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     Gift guide: 10 heritage gifts that will stand the test of time

    Look, I'm about to admit a deep, dark secret, so if you're not into that, you may want to move along. I am terrible at giving gifts. Maybe it's because I didn't get a ton of them when I was growing up, or maybe I'm just a cheapskate at heart and don't want to admit it. But when faced with investing in a gift of truly high quality, somehow my brain falls back to, "Wouldn't you rather have three or four of these crappy, cheaper things?"

    No. Nobody wants those crappy, cheap things. One hundred gifts from the dollar store might be good for a few laughs, but they are - at the end of the day - just a hundred little pieces of junk. So, here are some ideas for gifts you can give (or, if you're lucky, receive) that are timeless, extremely well-made, and will have an impact no quantity of worthless chotchkies could ever have.

     

    Hey friends:  we partnered up with Huckberry, sellers of fine crafted, lovingly-curated gear for guys. You'll need a Huckberry account to see these products. If you don't have one, I recommend signing up! They have amazing daily sales on stuff you'll love. Free shipping over $99, and returns on all products through Jan 31 2016.

     

    Woolrich Yankee - Wool Lined Leather Boot in Buckskin Tan ($298)

    Woolrich Yankee lined leather boot

    Classic American work boot

    Ahh boots. With all due respect to the barefoot running/hiking/everything movement, nothing beats having your feet wrapped up snugly in a pair of hand-stitched, Goodyear-welted, wool-lined, American-made classics. Give these as a gift, and you will see some jaws drop, I promise.

    Woolrich Yankee Wool Lined Leather Boots - $298

     

     

    Orbit Plus and Phono Preamp Record Player ($398)

    created at: 12/02/2015

    Keep your iTunes gift cards and Spotify playlists for your 12-year-old nieces and nephews. For a ManMade man, give him the soft, dusty feel of the cardboard jacket, the crackle of the needle settling into its groove, and the assurance that music is not ephemeral. Analog is here to stay. 

    Orbit Plus and Phono Preamp Record Player  - $398

     

    Woolrich Oversized Camp Towel ($39)

    Inspired by the Woolrich archives, these oversized 40\

    Classic Woolrich patterns head to the beach

    If your beach towel has a beer-maker's logo, a scantily clad woman, or a Ninja Turtle on it, you need to step away from the suntan lotion. Go back home and get a real towel. Or ask for one of these Woolrich 40x70" camp towels (it's practically a blanket). 100% cotton. 100% classic.

    Woolrich Oversized Camp Towel - $39

     

    Sonos 2-Room Starter Kit ($349)

    created at: 12/02/2015

    Ok, so not everyone is going to go for the record-player angle (above). Some folks just don't have it in them to build up a serious record collection. And the last thing anyone wants is a perfectly awesome record player gathering dust. So instead, try this Sonos starter kit, and help them get the tunes flowing throughout the house.

    Sonos 2-Room Starter Kit - $349

     

     

    Rainier National Parks Blanket ($199)

    Pendelton wool blanket - Ranier National Park

    wool blanket

    Pendelton. Blanket. 'Nuff said.

    Rainier National Parks Blanket - $199

     

     

     

    Horween Leather Timex Watch ($129)

    created at: 12/02/2015

    If they're already into watches, this one might not work. But for a guy who doesn't wear one yet, or does, but hasn't bothered to get anything good, this Timex is simple, solid, and elegant. At $128, it's well within gift-giving range, but still built to last a long time.

    Horween Leather Timex Watch - $129

     

     

    Topo Rover Day Pack ($168)

    Topo daypack

    backpack

    I took this rugged, no-nonsense pack out hiking with my kids last weekend through the first snow of the year. Wait, did I say 'hiking'? I meant 'pulling them on the sled while they ate chocolate and grabbed at sticks'. Anyway, three miles later everyone was still happy and the bag performed as expected: I didn't even know it was there. Laptop sleeve? Check. Heavy-duty zipper hardware? Check. Handmade in Colorado? Yup. 

    Topo Rover Day Pack - $168

     

     

    Satchel & Briefcase ($350)

    created at: 12/02/2015

    Warning: not all men can pull off a briefcase. It should be relatively obvious if you (or your gift recipient) are in the category of men who can. But, if in doubt, skip this item. 

