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    B&S Notebooks

    I'm not saying you need an exceptional journal to become the next Hemmingway, but I'm pretty sure you'll be more inspired writing in something you love.   Bull & Stash notebooks call themselves "your last notebook ever". That's a pretty bold statement but they seem to back up the claim pretty convincingly. The thick leather cover holds heavy-weight durable paper in with solid metal hardware that keep the paper flat and easy to use.

    Writing B&S Notebook

    So if you have the need to tether those wandering thoughts to paper, these notebooks are worthy enough to tie them down. Take a look here.

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    make a hearty breakfast in no time

    Making a delicious and hearty breakfast can be a chore when you're still trying to decide which pants to wear with your cap-toe shoes. Until recently, this was my daily struggle. Most days, I walked out the door with just brewed coffee and a piece of toast. No fun.

    Don't you ever just dream of a scramble of potatoes, eggs and bacon for a weekday breakfast? Alas, the time it takes to cook diced potatoes can surely suck the time away from you before you know it. I am here to say that your weekday dreams can come true! All you need is a giant bag of potato tots and a few minutes to cook every morning.

    Here's my weekly routine. If I can do it, you can too!

    6:00 a.m.

    Making a delicious and hearty breakfast can be a chore when you're still trying to decide which pants to wear with your cap-toe shoes. Not anymore! Check out what ingredient makes this recipe super simple!

    Wake up, head to the kitchen turn the oven to 450 and fill a pan with enough tots for my wife and myself. At this temperature, the tots will cook in about 15 minutes. Plenty of time to take a shower and get dressed.

    6:25 a.m

    Making a delicious and hearty breakfast can be a chore when you're still trying to decide which pants to wear with your cap-toe shoes. Not anymore! Check out what ingredient makes this recipe super simple!

    When I'm all dressed, I fire up my small iron skillet and add 2 breakfast sausage patties. I found a box of all-natural, frozen, pre-cut patties for a great price. If you can't find something like this, you can pre-freeze some slices on Sunday night.

    Important note: Using an iron skillet will help you keep from burning your food throughout this process.

    While the sausage cooks I usually grind coffee and boil the water. I usually have enough time to fix my hair and brush my teeth at this point too.

    6:35 a.m.

    Make a hearty breakfast in no time!

    Now it's time for the finale. Using your spatula, chop up the sausages and add any other toppings you'd like to have in your scramble. I had some left over diced peppers from tacos the night before.

    6:40 a.m.

    Make a hearty breakfast in no time!

    Kill the heat on your skillet and crack a couple of eggs into your mixture. Once they've sat for a minute you can finish them however you like your eggs, scrambled or yolks intact. Don't forget salt and pepper!

    Just before I transfer to a plate, I slice up a few wedges of an avocado and drizzle with a dash of pepper sauce. 


    Make a hearty breakfast in no time!

    Ta-dah! Now, I know this isn't the most beautiful breakfast you've ever seen but you can't beat how delicious it is. It also has all the tasty nutrients you need to keep you filled with energy until lunch!

    Think you can do it? I'd love to know! What else would you add to your quick breakfast scramble?

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    There are those pieces of furniture that make a statement. Those around which you build entire rooms, those that define a space. Those pieces are essential.

    But, sometimes, you just need a quick and easy way to store your stuff that looks plenty sharp. If your taste leans towards the warm, the rustic, and the stylish, check out this super simple x-shaped magazine and book rack.   

    This is a solid "woodworking light" project that requires a single piece of dimensional lumber from the home center and a jigsaw (or any saw, really) to help cut out the joinery. You can knock this whole thing together and have it next to your sofa loaded with magazines in less than 30 minutes. Not shabby at all. 

    Get the full how-to at Homedit: DIY Wooden Magazine Holder

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    Perhaps you've heard this piece of advice: never let a cold beer warm up and then become cold again. Practically, this means if you buy a refrigerated beer from the case, then you must keep it refrigerated until it's time to drink it. And it should never sit out at room temperature on the counter, in the pantry, etc.  The threat is: the bizarre, off flavors of a beer that's been "skunked" usually described as tasting like wet newspaper, rubber, or if you ask me, the way the pet store smells. 

    Turns out... that's simply not true. At all. 

    In fact, it's not changes in temperature that make beer go bad, but exposure to ultraviolet light. In the sun or sat out in a grocery store display, the hops - those things that make beer taste like beer - will actually partially turn to sulfur, producing that characteristic rotten flavor. 

    A few years ago, Cook's Illustrated magazine put this to the test. They took a case of chilled beer, in cans to avoid any light exposure, and heated half of them to 85° for three hours before refrigerating again. They repeated the heating and cooling process three times, then tasted the cans side by side with the constantly-cool control. There was no difference whatsoever. (Also, fun day at the office!)

    So, in fact, it's actually better to always buy beer from the cooler, where it's been kept under more consistent lighting conditions, and the refrigeration helps to preserve freshness and flavor.

    In sum: buy it from the fridge, in cans or dark brown bottles to prevent UV rays, then store it in a cool dark place, either in your own refrigerator (which is both cool and dark), or a pantry. If you don't have any space, try a cooler or cardboard box or other dark enclosure. Kept at reasonable temps (no freezing or boiling) without light, it will be good to go for years. And in the case of some beer, particularly home brew and small production releases, it may taste even better. 

    Read more about the Cook's Illustrated experiment: Temperature Shock on Beer



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    Laura and Craig from The Makerista take these Billy bookshelves that we've all seen before and transform them into what looks like an entire built-in wall unit. This really is the most impressive DIY IKEA renovation I've seen yet.   

    They knew they didn't want to remove any of the hundred year old crown molding and they knew that almost nothing in their house was level, so this entire unit has been built around it all for relatively easy removal.

    Additionally, the entire unit was secured to 2x4's against the wall with shims to make everything level.

    And voila! In particular I'm a super fan of the sliding ladder, which immediately ups the impression of the entire room.  

    Check out the full tutorial here. 

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    Bikes have moving's precisely what they're designed to do. And things with moving parts need maintenance to keep them moving smoothly. And since a bike's very design is to move forward as it's parts move, you either need to a) get your bikes wheels off the ground while maintaining access to gear shifts and break levers and b) grow two more arms and hands.   

