Yesterday, I offered the thesis that if you're only going to learn to tie one knot, it should be the bowline: it's simple, can be easily untied, and is incredibly versatile for all sorts of situations.
And all that is true. But, it's not the "knot" I employ most often. Because the reality is, most of us don't handle rope on a daily basis. We do, however, in the age of smartphones and podcasts and the entire history of recorded music available at your fingertips, engage with another long, stringy thing that needs to be dealt with on the regular: your headphones.
Or ear buds. Or ear phones. Or whatever you call those wired transducers that deliver all that sweet, sweet audio to your brain. And because you take them with your everywhere, they regularly get knotted and tangled up in your pocket or bag.
This is completely unnecessary. Because there's a five-second "knot" that can completely eliminate this problem, and it doesn't take any longer than other storage methods. So, now, I present to you, the actual most useful knot in the world.
Podcasts. You know 'em. You listen to 'em. You're moved by them. You laugh and are entertained by them. But are you inspired by them? Do they light a fire under your butt and make you want to get into your work space as fast as possible? Do they make you want to complete your workout faster so you can get home and make stuff? Do they make you thankful for your creative bent, and the creative work of others?
Here's our thinking: podcasts, as a medium, are great accompaniment for a lot of things. There are certain podcasts you listen to on your commute, specific shows that work best for cleaning the house or cooking dinner, those to
Downtime. Or, in same cases, dead times: waiting rooms, lines, traffic, the moments in between appointments. Those places where you get nowhere quickly, but live in effective purgatory, embracing neither productivity or relaxation. To the overly ambitious (or those suffering from some form of adult ADHD), these are the times that try your soul in that special kind of slow-drip water torture way.
Sure, you could kill your dead time by scrolling through Instagram. You may even decide to do something useful with your phone, like one-liner email replies or clearing out your old voicemail. But what if you want to occasionally limit your exposure to the little blue screen that wasn’t a crucial part of human existence before 2007?
In lieu of time-killers, here are four suggestions for time-fillers that you can perform with absolutely no equipment other than your mind and your body (as well as one that requires a simple piece of string). These are especially helpful if you’re stuck in a situation where you really shouldn’t be using your phone, like stop-and-go traffic.
A few weeks ago, I declared ISOTunes the best headphones for woodworkers and DIYers. They include both audio drivers for sound and 27 dB of OHSA-compliant hearing protection from machine noises in the same package, and after spending all summer testing them out in real world situations, I can't think of a better investment to improve your shop time.
So, I'm pretty excited to share that I've collaborated with ISOTunes to give away three pairs of ISOTunes PRO headphones to ManMade readers.
Guys—I love space.
Growing up, I was always the kid with my head in the clouds (I'll admit I've been called a "space cadet" more than once) but my actual interest in the objects outside of our atmosphere didn't launch until I fulfilled my college science credits with two semesters of astronomy. It was one of my favorite classes of all time: learning about different planets and galaxies, observing the moon through powerful telescopes, and—shockingly for an artist—working the calculus of space physics. These days, I dip my toes into the pool of astronomy with a set of apps.
Read on for our top picks of best free apps for space fans!
I got this idea soon after some friends visited and forgot their charger cords for their phones. Since I had my own to use overnight, we had to fish around for other solutions. One day, in my shop I was reflecting on this dilemma when I remembered there were these new USB wall sockets that would be perfect to turn into a portable DIY charging station whenever I need it.
I've stated it before: I'm a total workshop rat. There's something about spaces where skilled work gets done that invigorates my spirit. At various points throughout my life, I've wandered into blacksmith shops—on my great uncle's farm in southern Ohio, at a permanent exhibit on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, at the dead end of a street on the outskirts of my college town in West Virginia—and each time I've quieted with reverence, among the tongs and hammers and slack tubs, as if walking in the glow of stained glass windows.
Short of actually hanging around the shop, smelling the hot metal and hearing the clank of a hammer on an anvil, I get my forge fix by following metalsmiths on Instagram. Here are thirty of ManMade's favorite accounts that we totally recommend.
When I sat down to write about typography this morning, there was so much I wanted to say that the letters on my keyboard actually sat silent for a good few minutes.
We're in a golden age for typography. Gutenberg totally exploded Europe in the 1500's when he dropped the printing-press-with-moveable-type bomb, but even then, for the next 500 years, the spread of ideas and publishing were in the hands of a collection of specialist craftsmen and the people who hired them. (After all, producing physical objects is expensive.) Then, in rolled desktop publishing in the 80's and—combining computer hardware, software that included digital type, and the ability to effectively "print" on-screen and distribute to other screens instantly via the Internet—you've effectively got a second Printing Revolution happening right now, with type squarely in the middle of it.
Typography was once a niche element, but now we're up to our ears in it. As it is with any craft that takes a lifetime to master, thoughtfulness will set you and your message apart. The craft will give back what you put into it. Using typography in design is a lot like using salt in cooking: when it's used well, it contributes to a greater whole but goes largely unnoticed; when typography calls attention to itself, it's typically been used poorly.
If you've ever been putting together a quick flyer or PowerPoint presentation and wanted to put a little more thought into your font choices, but you feel like you're shooting blindly in the dark because you're not a trained designer, we've put together a quick guide for you.
