I subscribe to Popular Mechanics magazine. It is an ok mag, although the advertising gets a little old. I get tips on outdoor projects, car repair, and new technologies.
The past issue covered "100 Skills Every Man Should Know". As I read through, I realized that I am pretty well covered here. Very few had I never really thought about or had a chance to experience. I decided to cover these 100 skills in my blog and briefly talk about my experiences, as well as a few I think don't belong, and a few I believe were left out. I figure 20 is not too many to read at a time. Here we go!
#1 - Tape drywall
Oh goodness, I have done this too many times in my life. Although they do cover the very important fact to apply at least two coats (5 in. first, then 8-10 in. blade second), they mention the use of water in a form I don't quite use. The mag mentions dipping the blade in water. I prefer to add a little water to my trough in which I have placed some mud to work with and mix it in. When you are applying the 10 in. blade mud, it needs to be much wetter to allow for a nice smooth, thin coat. The angle of attack on the final count greatly affects the result as well. Keep your hand close to the wall and keep plenty of tension on the blade.
#2 - Grill with charcoal
Growing up, we only had a Weber until I was in high school, so charcoal was the only way. Although my dad didn't teach me the proper methods, I learned them in college. Our fraternity grilled often and I picked up the proper charcoal stacking techniques from buddies of mine. Direct vs. indirect heating I didn't really get until watching Alton Brown, but this is hard to do when the grill is full!
#3 - Split firewood
Again, I have been doing this since I was barely able to swing an axe (or maul, much better). The method discussed in the mag is the weak man's version where you only start above your head. I prefer the all-the-way-around method. While much harder, it produces great results. It also requires practice and a decent aim.
#4 - Set up a ladder, safely
While the mag did have a decent tip on proper angle detection (stand with you toes against the ladder base and grab the run at shoulder level), I still prefer the "test it out method" (unless doing a very high-up job). That is, get up a rung or two, and lean back on it. You can feel how much the ladder wants to tip back. Also not mentioned in the mag is checking the footing of the ladder. Ensure it is sunk in slightly by jumping on the bottom rung just a little. This keeps the ladder from sliding back on you.
#5 - Take the perfect portrait
In 4-H, I did a photography project for about 5 or 6 years. During this, setting up a photo is one of the things we learned. I didn't do much portraits, but the basics are simple. Don't take a picture with the camera looking right in to a bright light; rather ensure that your subject is properly lit. I have much more to learn here, though, and I will when my new D90 gets here in the next week or so.
#6 - Find potable water
While I have never *needed* to do this, I have gotten many tips from watching Survivor Man and Bear Grylls. The mag mentions a couple methods I have learned for both desserts and jungles. I also really like the dew ideas you can do with your clothes tied to your boots and collecting evaporated water from plants using some plastic and a container. I did learn as a kid, though, that the best idea is to take a lot of water with you, even if you don't think you need it! While hiking in Hawaii on the Na Pali coast, I was not comfortable with the amount of water we had brought in, so I turned us around about half way in. My only regret? Not having enough water on hand to begin with!
#7 - Build a fire in the wilderness
Growing up my extended family did a lot of camping. And, since my grandfather was a fireman, he made sure all the kids knew how to properly play with fire. While this didn't cover all the proper techniques to build when you don't have the proper supplies, it was still great fun and wonderful memories. 4-H didn't really cover these skills either, but being friends with Eagle Scouts in college helped out here. All the tips to find kindling, small sticks, and larger timber for a structure, make building a fire easy. The tip I have picked up from Survivor Man? Always have a flint striker in your pack!
#8 - Build a shelter
This is a skill I have also never needed, but have learned about in recent years from Discovery. Keep it small and simple, and get some water shedding on if time allows or you expect to get wet. If the weather is cold, maybe try some heat rocks!
#9 - Ditch your hard drive
Please, I think I can handle this. Low level formatting for general home use HDDs. A power drill for more important data. A much more difficult skill? Reviving a bad HDD. I have tried, and failed, although I came close.
#10 - Use a French knife
Most people watch Food Network and think they could never do the knife work seen on TV. This is untrue! It is just the speed that takes years to perfect! First off, you must have a high quality knife. Kacey prefers Global Knives. Second, know a couple techniques. Again, speed does not matter here.
#11 - Cast a line
Growing up, dad would occasionally take us fishing at Anderson Orchard. While my dad and brother seemed to somewhat enjoy it, I just couldn't stand it. I, for the most part, need to be doing something. Fishing was doing nothing. Usually after 15-20 minutes, I would be off picking berries instead of fishing. So, while I don't enjoy fishing, I can and have done it; and am probably not very good at it.
#12 - Wax a car
I have done this many times. Buy some good wax, park in the shade. Wash the car well. Wax in sections, buff off by hand.
#13 - Check trouble codes
I had to do this recently on my Acura CL. While it took a couple minutes to find that the plug was behind the ash tray, beyond that it is fairly simple. My latest code? Bad catalytic converter, but I knew that was the problem before I started.
#14 - Iron a shirt
Any single guy trying to impress a woman should know this. Pants are important too. I like the fact that the mag tells you to imagine that the ironing board is a work bench.
#15 - Paint a straight line
I don't really agree that this should be on the list. I have painted my fair share of rooms, and although using painter's tape isn't perfect, it gets the job done if used properly.
#16 - Tie a bowline
Ok Popular Mechanics, you finally got me. Many of my friends may be surprised to know that I do NOT know my knots! 4-H didn't really cover it, and on the farm we only used one knot, and I don't even know what it is called. I have always wanted to learn my knots, but have never found the motivation to learn them. Maybe teaching them to my son can be my motivation.
#17 - Use a stick welder
Wow, this makes me feel like less of a man. Popular Mechanics got me on two in a row! Again, many of my friends may be surprised to know that I have never run a welder. I know, its sad. But growing up, dad never let us do it! Ug. And now, I don't have one to play with. When I graduated from Rose, I almost took a course for welding because I wanted to build up that skill. I still do. Yes, I know some basics to welding and could probably do a hack job if needed, but I don't think that's good enough to put a check next to it.
#18 - Read an electric meter
I worked for South Central Indiana REMC the summer after my freshman year at Rose. While my job was not reading meters, I learned more about them. It really isn't that difficult, and in my opinion, doesn't belong on this list either.
#19 - Hang food in the wild
I have had to do this, as well as trash. Find a couple trees close to one another, use some rope, and honestly, you can probably figure out something without ever reading a magazine. More important than knowing HOW to hang food is knowing TO hang food.
#20 - Solder wire
Again, please. Been doing this since I was little, and got paid to do it at my work-study job in college. Having the proper tools can aid in this too. A solder sucker, and good hot gun, and a knife to clean the leads are very important.
There you go, the first 20. I hope to do 21-40 tomorrow. Reply with your thoughts, or your stats!