    The first option sounds actually sounds like a little less work (but can you imagine the possibilities?!), so you gotta get that frame up into a repair stand to let the wheels spin, the drive train move, the crank arms rotate, and the headset move freely. Commercial options are great, but can be pretty expensive. So, instead, hit up the home improvement center and build one for about $30 in parts. Which is sweet, because while you can fill up your tires and lubricate your chain and adjust your brakes with it on the ground, once you've done it in the air, it's kinda hard to go back.

    The DIY stand is put together like this: some vertical 1" galvanized pipe is attached to a square of plywood to provide support. A 1" to 3/4" reducer elbow makes an arm, to which you attach a 3/4" Pony pipe clamp hardware, outfitted with custom jaws.

    You could, in theory, attach the upright to a work bench for more support, but then you couldn't take your bike stand outside to work on during those nice days in the summer. And where's the fun in that?

    This project comes from Jim Langley's e-book, Your Home Bicycle Workshop, and is available, in full, at Your $30 Hardware Store Stand

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    created at: 02/02/2011

    It's nearing Valentine's Day, and though my sweetheart and I don't usually do gifts, I wanted to make her something special. We're not big on the whole Hobby Lobby, scrapbook-y, shrine to ourselves approach to artwork, but I did want to incorporate a personal element. I recalled the custom DNA portraits I'd seen, and when searching, found the fingerprint prints offered by the same company. While I wouldn't even begin to understand how to go about visualizing DNA, I figured the custom fingerprint approach was probably pretty achievable. was.

    I even figured out a way to make it seem a bit more handmade than the cold, tech-ier versions offered by the online companies. And, it only ended up costing me $6.00 USD. (I'm so thankful I've got someone who would be proud of me for creating an inexpensive DIY route, rather than impressed by how much I spent.)   

    Materials and Tools

    • Inkpad and paper
    • Scanner
    • Computer and graphics software
    • Printing method (see below)

    created at: 02/02/2011

    1. Begin by inking your fingers and making several prints on paper. Don't go for the roll-y effect they do at the police station (it was for a job, I swear), but the oval versions like you made in kindergarten. Don't worry about getting it too dark; it's more important that the friction ridges and negative space are separated rather than high contrast. Take several prints, re-inking your figures multiple times and making lots of prints. Be sure to label which prints belong to whom.

    created at: 02/02/2011

    2. Select a print you think will work the best. Scan it at the highest resolution you can get, at least 600 dpi, but preferably 1200 or 2400. If your scanner can't do hi-res, go to the local copy shop and have them do it for a few dollars. Be sure you only select one or two prints, as resolutions this high can make for very large files.

    created at: 02/02/2011

    3. Once your have your print in bitmap mode, play with it in your graphics software to clearly define the lines. I'm using Photoshop, but you could try the freeware alternatives available. [See this link for options] Play around with contrast, levels and curves, or even the filters (like stamp or posterize) to get as much contrast as possible, minimizing the gray between the friction ridges. You might need to go in and manually erase any bleed.

    created at: 02/02/2011

    4. When your satisfied, you'll want to convert your image to a vector file, so that you can scale it to any size you want. If you're not going for a huge final printed piece, you might be able to get by with just the hi-res scan, but it's worth playing around with the vector conversion, as it will continue to clean up your fingerprint. I imported mine into Illustrator and used the Live Trace functions, but there are free online raster-to-vector options like VectorMagic or Raster to Vector Converter that will work. One of your friends probably has Adobe suites, or your local print shop will as well, so you might be able to ask nicely and have them convert it for you.

    created at: 02/02/2011

    5. At this point, you can style your artwork in whatever way you please. I decided to put both of ours on one sheet, added some color and some paper-cut style text, but you could go for the cropped look as in this example and have two framed pieces hung side-by-side. (That's called a diptych - impress your friends!)

    Printing options are up to you. You could do something as easy as printing it at home, or get all fancy and make a screen print. I opted to go to my neighborhood print shop, and had them make a giclee print for $6, which is an archival ink-jet option that's much less costly than four color offset printing. It's not guaranteed forever - around 60-75 years, but that's good enough for me. Be sure to save your file at 300dpi!

    See how fun that was?! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at If you give it a shot, we'd love to see a photo.

    Good luck!


    This ManMade post originally appeared on February 2nd, 2011. We're sharing it again because it's almost Valentine's Day!

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    Fried rice is a comfort food in almost every Eastern culture where rice is a staple, and the styles vary widely among traditions cultures. But if you ask me, one cuisine has nailed it above all the others; and its version isn't just a way to use up leftover rice. It's a reason to make a huge pot of rice in the first place.    

    I first learned about Indonesian fried rice, nasi goreng, in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, James Oseland's Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and MalaysiaI have an unabashed love of Southeastern Asian cuisine in general, but I especially love going beyond the standard Thai and Vietnamese to learning about new ingredients and techniques not found anywhere else in the world. Ever heard of daun salam leaves? Candlenuts? Holland chiles? Read this book.

    I have made countless dishes from that book, karis and stews and Nyona pickles, but the one I return to again and again is the nasi goreng. I almost have it memorized, and so, even though I don't have the book on me currently, I can tell that Danielle Chang's version, from her new cookbook Lucky Rice, is going to taste delicious. 

    Nasi goreng begins with a flavorful paste of chiles, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste (a key Indonesian ingredient), that's fried and cooked with the leftover rice, eggs,  an Indonesian sweet soy sauce called kecap manis, and topped with flavorful aromatics.

    If you've got your wok technique down, this is a great way to implement your skills. And if you've never made anything like this, this is definitely worth expanding your repertoire. 

    I'm making rice tonight, which means this tomorrow. You should too.

    Danielle Chang's Nasi Goreng[]


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    The burger is usually thought of as summer fare — the progeny of some spatula-wielding self-appointed grill master. But true burger fans know that the very best are not cooked over grill grates, but on screaming hot solid surfaces, where the rendering fat and juices stay near the patty, creating not only a crispy exterior, but the deep, caramelized, confit-like richness that defines the flavor of a great burger.

    Which means, of course, that burgers are actually year-round food, and armed with a heavy cast iron skillet or griddle, a great way to spend an dark, cold evening stuck inside. If we're gonna have January, than let us always have burgers. 


