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100 Ask Roy



Motorcycle Headsets


Survival Gear


Build a
Kind Guitar

Tool Test:
Locking Pliers 50

Life on
a Wind


My Mitsubishi,
My Home


Hollywood Special Effects


Vintage Keyboards
Road Tested:
Honda, GMC,
Range Rover

The light beer that launched the category. Brewed for more taste. Only 96 calories.




What Helps You Survive

IN 2012, MY WIFE AND I MOVED our young family out of the big city to a small, old farm-
house that had a barn, a stream, and lots of character. Three weeks later, Superstorm
Sandy blew down trees, flooded the stream, and knocked out our power for 11 days. rhdagostino On New Year’s Eve,
Welcome to life in the country. throwing back to an amazing day
with the NYPD Air Sea Rescue
In the city, we had lived in an eighth-floor apartment where uniformed crews fixed, team. Thanks to them and the entire
cleaned, and maintained everything for us. Now we had a well for water and an aging force, including the world-class
Counterterrorism Bureau, always
boiler in the basement. (“Character.”) In the aftermath of Sandy, we slept on the living- and especially tonight. @nypd
room floor by the fireplace. We had just moved, knew no one, still got lost on the way to #counterterrorism #nypd #police
#newyearseve #helicopter #thanks
the gas station. We felt alone.
And then:
Our new neighbors, Susan and Richard, brought over a Coleman camp stove, on which
we heated soup and water for coffee. Some friends of theirs invited our two boys over for
trick-or-treating. (The storm struck just before Halloween, which was largely canceled
that year.) The town supervisor, Warren, whose parents lived across the street from us,
stopped by to tell us there was food, warmth,
and Wi-Fi at the local ambulance corps, to
One of the most which he also gave us directions.
Small kindnesses, which are no small
essential tools for thing at all, got us through that. Of course,
survival has our little plight was nothing compared
with those so many people faced last year rhdagostino My dad’s basement
nothing to do with in what seemed like an unusually cruel slew workroom, Christmas 2017, same
as ever. #diy #workshop #tools
waterproof of natural disasters. Hurricanes, fires, and #likefatherlikeson #projects

flashlights or hand- earthquakes tore up Houston, Southern Cal-

ifornia, Puerto Rico, Florida, the U.S. Virgin
crank radios. Islands, Mexico City, Iran, and other places.
We had to wait 11 days before we could cook
on a stove or watch TV, but as I write this, an
unconscionable four months have passed since Hurricane Maria killed electricity for
something like three million people in Puerto Rico, and it’s still out.
As part of our regular coverage of how to survive in the physical world, we sent Pop-
ular Mechanics field editor James Lynch to St. Thomas, a United States territory that
was ripped apart by Hurricane Irma. We wanted to explore one of the most essential
tools for survival, one that has nothing to do with waterproof flashlights or hand-crank
radios: help from others.
rhdagostino Found this after like
You can buy batteries, food, and the kinds of essential gear and supplies we found, a year. Thank god. Never will it leave
tested, and feature starting on page 80. But there are some things only other people can my belt loop again. @leathermantools
#diy #tools #leatherman
do for you, and there are some people in this world who jump to do those things. In send-
ing Lynch to a ravaged island, we wanted to explore that instinct. We wanted to talk to
people who, after the hurricane, didn’t ask what they could do but instead bought plane
tickets and showed up. The convergence of strangers on chaos can yield moments that
are messy and awkward. But then, once the T-shirts are handed out and the bunks are
assigned and the shovels distributed, real work gets done. Cleanup happens. Rebuilding
starts. People don’t feel so alone. Survival is a process that doesn’t end when the rains
stop or the fires die out. For many, that’s when it begins.

rhdagostino Father-son dinner.

RYAN D’AGOSTINO #supper #burgers #broccoli
Editor in Chief #tvdinner #castironskillet

4 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

Discover what lies beyond.

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"|Ѵbv_7-m1;7"or_bvঞ1-|;7$_;m; oѴ7)bm]® is rebuilt from the road up, nearly
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THE OWNER’S MANUAL THOROUGHLY. For rider training information or to locate a rider training course near you, call the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at 800-446-9227. *For using Apple CarPlay, connection to a commercially available
Bluetooth® headset is necessary. Apple CarPlay™ is a trademark of Apple Inc. Bluetooth® is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc. Gold Wing® is a registered trademark of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. ©2018 American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
celebrating Monster Machines Week,
where we take a look into how the big-
gest machines in the world are built,
maintained, and operated. Head to
machines to find this exclusive content:
• How the crawler-transporters, a pair
of massive vehicles used to move NASA
space shuttles, are being updated to carry
NASA’s forthcoming Space Launch Sys-
tem, the world’s most powerful rocket.
• Up-close video of the Bagger 288
bucket-wheel excavator, the 27-million-
pound mining machine that’s one of the
largest land vehicles in the world.
• How giant space telescopes such as the
Giant Magellan Telescope (above) and
the Extremely Large Telescope are
constructed and used.


ARE YOU ON Snapchat? If not, you’re

missing out on one of the best new ways
to read Popular Mechanics. Each week,
T H E P ODC AST we bring together our top articles, videos,
On the Most Useful Podcast Ever hosts Jacqueline and photos in an interactive and easy-to-
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Detwiler and Kevin Dupzyk are getting ready for sugaring phone. Take it on the train, to the doctor’s
season. They’ll learn how to tap trees and turn sap into syrup. office, or wherever you want to read PM on
Find these and other useful tips, projects, and reviews on the the go. To find us, download the Snapchat
Most Useful Podcast Ever, available on Apple Podcasts. app and swipe right twice.


@popularmechanics @PopMech PopMech /PopularMechanics

Get our attention with #PopularMechanics

Editor in Chief Ryan D’Agostino • Design Director Michael Wilson • Executive Editor Peter Martin • Managing Editor Helene F. Rubinstein •
Deputy Managing Editor Aimee E. Bartol • Associate Creative Director Allyson Torrisi • Articles Editor Jacqueline Detwiler • Senior Editors
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6 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

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W E’VE SEEN W H AT North Korea can do, and
even though it hasn’t been in the news lately, the
experts we consulted say that terrorists are still
trying to get dirty bombs into the country. The
threat of a nuclear attack on the United States is higher than
it’s been since Berlin had a wall down its center and Weird Al
had a movie career. But what would that attack entail? What
NOT THAT IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN, kind of damage would a nuclear bomb cause, and what, if any-
BUT BECAUSE IT COULD. thing, could we do to get ready for it?


1 The fireball 2 The blast sends 3 If the bomb 4 The initial 5 With a 10-
created by a a shock wave is detonated shock wave kiloton bomb,
nuclear bomb that would in the air, as lessens after everyone

can reach tens destroy nearly opposed to on the first ring, within this
of millions of everyone and the ground, but will still ring would
degrees. everything 50% to 90% of demolish receive third-
within this first people in this most residen- degree burns
ring. area will die tial buildings from thermal
from radiation and cause radiation.
exposure with- widespread
out medical casualties.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 9


THERMO - AIRBURST: A nuclear weapon FALLOUT: When a nuclear explosion occurs YIELD: The ATOMIC BOMB: A bomb powered
NUCLEAR detonated in the air to maximize at ground level, the blast blows bits of dirt destruc- by nuclear fission, the splitting of
WEAPON: destructive capabilities. Since the and debris into the air, where they become tive power atoms. Most atomic bombs are rated
See “hydrogen blast comes from above, it is less radioactive and are carried by the winds of a nuclear in kilotons—each of which is the
bomb.” contained by buildings around it. before falling back down to earth. weapon. equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

1 2
A nuclear explosion that
occurs on the ground
creates a smaller shock
wave than an airburst,
but also sends a mush-
room cloud of radioactive 6
material into the air,
where it is carried for
miles by the wind.

