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Jun 15, 2018

Weekend Aftenoon Project: How to Make a DIY Clothesline

This just in: there's a giant ball of fire up in the sky, and it's really hot. 

When it's 80 degrees and sunny, I have a hard time finding a good reason not to harness that free energy, instead of pulling in electricity from the burning fuel at my local power station (in my case, I think it's the nuclear plant just south of Raleigh) all to just dry some clothes.

A clothesline is a fantastic supplement to your laundry routine, so if you're like me and you've been putting off building one, here's a simple plan you can follow on a single Saturday—a shopping trip in the morning, a building session the afternoon.

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Jun 14, 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Alaskan King Crab (Yes, You Want to Eat This)

Just like how many Americans think they don't have accents, I used to believe I was totally free of regional snobbery... until I moved away from Maryland after high school. 

See, I grew up just between DC and Baltimore, I've got roots in the Chesapeake Bay stretching back at least 4 generations, so I know—Maryland doesn't really have a ton of nationally-recognizable cultural touchstones, except for one thing: the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. Marylanders are also persnickety about preparation methods, of which there are only three acceptable options: deep-fried softshell on a sandwich; fried up as a crab cake with extremely sparse filler; and steamed with Old Bay, hand-picked and dipped in melted butter.

So when I left my hometown and found other crustaceans being touted as "crab," my gut reaction was Man, that's not crab.

You know what, though? I love all kinds of seafood, so I was eventually willing to concede that here are a lot of other types of crab out there, and they were probably delicious. So I took it upon myself to try out Alaska's most famous seafood exports: the Alaskan king crab.

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Jun 13, 2018

How to Easily Calculate Board Feet

The first time you go to the lumberyard can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Even if you think you know what you’re doing, all the different species of lumber, the different dimensions of the lumber, different locations within the lumberyard, etc. can seem daunting for finding the perfect piece for your project.  With just a little bit of simple math, one area where you can be totally confident is calculating the cost of your chosen board.

Most home centers sell lumber by the linear foot, which means that the price of the board is determined by the length of the board. You pay a little extra for the convenience of a home center and you likely aren’t getting the best piece of lumber.  The lumberyard, on the other hand, sells their lumber by the board foot.  A board foot takes into consideration the thickness, width and length of a board.  There are several apps board foot calculator apps to help you figure out how many board feet are in your chosen piece, but all you need to remember is one simple formula and you can calculate board feet anywhere.

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Jun 11, 2018

How to: Make an Inexpensive DIY Rain Barrel

One of the first big projects I completed when I bought my house was digging a large garden in the backyard, and we just barely made it in time for a summer full of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash. The 20 x 30' patch somehow wasn't big enough for both eating and canning, so when spring rolled around again, I set out to expand our patch. Gardens are never finished, after all! (Check out our tutorial on how to hand-dig a garden here.) 

The only thing I wasn't interested in expanding, though, was my water bill. Since we get on average 4 inches of rain per month during the growing season here in North Carolina (Apr–Nov), it was time to let the clouds handle the water supply rather than the city. Since this is mostly a money-saving project, I kept my budget really low because I preferred to have the materials pay for themselves as quickly as possible.

Read on for how to make a rain barrel on a budget!

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Jun 08, 2018

5 Table Saw Jigs Every Woodworker Should Have

taper Cutting jig

I spend quite a bit of time setting up for projects on the tools. It’s amazing how much time it takes to make a few simple yet complex cuts. For the type of cuts that happen often, it makes sense to make a few go-to jigs to help with those annoying set-ups.  

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Jun 07, 2018

How to: Make a Chisel Holder Rack in Under an Hour

Chisels are probably the simplest of all woodworking tools, yet versatile enough that you'll likely use them on every project. To maintain the best cutting edge, they should be cared for and sharpened regularly: ground, honed, and polished until there's a razor fine edge that cleanly slices through the wood fibers. 

So, why have mine been just sitting in a box for the last year and a half? I actually don't have an excuse. I mean, lack of proper storage is the answer, but why I haven't done anything about it since I finished my workshop build in late 2016... I really can't justify it.

