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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Failing gracefully, by hand, and living a better life
This book is approachable, fun, funny and gentle. Mark is a great writer, an inveterate tinkerer and one of the most important voices of the post-industrial age, but at the same time he's not afraid to tell you how often he screws up.

This book is also subversive, because his Tom Sawyer tales of handmade adventure will cajole you into abandoning some of your...
Published on May 27, 2010 by Seth Godin

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you've ever done anything for yourself before, find another book.
If, however, you've never in your life had to be personally competent and you think it might be a lark to throw a bunch of money at half baked DIY projects, then by all means give this book a whirl. To be clear, though, you will find almost no instruction or valuable reflection.

I don't think I've ever written a review on Amazon before, though I'm a hefty...
Published on December 18, 2011 by Devan M DePauw


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you've ever done anything for yourself before, find another book., December 18, 2011
This review is from: Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (Hardcover)
If, however, you've never in your life had to be personally competent and you think it might be a lark to throw a bunch of money at half baked DIY projects, then by all means give this book a whirl. To be clear, though, you will find almost no instruction or valuable reflection.

I don't think I've ever written a review on Amazon before, though I'm a hefty consumer of mostly non-fiction books. I don't enjoy being negative, either, as I feel that any earnest attempt at something is at least a little bit honorable. Truth be told, I did learn something in this book; there are a few pages about a man named Edward Bernays who is the originator of psychological based marketing in the early 20th century that I found very interesting. Beyond that, this book ought to have been condensed by 70% and turned into a passable pamphlet.

This guy and his wife made money hand-over-fist during the dot com boom by being freelance writers. When the bubble popped, they found themselves with some vague sense of emptiness that couldn't be filled by their paid-off mortgage, sizable nest egg, or espresso so they logically decided to move to a small island in the middle of the Pacific where they'd vacationed for a short period a number of years prior. They sold the house during the grossly inflated real estate bubble and packed up only a big van load of the most important things to them. This included 13 pairs of shoes for his wife and an espresso machine worth as much as a used car. This well-thought-out plan turned sour when they were struck with the epiphany that it's difficult raising children without the support structure of friends + family and that living on a small Pacific Island isn't all up-side.

After 4.5 months they admit defeat and fly all of their stuff back home. I should have stopped reading here but I figured this could just be the back story of having the author's naive eyes opened to the reality of life. It wasn't. This guy just does whatever he wants like a child with no real responsibility. He wants to be a DIY guy ("Maker" is the hip term, by the way) so he throws a bunch of money and very little forethought at it and his final conclusion is that he's become a Maker and he's inspiring others now. Wanna build a garden in your front lawn? Don't bother doing all the research that the people who know what they're doing tell you you need. Just go drop a grand on mulch and take a week to spread it out. You've got nothing better to do with a week, right?

I don't want to start ranting like mad. Frauenfelder wants you to know that it's okay to fail. It's true. People are too worried about failing. Screwing stuff up is the best way to learn how to avoid screwing stuff up. Go out, start tinkering, break a few things, be humbly proud of your successes and try to show those around you the value of doing things for yourself. You don't need to read his self-indulgent musings to learn this.

If you want to read a poorly constructed, meandering personal journal of how a rich guy with more cash and time than sense and patience justifies calling himself a "Maker" then look no further than this book.

If you want a very well thought out and researched dissertation on the very real personal value of being intimately involved with the Things in your life, then please purchase Matthew B. Crawford's "Shop Class as Soulcraft". Crawford's book is a tremendous value at almost any price, though right now it's $10.20 brand new.

Good luck and have a great day!
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Failing gracefully, by hand, and living a better life, May 27, 2010
This book is approachable, fun, funny and gentle. Mark is a great writer, an inveterate tinkerer and one of the most important voices of the post-industrial age, but at the same time he's not afraid to tell you how often he screws up.

This book is also subversive, because his Tom Sawyer tales of handmade adventure will cajole you into abandoning some of your insulation and actually going out and making something.

I loved it. And now my PID outfitted espresso maker (I did it myself) is even better than it was.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DIY for beginners, May 27, 2010
I've been interested in DIY culture for most of my life and love Make magazine as well as the O'Reilly "Hacks" series. Like the author, I think I inherited these tendencies from my father, while growing up in California. I have a brother whose own experience has closely paralleled that of the author.

Mark Frauenfelder's "Made by Hand" gives his readers permission to make mistakes while exploring the world of DIY (Do It Yourself, as opposed to HAP, or Hire a Pro) culture. A resident of Tarzana then Studio City, both suburbs of Los Angeles, he would seem like an unlikely choice for urban hillbilly. Frauenfelder's claims to fame include starting the popular blog "Boing Boing." and appearing in the first Errol Morris Apple commercial.