Who What 5
Would Would 4

Do It Happen 3

According to Jeff Whether the nuke is det-
Schlegelmilch, onated in the air or on the
1 Fireball
deputy director of ground, the initial threat is 2 Initial
the National Center for the fireball, which can reach shock wave
Disaster Preparedness at tens of millions of degrees. 3 Weakened
shock wave
Columbia University, the “If you’re within that, you’re
4 Radiation
most likely nuclear weapon dead,” Schlegelmilch says. radius
will be trucked in and According to an online sim- 5 Thermal
exploded on the ground. He ulation created by Alex radiation
estimates its yield at 10 to Wellerstein at the Stevens
6 Fallout
15 kilotons—the same as Institute of Technology (it’s direction
Hiroshima. “This type of interactive, scary, and fun;
threat is very survivable,” he go to nuclearsecrecy.com/
says. “It would be bad, but nukemap/), a 10-kiloton ball and shock wave, now FA LLO UT
the republic would survive.” bomb would produce a fire- you have to avoid the radia- If the attack comes from
ball with a radius of 500 to tion. Exposure within three the ground, dirt and debris
NORTH KOREA 650 feet. quarters of a mile of that are irradiated and shot into
For a long time, 10-kiloton bomb, Weller- the air by the explosion,
North Korea’s S H O C K WAV E stein shows, will kill up to forming the classic mush-
nuclear threat After the fireball comes 90 percent of people with- room cloud. Winds can
was capped in the 10- to the shock wave, or air blast. out medical treatment. For carry the radiation, called
15-kiloton range. But earlier If detonated in the air, that a quarter-mile past that, nuclear fallout, from that
this year, says Michael same 10-kiloton bomb your chances of survival cloud tens or hundreds of
Elleman, senior fellow for would destroy most build- increase, but you’ll get third- miles away, depending on
missile defense at the ings and kill nearly everyone degree burns, which you the size of the bomb and the
International Institute for within 0.38 miles of ground probably won’t feel, because strength of the wind. As it
Strategic Studies and an zero. The effect is reduced by the radiation also kills your falls back to earth, it sickens
analyst for 38 North, a 23 percent if the detonation pain receptors. more people.
North Korea–tracking site, occurs on the ground. The
“North Korea detonated a shock wave weakens from
thermonuclear weapon with there, but can still take out TIP!
a yield ranging between 150 residential buildings and BUY YOUR HOME UPWIND OF
kilotons and 250 kilotons. cause mass casualties two
The tested weapon very to two and a half times the You probably shouldn’t choose real estate based on the
likely could be fit on the initial spread of the shock chances of a nuclear attack, but if it comes down to two
places and you can’t decide? Go with the one in the area that’s
HS-15,” the ICBM the wave, according to Weller-
less likely to have nuclear fallout carried to it by prevailing
country tested in November, stein’s projections. winds. In the New York City area, that’s New Jersey. You can
“which could reach most, if find a map of the prevailing winds in your area at hint.fm.
not all, of the U.S. R A D I AT I O N They’re strangely beautiful.
mainland.” If you survive the fire-

10 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

GROUND BURST: A nuclear ICBM: A missile that can travel thousands HYDROGEN BOMB: Also called a thermonuclear weapon, this PREVAILING
weapon detonated on the of miles by exiting Earth’s atmosphere, hit- type of bomb is much more powerful than an atomic bomb. It’s WINDS: Air currents
ground. It causes less wide- ting suborbital space, and reentering the actually set off by an atomic bomb, and gets its power from the over a particular area
spread destruction than an atmosphere. Most commonly used in the resulting nuclear fusion, the combining of atoms. Most hydrogen that typically flow in
airburst, but releases fallout. delivery of nuclear weapons. bombs are rated in megatons, the equivalent of 1,000 kilotons. the same direction.

“The good news is, if you make it through the blast and shock wave, you are
now in a survivable situation,” Schlegelmilch says. If you’re close to the blast
you need to get to a shelter. “At best, you have 15 to 20 minutes before the fall-
out starts to come back down,” he says. “If you’re farther out, you could have
more time, but the reality is, you aren’t going to have time to evaluate the sit-
uation. If you see a nuclear flash, the first thing to do is get behind a barrier TIP!
in case the shock wave comes. Then get to the inner part of a building. Ideally THICKNESS OF
you’d be protected by thick concrete, underground if possible. Glass and most MATERIALS
What metals won’t provide you much protection.” (See right.) If the explosion was
ground based, you can also protect yourself by getting above the blast—usu- PROTECT
You ally higher than the ninth floor of a building. Be sure to stay near the center of YOURSELF
the building in a room with substantial walls. (See below.)
Should If you somehow get stuck outside and think fallout is falling around you,
Do cover your nose and mouth with a rag and close your eyes. Get to shelter
immediately, where you should remove your outer layer of clothing, includ- Steel: 5 inches
ing that rag you just held over your face, and double seal it in plastic bags. Brick: 16 inches
Take a shower as soon as possible.
The danger of fallout is relatively short-lived. The Department of Home- Packed
earth: 2 feet
land Security says that radioactivity is reduced by 90 percent after seven
hours. Two days later, only 1 percent of the original radiation remains. Still, Water: 3 feet
maybe stay in that shelter for one more day. Just to be safe.

Protection This graphic, based on information from by the

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, shows
Factor how protected you’d be from radiation in different
Excellent parts of different types of buildings. 9 250
> 500
Very Good 8 1400
10–39 7 750
4–9 8 21
1–3 36 28
5 7 29 3 125

30 50 475 1000



How Radiation Causes Cancer

WEAR Roughly 15 percent of the make up the cells in your body. it hits the wrong places in your
WHITE energy released in the initial That radiation randomly dam- genome, the genes that control
Brighter colors blast and fallout of an atomic ages the DNA in your cells—as if cell growth can start to function
reflect more bomb is high-frequency ionizing you’ve been shot with millions of abnormally. Certain cells divide
radiation. Not so radiation. Unlike other forms of tiny pins. (UV rays are border- out of control, causing tumors,
much more that radiation, such as visible light line ionizing, which is why you leukemias, or other cancers. The
it’ll really mat- and microwaves, ionizing radia- can get skin cancer from tan- risk is particularly high for chil-
ter, but it might tion is fast and energetic enough ning.) If ionizing radiation strips dren, whose cells have divided
make you feel a
little better.
to strip electrons from mole- enough electrons from your less often and are more likely to
cules, including the ones that DNA, or if you’re unlucky and run amok if damaged.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 11

Thor Trucks
300 miles
CEO and founder
Dakota Semler
previously oper-
ated his own fleet
of heavy-duty
vehicles that did
freight hauling,
giving him an
insider’s perspec-
tive on design
and operational

The Trucks

Nikola Two
800 to 1,200

stop to recharge.

Since the Tesla Semi truck was
unveiled in November, every week
has brought a new announcement
of investors: PepsiCo preordered 100. Sysco
ordered 50. Anheuser-Busch ordered 40.
WHY ARE FOOD AND BEVERAGE Canadian grocery chain Loblaw’s ordered
25. It’s a remarkable display of confidence
COMPANIES SO INTERESTED IN in electric trucking by a single industry—
ELECTRIC SEMIS? not to mention a huge investment. The
reasons behind this surprising confluence
turn out to be not surprising at all.
Who’s preordering Tesla trucks?
PepsiCo Sysco Anheuser-Busch Loblaw’s Supermarket Walmart Meijer Supercenter
10 0 50 40 25 15 4

Industry-Specific DRIVER
One of the biggest
areas of headache
for trucking companies
is retaining drivers, and
these trucks have a very
innovative design. It is a
more comfortable experi- TRAVEL DISTANCE
ence for the driver: They’re When you look at bev-
surrounded by windows erage companies and
RESTRICTIONS and there are other features EMISSIONS grocery chains, a lot of what
With diesel trucks, that we think can help Our PepsiCo vehicle they’re moving is going to
there are all sorts of make a very tough job a bet- fleet is currently com- be on a short-haul basis, like
restrictions on idling rules, ter job. So we view that as a prised of several different trucking product from a bev-
and those engines actually potential source of return, fuel-efficient models, includ- erage distribution plant to
have to be on to power sup- less turnover in the drivers ing electric-vehicle box regional distributors. From
porting systems like lift that drive our products to trucks, compressed-natural- an electronic standpoint
gates and refrigeration. market.” gas tractors, and advanced that’s a fantastic setup. You
Electric vehicles are great —JAM E S S E M B ROT diesel technology from some don’t have to deal with die-
because you don’t have to Senior director of of the leading manufactur- sel fuel, and you’d be able to
have an engine idling for an strategy and logistics, ers around the world. The have that dedicated infra-
hour or two hours while you Anheuser-Busch Tesla Semi truck represents structure set up for charging
unload the vehicle. You can one part of our broader strat- stations along the way while
draw directly from the bat- egy, offering us a unique you go back and forth.”
tery pack of the vehicle.” opportunity for us to explore —J O N SAM SO N
— DAKOTA S E M LE R electrification across our Executive director,
Founder and CEO, Thor Trucks Class Seven and Eight fleet.” Agricultural and Food
— B ROO KE VAN E Transporters Conference,
COMMUNITY IMPACT Company representative, American Trucking
Food and beverage PepsiCo Associations
companies are a really
unique space; often they
have a hub model where
their inbound product will
come into the distribution
center through one fleet, Case Study
and then their delivery fleet
will deliver it to regional Anheuser-Busch preordered 40 Tesla electric Semis for use in short-
stores, like a grocery store. distance deliveries from the brewery to wholesalers and has partnered
A lot of these delivery fleets with Nikola to develop hydrogen-powered long-haul technology.
support businesses in res-
idential neighborhoods,
which creates conflict for Anheuser- Each year, The 40 Tesla On any given According to
residents who don’t want Busch spends trucks trans- tractors will be day, if you Tesla’s estimates,
about $120 porting part of a 750- took each of Anheuser-
loud, dirty diesel trucks
million on Anheuser-Busch truck fleet Anheuser- Busch could
driving through their neigh- fuel each year, product travel that transports Busch’s tractor expect to save
borhood. With electric, you which includes enough miles beer from trailers en $8 million on
can have a fleet that oper- fuel for its ded- to circle the Anheuser- route to cus- fuel by using
ates without anyone ever icated fleets Earth 18,000 Busch’s tomers and the 40 Tesla
hearing them. They create and long-haul times. breweries lined them up electric Semis.
less road noise than a con- transportation directly to one directly
by private car- wholesalers. in front of the
ventional gas passenger car. riers that move other, the
That’s really impactful for beer between line would
quality of life.” breweries and stretch 50
— DAKOTA SEMLER wholesalers. miles.
Sunny-day floods—surges caused by high tides, not heavy rains—are ten
times more frequent today than 50 years ago. William Sweet, an oceanog-
rapher at NOAA, explains what they are, and why they’re getting worse.
Popular sea level is also rising. mass, its gravitational
Mechanics: Where PM: But sea-level rise attraction is less. This
are sunny-day floods is the main factor. redistribution means
happening? WS: Yes, it increases the U.S. feels an addi-
William Sweet: It’s the reach of high tides. tional rise.
more low-lying East Melt from ice sheets PM: How are cities
Coast and Gulf Coast and glaciers—plus preparing?
cities like Houston, thermal expansion— WS: They’re investing
Atlantic City, Miami. put the current global in pumps and inflow-
It’ll be sunny out, but sea-level rise at one preventer storm
suddenly streets are inch every eight years. drains. It’s analogous
under water. It doesn’t But gravity is also to snow in the North-
help that the land is working against us: east: Cities just have
sinking there, while As Antarctica loses to budget for it.