So, over the weekend, I decided to do something about it, and built a simple chisel holder and hand tool rack to keep things organized, within reach, and to protect those finely honed edges. The design is adaptable enough that you can make one of any size, and put the whole thing together in under an hour.    

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Jun 06, 2018

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 05, 2018

Once and For All, Let's Figure Out How to Wear Socks with Shorts

As I wrote in my post about bow ties, I used clothes as self-expression when I was younger. I was a kid who was self-consciously weird, interested in art, with eclectic tastes; my wardrobe reflected that. I was never sure what to do with socks when wearing shorts, so I did what any self-consciously weird/arty/eclectic kid would do, and chose socks that drew attention to themselves: argyles, stripes, colorful prints of anchors and hamburgers.

I still do wear colorful socks—under jeans to the store, with dress pants and a jacket, and everything in between—but after a recent refresh of my shorts rotation, I started wondering how to truly master sophistication with my summer getup. Read on for the full report!

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Jun 04, 2018

What to Do When Your Craft Doesn't Pay (Yet)

Congratulations, you found a craft that calls to you! 

You dove down into the rabbit hole to see how deep it goes, and in your pursuit of excellence, you've gone pro—harnessing those hours spent doing something else to make a living, transferring them into your trade. The only problem: quitting your day job suddenly means the weight of your income rests squarely on your craft's shoulders, and it's rare to make a decent wage as a beginner. 

The good news is that no time spent in your craft is wasted, so even while you're hustling and just barely making it, you can build some really valuable resources that will provide immense payoffs later.

Read on for a modest proposal of what to do when the wider world doesn't yet recognize the value of your work!

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Jun 01, 2018

On "Into the Wild:" This Soundtrack Provided Some of the Best Songwriting of the '00s

The Alaska of my dreams... Photo: NotYourAverageBear/Shutterstock

This summer, ManMade is organizing a Alaskan adventure for our community, where we'll gather for DIY workshops and day trips to some of the most beautiful places in North America. In homage of the trip, each of our team members will be reflecting on their own impressions of Alaska. 

In honor of our upcoming Alaska excursion, I was revisiting the media that resonates with Alaska. In all fairness, there isn't that much. I mean, I vaguely remember watching some episodes of Northern Exposure when I was a kid. I liked Jewel a lot, back when Jewel was a thing. Did that

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Jun 01, 2018

Weekend Project: Make a Sturdy Wooden Toolbox from Scratch

This weekend project is full of all the good stuff: it's practical, it's customizable, and it's a great way to practice and further your woodworking skills...with the very tools you'll store in it. The circle is closed.    

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May 31, 2018

Why I'm Quitting the Glencairn Glass

It comes as no surprise that spirits and beverage industry has identified the ideal glass for tasting whatever product they're trying to sell. There are separate wine glasses for enjoying your pinots noir and pinots gris, a wide variety of glasses to complement a certain style of ale or lager, and specific glasses for "fully experiencing" tequilas, gins, and brandies.

Mostly, this is insider stuff, employed at competitions, industry events, and certain high-end bars and restaurants with expansive "programs." But there is one specialty glass that has made its way into the homes of consumers and fans since it came into production in 2001: the Glencairn whisky glass.   

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May 29, 2018

Gear List: Outfit a Killer Home Coffee Setup for $99

When I look back on the formative years that were my 20's, I can vividly map out the entire decade with not only the colleges I attended, the cities I lived in, and apartments I rented, but also the coffee shops that I haunted. During my college years in particular, I probably spent just as much time in joe joints as I did on campus, either slinging espresso behind the bar or sinking into one of those ratty overstuffed couches. (Bear in mind, this was back in the day when coffee shops were more "hippie" than "hipster.")

For the first time in my life, though, since buying a house in a new town, I don't actually have a "home coffee shop." And frankly, for this phase of my life I'm not missing it, because I've tricked out my home coffee bar and barista skills to just enough of a level where—when I sit down in my studio, set my favorite jazz album going, and thunk a steaming mug down on the table—I'm fooled into that same exact coffee shop comfort zone. (Bonus: not having some random guy with a laptop camp out for hours in my favorite window seat.)

