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Popular Mechanics USA - May 2019

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I S N ’ T S P O K E N , I T ’ S P O U R E D.
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ICYMI
THE MOST
PORTABLE
SPEAKER EVER
The speaker itself is
excellent on its own—
big woofers, full sound,
easy Bluetooth pairing.
It’s also slim, and that’s
important, because its
slimness allows it to
slide into a soft pouch
at the front of the
(TSA-approved, strong,
high-end, lockable,
roomy) suitcase, which
then acts as a kind of
amplifier. A clever swivel
dial exposes the speaker’s control panel. Just
show up in your hotel
room, pool party, or offthe-grid cabin, slide the
speaker in, and fill the
air. Keep some clothes
in the suitcase—the
speakers are openbaffle design, which
basically means they
don’t have backs. Thus
your clothing provides
the sound-damping, and
the sound you get is rich
and full of detail.
Very cool system.
POPULAR WISDOM
6
DEA agents,
beer, Kevin’s
Jeep
GETTING
STARTED IN
12 Flying
HOW YOUR
WORLD WORKS
18 DARPA’s
pocket-size
radiation
detector
20 Great
Unknowns
22
Maker City:
Philadelphia
26 A historian’s
quest to stay
analog
COLUMNS
28 Ask Roy
by Roy
Berendsohn
30 Spirits
by Francine
Maroukian
32 My
Patent Story
34 The I.T. Guy
by Alexander
George
DRIVING
36 The 2019
Popular
Mechanics
Automotive
Excellence
Awards
46 An appreciation
of the junkyard
48 The New
Vintage: 1989
Audi 200
Quattro
PR ACTICAL
K NOWLEDGE
50 Get your darn
brush pile under
control
52
Shop Notes
54
Make typing
better with
a custom
keyboard
56
The Lunch Pail:
Salad in a jar
58 Why you need a
pair of coveralls
59
Tool Test:
Glue Guns
THE LIFE
60 Shane Kline
is a thirdgeneration
carpenter—
and an aspiring
Olympian
OFF THE GRID
66 The fun, freeing,
complicated
task of fully
disconnecting.
Plus: Um, what
about the
toilets?
THE CONTR ACTOR
76 Bob Vila has
written books,
consulted
on major
restorations,
and launched
his own website.
But to some,
he’s still the
guy who left
This Old House
30 years ago.
Tom Chiarella
hangs with the
iconic voice of
home repair.
PM FA MILY
82 Spiders,
slingshots,
sudoku!
TABLE OF
CONTENTS
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$659; nomadic.audio
O N T H E COV E R : I L L U S T R AT I O N BY J O N AT H A N B A R T L E T T
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
3
↓ FR O M T HE EDITO R
Some Silliness
W
a dog growing up. We had a cat for a while—my older brother was
walking home from sixth grade one day and passed a house where they were giving away kittens. Apparently the owners thought it was okay to give a kitten to an
unaccompanied 11-year-old. We kept it hidden for a week before our parents found
it. She was adorable and enjoyed puking and scratching people.
We wanted a dog, but dogs are more work, and my mother says she knew that even with
four kids in the house, she and my father would end up caring for a dog. (She can never prove
she was right, and we can never prove she was wrong. But she was probably right.)
A few months ago, my wife and I bought a puppy for our two sons. The older one helps out
a good deal, and the boys have a new best friend. Rocky has brought joy and silliness into our
house. He is cute and floppy and playful and can already sit and come when he’s called. But
oh my god puppies. People say puppies are
a lot of work. Like having a baby, even. To
Rocky
which I say: Babies wear diapers. A puppy?
There’s poop on the floor. Pee on the rug.
He swallows rocks. He barks at 2 a.m. for
no reason. We can’t eat without him trying to climb on the table. He tries to eat
the table.
Yeah, but.
I get it now.
The joy. The silliness.
In moments of weakness, when you’re
exhausted and late for work and you trip
over him and spill your coffee, you can yell
bad things at him and he just wags his tail
and licks your face.
Nothing’s easy in life. And some things
can seem so hard as to be unbearable. We,
all of us at one time or another, find ourselves enduring pain that feels like it might
never go away. But I’ll tell you one thing
that is easy: watching a puppy flop on a bed
next to a little boy who’s been robbed of speech and mobility by a vicious cancer, and seeing
that boy smile—hearing him laugh—as the dog, oblivious to the dangers of eating rocks but
maybe somehow aware of this boy’s pain, plays at his feet. And later, watching the boy’s older
brother wrestle all over the kitchen floor with his new puppy, yelping with laughter, long past
bedtime but who cares, because he hasn’t been this happy in years.
Those things...those things are easy.
Get a dog.
E N EVE R HAD
RYAN D’AGOSTINO
Editor in Chief
@rhdagostino
P.S. This is my last one of these letters. There’s a new guy taking over next month, but he’s not
really a new guy—his picture is on page 34, and I hired him four years ago, and he’ll do great
things here at Popular Mechanics. I’m fine—I have a great new job at the same company. I
want to thank the incomparable staff at PM for their dedication, loyalty, good humor, creativity, kindness, and hard work. And I want to thank you for continuing to read and appreciate
what we do, in print and on the web. You are the reason.
4
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
♥2019 Π&Γ
EVERY
HERO
S W E A T S.
(SOM E J UST N EVER SH OW IT )
GILLETTE
DEODORANT
48
HOUR
PROTECTION
POPULA R
What we’re up to beyond these pages
THE PODCAST
BONUS MATERIAL
OUR MOST
LAW-ABIDING
INTERVIEW EVER
We talk to the team behind a new book
that chronicles the DEA’s efforts to take
down a notorious cybercriminal.
Paul LeRoux smuggled
drugs, contracted killers,
and was one of the world’s
biggest arms dealers. We
talked to two DEA agents
on his case and the journalist who documented how he
was brought to justice.
Jacqueline Detwiler, host
and senior writer: Elaine,
how did you find this story?
Elaine Shannon, author: I
was in Afghanistan tracking the heroin trade and
heard about this guy, a
renegade tech mogul who
was “disrupting” organized
crime—in the Silicon Valley
sense. I knew I had to chase
the story, and along the way
I found these gentlemen.
Jacqui: When you’re hunting somebody like this, how
movie-like does it get?
Lou Milione, DEA team
leader, retired: You get a
6
glimpse into who somebody
really is, because they don’t
know you’re listening. And
then you can exploit the
weaknesses that you see.
Tommy Cindric, DEA case
agent, retired: A guy who
had known LeRoux in the
past infiltrated. But he
never sent one email without it going through myself
and my partner.
Lou: It’s a seduction, a
manipulation, based upon
the law. You try to pull them
in and make them vulnerable to prosecution and
arrest. That sounds terrible,
but it’s legal treachery.
Elaine: Before Lou was in
the DEA, he was an actor.
You’ve seen him in movies.
Lou: That’s...a wild
overstatement.
Jacqui: Does he want you
to tell us this?
Elaine: Well, it helped set
up these scenarios. And
Tommy was a cop; he has
an uncanny ability to read
minds.
Jacqui: To convince people
to tell you what you want?
Elaine: Right. What is it
that this very, very rich man
wants? What would make
him come out of his lair, to
some place where he could
be arrested?
If you guessed “the DEA
asked nicely,” please queue
the Most Useful Podcast
Ever on Stitcher, Spotify, or
Apple Podcasts.
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
“That was
the end of
climbing on
the roof.”
R WISDOM
VICTORIES
When John Kiedaisch,
a subject in our story
“Off the Grid,” on page
66, moved with his family to Vermont, their
new home didn’t have
power—so they figured
out how to produce their
own. John, an architect, used resources
like the Whole Earth
Catalog to figure out
how many solar panels
they needed, and helped
install them. “Later,
of course, I fell off the
roof,” he said.
Great Moments in Handiness
How Senior Associate Editor
Kevin Dupzyk Fixed His Jeep’s Drain
on JeepForum.com were
right: The dinner-plate-size pools of
water I’d been finding in the front
passenger footwell of my Wrangler were thanks to a drain under
the cowling that covers the windshield-wiper motor. After years of
street parking, it was full of gunk,
and heavy rainfall caused it to back
up and overflow into the cabin air
intake. The guys on the forum were
also right about the tool required
to clean it: I fetched an aluminum
yardstick and started ramming it
THE GUYS
INSTAGRAM
ACCOUNTS WE
FOLLOW ON
INSTAGRAM
(SPEAKING OF
INSTAGRAM,
WE REACHED
100K
FOLLOWERS!)
into the drain—while still parked on
the street. Neighbors ogled as they
strolled by. I looked nothing like
the Jeep owner I imagined myself
as, a real man among the neighborhood’s sea of hipsters. And just in
case I did, when I realized I needed
water to flush the loosened dirt
free—but lacked a hose that reached
the street—I had to run up to my
apartment and grab my 20-quart
stockpot. I filled it at the spigot out
front, carried it down, and a deluge
of its contents cleared the drain.
IN THIS ISSUE
“ H E Y, W H O ’S B O B V I L A? ”
@saltytimes
@lagunatools
Eagle Scout (and intern) Jackson Langland stood outside the Popular Mechanics
offices on a 27-degree afternoon in March
and asked passersby if they recognized the
name “Bob Vila”—the subject of our feature on page 76. (He was also armed with
a printout of Vila’s face.) Nine of the 21
people knew who Vila was; Jim Juras, pictured (right) with his wife, Donna, was one.
Juras had an advantage over the 12 who
didn’t recognize Vila, though—he’d grown
up reading Popular Mechanics.
P OP ULA R WISDOM
What we’re up to beyond these pages
How to Make a
Reclaimed-Wood Wall
Or how I did it, anyway.
THE EVERYWHERE CHAIR
In 1998, Tim and Donna
Swenson’s son Jeff was paralyzed in a car accident. Soon
after, Tim decided to design
an outdoor wheelchair for
him. In 2009, that hobby
turned into a full-fledged
manufacturing operation
in Marshall, Minnesota, that
has since expanded to a
25-employee operation
that’s built more than 3,000
all-terrain chairs. Action
Trackchairs are electric, with
a ten-mile range—or more,
if you hook up an optional
1,000-watt generator—and
some models have a power
tilting seat to compensate
for steep slopes. The chairs,
which inspired the one illustrated on the cover, can tow
up to 150 pounds, meaning
that hunters can get their
game back to camp. A Trackchair can handle many water
crossings. There are even
two types of tracks: one that
gives a smoother ride, and
one that’s better for mud or
wet snow. Either way, you’re
gonna go places that wheels
can’t reach. —Ezra Dyer
8
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
The process was more art than
science. I worked from floor to
ceiling, one wall at a time. First I
insulated and Sheetrocked all walls.
The wood I was adding was primarily decorative, though it provided
some insulation. I cut lengths such
that the pattern would be random,
with no seams aligning. And then I
just pieced it together.
I squirted some adhesive on the
back of each board, banged it into
place with a mallet, then tacked it
in with the nail gun, grabbing a stud
whenever possible. If I was left with
an odd height to fill, I simply ripped
a board to fit perfectly.
My wife says she likes it.
—Ryan D’Agostino
TOOLS I USED:
Sheetrock
Senco Fusion F-15
finish nailer with
1½-inch nails
Liquid Nails Heavy
Duty construction
adhesive
Estwing
rubber mallet
Metabo HPT
Jobsite table saw
DeWalt 20-Volt
cordless miter
saw
Milwaukee
18-Volt Jobsite
work radio
WA L L : R A N DY H A R R I S ; G U T H E I N Z : B L A I R B O G I N
some reclaimed
wood. Mine came from friends and
neighbors who heard about my project. One, PM contributor Richard
Romanski, lives and works in an
1876 church—he had saved some
of the pews, and gave me a pile of
beautiful mahogany slats that had
supported Methodists’ butts for
generations. He and his wife, Susan,
also had saved some clapboards
from the old parish hall, and he
put those on the pile. Another contributor, Andy Northshield, knew
of an old house being torn down,
and showed up with a pickup full
of tongue-in-groove boards with a
century of patina. Everything was
of equal thickness, half-inch.
FI RST YO U N E E D
PM EVERYWHERE
WE HELPED
MAKE A MOVIE!
ABOUT BEER!
The Popular Mechanics
team collaborated on a
documentary, Beers of
Joy, visiting internationally renowned breweries
and exploring the history
and evolution of ales,
stouts, and more. The doc
also follows two tasters
as they sharpen their palates and compete to be
named Master Cicerone—
the beer equivalent of
Master Sommelier.
Available to stream on
iTunes for $12.99.
THE WEBSITE
That Music You Hear in
Every Tech Commercial
to use a management tool
called Airtable, senior writer Jacqueline
Detwiler fell down an aural rabbit hole. “I had
clicked on the demo expecting to learn to use Airtable, as one does, but was immediately sucked
into the song,” she writes. “I had heard it before.
In fact, it seemed like I had never not heard it.”
Steven Gutheinz, who wrote the music
in question, has stumbled into a curiously
21st-century position: the go-to composer
WHILE LEARNING
for tech commercials. The bouncy trills that
caught Detwiler’s attention come from his song
“Balboa,” which has been licensed over 270
times. If you’ve seen a Google ad, you’ve heard
his music. (Or a TED spot. Or an Audi commercial. Or—well, you get it.)
As the industry has exploded in recent years,
he’s become the sound of an advertising era.
For the full story—and to hear his work—
Detwiler’s report is up on popularmechanics.com.
Editor in Chief Ryan D’Agostino • Executive Editor Peter Martin • Executive Managing Editor Helene F. Rubinstein • Managing Editor
Aimee E. Bartol • Chief Photography Director, Hearst Magazines Alix Campbell • Senior Articles Editor Ross McCammon • Senior Writer
Jacqueline Detwiler • Senior Editor Roy Berendsohn • Automotive Editor Ezra Dyer • Technology Editor Alexander George • Senior
Associate Editor Kevin Dupzyk • Field Editor James Lynch • Assistant to the Editor in Chief Eleanor Hildebrandt • Editorial Intern Jackson
Langland • Copy Chief Robin Tribble • Copy Editor Maude Campbell • Research Editor Henry Robertson • Art Director Duane Bruton
SINCE 1902
• Contributing Editors: Tom Chiarella, Daniel Dubno, Wylie Dufresne, Kendall Hamilton, Francine Maroukian, David Owen, Joe
Pappalardo, Richard Romanski, James Schadewald, Joseph Truini, Nicholas Wicks • Imaging: Digital Imaging Specialist Steve Fusco
• PopularMechanics.com: Site Director Andrew Moseman • Deputy Editor Eric Limer • Senior Editor Darren Orf • Video Producer
Todd Bogin • DIY Editor Timothy Dahl • Associate Editor Samuel Blum • Popular Mechanics Interactive: Producer Jeff Zinn • Popular
Mechanics International Editions: Russia, South Africa • SVP/International Editorial Director Kim St. Clair Bodden • Hearst Photography Group: Photo Director Justin O’Neill • Deputy Director Don
Kinsella • Associate Editor Sinikiwe Dhilwayo • Assistant Tenney Espy • Published by Hearst President & Chief Executive Officer Steven R. Swartz • Chairman William R. Hearst III • Executive Vice
Chairman Frank A. Bennack, Jr. • Hearst Magazine Media, Inc.: President Troy Young • President, Marketing & Publishing Director Michael Clinton • Chief Content Officer Kate Lewis • Executive Vice
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@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
9
↓ LARGE PHOTO OF
THE MONTH
That’s a horse’s mouth there, on the left. And on the right, that’s Lauren
McPherson, one of just 4,125 practicing equine veterinarians in the United
States, “floating”—filing down—the horse’s teeth with a battery-powered
dental speculum. Most horses need the preventative procedure every 12 to
18 months to keep their sharp dental points from interfering with feeding.
Summer is the Pickerington, Ohio–based vet’s busiest season, as people
are “remembering they have horses” after the winter; she’ll make up to 40
visits a week. Her patient here is a recent addition to the herd at Bella Run
Equine in Athens, Ohio, a nonprofit that rehabilitates old and unwanted
horses before putting them up for adoption. After the last three U.S. equine
slaughter facilities closed in 2007, the number of unwanted horses in the
States has risen to about 100,000 per year. Bella Run is one of hundreds of
organizations focused on their rescue and rehoming.
PH OTOG R APH BY KE L SE Y B RU N N E R
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
11
GETTIN G
↓ STARTED I N...
You’ll get to control the plane for
a few minutes on your first time up.
That’s how they get you.
The Cirrus SR22 is
equipped with a Cirrus
Airframe Parachute System.
In the event of an emergency,
you pull the red handle hanging
from the ceiling of the cockpit
and a 65-foot-diameter canopy
unfurls, controlling the
aircraft’s descent. Not
that you’ll need it.
Make Me
Want to
Do This
Easy. Take a ride. ¶ Most flight schools and small aviation
companies will charge you no more than a couple hundred dollars
for a taste—usually an hour ride, with an instructor. You get to
grab the controls for part of the time, zip around, maybe fly over
your house. It’s usually called a discovery flight. ¶ Do this.
When you fly in a small aircraft at a low altitude,
the sensation is not so much that the world below gets
smaller. The overwhelming sensation is that the sky gets
bigger. Bigger than you’ve ever seen it, even from some
endless beach, or from out in the desert, or from out the
multilayered polycarbonate window of a commercial
airliner. The sky pulls you up and surrounds you—it feels
as if all the blue is keeping you aloft. You feel it in a way
you don’t on an oversold 10:45 from Chicago to Dallas.
I had the opportunity to go up in a Cirrus SR22 with
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
13
↓ GETTING STARTED IN FLYING
my 11-year-old son and a pilot
named Ivy McIver. Ivy has been
with Cirrus most of her career,
selling planes, flying them,
evangelizing the very idea of
personal flight. She is laidback and cool, and before we
left the ground—before we even
climbed into the four-person
cabin—she demonstrated the
entire irresistible attraction
of learning to fly yourself in an
airplane. Here is how she demonstrated that:
I said, “Where are we going
today?” (We were starting
out from Westchester County
Airport, about 35 miles north
of New York City.)
She said, “I thought we
would go to an air show in
Rhode Island first.”
I said, “Great!”
She said, “After that, I don’t
know...we could go to Maine?”
I said nothing.
(We could go to Maine?)
She said, “Or there’s this
great ice cream shop in New
Hampshire that you can walk to
from one of the airports there.”
I just looked at her. I felt like
a kid who’s just been told he can
stay up all night.
She said, “Don’t worry, I’ll
have you back by dinner.”
Right there, I got it. We
could go to Maine. Flying your
own plane is fun, it’s cool,
it’s glamorous, and, to most
people, it’s an exotic treat. But
most of all, flying your own
plane is freedom.
We went to the air show.
Then we went to Maine. On
the SR22’s navigation system,
we found an airport in a place
called Sanford. First it was a
yellow dot on the screen, then
we saw it, down there on earth:
a solitary strip of asphalt, with
a small building next to it, a few
small planes parked. Ivy radioed. (“Niner-niner . . .”) They
said no problem, come on in.
Words to that effect.
There were two ladies sitting outside on folding lawn
chairs. They said hello, and told
us there was a good ice cream
place up the street a ways. They
said we could use the car—Ivy
told me this is quite normal,
that aviation companies would
have a “crew car” for visitors to
borrow. The crew car at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport
was a Suburban. They got the
keys for us.
At Shain’s of Maine we ate
lobster rolls and clam chowder
and their homemade blueberry
ice cream.
On the flight home—my son
flew most of the way from Sanford back to Westchester—we
called my wife. (You can make
cellphone calls from your own
plane.) When we got close to
our town, Ivy took the SR22 as
low as she could (about 1,000
feet). My wife and our younger
boy went out into the backyard, and they waved up at us.
We could see them, and we did
a little wing-tip.
Flying is freedom.
—Ryan D’Agostino
1
Am I gonna
be flying an
old plane?
On your
discovery flight, you might go
up in a newer, nicer plane, just to
get a more pleasant first impression. There are some upsides
to learning on an older model:
Those planes have simpler controls, which can make it easier to
focus when you’re learning the
basics. They’re also cheaper. The
rate for a late-1970s-era Cessna
152 could be around $100 an
hour; for a newer model, it might
be closer to $300 or $400. It’ll
mostly depend on what your airfield has available, but a good
rule of thumb is to train on the
kind of plane you expect to be
flying after you get your license.
N O T N E C E S S A R I LY.
Cessna 172
Over 40,000 trusty 172s
have been built—more
than any other plane.
Piper PA-28 Cherokee
Makes an appearance in
Goldfinger. Not just for
Bond villains.
For more inspiration,
read our four-part
series “Learning to Fly,”
by Joshua Ferris, on
popularmechanics.com.
14
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
Diamond DA42
First diesel-powered
fixed-wing craft to cross
the Atlantic nonstop.
2
I am quite sure
I will never be able
to afford a plane.
$7,000 to
$10,000 to get through training and certification for your
private license, says Shawn
Marshall, a Navy veteran and
chief flight instructor at Florida
Flyers Flight Academy in St.
Augustine, Florida. You’ll usually rent a plane at what’s called
a “wet rate,” which combines
maintenance, fuel, and insurance costs; your instructor’s fee
is a separate hourly rate on top
of that, starting at about $70.
When you own a plane, you’re
responsible not only for the original investment, but also for a
spot in a hangar, insurance, gas,
and maintenance fees. To make
it worthwhile, you’d probably
need to be flying a whole lot.
If you do want to look into
buying a plane, think about
whether you could split the cost
with a couple friends to have
joint ownership, or even enter
into a timeshare. Also, keep in
mind that when you rent from
a local airfield, you’re only paying for the hours in the air. If
you have a $300-an-hour plane
for the whole weekend but you
only fly four hours, you’re paying $1,200—not $14,400.
