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Sep 20, 2018

Everything You Need to Know Before You Build Your First Workbench

One of the great conundrums of woodworking is this simple fact: you need a workbench in order to build a workbench. 

In fact, in order to build a proper workholding system replete with vises, rock-solid joinery, and a sturdy wood top, you also need a complete shop full of power tools to mill the wood to size, a fleet of clamps to laminate the top, and tons of experience to know how to use all that stuff. And to build it from hard maple or other appropriate wood, it'll cost at least $700 for the lumber alone.

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Sep 20, 2018

Use the "French Press Theory" to Get Things Done More Easily

Photo: Videman Alexander/Shutterstock

 

Dirty dishes in the sink. Putting your clean socks away. Replying to that one email that's been sitting at the top of your inbox for longer than you'd be willing to admit out loud.

We all have that small handful of tasks and chores that weigh the heaviest on our souls and our to-do lists. Most often, they're the things that occur multiple times a week, so that when you look at them, you think, "Didn't I just do that? And doesn't it take forever?"     

And that's where our brains lead us astray. Because, although, yes, you did probably just do that – no, it doesn't take forever. 


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Sep 19, 2018

How to Make an Amazing Old Fashioned... On an Airplane

Whether you're flying for business or pleasure, airline travel should never be a drag. Sure, there are luggage fees and long lines and you somehow always end up in the last zone to board. But once you're settled in your seat, you are flying 20,000 ft in the air. And while the in-flight meal seems to have gone the way of airline peanuts and flight attendants who wear those little hats, that doesn't mean you should have to drink poorly while you cruise at altitude. 

So, what should you get? Overpriced mini-bottles of mediocre California red blend? An $11 macrolager? Of course not. If you're wise, you can turn out a perfectly respectable cocktail for the price of a single miniature. With a few complementary items from the drinks cart, you can make a fine Old Fashioned that honestly doesn't cost more than a comparable cocktail from your neighborhood bar. 

So sit back, relax, and actually enjoy your flight. 

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Sep 18, 2018

Inspiring Read: Boat Building with Merchant and Makers

Building a BoatI've wanted to build a boat ever since I sunk my small dingy on the Trinity Lake as a kid. Once I have the space, I will fashion a sea-worthy vessel and take it out to brave the ocean, or at least a sizeable pond.  

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Sep 18, 2018

The No Bullshit Way to Bake Your Own Bread

Simple no-knead sourdough bread

Gluten is my homeboy. I don't care what the fad-diets say (and apologies to those of you who are truly gluten-intolerant). Paleo-be-damned, I'm grateful our ancestors developed agriculture, so we could stop foraging and eat mostly bread (and also develop science, art, culture, etc.). 

Great bread is easy to make. Here's how I do it:    

1. Get a sourdough starter from a friend (or make your own, or order one online).

2. In a plastic bin with an airtight lid (I use this one), mix until just combined:

  • 11 ounces of all purpose flour
  • 8 ounces of sourdough starter
  • 10 ounces of room-temperature water
  • 1 tsp salt (more or

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Sep 17, 2018

How to: Use Your Table Saw as a Planer

Thickness planers are awesome. But I don't have one.

They're an expensive and specialized piece of equipment. A new one starts around $300, and the price just goes up from there. I'd like one, sure, but most of my woodworking projects don’t require it, so I haven’t made the investment yet. There are a few other tools I'm more interested in before I make the leap to a planer.

But there are times when I have a rough piece of wood that needs to be trimmed down to a consistent thikness or large course areas need to be smoothed out.  Instead of picking up my orbital sander and going to town for 45 minutes to thickness the piece of wood, I turned to my table saw.  While this trick is limited to wood with a width of approximately 6 inches, it can save you a ton of time for small projects. It's a really simple process. 

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Sep 14, 2018

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid Whenever You Use a Random-Orbit Sander

The random-orbit sander is one of the first tools any maker or DIYer should own. In fact, I can't think of another powered tool that I use more, on nearly every project involving wood. The design is simple, and right there in the name - they move, in a random circular pattern, to sand wood.

A huge improvement over its predecessor, the pad or orbital sander, these guys use special shaped sandpaper disc to get your project smooth fast and with minimum swirl marks. Well, at least faster than sanding by hand, and with much less energy. But with great power comes great...opportunity to mess things up. These wondertools work, but there are

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Sep 14, 2018

School Supplies: The Essential Tools You Need to Remain a Lifelong Learner

I spent solid twenty-five years of my life in school. It began in kindergarten and I then headed straight from high school into undergrad, a master's degree, and then a Ph.D (I know, I know...) One of the things I truly miss now that I'm no longer an enrolled student is the optimism and excitement that comes with shopping for school supplies. Nerd or not, there is something that is just exciting about having fresh notebooks, new pens and pencils, bags, folders––all the "stuff" of school. Adult life may entail the occasional new notebook, but there isn't a season for it in the Fall where everything is potential, and all the success and mistakes are in the future.

That we don't do this as adults is a shame. Because there is every reason for all of us to be ready for school. The longest project in a any maker's life is the constant, endless craft of oneself. And there is no way to make progress on this project without the proper tools. I think most people dedicated to craft have slid into a life of learning whether consciously or not. And there's no reason not to prepare ourselves with supplies to complete this project well. But, of course, a life of learning is not the same as preparing for a school year. It has a different set of requirements and it calls for some different kinds of supplies. 

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Sep 13, 2018

7 Stylish Coffee Mugs That Will Make Everyone Else in Your Office Jealous

Stylish coffee mugs to buy or give for men

When I think back to my first office job, I learned two key takeaways: 1) always share your process and thinking with your supervisor, and don't hold out til the end to show them the completed project and 2) drink a bunch of liquids all day long so you'll have to get up to go the bathroom. 

Seriously. Moving about the office gets you up and out of your seat, your eyes off the computer screen, and the ability to mingle a bit with your coworkers. And while we recommend switching to water after 11:00am, it's nice to enjoy a few small personal mugs of coffee vs. a huge thermos. It always stays hot, and remains fun to sip the whole morning

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Sep 12, 2018

Meet Angelo Pellegrini, the Original Maker Almost No One Knows About, but Totally Should.

You can barely imagine what the world was like in the proto-suburbs of the Pacific Northwest for a child who had traveled there––entirely on his own, with his mother at home and his father awaiting him––from a small Tuscan village. This was before "a small Tuscan village" was even a thing on the radar of America at large. And it was before America had its culturally and politically dominating century. It was before anyone knew what the Pacific Northwest would become, foodwise.

And yet, that is where Angelo Pellegrini settled. His childhood of 12 or so years in Tuscany gave him an uncanny experience to bring to pre-depression America, including an adult life that coincided with the Cold War in which his heritage could not have been less relevant. He was born at just the right time to enjoy America in a way that few others had. But he was also born just a bit too early to have been the celebrity he would have been if he had emerged in the age of Alice Waters and the Food Network.    

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