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Jul 17, 2017

DIY Fail: Why You Should NOT Make Your Own Fire Starters from Coconut Oil

I guess the real problem with this project is that it actually worked.

I mean — I succeeded in what I set out to do. I created two DIY variations on an easy-lighting, long-burning fire and grill starter using coconut oil. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature. Coconut oil, which is about the same price as beeswax and much easier to find. Coconut oil, which can easily be melted in the microwave, so you avoid having to use a double boiler and scraping wax out of your mixing bowl. Coconut oil, which smells awesome and burns forever.    

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Jul 14, 2017

Should We All Be Putting Pickles in Our Beer? (Answer: Yes)

You know how an olive in your martini tastes awesome? Or the necessity of a pepperoncini in a Bloody Mary? Those salty, vinegary flavors seriously enhance the flavor of a beverage, somehow becoming more of themselves in the presence of ethanol. So, ready for the next step and inevitable conclusion this summer? Put a pickle in your beer. 

Yeah, seriously. Trust us on this one.    

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Jul 13, 2017

Minimalist DIY: Taking on a 30-Day Workshop Purge

I hit my head hard a few days ago. It hurt. A lot. It was one of those moments when the pain made everything else just fade away for a moment; then it came flooding back. I was leaning over a pile of things I've moved too many times to count, and I slipped a bit and made solid contact with the equally solid cast iron top of my table saw. In that moment I uttered a familiar phrase "I need to get rid of this stuff" in a much more, uh, guttural vocabulary. I needed a change. I needed space.

And so, my 30 day minimalist shop challenge begins.   

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Jul 12, 2017

How to: Make the Perfect Homemade Jerky...No Dehydrator Required

A food dehydrator is on my list of kitchen appliances I should probably never buy myself. Like its brother, the deep fat fryer, I know I'd just get carried away, dehydratin' and frying stuff left and right.

How to make the perfect homemade jerky

 

But, that doesn't mean I don't wanna create my own tasty and

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Jul 11, 2017

ManMade Essential Toolbox: In Praise of the High-Quality Screwdriver Set

created at: 08/26/2015

Let's be clear: none of us are here to discuss the basics of what a screwdriver is, or what it can do. Its purpose is clear. It's right there in the name.

Nor is it important to name all the different varieties of tasks it can perform. Because it can't do much.  If you use them properly, they're not a paint can opener. They're not a punch, or a chisel, or a pry bar. They do two things: tighten hardware, and loosen hardware. 

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Jul 10, 2017

How to Make the World's Easiest Clamp Rack

A functioning clamp rack. Every shop's gotta have one. "But, wait!" You say. "Isn't the easiest way to hold clamps just some 2x4s bolted to the walls, and maybe some holes and plumbing pipe inserted to hang the clamps on?" Yeah, perhaps. But, while that works if you have a ton of space, it's not the most efficient way to store clamps in a small shop. And I think of that as more of a "clamp hanging spot" than a proper organization system. Plus, if you already know about that trick, you certainly don't need me to give you a how-to. 

Instead, I present this design: infinitely adaptable to any scale, and able to hold almost any type of clamp. You can build the whole thing with some scrap plywood, a jigsaw, and drill, and make one - no matter the size - in well under an hour.    

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Jul 07, 2017

No Vise, No Workbench, No Problem: How to Hold Your Woodworking with a Simple Wooden Batten

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!   

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Jun 23, 2017

How to Make a Better Vodka Soda

In wintertime, I'll gladly take a complicated cocktail. Something made with rich spirits, amber brown from barrel aging, made more tasty with fortified syrups, flavorful modifiers, and just-so preparation. These drinks are imbibe-abble equivalent of a long simmered soup or stew, designed to make you feel warm inside when the weather is not.

But summer is a whole different beast. It's already warm — too warm — and your drink's job is to cool you down while keeping everything easygoing. You need something that works while standing next to the grill, or for sipping on the deck with your feet up.

Enter the vodka soda. It's deceptively

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Jun 22, 2017

The Easiest Way to Get Perfectly Spaced Marks for Your DIY and Woodworking Projects

Proper and accurate measuring and layout are key to a great looking project. When you're dealing in whole numbers, that's easy enough. But the smaller you divide those inches or millimeters, math becomes more complicated, and the likelihood of making a mistake increases. While we can't always avoid finding common denominators and doing sophisticated shop calculations, when you're trying to lay out evenly spaced marks, you actually don't need math at all.    

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Jun 21, 2017

7 Things I'm Totally Obsessed with This Month (June 2017 Edition)

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.  

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Jun 20, 2017

ManMade Guide: Step Up Your Summer Drinks with Grown-Up Flavored Ice Cubes

created at: 04/16/2013

Around here, we've moved past the short glass - the whiskey in a tumbler, the shaken 3 oz. cocktails of spring -and opting for the long and tall. With sunshine comes all-day drinks: those mixed with plenty of ice and fresh ingredients to keep you cool.

