Make your own Genie Lamp

I don’t know about you, but when I read something like “One of the most interesting novelties that the home craftsman can make in his leisure moments is an electric ‘Aladdin’s lamp,'” I feel obligated to make a lamp. This is one of the earliest Popular Mechanics projects we’ve done so far, coming in from the June 1926 issue.  Even if you don’t have a mantle to put it on (as the article suggests) it makes a great nightlight, especially for kids who dream of being a princess/genie/street urchin. Continue reading

Telephone Note Pad from “New” Plastic in 1936

My favorite part about reading 80-year-old magazine articles is that the writers get really excited about things that we find commonplace or unnecessary. Take this telephone note pad, for example. Gordon found this project in a June 1936 article called “Working with Plastics.”

The first paragraph talks about the importance of home craftsmen getting to know this “new material,” so they can use it in “building many attractive novelties such as candlesticks, jewel boxes, clock cases, vanity powder sets, bracelets, etc.” The article then walks through the steps to building a telephone note pad so you can record all your important messages and information.

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Make a Knife out of an old File

During an otherwise normal conversation today, Gordon said “Of all the times I’ve been on fire, most of them have been on purpose.” Oddly, this didn’t come up because he was on fire at some point today. He did, however, burn himself making this knife, which inspired the comment. You can still try this at home, just don’t ever put very hot metal on your skin.

This Popular Mechanics project recycles (dare I say, upcycles? Sorry, Gordon) an old file to make a knife. So if you’re tired of scratching things and decide you want to cut things instead, this is a great project for you. Continue reading

Lino Print your Own Christmas Cards

I love getting Christmas cards from all our friends and family this time of year. It’s nice to see what everyone has been up to and see which kid is making the best/weirdest face in the picture. Since we don’t have kids yet and neither of us will ever use the phrase “fur baby,” we don’t usually send out cards. This year, however, we decided we would just share what we’ve been up to in the most applicable way—via a demonstration of the type of thing we do for fun.

In this case, that meant finding a 40-year-old Popular Mechanics article about lino printing your own Christmas cards, buying a kit from Hobby Lobby, and making postcards.

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Popular Mechanics Projects

Gordon got his first subscription to Popular Mechanics because he had a call center job and subscribed to ten different magazines to stave off the soul-sucking boredom. Turns out, it is now the only one of the ten we still take. We made our first PM project after getting serious sticker shock while looking for a meat smoker and then finding plans in the magazine to build one out of a 55-gallon drum instead. We were hooked.

A couple years later, Gordon found several old (we’re talking 1950s) issues at a thrift store and discovered he likes the magazine even better when it’s pretty out of date, so when he discovered Google books had an archive of old issues going back to 1905, he was thrilled. Especially in earlier years, the magazine was full of build-it-yourself projects of varying difficulty. And until October, 1960, the subtitle for each issue was “Written so you can understand it.” It’s every ambitious amateur handyman/electrician/carpenter/boatbuilder/mad scientist’s dream. Continue reading

Casserole Carrier circa 1977

We really don’t like to show up empty-handed for parties. This means whoever isn’t driving to the event is usually either juggling a hot pan full of (usually cheesy) food or listening to said pan slide around the back of the car and praying we won’t find a huge mess when we get there. It’s not a perfect system.

Fortunately for us, Popular Mechanics solved this problem forty years ago, and fortunately for me, Gordon likes to peruse forty-year-old issues of Popular Mechanics in his spare time. Continue reading

Built-in Library for (most of) Our Books

We have a serious book problem at our house. We both came into our marriage with large collections and an obsession with books. We stop at every bookstore and library sale we pass. Add to that an inability to get rid of any (I have so many college textbooks and anthologies that I just can’t bear to part with. What if I NEED them later?) and we quickly filled several bookcases and still had more in boxes.

Gordon decided that for my birthday last year, he would build a bookcase into an entire wall in our front room. He said it was boring once it was four feet tall, so he got distracted. But with my birthday this year fast approaching, he figured he’d better finish it so I couldn’t accuse him of stretching it out just to avoid picking a gift this year. It took late nights, many trips to Lowe’s, and the whole house smelling like stain for awhile, but our little library is now my favorite part of the house. Continue reading