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Mar 22, 2018

The (Still Existing) Power of a Handwritten Letter

When was the last time that you wrote a meaningful handwritten letter to your spouse, parents, siblings or friends?  Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone significant in your life?  The odds are, you’re much more likely to remember the answer to the latter of those two questions because it felt like a special occasion.  Ever since the mid-1990s when “you’ve got mail” became a familiar tagline, handwritten letters have fallen by the waste side - being replaced with emails, texts, and tweets.  For so many reasons, putting down the phone and picking up the pen can be substantially more impactful.

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Mar 21, 2018

How to: Dig a Garden Patch Using Only a Shovel

I've always been a big fan of eating good food. But I also can't leave well enough alone, so eating led me to cooking, and cooking led me to gardening.

Originally a means to an end, now there are few things that give me greater happiness than stepping out the back door in the middle of summer and walking across my backyard to the roughly 20' x 30' patch of dirt full of rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, squash, and greens.

When I first bought my house and decided to transform the patch of grass into our home garden, I didn't own a rototiller, but I did have a $20 shovel, an internet connection, and a spare can of elbow grease. After compiling the ideas from several gardening sites and testing it out on my half-acre slice of North Carolina, I had myself a beautifully productive vegetable garden. 

Here's a brief primer on how you can hand-dig your own patch using the time-honored technique of "double digging."

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Mar 20, 2018

7 Things I'm Totally Obsessed With This Month (March 2018 Edition)

These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.    

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Mar 20, 2018

My Total DIY Laundry Room Makeover

This post is sponsored by Lowe's

Ideally, a laundry room would belong in one of the more private sections of your house – a space to do the behind-the-scenes work of running a home, fold unmentionables, and stash things that simply have no where else to go. 

In our house, it's in the dead center of activity. Because of plumbing and venting access, it's the first thing you see when you walk down the stairs into our basement, and in addition to our kitchen and dining room, our basement has become the heart of our home. There, both my wife and I have our own offices where we welcome business collaborators, take meetings, and do video

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Mar 19, 2018

Crafting Yourself: Why the Stoics Will Help You Become a More Productive and Creative Maker

 

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” – Seneca

 

The Project

Suppose you are getting ready to start a really big project––a project that will require an immense amount of time and effort, a project that has so many parts and components that you are certain that you will lose your way and make mistakes. It is just that big. And yet the one thing you can be certain about is that the materials for this project are precious and you will not be able to re-start the project once you begin––you'll have to keep forging ahead even if you make mistakes. It will be the summative production

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Mar 15, 2018

It's Time to Toss Your Tupperware and Get These Instead

If you are anything like me, there have been numerous times in your life when you have been in a Target/Costco/Sur La Table/Container Store when box full of intricate, multi-shaped and variously sized plastic containers has come into view, and you have thought, "it's time I get organized!" The lure of organization is powerful because it feels like if you have a place for not only everything, but every KIND of thing, you'll never fall into disorder again.

I have learned something from a lifetime of tangling with stackable, burp-able, intricately sized storage containers: freedom does not come in a system that has options for every possibility, it comes in a simple system based on interchangeable parts. And in the world of food storage, we should look not to the glossy, marketed boxes in the housewares aisle, but to the humble set up of your neighborhood takeout place

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Mar 13, 2018

How To: Build A Pegboard Blowtorch Holder

DIY pegboard organizer for Bernzomatic torch supplies
Sponsored by Bernzomatic: #FindYourFire

Pegboards have always had a place in my shop. They are simple to install, and easy to reconfigure as the needs evolve. I have a section by my stationary tools and few large boards for everything else. Mostly, I keep small tools like screwdrivers, scrapers and saws hanging. But there's so much more than hooks and pins. For example, here's a simple pegboard holder to organize my growing collection of blowtorch tools.  