How to make flavoured ice cubes

Of course, it's ice that keeps 'em cool, and when your glass sits around in the heat...well, ice melts. So, this summer, make that a good thing. We're sharing our technique and recipes to allow the ice to actually contribute to the flavor of a drink or cocktail, not just its temperature or dilution. Check it out!   

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Jun 19, 2017

How to Say "I'm Sorry" Like You Mean It

Newsflash, amigos. Sometimes we mess up, and sometimes we need to say we're sorry. But if offering an apology starts with the line "I'm sorry if you," then you're not actually apologizing; you're simply expressing your own regret that you and the other party are not on the same page....namely, that they don't agree with you. In fact, we're deeming the word "if" inappropriate for apologies altogether. The other person can never be the subject of an apology.

 If you're apologizing, you're the subject not just of the opening clause, but the whole paragraph: it is you that is sorry, you who owns the responsibility for the conflict in the first place, and therefore you who needs to put things back together again. An apology is not an opportunity for you to move past the other person's offense in an argument so you can return to making your same point as before. The apology is a pivot point that changes the nature of the conversation altogether.    

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Jun 16, 2017

The 1-Second Trick to More Accurate Measuring and Marking for Your Woodworking Projects

If you want gap-free joinery and a perfect, long-lasting fit for both strength and aesthetics, precise measuring and marking of parts is essential. But, each step of the process — measuring, transferring marks, and cutting — can introduce tiny little errors of 1/64 or 1/32", which, over the course of a project, can add up significantly. So here's a simple little trick that takes no extra time, but creates much more accurate results.    

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Jun 15, 2017

How to: Build a Simple DIY Pegboard Shelf

created at: 09/23/2014

I love pegboard. I love organizing my workshop with it, I love using it in our office, I think it's cool when people do the Julia Childs-style pegboard pot rack thing...and I even like seeing it in store aisles, and noting all the clever and and adaptable industrial design things used to display items.

But...But! While pegboard is amazing for hanging stuff neatly on a grid, it does absolutely nothing for items without a hole in them. 

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Jun 15, 2017

How to Make a Folding Farmhouse Table from Reclaimed Wood

Make your own folding farm table

On the side, my wife and I sell some of our handiwork at craft fairs, barn sales and vintage markets. When we got started, we had mostly folding plastic tables and white table cloths. And as you know, nothing, except maybe a grilled hot dog on a paper plate on the Fourth of July, looks its best on a folding plastic table and white table cloth.

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Jun 14, 2017

Everything You Need to Cook Amazing, Flavorful Food with a Cast Iron Skillet

A few weeks ago, we had a couple of friends over for dinner, and the husband joined me in the kitchen as I was finishing up some carrots I'd blackened and blistered then finished in the oven.

"Oh, you like your cast iron skillet?" he asked.

"Like it?" I replied. "I have three of them, and I use 'em as much as possible."

He was a little surprised at my response, and me by his. He'd said he and his wife had registered for both a large skillet and a dutch oven for their wedding, and received both. But once they got them home and unboxed, they could really figure out how to season them, how to clean them, or how to care for them. This, of course, broke my heart a bit, and I vowed that if he brought them over sometime, I'd help him get them ready to go, and show him what they could do.

So, whether you're just getting started in the wonderful, flavorful world of cast iron, or you'd like to move beyond special occassion meals and use these as your daily cookware, there's just a few things you should know, and keep around, for smooth, non-stick, generation-lasting success.     

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Jun 09, 2017

How I Crafted a Custom Civil War Sword Display Stand for a 150-Year-Old Family Heirloom

A few weeks ago I got a text from a buddy. He had just moved and was setting up the new house. He told me "I think this time around I want to make sure my sword has a place."  By his sword, he meant his 1865 Union Artillery Saber that had been with him since the 1st grade. (Talk about high expectations when the parents give you a sword at age nine). But the issue was that he didn't have a good way to display it, and the  cheaply made, $30 online holders just didn't seem fitting. That's why he called me up, and asked if I could help. I gladly accepted the challenge, and came up with this beast. Here's how I did it.   

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May 31, 2017

These Are Questions You Should Be Asking Around the Campfire

Have you noticed? It's summer! It's the time of year when we dust off the backyard with friends and linger late into the night. There are so many great conversations I remember around a flickering fire, and I'm looking forward to more this year. But good conversations don't always come easy, so here are a few tips to get into the kind of convos you'll remember for years. 

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May 31, 2017

How to: Turn an Old Shirt into a Handkerchief or Pocket Square

Old shirt lying on a table

I have a few shirts I just can't seem to part with. They don't really fit me (they're much too big and baggy) and I never wear them. Ever. Some are at least five years old, and barely holding together. 

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May 26, 2017

Make This: DIY Fire Brick Blowtorch Forge

I've been looking at making a small forge for a while now. The main goal is to dip my toe into metal working just a little bit, so something that can heat up about 6" stock is all I want. This weekend, I gathered up some basic materials and made myself a small forge.   

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