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    As I'm sure you know, DIY projects have a habit of starting with one intention, and occasionally becoming something else entirely. To avoid this, Michelangelo notoriously studied each piece of marble before carving it into a statue, claiming he was searching to find the secret sculpture latently hidden in the stone...   

    And not to argue with Michelangelo, but there's something to be said for the creative flow of crafting with a vague aim and occasionally finding something stunning, like this wood cut United States wall art map that began as a failed coffee table project. 

    I've personally always been a fan artistic maps, although you could really engrave anything into the frame to suit for your fancy. 

    Check out the full tutorial at the Invention Factory

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    Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day. 

    created at: 06/23/2015
    Real mechanics have a full fleet of designated wrenches in high-grade steel: open ends and box ends, standard and metric, each increasing by the millimeter and every sixteenth inch, accompanied by specialty items like pin and hook spanners, cone wrenches for bearing systems, and other exacting, designated tools.

    And if you do a lot of work on cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and the like, you probably should have them, too. But for most homeowners, DIYers, tinkers, and woodworkers, a simple set of mechanical tools will work just fine.   

    You definitely want a full socket set (more on that in a future post), but for general tightening and loosing of hardware, you can get by with a set of adjustable wrenches for a good 90% of tasks. If you own anything that moves or is made of metal, you need an adjustable wrench. 

    created at: 06/23/2015

    The adjustable wrench, often called a Crescent wrench thanks to the Crescent Tool Company's original design, features adjustable jaws offset at an angle for use in small spaces without a lot of clearance. (And helps save your knuckles). It does what wrenches do, and since you're a clever ManMade reader, I won't condescend to tell you how to use a wrench. 

    What to Look for in an Adjustable Wrench?

    A few things. A comfortable handle, for sure, and quality moving jaw with a smooth motion. The highest grade steel you can afford will ensure it lasts for a long time; many home center options are much too soft, softer than the hardware they're designed to move.

     Since the jaws are flexible here, you need to make sure you practice good technique to avoid rounding over the edges of fastener's head. First, open the jaws to the right size, and place them squarely on the hardware. Make sure the fixed jaw is placed such that it puts the most pressure on the hardware, rather than the adjustable jaw. So, when tightening clockwise (righty-tighty), the fixed jaw should be follow the direction of the handle in the clockwise direction, rather than the handle following the fixed jaw.  Then, tighten the jaws just a bit more to ensure a snug fit. 

    created at: 06/23/2015

    Tools featuring a readable scale (metric on one side and standard on the other) will help determine hardware size if you need to replace, or figure out which socket head you need. In this fashion, they're basically functioning like a measuring tool, or caliper. Cool, right?

    For most common tasks, you'll want three basic sizes: 6", 8", and 10" This will not only accommodate most standard hardware, but allow you to access hard to reach spaces and tight corners. If you work on small items regularly (musical instruments, kids toys, bikes, etc) a 4" will be helpful, and if you need to mess with large hex-headed hardware (like a trailer or truck hitch) a 12" or 14" would make for a good complement. 

    created at: 06/23/2015

    Which Ones to Buy?

    Many professional mechanics prefer Snap-On tools, which are made from the highest quality steel still used these days. They're nice, but pricey, and if you do the kind of work that professional mechanics do, they might be worth it. For the rest of us, Crescent wrenches are still nice (they invented them, after all), and I like nearly all the hand tools made by Channel Lock. Stanley's current set of wrenches have a nice balance of quality and price, and beat the pants off the generic hardware store brand I was using for years. 

    You could mix and match as well - buy a nicer 8" for the majority of tasks, then get other sizes in a less expensive tool. You can get nice tools for $6.00... just not for $3.00. It's also true that the nice wrenches have a wider adjustability in their jaw size; you could accomplish more with the ChannelLock 8" than the Stanley, for example, which might make it a better all-around option to keep in your toolbox. 

    ManMade Recommended:

    • Stanley Adjustable Wrenches
    • Channel Lock Adjustable Wrenches (Read the reviews on these; people love them)
    • Crescent Wrenches
    • Snap-On (Bahco)


    Remember: righty-tighty; lefty-loosey.  




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    Each Wednesday, I post some of my favorite can't-miss links, images, and otherwise mindblowing goodies from across the web.

    Artists Lernert and Sander recently completed "Cubes," a 3D illustration for the Dutch newspaper Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, featuring 98 raw foods that were cut into squares and assembled into the geometric grid above. How many can you name? See more at JunkCulture. 


    "Lost Posture: Why Some Indigenous Cultures May Not Have Back Pain" from NPR. Lucky.


    This wooden combination lock is 1) handmade 2) awesome 3) a great demonstration of how dial locks actually work. Go check out the video to see it in action.

    Do this. How to Make: The Bacon Bowl and Egg

    This dude made a bunch of wooden travel mugs, and now I want all four. See how it's done.




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    7 Shop Essentials You just can't have too much of

    My name is Bryson and I have a problem. Whenever I find myself in a hardware store I have a list and I have a second list. On that second, unwritten list, are the things I always tell myself I need for my shop and I inevitably walk out with a bag full of it. I'm always telling myself "Well, ya can't have too many of these!" Here's my short list of seven things I just can't seem to live without and for good reason.

    Painter’s Tape

    I can’t get enough of this blue stuff. I use it for all kinds of random things. Labeling, highly visible line marking and temporary holds of random things. I use this tape the most as temporary joinery when I build boxes. Take all four sides and tape the ends together and roll up into a box shape. It’s the best way to see if my joints are cut perfectly.

