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    created at: 08/27/2013

    Hey ManMakers! We're spending this week in the workshop creating some new projects, and so, in addition to new content and cool inspiration, we'll be sharing some classics from ManMade's all-time greatest hits. 


    There are two basic principles to the ManMade approach to style and dress: fit is everything, and buy high-quality, universal items that will last. In order to help you hold on to those investment items, and make sure they suit you as best they can, ManMade is happy to present our latest series: The DIY Tailor. This summer and fall, professional tailor and alteration specialist Danni Trester will teach us some basic sewing principles and easy DIY repairs that every guy should know. 

    It happens. To to all of us.  Suddenly your favorite pair of jeans, that you've worn in just perfectly, gets a blow out and you're absolutely gutted. But Have no fear!  You can give new life to old friends with this pictorial guide on how to repair holes! 

    This technique can be applied to any garment, fabric, or hole size.  It's no magic bullet - the stitching will be visible and it won't look like new.  But if you match your thread and fabric correctly, you can camouflage and reinforce the damaged area to give the garment longevity.  

    1) Gather your supplies.  For this task you'll need:

    If you're not sure what fusible is, it's a lightweight non-woven webbing that when ironed between fabric, holds two pieces together.  This will be used to hold your scrap fabric to the back of your hole so you can stitch it. 

    created at: 08/22/2013


    2) To make things a little easier, and to be sure you don’t cut into any other part of the garment, put the item of clothing around an ironing board.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    3) Cut off the frayed edges of the fabric so you have a clean edge.  This will make it easier for the scrap fabric you’re stitching on to blend in to the rest of the garment. 

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013

    All cleaned up:

    created at: 08/22/2013


    4) Turn the garment inside out and lay back onto the board.  Cut your scrap fabric large enough to cover the damaged area and a little extra to extend into an unworn part.  You may find you’ve got a pretty large piece if the fabric around the hole is also worn.  You should reinforce any weakened areas too because if you don’t, they’ll be the next to get a hole. 

    created at: 08/22/2013


    5) Tear off little bits of your fusible to make a ring around the hole.  Be careful not to get any over the edge, or you’ll see it on the outside.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    6) Center your scrap over the hole, careful not to get too much on one side or the other.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    7) Once your fabric is centered, iron the backside of the scrap.  Use the steam setting, and hold it for a few seconds to make sure the fusible adheres.

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013


    8) Once you’re fused, it should look something like this:

    created at: 08/22/2013


    Now let’s sew!

    9) Set up your machine with a matching thread.  A lot of times with jeans, or worn fabric, you may need a lighter color for the more worn areas, and a darker color for the less worn.  If you have a limited selection of thread, or you’re not very particular, the same color for all is fine.  But if you’re really trying to make it blend in, you can change the color part of the way through. For this demo, I am starting with a lighter color and switching to a darker.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    10) Change your stitch length to a shorter length.  Not too short that you’re sewing in one spot, but not so large that it can easily be worn loose.  Turn your garment inside out.  Starting on the outside of the hole, sew forward until you’re on the inside of the hole, on the scrap fabric.  Hold your reverse button and stitch back to the point where you started.  Repeat this action, going back and forth.  As you’re sewing slightly pull the fabric to the side so that as you are sewing forward and backward, it’ll start to form a zig zag (NOTE: I don’t mean to use the zig zag stitch on your machine.  You’ll be using the regular straight stitch, but the back and forth motion will create a zig zag shape).  Go around the entirety of the hole, pivoting at the corners.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    11) Once you’ve gone all the way around, stitch around the perimeter of the hole to tack down any loose fibers.  You can do little back and forth sewing here too, just don’t pull the fabric to make the zig zag.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    12) Now that I’ve stitched the lighter color, I’m switching to the dark to stitch the less worn areas.

    created at: 08/22/2013

    Pivoting at the corner:

    created at: 08/22/2013


    13) Once you’ve stitched everything, turn your garment over and snip the extra threads off the front and back.  Note the stitching pattern: zig zag around the perimeter, tighter stitching around the edge of the hole.

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013


    14) If the scrap fabric didn’t get totally stitched down, trim off the excess fabric so that it doesn’t curl up as the garment is washed and worn.  A good way to keep the fabric from unraveling is cutting the scrap with a pinking shears.  If you don’t have one of these, a scissors will work fine, you just will have more fraying of the scrap fabric on the inside.

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013


    A pinking shears:

    created at: 08/22/2013


    23) While your garment is inside out, press the fabric to smooth out the stitching. 

    created at: 08/22/2013


    24) Turn the garment right side out and press the outside of the area. 

    created at: 08/22/2013


    Clip any extra threads that may have come loose as you were working.

    created at: 08/22/2013


    Close up of the stitching:

    created at: 08/22/2013

    created at: 08/22/2013


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    You did it!

    created at: 08/22/2013


    Danni Trester is a textile designer that's been daylighting as a tailor for the last seven years.  In addition to alterations, she designs and produces accessories which she sells at indie craft shows across the Midwest. 
    Etsy shop: 


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    I'm consistently blown away by the ingenuity of mind behind PrimitiveTechnology. We’ve featured his work before, and if you haven’t seen him, he’s created a series of wordless YouTube videos in which he showcases brilliant yet simple survival skills that could make all the difference to one’s survival in the wilderness. And while I love learning survival skills as much as the next guy, there’s something more to his videos that strike me...   


    I think it’s how meditative they are. His edits keep a good pace without lingering on shots after he’s given you the requisite knowledge to do whatever step he’s showing you, with the result that each video is exactly as long as it needs to be with no added frills or fat.

    This video below is what got me thinking about his work, in which he demonstrates how to build a grass hut. It took him seven days to do it, but it could easily be done in less time. It took him one day to clear the area of brush, a second day to build the frame and then five days to find enough grass. He claims those five days would have been much shorter had he not built it in a relatively grass-less area which forced him to trek deeper into the mountains to collect grass. Do it in a field and you avoid this problem.

    Check out the video and let us know what are some of your favorite meditative videos like this.

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    created at: 01/07/2014

    A few Christmases ago, when I first got my band saw, I made my [now] wife this wooden cheeseburger for her office desk. The whole thing was made from old wooden flooring and other scraps, and each of the colors comes from the natural wood tones of a variety of species.   I recently stumbled across the photos I'd taken but forgotten to share when re-organizing my computer, so, um, here it is, six years later. At the bottom of the post, I've formatted the images so you can download them and use them as a computer desktop wallpaper, as well as for your iPhone and iPad. 

    created at: 01/07/2014

    This still remains one of my favorite projects, and I love the interplay of the different species. The buns were made from some glued up blocks of sugar maple, the patty is walnut, and the lettuce is a naturally green wood called lignum vitae. The cheese is some very thin balsa which got a coat of golden oak Danish oil, and the tomato layer is a scrap of a padauk, a naturally red wood.  

    created at: 01/07/2014

    This project began as a bunch of hardwood flooring scraps that my uncle Steve, a professional installer, saved from the firewood pile and gave to me to play with. 


    created at: 01/07/2014

    I used a variety of paint and stain cans to create the circular shapes of the burger patty and the bun. The tomato layer is a Venn diagram of circles traced using a spray paint can lid. 


    created at: 01/07/2014

    This is the top bun blank, glued up to add some height. Once it was dry, I cut out a cylinder, then used a router bit to create the profile.


    created at: 01/07/2014

    To keep everything to scale, I used a thin piece of balsa wood for the cheese. This is the only piece that got a boost of color, from a tinted coat of Danish oil in "Golden Oak"


    created at: 01/07/2014

    The burger patty and bun got a roundover profile to for a more organic shape. After that, just a little bit of sanding to 220 and some mineral oil to bring out the grain.