Do you want to level up your coffee game apart from your auto drip, save a ton of money per cup, and have fun learning a skill that will stick with you the rest of your life? Dude, it's time to set up your own home coffee bar

We've broken down the home bar into must-have gear, classified by categories based on the stages of the brewing process. Read on for our basic recommendations, plus some suggested upgrades.

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May 25, 2018

How to Make a Notebook in Under a Minute

I've been keeping notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals pretty much as far back as kindergarten and with daily regularity since my late teens. I've got notebooks for important purposes—a hardcover 5 x 8.25" Moleskine notebook for my bullet journal planner, a big journal for freewriting answers to tough questions when I'm looking for insight, several sizes of notebooks for personal study and random thoughts, a notebook for haiku, and several practice sketchbooks. Notebooks are so commonplace in my life that honestly, I'm more likely to leave my left foot at home.

Occasionally, though, I like to shake the dust off of my mind for a fresh perspective by changing my writing context. This is when I most often turn a tiny notebook that takes a single sheet of paper, one minute, and no tools to make but my hands. Read on for instructions!

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May 24, 2018

A Primer on Typography for Non-Designers

When I sat down to write about typography this morning, there was so much I wanted to say that the letters on my keyboard actually sat silent for a good few minutes.

We're in a golden age for typography. Gutenberg totally exploded Europe in the 1500's when he dropped the printing-press-with-moveable-type bomb, but even then, for the next 500 years, the spread of ideas and publishing were in the hands of a collection of specialist craftsmen and the people who hired them. (After all, producing physical objects is expensive.) Then, in rolled desktop publishing in the 80's and—combining computer hardware, software that included digital type, and the ability to effectively "print" on-screen and distribute to other screens instantly via the Internet—you've effectively got a second Printing Revolution happening right now, with type squarely in the middle of it.

Typography was once a niche element, but now we're up to our ears in it. As it is with any craft that takes a lifetime to master, thoughtfulness will set you and your message apart. The craft will give back what you put into it. Using typography in design is a lot like using salt in cooking: when it's used well, it contributes to a greater whole but goes largely unnoticed; when typography calls attention to itself, it's typically been used poorly. 

If you've ever been putting together a quick flyer or PowerPoint presentation and wanted to put a little more thought into your font choices, but you feel like you're shooting blindly in the dark because you're not a trained designer, we've put together a quick guide for you.

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May 24, 2018

Essential Life Skill: How to Make Breakfast in Bed Like You Mean It

In the Grand List of Essential Grownup Skills, somewhere between changing a flat tire and tying a half-Windsor, you'll find an entry for serving your loved one their first meal of the day before leaving the room where they woke up. It's a simple act, but with some care and a little finesse, it can be an incredibly thoughtful gesture that will reverberate throughout the rest of the week.

Let's take a look at some of the considerations for a perfect breakfast in bed!

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May 23, 2018

How to: Simple DIY Brick and Mortar Repair

I side with my colleague Bruno as he stated in his Curbly post on painting his garage floor—some home improvement projects you can DIY, and some you should definitely consult a professional. When I tore out the ailing metal railing on the brick entry steps to my fixer-upper 1970's ranch house, it became clear that it was time to replace some of the crumbled and broken bricks. It seemed like way too small a project to hire a bricklayer, and what can I say? I really like bricks.

Read on for the process to do your own simple brick patch and masonry repair!

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May 22, 2018

This is the Only Way You Should Be Wrapping Up Your Headphones

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.    

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May 21, 2018

Large Yard or Small, Here's a Lawnmower that Can Do The Job

Thanks to Cub Cadet for sponsoring this post. 

 

Gordy the Goat was going for the ride of his life. It was 1:00 a.m., and Gordy was in the back of a white Yukon Denali blowing through a stop sign at Earl Street and Mounds Boulevard in St. Paul, MN. Just minutes earlier, the brown-and-white splotched ruminant had been quietly at work in a nearby park, doing what he does best: grounds maintenance. 

See, Gordy, and a herd of thirty others, are charged with removing invasive species, unwanted grass and vegetation in the city parks... by eating it. But on this night, Gordy fell victim to goat theft, though whether he viewed it as

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