We all need a little inspiration. When you make something, you are producing output: a physical object or idea that draws on your inner well of creativity. And just like any set of reserves, overtapping the well can leave you with diminished resources. When that happens, the single best way to restock your inspiration stores is to simply experience other people being creative. Books are great, and listening to your favorite music is always energizing, but sometimes, the best thing to do is simply watch other people make stuff. Like, on an episode of TV.
Sure, there's an entire channel that's supposedly about "DIY"ing, but mostly, it's about the relationship drama between people doing home improvement projects. So, I thought I'd share some of my go-to series for when I'm looking for a little inspiration.
Over the weekend, I was working in the garage when I found myself in a familiar position. I needed to transfer a pencil line from one face of a piece of stock to the one around its corner. Sounds simple enough to do with a square, but I've had this problem before. Sighting the line isn't accurate enough, and a traditional try or combination square isn't of much help here. Here's why:
Sure, every once in a while, you choose to intentionally drill a hole at a specific angle. Perhaps your compound joinery demands it, or you're going for a stylish, contemporary look on a project.
But most of the holes we drill — I'd hazard to say a good 99% of them — are intended to be drilled straight on, perfectly perpendicular to the surface. You can do this precisely with a drill press, but many makers don't have one, and they require specific set up and work that's small enough to be placed on the table.
So that leaves the cordless drill. A tool that, when balanced on the tip of a drill bit, can be easily canted and slanted off square in every single direction, especially when you're putting force behind it.
But! The task is not impossible. Yes, DIYers, you can drill a perfect 90° hole with a cordless drill. Here's how it's done.
Unless you're a millionaire, I always recommend going with used hand tools when getting started in woodworking. (Though, full disclosure, no millionaires have yet to ask my advice.) Vintage tools are plentiful, much less expensive, and depending on their age, usually a better, longer-lasting tool than you can buy at your local big box store. And the best part? Antique tools are more likely to be made in the USA or Europe, where they've been crafted from higher quality steels than modern tools from the home improvement center.
Over the weekend, I found this nice, broad 1 1/2" chisel at a favorite antique mall, with a mere $7.50 on the price tag hanging from the handle. It was in mostly great condition. The top and back had been coarsely ground a few times, and the bevel wasn't square to the sides, but the steel was in beautiful shape and the handle looks like it's never been pounded on.
I love a tool whose common name indicates its purpose. Oh, what's a screwdriver do? A citrus squeezer? How about a box cutter? The function is all right there in the name.
In many ways, a speed square falls right into the category. It tells helps you determine "square" – that is, when one edge or line is exactly 90° to another – and it helps you do it quickly. Done. Right? Wrong.
I've wandered through the Etsy offerings in the past, sometimes for inspiration, sometimes because something interesting has caught my eye. But lately, more and more great ideas are popping up on the handmade-centric site, and they're amazing. Here's a collection of Etsy's wooden offerings that are really worth highlighting.
Long live the print magazine. Seriously. We know the entire publishing industry is in a bit of flux, but we'll do everything we can to help them pull through. Because as far as a casual reading experience goes, the magazine format is just about perfect.
Of course, there's that other issue of being a subscriber: the inevitable mass of to-be-read copies. Whether the always-cited-and-lamented stacks of The New Yorker or a random selection of last month's issues you just haven't gotten around to yet, being a subscriber means there's always pile in your house somewhere.
With all music heading to online streaming, I tend to buy my favorite albums on vinyl so I can cherish them for years to come. As my collection grows my need for space grows with it. So I had to quickly find a solution. Here's a simple project to create some stacking cubes that will hold records, books and more!
It's finally done. My first major step on my journey to have less stuff is complete. My shop was cluttered, inefficient, and completely out of hand; and now I'm back in control of my space. Well, mostly. Here's what I've learned from the first 30 days of purging my shop.
This post is sponsored by the DIYZ® app.
A good sturdy workbench is one of the simplest, most useful projects any woodworker can embark upon. In fact, it's probably the first project every woodworker should embark up. And yet it tends to go by the wayside. You see people building remarkably complicated pieces on rickety, unimpressive workbenches.
There's a saying about the cobbler's shoes that goes here but I can't figure out if it works or not. Anyway, the point is, having a rock-solid work surface on which to build other things is really important. And you can make a great workbench without spending too much money or much 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!
Earlier this year, I agreed to complete a woodworking project for my wife. Actually, I offered and volunteered myself to do it. She has a particular storage need in her office, and because of the weird layout, access issues, scale, etc, it's not something that exists anywhere. It has to be custom built, and installed in the space.
The truth is, I've been avoiding it. It's a big project, and it was easy to move to the bottom of the project list when it was the height of summer. We had houseguests coming in and out of our home, and the days were long and full of activity.
But now, that season is over, and it's time to start building. I realized this week why I've been putting it off: I'm afraid. It's beyond my skill level, and requires a lot of moving parts that need to line up, just so. In any other situation, this wouldn't be something I'd agree to do, because it's too big of a leap; I need to learn to do too many new skills inside the same project.
There are a couple standard household items where their never seems to be a reasonably attractive option. Tissue boxes are a big one; there, it's always about choosing the least of the evils. I'd also throw paper towel roll holders in that category. Head into any big box or discount store, and you'll be hard pressed to find anything that matches a style other than "I buy all my home decor items at big box discount stores."
So, in that case: you should make one instead.
The random-orbit sander is one of the first tools any maker or DIYer should own. In fact, I can't think of another powered tool that I use more, on nearly every project involving wood. The design is simple, and right there in the name - they move, in a random circular pattern, to sand wood.
A huge improvement over its predecessor, the pad or orbital sander, these guys use special shaped sandpaper disc to get your project smooth fast and with minimum swirl marks. Well, at least faster than sanding by hand, and with much less energy. But with great power comes great...opportunity to mess things up. These wondertools work, but there are
This post is sponsored by the DIYZ® app.
Composting. Maybe you've heard of it? It's kind of a thing. It's no longer the sole purview of hippies, weirdos, and 7th-grade science teachers Composting has gone mainstream, and that's a good thing. Don't worry, we're sure your 7th grade science teacher will find another weird hobby to call their own.
Anyway, if you've been looking to get into composting, but don't love the look of boring, plastic composting bins, then this is the post for you. We're going to make an elegant, functional, totally-not-weird-looking compost bin. And we're going to have fun doing it! Pay attention, because at
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!
Have you ever had to cook dinner at a friend's kitchen only to find out they don't even own a cutting board? Not only have I had that happen for me, I've noticed this kind of thing happening in my friend's workshops. It's easy to get caught up in making things and overlook some essential tools that can really help you get things done right. I thought I'd share a few tools I use almost every time I work on a new project. Some of these are almost laughable, but I guarantee some of you are going to read through these 6 tools and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, I need one of those."