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Nov 09, 2017

8 Inspiring TV Shows for Makers, Crafters, Artists, and DIYers

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.   

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Nov 06, 2017

Try This Simple Trick Anytime You're Laying Out Cuts or Marks on Your Woodworking Projects

created at: 11/12/2015

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:    

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Oct 31, 2017

How to Drill a Perfectly Straight and Square Hole without a Drill Press

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.    

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Oct 30, 2017

How to Restore a Vintage Chisel

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.    

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Oct 24, 2017

ManMade Essential Toolbox: Why Every Person Should Own a Speed Square

created at: 02/03/2015
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. 

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Oct 04, 2017

Fact: This Early 20th Century Swedish Tool Chest is Super Cool

Get ready to grab a bucket for all that drool...   

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Oct 02, 2017

Minimalist DIY: Finishing Up My 30-Day Workshop Purge

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.   

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Oct 02, 2017

How to Build a Sturdy Workbench in a Single Day

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

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Sep 28, 2017

How to: Make a Simple Wooden Smartphone Speaker

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!

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Sep 21, 2017

How to: The Easy Way to Remove Pencil Marks from Your Woodworking Projects

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.

created at: 07/19/2016

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?   

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Sep 19, 2017

How to: Build a Bike Repair Stand for $30 in Hardware Store Parts

Bikes have moving parts...it's precisely what they're designed to do. And things with moving parts need maintenance to keep them moving smoothly. And since a bike's very design is to move forward as its parts move, you either need to a) get your bikes wheels off the ground while maintaining access to gear shifts and break levers and b) grow two more arms and hands.   

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Sep 18, 2017

When I Make Something For You, I Am Offering You My Humanity

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. 

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Sep 15, 2017

How to: Stay Clean and Organized During DIY and Craft Projects

This weekend, I made a mess. A cover-the-entire-room-in-tiny-little-scraps-of-paper and a get-out-every-marker-and-cutting-tool kinda mess. It's still on the floor, on my office chair, on the main work table, on the computer desk, on my cutting mat, and its trail has seeped into the hallway. See, I've always been the kinda of maker that gets all the requisite tools and materials out

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Sep 14, 2017

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid Whenever You Use a Random-Orbit Sander

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

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Sep 12, 2017

How to Build a French Cleat Organizing System for Your Workshop

created at: 08/27/2015 A well organized shop is a productive shop. But we all know that as our skills and interests grow and change and our projects vary, its nice to be able to switch out grab-able tools and organization systems to meet the needs of what we're currently working on.   

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Sep 08, 2017

How to Make a Rustic Phone Charging Stand from a Slab of Hardwood

DIY Wood slab phone charger dock

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!       

DIYZ® is THE

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Aug 24, 2017

6 Simple Tools Every DIYer Needs

created at: 11/16/2014

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."    

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Aug 23, 2017

Shop Update: Rehabbing & Fixing Up My New 8" Delta Jointer

For the last couple of years, I've been mostly set on woodworking tools. I've been collecting my large, stationary machines for nearly ten years now, and although I do plan to upgrade a few of them, I've been able to accomplish most of what I've set out to do with a little creativity and patience.

The one standard machine that's been missing from my shop is: the jointer. I knew I didn't want to buy a tiny benchtop machine, or even a too-small 6" model. I told myself I'd wait until I was in my "forever" shop, then get the machine I wanted; one I could use for the rest of my life.

Once we bought our house last year, I started a Craigslist alert, and painfully watched every listing from ubiqituous Harbor Freight tools to overpriced secondhand things from people who have no idea that what things are actually worth.

Over the last eighteen months, only a few 8" models even came up for sale. The woodworking community in my town snatched them up as soon as they were listed, and so I waited. And waited.

And then - enter this Delta DJ20. Built in the 80s when machines were machines. Complete with parallelogram beds, dead flat and coplaner tables, and an awesome fence, this was being offered at less than the price than the new Grizzly it's based on, plus no shipping, no assembly or degreasing, and it came with a mobile base.

I made my offer, went to check it out, and - boom! - I'm now the owner of a vintage 8" Delta jointer.    

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Aug 15, 2017

Shop Skills: How to Care For Your Cast Iron Table Tops

If you're like me, the cast iron in your shop sits atop the most prized tools you have. Those tops are solid, durable, stay dead flat, and make working wood just a bit easier. But to keep them at their best takes a bit of routine work, fending off rust and staining doesn't take much but make sure you do it. Here's how.  

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Aug 14, 2017

(How I Totally Screwed Up) Trimming Out My Final Shop Window

When I built out my basement shop space last fall/winter, there remained a couple of unfinished spots that I knew I'd need to deal with. Case in point: this obscure glass window. (This half of the shop was intended to be a bathroom, and this would have sat right over the tub.)

Last week, I got a new, very large, very heavy stationary woodworking machine (more on that soon), which I'd planned to store right along this wall. So, I figured if I didn't trim it out now, I'd never do it, and it'd look exactly the same in twenty years. 

So, I got to work. And it was kind of a disaster.    

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