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Dec 18, 2018

How to Easily Calculate Board Feet

The first time you go to the lumberyard can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Even if you think you know what you’re doing, all the different species of lumber, the different dimensions of the lumber, different locations within the lumberyard, etc. can seem daunting for finding the perfect piece for your project.  With just a little bit of simple math, one area where you can be totally confident is calculating the cost of your chosen board.

Most home centers sell lumber by the linear foot, which means that the price of the board is determined by the length of the board. You pay a little extra for the convenience of a home center and you likely aren’t getting the best piece of lumber.  The lumberyard, on the other hand, sells their lumber by the board foot.  A board foot takes into consideration the thickness, width and length of a board.  There are several apps board foot calculator apps to help you figure out how many board feet are in your chosen piece, but all you need to remember is one simple formula and you can calculate board feet anywhere.

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Dec 17, 2018

The 1-Second Trick to More Accurate Measuring and Marking for Your Woodworking Projects

If you want gap-free joinery and a perfect, long-lasting fit for both strength and aesthetics, precise measuring and marking of parts is essential. But, each step of the process — measuring, transferring marks, and cutting — can introduce tiny little errors of 1/64 or 1/32", which, over the course of a project, can add up significantly. So here's a simple little trick that takes no extra time, but creates much more accurate results.    

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Dec 07, 2018

Holiday How-to: Make DIY Wooden Gift Tags from Scrap...in Under 15 Minutes

Giving gifts? It's the best, right? Not cheap plastic things, and certainly not gift cards. But thoughtful custom - and most of the time handmade gifts - that I know someone will enjoy for years to come. Take a look at our list of 50 gifts for men here, and gifts for women here.

Of course, the gift has to be wrapped in something special as well. So, why would I want to use lame paper gift tags from the discount store after all that work? Here is a simple project to make some name tags that are as thoughtful as the gift.   

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Dec 03, 2018

How to Cut a Perfect Circle with a Jigsaw

A quality jigsaw is one of my favorite tools, and a seriously good DIY best buy. Armed with the right blade, you can cut all sorts of materials into nearly any two-dimensional shape you please. And most-importantly, do it safely. 

But it's flexibility as a creative tool is also its liability. Like a pencil, it can go in any direction, but in the hands of a human being, those directions will never be without the marks of our innate imperfection. Straight lines can be accomplished with a fence, but a perfect circle. You can't draw one by hand, so don't expect yourself to be able to jigsaw one either. 

At least, not without a little help.    

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Nov 18, 2018

How to Install and Mount a Vise without Drilling Holes in Your Workbench

My first "workbench" was a simple table-style surface. 2x4 legs, 1/2" plywood top, held together with black drywall screws. I built it in my first apartment when I was twenty-two, with my first (and only) power tools: a circular saw and a drill. 

In the back left corner, I mounted a shiny, new, bright blue Irwin swiveling bench vise. It was awesome to have it there when I needed it - holding metal stock and angle iron for cutting, helping me bend rod and pipe, even keeping dowels and small wood parts in place while working on them. Unfortunately, these activities constituted a very small amount of the projects I was doing, and mostly, the vise just got in the way during the other 97% percent of tasks.

So, for the past few years, that vise has just been in a storage crate, and I get it out and try to hold it in place when I need it. Which, in case you can't guess, does not work. Ever. So, I wanted to come up with a solution that would allow me to install a machinist's style swiveling benchtop vise, without having to permanently install it, or drill holes in my benchtop and have to thread and tighten nuts and bolts every time I use it.    

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Nov 08, 2018

Shop Skills: How to Clean Your Saw Blades

Dirty SawbladesMaintaining your shop tools starts with keeping those blades sharp and well lubricated. Here's a quick overview on how to tune up your cutting edges.  

