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FEBRUARY • 2017 4 5 6 8

From the Editor The Reader Page PM Everywhere Calendar

HOW YOUR WORLD WORKS 11 14 16 18

The Capitol Dome restoration How your heart can talk to your doctor The Norwegian drink that thrives in Montana Things Come Apart: Telescope

KNOW-HOW 21 26

29 31 36

The home coffee revolution Tool Test: Circular saws, spray deicers, and ultra-short-throw projectors Shop Notes Getting Started In: Furniture building Ask Roy

DRIVING 38

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42 44 45 46

The new Porsche 718 Boxster S has only four cylinders. Shall we weep? Parts & Service: Should you trust the dealer or your local mechanic? Reviews: New rides from Kia, Mazda, and Subaru The sunroof—and other options you should never get for your car The New Vintage: Keeping an ’83 VW Rabbit GTi in the family A motorcycle made for a superhero

THE LIFE 49

Fresh Cuts, Old Bikes, Good Coffee You can find all three at Greasy Hands barbershop in Florence, Alabama

PROJECT 85

Home Hydroponics Forget soil—all you need for a winter harvest is water. By Daniel Kluko

POPULAR MECHANICS FOR KIDS 90

A night-light powered by the sun!

THE TOOLS THEY USE 96

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THE POPU L A R M ECH A N ICS GU I DE T O SEL FSUFFICIENCY

CO VE R ST OR Y

Learn the tools and skills you need to live, eat, drink, and entertain yourself without outside help. PLUS: A novelist gets a lesson in survival from his dad. BY SMITH HENDERSON

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H OW IT WO R K S : NA SA’ S VE N U S MACHINE The rig that recreates any place in the cosmos, here on Earth.

75 TH E I N CR E D I B LY S PECIAL E FFEC TS AWAR DS The actors may get all the glory, but it’s the people behind the scenes who make movies come to life. Our annual look at the best technology from Hollywood, including: A car chase down the Las Vegas Strip

Crashing a plane in the Hudson River

A corpse you can ride like a Jet Ski

A big, green ski-making machine

ON THE COVER: Photograph for Popular Mechanics by Morgan Levy. @ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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From the Editor

THE NEW SELF-SUFFICIENCY LO O O OTTA TA L K A B O U T self-sufficiency these days. Donald Trump pretty much won the election by preaching the wisdom of not relying on nobody for nothing. This of course has its risks as a foreign policy, and I hope the pros outweigh the cons. But as an individual policy? I love it. If the meteor hits or the grid goes down or America gets sold to Russia, it would be nice to know that you could get on without leaving your homestead—a clean water supply, a way to charge your phone, plenty of Swiss chard out in the garden, that kind of thing. I’m nowhere near self-sufficient yet, but we do compost. And the boys have enough Nerf guns to at least wound a squirrel. Of course, there’s my friend Andy up the street—we could always hide out at his place. Andy keeps bees. He makes wine in his basement, taps his maple trees for sap that he boils into syrup, raises chickens for eggs, grows corn, makes strawberry jam each summer, built a smoker

out of a barrel, and I think he’s getting into brewing beer. This is all on less than an acre. Popular Mechanics has always taught self-sufficiency—in a 1903 issue, when cars had barely been invented, we were already telling readers how to make one themselves. (The headline read, “ ‘Home-Made’ Automobiles the Raging Fad—Not Hard to Build. All Parts Can be Bought Separately, and the Enjoyments in Its Possession are Tenfold.”) In our special 16-page package that begins on page 55, we give you all kinds of practical advice on the subject, culminating in a beautiful story about a man who lives a selfsufficient life in Montana, written by his son. Our motivation here is not that we’re worried about the meteor hitting or being sold to Russia. It’s articulated best in that father-son story, “The Art of Staying Alive,” in which writer Smith Henderson concludes that his father lives independently not because he wants to withdraw from the world but because it inspires him to engage If the meteor hits or the grid goes down or and interact with his sureven more than America gets sold to Russia, it would be roundings he would otherwise. nice to know that you could get on without It’s a good, counterleaving your homestead. intuitive lesson for these times. I hope you enjoy the story—and the rest of the issue. And if you don’t, you can burn it in your woodstove when the grid goes down.

RYAN D’AGOSTINO Editor in Chief @rhdagostino

Editor in Chief Ryan D’Agostino • Design Director Michael Wilson • Executive Editor Peter Martin • Managing Editor Helene F. Rubinstein • Deputy Managing Editor Aimee E. Bartol • Articles Editor Jacqueline Detwiler • Senior Editors Matt Allyn, Roy Berendsohn • Automotive Editor Ezra Dyer • Technology Editor Alexander George • Senior Associate Editors Kevin Dupzyk, Matt Goulet • Associate Editor Lara Sorokanich • Editorial Assistant James Lynch • Assistant to the Editor in Chief Katie Macdonald • Editorial Intern Katie Miller • Copy Chief Robin Tribble • Copy Editor Maude Campbell • Research Director David Cohen • Research Editor Henry Robertson • Art: Art Director Alexis SINCE 1902 Cook • Associate Art Director Zachary Gilyard • Photography: Director of Photography Allyson Torrisi • Assistant Photo Editor Ida Garland • Contributing Editors: Tom Chiarella, Daniel Dubno, Wylie Dufresne, Kendall Hamilton, Francine Maroukian, Nick Wicks Moreau, David Owen, Joe Pappalardo, Richard Romanski, James Schadewald, Joseph Truini • Imaging: Digital Imaging Specialist Steve Fusco • PopularMechanics. com: Site Director Andrew Moseman • Deputy Editor Eric Limer • DIY Editor Timothy Dahl • Web Video Editor Ryan Mazer • Assistant Editor Jay Bennett • Mobile Editions: Mobile Editions Editor Tom Losinski • Popular Mechanics Interactive: Producer Jeff Zinn • Popular Mechanics International Editions: Russia, South Africa • SVP/International Editorial Director Kim St. Clair Bodden • Published by Hearst Communications, Inc. President & Chief Executive Officer Steven R. Swartz • Chairman William R. Hearst III • Executive Vice Chairman Frank A. Bennack, Jr. • Hearst Magazines Division: President David Carey • President, Marketing & Publishing Director Michael Clinton • President, Digital Media Troy Young • Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles • Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Debi Chirichella • Publishing Consultants Gilbert C. Maurer, Mark F. Miller Publisher, Chief Revenue Officer Cameron Connors • Associate Publisher Adam C. Dub • Executive Director, Integrated Marketing Jason Graham • Executive Director, Digital Advertising Sales Deirdre Daly-Markowski • Advertising Sales Offices: NEW YORK: Integrated Account Director Sara Schiano • Integrated Account Manager Loren Black • East Coast Digital Sales Managers Brett Fickler, Mia S. Klein • LOS ANGELES: Integrated California Sales Director Anthony P. Imperato • Integration Associate Michelle Nelson • SAN FRANCISCO: Steve Thompson, William G. Smith, Mediacentric, Inc. • CHICAGO: Midwest Director Justin Harris • Integrated Midwest Manager, Auto Aftermarket Marc Gorden • Assistant Yvonne Villareal • DETROIT: Integrated Sales Director Mark Fikany • Midwest Account Manager Bryce Vredevoogd • Assistant Toni Starrs • DALLAS: Patty Rudolph PR 4.0 Media • Hearst Direct Media: Sales Manager Brad Gettelfinger • Account Manager John Stankewitz • Marketing Solutions: Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships & Events Scott Lehmann • Director, Integrated Marketing William Upton • Senior Digital Marketing Manager Christopher Rodriguez • Associate Director, Integrated Marketing Drew Amer • Senior Manager, Integrated Marketing Amanda Kaye • Integrated Marketing Coordinator Sara Blad • Digital Marketing Director Kelley Gudahl • Digital Marketing Manager A’ngelique Tyree • Creative Solutions: Executive Creative Director, Group Marketing Jana Nesbitt Gale • Art Directors Elena Martorano, Michael B. Sarpy • Administration: Advertising Services Director Regina Wall • Advertising Services & Accolade Manager Rebecca Taroon • Executive Assistant to the Publisher Amanda Bessim • Production/Operations Director Chuck Lodato • Operations Account Manager Jeanmarie O’Connell • Premedia Account Manager Lauren Rosato • Circulation: Consumer Marketing Director William Carter • Research Manager Peter Davis • Hearst Men’s Group: Senior Vice President & Publishing Director Jack Essig • Associate Publisher & Group Marketing Director Jill Meenaghan • General Manager Samantha Irwin • Executive Assistant to the Group Publishing Director & Business Coordinator Mary Jane Boscia

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M


The Reader Page

PROJECT OF THE MONTH

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A HOMEMADE CRIB THAT TURNS INTO A BED

hen Rob Jablonsky learned his wife was pregnant with their first child, he used the news to exercise the fine woodworking skills he’d picked up in high school shop class but hadn’t used since. He was going to build a crib. Jablonsky found rough plans online and adapted them to meet the safety standards of production cribs. Borrowing a drill press from a neighbor and

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sourcing local red oak from a small mill near his hometown of Columbia, Missouri, the civil engineer built a few more years of use into his design. With the removal of a few wooden pegs he could take out the crib’s crossbeams, lower the mattress, and convert the crib into a small bed when his infant grew into a toddler. Jablonsky finished just two weeks before they brought their new daughter home.

Got a great project you’ve been working on, or a solid tip you’ve picked up in the workshop? Tell us about it, and you could be featured right here in the magazine. For projects, send photos, a description, and your contact info to editor@popularmechanics.com. If your submission is published, we’ll give you $100 for a project or $50 for your tip.

LETTERS

A COWBOY HAT FOR BETSY I was born in the 1950s and grew up watching TV shows about cowboys. I always wanted to be like Maggie Schmidt, featured in your November issue (The Life), but life, gender norms, choices, and circumstances never worked in my favor. Now I am past the age of pursuing childhood dreams, but doggone it, I can still wear the hat. Can you tell me where to find the one Schmidt wears? Betsy Shanley Vienna, Virginia Editor’s Note: Betsy (and other aspiring cowboys) can find Schmidt’s SunBody Reata hat ($59) at sunbody.com. CO W B OY S : M AT T K I E DA I S C H

AMERICA’S BEST HARDWARE STORES

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICES

Our first annual list of the greatest hardware emporiums in the country (November) spurred some of you to write in with your own nominees. Keep them coming. Elwood Adams Hardware (Worcester, Massachusetts) It’s the oldest operating hardware store in the country, opened in 1782—America’s original “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” —Joe Petkiewicz, Cherry Valley, Massachusetts

Deck’s Hardware (Ambler, Pennsylvania) My brother and I are thirdgeneration owners of Deck’s, which has been serving our neighborhood just outside of Philadelphia since 1908. Sometimes our customers just want to come in, browse, and take in the sights and smells. —Tyler Deck, Ambler, Pennsylvania

McLendon Hardware (Renton, Washington) McLendon’s has hardware of every kind imaginable and replacement parts for almost all of it. Need a drip pan for a 30-year-old air conditioner? That’s aisle 27. A replacement tire for the push mower your granddaddy bought when he got back from World War II? Aisle 13. —Sam Nash, Renton, Washington

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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EVE RYWHE RE What We’re Up To Beyond These Pages

ONLINE!

I N STA G R A M !

T H E P O D C A ST S!

Assistant online editor Jay Bennett takes you behind the scenes of the Air Force’s Special Operations Command training facilities. He even jumped out of an airplane while reporting. Be glad he survived, because now you can read his story and watch the video exclusively at popularmechanics.com/AFSOC.

Here’s what to listen for on our Popular Mechanics podcasts this month:

On The Most Useful Podcast Ever, host Jacqueline Detwiler brings you even more tips for living off the grid. She’ll speak with Lehman’s, an Ohio-based farm store, about the most useful tools and nonelectric machines used by the Amish. Plus, technology editor Alex George teaches you how to build the ultimate entertainment system to take along when you abscond from society. Meanwhile, on the How Your World Works podcast, host Kevin Dupzyk sits down with a lead game producer and a game director from Fox’s NFL broadcasts just in time for the playoffs. @offermanwoodshop: “#tbt to a lovely afternoon spent making redwood planter boxes with the students of Augustus F Hawkins high school and @popularmechanics”

Subscribe and download both for free on iTunes.

Y O U C O U L D W I N A M O V I E S C R E E N I NG!

• Grand prize: Screening of The Lego Batman Movie for 50 people at a theater near you, complete with free popcorn and soda. • 25 runner-up winners: A pair of Fandango movie tickets to see the film in theaters February 10. • For rules, see page 94. For details and to enter for a chance to win, visit popularmechanics.com/legobatman

WHERE ELSE TO FIND US INSTAGRAM @popularmechanics

TWITTER @PopMech

SNAPCHAT PopMech

And get our attention with #PopularMechanics

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

FACEBOOK /PopularMechanics


Presents

The ultimate winter weekend clubhouse In December, more than 300 Popular Mechanics readers experienced the ultimate winter clubhouse at the Popular Mechanics Lodge in Brooklyn, New York. The event took place at Kinfolk 94—an event space and bar partially formed by a huge geodesic dome of laminated plywood. The open bar featured Blue Moon and our signature Gold Rush cocktail (bourbon, lemon juice, and honey), and The Cannibal Beer and Butcher provided homemade cured meats. Guests learned

how to cut and varnish their own wood coasters with DIY editor Timothy Dahl, and sew their own leather wallets with Slightly Alabama’s Dana Glaeser. Pop-up shops showcased some of our favorite brands, including Kit and Ace technical clothing and Camp Chef outdoor cooking gear. The evening closed with a performance from Jeff Conley, a musician who makes his own guitars out of old suitcases and other found objects. (Look for a story on him in the April issue.)


Calendar FEBRUARY SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

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Super Bowl Sunday. Come for the football, stay for 24: Legacy after the game.

Author and comic-book creator Neil Gaiman reimagines Viking myths in Norse Myth­ ology, out today.

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The 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

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15 Keep an eye on the Chicago Auto Show this week. Automakers tend to roll out new trucks and SUVs here.

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27 The Mobile World Congress starts today with new smartphone releases expected throughout the week. Save the headphone jack!

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Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil has a 39 percent accuracy rate. Make a weather station instead. (See page 60.)

SATURDAY 4

Calcium chloride ice melt works down to −25 degrees F, while rock salt only works down to 15. Save money by mixing them.

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Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey star as a gunslinger and a sorcerer in the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

It’s the NBA All-Star weekend. The Slam Dunk Contest is tonight on TNT. Game’s tomorrow.

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25 Tired of the winter gloom? Bring some greenery indoors with a hydroponic station, page 85.

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Mardi Gras. Celebrate Louisiana-style with a local drink.

THURSDAY 2/9

MONDAY 2/20

TUESDAY 2/28

A (BRIEF) BOOT ROUNDUP

THIS MONTH IN MECHANICAL HISTORY

HOW TO DRINK LIKE A NEW ORLEANIAN

On this day 55 years ago, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, in a spacecraft called Friendship 7. Before Glenn, two Soviets had successfully made orbit, a sore spot for NASA. Glenn orbited Earth three times, reaching speeds over 17,000 miles per hour. After almost five hours looping the planet, he returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Invented in 1838, the Sazerac is the first American cocktail and the official cocktail of New Orleans. To make it, roll a small amount of absinthe around a chilled rocks glass to coat. Discard the extra. In a separate glass, muddle a sugar cube with three dashes of bitters. Add one and a half ounces Sazerac rye. Pour into the rocks glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Whatever any groundhog tells you, the weather will still be rough for a while. Two boot upgrades if your pair hasn’t fared well this winter: Forsake Duck Boot An all-weather duck boot you can keep on in the office. ($140) North Face ThermoBall Versa Boot Clean black on the outside. Puffy insulation on the inside. ($130)

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FRIDAY

If your heat’s been running since November, now is a good time to change your furnace filter. Do it every three months.

President’s Day. Plus, the day John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

The Super Bowl of stock car racing, the Daytona 500, is on today. No episodes of 24: Legacy after, this time.

THURSDAY

The weather is not getting better anytime soon. Equip yourself with some proper snow boots.

Valentine’s Day. Or our annual argument for woodworking as an expression of affection.

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How to get the most out of your month.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M


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AQUAVIT | CARDIOLOGY | A TELESCOPE

PRESERVATION

How to Fix Congress Literally. When the Capitol Dome was in need of repair, its stewards recruited some of the country’s best makers to fix it. Just in time for Donald Trump’s big day.

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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braham Lincoln’s first inauguration, in 1861, was staged on the steps of the United States Capitol as its dome was still a work in progress. A few years later, Lincoln insisted that the construction of the dome continue through the Civil War. “If people see the Capitol going on,” he said, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.” In 1866, less than a year after Lincoln had been assassinated, at the dawn of Reconstruction, the dome was completed: nine million pounds of cast iron covered in Dome White paint, capped with a bronze statue called Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace. But the work goes on. Since the dome’s last complete restoration, from 1959 to 1960, decades of abuse by rain, snow, and slow leaks degraded the cast iron, causing more than 1,000 feet of cracking to spiderweb across it. So in January 2014, under the direction of the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency in charge of the maintenance and restoration of the Capitol complex, a team of companies and craftsmen from around the country began repairs. By Inauguration Day they will be complete, and the American people will gather on the steps of a proud symbol of American government restored to its original glory. Donald Trump will recite the oath of office in front of the dome that rose above Lincoln, above our 39th Congress, and endures at the start of the 115th. Here are a few of the companies that worked behind a veil of more than one million pounds of scaffolding to ensure it goes on.

THE MAKERS Lock-NStitch

Bullseye Glass

Historical Arts and Casting

Allen Architectural Metals

F.D. Thomas

American Iron Works

L O C AT I O N

Turlock, California

Portland, Oregon

West Jordan, Utah

Talladega, Alabama

Central Point, Oregon

Hyattsville, Maryland

FOU N D E D

1990

1974

1973

1995

1979

1948

WO RK O N D O ME

Designed a watertight system to fill cracks: Threadedmetal pins pull the two pieces of cast iron together, then metal “locks” lay perpendicular to the repair to complete the “stitch.”

Used traditional processes to replace unstable or badly damaged cupola windows with handmade glass that replicated the wavy surface texture of the originals.

Restored and cast more than 100 pieces of cast iron including ornamentation like rosettes and scrolls, and gutters. If they couldn’t repair an original piece, they melted it down and reused the iron.

Implemented the Lock-N-Stitch technology to repair the dome’s thousands of cracks.

Removed the many coats of lead paint on the dome and contained the site to avoid spreading hazardous lead throughout the Capitol.

Installed the more than two miles of metal scaffolding that surrounded the dome during restoration.

P RE V I OU S P R OJ E C T S

Jay Leno recently implemented its system to fix the engine block on his 1913 Christie fire engine.

Bullseye developed a new type of fusible glass that solved a common problem in art and architecture involving complex glasswork: When joined, different types of glass often shatter or crack as they cool.

Historical Arts added decorative pieces to the Mormon temples in Philadelphia and Payson, Utah.

When the company was getting off the ground, it sold its handmade glass out of its Portland offices— a VW microbus.

Worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to cast reproduction vases, urns, and candlesticks by the designer.

C O MPAN Y

AD D I T I O NAL C RE D E N TI AL S

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In 2013 the Architect of the Capitol nominated Lock-N-Stitch for a construction innovation award for its repair technology.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

Re-created the cast bronze and gold candelabra as well as the bronze fountain spire at City Hall Park in Manhattan. During restoration work at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Allen employees transported the ornamental doors to their shop in Alabama in the bed of a pickup truck.

Installed chemicalresistant coating in clean rooms for tech companies like Hewlett Packard and Motorola. Long before work began on the chambers of Congress, F.D. Thomas was founded by Dan Thomas as “Dan’s Quality Painting”—he painted residential homes.

Built the steel staircases, handrails, and pedestrian bridges at the Food and Drug Administration Building in Maryland.

The company’s workforce for the dome restoration was highly diverse, employing immigrants from Morocco, Syria, Armenia, Jamaica, and Haiti.


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R E A L -T I M E CARDIAC CARE 1. The cardiac monitor tracks heart signals. 2. A second device uploads the data via cell network.

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3. Patient condition reports are available online. 4. If A-fib is detected, the doctor gets a notification. 5. The patient is given fast-acting blood thinners until the heart is back to normal.