    1. Mexican Chorizo and Garlic Shrimp Burger from Lady and Pups[pictured at top]


    2. The Umami Burger by Erin from Platings and Pairings


    3. The Insanity Burger by chef Jaime Oliver


    4. Asian Burgers with Sriracha Mayo fromChew Out Loud


    5. In-and-Out Double Double Animal Style, at homefrom The Burger Lab


    6. The Ultimate Veggie Burger fromThe Awesome Green


    7. Classic Bacon Cheeseburger by Simply Delicious Food


    8. Jameson Whiskey Blue Cheese Burger with Guinness Cheese Sauce + Crispy Onions from Half Baked Harvest


    9. Grilled Pork Burgers with Bacon and Chorizo by Suzanne Goins at Food52


    10. Bobby Flay's Crunch Burger at


    11. Coffee Rubbed Burgers with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce atThe Chunky Chef


    12. Carrot Tahini Quinoa Burgers with Tzatziki fromthe Rhubarbarians


    13. Best-Ever Veggie Burger from the Northstar Cafe at The Kitchn


    14. Smoky Chipotle Cheddar Burgers with Mexican Street Corn Fritters fromHalf Baked Harvest


    created at: 01/28/2016

    Oooo... and a bonus recipe from deep in the ManMade archives: Martin's Peanut Butter Cheeseburger. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. 


    Happy Weekend. 

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    Leather Tool CaseA few weeks back we talked about some of the basic, essential tools for getting started in leatherworking. Once you're set up, its time to put them into practice. Here are a few projects to hone those skills, and end up with some great practical pieces you can use everyday   Each of these is a great starting place to help walk through the first steps of the hobby.

    Passport Cover

    1. Hand-Sewn Passport Cover - I don't travel enough to make this something I need. However, the few times I pull out that passport I already feel like a jet-setting fool, so why not feel like it in style. This project uses leather glue, layout and cutting, and plenty of hand stitching.

    Leather Cup Holder

    2. Mason Jar Mug Holder - I've got a few mugs in the cabinet that I really love. Thick walled and heavy duty, they are the perfect match to cold drinks on the patio. This project is a simple holder with handle to keep the liquid party colder longer. I love the crossed stitching and styled handle, so much potential for customizing each one.

    Leather Roll-Up Case
    3. Leather Tool Roll-Up Case - We all have plenty of tools that need a home. This simple project adds in a sewing machine if you're so inclined, but hand stitching is still a respectable way to go.

    4. Leather Cord Wranglers - Keep your headphones, charging/syncing, and USB cables under control with this simple taco-style leather organizer.

    5. DIY Leather Valet Tray- Keep all your daily carry items in the same place each night in this simple but stylish catch-all tray. Looks great on your dresser, night stand, or hall table. 

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     A woodworking bench is more than just a table to lay your tools and project parts on. Used well, your bench is an all-in-one, three-dimensional clamping solution that will allow you to hold your work on any of its edges or faces. The traditional way to increase the work-holding capability is to place "dog holes" in your bench top, and allowing the, to work in tandem with a face or end vise to secure parts of any size.  

    In order to work best, these holes need to be drilled vertically... or at a consistent off angle, typically between 2-3°. Normally, when you want a dead-on perfect angle, you'd place the workpiece on the drill press. But if you can figure out how to muscle your benchtop to work under a spinning drill press bit, then mister, you're a better man than I. 

    So, instead, we must take the drill to the work, and figure out how to keep our angle nice and consistent while creating clean holes in a beefy benchtop. The answer, as in many woodworking solutions that seek consistency: let's build a jig!  


    How to: Build a Jig for Drilling Bench Dog Holes

    Tools and Materials:

    • 3/4" dog hole bushing (not required, but highly recommended), more below
    • 3/4" auger bit, more below
    • Crosscut saw, drill, and other assorted tools
    • length of 2x4, some 3/4" plywood, and other scraps


    My approach takes advantage of this ingenious little helper - a steel bushing that prevents your bit from wandering. You don't have to use one, but a guarantee that I won't mess up the benchtop I spent months building is worth $8.40 to me. If you want to try to DIY something with the same principle, look for some steel pipe with an ID of exactly 3/4" and cut it to size.


    The bushing is sized to work with a piece of wood exactly 1 1/2" thick. Thankfully, that's the thickness of a 2x4, so grab a scrap that will work.



    If you don't have access to a drill press, use a square to guide your drill to bore a 90° with a 1" bit. Keep trying until you get it right on. 2x4s are cheap, and it's okay if your jig has a couple of holes, as long as you mark the right one. 


    I do have a small benchtop drill press, so I used that to drill my outer hole with a 1" Forstner bit.


    Next, cut a piece of scrap plywood to make the base. The size isn't as important, as we'll be adding a fence, but make it as long as your 2x4, and wide enough that you'll be able to place the bushing as far in as you want your dog holes. Mine was about 5 1/2" x 8".


    Attach the base to the 2x4 with countersunk screws. It's important to use screws and not brads or pneumatic fasteners here, since you'll want to be able take it apart to reuse the guide bushing without the fence to drill holes in other places besides the front edge of your bench.


    Now, determine how far from the front edge you want your dog holes. I researched the heck out of this, and everything I found indicated that drilling them as close as possible is best, preferably within 2". So, I drew my line to make them 2" on center from the edge, or, once drilled, 1 5/8" from the front edge.


    With that established, mark a line 2" (or whatever you choose), from the center of the guide hole...


    ... and nail/screw and glue a thin strip of plywood to serve as a fence.


    Lastly, use a scrap block and hammer or a soft mallet to insert the bushing. 


    Drilling Your Dog Holes

    With your inset line marked, mark a nice big cross to indicate the center of each hole. I spaced mine 4" apart, as that's basically the travel of my end vise.


    To prevent tearout on the backside, clamp or screw a scrap of 2x4 underneath your dog hole line.


    The proper bit for the job is an auger bit. This will help you power through the thick top while leaving a clean hole. The wide spiral flutes help remove the chips. I used a Wood Owl Ultra Smooth tri-cut bit, and was very happy with the results. You can really feel this dude grab and pull itself into the wood, and it left a great finish. Highly recommended. 


    Set up the guide over the cross hairs, and check the placement by inserting the brad point of the bit into the jig. Fiddle with it until it hits dead center, and clamp in place. (If you haven't drilled the plywood base yet, you'll need to do that first to see through). Repeat until you've drilled all your holes. If you want to create a second row, just remove the bushing and screw to additional bases. 


