Transcript: Adam Savage's Q&A at the 2017 Bay Area Maker Faire

By Kristen Lomasney

After his Sunday sermon, Adam took audience more than 30 questions on everything from his worst injury to what's next in his career. Here are our 10 favorites.

If you missed Adam's Bay Area Maker Faire talk, you can watch or read a transcript of it.

Question 1: What's Next

What is next in my career? Your guess is as good as mine. I am still working hard with the amazing team at to do more one day builds. We are traveling to some far away lands soon to do some amazing builds there too. So Tested is still a primary center.

I have pitched some other television ideas and am waiting to hear if some of them will take. I'm really excited about telling stories on television again, but I also love this new format where you don't necessarily need TV. Someone recently suggested on Twitter that I should host a Saturday morning maker show. We're actually starting to dive into the possibilities of something like that.

Ultimately I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up and that's a big part of the plan. My boys are 18 so we're in a big massive shift. Our whole world is about to change.

Question 2: Favorite Build

What was my favorite build? It was whatever build I had just completed. Many of you know we went to Weta Workshop last summer and Peter Lyon, the amazing sword master at Weta, taught me how to make my own strider sword, and that was an amazing day. He also taught me the right kind of aluminum to use to make a movie-type weapon and a whole bunch of techniques. And last week I used the skills that he taught me to do my favorite one day build yet.

Obviously I build stuff for a living. I build it all day long. I show my crew what I'm working on and we talk about it, but I finished this one build the other day and I walked in and there was this absolute level of: Wow, this is really good. Not just good. It's actually really good. I'm like, "I know. I'm just as impressed as you are."

Question 3: Greatest Lesson From Failure

My greatest failure that I've learned the most from? Well, I've been divorced. That sucked.

You know, I don't know if there's learning the most. The fact is that from every failure you're going to learn about yourself. That's the thing. You've got to confront that. Only each of us in our hearts know how truly venal and jealous and lazy we each are in our own little lives. I get asked how I got where I am, and people want a linear story of success. None of the stories are actually linear, but they're all based upon knowing myself through failure, through being able to confront and forgive myself and ask for forgiveness for the things that I've done to my friends and my loved ones when I wasn't paying attention. I think really all my failures are going to be categorizable as failures of a lack of attention on the right thing. That only just occurred to me up here right this second so I'm going to have to unpack this. But I think that is really the thing. There's paying careful attention to what's going on and what your complicity in it is.

I know I'm talking really abstract. You want a really good screw up story? On MythBusters we did a 22,000 foot fall and we had to raise Buster 400 feet above the ground because that was the height at which he'd reach terminal velocity when he hit our train station. I had worked out everything except for the transfer of Buster's weight onto the balloon and there was this 1 foot jump that was going to occur when I pulled this quick release. I thought, Oh, it's going to be fine, and that 1 foot yank on the rope ended up giving five separate people rope burns and causing a failure of our six weather balloons which were six of the last 12 weather balloons in the United States of the size that we could order in time for the story.

By the way, we were up in Gold Country and it was 118 degrees in the shade so we were showing up every morning at 3 a.m. and working by car headlights to get ready to film by 9 a.m. because the fire risk was so high the fire department was requiring us to leave by 10 a.m. And I screwed this one up, meaning instead of finishing on a Friday we all had to wrap up and go home and come back the next day.

That sucked.

Question 4: Favorite Tool

My favorite tool? It's hard to beat a multitool of any kind. I don't care what kind it is. It can be $10. You've got a Leatherman? It can be $10. It can be a Swiss army knife.

I've gone through many many dozens over the years, but the multitool on my belt is so important that whenever I fly, I find leaving it behind crippling. It's literally part of my almost hourly practice to reach down and find that, and multiple times per day as I'm checking my pockets the Leatherman is not there when I fly. I feel like I'm missing a shoe.

That also being said it's really hard to beat a hammer.

Question 5: Worst Injury From Making

The worst injury I've had from making something. Well, you have to take your pick of the stitches that I've gotten. I have about 75 spread between my two hands. They're almost always multiples of seven. This is not by design. My very first set of stitches I was 16 and I was making a lot of models and I was already obsessed with tool kits so I had this leather bag and I was storing all my model tools in the leather bag and I was literally carrying it like across my room. There was nowhere for me to go but I still wanted all my tools in a single bag, a thing I'm still seeking. A little X-Acto blade had fallen out of its case and worked its way into the corner of my bag sticking out where it was totally invisible but still dangerous. As I picked up my bag it brushed against my calf and I didn't even notice it. It just felt like it brushed against my calf, but then about 10 or 15 minutes later I was like, Why is my shoe full of water? And then I look. This is when I discovered that I don't pass out at the sight of blood -- luckily, because I had 7 stitches right here on the back of my calf.

Then I accidentally put my hand through a plate glass window about a year later and I got seven more stitches and I was like wow, 7 and 7. Then a grinder bit me between my fingers here and that was seven stitches. Then a bandsaw grabbed me on my index finger here. You know they were invented for cutting meat, and gave me 14 stitches. The doctor tried to say 12 stitches and I was like, I'm sorry? I said you're going to have to add two stitches because I can't break the cycle of multiples of seven now. And he did. He added these two tiny little stitches.

