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May 10, 2018

It's Time to Clean Your Coffee Station. Here's What to Do.

As anyone who has worked in a high volume coffee establishment will tell you––and I am one of those people––keeping coffee equipment clean is a huge job. And while a professional shop has to maintain its equipment with a daily regimen of daily cleaning, descaling, urnexing and polishing, what I realized when I came home from my coffee shop was that my personal coffee equipment was some of the LEAST attended to items I had in my kitchen. I think for many people, coffee is such a utilitarian part of life, it is easy to lose track of how many brews your machine/grinder/kettle/aeropress may have gone through. And of course, coffee is not

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May 08, 2018

How I Finally Became a Morning Person

Let it be stated, for the record, that I'm naturally a night owl. I hate waking up in the morning.

I'm not one of those people who are wired to pop out of bed, to the tune of that Rossini piece that plays at sunrise in cartoons, with a spring in my step and a grin on my face. (Being a morning person is so out of my orbit that I don't know if that's how early birds actually feel, or if it's just my pre-coffee-grump perception.)

You know what I do love? The feeling of accomplishing so many of the day's to-dos, especially the things that are both short-term urgent and long-term important, and looking up at the clock to realize it's barely lunchtime. I love reaching the end of a work day with the relief that comes with giving the whole day my full effort. I love the feeling of being proactive, which means that, though being an early bird isn't my natural inclination, I love its effects.

So, how did I ditch the hoot owls and start rising to catch the proverbial worm? Read on for some tips that helped me.

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Apr 24, 2018

6 Tips for Minimizing Distractions from Your Smartphone

I'm a firm believer that tools are like personal strengths: the user's attitude determines the outcome. You can take a neutral tool and channel it for good or evil; a candlestick can class up a dining room table, or it can kill Professor Plum in the billiard room. Not only that, but the more power a tool holds, the more care you have to take with it. (It's like the main takeaway from Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility.)

The smartphone is a prime example. Sometimes when it's better to leave it off, like we suggested in our article on filling downtime without staring at your phone. But lest you label me a Luddite, let me admit that I use my phone all day: emailing, listening to music (currently: Spotify app, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), shooting and editing photos, keeping in touch with overseas family on Facebook, professional networking on Instagram and LinkedIn, mobile banking, making note of future ManMadeDIY articles, and so much more.

In fact, I use my phone so much that I need to give myself guidelines to help keep me from staring into it all day. Here are some of those tips.

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Apr 19, 2018

How to: Build a Floating Shelf for Less Than $10

Completed floating shelf

Floating shelves can be built in a myriad of different ways and with any lumber you can get your hands on, but if you’re buying blind shelf supports for each shelf, the amount of money spent can add up quickly.  Enter: this inexpensive and rustic option for building floating shelves will materials you likely have on hand in your shop. This is a relatively simple project and it can be completed in an afternoon for less than $10 in materials. There are three simple parts of the process to making these floating shelves.   

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Apr 06, 2018

Weekend Project: How to Make a Simple Wooden Drawer Unit

created at: 09/10/2015

This is my kind of woodworking project. It solves a practical problem (it's a monitor stand and desk storage unit), and it's built with solid technique and classic materials, treated minimally to show off their natural beauty.   

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Apr 04, 2018

Not Your Father's Pegboard

created at: 07/21/2015

This is the tool wall in the workshop of Rhode Island furniture maker Hank Gilpin. It places every hand tool used in the shop  - including saws, clamps, scrapers, drill bits, chisels, planes, and measuring tools - within an arm's reach of the shops two main benches.   

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Mar 28, 2018

How to: Make a Wooden Hand Screw Rack & Organizer

I have tried almost every solution to keep track of my hand screws. I've hung them on pegboard hooks. I've stashed them in wall-hung cubbies. I've stacked them on shelves. I've put them in designated plastic totes. All of which have resulted in: I hardly ever use my hand screws. 

Which is a shame, because they're extremely versatile. They have a deep reach, and their wooden jaws are handy when you don't want to nick a blade or bit on something metal. So, last weekend, in my ever-continuing attempts to get my shop truly organized, I decided to build a wall-mounted hand screw organizer that would allow me to keep things in place and bring the clamps to the project when I need them.    

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Mar 20, 2018

My Total DIY Laundry Room Makeover

This post is sponsored by Lowe's

Ideally, a laundry room would belong in one of the more private sections of your house – a space to do the behind-the-scenes work of running a home, fold unmentionables, and stash things that simply have no where else to go. 