    Potential last step: if you, like me,  used a softwood for your benchtop, the wood around the holes will get all mangled with repeated use, especially on Douglas fir, which is particularly prone to tearout. That won't really affect its functionality, but since I'm using mine for photography, so I decided to add some insurance.


    I used a router and 45° chamfer bit to soften the edges. I needed to buy a new bit with a 1/4" shank here to get a bearing small enough to fit inside my holes. I'm glad was able to find that 1/4" collet... which I'm pretty sure I have never used in the ten years of owning this thing. 


    Use a plunge base if you have one. If not, and your router has a pretty soft start, you'll probably be okay. Just test it on some scrap first, like that 2x4 with all the 3/4" holes in it you used to prevent blowout. 


    And... you're done! I added some in front of my face vise, and down the right leg to support long boards. I also put some in the back leg and side aprons to store my holdfasts and other tools when not in use.

    Make sure you keep your bushing guide and all the bases for whenever you want to add more. Write their use with a big black marker so they don't get confused for scrap.

    Have fun!

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    Anyone who loves hiking or outdoor exploration is familiar with the cairn, that characteristic stacks of rocks used as a trailmarker, warning a steep overhang, or just a general, leave-just-a-little trace that someone was here. At first, each cairn is a little discovery, a naturalist's work of art that puts design and intentional experience into the landscape. And then you see them multiple times on every. single. trek. you take, and your eyes just gloss over them after awhile. (Unless you're lost. They're always welcome when you're lost.)   


    Gravity Glue, a series by "balance artist" Michael Grab, seeks to put meaning back into the outdoor stone stack. Equal parts Andy Goldsworthy and Alexander Calder, these artful piles somehow become greater than the sum of their parts.

    Here's a little video on the process. As you'll see, there's no magic, or hardware/adhesives, involved.

    Perhaps it's my wintertime cabin fever, but I haven't found something so inspiring in months. 

    See them all at: Gravity Glue by Michael Grab

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    My highschool workshop teacher had a saying that's always stuck with me: Keep you edges sharp and your powder dry. While I don't pay much attention to the dryness of my powder these days, I take a lot of interest in my tools. Sharp edges are safer, more precise, less frustrating, and just a lot more fun to work with. Here is one of my secrets to keeping them cutting at their best.    You may have seen a strop in an old barber's shop. It was that long, narrow piece of thick leather hanging on the wall. The barber would take his straight blade razor and slap it up and down the surface a few times before turning his attention to the lathered face of his customer. This simple movement was actually a critical part of keeping that blade honed, as it straightened out the microscopic curl of the metal edge.

    Because that's what happens when you're tools get dull: the thin edge metal folds over or gets rounded off, and it needs to be dealt with before you ruin a cut, or push too hard and slice up one of your fragile fingers. I've had a simple piece of leather belt hanging in my shop for a while, and it works fine as a makeshift version of that barber's strop. But this wooden strop project makes for a much easier way to keep my tools honed, and it looks better too.

    The Materials

    • Hardwood Backer Board - The main concern with the backer wood is that it will stay flat and level, so pick out a piece of hardwood like maple or walnut, and go with quarter-sawn if possible for stability. I sliced off a piece of walnut from a larger piece of stock on the band saw. MDF will also work.

    • Leather Strip - The leather for this project should be hard, untanned leather if possible. I picked up a piece from  here ($15) that I have been using on a couple of projects for the past few months. The leather should be rough to hold on to a bit of honing compound, or you can sand smooth leather with a bit of 300-400 grit sandpaper to help it along.
    • Glue - You can use standard yellow wood glue or 5-minute epoxy ($10) to secure the leather to the wood.
    • Honing Compound - This gives the leather a bit of extra effectiveness. You can use either honing compound stick ($12), or a diamond paste ($8). Either way, it's effective for months of normal use, so a little bit goes a long way.

    The Steps

    Cut and level the backing board - As I said earlier, it's important that the backer board is stable and level. I sliced a 3/4" thick slice of walnut off of a piece of stock wood, then squared it up on the table saw. To make sure it was level, I gave it a quick sanding on a sheet of 100 grit sandpaper tacked to my workbench.

    Make the notch - This is an optional step, as you can glue the leather directly to the backer board. But I wanted the piece to feel a bit more finished so I notched out the thickness of the leather from the board with a crosscut sled and stops on each side.


    Cut the leather and secure - This is an important step, so use a fresh and very sharp knife blade for it. I cut the leather a bit larger than the finished dimensions and laid it in place to trim for a good fit. You'll definitely know it if this piece is too small or crooked so take your time. Once I had the fit perfect, I used 5-minute epoxy (yellow wood glue works just as well) to secure the leather to the backer board.

    Finish with mineral oil - The entire piece, wood and leather should get a good coat of mineral oil to finish off the project. The mineral oil protects the wood and charges the leather so that the honing compound can stick and be effective. I hand rubbed the oil on the entire piece, then wiped it clean with a rag.



    Add honing compound - The last step is a bit of honing compound or .5 micron diamond paste. If using a stick, rub the leather a few times from top to bottom. If using a paste, add a bit to the center of the strop and rub around the surface with a flat metal tool like a putty knife.

    While a strop won't replace the need for a good set of water or oil stones in the shop for routine sharpening, it will definitely extend the life of those edges during daily use. Once you find how effective they are, you may make a few extras so there's always one in reach.

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    Spending some time outside is, so to say, a big deal. Disconnecting from everyday life is what allows you to return to it focused, refreshed, and ready for new challenges. While a weekend in the wilderness might leave you feeling physically exhausted (and hopefully leave you a bit dirty, too), it's guaranteed to positively impact your mental clarity and ups your level of good feelings in the weeks that follow. 

    Sure, you can head into the woods with some sneakers and your book bag from high school. If that's what it takes to get you out, we're all for it. However, when you decide to upgrade the experience a bit, there are a few things you should be sure to bring with you. Quality gear is comfortable, more durable, and supportive on rough terrain. So go ahead and grab a few pieces at a time to make all you future adventures more enjoyable ones.    

    1. The Ten Essentials: These aren't just for backpacking, this is the necessary safety gear for any day hike or outdoor trek. I keep mine in a designated stuff sack so I can grab it and go anytime I'm headed out.



