar vein, churning out dozens of short videos compiled from Google Hangouts or handicam interviews at Maker Faires. They work a better as an aggregator, sponsoring independent producers like Jimmy DiResta and creating playlists that collect information on a single topic. However, for a professional media company, the quality is often shockingly low, with tinny sound and rough lighting.
On the artier end of the spectrum, Tom Sachs' channel is always a beautiful (though infrequently updated) trip. I first stumbled across him when writing about the phenomenon of knolling (arranging things orthagonally) a few years ago. A sculptor, painter, performance artist and general mischief-maker, Sachs puts out elaborately staged videos full of mock-scientific imagery and costumes. Many of them, in service of the greater artistic message, detail a build or a process in a thoughtful way.
And, finally, on the lunatic fringe (I mean that as a compliment) garage wizard Izzy Swan is out there making the most fantastical jigs and shop machines I have ever seen. Most of this stuff makes my palms sweat a little bit, as it goes against just about every basic safety instruction (and instinct) I have ever had. This is definitely varsity-level stuff, clever and well-executed. He has a sub-series, the $50 Wood Shop, that details how to build your own table saw from yard-sale parts, amongst other tricks. I think his kind of scrapped-together, almost post-apocalyptic DIY vibe deserves a real standalone TV show one day.
More fascinating stuff is coming out of garages and basements every day. In a future round-up, I hope to get a broader (and deeper) view of what's available. Until then, watch away and enjoy!