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    Despite advances in technology, most projects still begin where great projects always begin: with a pencil and a piece of paper.       Of course, this works better if you can actually use the pencil and paper to render what you're imagining in your head. If you, like me, are one of majority creatives who love to make art and design new things but weren't born with the natural gift of drawing, it can be difficult and sometimes even embarrassing to try to get your inspiration down, especially if you need to share with other people. 

    So, Instructable intern rlciavar offers this: a complete drawing guide for makers. He walks you through simple mark making, shape construction, perspective, and then drawing 3D structures from basic geometric shapes.

    The series is ongoing, but there are five published thus far, and each is worth a browse: 

    Check 'em out! If you have tips or techniques you love for sketching out ideas that hopefully look like the finished thing you hope to create, please share them in the comments below.


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    created at: 08/04/2014

    This is a good one. Justin and Kayla from Home Coming Minnesota came up with simple way to turn basic cedar planks from the home improvement store into a modern outdoor planter stand to bring in some weather-resistant style to their backyard.   The couple has a fair assortment of woodworking tools, but likely stuff most ManMade readers will have access to: a table saw, a router, and a brad nailer. But the results look like way more than cedar decking: 

    created at: 08/04/2014

    Boom! Cool, right? This is a great project to try this time of year, as home and garden centers are blowing out their outdoor supplies and getting ready for fall, so you can snag some large planters on the cheap. And with even more cylindrical planters, you can create a definite mid-century modern vibe. They wrote up the whole project as a guest post on Remodelaholic. Check it out: 

    DIY Wooden Planter Stand




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    Over the weekend, the park down the street hosted a "Movies in the Park," and the main feature? Back to the Future. (Instagrammed here and here.) Fans and anyone in Sellwood park that night will recall the opening scene, pre-guitar amp blowout,  of Doc's elaborate Pee-Wee-alike morning wakeup machine (since interrupted), which includes a toaster and a coffee machine that come alive with the sound of the alarm.

    Apparently, that idea's become a reality...well, sans dog food opener. Industrial designer Josh Renouf has created Barisieur, a handsome alarm clock that creates a cup of pourover as you awake.

    Bored Panda reports, "

    U.K.-based industrial designer Josh Renouf has come up with what just might be the king of alarm clocks. His “Barisieur” alarm clock -turned-coffee-machine will automatically brew a cup of coffee right when you wake up, easing you through your morning with the smell of fresh coffee.

    The coffee maker heats the water and brews the coffee all by itself – all you have to do is load it up the night before. Interestingly, Renouf points out that this preparation process may actually help users fall asleep at night; “It encourages a ritual before going to sleep, signalling to the body and mind that it is time to unwind and relax,” he writes on his website."

    Like many awesome things online, it's still just a concept, but a strong and sharp-looking one, indeed.

    Read more at Bored Panda: This Alarm Clock Will Wake You Up With A Fresh Cup Of Coffee



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    created at: 08/05/2014

    When it comes to getting the most from an everyone-has-a limited clothing budget, the two most helpful questions to think about are "what's the best men's style value in terms of long-lasting quality vs. price" and "on what should I save, and on what should I invest?"    This new guide from Esquire seeks to answer that second question: save or splurge. Contributor Calum Marsh says, " As many budget-minded men have found...quality is a problem. High-end designer products are not priced that way just because they bear the insignia of a recognizable name (though, to be fair, that’s part of it). You can feel the difference between a $40 dress shirt and a $400 one, and you don’t have to be a connoisseur of cuts or fabrics to do it: one feels better, looks better, and, most importantly, lasts longer. So the question becomes this: how do you build a wardrobe that’s on-trend, looks and fits great, and has quality where it counts, and do it all without breaking the bank? The answer is simple: you pick and choose what to buy high-end and what to cheap out on. It’s part science, part art, and all delicate... It’ll cost you, of course—you need to spend to get results. But it won’t break the bank."

