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Oct 26, 2020

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Inner DIYer

created at: 08/11/2015

When you're new to the world of DIY, starting even the smallest of projects can be a daunting task. How much money will it cost me? How much time will I waste? Do I even know what I'm doing? Questions like these can easily deflate a well planned weekend of hard work when you're not comfortable with yourself and your abilities. 

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Oct 19, 2020

10 Projects You Can Make with Scrap Wood

scrap wood projects

From every project I’ve ever made, I always have a small amount of left over lumber or scrap wood from cuts that needed to be make. I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that category. Many times, those small pieces or scraps sit in the bottom of my wood pile for months or even years until I find a need for them.  Eventually, I'll working on a project that needs a small piece of walnut, oak, pine, etc. and that’s when I am thankful I kept those small pieces of lumber.  But! Those scraps don’t always need to sit on the shelf until you need them for the next big build.

There are also masculine, scrap, and easy projects that make great use of your scrap lumber.  Here are ten of our favorites:

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Oct 13, 2020

How to: Use Your Table Saw as a Planer

Thickness planers are awesome. But I don't have one.

They're an expensive and specialized piece of equipment. A new one starts around $300, and the price just goes up from there. I'd like one, sure, but most of my woodworking projects don’t require it, so I haven’t made the investment yet. There are a few other tools I'm more interested in before I make the leap to a planer.

But there are times when I have a rough piece of wood that needs to be trimmed down to a consistent thikness or large course areas need to be smoothed out.  Instead of picking up my orbital sander and going to town for 45 minutes to thickness the piece of wood, I turned to my table saw.  While this trick is limited to wood with a width of approximately 6 inches, it can save you a ton of time for small projects. It's a really simple process. 

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Oct 08, 2020

Fact: This Early 20th Century Swedish Tool Chest is Super Cool

Get ready to grab a bucket for all that drool...   

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Oct 06, 2020

11 Tools to Take Your Woodworking Projects from Hammer & Nails to Fit & Finished

Most of us get into woodworking from a practical point of view: we need to work on something around the house, so we head to the home center and get tools to break down dimensional lumber and bang it back together. So you upgrade from a circular saw to a compound miter saw, and maybe even get yourself a pocket hole jig so you can hide your hardware from sight. 

And then, as it inevitably happens, something changes in your point of view. You're now longer just doing "home improvement" or "building things"... you're now: a woodworker.   

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Sep 29, 2020

How to Restore a Vintage Chisel

chisel sharpening - before

Unless you're a millionaire, I always recommend going with used hand tools when getting started in woodworking. (Though, full disclosure, no millionaires have yet to ask my advice.) Vintage tools are plentiful, much less expensive, and depending on their age, usually a better, longer-lasting tool than you can buy at your local big box store. And the best part? Antique tools are more likely to be made in the USA or Europe, where they've been crafted from higher quality steels than modern tools from the home improvement center. 

Over the weekend, I found this nice, broad 1 1/2" chisel at a favorite antique mall, with a mere $7.50 on the price tag hanging from the handle. It was in mostly great condition. The top and back had been coarsely ground a few times, and the bevel wasn't square to the sides, but the steel was in beautiful shape and the handle looks like it's never been pounded on.    

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Sep 25, 2020

Stop Marring Your Wood: How to Make Leather Holdfast Pads for Woodworking

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. 

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Sep 23, 2020

How to Make Decent Coffee in the Wilderness

camping coffee makerEtymology often helps shape thought: when you're aware of a word's origins, you're in touch with the full context of the words that filter your inclinations. For example, did you know that wilderness comes from the Old English for "wild deer"?

Think about that for a moment: it's a place filled with animals unaccustomed to human contact, where humans have minimized their prints on the world. So when we go out to the wilderness, we're immersing ourselves in the beauty of nature, we're adventuring outside of civilization, and we're escaping from the creature comforts that can dull our sense of connection to the cosmos.

Well... maybe not 100% escape. Because while I love taking a break, I've never been interested in taking vacation from a good cup of coffee. If you're the same, read on for how we at ManMade make decent coffee in the wilderness, and our choices for a great camping coffee maker.

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Sep 22, 2020

How to Make an Awesome Meat and Cheese Board for Fall

You want your meat board to be a statement of your ambition. Not as a cook, but as an eater. If you can avoid it, don't just let this be a venue for a dinner plate. You want a board that seems deliberate and larger than life. Wood is good. But so is slate or stone or anything smooth and safe for food. In this moment, when you are putting together a board, you are not a chef, nor even a cook. You are an artist in front of a fresh canvas, but your paints are going to be the foods that you most love. 

