How can I keep my hands busy?
October 20, 2008 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I want a new hobby. I like to use my hands. Any suggestions?

Anything from simple origami to a full-blown woodshop, but at least the origami is cheap. I'm not looking to break the bank here. I have a guitar that I pluck every now and then, but I'm not so musically inclined. What do you like to do with your hands? Bonus points for activities that can be done during train/bus commutes.
posted by zardoz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Knitting or crocheting. I find it very relaxing, you can do it almost anywhere, and you make cool things. You can spend as little or as much money as you please.
posted by MadamM at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Polymer clay is fun. I prefer Premo Sculpey.
posted by phunniemee at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2008


I had the same problem, until I decided to learn to play guitar. Very rewarding.
posted by dawdle at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2008


Off-loom beadweaving? I have done repetitive single-colour bits on buses.
posted by kmennie at 5:20 PM on October 20, 2008


What other qualities are important to you in an activity? Helping others? Social outlet? Fine expression? Complex enough to engage your mind for years? Inexpensive? The types of people you'll meet? Not dangerous?
posted by amtho at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2008


Helping others? sure
Social outlet? actually no. just something to do by myself
Fine expression? I suppose I just want to create...something Complex enough to engage your mind for years? you betcha Inexpensive? darn tootin'
The types of people you'll meet? Not dangerous? uh..yes
posted by zardoz at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2008


Seconding knitting - it can easily be done on bus commutes, as the sock I am working on proves.
posted by Lucinda at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2008


My hands don't rest either - my solution was a Rubik's Cube. Very portable and fun. You can work it out for yourself, or use the hints/techniques from a cubing website.
posted by Paragon at 5:51 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jewelry is fun. You can do a lot with just wire wrapping stock wire with simple hand tools, and this is fairly portable. If you use recycled steel, copper or aluminum wire it's nearly free. Having a decent set of smooth or padded jeweler's pliers and files and such is handy for a lot of DUI repair in electronics and such, too.

More advanced metalworking is less portable, more expensive for tools but you can make money at it. You can even transfer the metalworking skills to do neat things like hand-build your own vacuum tubes for high end audio or such.


Lockpicking is fun, too, but often makes people uneasy. People are usually a little shocked when you show them how locks actually work. Padlocks are portable. Carrying picks in some places may get you in trouble.


Get a cheap old laptop (or x86 PDA) and play the Avernum RPGs. It might take you a few years. Or play nethack. Besides music and books a portable game is incredible for killing time on transport.


Write a book. With a pen and a notepad. Take up sketching, too.


Get a Rubik's Cube.


Play the card game Set.


Use a hacked gameboy to make music with NanoLoop and/or LSDJ. Or use a DS, or a PDA or laptop.


Play with LEGO, or magnets.
posted by loquacious at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2008


Crossword puzzles, suduko, or picross pizzles (available on DS and paper/pen platforms).

Beading, macrame, knitting/crotcheting, and friendship bracelet-ish type "weaving".
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:26 PM on October 20, 2008


You can do a lot of woodcarving with a carpenter's utility knife and some pieces of spruce/pine/fir scrap. Just always cut away from yourself.
posted by bricoleur at 6:33 PM on October 20, 2008


Calligraphy. Or just improve your handwriting in general - appearance, speed. Or teach yourself to write upside-down, backwards, with the other hand, etc. Great for commutes and other blocks of 'dead time'.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:35 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Needlepoint.
posted by JayRwv at 6:49 PM on October 20, 2008


Juggling?
posted by gwenlister at 6:55 PM on October 20, 2008


Model cars boats trains and planes.