    Sounds like a great start to me. Check it out: Splurge of Save: Making the Most of a Budget Wardrobe - A Comprehensive Guide for the Not-So-Rich Gentleman []


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    Here's a cool take on the you-can-make-anything-into-a-lamp project: a sleek, hanging pendant lamp made from an upcycled baseball bat.    I love the clever use of materials, and that the piece has a built-in story, which makes it a great fit for the masculine home. It involves a bit of basic metaiwork knowledge - cutting and grinding - but no intimidating or expensive welding tools or plasma cutters. 

    Not bad for a $4 bat from the thriftstore and a basic lamp kit. Get the full how-to from Ben at Homemade Modern: EP43 Baseball Bat Lamp



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  • 08/06/14--11:15: Campfire 101
  • Don't let the back-to-school sales fool you, there's still plenty of summer left. And campfire season lasts well into the autumn, and weather permitting, can make cool winter nights bearable, allowing you to hang out outside even when it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.    Field Notes, the blog of online retailer Kaufmann Mercantile, offers an in-depth guide to creating the perfect campfire. They break the process down into three the important components, which apply whether you're in your backyard, in the backcountry, or on the beach: starting, maintaining, and extinguishing the fire.

    After that, it's all back tinder and kindling and fuel, and plenty of roasted marshmallows. 

    Check it out: Campfire 101 [Kaufmann Mercantile]



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  • 08/07/14--08:30: Party Time
  • created at: 08/06/2014

    Hi friends - I'll be off the computer for the rest of the week to party. And by party, I mean to work. I'll be getting ready for an upcoming awesome backyard entertaining series for ManMade. This will be the first time I've had people over to my new house, so I kinda gotta finish unpacking and put up lamps and hang stuff on the walls. But, the event is shaping up to be something amazing. 

    To make it a success, ManMade is partnering with Murphy-Goode Winery. We have a Pinterest board to keep track of all our ideas, recipes, and entertaining tips. Check it out here: How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue

    See you on Monday. Or, if you happen to live in the Portland, OR area and wanna stop by on Saturday, send me an email. It'll be great to meet you. 


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    Brought to you by the National Geographic Channel 

    As a spinoff to the highly-popular Wicked Tuna series, the National Geographic Channel is pitting some of Gloucester, Massachusetts’ finest fishermen against a new group of captains from North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the new series Wicked Tuna: North vs. South.

    When the bluefin tuna season comes to an end in Massachusetts, the northern captains decide to try their luck in the Outer Banks. As the crew hits the high seas and ventures into uncharted territory, they are not only faced with unpredictable weather and dangerous water, but some very protective local Outer Bank captains whose families have fished the area for generations. Watch as the northern captains conquer new styles of fishing, treacherous waters and the wrath of the southern captains. 

    The new series premieres on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, August 17 at 10/9c.

    Wicked Tuna: North vs. South premiers on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, August 17 at 10/9 c

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    How to make a reusable rustic candle. Photos: Gabriel Cabrera

    Can't get into the floral smells and garish artwork of storebought candles? Nope, us either. So  we came up with our very own DIY version to make a reusable rustic candle that any guy can be proud to burn in his home. (Or log cabin?)

    Scented candles can be quite expensive and usually super fragrant... which is totally fine if you're relaxing at the spa with cucumbers over your eyes. (We're not judging...) So, we suggest making your own affordable candles in a reusable container that can be filled up over and over. Light it up. 

    How To Make a Reusable Rustic Candle

    How to make a reusable homemade candle. Photos: Gabriel Cabrera


    • Rustic mug or container (try an enamel mug designed for camping, or an old cup from the secondhand store)
    • A penny
    • Essential oil of your choice. We recommend: cinnamon, pine, cedar, or citronella (acts a mosquito repellent too!). NOTE: It's very important that you check that the oil is suitable for candle making as some oils can only be used for low-temp projects (e.g. soaps).
    • 1/2 a pound-ish of wax - For this project we used 24 candles from the dollar store. *See more details below.
    • Candle wick (you can buy one at your local craft store or you can use one from the melted candles).
    • A chopstick or wooden skewer
    • A bowl and a saucepan to make a double boiler.

