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Aug 23, 2018

Essential Life Skill: How to Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

perfect stovetop popcorn

I've got favorite foods, in every category imaginable. In my head, I write little Pablo Neruda-style odes to each one of my cravings.

And in the snack world, popcorn reigns supreme. As long as it's still crunchy, I'll eat just about every form of burst corn kernel—air popped, microwaved, butter/cheese/caramel split into a holiday tin, warmed under a heat lamp at the movie theater concession stand and drenched in butter "topping." (OK, so I actually skip the butter.)

But the Great Emperor of the Popcorn Realm is now, and will always be, freshly oil-popped stovetop popcorn. As early 90's kid, I grew up on the microwaveable stuff, but I got the entrance to the backstage party from my cooking wizard mother-in-law, and I've never looked back. Nothing can cook the starch in popcorn kernels quite like hot oil, and it's so convenient to be able to salt it perfectly when the thin sheen of oil is still glisten atop each little puff.

Read on for the time-honored technique of making the best stovetop popcorn you've ever had!

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Aug 22, 2018

How to: Set Up an Inexpensive DIY Garden Irrigation System

diy inexpensive irrigation system

What's not to love about a vegetable garden at the zenith of the growing season? More than a sum of its parts—a patch of dirt with some roots sending shoots out of it—a garden gives more than it takes. The average American spends 90% of his or her day indoors, and I use my garden to beat that statistic. I revel in its smells and textures and the satisfaction that comes from the results of tangible work. However, there are certain tasks I find needlessly tedious, and when I expanded my garden by about a hundred square feet this year, I began to count manually watering it with a hose as one of those tasks to eliminate with a timesaver.

But after I decided to set up my own DIY irrigation system, I quickly figured out that I didn't want to use soaker hoses (too expensive for the quantities I'd have to buy) or a rigid structure of PVC pipes (too permanent for the constantly changing setup in my current plot).

The solution was a pleasant surprise:

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Aug 21, 2018

Make This: A Simple Leather Covered Notebook

Leather Covered Notebook

I don't remember when it happened, but one day I decided to become a journaler. No history, no discipline. I just took a simple notebook and filled it up with my thoughts, dreams and goals. A basic notepad was nice, but after a while something like that became so personal it was only natural to upgrade such a personal item.  

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Aug 17, 2018

How to Enlarge a Hole in Wood without Ruining Your Project

how to enlarge a hole

To the non-DIYer, dedicating an entire blog post to this process may seem like overkill. But anyone who wields their cordless drill on the regular can attest: the issue of making an existing hole larger comes up all. the. time. Whether repairing something around the house, replacing a part or piece of hardware, or just because you didn't quite get it right the first time, any maker, woodworker, or generally handy person knows how frequently one needs to enlarge a hole, and how surprisingly difficult it can be to pull off. 

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Aug 16, 2018

How to Tie the Most Useful Knot in the World

The bowline knot is not just for sailors. Nor anglers, mountaineers, first responders, or anyone else who need to know a huge diversity of knots, their strengths and weaknesses, and what situation calls for each.

This is for the rest of us. Those of us who go through normal life and its adventures, and encounter rope, twine, string, line, paracord, and the like, and when we need to secure it, say "Should I tie this like my shoes, or in a square know that I know will be nearly impossible to get off when I'm done."

Bowline knot tutorial

The truth is, at this point in our lives, we're probably not going to learn how to tie a complex cavalcade of knots, and even if we did, would probably not have enough opportunity to practice them in real world situations in order to commit them to long term memory.

But, still, we should all know how to tie at least one pro-level option, and so we say to you — if you're only going to know how to tie one kind of knot, let it be the Bowline Knot  

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04913

Aug 16, 2018

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes are Definitely a Thing You Need to Know About

We love our pickles here at ManMade. Whether we're fridge pickling veg or tossing a dill cuke in our beer, we're fans of the vinegary tang of natural food preservation.

Now, tomatoes are no stranger to canning; homemade pasta sauce is one of the handmade life's greatest joys, and pickled green tomatoes are delicious in that check-out-the-awesome-secret-restaurant-in-the-hidden-alley kind of way. But I've barely seen pickled cherry tomatoes register on the pickle scene, and it's a rotten shame.

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Aug 16, 2018

How to: Hack an Old Cigar Box Into a Vintage-Inspired DIY Charging Station

DIY charging station

I got this idea soon after some friends visited and forgot their charger cords for their phones. Since I had my own to use overnight, we had to fish around for other solutions. One day, in my shop I was reflecting on this dilemma when I remembered there were these new USB wall sockets that would be perfect to turn into a portable DIY charging station whenever I need it. 

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Aug 14, 2018

ManMade Recommended: This is, Hands Down, the Best Dust Mask for Woodworking

best dust mask woodworking

Hopefully, you're already a committed safety glass wearer. Grabbing a pair for even the simplest drilling/driving task is good practice, and a part of your DIY routine. Even better, if you use power tools, you're also protecting your hearing from those roaring 85-90 dB motors.