    Still here? Ok good. Congrats (I wish I could join you, but I admit I'm more of a backpack guy). This beautiful, copper-riveted, oiled-leather Satchel & Paige briefcase makes me want to get a suit-wearing job in a tall downtown office building. A lifetime warranty means this one's going to get passed down to future generations, who probably won't have a laptop or any papers to put in it, since their half-android brains will already be wirelessly connected to the trans-planetary AI cloud ... I suppose they'll still need to carry a lunch; they could use it for that.

    Satchel & Briefcase - $350

     

    Brooks Flyer Saddle ($150)

    Brooks bicycle saddle

    With time (and miles), this  leather bike saddle will adapt to the exact shape of your ... saddle, making the morning commute, the evening bike-beer-run, and every other trip in between, a comfortable reminder of this thoughtful gift. 

    Brooks Flyer Saddle - $150

     

     

    Bomber Barrel Duffle ($99) 

    Bomber duffle

    Bomber & Company raised over $430k on Kickstarter to make this, "they best damn duffle ever made". And while I've never put it to the test, I am surprisingly convinced by both their unabashed profanity, and the specs on this puppy: military-grade clips, coated ripstop nylon, waterproof zippers, and a mini-bomber dop-kit bag included. Damn.

    Bomber Barrel Duffle - $99

     

     

     

     

     


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    created at: 12/02/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.     

    Saturday, December 5th: "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day" by Wye Oak

    This song was originally written for Brenda Lee, who recorded an earnest version as a follow-up to her 1958 smash and now standard "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree". The original is pretty great, but if you're not familiar with it, the Wye Oak version subs the Phil Spector strings and background vocals for deep spring reverb and chorus pedals, which lends to the "lonely day" vibe a little more than Little Miss Dynamite. Good (sad) stuff.

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 

     


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    created at: 12/02/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.  

    Sunday, December 6th: "A Great Big Sled" The Killers ft. Toni Halliday

     

    Each year, The Killers release a Christmas single to raise funds for Global Fund to fight AIDS via (RED). None of them have quite been as great as the original from 2006. (Though this year's Queen meets rockabilly edition is catchy, indeed) No matter how you feel about the band's other work, this is a great holiday song. If you play guitar, play along to this. You'll feel like a kid again. 

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 


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    created at: 12/05/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.     Monday, December 7th: "Joy to the World" by Eef Barzelay 

    The songwriter/singer behind Clem Snide turns one of my least favorite traditional Christmas carols into one of my favorite contemporary recordings. Stripped of the brass and pounding tempo, this somehow captures the feeling of joy way better than pomp and four part harmony.

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 

     


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    If your week's off to a slow start and your need a little inspiration (or, for that matter, if it started with a bang and you're ready to slow down already), check out this simple video of Japanese master craftsman Yasuo Okazaki.   

    The artist turns and paints Kokeshi dolls on a lathe, working the wood quickly and precisely, then trusting his brush strokes to create the stylized details.

    The confidence and movement here is stunning. Makes me want to just call off the whole week and do nothing but make holiday gifts for family and friends.


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    Shoe Storage

    I'll let you in on a little secret, my shoes are pretty much the most abused part of my wardrobe. Here's a storage solution to change that, and make them downright pampered.   I'm not proud of my closet. It's a place in the house where clothes and accessories get stashed, stored, and forgotten; and the worst part of my closet is the shoe section. It's not really a section as much as a stacked pile, with runners on top of dress, canvas flats stacked on hiking boots. The problem, is that dirty soles leave scuffs and stains on my otherwise great shoes. Something must be done, and I just don't want any more thin hanging Ikea cubbies in my life.  So when I saw this amazing wood storage solution, I also saw a bit of hope for my over-stuffed closet.

    created at: 12/07/2015

    With a price tag well above my budget, I'll be working on making these rather than getting a set delivered. But the design seems pretty straightforward, with a few very awesome embellishments; so here's a great inspirational upgrade for your tired closet as well. If you visit this breakdown on Core77, you can see some closeups of the construction: they're basically flatsawn pine boxes that can stack and be attached and combined in several configurations. (And if you note their critiques, you can avoid the same mistakes in your custom version.)

    Shoe Storage

    Take a look and let us know if you have any solutions for the footwear disaster in your closet. There are lots more photos and details at Core77. 


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    created at: 12/07/2015

    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.      

    Throughout the next few months, ManMade is seeking out the best affordable bottles of a variety of spirits that work well in your home bar, but know you can grab at the store the next time you head to a friend's house or a party.   