    I've used my bandsaw so many time since this project, it's strange to remember what a big project this was for three years ago me: coming up with the idea, learning about the different wood species, keeping everything to scale, solving the problems of how to fit everything together. It's still a big hit at my wife's office, and folks always notice and comment on it, and she says it's still one of her favorite gifts. 


    created at: 01/07/2014

    Since a new year deserves a new desktop wallpaper, I thought I'd offer it as a free download, formatted for several common monitor and device sizes. 





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    Everyone likes a nice motivational quote with a fine adventurous backdrop and some nice typography that reminds us to get outside.   

    And now, you can make your own without having to become an excellent photographer and hand-letterer. 

    The Spoongraphics blog shows you how to trace an outline for your shape, then apply a cool Envelope Distort effect in Photoshop that allows you to fill the silhouette with custom letter shapes and sizes for a true hand-drawn look. Finish up the whole thing with some retro-inspired Photoshop Action filters, and be prepared to have your images Repinned a billion times. This could easily be scaled to one of those large-format digital blueprints and hung up anywhere in your space. Nice. 

    Get the full how-to: How To Create Typography Illustrations the Easy Way[] 


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    created at: 10/03/2013

    There are two basic principles to the ManMade approach to style and dress: fit is everything, and buy high-quality, universal items that will last. In order to help you hold on to those investment items, and make sure they suit you as best they can, ManMade is happy to present our latest series: The DIY Tailor. This summer and fall, professional tailor and alteration specialist Danni Trester will teach us some basic sewing principles and easy DIY repairs that every guy should know. 

    Zippers are awesome inventions that make getting in and out of clothing easy and fast.  However, when they break they often render the garment useless.  But have no fear!  Not all is lost when sliders or teeth go missing.  A lot of the times you can repair the zipper with a few simple replacement parts.  Here are some of the most common instances where you can repair the zipper. 


    First you'll want to get some supplies.  You'll need a pliers, a zipper repair kit/replacement parts, a small flathead screw driver with a fine/narrow tip, a seam ripper, and a sewing machine or needle and thread. 

    created at: 10/01/2013

    How to Fix a Missing or Broken Zipper Tooth

    1) One of the most common things to happen to jean zippers is teeth get pulled off the zipper tape.  This usually happens at the bottom of a short zipper in lower rise jeans.  There's not much room to get the garment on and off, so it puts pressure on the zipper and eventually pops the teeth.  But if the teeth come off the very bottom, or very top of the zipper, it can be repaired.  If teeth are missing in the middle of the zipper, it will need to be replaced.  It should also be said though this is a temporary fix.  The zipper broke because of improper fit or a cheap zipper.  It's likely it could break again, so if you're intent on making it last, try to keep as much pressure off the zipper when you're putting the garment on/off.

    created at: 10/01/2013

    2) Move the slider to the bottom of the zipper.


    3) Angle the slider and insert the opposite side of the zipper into the bottom of the slider.created at: 10/01/2013


    4) Sometimes the edge of the zipper is a little thick to easily slide into the side of the slider.  You can use a narrow screwdriver to push the edge in.created at: 10/01/2013


    5) Once both sides of the zipper are in the slider, pull the tab to start the zipper.  Sometimes it's a little tricky to get it started, so wiggle the slider back and forth to get the teeth interlocking. Zip up the zipper further and push the tab down.  This will lock the zipper and keep it from coming undone while closing the bottom.  created at: 10/01/2013


    7) Now we need to free up the backside of the zipper so we can close the bottom.  On the inside of the garment, use a seam ripper or razor to cut the tack the holds together the placket layers.created at: 10/01/2013


    8) To close the bottom, you'll need a zipper bottom stop.  If you get the zipper repair kit listed at the beginning, you should have a few of these in there.  Most jean zippers are #5 zippers.  (The number of the zipper refers to the width of the zipper teeth in millimeters.  So a #5 zipper is 5mm across the teeth.) If you're not sure what number you have, just measure across the teeth when the zipper is zipped and match that to the bottom stop.

    created at: 10/01/2013


    9) Insert the prongs of the stop in the space at the bottom of the zipper between the teeth and the old zipper stop (aka the spot on the zipper that's empty.)  created at: 10/01/2013


    10) Flip the garment over and make sure the prongs are entered correctly.  The stop should be perpendicular to the zipper at a 90° angle.created at: 10/01/2013


    11) Crimp the prongs with a pliers to secure it. created at: 10/01/2013

    created at: 10/01/2013


    12) Using either a sewing machine or by handsewing, re-tack the stitching you took out in step 7.created at: 10/01/2013


    13) You did it!created at: 10/01/2013


    How to Fix a Broken Zipper Pull

     Another common thing to happen is the stops at the top of the zipper fall or get pulled off, and then the slider comes free.  In order to put the slider back on, you'll have to open the bottom of the zipper.  It's not possible to put the zipper back on from the top.  If you did, you would reverse the direction of the zipper and then it would be useless.

    created at: 10/01/2013


    2) Cut the thread tack on the inside like in step 7 of the first demo.created at: 10/01/2013


    3) Using a pliers, pull off the the stop at the bottom of the zipper.  created at: 10/01/2013

    created at: 10/01/2013


    4) Slide one side of the zipper into each side of the slider.  The slider should be upside down as you're looking at it.  If you do it with the zipper tab facing you, the zipper will function inside out.  created at: 10/01/2013


    5) Keeping even tension on both sides of the bottom of the zipper, gently pull the slider to start the zipper.  Be careful not to pull too hard so that you don't pull the slider off the top again.created at: 10/01/2013


    6) Zip up the zipper most of the way and push the tab down to lock the zipper while you're closing things up.created at: 10/01/2013


    7) Like in the previous demo, close the bottom of the zipper using a prong stop.  Butt the stop against the last tooth leaving no gap.  created at: 10/01/2013

    View from the inside:created at: 10/01/2013

    After the crimp:created at: 10/01/2013


    8) Because the top stops were originally missing, you'll need to put some on to keep the slider from coming off again.  created at: 10/01/2013


    9) Place the stop over the edge of the zipper tape directly on top of the first tooth.  created at: 10/01/2013


    10) Crimp the stop with a pliers.  Make sure you get a good clamp on it, and crimp it a couple times if you have to.created at: 10/01/2013

    Do the same to the other side.

    created at: 10/01/2013


    11) Re-tack the inside as in step 12 of the first example.created at: 10/01/2013


    You did it! 

    How to Fix a Split Zipper

    You're in a hurry to get to work and OH NO!, you've suddenly slammed the zipper of your favorite hoodie in your car door!  Now the zipper splits when you zip it and you're sad.  Perk up!  As long as the teeth or the tabs at the bottom aren't damaged on the zipper, you can fix it no problem.  This process can also be used if the slider pulls off the top of zipper, the pull tab falls off the slider, or teeth pull off near the top of the zipper. 

