These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.
When I built out my basement shop space last fall/winter, there remained a couple of unfinished spots that I knew I'd need to deal with. Case in point: this obscure glass window. (This half of the shop was intended to be a bathroom, and this would have sat right over the tub.)
Last week, I got a new, very large, very heavy stationary woodworking machine (more on that soon), which I'd planned to store right along this wall. So, I figured if I didn't trim it out now, I'd never do it, and it'd look exactly the same in twenty years.
So, I got to work. And it was kind of a disaster.
Yesterday, I offered the thesis that if you're only going to learn to tie one knot, it should be the bowline: it's simple, can be easily untied, and is incredibly versatile for all sorts of situations.
And all that is true. But, it's not the "knot" I employ most often. Because the reality is, most of us don't handle rope on a daily basis. We do, however, in the age of smartphones and podcasts and the entire history of recorded music available at your fingertips, engage with another long, stringy thing that needs to be dealt with on the regular: your headphones.
Or ear buds. Or ear phones. Or whatever you call those wired transducers that deliver all that sweet, sweet audio to your brain. And because you take them with your everywhere, they regularly get knotted and tangled up in your pocket or bag.
This is completely unnecessary. Because there's a five-second "knot" that can completely eliminate this problem, and it doesn't take any longer than other storage methods. So, now, I present to you, the actual most useful knot in the world.
This how-to is not for sailors. Nor anglers, mountaineers, first responders, or anyone else who need to know a huge diversity of knots, their strengths and weaknesses, and what situation calls for each.
This is for the rest of us. Those of us who go through normal life and its adventures, and encounter rope, twine, string, line, paracord, and the like, and when we need to secure it, say "Should I tie this like my shoes, or in a square know that I know will be nearly impossible to get off when I'm done."
The truth is, at this point in our lives, we're probably not going to learn how to tie a complex calvalcade of knots, and even if we did, would probably not have enough opportunity to practice them in real world situations in order to commit them to long term memory.
But, still, we should all know how to tie at least one pro-level option, and so we say to you — if you're only going to know how to tie one kind of knot, let it be:
There's a great adage in the home decor and organization field...you've probably heard it on one of those room makeover TV shows. The phrasing varies, of course, but the central idea, "When you run out of floor space, you've got to go up."
It might not happen with every smartphone and car stereo combo, but if you know what we're talking about, this tip is for you. You get in, you fasten your seat belt, you turn the car on, you plug in your phone, and....
THE. SAME. &*$%. SONG. COMES. ON. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Of course, you've figured out why this devilish contrivance occurs. It's the song who's title comes first alphabetically in your library. On my phone, it's A.M. 180 by Grandaddy; on my wife's, it's Vampire Weekend's A-Punk. And I actually And it just... starts playing, at whatever volume your stereo is set to.
Here's how to stop that first song from playing when your plug your phone into your car:
Anyone who's read ManMade for more than a week or so can attest: we're never gonna wax poetic about the beard. Some men look better with them, some do not. Some can grow a full one, and some can't. There's no magic in the beard. It's a choice, and if yours looks nice, it's good to have options. Personally, I tend to wear one in the fall and winter, and then go clean shaven in the warmer spring and summer.
What we do know is: having a beard is much more than just not shaving. You've got to care for it, clean it, trim it, and keep it healthy.
Small-parts storage is one of the biggest steps you can take in creating the perfect workshop zen. When all those little fasteners, nails, washers, odds and ends all have a home you can work in peace, not pieces.
During summer, it's my goal to bust out the charcoal and chimney starter as much as possible. Call it a masculine stereotype if you must, but I never miss an opportunity to take advantage of extended daylight to cook dinner outside. It avoids heating up the house with the oven, and, of course, makes everything taste amazing.
And, if you want you grilled food to taste even better, here's my tip. It takes all of five seconds to set up, and takes your meal up to the next level:
Let's face it: modern hardware leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, it's inexpensive and abundant, but visually, it looks...well, cheap. No character. You spend weeks on a project, choosing wood grain carefully, sanding and planing to a glass smooth finish, and then you're forced to add some blindingly shiny yellow brass or bright blue metal to finish your project.
Of course, there are high-end hardware makers out there producing specialty hinges and components for period furniture, but I wanted a less expensive way to transform general home center hardware into something I actually want to use on my projects.
So, I called my dad.
Pocket hole joinery has a lot going for it. An affordable jig makes the process fool-proof, it comes together in less than a few minutes, and the joint itself is super strong.
The Kreg jig itself does most of the work, but a little knowhow makes the pocket hole clean and precise. This is especially important if the pocket hole will be visible, plugged, or filled.
Ready to make nice, sharp pocket holes? Let's go!
When it comes to sanding, the rules are simple. When you're dealing with curves and soft edges, you can use the contours of your hand to back up the sandpaper and naturally mimic the shape. But when it comes to flat surface: never sand without a sanding block. This keeps the paper flat, which means your final project will also stay flat.
I was in the bad habit of cutting a new one every time I went to finish a project, which sometimes meant I went against my best judgment and ignored the sanding block rule when working on flat panels and tabletops. (I know, I know.) So, I decided to spend an hour and whip up a block I'd be excited to
I'm a lucky guy. My family has allowed me to dedicate half our basement into a dedicated shop space, complete with a custom woodworking bench and a growing collection of tools. It's bright, clean (at least right now), and I'm slowly turning it into a functional workspace that will allow me to be as productive as possible.
But it took me a long time to get here. For nearly fifteen years, I worked out of dining rooms and back porches and portions of the garage, lugging my tools around in plastic totes and home center toolboxes, setting up shop on the washing machine, folding tables, and 1/2" plywood scraps screwed to 2x4s.
And, in the early days, it was that lack of a proper workbench that prevented me from thinking I could could use hand tools. Without a vise and hold downs, how could I safely secure my work for handplaning, chiseling, or sawing?The answer: a batten, which will take you 5 minutes to make and turns any flat surface into a work bench. Let's make one!
Earlier this week, for the Fourth of July holiday, some friends and I decided to try our hands at roasting a whole pig. We were cooking for 60-80 people, and wanted to do something more special than hamburgers and hot dogs, and figured: well, if we're going to try it, now is as good of a time as any.
We wanted to go with a Southern United States-style "pig picking," meaning lots of wood smoke, and cooking over low and slow temperatures. In order to get the whole animal ready to eat with such a gentle heat, we needed to start the night before. And that's where this story begins.