Kevin Binkert Projects

FROM MAKE MAGAZINE VOL. 9 - When Kevin Binkert moved into the old Standard Metal Products (SMP) building in San Francisco’s South-of-Market neighborhood 15 years ago, all that remained of the 1920s metal foundry was a metal plaque. In homage, Binkert revived the name and built out an atelier that melds the most modern Computer Numeric Control machines with traditional hand tools.

As a maker for hire, Binkert has prototyped a handheld blaster for brain tumors, engineered hydrant valves for San Francisco’s fire department, produced custom parts for the city's Italian streetcars, and restored two historic clock towers.

In between commercial jobs, he worked on the Spirit of America, a 45,000 horsepower jet vehicle that tore through the desert at an unofficial record speed of 675 mph; built The Spinner, a Ford V8 driven machine that whips braided cables to deafening supersonic speeds; and unleashed the Flame Tornado, a gas powered sculpture that spews a 40 foot tall vortex of fire.

These days, he's taking his talent to the small screen for Prototype This!, a forthcoming Discovery Channel TV show produced by MythBusters creators Beyond Productions. Binkert and MAKE contributor Joe Grand are among the five hosts.

Binkert's DIY career began in post college jobs at movie special effect houses. His defining maker moment came when he joined machine performance provocateurs Survival Research Laboratories (see MAKE, Volume 07) in 1989.

"I think that around retirement a lot of machinists start realizing they can make art with their tools, Binkert says. I got into this the opposite way." - David Pescovitz, Make Magazine