    2. Supportive footwear:  I started with the shoes first, because they are the barrier between rough terrain and the rest of your body. Good shoes are supportive around the ankles, are stable, and grip to slippery and  loose surfaces better. Gore-Tex means they're breathable and fend off water during the wet spring weather.

    ManMade recommendedVasque Mantra 2.0 Gore-Tex Boots $110


    3. 2-3 Day Pack: A small pack really needs to come along on your adventures. It holds everything you need to carry in order to have a safe and enjoyable day. A 24-liter pack is really the minimum, but for day hikes anything over a 35 is overkill. The Gregory Salvo has a nice hip and shoulder strap system that distributes the load well and hugs your back just enough without feeling too confining.

    ManMade Recommended: Gregory Salvo 24 Backpack ($115)


    4. Water Bottle: A repurposed sports drink bottle is fine at first, but these days, the Avex is by far my favorite (and I have tried a lot of water bottles). The one-handed operation, easy carry hook, and durability of this bottle has really impressed me. I've tried pretty hard to destroy this bottle, but day after day it continues to keep me hydrated.

    ManMade Recommended: Avex Water Bottle ($16)


    5. Moisture Wicking T-Shirt: Out on the trail, cotton is your enemy. Once wet with sweat, precipitation, or a wash in the stream, cotton never dries. One inexpensive way to get into technical layers is the Climacool from Adidas. I picked up a few of these years ago, and they are still some of my favorite t-shirts. They fit tight under layers, have flat-stitching, and just feel great all day.

    ManMade Recommended: Adidas Climacool Shirt ($15)


    6. Quick-drying pants: After a while, everyone wanders off that beaten path. It may be to get a great view, or just answer the call of nature, but hiking pants are more flexible, and hold up better to sharp branches and rough surfaces while scrambling.

    ManMade Recommended: Columbia Sports Silver Ridge Hiking Pants ($35)


    7. Wool Socks:  Speaking of breathable, merino wool is soft and pushes sweat away from the skin so your feet won't get clammy after hours on the trail. Cotton is not ideal for outdoor adventures, but it does the most damage to your biggest trekking asset: your feet. 

    ManMade Recommended: Darn Tough Merino 1/4 Socks ($15)



    8. Hiking Underwear: This category matters, but doesn't get mentioned enough. The undercarriage gets a bit clammy out there and chafing can be a problem. That's where Saxx comes in with a built-in pouch to keep the family jewels from sticking to your leg and provides a bit of circulation down there. Trust me, these are worth it when you need them. 

    ManMade Recommended: Saxx Underwear ($18)


    9. Mid-Layer: Okay, this is more of a highly suggested extra that falls more under a luxury item, but I'm really impressed with this sun-shielding hoodie. Slathering on that thick sunscreen can't always be helped, but with this light, UV-blocking hoodie you can pretty much limit your sunscreen to just the face and neck. It's impressively cool when it's hot out, but still fends off the chill of a spring evening with ease.

    ManMade Recommended: Outdoor Research Sun Hoodie ($80)


    Keep these tools in your pack every time you walk into the wild, just in case life gets a bit crazy. Everyone should have their own set, as getting split from your hiking group can happen. Go prepared and you'll never be sorry.

    Do you have anything you would add to this starter list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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    The Five Love Languages has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List since it debuted in 1995. It’s spawned a series of follow up books, online personality tests, and spin-off community forums. And here’s how you can use that knowledge to learn more about yourself while scoring some quality points with your significant other this Valentine’s Day…    

    Here’s the deal: According the the book’s author, there are five “ love languages” through which all humans express and experience love. They are: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch. Naturally everyone can feel a measure of love through any of these actions but most people tend to identify most strongly with one or two categories. The key then is to figure out which love languages are most natural to your significant other and then to try expressing love through those avenues (rather than simply sticking to what may come most naturally to you). Ideally your significant other does the same and everybody feels loved all around.

    The books makes some hefty claims about human psychology that psychologists have yet to fully explore, although early studies have shown that there’s definitely some psychometric validity to the claims despite their generalized nature. 

    If you’ve never heard of this concept before, take some time to poke around the internet for more information or go ahead and check out the actual book

    Quality Time: This is for people who value both good conversations with undivided attention and those quiet times spent together where nothing is even said. If this is your significant other’s primary love language, try planning a new adventure for the two of you that will allow for some quality time together. Consider a beautiful hike or a road trip to new small town. Maybe even sign up for a new one-time class or event like swing dancing or visiting an archery range -- just something out of the ordinary.

    Alternatively, try staying home, turning off your phones and asking your significant other a series of questions you’ve never asked them before. Ask their opinion on controversial topics or to describe what they loved about their favorite room as a child. Then, really listen to what they have to say. The New York Times article on “The 36 Questions that Lead to Love” is a fantastic starting place (and a great read in general) if you’re looking for good conversation starters. 


    Words of Affirmation: This is for people eat up those sweet, affirming things people say to them and keep them close to their hearts when times are tough. These are people who express affection through spoken words and from what I understand there’s something they also particularly connect to in the auditory part of the process. If this is your person, you’ve got to write them a good old fashioned love letter. Tell them what you love about them and then read it to them out loud. If you’re not one who goes in for wordsmithery, don’t worry, just list things you love about them or instances you can remember where they made an impression on you and why. 

    Alternatively, if your lover is a lyrics person, consider making them a good old fashioned mix CD with songs whose lyrics capture something about how you feel about them. Extra points if you’re able to actually burn it to a physical disc with handwritten sharpie on top. 

    Seriously, just talk them all day long, and see how your communication and rapport is affected. 


    Acts of Service: People who experience love through this language are almost the opposite of the Words of Affirmation people. Here it’s actions, not words, that count. For this category, I suggest you start scoping out something that you know your significant other has been meaning to do forever, but just simply hasn’t had the time to do themselves. Then, obviously, do it. Clean out their car, organize the garage, run errands for them. If your significant other has a hard time asking for favors (as often accompanies this love language) give them a couple homemade coupons for services you’ll happily provide for them. 

    Alternatively, cook them a great meal on Valentine’s Day (preferably one that takes a couple hours of service to marinate, bake, simmer, etc.) AND do all the cleanup yourself. Don’t let them do anything. 