EXPECT TO I NVEST
To Rent
Hourly: “Wet rate” (plane
+ insurance + gas): $100 to
$400 an hour, depending on
age and model of plane
To Buy*
Fuel: $5.50 a gallon; the average four-seater airplane gets
16 to 20 mpg
Insurance: Up to $1,500 a year
Hangar fee: Up to $550 a
month, depending on proximity to large metro areas
Maintenance: Usually about
10 hours a year plus parts,
around $2,000
Keeping certification: About
$200 every two years
*Source: The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based off a hypothetical $40,000 used airplane
The Cessna
152 hasn’t been
in production since
1985, but is still
a popular—and
safe—training
aircraft.
3
4
5
6
Who
are the
instructors?
How long do
lessons take? Am I
working toward a
certification?
And then do I
need to maintain
my status as a
legal flyer?
Can I fly
barefoot?
I N S T R U C T O R S H AV E T H E I R
THE FAA REQUIRES 40 hours in
the air before you can take your
license exam, but most people
spend more time training. For a
regular person with a full-time
job, who can fly maybe two times
a week, it’ll take probably three
or four months to complete
training. Weather also factors
in if you’re trying to learn in a
Pennsylvania winter; a Florida
location will mean weather
isn’t as much of a factor. Once
your instructor deems you
proficient, you apply for the
FAA to send an examiner out to
fly with you. You’ll have an oral
examination first where you
answer questions about things
like aerodynamics, safety, and
airspace rules. Then you do
a flying practical—just like
getting in the car with a DMV
examiner when you get your
driver’s license.
private license, instrument
license, commercial license,
and an additional f lightinstructor license. They’re
often people accumulating
hours toward becoming an airline pilot; sometimes, they’re
retirees who want to put their
years of experience to use.
Popular Mechanics’
“discovery flight”
instructor Ivy McIver
of Cirrus.
the only one going
up, you’ll need to do a flight
review with an instructor every
two years. The length of that
process may depend on how
frequently you’ve flown in
the interim. If you’re planning to take passengers up,
though, the FAA has additional
requirements.
I F YO U ’ R E
dangerous
about it, per se—there aren’t
sharp objects down there; if anything were to catch fire, shoes
probably wouldn’t make much
of a difference. Some planes
have no a/c, though, and the
plane produces heat, so sweaty
feet might be an issue—slipping off the pedals, for instance.
TH E RE ’S NOTH I NG
A FEW WORDS FOR THOSE
OF YOU SCARED OF FLYING AND
NOT INTERESTED IN ANY OF THIS
According to Ivy McIver, many
people actually start lessons as
a way to get over a fear of flying;
it can also help mitigate motionand airsickness. “When you’re
in control and you’re focused,
your anxiety level goes down,”
she says. “You’re the one directly
affecting your destiny.”
In Paid Partnership with
GOING
FOR
SMOKE
JOHN POIARKOFF
Chef
Westchester, NY
I
t’s a known fact that smoking food
can make you feel like a prehistoric
superhero—and it doesn’t have to be
intimidating. It’s easier than you’d think,
but you can’t take shortcuts—you must earn
the flavor of perfectly smoked food. All you
need is some good meat, a little patience,
and a lot of love. Over the years, I’ve smoked
everything from pork belly and sausages
to fi sh, beets, tomatoes, and cabbage.
I recommend brining or curing your meat a
day in advance and smoking as low and
slow as time allows, so your finished dish
is perfectly seasoned and juicy. That flavorpacked combo of sweet, sour, and smoky
pairs perfectly with whiskey—American
whiskey to be precise. Bourbon is made
when corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley
are distilled, then aged in charred new oak
barrels. This process creates a sweet, savory,
spicy, sexy whiskey that’s a natural match
for a slab of bacon or a brat. A wise man
once said that there is only one way to
drink whiskey: however you want. And what
better reward after putting in time at the
smoker? Cheers!
TRY THIS PAIRING
USING WOOD TO SMOKE FOODS
There are two main factors to consider when choosing
wood for your smoker: type and form. Hickory, alder, and
fruit woods, like apple and cherry, have a mild, sweet
flavor that won’t overwhelm the natural taste of the
meat. Mesquite gives a bolder smoke flavor. Avoid softer
woods, like pine and cedar, that are high in resin and
can impart unappetizing flavors. The size and shape
of the wood (chips, sawdust, pellets) affect the speed
and length at which they burn. Smaller wood particles
found in sawdust and pellets will burn and smoke faster,
but will not last as long. Larger chips will take longer to
ignite, but will last longer and will have to be changed
less frequently during smoking.
THE SMOKEHOUSE
Bourbon is the star of this
refreshing cocktail, but the
citrus and seltzer cleanse
your palate brilliantly
between bites of barbeque.
The Smokehouse is a great
match for smoky pork belly
or juicy sausages.
3 parts Knob Creek® Bourbon
1 part cold smoked fresh
lemon juice or fresh lemon juice
1 part cedar plank roasted
rosemary simple syrup
4 parts seltzer water
Smoked lemon wheel and
rosemary spring for garnish
PREPARATION:
If desired, start by cold smoking fresh lemon
juice for 1 minute. Next, on a hot grill, roast
rosemary atop a water soaked cedar plank
for 2 minutes. Grill lemon wheels at the
same time. Combine rosemary and simple
syrup for 10 minutes then strain. Shake all
ingredients minus seltzer and strain over
fresh ice. Add seltzer. Garnish with a lemon
wheel and rosemary.
KNOB CREEK® KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY
50% ALC./VOL. ©2019 KNOB CREEK DISTILLING COMPANY, CLERMONT, KY.
CL E R MON T
K . Y.
U. S .
NEVER PAT YOURSELF
ON THE BACK. THAT’S WHAT
THE WHISKEY’S FOR.
EVERY BIT EARNED
KNOB CREEK® KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY AND STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY
50% ALC./VOL. ©2019 KNOB CREEK DISTILLING COMPANY, CLERMONT, KY.
H OW YO U R WO R L D WO R KS
Tiny Device Can Detect
Nuclear Armageddon
A new sensor—small enough to fit in pockets and cheap enough to fit in budgets—will
help law enforcement locate dangerous materials before terrorists can use them.
/ BY DA NIEL DUBNO /
T
was as uneventful as the dozens of others the man had taken from Washington, D.C., to New
York City. He watched the scenery change as he headed
north past Baltimore, along the Delaware River to Philadelphia, through Newark, then into the long dark
tunnel on the final approach to New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Throughout the trip, the device in his
pocket—the size of a portable hard drive, all black, with a single button on the center of one side and a blinking blue LED light
above it—remained silent.
After getting off the train, the man moved with the large midday crowd toward the entrance to the subway. On the uptown
platform, standing near a dark-haired woman in her late 40s,
he felt his pocket vibrate insistently. He
looked at his phone: high levels of gamma
rays. Technetium-99m. He was the only
one who knew.
The man, Vincent Tang, is a prominent
physicist at DARPA. He and his team have
spent the last five years working on Sigma,
a program for counteracting nuclear terrorism. A year ago they launched Sigma+,
an expanded system that will identify
chemical, biological, and nuclear components, along with explosives, to help law
enforcement stop terrorists before they
can strike. The major breakthrough is
the radioisotope identification device in
Tang’s pocket, the D3S, which was built
by the British company Kromek. Unlike
earlier versions, which were much larger,
the D3S fits in your pocket. And at a fraction of the previous price, it can be carried
by every police officer, firefighter, EMT,
and other emergency-service personnel in a city. When paired
with a network of larger, more sensitive devices, both mobile
and at fixed points around a city, this creates a crowdsourced
dragnet for thwarting possible biological, chemical, explosive,
or nuclear attack.
The Sigma system is already being tested in a few major urban
centers across the United States. (They can’t be named for security reasons.) Someday soon, Tang hopes, Sigma+ will be the
strongest tool available to cities in the fight against terrorism.
Despite the vibrating in his pocket, Tang isn’t concerned by
18
HE TRAIN RIDE
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
the reading on the subway platform. Technetium is the most commonly used radioactive tracer, an element doctors give patients
before X-rays and other hospital tests. But if it had been an element used for a dirty bomb, Tang would have known just as quickly.
Tang allowed us to test
the device in New York City for two weeks. But first he had to show
me how it works.
With special tracking software installed on my laptop, Tang demonstrated how simple it was to follow the D3S in real time. Once it
was paired with his phone, as easily as you would add any Bluetooth
device, the D3S popped up on the map. Had we added more—say, an
entire police unit fanned across its precinct—we could have followed
them as well and gotten instant notifications
of any detected threats.
Next, the test. Inside the D3S is a one-inch
cube of thallium-activated cesium iodide
crystal. When the characteristic energy of
an isotope hits that crystal, it is absorbed
and re-emitted as light particles, which are
converted into an electrical signal that the
D3S reads.
Tang carefully set a palm-size lead container (called a pig) on my kitchen table.
Inside were test samples of cobalt-60,
cesium-137, and radium-226, elements that,
in larger concentrations, could be fatal. He
took each out, and we watched as, within one
or two seconds, his phone vibrated with an
alert—an instant identification of the substance and the approximate amount.
After a little more instruction, I was on
my own. In two weeks of very determined
testing—and many miles of walking with
optimistic suspicion—I’m pleased (but somehow also slightly disappointed) to have found nothing. There was a brief moment of
excitement when I passed the foreign embassy of a not-so-friendly
country and felt a warning vibration in my pocket. This was it! I
thought. I’m about to save the world! But then I looked at my phone:
fluorine-18, another isotope regularly used in medical testing.
With older equipment, that false positive, along with the one
Tang had on the subway platform, could have sent counterterrorist teams scurrying. New York City wasn’t any safer because of me,
but it will be when Sigma+ makes its way to our streets.
I N A PO PU L A R M ECHA N I C S E XCLU S IV E ,
The world doesn’t
need another word
for fear.
Unease. Heebie-jeebies. Alarm. The willies.
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English language. But just one for exceptional
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H OW YO U R WO R L D WO R KS
Big questions.
↓ G R E AT
U N K N O W N S Answers you can‘t find on the internet.
If you were cloned, would
the clone have the same
sense of humor as you?
I
T SURE WOULD be a time-saver if it did. Imagine how much more
productive you’d be if you had someone else to laugh at your own
jokes for you. That would free up at least an hour a week for the
typical middle-aged dad, who, despite his invariably generous
self-appraisal, is deemed by his wife and children to be roughly
as humorous as Lenin’s funeral. Ask us how we know.
If we may recast your question slightly, what’s actually at
issue here is whether a person’s sense of humor is wholly innate,
or whether its development is influenced by external factors. Prevailing scientific thinking suggests that, like most personality
traits, sense of humor is the product of both nature and nurture.
“There’s almost nothing in the emotion space I can think of that
isn’t deeply the result of an interaction between genes and environments,” says Robert W.
Levenson, a psychology
professor at UC Berkeley
who studies emotions and
their genetic basis.
While there is no single region of the brain that
produces humor, Levenson says, in order to be
funny—or to perceive
things as funny—your
brain has to process information quickly. “You need
to be able to step outside
of yourself and take in the
context,” he says—an ability that he believes partly
depends on the genetic
characteristics that shape
our brains. Then again,
what we find humorous is also a function of the experiences we’ve
had. “The clone might have that brain, but might not have the
experiences that provided the material that brain would process
to produce humorous observations,” Levenson says.
Consider that, contrary to what the entire science-fiction industry would have you believe, clones aren’t guaranteed even to look
the same. Take nature’s clones—identical twins—who likewise
share 100 percent of their DNA. If one twin grows up jogging laps
around an organic farm in the warm California sun, but his wayward brother tends to a basement cockfighting ring with a tallboy
in his hand and a Tiparillo in his teeth, they likely won’t share
height, weight, or muscle mass—let alone an affinity for suspect
individuals who introduce themselves as “Bozo.”
Willibald Ruch, a personality researcher at the University
of Zurich, coauthored a 2014 study explicitly investigating the
nature versus nurture humor divide. By comparing the consistency with which identical twins reacted to jokes to the responses
of fraternal twins (who share only half of their DNA), they hoped
to determine which comedic predilections—if any—are likely to
be heritable.
Ruch’s team found the strongest genetic predisposition
to “incongruity resolution” humor. “This would
be like a dumb blond joke
or an ethnic joke, where
you know the stereotype,
and there is something
unexpected,” Ruch says.
He suspects, though,
that this has less to do
with sense of humor per
se, and more to do with a
personality trait called
conservatism. “The idea
is this appears in people
who avoid complexity,” he
says. “They prefer redundancy, they prefer what
they know, and they dislike what is different.” So
tired old jokes will find a
home with dull people, which may help explain the nettlesome
persistence of Adam Sandler.
Finally, while you and your clone may or may not share a preference for any particular genre of jest, Ruch suggests that the way
you react to humor is more apt to be identical. So whether you’re a
belly-laugher, cackler, chuckler, chortler, giggler, guffawer, kneeslapper, or merely an eyebrow-raiser, your clone likely will be too.
Just not necessarily at the same time.
Do you have unusual questions about how things work and why stuff happens? This is the place to ask them.
Don’t be afraid. Nobody will laugh at you here. Email [email protected]
20 May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
The Best Godzilla
Takedowns Ever
JUST A FEW strategies Millie Bobby
Brown and Vera Farmiga may want to
consider in this month’s Godzilla:
King of the Monsters.
4. Godzilla 2000 (1999)
A flying saucer’s death ray snaps off
the top of a skyscraper, and it flattens a
bewildered Godzilla.
3. Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
Rodan picks up Godzilla and throws him
into King Ghidorah, knocking both into
the ocean. Tsunami destroys a house.
2. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Mechagodzilla swivels his head 180
degrees, then torches King Caesar with
rainbow eye lasers while simultaneously
strafing Godzilla with toe missiles.
1. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
King Kong rips a tree out of the ground
and shoves it in Godzilla’s mouth.
Godzilla spits it back at him
in a burst of fire. Godzilla
charges in for the kill, but
in a shocking reversal, Kong
hits him with a suplex.
The Firehose Becomes a Lifeline
T H E S E L F - C O N TA I N E D
breathing units firefighters carry into burning
buildings are heavy, bulky,
and limited in capacity.
So a team of former firefighters came up with an
idea: What if they ran an
air line through the firehose back to an air supply at
the truck? With engineering assistance from LIFT,
a Detroit-based public–
p r i v a t e p a r t n e rs h i p ,
they c reated the Lifeline Firehose. Fire Chief
Rodney VanDeCasteele
of Grand Ledge, Michigan, explained what his
firefighters have learned
as the pilot department for
the new hose.
Normal air packs that firefighters wear
will last 30 or 45 minutes. Our capacity right
now on the truck is about an hour and 15
minutes with two people breathing on this
system—but I can change an air bottle at any
time without stopping the flow. So now what
happens is if I have a firefighter in a building,
and it’s going to take us a little bit of time to
remove debris from around him, or to get
him out of the building, we have an unlimited
supply of air we can give to that firefighter.
For the incident commander on the scene,
it offers a little bit more security. And since
we’ve had this on the truck, since we have
had the ability to play with it, we’ve
found other uses for it. If we have a fire
that we consider a defensive fire—nobody’s
going in, but all the firefighters are sitting in
the smoke while fighting it—they don’t have
to wear a self-contained breather, all that
heavy stuff. We don’t have to keep moving
firefighters in and out, changing air bottles.
In the year we’ve been using this thing, helping Lifeline work out glitches, we’ve been
training with it and we’ve pulled it out on a
couple scenes. We haven’t had to utilize it
yet, but the policy of our department now is
that when the first crew goes in, the backup
crew grabs this line as a standby. Hopefully,
once this catches on for other departments,
it’s going to be one of the newest revolutions
in firefighting. —As told to Kevin Dupzyk
Tiny Tool Harvests Energy from the Air
Tiny and flexible, a
new molybdenum
disulfide rectenna
opens up myriad
new uses for the
excess energy in
the radio waves all
around us.
THE VAST MAJORITY of the energy in the ubiquitous radio waves used for Wi-Fi
or to send a text message is simply lost into the air. What if we could capture and
use it? Enter the rectenna, a device that receives electromagnetic signals with an
antenna, generates AC power, and then converts, or “rectifies,” it into a usable
DC electrical current. Rectennas have been around for decades but are typically
constructed using silicon and gallium arsenide, highly rigid materials, making
them unsuitable for the increasingly small, wearable electronics common today.
But now a team led by researchers at MIT has designed a three-atom-thick material called molybdenum disulfide and created a flexible rectenna.
The team’s proof-of-concept demo has already achieved 30 percent efficiency,
roughly half that of rigid rectennas. And by harvesting ambient energy of 40 to
50 microwatts, it could power biomedical applications like implanted glucose sensors. (Radio penetrates the human
body.) The rectenna material can also be manufactured at sizes much larger than typical silicon electronic components. Dr. Xu Zhang, one of the project’s leaders, envisions a future in which large-scale infrastructure like buildings
or roads are coated with the membrane to power networks of sensors that relay real-time data on road conditions or
structural soundness. “This provides a new opportunity,” he said, “to rethink electronics.”
—Jackson Langland
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
21
H OW YO U R WO R L D WO R KS
↓ MAKER CITY
One of Philly-based
Oat Foundry’s deceptively high-tech signs
on display at Nolita
Hall in San Diego.
For the cent ur y following the Civil War,
Philadelphia was known
as the Workshop of the
World, not only for the scale of its industrial infrastructure, but for the unmatched diversity of its
manufacturing factories and neighborhood smokestack plants. Today a similar range of production is the engine of Philadelphia’s modern maker movement, a hyper-local community of doers and
entrepreneurs turning out everything from textiles to technology. / AS TOLD TO FRANCINE MAROUKIAN /
Philadelphia
_
Above: Sean Rossiter (left) and Mike Courtney
put the finishing touches on a split-flap sign
shipping to Mexico City as John Halko examines
piping for Oat Foundry’s industrial cold-brew
coffee machine. Far left: Michael Courtney
solders a proof-of-concept printed circuit
board. Near left: James Vescio Jr. cleans the
welds on a machine frame.
THE MAKER
MARK KU H N
CEO AN D FOU N D E R
HIS COMPANY
OAT FOU N D RY
with two brothers, and our parents gave us the latitude to be tinkerers—to
make anything we wanted. My mom did the
craft pages for Highlights magazine, and her
home office was like an A.C. Moore—filled
with pipe cleaners, pompoms, and glue sticks.
My dad has a self-reliant entrepreneurial
spirit, and together they instilled “you can
build it” courage in us. I was also an Eagle
Scout, where there was always Apollo 13–
style innovation—making cardboard and
aluminum baking ovens, creating rope and
log suspension bridges, figuring out how to
lower a canoe down a 150-foot ravine. We
built with what we had.
Establishing Oat Foundry was an extension of that problem-solving experience. We
graduated in June 2013, ten days later had an
LLC, and within a month we set up our first
factory space. Our early plan was to build on
a pretzel-machine business we had started in
college—that’s another story—but when that
project evaporated, we had to pivot.
We believe our job is to make things that
don’t exist. During our early days when we
were prospecting for work, we came across
a Philly-based fast-casual dining company that used digital ordering screens
and wanted to incorporate less “glow-washing” messaging boards. Their initial vision
was a high-tech version of the retro splitflap display, once used in train stations to
I G R EW U P
announce arrivals and departures.
Our team shifted into high gear. Our goal
was to create the first pilot units in a few
months, maintaining that iconic clicking
sound. By 2016, we’d built 20 for them—with
over 5,000 individual parts per unit—and
were seduced by the quixotic, nostalgic aesthetic. In an era in which we’re bathed in
digital access, we find the movement and
mod-age realness of the signs to be intoxicating. Our business quickly grew to supplying
the signs for clients from New York to Hong
Kong, and we are now the only U.S.-based
company that continuously manufactures
them. There are more Oat Foundry split flaps
in North America than any other brand.
Split-flap signs have become even more
special to us due to an ongoing campaign
with our local congressman and the people of Philadelphia to keep one as the major
announcement board at Amtrak’s 30th
Street Station, a beautiful station and one of
the last transit hubs with this type of sign.
While the aging split flap (from another
manufacturer) is beloved, it has some major
issues: It is not ADA compliant (for hearingimpaired and vision-impaired passengers),
it regularly breaks down, and its software
controls are ancient. We have had the distinct pleasure of pitching an upgraded
compliant sign—and the best part: the
same beautiful clack-clack-clack sound. We
are now waiting on the approval of Amtrak
leadership to secure funding, open up the
bid, and move forward. With all of our fervor and clear ability to deliver, I don’t think
that will be a problem.
MY PHILADELPHIA
BEST BREAKFAST
Honey’s Sit’N Eat
Northern Liberties location
They’re open at 7 a.m. with a $5 breakfast
special—excellent coffee. Plus some of
the people who work there are builders
and makers too.
BEST CITY VIEW
Bok Bar
From the rooftop bar, you are the
tallest thing around, and when there are
fireworks over the river, they rise to
the same level where you are.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
23
H OW YO U R WO R L D WO R KS
How to Make
Gasoline from Tea
the kombucha brand of Townshend’s Tea Company of Portland, Oregon, uses a unique method to lower the
fermented tea drink from its natural 1 to 3 percent ABV to
the below 0.5 percent legal limit for nonalcoholic beverages.
Then it uses the by-products to help make gasoline (and other
stuff). Here’s the most interesting beverage production process in the country:
BREW DR.,
S TA R T
TOWNSHEND’S
WHITE ROSE TEA
The ethanol is divided
into chilling tanks.
Some tanks are filled
according to the flavor of the original tea.
When 5,000 gallons
are collected, the ethanol is passed through
the SCC again to get it
to typical strength for
a spirit, 40% ABV—
in this case, WHITE
ROSE SPIRITS.
The tea is steeped
with sugar, then
strained through a
500-micron filter
to remove tea
leaves, producing
SWEET TEA.
The rest of the ethanol is stored with no
regard to flavor. At
10,000 gallons, it gets
shipped to Pacific
Ethanol in Boardman,
Oregon, where it’s
further fermented
with corn stock, then
distilled to remove
corn and passed
through a molecular
sieve for purification,
yielding PURE ETHANOL. The removed
corn is collected to
be used as CORN
FEEDSTOCK.