    And now, we set our sights on rum. Rum, like tequila, is often sold in a variety of styles and ages. The distilled product is bottled brand new, crystal clear as young as vodka, and sold as white or silver rum. The same liquid is aged in bourbon, sherry, or brandy barrels for two to five years and becomes gold or amber rum. Dark rum tends to be made from molasses caramelized sugar cane, and aged for much longer periods in heavily-charred barrels. Spiced rums and tropical flavored rums come full of a bunch of abstracts and chemicals, and are gross. If you want an infused rum, it's super easy to make your own at home. 

    created at: 12/07/2015

    So, which one should you be drinking? Maybe it's because it's winter and not the warm sipping nights of summer in Barbados, but our vote goes to the versatile and flavorful amber rum. And for value, you simply can't beat Plantation Rum Barbados 5 Year Reserve. 

    As the bottle details, this product originates in Barbados, where it's aged in American whiskey barrels for five years. Then, it's transported to France where it's finished in Cognac barrels before bottling. 

    This is a rum that worth sipping and, since it only costs $18-22, worth mixing as well. In the glass, it smells like leather and a bit basement-y, like an antique or used book store. (In a good way). It tastes, at least to me, of lots of dried orange and vanilla, with some natural vanilla and spice flavors from the bourbon barrels. It's somewhat sweet, which ends up making it more palatable. The longer it sits in the glass, more cinnamon and clove appear, providing a nice spiced spiciness. 

    created at: 12/07/2015

    Mixed with some bitters and sugar into an Old Fashioned variation, it holds up well, and shines even better in a simple shaken daiquiri or Lime Rickey with soda. It has a nice butter note that makes this perfect for enjoying while its dark and cold out, pretending that it's not.

    The Plantation line, owned by the French Cognac Ferrand, also makes an excellent Original Dark Rum from Trinidad and Tobago that sells for a few bucks less, but it's not as easy to find at retail shops. Either one will do you very, very well. Not bad for $20. 

    created at: 12/07/2015

    Give it a shot this week, and let us know what you think in the comments. Cheers. 

    For more in our Best Value in Booze series, check out these great bottles!

     

     


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    created at: 12/05/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.    Tuesday, December 8th: "Joy to the World" by Eef Barzelay 

    Most fans of "alternative" Christmas music will probably know this one; it's on movie soundtracks and tv episodes galore. And for good reason - it's awesome. Simultaneously perfectly Raveonettes-y and expertly festive, it captures the very thing all adults really want from the holiday season: to snuggle up in the dark with their someone under a blanket and look at the lights, saying nothing.

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 

     


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  • 12/08/15--11:00: The Art of the Menu
  • Back in the day, the importance of a menu’s design was on par with the restaurant’s actual decor. Artists were hired to craft hand-drawn pictures, ornate fonts, and anything that would help sell the cuisine. While the art of the ornate menu has declined in recent years, the New York Public Library has archived over 7,000 unique restaurant menus from the city’s history.   

    Read more at A Continuous Lean.


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    Reciprocating saw buyers guide

    Cut galvanized pipe. Vibrate a concrete mold to get the air bubbles out. Re-set PVC plumbing. Shave down an LVL header. Strip nails from hundred-year-old lumber. Flush cut wood and metal. Plunge cut into walls and cabinets. Demolish a kitchen. Rip out a toilet. Cut a clawfoot tub in half so you can lower it out a second story window. Trim your trees. Cut down a Christmas tree. Free a horrible laminate countertop from its cabinet base.

    reciprocating saw flush cutting a nail

    I have used my reciprocating saw (also known by it's brand name, Sawzall) for almost all of those things, and some more I can't even remember. Are there other tools for each of those things? Sure. Are there other tools that can do all of those things? Nope. 

    The reciprocating saw is versatile and powerful

    The reciprocating saw is the tank in your toolbox. It can do anything, and then some more things. It's not pretty. It's not elegant, or precise. But, by God, it is versatile and powerful and fearless. 

    reciprocating saw cutting PVC pipe

    Milwaukee saw with sturdy carrying case

    lightweight and portable.

     

    Why Do I Need One?

    Were you listening when I said "tank", and "violent", and "versatile"? The reciprocating saw is safe in awkward locations (like on a ladder) than other tools. It fits into tight spaces other cutting implements can't go. It can flush cut, rip, cross-cut, and even sand. 

     

    What to Look For?