    Receiving Gifts: You’re in luck. Build literally anything. 

    I jest, but since we’re a DIY blog -- you’re in the right place. Look through our recent posts and see what strikes your fancy -- and ideally falls within a skill-set you posses. But also who cares if it’s a little outside your skill-set? We’re talking about LOVE here!

    This is the category for people who aren’t necessarily materialistic, yet something about receiving a physical gift is for them a symbolic act of love. In that vein, I suggest making something personal about your relationship or love in general, like this custom art of matching fingerprints or this simple modern necklace. 


    Physical Touch: This one hopefully speaks for itself. But it’s everything from holding hands to sex to squeezing your lover’s shoulder as you pass through the kitchen. If this is your person, consider expanding beyond the usual Netflix cuddling and offer to give them a massage while you watch something. Try going the extra mile all day with your physical affection. See if you can make contact once every fifteen minutes from morning to night. Or you know… get it on


    There you have it! A little something for every love language... that isn't nachos. 'Cause those are a guaranteed hit no matter the language. 


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    Baking supplies for the beginnerIs baking making? What category of craftsmanship does it really fall into, after all? I think the answers to these questions are, yes, and I don't care. Since I spend way too much of my everyday life sitting in front of a computer, moving invisible bytes around, baking is one of the easiest, fastest ways for me to get my hands dirty when I get home from work. 

    It's magical; actually. You take this stuff (usually wheat flour) that, by itself is bland and horrible and inedible, and you mix it with a little water, a little salt, and some heat, and suddenly you can achieve a ridiculous variety of breads. By tweaking the ratios just a bit, you can end up with totally different types of food. I know gluten is not on the popular list right now, but I'm holding fast: bread is the best.

    Plus, baking and brewing are like Frog and Toad. Beer is, basically, liquid bread (specifically, seven slices, or something like that), right? So, if you like beer, it follows that you like bread ...

    If you're not into baking yet, let me be the first to nudge you toward the oven. It's warm and tasty over there; you're going to love it.

    The Basic Kit

    1. A Porcelain-Enameled Dutch Oven

    So-named because in the late 17th century, the Dutch developed the best method for mass-producing these cast-metal pots, the Dutch Oven has a very smooth (nearly non-stick) enamel surface and a tight-fitting lid. In my opinion, it's one of the most useful tools in any kitchen, and it's especially helpful for allowing novice bakers (like me) to create delicious, perfectly-crusty bread with a standard home oven. Check out my guide, "The No Bullshit Way to Make Your Own Bread" for a primer. 



    2. A Digital Kitchen Scale

    Baking is about ratios. Too much water or too little flour, and you could be making a totally different kind of loaf. It's true that experienced bakers can get the proportions right just by feel, by touching the dough and relying on their senses to tell them if it needs to be drier or wetter. But for us beginners, a digital scale is the fastest, easiest way of getting consistent results. Plus, you'll use it for lots of other kitchen tasks.

    ManMade Recommended: Jennings CJ4000 4000g digital scale


    3. A good cutting board and bread knife

    A great cutting board isn't that hard to come by; you make your own without too much trouble (here, here, and  here). But it makes the experience of serving, cutting and eating good bread just a little bit ... gooder. A great cutting board (for bread) should be made of a wood like maple, teak, beech or walnut (not too hard, though ... or it's hard on your knives). A nice heavy board also give you a more balanced, stable surface to cut on. 

    A good bread knife should have a high-carbon stainless steel serrated blade, and it needs to be pretty long (about 9-10 inche) to let you slice all the way through large loaves. I like pointed serrations (as opposed to scalloped) because the points grip into the crust on contact and let you start cutting from the start (avoiding dreaded loaf-squishing). 



    4. A large glass mixing bowl

    Don't try to mix up your dough in a bowl that's too small for the task. This is one of my pet peeves. Mixing in small containers always results in a mess, and (I think) an unevenly-mixed dough. Use a salad bowl if you must, but find something big to mix in. I prefer glass, because I think metal bowls are weird and react with my food, leaving an odd taste. But maybe I'm just crazy. Anyway...

    ManMade Recommended:Pyrex 4-quart mixing bowl

    More Advanced Tools

    If you're going to move beyond the basics, here are some of the tools I'd recommend. These aren't totally necessary, but they can make your life a little easier, especially if you start to ramp up your bread production. 

    1. Stand Mixer

    As soon as you get into cakes, cookies, or quick-breads, you're going to want one of these. They're not cheap, exactly, so maybe wait around for a good deal, or put one on your next holiday wish list. But a stand mixer is incredibly versatile, and can help you produce nice, evenly-hydrated dough in larger amounts, and in less time. 

    ManMade Recommended: KitchenAid KSM150 Artisan (5-quart)

    2. An oven thermometer

    My oven doesn't have a thermometer built in. If yours does, I can pretty much guarantee you it's inaccurate. For less than the cost of a large latte, you can get a decent thermometer that will tell you what temperature you're actually baking your bread at! Just like proportions, in baking, temperature matters. Get one of these and your breads, pizzas, and cookies will start coming out more consistently, I promise.

    ManMade Recommended: Pro-Accurate Oven Thermometer 

    3. A Pizza Peel

    If you decide to try baking on the grill (or making pizza there), or find a bread baking method you like better than the Dutch Oven technique, a pizza peel will likely come in handy. Even if you don't, it's a really nice way to serve up a fresh loaf of bread of a piping hot pizza. And for around $15, it's not a big investment. I think you'll like having one. 

    4. A big cast iron skillet

    When you need a break from eating delicious home-baked bread, you can switch over to eating delicious home-baked pizza. I've been using the  reverse-broiler method described here for (holy crap) seven years, and I have yet to find any reason to deviate from it. It starts with basically the same process as you'll use for bread (so all the bread baking equipment still applies) and then you assemble and bake the pizza in a heavy, cast-iron skillet. It's so good I think I'm going to stop writing this post right now and go make/eat some...

    ... okay I'm back. Here's a good one to buy:

    (Note: this thing is kind of pricey and heavy at 15". You'll probably only end up using it for pizza, so it's not exactly a versatile tool. But I strongly recommend against trying to make good pizza in a smaller pan. You'll crowd the dough and end up with a worse result.)