    Note: another tape I love is gaffer’s tape. It’s used heavily in the entertainment industry for it’s strength and adhesive that doesn’t leave residue. Think of it like better duct tape—Yea, I sad it. 

    7 Shop Essentials You Just Can't Live Without

    Deck Screws
    A lot of people use drywall screws as their everyday use fasteners, but I’ve found the threads to be too sharp and have cut myself several times digging into my pocket for a screw. I pay a little more for self-tapping ones too, no drill bits required! I finish projects faster and the tan color blends in better than black.

    It goes without saying, really, that you can’t have enough clamps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked up a storm in the shop with 3 random things on the gluing table and I get a wild idea to start on another project that takes 5 more clamps. Go ahead and just budget each month for clamps of all sizes and shapes.

      Clamps  It goes without saying, really, that you can’t have enough clamps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked up a storm in the shop with 3 random things on the gluing table and I get a wild idea to start on another project that takes 5 more clamps. Go ahead and just budget each month for clamps of all sizes and shapes.

    Plywood Scraps

    I really don’t toss out any scraps, call me a hoarder if you will, but I certainly don’t toss out plywood scraps. I use them to comp out new ideas, as notepads to write on and perhaps the most important use, to make jigs. All of my templates and jigs are made from Frankensteined plywood pieces.

    Got a bunch of old shirts you don’t want anymore? Then you got yourself a new bucket of shop rags. I keep a running pile in a box that I toss any rag or blanket or shirt I’m through with in the house.  You can even divide them up in sections, flannels for buffing a nice finish, t-shirts for stain application and towels for mess clean up. I only recommend sorting if you have tons of space, unlike me.

     Clamps  It goes without saying, really, that you can’t have enough clamps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked up a storm in the shop with 3 random things on the gluing table and I get a wild idea to start on another project that takes 5 more clamps. Go ahead and just budget each month for clamps of all sizes and shapes.

    I keep 4 kinds of glue on hand (but not on my hands) in my shop. Wood glue, super glue, epoxy resin and pasty super glue. Each of them works well for their respective projects. It’s never fun when you get started on a project, need glue, and are completely out. Whenever I’m getting low, I double restock. 

    Clamps  It goes without saying, really, that you can’t have enough clamps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked up a storm in the shop with 3 random things on the gluing table and I get a wild idea to start on another project that takes 5 more clamps. Go ahead and just budget each month for clamps of all sizes and shapes.

    Ear and Eye Protection
    This one seems pretty obvious. The main reason I keep a large pack of the ear plugs is for my friends that like to come over and pitch in! Most of them aren't as into building as I am, so they usually don't bring anything with them. Having extra protection handy is always a good thing.

    There you have it, these are the things I hoard like a doomsday prepper. So far, my wife hasn't said anything about it. haha! What items do you keep stocked in your workshop pantry?

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    created at: 06/23/2015

    The existence of wine predates the written language and for good reason. At ManMade, we take our wine-loving and appreciation seriously, so we partnered with our brothers at Murphy-Goode Winery to bring you the essential things we believe every man should know about wine. It's Murphy-Goode's 30th anniversary (their Maniversary), so we thought we'd share thirty tips, ideas, and bits of trivia to celebrate. Here we go: 

    Just a Little Wine History (aka 'Conversation Starters')

    How Wine Bottles Got Their Shape

    Wine bottles were shorter and more bulbous until the end of the 17th century when cork became the best method for sealing. Since cork naturally dries out and often breaks into small pieces tainting the flavor, wine bottles began being stored on their side, and as a result, the shape of the bottle became taller and thinner.

    DIY Prohibition Wine

    You've gotta hand it to humanity's ingenuity. During prohibition a handful of US grape juice manufacturers labeled their bottles with wine-making instructions, masked with the slightest veneer of a warning, such as: "CAUTION! Do not add these grapes to five gallons of water and five pounds of sugar with yeast, or it will ferment into wine, which is ILLEGAL."

     created at: 06/22/2015

    Why Wine Bottles Are Different Colors

    Typically dark green bottles are used for reds, light green for dry whites, and colorless bottles for sweet wines. This is because sunlight can break down the tannins and antioxidants you want to keep in the wine, and makes them oxidize prematurely. Dark glass tends to decrease the odds of oxidation and increase the storage life. 


    The Brits invented the dark green bottle color.

    A specific Brit in fact: Sir Kenelm Digby, a 17th century philosopher and diplomat who discovered the benefits of darker colored glass while operating his family's glassworks. 


    The 2004 Academy-Award winning film Sideways crushed the Merlot market. 

    Audiences fell in love with Paul Giamatti's character, who notoriously hated Merlots ("Pour any Merlot and I'm leaving"), and subsequently joined in his distain. At the same time, the market for Pinot Noirs skyrocketed, in keeping with the character's taste.  


    The Basic Wines You Need to Know: 

    created at: 06/22/2015


    Cabernet Sauvignon 

    The crowned king of red wine grape families because of the wide variety of wines it can yield. The best Cabernet Sauvignons come from Bordeaux and from California and are known for their full-bodied flavors. Typical Cabernet Sauvignon descriptions read like the 2012 Poker Knight Cab from Murphy-Goode which "opens up with aromas of vanilla and a sweet smoky and toasty character that leads into wonderful berry fruits. Flavors of blueberry, blackberry, and dark chocolate are framed by velvety tannins and finished with a long aftertaste of mocha and black cherries.” Cabernet Sauvignon is best paired with a simple and hearty meat like a slow roasted beef tenderloin or grilled flank steak. Like Chardonnay, the Cab flourishes over time in oak barrels and is therefore one of the best wines to age.  


