If you are reading these lines, you may be familiar with the concept of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). A person’s insatiable urge to buy equipment for their art or hobby, distracting them from actually practicing said art or hobby.

It’s driven in part by the belief that new gear will improve one’s art or performance, e.g. I don’t sound like Jimi Hendrix because I don’t have the same effects pedal he used. Or the instant gratification of acquiring and discovering new shiny equipment, in contrast to the stressing and frustrating creation process.

Because of my background and education, the “guilt” of spending money on frivolous equipment will, most of the time, allow me to overcome my Gear Acquisition Syndrome. But I developed another mechanism: Gear Fabrication Syndrome (GFS).

Let me tell you the most recent example:

A few months ago, I was introduced to the wonderful world of sim racing. As teenagers my brothers and I used to play car racing video games, but I didn’t know how advanced the field is today. So I started to look into it, watched videos on YouTube, dug up the old force feedback wheel controller from our parent’s attic, bought a game, etc.

Sim racing tutorials will often explain how braking is the most important skill to drive fast. And to break with consistency and precision you need a so-called “load cell pedal”. Unlike the cheap pedal I am using, a load cell pedal measures the pressure you are putting on the pedal and not the distance your foot moves. That’s way closer to how real car brakes operate (pression in a hydraulic system).

For sure, the reason I am not going as fast as the other drivers online is because of my cheap brake pedal! Enter the Gear Acquisition Syndrome!

Entry level load cell pedals are not extremely expensive, I can afford it. But they are not cheap either, am I wasting money here? Trying to reconcile my urge to get new gear and my fear of wasting money, I looked for an escape. Quick online search for DIY sim racing pedals reveals a lot of different designs. For sure, I can make one! Enter the Gear Fabrication Syndrome.

Cost saving is not always the motivation, one can try to make better gear than what is available off the shelf, or just more adapted to personal taste. That’s why I could also tell you about all the guitars, amplifiers and effects I made instead of practicing the instrument. Or my 6 years and going pocket synthesizer project.

Is GFS better than GAS?

That’s hard to tell. The cost effectiveness is often hard to reach, in particular if you factor in the cost of tools. Not to mention a failed DIY project will lead you to end up buying the off the shelf gear, making things way worse in the end.

Software developers are familiar with this credo:

We do these things not because they are easy, but because we thought they were
going to be easy.

It’s also time consuming, and the time spent on making gear is of course not available for practicing art/hobby.

On the other hand GFS can become a deeply rewarding part of your journey, allowing you to shape and personalize your tools in a way that GAS never can. You can learn a lot from it, and in the end, designing and making can become your main art/hobby.

GFS Ambassadors

There are many individuals online that seem to exhibit signs of Gear Fabrication Syndrome. I picked two.

Let’s start with Adam Savage. Watching the Tested YouTube channel, it’s clear that Adam loves gear and tools. You can tell by this 8 minute video on hex keys for instance. He’s even obsessed as some video title will tell you. To me it’s pretty clear that Adam shows signs for GAS. But what about GFS? Well Tested YouTube channel is also full of videos where Adam makes custom equipment for his shop, or movie prop replicas, or any other kind of gear. Things that he could either buy or have someone make for him.

The second one is Sam Battle, known online as Look Mum No Computer. Sam is a musician, performer, videographer, inventor, and director of his own museum. I highly recommend having a look at his YouTube channel.

Among many other things, Sam designed and built a big custom synthesizer called Kosmo. Kosmo is tailored for live performance, rugged enough to sustain transportation in a tour van, with big knobs and jacks so that Sam can use it while singing and jumping around. Kosmo has become more than a tool, it’s a musician on stage with Sam. You would never get that with off the shelf synths.

How good are my DIY pedals in the end?

Here’s what my DIY pedals look like so far:

You are probably wondering if they allow me to drive faster in racing simulators. Well, two months after the beginning of the project, they are still not usable ^^ So this might be the topic for another post…