In my neighborhood, we have an excellent urban bike trail that runs along the a fairly large river that divides my city in half. Often, while cycling, I'll see folks, mostly elderly men, pop out onto the trail with their large canoes and kayaks.
"How fun," I always think, but there's no liveries or rentable canoe places until you drive an hour or so out of the city. Of course, I wouldn't need to rent one if I could get my hands on a piece of softwood plywood and a saw.
Which I can.
Happy Monday, ManMakers! Today, I'm super excited to share an exclusive project with you. It's an excerpt from the new book Build Stuff with Wood, which is all about making cool woodworking projects with the most basic of tools.
The book is written by Asa Christiana, the former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, and, I'm proud to say, a close friend of mine and all-around good guy. It features a variety of everyday objects you can make armed only with a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a jigsaw, plus a small palm router on one or two. There's a section on setting up a workspace, building a basic tool kit, and how to get great furniture-quality results from construction-grade tools. (Plus, a nice section on shop safety featuring a few photos of yours truly.) Plus, the intro is written by Nick Offerman, so...enough said!
Earlier this year, I agreed to complete a woodworking project for my wife. Actually, I offered and volunteered myself to do it. She has a particular storage need in her office, and because of the weird layout, access issues, scale, etc, it's not something that exists anywhere. It has to be custom built, and installed in the space.
The truth is, I've been avoiding it. It's a big project, and it was easy to move to the bottom of the project list when it was the height of summer. We had houseguests coming in and out of our home, and the days were long and full of activity.
But now, that season is over, and it's time to start building. I realized this week why I've been putting it off: I'm afraid. It's beyond my skill level, and requires a lot of moving parts that need to line up, just so. In any other situation, this wouldn't be something I'd agree to do, because it's too big of a leap; I need to learn to do too many new skills inside the same project.
There are a couple standard household items where their never seems to be a reasonably attractive option. Tissue boxes are a big one; there, it's always about choosing the least of the evils. I'd also throw paper towel roll holders in that category. Head into any big box or discount store, and you'll be hard pressed to find anything that matches a style other than "I buy all my home decor items at big box discount stores."
So, in that case: you should make one instead.
This post is sponsored by the DIYZ® app.
Composting. Maybe you've heard of it? It's kind of a thing. It's no longer the sole purview of hippies, weirdos, and 7th-grade science teachers Composting has gone mainstream, and that's a good thing. Don't worry, we're sure your 7th grade science teacher will find another weird hobby to call their own.
Anyway, if you've been looking to get into composting, but don't love the look of boring, plastic composting bins, then this is the post for you. We're going to make an elegant, functional, totally-not-weird-looking compost bin. And we're going to have fun doing it! Pay attention, because at
Sponsored by the DIYZ® app
I love the idea of combining modern technology with natural textures. I keep my tablet in a case made from an old linen-covered notebook, and my sleek and shiny DSLR in a worn brown leather bag. So, I wanted to make a simple place to house my smartphone, while warming it up a bit. I went with the most natural thing I could think of: a big slab of forest tree.
I like this design for a DIY wooden smartphone charging station because it fits the charging cable nicely, but it isn't stuck in place, so you can remove and use it elsewhere without the stand.
Enough talk! Let's make one!
Have you ever had to cook dinner at a friend's kitchen only to find out they don't even own a cutting board? Not only have I had that happen for me, I've noticed this kind of thing happening in my friend's workshops. It's easy to get caught up in making things and overlook some essential tools that can really help you get things done right. I thought I'd share a few tools I use almost every time I work on a new project. Some of these are almost laughable, but I guarantee some of you are going to read through these 6 tools and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, I need one of those."
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.
When it comes to sanding, the rules are simple. When you're dealing with curves and soft edges, you can use the contours of your hand to back up the sandpaper and naturally mimic the shape. But when it comes to flat surface: never sand without a sanding block. This keeps the paper flat, which means your final project will also stay flat.
I was in the bad habit of cutting a new one every time I went to finish a project, which sometimes meant I went against my best judgment and ignored the sanding block rule when working on flat panels and tabletops. (I know, I know.) So, I decided to spend an hour and whip up a block I'd be excited to
Editor's Note: This project is an excerpt from the new book The Art and Craft of Wood: A Practical Guide to Harvesting, Choosing, Reclaiming, Preparing, Crafting, and Building with Raw Wood by Silas J Kyler and David Hildren. The book is available now at your favorite local bookstore, Powell's, or Amazon. Thanks to Quarry Books for sharing this project with us.