    Considered the more approachable sister of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is currently the most popular wine in the world. It's known for its variety of red fruit elements such as cherry, raspberry, plum, currant, and often just a slight hint of vanilla or cedar/oak. Merlots pair wonderfully with a rosemary chicken or a homemade tomato sauce.   

    Pinot Noir

    If Merlot is approachable and Cabernet Sauvignon is stable, then Pinot Noir is sensual and exotic. Known for its dark fruit character matched with bright acidity and flavor, the Pinot Noir's spicy bouquet pairs best with your favorite pulled pork sandwich or some cedar plank steak hot off the grill. 



    While the flavors of each of these wines will vary quite a bit, Syrah is best known for the usual flavors of dark berries, violet, tobacco, earth, pepper, and spice. The grapes for Syrah grow all over the world, most notably in the Rhone Valley of France, Washington State, and Australia (where it is known as Shiraz). Good to pair with lamb or venison. 

    created at: 06/22/2015



    The most popular white wine in the world (and also the most popular wine, period) is Chardonnay. It's made in nearly every wine-producing region in the world. Some Chardonnays will have a crisp, fresh taste of pear or apple, whereas other bottles will be aged in oak barrels infusing them with a creamy or buttery texture and complex notes of vanilla and spice. Chardonnay pairs well with light fish or calamari, but also makes the perfect wine to casually sip after a long day.  

    Pinot Grigio

    Similar to Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio is a dry, refreshing wine that is meant to be enjoyed while it's still young. The most notable aromas are pear, apple, lemon, and mineral, although some - like the 2013 Pinot Grigio from Murphy-Goode - also boast hints of white peach and just a touch of spice. It's a perfect compliment for fish tacos or as a stand-alone party drink.  

    Sauvignon Blanc

    Sauvignon Blanc derives its name from the French word for "wild" because of the rigor and delicacy with which the grapes must be tended to produce the nuanced flavors that define it. While containing the standard white wine aromas of citrus fruit and melon, Sauvignon Blanc often contains a balanced flavor of grassiness or hay that compliments the usual notes. 


    Riesling is one of the "noble" grape varieties and can produce a wide range of white wines, although it is most recognized for the sweeter German-style wines it makes. However, it's a common misconception that Reislings are always sweet. Riesling often boasts a floral aroma with notes of honey, apricot, and peach, and is considered the opposite of Chardonnay as it is rarely aged with oak. 


    Here's How To Talk About Wine

    created at: 06/22/2015

    Tannin is a naturally occurring element in plants, seeds, bark, fruit skins, and leaves that is credited for making wine taste dry. In reality, it doesn't affect the taste as much as the physical sensation of astringency that makes your mouth feel dry. Tannin is a natural preservative that dissipates through the wine as it matures and softens the taste. 


    Wine Weight and Body

    The weight of a wine correlates to its alcohol content. Whereas the "body" of a wine (aka: how it feels in your mouth) is a combination of both the alcohol content and the general fruitiness of the wine. The more alcohol, the warmer and fuller the feeling in your mouth. 


    Wine Finish

    A wine's finish is the last impression left on your tongue after swallowing the wine. Typically white wines will have clean, crisp finishes, while younger reds will last longer but still end with a single, linear cutoff. An older or more expensive red, however, will often unpack a series of evolving notes over the course of 45 seconds or more, growing exceeding more complex before disappearing. 

     created at: 06/22/2015

    Other Wine Terms

    The term "fruit-forward" is used to describe wines that are refreshing and easy to drink with soft tannins and fruity flavors. The term "old world" as applied to wines refers to the traditional wines produced in western European countries like France, Germany, and Italy. The term "new world" refers to wines produced in countries that challenge the traditional methods by promoting wines made from grapes picked at peak ripeness, such as those coming out of Australia and Chile. 


    The warmer the climate, the sweeter the wine.

    Sort of. Generally speaking, grapes grown in warmer climates tend to create fruiter, more complex tasting wines. Californian wines and those made from New Zealand grapes where the sun is often shining tend to have sweeter flavors than wines that come form climates with a broader range of weather, like Spain and France.  



    How To Incorporate Wine at Your Next Dinner Party

    Beer doesn't have to be the only thing at the BBQ. 

    It's true. We wrote a whole post series about it. The best wines for BBQ's are both fruity and spicy to counterbalance the char of the grill. Zinfandels are nice, although Murphy-Goode Winemaker, David Ready Jr., who's a huge barbecue fan, claims "there is no finer food-and-wine match than Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon with a grilled beef filet topped with crumbled blue cheese."


    Beauty before age

    As a general dinner party rule, it's better to serve younger wines before older wines, drier wines before sweeter wines, and lighter-bodied wines before fuller-bodied wines. 

     created at: 06/22/2015

    The best wines for picnics tend to have lower alcohol contents and should be refreshingly light like a nice Riesling or Rosé. Be sure to chill them beforehand if you'll be out in the warm summer sun; your special someone will think you're quite the planner. 


    We've all been told to pair white wines with fish and light dishes and red wines with red meat, and that's pretty much still true. The key is to match the wine with the dominant flavor of the dish. For example a grilled fish might go best with a Sauvignon Blanc, but would pair better with a Chardonnay if topped with a thick, creamy sauce. Ultimately though, it comes down to whatever you prefer.  

     created at: 06/22/2015

    The red wine spectrum. Pair hearty dishes with heavier wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, and comfort foods like pizza and hamburgers with Zinfandel or Merlot. 