    5. A bench scraper

    So inexpensive. So useful. I don't know why they don't just include these with the kitchen when they build them, frankly. Great for splitting dough, scraping up leftover bits, cleaning off cutting boards, and generally appearing to be a better baker than you actually are.


    6. Proofing/storage containers

    When your dough is rising, you want it to maintain an even temperature and humidity. While you can certainly get by with a big mixing bowl tightly-covered with plastic wrap, these plastic proofing containers are made just for that. They're transparent, with vertical sides, and marked on the outside, so you can see exactly how much your little dough-baby has grown. When a recipe asks you to let your dough rise until it has doubled in size, you'll have no problem checking on it. I like these Cambro 6-quart containers because they're, frankly, huge, nest inside each other, and seal up really tight. 


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    Today is Valentine's Day, and couples of all sorts will be headed out on the town to celebrate. Whether such plans are on your radar, or you're generally interested in looking snazzy without seeming like you just came from a sales meeting, we thought we'd share some basic ideas and tips to, well, nail it.  

    1. Focus on looking stylish, not dressing up. There are two ways to think about non-jeans and t-shirt clothes: looking professional and looking stylish. Dressing professional is what you do for work - tucking your shirt into semi-casual clothes, wearing a dark suit, starched collars, etc. Unless your date also has the ability to offer you a new job, your goal is look snazzy, not dress up. Some clothing pieces you own are good for both, which is awesome. The trick is in how you put them together.

    As you assemble an ensemble, ask yourself this: Am I trying to impress my date or my date's mom? 

    2. Take a shower an hour before you leave. It's important to be clean, but also to appear natural. Your hair needs time to dry, your skin time to return to its actual color, and any scents in your soap or shampoo to stabilize. As always, the goal is to smell like a man, not like chemicals. Use cologne lightly, if at all; deodorant might be all you need.

    3. Have options. You wanna match your date and your destination in dressiness. Try to choose clothing that can go a multitude of ways - with a tie/without, with a sweater, under a jacket, etc.  Have an idea of the most you can wear, and the least, while still looking put together. If you're picking your date up, keep a jacket or sweater under your arm until you have all the info. If you're getting dressed in the same space, feel free to ask, and be extra careful not to outdress your partner. That'll start things off on a sour note, indeed.

    4. Match. This seems obvious, but it's essential if you don't own lots of dressier clothing, and you're looking to make the most of it.

    • You socks match your pants, not your shirt or jacket.
    • Your belt matches your shoes, which coordinate with any metal you might be wearing (a watch, buttons on a sportcoat, belt buckle, shoe buckle, jewelry)


    5. Don't Look like a Guy. Look like a man, whatever than means for you. For many, it can mean avoiding certain "guy" standards, like:


    • White socks. Someone will see them, and it'll probably be your date. Don't do it.
    • Pants should have three or four pockets: two on your hips, and one or two on the back. No cargo pants or shorts. On a date, but preferably ever. 
    • Sandals. Or baseball caps. But you knew that already. 
    • Wear a watch. You don't wanna be pulling out your phone to check the time.
    • No jewelry, unless you're on a date with your partner and it's your wedding ring.



    6. Don't Wear Sneakers. Even if you're wearing casual/dressy-casual clothing, at least go the extra bit to wear a dressier belt and shoes. It'll make you feel like you're doing something different, and that'll inform the mood of the date as something special. I promise.

    7. Contrast. Be sure that your clothes coordinate, but are not all the same saturation of color or tone. Never wear a white shirt and khaki pants, unless you're going boating, even with a dark/colorful tie. (See #9) You'll look off-balance. If you're wearing lighter pants, balance it with a dark sweater. If you're wearing darker pants, choose a lighter shirt or jacket, and wear brown shoes instead of black.

    8. You don't have to shave. Depending on your beard, you might consider not shaving before your date, especially if you shaved that morning, or the night before. One, you'll increase your chances of cutting yourself, which, if you're trying hard not to, you naturally will. But two, totally clean faces can sometime look a bit off with well-cut dressier clothing, and you might come off looking younger than you are. You can consider leaving a day (but no more!) of stubble, especially if you're wearing a jacket or tie. Look at the faces of the guys on the covers of fancy magazines. They didn't shave right before they got dressed, so perhaps you shouldn't either. If you're lucky enough to have a full, balanced beard, use it.

    9. Don't wear a tie unless you're wearing a sweater or jacket. You'll look like a temp, or a seven year old at a wedding.

    10. Consider jeans. Dark jeans, that is. If you're concerned about over-dressing for your date, the restaurant, or the event, try dark jeans. Coupled with a sweater or a jacket, you'll look plenty dressy, and come off as being put together, like you planned it. 

    11. If you don't feel confident in what you're wearing, don't wear it. This principle is the mirror of the first - stylish vs. dressing up. If the only jacket you have is big and baggy and left over from college, don't wear a jacket. Just because a shirt has a collar doesn't mean it's dressy. You'd be better off in a well-fitting henley or sweater than a worn out button-up. This is a date, not church. There isn't a dress's an opportunity to make the night special.

    For more style and menswear ideas, check out:


    And the ManMade "Style and Fashion" and "Modern Manliness" boards on Pinterest!



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    I admit it: I'm pretty rough on my stuff, so when it matters, I like to make sure it lasts. Adding a layer of wax adds durability and helps to prevent water saturation, and shed stains and grease. Here are the simple steps to keep your fabric and canvas like new in the shop.    

    Waxing canvas and fabric has been around for centuries. Early sailors and outdoorsmen used grease, whale and fish fats to seal off their clothes, tents and sails from the elements.  But animal fat tend to sour over time and nobody wants to smell like a beached whale. That's where beeswax, paraffin and similar materials come in. Heat them up a bit and they rub in nicely with a great vintage look that feels naturally worn and still well protected.

    You can blend your own wax for the process, but getting a pre-made bar like this one makes it easy to get a layer of waterproof, flexible, and non-yellowing protection that will keep your gear looking great for years. I purchased the 5 oz bar, and barely made a dent in it on this project.

    The Process:

    1. Make sure your materials are clean and dry.

    2. Rub the wax onto the fabric with even strokes warming up the wax with friction. Continue to rub on the wax until there is an even layer.

