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Apr 09, 2019

This is Probably the Best $50 I've Ever Spent in My Life

In college, my roommate Adam returned from the holiday break with a new alarm clock he'd received as a Christmas gift. (My dorm days were a bit before the smartphone era and we all still used actual bedside clocks to wake up for our 8:00am classes). This particular alarm clock was special; it featured a

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04756

Jan 15, 2019

How to Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen Knives

A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly. 

But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.) 

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Oct 02, 2018

Seriously, This is the Best Travel Coffee Mug You Can Buy

Best travel coffee mug review

We wanted find the best travel coffee mug out there. Why? Because a travel mug is a simple device. So simple, that it's so notable when so many models get things wrong. And then you use the perfect one, and you realize all the care and design that goes into the things we use everyday, and it's amazing. 

There's a travel coffee or tea mug that keeps your drink warm for hours, you can throw in a bag and never worry about it spilling, and provides a safe and pleasant drinking surface from which to sip. And it costs $20. And that mug is the Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Travel Mug with Easy Clean Lid. It's the best travel coffee mug you

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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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Jul 05, 2018

ManMade Recommended: This is the Paracord You Should Be Taking on All Your Adventures

Even if you don't know it by name, you likely already know paracord. Chances are very good that you've seen it, either in the aisles at your local craft store or knotted into a survival bracelet.

It's a classic example of how a military-specific product found new life as a civilian utility item. Originally designed with airborne units (the name is portmanteau of "parachute" + "cord"), its strength, durability, and versatility lend well to all sorts of other functions. It's especially useful for survival and adventure situations, which means that enterprising outdoor gear companies have begun including other materials in the core of the cord besides the standard separate nylon yarns: in the case of ParaTinder, a waxed thread meant to be used as a firestarter.

I got a package of this as a stocking stuffer last Christmas and wanted to give it a whirl—it's important to test out your survival gear when the stakes are low rather than trying it out for the first time in an emergency. 

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May 22, 2018

Move Over, LaCroix: This is the Sparkling Water You Should Be Drinking All Summer

Topo Chico sparkling water bottle poured over iceSparkling water. It's a thing. Whether a weird normcore love of the dated 90s can design, or an earnest attempt to cut back on sugar and chemical-laden soft drinks, the cool kids have embraced LaCroix. And drink manufacturers, in an effort to capture the energy, are coming out with dozens of their own brightly-colored alternatives. I went to the grocery store yesterday, and spied no less than seven distinct brands of pink and orange-canned flavored waters, all of which basically look the same (and all which include a version of pamplemousse), attempting to capitalize on the trend.

I'm no hater. Live and let sip. If it keeps you hydrated and drinking less sugary soda, or even beer, then enjoy yourself. But, if you truly love the bubbles, then allow me to nominate my lifelong favorite sparkling beverage that never doesn't taste unbelievably delicious and refreshing, and, dare I say, defines effervescence?    

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May 15, 2018

ManMade Recommended: If You're Looking to Upgrade Your Headphones, This is a Great Place to Start

Long time ManMade readers may recall my love of these earbuds, which I have claimed (over and over again), are the best value in in-ear audio supply out there. I had three or four sets going at any given time, and use them everywhere from the workshop and exercising to travel and housecleaning marathons. They work great, sound good enough, and are both durable and affordable that you don't mind taking a few risks with them. (Nearly every pair I have are also covered in paint and wood glue.)   

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Mar 28, 2018

It Turns Out, a $500 Blender is Totally Worth It

I was sitting with a few friends the other day and they started talking about how they needed to start drinking smoothies again. The conversation quickly turned to how expensive smoothie places can be, and how most blenders at home just don't make smoothies with the right texture. They turned to me, and I sheepishly owned up to it–I have a $500 blender. It's the Vitamix 7500––one of the immensely fancy ones that seem so ludicrously expensive.

To make matters worse, I think in my entire life I've only consumed 3-4 smoothies, hence my embarrassment. Spending $500 on an appliance only seems reasonable if it is part of a life plan––some

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Mar 15, 2018

It's Time to Toss Your Tupperware and Get These Instead

If you are anything like me, there have been numerous times in your life when you have been in a Target/Costco/Sur La Table/Container Store when box full of intricate, multi-shaped and variously sized plastic containers has come into view, and you have thought, "it's time I get organized!" The lure of organization is powerful because it feels like if you have a place for not only everything, but every KIND of thing, you'll never fall into disorder again.

I have learned something from a lifetime of tangling with stackable, burp-able, intricately sized storage containers: freedom does not come in a system that has options for every possibility, it comes in a simple system based on interchangeable parts. And in the world of food storage, we should look not to the glossy, marketed boxes in the housewares aisle, but to the humble set up of your neighborhood takeout place

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Feb 02, 2018

ManMade Recommended: (Probably) The Best Affordable Safety Glasses Money Can Buy

We don't ask much from our safety glasses. Their primary purpose is right there in the name: they protect you when performing activities that create and project debris that could damage your eyes... woodworking, scrapping paint, anything dealing with rust or metal shavings, and the like. The most important thing is that they be handy and ready to go, so you don't hesitate to grab them when execute a potentially dangerous task. Here's the best way we've found to deal with it.    

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Nov 07, 2017

ManMade Recommended: Let's All Check Out the Classic Leather Wallet from Mr. Lentz

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.    

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Oct 18, 2017

ManMade Recommended: You Should Invest in the Classic Leather Briefcase from Mr. Lentz

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.      

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Jul 11, 2017

ManMade Essential Toolbox: In Praise of the High-Quality Screwdriver Set

created at: 08/26/2015

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. 

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Mar 04, 2015

Seriously, These are the Best Affordable Ear Bud Headphones You Can Buy

created at: 03/04/2015

I'm kinda hard on ear buds. I wear them a lot - when doing household tasks like cleaning and cooking dinner, when crafting in the workshop, on long bike trail rides... I even use them when not connected to anything, à la ear plugs, to drown out ambient noise when working from the coffee shop. As an introvert, I wear them in the airport and the grocery store and the book shop not so I can avoid others, but because I like being out and moving about in the real world listening to things that inspire me.

And, I'm kinda hard on them. I used to buy pricier ones, but no matter how careful I'd be, they'd get caught on something or the contact points would fray, and they'd simply go kaput. I don't think of them as "disposable" but I am certainly a heavy user, and its hard to justify $50 or $100 on something you know is gonna need replaced at least once a year.

I experimented with a few styles, and then Bruno, ManMade's publisher, recommended a pair of these to me. And they're the best pair of ear buds I've ever owned. They sound great, they fit great, and they cost less than $15.00.    

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