    For a lot of men, it seems like a good idea to have a bottle of wine at home at all times so that you'll never need to duck out to a store when you're running late for a party. For that, I'd recommend having a good Pinot Noir. It's a popular, solid staple that will go well with a range of foods that don't need to be hearty (but could be), and its versatility means it's great for an afternoon BBQ or an impromptu late night date.  



    How To Buy and Serve Wine 

    created at: 06/22/2015

    Serving Temperature

    Don’t serve red wine at room temperature, especially on a hot day. Anything above 70 degrees is just too warm. Just pop that bottle in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving and you’ll notice a quality difference immediately.

    created at: 06/22/2015 

    Don't Overlook Blends 

    Wines made from a variety of grapes are not just the leftovers from the better single grape varieties. They're a great way for winemakers and craftspeople to put a person spin on their products, and show off their skills. Many classic, old world wines are blends: Bordeaux, Chianti, Bourgogne, Rhone, Rioja, even Champagne and Cava. New world blends from modern winemakers are in the same family, and offer excellent flavor and value. 

    created at: 06/22/2015

    Storing Wine

    Wine should always be stored in a cool, dark room with a consistent temperature. The ideal temperature is 50-55 degrees, so basements are usually good as long as the temperature doesn't fluctuate too much. Store wine on its side, so that the cork will stay saturated with liquid and not dry out. 


    Aging wine can be a fun hobby, but it's better to drink wine too early than too late. Most wines are best consumed within the first five years of manufacture. 

     created at: 06/22/2015


    Decanting, a process for separating mixtures, is up for debate in wine circles. A good argument in favor of decanting with older wines (in particular) is that over time, sediment from the eventual breakdown of tannins and pigments tend to gather; decanting will help break that up. Also, with older wines, decanting can bring out some of the fruiter sides of a wine that may shift to a muskier aroma with age. It's helpful to pour slowly through a decanter (so you don't overexpose the wine).

    Open It Early

    The best thing you can do for any bottle of red wine is to open it a few hours before you plan to drink it. Even if you don't have a decanter, the exposure to air here allows the wine to "breathe" and results in a richer, more nuanced experience. This is also a great trick to helping inexpensive wine drink much more like a pricier bottle.

     created at: 06/22/2015

    Wine glasses should be held by the stem. The stem was designed to be held so that your hands won't affect the wine's temperature within the glass.  Two fingers and a thumb are all you need. If your glass is too heavy for that light grip, you've got too much in the glass.


    Use the right glass.

    Complex aromas with multiple notes (such as those found in red wines) are easier to detect and enjoy when experienced with a wide glass. The wider bowl of the red wine glass is intentionally made to draw out these distinctive traits, while the narrower glass for white wines help compliment the natural aromas of white wines. 


    The End

    That's it! As with any list that presents itself as definitive, take everything with a grain of salt. Sommeliers (the professional wine experts you see parodied so often in movies) go through years of schooling to develop their taste, and while you can totally do that, all you need to develop an evolved palate is a dedication to discovery and a willingness to depart from the mainstream.



    This post was sponsored by Murphy-Goode Winery. Thanks for supporting the sponsors who support ManMade! 

    created at: 06/22/2015

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    You may remember Morgan Spurlock for his gimmicky documentaries starting with 2004's Super Size Me, but this movie looks like one that all of us will love. The short film clocks in at 25 minutes and features three different types of artisans working in different mediums. The documentary recently got some love at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it premiered to a little controversy regarding the fact that a documentary about craftsmen was sponsored by Haagen Dazs. Check out the trailer below or you can currently stream the entire film online if you're an Amazon Prime member.

    Also if you haven't seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you most certainly should. 

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    Detroit Bicycle Company Copper AccentsCopper is a material that instantly upgrades just about anything. This exceptional copper plated bike is a great example of how a bit of humble bling can upscale that two-wheeled ride.   Detroit Bicycle Company makes bicycles that beg to be taken for a spin. Their dedication to vintage design, warm colors, and polished metals make their products something worthy of an art exhibit.Chromed Bike

    I've always been a fan of the attention to detail that came with handmade goods a generation ago, and Detroit Bicycle Company still holds true to that standard.

    Canfield Street bike

    There are plenty of companies that are doing it right out there, take a bit of time today to look around and find one near you. Because we could all use a bit more quality in our lives.

    created at: 06/25/2015

    Detroit Bicycle Company


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    created at: 06/25/2015

    You know that old question that some stereotypical student always asks their math teacher? The one that's some variation on "When are we actually gonna use this in real life?" The answer, at least for arithmetic, geometry, and even a bit of trigonometry, is: woodworking. For sure. And plenty of other creative and DIY efforts. (That said, I've never actually used calculus after high school, but I know lots of jobs and creative pursuits require differentials and derivatives all the time. I'm just glad mine doesn't)

    Anyone who spends time with a ruler or tape measure gets used to working in fractional inches, and most of us become pretty good with cutting things in half, or adding up thicknesses of different materials. But when your projects and design work start to involve numbers like 7 19/32", things start to get a little difficult to calculate in your head. 

    So, here's an easy trick to quickly add complex fractions, with no paper, calculators, or headaches required.

    created at: 06/25/2015

    Use two rulers. Or two tape measures. Or a framing square and a folding rule. Any two things with a readable scale will do. This is how it works: Let's say we want to add 3  11/16" and 1 5/8". 


    created at: 06/25/2015

    Find 3  11/16" on ruler A. Then, place ruler B at 3  11/16"and find the second number, 1 5/8", on ruler B. The adjacent graduation on ruler A is the sum. 

