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    created at: 10/24/2011

    I've been on a "big art" kick lately. And when I say "big", I mean gigantic (check out The World's Largest Wood Type for further clarification). There's something about a traditional art or craft done at a mind-blowingly large scale that just tickles my magic beans. So I'm going to file this 15' x 10' solvent transfer sign + tutorial in my enormous folder for all things awesome.

    The creative folks at The Mandate Press applied this Beatrice Warde quote to a big ol' sheet of canvas that is, hands down, the largest solvent transfer I have ever seen. If you're not familiar with solvent transfers, the process is actually quite simple:  

    created at: 10/24/2011

    1) Print out an image with a toner-based printer (laser printer, not an inkjet) and lay it ink-side down onto a piece of canvas or paper or wood...the list goes on.

    2) Coat the back of the paper with acetone and firmly burnish all of the inked areas with a spoon or brayer.

    3) Peel the paper off and, assuming you used enough solvent and pressed hard enough, the ink will have transferred from your paper to the canvas.

    created at: 10/24/2011

    A coupleimportant things I should mention about solvent transfers: 1) The transfer on the canvas will be a mirror image of what was on the paper, so make sure you reverse your image/text before printing it. 2) Solvents are nasty, toxic stuff. Besides acetone, I know people who use Xylene, as well as wintergreen oil (for real…it's less toxic than a lot of solvents, and it makes your entire house smell like wintergreen). Regardless of what you use, make sure you do this in a well-ventilated room and wear gloves.

    Now back to the huge solvent transfer: The tutorial that was written up by The Mandate Press is great, but if you've never tried this before, I'd recommend starting a bit smaller and possibly checking out a more detailed tutorial (like this one).

    Double XL Solvent Transfer + Tutorial[The Mandate Press]

    Bonus: Even more photos can be seen on Flickr.

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    Kuu Lamps


    A vignette is a visual focus point that identifies the character of a room. These intentional areas are often the shots you'll see published in magazines, and you can achieve 'em at home, using mostly items you already have. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

    Use these tips to to make the most out of your space, using what you already own to great effect and keeping it cool and masculine. It can be done, and it's easier than you expect.

    1. Sticking to a colour palette (above): first, you gotta choose your colour palette; a couple main colours plus a complementary tone. Above you can see black and white are the main stars of the show, the complimentary colour (tanned) is perfect and adds a touch of masculine to the whole space. The cleaner you keep your paletter the less cluttered and busy it'll look. So yes, get rid of those clashing ikea knick-knacks from college!


    clean interiors

    2. Make it quirky: adding a touch of playfulness makes a room that much more interesting. In the example above the clean space works great with those empty picture frames combines with one photo. The trick is not to overdo it or it'll look like a storage room. Stick to odd numbers and subtle pieces. Go to the thrift shop and look for unique objects that go with your palette. (image)


    space fillers - adding greenery

    3. Use space fillers: got a huge empty space? Don't know what to place it in? Add some fillers! Space fillers can be anything from a single HUGE painting to a couple of oversized planters like the ones above. This is the easiest way to get rid of those "dead spaces" in your home that can drive you nuts. No need to spend endless hours trying to select an intricate and cohesive poster collection. (image)


    clean interiors

    4. Use everyday objects: incorporate objects you use on a daily basis. The bike in the image above is the perfect example: it's clean, it matches the decor, and also doubles as decor. Are you a hat lover? Use a simple rack and display them in your entrance. Got lots of cooking books? Place them arranged by size on your coffee table. You see what I mean now? Oh and keep dirty shoes and nasty laundry hidden away, those never work as decor ;)  (image)


    add colour to your room

    5. Use color to your advantage: if you absolutely positively do not want to get another piece of furniture, another picture frame, or plant - then use colour as your ally. In the example above the bright yellow on the heater works almost as a statement piece, no need to add anything else! Use this same principle around your home to create simple yet stunning vignettes. Another great example is to paint a door of one bright colour - boom! instant decor. (image)

    See, that wasn't so hard. It may be hard to get used to see bare spaces in your home, but trust us, once you get the hang of it and you see how awesome it is to live clutter free, you'll totally love it. Have fun!


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    Truly one of my all time favorite experiences is engaging in a methodical, creative activity while losing myself entirely in the world of an audiobook. As a kid, I’d listen to sci-fi / young adult books while building dioramas or piecing together big puzzles, and as an adult all that’s really evolved is my taste in literary genres. Here are some of my all time favorite audiobook recommendations that I’ve actually listened to in the woodshop.    

    1. AMERICAN GODSby Neil Gaiman

    This book floored me. I’d heard it recommended to me for quite some time and I decided to finally give it a listen around this time last year. The award-winning novel tells the story of a recently released convict named Shadow who quickly entrenches himself in a surreal struggle between the mythical gods of old (Odin, Anubis, the Queen of Sheba) and the new American gods (Media, the Technical Boy, the gods of the stock market) as they vie for the souls of everyday people. The Tenth Anniversary edition audiobook is read by a complete cast of actors, giving the listener the impression of a full cinematic experience that I highly recommend. The novel has also been adapted for television on Starz and comes out April 30th.


    There’s been a lot of talk about the white working class since Trump’s political upheaval last November, so this book couldn’t possibly be more timely. Part memoir, part sociological study, this humorous and riveting audiobook explores the author's relationship with his childhood and understanding of the world as he experienced it growing up in a poor rust belt town. As a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, Vance offers unique insights into the lives of white working class Americans in a way that is acute, incisive, and ultimately deeply vulnerable. The audiobook from HarperCollins is read by the author which only enhances the personal nature of the experiences at the core of the narrative.

    3. BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey

    Tina Fey literally changed the face of comedy and hearing her tell her tale in her own voice is a hysterical experience. If you liked “30 Rock” or “Weekend Update” or SNL in the late nineties - early thousands, you’ll enjoy hearing the behind the scenes stories of what they were actually like for the author, plus the long and entertaining road that she took to get there. Along the way you’ll gain insights about what it’s like being a woman in an image-obsessed and male dominated industry, as well as some enviable examples of dedication and devotion to one’s craft. Plus there’s nothing like listening to a comedian do her own material.

    4. The HIS DARK MATERIALS Trilogy by Philip Pullman

    Ok so this one does kind of fall under the young adult umbrella--BUT STAY WITH ME! This trilogy deeply affected my outlook on the world and it’s been hailed with near-universal acclaim for its fantastical examination of Miltonian theology and secular humanism. The story is a coming of age tale of two children as they fight to overcome “the Authority” while wandering through parallel universes. The book’s got witches, armored polar bears, and secret societies, but also a rigorous and adult treatment of philosophy, theology, and even physics. Like American Gods, this audiobook feature a full cast of actors and the narration is read by the author. So it’s the best of both worlds…


    Despite the title, there is no magic here. Instead it’s a heartbreaking yet insightful portrait of grief as it manifest itself for the author in the year following her husband’s unexpected heart attack and subsequent death. Didion’s writing is gutting as she simply walks the listener through the thought process involved with losing her best friend and partner of 40 years and the unique mental gymnastics she found herself performing on the road to acceptance (A simple example: not getting rid of all of her husband’s shoes months after he’d died because he would obviously need them if and when he returned). 

    6. THE BOOK OF JOE by Jonathan Tropper

    Here is a simple and slightly lesser-known “writer comes home” tale that I found to be such a lovely listening experience. The novel’s premise is somewhat familiar but nonetheless insightful and uplifting: Joe Goffman left his small town years ago and savaged the residents in his first novel for their treatment of a heartbreaking episode in the town’s history that took place when Joe was in high school. Now a disillusioned and middle-aged writer struggling with his sophomore novel, Joe has to return home to deal with his estranged father’s death and encounter the wreckage he left behind. Much in the vein of independent films like “Beautiful Girls” and “Wonder Boys,” the new love and old loss the main character has to reckon with is both beautiful and sad and heartwarming. The book reads like a movie (and has been in development for years) and the audiobook only serves to further that experience for the listener. 


