When I was growing up I would always watch with interest as my Grandad tinkered with cars. I had no desire to learn what he was doing, but I did enjoy going through the big vibrant books he had for each car he owned. I loved the look and feel of them in much the same way that I love the Penguin Classics, almost artistic in their everyday appearance.
In recent years the company that produces these manuals, Haynes, has started to branch out. Of course you can now get all the ephemera that goes with any product these days; T-shirts, mugs, postcards and the like. But they have also started producing fictional guides, Thomas the Tank Engine and the USS Enterprise amongst others. They sent me a copy of Wallace and Gromit – Cracking Contraptions Manual to see if I fancied making a Knit-O-Matic or Porridge Cannon for myself.
I will warn you that how much you enjoy this book is directly related to how much you enjoy Wallace and Gromit, though certainly there is an appeal for the animation buff or blueprint enthusiast. The fun however lies in the details of old friends. Some of the contraptions are from the well-loved movies, others are from the televised shorts series Cracking Contraptions. All of the contraptions within are drawn using cutaway diagrams and described with ‘historical’ and mechanical detail, using numbered points – my favorite kind. The Autochef is particularly fascinating; a big bulbous contraption containing so much invention in the vast space within. With this more than with any of the other machines, you can really see the designers imagination in the cutaway. Of course the Techno-Trousers from The Wrong Trousers were the big draw for me but I was pleasantly surprised by the Rocket. I was never a big fan of A Grand Day Out but I really enjoyed the glimpse inside the rocket – what would you choose to take with you in a small rocket to the moon? I agree with Wallace that shelving for books, and a kettle are must-haves. The most appealing thing about the diagrams and plans within, is that most of the components used are household items, as if you could really construct this yourself. no doubt my son will try someday, much to the pain of my kitchen utensils.
My husband couldn’t keep his sticky mitts off the book. He loved the look and feel of it; the coffee stains,the edits by Wallace in red ink and the almost scrapbook like quality of the stapled notes, almost like a well worn friendly companion. It didn’t smell like my Grandad’s old car manuals but it came a close second. While this would be an excellent Father’s day gift to peruse with an inquisitive child, or just browse over a cup of coffee, it is not this book but one of the earlier offerings by Haynes that I will be investing in Father’s day yet to come. When Toby gets to the tinkering age,
I want his dad will want the owners’ manual for Thomas the Tank Engine!
The contraption I have long desired and most need? The Christmas Card-O-Matic of course, and now I have the blueprints – insert maniacal laughter here.