Close to a year ago, we saw how Big Life Fix was inventing awesome and changing lives. The idea behind the show–finding life-altering solutions to really challenging problems–is just great and I hope you’ve had a chance to catch an episode.

But, if you’re like me, you wish you could see a bit more behind-the-scenes and everything that goes into creating the solution because, as you’ll see, even a seemingly simple solution is packed with loads of thought, desiging, testing, re-designing, more thought, and prototyping.

Fortunately, Jude Pullen, loves the process as much as we do. Recently, he entered his ‘Swiss Army Knife’-style prosthetic hairdressing tool made for Kyle Elson — the same one shown in Episode 1 — in the Instructables Build a Tool Contest. It’s an excellent ‘Build a Tool’ example (scored 2nd place!) and, even better, he broke down ALL the steps, all 30 STEPS, in the journey from concept to completion.

Even though he shares 30 steps in the making of the prosthetic hairdressing tool, there’s so much more that went into it. The image above shows just a few iterations from the initial breakthrough to final version. One interesting realization he had during the design was “that this tool needed not only to function, but to feel befitting of Kyle’s trade – both his environment and to be convincing to clientele. So it was not enough to just make a contraption which might function but would look unconvincing in a Salon.”

If you’ve had a haircut, you know the affair can be a bit demanding, both by the customer of the hair stylist and by the hair stylist of their equipment. Kyle was limited in what he could do with standard tools, so Jude set out to learn more about hair styling and all the prosthetic options that had come before. This insight and “months of exploration that lead to a ‘Eureka’ moment” brought Jude to the prototype stage, creating a tool that gave Kyle more freedom with more tool adjustment to move the hair about.

Jude moved to refining the design, creating casts of Kyle’s hand, scanning the casts, modeling and 3D printing over 20 different iterations of the design.

Those iterations led to a final multi-tool, Swiss Army Knife’-style prototype of the adjustable comb and the creation of other hairdressing tools that could be interchanged each other. The parts continue through review and refinement of the 3D models (created in SolidWorks and available to download in Step 16), more 3D printing, and assembly of the adjustable comb stop, socket, and slide.

For Kyle and myself, these accessories needed to be ‘centre stage’ and look the part on the desk of a Salon, in front of the mirror. So the stand was a nice touch, to organise them for Kyle’s easy access – but it also became a talking point for clients. Much of this project was about the little touches.

The final tool gave Kyle a lot more freedom to take on the job of cutting hair — an action easy to take for granted in its regularity, but takes a special sort of dedication and talent, not to mention a steady hand.

Those are the highlights. I won’t share all 30 steps–check those out here–but I do want to share some really cool thoughts Jude shared with me about the experience of making this tool, working through the challenges, and getting a better understanding of Kyle and his work environment.

What I loved about working with Kyle, as that we went through this huge journey together – not only in terms of the design brief, but not only me getting to understand Kyle’s life, but also to challenge assumptions about it, together. Kyle was a true inspiration to me to push beyond what I thought possible, in that in many ways the really impressive thing was Kyle’s lifelong ambition, which remained undeterred, despite obvious skepticism that he will have faced. Yet through this project, I think we both were surprised by how simple the solution was in the end. It made me have even more admiration for tools such as scissors, or another personal favourite – the Biro! 

I find it quite thought-provoking how items like the Biro or the Bicycle can not only just save us time and sweat – but allow us to express or communicate something new about ourselves, to mentally or physically ‘transport us’ to places we never imagined. Just like the letter that is easier to write long, than make concise – design is hard to make simple and intuitive.

one hopes that the skill in one’s work is to endeavour to make it simple so that many people can embrace it, and find new purpose in it.

Although a lot of the work I show people is in the physical space, in many ways, much of my work as a tech scout/futurist, is about exploring the unfamiliar. It always starts off complex – and one hopes that the skill in one’s work is to endeavour to make it simple so that many people can embrace it, and find new purpose in it.

You can see the other steps in the Swiss Army Knife-style Prosthetic tool on Instructables. Be sure to check out Jude’s other projects and follow him on Twitter for the latest on what he’s making.

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.