    ***If either of the little tabs at the bottom of the zipper come off the zipper tape, there is no way to repair this.  They are put on the tape as part of the manufacturing process.  If the tabs on the bottom of the zipper or teeth in the middle/bottom of the zipper come off, you will have to replace the zipper.*** 

    created at: 10/01/2013


    1) Pull off the stops at the top of the zipper.  Generally you replace both so that the stops match one another.  But if you only have one stop/don't care about it matching, you only need to remove the stop on the side of the zipper that has the square tab at the bottom.created at: 10/01/2013

    created at: 10/01/2013

    Square tab at the bottom:created at: 10/01/2013


    2) Once the stop is off the top, take off the slider.  If you look at it sideways, you'll notice the gap in between the slider isn't totally straight.  This is why the zipper is separating when you zip it.  It's not properly engaging the teeth.  It's best to replace this slider as a new one will last longer.  But if you're in a bind and don't have another slider (if you have a weird size zipper and can't find a replacement), you can bend it back and see if it works.  This would be a temporary solution as now that it's been bent, it can bend back easily.  It's best to replace the slider if you can.

    created at: 10/01/2013


    3) Generally most zippers have a number on the back that tell you what size it is.  Sometimes there are numbers but they're not the usual zipper sizes (width in mm) but an arbitrary number the manufacturer made up.  In this case, the zipper says 5, which is correct.  Most jacket zippers are #5. Heavyweight zippers like in motorcycle jackets and leather coats can be #7, #8, or #10.  Most jackets either have metal or molded plastic zippers, but some can also have coil zippers.  So it can be tricky to get the right one.  You may need to try out of a few different sizes if the original slider doesn't have any markings on the back.  You could also take it to the fabric store and match it up to the zippers they have.  If there's a match, just take the slider off the new zipper and use it for your garment (after you've purchased it!)created at: 10/01/2013


    3) On the side of the zipper with the square tab at the bottom, angle the slider so the edge of the zipper tape goes in the slot at the side of the slider.  Again, sometimes the edge of the tape is thick, so if you need to push the tape with a screwdriver feel free.  Wiggling also helps.created at: 10/01/2013


    4) Once the edge is all the way through the slider, it should slide freely up and down.  Try to zip it up as you normally would and check that the teeth are interlocking and it's not splitting.  If the zipper still splits, you need a different size slider.  Or if you tried to re-bend the slider, it may still be slightly bent, and it needs to be bent more, or it is bent too far.  created at: 10/01/2013


    5) Once you're sure the zipper is working properly, put stops on the top.  Both sides should have a stop, but especially the side with the square tab at the bottom.  This is the side that the slider is always on, so if you don't have it zipped and there's not stop at the top, the slider will come off easily, like in the laundry.  created at: 10/01/2013


    6) You did it!created at: 10/01/2013


    There are a lot of variations of repairs you can do based on what kind of zipper you have, how the garment is made, and how the zipper is installed.  If you've got something that can't be resolved using these techniques, feel free to email me at (my name is Danni, not Dan).  Good luck!


    Danni Trester is a textile designer/shoemaker that has over 8 years experience in tailoring and repairing clothing.  She currently is working at Allen Edmonds as a pattern maker, and she designs and produces accessories which she sells at indie craft shows across the Midwest. 
    Etsy shop: 

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  • 10/18/16--03:00: 29 Ways to Stay Creative
  • created at: 06/20/2011

    You know how when you're an artist or creative type, you're just so bursting with ideas that you can't possibly even write them all down, let alone execute them all?

    Yeah, I don't either. The truth is, that old thing about inspiration and perspiration is kinda true. Sometimes, brilliant ideas do just hit you, but it's pretty rare, and likely, the outcome of lots of prep work. So, what to do in the meantime?

    Stay creative. Create even when it's not your best work, if you're uninspired, or don't have the time or energy to do your best work. It doesn't matter. You just gotta keep at it.   Okay, Chris. Sure. But how?

    For that, we turn to Life of Michigan Ave, who came up with the twenty-nine suggestions below. Don't like reading? Just watch the video, joyfully animated by TO-FU


    29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

    created at: 06/20/2011

    via Laughing Squid




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    Dirty SawbladesMaintaining your shop tools starts with keeping those blades sharp and well lubricated. Here's a quick overview on how to tune up your cutting edges.   A few times a year, I take a break from working in my shop and spend a few hours working on it. After oiling up the various moving parts and sucking a huge amount of sawdust from the corners I turn my attention to the most important surfaces in my shop - my cutting edges. Saw blades are under-appreciated and generally neglected until they're smoking through that huge piece of hardwood or chipping out an expensive plywood panel. After reading a few forum posts recently, I picked up a clean non-toxic blade and bit cleaner and lubricant that really brought my blades back from their sap-laden state.

    1. CMT Formula 2050 Blade and Bit Cleaner $14.50

    2. Bostik Bladecote (formerly Dricote) $18.50

    3. Bostik Glidecote (formerly Topcote) $18.50

    Product Shots

    The non-toxic cleaner is biodegradable and there are no fumes to suffer through so using it is much better on the lungs compared to other products on the market. The lubricant adds a protective layer that keeps the blade sharp longer and helps it to cut through hard wood a bit easier. Here are the steps to get those blades from grimy to gleaming.

    1. First, keep in mind that carbide edges are brittle and break off easily, they're also very sharp so handle very carefully. Gloves should be worn to keep your hands protected.Carbide Tips

    2. Remove all blades and carefully check blade edges for sharpness. Check for any chips or broken teeth. While a few small nicks won't ruin a cut, anything more than minor wear could require a fresh sharpening.Spray off Blades

    3. In a small plastic bin, spray down both sides of the blade and let soak for a few minutes. After a brief soak, scrub the blade edges where pitch is build up with a nylon brush. Don't use wire which can damage the edges.Scrubbing Blades

    4. Once the blades are well scrubbed, I like to let them soak in warm water to free up any left-over residue. Directions on the blade cleaner say that it doesn't need to be rinsed off, but since I'm adding a layer of protective lubricant onto the blade I wipe them clean to prepare for the final spray-down.Rinsing off Blades

    5. With the blades fully rinsed and dry, spray on the lubricant and re-install into your tools for a few more months of clean cutting.Lubricated Blades

    I also picked up Bostik's Glide Coat for my tool surfaces and what a difference it makes. After a few solid coats, materials slide over the table like they're on ball bearings. To upgrade your wood-cutting experience, it's a simple process for great results.Cleaned Blades

    Note: This isn't a sponsored post, I was just impressed with the process and thought you might be as well. Now get out there and polish up your shop so you can go back to making sawdust.

    Product List:

    1. CMT Formula 2050 Blade and Bit Cleaner $14.50

    2. Bostik Bladecote (formerly Dricote) $18.50

    3. Bostik Glidecote (formerly Topcote) $18.50

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    If you've ever tried to use a standard tripod to create a perfect, 90° overhead shot for photography, filmmaking, or animation, you know how frustrating it can be.

    Even with a boom arm, the tripod legs always end up in the image, the camera becomes topheavy and gets dangerously close to tipping over, and it's impossible to change the height of the shot beyond the zoom of the lens.    

    A downshoot animation stand will for tabletop stuff, but what if you want to take your camera into the field: your workshop, garage or backyard, or wherever you can get the best light?