    * You can purchase wax at your local craft store, but it can be a bit pricey, at around $20 or more per pack. Instead, we went to the dollar store and bought a few packs of "emergency candles." For the amount needed for this project we spent around $4.00 USD.

    How to make a reusable rustic candle

    Make it:

    1: Make a double boiler by placing a bowl over a pot with water (make sure the water's not touching the bowl). Bring water to a boil and reduce heat so it simmers.

    2: Add wax/candles and let them melt. Add a few drops of the essential oil. Stir with a chopstick. 

    3: While everything is melting - "glue" the penny to the candle wick by using a few drops of wax. Place the penny right in the center of the cup and tie a knot around the chopstick to keep it from moving.

    How to make a reusable rustic candle

    4: *Carefully* start pouring the hot, scented wax into the cup. Save a a bit of wax for any touch ups.

    5: The wax will contract a bit while it cools down. If it shrinks too much around the edges, use the left over wax to fill up any holes.

    6: Cut the excess wick and light it up!

    How to make a rustic candle


    • Got wax on your clothing? No worries, just place a piece of newspaper on top of it and iron it on high heat. Once you get rid of it, rinse the spot in hot water.
    • Don't want to use a double boiler? Then buy microwaveable soy wax at the craft store. Nuke it and follow the same steps above.
    • NEVER heat the wax directly on the stove as it could ignite. Yikes!

    And...that's it. Once the candle is consumed, refill it with more wax. That's another brand new candle for just a few bucks. Use it at home while reading, in the kitchen to get rid of strong smells, or to light your camp in the backcountry. 



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    created at: 08/11/2014

    Last summer, I shared my favorite trick for instantly upgrading your gin and tonic: use a better tonic water.

    And what's the best tonic water? That's likely a matter of taste, but, as we usually advise on ManMade, it's the one you make yourself.

    Portland, OR based bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler shares his technique, which is to make a quinine syrup from chinchona bark and some aromatics, and then using that as a base to mix with club soda to create a stunning tonic water. The bark is added to vodka to make a shelf-stable tincture that lasts forever, then combined with other spices and citrus peels to create the syrup.

     There's still many many weeks of summer and gin and tonic weather left, so hit up the spice shop and mix up a batch this week!

    How to Make Quinine Syrup for a Better Gin and Tonic []

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    The Telegraph UK features a recent photo exploration of the "kit" - the gear and clothing - carried by common soldiers for the last 1000 years. I actually don't know a ton about military history...or the military in general... or anything about weapons, but I'm fascinated by the craftsman ship and materials used here, as well as looking at the outdoor survival aspects that the soldiers were prepared for. 

    There's a complete list of the items displayed here, and the slideshow can be browsed at: 

    Inventories of war: soldiers' kit from 1066 to 2014

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    A new pair of shoes is a great thing, especially a quality pair with leather uppers that you plan to break in and wear for years. And they only get better with age, building character over time and conforming to the contours of your feet. Menswear blog Put This On offers some great tips to add that character by creating a patina that matches the style of shoe, and where you'll wear it. 

    Derek says, "As a guy who owns more footwear than he probably should, I’ve found that my best looking shoes aren’t the ones that were most expensive. They’re simply the ones I’ve owned the longest, and thus, have been worn the most. The nice thing about quality shoes is that they’re made from high-end, full-grain leathers, which not only last a long time, but also develop a beautiful patina."

    Check out his tips for boots, dressier shoes, and casual shoes at Put This On: Building a Patina



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  • 08/12/14--16:00: The Art of the Shave
  • Whether its our birthright or our burden (or, like most things, somewhere right in between) men gots to shave they faces. While we've been doing it for years, there's always room for improvement, to both care for your skin, minimize cutting, and getting the finish you want.   While this subject has been covered, in depth and at least 1000 times on the internet, I still appreciate a succinct summary that creates solid results. I think this guide on the Kaufmann Mercantile blog succeeds in that realm, and it's definitely worth a look. 