Sweet tea ferments
in tanks with 2,000
gallons of symbiotic
culture of bacteria
and yeast, known as
SCOBY, which looks
like a giant phlegm
Frisbee. In 2 to 4
weeks, you get
KOMBUCHA, but it is
too alcoholic to be sold.
The ethanol is blended
with gasoline at a
standardized 90:10
ratio, then sent to gas
pumps in Portland.
Trek’s New Helmet
Is Ready to Save
Your Brain
The kombucha is
heated to 104 degrees,
then passed through a
spinning cone column
(SCC). That removes
ETHANOL (at 12%
to 14% ABV) without
altering flavor, unlike
dilution—which is what
most brands do. The
end product of the
SCC? KOMBUCHA at
0.1% ABV—low enough
to sell.
GASOLINE
FINISH
IF AT FIRST you don’t succeed, try at least 4,999 more
times. That’s what it took to develop Trek and Bontrager’s safest helmet technology yet, WaveCel. They built a
fake head and neck with nine accelerometers to measure
head movement in all six degrees of freedom, and then
they replicated the violence of bike crashes over and over
again. Engineers and a surgeon pored over the tests and made minute changes until they had
integrated the WaveCel technology, a collapsible cellular material made of thermal plastic, into
a free-floating layer of the helmet that redirects rotation and, according to Tony White, engineering supervisor at Trek, can “fold over and compress on itself,” helping it dissipate energy
more effectively. Upshot: It’s 48 times better at preventing concussions than traditional foam
helmets. The material debuts in four new Bontrager helmets, which are available now.
24 May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
WARNING: This product
contains nicotine. Nicotine
is an addictive chemical.
TRUE
FLAVOR.
TRUE
FEEL.
Learn more at blu.com
©2019 Fontem. NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS. blu®, the blu logo, myblu™, and the myblu logo are trademarks of Fontem Holdings 4 B.V.
H OW YO U R WO R L D WO R KS
Typewriter Repairman Writes
3,000-Page Book, Wins Pulitzer!
Historian Robert Caro has 11 identical typewriters.
To finish his life’s work, he may need more.
Robert Caro began
writing a multipart biography he calls The
Years of Lyndon Johnson. He’s still working
on the fifth and (allegedly) final volume. “In
writing about me and my hopes of finishing,
[journalists] often express their doubts of
that happening in a sarcastic phrase: ‘Do the
math,’” Caro, 83, writes in the introduction
to Working, a new book about his research.
Yet concern over longevity might be better
suited to his tools. Caro writes first drafts
longhand, then types them on a SmithCorona Electra 210 typewriter. He spoke
to Popular Mechanics about the equipment
that has facilitated some of the best historical writing of our time, or any time.
FO U R D E C A D E S AG O ,
Keeping these typewriters going is turning into a real job. Because they stopped
making them about 30 years ago, you have
to have a spare supply.
Whenever I do a book there are these
profiles—they all mention I use a SmithCorona, so I get a lot of letters. There are
two kinds. The first one says: I have an old
one in my garage, I’d like you to have it, I’m
sending it to you. The second type of letter
says: I have one in my garage, I’ll sell it to you
for $4,000. I answer the first kind of letter.
If a part breaks, you have to cannibalize another typewriter. When the last book
came out, I got up to 14. I’m already down to
11, which worries me.
Now, the ribbons. The reason I like the
type to be very dark is that I type and retype
these pages so many times that the words
sort of cease to...hit you. If you want the type
to be bold, it has to be cotton ribbons, not
nylon. Nobody, as in zero, makes cotton ribbons anymore. Ina [his wife] found one guy
and called him, and he said, Yeah, I’ll make
you cotton ribbons—if you order a dozen
gross. That’s 12 times 144. So if you ever
want a box of cotton ribbons, I’m your man.
It’s quite interesting—I was born and
worked most of my life in the age of print,
but now I’m in the digital age. It’s like they
changed the rules of the game on me.
—As told to Eleanor Hildebrandt
Caro and his SmithCorona in their
Manhattan office.
HISTORY GOES DIGITAL
Presidential records have
expanded to include emails
and even tweets. The Obama
Presidential Center recently
announced it may not have
physical archives at all. Caro
has a few thoughts about
such things:
26
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
SMARTPHONES
Researchers now
snap pictures of
documents, to read
later. Would he have
made the same
discoveries reading papers on an
iPhone? “Possibly.
But I don’t believe it.”
CTRL-F
An infrequent
Googler, Caro allows
that control-F
(“find”) is “the great
help for researchers,” letting them
scan massive sets
of documents for a
specific subject.
THE CLOUD
Getting government papers requires
bureaucratic approval.
Online archives could
be worse. “What’s
worrisome to me is
that somebody has
to decide what’s digitized,” Caro says.
PROMOTION
G E A R U P, G E T O U T, G I V E B AC K
WITH POPULAR MECHANICS ON
N AT I O N A L T R A I LS D AY ®
MEET US ON SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019
AT THE NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY TRAIL CONFERENCE HEADQUARTERS
600 RAMAPO VALLEY ROAD, MAHWAH, NJ JUST 35 MILES FROM NYC
F
rom trail building to invasive species removal to a litter clean-up, we’ll be making
a difference in Ramapo Valley County Reservation. Attendees of all ages can join
us for stewardship projects and guided hikes led by a team of experts from the
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explore popular outdoor retailers showing their trail love with demos and awesome swag.
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COLUMNS
↓ ASK ROY
/ BY ROY BERENDSOHN /
Is there any way to
repair a hollow-core
raised-panel door?
Jim S., Bismarck, North Dakota
Bad news: You can buy replacement door skins for smooth
slab doors but not for a door like yours. You could repair the
hole, I suppose, if it’s in the center of one of the raised
panels. In that case, glue some thin plywood
over it and do the same to the surrounding
panels. My advice, however, is to go
ahead and replace it. It’s a simple
project, and inexpensive. The
replacement door will cost you
about $40. Use the existing
door as a template to locate the
knob and hinge positions on the
replacement door. From there,
you’ll need a hole saw to make the
knob cutout and a chisel to cut the
hinge mortises. That’s pretty much
all there is to it. The job shouldn’t take
you more than a couple of hours, and it’ll
look much better than any repair.
thermosetting polymer (a plastic resin that permanently sets
or hardens after it is heated). MDO ranges in thickness from
3⁄8 inch to 1 inch. There’s a problem with that, too, unfortunately. Let’s say the panels are inset less than 3⁄8 inch—MDO
wouldn’t be attractive because the panels would then be flush
with the surface.
You could also use a thin marine plywood, but that’s
expensive. Those panels could cost $50 to $100 each.
Which is still less than rebuilding the windows, so maybe
you won’t mind.
I applied some caulk
around an exterior vent,
but it didn’t cure before
it rained, leaving
white stains on
the vinyl siding.
What can I use to
clean it?
Duane B., Stratford, Connecticut
The bay windows on
our house are finished
on the outside with inset
wood panels that are
deteriorating. What can
I cover the panels with?
My go-to product for removing all kinds
of stuff from vinyl siding (and many
other surfaces) is Goo Gone Spray Gel.
It clings nicely to vertical surfaces. I’d
Chris C., Lompoc, California
I have bad news for you, too, Chris. I don’t think you’re going
to be able to cover the panels. You’re probably going to have to
rebuild the bays. Still, let’s be optimistic. If the panels are less
than 24 inches wide, you can have a siding contractor cover
them with aluminum sheet metal known as coil stock. (It’s
sold in rolls that are 24 inches wide.) I think it would be difficult to face-nail the coil stock so
that it remains flat and attractive,
but a siding contractor would have
to answer that question.
Another option would be MDO,
an exterior grade of panel with
one or both faces covered with a
wood-fiber layer saturated with
28
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
tic scouring pad. Use a light touch.
[email protected]
@askroypm
COLUM N S
↓ SPIRITS
FOUNDER
Connie Baker,
Head Distiller
DISTILLERY
Marble Distilling Co.
Carbondale,
Colorado
Fine Spirits,
No Carbon
Footprint
A zero-waste distillery saves four million gallons
of water per year—and makes delicious stuff.
/ AS TOLD TO FR A NCINE M A R OU K I A N /
Baker stirs bourbon mash
in an open cypress-wood
fermenter. Variation in the
ambient conditions gives
the finished spirits a unique
sense of place.
THE NEW
planning Marble, my husband and built a first-of-its-kind water energy therECO
SPIRITS
and I visited about 50 other distilleries. We were mal system. The system recycles 100 percent of
shocked by the amount of water and energy loss the water we use in a closed-loop reuse system—
In 2015 Marble won a
in this industry. Unlike urban distilleries, which meaning the water can be recycled indefinitely
$197,000 grant from the
U.S. Department of Agriculare often in repurposed buildings, we undertook without degradation of properties. It then harture for water conservation
a ground-up project in a vacant lot because we vests all the energy off that (hot) water for reuse
and energy efficiency.
wanted to follow green building specifications in our building. In 2016 we saved more than four
and build a first-of-its-kind sustainable distillery. million gallons of water and reclaimed 1.8 bilThe distillery was built
lion Btus—enough energy to power 20 homes—to
Today we are a zero-waste facility.
to 85 percent green
code specifications.
It’s about the water. We are incredibly proud reuse in our building.
The bottom line: We love spirits but don’t want
of our pristine water, hauled from our own well
In 2017, the Sierra Club
in Marble, Colorado. That water comes from the to destroy the planet when we make them. We say
called Marble’s Gingercello
headwaters of the fast-moving Crystal River, we’re working to save the planet one bottle at a time.
one of “Six Spirits to Help
which drains from a glacial valley and is mainly If any other distillers are reading this, come visit
Toast the Planet’s Health.”
filtered through Yule marble. (Trivia: The Yule us. We love to share what we’ve learned.
Marble quarry was the source for
the white marble used to create the
OH, AND THE PRODUCT? FANTASTIC.
Lincoln Memorial columns and
the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.)
Yule marble is a metamorphized
MOONLIGHT EXPRESSO
VODKA 80
GINGERCELLO
limestone, which makes for a perLocally grown soft
A lightly sweetened
Uses locally roasted
fect filtration system, adding a bit
white wheat and
version of the Italian
Guatemalan coffee and
of natural minerality (nutrients
malted barley, distilled
classic with citrus
Ugandan vanilla beans
that add to the final taste) into
six times in copper
brightness and some
for a rich, dark coffee
pots, yields a smooth
ginger spiciness.
our spirits.
profile with a smoky,
and creamy texture.
chocolate finish.
Marble Distilling designed
WH E N WE WE R E
30
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
4 TH Annual
MINNEAPOLIS, MN • SATURDAY JULY 13, 2019
AT PARALLEL • 145 HOLDEN STREET NORTH, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
THIS SUMMER, POPULAR MECHANICS IS HEADING TO MINNEAPOLIS
FOR A DAY OF CURATED DIY EXPERIENCES AND FUN
To receive an official invite,
E M A I L P M L O D G E 2 0 1 9 @ H E A R S T. C O M
Featuring:
HANDS-ON WORKSHOPS
INTERACTIVE DEMOS
A POP-UP MARKETPLACE
LIVELY ENTERTAINMENT
NEXT LEVEL FOOD
AND DRINK .
COLUMNS
MY PATENT
↓ STORY
Before there’s a patent, there’s an idea.
Before that, there’s a person with a problem to solve.
The Life-Saving
Rubber Band
A former Green Beret rethinks the
standard-issue tourniquet.
(1) PATENT
Multi-Use Cleat
(2) LAST NAME
(3) FIRST NAME
(4) APPLICATION NO.
Kirkham
Jeff
9,168,044
(5)
(6)
I was Special Forces—a Green Beret, but I’m retired now. In
Special Forces we go into areas and we train and advise the
host country’s forces. I’ve done that all over the world. So when
we were in Afghanistan, a big part of that training cycle was
medical. The tourniquet we were being issued—we had a lot
of problems with it. We were very night-biased in how we were
working. You know: night-vision goggles; we wore gloves, dark
uniforms. The tourniquet we were being issued was black. You
had to feed some stuff through a little buckle, and it was very
difficult to use in the dark and, most importantly, under stress.
Then I rotated back to the States, where I’d end up training
other military units in my downtime. I was training a group of
Air Force pararescue—PJs. They’re very, very talented trauma
medics. I saw the very same problems that my Afghanis were
having, the PJs were having, too. I said, Wow, this isn’t a training issue—this is a design issue.
(7)
In what my wife likes to call a very expensive ego trip, I was
like, Well, I’m going to make something better.
(8)
I started out trying to use a belt. I thought, How many times
have you woken up in the middle of the night and buckled your
pants and didn’t even think about it?
(9)
(10)
I was probably at prototype ten or 12, and I was watching a TV show one night where a little girl was winding
a rubber band around her finger. Her finger turned
purple because it had cut off her blood flow. It was one
of those epiphanic moments.
(11)
Most tourniquets are called windlass-style tourniquets. You throw it over somebody’s arm, tie a knot in
it, throw a stick in there, and twist the stick. The stick
gives you a mechanical advantage. My tourniquet is the
Rapid Application Tourniquet, the RAT. You take the
looped end of the elastic material, wrap it around the
limb, then pass the running end through the loop and
pull it back on itself. It becomes a trucker’s hitch, so
you’ve got a mechanical advantage. Then you do three
or four wraps and tie it off on a built-in metal cleat.
(12)
I was sitting around with a PJ who’s a buddy, and I was
like, Man, I’ve got this tourniquet and I need a cool name
for it. And he was like, Well, it’s got to be an acronym,
everything’s a friggin’ acronym in the military. So we’re
like, What are the attributes of this tourniquet? It’s
simple, and it’s fast. Then we started thinking, What’s
another word for fast? We don’t want to call it the FAT.
(13)
I licensed it out to a separate company. They sold
thousands of them overseas. Then when I was winding down doing military stuff, and that company had
shut down, I started to wonder if I could do it.
(14)
There’s no better time in the history of the world to be
an entrepreneur than right now. Social media makes
everything so possible. Literally three months ago I
was talking to a guy in the mountains of India via Facebook. He’s making a little metal part for me and I was
discussing how to do it. When has that ever been possible in the past? And then we’ve got DHL and FedEx
that somehow get to these tiny villages and it ends up
on my doorstep in Salt Lake City like two weeks later.
(15)
It’s a miracle, it really is.
Belts make horrible tourniquets. You can’t get the pressure.
Tell us your patent story at [email protected]
32 May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
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his family and his community? If so, nominate him
today as the National Father’s Day Committee searches
for America’s #1 “All-Star” Dad.
Every Dad is special. But does your Dad or another Dad
you know demonstrate such important attributes as
dedication, love, unselfishness, support, and community
service on a regular basis? If so, he could be the
Father’s Day Committee “All-Star” Dad for 2019.
GO TO ALLSTARDAD.ORG TODAY AND SUBMIT YOUR ESSAY
COLUMNS
↓ THE I.T. GUY
/ BY ALE X A N DER GEORGE /
Make Yourself
Less Trackable
Targeted ads creeping you out? Same.
Here’s how I keep the algorithms at a
comfortable distance without hurting
my internet experience.
A
of
my geeky habits is checking the log of an app I have
called Disconnect. It analyzes my data traffic and
identifies and blocks tracking systems, recording
what it does along the way.
Usually after I search for something or use a
Google product, under Disconnect’s Recent
Trackers, I’ll see “paged.l.doubleclick.net.”
DoubleClick is a Google company that helps
direct advertisements to the right people. In that same log, there are names like
AppsFlyer, Eyeview, and BidSwitch, all
companies most of us have probably never
heard of but that help run the modern internet economy of knowing lots about your
audience’s habits.
So many recent tech news stories have
shared the same theme: Big Internet Company Creepily Watches Unsuspecting
Users. We learned that Google Search and
Maps users’ locations were being tracked
even after they checked the setting specifically saying not to. And that apps such as
Hotels.com and Air Canada were recording users’ screens as they used the apps.
Like most people, I don’t like big companies holding intimate information about
me. So I strategically obfuscate my habits.
I say strategically because making yourself completely untraceable will make a lot of
the internet and your devices a huge pain to
use. For example, an exceptional ad-blocking
browser extension called uBlock Origin will
make some videos not play at all. Verbally
telling Google Maps to navigate you “Home”
is easier than pulling over and thumb-typing
your address. And while the You-Might-AlsoLike functions of sites like YouTube can lead
you to a flat-earther’s channel, navigating most major sites without giving it some
knowledge of your preferences is like always
opening Spotify to the Top 100 playlist.
34
MONG THE GEEKIER
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
That’s all assuming the app
you’re using even functions
without some email address or
phone number sign-up.
Besides that, I’d be a bit of a
hypocrite if I went completely
dark. I’m among the people
who buy groceries with paychecks partially funded by the
companies publishing these
advertisements. Also, part
of Popular Mechanics’ livelihood is affiliate links. If you’ve
ever tapped on the photo of a
power drill that we’ve tested
and recommended, you were
likely taken to an Amazon
product page, which tracked
your path from us to the retail
giant. If you buy that drill, we
get a small commission.
For some people, the idea
of multiple entities profiting
off of a single purchase is so
repulsive that they will open
a separate browser to buy that
product. I get it. It’s hard not
to feel a bit used and observed.
But in an era where it’s difficult
to make money from the internet and advertising money
goes primarily to companies
like Facebook and Google, it
A HIERARCHY OF
ANTI-TRACKING
METHODS
REASONABLE
Delete
unused apps
Give retailers
a fake phone
number
Turn off Location
Services for apps
that don’t need it
Clear your browser
history regularly
Use a VPN app to
scramble your
internet traffic
Install apps like
Privacy Badger to
catch tracking
software
Carry your phone in
a signal-blocking
bag
Print out MapQuest directions
from a computer at
a public library
PARANOID
feels like I’m helping when I
click through to buy the Wirecutter’s recommendation for
a Bluetooth speaker. Or when
I Like a DIY YouTuber’s video,
or leave a positive Yelp review
for my motorcycle mechanic.
There’s a line between that
kind of participation in modern technology and getting an
Instagram ad that makes you
certain that your phone was
listening to you.
Tech companies, I hope,
will figure out the privacy line
soon. But in the meantime,
I’ll keep them in check. I’ll
keep Disconnect running
on my phone. Whenever I
install a new app, if it asks
for permission to know my
location or contacts, I’ll probably deny it. And whenever I
buy through an affiliate link
on Amazon, I’ll first navigate to smile.amazon.com,
which sends some of Amazon’s money to a charity you
choose, while still giving a cut
to the reviewer whose testing
convinced you to buy. See?
There’s some good to be found
in the depths of the internet.
2019
AU TOMOT I V E
E XCEL L ENCE
AWA R D S
PLEASE
BUCKLE YOUR
S E AT B E LT.
THE FUTURE
IS ABOUT
TO BEGIN.
THE FIRST SIGNS OF OUR TR ANSPORTATION FUTURE
BY E Z R A DY E R
THERE ARE A LOT OF COOL MACHINES hitting the road this year. We’ve got a Shelby GT500
that promises to give the Ford GT a case of engine envy. There’s a new Toyota Supra. Cadillac’s building a twin-turbo V-8. Ram’s got 1,000 lb-ft of torque. Awesome, all of it. But when
we look a little further ahead, the potential for wildly different forms of transportation
feels like it’s tantalizingly close. And yeah, we know—you might have believed that in 1998,
too, and been totally wrong. But this time, we think we’re right. And not about autonomous blob pods puttering apathetic ride-sharers from WeWork to SadVille. We’re talking
electric dune buggies. Pickup trucks that do zero-to-60 in three seconds. Porsches that
charge as fast as Porsches do everything else. And these aren’t just wish-list ideas from
EV-loving Buckminster Fullers. This is stuff that is all actually imminent (Porsche Taycan),
supposedly imminent (Rivian R1T truck, available for preorder now with production slated
for 2020), or at least plausible (Volkswagen’s e-buggy concept, which debuted at the Geneva
Motor Show and rides on VW’s new modular electric platform). To everyone who looked at
that shockingly horrible Mr. Potato Head Google car a few years ago and started hoarding
Fox-body Mustangs in your prepper compounds, we say, stand down. The car market circa
2022 might not turn out exactly the way we expect, but good things are on the way. Say it
with us, loud enough for Volkswagen to hear: Electric dune buggies need to happen. The
great thing is, they just might.
36
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
P H OTO G R A P H BY C R A I G C A M E R O N O L S E N
37
PR ICE
$30,000
(est.) after tax credit
T H E A M A Z I N G , FA N TA S T I C , TOTA L LY
N O R M A L E L EC T R I C C A R .
TH E RE ARE TWO KI N DS of purpose-built electric cars: sexy, quick,
and expensive (Teslas, Jaguar I-Pace) or virtue-signaling affordable
tall wagons (Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt). In either case, there’s an element
of “Hey, look at me! I’m driving an electric car!” The Kia Niro EV—and its
Hyundai cousin, the Kona Electric—are the first long-range electric cars
that are gloriously, resolutely normal. In fact, there are gas-powered versions, too. Those ones barely look any different. But
their existence serves to highlight the superiority
of the electric versions. No noise. No oil changes.
No gas stations. Instant torque and a lot of it. Why
would you want anything else?
Well, maybe because you take a lot of road trips. So
to put the Niro EV to a challenge, I decide to pick one
up in Washington, D.C., and drive it 345 miles back to
North Carolina. With the DC fast-charger
infrastructure growing by the day, the
question isn’t whether you can make this
kind of trip but where you want to stop.
The Niro EV is an agreeable road-trip
car. Absent underhood explosions and
shifting of gears, the cabin is hushed and
serene. Unless you’re a chronic tailgater,
you hardly ever need to hit the brakes,
because lifting the accelerator causes the
motor to turn into a generator, recharging the battery while it slows the car. The only annoyance is that I have to
program the route on my phone, because—unlike a Leaf—the Niro’s navigation system doesn’t automatically route you to charging stops. In fact,
you can tell that the infotainment system is transplanted from gas-powered
cars, because if you sit there with the accessories on, a message pops up that
reads, “Battery discharge warning! Please use the system with the engine
running.” Take it easy, Niro. There is no engine. (I drove a preproduction
car, and Kia says production models will fix those issues.)
