In need of a hands-on hobby
May 30, 2016 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm in search of a hands-on hobby/skill to learn and preoccupy myself with.

I'll start off by saying I'm not very artistic/musical/creative. I'm interested in something a little more mechanical, if that's the right word. I'm for whatever reason not interested in knitting or anything in that vein. I'm also not interested in cars.

I think I'd be interested in woodworking type stuff, but I'm looking for something more small-scale, doesn't require big tools.

Lock-picking sounds pretty interesting and is something I'll delve into pretty soon. What else might I enjoy?
posted by atinna to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Building models?
posted by falsedmitri at 8:36 PM on May 30, 2016

Make a radio, or a watch, or a bunch of other stuff.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:43 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whittling is small-scale woodworking. Also, soapstone carving.
posted by lizbunny at 8:45 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

How about teaching yourself to use Sketch Up which has a free version available. Model your home in 3D. Or create furniture designs or dog houses or something. Bonus because the results are just data, easy to store, also 3D modeling is usually a useful skill to have.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:46 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dollhouses are strangely satisfying. They are generally constructed from kits, but I make almost all of my furniture. All you really need is a dremel.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:47 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

What about just working on jigsaw puzzles?
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2016

You could try adult coloring. I like the simplistic books, colored pencils, shading work.
posted by Kalmya at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2016

You can buy counted cross stitch kits just about anywhere. It doesn't take any creativity at all.
posted by myselfasme at 9:07 PM on May 30, 2016

posted by embrangled at 9:22 PM on May 30, 2016

If you like the idea of models, but not the idea of the expense or the permanence of the results, may I suggest paper models? Lots of fun things to make, all you need is access to a printer, an x-acto knife, and some glue, and when you run out of space and want to make something new, the old models can simply be recycled.
posted by darchildre at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Or join your local bicycle co-op and learn to fix bikes.
posted by embrangled at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Kinetic wire sculptures are fun (think Alaxander Calder) you don't need much other than some wire and some round nose pliers and a wire cutter.
posted by boilermonster at 9:41 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can do a lot of woodworking with small hand tools with the added benefit that because it is much quieter than using power tools you can even do it at night without disturbing others.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:46 PM on May 30, 2016

Another model building suggestion: Metal Earth. They're pre-stamped, pre-cut pieces of metal designed similarly to paper models. You punch them out and assemble them with tweezers and needlenose pliers.
posted by henuani at 10:11 PM on May 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mechanical without large tools? Check out these video and see if anything piques your interest.
posted by dws at 10:16 PM on May 30, 2016

Pyrography. Pyrography.

Wooden ring making.
posted by Mitheral at 10:20 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

You mentioned woodworking, but that you want something smaller scale - I do jewelry metalsmithing, and a lot of it is very similar to woodworking. It's cutting things out, fitting things together and figuring out how to join them (there are cold connections, and there are connections that involve fire. Yay, fire!) You get to hammer on things, play with pliers and all kinds of neat tools, and if you mess up, to a large extent you can start over. You could also do chain maille. There are books and magazines full of projects available - you can make all kinds of cool stuff. Depending on how advanced you want to get, you can get by with a few simple hand tools; or you can add a Dremel tool, or a torch; or you can go all out and set up a whole shop, with grinding wheels and a rolling mill.

If this is something that would interest you, I can point you to some resources to get started.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:07 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Needle felting is incredibly cathartic. You just get incredibly stabbity with some wool and a small needle, and you can create some awesome gifts. You can get started in needle felting really cheap.

Rock/mineral collecting. There are some great groups on Facebook. If you're interested in beauty and science/geology it's a fun hobby! Plus, the people are so nice and eager to help out beginners.


Primitive skills. Go ahead, start a fire with a bow drill. It's almost a spiritual experience. Or get a piece of leather and make some moccasins. Set up a solar still. Learn how to forage. Learn how to set up a figure-4 trap or how to build a debris hut.

Home brewing if you like beer.