    It begins, " For something we do every morning, shaving is a simple art that every man should master – and hopefully enjoy. Whether you’re breaking out the complete mug and brush set or keeping things straight-forward, here are a few easy tips for smooth execution." 

    The Art of the Shave[]



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    Dining out is one of life's simple pleasures. You shouldn't do it all the time, but it's a great treat when the time is right. But it's also a dialog - between you and the restaurant; between your table and the kitchen; between your server, your tablemates, and the rest of the dining room. 

    And, restaurants are one of the toughest businesses to keep afloat, and if you want to support your local independent creatives or get the full experience while traveling to a new spot...well, don't be a jerk.

    Bon Appetit looks at the relationship between the diner and the restaurant. "Yes, it should be a special experience. Yes, your meal should be delicious, worth the price tag, and prepared to your liking. And, given the right location, yes, you should even expect to be pampered a little bit. But there are still a few ways you can screw up that whole “dining out” thing. We spoke with some of the industry’s biggest player... about what not to do when dining out. Whether it’s gaming the online reservation system or getting blackout drunk (duh, right?), this is the bad behavior that’ll make things awkward for everyone involved."

    Yeah, maybe the customer is always right. But I'd much rather have fun than be right.

    The Worst Things to Do at a Restaurant: How to Ruin Your Night (and Everybody Else's)



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    created at: 08/13/2014

    There are two routes home cocktail enthusiasts tend to take when choosing a muddler: the mini-baseball style that sits on the check-out counter and the local liquor store (which suck), and then there's the handmade, lathe-turned muddler made from some exotic South American hardwood that can cost you as much as $60 or $80.

    Or, you can get the performance of the second for the price of the first. 

    Bartender and author Jeffrey Morganthaler figured out this helpful trick: just make one - err, two - from a hardwood French rolling pin with tapered ends. You can buy a 20" solid maple pin for $11.46, cut it in half, sand the edges, and you're done. Jeffrey says, " You’ve got a narrow end for lightly muddling herbs, and a wide end for mashing the heck out of some limes for a tasty Caipirinha. There you go, cheapskates! The good news is that you can allay some of your shame with the knowledge that this is seriously one of the best muddlers you’ll ever use. Enjoy."

    Sounds pretty good to me. I've even turned my own muddlers, and I think I'm gonna do this next time I do an Amazon order. 

    Build a Better ($5.63) Muddler []


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    I've really been enjoying these illustrated walkthroughs from NeedSupply's blog, where they venture in-depth to explore the history, mechanics, and materials that we use everyday. The eraof cell phones have replaced the watch for many, which is a shame; the watch isn't just a source of the time, it's also a style accesssory, a finishing piece, and a tiny bit of craftsmanship you can wear on your arm all the livelong day.

    Author Samantha Wittweir states,

    Horlogerie, or the art of fine watch making, has been the arena in which craftsman of the highest caliber have been able to exercise their precise art since the early 16th century. The wristwatch has become both a symbol of the well to do and an essential tool in every profession from banking to baking – an object imbued with both the loving attention of it’s craftsman and the poetic weight of time itself. This significance is what has allowed the popularity of the wristwatch to endure... Whether you are looking to invest in your first real wristwatch, or fix up your grandfather’s old piece which has neither ticked nor toc’d since Reagan was in office, there are a few terms you are going to need to know.

    Check out the full piece at NeedSupply: It's Time You Learned About Watches



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    created at: 08/15/2014

    As any DIYer knows...the longer you've been making stuff, the more stuff you gather. But not just tools - all the accessories and add-ons that make tools into mutil-tasking, multi-purpose creative machines.