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CARDIOLOGY

The Connected Heart

A clinical trial heralds the wireless future of personalized medicine. B Y K I R A P E I K O F F About five million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation, a quivering heartbeat that can lead to blood clots and increase the risk of a stroke by 500 percent. The condition is currently treated with a lifetime course of continuous blood thinners, which are effective at preventing blood clots but raise the chances of serious bleeding. Dr. Rod Passman, a cardiology professor at Northwestern University, recently conducted a study with a radically different approach: Cardiac monitors the size of a paper clip were inserted under the skin to measure the electrical output of patients’ hearts in real time. They alerted Dr. Passman with a text message if they detected signs of A-fib. When that happened, he’d initiate a course of next-generation blood thinners that would act just long enough to normalize patients’ rhythms. Without inventing a new device or discovering a new drug, Dr. Passman’s novel integration of the two into an on-demand system stands to transform the way we treat the sick.

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

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Popular Mechanics: So how does this device work? Rod Passman: Your heart sends out electrical signals, and they can be recorded from anywhere in the body. This implantable cardiac monitor, so small it’s actually injected underneath the skin with a special tool, reads the electrical activity and feeds it to a website. When you develop A-fib, the heart rate becomes very erratic. The device sees the irregularity, and via the website alerts me with a text. PM: What led to this new approach? RP: One piece of the puzzle was the development of drugs that could rapidly thin the blood, and the other piece was that we had to have technology that could provide long-term cardiac monitoring with remote transmission. If we were able to monitor you and let you know quickly, we could potentially thin your blood early and prevent a blood clot from forming—providing the benefits of a blood thinner, with minimal risks. PM: What did the study show? RP: In a small group of 59 patients, we reduced time on the blood thinner by 94 percent. But to show that this is safe, we need a very large study, so we’re planning a 6,000-patient trial. PM: Has this remote monitoring approach been used before to guide clinical decisions? RP: My study is the first example of using these devices for patient man-

agement rather than diagnosis. The device and drug are already out there, but we’re using them in a way they weren’t intended to be used. I would say I didn’t invent chocolate, I didn’t invent peanut butter, but I invented Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. PM: My favorite candy. As wireless technology improves, what’s next? RP: The device will communicate directly with a patient’s phone. My vision is, just like a diabetic checks their blood sugar and treats themselves, in the future the patient with atrial fibrillation might take blood thinners on their own in response to data from this chip inside their body. Ultimately, these devices will not just see the rhythm of the heart. Maybe they could see things like blood pressure or glucose levels. Tell you whether you’ve been mobile or not. The potential usefulness of these devices is really quite remarkable. PM: One day, will we all end up wearing one to monitor us before something goes wrong? Is this basically a Fitbit on steroids? RP (laughing): A Fitbit is a toy compared with this. One can envision it as a long-term health-management tool. The concept of waiting until you’ve fallen off the cliff to come to the doctor or to recognize a disease after it’s gotten out of control could be obsolete. Think of the efficiency—we could monitor thousands of patients from their homes. We see problems before the patients see problems. PM: Sounds like a new paradigm that’s still far away. RP: It’s a lot closer now than ever. I L LU S T R AT I O N BY G R A H A M M U R D O C H


AQUAVIT

Drink Like a Scandinavian

How a spirit from 16th-century Norway made its way to Montana. And why it should be in your glass.

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BY FRANCI N E MAROU KIAN

Viking boat may not have b een able to make it to Montana, but that doesn’t mean the Scandinavians couldn’t. Along with the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave settlers 160 acres of land for a small fee and a commitment to live there for five years, the extension of the transcontinental railroad across the U.S. helped Scandinavians migrate to the agricultural frontier of Montana. Today their Nordic heritage remains embedded in the folkways of the Northern Great Plains, so much that it demanded a familiar and hard-to-find drink: “We started making aquavit on request from the local fraternal order of the Sons of Norway,” says Ryan Montgomery, cofounder of Montgomery Distillery in Missoula. “And we continue making it not only because we sell out, but because aquavit has significant ties to the culture and climate of the region.”

Montana’s nutrient-rich volcanic earth and abundant snowmelt provide the exceptional grain and water quality that aquavit relies on. Aquavit is a traditional spirit distilled from potato or grain mash that has the predominant flavor of caraway (the taste you think of when you think of rye bread), a botanical related to parsley and cilantro. It’s finished with aromatics like lemon, fennel, and cardamom, resulting in a drink that is savory and yet fresh, almost minty—a counterbalance to the salty preservation methods (fermentation, smoking, curing) necessitated by Nordic winters. The aquavit process is a straightforward double distillation. Montgomery uses a 100 percent nonGMO hard red winter wheat strain called War Horse, grown on his grandfather’s farm, which is now tended by his parents. The wheat is mashed with hot water and fermented at a temperature that allows the yeast to digest the

sugar. If the temperature gets too hot, cool water is run into the fermenter’s exterior stainless-steel jacket. “When the yeast has eaten all the sugar, what you essentially have is beer,” Montgomery says. “The first distillation is a stripping run, not a flavor-determining run. It is just about getting the alcohol out of the beer as fast as we can.” The result, called low wines, is about 25 percent alcohol by volume. The second fractional distillation, done in a 21-plate copper column still, cuts the spirit to a specific proof and creates a very clean canvas—basically like vodka—for the addition of the botanicals. “We return the spirit to the pot still and give it a last run to create vapor infusion,” Montgomery says. As the vapor rises, it passes through a cheesecloth bag of aromatics suspended on a metal grate before being recondensed as flavored aquavit, cut with filtered water, and bottled at 80 proof. “Making aquavit is our chance to introduce something with great history that is still new to most Americans,” Montgomery says. The traditional way of drinking aquavit is straight and ice cold in small glasses—and never without first toasting your tablemates by saying, “Skoal.” Additionally, Montgomery says, “we substitute it for vodka in our Bloody Marys and other craft cocktails.” It tastes good with a little curaçao in a daiquiri, too.

THE SPIRITS

Skadi aquavit

Predominantly caraway, with fennel, dill, and a hint of citrus. $30

Barrelfinished Skadi aquavit

Muted caraway and dill plus caramel and toffee notes. A slight spice from the rye barrel. $33

Montgomery’s barrel-finished aquavit is rested in oak barrels previously used to age rye. This smooths the flavor and adds spice.

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

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T H I N G S C O M E A PA R T

A P H O T O G R A P H B Y TODD MCLELLAN

D I S A S S E M B LY R E P O R T

TELESCOPE MODEL: CELESTRON NEXSTAR EVOLUTION 8 HD

PRODUCED:

NANTONG, CHINA

TIME TO DISASSEMBLE:

6 HOURS, 25 MINUTES, 58 SECONDS

NUMBER OF PARTS:

588

This is how vision works: Light is gathered through a hole, shaped, and presented—converged into focus—for viewing. In the case of our eyes, the equipment involved is the pupil, the cornea and lens, and the retina, respectively. This standard equipment is remarkable but limiting: Our pupils are small. The distance between the retina and the lens is minuscule. So it would not be inaccurate to say that a telescope is an enlarged and elongated version of our eyes. The big front opening replaces the pupil. Lenses and mirrors guide light through a long tube rather than a tiny eyeball. The result: a tool that peers across the city, over the horizon, into the heavens.

NOTES:

AIMING THE TELESCOPE The telescope is mounted on a complicated system of supports that keep it stable but allow it to find and track a star or other celestial body. Its tripod (16) is stabilized with an accessory tray (15) and topped with a headpiece that provides a mounting location for the base (13). The base contains the azimuth motor (11) and attaches to the fork arm (14), which houses the altitude motor (17). Then the telescope’s optical tube (5) attaches to the top of the fork arm with a dovetail (4) and thumbscrews (2) so that when the azimuth motor rotates the base, the telescope moves left and right, and when the altitude motor pivots its mount, the telescope moves up and down. You can aim the telescope in two ways. If you’re old-school, you find your chosen star yourself: Using the hand control (12) or phone app, you rotate the telescope into the vicinity of the star, then look through the StarPointer Pro finderscope (3)—which is essentially a lower-powered scope with a larger field of view—to align the main tube. Alternatively, the NexStar Evolution HD has

18

its own databank of astronomically interesting objects it can automatically point to after a quick orientation process. GATHERING LIGHT Once it’s aimed at an object of interest, light from that object enters the telescope through the corrector (1), a slightly curved sheet of glass that bends the light’s path just enough to funnel it toward the primary mirror (6), which sits at the back of the telescope. The light reflects, now converging toward the secondary mirror (18) at the front. This mirror sends the light into a jet-black baffle tube (8) that funnels it unencumbered to the rear of the telescope, where it converges to the focal plane in front of the eyepiece. The purpose of all this redirection? By using a series of mirrors, the telescope is able to collect and focus more light rays in a shorter tube—in fact, the Evolution’s focal length is five times its optical tube length of 16 inches. VIEWING THE IMAGE This telescope is designed to be used with a digital camera for astrophotography. So as

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

it reaches the focal plane at the back of the telescope, the light that’s been carefully collected by the mirrors goes through a pair of sub-aperture correctors that reduce distortion that wouldn’t show up to the naked eye but would trouble any photographer with a high-quality camera. Of course, you can also use it the oldfashioned way, in which case you need to attach an eyepiece (10). The eyepiece contains another set of lenses—typically, three or four—that provides magnification and again corrects optical artifacts to create a pristine image. (If it’s out of focus, the focus knob [7] moves the primary mirror to finetune.) Putting a star diagonal (9)—an elbow, basically—between the tube and the eyepiece will make viewing a little more comfortable. The diagonal also contains a mirror to flip the image. Thanks to the primary and secondary mirrors, when light reaches the focal point, it’s both inverted and reversed—which might bother a peeping tom, but is essentially unnoticeable to an astronomer, whose subject is a black sky, pinpricks of light, and wonder. —Kevin Dupzyk


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@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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CIRCULAR

SAWS

|

ULTRA-SHORT-THROW

PROJECTORS

|

FURNITURE

Birch Coffee owners Jeremy Lyman (left) and Paul Schlader roasted more than 150,000 pounds of coffee beans last year.

The Home Coffee Revolution

An influx of new equipment—high-tech and low—will help you brew better joe. IT’S EASY TO take your coffee for granted. Mix hot water with grounds, and within minutes you’re warmed and awake. But there’s science in that process—science that can be tweaked and perfected. Changing your beans, grind size, filter, brew time, and water temperature all shape how your coffee tastes and feels, says Paul Schlader, Birch Coffee co-owner and certified Q Grader—the coffee equivalent of a P H OTO G R A P H BY S T E P H A N I E D I A N I

sommelier. For example, choose a finer grind to create more surface area, which lets more water into the bean to release more flavor. With the help of Schlader and his crew at Birch, over three weeks we tested every grinder, brewer, and pour-over contraption we could find. We consulted baristas across the country. And we really drank a lot of coffee. We’re excited to show you the results. Maybe even a little jittery. @ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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Coffee

Preparing the Beans Crafting a better pot of coffee begins before you start brewing.

Roast

You don’t need to roast your own coffee. But you also don’t need to fix up that old truck yourself, or build your own deck. Roasting at home puts you in the driver’s seat to make the perfect bean for your household. Unlike other home roasters, the smoke-suppressed Behmor 1600 Plus ($370) can be used indoors. As moisture and oils leave the beans, metal coils on the ceiling of the countertop unit reheat and virtually

Store

eliminate the smoke. Five preset roasts will help you get your bearings before you start to truly customize. You can buy green, unroasted beans online. (We like Roastmasters.com.) For your first batches, try beans from Central America. They have consistent size, quality, and a wide range of flavors, which makes them especially forgiving if roasted too long or too little.

To keep beans fresh longer, store your coffee in a dark, temperature-stable environment (like your cupboard), with minimal exposure to air, says Todd Goldsworthy, the 2014 and 2016 U.S. Brewers Cup champion. With an inner lid and valve that forces air out of the canister, AirScape containers (starting at $24) create a nearly oxygen-free environment. Goldsworthy also urges you to stop storing beans in your freezer. They won’t last longer but will absorb unpleasant flavors.

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There are two types of grinders, blade and burr, but you’ll never find a blade grinder in a barista’s kitchen. The whirling blade operates like a blender, but heats up the grounds and burns off flavors. It also produces a wildly variable grind, which can be even worse. The mix of too-fine and oversize particles leads to inconsistent steeping—since the bigger the grounds are, the more quickly water passes through them—and weak THE BEST HAND GRINDER

Weıgh To brew a consistently delicious cup, you need to be consistent in your dosage and how long you let the coffee brew. Which means you can’t just trust your instincts. You need a scale. Unlike the average kitchen scale, the Bonavita Auto Tare ($60) mea-

Grınd

sures to a more precise tenth of a gram. For brewing a pour-over on the scale, a timer senses the weight change from the water and automatically starts once you begin dousing the grounds.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

The hand-cranked Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill ($50) offers an affordable and portable option if you don’t mind using a little muscle in the morning. The grind adjusts in seconds from fine to French press coarse.

coffee. Burr grinders crush beans between rotating plates for uniform, uncooked grains. The Baratza Encore ($130), above left, is a workhorse with 40 grind settings and an ideal choice for your first big grinder upgrade. For a little more money, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro ($200) offers 60 settings for enthusiasts seeking the perfect grind for every brew method and type of bean.


You’re Ready to Make Coffee DRIP COFFEE REINVENTED

operate using—you guessed it!—gravity, delivering hot water to grounds and slowly straining out the coffee. It’s like your old Mr. Coffee, although these brewers are finely tuned to deliver water at the perfect temperature: hot enough to release maximum flavor, but not so hot as to extract bitterness from the bean. THESE GRAVIT Y BREW ERS

B

A

C

FOR THE LAB TECH

FOR THE AESTHETICALLY INCLINED

FOR THE CASUAL BARISTA

A / BEHMOR BRAZEN PLUS With the Behmor Brazen Plus, you can program a pre-soak, brew temperature and an automatic start. If you like sweeter flavors, set the temperature between 197 and 200 to dial back the coffee extraction. Set it between 202 and 207 for a brighter, more acidic cup. You can also replace the kettle and basket with a pour-over brewer to make it an automatic. ($200)

B / CHEMEX OTTOMATIC Even if you never use it, the Chemex is pretty enough just to put on your countertop. And it’s available with an automatic pour-over, in case you’re feeling lazy. A showerhead evenly pulses 197- to 205-degree Fahrenheit water onto the grounds to mimic the slow dispersal of a barista’s kettle, while a hot plate keeps your next cup of coffee warm. ($350)

C / BONAVITA BV1900TS 8-CUP Instead of the typical cone-shaped filter, which unevenly funnels water through the grounds, the Bonavita uses a flatbottomed filter basket to extract coffee more evenly from the beans. A 1500-watt heater holds the brewing water at that ideal flavor-extraction temperature of 195 to 205 degrees. The insulated pitcher keeps the coffee hot. ($190)

P H OTO G R A P H S BY J A R R E N V I N K


Coffee

THE NEW IMMERSION BREWERS

NOT SURPRISINGLY, the immersion process immerses (or steeps) grounds, typically for three to five minutes before filtering out the coffee. Submerging the grounds extracts flavorful oils and acids from the beans over time, producing coffee with a heavier body than drip brewers produce. Just don’t leave grounds in the water too long. After more than five minutes, the contact time between the coffee and water tends to release the bitter flavors of the bean.

C

A

D B

FOR THE COFFEE HACKER

FOR THE TRAVELER

FOR THE BREAKING BAD FAN

FOR THE FRENCH-PRESS DEVOTEE

A / FELLOW PRODUCTS DUO This combination brewer and carafe creates the full-bodied coffee of a French press without the over-extraction and resulting bitterness. With a twist of the lid, the stainlesssteel Duo separates the liquid from the grounds, so your extra coffee doesn’t keep brewing between cups. ($100)

B / AEROBIE AEROPRESS It’s cheap, fast, simple, and perfect for travel, if you’re the kind of person who packs your own coffeemaker when you leave town for the weekend. Just mix grounds and hot water in the chamber for a minute, then press out your coffee through the filter. ($30)

C / YAMA SIPHON This hand-blown coffee chemistry set heats water in the lower globe until the building vapor pressure sends boiling water to the upper globe where it cools slightly and mixes with grounds. Cut the heat after a minute and your coffee descends back down through a filter, ready to be enjoyed. ($67)

D / KITCHENAID PRECISION PRESS French presses don’t have to make a bitter cup. Just pour all the coffee after it’s brewed so it doesn’t steep longer on the grounds. This insulated, double-walled brewer has a built-in scale to measure your grounds and water, and a timer to tell you when your coffee is ready. ($150)


Shop Notes: Coffee

How I Brew By Ben Jones, 2016 U.S. AeroPress Champion

The Coffee-Brewing Tank for Any Worksite

Tip! Never Buy Pre-Ground Coffee. Unless It’s This One

Oxygen is the biggest enemy of freshness. When beans are ground, flavor escapes in as little as three minutes. But for when you require pre-ground, Blue Bottle Coffee created Perfectly Ground (starting at $18 for a five-pack) ground coffee packaged in an oxygen-free environment.

The Easiest Way to Make Better Coffee

I think of brewers like cars. A Kalita or Chemex is like a Toyota Camry: not flashy, but will always get you from A to B. These all have a restricted flow rate, which reduces the barista’s impact. Hario’s V60 ($25) is more like a Porsche or 427 AC Cobra. It has aggressive channels and a large drip hole, which lets water flow through very quickly. The unrestricted flow can create a wider range of cup profiles. Faster pours make a bright, light-bodied coffee. Slow your pour and the body increases while the flavor tones down.

The OXX Coffeeboxx ($230) is built to travel and simple to use: Fill the tank with water, insert a K-cup pod, select a size serving, and then wait for it to brew. Its 2.5-liter removable water tank can make ten cups of coffee, and its watertight design prevents spills on rough rides. The Coffeeboxx has a rubberized handle, a three-foot retractable power cord to make it mobile, and a chassis rated to withstand a 1,500-pound load. That makes it the only coffeemaker you can sit on or, in a pinch, prop up a grand piano with.

Buy whole, fresh beans. Fresh means within three weeks of roasting, says Shawn Steiman of Coffea Consulting (which is not a typo), who holds a Ph.D. in coffee science, which is a real thing.

THE COFFEE QUALITY MATRIX Blue Bottle

Stumptown

QUALITY

Paying more for a bag of beans won’t automatically produce better coffee. So where’s the smart money go? Here, we chart eight popular brands on quality (flavor minus bitterness) and accessibility (availability minus cost).

Starbucks

Lavazza Peet’s

An Insert That Heats—and Cools— Your Coffee

Maxwell House Folgers

Keurig Green Mountain ACCESSIBILITY

PAPER VS. METAL FILTERS Your choice of filter carries an outsize impact on what you end up sipping. Because of their holes, metal filters allow more oils and fine particles into your cup, giving your coffee more body. Paper filters, however, keep those tiny bits of grounds and oils out of your mug. That might mean less body, but it also means more distinct flavors. It’s up to you. Just avoid brown paper filters. They have a weird taste. P H OTO G R A P H S BY J A R R E N V I N K

Double-walled stainless travel mugs keep your coffee piping hot for hours, but what good is scalding coffee that’s too hot to drink? The Stanley QuickSip insert ($15) slides into your mug or bottle and absorbs excess heat—as much as 47 degrees. In the ensuing hours, it re-releases the energy to keep the coffee hot and drinkable.

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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TOOL TEST THE PROVING GROUND FOR EVERY THING YOU NEED

Circular Saws

Because everybody’s elbow could use a little more rest, we gathered the lightest new circular saws on the market. Then we crosscut, ripped, beveled, and cut compound miters with each. BY RICHARD ROMANSKI

DeWalt DWE575

WEIGHT: 10.4 lb AMPERAGE: 15 LIKES: Professional-grade with unstoppable power and a heavy-duty rubber cord that’s robustly mounted to the motor, so you don’t have to worry about snags leading to a loose connection. All control points and grip surfaces are well engineered and comfortable. DISLIKES: None. $119

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

P H OTO G R A P H S BY J A R R E N V I N K


A

C

B

Spray Deicers Makita HS7600

WEIGHT

Craftsman 320.46123

9.0 lb

AMPERAGE: 10.5 LIKES: A compact and spunky saw that’s easy to handle. It has outstanding balance and visibility to the cut line. DISLIKES: Relatively low amperage does cost the Makita some performance during long, deep rips. Plus, the blade wrench likes to come loose from its holder.