    See how easy that is? Looking at the photo above, the answer is 5 5/16". 

    created at: 06/25/2015

    Done. No common denominators required. 

    This works for subtraction too. Just read the numbers in the opposite direction. If you do regularly work with complex fractions and are as right brained as I am, a shop calculator is a useful tool. This allows you to add fractions without converting them into decibels, as well as a heap of other tasks. Until we're all on the metric system (which will be a great day, indeed), it can be a lifesaver.

    ManMade Recommended: 


    created at: 06/25/2015

    But! The two ruler technique totally works, and it's free. Who doesn't have a ruler and a tape measure lying around? Do this quick trick, and get back to building stuff. 


    Here it is again in simple photos: 

    created at: 06/25/2015

    Happy making!



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    Give your weekend or upcoming July 4th backyard BBQ some stylish, upcycled flair with this clever beer can lantern hack. I actually think these would look quite cool in bulk, placed on every flat surface. It might look a little cluttered at first, but once the sun goes down? Summer magic. (You could always spray paint the whole lot to make them feel cohesive).

    created at: 06/26/2015

    Of course, to make the cuts easier, you've got to fill empty cans with water and place them in the freezer for several hours. So, you'll need to drink the beers ahead of time and freeze...but, I'm sure most of you will be okay with that. 

    Get the full how-to, as well as six other beer can hacks, at Supercompressor: 7 Ingenious Things You Can Do with a Beer Can (Besides Drink Out of It) 


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    Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day. 

    created at: 06/26/2015There's an oft-heard saying among woodworking DIYers. The requisite "Measure twice, cut once," "A sharp tool is a safe tool," and the like. And today, we're exploring the adage that "You can never have too many clamps," which, as anyone who makes stuff from wood can tell you, is absolutely, undeniably, 100%, unequivocally, and most certainly, very, very, VERY true.    While having a full arsenal of a single style of clamps is great professional cabinet and furniture shops, homeowners, DIYers, and hobbyist woodworkers benefit most from a collection with a variety of styles, each designed to for different types of projects and tasks, keep you safe, and turn out great work. 

    This will be part one of our clamp discussion, focusing on small clamps less than 18". We'll look at long bar clamps, parallel jaw clamps, pipe clamps, straps, etc, in a future post. 

    OH! And I'll repeat this at the end: don't buy cheap clamps. They're not worth it. They don't create the right kind of pressure, they slip in the middle of a job, they break, and you'll just end up replacing them with a brand you trust. Stay away from Harbor Freight, generic store brands, and stick to names you can trust. This is one place where it really, really matters. 

    created at: 06/26/2015

    1) 12" Heavy-Duty Bar Clamps with Quick Release Clutch: Hands down, the clamps I grab the most. These are great for small glue-ups, and for holding things onto bench tops, tool tables, and attaching scraps to cuts to avoid tear-out. The clutch mechanism keeps things secure when you need it, but allows you to release them with one hand. And the screw-style mechanism allows you to provide just the right amount of pressure to get proper squeeze out, and no more. Be sure to get ones with pads on both jaws, so you don't have to apply extra wood (cauls) to avoid denting the wood. 

    Oh, and this is one case where bigger isn't better. The long arms can actually get in the way of small jobs, limiting your ability to use them on low-clearance tools (like a drill press), inside cases or cabinets, etc. 12"-15" is right on for this task. 

    I'd get four, and keep them handy.

    ManMade Recommended: 


    created at: 06/26/2015

    2. 4" or 6" Deep Throat F-Clamp These are similar to the ones above, but vary in a few key ways. Instead of sliding the lower jaws with the quick-release clutch, they simply rely on sliding slip-joint pressure to hold things in place. That provides the right kind of pressure for light-to medium duty tasks, but requires two hands to operate. They also feature slightly deep jaws to approach the middle of the works. 

    Buying a larger set of these is great for full glue-ups using cauls, or for general hold-down work. Just keep them small, so they remain affordable. 

    I have eight of these, and rarely use fewer than four at a time. 

    ManMade Recommended: 


    created at: 06/26/2015

    3. Wood Hand Screw These are large, deep jawed clamps that require some finesse to set up, but are worth it when other clamps just won't do. They can reach the middle of large boards, and since the jaws are wood and do not pivot, they can function like a vice for drilling, carving, or chiseling tasks. You just clamp the work in the hand screw, and clamp the hand screw to the bench or tool table. 

    These are somewhat expensive and large to store, so one or two in a large and small size will work for most of us. 

    ManMade Recommended: 


    created at: 06/26/2015


    4. Spring or Alligator Clamps make quick work of light duty tasks when the stock is thin. These are more useful for holding two things together temporarily rather than holding work to a secure surface, but their incredibly useful when you need precise movement, or to hold something across the surface, rather than just up and down, like when you're fixing a crack and don't want to misalign the wood with pressure.

    They're also dead inexpensive (less than $2.00), so you can feel free to take them to outside jobs or send them home with a friend without having to wait for the glue to try. 

    I currently have six of these, two of which have the padding all worn away. When I get down to two or three, I'll replace with a fresh set of eight for ten or twelve bucks.

    ManMade Recommended: 

    5. Quick-Release One-Handed Clamps are great for those of use working on larger projects and who need help holding stuff together before securing with hardware. They provide adequate force and large heads, which is great for assembly. The one-hand operation is amazing. They're a bit large for full glue-ups and not a replacement for traditional bar clamps, but for keeping things aligned while holding pieces in place, they simply can't be beat.

    Two small (6") and two medium (12") in a medium or heavy duty size will serve any shop well. 