And drawing.
posted by Fins at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2008


To clarify knitting a bit (which is what I'd recommend) is that if it's vaguely yarn shaped and semi flexible - it will knit. So don't limit yourself to yarn - there's a lot of fascinating knitting out there being done with other materials. There are books on knitting wire to make jewelry and household goods, and there are books on knitting with fabric (strips of tulle make great scrubby cloths, strips of recycled clothing make warm scarves, rugs and blankets, strips of plastic grocery bags make neat sturdy bags). Also, I know a lot of people who have learned the art of buying old sweaters at Goodwill and unraveling them for the yarn and then re-knitting them as something else. Many people will tell you that knitting is an expensive hobby, and it can be - but it doesn't _have_ to be - especially if you happen to score a complete collection of all of the sizes of needles at a yard sale/ebay/craigslist.
posted by librarianamy at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Car detailing. It's not difficult and you can turn it into a fairly profitable part-time enterprise. If I needed money and had more free time I'd do it myself - it's fun.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:10 PM on October 20, 2008


I took up woodcarving some years ago.

You can start woodcarving with a couple of chisels (a very narrow straight edge and a slightly larger straight edge) and a woodcarving mallet. My favourite thing to carve is celtic knotwork - trace a black and white design onto your wood with carbon paper and start chiseling away at the bits that aren't meant to be there any more. I had read some stuff online about it but the best thing was just to try it and work it out.

Cheap offcuts of timber that you can dig out of a discard bin at a lumber yard are you'll need, unless you're working on something special. Even cheap pine is nice to carve.

It's not just rewarding, it also taught me patience. If you hurry, you end up doing damage to your work. It also taught me that you can do almost anything if you spend enough time on it - one small piece might take over 12 hours of work but it looks incredible.
posted by tomble at 9:34 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and sewing is also fun! I bought a sewing machine, took a couple of classes (and was the only guy in both of them). It was great to learn how it's done. I don't do much sewing but I do enjoy having the knowledge, and the ability to use the machine comes in handy for clothing repair and alteration.
posted by tomble at 9:38 PM on October 20, 2008


I know you mentioned this in your question, but origami is my working-with-hands habit. Specifically, modular geometric origami with post-it notes. Using post-its makes it cheap, easy, and more portable, and doesn't affect most modules much. (Also, I have a pretty much unlimited supply of free post-its.) I usually use the PHiZZ unit to construct interesting things. I'm currently figuring out buckytube configurations. It's fun.
If you want more information and/or photos, memail me.
posted by mismatched at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


As someone mentioned before, Set. Making models and painting them. Origami (if you have Netflix you can keep busy while watching).

Oh, and papercraft. There's tons of websites where you can download and print out templates. I like this one (sorry it's in Chinese, but there's sssooo much stuff there).
posted by curagea at 11:15 PM on October 20, 2008


Soapstone carving.
posted by mandal at 1:12 AM on October 21, 2008


So I sat down to do the crossword: pen spinning.
posted by mandal at 3:53 AM on October 21, 2008


Origami, specifically origami boxes and other useful items.
posted by ostranenie at 4:28 AM on October 21, 2008


scrimshaw. Combines the precision of drawing with the relative permanence of sculpture. Very tiny and extremely limited tool set required. Portable. Unique.
posted by FauxScot at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2008


Cross-stitch! I always recommend Subversive Cross-Stitch for beginners with a good sense of humor. Their kits are inexpensive. I prefer cross-stitching to needlepointing because a) it's cheaper and b) you can customize patterns or even make your own!
posted by radioamy at 9:41 AM on October 21, 2008


Cooking
posted by AceRock at 12:46 PM on October 21, 2008


Thank you to all--everyone gave a useful answer. I appreciate it!
posted by zardoz at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2008


I vote for coin tricks.
posted by Overzealous at 6:28 PM on October 22, 2008


Chiming in a bit late on this one but one thing i like to do with my restless hands is run through patterns on my fingers by tapping my thumb on each finger eg from pinky to index and back and then making the patterns more complex, doing different patterns on each hand and so on. this calms me down and apparently this sort of thing is good for the brain and (obviously) your dexterity, my guitar playing has improved as a result. also you dont need any equipment and its relatively unobtrusive
posted by chelegonian at 3:56 PM on November 9, 2008


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