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Sep 17, 2020

How to Divide Any Board into Equal Parts without Fractions or Complicated Math

If you do woodworking and DIYing in inches, a solid understanding of fractions is essential. Being able to calculate that half of 4 1/4" is 2 1/8", or that 1 1/2 + 1 3/16 = 2 11/16" is basic shop math that will keep your projects moving quickly.

But often, bringing fractions into the process is, well, completely unnecessary. Let's say you have a board that you'd like to divide into equal parts. You could measure it, then bust out a pencil, paper, and the calculator app, and eventually have to Google a decimal-to-fraction converter to figure out the size of each section. Then, you'd have to find that crazy number on your ruler, and carefully add the units together to mark out your parts. Or... you could just do this.    

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Sep 09, 2020

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid Whenever You Use a Random-Orbit Sander

Random orbital sander mistakes - common errors and solutions

The random orbital sander is one of the first tools any maker or DIYer should own. In fact, I can't think of another powered tool that I use more, on nearly every project involving wood. The design is simple, and right there in the name - they move, in a random circular pattern, to sand wood.

A huge improvement over its predecessor, the pad or orbit sander, these guys use special shaped sandpaper disc to get your project smooth fast and with minimum swirl marks. Well, at least faster than sanding by hand, and with much less energy. But with great power comes great...opportunity to mess things up. These wondertools work, but there are

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Sep 03, 2020

Everything You Need to Know Before You Build Your First Workbench

One of the great conundrums of woodworking is this simple fact: you need a workbench to build a workbench. 

In fact, in order to build a proper workholding system replete with vises, rock-solid joinery, and a sturdy wood top, you also need a complete shop full of power tools to mill the wood to size, a fleet of clamps to laminate the top, and tons of experience to know how to use all that stuff in the first place. And to build it from hard maple or other appropriate wood, it'll cost at least $700 for the lumber alone.

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Sep 02, 2020

Fixing Up a Vintage Workmate Portable Workbench

workmate workbench

I am grateful to have a dedicated workshop in our basement. It's a great place to both work on projects, and store tools and materials. And while my shop time is super important, there are a few things even more precious to me. Like my family.

So, I'm interested in learning more about some smaller wood projects that I can do in the evenings during family time. Projects like carving, whittling, and other non-furniture making projects that I can do while we watch a movie or reading time in the common areas.

So, I hit up Craigslist, and found this older model Workmate for a mere $10. And, in an afternoon, I turned it into a portable space to get creative and start making some chips... no noise or sawdust required.

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Sep 01, 2020

Inspiring Read: Boat Building with Merchant and Makers

Building a BoatI've wanted to build a boat ever since I sunk my small dingy on the Trinity Lake as a kid. Once I have the space, I will fashion a sea-worthy vessel and take it out to brave the ocean, or at least a sizeable pond.  

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Aug 31, 2020

How to Drill, Saw, Plane, or Do Almost Anything Straighter

Stationary power tools are often the most full-proof way to do a job. They're anchored to the floor or bench, and come with flat tables and fence systems so you can guarantee your cuts, holes, and other bits of shaping are square and straight.

But, besides being expensive, they're not always the right tool for the job. So, instead we turn to handheld tools, both electric and manual, to get things done. And therein lies the rub - human beings are not machines. Try as we might, we often can't do something with our hands as straight or square as a large stationary tool. 

Besides using guides and other accuracy aids, there's a super simple and easy trick you can add to your mental toolbox to help guide the tool to do its best.    

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Aug 04, 2020

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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Jul 31, 2020

How to Find the Center of Any and Every Circle

 how to find the center of a circle

Often, when it comes to DIY projects, we create our own circles by starting from a center point. Whether a compass, string guide, or specialized cutting jig, a circle emerges from our pencils or saws precisely because we've created an established and consistent distance from a single origin. 

But, what happens when the shape already exists, and you need to know how to find the center of a circle? You can do it in less than a minute without any specialized math, memorizing a formula, or even knowing what pi is.    

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Jul 25, 2020

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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Jul 08, 2020

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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Jul 03, 2020

Weekend Project: How to Make a Floating Wood Slab Bedside Table

Nothing beats a big old chunk of wood. Fine joinery and glue-ups are great, but I'll take a solid slab any day. Sometimes, it's nice to be in awe of craftsmanship. But sometimes, it's nice to just be in awe of nature.   

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