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When my friend Bruno hurt his back a few years ago, he started preaching about the value of standing while you're at work. Having made a bicycle-mounted laptop stand way back in 2010!, I'm not new to this game, but the more I tried it, the more I liked it. Not only is standing good for your posture (and thus your back), but for certain kinds of tasks, I find it really increases my productivity.
Here's how to make a simple desk riser so you can stand and work on your laptop at just about any desk. It's built out of copper pipe and plywood, two of the easiest materials around to work with
If you're like me, the cast iron in your shop sits atop the most prized tools you have. Those tops are solid, durable, stay dead flat, and make working wood just a bit easier. But to keep them at their best takes a bit of routine work, fending off rust and staining doesn't take much but make sure you do it. Here's how.
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.
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.
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.
I'm a huge fan of having a few rows of dog holes in my workbench top. And, more than anything else, I use them to secure a holdfast - an ancient and genius piece of design that secures your work to the work surface with a simple tap from a hammer or mallet. When your ready to release it, just hit the back and it's free. Seriously - it's ten times fast than clamping, and you can fasten your work anywhere across the bench top. Brilliant.
To speed up the process even more, I wanted to come up with a permanent way to protect the wood from the force of the steel being banged into it. You can use a hardwood scrap between the holdfast and the workpiece, but I figured there's reason to spend twenty minutes once and protect my work forever. No digging around for scraps required.
If you haven't depressed the trigger on a blowtorch and heard the momentary hiss of the gas releasing, followed by the low whoosh of the flame catching, well, my friend, I recommend you try it. There must be some caveman-brain connection with fire that takes place, or maybe it's the six-year-old in me. But either way, the first time I grabbed a blow torch and clicked it on, I was hooked.
Fortunately, it's also a ridiculous useful tool to have around the shop! It's one of those tools that you don't know you need until the occasion presents itself, but trust me, once you own one, you'll have plenty of occasions to use it. Here are just a few of the ways a blowtorch can make itself useful:
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.
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.
The coin ring is an internet DIY classic. I remember seeing an old video (on Makezine, perhaps?) on creating a nickle ring way back in the early days of the DIY and craft blogosphere. Like, 2006.
But, most tutorials simply harvest the coin as raw material, banging it and beating it until it looks like any piece of cool-colored metal. These pieces by Nicholas Heckaman, however, fully embrace the ring's origin, showing off that recognizable texture and type, giving the ring plenty of personality.
Kitchen knives, pocket knives, craft knives....a creative guy who likes to make stuff simply has to cut things up on the regular. Here's the ManMade list of the nine knives every man should own, but if you're interested in crafting your own from raw materials, it's actual relatively straightforward and requires fewer tools than you might think.
We've all come across the stubborn bolt. You know the one. That bolt that needs come off, like, now, but for no visible reason, the nut won't turn. Turns out, there's a simple trick: add a bit heat and get it turning quick. Here's how I make it happen.
There are some incredible and craftsmen out there willing to share their hard-won experience. Metalworking is a varied field, with everything from blacksmithing to more modern welding techniques. The maker in me really likes the idea of a forge and pounding metal into something amazing so these channels are intended to highlight some serious iron-working. So with that, here are five of the best metalworkers on YouTube you should be watching if you want to learn something new.
As the adage about trash and treasure goes, this dude literally found this rust-covered meat cleaver in the trash and decided to restore it to what I'm sure is more than its former glory. If you look in these up-close "before" photos you'll see that the rust is so thick it looks almost like soft moss. Not so by the end...
I am a total scrap hoarder. Whether it's wood, metal or other trinkets, I can't help but think to myself that one day I will use some of these. From time to time, I search the depths of Pinterest to find some really good uses for all the junk I collect. Because if I don't I might not have a workshop to work in anymore!
Here's a project that deserves to be checked out both for its utility on your own projects, but also for its simple, inspired creativity. This is why the DIY, craft, and maker movement continue to grow; there are super smart, thoughtful folks figuring out how to help other keep making stuff.