The Return of Home Economics: Sewing, Suturing, Woodworking, Oh My!

Now 16 days in to our Shelter in Place, the teenage Weekndrs are home from school, likely through the end of the 2019-2020 academic calendar year. Virtual school is still in session, but the rigid structure of Public School has not translated well to the Zoom age. The kids have lots of free time.

Hobbies Save the Day

To pass the days, the Weekndr household has turned to hobbies to take our minds off the frightening news that keeps unfolding. Woodworking, sewing, baking, cooking, and creative engineering projects. The youngest fashioned up a handmade face mask on the sewing machine. The oldest daughter ordered a suture kit and is learning out to sew a wound from YouTube videos.

Despite all the downsides of COVID-19, the return to Home Economics and Industrial Arts education is a silver lining. Kids are making things again, learning to use their hands, and that’s good for our sanity, our environment, and the future of the global economy.

In the introduction of my 2014 book, The Handmade Skateboard, I wrote about the ill effects of our country’s move away from Home Ec over the past few decades:

“Making things from scratch is a dying art on the brink of extinction. It was pushed to the edge when public schools dismissed woodworking classes and turned the school woodshop into a computer lab. And when you separate society from how things are made—even a skateboard—you lose touch with the labor and the materials and processes that contributed to its existence in the first place. It’s not long before you take for granted the value of an object. The result is a world where cheap labor produces cheap goods consumed by careless customers who don’t even value the things they own.”

Matt Berger, from The Handmade Skateboard: Design and Build a Custom Longboard, Cruiser, or Street Deck From Scratch (Sept. 2014)

The COVID-Generation will be different. They have seen a disruption in the supply chain like nothing we’ve ever experienced in nearly 100 years. Access to stuff is something we have come to take for granted. So when your local grocery store runs out of toilet paper, it’s gonna change your mindset about the value of things.

Can’t find a facemask for sale? Make your own. (even the NYTimes is on to it)

Which gives me an idea for my next woodworking video: How to make Toilet Paper from Handplane Wood Shavings. Follow me on TikTok!

Looking for a fun project for the pandemic? Browse the Weekndr archive:

Build a Vintage Skateboard

Make a Balsa Wood Toy Airplane

How to Make Replacement Scrabble Tiles

How to Make a Tumbler Compost Bin

How to Build a Woodshed

Practice: The 5-minute Dovetail

TikTok, Social Distancing, and the New UnNormal

You might remember not long ago I was on here grandstanding about deleting my Facebook account to live a better life of real human connection and personal experiences.

Well, bad timing I guess.

Thanks to a global pandemic and our new reality of “Social Distancing” my grand plan needs a Plan B. Turns out Social Media is a good thing during a state-wide Shelter in Place. I hang out on Instagram and Twitter a lot, these days, and sometimes long for my old Facebook feed.

10 days ago after getting locked up with my wife and two teenage kids, I decided to give TikTok a try. My family has been bugging me about it for awhile, recording dances in our living room while I pouted in the background hiding my face from the camera. But under the current circumstances I relented. So I created an account for my handmade skateboard making persona and published my first video (follow me at SK8Makers).

I’ve been posting almost every day since, digging in to my archive of social video clips. Here’s some original content I made with my wife to demonstrate how a woodworker practices social distancing with a tape measure extended to 6-ft. (wait for it…).


How a woodworker practices “Social Distancing” with a tape measure #coronavirus #shelterinplace #covid19 #woodworking #woodshoplife #tiktokfamily

♬ Mama Said – Lukas Graham

Turns out I have a shot at getting TikTok Famous in my narrow little woodworking nitch. Three of my videos so far have attracted 5-figure views. Like this one below that shows some of my woodworking students (pre-COVID-19) laminating 7-layers of maple veneer into a Skateboard kick tail with a vacuum press. It’s up to 32.4k views at time of publication:


Laminating 7 layers of Canadian Maple to build a handmade skate deck. Remove the air, bend the wood! #skateboard #maker #diy #woodworking #safehands

♬ Mission Impossible Theme (Movie Trailer Mix) – Dominik Hauser

As a veteran content publisher of more than two decades, I have to admit that TikTok is hands down the best content creation platform I’ve ever used, especially on a mobile device. It’s so easy and intuitive to make expressive videos right on your iPhone. Let me predict: The TikTok generation of content creators will be the greatest yet. Listen up Content Management Professionals.

Despite all my views and likes, I’m really looking forward to things getting back to normal, sending the kids to school, and seeing daily life resume to some degree. And I can’t wait to write my big emotional exposé on “Why I’m Quitting TikTok.” [Insert Link TBD]

#WFH Pro Tip: Wear a Green Shirt on Your Next Zoom Call

The Shelter in Place from COVID-19 means more people are working at home and using video conferencing call platforms like Zoom to communicate face-to-face with their colleagues.

After 6-month of becoming a heavy user on Zoom for calls with co-workers and clients, I’ve got a few fun tips to share:

  1. Wear a green shirt and you can use the Virtual Background feature to change the pattern. Choose from Planet Earth From Space, Blades of Grass, and the Golden Gate Bridge. (oh yeah, and also a fitting tip for today, St. Paddy’s Day!)
  2. Decorate the wall behind your video screen with some visual interest. I have three handmade skateboards hanging on my wall, plus a picture of the family, and a small wood sculpture I made. They sometimes help break the ice with small talk.
  3. Related… remove the clutter. Visual distractions can capture your call-mates attention when they should be paying attention to other things.
  4. Get a good set of headphone with microphone. My company sends all new employees a Sennheiser Headset. The sound is great, and it’s so comfortable on my ears.