    So those are my top recommendations at the moment. What do you love to listen to in the shop? Any audiobooks you think I ought to check out? 

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    created at: 06/16/2013

    Indoor plants in your home are a no-brainer: they bring the outside in, improve air quality, provide lots of natural color and texture, and encourage you to take an investment in the spaces you spend your time. They literally (and figuratively) add life to your home. Learn how to rock the green look with these six guy-friendly decor ideas. No floral wallpaper need apply.1: Mix and match. (pictured above) Go freestyle! Hit your nearest nursery and select a few different varieties. A few ideas include: palms, ferns, Massangeana, and rubber tree. Make sure to ask them about any special care requirements for each one of them (prior to visiting a nursery take notes about how much light the room gets). Add character by using mason jars, cans, and other reusable containers.

    2: Wild. If you have an empty space and you don't want to fuss too much about it, get a plant that will grow wild and free like a Monstera deliciosa (shown above). These type of plants require very little care and they'll do their own thing. Perfect to cover those awkward spaces where you cannot fit any furniture. 


    6 ways to add indoor plants

    3: Hang it. This container from Ikea can be easily installed on a wall or window frame. Use it in your kitchen and grow your own fresh herbs!


    6 ways to incorporate indoor plants 

    4: Minimal. If you only need a pop of green in the room, use a single kind of plant. Cactus are the best for this type of design - they're pretty sturdy and will survive in most conditions, plus they add a bit of a rustic feel to the room.


    created at: 06/16/2013

    5: Contain it. Another great option for small spaces - terrariums are easy to maintain and you can even make them yourself with a glass container, rocks, moss, and any low-maintenance plants like succulents or air plants.


    created at: 06/16/2013 

    6: Go epic. If you have tons of space, you can venture into making a living wall. They are quite pricey and they do require lots of work, but if you manage to nail them, they look AH-mazing. You could cheat the system by getting fake plants, but that kinda defeats the point of adding more life to your home (if you do, we'll keep your secret).

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    created at: 05/23/2016 Rare is the craftsperson who couldn't use just a littlemore workspace. Maybe not more square footage (though I'd certainly take some), but perhaps more work surfaces to spread out projects, or some more storage to keep track of all the bits and pieces that come along with any technique.

    Building this custom tool cabinet will certainly help. It adds a lot of vertical storage and organization for tools and parts, plus it's built into an old handtruck or wheel and axle combo. So you can nix your current bins and put your tools in here, build another worksurface in its place, then wheel your tools around in between to work on things with ease. Plus, it's built with standard and easy-to-find materials like "3/4" and 1/2" thick plywood, 1/4" thick MDF, ... and common hardware." Love it. 


    I like the use of the "one good face" plywood; it keeps the outside looking sharp, while the inside has more a pronounced "shop grade" flat sawn softwood look, which keeps everything nice and affordable. 

    Get the full how-to from the Lee Valley newsletter: Build a Rolling Tool Tote

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    created at: 02/19/2016

    So, I'm gonna throw down and get controversial for a sec: William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright and poet who ever spoke English, and I'd relish a comment-fight-to-the-death in the comments anyone who disagrees (not really, but I encourage the conversation).

    To argue the man's merits feels redundant; the work speaks for itself. The Bard's plays are so influential that he's taught us how we understand storytelling and character development in the modern and post-modern world. His words have become so ubiquitous that I'd bet good money everyone reading this knows unique phrases from at least 4 of the 5 speeches below (also lots of movies take their titles from his phrases). I challenge any man considering himself an educated member of our society read these speeches and attempt committing them to memory. You'll find them helpful in more than a few settings. 

    1. "To Be or Not To Be" by Hamlet in Hamlet.

     As long as I'm fabricating odds out of nowhere, I'll argue that if you rattle any person awake in the middle of the night and shout, "QUOTE ME SHAKESPEARE!" and said person complies, you'll get, "To be or not to be, that is the question." It's probably old Billy Shakes' most famous speech from his most famous character in his most famous play. It comes about 1/3 of the way through the play when Hamlet enters, wracked with the loss of his father and the news from the great beyond (his father's ghost? the devil? madness?) that his father was murdered by Hamlet's uncle, coupled with the estrangement caused by his mother's recent marriage to the accused murderer, on top of feeling betrayed for various reasons by his lover (Ophelia), just before the famous "nunnery scene."


    To be, or not to be, that is the question:
    Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
    No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
    The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
    That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
    To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
    For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause. There's the respect
    That makes Calamity of so long life:
    For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
    The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely,
    The pangs of disprized Love, the Law’s delay,
    The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
    That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his Quietus make
    With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death,
    The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
    No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
    Than fly to others that we know not of.
    Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
    And thus the Native hue of Resolution
    Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
    And enterprises of great pith and moment,
    With this regard their Currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
    The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
    Be all my sins remembered.


    2. Next up we've got Henry V's Saint Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V. This is arguably the most manly speech in the Shakespeare canon, potentially rivaled only by another famous Henry speech ("Once more unto the breech!"). It comes when the young English King Henry and his fellow soldiers are on the battlefield with the French enemy, out-gunned, out-manned, out-numbered, and out-planned. Henry's cousin and one of the military leader's exclaims, "O that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in England that do no work to-day!" to which the king replies:

    What's he that wishes so?
    My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
    If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive.
    No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
    God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
    As one man more methinks would share from me
    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words—
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester—
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


    3. "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" by Macbeth in Macbeth.

    This one's short and sweet but no less profound. It comes late in the play (Act V, Scene V) when Macbeth is surround by the forces of Macduff and Malcolm. Hearing the blood-curdling cry of a woman from within his castle, Macbeth recalls a time that such a cry would have made his hair stand on end, but now he is filled up with such horrors and slaughterous thoughts that nothing can startle him. When Seyton informs him that the queen, his wife, is dead, this is his response:

    She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word.
    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last syllable of recorded time,
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.


    4. "All The World's A Stage" by Jacques in As You Like It.

    This one pretty much stands alone with no need of introduction.


    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice,
    In fair round belly, with a good capon lined,
    With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


    5. "Sad Stories of The Death of Kings" by Richard II in Richard II

    This one is a personal favorite of mine from one Shakespeare's histories, less known to mainstream audiences. It takes place in the third act, when the ethereal and lofty-minded King Richard learns his kingdom has betrayed him and joined his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, in an overwhelming uprising against him (and Bolingbroke has already beheaded his remaining allies). One of Richard's few remaining followers asks where a certain powerful duke is, to which Richard responds:

    No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
    Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
    Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
    Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
    Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
    And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
    Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
    Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke's,
    And nothing can we call our own but death
    And that small model of the barren earth
    Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
    For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
    How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
    Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
    Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
    All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king
    Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
    Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
    Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
    To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
    Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
    As if this flesh which walls about our life,
    Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
    Comes at the last and with a little pin
    Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
    Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
    With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
    Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
    For you have but mistook me all this while:
    I live with bread like you, feel want,
    Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
    How can you say to me, I am a king?


    So there you are. Hit me with what you've got in the comments!


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    Make your own folding farm table

    On the side, my wife and I sell some of our handiwork at craft fairs, barn sales and vintage markets. When we got started, we had mostly folding plastic tables and white table cloths. And as you know, nothing, except maybe a grilled hot dog on a paper plate on the Fourth of July, looks its best on a folding plastic table and white table cloth.

    I was noticing that a lot of the vendors carted in giant farm tables and fixtures to hold all their products, but real farm tables are heavy and I don't even have a truck to carry all of that! So, I got to thinking how could I have the same look and feel of a farmhouse while also being portable. This weekend I tried out an idea and it worked out really well for what we need and I thought I'd share it with you.

    I can see this table being used as a portable bar or dinner table for an outdoor party. 

