Building things became my career, but really it's just fooling around that got out of hand. When I was young I lacked the discipline to buckle down and work, instead I just did what was fun, which was building things. Later, when I looked for my first jobs, I naturally looked for what was enjoyable, and for which of my skills people would pay the most. Now I consider myself very lucky that I got to do what I love, and get paid for it.
If I had to point to one book that influenced my life and career more than any other, it would be Edwin Tunis' book Colonial Craftsmen. I received this book as a gift when I was 15. I already had a strong penchant for tools and building things, but the people in the book made what they needed from practically nothing - dirt, plants, rocks, trees, animal parts, and whatever else was available. I could suddenly see that anything was possible. I could build anything.
I started out just building things. Eventually I grew into design and engineering, which expanded what I could build. But in the end, I realized that I love working with my hands, and to be able to do both puts balance in life.
After dropping out of California College of the Arts, Stone Boat Yard became my undergraduate education, my alma mater. W. F Stone & Sons had built wooden ships and boats there on San Francisco bay continuously since 1853, until the yard finally closed in 2004.
I enjoy having some of the things I've built or designed or created, but ultimately the greatest pleasure I draw from each project is the experience. It's the process, more than the result, that I work for.
Starting in 2003, I began self employment as a one-stop-shop design and build business, primarily for scientists and technology developers. I’d become an accomplished machinist before I turned to design and engineering, but had been away from the actual building for a number of years when I realized how much I missed the hands-on part. I acquired a complete prototyping machine shop in 2003, which launched Burrowes Instruments. For a dozen years I spent about half my time doing the mechanical design work on complex opto-mechanical systems, and the rest of it building what I designed.
In 2015 I accepted a complete buyout offer from my largest customer, selling them my machine shop, and taking a full time position with them as a Staff Engineer. I did mainly mechanical design, while younger engineers descended on my shop equipment with alacrity. I retired from professional employment in October 2017, and now spend my time building things in my woodwork shop. I still have the name Burrowes Instruments, but I changed the logo to reflect building musical instruments, rather than scientific instruments.