    Then you need to make one of Josh's overhead camera setups. It's a super simple technique using an aluminum tube and simple hardware from the home center. Stacks of washers serve as the counterweight, perfectly balancing the camera, and allowing you to move the whole setup up and down, like a crane, and get the exact composition you're going for.

    Very creative, simple solution. I'm picking up the materials for this the next time I head to the hardware store. You should, too.

    Check out the whole process in the video below.



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     When I think back on some of the gifts I've received in my life, the best gifts are very often the things I would never purchase for myself, yet the ones that I end up being very glad to have. And speaking for myself, I'm not the sort of guy who really spends extra cash to get something personalized, so whenever I receive a gift with a personalized inscription or something relating to me in particular, that gift tends to hold a special significance. With that in mind, I decided I'd compile a list of some personalized gift ideas for men - be that man a work acquaintance, best bud, husband, father, or son. 

    Personalized Money Clip

    1. Personalized MoneyClip

    I figured I'd start this list off with something practical,  and since every man carries a wallet of some sort, a personalized money clip or wallet ends up being up there on the chart. The one pictured above is available through Personal Creations, although a simple google search will show you numerous purveyors. Usually it's best to stick to a monogram or initials, although some wallets may have room to write more. Every time it's taken out, the owner will get a nice boost of confidence knowing that, even if his wallet is empty, he still can do poverty in style. Or give it to your son and sneak in a conversation about managing finances before he can make it to that stage.

    Personalized Flask

    2. Engraved or Personalized Flask

    A lot of men have a lot of good friendships that were forged over some good whiskey. What better way to commemorate those friendships than with a personalized flask? It's a masculine gift that says you value your friend and that he also can handle his alcohol. Or if he can't, feel free to write about it on the side. There also many great places online to buy flasks – the one above is available on Etsy, but is also a good place to start. A good engraved flask tends to run between $20-30, but you can certainly go more expensive if you wish. 

    Hunting Knife3. The Personalized Pocket Knife

    I had a neighbor growing up who had a monogramed pocketknife given to him by a buddy he had fought with in the Gulf War, which was about as cool as it got for me as a boy. Every man needs a good knife, and a quality pocket knife is the sort of item that can be given as a token of remembrance like my neighbor's buddy did or even as a gift to be passed down to a growing child. The one pictured above is a hunting knife with a rosewood handle from Remember Me Gifts, although I quite like Swiss Army Hardwood Spartan Pocket Knife from Things Remembered. 

    Vintage Map Cufflinks 4. Vintage Map Cufflinks

    Following on our recent cufflink theme, these Bespoke cufflinks are handcrafted by Ohio artist Anne Holman. Simply specify a desired location – a father's hometown perhaps, or maybe your place of engagement – and Anne will pore through old maps and vintage atlases until she finds a satisfactory antique map featuring your location to create these one-of-a-kind cufflinks. These feel like a fantastic retirement gift or going-away present since they automatically have a sense of nostalgia attached to them. 

    Brass Compass5. Custom Brass Compass

    I feel like every movie featuring a man who's given a compass as a gift ends up with that man crash-landing on an island and/or being stranded for the majority of the film, so while I highly recommend this gift, there's a slight caveat that it might cause your pal to disappear for a couple years. That said, why not give a man who has helped or changed the course of your life a little literal direction? Stanley London offers a wide variety of brass compasses in all sizes and ages of distress, and most can be customized with up to 20 lines of text. This gift is high on my list because of its natural connotations of adventure and exploration.

    That's it! What are some of your favorite personalized gifts or manly items?


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    I never pass up an opportunity to share a full-on, start-from-scratch DIY furniture project, especially one that means you get to spend more time hanging out outside.  

    This cool folding camp stool project by LiEr was created to celebrate Jessica of How About Orange's new line of Arrow fabric. Which, I actually love, but if the bold, graphic look isn't for you, you could easily switch it out for a solid canvas for that classic camping look. 

    Once you understand how these are constructed, you could adapt for any size. Pack a cooler, and hit the woods!

    How to make a folding camp stool 



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    created at: 10/08/2014

    Alright, so you’ve built the bookshelf, now it’s time to fill it out with some masculine reading material. Rather than attempting a comprehensive list of books all men ought to read, this list is specifically designed to get that testosterone pumping through your veins. With that in mind, we proudly present...   

    All The Pretty Horses

    1. ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Cormac McCarthy

    To start things off, we’ve got Cormac McCarthy’s most romantic tale of adventure in the Southwest: the story of John Grady Cole, a 16 year old runaway with a gift for horses who takes off with his best friend for a new life in Mexico. Along the way they face bandits, corrupt officials, the evils of man and the love a woman in the unforgiving climate of a land “pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only.” I have never met a man (or woman for that matter) who read this book and came back with anything less than lavish praise. No joke, this book has passages to rival Holy Scripture. 


    The Professional

    2. THE PROFESSIONAL by W. C. Heinz

    First published in 1958 by American sportswriter, W. C. Heinz, this novel chronicles the east coast boxing scene of the 1940’s during the final weeks of training as a young fighter pursues the middleweight boxing championship. Described by Hemingway as, “the only good novel I've ever read about a fighter, and an excellent novel in its own right," it’s the thematic predecessor to every ROCKY movie, but with the realism of a sports journalist at the top of his game delivering an assortment of shady characters, coarse-and-clipped dialogue, and the tactile reality of pursuing the American Dream in tough times. You’ll smell the sweat.


    The Call of The Wild

    3. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London

    So I grew up with an illustrated and abridged copy of this book in my childhood home, and I figured I needn’t bother reading it since I’d already seen Balto. I was so wrong. If you find yourself searching for what to do next in life, this book is a fantastic metaphorical read with an emphasis on simplicity, inner clarity, and the wildness in us all. Good to read at any time, even if you’ve already read it.  


    The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt


    Feeling good? Feeling down? Did the simultaneous death of your wife and mother leave you bereft at 26 years old and force you to leave your elected office in New York to go be a cowboy in the Badlands and hunt down outlaws after you overcame chronic illness to become the boxing champion of Harvard and a published naturalist/columnist/historian with the authoritative perspective on America’s naval battles during The War of 1812 that are still held in the highest regard to this day?  This Pulitzer Prize winning biography by Edmund Morris chronicles Roosevelt’s astounding early life on his way to becoming America’s youngest president, and offers enduring lessons for men of all ages.


    The Power of One

    5. THE POWER OF ONE by Bryce Courtenay

    Described as “the classic tale of South Africa” and set during the 1930’s-1950’s, this epic tale of the individual overcoming adversary in the face of overwhelming odds is truly unparalleled. With a diminutive figure and an inquisitive mind, young Peekay (adapted from the Afrikaans slur “Pisskop” for “Pisshead”) is consistently tormented by those around him. Older boys at the boarding school, Nazi sympathizers, rampant racism, the unjust prison system, and the ever-shifting socio-political climate of South Africa, all work to keep this young boy down, yet are never able to stop him from pursuing his singular goal: to one day become welterweight boxing champion of the world. This book inspires love of education, ambition, positivity, and all sorts of other good things in the world. 