WEIGHT 7.4 lb

AMPERAGE: 12 LIKES: Still a consumer saw at an accessible price, but its midrange power is much closer to the professional end of the scale. DISLIKES: Could use a sturdier shoe, and moving the spindle-lock button higher would make it easier to reach. $50

$100

Unless you’d prefer to spend your morning scraping the windshield.

A / Rain-X Windshield De-Icer ESTIMATED SPRAY RANGE: 2 ft The least aggressive ice melter we tested, but it also had the least intense odor. After melting the ice, it leaves behind a residue of classic Rain-X to help keep glass clean. Since it’s more of a mist, the Rain-X would be tough to apply in any real wind. $3

B / Prestone Windshield De-Icer

ESTIMATED SPRAY RANGE: 8 ft The densely focused stream and aggressive propellant make this a good choice for tall or broad windshields. Melts ice aggressively and keeps on melting. There’s even a somewhateffective scraper built into the can for particularly tough ice.

Ridgid R3204

WEIGHT

Skilsaw SPT67WM

8.8 lb

WEIGHT

$12

10.6 lb

AMPERAGE: 12 LIKES: This feisty little saw was the only tool in our test with a 6 1/2-inch blade. For a framing saw, the Ridgid is extremely compact, which makes it easy to handle. DISLIKES: The blade bevel support obscures the view of the cut line on the shoe. Would be nice if the shoe were a little longer.

AMPERAGE: 15 LIKES: A lot of saw and a lot of performance for the money. The Skilsaw is smoothrunning with professional power and dead-on accuracy. The price makes it a good fit for anyone who wants to move up in accuracy and power without spending a lot. DISLIKES: None.

$89

$100

C / CRC Ice-Off ESTIMATED SPRAY RANGE: 6 ft Medium-dense spray pattern. The high methanol content melts ice readily, and the reasonably powerful propellant means you can spray under windy conditions. $2.50


TOOL TEST

A

THE PROVING GROUND FOR EVERY THING YOU NEED

A / ASUS ZenBeam E1

B / Sony LSPX-P1 B

MAX IMAGE SIZE: 120 in. PORTABLE BATTERY: Yes, 5 hours LIKES: Despite weighing less than two pounds and having a footprint the size of a smartphone, the E1 is bright enough to use even in some ambient light. The speakers can also get quite loud. Adjustments are intuitive, and the metal shell looks more elegant than the plastic on many other projectors. DISLIKES: Doesn’t project in HD. The keystone correction sometimes inexplicably and annoyingly readjusts the image.

MAX IMAGE SIZE: 80 in. PORTABLE BATTERY: Yes, 2 hours LIKES: Beautiful design, good color, and passable built-in sound. We really liked the wireless aspect: Plug the hub into a source—your cable box or computer— or connect via Wi-Fi and stream from your phone or tablet, and you can place the projector nearly anywhere. DISLIKES: At 720p, the image starts to soften when you project larger than 60 inches. The bulb isn’t strong enough for the picture to be seen in anything but a dark room.

$249

$999

C / LG PH450U

D / CASIO XJ-UT310WN

MAX IMAGE SIZE: 80 in. PORTABLE BATTERY: Yes, 2.5 hours LIKES: Although the built-in speaker is tinny, you can connect a UE Boom or other Bluetooth speaker for better sound, with a lag so small you won’t really notice it. Good color, and the room doesn’t have to be completely dark to see the picture. DISLIKES: Wireless connection works only with Android or Windows machines. $650

MAX IMAGE SIZE: 110 in. PORTABLE BATTERY: No LIKES: At 3100 lumens, the Casio provided the brightest picture of our test, with a built-in speaker that sounds as good as any. Focus is controlled with an easy slide lever. DISLIKES: The combination laser/LED light source is supposed to hold its brightness over time better than a traditional bulb, but it made for a slightly grainy picture. $1,800

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

C

D

Ultra-Short-Throw Projectors Set one up as little as 12 inches from the wall for a picture that fills the room. Just in time for the Super Bowl.

P H OTO G R A P H BY J A R R E N V I N K


SHOP NOTES E A S Y WAYS TO D O H A R D T H I N G S

Better Measure of Cell Reception

If the cruel vicissitudes of cellular service have you suspecting the five bars at the top of your screen are not what they seem, prepare to be vindicated. Phones measure reception in decibel-milliwatts (dBm) on a scale from, roughly, minus 140 (no service) to minus 40. But there’s no standard. Four bars on one phone may be equivalent in dBm to two bars on another. Luckily, most handsets allow you to display reception in dBm instead. ➼ ON AN IPHONE, call *3001#123 45#* to go into Field Test mode. The bars are replaced with a dBm reading. Hold the power button until “Slide to power off” appears, then hold the home button until Field Test quits. Now tapping the reception indicator switches from bars to dBm. ➼ ON MOST ANDROID PHONES, you can view dBm reception through the “About Phone” menu.

Rubber Tub Captures Sawdust THERE ARE PLENTY of ready-made and DIY solutions for sawdust collection from a contractor’s saw, but none as simple and cheap as that devised by reader Wayne Germain of San Tan Valley, Arizona. He purchased a plastic bin with a clamping lid, cut a hole in the lid to accommodate the saw’s motor, then screwed it to the enclosure. When it’s time to saw, he clamps the bin in place. Afterward he simply removes it and dumps the dust. Germain estimates he traps 80 percent of the sawdust, and could easily capture more by adding some weather stripping.

Know Your Drill Bits

M FRO E— H T ES — HIV ARC 68!) (19

Kettle Grill Makes Perfect Turntable for Spray Painting

When you’ve got something to spray paint from all sides, consider a kettle grill for your work surface. It’s just the right height, and on many models the grill can be turned by hand. Just be sure to cover the grill with newspaper or drop cloths, lest your burgers taste like Rust-Oleum. I L LU S T R AT I O N BY M O R N I N G B R E AT H

TWIST General purpose for wood, metal, and plastic

BRAD POINT Pointed tip creates clean, accurate holes in wood

AUGER Efficiently removes wood shavings from deep bores

SPADE HOLESAW COUNMASONRY TERSINK Makes fast Bores Often Creates a and rough large used with pilot hole holes in holes; a hamframing centering for a screw mer drill; lumber bit guides and space fluting entry to fasten it off-loads into the flush debris surface

GLASS AND TILE Carbide tip allows it to cut without causing cracks

STEP Pyramid shape creates holes of many diameters in thin steel, aluminum

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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PRO M OT IO N

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AMERICA’S ORIGINAL CRAFT VODKA In 1997, Bert “Tito” Beveridge, now a 50-something geophysicist, obtained the first legal permit to distill in Texas and created Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Tito distills his corn-based vodka using oldfashioned copper pot stills and the vodka is naturally Gluten-Free. www.titosvodka.com

SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT TRUE LOVE CAN LAST Our one carat DiamondAura® Everlasting Anniversary sterling silver ring fuses modern science and old-fashioned romance! Our exclusive lab-created stones burn with more fire than mined diamonds. Everlasting Anniversary Ring — Only $59 + S&P 1-800-333-2045 Your offer code: EAR248-02 www.stauer.com

DICKIES DENIM: PERFORMANCE + COMFORT GUARANTEED Dickies Denim is crafted to deliver durability and comfort backed by an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. As the world’s leading performance workwear brand, Dickies offers comfortable styles and washes that are built to work, and engineered to last. Learn more at DICKIES.COM/DENIM

@ThePMWorkshop


Getting Started In...

FURNITURE BUILDING It’s going to be tough. Your first couple chairs might be a little wobbly, and your bookshelves may crumble under anything more than a few paperbacks. But you’ll get better. Eventually, what was a liability will become a money-saving source of pride. B Y R O Y B E R E N D S O H N

B U I L D I N G Y O U R O W N F U R N I T U R E is a lot like growing your own vegetables or working on your car. On the one hand, you might ask yourself, Why bother? On the other, you might ask, Why not? On any given day, depending on how much time you have to spare, it’s hard to say which answer will have the upper hand. But there’s nothing like building something and putting it to work in your life and in the lives of people around you. I’ve built very little that qualifies as fine furniture. Most of what I’ve built is utilitarian—

sawhorses, simple bookcases and shelves, that sort of thing. But there’s a mahogany blanket chest from years ago, with dovetailed corners and a finish of countless layers of tung oil. I built it with hand tools and intended it to be a good fake of an antique. Guests at our home sometimes say, “Oh, what a lovely old chest.” I get a kick out of that. When someone compliments a nice piece of furniture, and you’re the guy who made it? That’s a feeling you don’t get many times in life. Unless you’re a full-time furniture maker. Then you probably hear it a lot. @ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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Getting Started In FURNITURE BUILDING

Find Something to Build While you may eventually become skilled enough to design your own furniture, when you’re starting out, you should always work from a model. One good way to learn is to find a piece of furniture you like and try to copy it. Otherwise, here are a few good places to look: At popularmechanics.com/ furniture you’ll find projects to hone your skills, including a Shaker cabinet, a bookshelf, a kid’s storage bench, a farmhouse table (right), and a simple bench (below).

Buildsomething.com offers a collection of user-generated designs for everything from workbenches to a TIE-fighter bookshelf. Nothing is vetted, but most of the projects we’ve seen look solid. And they’ll definitely inspire you.

THE BEST BOOK ON FURNITURE BUILDING If you buy only one book on the subject, make it Andy Rae’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Furniture & Cabinet Construction. There are tool tips and techniques, and more plans than you’ll ever be able to work through.

Essential Tools 32

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

MITER SAW

¾" WOOD CHISEL

KREG POCKETHOLE JIG

MARKING KNIFE

I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY S T E V E S A N F O R D


Basic Tips

DESIGNATE THE SCRAP SIDE After you measure and mark your cut line, place a small X on the scrap side. Always cut on that side of the line, otherwise you’re liable to cut a piece too short by the width of the saw blade.

EXTEND YOUR MITER SAW You can greatly enlarge the capacity of your saw by building a base—essentially a platform with a gap in its center for the saw. This enables you to more reliably and safely cut long pieces and to attach stop blocks.

WORK FROM A RELIABLE FACE Lumber doesn’t always come square from the factory, so you’ll need to check it with your square tool and cut it square, if it’s not already, to create a reference face. Measure all dimensions from that edge or face.

CUT PARTS EXACTLY THE SAME Ensure that multiple parts are the same dimension by clamping and cutting all pieces at one time, or by using a fixed power tool, like a miter saw with a stop block.

GUIDE YOUR CUTS Use a rip fence (a bar that runs parallel to the saw blade) or a square to direct your saw to ensure a completely straight cut.

ALWAYS CHECK FOR SQUARE Pressing a square into the corner of an assembly is a good way to check, obviously, but on larger projects you need to check diagonal measurements. The two measures from corner to corner should be the same.

A FEW PEOPLE TO INSPIRE YOU

SQUARE

CLAMPS

ALEX HARRIS Learn to make: pedestal table, burl table, and sled. youtube.com/ teenwoodworker

MATTHIAS WANDEL Learn to make: workbench on wheels, daybed, and bookcase. youtube.com/ matthiaswandel

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ASK ROY POPULAR MECHANICS’ SENIOR HOME EDITOR S O LV E S YO U R M O S T P R E S S I N G P R O B L E M S . BY R OY B E R E N D S O H N

I broke two bits drilling holes in my garage floor with a rented hammer drill. What did I do wrong? DAVID D., BOISE, IDAHO

The most obvious possibility is that you hit a piece of rebar, or reinforcing steel. Or maybe you found a cast-iron drainpipe. If you see a pipe exiting the floor at any point, assume that that’s what you’re hitting and drill elsewhere. You might think that a bit strong enough to drill through concrete could also handle steel, but a masonry bit’s tip and flute geometry are completely different—thicker and blunter, meant to pulverize. Also, the hammer drill was probably in percussion mode, which simultaneously pounds and drills through concrete, stone, or asphalt. That percussive action broke the bit when you hit steel. Even if you’d switched to rotary mode, it wouldn’t have helped. The bit may not have broken, but it wouldn’t have made any real progress through the steel. First, determine whether you can move the hole to another location or drill a shallower hole. If neither is practical, switch to the next heavier rental drill, called a rotary hammer. Get a masonry bit and a rebar-cutting bit. When you hit steel, back out the masonry bit and install the rebar cutter. Switch the drill off hammer mode and into drilling mode, and drill through the rebar before backing the bit out and switching back to the masonry bit and hammer mode. The other issue I didn’t mention is age. Not yours—the concrete’s. Concrete hardens as it ages. Take your time and let the drill do the work with as little muscle as possible on your part.

36

We’re remodeling our old house and have found a lot of disconnected old wiring in the walls. Is it better to remove it or leave it alone?

Is there a good way to make speaker holes in my ceiling? I’ve tried a cordless jigsaw and a drywall jab saw, but both look sloppy.

STAN C., FORT MILL, SOUTH CAROLINA

HARRY M., SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA

Old, disconnected wiring is a common sight when you open the walls, floors, and ceilings in an old house. It’s a good idea to remove it for several reasons, but before I get into that, the most important thing to be sure of is that the wiring is truly dead. If you can’t plainly see that the wiring is not connected to anything, you’ll need an electrician to evaluate it. Even then, double-check all wiring with a non-contact voltage detector before you start messing with it. Let’s assume an electrician checks the old wiring and finds that it’s kaput and safe to handle. Removing it is relatively easy. If it’s knob-and-tube type wiring (easily recognized by the white porcelain fittings to which the wire is mounted), you’ll first need to pry out the knobs, which are nailed into the framing. This loosens the wires, and you can simply pull them through. For modern stapled-up wiring, grip the staples with the tip of a pair of diagonal pliers, then lever downward to remove them. You can also use a tack puller, a small tool that looks like a forked screwdriver with a bend in its shaft. Next, use a fire-blocking foam to seal any holes where it traveled through the framing. Both the old wiring and its holes serve as a conduit for rodents. Those holes can also lead to cold drafts. More important, the holes form a ready path for hot combustion gases in the event of a fire. Which is why you filled them up with fire-blocking foam.

Your best bet is to invest in an inexpensive adjustable hole cutter from Klein Tools. Klein’s Model 53731 cuts holes from two to seven inches in diameter and should cost you less than $30. It consists of two adjustable knife-like cutters affixed to a bar. These blades orbit a central pilot drill and the entire assembly is housed in a clear plastic dome that looks, surprisingly, like something you’d place over a cake. Chuck the drive end of the cutter into a cordless drill and you’re in business. Almost. Don’t forget to clamp on the drill’s auxiliary handle. You’re going to need that handle for extra support since you’re working overhead, which requires more exertion. The handle helps offset some of the back force on your wrist. Lay out the center of each speaker hole, and poke the pilot drill bit into the mark. Ease into the cut. Instead of getting all over you, most of the dust and debris falls down into the plastic dome, including the circle of drywall. A light touch and a firm grip on the drill is really all it takes.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

Email your home and yard questions to askroy@popularmechanics.com and watch for Roy’s answer in an upcoming column.

I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY T. M . D E T W I L E R


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WITH

EZRA

DYER

The New Heathen Porsche IS THE NEW 718 BOXSTER S WORTHY OF ITS STUTTGART BADGE? WE BROUGHT ONE TO A PORSCHE-ONLY TRACK DAY TO FIND OUT.

T

he car I’ve brought to Carolina Motor­ sports Park deserves the skepticism it’s get­ ting. Gathered here are members of the Porsche Club of America. Like many of the Porsche­ loyal (see Seinfeld, J.), they see the rear­engine 911 and, more impor­ tantly, its flat six to be the essential expression of its manufacturer’s illus­ trious history. It’s the setup that has powered every 911, the legendary 959, and some of the greatest race cars in the history of motor sport. Porsche hasn’t built a four­cylinder since the 1990s­era 968. Like the preceding six­cylinder Boxster and Cayman, the 718 is

38

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

the entry­level flyweight to the big­ boy 911. Previously, both had the iconic flat six. Sure, Porsche would dial down the horsepower on the Boxster and Cayman to keep them from overshadowing the 911. But all sang the same beautiful song. Not anymore. The new 718 has lost two cylinders to make a flat four, and, in the S model I’ve brought, gained a sophisticated turbocharger. In this sense, the 718 Boxster is emblem­ atic of the challenges facing every car company: Keep upping the power, ideally while reducing emissions and fuel consumption. Smaller engines and turbos—that’s how you do it. So I asked the Porsche Club congregants: The flat six is gone, now exclusive to

SPECS BASE PRICE $69,450 (Boxster S) ZERO TO 60 4.3 seconds ENGINE Horizontally opposed four-cylinder

the $90,000 911. Shall we weep? The PCA crowd is pretty hard­ core. Local chapter director Marty Barrett is representative, towing his Porsche behind his Porsche (911 GT3 and Cayenne, respectively). Another member, Marvin Jennings, owns three 911s and brought his 1969 racer. The grass parking area next to the track is crowded with more tasty 911s, Caymans, and Boxsters, with a Macan or two thrown in. These are the people


By adjusting the tilt of the blades, the Porsche turbocharger can vary its boost for smooth, torquey acceleration, despite a two-cylinder deficiency.

FAMOUS PORSCHE ENTHUSIASTS

Seinfeld, J.

McQueen, S.

Lohan, L.

P H OTO G R A P H S BY P E T E R TAY LO R

disappointment. With the top down, you hear its belligerent woofle. It’s the whumpa-whumpa-whumpa drumbeat of a flat four, a sound like the Red Baron swooping down to strafe a trench. But at speed, the noise disappears in the slipstream. Such is the price of progress. A naturally aspirated flat six sings with a hard-edged rasp, an unfiltered crackle that’s increasingly rare as even the mighty 911 moves to an all-turbocharged lineup. These cars are faster and still get decent mileage. You can’t really argue with that. But driving one is like your favorite band’s new album. It takes a few listens before you dig the new material. Eventually, the four-cylinder Boxster will seem like it’s been around forever. Which, in a way, it has. The original 718 from the late 1950s had a flat four. So did James Dean’s 550 Spyder. Embrace these new 718s, people. Because at some point, whether in ten years or 20 or 30, the technological noose will draw tight, and the homogeneity of electrics will render moot all the age-old barroom debates on cylinder count and turbos. But for now, Porsche has a new engine, one that renews the relevance of its most attainable sports car. You’ve got to like the sound of that.

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

39

OTH ER C ARS THAT WENT FO U R- CYLI N D ER : Volvo XC90, Land Rover LR2 (a.k.a. Discovery Sport), BMW 328i, Ford Mustang, Porsche Le Mans Prototype Racers (RS Spyder to 919 Hybrid).

Porsche needs to convert to the fourcylinder philosophy. Not being a Porsche traditionalist myself, I warmed to the flat four the first time I passed a dawdler on the rural two-lanes leading to the track. Boxsters have always had great grip and midengine balance, but you felt

like you could do your taxes on the straightaways. The 718 S, however, kicks out 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, and its distinctly 911like acceleration comes from that special turbocharger. Most turbos are like a one-speed transmission— quick response or big, powerful boost, but not both. But the 718’s can change the angle of the turbo’s vanes, adjusting boost so smoothly that it mimics a naturally aspirated engine’s torque curve. This is a revelation: a Boxster with torque. I want to know what Jennings thinks, so I climb into the passenger seat and we head out onto the track. We’re chasing a Cayman GT4, the 385-hp zenith of the six-cylinder era. “If you didn’t tell me this was a four, I would’ve thought it was a six,” Jennings says. “It pulls all the way to the redline with no turbo lag.” While I’m sure a GT4 sets quicker lap times, our 718 stays on its tail without seeming to exert itself—the car ahead of us has 35 more horses when it’s near the redline, but the 718 is stronger low down in the rev range, where you’re actually driving most of the time. Jennings professes respect for the 718, but allows that his definition of a Porsche begins and ends with the 911. So we head into the pits to recruit a midengine acolyte. I find one in Bill Ainsley, who drives a Boxster RS 60 on the street and a Cayman on the track. We’re barely past turn one when he dips into the throttle and declares, “Wow...that’s a lot of torque!” These are words that have never before been spoken from behind the wheel of a Boxster. “Not the same sound, though,” he says, his voice tinged with


WITH

EZRA

DYER

Dealer vs. Mechanic Showdown WHO SHOULD WORK ON YOUR CAR? Car owners might not love dealer service departments, but independent mechanics do. Why? Because dealers’ stiff rates and by-the-book approach can drive customers straight to a local independent specialist. Alan Prosser, owner of Alan Auto Volvo Service in Portland, Maine, can attest. “When a dealer changes out a common EVAP hose in the rear of a post-2001 V70, they need to remove the exhaust system and rear suspension,” he says. “That’s six to eight hours of labor.” Instead of deliberately protracting the job to rack up the bill, Prosser takes a holesaw and 30 minutes to do the same fix. “We independents haven’t sold out our imaginations,” he says. And yet, that same improvisation can make a dealership’s accountability appealing. “Volvo always sends us the software updates, and we’re the first to know about a new way to do things,” says Mike Profenno, service manager at Herb Chambers Volvo, a dealership in Norwood, Massachusetts. “There are handicaps when you don’t have manufacturer support.” So who do you go to? We asked Prosser and Profenno some questions to help us decide.