    What you'll need:

    1. Reclaimed flooring. You can also call your local hardwood flooring store and ask for discontinued boxes for a bargain. 
    2. 4 Medium-sized ornamental gate hinges
    3. 4 Spun legs. I bought mine at a big-box hardware store and removed the pre-installed leg screws.
    4. A pocket hole drilling kit and screws
    5. Wood Glue
    6. Nail pullers—if your flooring still has nails in it.

    One side of your table will have the groove and one will have the tongue, so we need to cut the tongue off, so lets start by removing that at the table saw.

    Create your own folding farm table

    Next, we'll start gluing up the pieces. I need my table to be about 48" long, so I dug through my pile for that length. To glue this table up properly, you can apply one of two ways. 1) you fill the groove joint with glue and hammer in the tongue joint. 2) coat the tongue joint on both sides of the tongue and hammer on the groove. 

    Create your own folding farm table

    If you're a slow gluer like me, you may have to clamp up each board as you go, otherwise the glue will start to dry on you and your joints wont be so tight. It's better to take your time than rush through it. Since this piece isn't fine woodworking, I'm not too worried about perfect.

    Create your own folding farm table

    Once you've glued up all of the boards you need, let it dry for a few hours. Then, it's time to cut the length to size. 

    Create your own folding farm table

    I set up a cross cut by clamping a long level and running my circular saw across. Do this for both sides.

    Create your own folding farm table

    Now it's ready for a skirt! I made one with more strips of flooring with the tongue removed. Measured two long pieces and two short pieces to make the rectangle that goes underneath the table. I wanted to make sure that every board was supported since this table will be on the road, so the skirt is wider in the pictures that a typical table skirt is. 

    Create your own folding farm table

    Create your own folding farm table

    With your pocket hole jig, make holes to create 4 butt joints as well as holes to mount the skirt to the table.

    Create your own folding farm table

    Let's bring it in for a landing! I picked these up at the hardware store. Start by setting the legs on the table where you want them to land. Since this table is really short compared to most, I had to stager the width of the legs so they will fold flush to the table. When unfolded, you really can't tell too much.

    Create your own folding farm table

    One at a time, pick up each leg and set it flush against the skirt wall. Then, set one of the hinges up against the leg on the center line (Unlike in the picture, don't worry, I centered it before I screwed it in.).

    Create your own folding farm table

    Create your own folding farm table

    There it is, Now all it needs is a coat of paint on the legs and skirt then it's ready for our next market!

    Create your own folding farm table

    I would imagine the larger the table you make and the larger the legs, the sturdier it will be. Once this table was fully set up on level ground I had pretty minimal wobbling. I think there are some improvements that could be made on that aspect. I'm going to research some folding table parts to see if I can get a hold of the folding arms that you pop into place to really add stability to each leg. I'll report back on my findings!

    created at: 05/28/2015

    Happy building!


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    created at: 05/26/2016

    Podcasts. You know 'em. You listen to 'em. You're moved by them. You laugh and are entertained by them. But are you inspired by them? Do they light a fire under your butt and make you want to get into your work space as fast as possible? Do they make you want to complete your workout faster so you can get home and make stuff? Do they make you thankful for your creative bent, and the creative work of others?   

    Here's our thinking: podcasts, as a medium, are great accompaniment for a lot of things. There are certain podcasts you listen to on your commute, specific shows that work best for cleaning the house or cooking dinner, those to motivate you to work out harder at the gym, or on a run or bike ride. And we say - at least for those of us who just can help but get our hands dirty, try new things, and learn as much as possible - there should be a set to push your creativity, to accompany your work in the shop, or help your discover new things...which is the point of all this anyway, right? 

    So, here's our list of nine podcasts for anyone who likes to make stuff. Some are about materials and techniques and some are simply about the creative process. But all of them are worth a listen. Give at least three episodes a shot. Once you get the know the rhythms and the hosts' personality, there's a lot of opportunities to learn. 

    created at: 05/26/2016

    1. Making It - This biweekly show is hosted by Jimmy Diresta, Bob Clagett and David Picciuto, all successful YouTube and internet personalities. Here, they're in conversation, and you get to learn about the ways our backgrounds impact our work, sense of design, and creative process. Check it out: Making It

    2. Shop Talk Live is the podcast of Fine Woodworking magazine. And though it may come as a surprise - yes, you can make a compelling audio-only podcast about such a visual craft. (Though there is now a video feed where the hosts can show examples). What I like most about this one, besides Mike Pekovich's smooth and sage-like wisdom, is that every episode serves as a simple reminder: that woodworking, like most hobbies, is simply an opportunity to do creative problem solving with a specific tool kit. You have a vision, and go figure out how to make it happen. Highly recommended. Check it out: Shop Talk Live

    created at: 05/26/2016

    3. 99% Invisible - Definitely the show with the biggest listenership in this list, this show is about, in their words, "all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world." Interesting to ManMakers, it's also about the people that make those things and work on those projects, and how they affect contemporary culture. Nothing just appears, or exists. Some creative person thought it up, designed it, prototyped it, found a way to manufacture it, and put it out into the world before any of us interact with it. Check it out: 99% Invisible 

    created at: 05/26/2016

    4. Rendered (formerly Destination DIY) completed its run last summer, but it's archives are all still available. The show looks at DIY culture, and all the interesting ways it's revealed itself in our (increasingly) post-consumerist era.  Mostly, it's a look at what happens when we make things ourselves. (Hint: it's good) Check it out: Rendered

    created at: 05/26/2016

    5. Adventures in Design is the only daily show listed here, which makes it a great way to start of your morning. It features mostly interviews with designers, artists, and full-time creatives, and discusses everything from process to time management and what it's like to be a small business owner, working from your kitchen table. Check it out: Adventures in Design

    created at: 05/26/2016

    6. Song Exploder - This show focuses specifically on music, and while I seem to almost inevitably find an instrument or two in the closets of almost all makers and crafters I know, you don't have to be a musician to appreciate it. Each episode does exactly what the show's title suggests - explodes one song into its component parts, discussing songwriting, playing instruments and tracks individually, and discussing how the final mixes are built. I can't think of a better use of the podcast format than to spend fifteen minutes discovering new music and learning how some of my favorite songs are put together. A personal fave that I imagine any ManMade reader will enjoy. Check it out: Song Exploder 

    created at: 05/26/2016

    7. Reclaimed Audio explores the world of working with existing materials, recycling, upcycling, and making something new of things you already have, or can find cheaply or for free. It's a narrow focus, but the hosts mesh well, and, at least to me, have some pretty great ideas. The show always helps to remind me how much I do actually care about giving things a new purpose, and comes up with some clever ways to do it. If that's the kind of DIYer you are, you'll love it. Check it out: Reclaimed Audio

    created at: 05/26/2016

    8. Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - An audio effort by one of the maker movement's biggest heroes along with some solid co-hosts. It's about all the things we've seem Adam discuss over the years, but also manages to take it out of the shop and into popular culture, economics, politics, and whatever else is on their mind. If you're a fan of his previous work, there's nothing not to like. Check it out: Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project 

    created at: 05/26/2016

    9. Faking It - A relatively new show that focuses on the lighter side of the hobby: jokes, mistakes, funny anecdotes, and lots of culture references. It's a gift for the fans of these guys, and for anyone who thinks geeking out about design and engineering, and does whatever it can to not take itself too seriously. Check it out: Faking It


    What are some of your favorite creativity, craft, and maker podcasts? Please share in the comments below. 

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    Leatherworking may start out as a hobby, but somewhere along the way, you're going to get hooked. So whether you're just getting started or well into the craft, here are a few free content channels to give you a boost down that well-tanned road. 

    The thing I love about leather is the versatility, as a material on its own, or when coupled with wood or metal. Leather adds a warm, organic feel to a piece, and I just love the detail that a bit of hide can give to the overall feel of a project. I've learned a ton about leatherwork from YouTube, and every time they pop up in the feed I definitely take the time to click on them. Here are the favorite channels I have on my list:

    1. LeodisLeather: I have been following Ian's page for a few years now, and I'm really impressed with his work. The channel shows his workspace, and tons of techniques that are really useful to know. He's got a huge variety of basic projects, but you'll also find some really advanced pieces that will keep you coming back for a long time.