    No tool represents that versatility like the drill/driver. And nothing else racks up extra parts: twist bits, brad-point bits, hole saws, Forstner bits, spade bits, hex drivers, sanding drums, and the like. There are a lot of things that work by being chucked in and spinning at 1000s of RPMs. To keep those thing organized, sharp, and ready to go when he needed them, Massachusetts-based maker Bales came up with this customizable drill bit rack. 

    created at: 08/15/2014

    He says, "Maybe you store your bits in the factory case/box? Those all seem to be different sizes, making storage a nightmare ... that is if they plastic hinge doesn't break within the first week. Maybe you use old coffee cans or plastic containers like I did for awhile, which ends up becoming a catch all for small hardware, fasteners and sawdust. It was time to put an end to this madness and organize my drill bits. I wanted them grouped in sets, I wanted them portable, and I wanted them labeled."

    Bales employed a cleat system that allows each section to be moved to another space when working on a project, or reorganized on the backer board itself. Very clever.

    Get the full how-to at Instructables: The Drill Bit Rack



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    Rigsketball - noun - ˈ[rigːs.kɪt.bɔːl] - "a band basketball tournament played on a regulation basketball hoop that's bolted to [a tour] van."Each year, artist and musician Bim Ditson hosts the Rigsketball tournament, an urban creative take on basketball. He says, "it has a bunch of stuff that's inherently different because its just a bunch of weird artistic people that are maybe not the best at basketball."

    Film maker Juliet Zulu created this short on this year's game, and she presents it as a meditation on the DIY ethos and community building. It's a fun watch, and full of style, slamdunks, and mohawks. 

    Watch the video below, then check out Juliet's site for more details and still photos.


    Rigsketball from Juliet Zulu on Vimeo.



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    Being a party-goer is easy: you show up, eat food, drink drink, have fun, and go home. Nice. But sometimes you need to return the favor, do your part and be a good guy. Sometimes, it's gotta be your turn to host.

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue - Part 1

    That's why we're creating the ultimate man's guide to backyard entertaining. We're skipping the burgers and hot dogs, but saving the grill-power and the open flame. This is no fancy dinner party with flowers and special place settings and specialized utensils. But it is an event for grown-ups (read: no kegs) who want to get together and enjoy a great evening of good grub, tasty wine and conversation. 

    To make it happen, we sought out a partner in Murphy-Goode, a Sonoma winery that makes great wines for occasions just like this one: good times, good friends, and good food. Read on for tons of DIY tricks and small, simple projects that make this a decidedly ManMade take on the backyard barbecue. 

    (Oh, and hey, city-dwellers, ye backyard-less wonders, these tips will work just as well on your patio, porch, fire escape, your building's roof, your driveway or parking space, the front yard, or even the local park. Just check with local authorities and your super first.)

    Now, let's light the charcoal, pop the cork, and get started.


    Inviting Guests

    You know what I hate? Facebook invites. E-vites. Meeting requests. Nothing makes a party sound like an interminable staff meeting like an appointment with a 30-minute reminder on your Google Calendar. Stop it.

    The ManMade recommendation? Don't do it. Digital invites are confusing, often require special account creation, and usually make the guest list and RSVPs public. Facebook events are designed for your college roommate's DJ nights, not for actually reaching out to your friends. I have seriously never attended a real-life event I got invited to by Facebook alone, and I doubt you have either.

    Do you need custom letter-printed paper invitations with a handwritten note? Naaaarp.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    Just call them. Don't email. Don't text. Don't use some third party thing. Just call your friends on the telephone, and speak directly to the folks you wanna hang out with. If you're nervous about it, just read this script:

    "Hey, I'm hosting a barbecue at my house in a few weeks and I wanted to see if you're free that evening cause I'd really love for you to be there."

    Tell them the date, and then, after you discuss, let them know that you'll follow up by text or email so they have the details, your address, and the start time for reference later. 