    You'll need to decide on cordless vs. corded. Generally, corded models will be more powerful, and work better for long periods of time. If you see a big construction or demolition project in your future, I'd suggest the corded. Otherwise, for random jobs around the house and shop, a cordless one should be fine. 

    Look for:

    - An easy blade-change mechanism (i.e. you shouldn't need an extra tool to swap blades)

    - Option to switch to orbital cutting. This adds an orbital motion to the back and forth movement of the blade, speeding up certain types of cuts. 

    - Weight. It should feel – if not exactly light – comfortable in your hand. You'll never want to use this thing one-handed, so don't expect a featherweight tool.

    - Easily adjustable shoe to determine cut depth

    - Ability to flip the blade direction (comes in handy a lot)

    - Variable speed with smooth 

     

    Which One Should I Buy?

    The one pictured here is my own Milwaukee 6520-21 13-amp Sawzall with carrying case.  (Note, on Amazon it's listed as 12-amp, but on Milwaukee's site it says 13-amp ... I don't know who to trust). Oh look, here's a strong dude ripping up a perfectly good pretend wall:

    I love this tool (if you couldn't tell). I gutted my entire house with it (more on that here) and never broke a sweat. Well, I did, but the saw didn't.

    Milwaukee 6520-21 Sawzall - $201.15 on Amazon

     

    Cordless?

    DEWALT Bare-Tool DC385B 18-Volt Cordless...

     

    I don't own it, but the DeWALT Bare-Tool DC385B 18-Volt Cordless Reciprocating Saw gets great reviews, and I've had good luck in general with DeWALT tools. The battery's not included, so you'll need to get one (or use your existing, interchangeable DeWALT batteries). It should be an excellent entry-level, highly portable tool. 

    DeWALT Bare-Tool DC385B 18-Volt Cordless Reciprocating Saw - $99 on Amazon

    Have another line of tools already, and want to stick with that brand of battery? Makes sense. Try the:

    RIGID X4 18-Volt Cordless Reciprocating Saw ($119 at Home Depot)

    or the:

    Makita XRJ03Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Recipro Saw

     

    What about blades?

    Yeah, you will need 'em, and you'll destroy them. Don't get too attached. 

    I think the blade packs are always a better deal, unless you need something really specific, and you'll appreciate having a variety to choose from when something weird pops up. 

    The Milwaukee 12-Piece Kit is only $25, and includes wood and metal blades of various length and toothings (is that a word?). The 14-Piece Kit from Diablo is $26, is a little more versatile, and includes a carrying case. Diablo's my go-to brand for blades and sandpaper, so I'd go with that one.  

    ManMade Recommended: 

     

     

     


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    created at: 12/05/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.      

    Wednesday, December 9th: "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" by Julian Casablancas

    The original SNL sketch is in every way perfect, and we should all be doing that Tracy Morgan year round. This new wave take reminds you how much you love the original, but adds a soaring chorus that makes for a solid three minutes of seasonal ear candy. 

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 


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    Massive DovetailsJimmy Diresta is type of talented, creative maker we all want to be someday. His designs and methods are real, raw, and always come out impressive. Take a look at three projects from his new series here.   One thing I love about watching Jimmy Diresta work is the variety of skills and tools he uses in the shop. I always come away with a few ideas for my own projects, and plenty of inspiration to get out and make something.

    1. Live Edge Cedar Shelf - (rough cut, router sled, hidden wall mounts, natural finish) Jimmy headed out onto his homestead and sliced open a fallen cedar tree. The incredible beauty in the log was cut, planed, and polished up while still leaving the amazing live edge.

      

    2. Massive Dovetail Bench -(dovetails, machining metal, welding, dark finish) This massive bench is made from an amazing slab of Oak with hand cut dovetails, a large metal stringer made from scratch, and a silky finish that still lets the rough-cut texture show through.

    3. Vampire Spike Table -(machine and polish metal, hand-rubbed finish rough slab) This table started out as a round slab, and a metal rod. What Jimmy did to the raw materials is incredible, mostly useful, and all kinds of fun. While I'm not capable of working metal like that (yet!), there are still a few skills to pay attention to there.

    By now you're likely inspired and amazed by Jimmy, so get out to the shop and go make something. Pounding Spikes Home


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    created at: 12/09/2015

    Most winters, I sport a beard (I've got one now), and I have, admittedly, never put a single thing on it other than soap, water, and sunscreen. As a "men's lifestyle" writer, I see all kinds of facial hair treatments go buy and sold on cool sites I like, but my own experience is a big none.

