Man Made DIY


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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… read more

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Jan 23, 2012

Help Me Decide: Should ManMade Grow a Beard?

created at: 01/23/2012

So, I just got back from a week of traveling and learning at the (excellent) Alt Summit, and with airports and hotel rooms and red-eye flights, and (let's be honest) general vacation-brain and laziness, I haven't shaved for a few days.

And...I'm thinking about keeping it, and growing a beard. So, I thought I'd see what you thought, and I hope you'll share your vote.… read more

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Jan 23, 2012

I See Dead People: Famous Album Covers Minus Bygone Band Members

Artists Jean-Marie Delbes Hatim El Hihi have created their latest project: Live! I See Dead People, a collection of album cover photographs with the no-longer-living band members digitially removed.

The technique is outstanding, and the effect quite poignant.

read more
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Jan 23, 2012

Casualties of War Toy Soliders

created at: 01/22/2012

Casualties of War is a sobering series of plastic toy soldiers by the design collective Dorothy. At first glance, they might seem like ubiquitous green army men, but when you look closer you'll see that they are actually depicting the personal hell that returning soldiers endure after coming back from combat.… 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… read more

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Jan 20, 2012

Sandwiches Inspired by Noteworthy Artists

created at: 01/19/2012

Two of my great loves in life have finally been united: art and sandwiches. Brittany Powell created a whole series of sandwiches inspired by the works of famous artists. The Piet Mondrian piece (above) is definitely my favorite, but the rest are all really cool too.… read more

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Jan 19, 2012

Colorized Iconic Black and White Photographs

created at: 01/18/2012

When I was a little kid, I assumed that in the past, the world was in black and white and then later on everything became color. A bit silly, but I was basing it off of all the the old photographs I'd see at my grandparents' house, which were black and white. When I discovered that the world has, in fact, always been in color, I began wondering what the colors in those photographs really were. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences.

Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway reimagines classic black and white photos from the past in vibrants and amazingly realistic hues. I've seen colorized photos many times before, but these are by far the… read more

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Jan 18, 2012

Oil Paintings by Matthew Davis

created at: 01/17/2012

I'm really impressed by these incredible oil paintings by German artist Matthew Davis. They remind me of a cross between Monet's impressionist works and some of Chuck Close's pointillism-like portraits.… read more

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Jan 17, 2012

The Red Ball Project

Chicago-based artist Kurt Perschke has been working for years on "The Red Ball Project," a global photography adventure featuring some of the world's greatest cities and a 15-foot inflatable red sphere.

The ball becomes a temporary installation, but also engages the population in a unique way. Perschke says,  

Through the RedBall Project, I utilize my opportunity as an artist to be a catalyst for new encounters within the everyday. Through the magnetic, playful, and charismatic nature of the RedBall the work is able to access the imagination… read more

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Jan 17, 2012

Nailing It: Portraits in Hardware by Marcus Levine

created at: 12/01/2010

created at: 01/17/2012

While a design student at Cornwall College of Art and Design, Marcus Levine began to play with the idea of creating human forms with nails. He explains, "the interplay between the rigid, angular nails and the soft curves of the human torso, would be more striking".

Years later, Marcus has perfected the technique, and he's nailing… read more

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