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.
We're in the world of paperless resources, so having a collection of actual books is a bit of a forgotten passion. But there's something special about a few key reference manuals, inspirational resources, and good ol' fashioned nostalgia that I just love. Keeping them close at hand but neatly organized can be a bit of a challenge in the home shop. That's where a set of simple bookends can come in handy.
I wanted to make a set of bookends that stood out but felt at home in the shop. That's why this simple, clean design is such a great fit. A set of squares set me back about $15
A few years ago I was driving to a lunch meeting with a publisher for a book project and the conversation turned to old stuff making a comeback. I took her by surprise when I mentioned handkerchiefs, and even more so when I produced one from my back pocket. I had never really thought much of it, because carrying handkerchiefs is my way of classing up a serious problem with allergies, where my sinuses go DEFCON 1 and launch sneezing attacks at a moment's notice. (Like my man Sneezy says... "When you gotta, you gotta.")
But I'm not the only one looking to supplement tissues with fabric. The resurgence of handkerchiefs is part of the larger picture of kids born in the 80's reaching back into Grandpa's closet and workshop for a feeling of concreteness and authenticity. Regardless of your position on reaching for retro, I'd argue that the handkerchief, far from being a relic relegated to nostalgic millennials, is a useful tool... and not just for catching sneezes.
Here's a list of some of the things you can use handkerchiefs for in your everyday life.
The power of fermentation: instead of fighting off microbes, you invite the right kind to your party. It doesn't take a lot of culinary know-how to acknowledge that certain fermented foods get better the longer they ferment, like wines and cheeses. The more sourdough starter ages, the more complex its flavors become. Then you've got your fermentation standards like pickles, dairy products like kefir, soy-based miso and natto, and even Russia's beet-based kvass.
But did you know that occasionally tea gets invited to the bacillus party? Welcome to the world of pu-ehr!
Most of us get into woodworking from a practical point of view: we need to work on something around the house, so we head to the home center and get tools to break down dimensional lumber and bang it back together. So you upgrade from a circular saw to a compound miter saw, and maybe even get yourself a pocket hole jig so you can hide your hardware from sight.
And then, as it inevitably happens, something changes in your point of view. You're now longer just doing "home improvement" or "building things"... you're now: a woodworker.
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
Look. We love a solid, affordable whisk(e)y roundup. We've certainly written our share on ManMade: see here, here, here, and here. But there are times in life where "good enough" isn't... those times where you're really to spend a little more to experience something seriously amazing.
I’ve technically lived in five cities so far if we include my college town (Minneapolis, New Haven, London, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles). And I’ve come to realize that as a creature of habit I eventually start frequenting a couple different venues that all have similar things in common. I think every man should have a couple of these. Let me explain…
Some days, I wish I just had to wear a suit to work. I probably don’t actually mean that, and I’m sure you true 9-5ers would laugh at the possibility of giving up working in sweatpants for wingtips. A hardhat and steel-toed boots would work just as well. See, I'm interested in the ease of it. "Oh, I'm at work. Here's my work uniform." Instead, on any given day, I could be several different diverse work environments, both indoors and out, wet and dry spaces, with temperature fluctuations of upwards to thirty-five or forty degrees. 30° F when I leave in the morning, and 65° by 3pm.
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
I spent some time last week making a few DIY journals, and it made me think a bit about why I always have a stack of them filling my shelf. After looking through a few in the pile, I decided yes, they're definitely worth the effort. Here are a few reasons why.
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.
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.
What clothing item has something in common with freelance warriors, the Rat Pack, and a famous scientist from a beloved 1990's kid's show? Yep, you're staring at it: the bow tie.
Let's take a few minutes to dive into the fascinating world of this one-of-a-kind accessory.
I am a committed non-cuff-buttoner. I'll do it when I wear a jacket or a sweater atop a shirt, but if it's just me an a button down (oh, and pants), then my sleeves are rolled up 99% of the time. Sure, it makes for a less formal look, but really, it's more practical. I'm a doer, and my hands are constantly doing stuff, and keeping my sleeves out of the way means they won't end up in the garden soil, dishwasher, bike grease, spinning table saw blades, or whatever else I'm digging into that day.
Does the tool make the man, or does the man make the tool? Like most things in life, the answer is somewhere in the middle. You need to know how to properly operate and care for your tools, but the right tool/jig can make or break your project.
Of course, I'm just an active hobbyist, and my tools reflect that, BUT every single one has a time and place to be used, and we've formed a deep bond over the years. Some are used a lot more frequently than others, and so here is a list of most used tools that I have in my shop...which my wife lovingly refers to as “just the garage."
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.)
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.
I'd wager that when most people first pick up a mortar and pestle, their first thought is something like, "you can't be serious!" Very rarely is there a tool that you can buy at, say, Williams-Sonoma––perched alongside the electric pepper mills and the seasonally-themed waffles irons––that has not really changed since the invention of the wheel. A gigantic, blunt mineral rod and a heavy rock bowl is, quite literally, stone age technology. And for anyone who has not yet seen the magic and serious power that this tool puts into your hands, there is an instinct to look for electrically-powered appliances that can replace it: A food
Your socks. You probably rarely think about them. They spend most of the day completely hidden. And yet, they can be the crucial ingredient that gets us through so many important moments: a brutal hike that seems to go nowhere but straight up, or a particularly harsh winter week where you feel so cold and wet you imagine you might never be able to be warm again.