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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In the sheer scope and magnitude of Youtube, I going to assume that we will one day see every conceivable thing that exists in the world. Because, we all know, that if it is weird enough for someone to try, there is someone around with a camera ready to film it. So, we can file this under, "what the hell is going on here?" But there's this guy with a Youtube channel whose entire purposes seems to be to constantly and painstakingly recreate a knife out of very different, very bizarre materials.
Bryan Stevenson is a very quiet revolutionary. His career until recently was very much "on the ground." He worked as a lawyer and advocate among those people whose race, class and the circumstances of their lives had disadvantaged them in the world. It was good work to do and he did it well. He won a MacArthur in 1995 and he gave a groundbreaking TED talk. But what is remarkable is that at the absolute summit of his career he made a move that was truly revolutionary: he looked to the past and made something.
The something he made is in Montgomery, Alabama––a city that might not be on many peoples' travel itinerary. What Stevenson
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.
We're in the world of paperless resources, so having a collection of actual books is a bit of a forgotten passion. But there's something special about a few key reference manuals, inspirational resources, and good ol' fashioned nostalgia that I just love. Keeping them close at hand but neatly organized can be a bit of a challenge in the home shop. That's where a set of simple bookends can come in handy.
I wanted to make a set of bookends that stood out but felt at home in the shop. That's why this simple, clean design is such a great fit. A set of squares set me back about $15
I've been looking at making a small forge for a while now. The main goal is to dip my toe into metal working just a little bit, so something that can heat up about 6" stock is all I want. This weekend, I gathered up some basic materials and made myself a small forge.
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.
With all music heading to online streaming, I tend to buy my favorite albums on vinyl so I can cherish them for years to come. As my collection grows my need for space grows with it. So I had to quickly find a solution. Here's a simple project to create some stacking cubes that will hold records, books and more!
It's finally done. My first major step on my journey to have less stuff is complete. My shop was cluttered, inefficient, and completely out of hand; and now I'm back in control of my space. Well, mostly. Here's what I've learned from the first 30 days of purging my shop.
This post is sponsored by the DIYZ® app.
When my friend Bruno hurt his back a few years ago, he started preaching about the value of standing while you're at work. Having made a bicycle-mounted laptop stand way back in 2010!, I'm not new to this game, but the more I tried it, the more I liked it. Not only is standing good for your posture (and thus your back), but for certain kinds of tasks, I find it really increases my productivity.
Here's how to make a simple desk riser so you can stand and work on your laptop at just about any desk. It's built out of copper pipe and plywood, two of the easiest materials around to work with
If you're like me, the cast iron in your shop sits atop the most prized tools you have. Those tops are solid, durable, stay dead flat, and make working wood just a bit easier. But to keep them at their best takes a bit of routine work, fending off rust and staining doesn't take much but make sure you do it. Here's how.
Small-parts storage is one of the biggest steps you can take in creating the perfect workshop zen. When all those little fasteners, nails, washers, odds and ends all have a home you can work in peace, not pieces.
Let's face it: modern hardware leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, it's inexpensive and abundant, but visually, it looks...well, cheap. No character. You spend weeks on a project, choosing wood grain carefully, sanding and planing to a glass smooth finish, and then you're forced to add some blindingly shiny yellow brass or bright blue metal to finish your project.
Of course, there are high-end hardware makers out there producing specialty hinges and components for period furniture, but I wanted a less expensive way to transform general home center hardware into something I actually want to use on my projects.
So, I called my dad.
Earlier this week, for the Fourth of July holiday, some friends and I decided to try our hands at roasting a whole pig. We were cooking for 60-80 people, and wanted to do something more special than hamburgers and hot dogs, and figured: well, if we're going to try it, now is as good of a time as any.
We wanted to go with a Southern United States-style "pig picking," meaning lots of wood smoke, and cooking over low and slow temperatures. In order to get the whole animal ready to eat with such a gentle heat, we needed to start the night before. And that's where this story begins.