Most of the fathers I know actually have very little in common with Demographic Dad. You know the guy I’m talking about, right? About five-nine, one-eighty? Likes big-screen TVs, neckties, and golf clubs? Largely an invention of greeting card publishers and retail marketing directors? Yeah, that guy. Between you and me, honestly, I don’t like him very much. In fact, he seems like kind of a doofus.
Fortunately, my real-life Dad is way cooler. He’s practical, mostly, but can cut loose and appreciate a gag gift, or one that’s mostly just a toy, precisely because it’s the kind of thing he’d never spend his own money on. He’s an engineer—tech-savvy and scientifically minded—but he’s been around long enough to see ten thousand gadgets come and go. He appreciates quality, more than novelty, and he would rather have a thoughtful, intelligent, hand-made gift than the latest iThing. He can buy that for himself whenever he wants.
In choosing projects for this guide, then, I have tried to forget about Demographic Dad and choose stuff that A) I would proudly make and give to my own father, and B) that can be made with relatively small investments of money and time. If you follow the news, you may have noticed that petty cash is a bit tight in general these days, and if you follow the calendar, you may have noticed that (as of this writing) you have six days until the 17th.
OK, that’s cute. My Dad is not often susceptible to cute, but I think he’d like one of these anyway. Especially if, as Gareth has suggested, you outfit it with an emergency field soldering kit.
Odds are exceeding small that your Dad (or anyone else), in today’s world, is ever going to actually have to resort to a fire piston to start a fire. So this is mostly a toy. But, as toys go, it’s a really cool one, especially if your Dad is mechanically and/or scientifically inclined. And it’s easy to make, too.
As a young man my Dad seriously considered becoming a professional guitarist. He still enjoys playing from time to time, and though he might prefer to call this particular instrument a “monochord,” he would have just as much fun playing it as David “One String Willie” Williams does in this video Mark posted on Boing Boing awhile back. “One String” himself wrote our how-to guide, and it doesn’t take much more than a board, a piece of wire, a glass jar, and a couple of nails.
Dad does not yet inhabit the Paperless Society. Nor, for that matter, do I. This thing is a pretty easy afternoon’s build if you have an old vinyl binder to cannibalize and a piece of sheet aluminum around, and its heavy-duty/industrial vibe will appeal to pretty much anyone who appreciates quality. A scrap road sign works great for a cover, but please don’t steal one for this project. Having to bail your butt out of jail, yet again, is a somewhat less-than-ideal Father’s Day treat.
If your Dad’s extension ladder is without a rope lift, or the rope lift doesn’t work very well, this easy mod from Martin Schmidt will A) show off your mechanical engineering savvy and B) make Dad’s life easier every time the ladder comes out. In the guide, Martin shows you how to replace the conventional single-pulley rope lift with a double-pulley system that halves the force required to extend the ladder. Smart!
Total DIY classic. Easy to make, useful, and fun to use. Dad likes to have the right tool, on hand, when the right job presents itself. And when the job is bug extraction (as it so often is out in the hill country where my folks have set up camp) this is the right tool. Equip your version with a buttstock so Dad can scratch notches into it with a hunting knife.
These are easy to make, always get a laugh, facilitate the consumption of beer, and promote awareness of one of the greatest TV spy shows of all time. And just last week, etchworld started carrying the stencils in their catalog again for $2.00 apiece. Order today and they should arrive in plenty of time to etch a glass or two before the 17th.
If you’re reading this site, Dad has probably been letting you run wild with his tools, workbench, and supplies since you were old enough to break things. And lose them. And leave them in a state of terrible disarray. Which he patiently cleaned up. Many times. Show him how much you appreciate that by returning the favor: Clean his shop. Organize his tools or supplies. That cardboard box with the wire rat’s nest might be a good place to start.
Based on a design by Alton Brown, this user-contributed Make: Project from Max Wainer is just so much win. Max sums it up quite well:
Barbecue is not the same thing as grilling. True barbecue involves cooking meat over low heat for a long time – often for many hours. I have a grill (a Weber kettle), but having to manage the fire for hours isn’t a lot of fun. Smokers like the Weber Smoky Mountain start around $300 – and don’t even get me started about the Big Green Egg ($700+!).
All you need are simple hand tools, a hotplate, a couple clay flower pots, a charcoal grate, and some bits ‘n’ baubles from RadioShack.
What’s that? Your Dad doesn’t have a tractor? Oh, it isn’t red! Well, if you can’t find a toolbox to match your Dad’s weird non-red tractor, you may just have to come up with something else to make for him. Something that is as uniquely suited to him as this thing is to my Dad. I made it for him back in 2009, and it’s still going strong. It sticks to the fender with eight padded supermagnets and carries tools that’ve been fixing tractors in my family for three generations, now.
Thank God I have a brother to carry on that tradition.
Happy Father’s Day, folks!