Need more #WFH tips, I wrote 10 of them.

Stay Inside. Build a Handmade Skateboard

Download the free woodworking plans and put your kids to work when they’re stuck at home

The Global Pandemic is finally starting to disrupt daily life. School is closed through Spring Break, and the six San Francisco Bay Area counties announced a Shelter in Place order that goes into effect at midnight tonight. Which means for the next 20 days the Weekndr Family is stuck at home. We stocked up on food, toilet paper, and the basic essentials: hardwood lumber.

That’s right, we’re getting through this global pandemic scare by eating and building handmade skateboards in the garage!

If you’re looking for a fun activity to put YOUR kids to work, and get them out in the driveway for some exercise*, download a free set of my plans for building a 1960s style pinstripe skateboard, inspired by the original Hobie Super Surfer skateboard.

Back when Hobie built his first handmade skateboard in the 1950s, they used any old piece of lumber they could find, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have access to the same hardwood lumber I use in this project.

  • One or multiple pieces of of hardwood (or cut from a sheet of plywood)
  • 3 clamps
  • Wood Glue
  • Handheld Jigsaw
  • Palm Sander
  • Rasp and File
  • Drill-Driver
  • Skateboard Trucks and Wheels

*P.S. If someone gives you trouble for skateboarding during the Shelter in Place order, let them know it falls into section 10, “Essential Activities,” as long as you stay 6-feet away from everyone.


The Deep Sea, and Why We Need to Save It

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is about an hour drive from my hometown, so it’s a family favorite destination on a weekends or holidays. This year we sprung for our first family membership after doing the math and realizing we’d save money.

The aquarium shared news this week about a special exhibit planned for 2021 on The Deep Sea, which will showcase life 200 meters or more beneath the ocean where light does not exist. How do you know you’ve reached the deep sea? Scientists explain: “You know it when you don’t see it.”

Sketchnotes: A Deep Sea Seminar

This exhibit is of special interest to me because I got to be part of its early planning more than two years ago. I was invited to join a group of technologist and creatives from the Bay Area for a two-day seminar with biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and aquarium staff. In exchange, we helped brainstorm some ideas for the future exhibit — a virtual glass elevator in which visitors “descend” into the deep sea; a species naming contest; live streams from autonomous underwater vehicles. I’m eager to learn with the rest of you if any of our ideas become reality.

Meeting and hearing from Executive Director Julie Packard, and learning about the “Pig Butt” and “Killer Sponge” deep sea creatures from biologists, were just a few highlights.

There is so much to learn about the deep sea even eight hours of dense presentations was just a primer. But it was clear how important a healthy ocean is to the survival of Planet Earth. Like so many other things in nature, it is under threat by human civilization: Plastic waste, ocean temperature change and de-oxygenation; destructive deep-sea mining for precious minerals like manganese for the electronics industry.

Save the Ocean!

Did you know the Deep Sea produces more than 50 percent of the oxygen on Planet Earth? Forget the rain forests, the Ocean is truly the lungs of our planet.

We know less about the surface of the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars. More people have walked on the moon than touched the bottom of the ocean. And of all the species that live beneath the dark, we’ve identified about 1 percent of them.

Rather than getting all weepy about its potential demise due to man-made calamities, I celebrated this new-found knowledge with illustrated sketchnotes. The amazing creatures and civilizations that live beneath the “shallow sea” are a sight to behold, and I’m excited for what’s in store for us next year when the Monterey Bay Aquarium brings it into focus.

Hopefully it will spur more people to take action.

Browse my full sketchbook, including my view from the lobby of Asilomar State Park, the difference between bioluminescence and fluorescence, and a profile of Don Walsh one of two living humans who has visited the deep sea.

Another Benefit of Working Remotely… Safe from Global Pandemic

In August 2019 I left my job at Apple and took a new job with a totally “Distributed Company” in which all 1,000 of us employees work remotely, in 70 countries around the globe.

I love my new handmade office, but it was a big change compared to the office I left at Apple Inc. — as you might expect, a post-modern mix of glass, granite, and stainless steel. And that was just my team’s little offsite building a mile away from the magnificent circle-shaped Apple Campus that defies all definitions of “Going to The Office.

Six months in on my new work-from-home job, I’ve decided to update my Top 10 Tips for Working from Home with a few additional benefits, that only came to light in the face of this global pandemic!

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José Clement Orozco (1883 – 1949)

“Dia De Los Muertos” by José Clement Orozco

The published an article this weekend in the art section about a new exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art that explores “the profound impact” of Mexican painters on American culture.

“Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925 – 1945” features artists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and one of particular interest to me, José Clement Orozco. According to the Times, Orozco came to New York in 1927, teaching easel painting and print making before moving to California for a 1930 commission at Pomona College in Claremont.

Sometime after then, my great grandmother Madeline Thomas Langworthy acquired an Orozco artwork, titled “Dia De Los Muertos” or “Day of The Dead.” According to a tag on the back, Madeline lent this signed lithograph to the San Francisco Museum of Art in December 1953, as part of a José Clemente Orozco Memorial exhibition.

the impact of these painters and muralists also appear in the footnotes of an earlier post, in which I discovered a WPA-era artwork painted around the time of these Mexican influencers by the other ancestral female artist on my Mom’s side of the family.