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Aug 28, 2018

These Military Packing Secrets Will Make You a Better Traveler

The solar calendar has finally acknowledged what we've all know for a few weeks: it's summer. And with that most blessed of seasons comes the opportunity to get out of town and see the world in all its sun-soaked splendor.

The trick for making all this happen as easily and frequently as possible. Pack lightly, my brothers and sisters.    

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Jul 11, 2018

20 Items You Should Pick Up at your Local Asian Market

At home, I am the cook of our family. I love to make meals, and… let's be honest, I really just love food in general. I also do all the grocery shopping. Typically, I’ll take one big shopping day at the grocery store during the week and maybe a couple short trips if I need specific items. But, whenever I announce I’m taking a trip to the Asian market, my entire family eagerly jumps in the car with me.

If you're not in the habit of shopping at your Asian grocery store, 1) you’re missing out on an entire hemisphere of goods, 2) it’ll open a new world of food and sundries that’ll keep you coming back, and 3) food, kitchen supplies – everything – is extremely affordable. 

In short, tons of flavor. Great value. Win. Win.   

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Jul 10, 2018

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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Jul 03, 2018

30 Metalworking Accounts You Should Follow on Instagram

I've stated it before:  I'm a total workshop rat. There's something about spaces where skilled work gets done that invigorates my spirit. At various points throughout my life, I've wandered into blacksmith shops—on my great uncle's farm in southern Ohio, at a permanent exhibit on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, at the dead end of a street on the outskirts of my college town in West Virginia—and each time I've quieted with reverence, among the tongs and hammers and slack tubs, as if walking in the glow of stained glass windows.

Short of actually hanging around the shop, smelling the hot metal and hearing the clank of a hammer on an anvil, I get my forge fix by following metalsmiths on Instagram. Here are thirty of ManMade's favorite accounts that we totally recommend. 

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Jun 27, 2018

Finishing Up a Storage Corner in the ManMade Workshop

My wife is out of town this week.

When I'm home alone, I find myself more willing to work late into the evening with projects and activities, because I know I'm not missing out on important family time. When solo, I'd much rather stay out on a long bike ride or keep progressing on a woodworking project until bedtime than just sit by myself on the sofa.

So, such was the case when I found myself with a free evening. I didn't get started until 6:00pm or so, but knowing I had nowhere else to be and plenty of leftovers in the fridge, I set out to complete some shop storage projects for the wall just to the right of my bench. I'd been saving those blank spaces for nearly a year (you can find the clamp rack tutorials here, here, and here), reserving them for a special set of Woodpeckers straight edges and squares. These things are machined to extremely low tolerances, making them crazy straight and square, so making a secure place to store them helps them to stay precise. Plus, the red color matches the handles and jaws of my Bessey clamps, so combining the two was a total no brainer.    

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Jun 25, 2018

Ties and Shirts: How to Nail the Look Every Time

"Hey does this go with this?" I probably say this 4 times a week to my long-suffering spouse. I've never been an especially snappy dresser, but I have always tried to be put together. I've also never had to work in an office setting with a strictly professional dress code––I taught college for years. Guys in my field routinely dress in polo shirts or something short-sleeved that matches a pair of khaki pants. I'm the kind of guy who tried to make it work with a dark jean/button down/casual blazer––a sloppy and corpulent imitation of Josh Radnor or other random "nice" guy on TV...

Then I started working a venue where I was surrounded by

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Jun 18, 2018

How to: A Primer on Keeping a Baseball Scorecard

It's the time of year when grills grace backyards with fragrant charcoal smoke, chins drip with fresh watermelon juice, and the gentle drone of neighborhood lawnmowers beat back that evergrowing green tide. Every day pushes sunset a little later into the edge of night, and in the morning you can smell the dew steaming off from the tips of grass. Summer is here... and it's brought baseball along. 

One of the things I look forward to in the middle of the year is setting aside the latter half of a day, soaking in the ambience of a ballpark while trying to avoid mustard stains on my pants, and adding a new scorecard to my collection. I first started keeping score on a whim several years ago at a Durham Bulls game on the 4th of July, the first baseball game I had been to in about a decade. I'm a pretty obsessive notetaker, so when I gave it a shot...

I was totally hooked. As my poor pregnant wife completely roasted in her outfield seat next to mine (and eventually took solace in the shade near the concessions... sorry Ashley!), I watched the game—no, took part in the game—with an awareness so keen it almost felt like I had picked up several new senses.

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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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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 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 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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May 14, 2018

How to: DIY Metal Inlay in Wood

How to inlay metal in wood
Sponsored by Bernzomatic: #FindYourFire

I've always loved the feeling of contrasting materials, especially metal and hardwood.  Metal is the yin to wood's yang: cold, crisp, and unforgiving, while wood offers smooth, supple, and organic patterns. When I really want to make a piece stand out, I'll put a bit of effort in mating these unlikely partners to play off each other for visual interest and a little bit of "how did they do that?" My youngest turns 5 this month, and I have been building a keepsake box that I hope she'll have for the rest of her life — an heirloom piece that I want to stand out as timeless, personal, and familiar. I decided a metal inlay of her initial would be a great way to make it her own. 

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May 10, 2018

It's Time to Clean Your Coffee Station. Here's What to Do.

As anyone who has worked in a high volume coffee establishment will tell you––and I am one of those people––keeping coffee equipment clean is a huge job. And while a professional shop has to maintain its equipment with a daily regimen of daily cleaning, descaling, urnexing and polishing, what I realized when I came home from my coffee shop was that my personal coffee equipment was some of the LEAST attended to items I had in my kitchen. I think for many people, coffee is such a utilitarian part of life, it is easy to lose track of how many brews your machine/grinder/kettle/aeropress may have gone through. And of course, coffee is not

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