Ray Gun Mensch

Those of you who have been reading along for awhile, know that I'm very much a champion of sharing resources and techniques. Lately, I've been looking for examples of people and sites that best represent the spirit of sharing in the arts and crafts community and I'm happy to report that I have found many. Take Sean Michael Ragan, for instance. Dude is a serious maker, seemingly works his butt off as a contributor to MAKE magazine, and still finds the time to research tons of ray gun patents, vectorizes them, cleans them up, and then gives them to us for free. Beyond cool. This from his site:
"Middle of last year I got around to implementing a scheme I'd had brewing since 2005 or so, to go through the USPTO's online database and trace the history of toy ray gun design as represented therein. The text and images of patent documents are in the public domain from the moment they are published by the patent office, so there are no royalties to be paid or rights to be infringed. My patent research was quite exhaustive; I ran a very large number of keyword searches ("ray gun," "toy gun," "toy firearm," etc.) and then looked at every patent referenced in each hit, and at every referenced patent in each of those hits, and so on. Then I cut the sexy images out of the hi-res document TIFs provided by the USPTO and batch-processed them through Illustrator's tracing algorithm. Then I went back and tweaked the poorly-rendered ones manually to improve the tracings. Then I selected the best 101 images, arranged them in more-or-less chronological order with deference to aesthetic page layouts, numbered them, and labelled each one with its US patent number, the name of its inventor, and the year its patent issued. I cooked up front and back covers and a foreword, explaining why I think the material is significant, and wrapped the whole thing up in a .PDF. I printed a half-dozen copies at Kinko's and shipped them off to various well-known publishers of clip-art books. And got no love. Perhaps unsurprisingly. It's not as if clip-art books are the wave of the future. And maybe I'm the only one who thinks this is cool. "

No, Sean, we think it's very cool, indeed. Visit Sean's site to download the free PDF and check out all of his work.

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