    ManMade Recommended: 


    So, what? No C-clamps? C-clamps are great, and essential for metal work and automotive tasks. But for woodworking, they just aren't necessary. The screw mechanisms take forever to open and close, and the unpadded jaws mar work. I own c-clamps, and I use them, but only after every other clamp in my arsenal is devoted to the project. They work, but the choices above will do the job better and faster for woodworking and household tasks. 


    Remember, properly cared for, these will last a lifetime, so don't skimp. And, from personal preference, when in doubt, go Jorgensen Heavy Duty or Bessey.

    Here are all the links again. This would make for a seriously well-rounded set-up, indeed. 


    (4x) Quick-Release Clutch Bar Clamps

    (6-8x) 4" Deep Throat Slip Clamp

    (1-2x) Hand Screw 

    (8x) Spring Clamps

    (2x) Quick-Release One-Handed Clamps

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    created at: 06/26/2015

    There are times to try new things. Times to taste different flavors, experiment with products, seek out something you've never encountered before...

    And sometimes, you just want to know what the best option is. The easy choice. The go-to. The everyday variety you know will work when you need it, and rely on every time. 

    Now that it's officially summer, let's apply that search to a great bottle of gin. Gin is a particularly diverse spirit. Besides Scotch whisky, I can't think of one that has a broader spectrum of flavors. And different bottles will showcase the distiller's creativity and play better with certain ingredients. But there is one bottle that I recommend for almost any cocktail that calls for London Dry Gin;  the thing I would take to a party or use in a punch or batch drink for a big group.    That London Dry Gin is Beefeater. It not only costs less than $20 (it's $16.20 at my local store) it is one of the better (and most consistently) reviewed bottles out there. It's delicious, providing the flavors you think of when you think gin. 

    created at: 06/26/2015

    For the record, I also think Boodle's, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray are great products. But I think Beefeater has a stronger "gin" flavor that cuts through a variety of mixers. And you  can find it anywhere that sells spirits. 

    It Beefeater the best? Certainly not, but it's an amazing value. I wouldn't buy it exclusively, but I will buy it often.  Simple as that. 


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    You know those creative types who just can't stop creating no matter what they do? Or that philosophical friend who just can't relax in his endless search for meaning? Put those together and add a dash of Phillip K. Dick and this is what you'll get: the visual daydreams of Google.   

    It all started last February when Google's image recognition software began to surpass humans' abilities. Google's engineers later found that they could teach the AI software to daydream by giving it an object to recognize in an image that doesn't contain the object they provided (which, if you think about it, is almost exactly what daydreaming is – filtering out and searching through the present to envision the pressing thing in your mind). The AI's neural network begins functioning overtime and producing these bizarre fractal-like patterns. The only question now is: Does it dream of electric sheep?

    Read the full article here on


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    created at: 06/29/2015

    Around here, it started in January. All of sudden, several repertory  and arthouse theaters had Back to Future II on their marquees. This kind of stuff is normal in the summer, when it's super hot and folks are seeking a little respite in the AC, or the "Movies in the _____" take over parks and swimming pools and gardens. But Back to Future II  popping up all over on Martin Luther King Day weekend?    Of course, deep pop culture fans know that in Back to Future II, Marty visits the future before heading back to 1955, and the year? 2015. Duh, Chris. 

    created at: 06/29/2015

    This month, Vanity Fair features an excerpt from the book We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, which was released last week. Author Caseen Gaines interviews the crews, directors, and producers involved in the films, including "original interviews with Zemeckis, Gale, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and over fifty others who contributed to one of the most popular and profitable film trilogies of all time." 

    The Vanity Fair excerpt focuses on 2015, and all the ways it was correctly (and totally incorrectly) portrayed back in 1989. It's a good read. Check it out: 

    How "Back to the Future II" Got 2015 Surprisingly Right[]



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    Upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    A while ago, I made a really great headboard for my bedroom. I'm pretty attached to it, as it was one of my first woodworking projects ever.  From time to time we’ve placed things above the board to keep the décor fresh and fun. So, it’s time again to liven it up with some new photographs! Also, read on to the bottom of the post to find out how to win a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 13!

    I’ve teamed up with Adobe Photoshop Elements to turn a few quick snapshots into some square-cropped black and white prints to frame above our bed.

    upgrade your headboard with modern black and white photos

    For this project, instead of the typical couples photo shoot, we took turns making silly faces in front of the lens. What better way to capture our personalities than snapping some totally goofy pictures, right?

    For these pictures I wanted a nice depth of field with only the faces in focus. To do that, I used a 50mm lens set at 2.8 on my Fuji XE1. Since I was making these photos black and white, I'm wasn't fully concerned about color or contrast, knowing I'd adjust that using Photoshop Elements.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    When you've shot your photos, you can import them into the Photoshop Elements Organizer to pick the ones you want to use.

    Upgrade Your Headboard with Square black and white photos

    I selected four of my favorite shots, right-clicked each picture and selected, "Edit in Photoshop Elements Editor". Then, I cropped each photo into a square, focusing on the face to draw attention to the expressions.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    Photoshop Elements Editor has a great crop tool that allows you to easily create square images. I selected the 5x5 in ratio and scaled my square on the photo using Crop Suggestions to the right of the ratio menu.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    My final photograph needed to be brightened a bit to add some lightness and joy to the picture. To do this, I went to Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Brightness/Contrast and brightened the photo.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    With my photo brightened, it was easy to convert to black and white. I simply selected Enhance > Convert to Black and White to open up the Black and White tool.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    I love this tool because it creates black and white photos with ease, while providing a reasonable amount of editing of adjustments to let you create the perfect contrast. I selected the portraits style and adjusted the red channel to brighten up the photo even more.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    Once I was happy with the way it looked, I repeated the steps with the other photographs. The only trick was making each of the photographs match in brightness, contrast, and crop. In order to accomplish this, simply compare each photo by clicking back and forth through each open tab at the top of the editing pane.