    Credit: Fischer Workshops

    2. Fischer Workshops: I love the design and style of Fischer's pieces. There are simple everyday carries, but also unique looking pieces that really stand out. He also works on tracing skills and has some great designs that really catch you eye. If you want inspiration, there's plenty here.

    3. Equus Leather: Ok, this one is purely inspiration, but the 6 videos are really well done. If you want to catch the leatherworking bug, this is the place to get it good.

    Credit: Equus Leather

    4. Saddleback Leather: This is another good channel with inspiration pieces. Peppered throughout this channel, there are some really interesting pieces to take a look at that detail their products. I like to see how they make their items and the little details they add to make it all work. Also, if you're looking for some really well-made leather pieces as gifts it's a great place to go.

    5. Tandy Leather: Just about everything I've seen in the leatherworking world can be traced to Tandy Leather. They are suppliers of everything from beginner to professional tools to make your project really stand out. These videos will get you proficient with your tools by introducing some great starter projects.

    6. Gary Ipip: Another great starter channel that delivers interesting projects from camera straps to watch bands. Surf around and figure out where a little leather can make your life better.

    7. Kinnari Leather: Although a bit limited in videos, they are great projects that really stand out. I like the dark colors and interesting details they add into every project in this channel.

    Credit: Armitage Leather

    8. Leatherism: I have no idea what language they're speaking here, but the videos are clear and bright with easy to follow steps to make some great wallets and coin holders.

    9. Armitage Leather: This channel is for advancing your skill with a variety of stitches to add some real personality to a project. The videos are as informative as they are smooth, so don't forget to take notes on the techniques as you watch the mesmerizing stitches.

    10. Salty Dog: Ok, last one and, again, I can't follow the dialog. Still, the process of making the bags and small clutches is great to watch and I always pick up on a few stray skills every time.



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    In college, my roommate Adam returned from the holiday break with a new alarm clock he'd received as a Christmas gift. (My dorm days were a bit before the smartphone era and we all still used actual bedside clocks to wake up for our 8:00am classes). This particular alarm clock was special; it featured a series of rainforests, storm sounds, and animal noises that were supposed to help lull you to sleep. And they actually worked...if you fell asleep in the first forty-five seconds. Because after that, they began to loop, and instead of sleeping, I'd spend hours lying there, on edge, just waiting for that loop point to trigger. Eventually, the anxiety got truly bad, and I had to tell my buddy his new gift was actually a cruel trick on those of us who don't fall asleep so easily. I pointed out the loop points to him, and even he admitted: this thing was good for telling time only.

    After that, my own sleep hadn't gotten much better, and neither had my excitement for noisemaking machines that are supposed to aid it. But, last year, when we bought our house and installed a window unit air conditioner over the summer in my bedroom, my sleep instantly improved. At first, I figured it was the temperature change from running the fan function at night, and I was happy to let my electric bill go up in order to get some hours of serious sleep. But as the weather cooled into fall and the blankets came back out, my sleep got all crummy again. Couldn't fall asleep, couldn't stay asleep, couldn't wake up in the morning. 

    At one point, for some reason, it occurred to me: it wasn't the cool air from the AC's fan. It was the noise. 

    For many of you, this is probably old news, and a total no brainer. But the second I realized that the constant whir had changed a lifetime of poor sleep, I swear an actual light bulb appeared over my head.

    They make machines for this!

    I knew of white noise machines. I'd seen them at the home store: big stacking contraptions with actual fans that moved around in and telescoped up and down. I had no idea where I'd put one of those deals, but if that's what it took, I'd buy three.

    But I did my research, and thankfully found a modern solution: The 'Lectrofan. This thing is basically a speaker with a small computer inside that generates noise electronically and amplifies them. You can change all the sounds and their volume with the push of a button.

    I've never had another noise machine, and I didn't test any other models, so this isn't a formal review.

    But I say this to you, fellow ManMakers - if you struggle with sleep, even a little bit, you owe it to yourself to give this thing a try. It simply makes falling and staying asleep easier.

    At first it's a little distracting, but after a moment or two, it calms my brain and smoothes out the sounds in a room. This is especially helpful if you share your bed with a partner or live in a city where the activity never totally quiets down. (I do both.)

    Could you do the same thing with an app and a smartphone speaker? Probably. But I don't want to have my phone running by my bed all night, and the dedicated buttons that are easy to feel in the dark are worth it to me. If this thing cost ten times as much, I'd still consider it a great value. (Though I'm certainly glad it didn't.) Other things I like about it: it's small enough for travel, plugs in via USB, so you can use an AC-USB wall adapter, and it looks perfectly inconspicuous on my nightstand. 

    I bought mine last September on Amazon for $50. They don't seem to have that link live anymore, but you can get the same one at Best Buy or  Target for the same price. Now, it seems like it's been replaced with either the Lectrofan Micro, which includes a Bluetooth function through which you can play any audio, and a swiveling speaker. Or, you could go with the Lectrofan Jr., which has six fan and six white noise sounds, as well some nursery rhymes for kids. (If you care, I prefer Fan #4 at about 75% volume on the original.)

    So, I recommend this, as much as I've ever recommended anything on ManMade. All of these places have great return policies, and if you want to improve your sleep, please take the chance and see if it helps. If there's any other noise machine recommendations or general sleep tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.



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    created at: 04/09/2014

    Any time of year, gin is a favorite spirit. It mixes well while retaining its character, and its aromatics complement a great range of flavors. But there's something so special, so obvious, about gin and springtime. If flavors had colors, gin's would be green, and it's a perfect chance to start putting ice back in our cocktails because the external temperatures are finally bearable.   

    Martinis are good. Gin and tonics? Great. But this guy can do much more than those standards. So, here are ten essential gin drinks and cocktails for springtime that any guy will enjoy...provided that you like gin. Which you do, right?


    1. The Gibson: For the classier side of things (it's Mad Men's Roger Sterling's go-to), give this simple twist on the Martini a shot - 

    • 2 oz. London dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
    • 3-4 cocktail onions, skewered

    Shake gin and vermouth with plenty of ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cocktail onions.


    2. Cucumber Rosemary Gimlet: Everything I love about spring (and summer) in a glass. Also, if you've a lady to impress, make her this one.

    • 2 oz. London dry gin
    • 1 oz. cucumber juice (peel cucumbers, puree, then sieve)
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
    • 2 sprigs rosemary

    Add one sprig rosemary to mixing glass and muddle with the simple syrup. Add remaining ingredients and ice, and shake. Pour into an iced rocks glass and garnish with additional rosemary.


    3. The Fancy Gin Cocktail: You might know this better with whiskey as an Old Fashioned, but the simple sugar and Angostura bitters combo works wonderfully with the brightness of gin. 

    • 1 sugar cube
    • 3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
    • 2 oz. dry gin
    • 1 lemon zest/thin strip of peel

    Rub lemon peel around rim of glass, and drop in. Place sugar cube in glass and saturate with bitters. Add gin and 2-3 ice cubes, and allow to come together for a minute or two. Stir and enjoy.

    4. The gin and tonic: Nothing wrong with this classic, provided you build it right. From the ManMade guide to the ultimate gin and tonic:"A gin and tonic is a really basic drink with two distinctive and bold components, So, don't skimp on the tonic, which makes up more than half the highball. You don't have to go for the pricier, artisanal brands exclusively, but make sure you're using a tonic you love. A great tonic can turn an affordable $17.50 bottle like Beefeater or Boodles into something pretty special."