And there’s plenty of battery. After a couple hours of driving, I glide up
to an array of 150-kilowatt Electrify America chargers, on the edge of a
38
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
Walmart parking lot, with
R ANGE
239 miles
range to spare.
POW ER
These chargers are owned
201 hp, 291 lb-ft
of torque
by Volkswagen, which is
AVA I L A B L E I N
laying the groundwork for
13 states, so far. But you
its own onslaught of eleccan order a similar
Hyundai Kona in any state.
tric vehicles. And unlike
Tesla, VW is happy to collect money from anyone who
wants to use its chargers, which use a standard SAE combo
cable. So I plug in and set off through a strip-mall wasteland to grab some lunch.
After a little more than an hour, I’m back on the road
$25.35 poorer and with a 95 percent charge. A more economical strategy would’ve been
to stop at an 80 percent charge,
but I’m 173 miles from home. A
little cushion doesn’t hurt.
Now that I’m confident I
can squander a few electrons,
I floor the accelerator and find
that 291 lb-ft of torque will definitely torment the front tires.
The Niro’s traction control has
its work cut out for it off the
line, but once you’re moving
you get the full monty. It’s great fun, warping
quietly away from stoplights. The Niro EV has
two personalities, really: silent and aloof luxury cruiser at steady speeds, and hot hatch
when you go full throttle.
About six hours after I set off, I pull into
my driveway, plug into my home charger, and
think, That was easy. And it was. The Niro is a handsome
little crossover that’ll disappear in traffic. It’s affordable.
It’s got plenty of range. In short, the Niro EV doesn’t ask for
sacrifices. And that’s exactly the kind of car that’s going
to set off a mass movement to electric vehicles. Because
if you didn’t have to pay a fortune or live on the fashion
fringe, didn’t have to constantly sweat that range number, why wouldn’t you get an EV? That’s the question that
the Niro EV forces you to consider. Because it’s just a regular car, but so much better.
K I A P H OTO G R A P H S BY C R A I G C A M E R O N O L S E N
SPECIAL
ACHIEV EMEN T
CROSSOV ER OF T H E Y E A R
IN BRAKING
M A Z DA CX- 5
do we have to tell you? Drive a
Mazda CX-5. Seriously. Please. We know you’re
considering that other thing, but just humor us and
drive the CX-5. Then, if you want something else, fine.
But the Mazda CX-5 is awfully hard to beat. You could
have argued, last year, that maybe it needed a more powerful engine, some kind of option for drivers who desire
a turn of speed that the perfectly zesty 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine can’t deliver. Done: There’s now
an available turbocharged version, with 250 horsepower
and a bruising 310 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a new Signature trim with an interior that would befit any Euro
luxwagen, decked out in brown nappa leather and layered wood trim. It’s so loaded, the only options are snazzy
paint jobs (which are also of luxury-car quality). But
this isn’t just a posh, isolated
cruiser. The CX-5 is wonderBASE PR ICE
ful to drive. One statement
HOW MANY TI M ES
$26,795
P O W E R (2 . 5 T )
227 hp (regular gas),
250 hp (premium),
310 lb-ft of torque
STILL
WA I T I N G F O R
The twin-turbo diesel
H ATCHBACK OF T H E Y E A R
of intent: There’s no CVT transmission, because Mazda decided
CVTs aren’t fun. The CX-5 even
uses its stability-control system to
enhance driving pleasure, cutting
torque on turn-in and braking the
outside tire as you straighten the
wheel. You don’t notice any of this
happening—you just perceive that
the car feels good to drive. This is
really our platonic ideal for a crossover: the material quality, features,
and behind-the-wheel gratification
of a luxury ride, in an affordable
car that’s not begging for badgesnob attention. Drive a Mazda CX-5.
Seriously.
PORSCHE
S U R FA C E C O A T I N G
IRON BRAKE rotors
blacken your wheels with
filthy dust. Carbon brakes
are expensive. Now, there’s
an in-between option:
Porsche Surface Coated
Brakes, which use iron
rotors coated in a 0.1-mm
layer of tungsten carbide.
You get 30 percent more
wear, 90 percent less dust,
and shorter stopping distances. Oh, and if brakes
could brag about how little
dust they throw, this is
how they’d do it: Cars with
PSCB rotors get whitepainted calipers.
PR ICE
$28,490
POW ER
228 hp (premium
fuel), 258 lb-ft
of torque
Volk swagen
announced that in 2026 it’ll
debut a new generation of internalcombustion engines. Which will also
be its last, since VW is going big on
electrification. We suspect they won’t
fiddle too much more with the GTI,
which is still the reference point for
the genre it created. If a GTI doesn’t
make you smile, your face is broken.
LAST YEAR,
W E’D OR DER
IT WITH
Manual transmission,
plaid cloth interior
39
OTHER
E XCITING
A D VA N C E S
2 019 E D I T I O N
PR ICE
THE
MERCEDESBENZ GLE 450’S
AUGMENTEDREALITY
DIRECTION
SYSTEM
Like Pokémon
Go (remember
that?) but more
useful.
FIAT 500
ABARTH’S
BOOST GAUGE
It’s huge, the
size of a New
York bagel. We
thought it was
a tach.
LU X U RY C A R OF T H E Y E A R
RAVENSBURGER
3D PORSCHE
911R PUZZLE
back when the
Tesla Model S first upended EV expectations, that
it would take seven years for the first challenger to arrive,
nor would we have guessed that Jaguar would be the company to build it. But here we are with the I-Pace, which is
not only unlike any other Jaguar, but unlike any other luxury car yet on the market. If you’ve ever wondered, “What
would a Tesla look like if the company had more capital
and a better hang of interiors?” here’s your answer. The
I-Pace is handsome, inside and out, accruing the usual EV
packaging benefits: wheels pushed to the corners, front
trunk, airy cabin unmarred by a transmission tunnel
or driveshaft hump. With the front and rear
motors teaming up for 394 combined
JAGUAR I-PACE
W E WO U L D N ’ T H AV E G U E S S E D ,
The 108 pieces
are numbered.
That doesn’t
make it easy.
40
horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque, the I-Pace is rapid
enough to give you that roller-coaster stomach lurch when
you flatten the potentiometer—or whatever we’re calling
the gas pedal now. The I-Pace also exhibits that relentless
EV road-holding, its weightiest component (that would be
the battery) snugged low beneath the floor. There are some
design choices that point to the I-Pace’s role as a bridge
to the future from an entrenched company—the traditional grille on the nose, the thankfully optional synth
vroom vroom piped in by the stereo. But as a whole, the
I-Pace is a wonderful machine, one that should make us
all optimistic for what’s to come. The world is changing.
Jaguar gets it.
T RUCK OF T H E Y E A R
RAM 1500
have a
derogatory term for fellow students who strive to succeed and don’t
disguise their ambition behind a
facade of ironic detachment: “tryhards.” Well, the 2019 Ram 1500 is
the try-hard of full-size trucks, and
proud of it. The interior, particularly
in the fancier trims, can take the measure of European luxury cars, with
its Tesla-size touch screen and matte
wood. The crew cab is so spacious that
the rear seat can recline. Ram’s suspension—either the standard setup
or the optional height-adjustable air
suspension—delivers the smooth
ride and accurate control that you’d
expect from the only full-size truck
that dares to forgo leaf springs. The
SCHOOL-AGE KI DS
BASE PR ICE
forward-thinking engineering extends under the hood,
where Ram’s eTorque system (standard on V-6s and
optional on V-8s) uses a 48-volt system with an electric
motor and a lithium battery to enable seamless stop-start
and a shot of extra torque at low rpm—up to 130 lb-ft in
the V-8 trucks. And, of course, there’s a trick tailgate that
can either swing down or open barn-door style. It’s a clever
truck, an epitome of what we tell kids: It’s good to try hard.
$33,490
POW ER (HEMI)
395 hp, 410 lb-ft
of torque
OF F-ROA D T RUCK OF T H E Y E A R
CHEVROLET ZR2 BISON
is designed to go
fast in the desert. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is designed to pick its way through gnarly
trails. But the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison can ably
attack either off-road discipline—it’s the closest
thing you can get to a factory King of the Hammers
truck. Flared fenders and Multimatic dampers
speak to its Baja side; triple locking differentials
and an available torque-monster diesel are ready
for Moab. And, yes, you can get it with a snorkel.
T H E FO R D F -1 5 0 R A P T O R
PR ICE
$49,745
P O W E R ( V- 6 )
308 hp, 275 lb-ft
of torque
W IDE!
The ZR2 is 3.5 inches
wider than a regular
Colorado
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
41
T ECHNOLOGY OF T H E Y E A R
CADILLAC SUPER CRUISE
LAST YEAR, CADILLAC updated Super Cruise, its magic-seeming high-
way driver-assist system. When it first rolled out, Super Cruise was
prone to confusion when it encountered faded lane stripes or bad weather.
Now that sucker holds a steady helm, dead center in your lane, through
75-mph lane shifts in driving rain. You arrive at your destination that much
more relaxed and refreshed. And not because the car handled your highway
driving, but because it handled it so well you didn’t have to worry about it.
SEDA N OF T H E Y E A R
S P E C I A L AWA R D
THE
MOST POPULAR
V EHICLE YOU
DIDN’T K NOW
EXISTED
GENESIS G70
a shame that Genesis
doesn’t give its cars actual names,
because the G70 has the kind of charisma that
belies its anonymous alphanumeric badge.
This car drives like the realization of everything Hyundai’s been trying to accomplish
since its first forays into rear-wheel drive—it’s
alive in its responses, a subjective joy rather
than just a rolling spreadsheet of benchmarked performance stats. It even sounds
great, with the active exhaust. Of course, the
G70 still hits the marks, with 365 horsepower
from an available twin-turbo V-6 that delivers
a 4.5-second zero-to-60 and revs like it has a
LAST YEAR, General
Motors sold about 100,000
Chevy Express and GMC
Savana vans in the United
States, which is impressive since the company has
those vehicles in the corporate version of a witness
protection program. The
full-size vans, which have
been in production since
Methuselah was a toddler, aren’t even listed on
GM’s media site, scrubbed
after the 2016 model year.
Meanwhile, somewhere
along the line, GM dropped
its 2.8-liter Duramax diesel
in this thing. Which means
that you can buy a 12-passenger, four-cylinder diesel
van for about $35,000.
Who knew? Oh, okay—
100,000 of you.
42
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
IT’S SORT OF
Rammstein CD for a flywheel. The G70 interior is sharp, particularly with the quilted
leather, and the exterior is tightly wrapped
and handsome, the optional red Brembo brake
calipers adding to a vaguely Italianate sense
of visual drama. But this isn’t an Alfa knockoff or a Mercedes wannabe—the G70 is its own
car, a sport sedan out to prove that Korea can
compete on style and feel and performance
rather than just price. We’re sure that Genesis
examined every bolt
of every car from
BASE PR ICE
manufacturers that
$35,895
it considers competP O W E R (3 . 3 T )
itors. They’d all be
365 hp, 376 lb-ft
smart to return the
of torque
AVA I L A B L E
favor.
M A N UA L
TR A NSMISSION?
Yes, but only on
four-cylinder models
WA G O N O F T H E Y E A R
BUICK REGAL
TOURX
OTHER
E XCIT ING
A D VA N C E S
2 019 E D I T I O N
PR ICE
$29,995
POW ER
250 hp, 295 lb-ft
of torque
a 250-hp turbocharged German wagon with a killer all-wheel-drive system, you could get an Audi A4 Allroad for close to $46,000. Or you could get a Regal
TourX—built in Germany at the Opel Rüsselsheim plant—for $29,995. It’s an incredible deal
on a great-looking car that stands apart from the crossover crowd.
IF YOU WANT
R EDESIGNS OF T H E Y E A R
MERCEDESBENZ G-CLASS &
PORSCHE 911
but don’t look it. Phew.
You could say that the new Mercedes-Benz
G-Class and Porsche 911 are retro, but we think the word
retro only applies if something’s brought back from the
dead. The revived Volkswagen Beetle was retro. Ditto
the Dodge Challenger. But the G-Wagen and 911 never
went away. They’ve always looked basically the way they
do now. In the case of the G-Wagen, that’s a happy
accident—we think its designers got lost in the
Black Forest during an ill-conceived team-building exercise in 1988 and only recently emerged to
find that nothing at all had changed and their truck
was more popular than ever. So they overhauled the
BOTH ARE N EW,
AND SAFETY
A pyrotechnic
actuator lifts
the hood four
inches to cushion a
pedestrian impact
mechanical hardware (independent front suspension!)
while drawing an exterior that’s obviously new but still
obviously a G-Wagen, which is to say, styled with a rafter square. At Porsche, meanwhile, you get the idea that
every degree of tumblehome, every millimeter of overhang, probably incurs at least a 15-hour company-wide
meeting and possibly fisticuffs. We mean, Porsche is still
getting grief for changing the shape of the headlights for
the 1999 model. So the new 911 looks like a 911. To the
uninitiated, it’s probably hard to distinguish the 2020
model from a 2010. But the people who know will know
instantly. There’s a new 911. And it’s definitely not retro.
THE NISSAN
KICKS’
ASYMMETRICAL
BOSE STEREO
Yeah, it sounds
best for the
driver. But
that’s how
you get a nice
system in an
inexpensive car.
MERCEDES-AMG
AND CIGARETTE
RACING
They keep collaborating on
boats. This
year’s, the 41'
AMG Carbon
Edition, is the
11th.
TESLA MODEL 3
PERFORMANCE’S
RALLY SKILLS
It’s like it’s
possessed by
Petter Solberg.
All-wheel-drive
drifts for days.
43
DRIVING
↓ PARTS AND SERVICE
How to Hit
the Junkyard
The world is dotted with fields full of components that will fix or
upgrade your car for cheap. You just need some tools. And a plan.
/ BY EZR A DYER /
I
LOVE JUNKYARDS . They’re full
of interesting and potentially
useful parts that you can’t get
from the dealership or Amazon,and at bargain prices. Need
a whole engine for a few hundred bucks? The junkyard is
your place. There are two ways
to approach it. One is to wander around
without an agenda. It’s one of life’s finer
pleasures. Look! That old Infiniti still has
its analog dashboard clock. That would
look nice in your Kia. Or on your bedside
table. The other method: Arrive on a mission. Know what you need, and get there
before someone else beats you to it. If that’s
what you’re here for, I can offer some advice.
STU DY U P ON COM PATI BI LIT Y
Ford Broncos like mine rarely show up in
junkyards, so parts can be hard to find. But
mid-’90s Ford F-150s? Those are much more
common, and have a lot of the same drivetrain components as my Bronco. The same
goes for badge-engineered vehicles—cars
with the same components that were sold
under two different brand names. Can’t find
parts for your Honda Passport? Look for an
Isuzu Rodeo! It’s the same thing. You can also
upgrade your mid-level car with parts from
the fancier model. Time for some Infiniti
wheels, Mr. Nissan. Bonus points if you can
use parts from something campy or strange.
Because, of course your Cherokee should
rock seats out of a Mercury Villager Nautica.
ACT FAST
When a car with the right parts comes in—
my local salvage yard lets you set up email
alerts for specific models—get there quickly.
The longer a vehicle sits, the greater the
chance that whatever you need will be gone.
When I got an alert for a mid-’90s Ford F-150
4x4 at 9 a.m., I got there two hours later.
By the time I arrived, some guy was already
tearing into it. I graciously asked if he needed
the left front spindle assembly. “No,” he said,
and we both commenced hammering and
wrenching to our own ends. If I got there the
next week, there might’ve been very little
left. Go early.
PACK THE RIGHT TOOLS
Consult a Haynes manual or credible YouTube video to divine the necessary tools
for your intended job. You’ll save yourself
a lot of aggravation. I’ve been in deep only to
deduce that I need a socket that I don’t have,
necessitating a demoralizing trudge all the
way out and over to an auto parts store. And
before you assemble your tool bag, check
whether the junkyard prohibits anything
specific. My go-to place, for one, doesn’t like
power saws. And yes, they will search you on
the way in.
TAKE MORE THAN YOU N E E D
If you’re pulling a left front half-shaft, maybe
grab the right one while you’re under there.
You’ll probably need it anyway, and the prices
are so low that it’s worth coming home with
both. I once watched a friend get an entire
6.0-liter Chevy V-8 from a junked van for
$200. He only needed the heads, but considering the labor of swapping out smaller
parts, it’s often easier, and just as cheap, to
come home with an entire intact system.
In 2014, LKQ Pick Your Part, my local purveyor of derelict automotive
treasure, recycled 2.5 million gallons of gas, a half-million gallons of oil
and antifreeze, and about 750,000 tons of steel. That’s not including the
alternators, compressors, and whole engines that got reused rather
than manufactured anew. See? Part pickin’ is good for the environment.
46
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
IF YOU HEAR “SIX PACK” AND THINK
“THREE TWO BARREL CARBURETORS,”
WELCOME TO THE CLUB.
If you love cars, we speak your language. Join the world’s largest
community for automotive enthusiasts and save money on car stuff,
get behind the wheel at members-only events, receive six issues a year
of Hagerty magazine and get insider guidance on car values, trends,
buying and selling.
Join the club at Hagerty.com/joinhdc
DRIVING
↓ THE NEW VINTAGE
The All-WheelDrive Originator
MAKE/MODEL
1989 Audi 200 Quattro
OWNER
Darko Sarić
L O C AT I O N
South Burlington,
Vermont
F O U N D AT
Imported Car
Center Auto Sport
PURCHASE
PRICE
$10,000
YEARS
OWNED
23
FUN FACT
in 1993, and the first car I
bought in America was an Audi 4000S. I
loved it, but I wanted a Quattro, which was
more rare. Three years later, I found this
200. It was a great daily driver. It has a galvanized body, with a factory rubberized coating
underneath. With a good set of winter tires,
it’s a tank on the snow. I would wash it two or
three times a month, even in the summer,
just to keep it clean. After a while, I pretty
much stopped bringing it to a mechanic. I
was trying to save money, but I also enjoyed
the hobby. One of my best friends, Adnan, is
a jack-of-all-trades, so I learned a lot working next to him. If I needed more, I’d look
in manuals and online forums. I redid the
brakes, lines, hoses, ABS pump—that was
a big project. I replaced the fuel tank. Last
I LE F T B O S N I A
48
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
year, my motor mounts went. The whole weight
of the engine rested on the manifold studs, and
broke them. The car sounded like a tractor. We
pulled the head off the engine, found another
manifold, and replaced all the parts. It’s been
running great since.
In 2014, I started driving an ’06 Audi A4
Quattro. I save the 200 for nice days and when
there isn’t any salt on the roads. I want to
make it last. I love older cars, because you feel
more connected. And everything seems better made, even just the normal wear-and-tear
parts. I replaced a wheel bearing for the first
time last year, after 237,000 miles. If I live long
enough to be too old to drive, I’ll give it to my
daughter. I’d only consider selling it if someone
shelled out a lot of money, and that’s probably
not going to happen.
P H OTO G R A P H BY CO R E Y H E N D R I C K S O N
In the early ’80s, Audi
planned to make only
400 all-wheel-drive
Quattros, to meet
requirements to race.
Public demand
led to full production.
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P R AC T I CA L K N OW L E D G E
What Your
About You
And how to get rid of it—the
right way—in a single weekend.
/ BY HENRY ROBERTSON /
I
T STARTED INNOCENTLY enough. (They
always do.) A small heap. Trimmings
from the hedges. Leaves. Weeds. Some
branches that blew down in the last
storm. You tossed the Christmas tree
on there. It was convenient. And you’ve
earned this, right? Look at my big yard!
I have a brush pile!
But now it’s a mountain that seems to
grow on its own. It’s unsightly. Brush piles
can harbor ticks, rodents, fleas, and snakes.
They can cause wildfires—the woody vegetation provides the fuel and the open, airy
assemblage speeds and spreads the flames.
The worst part? A brush pile alerts the
world that you’re a procrastinator, you don’t
care what your neighbors think, and you
don’t like getting your hands dirty. Since
none of these things is true, it’s time to
get rid of it.
Since it can be hard to know where to
start, create a post-brush-pile plan. What
do you want the land underneath the pile
to become? Maybe grass. Maybe a mulched
garden bed, or a compost heap. Maybe
just a smaller brush pile. And the brush
itself? Could be kindling, compost, firewood, or trash.
Whatever you choose will dictate the
tools you use. Then, set aside a weekend to
get rid of the thing. Buy this stuff:
• If you live in an area with snakes, invest
in snake-proof leggings such as the ScentBlocker Snake Gaiters.
• Instead of using DEET, fight bugs
w ith the Thermacell Radius Zone,
which vaporizes a repellent and creates a
110-square-foot safe zone around you.
• Work gloves.
• Boots.
• Sturdy pants—you’re going to get dirty.
We like the Double Knee NYCO Cargo Pant
by 1620, which is made in the USA.
Time to get to work restoring your yard,
and your self-image!
50
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
DON’T THROW
IT AWAY!
The limbs of
this tree will make
great firewood
next year.
P H OTO G R A P H S BY Z AC H & B U WHADDA
YA GOT?
HOW TO MAKE IT GO AWAY
VINES?
Drag thin stuff off the pile with a bow rake.
Use a fire rake for thicker vines. Then chop
it all up with a shovel. Woody vines require
loppers, such as the Fiskars PowerGear2;
a bank blade, such as the 12-inch doubleedge ditch blade from Council Tool; or
a machete, such as the justifiably famous
Woodman’s Pal. To transport the debris,
Fiskars’s 30-gallon Kangaroo garden
bag has an internal spring to keep the bag
upright and the mouth wide open. Line
it with a disposable bag if you’re going to
throw the debris away, or carry it straight
to the compost pile.
SAPLINGS AND BRANCHES?
Small, dead branches can be repurposed as
kindling. Break them up with your hands or
use a hatchet. Saplings can be cut into manageable pieces with loppers, then fed into a
wood chipper and turned into mulch.