HOW TO

FIND A MECHANIC 40

PROBLEM

You’re on a tight schedule.

DEALER MECHANIC The dealership is bigger and, because it’s usually more expensive, less in demand. It can churn jobs quickly, whereas an independent shop will prioritize emergencies, while you wait for parts. But the good ones, like dealerships, have loaner vehicles and plan service around their availability. “After the flat-rate system, rushed jobs are perhaps the greatest contributor to crappy work in our industry, so we set it up so we can take our time,” Prosser says. “We keep at least five loaners available for customers.”

PROBLEM Your late-model car has an electronics gremlin. DEALER MECHANIC Modern vehicles require expensive diagnostic equipment that dealerships already have. “We install software updates on every car,” Profenno says. “When you pick it up, maybe the Bluetooth works better.” Independents who focus on a particular manufacturer will be similarly outfitted, but, Prosser says, “Generalservice shops don’t cut it. You’re paying them to learn about your car.” If you can’t find a specialist in area, off to the dealer.

PROBLEM Your unusual car has an esoteric mechanical issue, like a BMW E36 power convertible top that stopped working.

PROBLEM When you sell your car, you worry that buyers will balk at non-dealer service records.

DEALER MECHANIC Some problems are so complex and discouraging—in this case, a synchronized dance between motors, sensors, and bodywork—that an independent will know to walk away. “Good mechanics know when they are out of their league and will give you alternatives,” Prosser says. Dealers and mechanics consult with each other, so you might end up with a referral to the best expert for that particular problem.

DEALER

• Join an online forum for your make and, ideally, specific model and ask for shop recommendations.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

• Approach strangers who also have an old Volvo or Bronco or Amphicar.

MECHANIC

“If your car is new and under warranty,” Prosser says, “go to the dealer.” After that period ends, usually around 50,000 miles, go independent. It’s cheaper, and you avoid the pitch for a new car. But check if your manufacturer has an exceptional warranty policy. “Here, dealerinstalled Volvo parts have a lifetime warranty,” Profenno says. “You’re not going to get that with an independent.”

• Check if candidate shops are Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and Better Business Bureau certified.

• On your first visit, give the shop a small job, such as balancing the tires, and compare its price against NAPA AutoCare’s repair estimator.


Base price: $32,390 Included accessory for first 1,000 Launch Edition Miatas: 42-mm Tourneau watch Base price: $36,800

1

2

3 Base price: $26,315

Virtual-engine-sound system: Below 12 mph, the Soul emits a spaceship noise to warn pedestrians.

Performance package features: Brembo brakes and Sachs performance shocks, the better to use the stability-control system’s new Track setting.

1

2

3

2016 KIA SOUL EV+

2017 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA RF

2017 SUBARU BRZ

The Soul EV isn’t much different now than it was in 2014 when it first arrived, which means it’s been superseded by the second generation of EVs. The latest electric Soul has roughly half the horsepower and less than half the battery capacity of the similarly priced Chevy Bolt—EPA-rated range is 93 miles to the Bolt’s 238. Welcome to the car as an electronic device. Your two-year-old vehicle is as outdated as an iPhone 4. Still, the 2016 EV Plus has all the goodness of an electric car. It’s eerily smooth and quiet, a Maybach dressed as a pugnacious Korean wagon. Its 210 lb-ft of torque makes it quick around town. Leave the regenerative braking on all the time and your brake pads will probably last until the Singularity renders us all servants to the omniscient digital etherbrain. And if you can plug in every night, the 93 miles of range is probably sufficient. But even against the updated Nissan Leaf, Kia can’t compete on specs. Which means that the Soul is likely to be a bargain. We’ve seen Kia offer $3,000 cash on top of the $7,500 federal EV credit, and sub-$200 lease deals are the norm. Hey, if the price is right, you might conclude that an iPhone 4 still works just fine.

The last hardtop Miata was almost identical to the ragtop: same silhouette, just with better soundproofing and metal instead of cloth. The new RF (retractable fastback) goes for a completely different roofline. When the top is down, the buttresses behind the seats remain, sort of like a miniature Porsche 911 Targa. Like the Targa, the RF is fascinating to behold as the entire rear deck pops up and swallows the roof. When the roof panels descend, they slide behind the front seats and apparently into a wormhole. Inexplicably, the trunk capacity is the same as the soft-top model, even with the top down. You can open and close at up to 6 mph, which might sound slow, but you can at least begin creeping out of the way if the light turns green while you’re mid-stow. All of this clever engineering has a practical goal, namely making the Miata a more pleasant machine with which to dispatch long-distance drives. The soft-top is always loud, even with the top up. The RF acts like a grand-touring coupe with the roof raised, and an open-air corner-carver with it retracted. If you dig the Targa look, then it’s a best-ofboth-worlds scenario.

For 2017, Subaru gave the BRZ a new intake manifold, exhaust manifolds, camshafts, cylinder heads, and valves, a considerable overhaul that brings the 2.0-liter boxer four from 200 horsepower all the way up to...205 horsepower. Unless you get the automatic transmission. Then it’s still 200 horsepower. Well, the BRZ has never been about the numbers. Like the Miata, this is a car that delivers an experience, not a killer quartermile time. It’s lightweight, free-revving, and rear-wheel-drive. You’re constantly shifting gears to keep the flat four singing. And that’s okay, because the stubby shifter is delightful. Yes, Subaru could have turbocharged the BRZ and given it 300 horsepower. And perhaps it still might. But to what end? More expensive, with less accessible limits? Perhaps Subaru remembers the Japaneseperformance-car battles of the ’90s, when the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 and Toyota Supra imploded under the weight of their own overcomplicated, overpowered ambitions. Whatever the motive, this BRZ reminds you that when you’re on the Tail of the Dragon, tires howling, tach flirting with 7,000 rpm, nobody’s keeping score.

REVIEWS 42

GENESIS G80 Posh and quick. Huge trunk.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

VOLVO V60 CROSS COUNTRY T5 PLATINUM Volvo, 2017: rugged yet voluptuous.

MERCEDES-AMG SL63 Heaters work until 90 mph.


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WITH

EZRA

DYER

The Guide to Car Options A PRIMER ON SELF-RESTRAINT.

I

f I can convince just one person to avoid the sunroof, then my career has had some value. Because the sunroof is nonsense. Let me give you the sales pitch: We, the manufacturer, will cut a hole in your car’s roof and install a glass panel. When closed, solar gain will make your interior into a sweat lodge. When open, a low-pressure zone will attempt to vacuum your otic ganglion out through your ears. Oh, and at some point, this thing is definitely going to leak. For all this, we’ll charge you $1,000. Maybe more. Ready to sign up? As a man whose overhead map lights fill up like miniature aquariums every time it rains, I’ve learned that there are options you should always buy, and others you should always decline. Choose wisely and your car will have everything you need for the lowest possible price. Go awry with extras and you’ll saddle yourself with years of heartbreak and regret, all while undermining your car’s resale value. Let’s start with fundamentals: color and wheels. Yes, it’s tempting to pay $700 extra for the Austin Yellow Metallic on your new BMW M4. You may want the 20-inch wheels, the primary draw of the $4,750 Competition Package. And you may wish to swaddle yourself with the Sakhir Orange leather seats ($950). BMW will be delighted. But you’ll wind up rocking a color scheme reminiscent of bad pea soup, riding on 30-profile tires that will do precious little to shield those beautiful wheels from even the shortest of curbs. When it comes to color, it’s hard to go wrong with the no-cost choices. I assure you, your vehicle will include paint regardless of whether you pay extra, and it’s unlikely that the next owner will have a qualm with Alpine White. And for wheels, remember that each extra inch of diameter means a corresponding reduction in tire sidewall height. If you have several to choose from—

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FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

the Jaguar F-Pace’s wheels are available in four sizes, from 18 inches to 22 inches—go with the middle ground. Your car will look right, and you won’t get body-slammed at every highway expansion joint. Aesthetics and ride quality are, of course, subjective. Other decisions aren’t. Like the sunroof, any navigation system is a waste. One former Apple engineer told me that, unlike swift tech companies, auto manufacturers can take up to five years to develop and finally deploy a new system in a car that should be on the road for a decade. “Imagine that in phone terms,” he said. “Would you buy a new phone that was designed five years ago and then keep it for ten years after that?” No, you wouldn’t. Which is why I use the Waze app, lest my car’s useless navigation system—part of a $4,000 package when I bought it—attempts to use its outdated maps to take me west via the Oregon Trail. This applies a thousandfold to DVD players. The rear-seat Blu-Ray entertainment system in a 2017 Toyota Sequoia costs $1,920. Buy two 32-GB iPad Air 2s, hang them off the back of the seats, and save $1,122. Finally, there’s the matter of performance. I’ll never talk anybody out of buying the most powerful engine. But I might try to talk you out of allwheel drive. A 2017 Mercedes C300 costs $2,000 more with all-wheel drive and loses three miles per gallon on the highway. And for what? So you can drive up the side of the mountain in a snowstorm? You can do that anyway with the right set of winter tires, which have the added benefit of helping you steer and stop. Besides, making your car lighter almost always costs money (a set of titanium Ferrari lug nuts can easily run more than $1,000), so think of your non-all-wheel-drive car as a bargain superleggera. Speaking of which, you know what else saves weight? Skipping the sunroof.

OPTIONS YOU DO WANT ELECTRONIC SAFETY Lane-keeping assist, automatic braking, adaptive cruise—these things will make your life easier. And possibly save it. THE BIG STEREO Digital source material is finally respectable enough to make a booming system worth it. Bluetooth Apple Music sounds legit on a Bose, Bowers, Bang, or Burmester. KEYLESS START Not for the starting, but for the automatic unlocking. THE HEATED STEERING WHEEL The greatest option ever.

I L LU S T R AT I O N BY DA N I LO AG U TO L I


1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTi OWNER:

Christopher Dick SELLER:

Dan Sather, friend since high school L O C AT I O N :

Minneapolis

PURCHASE PRICE:

$8,000

D A N WA S L I V I N G

with me, working in the garage of the first house I bought. He had spent 20 years and $20,000 turning a rusted-out Volkswagen into this brand-new car from 1983. It was the kind of project I could never justify doing myself. But watching him work, I was jealous. We had been into Volkswagens since high school, reading about them in European car magazines, thinking about P H OTO G R A P H S BY J M U C K L E

YEARS OWNED:

Two

how to make enough money to buy one. He moved out, got married, had kids, and put the Rabbit up for sale. I explained to my wife that it was an investment. That it would never be worth less than what I was paying for it. That ’80s cars don’t have the failure rates like the ’60s or ’70s. That I wanted to rescue it from some 19-yearold wrapping it around a telephone pole. She grew up with a dad who

made her push-start his Porsche 356 in a Chicago alleyway every spring. She understands what cars mean to people. I don’t really care about going to a parking lot and having guys tell you how beautiful it is. I love cars because I love driving, and the Rabbit has brought me friends who are the same way. It’s 150 horsepower for 1,700 pounds. The roll cage and racing suspension make it extremely rigid, with low-profile, barely road-legal tires. You know how you feel when you get off a roller coaster? That’s what it’s like when I drive it to work. You’re tired and know you’ve experienced some adrenaline. I felt bad about the labor and money that Dan had put into it until he said that he was happy to sell it to me. Every time he and his wife see me, they say, “It’s still in the family!” He’s happy knowing it’s still around. @ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

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SPECS BASE PRICE $21,990 WEIGHT 752 pounds ENGINE 96-hp 1400-cc V-twin

A Cruiser for a Superhero

T

THE MOTO GUZZI FLYING FORTRESS LOOKS TOUGH ENOUGH TO FIGHT CRIME. BUT ONLY IN NICE WEATHER. B Y D A V I D C U R C U R I T O

here’s an evolution to riding that I always thought lay back and do a sudoku puzzle, listen to some music on the sound went something like this: street bike to dual-sport, system, and make some sandwiches, all while taking in the scenery. sport bike to sport cruiser, touring cruiser to some Wrong. The first day of the two-day trip was the worst weather—a sort of silly trike, then perhaps you go back to a sport hard rain with thick fog. The MGX-21, equipped with multiple drivwhen you’re in heaven. It’s like the reverse ascent of ing modes—veloce (fast), turismo (touring), pioggia (rain), and venti man. Your riding position starts upright then eventually turns to cappuccino—handled the roads well, but with a basically nonexistent windshield, no lower fairing to protect my legs, and the same slouch when you’re watching Dancing With I figured I nothing but pegs protecting my feet, the elements the Stars in your comfy chair. But I’ve never been a really beat me up. In strong winds the bat-wing hancruiser kind of guy. I can’t see myself trading in my could lay dlebar fairing and semi-enclosed carbon-fiber front sport cruiser for a tugboat blaring Fleetwood Mac back and do a wheel tossed me around like a kitten in a dryer. Ever from its stereo, no matter what stage of life I’m in. sudoku puzzle, had rain seep into a full-face helmet before? How I’ve been riding a lot lately, having clocked more than 4,000 miles in two weeks, and, believe me, my listen to some about having the water go through your rain gear and straight up your leg to form a puddle in your crotch? shoulders and hips and butt are feeling a new kind of twinge. Suddenly the sloth-like cruisers that I cursed music, and make It’s a sick, sick form of torture. Then the weather cleared up. The next day the along the Blue Ridge Parkway a month ago looked sandwiches. Guzzi cornered through some beautiful stretches of like Swedish masseuses, so I thought a cruiser would provide a comfortable break. When you first see it, the Moto Guzzi the White Mountain National Forest with ease. The 96-hp, 1400-cc MGX-21 Flying Fortress ($21,990) looks like something custom- V-twin has 89 lb-ft of massive torque that’s ballsy and responsive. made for Batman. It’s black—blacker than black actually, with a Even though the bike weighs 752 pounds and can be hard work matte-black exhaust, rims, and a bat-like front fairing. The only color maneuvering around the parking lot, once you get it up to speed, it on this eight-foot-four-inch-long bike is the brilliant red on the head- scribes an arc like a compass. Solid and confident, the torque pulls ers and Brembo brakes. Its gas tank and enormous tapered hard cases you onto the straights with a heady surge of acceleration. It’s a joy to drive, just check the weather first. I always used to wonder why guys are, no surprise, carbon fiber. I couldn’t wait to get the Fortress on the road. I decided to take it for had more than one bike. It seemed like a way to show people that you a 650-mile ride to the Kancamagus Highway, stop for lunch in North had too much money. But now I realize it was just a way to be able to Conway, New Hampshire, and head back. On a cruiser, I figured I could ride whenever you want. No matter how many clouds are in the sky.

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P H OTO G R A P H BY N I G E L PA R R Y


Health

Chicago Doctor Invents Affordable Hearing Aid New nearly invisible digital hearing aid breaks price barrier Reported by J. Page

Chicago: Board-certified physician Dr. S. Cherukuri has done it once again with his newest invention of a medicalgrade, ALL-DIGITAL, affordable hearing aid. This new digital hearing aid is packed with all the features of $3,500 competitors at a mere fraction of the cost. Now, most people with hearing loss are able to enjoy crystal clear, natural sound—in a crowd, on the phone, in the wind— without suffering through “whistling” and annoying background noise.

Digital Hearing Aid Outperforms Expensive Competitors This sleek, fully programmed, light-weight, hearing aid is the outgrowth of the digital revolution that is changing our world. While demand for “all things digital” caused most prices to plunge (consider DVD players and computers, which originally sold for thousands of dollars and today can be purchased for less), the cost of a digital medical-grade hearing aid remains out of reach. Dr. Cherukuri knew that many of his patients would benefit but couldn’t afford the expense of these new digital hearing aids. Generally they are not covered by Medicare and most private health insurance plans.

de-emphasizing background noise. Experience all of the sounds you’ve been missing at a price you can afford. This doctor designed and approved hearing aid comes with a full year’s supply of long-life batteries. It delivers crisp, clear sound all day long and the soft flexible ear domes are so comfortable you won’t realize you’re wearing them.

Try it Yourself at Home With Our 45-Day Risk-Free Trial Of course, hearing is believing and we invite you to try it for yourself with our RISK-FREE 45-DAY HOME TRIAL. If you are not completely satisfied, simply return it within that time period for a full refund of your purchase price.

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“I would definitely recommend them to my patients —Amy S., Audiologist, Indiana with hearing loss.”

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FAST AND EASY

COMMON HOME REPAIRS

Clogged gutter? Broken window? Flickering fluorescents?

DON’T CALL A PROFESSIONAL! TRY THIS NIFTY GUIDE TO FAST, EASY HOME REPAIRS INSTEAD. In this world there are two types of people: those who can fix whatever goes bust, and those who beg the first group for help. Popular Mechanics When Duct Tape Just Isn’t Enough gives you simple and ingenious solutions for many common home quandaries, from plumbing and appliance failures to computer breakdowns and pest infestations and more! AVAILABLE WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD • $14.95 ($16.95 Canada), Flexibound


Three great rituals—working on motorcycles, making coffee, and getting haircuts—happen in one old building in Florence, Alabama. Photographs by C A RY N O R T O N

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A

O M A J O R H I G H W AY will take you to Florence, Alabama. You fly down a sparse two-lane to get there, averaging fifteen over, the dust of dry farm fields catching the last stretches of the southern sun. It’s still 68 degrees at dusk, so you keep the windows down. You pass an old, warehouse-looking building on Tennessee Street. Turbo Coffee, it says out front. Next door, same building: a genuine barber pole. You could use a trim. You go in. Greasy Hands, it’s called. It looks transplanted from some hipper neighborhood in a hipper city—Brooklyn, Austin, the Mission. But nope, here you are in Florence, Alabama. It works here because it works anywhere: good people doing good work that makes you feel good when you walk in and better when you leave. It doesn’t cost much—maybe a little more than a barbershop where the guy’s half asleep, but not much. What do you get for it? An escape from the drudgery of the everyday. A clean cut. Friendly

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conversation. A free coffee next door. It’s an every-three-or-fourweeks gift to yourself. You sit. Maybe Austin Shirey, the owner, takes care of you. Or Daniel. Or Austin’s brother Garrett. Or Sanford. Those are the guys. Austin’s other brother, Reese, runs Turbo. You, freshly shorn—the guys are wizards with scissors and a razor—get your coffee. In those three or four weeks between your visits, the guys are there. They’re doing for your neighbors, your doctor, the students at nearby University of North Alabama the same thing they did for you. This is their modern-day version of the old downtown gathering spot—the village hall, the general store. The barbershop. The coffee shop. It’s great. They hang out in front of the coffee shop before they start cutting in the morning. They find breaks during the day to take their vintage motorcycles for a spin around town or futz with the engines in the garage. But mostly they work. They craft cup after perfect cup of coffee, and every clean neck gets a final heavy drag of a steamed towel. When you leave, refreshed, there’s someone else waiting. Always someone else.


B

PAGE 49: THE WARM-UP

The guys don’t start cutting hair until 10 in the morning, so they’ll soak up every last minute beforehand hanging out front of Turbo. From left, on Garrett Shirey: Wilson & Willy’s shirt ($155). On Daniel Crisler: Schott jacket (his own), Criquet shirt ($95). On Sanford Rodriguez: Shinola sweatshirt ($150), Levi’s jeans (his own), Converse sneakers ($75). On Austin Shirey: Todd Snyder shirt ($158), Levi’s jeans (his own).