    Let Your Guests Bring Stuff If They Ask 

    Don't be a hero and do everything yourself, but don't compromise the vibe you're going for, either. If someone asks if they can bring something, say yes. And use the opportunity to allow your friends to help provide the things you don't own enough of. Don't have 20 chairs? Tell your friends to bring one for each person that arrives in their group. Most of us don't have enough wine glasses to host a large group, so tell your guests to bring one for themselves, or a set of four, and you'll wash them and give it back to them before they leave. And if someone texts you on the way and says, "hey - can I pick anything up on my way over?" the answer is always: Yes. Grab a bag of ice. 

    Unless it's a pot-luck, I avoid asking people to bring food. It's usually annoying (for them), and probably won't go with the menu you have planned out (we'll talk about that later). 

    Where to Put These People (Seating)

    A barbecue has a different vibe than an indoor dinner party; you can invite more people than can fit around your dining table. Which is good, cause people shouldn't be sitting around a table like it's Thanksgiving. Instead, use your outdoor table space to lay out your drinks and food, and just let people eat wherever they want. You want folks shuffling about; that's what a barbecue is all about (well, ok, it's about grilled meat, but also shuffling).

    created at: 08/18/2014

    Don't have an outdoor table space? Make one! Some ideas:

    • Bring indoor tables outside, cover them with tablecloths or brown kraft paper.
    • Use a folding or card table.
    • Get a piece of plywood and some sawhorses and create a pop-up table.
    • Use cinder blocks and some 1 x 8"s to make a long flat surface to place your food. 

    Raiding your dining room and home office for chairs. If you still don't have enough, then embrace full-on picnic mode and invite guests to sit on the ground. Throw down some blankets in the right spot so your guests know where it's cool to sit. If you don't have the right blanket, hit up your local military surplus store. They have all kinds of rustic, masculine blankets at affordable prices, and you'll find all sorts of uses for them. 

    In Vino Festivus (Simplifying Your Drink Menu)

    We like cocktails as much as anyone, but a backyard barbecue is not the time for mixing custom drinks, buying ten bottles of spirits and a billion mixers so you can make just the right drink for everyone. A backyard barbecue is a time to keep things simple, and you don't want to spend the whole night measuring and stirring and shaking drinks. There's a perfect libation to serve that will make everyone happy: wine.

    Everyone likes wine with good food. Between a rich red and a chilled white, there's something for everyone, and, most importantly, your guests can serve themselves as they wish. We're gonna go even further and say: serve only two wines - one red and one white. That way, there's no clamoring to make sure everyone tries each vintage, and no one will hog the expensive stuff. Pick two great options that work with the grilled foods your serving, and allow your guests to help themselves. The entire drink problem is solved. 

    But when you're keeping things simple, you gotta make sure your two choices make sense for your meal. So, we consulted the winemakers and house chef - The Grill Sergeant - from Murphy-Goode Winery to select the right bottles. We'll be sharing our discoveries in Part II - Food and Drink Planning and Prep. 

    created at: 08/18/2014

    Whose Drink Is This?

    I love eating and hanging out outside because of the movement that happens when you interact in an open space. Folks get up often, get refills, grab a snack, check out what's going on at the grill, etc. Which is great for atmosphere, but it means people often lose their spot, their plate, and set down their drinks all over the place.

    Anyone who's ever shared a bottle of wine has done the "which glass is mine?" dance with a stranger; it just comes along with territory. And they make things to help sort that out: they're called wine charms, and they're little wire and bead things that attach to the stem of the glass and they're horrible and ugly and something no man should use at his party.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    But, you know what else attaches to wine glasses? Tape. Particularly, masking tape that you can write on. You already have some in your desk or some blue painters tape from your toolbox. Just place a roll and big black marker next to the wine glasses, and folks will get the idea. Attach it to the stem of the glass to avoid losing tackiness with condensation from chilled white wine. You could even set a few up ahead of time. No jewelry necessary. 

    Oh, and this also helps having to avoid asking that person you just met what their name is again. Just glance at their wine glass. Done.