HAUL IT
Place your largest Y-shaped branch on the bottom with the stem facing away from
the cab—this will act like a sled carrying everything you’re about to load on top. Load
the rest of the stuff on top of the open portion of the Y. (If your largest branch is
too big and the tailgate needs to remain open, be sure to secure the load with rope.)
When it’s time to unload, pull that stem of the big Y branch out the back and everything else will come with it.
MULCH IT
Wood chips are great garden mulch, which suppresses weeds and helps plants retain water
and heat in the winter. They also serve as walkway substrates and play-area surfaces. Electric
wood chippers are only powerful enough for
chipping dried leaves and twigs. Gas chippers
will get you through small branches, typically up
to 3.5 inches in diameter. For less potential to
clog, use a power-takeoff (PTO) chipper—but
know that it requires a PTO tractor. Most areas
will have places to rent all three.
Use ear and eye protection and exercise
caution. And always feed the machine more
slowly than you think you need to.
DEAD TREES, STUMPS, AND LOGS?
Cut bigger saplings, dead trees, or thick
logs into smaller pieces with a light chainsaw, such as the Makita X2. Wood that
isn’t punky can be saved for next year’s
firewood. The rest gets thrown on the
truck for disposal.
LEAVES AND WEEDS?
Grass-like weeds that were growing
under the pile can be cut with a
lawnmower. Set the deck as high as it
can go, to avoid stalls. For heavy weeds
and fibrous stalks, use a string trimmer.
The Echo SRM-2620T is a straightshaft trimmer with a 2:1 gear ratio for
increased torque to power through thick
grass, ground cover, and weeds. Just be
sure to wear eye and ear protection and
a face mask, or you’ll shoot your eye out.
If your objective is to clear out all the
brush en masse, you may opt for a walkbehind brush cutter. You won’t be able to
do any kind of precise trimming, but you
will easily cut down small, bendable
saplings that have sprung up and clear
out the area faster.
BURN IT (IF YOU MUST)
Burning brush is not an optimal
solution. Not only does some debris
not burn well, but burning anything
creates air pollution. In a lot of places,
burning a brush pile isn’t permitted
at certain times of the year, so check
your local regulations. And be careful.
Burn the brush in a small fire pit where
the flames can be contained, and don’t
leave the fire unattended.
ESSENTIAL BRUSH-CLEARING TOOLS
SCENTBLOCKER
SNAKE GAITERS
Protection up to
your knee. $ 60
1620 DOUBLE
KNEE NYCO
CARGO PANT
Tough and
flexible. $19 8
FISKARS
POWERGEAR2
LOPPER
The easiest way
to lop. $55
FISKARS
HARDSHELL
BOTTOM
KANGAROO
GARDEN BAG
Use it for years.
$3 0
WOODMAN’S
PAL
Sharp.
Beautiful. $175
THERMACELL
RADIUS ZONE
MOSQUITO
REPELLENT
Avoid bugs
without bug
spray. $5 0
ECHO
SRM-2620T
Powers through
the thick stuff.
$3 60
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
51
P R AC T I CA L K N OW L E D G E
SHOP
↓ NOTES
Easy ways
to do hard things
How to
Cut Onions
After chopping off the pointy end
and peeling off the outer layer,
here’s how to cut an onion for whatever you’re fixing for the neighbors
this summer: burgers (rings), salads
(slices), or tacos (dice).
RINGS
Imagining the roots as the north pole
of an onion globe, make a series of
cuts parallel to the equator.
READER TIP
The Best
Way to Paint
Trıcky
Railings
D E PTH GAU G E
O N GARD E N TROWE L
▶ Up your efficiency when
planting this year’s garden
by filing depth markers into
the side of your trowel. Hold
the trowel upright and measure
along a plumb line to make your
marks. (You can’t simply measure along the edge of the blade
because near the end of the
blade the curve will affect the
vertical spacing of the marks.)
Make indicators every inch; six
inches should be sufficient for
most things you might grow.
52
M
FRO E—
—TH IVES
H
A R C 4 7 !)
(1 9
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
Better Car
Charging
▶ You’re not imagining
things: Turn-byturn navigation drained
your phone’s battery,
even though it was
plugged in. The USB
ports in most cars (for
connecting to the vehicle’s entertainment
system) put out about
half an amp of power,
which is terrible for
charging a modern
phone. If you find yourself in this situation
often, invest in a $10
charger that goes into
the cigarette lighter,
usually rated at 2.4
amps, which will
charge much faster.
DICE
Combine the slice and ring techniques: Cut in half through the roots,
then—keeping the roots on this
time, to hold everything together—
make parallel north–south cuts.
Finish by cutting parallel to the
equator, like you did for rings. The
onion comes apart as dice.
SONGS
TO CLEAN
THE
GARAGE
“All the Stars”
Kendrick Lamar &
SZA
“Bofou Safou”
Amadou & Mariam
“Some Birds”
Jeff Tweedy
“Them
Changes”
Carlos Santana &
Buddy Miles
I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY JA M E S C A R E Y
▶ I F YOU WANT unpainted balusters, or balusters of a different color than the rest of the trim on a railing, the rise of
stairs can make it difficult to tape off a sharp line. Here’s a
solution, courtesy of reader Brian Flynn of Overland Park,
Kansas: Cut a length of masking or painter’s tape roughly
as long as the circumference of the baluster. Wrap it around
the baluster, adhesive side out, then slide it to the top or bottom. The tape should be thin enough to slide into the gap
where the baluster enters the handrail or bottom rail, and
because its smooth side is against the surface, it’ll be easy
to slide out when painting is complete.
SLICES
Cut the onion in half through
the roots (perpendicular to the
equator). Taking each half in turn,
place the flat side down, cut off
the roots, then make a series of
parallel north–south cuts.
Save Your Sawdust
That stuff in the dust collector may be a waste product,
but it need not be wasted. Here’s a few ways to use it.
/ BY ROY BEREN DSOH N /
B LOTTI N G
MATE RIAL
Spill something
on the shop floor?
Throw down some
sawdust and let it
sit for a few minutes, then scoop or
sweep up the pile.
Let’s say the spill
was something
gross, like your
dog taking a leak.
Scoop up the soggy
first coat of sawdust, then apply a
fresh scattering of
it. Sprinkle a generous helping of
liquid disinfectant
like Lysol over the
pile and let it set
for a few minutes.
The sawdust forms
a poultice with the
cleaner. Scoop it
up, let the remaining dust dry, then
sweep. You’d never
know. Pro tip: Pine
sawdust is particularly absorptive.
HAN D CLEAN E R
Table-saw sawdust
makes an excellent heavy-duty
hand cleaner when
mixed with Gojo,
dish detergent,
Bon Ami, or other
gentle cleaners. My
favorite blend consists of hardwoods
like oak and maple
with a little pine
sawdust thrown
in for consistency.
Form a paste
of sawdust and
cleaner, then work
it in thoroughly to
remove paint and
grease. It sounds
old-timey, but this
works so well that
I keep a bag of
sawdust with
my painting supplies. It’s amazing
what the blend
will take off.
WOO D FI LLE R
Mixing sawdust
and various
adhesives makes
excellent and
inexpensive paintgrade wood filler
(for filling up holes
or gouges in wood).
Use white glue,
carpenter’s glue,
waterproof glue,
or epoxy. Apply
the adhesive to the
sawdust and mix
with a putty knife.
Spread it in the
void, then wait
for it to dry. Complete the patch by
sanding it smooth.
Note: I haven’t
tried this with
expanding glues
like Gorilla Glue.
COMPOST
Sawdust is a
potent ingredient in a compost
pile. A rich source
of carbon, even a
small amount of
sawdust goes a
long way toward
achieving the
optimal carbon/
nitrogen ratio
needed for good
compost. (Details
about the composting process
and proportions of
ingredients can be
found on the website of the Penn
State Cooperative
Extension Service,
extension.psu.edu.)
BONUS!
W O O D S H AV I N G S
Wood shavings from handplaning lumber—especially
hardwood—make excellent
packing material. Technically called “excelsior,” it’s
perfect for packing something you built yourself.
I L LU S T R AT I O N S BY C H R I S P H I L P OT
Speaking of Sawdust
Check out Sandra Powell, a.k.a. Sawdust Girl.
At sawdustgirl.com she posts home projects
she’s working on—we like her versatile set of
cantilevered shelf brackets, which are strong
and simple to build and install. Her favorite
source of sawdust? The Festool Domino
joiner. “It gives me strong, invisible joints,”
she says, “but is superfast and easy to use.”
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
53
P R AC T I CA L K N OW L E D G E
WHY DO I WANT A
CUSTOMIZED KEYBOARD?
The tools we use most often
should, ideally, be of the highest
quality possible, making your
most repeated actions pleasant and not tiring. The same
as someone who drives screws
every day needs the best drill, if
you spend a lot of time in front of
a computer, you should invest in
a mechanical keyboard.
Most keyboards use rubber
domes that rest underneath
each key to provide resistance
and spring. On mechanical keyboards, each key has a precision
spring and a piece of metal that
opens and closes to register each
keystroke. It feels like a gated
gear shifter: decisive and satisfying. Each keystroke produces
an audible click.
Mecha nica l keyboa rds
are typically wired for minimal latency. They’re also more
expensive and durable. It’s best
to start by customizing a factory keyboard. You can modify it
later, or use its design to inform
your next, more ambitious build.
54
It’s durable, completely
personalized, and, unlike standard
keyboards, a joy to use.
/ BY ALE X A NDER GEORGE /
STEP 1:
PICK A SIZE
Most keyboards from companies like Apple or Dell waste
space on keys you might never
use, like a dedicated number pad
or function keys. Pick a layout
that fits with the kind of typing
you do most often.
Sixty-percent keypads, such
as the Vortexgear Pok3r ($139),
pictured, are as minimalist as
you can get, with no arrow keys
or function keys, just letters,
numbers, and modifiers. The
advantage is a streamlined look
that takes up very little desk
space. If you need a full number
pad, try a 104-key keypad, such
a s the Matia s Ta ctile Pro
($150). They’re big and wide,
and they come with every key
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
you could need. The choice for
most people is the 87-key configuration. A keyboard like the
WASD V3 87-Key ($155) is an
ideal medium for people who
would miss arrow keys and
function keys for stuff like
pausing music.
STEP 2:
CHOOSE YOUR SWITCHES
The switch is the internal mechanism that moves whenever
a key is depressed. There are
several main designs, each
with a different sound and
tactility. The biggest switch
manufacturer is Cherry, which
classifies its products by color.
Since Cherry’s patents expired
in 2014, other companies have
STEP 3:
LIVE YOUR DREAMS
From here, you can start going
deep into forums and subreddits on customization. Start with
custom key covers. For example,
replacing the F and J keys with a
cover that has a deeper, narrower
concave is a slick way to orient
your fingers. The biggest marketplace for these kinds of parts
is Massdrop.com. Go crazy.
P H OTO G R A P H BY A L L I E H O L LO WAY
The
Customized
Mechanical
Keyboard
star ted making their ow n
switches, but most of those follow similar color classification.
One move is to get a sample strip
with every option and see what
you like, then order a keyboard
with those keys. It’s an imperfect test, but it will help you feel
out what you like and don’t like.
Cherry MX Red keys give you
a slight click from the external
casing hitting the base. They’re
easy to engage without much
force, which makes them good
for gaming, but tough for typing.
Cherry MX Brown are middleground keys. They’re fairly quiet,
with a barely noticeable bump
while you type. They require
more force to engage than Reds,
making them good for both gaming and typing. If you really want
to annoy your coworkers, go with
Cherry MX Blue keys, which
have a slider inside that produces
a loud, high-pitched click sound.
They require the most pressure
to engage, but give you a really
satisfying click.
P R AC T I CA L KN OW LE DG E
↓ THE LU N CH PAIL
to work? Excellent—
tradespeople have been employing lunch boxes for
generations, and the virtues of this practice translate to
any profession: It’s economical, saves time, and allows
you to control what you eat. But in these modern times in
which salad has become a meal, salad also remains the
most unportable meal. It grows soggy and unappealing
with each minute after being placed in the Tupperware.
But there is a way. It’s simple mechanics. If you want to
put together a good green lunch that travels well and stays
crunchy, take everything you’ve ever learned about making a salad and turn it upside down: The lettuce doesn’t go
on the bottom, but on top, and the dressing isn’t the last
thing you add, it’s the first.
There’s a sequence to keeping your ingredients
freshly intact:
YO U B R I N G YO U R O W N L U N C H
The Mechanics
of Salad
Five easy steps to turning the most unportable
of meals into a thrilling desk-side lunch.
/ BY FR A NCINE M A ROU K IA N /
L A Y E R O N E The wet stuff, including about ¼ cup
of salad dressing and any brined additions, like
chopped olives, diced roasted red peppers, diced
jarred artichokes.
The best dressing is one that flows well when the jar
is inverted, like the classic one part vinegar to three
parts oil with a drop of mustard to help bind the two
liquids together.
L A Y E R T W O Harder, heavier vegetables that benefit
from marinating without absorbing the dressing:
peppers, broccoli, celery, and if you are using whole
grape tomatoes, they can go here, as their softer
interior pulp is protected by their skin.
L A Y E R T H R E E Softer vegetables like corn, mush-
rooms, or larger tomatoes, cut into sections, as well
as any grains or beans.
Onion lovers beware: Adding them to a sealed jar
of salad can send their strong aroma through every
layer, overwhelming the other ingredients.
L A Y E R F O U R Here is where you want to put your
layer of protein: steak, chicken, eggs, tuna.
Some folks add their crunchy bits here as well, like
croutons or chopped nuts. But it is much better to
pack these separately and sprinkle them over the
salad when it is served, rather than chance condensation and softening in the jar.
herbs like chives, tarragon, or parsley.
Even though the layering system keeps your dressing
as far away as possible from your greens, it is always
better to use those with some body and staying power,
like baby kale, romaine, spinach, watercress, rather
than softer leaf lettuces with more tendency to wilt.
Mason jars, patented in 1858 by John Landis Mason, were designed for home food preservation. Their
ribbed neck with screw-on cap creates an airtight seal, and today they remain the iconic symbol of farm
culture. Choose a 32-ounce wide-mouth version and here’s the final trick: Maybe the jar looks better with
greens stuffed to the very top. But you must leave enough room so that when you shake the inverted jar over the bowl—which
you’ll do with gusto—the dressing on the bottom has room to be activated and the ingredients will be released without crushing.
THE JAR
ITSELF
56 May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
P H OTO G R A P H BY S A M K A P L A N
L A Y E R F I V E Top it off with greens and any soft
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G REAT MOM E NTS I N COVE RALLS
P R AC T I CA L K N OW L E D G E
Newman, P.
Ghostbusters,
The
Maverick
Why You Should Be Wearing Coveralls
You like working on projects. You also like not
ruining your clothes. You can easily do both.
ESPITE TH E JOKES and frequent questions about how
I go to the bathroom, I like coveralls. They’re the one
garment I have that I know will get trashed—so I don’t
mind when they do. Coveralls provide great protection
when I’m crawling through attics, or when I throw them
on in the shop instead of changing into work clothes. In
the spring and fall, I wear mine in place of long johns.
They keep me warm in the cool mornings, but by afternoon I can
change out of them and be comfortably cool in my jeans and T-shirt.
A few years ago working with a licensed electrician, I spent
each day boring holes in floor joists and wall studs. Wood chips,
dust, splinters, and dirt rained down on me. No problem. I was
protected by my coveralls. Yes, my workwear drew jokes from the
crew, but I had the last laugh. At day’s end, I peeled off the coveralls and drove home in clean clothing. Here’s what you should
know to pick the best pair for you.
DICKIES SHORTSLEEVE COVERALLS
These lightweight poplin coveralls
are ideal for summer: enough material
to protect you, not enough to give
you heatstroke. $32
58
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
WEIGHT
Coveralls typically
come in five-, six-,
seven-, eight-, and
ten-ounce (per yard)
fabrics. Heavier
fabrics are more
expensive, more
durable, and warmer
in the winter, but
they’ll also make
you uncomfortably
hot in the summer. Even though
they’re a little hotter in the summer, I
like a seven-ounce
in long sleeves. You
DULUTH TRADING COMPANY
DULUTHFLEX FIRE HOSE COVERALLS
These tough coveralls are based on
the ones worn on World War II aircraft
carriers. They flex where you need them
to and have plenty of pockets. $12 0
may sweat a bit, but
you’re protected.
CUT
Coveralls with a
slimmer fit can
be worn as your
primary garment.
They make getting
dressed simple.
But if you want
something that fits
over your clothing,
look for a boxy cut.
FEATURES
Pass-through
pockets let you
access your pants
pockets through the
coveralls, which is
nice. Zip-to-knee
legs let you put your
coveralls on without
taking off your
boots. (If you choose
insulated coveralls,
find a pair with
zip-to-waist legs,
which let you get
the thicker material
off with a lot less
hassle.) And a twoway zipper on the
front answers those
bathroom questions.
CARHARTT MEN’S
QUILT-LINED DUCK COVERALLS
Even uninsulated coveralls provide
a warm layer in the winter. But an
insulated pair like this one feels like
pulling on a protective snowsuit. $12 0
I L LU S T R AT I O N BY J O H N D ’AG O S T I N O
D
/ BY ROY BERENDSOHN /
↓ TOOL TEST
B
A
C
WHAT WE PUT
THEM THROUGH
Over eight hours we
glued wood to wood
and metal to wood, then
practiced our glue penmanship to see how easy
each gun was to steer.
P H OTO G R A P H BY R I C H A R D M A J C H R Z A K
Glue
Guns
You can use hot glue for repairs or crafts, or
even something like a piece of trim, when
you don’t have room to use a clamp.
/ BY ROY BERENDSOHN /
A / Arrow GT3 0 0
B / DeWa lt DWHTG R50
C / Sta n ley G R10 0
WE I G HT: 1 lb
LE N GTH : 11 inches
WAT TS: 300
LI KES: All that wattage
WE I G HT: 0.8 lb
LE N GTH : 73⁄4 inches
WAT TS: 70
LI KES: A little gem of a gun.
WE I G HT: 0.8 lb
LE N GTH : 81⁄4 inches
WAT TS: 80
LI KES: An easy-handling gun
translates into serious gluemelting power. You can gob it
on or apply a thin line. The gun
accomplishes this control with
a small machine screw that
limits the travel of the trigger.
It was the only gun in the test
with a lighted on/off switch.
D I SLI KES: None.
It’s light, handles easily, and
heats rapidly, and its trigger
control is superb, allowing
you to leave narrow, perfectly
shaped beads.
D I SLI KES: There is no indicator
light to tell you that it’s on—
or to confirm that you remembered to turn it off.
that comes with three varieties of glue sticks and three
different nozzles. It spreads a
consistent bead and it’s easy
to set on its stand.
D I SLI KES: After only one
on/off session, we noticed
significant wear on the wide
nozzle’s threads and O-ring.
$5 0
$2 0
$2 6
THINGS YOU
SHOULD NOT
INSTALL WITH
A GLUE GUN
shingles
brake pads
hairpieces
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
59
THE LIFE
Race
Day at the
He’s a professional woodworker.
No, he’s a cyclist shooting for the Olympics.
No, he’s a professional woodworker
and a cyclist shooting for the Olympics.
/ B Y J A M E S LY N C H /
P H OTO G R A P H S BY S A S H A N I A L L A
Kline relaxes in the
woodshop after
training. The shop,
and some of its
tools, have been in
his family for three
generations.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
61
THE LIFE
B
A
T
and there is the bike, and both
challenge Shane Kline. Both provide relief, give him
focus, require concentration. Both are solitary, in their
way—pursuits into which he can disappear. In both, an
inanimate object feels animate, and there’s a relationship—he pushes the bike and the road, and they push back.
The wood? “I let it tell me what it wants to become,” he says.
Both have their season.
Like this morning: Dust from a 1,000-pound planer catches the
yellow Pennsylvania light inside the Family Tree Traditions woodshop. The smell of stain, the last coat on a stack of butcher blocks,
dampens the air. Talk radio stumbles through machines that whir,
wail, and hiccup. Ray Kline, 59, Shane’s dad, is powering everything up for the day.
Shane? He’s asleep on the other side of the wall, in an apartment
that used to be part of the shop. He’s a carpenter, third generation. He
is also trying to make it to the Olympics. So yes, right now he’s asleep.
During the five-month track-cycling season, there isn’t much
time for woodworking. Some mornings he grinds out a six-hour
62
H E RE I S TH E WOO D,
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
C
ride in the hills around his home, others it’s two hours of punishing
sprint intervals, hammering on the pedals. Evenings are for
another workout or local race. “It’s hard to train for six hours a
day and then come home and stand on my feet for another eight
in the shop,” he says. This morning, race morning, even with the
buzz of his father’s work passing through the walls, the shop is
further than ever from Shane’s mind. He puts down his coffee
mug, grabs his kit and his brakeless race bike, and heads out to
the Trexlertown velodrome.
Shane’s been handling power tools since he was three or four,
when he used to fall asleep on a piece of cardboard as his father finished late-night kitchen remodels. He didn’t start cycling until he
was 13, when he first visited the velodrome where he’ll race today.
For a shoppable list of the clothes and tools featured in this story, see page 65.
E
D
A / Warming
up and staying
loose throughout
a day with four
races is crucial to
performing well
in the omnium.
When the track
is busy, Kline uses
a set of rollers
to get his legs
moving.
B / The shop gives
Kline an opportunity to spend time
with his father,
Ray. “My dad and
I have a great
relationship, so
hanging out with
him in the shop
has just always
been fun,” he says.
C / “I’ve raced in
nearly every state
and nine different
countries and
I’ll tell you what:
The riding in eastern Pennsylvania
is some of the
best you can find,”
Kline says.
D / Kline credits a
lot of his patience
in cycling, both in
racing and recovering from injuries,
to his work with
wood.
E / Since velodrome
bikes don’t have
brakes, riders
can’t quickly slow
down. Instead they
ride up the banked
walls to slow down.
Because of this,
early in their
careers all riders
learn not to overlap tires with
the rider in front
of them—except
when they’re
passing, of course.