PROTECT The next Equifax-type breach is unavoidable, but installing a

virtual private network (VPN) on your computer can thwart any
YOUR DATA Latvian teens trying to assume your identity and order a run of Air
WITH A VPN Jordans. They can get login information from whichever institu-
tion gets caught with its digital pants down next, but a VPN will
shield the additional data needed to confirm and exploit your identity. Think of the data
your computer sends and receives (emails, bank login, FaceTime) as a letter. Whenever
you’re using public Wi-Fi, you’re sending out that letter without an envelope. People can
read it. Using a VPN, your data goes straight to your VPN provider, which encrypts your
data to outsiders before sending it on. It’s like putting that letter in an envelope, then a
locked briefcase. The good news is that new VPNs are crazy simple to use—open an app,
click “Connect.” The downsides: They can slow your connection, cause errors in apps like
Netflix that need location data, and the only VPNs worth using cost money. We like
Private Internet Access ($40 for 12 months) and PureVPN ($59 for 24 months).

Ford Motor Company introduced assembly exo-
skeletons to its Michigan Assembly Plant outside
EXOSKELETON Detroit last summer, giving workers in the pilot

FOR AUTO program a strength boost for overhead assembly.

The electronics-free, spring-powered EksoVest is
WORKERS worn like a hiking pack—over the shoulder, across
the chest, around the waist—with additional
attachments around the biceps. Autoworkers then set the power and assisted
range of motion. The trial isn’t the first step toward a hyperproductive UAW
cyborg, but a matter of reducing fatigue and injury, says Marty Smets, a
Ford technical expert who managed the program. Ford partnered with Ekso
Bionics, maker of the Ekso GT exoskeleton for stroke and spinal rehabilita-
tion, on a smaller and lighter device that didn’t slow workers. Paul “Woody”
Collins, an assembly worker Ford made available, spends four hours of his
ten-hour shift installing canisters on the bottom of Ford Focuses, and was one
of four workers in the pilot program. “It engages once I lift my arm above my
stomach,” he says. “I still have to control the canister, but I can relax my mus-
cles.” Collins adds that he doesn’t feel as tired at the end of the week. Ford is
still reviewing the program before making the EksoVest widely available.

14 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

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base platform
ball and

T H E F R A M E S A R O U N D the cases that protect might be easier to simply lock the documents away,
the original versions of the Constitution, the Bill says Janice Stagnitto Ellis, senior paper conservator
of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence at the National Museum of American History, but
are made of pure titanium coated with gold that displaying the Charters of Freedom—as those three
matches the Rotunda of the National Archives documents are collectively called—and other found-
Building. Inside the cases, each document sits on an ing texts, is essential. “We keep artifacts because
individually machined they are like witnesses
aluminum platform, to the past. We want to
OTHER PLACES perforated so that mois- share in that experi-
THE DECLARATION ture can reach the back ence, and they allow us
OF INDEPENDENCE of the parchment, keep- to have those difficult
HAS BEEN KEPT ing it supple. Tempered conversations.”
and laminated glass, Inert argon, kept at
calibrated to a thick- about 40 percent hu-
ness of three-eighths of midity and 67 degrees
An abandoned an inch, closes the doc- Fahrenheit, replaces
gristmill outside uments in and blocks air to avoid oxidation of
Washington, D.C.
(1814) out harmful high-fre- parchment or ink. An
quency wavelengths of O-ring made of nickel
The wall of the U.S.
Patent Office the light spectrum. The and tin deforms beneath

(1841) glass is anti-glare, for the pressure of 70 bolts

Atop sacks of mail the viewing pleasure of the more than one million on each encasement to lock in the documents with
on the way to the people who pay nothing to view the documents a seal pressure of more than 300 pounds per lin-
Library of Congress
(1921) each year. ear inch that should hold for more than 100 years.
The cases were part of a five-year, $5 million proj- Archivists even created two small synthetic sapphire
ect to study and conserve the documents, which windows in each encasement to track metrics like
was completed in 2003, five presidential admin- humidity and gas content without opening the case.
istrations ago. Today, different people mean very Beyond that, the government won’t reveal the
different things when they talk about protecting secrets of document security, other than to assure
the Constitution, but those charged with preserving us that a building could collapse around the encase-
the parchments are unwavering in their mission. It ments and they would survive.

16 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

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What’s better, a GFCI outlet not counting the drag exerted by the water
or a GFCI circuit breaker? hose attached to it. You should also think
BILL H., CASPER, WYOMING carefully about the extremely heavy waste
B O T H A R E E Q UA L LY lifesaving devices piece of masonry that you will produce.
that have contributed to the steady drop in You don’t want that tipping back at you
electrocutions from consumer products— while you’re knee-deep in muck running
down from 481 in 1968 to 30 in 2015, a chainsaw.
according to the Electrical Safety Foun-
dation International. Outlets
and breakers with GFCI, which How crazy would it be to
stands for ground fault circuit use a concrete chainsaw
interrupter, monitor current to enlarge the opening in
flow on the ungrounded (the my house’s foundation for
hot) and the grounded conduc- better crawl-space access?
tor (the neutral). When a tiny YARAN N., HUDSON, Is it me, or has the quality
discrepancy occurs between MASSACHUSETTS of lumber gone downhill in
the two conductors, that indi- F O R T H O S E W H O have never seen recent years?
cates an electrical leak or a concrete-cutting chainsaw, it’s LIZ B., MT. PLEASANT, SOUTH CAROLINA
“fault” to ground. This trips like its wood-cutting counterpart, P E O P L E H AV E B E E N talking about this
the device and current flow stops. A per- except that it uses water fed since I was a kid. There’s some evidence
son may receive a small shock but to diamond-tipped teeth. to support this view: Some building codes
not a deadly electrical jolt. It’s ideal for the work you have been tightened to account for the
One big advantage of a GFCI propose since it makes reduction in strength of framing lumber
outlet is that it’s simple to test neat plunge cuts and you cut from trees that mature quickly
and reset, since the buttons are don’t have to overcut the and are harvested when they are
right there on the outlet. You corners to get the waste quite young and of small diame-
don’t have to go to the piece to drop out, as you ter. But I remain very pro-wood.
service panel. Also, would when using a saw I find it remarkable that four
the receptacle can with a circular blade. centuries after Europeans
be installed nearly Hav ing said that, arrived here, there is still plenty
anywhere—like, say, I have several concerns of wood to harvest. To me, that’s
an old bathroom. This when a homeowner tackles an under-told tribute to the forest-
immediately provides safety benefits, something this ambitious. First, products industry. I’m not saying that
since the presence of water in that room removing a piece of the foundation good wood is abundant—or cheap. Like
increases the risk of electrocution. But means the house above is no longer com- it was when I started working with it 40
if you have an old house, you often have pletely supported. You have to deal with years ago, good lumber is expensive. And
small and crowded electrical boxes. A that with both a temporary support and still worth it.
GFCI is slightly larger than a standard a permanent one, like a header over the
outlet, sometimes making it a tough fit. enlarged opening. Second, a concrete-
That’s when you’re better off with the cir- cutting chainsaw requires a lot of water.
cuit breaker. Whichever you use, I would So picture this: You dig an access hole
advise leaving the installation of either down to the footing, then you begin saw-
GFCI to a licensed electrician. ing out the side of the foundation. The
water from the saw is going to go into
the crawl space and into the hole you’re
standing in. Be ready to pump or bail as
you work. Finally, physical exertion is no
small matter when you’re talking about
a couple of hours or more with a saw that
weighs more than 20 pounds, and that’s

18 _ P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M
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I had to assemble everything from a The big photo mountain was ugly.
Your Zillion couple dusty hard drives, an old lap-
top, and my Google and Amazon
Everything out of order, duplicates all
over the place. I asked Apple, Adobe,

Photos accounts into one place. I downloaded

and transferred the photos into a folder
on my Macbook, then dumped them
and Google whether their software
could delete duplicates. “We’ve had a
lot of requests for that,” they all said.
EVER TALK TO someone who lost their phone and into one unifying app. I chose Apple’s But none has acted on it. That led me
didn’t have it backed up? The photos are the only Photos, which is newly fantastic. It to PhotoSweeper, a $10 app that scans
data they actually care about. Years of mindless saves everything to iCloud at full res- your library and shows a side-by-side
shooting and uploading had made my own photo olution, including RAW photos I take comparison of what it thinks are dupes
library an unmanageable mess—22,000 images on my Olympus PEN-F. It’s easy to cor- (Fig. 1), then you trash what you don’t
spread across multiple devices. So when Apple rect time stamps. And, as with almost want. And unlike similar apps, Photo-
and Adobe recently updated their photo apps, I every Apple product I’ve owned, it Sweeper can adjust. For example, you
had an excuse to pare down to the ones I want for- just works. I can open Photos on my can ask it to find photos burst-shot
ever, the stuff that reminds me why photographs iPhone X, delete a few from last week- within two seconds of each other, and
matter. If you can relate, here’s how to do it. end, and know that it will free up space save only the one you like. (For Win-
Fig. 1
on my iCloud. Speaking of which, pay- dows, Duplicate Photo Cleaner comes
ing $2.99 per month for a bigger iCloud closest to PhotoSweeper.) I went from
plan (200 gigs), worth it. 22,000 to about 14,000. Progress.