    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay


    Oh what’s that you say? You’re tired of books about boxing?! Grrrreeeeaaattt. Here’s a little something special just for you. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the perfect easy read with a gripping alternate history of the comic book industry. Come along with two immigrant cousins as they stumble through the perils of unexpected fame, poverty, family, treachery, and romance in this nostalgic saga of the American Dream.


    For Whom The Bell Tolls

    7. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway

    There’s just no way this list would be complete without some Hemingway, and this one has all his great stuff. Stark realism, the disillusionment of war, the reinvigoration of helping heal a psychologically wounded but beautiful young woman, examinations of mortality, extensive curses printed in Spanish… the whole nine yards. The story focuses on an American dynamiter who lives practically a full lifetime in the span of a week as he prepares to destroy a bridge for a band of guerrilla volunteers amidst the Spanish Civil War. In the meantime, he falls in love and faces a host of experiences and ruminations on the nature of friendship and family, and the inevitable oblivion coming for them all.  


    HONORABLE MENTION: Jim Harrison -- Author

    Jim Harrison is one of our great, living, masculine authors. Mostly known for his novellas, poetry, fiction, essays, and screenplays – his work often focuses on individuals navigating the boundaries between the natural and civilized worlds. Great starting places would be Legends of the FallBrown Dog, or True North. Most importantly, he looks like this:

    Jim Harrison

    What are some of your favorite, classic manly books? Let us know in the comments section!

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    created at: 01/13/2014

    Simple idea, tons of texture...

    Ok, so minus all the sheepskin and cowhide upholstery, I dig this look, and it can totally be DIY'ed at home. For starters, the antlers on the wall are wooden plaques (which you can get at craft stores like Michaels) with some fall tree branches. Easy to make, and a few of them covering the wall will look  like an installation.

    Now, for the firewood rack: If you have a large space that seems pretty empty (and you don't want to spend tons of money on furniture) this'll fill 'er up . You can either stack the wood from the floor up and attach at shelf at the very top OR you use 2 shelves: one at the bottom with enough grip to hold the weight of the wood, and one at the top for storage.

    Oh, and you don't need to use a whole log, you can actually cut them in half so they don't stick out too much - and if the space is too narrow, just cut a few circles (like coaster-size, but a bit thicker) and glue them all together so it they create a faux firewood effect.

    Image via: Tuvalu

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    created at: 06/30/2014

    Harry Love is a professional musician, DJ, and collector. Which means...he had a lot of records. Like a lot of records. Records in his studio, records in the hallway, records in the bathroom, records he had to move aside to make toast.Which might be okay if Harry lived alone, but he shares his space with his family, including a toddler. So, the folks at IKEA got involved and gave Harry a full studio makeover. 

    Watch the video below to see the results: 

    The video comes from a cool blogpost on about hacking IKEA furniture for music studio use, including desk ideas, storage, and hacks for making 19" racks from a nightstand or a $10.00 side table.

    Check out the full piece and all the ideas at: Ikea Studio Hacks: Build Your Creative Space on a Budget – Audio Racks, Speaker Stands, Desks, and More!



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    I'm in the midst of an apartment decoration overhaul (look forward to some fun posts on that soon) so trips to the lumberyard are becoming a more regular part of my day (and I'm loving it). Whether you're a regular woodworker or a just a casual remodel-er, here are some good tips on how to find the best boards in the lot...

    There are some obvious tips like "be sure to write down what you need" to less self-evident ones like how to check for slight kinks in the wood and how to properly sight your edges. Also, unless it's part of a very specific look, knots are the worst to deal with.

    Click here to view the full Instructable.


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    This post is brought to you in partnership with Kwikset


    My earliest memory is of a pillow fort. Or perhaps, more accurately, a blanket tent. My first post-crib sleeping situation was this great set of bunkbeds, with the top and bottom set perpendicular to each other, in an L-shape. A dresser, twice my height, was nestled in the empty space, creating a sweet three-sided “cave” underneath where I lay my head. A blanket stretched from top bunk to the foot of the bed made a secret lair where I’d snuggle in my Garfield sleeping bag, tape up crayon pictures on the wall, and transport myself to a pirate ship, a space shuttle, a submarine, or a veranda overlooking the Serengeti. 

    This is just to say: I’m a person who likes to make spaces.

    My school-aged days were filled with afternoons in the backyard clubhouse, hand painting “Members Only” signs and rigging up trap doors and rope-and-pulley systems that made simple tasks mechanically complicated, for no other reason than that’s what eight-year-old kids' spaces were supposed to look like. (I was correct. They were.)

    Later, at ten, I got permission to take over the space under the basement stairs. I outfitted it in the typical style: used license plates, a string of Christmas lights, my library of Boys’ Life magazines. In junior high, I eventually staked claim to the whole northeast corner of our basement, and applied all things thirteen-years-old and 1996: psychedelic fractal posters from Spencer’s Gifts, an old twin mattress on the floor, and a state-of-the-art desktop stereo with dual cassette decks and built-in CD player (!!!). In time, the mattress and beanbag were replaced by drum kits and microphone stands and the snaking tangle of instrument cables as it became a proper rock and roll rehearsal space, featuring more string lights strung in the joists and “setlists” taped to the walls.

    This is just to say: I’m a person who likes to make spaces. My memories are most often connected to where they occurred, and I recall events, both major and minor, based on where I was. What it looked like. How it felt.

    My childhood gave way to the college dorm rooms, graduate school apartments, my first (and second...and third) rented places with my wife. Filling our evenings and weekends with painting thrifted furniture, making do in terrible kitchens, building little workshops wherever it was safe to make sawdust. And, mostly: dreaming of the time when I could actually own where I live. Not merely invest financially, but invest myself  into a space. To build an environment I could see through to the end. To tear down walls and make changes that were meaningful to me and would last past the terms of a lease. I’ve always longed to put down roots… not because it’s safe or socially expected or a smart financial investment, but because that’s what makes me feel human.

    We eliminated debt, reduced expenses, and took on side gigs in order to save.

    After groceries and two-dollar-movie tickets and “responsible” stuff like our Roth IRA, whatever pennies were left over at the end of the month were saved in the account nicknamed “BUY A HOUSE!” ... the first on the list when I logged into my online banking, lest I forget my priorities.

    So, buying a house was a big deal. We worked hard to save a down payment that could compete with the market in a major West Coast city (it wasn’t anywhere close to 20%). We waited more than ten years after our peers bought their $60,000 houses in the towns where we grew up, and winced when we learned of their $450-a-month mortgage payments (they, no doubt, would wince at ours). We eliminated debt, reduced expenses, and took on side gigs in order to save. We didn’t want a starter home. We wanted our forever home, in a neighborhood that we cared about, in a city we loved. A place to spend the rest of our lives. 

    And then, earlier this year, it happened. Somehow, in one of the fastest growing metropolitan real estate markets in the country, we found one we could actually afford. And it wasn’t horrible. We made an offer with more zeroes than I thought possible, wrote a heartfelt letter to the current owners, tucked a photo of our smiling faces inside the folder, and - somehow in competition with seventeen other offers, several of which were all cash - we got it.

    On the day we closed, we dated and signed our names on at least fourteen thousand pieces of paper at the title office, and then, along with our realtor, caravan-ed to our new address, where a thoughtful gift bag and mini bottle of sparkling wine did their best to calm my still shaking hands. Our realtor handed us our keys, and then, all of a sudden ... it was the rest of our lives.