    And, even more admittedly, I would have had no idea what do with it even if I had a bottle. Just rub it in and leave? Wash out? Apply with a brush? Does putting oil on your face make you break out.   

    Here's the deal - it's not complicated. The team at Birchbox Man offers this helpful video with all the details. Have a look: 

     You can snatch a beard oil treatment on Birchbox, or, of course, make one, ManMade reader!

    10 DIY Beard Oil Recipes

     

     


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    If you had to name a manly flavor offhand, chances are your first thought would be barbecue. It’s a pretty universally loved flavor by both sexes so chances are you have some on hand, but why not branch out a little and try making some of your own?   

    Believe it or not, making it is pretty simple (it’s mostly simmering and stirring) although I was surprised by how many different ingredients went into its creation. Luckily though, most kitchens will have most if not all of the ingredients already since they’re all fairly common.

    Check out the recipe hereand let us know what you think.


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    created at: 12/05/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.     Thursday, December 10th: "Get Down for the Holidays" by Jenny O

    If you don't love this, I wouldn't touch you with a 39 1/2 foot pole. Simple and oh-so-satisfying, this is one of the ones that I sometimes sneak in in early November when I just can't wait for the season to start in earnest. 

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 

     


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    created at: 12/09/2014

    Wrapping a gift isn't hard, unless you overcomplicate things. We say keep things simple and straightforward: avoid accessories, too many ribbon colors, and anything involving glitter or the word "raffia." We advocate a simple package, wrapped cleanly and correctly, with a little DIY customization to show you care. 

    wrapping paper DIY

    So, we present the ManMade guide to wrapping gifts, sponsored by our friends at the Murphy-Goode Winery, who believe in serious wine, serious fun, and doing good ... and giving really awesome presents. 

     

    Gift Wrapping 101: The Basic Box

    This is the hassle-free way to perfectly wrap a present every time. No weird corners that don't match. No three-feet-of-tape-because-you-didn't-cut-enough-paper. Just keep it simple and do it right. 

    how to wrap a present

    1. Start by placing the gifts in the middle of the paper's width.
    2. You should have enough room on the top and bottom (the paper should be at least twice as wide as your present).
    3. With the present still in the paper's middle, fold one of the flaps in and secure it to the bottom of your present. Use clear tape of any kind. TIP: electrical tape looks cool too!
    4. For the sides, fold the top part down and secure it to the side of the present. Repeat the same step on the opposite side. Remove any excess paper with scissors for the cleanest look and sharpest corners. 
    5. To finish, fold the side flaps down so you form a triangle, then fold the triangle down and secure it with tape. Repeat on the other side.

    Voila! Add a gift tag and you're done. 

    With the basic box down, here are a few other ideas you can whip up in minutes ... your gifts will look darn fine when you're done. 

    A Printable Bottle Tag

    wine tag DIY

    wine tag DIY

    The gift of drink is a classic, and this type of presentation is as easy as it gets. Simply print this bottle tag, cut it out, fold the flap, place it on top of a nice bottle of wine and bring it to the party. Done and done. See? You'll even have enough time left to drink a glass of vino yourself and get in the holiday spirit. (If you need a bottle of wine to go with that gift tag, we like the Murphy-Goode Dealer's Choice Cabernet Sauvignon)

    Easy Fabric "Furoshiki" Wrap (Using a Handkerchief) 

    furoshiki wrap DIY

    Furoshiki is the fancy Japanese word for "wrapping in a cloth". This method is widely used to wrap anything from food to gifts. You can use a vintage handkerchief, a square pocket (for small presents), or even a dollar store bandana as your wrapping. Here's how to do it:

    Furoshiki wrap DIY

    1. Start by placing the present in the middle of the cloth.
    2. Take the top and bottom corners, bring them to the center and tie a knot.
    3. Do the same with the other 2 corners.
    4. Repeat this until you have a nice little bundle of knots at the top.

    That's it; you're done in minutes. Easy, yeah?

     5 Minute Hand Drawn Wrapping Paper

    handmade wrapping paper

     If you're feeling artistic, you can use a paint marker to quickly decorate plain wrapping paper.  

    handmade wrapping paper

    Simply grab a marker, a couple chopsticks, paint dabbers, or even a pencil, a small piece of paper, and some paint. Dab your tool and make dots of different sizes on the paper. You can play around with the sizes to make a snowflake pattern like the one above.