Then I also received the injury that waylaid more MythBusters staff than any other, which was a broken finger from moving safety equipment. Those bulletproof shields weigh about 150 pounds apiece, and as you move them, if your finger gets between them and anything, your finger loses. I broke my third metacarpal. Up until then I'd only broken a single bone

Up until then, people would talk about broken bones and I'd always wait for them ask me, Have you ever broken a bone? I'd say, I've only broken one bone. I broke my neck, which is true.

When I was 18 I was being an idiot and I was doing a Huck Finn off of a lighthouse jetty in the Hudson River, and this is my mom's worst nightmare. I dove headfirst into a rock that was right under the water that I did not see, and because I was diving straight I had a compression fracture rather than a snap and that's the reason I'm standing here today. Funny story, my grandfather was a surgeon at Columbian Presbyterian in New York and even though my injury happened upstate, we wanted to go where we had some juice, so after we determined that we'd broken my neck we put me in an ambulance and took me to Columbia Presbyterian, where I was born by the way. This injury happened on my 18th birthday so I arrived on the ambulance and my mom is in the car ride behind.

They wheel me in and my mom stops at the counter and they say, Has your son ever been in this hospital before? My mom says "No. Wait a minute. Yes. He was here; he was born here 18 years ago today," and then she passed out.

That's what happens when you're a parent. You have no idea what's going to grab you.

Question 6: Favorite Star Wars Character

What is my favorite character from Star Wars? It's Chewbacca. Yes. He's pure of heart and he's an excellent engineer and he'll also tear your head right off. He's loyal and he's smart. He's like the best dog but even better than that because you can talk to him.

I wore Chewie down here at Silicon Valley Comic Con and I'm wearing Chewie again at San Diego Comic Con because I can't not put on the Chewbacca costume now. If there are other Chewbaccas out there and you want to meet me at San Diego Comic Con, we can have a Wookiee meetup.

Question 7

What am I watching? What am I following? I don't watch nearly enough television these days. I'm really excited about the new season of Master of None because I love Aziz. I continue to follow the wonderful Matthias Wendell, a wonderful maker extraordinaire, build everything out of plywood. I'm waiting for him to build a car. I'm sure that will happen.

I had Laura Kampf visit the shop the other day. She's here at Maker Faire. She's amazing and I didn't know when I tweeted a build that she did, a beautiful build, that she was good friends with Simone Giertz, and so we brought her in to do a one day build with me. I'm totally inspired. Next time she comes we're going to try to figure out something to learn together.

Look, I watch hours and hours of build videos online, sometimes without sound because I don't need the sound. I just like watching workshops go. I love even the terrible videos of people who don't edit out their hand-screwing of screws for 15 minutes. I don't mind. I just sit there. My wife can't believe how much of that I can take in a sitting but for me it's like I'm not in my shop but I'm almost in my shop.

Question 8: Longest Build

The longest build. Well, there's still some uncompleted ones. You know the Alien spacesuit took me about 11 years. Again, this isn't 11 solid years. This is like 40 hours every few months of diving in. I've been collaborating with a friend of mine in Australia on the Colonel Kurtz's folder from Apocalypse Now. We went on a deep dive. Kids, don't watch Apocalypse Now. It's not for children.

Apocalypse Now's central storytelling arc is that Willard is going through this folder about Colonel Kurtz and it's this whole life story. We unpacked the film and my friend actually found many of the original photographs that were used to be modified for Apocalypse Now and then we made up all these fake documents. Francis Coppola actually gave me access to what's left of the real folder, which is like 15 pages and that's it, but that was invaluable. That was five or six years of work together to finish that one.

I had to build a whole wall of shelves in my shop just to see uncompleted projects. People are like, How do you get stuff done? I'm like, I get about a third of what I'm doing done. Everything else is sitting there waiting, taunting me.

Question 9: First Thing Ever Built

The first thing I ever built? I'm not sure of the very first thing I ever built. I have this teddy bear and I wrote an article a few years ago in Wired about it. I had a teddy bear when I was a kid named Jingle and he was about a foot tall.

So, I used to sneak out of my naps. Shocking, I know. I used to sneak out of my naps and do weird stuff so at one point I went into the food closet and I ate all the sprinkles for ice cream. Then another time I mixed the coffee and the brown sugar. I just thought they were cool textures together. I was in this dark closet and my child's brain was like, Well no one is ever going to look in here. Then my mom found it an hour later and she was like, What did you do? I'm like, How did you know?

This particular time, I think the back of the picture is dated 1972, so I was about 5 years old, I snuck out to my dad's studio behind our house and I traced Jingle on a piece of paper in magic marker and then I snuck a single edged razor blade and I carefully cut Jingle out of the paper with the razor blade. I still remember the elicit joy at carefully doing this and not cutting myself. Then I gave Jingle the things I wanted most in the world, which was a belt with a shiny brass buckle, a vest, and a Superman shirt. My needs were simple back then.

Question 10: Heroes

Who do I look up to? I look up to these kids in the audience. There you are. Hi. I love that you are here. I love that you are asking questions. I love that we're in the Bay area, that this is the mothership of Maker Faires, that we're really working toward inclusivity and we're working towards democratized access, that we're looking towards letting our freak flags fly.

I love all the green, purple, orange, yellow hair I see. I love anybody trying to build communities that bring other people in rather than keep other people out.

See, I just said something that's seemingly political and yet that's a completely non partisan thing to say, and yet it's not. How screwed up is that?