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Review: Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder


I grew up watching my dad fix stuff. I still have a scar where my thumb meets my wrist from when he dropped a hammer on me (claw-down, naturally) while installing drywall in our living room. From changing the oil in the car to putting in a patio, I would help him with whatever project he was doing. 

Mark Frauenfelder’s book Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World took me back to those days, and inspired me to make a list of stuff I want to do myself.  While I lack some of my father’s carpentry and mechanical skills, I’m pretty

handy at fixing computers and a decent cook.  What could go wrong?

Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of Make, a quarterly magazine with projects for do-it-yourselfers.  Made by Hand details Frauenfelder’s successes and failures with the do-it-yourself world.  He killed his grass, planted a garden, kept bees and chickens, made his own kitchen utensils and musical instruments, “hacked” his espresso machine, and documented the whole process. 

What results is not so much a how-to book, although there are some handy tips inside, but a how-to-think book.  Frauenfelder focuses on what effect the trial-and-error process required to carry out his projects has had on his outlook on life, and how that feeling is at odds with the consumer culture that is prevalent in the United States.

As mentioned before, the book’s subject matter deals with lots of green topics, most notably urban farming, recycling, and sustainability.  Frauenfelder’s style is conversational, accessible, and, well, bloggy.  That bloggy-ness is one of the small nit-picks I had with the book, however, when it came to the inclusion of websites that may not be around in the future. 

Altogether, Made by Hand is an excellent introduction to the world of doing-it-yourself, and is an inspiring look into how the author decided to find meaning in relying less on consumer goods, and more on himself.

–James Robertson


Cover photo courtesy Penguin Group

P.S: Just for fun, here is Frauenfelder’s appearance on The Colbert Report last night:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mark Frauenfelder
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News


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