    • 2 oz. Hendrick's gin 
    • 2 oz. Fever Tree Mediterranean-style tonic water
    • 2 oz. club soda
    • 2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters 
    • Garnish: cucumber slice

    For the complete how-to, check out: How to: The Simple, Easy Trick to Improve Your Gin and Tonic


    5. Gin Rickey: Simple, perfect. You can start at 9:00a and drink all day, and still not be bored by 9:00p.

    • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
    • 2 oz. gin
    • 6-8 oz. club soda

    Stir lime juice, simple syrup, and gin together in a tall glass. Top with lots of ice, and fill with soda water. This makes a good cocktail to test out various flavors of bitters and tinctures, particularly citrus and fruit-based ones. 


    6. The Tom Collins: the ideal drink for patio sipping. Ignore those mixes and customize your own balance of flavors with real ingredients. That said, this is basically a sparkling lemonade spiked with gin, so have at it. 

    • 1.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 1 oz. simple syrup
    • 2 oz. gin
    • Club soda
    • Garnish: orange slice or cocktail cherry (or both)

    Shake lemon juice, simple syrup, and gin with ice, then pour into an iced tall glass. Top with club soda and garnish.

    7. Salt and Pepper Martini: Here, the spicy flavors of bitters balance the strong pomegranate and salt for an almost savory drink. A great before-dinner drink to enjoy with small bites. 

    • 1 1/2 oz. gin
    • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
    • 3/4 oz. grenadine
    • 3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
    • pinch of kosher salt
    • 5 dashes angostura or orange bitters

    Shake the ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. You can rim half with salt (like a margarita) if you really want to amp the savory flavors


    8. St. Christopher - To guide you on all your travels or adventures. 

    • 2 oz. gin (Hendrick's recommended here)
    • 1 oz. Aperol 
    • 1/2 oz. cucumber juice  (peel cucumbers, puree, then sieve)
    • 1 dash orange bitters

    Shake all ingredients with ice, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon or orange twist.

    9. Extra Special Pimm's Cup: The Pimm's Cup is a U.K. classic, and the official drink of Wimbledon. I add a bit of gin to make it worthwhile. 

    • 2 oz. Pimm's No. 1 (gin-based)
    • 1 oz. dry gin
    • 4 oz. ginger ale
    • Garnish: lots of (clean) lemon slices and cucumber wheels

    Muddle 1 slice cucumber and lemon in a highball glass, and then stir in Pimm's and gin. Add lots of ice, and top with ginger ale, and additional lemon and cucumber. 

    10. Negroni - For me, no list of gin cocktails is complete without a Negroni. It is, by far, my favorite way to enjoy gin. And Campari. And Vermouth. I've never claimed a favorite classic cocktail, but if I did, this might be it. 

    • 1 oz. dry gin
    • 1 oz. Campari
    • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

    Stir ingredients with ice (don't shake), and strain into either a cocktail or rocks glass, your preference. 




    Oh, and here's a fun social media-friendy image with type and such. Feel free to Pin it to your favorite boards.

    created at: 04/09/2014

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    The older we get, the harder it becomes to start new habits...and break old ones. We begin in earnest, but soon we fall back; the good seem to slip, and the bad seem to creep in. The best way to keep yourself accountable is to ask yourself this simple question (looking into a mirror is optional):

    Am I doing what I want?     


     Personally, 2017 has been a year of working hard to establish some new habits in my own life. Lately, I kept getting to the end of the week with a laundry list of "I wishes" still unchecked. So, I sat down and make a plan to get what I wanted to the top of the list, and so far it's working out well. Here's what I did:

    1. Start With A Plan - Seriously, make this happen first. It needs to be detailed, measurable, and a bit of a stretch. Think about what you want it to look like, how it's going to happen, and if it's flexible to stand up to a few of life's screwballs. Now, keep in mind that habits take a while to go from chore to routine, so you need to make sure  that the timeline is long enough for you to make it a new normal. The common thought is at least 21 days, but a lot of sources say it's closer to about 2 months.

    2. Set a Manageable Goal (and track it) - You'll never be able to assess your success if you don't keep track of your progress. Make a chart, start a Google doc, use an app, begin a journal. 

    3. Name What You Want - You don't need a mantra, but it's helpful to come up with a line or two about why you're doing this. A phrase or definition that means something to you can sometimes be the only way for your temporary, forgetful self to check in with your long-term values.

    4. Ramp It Up - Don't just start it up on day one. Ease into a habit a bit at a time so the transition happens smoothly. For me, I started exercising three days a week, then ramped up to five after a few weeks. This slow start gave me time to adjust life around the commitment and still be flexible to get it in like I planned.

    5. Be Brutal - There can be no excuse for missing. Sure, be flexible, but don't let yourself off with an excuse. I worked out at 10 at night, or made up for it the next day, but I never skipped. There will always be a reason out there why you can't stick to your goals, but you need to make sure it's not an excuse to skip the hard stuff.

    6. Keep At It - It's inevitable that there will be a legit reason that makes maintaining your habit hard. A major shift in life will probably happen. That's when you need to revamp the plan and dive back in. Like they say, don't complain about the storm, just adjust your sails.

    7. Reassess your goals - Now that you're into it, did you set reasonable expectations for yourself? Do you need to push harder, or adjust to something more reasonable. Make a note in your log, and initial it with the date to make it official. 

    8. Make It Stick - After all that hard work, you need to have a plan to make it stay. This is where a bit of discipline and a bit more planning work well. Think about why you want the habit, the good that's coming from it, and all of the reasons you want it to stick around. I have mine written down and I look at them again when I'm getting a bit sloppy. Right now, working out makes me feel better, look better, and I can climb mountains better. That's a lot of progress I'd hate to walk away from. 

    Keep in mind that habits can evolve over time to still match up your ultimate goals, so stay flexible, and keep up the good work.


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    created at: 04/01/2016

    We're no sports scientists, but every one of us here at ManMade are athletes - runners, climbers, cyclists, lifters, and hikers. And what those hours on the road, gym, or trail have taught us is: you need energy to keep going, perform high-intensity intervals or bursts, and do the work to get yourself to your destination. And then get yourself home again.

    That means that if you're exercising for more than 30-60 minutes, you need to consume more than just water.  

    Sports drinks are a great way to get both fluid replacement, carbohydrate replenishment, and extra electrolytes to combat those lost by sweat. For high-intensity or long-distance endurance training, you should shoot for 25-50 mg of carbohydrates per hour, and at least 24 oz of fluid, depending on how much you're sweating.

    created at: 04/01/2016

    And you can buy commercial products for this, and they work...though sometimes too well. They often contain more sugar than you need, and don't provide a variety of carbohydrates (glucose, fructose). And...they're expensive. 

    So, we do what we do on ManMade, and make our own using ingredients you can find in any kitchen. Here's how to do it. 


    created at: 04/01/2016

    Materials and Tools

    • Water bottle
    • 100% fruit juice
    • sea salt
    • permanent marker
    • assorted measuring tools (measuring cups, spoons, etc)


    created at: 04/01/2016

    1. First, if you don't know it, determine the volume capacity of you water bottle. You can just fill it with water, 1/2 cup at a time, until it's full. Remember 1 cup = 8 oz. Most standard sports bottles (like those you don't wear on a runners belt) are either 20 or 24 ozs. Larger bottles uses for backpacking or outdoor recreation tend to have the volume measurements right on them.