There is a new phenomenon where lonely people have finally found a voice to express their loneliness. And wouldn't you know it - they found it on the internet. Of course, the internet is not the reason we are lonely and it is not the source of loneliness, but it certainly is the vehicle that allows people to talk about how lonely they are. But it is the internet that has turned it into something universal, something memetic. (Though I spare you examples here, the internet abounds with them. You've seen them.)
Author Seth Godin, in his book We Are All Weird, argues that the Internet era has busted open the starting gate and let the tribes out: information has truly become democratized, so now it's much easier for niche interests to connect and collect. One great example of this is the MoOM, or Museum of Online Museums. Coudal Partners, a Chicago design firm who created the famous Field Notes brand of notebooks with design guru Aaron Draplin, have run the site for about 10 years, which is basically just a big list of links, and in it you'll find the full gamut of niche stuff: from major institutions' virtual presence, like Amsterdam's famous art collection at the Rijksmuseum, to the most overlooked stuff like Manhole Covers of the World, it feels like it's all here.
If you're a designer looking for visual inspiration, a novelist on the hunt for a random detail to spark a story, or a just fan of vintage eggnog labels, look no further than this treasure trove. I first discovered it way back in college and, though I did waste a lot of time combing through it, I was also able use it to do a lot of research on package design.
Read on for some of my favorites in the collection!
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.)
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.
These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.
If you're not familiar with SpaceX by now, maybe Tuesday's launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy will spark your interest. SpaceX, a private company that builds and launches rockets/spacecraft, will test-flight their most powerful rocket yet (and one of the most powerful rockets period) - the Falcon Heavy. Success or failure, it will be an awesome and potentially historical launch....
Why It's Important We Still Print Our Own Photographs...and Why You Should Be Taking More in the First Place
We live in an era when everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times. One that would have cost $500-700 a decade ago. And you can use it literally with a click of button, and chances are, you'll get a decent exposure.
So it’s easy to see our photographs as only pixels on a screen. This is why a community like Instragram works so well: it makes photography special again. When you can take a photo of anything at any time absolutely free and be able to send it up into the cloud with zero effort, editing, curating, and capturing become the new acts of care that give smartphone photos a new sense of meaning.
For me, getting into podcasts was like easing into a warm tub on a cold winter's day. At first it seemed uncomfortable and a little too much, and now I can't imagine getting out. I'm in deep. And it might be too deep if I hadn't worked out a way to take control back from the unending feeds of too many good shows. Liberation is possible when we take control of our own podcast destinies and create a program for how to listen––to make podcasts work for you, instead of sitting on your phone or computer like a homework assignment you dread to complete.
Whether you're loading up your podcatcher for the first time or are a seasoned pro, you're familiar with the mass of stuff available. The waves and waves of quality content, the extraordinary, out of the box topics, the brain-tickling, the heart-tearing, and the tear and laughter-inducing episodes that begin to fill your playlists can freeze you in your steps.
Okay... Christmas music. It has the simultaneous ability to both 1) make you feel all present and warm inside and 2) repel you as far away from any valuing of tradition and seasonal good will as possible. The good songs are good because they're classics, or because some clever band you'd already like in non-December contexts decided to take their turn at a holiday record.
But the bad songs are bad in so. many. ways. At one extreme, they're aggressive mall music that only ever appealed the most simplest of you-can-buy-happiness consumerists. At the other, they're treacly, brusk and brash melodies whose only chance of working at all is being sung by large groups of squirmy children, and you've contributed DNA to at least one of them.
But, just for the fun of it, let's see if we reclaim some of those unbearable, seasonal drudges. Are there tolerable, even enjoyable, recordings of even the most noxious of holiday tunes? Challenge accepted.
Hi, all. Chris here. I spent a bunch of time trying to research something last night, and I'm still not sure I'm any more informed than I was before I started. So, I thought I might solicit the very smart and helpful ManMade audience, and let the experts weigh in.
My household needs a new remote control. We've been using the stock one that came with our receiver, plus all the individual remotes for our streaming devices. Currently, it requires at least two of them to select a source, start a show or movie, and ride the volume. The main remote, which used to work with most features, has been slowly dying, and now it can't even select a source or change the volume. I tried opening it up and cleaning the contacts, but it didn't really make a difference. So, new remote time.
Happy Monday, ManMakers! Today, I'm super excited to share an exclusive project with you. It's an excerpt from the new book Build Stuff with Wood, which is all about making cool woodworking projects with the most basic of tools.
The book is written by Asa Christiana, the former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, and, I'm proud to say, a close friend of mine and all-around good guy. It features a variety of everyday objects you can make armed only with a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a jigsaw, plus a small palm router on one or two. There's a section on setting up a workspace, building a basic tool kit, and how to get great furniture-quality results from construction-grade tools. (Plus, a nice section on shop safety featuring a few photos of yours truly.) Plus, the intro is written by Nick Offerman, so...enough said!
Sponsored by the DIYZ® app
I love the idea of combining modern technology with natural textures. I keep my tablet in a case made from an old linen-covered notebook, and my sleek and shiny DSLR in a worn brown leather bag. So, I wanted to make a simple place to house my smartphone, while warming it up a bit. I went with the most natural thing I could think of: a big slab of forest tree.
I like this design for a DIY wooden smartphone charging station because it fits the charging cable nicely, but it isn't stuck in place, so you can remove and use it elsewhere without the stand.
Enough talk! Let's make one!