This is one of those recently popularized "experience" books, in which the author sets out to try something different, like living strictly according to the Old Testament or eating nothing but cheese for a year. Frauenfelder begins the book by describing a desire to escape urban malaise by moving to Raratonga, and quickly discovers the difference between being a tourist and a resident of a community. From that experience he discovered that his favorite part of the journey was "coconut day," when he would extract coconut meat with his daughters and cook it into scones or other goodies.

Upon his return to what passes for "civilization," Frauenfelder embarks on a 1.5 year program to emulate coconut day by slowing his life down through a series of DIY projects, including killing his front lawn, growing his own food, modding his high-end espresso machine, raising chickens, fermenting Kombucha, yogurt and sauerkraut, making musical instruments, raising bees and ultimately learning how to learn. Oh, and carving wooden spoons. I didn't think I could ever care about carving hardwood spoons, but by the end of the chapter I was ready to give it a shot.

The book is an extended invitation to become a physical hacker in the best sense (it saddens me that this term has been coopted by the press to mean "malicious computer intruder.") The preferred term is now "maker," which has more positive connotations but reminds me a little of Orson Scott Card's magical realism set in the nineteenth century. Accomplished tinkerers and hackers may not find anything new in here, as his descriptions of each adventure are more like extended blog entries that point to additional resources and provide profiles of some fascinating Makers, including William Gurstelle, author of "Backyard Ballistics" and other invitations to enjoyable danger, Forrest Mims, the author of the popular Radio Shack eletronics manuals, and the secretive Mr. Jalopy, car hacker extraordinaire. Each DIY luminary provides insights that slowly accrete, leaving us with a useful philosophy of Making stuff by the time we are done.

Frauenfelder ruminates on how consumer culture has infantilized us in order to sell us toilet paper and diapers. As an antidote, he provides examples of how to carve out time to engage in these projects (by abandoning television and working in small bursts, sometimes 20 minutes a day. I was disappointed to read that he had temporarily forsaken painting and drawing).

The best parts of the book for me were Frauenfelder's accounts of his own frequent mistakes. Often DIY texts are written by intimidating mechanical geniuses. Frauenfelder, on the other hand, messes up all the time while his wife, Carla, looks on disapprovingly. Sometimes the mistakes just don't matter, and sometimes they serve as a precursor to something serendipitously better, like a black widow-free yard (thanks to the chickens), amplified cigar box guitars or a PID-enhanced espresso machine.

The message of the book is that mistakes are part of learning, and that if you're not making mistakes then you've payed someone else to make them for you, and deprived yourself of something important in the process. Made by Hand is a good introduction to the DIY scene and will probably inspire you to try something yourself. If you are looking for detailed instructions for various projects, you're probably better off with back issues of Make magazine or contacting some of the fascinating people he profiles in this book, but if you're looking for inspiration, this is a good first stop on the road to Maker enlightenment.

An earlier reviewer complains that many of Mark's adventures are enabled by a healthy disposable income. Although at times I cringed at his willingness to buy solutions online (a $24.95 wood gouge, etc.) more often than not the author points out how he could have saved money by using an alternative, and provides plenty of examples of scrounging through wood piles and parts bins for cheap solutions. I also enjoyed the pop philosophy in the book, and didn't think that Mark was trying to elevate hobbies to the level of religion. It's unfortunate that, in our highly fragmented and specialized post-fordist world we even have to justify a foray into experimentation and eclecticism, but I found the theorizing enjoyable and useful, especially the sections on the origins of advertising, learning and unschooling.

This book is not so much about the specifics of each project as it is about giving you the permission and attitudes to be a Maker, especially if you're new to hacking your world.

MAKE: Technology on Your Time
Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices
Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock
Cool Tools
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning (if you can afford it), October 2, 2010
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If you're looking for an earthy, back to nature, WalMart sucks kind of book for people who want to live simpler, less extravagant lives, free from the trappings of rampant consumerism, you might be disappointed. The book seems less about DIY and more about how you can waste a lot of time and money continually botching projects, requiring endless trips to Home Depot. It also gets off on the wrong start from the very first page, which describes Mark and his family moving to the remote tropical island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific; this seems to have a similar message as Eat, Pray, Love - spiritual enlightenment can be yours, but only if you can afford it. This pricey philosophy continues soon after with a chapter on how you can mod your $2000 espresso machine for only a few hundred dollars more - ah, the joys of knowing that you can afford the time and money for the perfect shot of caffeine. Further chapters involve gardening, which was charming enough; beekeeping, which was less so; and raising chickens, which I found rather sad in that his incompetence led to the deaths of several of his - and his daughter's - beloved birds. And finally, taken as a whole, there seems to be no grand philosophical message that you could take with you after reading this book; it just seems like a random collection of things that many of us do routinely every weekend. If you're interested in DIY, find something that interests you, and go find some books that would actually help you to, for example, carve wood, raise chickens, or build cigar box guitars. In the end, you'll find your own personal spiritual reward without having to read about someone else's muddled journey through DIY.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but occasionally incorrect in conclusions, July 7, 2010
Mark's book is a good intro to do-it-yourself culture, describing his own path in learning how to build and fix things. In learning, he says, mistakes are fine. As an experienced DIY person, I agree.