    Cropping Tip:

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    One trick for cropping each close-up is to pay attention to the grid lines when you're dragging the crop tool across your photos. I made sure the eyes of each portrait fit within the middle square, as you can see on my face in the above photo.

    upgrade your headboard with black and white photos

    When all of your photos are ready, send them off to your favorite photo printer and pick up the frames you need at your local craft store. I put these photos over my headboard, but they can go anywhere!

    After several minutes of measuring, spacing, and hammering nails, the photos turned out great!

    upgrade your headboard with modern black and white photos

    If you're single or making faces isn't your thing, here are a few other ideas to consider:

    • Photographs of favorite objects (like movie tickets, sports items, foods or drinks)
    • Landscape shots of your favorite places or vacations
    • Close-up abstracts of textures on objects (like a basketball or a sport's car's leather seats)
    • Architectural forms featuring lots of negative space and strong lines



    Here's how to win your own copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 13:

    This post was sponsored by Adobe Photoshop Elements. Thanks for supporting the brands that support ManMade!


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    I'm always looking to improve my skill sets, but I'll be the first to admit that welding has always seemed like a daunting task to start. The pieces of info that I'd picked up over the years is mostly that it's expensive, dangerous, and has a steep learning curve. From what I understand, some of that is still true, but for a ManMade reader and someone who has a level of proficiency picking up new skills, it isn't as hard as it may seem.   

    Popular Mechanics recently put out this "How to Get Started Welding" guide for exactly this purpose. Their post walks you through the basic equipment requirements you should consider and then starts with the basic types of welds you're likely to encounter. Couple that with some YouTube videos and a little online reading and I think you'll be off to a great start. 


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    I like smoked foods. More than the average bear, I think. I mean, sure, slow smoked barbecue meats like ribs and brisket, but I particularly like other proteins (like fish or turkey), vegetables (leafy greens, beets, carrots), and snacks (nuts, cheeses, olives). Even cocktailsBut I don't have room for a smoker. At least, not a nice one that would last a long time that I'd actually invest in. They're big, designed to do several racks of ribs, or 3-4 pork butts, or a whole flock of chickens. And while the flavor can't be beat, I simply can't justify the floor space on my small back patio, which I use for everything from a summer office to natural-light photo studio to tiny veggie and herb garden to long-term storage.

    But a homemade smoker that doesn't take up anymore floor real estate than a foot stool, designed for meals for 2-6 people, and requires no welding? This I can handle. 

    That's exactly what Terrence Doyle set out to make, and he whipped up this dude for about $80 in materials, using a large aluminum steamer pot and a $30 Weber Smokey Joe grill

    The results look a little something like this, and requires no more tools than a simple electric drill.

    Check out the full smoker build at Serious Eats: No Tools? No Experience? No Problem. How I Hacked an Ace Barbecue Smoker


    Oh, and if you're interested in getting started with charcoal smoking, there are lots of other ways to go. I've had great success with the Smokenator insert on my 22.5" Weber kettle grill, and the 14.5" and 18.5" Weber Smokey Mountains have stood the test of time. 



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     Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day. 

    created at: 06/30/2015

    We've all heard: "I didn't know I needed it until I got it." It stands true for so many tools in my shop that streamline and tune up my jobs, but no tool has done more to make my life easier than the Oscillating Saw. Once you get your hands on one, I guarantee you'll agree.   I first used an oscillating saw when installing some hardwood floors at a friend's house. If you've ever installed that some of that beautiful planking, you know how much of a pain trimming up door jams can be with hand tools. I got my hands on a loaner oscillating saw towards the end of the job, and after the butter smooth cuts with that little handheld wonder, I was completely sold. I went out the same day to get one myself.

    created at: 06/29/2015

    The beauty that an oscillating saw provides lies in the small rapid movement of the post (about 20,000 oscillations, or back-and-forths,  per minute) and the number of heads can be attached. With my mind simply on cutting, I bought a kit and was amazed at the variety of jobs this small workhorse can manage.

    Corner Sanding

    The most useful aspect of this tool, is that it can get into many areas that a normal saw just fails at.  The low profile and ability to dive directly into a cut makes it ideal for small or cramped spaces. At the same time, a variety of blades and other attachments mean that it's ideal for detail jobs like sanding, grout removal, and scraping. On my current project (building/rehabbing a cedar play structure) I've used it to cut stubborn screws, sand some tight corners, and cut a few slots for joints.

    Oscillating Multi-Tool

    On other recent projects, I sliced through a rusted faucet pipe, cut a hole in the drywall and roof sheathing for a skylight, and used it to scrape and sand a wall prior to setting tile. With all those uses in mind, it's no wonder that the tool touches just about every job that comes through the shop. It's such a versatile tool that saves time, and effort while producing exceptionally precise cuts.

    Most of the quality saws I've used are very similar in form and function. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    1. Blades are expensive - The standard blade for wood and metal can go for up to $20. This adds up fast cutting metal, and harder woods. It's important to pay attention to the mounting pattern on the hub, so you're not locked into brand-specific blades. Most tools should have a standard pattern that allows for a generic compatibility,  (it looks like a modified star pattern). This allows a huge range of blades to be available so pick up some cheap everyday blades and save your nice ones for dedicated cuts where they need to shine. Be sure to buy 'em in bulk to save cash.


