Julbock: Sweden’s Flammable Christmas Goat

For many Swedish families, it just isn’t Christmas without a straw goat somewhere on or under the tree. For the families in Gävle, it just isn’t Christmas unless you have to stop arsonists from burning your town’s giant straw goat to the ground. And for their neighbors, there is nothing more Christmasy than a goat bonfire. On the Sixth Day of Imported Christmas, we made a Julbock (Yule goat) of our own. Continue reading

Wassailing: England’s Apple Tree Pep Talk

For most of my life, wassailing was just something that popped up in Christmas song lyrics, like “Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too” or “Here we come a-wassailing.” But as long as we’re talking unusual Christmas traditions, we thought that on the Fourth Day of Imported Christmas, we’d share the joy of wassailing in its ancient form. Continue reading

Tió de Nadal: Catalonia’s Pooping Christmas Log

I love Christmas almost as much as I love trying new things. Gordon has a knack for finding the strangest and best things other cultures/the internet have to offer and having the requisite skills to do them. In truly American fashion, we decided to round out our Christmas  with 12 Days of Imported Christmas traditions.

On the First Day of Imported Christmas, we’re going with one  of our favorite traditions found so far. When Gordon saw an article about Caga Tió, the Catalonian poop log, he immediately went out to the garage to make one.

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Candleholder with Matchbox Slot

Sometimes the power goes out when it is too dark to see. And if, after you’ve stumbled around looking for a flashlight, you find one with dead batteries, you’ll need to stumble around some more until you find a candle and matches. By now, you’ve probably got several bruised toes and may even have let some profanities slip.

Good news, Popular Mechanics October 1957 (pg. 194) has the answer. This simple candleholder has a slot for a matchbox in the bottom so you’ll always have them both together, and the handle makes it easily portable. Unfortunately, if what I heard from the garage while Gordon made it is any indication, you may end up just getting the profanity out of the way before the power outage. But once it’s made, as long as you don’t lose it or bury it beneath other things, all frustration is gone by the time you actually need it. Continue reading

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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