Ideally, the details following your tax return would be rather uneventful. You'd have withheld the exact right amount, and paid the appropriate estimated taxes, and your post-April 15 results would be pretty neutral: the IRS has its money, you have yours, and the two of you can check in again next spring.
Of course, that's never what happens, and Tax Day inevitably goes in the two obvious directions: you still owe more, or you get a refund. If you're a small business owner or freelancer, like me, you nearly always end up on one side of that equation. But, every so often, there are those glorious years that go down in history as that-one-time-you-got-a-tax-refund, and you get an unexpected check with which you may do whatever you like.
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.
A few weeks back we talked about some of the basic, essential tools for getting started in leatherworking. Once you're set up, its time to put them into practice. Here are a few projects to hone those skills, and end up with some great practical pieces you can use everyday
Two years ago, on February 9th I came home from a long day of work at about 7:30 and my wife gave me incredible news. She was pregnant! This was going to be our first child, so naturally I was overcome with so many different emotions. I paused for what felt like an eternity and when I finally gathered my wits, I very distinctly remember the first words out of mouth were, "It's okay, we're in a good spot financially for this right now." If you're a woman reading this, I know what you're thinking - "how romantic". Well, my wife didn't think it was a very good response either. In my defense, I'm a CPA and that's just how my brain works
I love a full-on furniture project, replete with solid joinery, elegant design, and high-quality materials. But, as any maker knows, those can take weeks or even months to sketch, mill up stock, test, fix mistakes, and rub on a finish.
So, do you know what I love even more? A simple woodworking project you can complete in a single day, or better yet, an afternoon. Something to get you some shop time, create some sawdust and shavings, and be put to practical use by dinnertime.
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 can recount eras of my life in wallets. My first was a black trifold at age nine, a Christmas gift from my grandparents. High school and undergrad entered the era of canvas, which would wear hard at the corners where cards hit. In my twenties, I carried a thick oxblood-colored job I found on clearance at a department store. It was the model that signaled the end of the era; the first that didn't come with that little plastic sleeve for photos, because the smart phone had rendered it unnecessary.
This tutorial from Matt Pierce for A Continuous Lean is a winner. It walks you through the process of using stiff leather to create a stylish and protective case for small items, kits, and gear. Here, Matt designs his case for a compass and some other wayfinding goodies, but you could scale and adapt the project to fit your needs.
This was the year I finally outgrew IKEA. There's still several pieces in my house, but I'm ready to move on from them as soon as possible. I imagine its the byproduct of being a new homeowner, and knowing that I can finally buy intentional pieces to fit in specific spaces, and that – when I do – they'll work there for as long as we decide to keep them.
It's not IKEA's fault. And I still think that their attractive, clean-lined particleboard furniture is better than the faux-Tuscan and laserprinted woodgrain particleboard furniture from the discount store. But, while it worked in my twenties, I'm ready to surround myself with things that will last.
Long live the print magazine. Seriously. We know the entire publishing industry is in a bit of flux, but we'll do everything we can to help them pull through. Because as far as a casual reading experience goes, the magazine format is just about perfect.
Of course, there's that other issue of being a subscriber: the inevitable mass of to-be-read copies. Whether the always-cited-and-lamented stacks of The New Yorker or a random selection of last month's issues you just haven't gotten around to yet, being a subscriber means there's always pile in your house somewhere.
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.
I don't remember when it happened, but one day I decided to write. I took a simple journal 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.
Giving a handmade gift is always better than a mass manufactured one. Whether you make it yourself or support a local artisan, craftsman or favorite Etsy shop, giving something that can't be found in a big box store not only shares an element of care, but of legit surprise.
But do you know what we love even more than giving something handmade? Empowering the recipient to make something themselves. So, this Father's Day, give the gift of DIY with this simple and stylish leather coaster gift kit.
The team over at Gear Patrol captured a great inside look at the Legendary L.L. Bean factory in Brunswick, Maine and their process for making their iconic Bean Boots.
If you don't already own a pair of Bean Boots, I cannot recommend them enough. Their simple design and rugged craftsmanship have lasted me many years and many more into the future.
If you getting a ton of use out of the cord taco you made with the last blog post, my guess is that your probably going to get even more use out of this DIY leatherworking project.
As always, if you don't feel skilled enough to pull off any of the steps below, you can check out this beginners guide to get you going.
I — admittedly — was in the habit of just grabbing my computer and carrying it around. Its home was wherever I left it...unprotected. Stupid, I know. I’m pretty careful with my stuff, especially when it costs as much as a laptop, but even if you can control you're behavior, you can’t always predict what
Leatherworking may start out as a hobby, but somewhere along the way, you're going to get hooked. So whether you're just getting started or well into the craft, here are a few free content channels to give you a boost down that well-tanned road.
When Erin discovered Anne Steensgaard's CatchMe keyholder online, she became instantly obsessed. Functional, beautiful, and full of organic textures and charm. Unfortunately, the piece is only sold in Boila stores, which are all located in Denmark or Sweden.
But, she knew she couldn't rest until she had some
Did you know you can make your own sketch and shop journals with just the materials you have on your shelf? Now you can scrap those yellow pads for something a lot more classy.
Note to the wise: a box usually isn't enough. Many tools in the shop need a bit more protection. When tools get neglected, edges get dull and things get lost. A tool roll is a simple way to keep those small collections of specialty tools in top shape and exactly where they should to be when you need them. Here's a simple way to make your own.