His anecdotes are amusing and occasionally helpful. However, other times, his recommendations are inexperienced. If the reader is looking for a path to follow, be aware this book does not separate his own plans from those of an experienced person. So don't look to it as a "how to" guide.

He does point out obvious mistakes he realized he made, but some of his conclusions are incorrect. For instance, he concludes that he lost his chickens to predators because in Studio City, "here the wildlife was fiercer and bolder." That's not true. There are predators, such as skunks and racoons, even in the densest city areas. He didn't put enough effort into protecting the chickens, even after losing the first few. That was the real problem.

I also didn't like his conclusions about tutoring his daughter. The solution to her problems wasn't that he should have hired a tutor. It's that he should have spent more time learning himself what skills a test-taker needs. He should have done more of that studying himself so he knew *what* to teach.

There's nothing in the DIY approach that says you can't read up on the background of an area before jumping into it. If Mark spent a little more time researching in advance and getting help from experienced friends, he'd probably have had more fun and less pain.

On to the good stuff... I particularly enjoyed the chapter "Tickling Miss Silvia", about exploring making good espresso. There's experimentation, he interviews an expert, and it's a lot of fun. You learn something from that chapter. This book would have been better if he intermingled his experiences with more interviews of experts. It would allow the reader to make their own conclusions about his methods.

The part I disliked the most was how quickly Mark seemed to give up when he failed, blaming himself or others. While I appreciate the honesty, that is not the only way these experiments could end. The new DIY reader might be left with the conclusion that it's impossible to raise chickens in a "wild" area or that you should hire a tutor. I disagree with that.

This book is a fun read. Those inexperienced with DIY should take it as one man's journey, not a how-to guide. Just because he had a lot of trouble with some project doesn't mean you will. Mark is right in that you can't be afraid to make mistakes. But also read up, find an experienced mentor, and you'll make even less mistakes along the way.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If at first you don't succeed... then good, you've learned something., May 30, 2010
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I saw ads for Made by Hand when I attended the recent (2010) Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. I'm a big fan of Make Magazine, so I ordered the book expecting something good. I was not disappointed.

The book is an almost autobiographical series of stories about the author's various different do it yourself (DIY) projects. Many of these aren't exactly what you'd normally think of as DIY projects. For example, the projects include moving to Rarotonga (in the Cook Islands), killing his lawn, raising chickens, and educating his kids. In some sense, the specific projects doesn't really matter: this isn't a "how to" book that tells you how to accomplish specific projects. Instead it explains the DIY philosophy in general and gives advice that applies to pretty much any kind of DIY project. The more unorthodox DIY projects serve to show how versatile this general advice is.

Probably the main practical piece of advice in the book is: don't be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, and so without screwing up a few projects you'll never be able to expand your DIY skill-set.

Frauenfelder is also a great writer. The stories were all very engaging. Despite the fact that very few of the projects were things I would have considered doing before, the book not only kept me interested, it even made me at least think about trying some of those things. I probably won't actually raise chickens, but the fact that I not only enjoyed reading about Frauenfelder chicken raising (mis)adventures, and even briefly considered the possibility of doing it myself says something about the quality of his writing.

If you like making things this book is for you. If you like the idea of making things but don't do it (enough) out of fear of screwing things up, this book is even more for you.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Marks Maker-ness is on par with his writing..., September 9, 2010
By 
R. Stout (Okeefenokee Swamp) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I am a 50 something Maker. I dabble in everything from photography, embroidery, woodworking and CNC woodworking, welding, electronics and software design, computers going back to the late 70's, and on and on. I wanted to enjoy this book by Mr. Frauenfelder but honestly say I did not. I respect his desire to be a hand's on guy. I believe in his desire to reuse, recycle and repurpose. I try to do that every day. Mark's book however, is a journal of rather poor attempts to raise chickens and bees. He never really goes into detail on the bees however. He has a wife who thinks he is nuts and judging by his failures may have a point. His one daughter thinks he is kind of fun. This book left me with the feeling that Mark does not really succeed as a "Maker" kind of guy but maybe that in itself is encouragement for those who want to try. For those who are really into Making something out of nothing (spelled junk and waste), there is no content in this book. It is a very short read and really folks, instead of reading this book, head to the library for back issues of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing writing, August 18, 2012
This review is from: Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (Hardcover)
Since Mark Frauenfelder is a successful freelance writer and editor, I was expecting a lot more from this book. Great writers can make even the most mundane story or subject a joy to read - take Barbara Kingsolver, for example, who details similar experiences with raising poultry in "Animal Vegetable Miracle" but with much, MUCH more enjoyable results.