A / THE SHOP

Shirey and his brothers did a lot of the work on the shop themselves, pulling down the ’50sera drop ceiling to expose the raw beams underneath and painting the space.

B / BIKES FOR BENCHES

In the garage that separates Greasy Hands from Turbo Coffee, Shirey keeps two vintage Hondas and a BMW he and Reese have been working on. Levi’s jeans (his own); Red Wing boots (his own).

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C / THE RIDE

The University of North Alabama is just down the road out of town from Greasy Hands, perfect for an afternoon ride. Billy Reid jacket ($395).

D / UPSTAIRS The raw motor-oilsoaked floor of the space above the shop used to function as a showroom for an auto dealer.

On Rodriguez: Billy Reid jacket ($295). On Austin Shirey: Tailgate Clothing T-shirt ($32). On Reese Shirey: Apolis jacket ($278), Levi’s Made & Crafted jeans ($198), Wolverine boots ($400).

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C

D

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limb to the highest point on your land, in your house, even in your apartment situation—just get up high—and look down at your life as a kind of map. The perspective is military; the distance makes your attachment to your possessions dispassionate. From your promontory, the edges are clear. This is the world you created. How’d you do? Can what you’ve made provide beyond the next grocery run? Sure it’s a place you can live, but is it a place where you could survive? I live in Indiana, at a great remove. On the far end of an empty country road, in a little house on a broad creek. I don’t grow any food. I don’t own any livestock. I used up all my firewood last year and haven’t replaced it. But I feel I can make it out here. Even though my best tool for survival is the epic snarling of my nasty-loyal yard dog. When I first went up high on this property for my look around, I paused in the loft of my barn, which stands on a hill. A house, two cabins, a barn, and a garage. I thought: It’s a compound. Surely, this was all we needed. But the list of structures turned out to be only the shell. Self-sufficiency takes trade-offs and lessons years in the making. You have to buy a goat, the right kind at the right time of year. You have to take a weekend and rewire the barn. You have to find a way to store water, kindling, rain gear, beans. You gotta get a freezer. You gotta get a generator. You need flares. You have to master the small-scale solar install. You have to learn, to really master, sharpening a chainsaw and an axe, rigging a pulley system. You’ll learn how to make repairs on refrigeration units, shed roofs, and forgotten tractors. When all of this stuff starts to fall together for you, in your head and on your shelves, you’ll be able to stand at the highest point on your property and know what each building carries for you, each and every inventory of all the corners of your land and yourself. You’ll see that you have built survival into the place and into yourself. Only then can you lift your eyes above your own stuff, look to the horizon, and watch for whatever trouble you might have to survive. —Tom Chiarella

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Learn to grow and preserve your own food. There’s no takeout in the middle of the woods. Di a m a nt Gr a in Mill → A cast-iron flywheel turns iron and steel burrs to grind grains into flour or cereal. Use with the corn sheller to make cornmeal. $1,000

Shop Like the

Amish! Lehman’s opened in 1955 as a hardware store in Kidron, Ohio, selling equipment to northeast Ohio’s Amish community. Today, Lehman’s has expanded to sell products through, uncharacteristically, the internet. Here are a few to pick up for your off-grid kitchen.

Cast-Iron Cor n Sheller → Use this to remove the kernels from dried corn so they can be fed to livestock. You can use the cobs as frewood (frecorn?). $299

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Ov en/Sun Food-Dry ing R ack → These solid oak and fberglass drying screens separate fruit and vegetable slices so they (the slices) can be dried. $90

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Sta rter Fruit Pr ess → Not only will it instantly turn any kitchen table into a tableau of American farmhouse charm, it can press eight quarts of soft fruits, such as grapes, into juice. $200

P H OTO G R A P H BY DY L A N G R I F F I N


A

If You Bring Only

One Pan B

C

D

F

E

The Grow-Forever

Garden Connor Stedman, an agroforestry specialist and ecologist at garden design firm AppleSeed Permaculture, uses a farming practice called permaculture that exploits natural relationships between plants to create a long-lasting garden that will grow without fertilizer. Here’s how to do it at home. A) Tr ees → Place trees on the northern side of your garden, then try to arrange the rest of the plants in a descending order from north to south. This ensures that no tall plants are blocking the sun from shorter crops. → Try planting pear (rose family), cornelian cherry (dogwood family), and pawpaw (custard apple family) trees together. All three produce edible fruit, but won’t spread disease to each other. B) Understory → Directly underneath the trees, create a functional support system. Wild senna adds nitrogen to the soil and attracts beneficial insects, comfrey brings up nutrients from deep soil and is medicinal for burns, and anise hyssop can be used for tea. C) Bushes → Try highbush blueberries, gooseberries, and Nanking cherry. I L LU S T R AT I O N BY J O N AT H A N C A R L S O N

D) Bet w een-bush pl a nts → In between the bushes, plant asparagus, which grows when the berries aren’t ripe, and yarrow, which is medicinal for colds. E) Thr ee Sisters → Plant corn on the eastern and western edges of the garden, where it won’t block the sun from other vegetables. Then plant pole beans and squash in the same bed, as American Indians did. The crops, known as the three sisters, are complementary. F) Beds → Rule-of-thumb plants to keep together and apart: vegetables in the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts) like leafy greens and beets, but won’t do well with strawberries. Peas don’t get along with garlic. Corn, tomatoes, and potatoes shouldn’t be planted together because they don’t make sense geometrically. Try to rotate your vegetables each year.

The problem with being a cook and also a gearhead who believes in having the right tool for the job is that somehow I’ve ended up with 47 pots and pans. I could justify each of them, but when I start homesteading, I’m going to pack just one: my Le Creuset enameled cast-iron 11.75-inch skillet. Unlike traditional cast-iron pans, this one has shallow, slightly sloped sides, making it more like a sauté pan. Once the thing heats up (this takes a while—it’s a Btu hog), the cast iron holds a consistent temperature, which allows for uniform cooking. I’ve used it to make pancakes, fry eggs, and even roast whole chickens. I have half a mind to throw it on top of our fire pit and sear some steaks when the weather improves, because I know the pan can take the heat. Best of all, it comes in 12 colors, which makes it a piece of equipment everyone in the family can get behind. —Wylie Dufresne

You Need Rather than a compressor, a tiny propane flame drives the refrigeration cycle, using reactions between ammonia and hydrogen gas to A Propane remove heat from the interior. And Fridge though they can be expensive—a 21-cubic-foot model might run as much as $2,500—they’re incredibly efficient: A propane fridge requires a bit more than a pound of propane a day under normal operation, and can use even less if your kids don’t stand in front of it looking for snacks with the door open.

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We can teach you how to procure water for your family. For whiskey, you’re on your own.

Cap

The How and Where of

Wells

Ground level

Forget Wi-Fi. Modern homesteader BEN HEWITT faced the greatest obstacle to living far from utility lines: How do you get water?

hen I was one, my family moved from a large farmhouse in northwestern Vermont into a small cabin my parents had built at the edge of a nearby hardwood forest. The cabin featured neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. It was lit by smoky kerosene lanterns, and we bathed in a metal washtub filled with water heated atop an old wood-fired cookstove. At first, my parents hauled totes of water to the cabin in the backseat of their rust-bitten Volkswagen Beetle. When they tired of this, my father rigged up a hand pump and managed to pull water from a stream nearly a half-mile distant and at least a hundred vertical feet below the cabin site. He was understandably proud. Though I was too young to grasp the implications, that pump was my first experience with water that hadn’t come from a municipal authority. My next would come twenty-five years later, after my wife, Penny, and I closed on forty remote acres of our own. Seeking a more permanent solution than my father’s stream-fed hand pump, we chose to drill a well. It has been another two decades since then, but I remember clearly the day the rig arrived to set its bit. At the time, Penny and I had $1,500 to our names, and like all drillers, ours charged by the foot. If memory serves, the late-nineties price was $8 per foot. If we didn’t strike water by 150 feet or so (we needed a small reserve to pay for the steel casing that would line the well from surface to bedrock), we’d 58

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Casing

Pitless adapter

Water to house (below frost line)

Static level of H2O

Bedrock

Pump (generally installed 10 to 15 feet from the bottom of the well)

Water source

I L LU S T R AT I O N BY J O N AT H A N C A R L S O N


have to pull the plug. At a hundred feet, the bit struck a vein of water that produced thirty gallons per minute. According to the EPA, the average American family of four uses four hundred gallons of water a day. We’d have plenty to spare. Better yet, the total bill, including the casing and well cap, came to around $1,000. That night, we ate steak. Last summer, Penny and I drilled yet another rural well, to serve a house we are building on a hundred acres in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom. Again we faced the obstacle that all property owners do when they drill for water: There is no way to know with certainty how deep the water lies, or how much water there is to be found. If the four hundred gallons a day statistic is correct, a mere third of a gallon per minute is all that’s necessary to supply the average family of four, but that leaves little wiggle room for times of heavy use or variations in flow. Besides, we keep livestock, including a small herd of cattle, thirsty beasts capable of drinking thirty gallons a day apiece. I wish I could report that this time around money was not an issue. Alas, my career as freelance writer and small-scale farmer has ensured that I cannot. Compounding the problem was the fact that many of the neighboring wells ran to four hundred feet, and delivered only three or four gallons a minute, barely sufficient for our needs. Worse yet, according to the well maps provided by the state, one nearby property owner had drilled six hundred feet without hitting water. Nor had drilling costs magically defied the one-way rule of inflation: In rural Vermont, it now costs approximately $12 per foot to drill, and the six-inch steel casing is $17 a foot. At those rates, assuming a hundred feet of casing, a four-hundred-foot well would cost us $6,500 before we installed a pump. So we hired a dowser, a sort of water psychic who locates ideal drilling locations by watching the movement of copper rods. This despite numerous studies clearly demonstrating that the practice is no better than a coin toss. The dowser arrived on a late-summer morning. I don’t know what I’d expected, exactly—flowing robes? a flower crown?—but I was nonetheless pleased that he arrived in a commonplace Toyota Tacoma and wore the utilitarian garb of a rural working person. “I’m going to have you find the water. I want your energy in it,” he said to Penny and me, before handing us each a pair of foot-long copper L-rods fashioned out of wire. Sleeves installed over the short end of the L allowed the rods to rotate freely in our hands, ostensibly in response to the presence of potable water. My confidence increased when my L-rods crossed mere minutes after I started off on my walk around the property. It felt almost as if I could not have stopped them from crossing if I’d tried. Penny got the

You Need

A Sand-Point Well

Despite the modern technology, the rig looked prehistoric, like a dinosaur ready to chew up my yard.

Great Unknowns of

Self-Sufficiency!

A sand-point is basically a spear tip with a metal screen behind it. If you have a reasonably high water table and sandy-gravel soil, pound that sucker into the ground using either a slide hammer or a drop weight and pulley on a tripod. Keep pounding until the point penetrates about ten feet past the water table. It’s slow and grueling, but it works. And it’s cheap. The sand-point method can save you thousands compared to having a well drilled professionally.

same result, as did our coach, though I couldn’t help considering that they’d both seen me go first. Still. My rods had crossed entirely unbidden by human force. They absolutely had. Hadn’t they? In matters of faith, one can choose to believe or choose not to. The agony, I’ve found, resides in the middle path. Besides, we’d shelled out $250 for the dowser’s time. A flagged stake was planted. Three weeks later, the rig arrived. The drill carriage was mounted on a lift. When raised, by leveling jacks that hoisted the rig’s front wheels off the ground, it stood forty feet in the air. Despite the modern technology—diesel engine, digital display, high-flow hydraulics— it looked prehistoric, like a dinosaur ready to chew up my yard. At 165 feet, it punched into a vein that shot past at approximately fifty gallons per minute. “Truth is, I’m not sure exactly how fast it’s flowing,” the rig operator told me. “It’s coming in too damn fast. But it’s the best well in town, that’s for sure.” That evening, I threw a couple of T-bones on the grill and got my sons to move the picnic table from the backside of the house to the front. It’d be another day before the casing was fully installed, and another week before a friend and I dropped in the pump and ran water to the house. Still, I wanted to look out on our good fortune while I ate my steak. Can I say with certainty that divination produced our desired result? I cannot. We’ve got water. That’s all I need to know.

What’s the closest anyone’s gotten to creating no trash at all? Astonishingly close, though it certainly takes an effort that most folks aren’t prepared to expend. The average American, per Environmental Protection Agency statistics, jettisons 4.4 pounds of trash a day. Lauren Singer, a Brooklyn-based blogger, on the other hand, has managed to fit several years’ worth of waste into a single mason jar. Of course, she drinks her iced coffee through a reusable straw and makes her own toothpaste. Singer is one of several young bloggers dedicated to sharing strategies to cut down on waste. For starters, you’ll want to be conscious of what you buy—items in nonrecyclable packaging are no-nos. Obviously, you’ll want to recycle or compost absolutely anything you can. Otherwise, think of a way to reuse it. Styrofoam blocks might make for stylish lightweight headgear, and used PC towers serve as sleek, modern side tables.

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When you’re living far from civilization, it’s the little things that are the most difficult.

2) Ther mometer... → Shell out for a thermistor thermometer. These register electrical resistance and are very accurate. Record temperature for a few years to get the average first freeze. ...a nd h ygrometer → This will give you dew point, the highest temperature at which water vapor will become liquid. High dew points at low temperatures can protect your plants from frost damage.

2

1 3

3) Cup a nemometer a nd w ind va ne → The anemometer will give you wind speed, while the vane will show wind direction. Strong winds at night can prevent frost from sitting on—and damaging—crops.

How to

Predict Weather in Your Backyard

4) Four-inch r ain gauge → Recording total rainfall over time will help you predict your property’s threshold for how much rain is too much (for example: at what point your basement will flood).

4

With Ginger Zee Good Morning America and ABC World News Tonight chief meteorologist Ginger Zee grew up on a four-acre farm that ran on geothermal power and a small woodstove. It’s important to record and understand your homesite’s microclimate, she says, especially when you’re growing food. You’ll need the following tools.

1) Snow boa r d → Cut a sixteen-inch square out of plywood, paint it white, and place it on even, open ground next to a vertical meter stick. Mark the location with a bright flag. By measuring both snowfall and the water equivalent of snow (use your rain gauge, below), you’ll be able to tell how much water your crops are getting in the winter.

5) A neroid ba rometer → An aneroid barometer, which uses a vacuum box to measure pressure, will last longer than a liquid barometer, which is subject to evaporation. Depending on what side of a storm you’re on, air pressure will drop or rise as it approaches.

5

You Need

A Manual Washing Machine

Even if you rarely use it, a fat, crankable egg, such as the EasyGo Washer mobile hand-powered washing machine, is easily worth $55 just so you don’t have to dunk your drawers in the sink during a power outage. Stuff it with clothes, add two glugs of camping soap, and start sloshing. It doesn’t look like it, but a toddler could muscle the handle. Give it a full turn, a hard yank in the opposite direction, then a full rotation, then back again. Enjoy the therapeutic slushing. Two minutes in soapy water, two minutes in a fresh water rinse, and you’re done. Or mostly done. Without a spin cycle, your clothes will be fairly soggy. Two dozen black socks washed in the EasyGo took two full days to dry on a shower-curtain rod, even with the window open. If climate permits, use a clothesline. Or plan your underwear schedule accordingly.

I L LU S T R AT I O N S : J O N AT H A N C A R L S O N ; TO O L S : DY L A N G R I F F I N


The Ultimate Off-the-Grid

Toolbox 12-gauge shotgun → Off-grid means on your own. Use this to scare off potential mischief-makers, or to dispatch rabbits digging up your vegetable patch and eat ’em for dinner.

Ca nt hook → If you’re gonna be lighting fires, you’re gonna be moving logs. Your back will last twice as long if you use one of these grabbers to do it.

Linesm a n pliers → Also called side cutters for the blades on its jaws, these pliers can make electrical repairs, cut fence wire, and chop through nails and small screws. P H OTO G R A P H / I L LU S T R AT I O N BY T E E K AY N A M E

Long-h a ndle No. 2 roundpoint shov el → Dig a ditch, put out a brush fire, chop through ice and snow. It’s all in a day’s work for old No. 2. Get one with a deep socket—the metal cup at the top of the blade into which the handle fits. This will make it nearly indestructible.

Ch a insaw → Use it to cut firewood, make fence posts, or clear a tree that fell across your quarter-mile-long driveway.

Fr a ming h a mmer → Nails will cower when they see this bigger, heavier version of a standard claw hammer coming. The unbreakable solidsteel model from Estwing is a good bet.

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How to Make Your Own

Power Set up one of these systems, and then bellow like Zeus every time you turn on the coffeemaker.

The

Sol a r → Location: South- or west-facing rooftop or unwooded area → Equipment: At least 24 solar panels, charge controller, breakers, switchgear, inverter, and batteries. → Output: 7.5-kw → Cost*: $25,000 to $30,000, depending on whether it’s a rooftop or a ground array.

Don’t want to build your own cabin in the woods? You don’t have to. A premade, off-grid-compatible house can function wherever you decide to call home.

Gener ator → Location: Level ground near the house → Equipment: Generator, panel, breakers, and switchgear. A 100-gallon or larger liquefied petroleum gas tank. Propane. → Output: 7.5-kw → Cost: About $10,000, but it can vary based on distance to the house, plumbing, and interconnection to a battery.

Ecocapsule

Shortcut Shack

Acr e Designs → Best for: Design enthusiasts → Comparable to: A four-star resort → Coolest feature: It combines all your utilities into a single appliance, the ZeroBox, which includes an electrical panel, a distribution panel, a 7.2-kilowatt inverter, an energy recovery ventilator, and a whole-home waterfiltration system and emergency shutoff. → Cost: $400,000 to $500,000; available at acredesigns.com

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ZeroHouse → Best for: People who wish the Jetsons were real → Comparable to: A motel in Japan → Coolest feature: High-efficiency solar panels produce all of the zeroHouse’s electrical power, storing it in battery banks that can operate for up to a week without sunlight. A 2,700-gallon cistern collects rainwater from the roof, while a digester unit under the house processes organic waste into dry compost. → Cost: Approximately $350,000; available at zerohouse.net

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Ecoca psule → Best for: People who don’t shower much → Comparable to: Wrapping your comforter around yourself like a burrito → Coolest feature: This pod can survive anywhere, without connection to anything, for up to a year. It powers itself through solar cells that cover the roof and a retractable 750-watt wind turbine, and the shape maximizes collected rainwater, which built-in filters make safe for consumption. → Cost: Approximately $87,600; available at ecocapsule.sk

Sm a ll Wind Tur bine → Location: Breezy area, high ground → Equipment: A wind turbine, set atop an 80- to 100-foot tower, turbine disconnect, electronics, inverter, and batteries. → Output: 7.5-kw → Cost*: $36,000 to $40,000 on average. Cost varies based on whether there is road or trail access to tower location and how far the tower is from your home. Micro Hy dro → Location: A water source with a vertical drop and a steady flow measured in gallons per minute → Equipment: An intake gate called a penstock, valves and pressure gauges, turbine, switchgear, inverter, and electronics. Lowoutput or variable-output systems may require a battery bank. → Output: 7.5-kw → Cost*: Anywhere from $8,000 to $36,000, depending on the length of your penstock, whether there is road or trail access, and how the turbine will be sheltered. *Costs do not reflect tax or other incentives or locally required permits.

R I G H T: P H OTO G R A P H BY DY L A N G R I F F I N


Now that you have the basics taken care of, what is there to do out here?

The Ultimate Off-Grid

Entertainment System

Because a man can only play so much candlelit Pictionary.

1

“Procure” movies

→ The legal way: Buy movie files from iTunes, Google, or Amazon. → The...legally complicated way: Travel back to the early 2000s and find DVDs. A library works. On a laptop with a CD drive, download an app called HandBrake (free) to turn those disks into video files and save them to your laptop.

2

Sync movies onto a big smartphone or a tablet

→ A 256-gig iPhone 7 Plus ($969) is ideal, but a 128gig Google Pixel ($749) or iPad Air ($499) will also work. FYI: Most Android phones will need Google Chromecast to play video, which requires extra power to run.