    Actually, our realtor handed us a ring of eighteen keys.

    That’s right, eighteen keys. For one house. Three doors, admittedly, but eighteen keys?  They weren’t all the same, and we had to try at least nine of them before we could even first cross that proverbial threshold.

    As we moved in and got to know our neighbors, we found out why. Our house, unbeknownst to us, has historically been “that house” on our block. The one with the noise. The problematic visitors. The one that causes the parking problems. The trash can indefinitely parked on the curb.

    Throughout the whole process, we’d imagined we were buying a house from a family that looked like us. Perhaps one with little girls that cause them to paint the upstairs bedrooms pink, and store the deflated pool toys in the attic.

    Turns out, we were entirely, 100% wrong. The previous owner of the house had been an investor who’d never lived there. Our house had been a crashpad for a rotating cast of transitioning young adults in their early 20s and their friends, as many as eight at a time.

    Where had they slept? I don’t know. It's not a huge house. They must have been two to a bedroom, and stuffed themselves into the unfinished part of the basement. They might have hung sheets and converted the living room and the dining room (and the garage?) into sleeping quarters for all these roommates. 

    One neighbor estimated our home had housed as many as twenty different people in the last two years, and the girlfriends and boyfriends and couch-surfers that come along with group living.

    Hence, the eighteen keys. The ones that went to three different types of locks and deadbolts. So, as we created the master list of projects to tackle over the next two ...err, ten... years, we realized that we needed to make our home security a priority, and switch out the locks, deadbolts, and - while we’re at it - door hardware. Both for peace of mind (we literally have no idea how many keys to our house are out there), and, honestly, for ease. Who wants to carry three housekeys around?

    So, we decided to get some help from the folks friends at Kwikset to do something about it. And in typical ManMadeDIY style, we wanted to do it ourselves, without hiring a locksmith. Actually, it couldn’t have been easier. 

    First, I installed the new, second-generation Kevo Smartlock. This brilliant little contraption allows you to unlock your deadbolt with the touch of a finger. It unlocks by sensing the presence of your smartphone, and it’s totally awesome. And if you don’t have your phone on you, it unlocks like any deadbolt. Just use your key, Luddites.

    Installation was super simple, and no more difficult than a typical deadbolt. I had clear out some space for the new deadbolt (the door is 90 years old), but it was completely straightforward. Once you get your Kevo, you create and account and download the app, and it walks you through the whole process, step-by-step. 

    Once the space is clear and everything functioning, just place the parts in the door, plug in the wires, and you're finished.


    I had admittedly never messed with a door knob, latch, bolt, or lock before in my life, but now that I had tried it, I was up for more. We liked the Kevo on the front door so much, I installed a second one on our back door.

    I regularly enter here after working on projects in our garage, or to carry long pieces of lumber or tools into the basement workshop. Not fumbling with keys while straining to carry a stack of hard maple? It's pretty awesome.

    Empowered by my new knowledge, I changed out all six doorknobs, handles, and dead bolts, and then re-keyed them all using Kwikset’s SmartKey technology. It takes – literally – five seconds at each lock to get them all aligned, and, just like that, shiny new doorknobs, and only one housekey. 

    Oh, and it lights up. Check out the video:


    If you’re wondering why it’s better than a typical deadbolt, here are seven reasons it’s awesome:

    1. We’re able to send eKeys to guests who are staying with us. So, when they take the train from the airport during the day, and we’re not around, we can simply send them a eKey that will allow them to get settled before we return. My mom loves this. 
    2. We don’t have to take our full set of keys with us when going out for a run or long bike ride. One less thing to worry about. (My wife and I also don’t have to check with each other when one leaves while the other is out exercising, to make sure we can get back in the house.)
    3. It can sync with other smart devices in your home, like a learning thermostat, to know when you're home and when you’re out, saving money and keeping your home secure.
    4. We live in a temperate climate, so for three seasons a year, the doors and windows are open. In the middle of home improvement projects, we’re regularly going in and out of all three doors to the garage or car for materials and tools. I have an unconscious habit of always flipping the handle to lock whenever I go outside, whether I have my keys on me or not. With several people in and out and so many moving parts, it’s awesome to know I’ll always be able get back in. 
    5. No more fiddling with your keys when carrying grocery bags ... or 2x4s. Just touch the Kevo with your phone in your pocket or bag, and enter with ease. 
    6. The Kevo knows whether you’re inside or out, so you don’t have to worry about whether your phone is too close to the door to allow it to be activated. Neat, huh?
    7. Did I mention you won't get locked out of your house ever again?


    It admittedly took awhile to get used to the new routine of leaving and coming home. It’s amazing how deep those automatic actions become. (Do you ever try to unlock your front door with the key fob from your car and wonder why it doesn’t go “boop boop”?) But we’ve been living with the new scenario, and it has become part of our new home. And that’s as meaningful as can be.


    And seriously. Look at those lights!


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    created at: 10/19/2015

    You know those little pumpkins you practically trip over in the supermarket this time of year? It turns out: they're good for more than just Instagram props. With, like, no work, they make a really tasty pumpkin butter you’ll want to have in the fridge all year long. I’m talking about pumpkin butter with the magical spice flavor of pumpkin pie, but simple, less sweet and much more, well, pumpkin-y. Making a batch with “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins is easy because they’re small enough to roast whole in the oven. A slow cooker really does all the work letting the flavor develop a wonderful intensity and a just-right spreadable texture. All you need to do is throw everything in, hit “low” and let it go. All. Night.

    Then, in the morning... wow. Delicious brown pumpkin butter. A great little energy booster spread on toast at breakfast. Keep some in the fridge so you can just dig your spoon into it, but keep more in the freezer so it will be ready to serve as a secret ingredient in all kinds of delectable creations. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • A 6-8 quart slow cooker (Crock-Pot) with a “low” heat setting. (Total cooking time will be about 8 hours.)

    • A food processor or strong blender

    • A hammer and a screwdriver (for venting the pumpkin)

    • 3 or 4 resealable half-pint canning jars

    • A few zip top bags for freezer storage (sandwich size works great)

    • An immersion blender (only if you have one -- completely optional)


    • 3 or 4 small pumpkins -- usually labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”

    • 1 ½ cups brown sugar

    • ¼ cup apple juice or cider

    • ½ cup maple syrup

    • Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    The spice mix:

    Spices can easily be adjusted based on your preference. Keep in mind, you can always add more of anything right into the slow cooker later if you want a bigger spice punch. Same goes for sweetness. The following amounts are more of a guideline -- no need to be exact.

