Leif Erikson, the Viking explorer, is usually just briefly touched on in elementary school classrooms. But his rich story is a captivating one that any child – or adult – would enjoy. As a boy he moved from Iceland to icy Greenland, where his father established the continent’s first settlement. Eric grew up learning how to sail ships, throw spears, and catch sea animals for dinner. He played with baby polar bears and dreamed of adventures.
As a young adult Leif sailed to Norway and charmed the king with a Greenland falcon on his fist and a bear cub at his side. The king granted him permission to explore the west (Leif’s father had once seen a speck of something west of Greenland on an earlier exploration), and Leif became the first European to set foot in America (Canada) – 500 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” it. Soon Leif’s relatives settled in this new land – for a while – until, well, I won’t give the whole story away, but let’s just say they were chased off the new land and forced to hightail it back to Greenland.
As soon as I laid my eyes on this book I was blown away by the stunning art: the bold popping colors on some pages, the beautifully shaded black and white images on others, and the saturated details and texture that all of the illustrations enjoy. And then I found out the book was first published in 1941 by Doubleday, created by the bohemian husband-and-wife team Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, who wrote 27 illustrated books in all (many of them tales about Scandinavian heroes and mythology). Leif the Lucky is one of three of their books to be reprinted by University of Minnesota Press, and I now need to get my hands on the other two (Children of the Northlights and Ola).
Leif the Lucky, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
See sample pages of Leif the Lucky at Wink.
David Warther shows how he makes working wooden pliers with a single piece of basswood. "There's nothing to it. It's just trial and error. It took me a few packages of bandaids to learn. And it might you, too."
Look at the pretty design I made using Nathan Friend's elegant Inspirograph site.
Just released today is Pippi Won’t Grow Up, Drawn and Quarterly’s third volume of Pippi Longstocking comics. Last spring I reviewed the hilarious second volume, Pippi Fixes Everything, and this one is just as whimsical, humorous and utterly charming.
Read the rest
Our family friend Sunny is a great ukulele player and project maker. Here's here new web series, Life Hacks for Kids.
Just in time for the Christmas season, Bob Knetzger
has instructions to build your own tiny child-nabber. Read the rest
My book Maker Dad has instructions for making this Mid-Century Modern rocking chair. The design is based on a chair that was built around 1950 by Alexey Brodovitch, a designer who was the art director at Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. I built Brodovitch's chair and discovered that it was not very sturdy. I changed the design to have better support, and a few iterations later came up with a chair that felt more robust.
Last week Edward Reading sent me photos of the chair he built with his son. He improved on my design: "I counter-sunk the dowels about half the thickness of the plywood, and glued them for additional support. I also notched the sides to receive the 8" brace, and glued that in as well." Good job, Ed!
Here are photos of his chair:
Ed's son is holding the peg trick, which you can see in the above video.
Buy Maker Dad on Amazon
My friend William Gurstelle told me: "Remember when you assigned me the Make magazine story about the Chaotic Double Pendulum? Well, I always thought that was one of my very best projects. About two years ago, I invented a toy based on that project and called it the Chaos Machine. I've been working with Fat Brain Toys on the project for quite a while and lo and behold, as of today, we're ready to go.
Chaos Machine ($40)
I want to make one of these.
As a young boy, Tom Fassbender
remembers being fascinated by Easter Island while watching In Search Of
, but he never thought he'd have the chance to actually visit the place — then his family decided to travel around the world.Read the rest
Written by pop-culture authors Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers (who is also a toy camera collector), Camera Crazy is an attractively photographed collection of functioning toy cameras, which were popularized in the 1960s when the plastic 120 film “Diana” hit the market for only $1 a pop. Although always a hit with children, toy cameras have also been revered by collectors and photographers who welcome the artistic challenge of shooting with a plastic box that offers only a fixed focus and single shutter speed. From 1970s Mick-A-Matics and Gobots Cameras (1985) to Tamagotchi Cameras (1997) and Lego Digital Cameras (2011) – and everything in between – this book pays homage to over one-hundred of these cameras as well as many photographs produced by these “toys.” With a camera now included in every smart phone, I hope toy cameras don’t become a thing of the past.
Camera Crazy by Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers
Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.
From Futility Closet: a cool little paper boomerang.
Mathematician Yutaka Nishiyama of the Osaka University of Economics has designed a nifty paper boomerang that you can use indoors. A free PDF template (with instructions in 70 languages!) is here.
Hold it vertically, like a paper airplane, and throw it straight ahead at eye level, snapping your wrist as you release it. The greater the spin, the better the performance. It should travel 3-4 meters in a circle and return in 1-2 seconds. Catch it between your palms.
As Steve Hoefer's
uncle would say, "I cut it twice and it's still too short."Read the rest
My 11-year-old daughter Jane and I recorded a 2-day video workshop produced by CreativeLive. You can watch it today for free. We'll show you how to make 12 cool projects, ranging from electronic musical instruments to balloon videocameras.
Rob Cockerham says: "I enlisted my kids to help with a trial where I hoped to illustrate the optimum spray angle of whipped cream. I thought it would be 90 degrees, I was totally wrong."