Do you have any good DIY resources
December 22, 2008 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend some alternatives to Make magazine/blog without the social baggage and less emphasis on blinktrons and noisetrons?

In the craft & DIY spectrum I'm very much a practical solutions for practical problems person*. I don't want to be part of a culture or movement. I don't want to fill my house with bare wires and raw bits of 2x4. And I've never seen anything that needed to blink more or make more noises.

On the other hand I have skill working with all kinds of materials, I can tackle medium difficulty electronics projects, cook, bake, sew and program a computer, and I'm generally of the opinion it's not a good project unless I get burned and/or cut. I don't want to save the planet or make a statement, but I just a lot of satisfaction from making something that I can use.

Make magazine is too haphazard and their agenda makes me weary, Craft magazine is too ribbons and lace. Instructables is on my list and slowly increasing in quality. ReadyMade is...okay. Although not a DIY blog, I get a lot of inspiration from Notcot.

What are the other web sites, blogs, magazines, organizations, and other resources that are going to inspire me? What are the ones that inspire you?

*Try saying that five times fast.
posted by Ookseer to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 109 users marked this as a favorite
Hacked Gadgets
Hack A Day
Tool Monger
Linux Devices
Black Bag
Cool Tools

I tend to skew towards electronics...
posted by lalas at 3:06 PM on December 22, 2008

posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:07 PM on December 22, 2008

posted by caddis at 5:01 PM on December 22, 2008

I'll second a vote for some of the ones already mentioned: Hack a Day especially.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean when you say social baggage?
posted by JFitzpatrick at 5:11 PM on December 22, 2008

By Craft Magazine, do you mean the Craft that is associated with Make? I find Craft to be a lot more appealing and interesting (to someone of my tastes) than Make.
posted by fructose at 5:47 PM on December 22, 2008

Out of curiosity, what do you mean when you say social baggage?

I would imagine this refers to the intersection of the Free Culture crowd with the Make crowd. Many of them seem to think that, by making an LED blinkenlights, they're sticking it to the man. While I've seen some truly subversive projects, the majority of them aren't--and the ones that are tend to be political statements in and of themselves (LED throwies, for instance). I personally like the politics, but I can understand how it would grow wearisome.
posted by Netzapper at 5:50 PM on December 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the links so far. Many of the names are familiar, but someone fell out of my brain.

Netzapper pretty much nailed the "social baggage" question. There's more self righteous 'makers will save the world through civil disobedience, goofing around with steampunk, and some recycling' thank I like. They keep most of it out of the magazine, and you do need to have an unnatural passion for it to publish a magazine on any subject, but I'm weary of it. And it has way way way to many examples of blinky bloopy things in Altoids tins. They solve no problems I've ever had except, maybe, not being annoyed enough.

There's some good stuff posted at the links above. Keep 'em coming!
posted by Ookseer at 6:24 PM on December 22, 2008

Not exactly current magazines but have you tried Google Book search?
They have back issues galore of mags like popular science/mechanics with fun detailed projects like building your own canvas canoe from 1939. Its funny, the current ones are all gadget reviews, but the old ones actually had practical projects you could build yourself.
Just make sure to do an advanced search and set it to only full view results.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 7:54 PM on December 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Home Power: making its own power since the makers were in diapers.
posted by scruss at 7:57 PM on December 22, 2008

Have you actually bought the magazines as opposed to reading the blog? I find the Make Magazine itself to be pretty light on the ol' ideology and heavy on projects. You might find that several of the magazines fit your criteria. Regardless, I second instructables.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:18 PM on December 22, 2008

Oopsie, my linke to Craftster should have linked here. This page has some awesome feats of non-politicized crafting- the Statler & Waldorf heads and the Bean Obama are particularly great.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:56 PM on December 22, 2008

Well, if the new era blinkenRevolutionary hobbyist electronics aren't your style, there's always HAM Radio. It's a vastly different, and much older culture: mandatory government licensing, and they solve the specific problem of communication across long distances in the name of emergency. A former roommate was into HAM and not what I'd call a Californian hippie.

Of course, there are some problems with HAM if you get super adventurous: it's a public utility wavelength, so you can't encrypt anything. And you're subject to obsenity broadcasting laws. So basically, don't mix HAM and the internet.

If you'd like I can ask him for DIY HAM resources, but you're probably better off starting out studying for licensing exams and meeting the local HAM community you'd be building equipment to interface with.
posted by pwnguin at 10:49 PM on December 22, 2008

Is Family Handyman too traditional? They have lots of projects, though a bit heavy on carpentry. Some are easy, some are more complex, but there's lots of stuff in there. And all are practical (workbench ideas, garage storage, shed, how to paint walls, how to wire xyz, etc).
posted by evening at 5:40 AM on December 23, 2008

Start checking out the craft/electronic sections of your best local library. They usually have a wide variety of stuff, except, unlike Make, it'll probably be geared towards one specific type of craft, but most of the stuff will be agenda free. With a little research, you'll probably find some authors that explain things in the most palatable way and then start seeking them out (like I prefer Charles Hayward books for woodworking).

If you have an interest in metalworking, old electronics, steam engines, etc. Check out Lindsay Books. They offer everything from how to build your metal shop from the foundry up, to reprints of classic electronics books.
posted by drezdn at 6:31 AM on December 23, 2008

What about 'Fine Woodworking' and 'Fine Homebuilding' magazines, both from Taunton Press? They may have some other titles as well...