    • 2 cinnamon sticks (or at least 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon)

    • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg (grind fresh if you can)

    • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

    • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

    • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

    • optional: ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (one pod ground)


    created at: 10/19/2015

    Step 1: Bake the pumpkins

    Line a large cookie sheet with foil or parchment. Carefully punch 2 ventilation holes near the top (stem) of each pumpkin. A hammer and a clean screwdriver work nicely for this task. (Small pumpkins tend to be very tough and jabbing a knife into these little guys can be ridiculously difficult.) Place whole vented pumpkins on cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350º. The pumpkins are done when they darken and are tender when poked with a fork. Be careful not to let them burn or blacken.


    created at: 10/19/2015

    Step 2: Prepare spices and additions

    While the pumpkin is baking, make sure your slow cooker is ready but don’t fire it up yet. Measure out the brown sugar, the salt, and all the spices into a separate mixing bowl so that everything is ready to add when needed. Separately, measure the juices and maple syrup so that they are also standing by. All of the added ingredients will go into the slow-cooker at the same time.


    created at: 10/19/2015

    Step 3: Make the pumpkin puree

    Carefully remove pumpkins from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once they are cool enough to handle, use a knife to carefully cut them in half horizontally. Using a tablespoon (or a grapefruit spoon if you have it) scoop out the seeds and all of the stringy matter and set aside (you may want to roast the seeds later). Scoop the remaining pumpkin flesh away from the shells and into the bowl of a food processor. Mix together well until it is a smooth puree. A strong blender will also work for this but you may have to mix in batches.


    created at: 10/19/2015

    Step 4: Let the slow cooker do its thing

    Put about half of the pumpkin puree into a slow cooker. Add the brown sugar, spices, salt, juices, syrup. Pour the rest of the pumpkin puree over this mixture and stir everything together. If you have an immersion blender, give everything a gentle blend breaking down any residual clumps and smoothing out the texture even more. If you are using whole cinnamon sticks, add them to the blended mixture now. Cover the slow cooker and turn it on the low setting for about 8 hours. If you’re comfortable with your slow cooker’s low heat setting, just let it go all night long. If you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to check in occasionally to make sure the mixture is not burning along the edges. You may want to stir everything a couple times during the cooking process to help prevent this.


    As the cooking time approaches 8 hours, the pumpkin butter should be turning to a darker brown, caramel color. This is a good time for a taste test to check out the spice level and sweetness. Feel free to add more maple syrup or brown sugar (or any sugar) now. Same goes for any additional spiciness you may want to add. Simply stir in and let simmer a little longer. If there is too much liquid in the mixture at this point, let the slow cooker work longer with the lid off.

    created at: 10/19/2015

    Step 5: Store in the refrigerator and freezer

    When the pumpkin butter is ready, turn off the cooker and let it cool down a bit. Fill up some jars to keep in the fridge or pass along some refrigerated ones to friends. The rest can be stored in the freezer for months. A good way to freeze pumpkin butter is by filling up individual bags with about a jar’s worth in each one. This way you can use one at a time to refill your jar in the fridge or have a perfect portion to use in a different recipe.


    In addition to spreading it on toast or a muffin, pumpkin butter works great in raviolis, cheesecakes, soups, sauces, lattes, bread, pizza, cookies and cocktails. My favorite way to use it is on a grilled cheese sandwich made with gruyere. Get creative and enjoy. Cheers.


    created at: 10/19/2015

    Yum, right? Here's all those photos all formatted up for social media. Do use a favor and share it on Pinterest, please?

     created at: 10/19/2015


    Tom O’Connor is a photographer with a primary interest in food, travel and lifestyle photography. You can view his work here. He recently moved from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh where he is busy navigating his way through the city’s excellent bars and vibrant food scene. Tom is also the co-creator of Little Island Kitchen, a food based web store featuring a curated selection of small batch food products and kitchen items.

    Follow Tom at his site and Little Island Kitchen, and on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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    When my mom was a girl, her mother had a special drawer in her dresser that the kids weren't allowed to touch. One day they saw an ice cream truck come by and decided the root around the house for spare change. Lo and behold they found a magnificent stack of quarters in the secret drawer. They pilfered the lusty quarters, gorged themselves on ice cream, and were promptly grounded for weeks when they learned the "special quarters" were all made of silver...

    In fact, all quarters used to be made of up to 90% silver, until 1965 when the US Treasury was forced to switch to nickel-covered copper as the price of silver exceed the face value of the quarter. So your first step in crafting a silver ring for cheap is to find a quarter minted 1964 or earlier. Step two, is to follow this Instructablefromtarget022. There are faster ways to make silver rings from quarters (which is mentioned in the guide), but this is the classic way using the ol' spoon-tapping method. Also, just for those of you who are worried, it's totally legal.


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    Every home has those horizontal surfaces where it's all too easy to let stuff gather. They're just lying there, all flat and empty, asking to be filled with things that could likely go in they're proper home if they only had one. 

    In my house, it's the half-wall between the landing and the stairs. So I certainly know that when your countertops, desks, and other flat surfaces are continually filled with mail, errands, and other "to do" related goodies, it's time for an official solution. And since horizontal spaces just aren't working, you gotta go vertical.   There are a lot of wall and pocket organizer ideas out there, but this one is among my favorites. You could definitely buy one from inorder2organize's Etsy shop for a fair $220, but if you want to try your hand at making your own, you'll be able to customize the pockets for your specific needs and household.

    Just size your back from 1/2" plywood, and create the boxes, shelves, envelopes, and other goodies from 1/4" ply. Glue and screw them from the back, then paint the whole thing with chalkboard paint. Attach some hardware, and hang it up.

    Chalkboard Mail Organizer Large [InOrder2Organize]




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    Look, we love a solid cocktail bar. It's an awesome experience to meet up with some co-workers for happy hour, or connect with a friend or date over something shaken or stirred and served in a quality glass. But there's something to be said for sipping at home. Most importantly, it's much less expensive. Bar and restaurants try to keep their food and liquor costs to 20-25%, which means that $12 martini is actually made up of only $3.00 of ingredients. But we also can't argue with the value of staying home, whipping something up for your partner or friends on the fly in the warm, quite confines of your own living room. (Pajama pants optional).

    And while we have no problem dropping some serious change on a truly elegant whiskey or craft spirit, the truth is: most mixed drinks don't actually require the highest end of spirits. So, if you're looking to experiment with crafting your own drinks, but don't want to invest mega bucks in a full fleet of top-shelf spirits, it's time to learn how to stock your home bar or bar cart on a budget.    

    1. Vodka: 360  ($12-15)

    At an average price of $13, this one's a no brainer. Made from a mix of gluten-free cereal grains, this American vodka is distilled and charcoal filtered six times. While vegetable-based vodkas (usually potatoes) often boast seven to nine distillations, they produce more impurities during fermentation. Point is: six is enough for grain vodkas, and they give this one a great fruitiness and awesome texture. They also bill themselves as the world's first eco-friendly vodka, which can't hurt.

    360 is also available in a myriad of infused flavors. While we tend to stay away from unnecessary ornamentation with vodka, at $13, you can taste a Mandarin orange or Huckleberry and not wonder what you're going to do with the other 95% of the bottle.

    Also recommended: Finlandia ($16), Pozak ($17), Purus Organic Wheat Vodka ($2o)


    2. Whiskey: Kentucky Tavern Bourbon  ($10) 

    Unless you spend a lot of time on the bottom shelf, you've likely never heard of Kentucky Tavern. The brand is own by spirits mega-corp Sazerac, and made at the Barton Distillery in Bardstown, KY. Make no mistake - this is not a complex, full-flavored Bourbon designed for sipping neat. But for cocktails (or those who like to drink whiskey on the rocks), it's a heck of a value. It's my favorite of any bourbon under $20, and for a mere $10, it's the kind of bottle you use in a punch or pitcher drink, or take to a barbecue. It has a somewhat thin texture, but it reads as pleasant and oily, not watery. It most reminds me of Four Roses, and it's not-too-sweet flavor makes it a natural fit for simple highballs or an Old Fashioned.

