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Oct 04, 2018

11 Surprisingly Good Finds You Should Buy at Harbor Freight (and 8 You Never Should)

There are a few adages with which I can start this post. "You get what you pay for." "Some things are too good to be true." Yes, it would be awesome if there were a store in every town that sold solid, dependable tools at bargain prices. When you're just getting started, a place to fully outfit your shop on the cheap would be an amazing gift. I get it. I've been there.

But anyone who knows about Harbor Freight also knows about the reputation of the products it stocks: namely, that the quality is rather unreliable. Today, as I was discussing this post with my friend and colleague, M.E., her immediate response was, "There was one in the same plaza as my old job, so whenever we needed anything, we got it there. And ultimately whatever we bought, broke five days later. That place is the Dollar Store of the home improvement world."

And that's the trick: Harbor Freight stocks items that are designed to be sold, not to be used. I'm not saying their business model is dishonest or nefarious. Nor am I a tool snob with an unlimited budget. I'm only interested in spending as much money as necessary to get the job done. I know what its like to have your aspirations be bigger than your budget. But buying things that don't work, no matter how much they cost, is not saving money. The majority of products there simply will not stand up to repeated use, nor give the you the results you're after. When it comes to their sell-line of "Quality Tools, Lowest Prices"... well, one of them is true. 

Except... 

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Oct 03, 2018

How to: Fold a Pocket Square

So you've snagged your new go-to blazer, upgrading your the 13-year-old-at-his-first-school-dance look of solo white shirt and black dress pants. Congratulations! You're now hovering at the upper style echelon that the big boys call classiness. Now, this may be a perfectly acceptable sartorial level to rest, one where you can command all the professional respect you'd ever need. But you're not satisfied with simply acceptable, right? Of course not! You want to pursue panache, you want to exude aplomb, you want to chase other fancy-pants dictionary words.

My friend, you're in need of a pocket square.

You know, the dandy cousin of the handkerchief that's there to just look cool and wouldn't dare catch a snot drop. Clothing is a nonverbal speech bubble, and conscious choices display confidence; the pocket square elevates the wearer another notch into the realm of "I know what I'm doing," provides variety for a frequently-worn outfit, and radiates the warmth of self-expression.

Read on for the ManMade primer on choosing your pocket square, then learn how to fold a pocket square and starting off with three basic pocket square folds!

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Oct 01, 2018

Stop Marring Your Wood: How to Make Leather Holdfast Pads for Woodworking

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. 

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Sep 30, 2018

Fixing Up a Vintage Workmate Portable Workbench

workmate workbench

I am grateful to have a dedicated workshop in our basement. It's a great place to both work on projects, and store tools and materials. And while my shop time is super important, there are a few things even more precious to me. Like my family.

So, I'm interested in learning more about some smaller wood projects that I can do in the evenings during family time. Projects like carving, whittling, and other non-furniture making projects that I can do while we watch a movie or reading time in the common areas.

So, I hit up Craigslist, and found this older model Workmate for a mere $10. And, in an afternoon, I turned it into a portable space to get creative and start making some chips... no noise or sawdust required.

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Sep 28, 2018

How to: Make a Great Tasting Bloody Mary

In my house, football season coincides with Bloody Mary season. Really, you say? Fair enough: the two are not necessarily synonymous with each other, but I’ve always felt that Bloody Marys are better enjoyed in the fall or winter months.  Similar to the complex, tomato-y flavors of a bowl of chili, it just feels right to have a hearty Bloody Mary when the weather starts to turn a little cooler.

Most bars have their ultimate Bloody Mary that they load with bacon, chicken wings, pizza, etc. that look great through a filter on Instagram, but how the Bloody Mary tastes is not the focal point in that situation.  When I’m at home and I want

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04939

Sep 25, 2018

That Dragon, Debt: How to Give Yourself a Break as You Conquer the Beast

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

I am a defeated knight––noble in my essence (or so I feel), but waylaid and shrunken down while fighting a beast that no man could possibly face undaunted. The beast spits fire, inundates me with dust from its mighty, flapping wings, and seems to pull the very ground from underneath me. I cower behind my shield and do what I can to battle the beast back, but at best I can manage a draw in any of our fights. And day by day, the beast gains more ground. Or that's how I feel. The beast is debt. Random sums of money are my outmatched weapons. And despite my lobbing those missiles as hard and direct as I can, I

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Sep 24, 2018

8 Seriously Tasty Reasons to Bust Out Your Slow Cooker This Week

I did not grow up in a "crock pot" family. We had one, an old avocado green job my parents got from their wedding registry. And, though I'm sure it got used, it wasn't something that characterized the food in our house. My wife's parents, on the other hand, were both doctors working day shifts, and according to her, nearly every thing her mom cooked came from the slow cooker. And, says my wife, protein + a mix of canned foods = dinners, all which tasted basically the same... like "crock pot food."

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Sep 21, 2018

How to Roll Your Shirt Sleeves Like You Know What You're Doing

how to roll up sleeves on any shirt

Rolling up your sleeves. It's a fitting metaphor for getting stuff done because of its roots in literally protecting your shirt during activity. It's a practice reserved for when you're shifting out of the formal occasion that requires a button-up shirt, but you're not yet going to change into casual clothes: dinner after work at a restaurant with family, lunch at the pub with co-workers, traveling on business, in the later hours of a wedding reception.