ST EP Available ST EP Available

3 4
storage storage


Google, Apple, and Adobe all have their I was down to 12,300, about 46 giga-
own versions of computer vision—soft- bytes, just over half what I started with.
Fig. 2 ware that analyzes your images so when The change was unreasonably sat-
you type in “beach,” or “dog,” it finds isfying, and not just because I could
all instances of that object. The tech- downgrade my iCloud plan from $3
nology is fallible, but useful for this to $1 (50 gigs) a month. With a clean
project. I searched for “receipt” and work space, I’ve been teaching myself
found dozens of restaurant checks from to edit. I’m favoriting the ones to send to
old expense reports (Fig. 2). Photos Nations Photo Lab (less than $60 for a
also has a Screen Shots section, where framed 8x10). I got back on Instagram.
I’d saved images of digital plane tick- And having fewer files is liberating.
ets and text conversations that weren’t Because, unless tech companies find
as funny as I remembered. Same for the a profitable way to lighten your digital
Videos tab, which contained movies of load, you’ll have to take care of it your-
the inside of my pocket. Delete. self. Photos are the best place to start.

How do I send a huge file The app is called Send Anywhere. To go from a phone to a computer: Download
to someone? Or to my the (free) app, pick the file, and hit Send. Within ten minutes, tell the intended
laptop? I don’t want to recipient to open a browser and punch in the six-digit code. You don’t need to
upgrade my Cloud plan. create an account or anything. The size limit is a generous 4 gigabytes. Brilliant.

20 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

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48 SECONDS 149

NOTES: A ceiling fan can’t make the air in a room cooler like an air conditioner can. But it can make it feel like the air
is cooler. Here’s the basic idea: As you sit in your stifling living room, sipping an iced coffee, trying to keep sweat and
condensation from smearing the pages of your magazine, your body—which is pretty hot—is off-loading heat to the
air around it. That means that in a still room without a fan you’ll quickly become engulfed in a hot cloud, and as that
cloud gets closer to the temperature of your body, you can’t pass off as much heat to it. In a room with a fan, the cloud
blows away. The new air circulated around your body is cooler, which allows your body to give more heat to it, which
makes you cooler. Pretty clever, and it takes a lot less energy than a refrigerant loop. Especially if it’s one of Haiku’s
H Series fans, which feature a more refined blade design than the slats on your average ceiling fan and integrate
sensing technology so they run only when you need them, at the exact speed you require.

THE MECHANICS to the motor, which is controlled by sensors (14) to determine the per-
The fan attaches to a mount- the motor driver board (12). The ceived temperature in the room.
ing bracket (2) so that it hangs fan has seven speed settings in the (What the weather report often
about a foot below the ceiling, and range from 49 to 201 rpm. To avoid calls the “feels like” temperature:
seven to nine feet above the floor running at high rpm, which would Since we use sweat to transfer heat
(that’s ideal, according to the use a lot of electricity, the airfoils to the air, when the air already has
Department of Energy). A rub- are shaped and positioned to opti- a lot of moisture in it, making the
ber bushing (4) connects the fan mize the efficiency with which they technique less effective, it feels hot-
to the bracket, damping vibrations move air, similar to the way a kay- ter.) When you tell the fan to hold
from its motion. Wiring from the aker positions the face of his oar at a specific temperature, it mon-
home’s electrical system passes to push as much water as possible itors the perceived temperature
through the ceiling, through the without tiring himself out. and automatically adjusts its speed
fan’s mounting braces (3), and to reach the temperature you’ve
into the center of the fan, where THE SMARTS requested. (On this setting, the fan
it connects to the fan’s own sys- You can use the remote control (8) is not limited to the seven manual
tem of wires and its power supply to turn the fan on and off and select speed settings, but can adjust by as
(5). The wiring cover (6) and trim a speed through the IR receiver (9). little as one-tenth of an rpm.) An
(7) keep the installation looking Alternatively, the fan’s microcon- air conditioner would accomplish
neat from the outside. DC electric- troller (11) accepts sensor inputs this by pulling moisture out of the
ity from the power supply operates to make the fan programmable air and cooling the air itself, which
a brushless motor (15). The motor and automatable. At its simplest, costs a lot of electricity and makes
directly drives the fan’s airfoils (1) the fan uses a motion sensor (13) a ton of noise. With a ceiling fan,
(commonly known as fan blades). to turn itself on and off when you it’s more like that perfect summer
An increase or decrease in speed enter and leave the room. But more occurrence: a soft breeze kicks up
is accomplished by changing the importantly, the fan has ambient- and offers relief from a muggy day.
amount of voltage and current sent temperature (10) and humidity —Kevin Dupzyk

22 MARCH_ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M




10 9



14 13

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 23

Base price: $34,990
Zero to 60: Five
Cargo space: 26
cubic feet. Practical


Of the two most desir-
able hot hatches, we’d
get the Civic based on
the ride alone. The Ford
is choppy, fatiguing to
drive long distances
in, and all-wheel drive

Still exists, The rare
still satisfyingly genuine
huge. sports car.

24 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


Base price: $25,970

Since the Terrain’s introduction in 2009, If you can afford
GMC has moved more than 700,000 of the it: Get the Denali

little SUV-lets in North America. Imagine, they

package ($38,515)
Also great, slightly
2018 GMC Terrain
must have thought, how many we could sell if bigger sibling: What happens when GM brings
Chevrolet Equinox
we tried harder! There was always a disjunction its A game.
between the Terrain’s wannabe-Yukon machismo
and its actual goals as a crossover. The new Ter-
rain, completely redesigned for 2018, embraces sleek styling
and its crossover mission. With the optional 252-hp turbo four-
cylinder, the Terrain is genuinely quick (and makes excellent
breathy turbo sighs when it dumps boost). You won’t mind
throwing it into a corner, either. Yet it can tow up to 3,500
pounds, making it more than qualified for your weekend utility-
trailer chores. The $26,000 base model gets a turbocharged
1.5-liter and there’s an optional diesel that’s rated as high as
39 mpg highway. It doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with
any of those choices.
The cabin is handsome but includes one confounding design
decision: the splatter of dashboard buttons and “pull triggers”
that serve as your shifter. (Lacking any obvious shifter, I once
reflexively grabbed the windshield-wiper stalk and attempted

rain’s cousin, the Chevy Equinox, delivers the same excellent

driving experience as this GMC. And it has a normal shifter.

Base price: $50,895

Interior material:
blend. It’s awesome. 2018 Range
Rover Velar
Family wagon,
concept-car style.
In 1969, “Velar” was the name for the first
prototype Range Rovers—from velare in Ital-
ian, meaning “to veil,” which is what Land
Rover engineers were doing before publicly
announcing the car. The word stuck as a kind
of code name for what would become the
first Range Rover.

flush in the dash, is what appears to be a lava flow of

black glass with only two silver knobs protruding.
When you start the car, that stack comes alive with
backlit HVAC controls and the shift dial motors
up from the console: taa daa. Adding to the visual
I’ll admit that when I heard about “Ooga ooga!” This is a stunning car, a drama is an optional textile interior, which uses
the Velar, it didn’t seem like that complicated design that looks simple. suede cloth and gray wool in lieu of leather. While
big of a deal. A Jaguar F-Pace with a Perhaps Rover stole the flush retractable the Velar can off-road in requisite Range Rover
Range Rover grille, right? Then I saw it door handle conceit from Tesla, but that fashion, I might feel bad about tossing a muddy tow
in front of me and turned into a 1950s trick confers futurism here as well as it strap on my dapple-gray Kvadrat trim.
cartoon character. My tongue hung out does on a Model S. So, Velar, I was wrong. You’re not an F-Pace.
and my eyes turned into hearts and the The interior, too, is high concept. You’re like Range Rover accidentally released a
full transcript of my remarks reads, Below the ten-inch hi-def touchscreen, 2028 model ten years early.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 25

The Connected
Road Trip
On a group ride, the right communication
system can keep you safe—and help you
spot wild turkeys.


DA N N Y: Oh yeah, two babies and a
momma bear on the side of the road.
DAVID: The babies just climbed a tree!
NIGEL: So cool! And this within our first
30 minutes. We still have 300 miles to
go today.