    Also recommended: Benchmark Old No. 8 ($15), Old Forrester Signature ($20)


    3. Brandy: Paul Masson VSOP Grande Amber ($13-15)

    Unless your a dedicated Cognac fan, brandy isn't on most people's list for stocking a home bar. We think that's a shame, because it's a surprisingly versatile spirit that's especially useful in fall and winter. Plus, without brandy, you can't make one of our favorite all-time classic cocktails, the Sidecar. 

    Paul Masson VSOP was actually recommended to us by a ManMade reader, and while it's technically a lower quality than some "XO" American brandies (really, a meaningless grading), it's not as Kool Aid-y sweet and chemically as many of the other options. Perfect for spiking some apple cider, coffee, or egg nog, it also makes a killer Hot Toddy. Give it a shot. At $13, there's not much to lose. 


    4. Gin: Beefeater London Dry Gin ($18)

    There are less expensive bottles of gin out there, such as the popular and super affordable New Amsterdam, but we find most of them taste more like an infused vodka than a proper, aromatic-forward gin. Which is important, as gin is often paired with more aggressive ingredients - tonic water, campari, olives and blue cheese - and your go-to needs to have a little backbone. 

    Beefeater simply tastes like gin is supposed to taste: clean and crisp, with prominent juniper. It's at home in an up martini, but really, it's a cocktail gin, and shines with fresh citrus, berries, herbs, infusions and syrups, or whatever other kitchen-y ingredients you might through at it with a splash of soda. 

    Also recommended:Seagram's Distillers Reserve ($16), Tanqueray ($20)


    5. Rum: Cruzan Aged Rum ($13-14)

    Cruzan is a classic Cuban-style rum with a straightforward, clean flavor. Aging it for two years to create "gold rum" provides a nice complexity over the standard silver rum, and gives it those barrel flavors of vanilla and spice that allow it to mix well with the bright flavors of spring and summer, and the warm, toasty notes of winter and fall.  It scored an 86 out of 100 at this year's Ultimate Spirits Challenge. It's a solid B, maybe even a B+, and for $14, that's hard to beat.

    Also Recommended: Appleton Estate Reserve ($28),  Cruzan Estate Diamond ($20), Caliche ($26)


    6. Tequila: Olmeca Altos 100% Agave Blanco ($17-19)

    From what we gather from the anecdotes, tequila is a seriously underappreciated spirit. Apparently, most people don't buy it as much as whiskey or vodka, or think it's just slamming quickly in a shot glass. To be fair, it's vegetal, minerally flavor isn't as easy to mix with a can of cola as some others, but when you get it right, tequila cocktails equal gin for our very favorites. 

    The Altos in Olmeca Altos refers to the Highlands of Tequila country, where the agave is grown at higher elevations around the Tequila volcano. This gives the spirit creamy, vanilla like notes that's akin to the best homemade cake frosting, but without any sweetness...just a fresh, bright flavor with a mouthwatering aroma. If that doesn't sound delicious, then we're not describing it right. Try it, and you'll agree. (Full disclosure: Altos Tequila has previously been a sponsor on ManMade, but we liked their product before that campaign, and we still like it today). 

    Also Recommended: Camarena ($20), Sauza Hornitos ($22), Lunazul ($18)

    6. Orange Liqueur: Cointreau ($27-32)

    No bones about it: this is the most expensive bottle on this list. And it's not even a base spirit; it's a liqueur. But that's the point - liqueurs are modifiers that add complexity and aroma, and they can totally make or break a drink. A great orange liqueur combined with a $15 tequila will produce a margarita far superior to one with a $50 tequila and a $9 bottle of triple sec. You only use a little bit at a time, and it truly gives an elegance you can't get from a bottom shelf bottle. Won't give you the headache, either. Don't skimp here.

    Also recommended: Grand Marnier ($35)


    7. Vermouth: Noilly Prat Dry ($9) and Martini & Rossi Sweet ($6)

    Vermouth is a fortified wine, and essential to a whole collection of classic drinks: the Manhattan, Martini, Rob Roy, Negroni, Corpse Reviver #1, and Boulevadier all rely on it to elevate the base spirit.

    The ubiquitous Martini and Rossi works great as a sweet vermouth, but we recommend spending just a bit more and go for Noilly Prat Extra Dry vermouth. Though, if you're particularly interested in martinis, spend just a bit more and opt for the very lovely Dolin de Chambery, around $15.


    8. Bitter Liqueur: Aperol ($20-23)

    The world of bitter liqueurs, often considered together under the Italian term amari, deserves many articles to themselves. If you love them, you know these specialty bottles can get quite pricey. (One of our favorites, Green Chartreuse, goes for more than $65 a bottle. Thankfully, you only use 1/2 oz. at a time). But if you're interested in learning more, we vote to start with Aperol. It's affordable, flavorful, and, most importantly to newbies, not challenging to drink. It's bitter, yes, but not unpleasant; it's also sweet, floral, elegant, and totally delicious. No more intense than a middle-of-the-road lager, it gives a lovely color and extra something-something to everything it touches, particularly clear spirits like vodka, gin, and blanco tequila. And it turns cheap champagne into something else altogether. 

    Also recommended: Campari ($25), Averna ($35), Cynar ($25)


    9. Cocktail Bitters: Angostura, Regan's Orange, Peychaud's

    Currently, there are nineteen bottles of bitters in my liquor cabinet. I often get them as Christmas and birthday gifts, and since you only use them a few drops at a time, they last forever. I stopped drinking soda and soft drinks years ago, and so I add a couple of dashes to club soda when I want something special. They're fun, flavorful, and a great way to give things a little magic. They're like the spices and seasonings of the cocktail world — they make ingredients taste more like themselves. Consider them the salt and pepper of your bar cart.

    If I had to choose one, I'd go Angostura. When a recipe calls for bitters, but doesn't mention what kind, use Angostura. But for another $11-12, I'd throw in Regan's orange bitters, which I love with anything citrus. (They'll totally transform a gin and tonic). And, for good measure and a dash of sass, Peychaud's bitters from the New Orleans cocktail tradition.


    Okay. Now what? 

    Couple those basics with some basic mixers (club soda, tonic water, ginger ale), fresh citrus and a couple juices, some clean-tasting ice, and some 1:1 simple syrup, you can make hundreds of cocktails. If there's something you really want to try, but it requires a specific modifier, you can usually find those in 375 mL bottles behind the cash register, or better yet, little airplane bottles. That way, you don't have to shell out $40 to try a half an ounce of something.




    What are you favorite ways to save money on spirits? Post your favorites in the comments below. Cheers!


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    created at: 03/22/2015

    Steve Ramsey's Woodworking For Mere Mortals is one of my favorite YouTube channels. Not only is he funny, he's honest. This is a great example of a simple idea and the challenges you face in the middle of a project.

    The reason I love this DIY video is because it shows you some of the basics of box construction: dowel joinery, squared measurements, edge banding and finishing. And I love his honesty when he made the wrong size dowel jig and tried using a poly and stain combo finish (something I mentioned is a bad idea in a previous post!). It's certainly refreshing to know I'm not the only one that screws up a billion times while working on a new project!

    Because this video presents such a basic plywood construction you can certainly steer away from a mid-century look with ease!

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