    Oscillating Multi-Tool Hub

    2. The higher power (3 amp vs 2.5) makes a difference when pushing through tough cuts. For the most part cuts will be standard and easy with just about any quality oscillating saw, but if you plan on pushing through metal or cement on a regular basis the more powerful version is probably worth it.

    3. Cordless is a toss-up. In my experience, paying more for a cordless option is great in the short term, but generally comes back as a problem down the road. Even high quality battery options wear out over time, and unless you have a situation where power is hard to find it's a good bet to go with the cheaper, dependabl,e and powerful plug-in option.

    4. Get a Kit. For the price, kits are always the way to go. Sure, you may not immediately use every piece and accessory in the box, but it's always nice to have the options available as the need arises... like when its 10:30 at night and all the hardware stores are closed. I've used every piece of my kit over the past hundred projects, and then expanded on the collection as the project needed. But it was great to have all the pieces close-at-hand when I first got the tool to know what it could really do.


    Sanding Multi-Tool

    ManMade Recommended:



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    One of my all-time favorite poems is "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W. B. Yeats about the simple cabin ("of clay and wattles made") that he plans to build along shore of the lake and the peace he hopes to find as a result. The poem is beautiful and striking in its simplicity, and so is this process video of a man building an actual primitive hut from scratch.   

    created at: 07/01/2015

    The video has no dialogue or narration, but is presented in a way so that you can actually watch it and reproduce it yourself. The builder uses only natural materials and the tools he uses are a stone hand axe to chop wood, fire sticks to make fire, a digging stick for digging and clay pots to carry water. The hut includes a working fireplace and chimney(!) and still has room enough to fit a bed with ample space left over. This may sound like a boring video but watch just a few seconds and I think you'll be as hooked as I was by the hypnotizing effect of this thoughtful and methodical workmanship.

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    created at: 07/01/2015

    I once ran into a dude at the leathercraft supply shop, who was talking to his friend about all his big ideas, and telling his buddy what to get. He threw a wood handled stitching awl into the basket, and stated, "Oh, yeah, man. You definitely need this. It's like a handheld sewing machine." Not quite, overzealous and under-qualified craftsplainer. What it is is an ancient tool - more like a bulked up needle and thread than a simplified sewing machine. But it's a really big needle that allows you to poke through thick material like canvas, felt, sailcloth, and leather. It's pretty useful for all sorts of repair jobs and projects, and they only cost about $10.00, so it's a great way to get started.

    Jeremy Cook from Makezine offers a great 101-style intro to using the tool. He says, "If you think about tools that we use today that are passed down from ancient people, the knife, or possibly a modern version of the spear might come to mind. Lying somewhere between those two implements in the modern-day usefulness is the awl. Made out of bone in ancient times, the basic purpose of an awl is to pierce a piece of heavy material in order to stitch it." 

    Check it out, and get inspired to play with one of these things. They're fun! 

    Skill Builder: Using an Awl to Sew Leather and Heavy Fabrics []




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    created at: 07/01/2015

    I got this idea soon after some friends visited and forgot their charger cords for their phones. Since I had my own to use over night we had to fish around for other solution. Then I remembered there were these new USB wall sockets that would be perfect to turn into a portable charging station whenever I need it. I wasn't going to rewire up my house, but I thought it'd be awesome to have a portable gadget charger that I could bust out when needed. And it sure looks a whole lot better than a surge protector and a rat's nest of cables going everywhichway. 

    Here's what you'll need

    • A USB wall outlet with matching face plate
    • Old Cigar box that's deep enough to hold a gang box
    • 1 Gang blue electrical box
    • 4-6 feet of cloth-covered cord
    • Male plug adapter
    • box cutter
    • electrical tape
    • Wire strippers or pliers
    • 4 - #40 1/2" bolt and nuts
    • 5/8" spade or Forstner bit and drill

    Start by marking out the hole you'll need to cut for the outlet. I laid down the faceplate and traced the inside.

    tracing a hole on a cigar box

    Next, cut the hole open. Because the box was thin enough wood I was able to score and cut it with a box cutter.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Once you'd cut the hole to fit the outlet snuggly, we can wire up the outlet into the gang box. I purchased several feet of vintage-style cloth-wrapped wire. Websites like sell it by the foot.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Run the wire through the back of the box. Then, strip back the outer cloth layer as well as the tri-color wires with wire strippers.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Now you can match up the white, black and green wires as indicated on the outlet or in the instructions inside the outlet packaging. Once you've wired it all up, screw the outlet into the gang box.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Set the box and outlet into the hole on the inside of the box. Using a drill bit of sharp point, mark the 4 mounting holes on the blue box, drill holes through so it will accept mounting nuts and bolts.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Next, drill a hole on the side of the box and fish through your wiring. The hole needs to be rather large to allow you to stuff the wiring back into the box when you're not using it.

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Once you've done that, attach the plug on the end of the wire. Follow the same directions on the package, matching the wires to the proper terminals. When you cut the rayon wrapping, you'll need to tape it off with electrical tape to keep it from unraveling. 

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    Finally, we'll put the faceplate over the outlet on the lid! If you like the look of the bolts on the lid, you certainly don't have to cover them with the faceplate.

    Set the faceplate over the outlet, mark, drill and fasten the mounting screws into place.  

    Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

    There you have it! No more fussing about not having an extra charger for your phone or computer or both at the same time! 

    There you have it! No more fussing about not having an extra charger for your phone or computer or both at the same time!


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