▶ When you’re trying to spot road haz-

ards, six eyes are better than two on
motorcycles. Communication is key
when you’re traveling at high speeds with
extreme turns, cops, debris, lunatic car
drivers, and the occasional bear family
getting in your way. That’s why, when my
friends Nigel and Danny and I went for a
weeklong adventure from New York to
Tennessee and back, we used a commu-
nication system: the Sena 10R low-profile
headset and intercoms ($239). If we were
going to ride the entire Blue Ridge Park-
way, including the infamous Tail of the
Dragon, we needed to talk about it.

NIGEL: Crap in the road. Watch out!

DAVID: Flagman up ahead.
NIGEL: We’re stopping.
DANNY: Is that one of those Cool Hand
Luke crews?
NIGEL: That sign says inmates!
DAVID: What we have here is a failure to

▶ The headset comes with headphones

and a regular mic or an optional boom
mic, all of which tucks easily into your
helmet. There’s a small battery pack
and control area that are slim and unob-
structive. They affix to the outside of your
helmet. The 10R has Bluetooth 4.1—it
can take calls and play music—and can
hold a range up to 980 yards. Which is
great if someone falls a little behind, like

26 MARCH _ 2018
The author, left, and
his friend Danny take
a break in Maryland on
the way to the start of
the Blue Ridge Park-
way in Virginia.

I did more than once. Hey, better to ride I got him.
in your comfort zone than take unneces- DAVID: He survived, but not for long.
sary chances—especially on tight turns NIGEL: I missed him with my front and
where delusions of grandeur will throw hit him with the back.
you over a 100-foot cliff. DANNY: Let’s pull over and check the
NIGEL: Tight bend coming up here fel- NIGEL: I need to pee.
las. Had to pick my foot up for that one. DAVID: I’m too hot to stop. I’ll meet you at How to Ride the Tail
DAVID: Hey watch that cliff there! the T-junction at the Blue Ridge Parkway.
NIGEL: Oh, my God, another! Wooooo
of the Dragon
hoooo! ▶ The controls are easy and intuitive,
DAVID: Did you drop down to second all operated with one hand, either on This famous stretch of highway
gear for that? the helmet itself or on an optional han- straddles the North Carolina–
NIGEL: Nah, same gear, man. You’ve dlebar remote. God knows you want to
Tennessee border. It has 318 turns in
got plenty of pull off on the bend. Whoa, keep both hands on the grips.
real tight turn, and there’s a tighter one 11 miles and is bordered with rock
coming up! DANNY: I’d like to overtake this jerk that walls, sheer cliffs, and dense forest.
DANNY: Just scraped a peg! just pulled out in front of me. A few tips to ride it safely:
NIGEL: Watch out, there’s some sort of NIGEL: There’s a straight bit that you
metal on that corner coming up. It just
took my front wheel.
can pass around the next corner and no
cars at all. Catch up to me and then let’s
1 ▶ To get a sense of how serious
this ride is, start at The Tree of
Shame, at Deals Gap Motorcycle
DANNY: It was a stick or twig, Dave. catch David. Resort at mile marker zero on
DAVID: Got it. Look to the side, it’s just a DANNY: He’s really keeping up ahead, I the Tail. It’s littered with mangled
cliff. There’s nothing there. thought we’d catch him already. pieces of bike and protective gear
NIGEL: Cops! Cops! Cops! Brake! Brake! DAVID: Who me? accompanied by handwritten notes
to dead loved ones and friends.
Brake! DANNY: Yeah, we saw you and now we
DANNY: Heavy brake! can’t catch you!
DAVID: He’s continuing on. We’re good. DAVID: Well, I’m going pretty fast.
NIGEL: So are we!
2 ▶ Ride in the very early morning
when there isn’t much traffic. Peak
times can see 1,200 vehicles per
▶ The battery lasts up to ten hours. We DAV I D : Oh man, my heart is in my day—Corvettes, Mustangs, Vipers,
would fully charge them overnight and throat. Heavy left hairpin going uphill assorted Porsches, and other
then plug them into a mobile power guys. European machines that could veer
into your lane at any moment. But
source for the last two hours of a 12-hour NIGEL: This turn keeps on going!
watch out for a damp dewy road.
day. You can connect with up to four peo- DAVID: Tunnel coming up, Rattlesnake
ple—including people with systems not Mountain.
made by Sena. And why would you want
to connect to any more? It would slow
NIGEL: We’ve got a bump in the very mid-
dle of the next curve, and a slow Harley.
3 ▶ There’s nothing worse than get-
ting caught behind a rider who is
slowing you down, unless it’s feel-
your pace. DAVID: Turkeys on the left! Wet leaves ing pressure from a faster rider
behind you. Share the road. The
in the corner, take it nice and easy boys.
pull-off areas are tight, so avoid
NIGEL: Watch out for the wet area in NIGEL: Ugh, I’ve got an insect in my entering them at high speeds or
the next turn, and a squirrel! Oh jeez, earhole. you could end up riding over a cliff.

▶ If there’s one drawback to the Sena 10R, it’s that the wires,
headphones, microphone, and control surface are all fastened
with Velcro. Installation is a pain in the butt, especially if you
have fat fingers like my friend Danny. Sena’s solution is the new
Momentum helmet (starting at $399). The three versions of


28 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

I BUILT THAT BED, which folds over the middle

1991 seats. Last fall, I noticed that heat was escaping, so

I covered the cab’s metal bottom and windows with

Mitsubishi insulation. Now, it’s toasty warm in the morning, even down
to my feet. It’s converted into a home really well. After Colo-

Montero rado, I’m driving it to Arizona and California to visit friends,

then to the Sierras for a few weeks while I take a Wilderness
First Responder course. After that, either Canada or Alaska
to extend the ski season. Whenever I’m on mountain roads,
people give me the nod of approval because it’s an awe-
some four-wheel-drive truck. It really crawls. But some give
Jackie Kearney me this annoying stare, like they’re asking, “What are you
doing driving that big truck, little girl?” That makes me even
LO C AT I O N : Ridgway, Colorado
more attached to it. I was talking about getting the brakes
replaced and someone asked, “Do you think it’s worth it?”
Craigslist PRICE: OWNED: And I said, “What do you mean? Of course it’s worth it!” It’s
$2,000 One only going to get cooler the older it gets.


30 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

The elusive
key switch came
standard with
1981’s IBM PCs.
Now they’re all
but impossible
to find.






32 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

trend that reached its reverse apotheosis in the virtually useless virtual
keyboard of the iPad. The principal distinguishing feature of the Model F,
by comparison with the vast majority of keyboards today, was that pressing
a key actuated a spring-loaded mechanical switch rather than flattening
a squishy silicone pillow. Nowadays, even supposedly high-end keyboards

often seem to have been designed more for how they look than for how they
function: They’re skinny shingles covered with flat, Scrabble-tile-shaped
keys, which have so little “travel” that when you type you feel almost as
though you’re drumming your fingers on your desk. If you are of the faith,
the difference between one of those and a Model F is as great as the differ-
ence between a toy piano and a Steinway
concert grand.
Luckily for the obsessed, high-qual-
B O U G H T O N E O F the first IBM PCs in ity keyboards have made a comeback,
1982. It cost almost $5,000, yet had less driven by gamers, programmers, coders, A POSSESSED BUSINESS
random-access memory than the fitness and other power users. Small and small- ANALYST IN GARDEN
tracker I usually forget to wear. I ordered ish manufacturers now sell keyboards
it in the most expensive disk configura- with mechanical key switches, program-
tion, with two five-and-a-quarter-inch mable layouts, ergonomic shapes, and TRIES TO RESURRECT
360-kilobyte floppy drives—one for other tantalizing features. Members of THE REAL MODEL F.
whichever prehistoric software appli- online forums (pimpmykeyboard.com,
The technological heart of the IBM
cation I was running (I owned two), for example) endlessly debate the mer-
Model F was its “buckling-spring” key
and one for my working files. There its of competing keyboard designs, and switches: When you tapped a key, you
was no hard drive. The monitor was an they discuss their own collections with compressed a metal spring, forcing a
11.5-inch monochrome CRT that dis- the lunatic intensity of car nuts. tiny hammer into contact with a printed
played glowing green ASCII characters Although the Model F is no longer circuit board and causing the spring
on a convex black background and was on the market, there are dozens, if not to buckle and strike the cylinder that
enclosed it. It was all that internal com-
annoyingly prone to glare. thousands, of possibilities for its replace-
motion that generated both the clack and
The only element of that machine that ment. Here are a few I’ve used and loved. the resistance. A couple of years ago, Joe
doesn’t seem laughable in retrospect is Strandberg—whose day job is at an equity
its keyboard. The keys had sculpted tops, research firm in New York City—decided
and when I pressed them they resisted to try to bring it all back.
my fingers and made a confirmatory When Strandberg began redevelop-
ing the Model F, he knew that one of his
clack—sensations that were intended
SteelSeries biggest challenges would be replicating
to replicate the tactile and aural feed- the springs themselves. (Unicomp, which
Apex, three
back that typists were accustomed to. models acquired the rights to IBM’s technology
The entire keyboard was satisfyingly in 1996, still makes keyboards, but their
$100 to $140 innards are different from the Model F’s.)
substantial—it weighed several times as
much as an entire Apple MacBook—and M Y F I RST P O ST-I B M mechanical key- “I had to cancel an agreement to have
the springs made in China,” Strandberg
I could adjust the angle at which it rested board was from SteelSeries, a Danish
told me recently, “because even after six
on my desk. I’ve always loved typing, company that makes accessories for months of trying they couldn’t meet IBM’s
probably because it’s the closest I’ll ever gamers. Gamers like mechanical key- 1980s tolerances—which is crazy.” When
come to playing a musical instrument, boards not only because typing on them we spoke, he was looking for another
but I especially loved typing on that feels good but also because they usually supplier. “These keyboards are something
machine. And I wasn’t alone. A reviewer have a feature known as anti-ghosting, or that you can’t make for cheap,” he con-
for Byte in 1982 wrote that the original N-key rollover, which has to do with what tinued. “Each one of the molds is like the
cost of a car.” Nevertheless, at press time
PC’s keyboard, called the Model F, was happens when you press multiple keys he had received roughly 1,000 preorders,
“a delight to use” and was, “bar none, the at the same time. Using my SteelSeries at between $325 and $400 apiece, and
best keyboard on any microcomputer.” the day it arrived was like kissing an was hoping to begin shipping soon. —D.O.
That judgment still holds, in the old girlfriend at a high-school reunion.
opinion of surprisingly many keyboard It brought back an entire vanished era,
obsessives—of whom there are sur- and sold me permanently on the wisdom
prisingly many. From the early ’80s of buying electronic gear favored by peo-
onward, personal computers and their ple who never go outside.
keyboards largely evolved in opposite SteelSeries doesn’t sell my exact model anymore, but it does offer three
directions: Computers rapidly became mechanical keyboards with backlit, programmable keys. SteelSeries makes
almost unimaginably more powerful, awesome mice, too—one of which has 15 buttons—and they come in a vari-
while keyboards increasingly stank, a ety of shapes and configurations. Even if you’re not a gamer, you should