In our house, it's in the dead center of activity. Because of plumbing and venting access, it's the first thing you see when you walk down the stairs into our basement, and in addition to our kitchen and dining room, our basement has become the heart of our home. There, both my wife and I have our own offices where we welcome business collaborators, take meetings, and do

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Mar 19, 2018

Crafting Yourself: Why the Stoics Will Help You Become a More Productive and Creative Maker

 

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” – Seneca

 

The Project

Suppose you are getting ready to start a really big project––a project that will require an immense amount of time and effort, a project that has so many parts and components that you are certain that you will lose your way and make mistakes. It is just that big. And yet the one thing you can be certain about is that the materials for this project are precious and you will not be able to re-start the project once you begin––you'll have to keep forging ahead even if you make mistakes. It will be the summative production

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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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Mar 13, 2018

How To: Build A Pegboard Blowtorch Holder

DIY pegboard organizer for Bernzomatic torch supplies
Sponsored by Bernzomatic: #FindYourFire

Pegboards have always had a place in my shop. They are simple to install, and easy to reconfigure as the needs evolve. I have a section by my stationary tools and few large boards for everything else. Mostly, I keep small tools like screwdrivers, scrapers and saws hanging. But there's so much more than hooks and pins. For example, here's a simple pegboard holder to organize my growing collection of blowtorch tools.  

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Mar 12, 2018

A Diet of Early Worms: the Case Against Procrastination

For those of you who have mastered denying the temptation to pick at procrastination's bountiful buffet, this article will be a waste of your time. I'd suggest moving on to something else—this handy jazz album primer, how to turn an old shirt into a pocket square, or this awesome list of 14 burger recipes

But for those of you who find it difficult to resist the siren song of putting stuff off until the last minute, or who (worse yet) willingly delay working until the 11th hour, let's take a moment to examine the evidence that procrastination is a horrible idea.

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Feb 27, 2018

How to: Build a Custom Tool Wall

Move over pegboard. When you've assembled a proper collection of hand tools, the best way to keep them safe, organized, and available within reach is a custom tool wall. Each item gets a designed holder that keeps like pieces together and accessible, allowing you to maximize your storage space.

Plus, let's admit it: they also look super cool.    

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Feb 12, 2018

How to: Start a Minimalist Bullet Journal and Get Better at Everything

Search “bullet journal” in Instagram or Pinterest and you’ll see a cornucopia of tricked-out notebooks. The Esteemed Society of Crafters on the Internet has truly created a thing of beauty. But if you’re one of the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” (ANGTFT) set, don’t be fooled by the washi tape, calligraphy, and rococo calendar ornaments: a minimalist bullet journal is, hands down, the most efficient and robust planning tool in your productivity kit.

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Feb 09, 2018

How to: Make a Custom, Heavy Duty Tool Roll to Carry Your Tools Anywhere

95% of the time, a tool box is overkill. Whether taking some items to help a friend with a project, or just working on something in my own home two floors above my basement shop, the act of dragging out the toolbox, selecting the items from the pegboard and arranging them appropriately, and then lugging the whole thing around is simply unnecessary. 

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Jan 29, 2018

9 Morning Routine Tips to Jumpstart Your Day and Improve Productivity

In order to be your best, you need to make the most out of your mornings. More than anything else, how you begin your day sets the template for how the rest of it will go. Here are nine things you can, and should, do every single day to be your most productive self. 

1. Make Your Bed (2:oo)

When this becomes first thing you do after you wake up, you accomplish so much more than flat blankets and straighten pillows. First, you immediately achieve a goal; the very first thing that happens during your whole day is a success. Secondly, though it might sound dramatic, you've ordered chaos. What was a mess is now straight and clear

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Jan 19, 2018

11 Things to Do Before Leaving Town for a Long Weekend

When I was younger, my mom always gave us a list of chores to do before we left town for an extended weekend.  At the time, I didn't fully understand why my clothes needed to be put away or why all the dishes needed to be washed if we weren't going to be home, I just wanted to get to the hotel so I could jump in the pool.  Luckily for me, my older brother is an absolute neat freak and he would get up early and finish most of the tasks on the checklist before I even got out of bed.  Fast forward 20+ years, and I completely understand why my mom always made us complete that list of chores before we left town.  Being older and slightly wiser than my 8-year old self, now I make sure to always do these 11 things before departing for my next adventure:   

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Jan 17, 2018

Weekend Project: Make a DIY Reclaimed Wood Wall Bike Hanger

There's a great adage in the home decor and organization field...you've probably heard it on one of those room makeover TV shows. The phrasing varies, of course, but the central idea, "When you run out of floor space, you've got to go up."

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Jan 04, 2018

Use Benjamin Franklin's "13 Virtues" to Help You Be a Better Person in 2018

As far as the truly great characters from U.S. History to which we might look for timeless advice, it's hard to beat Benjamin Franklin. (We still love you, Mark Twain!) Franklin was born into a family of very modest means, but he manage to use his basic education (he stopped going to school at age ten) to become a successful author, scientist, statesman, printer, politician, inventor, humorist, civic activist, diplomat, and $100 dollar bill appearer.

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Nov 27, 2017

The Best IKEA Hack I've Ever Seen

Laura and Craig from The Makerista take these Billy bookshelves that we've all seen before and transform them into what looks like an entire built-in wall unit. This really is the most impressive DIY IKEA renovation I've seen yet.   

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