Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World

by Mark Frauenfelder

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From his unique vantage point as editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine, the hub of the newly invigorated do-it-yourself movement, Mark Frauenfelder takes readers on an inspiring and surprising tour of the vibrant world of DIY. The Internet has brought together large communities of people who share ideas, tips, and blueprints for making everything from unmanned

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From his unique vantage point as editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine, the hub of the newly invigorated do-it-yourself movement, Mark Frauenfelder takes readers on an inspiring and surprising tour of the vibrant world of DIY. The Internet has brought together large communities of people who share ideas, tips, and blueprints for making everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to pedal- powered iPhone chargers to an automatic cat feeder jury-rigged from a VCR.

DIY is a direct reflection of our basic human desire to invent and improve, long suppressed by the availability of cheap, mass-produced products that have drowned us in bland convenience and cultivated our most wasteful habits.

Frauenfelder spent a year trying a variety of offbeat projects such as keeping chickens and bees, tricking out his espresso machine, whittling wooden spoons, making guitars out of cigar boxes, and doing citizen science with his daughters in the garage. His whole family found that DIY helped them take control of their lives, offering a path that was simple, direct, and clear. Working with their hands and minds helped them feel more engaged with the world around them.

Frauenfelder also reveals how DIY is changing our culture for the better. He profiles fascinating "alpha makers" leading various DIY movements and grills them for their best tips and insights.

Beginning his journey with hands as smooth as those of a typical geek, Frauenfelder offers a unique perspective on how earning a few calluses can be far more rewarding and satisfying than another trip to the mall.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this overwrought ode to doing it yourself, Make magazine editor Frauenfelder attempts to “forge a deeper connection and a more rewarding sense of involvement with the world” by making more of the things his family uses and eats. His DIY projects are varied—organic gardening, building a chicken coop, constructing cigar-box guitars, keeping bees, tutoring his daughter—and not uniformly successful: chickens get devoured by a coyote; the bees subsist on sugar-water handouts; his daughter fails the big math test. (Not to worry, he insists, since accepting mistakes is foundational to the DIY ethos.) Frauenfelder’s hand-making procedurals are engaging, but, for him, practicality takes a back seat to spirituality, to living authentically, to grokking “the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, the beauty found in an object’s imperfections.” He often presents DIY as a form of therapy: spoon-whittling isn’t about spoons, it’s about “the calming and focusing effect of spoon-whittling.” (And like most therapies, these projects often require lots of disposable income—a thousand dollars for a load of mulch!—and spare time.) People have hobbies because they are interesting and fun; by inflating hobbyism into a belief system, Frauenfelder doesn’t add much to their appeal. (June)
From the Publisher
"This is a must-read book. Mark has lovingly and candidly documented the complex, myriad, intangible and often very tangible rewards of grabbing the world with both of your hands, and learning how it works."
Adam Savage, Mythbusters

"What Mark Frauenfelder knows is that making a ukulele out of a cigar box is not just fun (and finally a good use for your thousands of old cigar boxes), it's a way of restringing and retuning your whole life. Buy this book, read it, and then maybe make it into a clarinet. I bet you can!"
John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require

"Why do otherwise well-adjusted people take to raising chickens in Studio City? What sort of contrarian spends a lot of time and money to kill his own lawn? These may be the projects of one quirky individual, but they point to something universal and true. Human beings find their proper home not in large-scale corporate structures but in the struggle for individual agency. You have to admire the doggedness with which the individuals in Made By Hand try to render their own world intelligible."
Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft

"Frauenfelder has been at the center of the emerging maker movement, chronicling its rise as an economic force. Here, he describes a parallel evolution: his own embrace of making, as he applies the lessons he's been learning to his own life. It's as inspiring as it is entertaining. You'll never look at your lawn the same again!"
Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine

"Made By Hand is a wonderful, thought-provoking, and timely book that shows us why and how we need to take back control of our lives. Now if only Mark Frauenfelder would put out a version written by hand on paper he made from the trees in his backyard."
A.J. Jacobs, author of The Guinea Pig Diaries and The Year of Living Biblically

"Made by Hand is an absurdist essay on 'resistentialism,' defined as 'the theory that things have a secret agenda to make us miserable by fighting back against our efforts to use them.' It is the flip-side of self-sufficiency and independence-an example of the ongoing war between HAP (hire a pro) and DIY. Do you give in to the unassailable fact that you have no idea how things work, or do you embark on a quixotic (but potentially enlightening) attempt to figure it out?"
Errol Morris, Academy Award-winning director of Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control

"Frauenfelder believes - as do I - that the DIY ethic is only partly about the things you produce. It's also about learning how to learn, about connecting with others who share your interests, and about taking pride in your accomplishments. ... I think the book is great, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you're at all interested in DIY."
J.D. Roth, Get Rich Slowly

"Made By Hand is a wonderfully inspiring read and makes turning to a make-centric way of life feel not only approachable, but utopian."
Jaymi Heimbuch,

Library Journal
Editor in chief of Make magazine and cofounder of, Frauenfelder here chronicles a year of delving into do-it-yourself projects such as keeping chickens and bees, gardening, making cigar-box guitars, and customizing an espresso machine. With each project, he illustrates the importance of technology and community in the resurgence of DIY and sustainable living practices. That more technology inspires back-to-basics living may seem surprising, but it makes perfect sense. The web rapidly connects us with a vast variety of people and ideas, making it easy for the beginner (or experienced) DIYer to access expertise and instruction. When Frauenfelder had to build a new chicken coop, for example, he used Google SketchUp to create a design. The author makes frequent references to online sources and communities in finding help and follows up on many of these connections in person. VERDICT Frauenfelder offers an original perspective on the sustainable living and DIY movements, and this title should appeal to a tech-savvy audience.—Meagan P. Storey, Virginia Wesleyan Coll., Norfolk
Kirkus Reviews
An amateur craftsman is inspired to tackle a laundry list of obscure projects. Hobbled by the bust, Frauenfelder and his wife began to think carefully about how to maximize their space and resources. A propitious if misguided move to a South Pacific island "paradise" proved short-lived, but their time there instilled a new perspective on working with their hands, the importance of down-time and how to utilize raw materials in new and beneficial ways. Frauenfelder's immensely popular gadget-centric blog ( garnered attention from a contemporary interested in launching a periodical focused on "how to make, modify, and repair things." Born in 2005 with Frauenfelder as its editor-in-chief, Make magazine highlighted enticing projects using "tested, step-by-step instructions." The author went a step further by incorporating DIY home-improvement concepts into their Southern California lifestyle and created a wish list of projects he hoped to accomplish. Frauenfelder wittily chronicles his varying degrees of success in making everything from fermented kombucha yogurt to a chicken coop. Replacing persistent Bermuda grass with mulch proved an exercise in patience, as did adventures in coffee, chickens and bee colonies, but the rewards were great after the author constructed several homemade multi-stringed guitars from cigar boxes, whittled wooden spoons and tutored his daughters. Throughout the narrative, a host of eclectic characters emerges, including 80-year-old Picasso lookalike Alfie; "Mister Jalopy," a secretive, brilliant tinkerer; a gay Tennessean who believes fermented foods keep his HIV infection in check; and two nonprofit organizers who assisted with the cultivation of the author's bountiful vegetable garden, one of his proudest achievements. Frauenfelder gained much self-confidence throughout his clunky experimentation, though he admits that along with everything else, "you have to live with the mistakes you make."A utilitarian motivational booster for DIYers. Agent: Byrd Leavell/Waxman Literary Agency

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.92(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

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From the Publisher
"A utilitarian motivational booster for DIYers." —-Kirkus

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