When you strip it down to its elements, there's really not much to the process of rolling your sleeves. But remember that clothing is nonverbal communication, and when you make intentional decisions about you wear, you project purpose. So if you're going to roll your sleeves, don't just shove 'em up your arm... do it with confidence!

Read on for your three main options for rolling up your sleeves.

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04944

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 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 in the first place. 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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04943

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 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

Random orbital sander mistakes - common errors and solutions

The random orbital 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 orbit 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 11, 2018

How to Find the Center of Any and Every Circle

 how to find the center of a circle

Often, when it comes to DIY projects, we create our own circles by starting from a center point. Whether a compass, string guide, or specialized cutting jig, a circle emerges from our pencils or saws precisely because we've created an established and consistent distance from a single origin. 

But, what happens when the shape already exists, and you need to know how to find the center of a circle? You can do it in less than a minute without any specialized math, memorizing a formula, or even knowing what pi is.    

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Sep 10, 2018

10 Projects You Can Make with Scrap Wood

scrap wood projects

From every project I’ve ever made, I always have a small amount of left over lumber or scrap wood from cuts that needed to be make. I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that category. Many times, those small pieces or scraps sit in the bottom of my wood pile for months or even years until I find a need for them.  Eventually, I'll working on a project that needs a small piece of walnut, oak, pine, etc. and that’s when I am thankful I kept those small pieces of lumber.  But! Those scraps don’t always need to sit on the shelf until you need them for the next big build.

There are also masculine, scrap, and easy projects that make great use of your scrap lumber.  Here are ten of our favorites:

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Sep 07, 2018

How (and Why) to Get Rid of Books

I really should kick this off with a big disclaimer: I'm a book guy.

I grew up in a book house—my dad is a professor and the author of several books, and my mom worked in a library when I was a kid. Bibliophilia is in my genes—my toddler already goes straight to her books immediately on waking up. I love places where books live—I've haunted libraries, bookstores, and free book spots in every town I've ever lived in. I read books in multiple languages—I'm literate in German, with passable French and Spanish skills. I even write books—I've got several novels in progress, including one story with a finished draft that I completely scrapped instead of sending to an agent because it wasn't quite there yet.

But recently, I've ditched at least 300 volumes from my personal library, some of which I had owned for over 15 years.

If you're trying to downsize too, read on for 10 tools to help you winnow the chaff from your personal library. But first, a brief aside to answer the why.

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Sep 06, 2018

The Best Places to Learn How to Restore Vintage Tools on YouTube

I love watching new things get made. But as equally invigorating? 

Watching old things get repaired and restored.

There are plenty of reasons to fix old things: keeping them out of the landfill, learning how they're made, making a little extra jingle, appreciating the products around us that we take for granted, cultivating the mindset of taking better stewardship of our surroundings.

Thankfully for the world, there are a lot of people doing this for the love of the act, because they spend countless hours in their workshops and upload their process videos for free viewing on YouTube.

Read on for our top picks of tool (and other) restoration YouTube channels!

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Sep 06, 2018

How to: Make a Beer Can Camping Stove

For my money, this is the best time of year to spend a few nights outdoors. The bugs have died down, but the weather is still sunny and dry. The days are  warm, but the nights are cool enough that you can snuggle down into your sleeping bag and not sweat it out in a roasting hot tent.

Perhaps you'd like to try a few nights backpacking or minimalist base camping, but you don't want to invest a ton of cash on the gear to make it happen. #Understood, friend. 

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Sep 05, 2018

ManMade Recommended: These are, Without a Doubt, the Best Headphones for Woodworkers

First came the radio. Turn it on, tune in the dial, and hope you'd have something listenable during the quiet moments. Then came the shop stereo, usually an old bookshelf system we didn't mind getting covered in sawdust. But for the last ten years or so, it's been all about the personal audio player...and for most of us, that means our smartphone. Why blast the tunes throughout a space,  keeping up with loud machines and bugging those around us when you can have literally anything you want playing through your own set of earbuds?

best noise canceling headphones

Whether you opt for music, podcasts, audiobooks, or digital radio, most DIYers and woodworkers have a set of earbuds plugged in during most parts of a project. The problem? If you use power tools, you still need to wear hearing protection to 1) take care of your ears and reduce loud exposure to noise and 2) hear your audio over the roar of the motors. 

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Sep 04, 2018

How to Save Seeds and Grow Better Vegetables

how to save tomato seeds

When I start my garden every spring, I like to kickstart it by heading over to the local nursery and hardware store for some pregrown plants. Seeds can be tricky to deal with, and plants that are already several weeks old are especially helpful if you're busy, don't have a ton of experience, and want to get a jump on the growing season without having a greenhouse.

For the remainder of my garden, it's all about the seeds. I love that thrill of watching those little seedlings cling to the dirt in rain and sun, and I'm ecstatic to see true leaves when they emerge. If you've been doing seed packets for a while, and you're looking to up your garden game and perhaps move into the world of heirloom vegetables, read on for our primer on how to save tomato seeds, seed pods, summer vegetables, and more!

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