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 33

The Model F

and becoming jammed. Once the offset

is gone you realize that it forced your fin-
gers to make awkward lateral stretches
to reach keys in other rows.
The most powerful ErgoDox feature
ErgoDox EZ is programmability. You can change
consider using a gaming mouse. (My cur- the output of any key press to almost
rent one is a Razer DeathAdder Chroma, anything you like, and you can combine
$270 to $355
$70.) And forget about wireless. Key- commands in time-saving ways. You can
boards and mice work better with cords. T H I S PA S T Y E A R , I switched to a fan- create as many as 32 different layouts, or
cier ergonomic keyboard, the ErgoDox “layers,” then toggle swiftly among them
EZ. The original ErgoDox was invented and store them all in the keyboard’s
by (and named for) Dominic “Dox” Beau- firmware. I’ve experimented with more
champ, a slightly mysterious Quebecois. than a dozen combinations so far and
His goal was to retain the tactile elegance have found that I enjoy the challenge of
Matias of keyboards like the Model F while ratio- teaching my fingers new skills—and also
Ergo Pro
nalizing the layout and incorporating that I like owning a keyboard that other
both firmware-based programmability people think is weird.
and improved ergonomics—principles
I ABANDONED my SteelSeries a few espoused by a group of enthusiasts who
years ago and replaced it with a Matias called themselves the Key64 project.
Ergo Pro, after waiting more than a year Original purchasers received a discour-
for the finished product to emerge from a agingly large jumble of pieces, which
factory in China. The keys have mechan- they had to assemble themselves with Kinesis
Freestyle Edge
ical switches, and the board is divided a soldering iron. One early fan, Israeli
into two discrete units, one for the right software developer Erez Zukerman, later
hand and one for the left. The units are began selling (with Beauchamp’s bless-
connected by a retractable cable, and ing) a fully assembled, improved version, I R E C E N T LY B O U G H T my wife a less
can be placed far apart and oriented at a the ErgoDox EZ—which is what I’m typ- challenging split keyboard, the Kinesis
variety of angles and inclinations. Typ- ing on right now. Freestyle2 ($140, including ergonomic
ing with your hands separated by the The most conspicuous difference accessory kit). She’s also a writer. She
width of your shoulders feels funny at between an ErgoDox and a conven- has had carpal-tunnel surgery on both
first, but once I’d done it for 15 minutes tional keyboard (aside from the fact that wrists, and she worries about injuring
I was determined never to go back. Using the halves are shaped like upside-down herself again. She loves the Freestyle2,
a conventional keyboard—or, worse, Oklahomas) is that the arrangement of even though she was happy with its
using the keyboard on any notebook— the character keys is “ortholinear”: the predecessor, a Microsoft Natural Key-
forces your hands, wrists, elbows, and keys are aligned in straight columns, board—which was introduced in 1994.
forearms into awkward positions, pro- rather than staggered by half a key. The Freestyle2 doesn’t have mechan-
moting fatigue and, potentially, causing This takes getting used to, but after an ical keys and isn’t programmable, but
repetitive-stress injuries. (Ergo is short hour or so I was fully converted. The off- Kinesis recently introduced the Free-
for “ergonomic.”) With a split keyboard, set alignment on traditional keyboards style Edge, with both of those features.
you drop your hands naturally onto your is an artifact of the era of manual type- The first run, through Kickstarter, sold
desk, then position the keys where your writers, whose metal “key bars” had to be out almost immediately, but more should
fingers want to find them. prevented from banging into one other be available by the time you read this.

34 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

THE FIRST TOOL YOU The Fein Multimaster is
my right hand on most
NEED FOR REMODELING remodeling jobs—fit-
ting flooring, removing
hardware, installing doors. A German import, the Multimaster gained
a following here over the last 20 years as tradespeople and accomplished
amateurs recognized its outsize ability and durability. Imitators have come
to market, but the Fein still sets the standard for grinding, sanding, and
cutting smoothness and power under load. If it had a weak link, it was that
its blades and accessories were suited to wood and soft materials. That’s
corrected with its new circular-saw blade made from high-speed steel. It’s
rated for mild steel up to 1⁄16 inch thick. That may not sound like much, but
it’s a lot thicker than the steel sheet you would normally find at your local
home center. Now the Fein handles pipe, tube, and any metal cuts in repair
and remodeling, even auto-body work. At $25 for the blade, it’s expensive,
but high-quality parts always are. —Roy Berendsohn


The new Everysight Raptor AR Smartglasses give cyclists (and runners)
GPS directions as well as metrics, maps, and workout prompts without
obscuring, distracting, or blocking their field of vision. The augmented-
reality sunglasses rely on the same technology that parent company
Elbit Systems uses in its helmet displays for fighter pilots. Instead of
placing a small screen in front of one eye, like the similarly marketed
Recon Jet, the Raptor projects onto the lens. When you’re focused on
the road ahead, the data disappears out of focus until you flick your eyes
over for a quick check of your mileage or next
turn. At $500, it’s on par with a do-it-all
sports GPS but also includes a 13-mega-
pixel video camera and connects via
Bluetooth to your phone to display texts,
take calls, and play music.

GOOGLE’S NEW This will make you feel better about the
inevitable A.I. armageddon: Research by

PROGRAMMING computer scientist Saket Navlakha and

WIZARD: A FRUIT FLY his colleagues at California’s Salk Insti-
tute for Biological Studies found that
sophisticated computer search algorithms can’t spot some similar items as well as
a fruit fly’s nose can. Most search algorithms start by sorting inputs, like images or
songs, into categories before finding connections. The fruit fly’s olfactory system
does the opposite, blowing out the dimensions of each odor from its 50 receptors to
2,000 higher receptors and using the increased resolution to zero in on similarities.
If you applied both strategies to a group of photos, a computer might start by say-
ing “these photos contain white,” and “these photos contain yellow,” and go from
there. The fly’s method, in contrast, would zoom in on texture, context, size, and
color before determining that the photos are of fruits, flowers, or insects. This con-
ceptual shift—from simplifying first to sharpening first—makes searches so much
more efficient that Google is already working with Navlakha’s lab to compare fruit-
fly-based systems to its current products. “If it works well, I think we could see this
used within a year,” Navlakha says.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 43



The New
In the York Police
Garage with 9,000 vehicles
take a beating.
NYPD’s Fleet Meet the
people who

Mechanics keep them


THE NYPD’S FLEET GARAGE is too complex to call it that. It’s more like
a small city, complete with a body shop, where old vehicles are stripped
for parts while new ones are fitted with lights and decals, and a resident
insurance adjuster to handle warranty paperwork. The mix of cars, side-by-sides,
and scooters that get repaired here changes with the seasons. “We’re going to all-
wheel drive where we can, because that improves our response capability during
winter storms,” says deputy commissioner for support services Robert Martinez,
who oversees the land-based fleet. In summer, 24-hour posts call for hybrids, which
can idle all day without overheating. And when the next Hurricane Sandy hits, it’s
jacked-up Ford pickups carrying rigid-hull inflatable boats. Of course, the Har-
bor Unit’s garage in Brooklyn has some bigger boats. The biggest: two 71-footers,
with huge diesels producing 3,900 horsepower. And out east is the Aviation Unit,
where technicians work on twin-engine helicopters outfitted with infrared cam-
eras and spotlights. Visit all three garages and you see that maintaining thousands
of machines, from mopeds to jet turbines, is a constant feat of skilled labor and
efficiency. Meet the people who keep the country’s biggest police force running.