This book reads like a 6th grade "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" kind of report. There's just nothing compelling in the slightest about the way he tells his story. It's not funny. It's not touching. It's not particularly philosophical (as the "Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World" part of the title seems to indicate it should be), and it rarely made me pause and go, "Huh, I hadn't thought of it that way." I'm honestly a little floored that Mr. Frauenfelder has been as successful as he has in his career with these writing skills.

I won't comment on the content, since that's the focus of most other reviews here. But if you're looking for a fun, well-written read that won't make you regret having invested those hours, look elsewhere.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a shot of steroids for DIY'ers, May 27, 2010
Review by Shane Speal, [...]

When I win the lottery, I'm going to buy Mark Frauenfelder's Made By Hand for all the members of Cigar Box Nation, my little website that teaches people how to make and play cigar box guitars. I won't do it because Frauenfelder is pictured holding a cigar box guitar on the cover or because he discusses his love of cigar box guitars in its pages. No, when my numbers come up on Powerball, I'll make the massive purchase because this is one of the most inspiring book for do-it-yourself'ers that I've ever read.

Made By Hand is Frauenfelder's account of his life as a maker...and he's definitely no Bob Villa! In fact, it was refreshing to see the editor-in-chief of Make Magazine is a fumbling builder just like the rest of us. He messes up projects, making mistakes by the bucketful and even loses a few chickens to coyotes. Thanks to his determination (and a forgiving wife!) he never gives up. In fact. he takes each mistake, learns from it and comes out a champion.

It's a theology that is the most inspiring point of the book: He wants us all to get out there and make a few mistakes, too. Try something new. Don't just hire a pro, try your hand at it first. Do it not just because it's cheaper, but because it's deeper. There's a deep satisfaction in living with the things you've made with your own hands.

Be warned, this isn't a how-to book and there's no plans, diagrams or step-by-step instructions for making anything. This is a book about the passion of the project. Deep passion. Mark Frauenfelder gets it. He's discovered a profound truth in the DIY movement that you don't read about in instructional books.

Currently, there are almost 3000 members of Cigar Box Nation. Many come in, download the free cigar box guitar plans and then get discouraged after a few mistakes on the workbench. If I won the lottery, I'd get this book for every one of 'em. Then the humble cigar box guitar would become the biggest thing since the Stratocaster.

Which reminds me, I have to go buy Powerball tickets.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alright but not what I thought it would be..., April 29, 2012
By 
31Alpha (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (Hardcover)
I will applaud Mr. Frauenfelder for his courage to try to make things rather than simply being a consumer. After reading the book, I am now sure that he does indeed void warranties.

However, that said, this is more the journey of a guy who has more time than the average Joe to devote to these pursuits. How many of us work in the world of internet/magazine publishing and can afford to purchase a house on what seems to amount to a large lot in the hills over Studio City in Los Angeles? Mr. Frauenfelder is clearly not your average guy, with more resources and time to devote to the pursuit of making things by hand. He often cites throughout the book the contacts he is able to use through his work at Make magazine--these people are experts in their fields. Mr. Frauenfelder's frame of reference is quite simply very different than most of America.

While there were several chapters on Mr. Frauenfelder's attempts to make things ranging from a chicken coop to cigar box guitars, much of the book concentrates on his attempts at backyard agriculture. I felt this was a little bit less of a forray into making things by hand than it was about backyard homesteading which turned me off some.

I have to question who the real audience for this book is. If you are the type of person who grew up in a household where things were generally repaired, it is not for you and you should probably look elsewhere. However, if you have lived in a household of consumers who more often than not chose to pitch everything into the trash without a tinkering parent to fix them, Mr. Frauenfelder is pointing out to you that you can make the leaps to try to fix things and make some of your own things--open up that broken gadget, void the warranty, and maybe get something that works after repairing it. Don't be afraid to experiment and get poor results--there is a journey to make things that we can all take.

My final thoughts on the book is that it is quick reading and gave me a few ideas about things I could do, which in hindsight is probably the author's goal...I just have to find some time to do them.
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Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World
Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder (Hardcover - May 27, 2010)
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