    Let it dry for about 5 minutes and you're good to go. Note that we added this decoration after wrapping the gift, so we could place the accent in the right spot.  

     

    Sponsored: Give a Murphy-Goode Wine Club Membership

    Murphy-Goode Wine Club

    With a Wine Club membership, your friends will get 20% off all wine all the time. Members get convenient access to outstanding wines year round, including limited production wines and those made specifically for wine club members, reserve wines, pre-releases, and library wines.

     

    Personalized Tote Bag

    personalized tote bag DIY

     Gift bags are great, especially if you're giving multiple gifts. For the same price as a patterned paper bag at the discount store, you can score a reusable fabric tote at the craft shop. A simple typographic accent serves as a gift tag. 

    personalized tote bag DIY

     To make one, simply get a fabric pen from the craft store or use a permanent marker to add some detail to this basic canvas tote. 

    Test your design on a sheet of paper before applying to the fabric. Also, make sure to insert a piece of cardboard inside the tote bag so that any excess ink gets trapped there without bleeding onto the back of the tote.

    And ... there you have it. Lots of DIY options to up your wrapping game this season. Have fun and happy holidays! 

    Murphy Goode Wine

     

    This post was sponsored by Murphy-Goode, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that make ManMadeDIY possible.

     

     Originally published December 2014.


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    Outlet KitMost of us have claimed a corner of the garage as our workshop, where only a single outlet supports the growing clutch of tools. Mid-project my shop floor becomes a tangle of cords stretching to far-flung tools and tripping me every step of the way. This dangerous situation just can't exist in a safe shop. So I decided to add some outlets to make it a better place to work, and even added a switch-controlled plug to turn on my air compressor. The easiest way to add outlets to a finished wall is a surface-mount with conduit connected right to the wall. It was easier than I expected, and the results turned out great. This is part of my Shop Upgrade Series, as I get ready to build a new set of floor cabinets on the same wall.Outlets

    First, we'll mention it again - Electrical is dangerous and shouldn't be DIY'd without a healthy understanding of how it all works. Don't allow exposed wires, non-GFCI or ungrounded circuits, or loose connections.Building codes vary on how many plugs are allowed per circuit (although it's pretty hard to narrow that down to an actual number).

    While it's pretty straightforward to install the conduit and boxes on the wall, a kit really simplifies the process and makes for a cleaner finished product. I used a kit from a company called Wiremold that features metal raceways (conduits), customizable boxesand switches, and an easy extension box to tie it into the current plug. Here are the steps I took:

    1. Measure it out - The planning stage is a big part of the project. Spacing of the outlets should be between 4-6 feet apart, and should depend on the location of the tools and cabinets. I added two outlets at counter height for easy access, one outlet closer to the floor to feed my tool island, and a switch for the last outlet near my compressor system (with wall-mounted lines) to make controlling it easier. I loosely sketched out the dimensions on paper, but the exact locations aren't essential.

    ManMade Recommended: (numbers in parenthesis are how many I used)

    Plate Mounting

    2. Install starter box - The best way to start the project is from the existing plug out. Fastening the starter box involves taking off the existing cover and plug (make sure all electrical is turned off), then screwing on the included plate. This plate has special tabs that allow the channels to be fastened into them. I cut a 4' channel and fastened it to the side of the plate. From there I installed the first flush-mount outlet plate (be sure the channel is level with a small bubble level).Breaking Out Tabs

    3. Install remaining channels and plates - The rest of the installation is the same as the first, cut channels and install any corners or extensions as needed. The boxes have small tabs along the outside to open up and make room for the channels which makes it really a clean and customizable system. Once all the plates are in place, it's time to run the power.Wires

    4. Run electrical wires - This is where we remind you to always be sure to know what you're doing when working with electrical. With that in mind, I'll leave this step simply to: run it right. I installed all wire and plugs, and completed the installation with covers and a test. It worked great and really cleaned up the shop.Switch & Plug

    The project cost me about $50 total, and was completed within a few hours at the most. So if you find yourself stepping over cords in your shop, take the time to make it right.


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    I used to get free/discounted flights through a relative who worked at the airlines, which meant I spent a lot of time traveling. While I’m back to being an airline plebeian now, I’m always on the lookout for good packing and travel tips, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen, and just in time for the holidays.   

