Man Made DIY


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Feb 13, 2012

How to: Make a Custom DIY Scratch-Off Photo Valentine

If you're going to send a Valentine this year, I say: make it a memorable one. Do something extra so that it actually engages its recipient, instead of being opened and placed atop the rest of the mail.

Like...say, make 'em do a little extra work to even get to see it? Cause admit it, even when junk mail has scratch-offs, you totally go looking for a quarter.   … read more

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Feb 10, 2012

Free Download: "Breaking Bad" Paper Dolls

Yo, yo, yo! 148-3 to the 3 to the 6 to the 9, representing the ABQ!

Kyle Hilton, the artist who brought us the amazing Arrested Development paper dolls, is back with his latest collection - Breaking Bad!

Leave it at the tone.   … read more

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Feb 08, 2012

Guess the Process: Phil Cuttance's Faceted Lamps & Vases

created at: 02/08/2012

Phil Cuttance's Faceture series is incredible to simply look at, but learning how they're created is even more facetnating. (See what I did there?)

Cuttance creates each piece… read more

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Feb 06, 2012

How to: Barrel-Age Your Own Cocktails for $10

If you're not aware, the reason that aged spirits - such as bourbon and scotch whiskeys, reposado and añejo tequilas, brandy, dark rum, sherry, and even some wines and vinegars - are smoky and aromatic and, well, tasty, is due to a traditional aging in charred (or "toasted") oak barrels. The water content will absorb the flavors in the wood, such as such as vanillin and wood tannins, as well as the smoky flavors from contact with the wood.

The trend of barrel-aging whole cocktails has emerged among mixologists (likely attributed to expert Jeffrey Morganthaler), and in the absence of your own tiny casks, you can aged your own "white" cocktails for a mere $10 investment.   … read more

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Feb 03, 2012

How to: Make Typographic Paper Cut Art

At first glance, this fun DIY project might seem pretty straightforward: You type some stuff on a piece of paper, print it out, then cut it with a craft knife.

And then you realize, if you tried that, you've ruined it before you even finish the first letter, because it's impossible to cut things out and have them still be stuck together in a single sheet...

Unless, of course, you know what you're doing.   … read more

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Feb 02, 2012

How to: 5 Tips for Getting Great Bokeh

If you don't know "bokeh" as a vocabulary word, you certainly know their effect: the attractive blurry, bubbley thing that happens to lights in photographs (and movies) with a shallow depth-of-field. In out-of-focus areas, each point of light takes on the shape of the aperture, most often a round disc. 

You can actually take advantage of this distortion, to produce these circles on purpose...which can look pretty great.   … read more

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Feb 01, 2012

The Most Perfect Technique for Making Popcorn at Home

created at: 02/01/2012

If you go to any high-end kitchen shop and general goods discount store, you'll find any number of dedicated popcorn popping devices. Handle-cranked special pans, air poppers, campfire shakers, motorized stirrers, microwave options, and even tiny versions of carnival/movie theater style hopper poppers. (Isn't that fun to say?)

Turns out, their all unnecessary, and a waste of money and storage space. Cause the best way to pop corn at home, avoiding burning and popping every kernel, is likely already in your kitchen.   … read more

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Jan 31, 2012

How to: Make DIY Record Crates (from Scratch!)

Physical music media have gone through a curious century. The vinyl album dominated for nearly 75 years, than gave way to a ten-year success of the cassette, which was left behind by the CD, with all the 8-tracks and mini-discs and other less successful technologies mixed in. And now, at least among those who are serious about music - a mix of the two extremes: digital, either as actual files or subscribed up the in cloud somewhere, and the original vinyl LP, still reknowned for its warm fideiity and large cover art.

Of course, modern furniture isn't built to house LP collections. They don't fit in contemporary milk crates, and most of those little flatpack cube-storage units are just a half-inch too small. So, it's time to build your own.   … read more

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Jan 30, 2012

How to: Make a Peanut Butter Cheeseburger

created at: 01/30/2012

Fifteen years ago, I first heard about peanut butter cheeseburgers, and I assumed it had to be a joke. I was at a sports bar in my hometown in Iowa that had this vile sounding concoction on the menu and my friends were adamant that I would love it.

So I ordered it, and immediately fell in love. And I've been eating them ever since.

Now whenever I tell people about this delicacy, the reactions I get tend towards the intense. But believe mepeanut butter cheeseburgers are amazing. The sweet, gooey peanut butter compliments the savory burger patty perfectly, and believe it or not, the ketchup and mustard mixed in there makes for a perfectly heavenly bite. 

If there is ever a reason to cite the "don't knock it 'til you've tried it" trope, this is the one.

