Made by Hand in LA Times' Brand X

Jessica Hundley of the LA Times' Brand X interveiwed me about my new book, Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World.
Made-By-Hand-Cover-1 BX: Were there stumbling blocks along the way for you during writing the book, with embarking on DIY experiments that maybe didn't work or were too hard?

MF: There were certain things. I was getting interested in alternative energy and there's this group of people who are into human powered energy. They basically build a bike with a giant flywheel and they generate electricity with it. I looked into it and realized that to provide my family's electrical needs I'd have to pedal 1,000 hours a month. I don't want to knock anyone who does it, but for me, it wasn't enough bang for the buck. And the other thing is when my chickens started to get picked off and I was getting desperate to save them. And we were just surrounded by predators: bobcats and raccoons and coyotes. I felt pretty over my head then. We also considered a goat, but someone has to milk the goat twice a day, and I do travel and, I don't know, do you hire a goat milker? With this book I wanted to do things that would enrich our lives and would be possible to do and still work and write and spend time with my family.


UPDATE: Brand X has added a photo gallery of the DIY stuff at my place. Photos by Lawrence K. Ho for the Los Angeles Times.

Citizen scientist: Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder's handmade touch in a tech-driven world

Also, here are a few recent bloggers' reviews of Made By Hand:

• "Of course it's not merely good, it's foundation-shaking, at least for me." – Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog

• "I read the first chapter and became hooked.  I read it cover to cover in under a day." -- Lane Holloway

• "Lucky for Mark Frauenfelder, I liked his book." -- Jeff Cutler's Test Lab

• "It was an easy and pleasurable read." -- NovoKane

• "...the author makes a persuasive case that a DIY approach can help its practitioners achieve "a richer and more meaningful life, a life of engagement with the world." – Hardy Green, DailyFinance

• "...not only was I entertained I was educated on a wide range of topics!" – Recycled Crafts


  1. About the bicycling for energy: Sure, you couldn’t possibly cycle enough to provide ALL the energy, but would it be at least saving some money to cycle while doing some monotonous activity, such as watching TV or computering?

    1. BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory did a great special about this called “Human Power Station”. They made a dummy house, with all the power coming from “somewhere green” and moved a family in to go about their normal day.

      The power supply was cyclists. Up to 128 at a time.

      I can only find this youtube clip, but it shows how many human beings it takes to power an average house.. with kettles boiling, power showers going, toasters, tv.. It was an excellent illustration of just how much actual (incidental) energy we get from the millions-of-years nature has invested in coal/oil production (eg. just to boil a kettle or have a shower, these ~hundred or so humans have to sweat their asses off). Shocking, for me anyway.

      EDIT: full ep here

  2. Ordered my copy yesterday.

    Generator cycle duty could be reserved for kids who leave the lights on or who want to be driven places they can easily walk.

    Or, capture one of the chicken-eating coyotes and put him on a treadmill.

  3. Actually, I think It was nearer 64 cyclists.. (I’m counting off the last shot in the youtube clip).

  4. The interesting thing to me about the “human power” thing is that it frequently ignores the cost of the feed stock for the humans. If you’re burning more calories, you’re sure as hell going to eat more, and that increase in consumption is at a heavy energy and carbon cost. Less so if you’re a vegetarian, but it still isn’t free.

    Anyway, congrats on the good press, Mark! I’m going to pick up a copy of your book. Sounds very interesting.

  5. dc, totally! It’s much easier to understand that when you remove yourself from the equation and think of another set of humans (who usually require money and food to do work) doing the equivalent exertion.

    It all comes down to the disparity in what the oil or coal cost to make vs how much we dig it up for. It cost millions of years of life, eating, growing and dying. And we burn through it in seconds for pennies.

  6. Interesting read. Picked up a hard copy of Brand X article @ a Santa Monica Starbucks and it was my lunchtime entertainment. The beehive/honey project is of particular interest to me. Mark- since you live in an urban area, have you had an issues with managing the colony?

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