Building furniture is what first drew me to woodworking. The first coffee table I ever made was for my mom. It was a surprise gift, and I worked tirelessly, hour upon hour, to create something I was proud of. I remember the unveiling well, and the joy it gave her was well worth all the hard work.
The projects to this point have been small and technically much easier than building a piece of fine furniture. Going from making a serving tray or lamp to a coffee table may feel like a big step, and in many ways it is, but practicing with small projects gives you all the skills you need to approach a simple piece of furniture. Remember: with a good dose of patience, you will be well on your way to creating beautiful furniture.
I had a particular set of mesquite slabs in mind when envisioning this coffee table. The tree came from my neighbor’s front yard. When it was removed, they simply asked the crew to leave the trunk behind for me to gather. As I was giving this tree a new life, I could step outside my shop, look across the alley, and see where it lived and died. I could also see where the logs sat and seasoned for two years, driving my wife crazy.
I guess the real problem with this project is that it actually worked.
I mean — I succeeded in what I set out to do. I created two DIY variations on an easy-lighting, long-burning fire and grill starter using coconut oil. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature. Coconut oil, which is about the same price as beeswax and much easier to find. Coconut oil, which can easily be melted in the microwave, so you avoid having to use a double boiler and scraping wax out of your mixing bowl. Coconut oil, which smells awesome and burns forever.
ManMade Essential Toolbox: The Best Combination Square for Woodworking... and Why You Definitely Need One
The best combination square will quickly become essential in your shop. ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day.
The saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So does that mean that the layout and setup process is twice as important as the sizing and milling? Absolutely. In fact, it may be more like three or four more times. Any person who's completed a full-on woodworking
A functioning clamp rack. Every shop's gotta have one. "But, wait!" You say. "Isn't the easiest way to hold clamps just some 2x4s bolted to the walls, and maybe some holes and plumbing pipe inserted to hang the clamps on?" Yeah, perhaps. But, while that works if you have a ton of space, it's not the most efficient way to store clamps in a small shop. And I think of that as more of a "clamp hanging spot" than a proper organization system. Plus, if you already know about that trick, you certainly don't need me to give you a how-to.
Instead, I present this clamp rack design: infinitely adaptable to any scale, and able to hold almost any type of clamp. You can build the whole thing with some scrap plywood, a jigsaw, and drill, and make one - no matter the size - in well under an hour.
Let's be clear: none of us are here to discuss the basics of what a screwdriver is, or what it can do. Its purpose is clear. It's right there in the name.
Nor is it important to name all the different varieties of tasks it can perform. Because it can't do much. If you use them properly, they're not a paint can opener. They're not a punch, or a chisel, or a pry bar. They do two things: tighten hardware, and loosen hardware.
When I finished my basement workshop makeover earlier this year, I couldn't have been more excited, or proud, about how far it'd had come. What was once two dark, dingy rooms full of plumbing pipes, exposed studs, and our family's household junk, was now a bright, clean, inspiring single workspace full of tools and materials. But to get it to that condition was a ton of work, and the truth is, my house still hasn't totally recovered. Examples include, but not limited to, the plywood sheets stored in the guest bathroom, the dust collector in the hallway, and the piles of clamps in our home office.
Oh, those clamps. They've been all over the lower level of our house for nearly six months. I used them for projects, of course, but mostly, they just stood against the wall or inefficiently piled on the floor, falling down every so often, scraping the paint as they went and startling all of us in the process.
Proper and accurate measuring and layout are key to a great looking project. When you're dealing in whole numbers, that's easy enough. But the smaller you divide those inches or millimeters, math becomes more complicated, and the likelihood of making a mistake increases. While we can't always avoid finding common denominators and doing sophisticated shop calculations, when you're trying to lay out evenly spaced marks, you actually don't need math at all.
Cutting open a log or thick board is one of the most rewarding feelings a DIYer or woodworker can experience. Who knows what the grain will look like? Who knows if you'll find a burl, a beautiful sapwood/heartwood transition, or a knot you'll be proud to feature, not hide? Beneath all that bark lies a world to be discovered, a geode of cellulose waiting to be explored.
Right? Well...sometimes. Or, you can split something open only to find punky, foamy wood, damage from bugs, or just boring, boring grain.
Rare is the craftsperson who couldn't use just a little more workspace. Maybe not more square footage (though I'd certainly take some), but perhaps more work surfaces to spread out projects, or some more storage to keep track of all the bits and pieces that come along with any technique.
Building this custom tool cabinet will certainly help.