    3. Heat the fabric with a hair dryer or heat gun to allow the wax to soak into the material. 

    4. Allow the wax to dry for 10-15 minutes, then heat up again and allow to fully dry.

    Once the material is fully dry, it should hold up to abuse for years to come. The picture above shows how seams and other areas have a vintage, worn color to them after application. If you need to, wash the material with soap and water. Don't ever put in the washing machine, that wax plays havoc on anything else in the load, just. . . trust me on that one. If you need another layer, repeat the steps from above.


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    Sooner or later, you're gonna have to do it. It may be because you lost a little weight, and now it's time to notch over one more, and you're plumb out of holes. Maybe it'll be due to the fact that different pairs of pants sit on your body at different places. Or it may be that you'll simply had that belt for a little while, and the leather has stretched a bit. 

    created at: 02/22/2012

    But, at some point, you're gonna have to punch a hole in a belt. And if you do it right, it can look perfectly in line with the others, like it's been there the entire time.   created at: 02/22/2012

    No matter which of the techniques below you opt for, 90% of your success will be determined not by how the hole gets there, but by where you put it in the first place. In most men's belts, the holes are spaced at a perfect one inch, making your job plenty easy. Simply use a ruler to set up a horizontal straight edge by making sure it crosses each hole at the same point, and mark on the back.

    created at: 02/22/2012

    Or, if you're crazy obsessive (I am), you can make a little template with some painters tape. Just use the existing holes to mark their placement, then shift the whole thing down by one. Hold it up to the light to make sure your dots are placed right in the center.

    created at: 02/22/2012

    Option #1: The Awl (or Nail) If you have at least a medium-ly equipped tool box, you'll definitely have a hammer or mallet. And you may have an awl, which is (basically) a metal point with a handle. It's similar to an ice pick, which you could just as easily use. If you don't have an awl, get one! They're like $2.00, and you'll find uses for them in all sorts of wood, paper, leather, and fabric projects. Or, try a large nail.


    created at: 02/22/2012

    There's not much to it: Mark your spot, and place your belt on some scrap wood. Use short firm strokes to slowly insert the sharp point into the material, driving it all the way through until you've reached the thickness of the metal that corresponds to the size of your holes. Which is another argument for the awl over the nail, as the tool is evenly tapered along its length.

    created at: 02/22/2012

    Option #2: The Electric Drill If you take your time, and start the hole well, you can drill through leather with fairly clean results.

    The trick will be to make the right sized hole, so test by inserting the solid ends of your drill bits until you've selected just the right one. You'll have the best results if you can start the hole cleanly. If you have brad-point bits, you'll definitely want to opt for those over metal tapping bits. If not, make a significant dimple where you want your hole with a nail or sharp knife, and use that to keep the bit in place.


    created at: 02/22/2012

    Option #3: The Leather Hole Punch This designated tool is by far the most ideal option. You can find them easily, and they're great to have around. This is the one I use.

    These revolving punch pliers have a wheel with multiple sizes to punch round holes in pretty thick material. The tension springs make it easy to punch by hand. Seriously for the price of a nice lunch...this is good investment to have around.

    If your belt has oval shape or elongated holes, I'm guess you could use this tool to create the two round corners and then cut out the middle with an craft knife. But even I'm not that obsessive. A well-space round hole will do you just fine.


    If you liked this post, please consider sharing it on Pinterest. Here's a handy image just for that (thanks!):

    How to punch a belt hole - three ways



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    Note to the wise: a box usually isn't enough. Many tools in the shop need a bit more protection. When tools get neglected, edges get dull and things get lost. A tool roll is a simple way to keep those small collections of specialty tools in top shape and exactly where they should to be when you need them. Here's a simple way to make your own.     For me, my leather tools have been clinking together in a couple of plastic bags for the past six months and after I found one of my specialty needles sitting on the floor I knew something had to happen. That's where my need for a custom tool roll came in. The benefit of a tool roll is that it can be easily made to fit every tool, and it naturally protects each within the roll. 

    For this project, I used fabric because it's easy to work with, and I haven't used a sewing machine in quite a while so I figured it was time to dust it off. Here's how I made it:

    Tools and Materials:

    1. Fabric (about 1/2 yard) - This is personal preference, but since I knew I was going to be waxing my tool roll I used a thinner material. 

    2. Strap Material - I used leather for the strap, but it could be made from fabric as well. Even string or a nylon strap can work.

    3. Sharp Knife - When cutting material, use a very sharp knife. I use a rotary blade for cloth and leather, it's like a pizza cutter so it doesn't bind up. It also helps to cut on a self healing or forgiving surface that doesn't dull the blade during cuts.

    4. Straightedge - Use a straight ruler or yardstick to lay out and cut the materials square.

    5. Wax - For a nice finish, I used wax to protect the materials and provide a bit more robust material. Here's a tutorial about how I waxed the materials.

    6. Sewing Machine - You can sew this by hand, but using a machine is more accurate and just easier overall.

    The Steps:

    1. Lay out the tools - Take some time to lay out the tools in the right order. Keep in mind how close things can be, and if you want additional pockets. Go for tight groupings, but remember when it all rolls up you should have a bit of play.

    2. Measure the fabric - After laying out the tools, measure the length and height and cut the fabric. Be sure to add a bit for a seam along the edges.

    3. Sew the body - Sew a seam around all 4 sides to keep the material from fraying. Then iron it flat and prep for the main pocket.

    4. Cut and sew on the pocket - I cut the main pocket about 1/4" longer than it needed to be so the edges could be folded over then sewn on the main body.

    5. Layout and sew tool pockets - Once the main pocket is sewn on, lay out and mark with a pencil where to sew the tool specific slots. I installed them one at a time to keep them tight enough so the tools can easily be removed but still stay in with a bit of friction. I also kept a larger pocket for thread and needles to slip into. I kept it in the center so it would hold it in when rolled shut.

    6. Cut and attach strap - The single strap is a strip of leather that I cut then treated with leather preservatives and wax. The roll stays together with a simple twist of the strap.

    7. Wax and finish - To finish off the roll, I followed the tutorial we did over here for a waxed finish. It was easy to apply and adds some great durability to the roll.

    Each tool roll is different, since the tools inside dictate the design. One option is to add a second pocket opposite the first, so tool can be inserted in from each direction and the holding space can be doubled. The limit is really your imagination, but one thing is certain - once you make the first, everything in the shop will need one.

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