Last in that great triumvirate, and perhaps the most often overlooked, is protection for your respiratory system. Too many of us don't wear a dust mask, respirator, or sealed face shield when working on projects for one simple reason: they are extremely uncomfortable, a total hassle, and more irritating than your second cousin's toddler at the Thanksgiving table

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Aug 13, 2018

How to: Make a Leather Sleeve for Your Whiskey Flask

I guess you could put something else other whiskey in a pocket flask. Maybe some nice sipping tequila in summertime, or perhaps a bit of brandy around the holidays. Whatever you fancy.

But whatever goes inside, our vote is: you should own certainly own one. Not because you should be sneaking spirits in places you shouldn't have them (although...) But because its summertime, and you should be headed out on adventures. And once you've achieved whatever goal you set, it's good to celebrate a little.      

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Aug 13, 2018

This Is the Best Way to Salt Your Food

Salt of the earth. Worth his salt. Take it with a grain of salt...

It doesn't take much digging into English idioms to recognize a pattern here: salt is valuable. As an essential mineral? Sure. As a time-honored method of food preservation? Yep. But most importantly? It makes your food tasty. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, distilling a conversation with award-winning chef Thomas Keller: "It is true not just for cooks in professional kitchens, but for all cooks in all kitchens, everywhere: learning to salt food properly is the most important skill you can possess." It doesn't get any more definitive than that. 

The pursuit of properly seasoned food calls for action beyond just salting at the table. See, in my home, salt shakers are mostly for 1) decoration and 2) the occasional ear of corn in July. The reason is that my wife and I salt our food while cooking it. We caution guests to taste their food before they reach for the shaker because if they try to season it at the table, it'll taste oversalted.

In fact, when we're cooking, we actually dispense with a shaker entirely... and by the way, forget about the 1/4 teaspoon measure. We use an even simpler set of fundamental tools:

 

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Aug 10, 2018

How To: Rebind a Vintage Paperback Book

diy book binding

I love reading. It's a passion and a pastime, a comfort when I'm stressed out, and a total compulsion—ask my wife and she'll confirm that if there's written material anywhere in my vicinity, I'll scan it. I read books from the bookstore and the library, I read articles on my phone, I print out PDFs of friends' screenplays for annotated reviews.

I also really enjoy buying vintage books, especially while traveling. My trade of choice is artisan printing, particularly in letterpress, so I love examining the craft that goes into these old books.

Most books come to me in decent condition, but every once in a while I'll come across one in a Charlie Brown Christmas tree state. Today I finally sat down to work on this 70-year-old German paperback, and I'd like to share my DIY book binding process with you.

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Aug 08, 2018

Five Ways to Use a Speed Square

speed square uses

If you're doing any kind of DIY or construction work, there are a handful of absolutely essential tools you need in your belt: hammer, tape measure, level, to name just a few. Batting cleanup in this list is the humble speed square. Easy to use, inexpensive, light and portable, made of one piece of metal so it won't become untrue if dropped. And most importantly: multifunctional.

How many functions, you ask?  Read on for ManMade's five top ways to use a speed square!

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Aug 06, 2018

How to: Direct Water Away from Your House

How to drain your patio with a channel drain

Proper water drainage for your property is one of the most important long-term preventative measures you can implement. Water build up due to insufficient drainage can cause significant damage to basements, garages and building foundations. If there is a lack of proper drainage, water can build up near or under the foundation of your property, which causes the soil to swell. This can lead to the foundation cracking or buckling under the extra pressure, or flooding in your basement. All of which will require costly and time-consuming repairs.

Knowing this information, I decided it was necessary to take the preventative measures and add

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Aug 03, 2018

How to: Start a Campfire with One Match

how to start a campfire

Knowing how to start a campfire is an essential life skill, for sure, and most of us have our preferred technique: the lean-to, the tepee, the log cabin. But, even though most fires aren't started in emergency, or even in one-match situations, that's part of the fun. Once you've learned how to do it without turning a gas knob or lighting one of those Duralast logs, lighting a fire with one match (or spark from a starter) becomes part of the game, even if you have a whole box at your side.    

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Aug 01, 2018

My Total DIY Mudroom Remodel + Makeover

Most people refer to the “heart of the home” as the kitchen, and for good reason. However, the first thing you see when you walk into my house is the mudroom, and its honestly the space that gets the most action.  We moved into our house about fifteen months ago, and ever since we first walked through the house, I wanted to make the mudroom/laundry room more functional.  Not only did I want to add more storage, I wanted the room to be an area that I was proud to welcome people into when showing them our home.

my mudroom, the before

 

As you can see, before I started the project our mudroom worked on many levels but it was very boring and it seemed to get cluttered easily. After completing some other more important projects on our home during the first year, I knew this summer was the time to tackle this space. 

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