Photographs by David Williams

44 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

A. Marootnandan Nar- NYPD 24 years ago and
aine (right) delivers a is the go-to guy for the
wrecked Ford Fusion department’s motor-
patrol car to supervisor cycles, scooters, and
and auto-body worker specialty vehicles such
Carmelo Martinez. For as this side-by-side. He
jobs like this, the shop also handles fabrica-
has its own insurance tion, sometimes using a
adjuster, so repairs— small blast furnace for

C including warranty
work—can be handled

entirely in-house. E. George Pirpinias puts

an NYPD cruiser on the
B. Deputy commissioner lift for service. Cars
for support services stay in the fleet for 42
Robert Martinez, who months, trucks for 60—
oversees the NYPD’s if they last that long.
Fleet Services Divi-
sion and its 9,000-plus F. A bulletproof window
vehicles. panel used for test-
ing. Door and window
C. Patrick McGreevy armor is external and is
works in the salvage swapped between cars
cage, where stripped as new vehicles cycle into
parts are stockpiled for the fleet.
reuse. The NYPD’s indus-
triousness even extends G. Auto-body worker
to the “salvage sound Hubert King welds and
system” that enlivens fabricates parts for the
the shop with tunes. It’s ground fleet’s biggest
made of cardboard boxes trucks, like the Ford
and old car speakers. Super Duties used during
D. Auto mechanic Santos
Font started with the

A CCOR DING Best police-car driver’s seat ever: Plymouth Gran Fury
T O O F F ICE R S Worst police-car driver’s seat ever: Chevy Caprice “bubble,” which needed a milk crate to prop up the wobbly seat back

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 45


46 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

A. Officer George B. Officer Phil Shahin, C. The Harbor Unit, D. Officer Tom Denicker
Wright services a jet a 31-year veteran of located on the south- sits in the bridge of one
drive on one of the Har- the force, specializes in west edge of Brooklyn, of the NYPD’s 29 boats.
bor Unit’s patrol boats. electronics, including has 29 vessels, ranging He handles all the
Note the sidearm: Blue Force tracking, from 31-footers with Harbor Unit’s welding
Harbor Unit techni- which monitors the 300-hp outboards to and is trained to work
B cians are also on-duty
police, ready to respond
locations of the Harbor
Unit’s vessels.
71-footers with jet
drives powered by
on everything from
Yamaha outboards to
should the need arise. 3,900 total horsepower. the patrol boats’ mam-
moth diesels.


@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 47

A. The NYPD Aviation Unit has
A been based at Floyd Bennett
Field in Brooklyn since 1929.
Back then, fixed-wing aircraft
were used for patrol.

B. Officer Joseph Daigneault,

a pilot, refuels “Finest 19,” one
of four Bell 429 GlobalRanger
helicopters. The Aviation Unit
has been an all-helicopter
fleet since 1954.

C. N917 is pulled from the han-

gar. The NYPD helicopters are
always ready for specific tasks.
Scuba divers, for air-sea res-
cues, are on-call 24 hours a day.

D. A technician services one of

the unit’s seven helicopters.

E. Lt. John Biscarri (bottom),

Detective Craig Coogan (top
left), and Detective Mario
Inguaggiato (top right) have
all been with the Aviation Unit
for at least 12 years. Qualifi-
cations among them include:
heavy weapons, instrument
pilot certification, emergency
medical technician.


48 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 49

Adam Crawford
and Andrea Nesbitt
complete a tower
inspection during
a November 2017
The W i ld Hor s e W i nd Fa r m

i n Wa sh i ng t on

prot e c t s 11,0 0 0 a cr e s a nd

p ower s 63,0 0 0 home s.

A nd m a n , t he y love wh a t t he y do.




A. Crawford exits one
of the tower nacelle’s
two roof hatches. B.
There are four land-
ings to stop and rest, if
needed, on the climb up
a tower. C. Nesbitt and
Ron Potter examine
a spare gearbox. This
turbine transmission
requires a 250-foot
crane to be replaced in
the nacelle. D. Potter
checks a control panel
for signs of overheat-
ing. E. Shane Alberg
attaches his Lad-Saf,
a fall-arrest system,
to the cable ladder.
F. “The main hazard is
falling objects; make
sure you’re tied off
so you don’t become
one,” says Nesbitt.
The rings behind her
measure wind speed
and direction.

S t a nd u nde r a
t owe r a nd yo u ing her senior year at a nearby college, then turned
that into a two-year part-time stint, stepped up to

he a r t he o ce a n ,
a contractor position for seven years, and finally,
last March, accepted a staff gig. “I kept hanging
around,” she says.
Her colleague Ron Potter maintained the
but faster. The gentle swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the blades rolls 34 miles of access roads at Wild Horse—filling, grading, plow-
over you like up-tempo waves lapping on a beach. Only there is ing—as a contractor for ten years while he waited for a permanent
no water here. Wild Horse Wind Farm is in central Washington position. One finally opened last year, after someone retired,
State, arid sagebrush steppe in every direction. On a clear day, and Potter felt lucky to fill it. “It’s one of the prettiest places you
you can see the heavy hitters of the Cascades—Adams, Hood, could ever work,” he says.
Rainier—in the distance. The Wild Horse land sprawls over and around Whiskey
The only sign of civilization is the towers and their ocean Dick Mountain. The name sounds less off-color when you con-
sounds. Wild Horse has 149 of the towers, enough to power sider nearby Whiskey Jim Creek. And the acreage covers steep
63,000 Washington homes that reach from nearby Ellensburg ridgelines and valleys with Dick being more of a bump and inci-
to the actual ocean, about four hours away. dental high point. Deer, elk, bear, and bighorn sheep roam the
Wild Horse is an unusual wind farm. For one thing, it has a sage-dotted hillsides; the air is a mix of songbirds and raptors.
visitor’s center that welcomes 15,000 people a year and main- It seems an odd place for a power plant, amid all this beauty.
tains a (nearly) five-star rating on TripAdvisor. (What utility But environmental protection was a selling point when the util-
company gets a five-star rating for anything?) The energy ity company Puget Sound Energy proposed building Wild Horse
facility is also a nature preserve whose 11,000 acres connect in 2004. PSE replaced an absentee landowner and planted
neighboring government-managed wildlife areas. You can sage plugs to restore the steppe habitat that has been shrink-
stand inside a turbine tower, learn how wind could power your ing as neighboring farmland expands. The company keeps
flat screen, and then step outside to encounter a herd of elk. its footprint small, and consistently passes its environmen-
The attraction to Wild Horse is thick with its small staff. Take tal compliance checks by the state. Wild Horse also opened the
Andrea Nesbitt, manager and all-around utility woman at the land to the community. Sunup to sundown, the roads and trails
visitor’s center. She scored an internship at Wild Horse dur- are open for hiking, mountain biking, and seasonal hunting.

Nesbitt leads wildflower tours every spring, and
bikes and hikes over the dirt in her free time. Potter,
a hunter, bushwhacks off-trail and spots animals
with the same binoculars he uses to check turbine
blades for damage.

S cattered from northwest to southeast across

two ridges, the Vestas V80 turbines stand 351 feet
tall from foundation to blade tip. The blades resem-
ble airplane wings and work on the same principle of
lift. As wind passes around the blade, its curve cre-
ates a pressure differential that pushes it toward the
low-pressure side. At peak efficiency, about 31 mph,
the blades spin at a lazy 17 rpm. By itself, a poor power
source. But an 18-ton gearbox in each nacelle (the
mechanical room at the top of the tower) connects
the driveshaft to two sets of planetary gears (cogs
within a cog) and a helical gearset, like what most
cars use, to wind up to 1,900 rpm at the generator.
The generators grind out as much as 2.0 mega-
watts. And before the electricity leaves the tower, a
B transformer inside the nacelle steps it up from 690
volts to 34.5 kilovolts. A higher voltage prevents sig-
nificant power loss to the resistance of transmission
lines, so it’s also sent to Wild Horse’s substation for
another step up before it hits PSE’s grid.
Nesbitt and her team run the tower inspections,
climbing as many as four a day to check repair work
from contractors and spot new trouble. Climbing
the towers, they say, is reason enough to work at
Wild Horse.
To climb a tower, says Nesbitt, you start with a
full-body harness and APE self-rescue kit on which
you could rappel down in an emergency. At the base
of the ladder you clip into the Lad-Saf fall arrest and
the climb assist, a personal winch that provides 125
pounds of lift and feels like a tow rope, says Adam
Crawford, one of Wild Horse’s four tower inspec-
tors. You sit back into the harness for a boost as
you pull the rest of your weight up the rungs. A fast
ascent takes around three minutes. Without the
assist, it could be 15.
The ladder you’re climbing, by the way, is
attached to the inside of the tower by neodym-
ium magnets. Not a single bolt or weld, just metal
blocks with 88 pounds of magnetic force. The design
feature improves the strength of the tower by elimi-
nating potential weak points from drill holes or the
heat of welding. This climb is also the equivalent to
scaling an 18-story building, but oddly, says Potter,
there isn’t a feeling of being up off the ground. No
fear of heights will trigger. As you climb the narrow-
ing tube—just 7.6 feet across at the top—you’ll feel
A. Ellensburg’s Iron Horse Brewery is the local favorite for a post-work pint. B. Nesbitt looks for
weather damage—discoloration, cracks, and pitting—on turbine blades. C. The turbine founda-
a subtle sway, but never the height. On particularly
tions are buried 25 to 32 feet deep with 28-foot anchor bolts. Inspections include checking the windy days, the top rocks back and forth like a boat
base for erosion. D. Because of their work with electrical components, the team relies on flame-
resistant workwear. E. The six miles of trail at Wild Horse are a mix of steep technical sections
atop the 221-foot steel pole. The only feeling you
and ridgelines. F. The tower’s chain hoist lifts tool bags and smaller replacement components. might have is seasickness, if you’re up too long.  