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Mar 12, 2018

A Diet of Early Worms: the Case Against Procrastination

For those of you who have mastered denying the temptation to pick at procrastination's bountiful buffet, this article will be a waste of your time. I'd suggest moving on to something else—this handy jazz album primer, how to turn an old shirt into a pocket square, or this awesome list of 14 burger recipes

But for those of you who find it difficult to resist the siren song of putting stuff off until the last minute, or who (worse yet) willingly delay working until the 11th hour, let's take a moment to examine the evidence that procrastination is a horrible idea.

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Mar 08, 2018

How to Prep for a Killer Spring Break Road Trip

Open Road

It’s (almost) that time of year again when the weather starts to turn a little warmer and winter finally fades into the budding trees of springtime.  In addition to the blooming flowers, the beginning of March also indicates that spring break is right around the corner for college students, teachers and many families with school aged children.  If you’re ready to bust your cabin fever, consider joining them on your own version of a road trip and keep these items in mind before hitting the open road (if you’re flying, reconsider – a long road trip is something you have to do at least once you in your life):   

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Mar 05, 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Woodcase Pencils

All hail the mighty pencil: a powerful and beloved tool with a fanbase as sophisticated as the legions of jazz enthusiasts, yet so ubiquitous and humble that it all but escapes notice. The pencil is an incredibly simple device—essentially, a rock-and-dirt mix smashed together between some cut-up tree pieces—but the iteration that know today is a collaboration between hundreds of pencil makers over the course of 500 years. With their pen cousins, the elegant fountain and the pragmatic ballpoint, pencils are a founding member in the groundswell of interest for tangible, analog tools in an increasingly virtual, digital world.

If all you know of pencils are the Dixon Ticonderogas and plastic Bic mechanical pencils you carted around in your schoolbox, read on for a basic primer and some great resources for further exploration.

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Feb 28, 2018

Looking for a Bit of Process Inspiration? Watch These Historic Pathé Craftsman Videos

If you’re committed to greatness in your craft, there’s no better way to improve than to mimic the masters. But if you need general inspiration to help you keep going in your pursuit of excellence, it’s helpful to watch any kind of expert at work.

In 2014, the newsreel archive British Pathé released 85,000 high resolution historic films to YouTube. Among these are a fantastic collection of newsreel footage from postwar factories all around Great Britain. It’s mesmerizing and, if you’re a maker, a bit humbling to watch these skilled men and women exercise their trade with such aplomb. (Not to mention, the peppy English narrators, using that classic clipped 1950’s news reporting style, are really funny.)

Thanks to the wizardry that is the Internet, there are hundreds of them available at your fingertips today.

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Feb 27, 2018

How to: Build a Custom Tool Wall

Move over pegboard. When you've assembled a proper collection of hand tools, the best way to keep them safe, organized, and available within reach is a custom tool wall. Each item gets a designed holder that keeps like pieces together and accessible, allowing you to maximize your storage space.

Plus, let's admit it: they also look super cool.    

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Feb 23, 2018

How to Drill Perfectly Vertical Bench Dog Holes in Your Workbench

 A woodworking bench is more than just a table to lay your tools and project parts on. Used well, your bench is an all-in-one, three-dimensional clamping solution that will allow you to hold your work on any of its edges or faces. The traditional way to increase the work-holding capability is to place "dog holes" in your bench top, and allowing them to work in tandem with a face or end vise to secure parts of any size. 

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Feb 23, 2018

5 Simple Beginning Leather Projects to Help Grow Your Craft

Leather Tool CaseA few weeks back we talked about some of the basic, essential tools for getting started in leatherworking. Once you're set up, its time to put them into practice. Here are a few projects to hone those skills, and end up with some great practical pieces you can use everyday   

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Feb 20, 2018

Let Michael B. Jordan Teach You How to Iron a Dress Shirt Like a Pro

Actor Michael B. Jordan grew up in a household in a military household. His father was a Marine, and valued a well-made bed with tight corners, and all fabrics needed to crisp and tight. Under his guidance, young Michael learned to iron his own clothing to spectacular results.   

He recently shared his technique with Vanity Fair, as part of the press tour for his film, Black Panther. (I hear it's pretty amazing. Has anyone seen it yet?)

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