F / Even during
grueling training
seasons, Kline
wakes up to see
his wife, Taylor
Wasson, off
to work.
F
G / Kline likes
the challenge
of live-edge
wood, trying
to change as
little as possible
about each slab.
He focuses on
adding functional
items, like legs,
that flow from
the wood.
“Cycling just happened to fall into my lap,” he says. “The velodrome
had a free program, and I became hooked.” After a career of road racing across the world, he wanted to complete his dream of making the
Olympics, and he figured his best chance of doing that was where he
started, on the velodrome. The facility 20 minutes from the woodshop is Kline’s next stepping stone to the 2020 Olympic track-cycling
team. A good performance in today’s race means points toward qualifying for the World Cup and other major races. From there he’ll have
to fight for a rank high enough to make the Olympic team.
Shane starts warming up, getting a light sweat under his jersey in
preparation for the first of four races. The event, called the omnium,
consists of four races scored individually, then tallied for an overall
winner. For an endurance rider like Kline, the omnium is his stron-
G
gest event. He rolls onto the track for the first race. The pack of cyclists
moves together, sprinting past one another, tucking in behind a racer
to reduce drag, running up the banked wall to slow down. The morning session is grueling, the second race following shortly after the
first. At the break, Shane is in a disappointing ninth place. “It was
one of those mornings. I had no legs at all. I just wasn’t there,” he says.
The evening session is different. He hammers the third race,
wins the fourth, and finishes in third place overall. He’s another step
closer. He drives home and falls asleep in bed beneath a giant wall
vent, in the room that used to be the shop’s spray room.
He is exhausted the next day. And yet he finds time to work with
wood. Or maybe it’s that he makes time. “It’s soothing,” he says. “You
know what to do.” There are failures, as on the track, and they are
as permanent as a bad race time, a statistic that can’t change: “You
can’t regrow wood.” Lately Kline has been turning live-edge slabs
into furniture. Sometimes the wood pushes back, like the road does,
and Shane just works harder at it, and smarter.
There is the wood, and there is the bike, and both challenge
Shane Kline.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
63
THE LIFE
A / Kline hangs a
bike in the shop
where his father
often hangs his
own slightly less
racey bike.
B / For Kline, the
appeal of working
with furniture is
that it’s something
people can use
that’s been made
by a real person.
C / In addition to
being an accomplished cyclist and
woodworker, Kline
also looks good in
sunglassses.
A
B
64
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
C
KAVU Grill
Slinger Apron
Cotton, with pockets
where you need them,
including a beer pocket
on the chest. $45
Garmin Vívomove
HR Watch
Classic styling houses
smart features like
heart rate, texts, and
sleep tracking. $199
Milwaukee Stop
Lock Hand Clamp
Nonslip resin grip,
locking mechanism,
one-hand release. $8
Ventilator Boots
Breathable mesh lining,
vibram sole, out-ofthe-box comfort. Great
support. $110
Patagonia
Baggies Shorts
100% recycled nylon
for quick-drying.
Pockets with drain
holes for water. $55
Birkenstock Arizona
EVA Sandals
Based on cork sandal.
One-piece EVA rubber
that’s light and great for
the water. $40
Danner Enduroweave
Mountain 600 Boots
Textile upper keeps
them light and
breathable. $160
Patagonia
Gallegos Shirt
Quick-dry, wrinkleresistant, with reflective
collar and cuffs and a
mesh back. $59
reDew Ravin Jeans
Organic cotton,
recycled polyester
and lycra. 25% of
profits donated to
conservation. $139
Lightweight
Give’r Gloves
Unlined leather that’s
tough and molds to your
hand over time. $34
Darn Tough
Stage Crew UltraLight Socks
Seamless merino
wool. Lifetime
guarantee. $19
Mission Workshop
PNG Bib Short
Good for road or gravel
riding, with four-way
stretch. $265
Patagonia Reversible
Crankset Vest
Lightly insulated,
water-repellent, and
stuffs into its own
pocket. $119
KAVU River
Wrangler Shirt
Polyester/spandex
button down. Wicking
and quick drying, with
UV protection. $80
Lazer Bullet
2.0 Helmet
Aerodynamic with
a sliding system to
open venting. Optional
panoramic lens. $270
Fisher + Baker
Everyday T-Shirt
Cashmere comfort.
Breathable, soft. $98
Milwaukee Magnetic
Tape Measure
A reinforced frame,
with print on both
sides of the tape, and a
magnetic hook. $17
Stiletto 10-oz
Titanium Hammer
Hits like a 16-oz
hammer, hickory handle,
magnetic nail starter.
$90
Carhartt Full Swing
Cryder Pants
Cotton/polyester with
DWR finish, gusseted
crotch, and articulated
knees. $60
Spy Helm 2
Sunglasses
Light Grilamid frames
with rubber near the
temples to keep them
on your face. $100
ALSO USED IN THIS STORY
PA G E
6 4
PA G E S
6 2 – 6 3
PA G E S
6 0 – 6 1
THE SHOPPABLE LIFE
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
65
E D I T E D BY
PETER MARTIN
WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING AT used to be a falling-apart shed used
mostly for storing rusty yard tools and mouse droppings.
The floor had rotted out, the roof leaked, and if you were
standing in there when the wind blew, your hair moved. But
the structure was good—the bones, as they say. It’s about 18
by 12. It’s in a semirural backyard, about 200 yards from the
house, but it could well be in the middle of the woods, or on a
river, miles from any place. The idea came about to restore it
as a functional, self-sufficient escape, with heat and electricity. No running water, but that could be
done if it was needed.
The woodstove is a Morsø 2B, a model produced by the Denmark-based
foundry from 1934 to 2000. This one
was on Craigslist for $240. The rotten
floor was ripped up and carted away,
replaced by a layer of Roxul insulation (the vermin don’t like it, nor does
moisture) and this sweet tongue-ingroove pine floor from a local (well,
two hours away) mill. The fire-rated
bricks are from Home Depot. The angle-iron penning in the
brick hearth was sold and cut by Mark & Son Metal Products
in Bedford Hills, New York, for $32.
The wood for the walls was reclaimed
from various houses around town. (You
can read about how it was installed on
page 8.) Behind the stove is a fireproof
wall of rescued sheet metal that once
lined the ceiling of the 1876 church
that now houses contributor Richard
Romanski’s woodshop. (There’s firerated WonderBoard behind that, separated by one-inch ceramic spacers.)
The rig over on the right is the
genius system from Goal Zero, which is bringing
solar power to the people—more about them on
the next page. Six hundred bucks, less than a day’s
work. The place now runs on sun and wood and is
to code and properly permitted.
The point is: You can do this. A shed, a cabin, a
cottage, a shipping container—they are out there,
and can sometimes be had for cheap, and you
could make one into a haven where you can spend
a few days away from the noise when you need to.
And, sure, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, Hey, if they attack the grid, or if man, nature, or beast
inflicts some other kind of craziness on the world, we’ve got
a room, we’ve got electricity, and we’ve got a source of heat
for warmth and cooking. And we’ll be okay.
P H OTO G R A P H BY R A N DY H A R R I S
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
67
HOW TO
P OW E R YO U R H O M E
You have three main options. Which you use depends on your environment.
SOLAR
HYDROPOWER
are clean, noiseless, durable, longlived, and relatively maintenance free. For a rooftop install, west- or
south-facing roofs with a pitch of 30 degrees are optimal. Project
Sunroof uses Google Earth images to determine your roof size and
recommend an installation setup. Don’t live in a hot, sunny place? Not a problem. PV solar production is actually most efficient in colder temps.
If you’re building a battery-based system, you’ll need an inverter for converting DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) for use with standard
outlets and appliances. Solar inverters usually incorporate maximum power
point tracking (MPPT), which helps you get the most power possible from
your PV array. You’ll also need a charge controller to optimize battery performance. For arrays 200W and higher, a MPPT controller garners about 15
percent more energy per year than a standard controller. A system monitor
will help maximize the reliability and productivity of your PV setup. Today’s
high-resolution “smart” meters use machine learning to read the electronic
fingerprint of your appliances in real time, so you can monitor performance
and track down inefficiencies.
Solar costs are at their lowest in 30 years. A system between 4kW and 8kW
costs $15,000 to $29,000 on average. Do your homework on incentives and
rebates. The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) offers a 30 percent tax credit
for the cost of residential installations.
To power our small OTG cabin pictured on the previous page, we used an
excellent system from Goal Zero. The centerpiece is the Yeti 3000, a portable power station that charges quickly from the sun and is equipped with
3000Wh of battery storage, so whatever you’re powering will run for a while.
It has a built-in MPPT, and you can monitor charge and battery use from the
Yeti app, and an inverter. The 3000 also has tons of outputs, including a very
handy 60W USB-C for larger devices. You just need an electrician to install
the Home Integration Kit into a circuit breaker, at which point you’ll be able
to power up to four circuits off the Yeti Energy Storage ecosystem.
For daily use, all of this works beautifully. Ours is hooked up to two 100W
rooftop Goal Zero solar panels, as well as a 100W briefcase panel out in the yard,
which we move with the sun throughout the day. Recently we went to bed one
night with the battery at 54 percent. One full sunny day and part of a morning
later—without much running off it except for a few
lamps and a phone charger—it was fully charged.
The Yeti (Goal Zero also makes Yeti with other
capacities, from 100 to 1400) is also a kind of portable generator. It’s on wheels and has a telescoping
handle so you can move it from cabin to car to home.
We tested it on frozen winter ground, mud, snow, and
gravel and it traveled easily—useful in a power outage.
The 3000 is ideal for a cabin like this: The place
sees use on the weekends and sporadically during
the week. It’s an artist’s studio but could be a hunting
cabin or a weekend retreat. The Yeti just lives there,
soaking up sun, waiting to charge phones and light
up the four LED bulbs that bring some light to the woods.
Goal Zero’s real achievement is in both power and ease of
use. The rig is expensive, but if they can lower the price and
keep making the power stations increasingly easier to set
up and use, the gap between solar people and people who
think solar isn’t for them will shrink. —Ryan D’Agostino
to have running
water on your property, then a micro hydroelectric generator like the Scott Hydroelectric
turbine is the most efficient and affordable
renewable energy option. Even a small mountain
stream that runs year-round is sufficient. What’s most
important is the vertical drop, not the volume of water.
The U.S. Geological Survey or the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have data on your stream’s
flow. You can also use the “bucket method” by damming up your stream to divert its flow into a five-gallon
bucket. If it fills in one minute, you’ve got a flow of five
gallons per minute.
Most home models will run between $4,000 to
$10,000. You’ll need a properly sized generator, battery bank, and ample piping to get from intake to
turbine. The motivated DIYer with a penchant for
physics could install a micro hydroelectric system
on their own, but we’d recommend consulting your
county engineer for advice. And be sure to contact your
state energy office to find out how much water you’re
allowed to divert from your channel. —Jill Kiedaisch
F YO U ’ R E L U C K Y E N O U G H
WIND
you’ll need a minimum average annual wind speed of 9 mph
and a turbine rated for 5 to 15 kilowatts.
How do you find this information? The
Department of Energy publishes Wind Resource Maps
for each state. You could also obtain average wind
speed information from a nearby airport, but keep in
mind that airport anemometers will likely be closer to
the ground than your wind turbine hub. Direct monitoring will always be your best bet, as wind strength
varies significantly depending on local terrain. Windmeasurement systems start at $600 to $1,200. Or you
can build your own. (See opposite page.)
There are two basic tower types: guyed and freestanding. Guyed towers are less expensive and easier
to install—approximately $40,000 in equipment, plus
another $20,000 in shipping and installation. (Just
be sure you have enough room. Your site design will
need to account for a guy radius of at least one half the
tower height.) Wind speeds increase with elevation, so
a higher tower means more power. Even just 40 extra
feet could yield 25 percent more power and only add 10
percent to the overall system cost. On average, small
wind systems cost approximately $5,760 per kilowatt installed, and you could recoup your investment
through utility savings within 15 to 25 years, depending on your setup.
—J.K.
O R A T YPI CAL H O M E ,
P H OTO G R A P H S BY R A N DY H A R R I S
H OTOVO LTAI C (PV) PAN E L S
WHY AREN’T
G E N E R AT O R S O N T H I S L I S T ?
a generator as your main energy
source. It’s unlikely to be the most effective, efficient, or
economical. That said, a critical component of every off-grid
system is a reliable backup generator for times when the sun
doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow, and the stream dries up
in the hot season. There are two options:
DO N ’ T PL AN O N U S I N G
A . PE RMAN E NT
A fixed-installation generator could be installed in an outbuilding and connected directly to the electric system in your
home. You want an automatic start, which will kick on when
your battery bank needs recharging. Kohler’s 14-kilowatt
generator has the auto-start, plus a wireless remote-start
switch, so if you ever do need to turn
it on, you can do it from inside your
home. It runs on either natural gas or
liquid propane and is no louder than
a typical air-conditioning system—
a crucial consideration when your
property’s ambient noise skews
more toward grasshoppers than garbage trucks. (~$3,700)
B . PO RTAB LE
If you just want a backup on hand
for your most crucial needs (refrigerator, water pump, etc.), to reload
a battery bank that’s been drawn
down, or for use at an off-grid
building site, portable generators
are smaller and cheaper. Honda’s
2,200-watt generator is compact,
lightweight, and can run for eight
hours on a gallon of gas. Easy to toss
in the back of your truck, ideal for
peace of mind. (~$1,200)
—J.K.
O PTI O N A
THE
E N E R GY N E E D S
C A L C U L AT O R
Check off each of the following items that
you can’t live without. Then tally your score
to find out how much power you’ll need to
generate to continue your lifestyle.
Refrigerated food (10)
Vacuum cleaner (5)
Heat (10)
Paper shredder (1)
Hot water (10)
Wine fridge (10)
Cellphone (5)
Elevator (10)
Anything from Sharper
Image (5)
Air conditioning (10)
Clothes washer (10)
Clothes dryer (15)
One of those shoepolishing stands from
the bowling alley (5)
Massage chair (10)
Oven (5)
Espresso maker (5)
Microwave (5)
Air-hockey
table (5)
Xbox (1)
O PTI O N B
Electric toothbrush (1)
PROJECT
B U I L D YO U R OW N
WIND TESTER
If you want to power your home using wind, first you need
to know how much wind you have. You can buy an expensive
meter, or you can build your own, using an aluminum can, plastic eggs, metal rods, two dowels, and a bike speedometer. For
the full instructions, go to popularmechanics.com/wind-tester.
Automatic pet
feeder (5)
Laptop (5)
Karaoke night
at your house! (5)
TV (5)
Microsoft Zune (5)
(Just kidding!
Remember those?)
Incandescent
lighting (5)
DVR (5)
Outdoor floodlights
to spot on-the-grid
intruders (10)
Toto Washlet G400
electric toilet with
premist, rear cleanse,
and air dryer ($3,370
but totally worth it) (10)
LED lighting for the
display case showing
off your Popular
Mechanics collection.
(You have one, too?!) (5)
ANSWER KEY
Less than 30 points: You are as off-the-grid as they
come. You can probably get by with a small solar array.
31–60 points: Add a backup generator, and you’re set.
More than 60 points: Are you sure you wouldn’t rather
live in a hotel?
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
69
A
ESSENTIAL GEAR
The tools and equipment that may not make your life easy,
but will definitely make it easier.
D
P H OTO G R A P H S BY K E V I N S W E E N E Y
C
B
H
G
K
J
L
CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE
DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN
AC & D C ?
A brief primer.
B Y R OY B E R E N D S O H N
that most off-the-grid homesteaders have to deal
with is whether to use direct current (DC) or alternating current
(AC) to power their home. If you’re supplying your own power,
ON E QU ESTION
70
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
most sources, such as solar panels, output electricity as DC. You
can leave it at that, or add an inverter to convert the power to AC.
There are advantages to both.
A) COU NCI L TOO L
H U DSO N BAY CAM P A XE
The two-pound head, forged from
tool steel and outfitted on a 28-inch
hickory handle, is great for chopping,
splitting, or hammering pegs and
stakes. The slighter size means you
won’t mind swinging it all day. $62;
counciltool.com
E
B) H E AT STRE AM E R
SO L AR WATE R H E ATE R
Mount this system for a low-effort,
consistent source of hot water. Vacuum tubes and copper pipes combine
to heat water at a rate of 165 watts.
That means it can bring five gallons
of room-temperature water to 122
degrees in just four hours. $250; solarwater-panel.com
C) G IVE ’ R WO RK G LOVES
Insulated leather gloves ready for any
job in any season—even the wet ones,
because these are 100 percent waterproof. Forty-gram Thinsulate insulation
keeps you warm in winter, but won’t
overheat in summer. $114; give-r.com
D) LE H MAN ’ S
B EST HAN D WRI NG E R
Dry your clothes quickly, without an
electric dryer. Just put your clothes
in, crank the handle, and the water
squeezes out. Clamp it right onto round
or square tubs so the water doesn’t run
everywhere. $200; lehmans.com
E) H E ADSPI N
CO NVE RTI B LE LI G HT
The Headspin light’s magnetic connection means you can stick it to a chunk
of metal in your work space, put it on
a headlamp or flashlight mount, or use
the bike mount for attaching it to handlebars, rails, and even walking sticks:
400 lumens, 40 hours run time. $200;
headspinoutdoors.com
M
F) SAB E RCUT
HAN D - POWE RE D CHAI NSAW
This 24-inch blade chews through
logs and branches without the weight,
noise, and fuel needs of a traditional
chainsaw. Its small size means you can
also use it in spaces where a classic
chainsaw might not fit. $30; REI.com
G) ADVAN CE D E LE M E NTS
SU M M E R SO L AR SH OWE R
Fill the three-gallon sack with water
I N DC SYSTE M S , current flows in only one direction, and at 12, 24, or 48 volts, instead of the 120
volts you’re used to in a typical home. Solar panels
feed a battery bank and the bank supplies the load, whether that load
is a small DC refrigerator, lights, or whatever. Generally speaking,
all DC appliances, light fixtures, and bulbs are specialty products,
so they’ll be more expensive than what you’ll find at a hardware
store. Be aware that DC wiring and components are different
from AC. Most DC systems operate at a significantly higher current, sometimes ten times the current you’d need for 120 volts AC.
and leave it in the sun. The solar panel,
reflector panel, and insulation panel
work together to heat the water up
and keep it hot. Hang the bag, turn on
the showerhead, and get clean. $25;
advancedelements.com
H) ETÓ N FRX5 SE LF- POWE RE D
WE ATH E R ALE RT R AD I O
Receives AM/FM/NOAA radio bands
so you never miss the information
you need. Bluetooth connectivity
means you can use it to listen to your
favorite tunes when you aren’t
checking on the weather. $100;
etoncorp.com
I) CARHART T
FU LL SWI NG CRYD E R JACKET
A tough, water-repellent jacket with
stretch panels in the elbows, back, and
sides to give you full range of motion.
Rib-knit cuffs and draw-cord hem at
the bottom help keep out the cold.
$150; carhartt.com
J) GOAL ZE RO
LI G HTH OUSE 4 0 0 L ANTE RN
Charge it with the hand crank or plug
the USB into one of Goal Zero’s solar
panels. A 4,400-milliampere-hour battery gives you plenty of 400-lumen
light, with extra power for charging
phones, tablets, and whatever else you
need. $70; goalzero.com
K) BALL JARS
Keep your veggies, pickles, and sauces
ready to eat year-round. Prices vary by
size; available at most grocery stores.
L) STAN LE Y CL ASSI C
VACU U M FRE NCH PRESS
This 48-ounce, double-wall-insulated
French press means your brew will
stay hot for hours after you’ve taken
your coffee off the stove. One other
benefit: Coffee that’s not on the stove
is also coffee that won’t get burnt.
$65; stanley.com
M) CO M MAN D E R
FRE I G HTE R FR AM E
A pack frame for hauling whatever
you need, even if it doesn’t fit in a
traditional bag. The lashing straps
plus a freighter shelf mean that if you
can handle the weight, you can carry
it. Padded waist belt and shoulder
straps keep you comfy. $130; alpsoutdoorz.com
or AC, flows in one
direction, then reverses, over and over, at a certain rate called hertz. AC is the power of choice
on the grid because it’s less wasteful to transform it. It can be
transported around the grid at massively high voltages (and comparatively lower current) and then stepped down at a substation
and then stepped down again at the power pole right outside your
home. With AC, all the wiring and everything you need downstream from the inverter is pretty much what you would have in
a regular house.
A LT E R N AT I N G C U R R E N T,
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
71
THE BIG QUESTION
D O YO U N E E D
A TO I L E T T H AT F L U S H E S ?
THE GRID ISN ’T JUST ELECTRICIT Y. It’s also plumbing. Luckily, there are a number of ways to take
care of taking care of your business without the municipal sewer system. You can use a composting toilet, a standard toilet with a septic tank, or an outhouse that’ll help you plant trees. Or there’s
always the woods. Follow this flowchart to find the method that’s best for you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
DO YOU SHUDDER AT THE THOUGHT OF HAVING
TO DISPOSE OF YOUR OWN FECES?
YES, OF COURSE.
I CAN HANDLE IT.
DOES YOUR
PROPERTY ALREADY
HAVE A SEPTIC
TANK?
DOES YOUR HOME HAVE
WHEELS OR A HULL?
IF YOU’RE NOT
MOBILE, YOU’RE
NOT TRULY OFF
THE GRID.
YES.
NO.
IS IT ILLEGAL WHERE YOU LIVE
TO DISCHARGE YOUR WASTE?
IT CAN VARY BY COUNTY.
WHAT DO I
CARE? I’M
OFF THE
GRID.
HOW MUCH
DO YOU WANT TO
SPEND?
WHATEVER I
NEED TO.
NO.
YES.
YOU REALLY DON’T
THINK YOU CAN DO
THE COMPOST THING?
FINE, I’LL
TRY IT.
LESS
THAN
$1,000.
I DIDN’T GO
BACK TO
THE LAND
JUST TO
PROP UP
CAPITALISM.