    Flora and Flames (decor with a lowercase d)

    You don't need a "theme" to your party. You already have one: you're cooking outside. But, our vote is more the "campfire in the woods" kind of outdoor cooking than the "Father's Day card with checkered table cloth and yellow and red squeeze bottles" sort of thing.

    To pull it off, you need but two things: something green and nature-y, and something on fire. If you have a grassy yard with trees, you're all set on the green part. If your space is more of a deck or fire escape (or dirt lot), get some basic potted plants. Even placing some succulents in bowls on the table conveys the tone.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    As far as fire, there are several options. A backyard fire pit is ideal, so if you have the space, go for it. Use an established pit or ring for safety, and I recommend some basic concrete pavers underneath the pit if you're setting it on something flammable. If you don't have one, you can use a kettle grill to build a small, safe wood fire, or you can always make one. Here's the ManMade tutorial, and these are some other good DIY options. Just be sure to check your local city codes for open flame laws. 

    If a fire pit doesn't make sense, plenty of other options will work just fine. Tiki torches are a great solution, adding lots of vibe and helping to keep the bugs away. If you don't have a spot to stake them in the ground, embrace the power of the citronella candle. Get lots, and use them on every flat surface you have.

    Murphy-Goode Winery

    We're excited to collaborate with Murphy-Goode for this backyard entertaining series.
    They're dedicated to creating serious wine for serious fun, and were founded as a family business with a passion for straightforward, enjoyable wine without the fuss.

    Learn more about their roots, their wines, and their commitment to doing Goode Deeds through their Operation Homefront foundation at

    You can also follow them on Facebook (MurphyGoodeWinery)Twitter (@MurphyGoodeWine), and Pinterest for more updates.


    To make your yard a festive place where people will want to hang out, bust out the string lights. You can use the ones you already have and put on your Christmas tree, or get the more outdoors-y globe lights or cafe lights. You can definitely find these online, but check discount stores, party supply shops, and garden centers, which have these for sale year round, not just in May and June. 

    created at: 08/18/2014

    The trick, of course, is hanging them. You need them to be high enough so that folks can walk around freely and not clothesline themselves, but also low enough so that they light the space. The layout depends on your yard and its features, you'll want to use your roof, any trees as you can,  but here's an easy DIY technique to extend them further:

    • Get some 1/2" metal conduit pipes in the electrical aisle at the home improvement store. These come standard 10' in length, which is perfect for this project.
    • Attach some medium-duty S-hooks to the top with wire, creating a spot to anchor the lights.
    • Place the pipes against any sturdy features you have: fences, decks, lawn furniture, trees, etc. If you can push them two feet into the ground, you'll have more support, and a solid 8' of clearance. Attach them to existing structures with zip ties, or for a more permanent solution, 1/2 pipe straps or hangers.
    • Use as many as you can to define the hangout space, but don't worry if you only have enough anchors for a few sets. Two or three strands really helps establish the party tone. When connecting multiple strands, loop the male and female plug ends around each other so the hanging tension won't pull them apart (top left).

    What To Do When the Talking Stops (Entertainment)

    The point of a cookout is to gather, visit and meet new people, and, of course, eat and drink. But it's always nice to have a general focal point or conversation starter to keep things moving throughout the night, and give folks a way to interact once the trips to the food table have slowed down.

    Our vote: go for the outdoor movie. It's reminiscent of a trip to the drive-in, or a movies in the park on a picnic blanket. Digital projectors are easy to rent, and have become increasingly affordable to buy. Just get one with an HDMI in port, and plug in your DVD player, Apple TV or Roku box, or laptop. Someone you know probably has one of these. We picked up this one from ViewSonic online. It's an affordable option that's plenty bright, and all the tech review sites give it the thumbs up. We'll keep using it for many ManMade projects and outdoor movie nights to come.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    Here's the thing - you don't actually have to watch the movie. It's really background entertainment. It's more about giving movement to the space. It gives people something to chat about. And having a flickering screen brings a special something to the party, like visuals at a concert, or the TVs set to low at your local pub. And because no one has to watch, it's a great chance to throw on a movie filled with scenes and set pieces that everyone knows well ... those comfort food movies that you can't help but watch on a rainy day. You could even make a YouTube playlist of some iconic music videos. Here's a list of recommended films that will work for any party:

    • The Goonies
    • Back to Future
    • The Big Lebowski
    • Wayne's World
    • Anchorman
    • The Princess Bride
    • Blues Brothers
    • This Is Spinal Tap
    • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
    • Three Stooges Shorts
    • Stand By Me
    • Caddyshack
    • Cool Hand Luke
    • The Graduate


    Once the film has served its purpose, use the projector and screen combo to do something interactive: play some video games. It's a great way to get folks that don't know each other to connect, and, if you choose the game wisely, create a opportunity for anyone to participate.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    Of course, you'll need a screen on which to project your images. Here's how to make an easy DIY option that you can hang anywhere:

    • Get some white blackout cloth, which is used for window shades and curtains. You can find it at the fabric store or online.
    • Get two lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe and fold and sew a channel along the bottom, and basic sleeve at the top, leaving some space for insert hardware. If you don't have a sewing machine, you can try a strong adhesive like E6000 or PVA glue, or you could even use a medium weight staple gun.
    • Then, insert some evenly spaced grommets along the top.
    • Slide in the PVC and cut to size, and use rope and hooks to mount it (on a wall, your roof eaves, a shed, a tree, etc). You can easily remove the PVC and fold it up for storage, and insert some eyelet screws in your ceiling for indoor use. 


    Yes, you should have some. Not so loud it's distracting, but enough to make it feel like a party. Set the volume to be loud enough that folks can hear it and recognize the songs the already know, but not loud enough that anyone has to speak up to overcome it.

    We recommend setting up the music away from the grill, just to avoid any potential damage from heat or smoke to your gear. Find a spot in a corner, near the drinks, perhaps. These days, the easiest route is a Bluetooth speaker playing tunes from your smartphone, tablet, or nearby computer.

    created at: 08/18/2014

    We used a Jawbone Jambox, which was plenty loud for our space, but there are several Bluetooth speaker options out there, many under $40. Just find one that uses a rechargeable battery, so you don't have to deal with any power supplies or extension cords. For tunes, we made a custom playlist through Spotify featuring lots of 60s and 70s R&B (think Motown and Stax records) and then fading into some moody electronic pop as the night wore on. Here are a few free playlists to help give your gathering some energy.

    Coming up later this week, we'll be sharing our menu and food preparing tips, as well as ideas for selecting the right wines for your party. Then, we'll cover some basic tips for getting your house ready for guests (no, you don't have to scrub it from head to toe), and some best practices for grilling, and tips for getting all the work done ahead of time, so you can enjoy your party, too.

    Stay tuned. (Or sign up for our free e-mail newsletter to get notified of new posts! It's 100% spam free!)


    Event photos by the amazing Margaret Jacobsen. 


    This post was sponsored by Murphy-Goode Winery, but all opinions are mine alone. We're grateful to our sponsors for helping us make long-form, in-depth content like this possible. And for the good wine!

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    Industrial designer and jeweler Mat Brown came up with this awesome technique for taking a split, live-edge length of chesnut wood, and rather than fixing its flaws, decided to highlight their natural character. By making them glow in the dark.    

    Mat detailed his process on a Reddit post, where his mixes a two-part resin with some glow-in-the-dark pigment from eBay, and then planed and sanded everything smooth. 

    He doesn't share an official "how-to" but the step-by-step photos and materials shots walk you through what it would take to pull these off. If you're not into the glowing aspect, some brightly colored normal pigment would look just as rad. Check out the Reddit thread and Imgur gallery for the full process:

    Resin inlaid chestnut shelves 

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