    Once you've figured out the size of your bottle, divide the oz/ml by three. So, for a 24 oz bottle, that's 8 oz, or one cup. Leave that amount of liquid in the bottle.

    created at: 04/01/2016

    2. Hold your bottle up to the light, so you can see the liquid inside. Note the line, and mark it with a permanent marker. If you can't see through your bottle, and it's relatively cylindrical, you can measure the height and divide by three. Close enough for these purposes.


    created at: 04/01/2016

    3. Now, the measuring part is done and your bottle is set up for every workout. So, begin by filling your bottle up to line with fruit juice - try something like cranberry, orange, grapefruit, white grape, etc. All of these are easily absorbed.


    created at: 04/01/2016

    4. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt. Measure it once, and note what this amount looks like. After this, you can just grab a nice pinch and forgo the spoons. Sea salt is preferred over regular iodized table salt, because it contains minerals other than sodium that get sweated out as you work. But, of course, use what you have. If you do use fine grain table salt, dial back the amount just a bit, since its grains are a much smaller size.


    created at: 04/01/2016

    5. Now, fill the bottle to the top with cold water. This creates a ratio with the magic formula of 2:1 water to juice, with a pinch of salt. Note that this doesn't mean 2:1 water to sugar, since the juice itself is also something like 95% water. This adds just the right amount of easy-to-absorb carbohydrates to keep fueling your high-intensity exercise. 


    created at: 04/01/2016

    6. Lastly, shake it all up to combine, and give it a sip. What's it taste like? Sports drink? A little sweet, a little sour, and a bit salty? Great! We've done our job.

     created at: 04/01/2016

    You can, of course, experiment with different taste and flavor combinations to find one to fuel your session. If you find one you love, let us know in the comments below.

    Now, get out there and move.


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    Yes, sometimes cars break down and you'll need to stay safe. But, like it or not, our automobiles are also our little homes away from home on a road trip. So, it's important to stock it with things that might come up, be it emergency, or just an epic weekend away. Here are our seventeen essentials to always have on hand. 


    1. Jumper cables. Needs no explanation. 

    2. Spare tire and jack. A doughnut is nice, but if you have the room, a full-size tire (like an old one leftover from your last upgrade) will guarantee you can get where you need to go. 


    3. Corkscrew with bottle opener. Of course, you'd never use this in the car, but there are all kinds of situations where you'll find yourself with a bottle of wine or six pack to be shared. Don't be stuck on a road trip without a way to open it. 

    4. A spare pair of earbuds.  A day full of errands goes much faster with music or podcasts. You'll likely have your phone on you, so in case you realize your forgot your headphones mid-drive, these can save the day. And if you have kids, sometimes they can work miracles. 

    5. A tire pressure gauge. $2 at your local auto parts store. Stashes anywhere. Puts any questions to rest. 


    6. A dedicated car blanket. This can help you keep warm in an emergency, but it's also about having it on hand for side-of-the-road lunch breaks, evenings in the park, outdoor events, and other things worth sitting down on the ground for. 

    7. A simple tool kit. Having a multitool in your car can help, but we recommend keeping some basic tools in your trunk or glove box as well. These are less for working on your car than working on other things that will come up when you're away from home. Our picks are: screwdriver with multiple bits, adjustable wrench, needlenose pliers with cutting edge, and a small knife or multitool. 

    8. $20 in cash. Credit cards don't apply everywhere, often where you need them the most. Throw in a couple dollars of quarters can't hurt either. 


    9. Flashlight A simple, long lasting LED light will help you avoid draining your phone's battery in an emergency. If it has a magnet, all the better. That will allow you to place the light and keep both hands free when you need them. Toss in an extra battery as well. 

    10. Umbrella. Trust us; whether it's for you or someone you'd like to be a gentleman to, you want one in your car. 

    11. Measuring Tape. For all the times you stop by the hardware store, lumberyard, or wherever else on your way home, if you're a ManMade reader, you need to measure stuff. Keeping a dedicated one in the car means you'll always have one when you need it. 


    12. Simple First Aid Kit. Stock with bandages, antiseptics, and basic medications such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, and perhaps anti-nausea medication. Make sure it has a small pair of scissors. We like this simple day hiker kit from REI. 

    13. Bottle water and food. Keeping a factory sealed bottle or two and a couple of energy bars can keep you safe in an emergency, and help you ward off the hangry-ness when a shopping trip ends up taking three times too long. 


    14. An atlas. Like, a paper one. Smartphone apps work great inside city limits, but hopefully, you're taking your car places where the satellites just don't go. Plus, this can make for endless conversation starters and games on long road trips. We recommend the spiral-bound National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas. 

    15. Road flares. Just in case.

    16. Quick self-care items. For those times when you leave the house, and realize you need a little help to feel as presentable as possible. Think nail trimmers, tweezers, floss picks, hand sanitizer, breath mints, and lip balm (which makes a serviceable hair or beard product in a pinch). 


    16. Weatherproof Matches. These can come in handy even when you're not starting an emergency fire.

    17. A pen and small notebook. It's cool if you do, but most guys don't carry purses. Therefore, we have to keep these things in our car.


    Other items to consider (depending on where you live):

    • Mylar emergency blanket and hand warmers
    • Snow chains
    • Kitty litter for traction
    • Duct tape
    • Ice scraper
    • An extra pair of gloves
    • Reflective triangles

    Anything we missed? Please share your essentials in the comments below. 

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    I got a lathe last year, and soon, the addiction hit hard. There's something incredible about the hands-on approach to shaping wood that makes you lose track of time fast. Like all skills, you need practice. But turning is immensely satisfying work; you can go from a straight block of wood to a finished project in just an hour or two. And crafting heirloom writing instruments is a great way to get started.     

    The Lathe

    One of the best parts about starting with pen making, is that the lathe and tooling can be pretty simple. To start, I picked up a super simple used lathe from the classifieds for about $40. The smaller lathes use a Morse Taper 1, also called the #1MT. This means the tapered opening that the attachments wedge into is a size 1. The #2MT is also pretty common so just pay attention to what size you have when ordering attachments. Another important detail is the threading, commonly 1" x 8 tpi or 5/8"x16tpi. This is important when ordering a chuck.

    Hit up your local Craigslist or flea market and see what's out there. If you'd like to buy new, the entry-level tools from Penn State Industries are very well reviewed and plenty affordable. 

    The Turning Tools

    You can go super cheap with a set of high speed steel (HSS) tools, or spring for a bit more expensive but easier to handle carbide replacement tipped chisels.

    For pens, we suggest:

    The Rest of the Bits 

    It's likely you have the tools in your shop to make pen blanks, which are about 6", 1.5" square strips of wood. Even so, I recommend springing for a few pre-made blanks for a few dollars each so you can see how they're done right. As a bonus you can get some interesting exotic wood (I'm a fan of bubinga and Zebrawood). 

    As far as essential tools:

    1. Pen Mandrel - This is the rod that secures the drilled pen blanks so they can be mounted on the lathe. Pay attention to the MT size so that it matches your lathe.

    2. Live Center - This small point secures in the tail stock to support the mandrel. It spins on a bearing to keep friction to a minimum. Again, pay attention to the MT size.

    3. Clamp - You most likely have this in the shop already, a simple clamp that will keep the blank straight under a drill press will work.

    4. Pen Press - This is the assembly tool to press the pen pieces together. I highly recommend getting one to keep from ruining your spendy kits (like I did).

    ManMade Recommended

    The Pen Kits

    There are so many pen kits available, it's really hard to recommend a single one. I'm a fan of the kits from PSI woodworking, they have great components and are priced right. Start with a few cheap slimline kits, then upgrade to a fly fishing or bullet kit. Remember to get the right size drill bits and bearing set to make it all come together. The bearing set centers the blank on the mandrel and serves as the guide for final dimensions of the barrels.

    ManMade Recommended


    To finish off the pens, I use a sandpaper range from 120 to 1000 grit, then polish from there with a simple pen sealant. There are so many options and opinions of how to do it, so start off easy and progress as you get comfortable with the process. A good alternative to polish is shellac or CA glue, they're both a bit feisty to get it on there right, but the finish is clean and polishes up to a shine once you get past the learning curve.

    ManMade Recommended:

    Once you get a few pens under your belt, these make exceptional gifts and can even be sold for up to about $50 each during the holiday months. I paid for my tools selling an afternoon's worth of pens last Christmas.



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    Unlike some other spirits, tequila is inextricably linked to one particular cocktail: the margarita. And, to be fair, with good reason. The margarita is a great drink, especially when it's made right, with quality ingredients. But sometimes you want to enjoy your amazing agave flavor in a variety of contexts. So we teamed up Olmeca Altos to share five delicious tequila cocktails you can make for Cinco de Mayo (or any celebration!) that aren't margaritas. I think you're going to love these. Just don't drink all five at once.     