    It’ll help you minimize your luggage (and the stresses that come with it) with helpful tips such as keeping your excess cords in a sunglasses case.

    Click here for all the tips.


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    created at: 12/05/2015

    Look - there's no shame in admitting it: we at ManMade love the holiday season. The lights, the smells, and, most importantly, the sounds. No, not the soft rock mall music or the umpteenth crooner cover filler track, but the good holiday songs. The ones that give you energy, make you feel festive, and happy that it's December.

    And so, in 2015, we're sharing our ManMade Musical Advent Calendar, where we offer a new favorite holiday song every day, by bands you actually care about.    

    Friday, December 11th: "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gentleman Auction House

    In 2008, the synth-loving indie pop band from St. Louis released a holiday EP, "Christmas in Love," and every tune on it is a solid addition to the seasonal canon. Big full arrangements and group vocals that sound nothing like banjo-and-suspender folk bands shouting "Hey!", the whole thing just captures the fun side of the season. And it's likely the only recording of this song, save for maybe Elvis', that's worth listening to. 

    Check out all the songs in the ManMade Musical Advent Calendar here! 

     

     


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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: 12/11/2015

    When you've spent the last fifty weeks talking about the importance of dedicated, high-quality tools, a single combo unit that replicates a great deal of those already mentioned might not be the next obvious choice.

    But we're declaring the multi-tool essential for one very simple reason: it actually is all those tools in one thing. Which might not make it the only, say, pay of pliers or screwdriver or saw you should own, but it should make it the one that you take with you when you need to mess with stuff away from your main toolbox or workshop. 'Cause having all that stuff in your pocket or glove compartment when you need it is exactly the whole point. 

    created at: 12/11/2015

    Multi-tool = Multi tools

    The function is all there in a name. If a simple pocket knife step-up version is the "Swiss Army" knife, then the multi-tool is the grandaddy of them all. It varies from a standard multi-function pocket knife in its butterfly-like, or balisong, mechanism. This turns the tool into a multi-handled device in which the tools are hidden inside both handles, usually with a pair of pliers on the central hinge.

     

    created at: 12/11/2015

    So, what should you look for? 

    There are lots of quality multi-tools on the market these days, plenty with specialized functions, and some as thick as a text book. If you're looking for a new one that's actually practical, here's our advice: don't get one that's lightweight and you want in your pocket as part of your every day carry. If you do want something like that, get a pocketknife or lightweight tool that supplements a heavy-duty multi-tool. The smaller tools are good and useful items, but this is a series about investment tools for making/fixing stuff toolbox, not items to fit alongside your keys and phone. 

    We'll admit to being partial to the original, Leatherman tools. They're based here in Portland, OR, and pioneered the design. Plus, that name is no clever branding. The founder's name is actually Tim Leatherman. Who doesn't want to support that? 

    But you can also find quality tools from knife makers such as Gerber, Victorinox, Wenger, etc. 

    created at: 12/11/2015

     You can determine which tools are most important to you, but we consider these to be essential: 

    • A large knife, at least 2" long
    • A saw or serrated blade
    • A flathead screwdriver
    • A Phillips screwdriver
    • A bottle and can opener
    • A scissors or cutting element
    • A set of pliers with a cutting/stripping base

    created at: 12/11/2015

     Most will have all these elements, but here's a few extra things to look out for:

    • All metal construction: cared for, this should last decades. Don't skimp and get anything with plastic parts, including the handle. You're not trying to save weight here.
    • Locking blades and fold out tools: Anything that's sharp should have a locking mechanism included for both functionality and safety.
    • A ruler or scale: These are super useful to include, like when you're up on a ladder and a need to measure the thickness of something, or to determine the length of a screw or bolt. 

    created at: 12/11/2015

    So, why have one of these on top of dedicated pair of pliers, screwdrivers, etc? Because it can go anywhere. In your car, your briefcase, your nightstand table, your tackle box, your camping gear, your pocket when you're up on a roof, to a friend or family member's house who you know won't have the tools you'll need to fix whatever they asked you for. There's a time to have the right tool for the job, and there's a time when what you have available will have to do. I don't like having to go to the garage to loosen a small screw to replace batteries. I'll just use my multi-tool. 

    Oh, and they do great at the most important job of all: 

    created at: 12/11/2015

    ManMade recommended: 

     created at: 12/11/2015

    What's your favorite multi-tool? Let us know in the comments below!

     

     


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