HOW COLD IS IT WHERE YOU LIVE?
MICROBES NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE TO DO THEIR WORK.
NOT COLD.
ARE YOU
OPPOSED TO
INSTALLING A SEPTIC
SYSTEM?
YES, IT’S TOO
EXPENSIVE.
I HAVEN’T TAKEN
MY COAT OFF SINCE I
MOVED HERE.
SEPTIC
Fills up a septic tank
buried on your property, which you’ll
periodically have
to pay a stranger to
empty.
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
NO.
IT DOESN’T
FEEL OFF THE
GRID.
DO YOU HAVE ROOM
INDOORS FOR A
COMPOSTING TOILET?*
YES.
72
NEVER.
HOW MUCH DO YOU
WANT TO SPEND?
WHATEVER I
NEED TO.
YO U R
TOILET
IS...
NO.
MARINE/
RV TOILET
COMPOSTING
TOILET
A small but otherwise normal toilet
connected to a
holding tank elsewhere in the vehicle.
The tank is regularly
emptied.
Commode connects
to a tank that makes
compost from storebought or DIY ingredients—carbon-rich
material, microbes—
and your contribution.
NO.
ARBORLOO
AT W A L M A R T
Dig a pit. Build an
outhouse over it.
Poop in the pit. When
the pit is full, plant
a tree. Cover it with
the old dirt, dig a new
pit, and move the
outhouse.
There’s bound to be
one nearby.
*Self-contained units
require about 1.5 times
the space of a standard
toilet.
T H R E E G R E AT B AT T E R Y - S T O R A G E S Y S T E M S
Once you know how you’re going to generate electricity, you need a way to store any excess.
DEEP- CYCLE BATTERIES are central to every off-grid solar, wind,
or hydroelectric system because they store the excess energy created by your renewable resource and make it available when you
need it. Your storage capacity needs depend on two key factors:
the amount of energy your system can generate and your home’s
A
SE ALE D M O D U L AR
Sealed modular systems use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The Tesla
Powerwall’s batteries each have 13.5 kilowatt-hours of capacity and can be linked
with up to nine other units. This option can
be used as a stand-alone energy-storage
system or as a backup power supply. The
Powerwall also includes electronics for
managing the charging and discharging of
cells, as well as an inverter for converting
DC to the AC power more common in residential use. This all-in-one prepackaged
solution will make it easy to retrofit your
grid-connected system.
EX AM PLE : You guessed it: Tesla
Powerwall
average energy load. (Ideally, you want to always have three to
five days’ worth of power saved.) In terms of space requirements,
these systems range in size from a narrow bookcase-size space
for a modular system up to a laundry closet or small attic space
for a bank of wired cells.
—J.K.
B
C
LE AD -ACI D BAT TE RI ES
Invented in 1859, this is the oldest and most
common type of rechargeable battery in
use today. They are larger, heavier, and
less energy-dense than newer technologies—and therefore less expensive. (They
offer the highest watt-hour capacity per
dollar spent over the short term.) Most of
the renewable-energy equipment on the
market today will work within their voltage range. To maximize their life span,
they should only be discharged to about 65
percent of their capacity and be protected
from the elements and direct sunlight. Many
of them are also 100 percent recyclable.
EX AM PLE : Trojan lead-acid battery
(6-volt)
LITH I U M - I O N (O R LITH I U M - I RO N PH OSPHATE) BAT TE RI ES
Thanks to recent intense interest in electric vehicles (EV), a lot of progress has
been made with this category. Relatively
maintenance free, more compact, and
highly efficient, these batteries offer up to
10,000 charge cycles within their life span
and are at least 2.5 times more energy
dense than lead acid. They can be drawn
down further than lead-acid batteries
without affecting their performance. The
DIYer can use lithium-ion cells to create a
storage solution comparable to a packaged
modular system, but for a lot less money.
EX AM PLE : Relion high-performance LFP
battery (12-volt)
A N A P P R E C I AT I O N
THE
WO O D S TOV E
Take care of it, and it takes care of you.
BY BEN HEWITT
motivated by the primal appeal of woodfueled fire (and a little by my peculiar compulsion for chopping
firewood), my wife and I replaced the gas range in our Vermont
farmhouse with a wood-burning cookstove. Every day since, I
rise before dawn, lay a bed of newspaper and dry scrap wood, and kindle
the day’s fire. This is a necessity, considering that the stove heats our home
and our water, but it has also become a comforting ritual. As the fire takes,
I tamp grounds into my little stovetop espresso maker, which sits on the
cast-iron cooktop in the exact spot I’ve found to heat up the fastest. If it’s
winter, I open the door to the firebox—in violation of every fire-safety code
known to humankind—and warm myself while my coffee percolates and
the early light filters through the windows. If it’s summer, I head outside
to tend to our chickens and cattle, which takes exactly as much time as the
coffee needs to brew.
The stove is our kitchen’s centerpiece. It’s our heater, our cooking range,
and our boot dryer. But it’s also a reminder. I’ve found that living with our
stove—tending the fire, cutting and splitting the five cords of wood we feed
it annually—has meant forming a close relationship with the source of my
well-being. It’s a rare, front-row view of the transformation of raw and underappreciated resource into fundamental necessity.
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
I F T E E N Y E A R S AG O,
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
73
W H AT T Y P E O F
O F F -T H E - G R I D D E R
ARE YOU?
EXTREME
In 16 months I relieved myself of every possession.
But I still had to get away from everything else.
B Y J AY B Y R D
didn’t go out into the woods for a noble cause. I went out
of desperation. I always had an underlying hunger for a
good life, but drugs, prison, my associates, and other distractions always prevented me from reaching it. I was 50
years old and I was not good.
In 2003, I got rid of everything. I was so desperate I even
shaved my head. I packed up a backpack with gear, maps,
food, and books. I was by no means a survivalist, but I knew how
to begin. My dad was an outdoorsman, and when I was young, he’d
taught me how to take care of myself in the woods.
I first headed to Coconino forest in northern Arizona. The longest you can stay there, however, is 14 days, so I continued on to the
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area. It’s very rugged. There are no
vehicles—no machinery of any kind—allowed. There aren’t many
trails, either, so consequently there aren’t many people. Those that
do come through stay on the trails. I found my camp in an area away
from the trails, with good cover and an opening to the south for sunlight. It overlooked a canyon.
My water source was a quarter-mile away. This was the perfect distance—not right next to camp, in case another hiker came looking for
water, and not so far away that I’d wear myself out hauling water back.
Comfortably, you need about two gallons of water a day. I’d haul water
twice a week, usually five to six gallons at a time. At eight pounds per
gallon, that’s nearly 50 pounds to carry. I found a nice spring where
the water came out of the ground. The closer you can find water to its
source, the lower your chances of getting giardia. When it rained, I
collected rainwater off of my roof in five-gallon buckets.
Whenever I left camp for the main trail (or the main trail to get
back to camp), I made sure to leave no path—no trace or sign that
would cause my discovery. It’s good practice, spiritually, to walk
wakefully, in tune and in harmony with everything around you.
You’re aware of how everything flows. The sounds, the smells. How
things look and feel. It becomes your disposition.
There are edible and medicinal plants in the woods, so it’s good
to know that stuff. Also, a .22 Winchester can kill anything. But like
I said, I’m no survivalist. I have Bic lighters and go to town once or
In the silence I began to
adjust . To be clean, sober,
and clear minded.
twice a month to get food. (I got on food stamps.) Occasionally I’d
walk to a forest service road and hitch a ride (it’s busiest on weekends), but I like to explore the woods, so most times I hiked the 30
miles in. It took two or three days. In snowier weather I have used
snowshoes, but that’s really slow. Cross-country skis are best. Most
of my food needed to be dehydrated, since I didn’t have a refrigerator. Bear Creek brand makes an excellent base, and you can add
We moved to this part of Vermont from Boston in 1980. Our land was
on a gravel road with no utility lines. It
would have cost $18,000 for the power
company to connect our property to its
network, so we decided to generate our
own electricity with solar panels and a
generator.
J E A N : One of the first things people say
is, “You don’t have electricity!” We do
have electricity, we just come by it a different way.
J O H N : When we first built, I had 22
golf-cart batteries wired up to produce
a 12-volt system, and an inverter, which
JOHN:
A LITTLE LESS SO
How we ended up off the grid—and why we’ve stayed there.
BY JEAN AND JOHN KIEDAISCH
A
B
C
D
A. Every year, Jay Byrd uses one to two cords of wood to heat
his home. He splits another two to three cords for friends.
B. Although he gets his drinking water from town, the large
barrels beside his home collect rainwater that he uses for
showering and gardening. C. His 12-volt deep-cycle batteries
are very low maintenance. He checks on the system only
twice a year to make sure the water levels are correct.
D. He sleeps great.
canned meat such as chicken, tuna, or eggs. I had a friend who’d
give me a ride to the trailhead where I would stash the food up trees
in five-gallon buckets with lids (screw-on if possible), so that I could
shuttle it all back to camp at my leisure. There are other containers that also work, but they must be hard plastic with lids to make
it harder for bears to get to them.
Back at camp, I collected wood nearby using an axe and a handsaw, lashing it to a metal-frame backpack. I was in that location
for five years. Although there is plenty of wood around, you can
deplete an area quickly. I had fires only in the morning for coffee
and breakfast, and at night for dinner. I’d clean everything as I went
and burn all containers—even tin cans and foil (to get rid of food
smell), before smashing them to compact them to make it easier to
haul them out. As important as it is to get rid of all food remains,
you also need to clean your face and hands and brush your teeth
so you don’t smell like food. I got careless a few times and brought
some bears around, not to mention bugs, mice, skunks, and everything else that likes to eat.
My toilet was a spot 30 yards from camp. I would dig an eightinch-deep hole. Once I used it I would bury everything, including
changes 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC. We
used to charge the batteries with a ropestart construction generator. Imagine a
lawnmower in a permanent frame with a
little two-pint gas tank. When the batteries needed a charge, I’d go down, open the
garage door, drag it outside. I kept a couple jerry cans of gas nearby, because you
could get only an hour and a half of run.
You become very aware of how much electricity you need.
JEAN: You’re in such closer communication
with your house. It’s hardest in midwinter,
when it’s dark and cloudy. You’re running
around turning off lights in the living
the paper, and put a stick there so that I didn’t accidentally dig it
up later. Sometimes I would burn the toilet paper. Or better yet, if
I could find them, I’d use mullein leaves. They’re the best.
In the silence I began to adjust. To be clean, sober, and clear
minded. I learned to face my demons: the memories, sorrow, pain,
and fear. Over the years I read a lot of stuff: theology led to history,
history led to philosophy. I would write journals to work it out in my
head and listen to lectures on my iPod. I have only begun to walk
upon the path, but I am on the path.
After five years in the Sycamore Wilderness, my camp was spotted by a helicopter that was looking for someone else. They arrested
me for “making improvements on federal land,” fined me $60,
and kicked me out of the adjacent national forests for a year. After
spending the summer of ’09 hiking the Gila Wilderness area in
New Mexico looking for a spot to live, I’m now caretaking 20 acres
out by the Navajo rez for a friend of mine. I’ve been here ten years
continuing my quest. I harvest water off the roof of a 35-by-35-foot
house and power from the sun. I have no radio and no TV, but I do
have a truck so I can get to town, and a propane refrigerator, which
is a beautiful thing.
room because you’re in the dining room.
Summer is a piece of cake. You can wash the
dishes as many times you need, take showers, do laundry.
JOHN : It’s peaceful. The quietness here, 24
hours a day, is a very supportive environment. I grew up in Arizona, and I worked
summers in the pine forests in the northern part of the state. That smell in the air
is strong for me; I felt drawn to it. I didn’t
come as a homesteader. I wasn’t going to
have a cow and a bunch of chickens and
pigs. But I was looking for a place to be
rooted.
J EAN : It was a practical choice just as much
as a philosophical one.
JOHN: We upgraded our PV system over
the years, added more panels. When we
first started, we had an eight-by-eightfoot square. Anybody thinking about solar
these days will say that’s a cabin-size system. But we ran our entire house on it.
There’s a lot more professional knowledge
available today, and the technology is lightyears away from what it was.
J EAN : You still need to be aware of limitation. No resource is infinite.
J O H N : Consider if that’s what you want
your life to be.
J EAN : And be sure your partner agrees.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
75
Popular
Mechanics
May 2019
Page 77
You recognize the plaid shirts, the soothing voice.
The constant calm and encouragement. Bob Vila
taught and entertained homeowners for decades.
But what is the first true reality-TV star up to now?
Building the future of Bob Vila.
W
moves
uptown—through the rain
and morning foot traffic, into
the cold November breeze—he does not stop
talking. This is Manhattan, at 10:40 in the
morning. The sidewalks on the Upper East
Side, near Vila’s home, are jammed with
Christmas shoppers. Vila’s voice carries
into a morning tumult of cellphones and
overcoats, shopping bags and umbrellas.
He’s discussing the problem of restoring Ernest Hemingway’s house outside
Havana, which now stands as the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigía. He’s been
serving as a consultant on the project for
over a decade.
And he is nothing if not a narrator.
Because it’s Vila—or perhaps because of
Vila—it’s a story we are familiar with, told
HEN BOB VILA
P H OTO G R A P H BY J E F F E RY S A LT E R
in the particular fits and starts of the
teardown, assembly, and construction of an old house. “The roofing
tiles are a good example. The pallets
of tile that arrived on the building
site were too brittle. They couldn’t even be
installed. Their manufacture was trapped
in an entirely outdated process.” Vila turns
his shoulder and ducks past a pair of window shoppers. “Cuba, of course, was still
using seventy-five-year-old technologies
in the manufacture of building materials.”
At the corner, Vila hustles forward to cross
traffic with the light, speaking over his
shoulder. “This created a lot of problems in
the climate control and HVAC, the museum
end of things, where they had letters and
manuscripts that demand pretty strict climate control in their storage.”
By
Tom Chiarella
An icy wind blows through the cross
streets. Vila presses forward. At the first
corner, and again at the next one, just every
once in a while, someone turns for a look at
the guy, toward his familiar voice. Bob Vila,
narrating a construction problem. It must
be like sighting a rare bird. Natural enough.
But what else would he be doing? In this
case, he delivers the solution for the roofing
tiles two blocks farther uptown. “In the end,
we found some really terrific tiles manufactured in Ohio of all places,” he says.
He extends his arm expertly. And,
miraculously, a taxi seems to appear out of
the chaos. He’s headed far uptown to the
Hispanic Society Museum & Library for
a consultation on a massive roof-replacement project. “It’s fascinating,” he says,
“to think of how far building technology
has come since Cuba closed itself off. I was
just starting college then. All my life really.”
He says he’ll wait out front to meet. “It was
built with a 19th-century design, so there
are lots of puzzles. We’ll go right onto the
roof and get a closer look at the work they’re
doing to bring in the light of a new century.”
Honest to God. Just like that, Bob Vila
gives a reasonable teaser for the work he’ll
be looking at this afternoon. The man was
made for television. His work is always at
hand.
W
HO IS BOB VILA anyway? The
first reality-television host? A
contractor who got lucky? A
longtime paid spokesperson for Craftsman
tools? The storyteller of a generation? The
guy from Hot Shots! Part Deux? A journalist carpetbagging as a contractor? Or
beloved, comfy-cozy television host, who
wore his own clothes to work? Or perhaps
merely the first-ever personality to consciously brand himself and move on from
his first success?
Simply put, Vila’s job was that of a new
kind of storyteller. On This Old House, the
iconic home-renovation
program he hosted from
1979 to 1989 that continues today on PBS and has
won seventeen Emmys,
he had a unique role: to
describe, to kneel and peer
into a crawl space with a
flashlight, to pull at the
decaying lath, to illustrate
the dangers of moving
forward with the work.
To translate detail and
describe the difficulties
contractors, and homeowners, sometimes faced.
Throughout This Old
House, Vila leaned in on
the personality, capability,
and vision of the tradesmen and contractors who
came to each worksite.
Bob Vila’s interview subjects were always
real, sometimes odd; Vila was always Bob.
He shared the camera with them wisely.
They were often older, somehow wizened,
had regional accents, and offered up hardwon, homespun lessons. This was the
furthest reach of reality television back
then, and Vila was well suited to it.
Vila was a young guy, with the faint
whiff of a former hippie, who’d worked in
home construction (after returning from
similar work in the Peace Corps in Central America). Keep in mind that in 1979
network-television terms, escapist fun
like Dynasty was only a couple years away
and Diff’rent Strokes was about as gritty as
television got. And suddenly, over on PBS,
the fourth channel in most viewing areas,
here was This Old House making the possibility of sweating copper lines to the new
bathroom into something you hoped for as
a cool plot point. And it worked.
Calm. Steady. Engaged. Vila brought
the curiosity of a newspaperman (he graduated from the University of Florida with a
degree in journalism) and extensive experience with renovation and contractors
(in 1978, he was selected to audition for
This Old House after winning an award
from Better Homes and Gardens for his
renovation and restoration of a Victorian
Italianate house in Newton, Massachu-
Tim Allen (left), star of Home Improvement, one of the top-rated TV sitcoms of
the 1990s, says the show would never have
existed without This Old House. Vila (center)
in a guest appearance, with Richard Karn.
setts), and knew how to talk to working folk
without anybody looking like a rube. Every
now and then, Vila would grab a wire brush
or a pry bar and go to work.
Then, as now, you watched This Old
House to learn. And it was natural to zero
in on Bob Vila because you sensed that he
cared about the outcome of the projects
from week to week, from season to season.
H
head
of a laundry list of endeavors
designed to make money. He’s
still dapper, still favors the plaid shirt and
the khaki pants, even the down vest, when
out and about. He’s sitting at breakfast
today, mulling over the implications of letting a key employee go from his online
empire. It seems to pain him. He claims
he’s begun the work of streamlining some
of his obligations, but it sounds hectic.
“BobVila.com is the only media presence I
still have that I still manage. I just took over
as CEO again, because I want to be more
involved. I need to update the publishing
end. Toward the internet. That’s the way
publishing is going. I never thought of
becoming a web publisher, but now suddenly I’m a web publisher.”
He can go on about that business. He
does. “We have the old shows in a video
library on BobVila.com, and we’re still proE ’ S S E V E NT Y-T WO N OW,
Vila and TOH cohost
Norm Abram pictured
in This Old House, a
home-renovation guide
published in 1980, one
of Vila’s 12 books.
media,” he says.
laughs at the thought. “Not so much,” he
says. “But I was born in Miami, so I know
how to dress down there.”
T
association between
Vila and the American audience
(the show had eleven million
weekly viewers at its height under Vila) is
that first one—that guy and his look—Vila
in the plaid shirt, moving from job to job in
an old house, working to focus his audience
on the particulars of the work being done
there. The show grew so popular that it
inspired a generation of television hosts-tobe. Jonathan Scott, one half of HGTV’s hit
show Property Brothers, gives quick and
easy credit to Vila for piquing his interests—performing, contracting, building.
“He was always on our television, always in
the background of everything we did,” he
says. “He was enthusiastic and interested.
He asked good questions, he was always
looking into things. He was like us—like a
student, mostly. That guy was like the
soundtrack of our lives, the voice coming
from our TV room. I’d recognize his voice
anywhere.”
Vila left the show thirty years ago, after
a vague controversy surrounding his commercial endorsement of a New Jersey
H E L ASTI NG
Great Moments
in
Bob
most closely associated with his time as the
renovation tour guide for the first homeimprovement show ever. Men and women
of a certain age remember Vila, working a
construction problem with master carpenter Norm Abram in the gutted living room of
some crumbling gem in suburban Boston.
Abram proved to be a television force of his
own, but the back and forth between them
was remarkably subtle and unscripted ballbusting. It is remembered still.
“That’s a generational thing,” Vila says.
“We were the first to do it. We got bolder,
and did more every season, sure, but the
show stayed on point. The producers always
said it was simple: demystify what’s behind
the plaster. That same story was right there
in people’s homes, too.”
Vila is prompt to give This Old House the
lion’s share of the credit for his success. His
recognition as a cultural icon, however, is
really his own work. The branding thing is
no joke with the man. In 1990, Vila broke
away from PBS and started his own show,
Home Again with Bob Vila, which lasted
sixteen years on cable. (It was eventually
retitled simply Bob Vila, which by then
said it all.) He followed that by setting up
his own website, accompanied that by writing twelve books on architectural history,
ing. In 2016, he released a retail line of tools
named Bob Vila.
W
HAT MAY HAVE cemented Vila
into the foundation of the current cultural consciousness of
America may have come in the ’90s, when
comedian Tim Allen starred in a sitcom
with the name Home Improvement, based
in part on the chemistry between the host
(Allen’s character, Tim Taylor) of the fictional improvement series Tool Time and
his affable, skeptical expert tradesman (Al
Borland, played by Richard Karn), who
played a version of Norm Abram. To complicate the doppelgänger situation entirely,
Vila himself had an occasional role on the
show, playing himself, as a more competent
and expert rival host to Taylor’s version of,
erm, Vila himself.
In creating the show, Allen was not shy
about borrowing on what worked between
Vila and Abram. “I loved the implied relationship between Bob and Norm, the
everyday quality of things. They seemed
to be kidding each other sometimes. And I
ran with that at the beginning,” Allen says.
“But in comedy, you’re always looking for
any little thread of tension between contractors. I was imagining theirs mostly. I
1946
1951
1968
1971
Bob Vila is born
to Cuban immigrants in Miami.
His father reportedly built the
family’s house.
Frequent family
visits to Havana
leave Vila, at age
five, determined
to become an
architect.
Vila graduates
from the University of Florida
with a degree in
journalism.
He serves two
years in Panama in
the Peace Corps,
establishing
power and water
for squatters.
The
BobVila
Effect
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
NICOLE
CURTIS
MIKE
HOLMES
DREW AND
J O N AT H A N
SCOTT
NORM
ABRAM
AND KEVIN
O’CONNOR
CHIP AND
JOANNA
GAINES
TIM
TAY L O R
TY
DEAN
PENNINGTON JOHNSON
Rehab Addict
2010–
present
Holmes
on Homes
2001–2009
Property
Brothers
2011–
present
used my own stand-up material with construction work, and I threw a guy like Bob
into it, thinking what if he had to fake that
kind of authority. Exaggerating things is
kind of a tool for a comedian.”