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Oct 18, 2018

ManMade Giveaway: Win a Pair of ISOTunes PRO Headphones, the Best Earbuds for Makers and DIYers

A few weeks ago, I declared ISOTunes the best headphones for woodworkers and DIYers. They include both audio drivers for sound and 27 dB of OHSA-compliant hearing protection from machine noises in the same package, and after spending all summer testing them out in real world situations, I can't think of a better investment to improve your shop time. 

So, I'm pretty excited to share that I've collaborated with ISOTunes to give away three pairs of ISOTunes PRO headphones to ManMade readers.


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Oct 04, 2018

11 Surprisingly Good Finds You Should Buy at Harbor Freight (and 8 You Never Should)

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. 

Except... 

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Sep 06, 2018

The Best Places to Learn How to Restore Vintage Tools on YouTube

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!

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Sep 05, 2018

ManMade Recommended: These are, Without a Doubt, the Best Headphones for Woodworkers

First came the radio. Turn it on, tune in the dial, and hope you'd have something listenable during the quiet moments. Then came the shop stereo, usually an old bookshelf system we didn't mind getting covered in sawdust. But for the last ten years or so, it's been all about the personal audio player...and for most of us, that means our smartphone. Why blast the tunes throughout a space,  keeping up with loud machines and bugging those around us when you can have literally anything you want playing through your own set of earbuds?

best noise canceling headphones

Whether you opt for music, podcasts, audiobooks, or digital radio, most DIYers and woodworkers have a set of earbuds plugged in during most parts of a project. The problem? If you use power tools, you still need to wear hearing protection to 1) take care of your ears and reduce loud exposure to noise and 2) hear your audio over the roar of the motors. 

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Aug 30, 2018

How to: Build an Outdoor Sofa

For the last couple of years, we had two ugly rocking chairs on our patio that I never really liked.  They were a little awkward to get into, the fabric was hideous, and they took up way too much space when they were reclined.  So, when my wife asked me to build an outdoor sofa for our patio, I didn’t have any hesitation to say “yes”!  

outdoor sofa feature

To figure out what style of seating we wanted, I searched “outdoor sofa” on Pinterest to get some inspiration and figure out a basic design.  Once that was decided, I tasked my wife with finding the outdoor sofa cushions. I wanted to find the cushions first and then build the couch based on the

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Aug 06, 2018

"Maker" Has a Whole New Meaning in Light of Primitive Technology

Some three years ago, an Australian man named John Plant started filming his hobby of spending time in nature and learning to subsist without any tools. He posted his videos on Youtube as a kind of documentation of his progress and they served as a venue for a kind of education, though only in the most minimalist sense. Taken without context, its a strange, new genre of media that has found an audience––something pretty standard for the internet. (There are now countless channels on the internet where people have ripped off Plant's original premise.)

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Jul 18, 2018

What's the Best Protective Finish for Your Woodworking Project?

How to select protective finishes
Shutterstock / Carlos andre Santos

For me, completing a wood project brings a sense of great accomplishment. I’ve taken a raw piece of lumber and turned it into something beautiful and functional. However, that pat-on-the-back stops short when I remember that I still need to apply a finish to protect the wood! Applying finish is easily my least favorite part of any project, and an area where I am not as skilled as I'd like to be (everything's a learning process). Still, applying a finish is that important last step that protects the project for years to come. Applying finish is easy enough - it's knowing what type of finish to use that's the bigger battle. There's a wide variety of protective finishes out there, and all those options can easily become overwhelming. Let's start with the basics. Here's a quick guide to the differences between polyurethane, varnish, shellac and lacquer.        

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Jul 10, 2018

No Vise, No Workbench, No Problem: How to Hold Your Woodworking with a Simple Wooden Batten

I'm a lucky guy. My family has allowed me to dedicate half our basement into a dedicated shop space, complete with a custom woodworking bench and a growing collection of tools. It's bright, clean (at least right now), and I'm slowly turning it into a functional workspace that will allow me to be as productive as possible. 

But it took me a long time to get here. For nearly fifteen years, I worked out of dining rooms and back porches and portions of the garage, lugging my tools around in plastic totes and home center toolboxes, setting up shop on the washing machine, folding tables, and 1/2" plywood scraps screwed to 2x4s.