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Jan 30, 2012

Shwood and Huf Make Cool Sunglasses from Recycled Skateboards

Shwood, makers of handcrafted wooden sunglasses, teamed up with San Francisco clothing company Huf to spend a day skateboarding through downtown Los Angeles. When one rider broke his deck, the Shwood craftsmen took the trashed plywood, laminated up, and created these amazing recycled skateboard-version of their awesome sunglasses design.

They film the whole process, showing how these beautiful pieces are glued up and made by hand. Accompanied by T. Rex's "Mambo Sun," this video's a must watch.   … read more

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Jan 30, 2012

How to: Make Hot Chocolate on a Stick!

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: all food is better on sticks. Ice cream? Sticks, of course. Pizza? Put a stick in it. Fried chicken? Why not?

But what's even better than food on sticks? Seemingly-impossible beverages on sticks!    … read more

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Jan 27, 2012

7 Ways to Organize Your Home Office in 2012

A decade ago, office organization looked the same as it had since the advent of the personal computer: inbox/outbox, some filing cabinets, storage boxes on shelfs for extras, and drawer organizers.

Now, in the era of smart phones, tablets, multiple computers, all sorts of input devices, electronic bill pay, Stamps.com, docu-scanners... (should I keep going?), staying organized in your home office is very, very different.

Professional organizer Angela Kantarellis offers her seven roadblocks to an organized workspace in 2012, and what to do about them.   … read more

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Jan 26, 2012

How to: Add a Refined Touch to a Bachelor Pad

The bachelor pad. That quintessential moment of adulthood. That space inhabited when one truly learns what being a grown up is like, and prepares for the eventual sharing of a home. Or perhaps it actually serves the pinnacle environment, where living alone as an adult man is the best fulfillment of identity.

Either way... it can't look like your college dorm room. Step it up a notch, guy.   … read more

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Jan 25, 2012

The Spirituality of Boomerangs: On Making Something from Nothing...

My favorite project to build with anyone--including my son--is the fast-catch boomerang. First off, boomerangs--in their flight pattern and behavior--are just really beautiful and exciting; even a toddler gets that.  But slightly older folks--from about elementary age on up to retirees--are just thrilled when they see you make a working boomerang out of a piece of scrounged poster board.  By the time you hit first grade you've probably already grown jaded about the boomerangs: You've gotten a cheap foam one as a party favor or a little present from an uncle, and it never worked, and you basically assumed that boomerangs were either… read more

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Jan 24, 2012

How to: Make DIY Boomerangs from Recycled Boxes

created at: 01/24/2012

 

Cheap styrofoam toy-store boomerangs have given generations of Americans, children or otherwise, the mistaken impression that building and throwing boomerangs is very difficult. This flies in the face of reason: Using less-than-ideal materials, human beings have been building, throwing, and catching boomerangs for more than 11,600 years. Boomerangs are absurdly easy to make--this is an ideal project to keep kids busy in a pinch. Learning to throw one is just a little tricky, but most of the trick is in properly tuning the boomerang.   … read more

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Jan 23, 2012

Crafting Liberation: Confessions of an Unredeemable Direction-Follower

created at: 01/23/2012

I’m an unredeemable direction-follower.  As a boy, I’d account for the meniscus when measuring water to make Ramen noodles.  As a man, I was relentlessly mocked by my wife for my stove-side devotion to the succinct instructions of Mark Bittman (aside: If you only ever own one cookbook--and you should only ever own one cookbook--it should be Bittman’s entirely accurately titled HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING.  It’s like the universal Chilton Manual for prepared food).  

This, obviously, is the pathology of a man terrified of failure--that I ever wrote anything at all, let alone an entire damn book (let alone several!) is itself a crippled miracle.  While DIY is obviously empowering--My stove was broken, now it’s fixed; I did that!--having instructions in hand can really quickly shackle us, as it’s so easy to mistake a good way of doing X for the only way to do X.

I was a willing slave to the ingredients list and the step-by-step.

I finally confronted this at 28. When my son was born I left my job teaching and administering programs at a small private school to be a full-time father.  It obviously wasn’t sterling economic judgement to add a human to our household while simultaneously cutting our income in half (or halfish--my wife had the better job and healthcare, which is why I’m the one who stopped working outside in the World of Real People).  I was freelance writing and editing (mostly copyediting, really) during that period, but that was only night and nap-time work, and so our budget was tight.  Our mortgage was a fixed cost; gas for my wife to drive to work was a fixed cost; as folks with no AC who never let the boiler get the house much above 60, utilities where a fixed cost.  When we cut all of the fat from our budget, the only flex point left was the grocery budget.  Subsequently, during that first year, I often found myself without an ingredient from the list.  This meant a lot of improvisation, and subsequently a lot of discovery. 