Or you could try using eBay or your local library to get your hands on some old copies (late 60s, early 70s) of the Whole Earth Catalog, for inspiration.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2008

If you want to try and go the other way (more coherent social baggage) look at the zine scene. It's a more dingy crowd that's more focused on cheap or free alternatives to expensive things, so it's all very practical. I would recommend the book Making Stuff and Doing Things which is a compilation of a bunch of different projects. Most zinesters are political, but not in the same way most Makers are. Zinesters' projects are part of a frugal lifestyle, and Makers' projects are more of a hobby.

In general, if you're looking for inspiration, then you're going to have to deal with inspired people, even those inspired to the point of obsession.
posted by symbollocks at 10:12 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's a very similar crowd but it is another source, Nuts and Volts. I found a bundle of years and years of issues on P2P.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:20 PM on December 23, 2008

posted by neuron at 8:08 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by sebastienbailard at 9:27 AM on December 28, 2008

hi, some disclosure off the bat -- i'm senior editor of MAKE magazine, i founded hack-a-day and i've helped from the start, i'm contributing editor to popular science, i was the how-to editor at --

i'm morbidly curious, what do you mean by social baggage with MAKE? we're inclusive to a fault i suppose, a lot of people like to do LED project or circuit bending, maybe it's not your cup of tea, but i wouldn't call it social baggage, that seems pretty mean to me nad to the people who like to make things. surely it's possible to define what you're looking for without spanking someone else?

we're not a wood-working magazine, we have stuff like that, but there are better resources for framing out a house or doing plumbing, we cover those a lot resources in print, online, on video and in our new public television show.

i also don't know what you mean by "haphazard and their agenda makes me weary" -- what's our agenda? i'm pretty sure the only thing we've tried to do is inspire the next generation of scientists, artists, tinkerers and engineers to help solve the challenges we're all currently faced. but i'm curious what you think our agenda is.

i'm here in the comments, so i might be able to help answer any questions you have (or anyone else) -- we're certainly not the only source of how-to and DIY on the web, no way - that's why we obsessively link to everyone else, if you look at our site we send everyone away as opposed to trying to keep them in one place.

so to help with your request, here are my favorite sites in the DIY space... some only cover DIY projects, but they inspire me to build more things. i have a set of time life home improvement books, a book from the 30's called "making anything" maybe that's something to check out on ebay or amazon's used book section... (and wired's how-to / wiki section)
posted by philliptorrone at 9:12 PM on January 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for all the great links. It's given me a lot of inspiration and food for thought.

More clarification on the "social baggage" comment:

It's a few things. First, for me "making" is pretty much synonymous with "doing". So any
sensationalizing of the concept ("Maker Culture", "Maker Movement", etc) seems a bit ludicrous in the same way that one might mock "Breathing Culture" or a "Sleeping When It's Dark Movement".

Secondly I feel some hypocrisy from the blog posts, or at least a deeply divided message. I think it started with throwies. They are an attractive doohickey. They're unusual, ingenious, simple, and cheap. (All very cool) But the point of making a few dozen throwies was, in short, vandalism. (Very
uncool. Even it's temporary.) Then the TV-B Gone, which I totally understand (I completely despise TV's in public places. And for the most part even in private ones.) but again, it's vandalism. It's disrespect for other people's property. Then the posts about the guy who found a way to surreptitiously put images in other people's tourist photos. More vandalism and trampling over public spaces. All of this is cool technology and clever bits of DIY, but all of it was intended to cause trouble with other peoples property. Okay, I'll just overlook that, it's just a think they do.

Except one day I read the Maker's Manifesto subtitle: "If you can't open it you don't own it", certainly a definitive statement about ownership and property. So when I read posts with a message of disrespect for property, then a provocatively titled "manifesto" that takes pride and ownership of one's own property, it feels hypocritical, and undermines the authority of the publication.

Thirdly there are the "raise awareness" posts that do nothing to solve a problem. For example this E-waste sculpture is a nice bit of art, but it's doesn't take on the problem like
this solar powered lawn mower does. The former tells me e-waste is bad but doesn't do anything to address the problem. The latter project is an excellent solution to a problem that can teach me something and inspire me to apply the same concepts to a problem in my own life. It's generative. For a while there were quite a lot of "raising awareness" posts, and I didn't feel they added anything and in fact the hint of activism in these type of posts put me off. I don't want to join a movement, rebel, or become an activist. In fact quite the opposite, I just want to learn a skill or solve a problem.

But I haven't seen any of this in the magazine or video, and I've found more of interest in the blog in the past couple months. Make's overall branding and experience is refreshing, open and inviting. You guys have a passion and enthusiasm that is wonderful and rarely intimidating. If I had to give some general constructive criticism it would be that I'd like to see more addressing of problems and problem solving over kits and purely
recreational projects. (More of this, this and this, less of this and this Even if the latter is really cool.)

A recent post/project like the penny vs paperclip heatsink was almost perfect. Not only was it clever, simple and useful, but it also contained experimental evidence to show which was better and why. It wasn't just "I did this" but it was "I tried these things and here were the results." Excellent!
posted by Ookseer at 5:49 PM on January 21, 2009

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