A cutting machine like the Silhouette is a lot of fun. Engineer paper cutouts on your computer, and then have the machine cut them out in paper or vinyl. You can also have the machine sketch or engrave the design. You can make everything from seed packets to t-shirts.
posted by Ostara at 11:18 PM on May 30, 2016

posted by Homer42 at 3:14 AM on May 31, 2016

How about building a ship in a bottle.
posted by chasles at 4:28 AM on May 31, 2016

I will second jewelry making, and also mention the thing that has taken me away from my bench of late: war gaming miniatures.

You get the assembly, and the painting, but also (for good games) a universe of lore to dive into, and lots of strategic thinking.

Then, there's the actual game play, which can be fun with a small group of friends or you can get involved with the larger community in your local area.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:13 AM on May 31, 2016

If you are interested in papercraft, you want to know about Rob Ives.

I am really enjoying the book Paint By Sticker right now as a way to keep my hands occupied while I watch movies.
posted by not that girl at 6:02 AM on May 31, 2016

Chip carving is woodworking on a smaller scale. I'm learning how to do it now. This website by Lora Irish is great for all kinds of carving; scroll down for chip carving. She is also a great resource on wood burning which is also really enjoyable and easier than it looks to start out, but you do have to keep in mind the smoke factor, which is why I recommend the chip carving more as it's much more portable.
posted by jenjenc at 6:19 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you like cycling at all? Fixing bicycles is quite satisfying.
posted by kjs4 at 6:27 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll second (or third?) fixing bikes. I bought a beater off Craigslist, a few tools, a book, and stripped down and rebuilt a mountain bike. Very satisfying, very educational, and I ended up with a really nice bike in the end. Nothing about it was very difficult.

Model building is fun and everything you need to do it can fit in a shoe box. You can build plastic kits, scratch build with sheet styrene, or a combination of the two.

Do you fish? I'm told fly tying is fun. I know nothing about it though.

You can pick up a set of Lego Mindstorms or Technique and build some amazing mechanical things.
posted by bondcliff at 6:56 AM on May 31, 2016

I've taken up electronics. Building electronics kits, repairing vintage computers (ancient Macintoshes are a lot of fun), that sort of thing. I find soldering and repairing things relaxing, and it is quite rewarding when they finally work.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:32 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about origami?
posted by the_blizz at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fine if you don't want to knit (though I can't fathom it because knitting is the best thing evah) but what about spinning? Sure, you can do the whole spinning wheel thing, but you can also do it with a small, low tech, drop spindle.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:53 AM on May 31, 2016

I was thinking about this same thing recently. I want to be able to tinker with something mechanical in a way that doesn't involve power tools (which I love, but which aren't relaxing) or electrical engineering. This is going to sound really, really boring, but what I came up with was watch repair. This site has a ton of blog posts and videos. I bought a lot of about 50 watches in various states of disrepair on eBay for $19. My plan is to learn on the cheapo watches until I have enough skill to work on the name brands, fix 'em and clean 'em, and then sell them again. You get to use cool, specialty tools and there's no risk of burning yourself or losing a digit. Plus, timekeeping pieces are mysterious, so that's cool.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:28 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

LEGO architectural models
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:46 PM on May 31, 2016

You don't indicate if you are into computers at all. If you are, you might think of getting a 3D printer which is a cool way of making stuff.

You also might be interested in learning about the Maker Culture. Check out for examples of people making stuff.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:42 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not artistic, musical, or creative, but mechanical?

Butchering, the manliest hobby around.

Maybe consider chopping trees as well. Chainsaw or axe, either is fine.
posted by BeaverTerror at 5:01 AM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

In case this is at all up your alley, I was browsing subscription boxes the other day and came across one I could see my family loving: the New Hobby Box. Every month, it's something new: lockpicking, needle felting, calligraphy, building a radio. It seems like a very fun way to sample a bunch of different stuff.
posted by not that girl at 1:36 AM on June 4, 2016

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