FUN FRIDAY: How It’s Made

Some people have ASMR. Some have Bob Ross. Personally, when I want to zone out, I look for How It’s Made. This program, produced in Canada for well over a decade, had a remarkably simple and repetitive premise. Watch factories make something, set to jazzy music and gentle narration. The show runs perennially on Discovery-owned networks and as far as I can see, every episode’s on Discovery+.

If you want a more active experience…

I like the “set it and forget it” quality of this show, but even I will admit that sometimes you just want to see how one particular thing is made. For that, you need a bit more control. Luckily, you can get it easily.

The Science Channel is in the process of publishing pretty much every segment on YouTube. As I write this, there are about 300 individual videos. I have a feeling there will be even more by the time you watch it.

You can view the entire playlist here, starting with the first one, “Apple Pies.” Or, go to YouTube for a scrollable list.

Where my mind goes

If there’s one thing to be learned from this collection of remarkably soothing videos, it’s that the invention itself is often not the really amazing thing. Sure, anyone can invent a jackknife or a gummy vitamin. The real trick is producing it at scale profitably. Often times, this means some real ingenuity. Sometimes, complex machines simulate handmaking. Sometimes it’s just a total leap of logic that creates magic that humans can’t do. This is really true when it comes to food.

Food manufacturing fascinates me. Of course it’s a highly regulated, strict process. But even more so, food manufacturing has a huge impact on who we are. When factories went silent in 2020, we suddenly realized how much we rely on them. You may be able to make an omelet, but have you ever tried to make a corn flake? The amazing variety of food out there is due to the machines that make our food. With billions of people on this planet, we’d all starve without automated food production.

Shout out to the hand-makers

Occasionally, How It’s Made focuses more on the people than on the machine. There aren’t a lot of true artisans out there anymore, but it’s incredible watching them work. And you know, when you think of artisans, you probably think of folks who sell on Etsy. What about the people who select leather hides for everything from wallets to steering wheels? What about the people who make sneakers? I had no idea how hard that was, or how many steps there are. I guess that’s what a good pair of kicks costs so much.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.