P H OTO G R A P H / I L LU S T R AT I O N BY T E E K AY N A M E

3

Create power

4

→ During the day, connect two 20-watt Goal Zero solar panels ($200 apiece) to each other, and plug them into a Sherpa 100 battery ($300) with an optional inverter ($50) that can run powerhungry devices that have two- or three-prong plugs. Three to five hours of sun will fill this battery with enough power to charge a projector and your phone or tablet.

Set up your home theater

→ The AAXA P300 ($400) can display an image up to 120 inches, but a full battery will only run for about an hour. The Sherpa with the optional inverter will get through about ten ninety-minute movies before everything runs out of juice. Connect your phone to the projector using an HDMI cable ($5) and an adapter ($50). Stand it up on a Joby GorillaPod ($30). Press play.

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How to

Entertain Your Kids in the Woods With Matt Ross n HBO’s Silicon Valley (returning in April), Matt Ross plays smug, frivolous technology executive Gavin Belson, a man given to such statements as “I don’t know about you people, but I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.” Ross himself is less wealthy, more sensible. He lives with his wife and two children in a duplex in Berkeley, California, and often worries about how much time his kids spend in contact with nature. It’s an outgrowth of the way he himself was raised: in a series of communal societies deep in the woods of northern California and Oregon, where he learned to hunt, make fire, build shelter, track animals, and read stars. “At one point we lived seven miles from a cement road. We were thirty or forty minutes away from the general store, and it was literally called The General Store,” he says. When local hunters hadn’t delivered venison for a while, his single mom sometimes slaughtered a goat. Ross’s experiences living off the grid, along with the questions about his own children, inspired him to write and direct Captain Fantastic, a film about a man who devotes his life to raising a family of six in the Washington wilderness. The film, starring Viggo Mortensen, is an extreme exaggeration of Ross’s childhood, a sort of thought experiment about what it would be like to abandon modern convenience entirely in the service of raising a self-sufficient brood. The borderline-illegal parenting is a little scary, but the movie, which was released nationwide in July, won Ross a best director award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Ross’s own childhood may have been less militant than the one depicted in Captain Fantastic, but he still had to do “intense chores.” He remembers chopping wood into kindling in the rain for “something like six hours.” He also felt a sense of isolation that he tried to show in the film. “I played football, but that was the only connection I had to the town,” he says. “Just going to a movie took an hour and a half to get there. I felt like I wanted to be around kids my own age, and we weren’t, at all, and that was really hard.” Matt Ross also appeared in American Psycho and Face/Off, neither of which, presumably, were based on his life.

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All of this sounds like kids don’t much appreciate growing up far from civilization, or, at the very least, that such a life can go dangerously off-track, which is true. But for all the challenges, Ross has a degree of creativity that came in large part from his early freedom. Without access to TV or video games, he and his brother used to wander through uninhabited woodland for hours at a time, hauling bows and arrows, jumping fences, and pretending to hunt. Now, Ross often has to explain to his own kids that being bored means you’re simply not trying hard enough to entertain yourself. “One time, I remember hiking and hearing this otherworldly sound,” he says. “I had no idea what it was, and then I come up a ridge and see hundreds of deer, and they are making the Matt Ross’s recomstrangest sound. It was one of those mendations for a fun, sounds where you’re convinced it can’t productive day in the have come from the animal you’re wilderness looking at. It was like bayahhhooooyaaaahhhh [Ross makes an incredible noise that is a cross between a holler, → Swim in a mountain a moo, and a bay].” river or lake Another time, Ross says, he woke up at dawn and walked to a lake, and → Set the kids up to a plane swept down and dropped live fish so that they can fish into it. Rangers were repopulatentertain themselves ing the lake for some sort of scientific purpose, but what Ross remembers → Go for a hike is that it was raining fish. “You have a pretty rich fantasy life when you → Teach the kids to live like that.” track and hunt

A Family Itinerary


You Need

Books

Walden the SelfSufficiency CliffsNotes

Henry David Thoreau was tired of life’s meaningless distractions 150 years before smartphones. Though most of the guidance in Walden, his memoir about living alone in a cabin in the woods, is philosophical in nature, it does contain some practical advice.

Into the Wild

The Outermost House

By Jon Krakauer

By Henry Beston

→ What many people learn from this true story of survival gone wrong in the Alaskan backcountry: If it’s your first time surviving on your own, maybe don’t choose the Alaskan backcountry.

→ Why do novels about homesteading always take place in the woods, when the beach on Cape Cod is a much better idea? Think of the lobsters!

My Side of the Mountain By Jean Craighead George

→ A twelve-year-old boy lives off the land in a hollowedout tree while his family is surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing. Ba ll Blue Book Guide to Preserving → The gold standard for preserving fruits and veggies for midwinter consumption. Bonus: Will help you avoid giving everyone botulism!

Great Unknowns of

Self-Sufficiency!

P H OTO G R A P H BY P H I L I P F R I E D M A N

The Unsettlers: In Sea rch of the G ood Life in Today’s A merica

Pack w isely → “At the present day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery, and access to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be obtained at a trifling cost.” Get up ea r ly → “I would advise you to do all your work if possible while the dew is on.” R educe your r eli a nce on luxur ies → “I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them.”

By Mark Sundeen

→ A new nonfiction collection about modern pioneers trying to find the “simple life” in a complicated world. Read it on your Apple watch. The Bushcr a ft Field Guide to Tr a pping, Gathering and Cooking in the Wild By Dave Canterbury

→ Because you can only eat so many carrots.

Pl a n a hea d → “While yet it is cold January, and snow and ice are thick and solid, the prudent landlord comes from the village to get ice to cool his summer drink; impressively, even pathetically wise, to foresee the heat and thirst of July now in January.” Don’t get a hea d of yourself → “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Br ing a ch a ir → “None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin.”

Could you power any thing with a horse? Absolutely—they don’t call it horsepower for nothing. A horse or cow (or any other reasonably robust creature—pet alligator, caffeinated goat, malingering teenager, etc.) can be suitably motivated to walk on a treadmill attached to a generator in order to yield electricity, which may be used immediately or stored in rechargeable batteries. Problem is, the gambit is inefficient from both energy production and economic standpoints. Solar power, for one, is a better bet. Solar’s initial startup costs may be higher ($25,000 or more), but decent horses aren’t free, either to buy (about $3,000) or to feed (close to $4,000 a year for twenty-five to thirty years). And then, of course, you have the indelicate issue of the horse’s substantial “exhaust.”

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THE WORLD SURROUNDING MY FATHER’S MONTANA HOMESTEAD COULD DISAPPEAR TOMORROW, AND HE WOULD MAKE OUT JUST FINE . I WENT TO SEE HIM TO FIND OUT HOW HE DOES IT—AND WHY.


By Smith Henderson Photographs by Morgan Levy

The author and his father on an impromptu bow hunt near Lolo Creek, Montana.

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Ron Henderson could smell smoke as he walked out to his pickup on a Monday morning in the summer of 2013, but he was not alarmed. There’s no such thing as a western Montana summer without the smell of a forest fire. Blowups as far away as Canada or Idaho can waft hundreds Above: “Doing firewood” at the Lolo Creek homestead. Right: A compound bow like the Mathews MQ32 uses a system of cams and pulleys to make shooting easier and more accurate. of miles, haze a Montana day, and make a mountain valley smell like a campsite. This time, however, there’d been a lightning strike somewhere above the stretch of residences on Lolo Creek where Ron and his neighbors lived. The bedrooms and a patio. A deck off the upstairs master blaze, which would come to be known officially as the West Fork II bedroom looked out over the property—the old barn fire, was close. For two days it had fed on the fuel of dry grass, underand bunkhouse, the chicken coop, and the timbered story, and deadfall as it made its way toward them. Another small mountainside beyond. fire, the “Schoolhouse,” had started downstream. Eventually, the In a few hours most of it would be on fire. two would combine into an inferno that would burn ten thousand acres, driven by forty- to fifty-mile-per-hour winds. But that mornfew years ago, I published a novel, ing no one knew that. Ron didn’t worry about the smoke. Fourth of July Creek, which has, as Ron’s wife, Jan, wanted to pack up and be ready to skedaddle. its complicated antagonist, an isoBut Ron had grown up in these woods. And though he wasn’t comlated survivalist. People often ask placent about wildfire, he felt calm here. “We’ll wait until the ash is me if the book is based on my famfalling,” he said. ily in Montana—a simple question Ron eyed the tobacco tinge in the sky as he moved the sprinklers with a complicated answer. A book is made out of to another part of the yard. He’d been watering constantly for the your experiences and your people, of course, but what past few days. The pasture that ran up to the two-lane highway was drives a novelist is a central query, a nagging queslikewise getting a good soak from large sprinklers on rebar tripods. tion. For me, that question was whether it’s better to A moat of wet grass might not stop a forest fire from sending a fusilbe free or good for society. The character at the center lade of burning embers the size of fists onto the cedar-shake roof of of my novel bears no resemblance to my father, but the his log home, Ron figured, but it could keep the flames from running question can be traced back to my family of pioneers, up to the front door. ranchers, cowboys, and loggers. They were the kind of As for the house, Ron had assembled it himself some thirty years people, living alone in the wilderness, of whom you’d before, buying and hauling the logs with his truck and having them have to ask such a question. coped and notched at a log-home outfit in the nearby Bitterroot ValI visit my father in Montana a couple times a year, ley. It was an upgrade from the cramped two-bedroom cabin that he mostly to spend time with him and see my kids, who had previously shared with his wife and their five kids—my brothers live down the road. The most recent time I visited, I and sisters and me. After Ron, my dad, got home from work, we all drove up to his property on a beautiful fall day. The would come out to watch him put a log on the structure before suphillsides were scarred with dark stands of dead timber per. He would usually run out and throw a couple more up before bed. all around, but the sun was bright and warm. In the end, the house was a grand achievement. The large flagThe Henderson homesite looks different now, stone floor was warmed by a grid of hot-water pipes, the water heated but it’s even better suited to withstand all manner of by a large stone fireplace. The vaulted living room housed a fifteentrouble than it was before. It’s set back from the highfoot Christmas tree every year. There were three ground-floor way. There’s always a garden. There’s a windmill that

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splitting maul, but it’s fun to be out with him today. I joke that I want to make notes of the moment and sit down on the log while he works. He fires up the chainsaw. As he saws into the log, I think: It always seemed like he worked so hard. You sort of wonder, when you’re me, and Ron is your father, how you came to be this person, a writer in Los Angeles who reads and daydreams for a living. Los Angeles couldn’t be culturally or logistically farther from western Montana. I have a Marmot Limelight tent, a Coleman lamp, a Jetboil MiniMo camp stove, a half-dozen freezedried meals and a large hunting knife. I keep a gallon of water in the fridge because warm tap water freaks me out. I have a pair of good boots, and a first-aid kit in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that will almost certainly not have a full tank of gas when I need one. In a citywide Los Angeles emergency I expect to be utterly screwed. Why? Because in the event of an earthquake, I would find myself with the San Andreas Fault (the likely epicenter) to my north and east, and millions of panicked Los Angelenos to my south and west. Prepared I am not. We stack the wood under the new wood shelter my dad built after the fire and fill the new furnace—a shed-size freestanding wood-

THEY SPED UP THE CANYON, WATCHING THE THICK COLUMN OF SMOKE, BLACK AND OMINOUS AS A THUNDERHEAD, OVERTAKE THE SKY. can pump water from a well in the event of a power outage. There’s a root cellar and generator. There’s a creek nearby, stocked with trout. The woods have game, and everyone who lives here is a fine shot. It is self-sufficiency in the extreme. You could live here alone forever. My father and I have a cup of coffee and talk about the family. We talk about the fire. Pretty soon he’s showing me the addition on the outbuilding, a concrete base and hip roof that extends off the left side and wraps around the back. He needed to corner the thing with a huge beam to account for the winter snow load. I ask how hard it was to get that beam in place, and he delights in telling me how he and my stepbrother used his tractor to hold it up and situate it. “You’re not a carpenter,” I say. “Measure twice and cut once,” he says. The man loves making a shelter, an instinct that has led to tree stands and lean-tos and even a log house that will one day stand in the path of a forest fire. e asks me to help him chop a little firewood. I jokingly complain about it—the way I did as a kid. We used to have to “do firewood” every weekend, throwing the cut wood into the back of his pickup and then unloading it and stacking it at the cabin. It was a much-reviled chore. Now, he saws the rounds and uses a powerful splitter to portion them as easy as pulling apart an orange. He used to suffer my complaints while he swung the

IT WAS LIKE DRIVING INTO HELL .

stove that he installed as well. I ask him about the generator nearby. “I should probably get it hooked up,” he says, mentally ticking off the other more urgent things to do around the property. Sometimes I think that I simply sought an easier life than my dad has. He does more actual work in a weekend than a roomful of TV writers do in a month. “Just a heads-up,” I say, “this is where I’m headed if the world is ending.” “That’s the plan, eh?” he says. “Yeah, I hope that’s cool.” bout 1 p.m. on the day of the fire, my father had finished loading the trucks at his job and was sorting and decking the processed logs when his phone rang. He looked at the sky toward the house, where he’d been watching a plume of slowly burgeoning smoke. Jan said she was racing home. The fire had crested the ridge across Lolo Creek. My dad jumped out of his loader and told his boss, Adam, that he had to go. Both men loaded into my dad’s pickup and sped up the canyon, looking for panic in the faces of the people driving the other way. Mostly they watched the thick column of smoke, black and ominous as a thunderhead, overtake the sky. It was like driving into hell. The column of smoke had blotted the sun by the time they got to the house. It was warm, but growing dark. My dad could hear the fire’s approach, a sound like the high whine of a jet engine. The fire was inhaling the wind, growing. He looked at the pines in the

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pasture, the pines near the house. The whole scene was surreal, but he wasn’t really thinking about it. He felt no fear. They had a way out. They had the truck. It was just a matter of doing what you could before the fire arrived. Jan and her granddaughter were already hurrying important papers, pictures, guns, and clothing out to her Jeep. Adam began to hitch up the fifth wheel to it. Jan was running stuff to the trailer and then she was leaving. Something exploded on the neighbor’s property, but my father couldn’t see what it was from where he stood on the roof. The fire was here.

way of explaining why it took two shots. “When was this?” I ask. “Oh, I must’ve been in the eighth grade,” he says. hen my father gets his annual elk, he puts the meat in the freezer, and everybody in the family eats elk steak and elk burgers. It’s the same all over the state. The first time I went hunting with him on opening day, we watched all the cars heading up the highway in the predawn to join us. Every one of those people was looking to get an elk for the garage freezer. Nearly everything you do for fun out here meets an ulterior need. You hike where you saw huckleberries last year and bring a bucket in case the bears haven’t found them. You know where to

e go out for a hike with his bow. I want to see the whole getup—the camo, the GPS, binoculars, and rangefinder. Bow hunting is my father’s passion. Hitting a bull elk with his .300 Winchester Magnum from a couple hundred yards is one thing. But calling in an enormous beast with a bugle while slathered in stinging elk urine, and then silently aiming a Mathews MQ32 compound bow with Ron Henderson built this woodshed, installed the freestanding woodstove next to seventy pounds of draw weight to hit an elk in the it, and chopped all this wood himself. heart is well-nigh impossible. It’s like the challenge of dogfighting in an airplane, or surfing a forty-foot wave, or writing a novel. It’s crazy—a test at the very edge of your skills—but it’s fun to try. My father expects to get an elk every year and always does, with his rifle. He’s a crack shot. I ask him about a story my grandmother told me, known in the family as “the goat-hunting story.” As he drives, he tells me how he once applied for a mountain-goat license and rode horseback up the south fork of Lolo Creek to Snowslide meadows to hunt for one. He and his friend Joey glassed a few on the cliffs and decided they could manage an afternoon hunt. It wasn’t long before they realized that the “benchy-looking spots” were in fact pretty steep and the steep spots were cliffs. They pressed on, taking turns climbing and passing the rifles up, as they edged above the tree line. Finally in a high, steep draw with little runnels of snowmelt, they found four goats munching beargrass. After confirming one of the older goats was indeed a billy, my dad took aim with his .270 Remington pump. He only had iron sights and Joey offered his aught-six with a scope. My dad had never shot with a scope before. He passed. The first shot hit the goat right behind the shoulder, but the animal took off as though unharmed. The pump was quick to chamber another cartridge, and he got a second shot off. The goat piled right up. “They’re a pretty sturdy animal,” he says, by

Great Unknowns of

Self-Sufficiency!

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Is there anywhere the post office won’t deliver?

Not really, though if you live in one of nearly 400 out-of-the-way ZIP codes, you may have to pitch in by collecting your mail from a local post office. Such arrangements are common in Alaska, but you may also encounter them in such seemingly civilized states as California, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. It’s hard to fault the good ole USPS, though. They go the literal extra mile whenever possible. One route in Alabama is served entirely by boat. Mariners plying the Great Lakes use a ZIP code assigned to a ship that cruises the Detroit River; passing vessels lower a bucket to receive mail. And members of the Havasupai Native American tribe, who dwell in the depths of the Grand Canyon, get their bills and birthday cards via mule train.

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I’m exactly like him. I’ve always got a project. I recently took my ten-year-old son to a lecture by one of the hosts of his favorite podcasts, Jad Abumrad. My son loves Abumrad’s Radiolab. (Say that five times fast.) He listens to it every night. Still, I wasn’t sure that the lecture was right for him. It was an exploration of the creative process—“gut churn,” in Abumrad’s phrasing. Interesting for me, but a lot for a kid. During the lecture, Abumrad explained that one can navigate the emotionally treacherous waters of creativity by identifying the “adjacent possible.” Instead of allowing all their options to paralyze them, he said, successful creators look for the “adjacent possible” and see choices as doors that open into rooms with more doors. You manage the fear of creative work by engaging with the next closest thing, and then the next and then the next. By breaking it up this way, you never have to look at the terrifying whole. The phrase “adjacent possible” appeared most aptly in a 2010 essay by Steven Johnson in The Wall Street Journal called “The Genius of the Tinkerer” wherein he writes: The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. Not only does this describe the act of writing at its most exhilarating, it also explains my father’s orientation to the world. He is always tinkering—playing with a step just beyond the Clockwise from top: The author and his father trade their bows for rifles; hunting tools, including binoculars, a handmade knife, a rangefinder, elk cattle call, GPS, and a high-speed place where he already is. It looks like a lot of lighter; rations from the pantry. work to build a log house or put in a root cellar or install a shed-size external woodstove or hunt with a bow or go after a mountain goat. To me, it looks downright impossible. But step by step, it is not only mushroom. When you harvest your garden, you pickle possible, but happening right in front of me, here in Montana. And it or jam everything you can’t give away. Even if you is not that my father is afraid of what the future holds—prepping for make a pot of stew, you can the leftovers and put them the apocalypse or whatever—but that he is excited about what opporin the root cellar. The more you actually live on your tunities it will provide for him to be even more engaged with life. land, the more you look for purpose and efficiencies. Here’s an example: It’s winter. Out in the yard, we kids are digging It becomes a kind of game, getting more out of less. an igloo out of a huge pile of snow. My father is changing the oil on his Nowadays, all kinds of modern devices make selflogging truck, which involves using a kind of blowtorch to heat up the sufficiency easier. Take the old man’s compound bow: engine in the freezing temperatures. He finishes up, and of course Its complex sighting system adjusts for range, the comes to help us with the igloo. The man loves building a shelter. soloCam reduces the draw weight of the bowstring So we’re sitting inside pretty satisfied when that tinkering grin when aiming, and the arrows, flying at 305 feet per lights up his face, and before we know it he’s got the propane tank second, flange outward when they hit their mark— and the blowtorch and he’s running a blue flame over and inside the vastly improving his chances on the entire endeavor. igloo, melting it just a touch so it’ll freeze hard as stone. Come April, And if my father’s lucky enough to get his bull, his the thing’s still standing. chainsaw winch can drag the field-dressed thing So what’s the adjacent possible when the house you built stands in out of some pretty nasty scrub up to the logging road the path of a wildfire? When your fort isn’t a fort, but a house containwhere he has his pickup or ATV. ing the memories of your family, your children, and your hard work? The most vital thing isn’t doing everything the What does the tinkerer do then? hard way—just being smart about doing it all yourHe fetches the aluminum ladder and leans it against the house. He self. It’s the sense that freedom is a function of actual dashes out to the pasture and drags the two enormous sprinklers, one independence, and actual independence is a conseand then the other, up the ladder, situating the tripods on the spine quence of ability. For the longest time, I didn’t think of the roof. Then he climbs down and turns on the spigot. He loses I had much of my father in me—just look at the pair of the barn and the coop and even the tractor. But the house survives us walking in the pasture, one with a compound bow because he makes it rain. and the other with his laptop. But that’s the thing:

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HOW IT 3

NASA’s Venus Machine

THE MIXER

This machine blends the gases, also adding any necessary water and pumping the blend into the sealed vessel, where the test materials await.