As it turns out, there’s nothing in a cookbook that’s written in stone.  Does it say all-purpose white flour?  I’m gonna tell you, cake flour will probably work.  Whole wheat will probably work if you add a little extra wet stuff.  For something that doesn’t really need to rise--quick bread or cookies, for example--masa harina (a fine cornmeal flour used to make tortillas) will work, as will oats ground up in a food processor.  Beer can replace stock in any recipe, and bonus, cheap beer works better here.  A striped down “French bread” dough (e.g., 3.5 cups flour, a teaspoon of yeast, a teaspoon or two salt, 1.5 cups water; smash together) will serve as pizza crust, fry bread, buns, rolls, artisanal hand-formed round for a dinner party, or utilitarian sandwich bread.  The savvy--and frugal--kitchen technician learns that cookies, scones, and biscuits are all the same thing: sweetened flour-and-water paste with fat added, baked at 375 for 7 to 10 minutes.[1].  

This new-found liberation carried over into faking a lot of things as I built and repaired what we couldn’t buy.  And, when I started writing Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, that same attitude wound up in the projects: How can I make this simpler?  Cheaper to build?  Easier to generalize? And I know I’m not the only DIY writer who takes this attitude.  

My point: Every parts list is really a set of suggestions.  If there is no danger in making a replacement (i.e., you’re not working with high voltage, high speeds, or high toxicity), then swap in what you’ve got for what you need.  Three-quarters of the time it works well enough, and surprisingly often you wind up with something both surprising and awesome.

The rule then, for any project, is this: Do what you can with what you’ve got.[2]

 

NOTES:

[1] FYI, the formula for cookies|scones|biscuits is 1:2:3, which is the ratio of sweet-stuff to fat-stuff to flour-stuff (by volume).  So, for a lil batch of cookies, you can do 1/3 cup sweet-stuff (sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, cane syrup, or any combination there-of), 2/3 cup fat-stuff (butter or shortening for cookies), and 1 cup flour-stuff.  If you use butter, this “cookie” comes out like a shortbread/sugar cookie.  Replace butter with eggs and cut back on the sugar, you’ll get biscuits.  Use a little egg and a little butter and either more or less sugar?  You’ve got scones.  Throw in raisins or chocolate chips, charge a couple bucks each, serve it with a cup of burned coffee, and you’re Starbucks.

[2] I was later informed that this is essentially Roosevelt’s Law of Task Planning, whose canonical formulation is: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

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Jan 17, 2012

How to: Make a Sock Squid (and Cthulu!)

Sock squid basic

I'm warning you: the sock squid is a gateway fiber project. Today you're thinking "I'm just gonna sew this one little fella to give to my buddy, sort of almost as a gag gift," and before you know it you'll be lining laptop sleeves in microfiber and crocheting iPhone jackets.  It is a sickness, and it starts be snipping slits in socks and learning a couple simple hand stitches.

The sock squid was my first sock animal experiment:… read more

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Jan 16, 2012

The Craft and Commerce of Writing

I never set out to write a craft book--or, for that matter, to write business columns, or reference materials, or textbooks on teen sex and Chernobyl, or basically anything that's paid the bills over the last five years.  I'd written for years, but it had been an after-hours art:  Essays about technology and sexuality and Detroit's decay; stories about clockwork robots, haunted dogs, monster wives, and giant squid--the kind of stuff you gut out after dark; the kind of stuff you write for the consuming love of finding how to say it.  The kind of stuff that's hard to sell.

I've always been a crackerjack essayist (honest; I won… read more

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Jan 12, 2012

Free Magazine: Makers in the Modern Era

Hand-Eye Supply, the Portland, OR/online store selling "tools for making, designing, building, doing" have released their first magazatolog, called Makers in the Modern Era, which you can get can...for free.

   … read more

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Jan 10, 2012

Make a DIY Modern, Dieter Rams - Inspired CD & iPod Stereo

created at: 01/10/2012

ManMade reader and graphic design student Brandon Rampelt recently created an original DIY magazine for a school project. He got an A (good work, Brandon!), no doubt due in part to this great original how-to project: a Dieter Rams-inspired (with a dose of Jacob Jensen) clock stereo, made out of thrift store junk and a basic box from the craft store. Brandon was kind enough to write and and allow us to share the complete tutorial so you can whip one up yourself on the cheap. That's a lot of design (and rock!) bang for the buck.

Here's how to do it:     

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