Does America owe the creation of Tim
Taylor to the emergence of Bob Vila? Allen
pauses for a second. “Without the show This
Old House, there would be no Home Improvement,” he says. “But Tim Taylor isn’t Bob. Bob
is a nice guy, a terrific guy, and he knows a lot
more than Tim Taylor ever did.”
V
ILA IS SOMETIMES portrayed as a
guy who deserted This Old House
ten years after its creation to pursue a career in self-promotion. The story
feels pretty precious when considered
against the standards of today’s socialmedia and self-promotion industry. To the
parochial PBS viewer at the time, it was an
unprecedented, somewhat unforgivable act
of ego to desert the home franchise, whereas
today we might call it a simple rebranding.
Some resentment remains. Sources at
This Old House, still on the air after four
decades, are reluctant to talk about Vila,
though it may be that most can’t remember him. Three decades have passed. The
show endures. Vila himself is often still
roasted on internet discussion boards for
This Old House
1979–
present
Fixer Upper
2013–2018
Home
Improvement
1991–1999
being a man playing a part, pretending to
be a contractor.
For his part, Vila seems genuinely
grateful to producer Russell Morash and
the PBS experiment, forty years later.
“Russ always said we were just trying to
take the mystery out from what’s behind
the walls, taking apart the layers and discovering the problems. Then it was talking
to people. When you have a background in
journalism, you know what the questions
are and you know how to get the answers
and how to make them simple and clear. So
that all worked out,” he says. He sighs. “I
mean, I did bring something to the equation. It was serendipitous, really. I was a
guy who’d studied architecture. I was passionate about it, I’d lived in Europe and in
Latin America, but I also had a degree in
journalism. Why wouldn’t I end up doing
a broadcast show about building?”
And why wouldn’t he move on? Vila
started on This Old House making $200 a
week. Appropriately modest for the show
that started out as an experiment on the
part of Morash (who had previously created
Julia Child’s show and The Victory Garden) at the PBS affiliate in Boston. After
a decade at the center of This Old House,
Vila was making $1,200 a week.
When he began making commercial
8
Extreme
Makeover:
Home Edition
2003–2012
Hometime
1995–
present
9
ROBERT
VA N W I N K L E
The Vanilla
Ice Project
2010–
present
endorsements (over the protests of his
producers), existing program sponsors,
like emergent Home Depot and Weyerhauser, started to pull their funding from
the show’s coffers, and Vila was forced out.
Viewers were angry with the change at the
time. Vila was sometimes cast as the greedy
diva, who’d tried to use his personality to
get money. In the rationale of the moment,
it was like imagining if Olympic athletes
were paid. We see where that’s gotten us,
like it or not. It may have in fact been the
last days of premium amateurism, a time
when people were expected to substitute
the cursory pleasures of fame for the possibilities of monetizing anything from them.
If there is Vila resentment that survives
at This Old House, it’s pretty camouflaged by
the wall of Emmys they’ve won in the time
since then. “Bob was a terrific talent, and
continues to be a name frequently associated with our show by viewers of the brand
even though he left the show in 1989,” says
Eric Thorkilsen, CEO of This Old House
Ventures. “Happily, with the introduction of
Steve Thomas in 1989, and Kevin O’Connor
in 2003, This Old House now has the largest
audience in its forty-year history.”
Vila, who’s called himself a capitalist
at heart, makes no bones that he wanted
more from the show. “It was a great place
1973
1977
1979
1980
1980
1983
Vila enrolls at the
Boston Architectural Center.
After, he starts a
home-remodeling
business.
Producers at
WGBH read
about Vila and
his wife’s home
renovation and
contact him.
This Old House
premieres.
This Old House
is picked up by
PBS. It premieres
nationally on
April 16.
Vila’s first book,
This Old House:
Restoring, Rehabilitating, and
Renovating an
Older House.
This Old House
wins its first
Emmy, for Outstanding Talk/
Service Series.
for me to start. Probably the place. But
that was the ’70s and the ’80s. I was young.
I worked hard. I got lucky, I got some help,
and I used what I had,” he says, hands out,
flannel sleeves folded up to his elbows. “In
this business you learn the camera’s your
friend or it’s not.”
For his part, Vila says, there is no bad
blood. “I’m grateful,” he says. “But I never
talk to those guys.”
D
some secret away
from the format of This Old House
to make his mark in the years that
followed? While he believes he’s developed
since then, he knows there was some luck.
“Having produced the Home Again shows
for so many years, having hosted This Old
House for ten, and interviewing so many
regular people, you start to recognize the
ones who are going to be good interviews
and the ones that are going to be difficult.
You deal with it.”
People are quick to give Vila credit for
being the first reality-TV show host, just as
they often cite This Old House as the first
true reality show. Vila doesn’t much want
that credit; at least, he merely shrugs upon
hearing it. “Back then, we came out of the
background of educational TV. That was
the work of it. Teaching.” He smirks a little at the thought of today’s construction
shows. “The programming today comes
from the tradition of Queen for a Day. You
know, they take this family that’s living in
a squalid situation, send them on a cruise,
and when the family comes back, bingo,
they’ve got a palace.”
Here Eric Thorkilsen concurs with Vila:
“This Old House has always devoted as many
as twenty-six episodes to cover a single project, providing far greater information on the
process and techniques involved.”
Put the question to Vila, and he’ll tell you
he was never a general contractor. He was
never trying to convince anyone of that. “I
did the hiring on my projects,” he says. And
he was never a tradesman. “I did the work
I could at the start, like any young guy. But
I learned to listen to the guys who worked
for me on my projects.” He took some of that
trust into the creation of the show.
I D V I L A TA K E
“Mostly, I was the developer on Home
Again, that’s what I knew how to do. It’s
what I’d done on my own restorations. I was
the guy who put together the money deal,
put together the purchase, put together
the contractors, pulled in the architect. I
brought people together.”
“Bob was a teacher,” Tim Allen says.
“He still is. When I remodeled my house
in Michigan, I wanted to have him in for
a look at what I was building. I just wanted
to impress him, you know? Like a favorite teacher from high school. I mean, he’s
Bob Vila, right? And he signed his name
in some wet concrete in the garage somewhere. I just wanted his name on my house,
somewhere. You know, a ‘Bob Vila was here’
kind of thing. The guy really was everywhere then.”
the renovation, whether to replace it with
something more akin to solar tubes, which
are a great product for allowing natural
light into a space.”
The two men busy themselves but stay in
earshot. They want to see this guy, whoever
it is. The welder coils a hose. The carpenter
gathers spilled carriage bolts in his gloved
hand. They listen, and cipher their past,
the practice in the way he speaks, the eagerness for detail.
It’ll come to them.
“And now they have to figure out how to
deal with damage to the interior ceiling,
which is a challenge when they haven’t been
able to see what’s in this attic, behind this
plaster and lath, for over one hundred years.”
The speaker is not wrong about the job.
The guy knows some things. What is he?
A contractor? A professor? An architect?
And when this speaker steps onto the
N D E R TH E D O M E of a large conplatform above them into view, the welder
struction tent on the roof of the
exclaims: “It’s him!”
Hispanic museum, a welder and
A little guy, compact in his vest, locked in
framing carpenter listen to the voice pouron the story of this place. The welder grasps
ing from the platform above them. The
for a name. It’s been a
sonorous narration
while since he’s seen
echoes downward,
this guy, the speaker,
weirdly familiar to
who boot-clunks down
them both. Voice: enthe ladder. Decades
gaged and certain,
“Bob was a teacher.
maybe.
coa xing somehow.
When I remodeled
Meanwhile the carThey tilt their heads
my house in
penter
watches him
and squint, each of
Michigan, I wanted
descend, takes in the
them working to place
to have him in for a
khakis, the f lannel
the speaker, who’s
look. I just wanted
shirt, the down vest.
describing, or explainto impress him,
Suddenly, it adds up
ing the work being
you
know?”
for him. “I knew it,” he
done here, which in—Tim Allen
says, “that’s him.”
cludes the removal and
The welder looks
replacement of the
at his friend like he’s
building’s original flat
crazy. “What’s the
roof, which is a cenname?”
tury old now, which
The carpenter nods toward the man
has leaked for years, into the attic space,
working his way down the rungs. Bob Vila.
the gallery space.
But the names escapes them.
The voice: inquisitive and curious, but
“I think he’s been here before,” the caroddly authoritative. This is their job, but
penter says.
he gets it.
Bob Vila waves to them from the ladder.
“There was originally a skylight here.
They wave back, then close in for a handAnd at some point, it was just covered from
shake. They want to hear what Bob Vila has
above and forgotten. So they’re working
to say about the work at hand.
to figure out, at least in this next phase of
U
1989
1990
1992
1996
2000
2009
Vila leaves This
Old House.
Bob Vila’s Home
Again premieres.
Vila appears on
Home Improvement in an
episode titled
“What About
Bob?”
The short-lived
magazine, Bob
Vila’s American Home, hits
newsstands.
BobVila.com
launches.
Vila begins
working on the
restoration of
Ernest Hemingway’s former
home in Cuba.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
81
BUILD YOUR OWN SLINGSHOT
rubber
band
In his new book, Rubber Band Engineer:
All-Ballistic Pocket Edition, Lance Akiyama
leads you through ten fun projects you can
build in your home. Here’s our favorite, a
slingshot made out of PVC pipe.
cardboard
tube
tongue
depressor
4"
24"
You can fire
off all sorts of
projectiles, including
wine corks, balls of
tape, and probably
a kumquat.
binder
clip
2
½" PVC elbow connectors
2
½" PVC tee connectors
2
½" PVC end caps
PVC primer
PVC cement
spray paint
4
cable ties
2
7" rubber bands
cardboard toilet-paper tube
duct tape
1
large binder clip
2
large tongue depressors
TOOLS REQUIRED
hacksaw
82
Step 1. Wearing safety
glasses, use the hacksaw to
cut three 2-inch lengths and
three 4-inch lengths of PVC
pipe. Set aside one 4-inch
piece for the slingshot’s grip.
The remaining 24-inch piece
will be the handle.
Step 2. Apply primer, then
cement before assembling
the three 2-inch lengths, two
4-inch lengths, elbow connectors, tee connectors, and
end caps in the U-shaped end
of your slingshot, according to the diagram. Allow the
cement to dry.
Step 3. Affix the remaining
4-inch piece of pipe to the
downward-pointing end of
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
the tee connector to form
the grip. Attach the 24-inch
piece of the pipe to the tee
connector for the handle.
Neither connection requires
cement.
Step 4. Spray-paint your
slingshot and allow it to dry.
Step 5. Attach the rubber
bands to the slingshot with
cable ties, according to the
diagram. The ties should
be at least 3 inches apart
to prevent the rubber
bands from twisting
when they release
your missile.
Step 6. Cut a 2-by3-inch rectangle from
the cardboard tube to
form the slingshot’s “sling.”
Position the rubber bands
around the curve of the sling,
then wrap the sling in duct
tape. Test the sling by pulling
it back, ensuring that there
is even tension in the rubber
bands. (If there’s not, undo
the tape and try again.)
I L LU S T R AT I O N BY G E O R G E R E T S E C K
MATERIALS LIST
42" of ½" PVC pipe
end
cap
end
cap
HOW DO THEY DRAW
THE FOUL LINES ON A
BASEBALL FIELD?
cable
tie
4"
4"
elbow
connector
2"
2"
tee
connector
2"
rubber
band
elbow
connector
tee
connector
Step 7. To make the trigger,
attach the binder clip to the
end of the slingshot handle
with duct tape. Press the clip
open, then further secure the
trigger by wrapping more tape
around the slingshot handle and
the inside of the binder clip.
Step 8. Put the two tongue
depressors on top of each
other and wrap them in duct
tape. Attach them to the upper
handle of the binder clip with
more tape.
Step 9. To load your weapon,
place a small, round object like
a cork or a marshmallow into
the sling. Pull back on the sling
and insert it in the binder clip.
Be careful not to let go before
started at the end
of March, crews across the country had to get the
fields ready. Along with mowing the grass and
smoothing the infield dirt, they had to add the
white lines that go down both sides of the field to let
umpires know when a ball is fair or foul. We asked
Clay Wood, the head groundskeeper for the Oakland A’s, how they draw those lines—and how they
keep them so straight.
Some teams make their lines using powdered
chalk, but Wood uses bright white paint. The lines
start at home plate, so before he starts painting,
Wood has to make sure that home plate is in exactly
the right spot, and at the right angle. “If that’s off,
everything is going to be off,” he says.
From the back corner of home plate, he runs a
string past the outside edge of first base to a nail at
the outfield wall. Then he runs another string from
the back corner along the other side of home plate
past third base to the wall. He pulls the strings as
tight as possible to make sure that they’re very
straight and that they won’t move while he’s painting. Next he sprays the paint on with a special tool
called an airless paint sprayer, which is powered by
a small gas engine. The outfield lines are repainted
every three days, and the infield lines are refreshed
for every game.
B E FO R E B A S E B A L L S E A S O N
it’s secure!
Step 10. Aim the slingshot (not
at a person!), then squeeze the
wooden stick and the handle
together in your hand to fire.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
83
P M FA M I LY
TOOL SUDOKU
this Tool Sudoku? Each square needs a tool, and each
tool (hammer, wing nut, ladder, wheel, paintbrush, and safety goggles)
can appear only once in each row, each column, and each box.
CAN YOU SOLVE
Find the solution at popularmechanics.com/tool-sudoku.
hammer
wing nut
ladder
wheel
HOW SPIDERS
USE SILK TO FLY
Most spiders can spin their own silk,
which they use to make webs and
catch prey. But did you know that they
can also use that silk to fly?
84
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
paintbrush
googles
THE LARGEST
SCIENCE FAIR
IN THE WORLD
the technology
company Intel will host its annual International Science and Engineering Fair
(ISEF). This year it’s in Phoenix, where
nearly 2,000 high school students from around the world will compete for prizes. We talked
to one of last year’s winners, Dhruvik Parikh, an 18-year-old from Washington State, about
what it was like to go home with a Young Scientist Award—and $50,000!
When he heard he won, Parikh was in shock. “Just going to the ISEF was something I’d
dreamed of for four years,” he says. Parikh created a part that allows batteries to capture wind
and solar energy more efficiently and for less money than the way we currently do it. “Our power
grid is really old. It’s optimized for fossil fuels [such as oil and natural gas],” he says. “So what
I was looking at was building these batteries that can be reused in the power grid in order to
make the usage of renewable energy more efficient.”
Parikh’s invention could help the world. And so could yours. For more information on ISEF,
go to student.societyforscience.org/intel-isef.
S T A R T I N G M AY 1 2 ,
How does that work?
It’s called “ballooning,” and is
most common among young,
small spiders, says Angela
Chuang, who works in the
department of ecology and
evolutionary biology at the
University of Tennessee.
After climbing to a high surface, the spider points its
abdomen into the wind and
releases silk from its spinnerets. The silk “balloons” from
the spider like a sort of parachute, then a combination
of air currents and electrical
fields catch hold of the silk and
lift it—and the spider—into
the air.
Why do spiders want to fly?
Unlike ants or bees, which work
together in a group, most spiders live alone. When spiders lay
egg sacs, those sacs can contain hundreds of baby spiders.
If they all stayed in the same
place, those spiders would have
to compete with each other for
food. So they fly away.
How far can they go?
Chuang says that some scientists have documented spiders
traveling as far as 2,000 miles.
But since it’s so hard to track
these tiny, eight-legged parachutists, we don’t know exactly
how far is normal.
@PopularMechanics _ May 2019
85
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WHAT IT DOES: Works as a phone
and a pedometer, lets you send
and receive texts, has an SOS
button for emergencies, and
always lets your parents know
where you are
REVIEWERS: Sascha (10) and
Chloe (6) Zissu, New York
THEIR TAKE
SASCHA:
kind of fun considering it’s close to being
a phone, which I don’t have. I liked that it
tracked my steps because I’m envious that
my parents’ phones can do that. It was fun to
chat with my mom when I was bored and to
call people. It felt like a spy watch. My friends
thought it was cool, too. It’s perfect for kids
who aren’t old enough to have a phone.
CHLOE: My favorite part was recording messages and getting chats from my mom. I also
MOM (AIMEE): The Dyno is a great precursor to a smartphone. It was simple to track
the girls and monitor the watch on the app.
It was easy to use, even for the six-year-old,
just swiping to change functions. I liked that I
set up the contacts so they only got calls and
texts from people I approved. I never realized
how much fun it would be to get messages
from them while they were at school.
timepiecesusa.com/pm94wm
A COMPUTER
THAT TEACHES
YOU HOW TO HACK
THE TOY: Hack Laptop ($299; hackcomputer.com)
WHAT IT DOES: Lets you modify
the source code of a game so that
you can change parts of the game
while you’re playing. If you finish
the game, each month Hack
releases a new challenge that
you can download for $10.
EAT SERIOUS. HAVE FUN.
Westchester, NY
Known for his boundary-pushing style
and creative dishes, David DiBari is
Chef and Owner of The Cookery and
The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Both
restaurants have earned an “Excellent”
rating from The New York Times
with DiBari praised for his “smartly
executed, neo-nostalgic Italian menu.”
DiBari also owns DoughNation Pizza,
a mobile, wood-fired pizza oven that
travels to private and corporate events
throughout the Hudson Valley.
The Rare Bit, in Dobbs Ferry, is
neighborhood restaurant by two
American dudes, Chef DiBari & Scott
Broccoli (co-owner) who think British
food is just the dogs bollocks (The best!).
The newest restaurant in the group is
Eugene’s Diner & Bar in Port Chester,
serves creative takes on classic
American diner dishes, remastered and
elevated for the modern palate.
REVIEWERS: Isaac (15) and Carissa (9)
Fletcher, New Mexico
THEIR TAKE
ISAAC: The Hack has many of the functions
of a normal laptop. It leads you through an
interactive story and eventually builds up to
working in the code. At first, it just gives you
a panel with sliders to adjust things in the
game, but later on, you use the code to build
in elements you need to beat the level. It
took me about an hour to get through it. For
someone my age, Hack may seem too simple. I would recommend it for any kid from
ages eight to 12, or maybe even younger
with help from a parent.
CARISSA: At the beginning you’re just playing a game. Then you end up following a story.
86
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
Text boxes pop up in the top right with different characters. You can switch it at any time.
Sometimes you can affect the game. During
the game you can add or remove components,
or move things around to beat the levels.
Some you can’t beat without doing that.
ISAAC: It’s a great program now. It would
become even more versatile if they sold the
software separately and didn’t require you
to also buy the computer.
MOM (EMILY): I would do the subscription
service, but I don’t like the idea of buying a
laptop. We already have two, so we don’t
need another.
October 18-20, 2019
Bethlehem, PA
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CREDITS
p. 7 Instagrams: Salty Times, Laguna Tools;
p. 14 cockpit: Daniel Shea; Cessna, Piper: Getty
Images; p. 15 Cessna: Getty; Airplane!: Everett
Collection; p. 18 Kevin Sweeney/Studio D; p. 20
Everett; p. 21 Godzilla: King of the Monsters:
Warner Bros.; Godzilla: Everett; rectenna:
Xianjing Zhou/MIT; p. 23 map: Getty; Bok Bar:
Sam Oberter; p. 28 door: Jesper Klausen/Science Photo Library; peeling paint: Alamy Stock
Photo; p. 30 brewer: Jack Affleck; p. 34 Getty;
pp. 40–41 Jaguar: David Shepherd; Ram: FCA
US LLC; Lexus: James Lipman; p. 43 Buick:
Talisman Photo; Porsche: Yang-Yi; Tesla rally:
Josh Bogardus; p. 46 Marianne Purdie; p. 52
phone charger, Santana and Miles: Getty; p. 53
sawdust: Getty; p. 56 food styling: Michelle
Gatton/Hello Artists; prop styling: JJ Chan/
Halley Resources; p. 58 Duluth: Stuart Tyson;
Newman and Eastwood: Getty; Ghostbusters,
Top Gun: Alamy; p. 59 shingle, hairpiece: Getty;
brake pad: Dave White; p. 69 wind tester: Matthew Kiedaisch; a/c, air hockey, laptop: Getty;
p. 72 toilet, outhouse: Getty; p. 74 Kiedaisches:
Matthew Kiedaisch; pp. 78–79 Home Improvement: Getty; book: Philip Friedman/Studio D;
p. 80 Curtis, Johnson: Alamy; Holmes, Abram,
O’Connor, Scott brothers, Vila, Gaineses, Taylor, Pennington, Van Winkle: Getty; p. 84 tools:
Getty; p. 85 science fair: Chris Ayers/Society
for Science & the Public; winners: Intel Corp.
P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S (ISSN 0032-4558) is
published monthly (except combined issues in December/
January/February and July/August), 9 times a year, by
Hearst, 300 West 57th St., NY, NY 10019 USA. Steven
R. Swartz, President & Chief Executive Officer; William
R. Hearst III, Chairman; Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Executive
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As a service to readers, Popular Mechanics publishes
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What’s Wrong with This Picture?
THIS MONTH
G RI LLI NG
There are at least six errors in the way these people are using a grill. Identify as
many as you can and email them to us at [email protected] with the
subject line “Grill Safety.” We’ll run the answers in the July/August issue.
W H AT W A S W R O N G W IT H T H E L A ST O N E? A N S W E R S T O M A R C H’S L A D D E R S A F E T Y
A N S W ER S:
• No shoes • One climber at a time • Ladder is
too short • Broken rung • Ladder not on even
ground • Never climb past the third-to-last rung
• Climber leaning too far.
92
May 2019 _ PopularMechanics.com
TOTAL RESPONSES
340
TIMES BIGFOOT WAS
CALLED A GORILLA
7
DISAPPOINTED
OSHA INSTRUCTORS
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Our favorite observation came
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an apparently tile roof?”
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