    Here we go:


    The Better Paloma

    Tequila paloma cocktail recipe

    While most in the US think of the margarita as the default tequila cocktail, in Mexico, when not sipped neat, the most popular way to enjoy a great-tasting tequila is in the Paloma cocktail. Typically, these are made with silver tequila and a grapefruit soda like the Mexican version of Squirt or Jarritos Toronja. Here, we're using all fresh ingredients to create the same flavor combo, but with a brighter, more enjoyable sipping experience.     

    Serves 2

    • 4 oz fresh grapefruit juice

    • 1.5 oz fresh lime juice

    • 1 oz simple syrup

    • 4 oz Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila

    • Sparkling mineral water or club soda (we like Jarritos Mineragua, in the Latin aisle of the grocery store)

    • Garnish: grapefruit slice, salted glass

    Rim medium glasses with lime juice and dip in coarse salt. Fill glasses with ice. Add the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and tequila to a cocktail shaker. Shake hard over ice, then strain into the salted glass. Top with sparkling water, and add garnish. 

    Paloma cocktail

    Paloma cocktail


    Kanga Rhu

    Kanga Rhu - Tequila cocktail

    Aside from fresh peas, nothing says spring to me more than the flavor of rhubarb. This cocktail gets its characteristic flavor from rhubarb bitters, where three dashes is more than enough to share its signature aroma and taste. Balance with pleasantly bitter and sweet Aperol and plenty of fresh lime, this is one to sip all season long. 

    Serves 1

    • 1 oz Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila
    • 1 oz fresh lime juice
    • 1 oz Aperol
    • 2 + 1 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb bitters 
    • Garnish: large swath of orange peel

    Shake the tequila, lime juice, Aperol, and two dashes of bitters with ice. Strain into an iced rocks glass. Add one more dash of bitters to the finished cocktail and garnish with orange. 

    Kanga Rhu - Tequila cocktail

    Kanga Rhu - Tequila cocktail


    Haute Sauce

    Haute Sauce grapefruit and jalapeno tequila cocktail

    Tequila is one of the greatest gifts to the world, but Mexico's use of chiles in their cuisine is another that we're super grateful for. Here, the jalapeño and fresh green pepper highlight the grassy, vegetal flavors of a Highlands tequila like Olmeca Altos. (Altos refers to the high elevation where the agave are grown). 

    This is a big drink, with lots of volume, but it's deliciously balanced.  Just make sure to use a big glass, and go slow on sipping. 

    Serves 1

    • 3 oz Olmeca Altos Plata tequila
    • 2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
    • 1 oz lime juice
    • 1 oz jalapeño simple syrup*
    • 2 slices bell pepper
    • Garnish: jalapeño slices

    Muddle the bell pepper with the simple syrup and lime juice in the shaker base. Add ice, tequila, and grapefruit. Shake hard, then strain into an iced rocks glass. (The bell pepper stays in the shaker). Garnish with fresh jalapeño. 

    Jalapeño Simple Syrup

    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 jalapeño chile, sliced into rings

    Heat all ingredients in a saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Allow the jalapeño to steep at least twenty minutes, or more if you like it spicier. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

    Haute Sauce grapefruit and jalapeno tequila cocktail

    Haute Sauce grapefruit and jalapeno tequila cocktail


    Put Up Your Cukes

    Cucumber, mind and tequila cocktail

    Bright, fresh, and not too sweet - the cucumber and mint flavors highlight the mineral flavors that come from the volcanic soil in which the agave are grown. 

    Because it requires a bit of prep (juicing cucumbers), this one works best for a crowd. It's easily doubled or tripled. Try it anytime your grilling or eating outside. 

    Serves 4

    • 8 oz Olmeca Altos Plata tequila
    • 4 oz lime juice
    • 4 oz cucumber juice*
    • 2 oz simple syrup
    • 10-12 mint leaves, plus more for garnish

    Muddle mint leaves with simple syrup in bottom of pitcher. Add ice, tequila, lime, and cucumber juice, then stir to combine. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. Serve by pouring over crushed ice and garnishing with extra mint. 

    Cucumber Juice
    Peel two English cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 2 inch pieces, then puree in a food processor. Strain out pulp through a fine mesh sieve. 

    Cucumber, mind and tequila cocktail

    Cucumber, mind and tequila cocktail


    Drinko de Mayo

    Grapefruit and campari tequila cocktail

    And lastly, a straight up tasty cocktail that's pleasantly bitter and great to enjoy with salty snacks or appetizers. 

    Serves 1

    • 2 oz Olmeca Altos Plata tequila
    • ½ oz Campari 
    • ½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
    • ½ oz fresh lime juice
    • ½ oz simple syrup

    Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain and serve up in a rocks or martini glass (or in our case, a small mason jar!).


    campari and grapefruit tequila cocktail

    Looking for some snacks to go with your new favorite tequila cocktail? Check out our guides:


    This post is sponsored by Olmeca Altos Tequila, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that support ManMade. 










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    These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.     



    1. The Film: Tokyo Story by  Yasujirô Ozu

    I'm not sure how it is that I hadn't seen this movie yet. I've known about it and its importance for years; I remember referencing articles about for papers I wrote in undergrad. But, I just hadn't sat down to watch it. It's been in my house before; I'd reserved it several times from the library and at least once from Netflix DVDs, but I'd always returned it, unseen.

    In some ways, I'm sort of glad. This was the right time of my life for me to watch this, and it's nice to still go back and be amazing by something almost sixty-five years old. I randomly stumbled across it on the "to be shelved" cart at the public library, and the second I saw the spine, I had a little moment where I knew it was time. Not that I believe that some active force put it in my path, but the timing just worked out this time. Super, crazy highly recommended. 


    Photo: An Rong Xu for The New York Times

    2. The Newspiece: "A Day in the Life of a Food Vendor" by Tejal Rao

    This is a nice human-interest-piece-with-something-more-to-say, exploring the immigrant experience of New York City's 10,000 old school street food vendors. Worth a read, all the way to the end. 


    3. The Book: The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood 

    Last week, in the airport, I realized I'd left my current novel at home, and didn't have anything to read during the four and half hour flight I was about to board. So, I quickly hopped on my iPad and snagged a free copy of this book from the Kindle Unlimited library. I didn't really know what it was about, but I've since learned it's been on the best seller list since the U.S. election last November.

    Here's what I'll say, even though the book has nearly thirty years of acclaim: it's really good. Like really, really good. Obviously, Atwood is an insane writer. Nearly every sentence is a gem. But they way she unfolds the reality of this dystopia - the history, the consequences, the critique - makes it a killer page turner. I stayed up many a night later than intended reading this one. Go check it out. 


    © Sebastien Dehesdin/Demotix/Corbis

    4. The Thing to Do in Your City: Live Music

    This how you know when you're aging: a band you love comes to town, and you immediately start asking yourself whether or not it's worth it to go. It's a real thing; and if you're not there yet, it'll happen. As a young man who was in a lot of bands, concerts are what we did: we played in them, we organized them, and we went to every single one our parents would allow... drove hours to see bands that mattered.  

    But here's what's true: concerts are tiring. They start super late, there are too many opening bands, standing in a sweaty crowd is exhausting, the bathrooms are hard to get to, they're expensive, and you have to convince you're wife that she'll like this band that you totally loved in college but she's never heard you talk about because that was six years before you met.

    Here's what's also true about concerts: I never regret going to one. Never regret staying up, never regret spending the money, don't even regret having three beers instead of two. This spring, I somehow got over my is-it-worth-it calculus, and just started going to shows I wanted to see. And every one has been amazing. Sure beats the pants off dinner and a movie as a date night activity. 