Inside the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig, you can visit anyplace in the cosmos. B Y J O E PA P PA L A R D O

Imagine what it’s like to be a spacecraft. Your service life begins with a violent explosion skyward, followed by a hypersonic struggle to escape Earth’s gravity, and, if you’re lucky, the reward of reaching the minus455-degree-Fahrenheit vacuum of space. Then, after months or, in some cases, years, you might get to land on an alien planet with an environment seemingly designed to melt, corrode, compress, or irradiate you out of existence. One particularly lethal planet is Venus, where NASA plans to send a probe by 2020. In order to make sure the expensive machinery survives the mission, scientists at the Glenn Research Center, a NASA outpost near Cleveland, Ohio, have been testing samples in a fourteen-ton steel tank called the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER). With eight gas streams and the ability to mimic the extreme temperatures and pressures of Venus, it can help scientists find the absolute limits of man-made objects before they face them in space. Here’s how it works.

4

5

THE VESSEL

The vessel is constructed of low-carbon 304-type stainless steel, which is nearly tough enough to resist the Venusian atmosphere on its own. In addition, the internal walls are polished to a mirror finish, so that there are no nicks or rough spots to give corrosion a foothold.

H E AT A N D P R E S S U R E INCREASE

The atmosphere of Venus is primarily composed of “supercritical” carbon dioxide—it’s under so much pressure that it doesn’t behave like a liquid or a gas but somewhere in-between. Once the gas mix is inside the vessel, the heat and pressure increase to this level, so researchers can find out what it might do to potential probe materials.

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6 TESTING

Once the machine is up to Venus’ conditions, a gas sample is run through a mass spectrometer. In the future, a window will be added to the container, allowing a laser to measure chemical composition and the vessel to remain sealed for the duration of the test.

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I L LU S T R AT I O N BY S I N E L A B


1

START H E RE ▼ G A S C A B I N E T S Each of four

cabinets contains two independent gas cylinders to create a mix of up to eight gases, which can re-create an alien atmosphere to the parts per million. (See Recipe for Venus, right.)

2

PIPING

To make sure the corrosive gases don’t damage the GEER itself, a majority of the tubing is treated with a nonreactive protective coating called Sulfinert. It reduces corrosion and prevents the gases from adsorbing on, or sticking to, the tube walls.

RECIPE FOR VENUS

96.5%

CARBON DIOXIDE 965,000 PARTS PER MILLION

3.5%

NITROGEN GAS 35,000 PPM

less than 1% SULFUR DIOXIDE 180 PPM poisonous

CARBONYL SULFIDE 51 PPM

poisonous and also flammable

WATER 30 PPM CARBON MONOXIDE 12 PPM poisonous

HYDROGEN SULFIDE 2 PPM

poisonous, flammable, explosive, and smells like rotten eggs

7 VENTING

Using the ingredients for this hellish brew isn’t as dangerous as it sounds. Since the concentrations GEER uses are so low, the amount of gases used at the facility over the course of a year doesn’t even violate the EPA’s daily allowable limit. Still, when GEER vents after the end of an experiment, a fan on the building’s roof draws in air to dilute the exhaust.

HYDROGEN CHLORIDE 0.5 PPM

a main component of hydrochloric acid, which breaks down food in your stomach

HYDROGEN FLUORIDE 0.0025 PPM

a main component of hydrofluoric acid, which can dissolve glass

Raise to 1,340 psi at 878 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck.

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P R E S E N T S

THE

BY

T IM GR I E RS ON

P H OTO I L LU STRATIO N BY

02.17

J EFF WACK


THE BIAS ISN’T INTENTIONAL but it’s there: Nearly every category at the Oscars recognizes the achievements of actors or directors. Sure, there are Oscars for effects, production, and even makeup, but as fans of innovative new camera technology, ingenious set designs, bigger explosions, and just the right amount of CGI, we want more. And the men and women responsible for those moments deserve more. That’s why, for the third year in a row, we’ve highlighted the greatest visual effects in film. We want to recognize those people whose work is often judged more by what isn’t noticed than what is. Just as important, we want to encourage them to do more—because we’re watching and appreciating every minute of it. PM-C

SUITABLE FOR THE CURIOUS

May contain spoilers, cinema secrets, and unabashed fandom.

LEAST FAKE FAKE WORLD THE JUNGLE BOOK

For director Jon Favreau’s adaptation of the Disney classic The Jungle Book, visual-effects supervisor Robert Legato says the crew had a mantra: “Do not embellish nature. My primary interest was not making a fantastic new world, but making one that feels like it was conventionally photographed.” That meant the crew created a “virtual cinematography.” In motion-capture, they shot only Mowgli and stuffed animal stand-ins (left). “We shot and cut as if everything was in front of us,” Legato says. “It wasn’t photo-real, but it has enough information to know where our camera is and what lens we were going to use. When we replicated it on stage, instead of being limited to a blue screen and looking at one angle, we have a 360-degree view of the world.” The animals were based on real-world examples. “We’re not allowed to photograph them anymore because of animal rights. So we looked at nature documentaries and movies. Every one of our scenes had a real-life piece of reference. The animals move the way a real animal moves. The computer rigs that we created were based on their skeleton and their musculature.” To up the realism, the creative team even embraced the imperfections that stem from old-fashioned live-action filming. “We wanted it to feel like we went out and photographed each thing,” Legato says. “If someone got too close to the camera, it would shake. If you put a camera in a spot in the middle of a stampede, you’re going to get mud all over it. The audience starts to absorb the story as we wish to tell it. They don’t get mired in the technique of it.”

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P H OTO G R A P H / I L LU S T R AT I O N BY T E E K AY N A M E


▶HARDCORE HENRY

Writer-director Ilya Naishuller had experience with first-person filming before Hardcore Henry, having directed and starred in a similar music video in 2013. But that was less than five minutes—and the technology, or at least the rigging of it, was basic. “I shot a lot of it with a GoPro in my mouth surrounded by tissues and hoping not to slobber too much.” For Henry, a film shot entirely from the first-person POV, GoPro provided its best equipment at the time— GoPro HERO3s—with then-unreleased software that allowed Naishuller to control the aperture and outer focus. Instead of having actors hold the cameras in their mouths, Naishuller settled on a lightweight 3D-printed plastic helmet with magnetic stabilization (above). Two GoPros were mounted at mouth height. “If you put the camera on top of your head like in extreme sports, it looks terrible. It’s a very lanky, slender character.” The challenge was training the actors to focus on the camera, rather than the eyes of the person in the rig. “It’s basic human instinct to look at the eyes when we talk,” Naishuller says. “So we bought these ridiculous, 1980s skiing glasses with yellow reflective lenses” to obscure the actor’s eyes, and added red arrows pointing to the cameras. Including Naishuller, thirteen different operators served as “Henry.” The crew went through about a dozen GoPro HERO3s. Most of those casualties were due to kicks to the head, which had to get very close to the cameras to look real. Sometimes they got too close, breaking the cameras’ outputs. But not a single one was lost to drool.

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MOST FRAMES PER SECOND B I L LY LY N N ’ S L O N G H A L F T I M E W A L K

Director Ang Lee (above, right) rigged up two cameras at a 90-degree angle to each other with a beam splitter between them to create a smooth 3D picture. The biggest challenge was getting the actors to focus on the splitter instead of one of the camera lenses.

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Most movies are shot at 24 frames per second (fps): Each second, 24 images flash on the screen—just enough to make us see motion. Anything higher than 24 makes some people feel sick, but director Ang Lee wanted a smooth, immersive experience. So he shot Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk at 120. “Lee really liked 3D,” says his editor Tim Squyres. “But 24 fps causes strobing [a jumpy image] and motion blur [a smeared image caused by movement]. In 2D we’re used to it. It’s what we consider the film look. In 3D, strobing is annoying.” So Lee increased his frame rate and incorporated a two-camera 3D rig. “Both cameras have synchronized shutters running at 120,” Squyres says. This led to a few surprises. “You can’t really get away with makeup,” says Squyres. Some viewers will initially be shocked by Billy Lynn’s startlingly live look but Lee thinks that his shooting style will soon be common. If you have a queasy stomach, you can always play it safe and wait thirty minutes after eating before entering the theater.

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▶JASON BOURNE

In five movies, the Jason Bourne franchise has included a lot of car chases (and jump cuts and insanely frenetic fight scenes), but the one down the Las Vegas Strip at the end of Jason Bourne is what director Paul Greengrass considers the best. When stunt coordinator Gary Powell first met with second-unit director Simon Crane to scout locations, one thing became clear. “We were both adamant it had to be on the Strip,” Powell says. “It was pointless going to Las Vegas if you weren’t going to be using the Strip—if you go around the back roads, you could have been anywhere else.” The idea required the kind of permissions that Las Vegas rarely gives. “We had to go through all the implications of shutting down the Strip: how much does it cost, what hotels are going to play ball with us. We lucked out that everyone was really accommodating. The speeds we were doing—the amount of cars we crashed—has never been done on that scale in Las Vegas,” Powell says.

The city agreed to close down its main thoroughfare from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. for only two weeks. “We had something like two hundred extras and roughly fifty-five stunt drivers,” Powell says of the actual Strip shoot. There were very few visual effects, so that the scene would look more real. When that SWAT van plows through cars, it’s plowing through actual cars—but with a little bit of movie help: A ramp was added to the SWAT vehicle to throw the cars higher in the

air, and the cars themselves were slightly doctored. “We took out the engines to make sure when we hit them they were as light as possible,” Powell says. “It looks great, but they still look like cars.” All they needed was a spectacular ending, which presented itself when they found out the Riviera Hotel was already set for demolition. If it’s already going to be torn down, it is no big deal to drive a car through the front door.

Other than enhancing some background buildings and removing camera rigs and a car-tossing plow from the front of the SWAT van, nearly all of the chase scene was created using practical effects.

MOST USEFUL CORPSE SWISS ARMY MAN

Makeup-effects producer Jason Hamer created a life-size mold of Daniel Radcliffe to use as the corpse buddy to a character trapped in the wilderness in Swiss Army Man. Although the corpse can’t move and only barely speaks, he serves many roles: companion, Jet Ski, water well, axe, gun, and highly inappropriate compass.


MOST MOBILE TREE

A MONSTER CALLS

“We wanted a monster that looks like a tree but has a lot of expression,” says Félix Bergés, visual-effects supervisor for A Monster Calls. Much of that expression was inspired by Liam Neeson, who voices the character. The tree even moves a little like Neeson. But primarily it’s a tree, with all the walking challenges you might expect: “We wanted him to have difficulty making even one step. Everything is completely rigid—but we had to study all the positions, all the joints, all the ways of modeling, to achieve the muscles.” Which probably explains why most trees remain still.

It’s not easy to re-create a plane crash on a river, but that’s what visual-effects supervisor Michael Owens and cinematographer Tom Stern did for director Clint Eastwood’s Sully. Some of their bigger challenges:

1 . FINDING A PLANE

▶ S U L LY

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You can buy old airplanes, Stern says. “Used-up aircraft become some discounted amount of scrap aluminum. We bought two out-of-service A320s. They had to be brought from the airplane junkyard in Victorville, California, to Falls Lake at Universal Studios outside Los Angeles. They had to be moved at night under highway patrol escort, on a route that was calculated to avoid bridges.”


... AND MOST ACCURATE SPACESHIP ALSO: ARRIVAL

▶ARRIVAL When Amy Adams’s character Louise first visits the aliens who land on Earth in Arrival, she learns something incredible about their spaceship: It has its own internal gravity, which shifts partway up the vessel. The shift was dreamed up after production designer Patrice Vermette and director Denis Villeneuve had to abandon an initial idea in which Louise and her team simply rose up to the top of the ship with a scissor lift. “The scissor lift just wasn’t tall enough,” says Vermette. “So, we said, ‘Well, maybe there should be a gravity shift there.’”

Arrival’s creative team approached the complicated shot from two angles: as a philosophical comment and a logistical puzzle. “The characters need to jump and walk up—it’s a leap of faith,” Vermette says. To make it work, visual-effects supervisor Louis Morin drew inspiration from Gravity, seamlessly integrating two sets to give the impression that the characters were physically hopping from Earth’s gravity at the base of the ship to the vessel’s, which stems from the walls, changing the viewer’s perspective from horizontal to vertical. “We first shot the actors fak-

2. TWO LOCATIONS The crew planned to film the crash and rescue in the Hudson River, but Mother Nature intervened. “The current is quite intense and it goes both directions,” Owens says. “It runs up and down at five knots twice a day,” Stern says. “That’s a tremendous amount of force.” To avoid injury to the cast and crew—or drowning Tom Hanks—they shot some rescue scenes in the Hudson and then moved to an oversize water tank at Universal’s lot.

3. WATER The studio tank, which ran from six to thirty feet deep, wouldn’t allow the fifty-ton plane to be as submerged as it needed to be. “There were many shots where I CG-ed extra water,” says Owens. “In real life, the

ing the jumping element,” Morin says. “Then the camera would move to the second set, where we would have the people landing. The first camera was wild”— that is, run by an operator—“and the second camera was motioncontrolled with a rig called the Technodolly. We stitched all those shots together, and then we reverse-engineered the camera, locking it to the faces of the actor, and the motion-control would do all the camera moves as if they were flying in the air.” The result is a seamless transition and an elegant leap from Earth’s gravity to the walls of the spacecraft.

Even a fictional spaceship should be accurate. Although he began consulting on Arrival after the craft was designed, scientist Stephen Wolfram came up with a theory for how the ship would travel: It could “spin to create gravitational waves,” then “swim through space propelled by those waves,” he says. It helps to picture the spacecraft as a submarine: “You can push it through the water. Or you can boil the water around it,” he says, and make it easier for the submarine to move. “If you can kind of boil space-time, you don’t have something with the same structure you thought you were going to,” Wolfram says.

plane would pitch and rotate down the river, changing level as it goes, but we weren’t able to do that because it was fix-mounted in the tank.”

4 . BRACING FOR IMPACT Owens used real background shots to mimic the path of US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson, but when it came time to duplicate the actual crash, CG took over. “Because of the complexity of the shot, all the water, all the background, and the plane were done completely with a computer,” Owens says. Water simulations were run to mimic what the force of a commercial airplane hitting the Hudson would look like, with Owens balancing Eastwood’s desire for realism with the demands to make the landing look as dynamic as possible. “With effects shots,” he says, “it looks absolutely phony until it’s perfect.”

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MOST CREATIVE PLACEHOLDER TO MAKE IT INTO A MOVIE DEADPOOL

The opening credits of Deadpool show the superhero in a hyper-realistic slow-motion CGI depiction of a combination car crash, gun battle, and aggressive use of a cigarette lighter (right). Throughout, sarcastic credits identify the cast as “God’s Perfect Idiot,” “A Hot Chick,” “A British Villain,” and “A CGI Character.” Director Tim Miller explains how the scene was created:

THE FROZEN INTRO “When CG isn’t moving, you can really sculpt in a lot of detail that you may not be able to do with a character that has to behave and move through space. With an animated human, you have cloth on his body that moves with it properly. You have a face that has to have a really complex set of controls underneath. The hair has to be simulated. But if the characters are frozen in space, you don’t have to do all that work. On the flip side, you don’t have the benefit of motion to hide any irregularities or lack of detail. It took a team of ten to twelve people working on this for two to three months to get it done.”

THE CREDITS “The writers had done it that way before I even got involved in the project. We had started previz [a digital video tool that roughs out a scene] before we even had a budget or the movie was cast. Franck Balson, a director at my production company, Blur, put in placeholders—just a tongue-in-cheek thing to amuse him and me, and we all loved it.”

T H E L O W -T EC H AWA R D S LEAST CONVINCING TRANSFORMATIONS

ACTOR TRANSFORMED TO L A R G E LY B Y

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John Krasinski

Denzel Washington

Ben Affleck

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Chris Hemsworth

A special-forces soldier in 13 Hours

A vengeful cowboy in The Magnificent Seven

An autistic accountant in The Accountant

A traitor and/or hero in Snowden

A nerdy secretary in Ghostbusters

muscle and a beard

mutton chops

glasses and a pocket protector

glasses and a Rubik’s Cube

glasses and a slightly looser shirt

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M


▶ P A S S E N G E R S Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas has no idea how a spaceship would work. “My background is in industrial design,” he says. But he knows that things need to make sense—and that everything needs to have a purpose. So that’s exactly what he ensured in designing the ship in Passengers. “It’s absolutely no good coming up with an attractive exterior if there’s not some logical consideration as to how people are going to be inhabiting the interior,” he says. Dyas explains a few of the ship’s features:

HULLS

WALL STRUCTURE

SCALE

NAVIGATION

LIGHTING

POD TREES

“It’s a tri-hull system, where each hull serves a different purpose, and they’re all attached to a central pivot point. The three hulls rotate in a centrifugal arrangement. In science fiction, this theoretically creates gravity for you to stand up on the inside edge of the hulls. One hull is for storage, one is dedicated to the sleep chambers, and the third hull is retail.”

“Enormous alloy ribs hold the ship together. The inspiration for them was the grilles of 1930s racing cars. The ribs were first created as a CAD drawing, then sent to the woodworking shop and cut as CNC profiles. Each one has a male and a female element that are snapped together to make the larger shapes.”

“With only two or three principal actors, we needed to convey a sense of isolation and loneliness—and horror, really. We could have done green screens, but that tends to be a little difficult for actors to feel that sense of loneliness. So the sets were absolutely enormous. Thirty or forty feet high and up to eight hundred feet long.”

“If you’re in the rotating spaceship and want to get from one hull to the other, you have to travel through the central core. In this pivot point you’d actually be at zero gravity, so we ended up designing an elevator that you climb into, where you have to buckle up a seat belt. When you pass through the central point, gravity eventually catches up with you again.”

“The large mushroom structure above the sleep chambers housed UV lights. One of the things people don’t think about when designing sci-fi sleep chambers is that the skin is a living, breathing organism. It has to receive UV light the same way a plant does. Otherwise we’d simply die.”

