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Book Review: Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids by David Erik Nelson

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Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred is a fantastic book for parents who are interested in creating an atmosphere of camaraderie with their child while also creating cool toys and gizmos. The book promises to entertain and inspire you and your troops and it does not disappoint. The author, David Erik Nelson, was a high school teacher. He developed the projects in this book at an alternative school with input from his students.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred has 24 “dangerously cool DIY projects.” It begins with Part I: Kid Stuff, such as a PVC Teepee, Screen Printing, and a Ticklebox. Part II is Electro-Skiffle Band items (using improvised instruments), such as a Thunderdrum and an Electro-Didgeridoo. Part III, The Locomotivated, teaches kids and parents how to move inanimate objects with harnessed steam, compressed air and “esoteric Physics.”

The book is organized by project into Tools required, Supplies needed and directions on Building It. On applicable games, there are directions for how to play or methods of modifying the project for optimum use. Each project has easy to follow instructions. The directions are written in language is comprehensible if you’re an inexperienced Do-It-Yourself-er or if you are an 11-year-old. The difficulty range is from relatively simple to complex with the bulk of the items in the more complicated range. Parental involvement, guidance, and monitoring is a must as there are several tools used that could cut or burn a child who is not paying adequate attention or who is so excited about the project that they aren’t using common sense. For example, the Didgeridoo requires a propane torch with “pencil flame” and is the reason we opted not to create this particular project. My son is already a pyromaniac; there is no need to further stimulate this side of his brain.

When my son saw this book, he became so excited he started dog-earing pages of what he wanted to do. Our biggest struggle was narrowing our project list down to two. I became obsessed with wanting to create the $10 Electric Guitar and the Dirt-Cheap Amp and he predictably became obsessed with the Ticklebox, the Marshmallow Muzzleloader and the Quick-n-Easy Water Rocket.

The initial outlay in expenses was for the soldering iron ($20). Many of the projects required this tool. Each project has its own tools/supplies list. There are some parts that are required in which David Erik Nelson offers the RadioShack part number. This is helpful in identifying parts that a parent may not know (even if the child does). In my case, my son kept telling me he knew what a toggle switch was but I was relieved that the part number was available in this book, both for double-checking and for the author’s suggestion about buying a three-pack to save money. We made two trips to Home Depot, one trip to the Dollar Store and one trip to RadioShack for our two projects. Total financial investment = $54 including the soldering gun. Some of the tools can be reused to create many other projects. Altogether, not a bad price for some cool toys.

We created the Ticklebox, which is designed to electrify your friends. We chose not to use the devious suggestion to cut a hole in a teddy bear, insert the Tickle Box and invite your friends to hold the bear’s hands. Mr. Nelson calls this the “Mean-Ass Jingle Bear.” We also created the Marshmallow Muzzleloader complete with the option to “trick out” the marshmallow gun with shoulder stock. Both projects were very interesting learning activities and took several hours to complete. The electric Ticklebox came with a circuit diagram that taught us how electricity works. I remembered how much I’ve forgotten from Basic Science in middle school. We had a lot of fun. Mostly, my son showed me how to properly use a soldering gun. He could have completed both projects without my assistance but he liked doing something creative and fun with me. We definitely had a lot of fun and look forward to making more — especially the ones I wanted to make!

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred would be an excellent gift for parents of children age seven and up. It teaches, it entertains, and inspires.

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About Alexandria Jackson