    5. The TV Show: Fargo, Season 2

    This one was recently released on Hulu, in anticipation of the new season (which I think starts this week or next). I don't have the subscriptions to watch any current talked-about TV, so I'm usually a year late on these things. But I'm completely engrossed in this season. And if you haven't seen season one, you don't have to: the narrative is completely self-contained. 


    6. The Song: "Percolator" by Charly Bliss

    I'm not sure if this is the best song I discovered this month, but if this is a post about being obsessed, this takes the cake. This one has been stuck in my head, exclusively, for nearly three weeks. 

    I think I'm just happy young people are still making music like this. We live in a post-rock-and-roll era, but this is pure power pop 90s nostalgia, and its catchy as hell. 


    7. The Garage Project: Working on my bicycles

    I fractured my hand in a couple of places in February, and it's limited my ability to lots of things, including participating in my primary form of exercise: road cycling. So, while I haven't been able to log tons of miles as the season gets underway, I've been taking care to do some bike maintenance. I'm not a trained mechanic, but have learned a lot over the years through trial-and-error, and volunteering at the local coöp. I've repacked all my wheel hubs, inspected/cleaned/greased headsets, dialed in drivetrains, and gone over everything with a rag and degreaser. This is the best my bikes have looked and performed since they were new, and now that my hand is getting stronger, they're riding better than ever. 

    If you're interested learning more about bikes, check out the ManMade section on the topic. 


    What are you totally obsessed with this month? Tell us all about it in the comments below. 


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    Spring seems to have arrived overnight, and with it comes the explosion of green as everything wakes up from its winter nap. First up? Time to fend off the weeds. . . and please don’t reach for that toxic stuff. It’s nasty for you, your yard, and everything around it. Instead, try this safer and super effective recipe.   


    A targeted weed killer is a great way to get a handle on those weed that popped up since you last looked. Seriously, they weren't there yesterday and now it's an overgrown jungle. This simple spray helps to wilt the plants, and makes them easy to pull out and remove. As a huge bonus, you don't have to worry about keeping pets or small kids away from the area until it's no longer a Round-Up hazmat zone. Wait for a good day of dry weather to be sure the mix can sit on the plant for a bit without getting rinsed off.

    What You need:

    Mix the ingredients together thoroughly and soak the leaves and body of the weeds with an even application. Let the spray sit on the weeds until they are good and dead, then pull them out and tune up the area with a bit of mulch. I've found about 6 hours to 1 day is good enough for most, but a second application might be needed for the stubborn ones.


    Keep in mind, that this spray is not selective. It will kill anything green you apply it to so protect the plants you want to keep. This also means that a weed killer like this shouldn’t be used on your lawn. Go for some standard spring weed and feed mix to tackle the crabgrass and dandelions.


    Now that you have that yard all tuned up, let’s build something to enjoy on it. Take a look at this project to make a great lawn game in an afternoon.






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    created at: 04/30/2016

    Says Ernest Hemingway, "it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” 

    We couldn't agree more. Nowhere looks more like itself than the way it looks on two wheels. And no matter your pursuit, there's a bike for it. Whether you're looking to spin for miles through country lanes on a road bike, run errands on a stout commuter bike built for comfort on city streets, or zip down tree-lined single track on a mountain bike, at the end of all the fun and adventure, you're going to have to get back to where you started. Safely, efficiently, and, hopefully, comfortably.

    This post is part of a series of posts about cycling, bike maintenance, and everything else related to bi-pedalism. Enjoy! 


    created at: 04/27/2016

    To pull it off each and every time, there are just a few items you should take with you on every ride. They're designed to be lightweight and fit easily in a seat wedge, hydration pack, pannier, or messenger bag; to be mostly forgotten about when you don't need them, and then there and ready to go when you do. 


    created at: 04/27/2016

    1). A multitool - hopefully, you'll have made any important adjustments before you leave, but it's important to be able to loosen and tighten hardware while you're out. Slipping seats, unsquare handle bars, loose reflectors or accessories, squeeky chainring bolts can all happen after a few minutes of riding, so it's important to be able to deal with them while you're out and about. Any good bike multitool works like a Swiss Army knife, and should include at least

    • 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm hex wrenches
    • Flat and Phillips head screwdrivers

    More tools like Torx drivers, tire levers, and a chain tool are nice, but only if you know how to use them.  Personally, I carry and recommend the Topeak Mini Plus 18-tool, which includes two spoke wrenches, a chain tool with breaker, and a T25 driver. And a bottle opener...because why not? I love it, and it's light weight, and it still folds down the same size as tools with fewer features. 

    ManMade Recommended: Topeak The Mini Plus 18-Function Bicycle Tool $26.69


    created at: 04/27/2016

    2). A mini pump - Nothing makes a ride worse than a flat or under-filled tire. You should always fill up before every ride, but just in case, a lightweight pump can save your butt in case you forget, or worse, get a flat. You can find small pumps that fit onto straps on your frame, or into messenger bags, backpacks, or panniers. As a road cyclist, I like one that fits into a jersey pocket, so I recommend the Topeak Mini Morph. It includes a flip out handle and a little foot rest for leverage. The newer version even includes a gauge that reads up to 140 PSI, so you can inflate to just the right measurement.

    Alternatively, you can carry C02 cartridges and an inflator, which can get expensive and a bit wasteful overtime, but they do work well, especially for high pressure road bike tires.

    ManMade Recommended: Topeak Mini Morph Pump with Gauge - $37 and INNOVATIONS Ultraflate CO2 Tire Inflator - $17.61


    created at: 04/27/2016

    3). A patch kit - If you ride bikes, eventually you will get a flat tire, and you're going to need to fix it to get home. Thankfully, bike tires are (generally) tubular, which means it's a pretty easy fix. A patch kit works just like it sounds: once you find the hole (and whatever might have caused it inside your tire), you apply some vulcanizing fluid as an adhesive, and put a patch over the hole. Roughing up the tube a bit with sandpaper helps everything stick together.

    Do us a favor and skip the self-adhesive patches... they simply don't work at well, cost more, take just as long, and don't. work. as. well. The traditional patch kit gets your tube back and ready to fill in about 5 minutes, which is way shorter than it takes to walk home. Unless it isn't, then you should walk home and fix your tire there.

    ManMade Recommended: Rema Touring Patch Kit, #22 Large - $5.35


    4.) Tire Levers - With many mountain bikes and city/commuter bikes, you can remove and replace a deflated tire just with your hands. But for skinnier tires, it's nearly impossible to unseat the tire bead from the wheel without a little help. Two simple tire levers will help you do the job perfectly.

    ManMade recommended: Diamondback Bicycle Tire Lever Set, Black - $3.99


    created at: 04/30/2016

    5. Safety Precautions: Cash, ID, Mobile Phone - Don't leave home without them. 1) Be smart, and tell people where you're going 2) Make sure that if something happens, you're prepared. It can be hard, cause carrying stuff on a bike isn't easy or straightforward, so get a seat wedge or other on-bike storage. The benefits of a cell phone and ID are obvious, and you're commitment to carrying one will make your loved ones feel better.  Credit cards are nice, but if you're out in rural areas, cash will be king. If you need a discrete way to keep a $20 on the bike, check out this simple DIY project. 


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    I know it's a small thing, but your choice in writing implements can say a lot about you. Do you carry a simple plastic tube with cheap ink, or do you hold a solid, well-made piece that makes an impression? Or do you not carry anything at all? A pen holds stories and signatures, words and dreams, and you can make one that leaves an impression every time you put some words to that page.

    That's why you should carry something impressive, and why you definitely should make your own. 


    I started out with a simple lathe last summer and immediately tooled it up to make pens. Within a few weeks my collection was growing to the point that gifts had to happen to make room for more. Here's the process of making a pen from blank to impressive gift. I started with a few blanks of blue dyed stabilized maple, and here are the pens that came from the effort.


    The Blank (Blue Stabilized Maple)


    Drilling the Blank


    Gluing in the Tube


    Mounting the Blanks


    Rough Turning


    Rounded Blanks


    Finish Work


    The Final Piece

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