“There are eight people in each of the pod trees. By grouping them, you can be economical about the power it takes to monitor their vitals. At the same time, and this is morbid, but if there’s a malfunction, you don’t want to lose all of your passengers. “

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H O M E HYDROPONICS Winter doesn’t have to mean the end of growing your own produce. BY DAN I E L KLU KO

P H OTO G R A P H BY D E VO N J A R V I S

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W

hen summer ends, a lot of our gardens close for the winter. But hydroponics keep your garden going year-round. Rather than counting on the soil to provide plants with nutrients, a hydroponic setup gives them everything they need directly through the water. You don’t even need natural light. There are six basic types of systems: wick, deep-water culture (DWC), ebb-and-flow, drip method, nutrient-film technique (NFT), and aeroponics. (See page 88.) At Green Spirit Farms, an indoor vertical-farming company that I run with my father in New Buffalo, Michigan, we use a combination of NFT and ebb-and-flow. [Editors’ note: Read about Dan and his dad in “In the Light Fields,” June 2016.] NFT is probably the most popular system for commercial growers. It’s what most greenhouses use because of the low water requirements, and it’s the most conservative you can be on your water and nutrients. But it’s also prone to clogging, and if you don’t pay attention, little issues can lead to crop loss. For home use I recommend an ebb-and-flow system like this one. There’s little maintenance and fewer opportunities to kill your crops. The system is also relatively inexpensive and easy to build. You’ll be eating homegrown arugula in as little as two to four weeks.

drain (flow) fitting

concrete mixing tray

fill (ebb) fitting plastic lid

fill tube 20-gallon plastic bin

pump

SYSTE M

M ATERIALS LIST * • 20-plus-gallon sturdy plastic bin with lid, dark color (light promotes algae growth) • Concrete mixing tray • Ebb-and-flow kit (Botanicare Ebb and Flow Fitting Kit with two extensions) • Oil-free pond pump, between 150 to 400 gallons per hour • 2 feet 1/2-inch black vinyl tubing • 1 ¼-inch spade bit or holesaw

At two opposing sides of the concrete mixing tray, use a drill and a 1 ¼-inch spade bit or holesaw to create holes for the filling pipe (ebb) and drain (flow) from the ebb-and-flow kit. For a cleaner hole, put a piece of scrap wood beneath the tray to drill into. 1

Place the mixing tray on top of the plastic bin lid. Mark the location of the holes in the mixing tray on the lid. Remove the mixing tray and drill holes in the lid with your spade bit or holesaw. 2

Near one edge of the bin lid, drill a ¼-inch hole. Use a box cutter to make two 1 ½-inch cuts in the shape of an X over the hole. This will be where the 3

pump cord leaves the plastic bin, your reservoir. Identify the flow fitting from the ebb-and-flow kit (Fig. A). It has the larger nipple on the bottom. This will be the drain for your tray. Assemble the flow fitting by screwing a riser to the side opposite the nipple, then screwing the filter on above it. (We added a riser because of the eventual height of our grow medium. You want the drain, excluding the filter, to be a quarter of the height of the medium you use. If you choose a shorter medium, don’t worry about using the riser.) 4

Insert both fittings in the holes in the tray (Fig. B). Do not attach them to the reservoir lid. Make sure that 5

the gaskets are above the tray for a watertight seal, and that the nipples extrude beneath it. Secure the fittings by tightening the nuts beneath the tray. Attach the ½-inch adapter included with the pump to the pump’s outflow and place it in the reservoir. Add the tubing to the pump and pull the power cord through the X cut in the reservoir lid. 6

Pass the tubing through one of the holes in the reservoir lid and attach it to the smaller ebb nipple below the mixing tray (Fig. C). 7

Place the lid on the reservoir, align the fittings, and put the tray on top of the lid. 8

flow fitting ↘

ebb fitting ↘

Fig. A

Fig. B

Fig. C

*Unless otherwise noted, all materials are available at your local hardware store or on Amazon. 86

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I L LU S T R AT I O N BY I N F O M E N


HOME HYDROPONICS P L A N T S A N D O P E R AT I O N

M ATERIALS LIST • pH/EC meter • Two programmable electrical timers • Full-spectrum LED or fluorescent light • Plant nutrient • Arugula seeds • Rock-wool starters and cubes

A

lthough similar plants, like spinach and kale, could probably be grown together, for best results, you should grow only one plant in a system at a time. I recommend starting with a leafy green like arugula, which does not have a fruiting phase in which the plant makes seeds before harvest. Before any plants go into the system, your seeds need to germinate. You’ll need to choose a growing medium. This is what the plant will take hold in, and it can be a lot of things. The industry standard is rock wool, a material very similar to fiberglass that is extremely porous and holds 16 times its weight in water. It’s the most widely used hydroponic medium in the world because it’s completely inert. There’s nothing in it, and that’s exactly what you want; you can control your variables. You can also use regular soil, a foam medium called Oasis, clay pebbles, products made from the husks of coconuts, or crumpled coffee filters in plastic plant pots. As long as you have an inert material that can hold water and oxygen, you can use it as a medium. But we’ll stick with rock wool.

Plug the water pump into an electrical timer. For the majority of plants, setting your pump to run two to four times per day for 15 minutes will provide adequate water and nutrients. When the pump is on, water floods through the fill fitting and drains back into the reservoir when it reaches over the drain riser (Fig. E). Once the pump shuts off, any leftover water drains back into the reservoir through the fill tube. 3

Fig. D

Rinse the rock-wool starter cubes (Fig. D), then soak them in water with a pH of 5.5 for about an hour. Place a seed in the hole of each starter and moisten the cubes. Keep them moist, and in a few days a sprout should appear. Put it near a window for light, and in ten to 12 days—when you see sprouts a few inches tall and roots going to the bottom of your rock-wool starters—place the cubes in their larger rock-wool blocks. 1

The most important consideration in hydroponics is consistency. The basement is often a good place to put your system because of the even temperatures. (One easy way to tell if it’s a good place to grow plants: Ask yourself if you’re comfortable in that room. If you’re not, your plants won’t be either.) Place the growing medium in the mixing tray. Confirm that the risers for the drain fitting reach only a quarter of the way up the medium.

Hook your lights to a timer and fix them above your hydroponic system in a way that light hits all parts of the grow tray. The amount of light your plant requires depends on the 4

plant itself and the particular stage of the grow cycle. A good reference for light timing (and nearly everything else) is Howard M. Resh’s Hydroponic Food Production. For arugula, 12 hours a day will be enough for the plant to grow but not flower. Fill your reservoir with 15 gallons of water and mark the water level with a Sharpie so you don’t have to measure the next time. Having a consistent amount of water is important for correct nutrient concentration. 5

Look up the produce you want to grow online on Cornell University’s Controlled 6

Environment Agriculture page to find a plant-specific nutrient base. I recommend a one-part mix that can all be added at once, like J.R. Peters’s 16-4-17 Hydro FeED. Follow the instructions on the nutrient mix to add an appropriate amount to the water. Change the water and nutrient solution at least every two weeks. Keep track of the pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of the water daily (Fig. F). The pH should remain the same for all plants. The ideal is 5.8, but anywhere between 5.5 and 6.2 is acceptable. If your levels are off, you can adjust them with a kit bought from the hot-tub section of a hardware store. The EC will vary based upon the plant you grow. As your plants feed, you want the EC to gradually rise. In order to lower the EC you will add water to the reservoir. To increase the EC, add more nutrients to the system. The target EC level for arugula is 0.8 to 1.2. 7

2

Fig. E

Fig. F

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HOME HYDROPONICS

HARVEST Watch your plants as you would in a traditional garden. If a problem gets to the point that you can see it, the plant has been dealing with it for a week. Avoid tinkering with nutrients until you get a successful first run. 1

Harvest your crops at the same time you would in traditional gardening. Arugula should be ready to harvest after two weeks and should provide another harvest every week for another four or five weeks. 2

When a harvest is finished, replace the rock wool and clean the system’s reservoir, pump, and tubing with a 3 percent hydrogen-peroxide solution. 3

TH E SIX T YPES OF HYDROPON IC SYSTE MS

WICK SYSTEMS

We are a global provider of turnkey Ropeway and Automated People Mover systems, to meet the increasing demands of public transportation networks.

The simplest system. It can use soil as a grow medium with a wick line into a reservoir of plain water. Doesn’t take much attention, but it’s not going to have the best yield.

DEEP-WATER CULTURE

The medium is the water and the plants rest in it all the time. You need an air pump and an air stone to make sure that the plants get enough oxygen, though. You get great yields but it’s a lot harder without experience and you are more liable to get root rot.

EBB-ANDFLOW

The best system for beginners, but it’s used by many professionals as well. Provides good yields and uses very few mechanical parts. One drawback is that it requires large amounts of water to use.

DRIP METHOD

The most sustainable approach to nutrient conservation. An emitter slowly drips nutrient water on the root system all day long. The problem comes when the small emitters clog. Which they are going to do. NASA experimented with this system on the International Space Station.

NUTRIENTFILM TECHNIQUE

A small film of nutrient is used like a small stream that is always flowing down along the roots and recirculating. As with the drip system, expect the emitters to clog.

AEROPONICS

The highest yields—if you can do it correctly. A mister sprays water and nutrients on the roots and gives them great oxygen flow. Again, beware clogged emitters.

I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY I N F O M E N


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solar-powered night-light may sound counterintuitive, but when the night-light isn’t in use during the day, it captures ambient light. Just leave it near a window and open the blinds. The two AA batteries hold enough power to keep the night-light running until the sun comes up, then the solar panel starts collecting again and the process begins all over. One caveat: If you live in Alaska—or even northern Minnesota—you might want to use standard batteries during the winter.

C ME

HARD

Difficulty: Time: 1 hour

Ages: 8+

Shopping List QTY

DESCRIPTION

action figure with open-grasp hand

1

26 inches 22-AWG wire 1

1N914 diode

1

small solar panel, 3.0-volt 70-milliamp with wires*

2

AA rechargeable batteries

1

10-millimeter LED lamp (RadioShack item No. 2760006)

1

AA battery holder (RadioShack item No. 2700408)

1

toggle switch

20

1-inch 16-gauge finishing nails No. 8 x 1–inch sheet metal screw

1

Solar-Powered Night-Light

¼ x 4 x 24–inch poplar board ½ x 3 x 24–inch poplar board multipurpose adhesive soldering gun or crimp connectors *Available on Amazon, part No. 700-10850-17

Not liking the dark never looked so cool. D E S I G N E D BY JA M E S S C H A D E WA L D

DIAGRAM

Solar panel

Instructions Toggle switch

Batteries 90

KID ONLY

LED lamp

1

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

PARENT ONLY

PARENT AND KID

1. Crosscut the top panel from the 4-inch poplar board. A 3 ½ -inch piece should accommodate most action figures. 2. Using twist-drill bits and a cordless drill, make a 3/16-inch hole for the LED wire and a ½-inch hole for the switch. Use a spade bit to


NIGHT-LIGHT

Instructions CONTINUED

make the ¾-inch hole for the leads from the solar panel. 3. Crosscut the box ends and sides from the 3-inch poplar to accommodate the top panel. Use wood glue and finish nails to fasten the parts, and a nail set to countersink the nailheads.

2

3

4. Cut two 10-inch pieces of wire. Use wire strippers to remove 3/8 inch of insulation from all four ends. Take one end of each wire and solder it to the LED. Wrap connections with electrical tape. Twist these wires together and poke them down through the hole in the box cover. 5. Take the remaining 6-inch piece of wire and strip ¼ inch off each end. Poke one end through a hole in a switch terminal and solder. Beneath the box top, attach the positive wire from the LED to the other terminal on the switch. 6. Feed the switch leads down through the box and hold the switch in place by tightening the nut from below. Drop the leads from the solar panel down into the box and glue the panel in place.

4

5

7. Use the schematic below to make the remaining connections. First, solder together the free LED wire and the negative wires from the solar cell and battery pack. On the other side of the solar cell, solder the positive wire to the diode. Diodes are directional, so make sure that the black band on the diode is on the side of the circuit nearer the battery holder. Solder the other side of the diode to the free wire on the switch and the positive wire from the battery. 8. Place two batteries in the holder and test the circuit. If it works, glue the holder to the inside of the box wall. If not, double-check the wiring against the schematic and be sure that you have the batteries in the holder correctly.

6

7

9. Attach the action figure by boring a pilot hole from the inside of the box using a 3/32-inch bit. Use the same bit to make a hole in the foot of the action figure. Mount the action figure on the box by driving the sheet-metal screw through the box and into the figure’s foot, and place the LED in its hand.

Wiring Schematic Battery holder Diode LED Solar cell

8

Switch AA battery AA battery

9

P H OTO G R A P H S BY R EB ECC A M C A LPI N ; I LLUS T R AT I O N BY G EO RG E R E T S ECK

@ P o p u l a r M e c h a n i c s _ FEBRUARY 2017

91


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3 PIECE TITANIUM NITRIDE COATED HIGH SPEED STEEL STEP BIT SET

ITEM 91616 shown 69087/60379

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$59.97

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3-IN-1 PORTABLE POWER PACK WITH JUMP STARTER ITEM 38391/62376 62306 shown

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ITEM 61258 shown 61840/61297/68146

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R EMERGENCY PE ON Customer Rating 39 LED TRIANGLE SU UP O WORKLIGHT C ITEM 62158 shown 62417/62574

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$

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$

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R PE ON SU UP 8", 5 SPEED CO BENCHTOP

DRILL PRESS

ITEM 62520/60238 shown Customer Rating

12

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$60

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$

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1299 $18.98

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17 FT. TYPE I A MULTI-TASK LADDER

ITEM 62514 62656 67646 shown

• 300 lb. capacity • 23 configurations

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7 99 $5499 SAVE

$ 99

9

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89

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8750 PEAK/7000 RUNNING WATTS 13 HP (420 CC) GAS GENERATORS

ITEM 69249/69115/69137 69129/69121/877 shown

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comp at

RETRACTABLE R PE ON AIR HOSE REEL WITH SU UP 3/8" x 50 FT. HOSE CO Customer Rating ITEM 93897 shown

SUPER COUPON

Customer Rating

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ITEM 68784 shown 69387/62270/62744

7 FT. 4" x 9 FT. 6" ALL PURPOSE WEATHER RESISTANT TARP

Customer Rating

How Does Harbor Freight Sell GREAT QUALITY Tools at the LOWEST Prices?

139

comp at

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SUPER COUPON OW W MECHANIC'S GLOVES ITEM Item SIZE 62429 MED 62434/62426 shown 28 3/624 6243 LG X-LG 62432/62429 YOUR CHOICE

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5

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comp at

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Customer Rating

om or by calling our stores or HarborFreight.c t or coupon or prior LIMIT 8 - Good at used with other discoun 800-423-2567. Cannot be from original purchase with original receipt. days 30 after es Original coupon must be purchas s last. Non-transferable. Offer good while supplie 5/3/17. Limit one coupon per customer per day. presented. Valid through


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ITEM 61839/62359 shown Includes hook, mirror, magnet accessories, and video-out cable.

1" x 25 FT. TAPE MEASURE

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12" SLIDING COMPOUND DOUBLE-BEVEL MITER SAW WITH LASER GUIDE

ITEM 69684 shown 61969/61970

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18 VOLT CORDLESS 3/8" DRILL/DRIVER WITH KEYLESS CHUCK ITEM 69651/62868 62873/68239 shown

13999 $

19999 comp at

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R 10 FT. x 20 FT. PE ON PORTABLE CAR CANOPY SU UP ITEM 63054/60728/69034/62858 shown O C

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Includes one 18V NiCd battery and charger.

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Customer Rating

Customer Rating

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R 60", 4 DRAWER PE ON HARDWOOD WORKBENCH SU UP Tools sold separately. O ITEM 93454 C

69054/63395 62603 shown

Customer Rating

$

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15999$395

comp at

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1699 $

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1 99 19

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ITEM 63100

$

SUPER COUPON OW W LON GAL 21 HP, 2.5

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E 125 PSI VERTICAL SAV R $347 AIR COMPRESSO shown

DRIVE 1/4" 3/8" 1/2"

ITEM 69091/67847 61454/61693/62803

14999 $

99 Customer Rating

$

179

comp at

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TORQUE WRENCHES Customer Rating ITEM 2696/61277 807/61276 62431/239

YOUR CHOICE

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$497

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AUTOMATIC BATTERY FLOAT CHARGER Customer Rating

ITEM 42292 shown 69594/69955

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ITEM 69995 shown 60536/61632 • Lift range:

$

$34.99

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99 69 99

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• 700+ Stores Nationwide • Lifetime Warranty On All Hand Tools

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3 TON HEAVY DUTY STEEL JACK STANDS

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Customer Rating ITEM 61196 69597 38846 shown

5-1/4" to 17"

Customer Rating

comp at

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19

1500 LB. CAPACITY MOTORCYCLE LIFT

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1999

comp at

$34.95

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1/2" INDUSTRIAL QUALITY SUPER HIGH TORQUE IMPACT WRENCH ITEM 62627/68424 shown • 700 ft. lbs. max. torque

ITEM 61637 shown

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2199 $29.99

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5 99

8

NITRIDE COATED HIGHBIT SET STEEL DRILL 62281

SAVE 66%

Item 239 shown

comp at

WOW29SUPPIEERCECOUTITPON ANIUM SPEED Customer Rating

$

$205.99

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• Accuracy within ±4%

$ 99

$

9999 $14999

9

$ 99

$49.21

LIMIT 4 - Good at our stores or HarborFreight.com or by calling 800-423-2567. Cannot be used with other discount or coupon or prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase with original receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Non-transferable. Original coupon must be presented. Valid through 5/3/17. Limit one coupon per customer per day.

79 $205.75

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VALUE

LIMIT 3 - Good at our stores or HarborFreight.com or by calling 800-423-2567. Cannot be used with other discount or coupon or prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase with original receipt. Offer good while supplies last. Non-transferable. Original coupon must be presented. Valid through 5/3/17. Limit one coupon per customer per day.

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99 69 99 $

comp at

$ 97

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SAVE $135

WITH ANY PURCHASE

• 3-1/2 Pumps Lifts Most Vehicles • Weighs 34 lbs. • Pit crew quality design, machined from lightweight aircraft aluminum with a sapphire anodized finish • Industrial quality for professional mechanics and hardcore automotive enthusiasts

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59

R 2.4" COLOR LCD DIGITAL PE ON SU UP Customer Rating INSPECTION CAMERA CO

Customer Rating

99 79 99

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$259.99

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R RECIPROCATING SAW PE ON WITH ROTATING HANDLE SU UP O Customer Rating C

SAVE 66% ITEM 61884 62370/65570 shown

$

1999

$

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No-Drill MudFlaps

p. 3 Guide to Self-Sufficiency: Morgan Levy; How It Works: Sinelab; Special Effects Awards: Jeff Wack; p. 4 D’Agostino: Ida Garland; p. 5 “Hardware Stores”: Gene Smirnov; p. 8 groundhog, NBA game, Glenn, Sazerac, filter: Getty Images; hydroponics: Devon Jarvis; pp. 21–25 styling: Lynne Chan/Halley Resources; p. 31 Dean Kaufman; p. 32 bench: Anja Hitzenberger; p. 39 Seinfeld, McQueen, Lohan: Getty Images; p. 40 mechanics: Shutterstock; p. 55 book: iStock; wooden surface: Shutterstock; p. 57 Dufresne: Getty Images; p. 60 Zee: Getty Images; p. 64 kids: Stephanie Rauser/Trunk Archives; Ross: Getty Images; p. 79 cars on street: Vital Vegas; p. 82 Krasinski: Everett Collection; Affleck: Warner Bros.; pp. 86–87 process images: Ida Garland.

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Fish remote ponds and lakes, motor across bays, explore scenic harbors. The Sea Eagle® 9 Fisherman’s Dream inflatable boat package includes 2 5’ oars, foot pump, nylon carry bag, deluxe inflatable seats, high pressure inflatable floor for easy portability and motormount to take electric motor or 3 hp engine.

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TOOLS THEY USE T H E SU BJ E C T :

MICHAEL PARRIS THE JOB:

Ski-maker and designer at Igneous Skis L O C AT I O N:

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

I N 1998, Parris left a career designing robots for Carnegie Mellon. His new gig? The ski business. A friend who ran a ski company hired him as a designer—Parris has a degree in architecture—and today he owns Igneous Skis, handcrafting only 100 pairs each season, each of which sells for about $1,600. This giant green thing helps him do it.

“I interview each customer. Someone who wants to cruise with their kids? An ex-college racer bumming in Jackson Hole? I want to know why you ski.”

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1 / Wintersteiger belt sander and stone grinder A. I use the belt sander to shape the sidewalls of the ski and to shape out the band-saw cut, to bevel it, round it out at the top a little bit. B. The other side is a round stone cylinder. A diamonddressing bit goes back and 96

forth along the stone to cut different patterns called structure. The base of a final ski has little grooves cut into it, like tire treads. A structured base with microfine texture at the bottom dissipates water, making the ski go over the snow faster. I put the final edges in a crosshatch pattern with the stone.

FEBRUARY 2017 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S . C O M

2 / The wood Maple is one of the harder woods to work with, but it has rebound strength, impact resistance, and a vibration transfer that gives a precise feel for the snow. Ash has a similar impact resistance, but slightly less rebound quickness. It mellows out the ride.

3 / Handcrafted cores One of the unique things we do is build our own cores. Any one piece of wood might have some inconsistencies, but making a core out of a dozen strips creates a more homogenous material. It’s stronger and more stable than the wood was originally.

P H O T O G R A P H BY C H R I S T I E H E M M K LO K


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OUTDOOR HAND PROTECTION US: 800.222.4296 | WWW.MECHANIX.COM #mechanix



Popular Mechanics USA – February 2017