And, in the early days, it was that lack of a proper workbench that prevented me from thinking I could could use hand tools. Without a vise and hold downs, how could I safely secure my work for handplaning, chiseling, or sawing?The answer: a batten, which will take you 5 minutes to make and turns any flat surface into a work bench. Let's make one!   

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Jun 27, 2018

Finishing Up a Storage Corner in the ManMade Workshop

My wife is out of town this week.

When I'm home alone, I find myself more willing to work late into the evening with projects and activities, because I know I'm not missing out on important family time. When solo, I'd much rather stay out on a long bike ride or keep progressing on a woodworking project until bedtime than just sit by myself on the sofa.

So, such was the case when I found myself with a free evening. I didn't get started until 6:00pm or so, but knowing I had nowhere else to be and plenty of leftovers in the fridge, I set out to complete some shop storage projects for the wall just to the right of my bench. I'd been saving those blank spaces for nearly a year (you can find the clamp rack tutorials here, here, and here), reserving them for a special set of Woodpeckers straight edges and squares. These things are machined to extremely low tolerances, making them crazy straight and square, so making a secure place to store them helps them to stay precise. Plus, the red color matches the handles and jaws of my Bessey clamps, so combining the two was a total no brainer.    

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Jun 11, 2018

Watching People Harvest Cork Makes Me Feel So Satisfied

Photo: Luis Viegas/Shutterstock

The internet didn't intentionally invent the idea of tickling your brain by seeing things get perfectly peeled, scooped, pulled or stripped. Yet, there are whole Youtube channels dedicated to things that fit perfectly, people breaking the pristine surface of a jar of peanut butter, people peeling the thin plastic sheet that covers most electronics. Comments on these videos are part of a shared sense of deep satisfaction, and you can find some of the most mutually joyful, least acrimonious interactions on the internet among people who are just eveling in that feeling of deep gratification. 

So, in the

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May 14, 2018

How to: DIY Metal Inlay in Wood

How to inlay metal in wood
Sponsored by Bernzomatic: #FindYourFire

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. 

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May 08, 2018

Hey! Do You Want to Go to Alaska with ManMade? Here's Everything You Need to Know

This summer, ManMade is going to Alaska, and we want you to come with us. 

In an effort to continue to build community, I decided it might be fun to do something together. Like, in real life, with actual handshakes and conversations that don't involve QWERTY keyboards. And, if we're going to do something, we might as well connect somewhere amazing.

So, we chose Alaska for its mix of natural beauty and DIY attitude. We'll spend seven (or ten) days in Anchorage, Seward, and Denali going on hikes, craft beer tours, woodworking workshops, staying up late, and seeing some of the best terrain in North America.    

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Apr 25, 2018

ManMade Recommended: The Veritas Carpenter's Gauge is $25 Very Well Spent

Among all the items in my shop, the measuring, marking, and layout tools are probably my favorite. Mostly, I love how historic they are: dividers, squares, calipers, rulers, and marking gauges have all been around for centuries, remaining mostly unchanged in their design and intended purpose.  And who doesn't love a clear, crisp, and accurate line to work to?

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Apr 19, 2018

Watch This Traditional Finnish Log Cabin Being Built...Entirely By Hand

 

I promise, I really do like sports.

I number among my favorite smells in this world the scent of ice rink, and I find the pop of a baseball hitting a leather glove irresistible; I show my hometown roots in my collection of Baltimore Orioles hats, and I love the thrill of victory in sports films, even ones involving sports I couldn't care less about. But I confess, I'm a lackluster sports fan. Scores, standings, and statistics bore me to tears, and my attention span diminishes to nil within 5 minutes of a televised game.

Set me in front of an artisan plying his or her trade, though, and you'd think I were a pitching scout at a showcase tournament: rapt attention, soaking in every detail, occasional grins at particularly strong displays of good craft. Are you the same? Well, you're going to love this.

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