It's the time of year when grills grace backyards with fragrant charcoal smoke, chins drip with fresh watermelon juice, and the gentle drone of neighborhood lawnmowers beat back that evergrowing green tide. Every day pushes sunset a little later into the edge of night, and in the morning you can smell the dew steaming off from the tips of grass. Summer is here... and it's brought baseball along.
One of the things I look forward to in the middle of the year is setting aside the latter half of a day, soaking in the ambience of a ballpark while trying to avoid mustard stains on my pants, and adding a new scorecard to my collection. I first started keeping score on a whim several years ago at a Durham Bulls game on the 4th of July, the first baseball game I had been to in about a decade. I'm a pretty obsessive notetaker, so when I gave it a shot...
I was totally hooked. As my poor pregnant wife completely roasted in her outfield seat next to mine (and eventually took solace in the shade near the concessions... sorry Ashley!), I watched the game—no, took part in the game—with an awareness so keen it almost felt like I had picked up several new senses.
As if pens and Post-Its weren't enough, the smartphone era has provided a plethora of memory aids. Apps designed to store, sort, and spit out information whenever we want it seem to have rendered redundant the need for a good memory.
But I'm of the mind that tools work best when they augment our skills and strengths, and that when we start to allow machines to fully replace human work, we ourselves begin to atrophy. Since having begun the assembling my memorization toolkit and putting it to use in the last year, I've found that I think more clearly, remember things better, and rely on my physical and digital tools much less. (Not to mention, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel awesome to perfectly recall a 12-digit number after less than 10 minutes' worth of work.)
We've covered one of those big tools, the memory palace, in a guide here at Man Made DIY. One of the main techniques incorporated in the article, specifically used to memorize numbers, is called the Major System; it's such a powerful in itself that it's worth its own guide.
So, let's dig in to how you can custom-tailor your own major system to help you remember long strings of numbers!
Let's say you've read up on the merits of woodcase pencils and you've decided to become an inveterate pencil carrier. You've sorted your B's from your HB's, you've picked your favorite finishes and ferrules. You've bought your dozen (or two) and are scribbling smoothly... until one day you find yourself with a dull point and no sharpener.
But if you've got your pocketknife, you're just a few minutes from a fresh point! Let's take a look at how to sharpen a pencil by hand.
All hail the mighty pencil: a powerful and beloved tool with a fanbase as sophisticated as the legions of jazz enthusiasts, yet so ubiquitous and humble that it all but escapes notice. The pencil is an incredibly simple device—essentially, a rock-and-dirt mix smashed together between some cut-up tree pieces—but the iteration that know today is a collaboration between hundreds of pencil makers over the course of 500 years. With their pen cousins, the elegant fountain and the pragmatic ballpoint, pencils are a founding member in the groundswell of interest for tangible, analog tools in an increasingly virtual, digital world.
If all you know of pencils are the Dixon Ticonderogas and plastic Bic mechanical pencils you carted around in your schoolbox, read on for a basic primer and some great resources for further exploration.
Saws are exciting, and chisels and hand planes look really great on top of your workbench. But if you ask me, the number one most-important, guaranteed tool I use on every single project is: the No. 2 pencil.
It's essential for everything from sketching to measuring to layout and marking parts, and its "easy to remove" nature makes it perfect for seeing now, disappearing later. Except, have you ever actually tried to remove pencil from wood before applying a finish?
This simple twig pencil project is a great way to add a little rustic, outdoor charm to your office or workspace. Or, it could make a great spring project to do with kids, and a smart way to reuse all the fallen branches and tree limbs that come along with these April showers.
"Just because something makes you smile or laugh ... doesn't mean it's a joke."
Word to the skeptical: don't be. Artisinal pencil sharpening is a very real thing. You may have heard of David Rees, a political cartoonist who also runs ArtisinalPencilSharpening.com, a site where you can send in a pencil (or David can provide one) and he'll sharpen it by hand, for $15.00.
Now, David has released a book How To Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants (with a forward by John Hodgman), and is currently on tour with workshops and sharpening services, often on the same bill as some awesome comedians.
If you get the idea of a hand sharpened pencil, but aren't quite down to pay $15.00 for the service, David has graciously provided his technique. For free.
It's the kind of thing you simply gotta see.
(Classic Rap pencil set - $6.00)
These playful pencil sets created by One Up Designs made me laugh. The sayings on the side of each pencil, which are inspired by popular culture, are actually quite subtle. But those who spot "The Dude abides"on the side of your pencil will definitely get a kick out of it.
It's been said that some of the best songs are those that sound like you've heard them a thousand times upon first listen. Reliable, fresh, yet totally familiar and I-wish-I-thought-of-that invoking.
Belgian artist Ben Heine's series "Pencil Vs. Camera" is sorta the visual equivalent. We've all played with subsituting objects in photos, but it's never been done like this, or this well.
I've always enjoy the ambitious experiments of designer Dominic Wilcox, who, lately, has taken on a thirty-day speed creating challenge that has resulted in some fun projects: thread-wrapped grapes, onion ring fabric, and inflatable socks.
But I'm particularly loving the practicality (?!) of this colored pencil shelf. Dominic says, "I made a shelf from coloured pencils by glueing them together. I was suprised at how strong it was using two layers of pencils....The shelf brackets are made by cutting a single pencil case into two parts and glueing together. The sliding doors hide the screws."
What better to go with your Mario and Luigi-themed filing cabinets than a handmade warp pipe pencil cup?
Not much we can think of.
This design used plastic needlepoint canvas, which I haven't seen since the horrific Kleenex box covers my grandma had in the bathroom.
Plenty of artists use pencils to create their work. And so does Dalton Ghetti...but rather than spreading the graphite all over a piece of paper, he slowly etches it away, until a tiny sculpture remains.
Some of Dalton's work can take as long as two-and-a-half years, and understandably so.
More photos after the jump!
IKEA made have ruled out plastic bags three years ago, but haven't quite figured out a clever reuse for the pencils, tape measures, and store map/aisle-bin lists that sit at the bottom of each escalator.
For that, we'll have to turn to Dutch designer Judith Delleman, who recreate an old IKEA chair using 500 tiny IKEA pencils. "As a second year student of interior design she used over 500 Ikea pencils to redesign an old Ikea chair. The seat and back she carefully outfitted with leather upholstery. “The future is in the reusing of materials” she claims and “the gold and black paint I used can give ordinary materials a luxurious look and
What do four pencils, tape, ball point pen, rubber bands, and a bamboo skewer equal? An obligatory safety warning, that's what.
Actually, it equals a mini-crossbow built from office supplies that COMES with an obligatory safety warning, which is simply this: don't be an idiot. Now to the fun part.
Straight from John Austin's Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare, this office supply crossbow seriously looks like something that can actually stand up to some repeated (safe!) firings.