54 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


At the top of the ladder you reach the
nacelle, a 10-by-50-foot box packed with
the generator, transformer, and gearbox,
which keeps a constant growl as it tries to
match the wind speed. But then there’s the
top of the turbine, too. Through two hatches,
you can pull yourself onto the top deck of
the nacelle and—after attaching your-
self to both anchor rails—stand up for that
100-mile view into the mountains. “You’re
looking down on God’s country from up on
this great hill,” says Potter. “Everything
looks so small. Our big construction equip-
ment below looks like toys.” You can see
these towers from down on Interstate 90, but
from there, you can’t appreciate the scale.
Up here, you feel it—the breadth of the land,
the light on your face, the power of the wind.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 55

Th e

5 2
R e g i s te r
Keen Durand Boots Black Diamond Keen Detroit Boots
$180 Stretch Font Pants $145
Durable, waterproof $85 Work boots built to
hiking boots Flexible fabric and a move all day
gusset designed for

5 4
Helly Hansen Truewerk G2 Pants Black Diamond Bollé Contour Pearl Izumi Versa
Duluth Jacket $124 Transition Gloves Safety Glasses Quilted Hoodie
$203 Abrasion-resistant $40 $10 $220
Fleece rugged enough stretch fabric that Kevlar-stitched gloves Light enough to forget Insulated softshell with
for the job site doesn’t melt to belay and rappel on your face water resistance
5 5

Iron Horse Brewery Carhartt Full Swing Bushnell Engage Carhartt Full Swing Outdoor Research
509 Style Ale Quick Duck Jacket 12x50mm Binoculars Quick Duck Shirt Jac Floodlight Down
$5 $280 $410 $150 Parka
American twist on the Water- and flame- Spot bucks, or Feels comfortably $395
British pub ale resistant winter coat damaged wind blades worn-in when new Waterproof, down-insu-
lated, mountain-worthy

Walls Flame Columbia Specialized 2FO Flat REI Co-op Flash Specialized Ambush
Resistant Bomber OutDry Extreme 1.0 Mountain Bike 22 Print Pack Bike Helmet
Jacket Featherweight Shell Shoes $55 $180
$119 $199 $110 Lightweight day pack Extended head protec-
Aviator style, cold and Packable, breathable, Pedal down the trails, for any activity tion and added vents
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We get sucked into
movies for the plot or
the acting, but what
keeps us enthralled are
the effects. Everything
around the actors has
to be perfect—to feel
real, or at least realis-
tic—or we stop thinking
we’re in their world and
remember we’re just in
a movie theater. That’s
why, for the last four
years, we’ve celebrated
the people responsible
for the camerawork, the
stunts, the model build-
ing, the makeup, the sets,
the explosions, and the
insane drone-captured
footage that makes us
love going to the movies.
Our awards are just like
the Oscars, only there are
no musical performances
or commercials, and you
can get through them in
under ten minutes. Over
the next seven pages
you can read the stories
behind the most innova-
tive features of 13 great
movies, including our
first-ever pick for movie
of the year, Blade Runner
2049 (pictured).
To create the enor-
mous holographic
advertisement that
seems to point at Ryan
Gosling’s charac-
ter in Blade Runner
2049 (top), director
Denis Villeneuve first
recorded actress Ana
de Armas in front of
a green screen with a
small stick standing in
for Gosling, for scale.


Honoring the most impressive

driving rigs, drones, stunts,
holograms—and very
smart humans—behind the
movies of 2017.

MARCH 2 018


Movie of More like Mexico City. The

crew shot aerial plates of
that city and supplemented
the Year them with digital build-
ings. The police station is a

BLADE RUNNER 12-foot-tall miniature (A) wanted to make a leap”—to
adorned with holograms, what a hologram might be in
fake weather, and other digi- 2049. Nelson’s team thought
tal embellishments. up the idea of a digital back-
THE SETTING To keep the city plausi- face—like looking through
The film’s grim, boxy cities ble, Nelson’s team spoke to the backside of a bottle,
drew from Brutalist archi- futurists to speculate on and you can see the writ-
tecture, a 20th-century how it might have evolved. ing on the label in reverse.
movement that preferred “Cities are the product of “We photographed Ana and
austerity to beauty. Plus: billions of decisions made by projected her onto a digital
a winter-glum Montreal. millions of people over thou- model of Joi,” Nelson says.
“Director Denis Villeneuve sands of years,” Nelson says. “You see through the front
is from Montreal,” visual “One architect might have to the back. She feels real
effects supervisor John Nel- built a building 100 years because she’s photographed, Sean and Loren. We even
son says. “He wanted the later than the architect who and like a shell, because you captured Sean’s 19-year-
cities to feel like Montreal built the one next to it.” can see through her.” old son, who was working
on a bad day in February. as a PA. He looks a lot like
I’m from Detroit, so I knew THE HOLOGRAMS THE UNAGING PROCESS his mother, and I wanted
exactly what he meant.” For the hologram charac- Harrison Ford’s character is to see how 19-year-old skin
For the future Los Ange- ter of Joi, played by Ana de reunited with his long-dead really moved, since Rachael
les, Villeneuve figured it Armas, “We didn’t want her love, Rachael (played by was 19 and Loren was actu-
would be even smoggier, and to look like what a hologram Sean Young), who returns as ally 27.” So now Nelson had
a lot less sunlit than it is now. is now,” Nelson says. “We a clone—and looks exactly Sean’s mannerisms and
the same age she did in Loren’s general movement.
the first film, 35 years ago. He supplemented that with
They couldn’t go fully dig- images from the original
ital. “Digital humans are movie and built a digital
really hard to do,” Nelson model of Young (B). And
says. “Not only do they need then he tested the fake. “I
to look real, they need to act took several scenes from the
and perform real.” Instead, original and replaced one
they started by casting shot with the digital double.
an actress, Loren Peta, as Then I showed it to Denis
Young’s stand-in. “Sean was and the producers, and they
onstage as we shot Loren said, ‘Why are we looking at
in full hair and makeup, this? This isn’t our movie.
with dots on her face. We This is the original.’ That’s
had a facial-motion cap- when we knew that the
A ture rig that captured both model was right.”

POPULAR EVERY YEAR, the Visual Effects Society gathers to

MECHANICS celebrate its members’ greatest achievements. For
16 years VES has recognized the geniuses who make
AND THE our favorite movies convincing, explosive, and fun.
VISUAL Last year the awards were hosted by comedian Pat-
EFFECTS ton Oswalt. Just as important, the official cocktail
SOCIETY party was hosted by Popular Mechanics. And it will
be again this year, after the awards ceremony in Bev-
erly Hills on February 13. You’re welcome to stop by.
But we can’t promise it’ll be easy to get in.

60 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


Best Amalgamated Island


To create Wonder Woman’s structure becomes the road.

legendary island home of Everything in the foreground
Themyscira (A), two-time was practical. We added the
Oscar-winning visual effects background digitally to create
supervisor Bill Westenhofer the cliffs and extensions of the
and director Patty Jenkins buildings (C).”
didn’t want to simply copy “The mountains are from
what was in the comic books. stills taken in various locations
“We know that their island is in Asia—Vietnam, China, and
Mediterraneanesque. Apart others. The limestone arches
from that, it’s a novel cre- are from China. They’re gigan-
ation,” Westenhofer says. One tic, and they look like they defy
that came about thanks to a gravity,” Westenhofer says.
helicopter, some high-tech This composite effect was
photographic analysis, and a achieved by a process called
few other things. photogrammetry: “Basically,
Most of the spectacular we take a helicopter pass and
terrain and beautiful beaches shoot still photographs, every
are from Italy’s Amalfi Coast second or so. We have soft-
(B). For the city itself, Jenkins ware that analyzes that series
chose Matera, Italy’s oldest of images from each location
town. “People have been liv- and lines them all up to form a
ing there for close to 10,000 3D model. Then you re-project
years,” Westenhofer says. “For the photography back onto
a while they lived in limestone your original location. It’s as B
caves, and at some point they photo-real as one can possibly
started building structures on get, because it really is based
top of those caves. You climb upon what we’re capturing in
up the hill, and the roof of one the camera.”

Robin Wright (center).

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 61


Actual Spitfire
planes were
combined with
RC miniatures.

Pilots for the

planes had to
be taken up in
helicopters when the
range was too far
from the ground.


Most Realistic
Fake Dogfights
Tom Hardy.

Director Christopher Nolan two radio-controlled planes, we

doesn’t like visual effects, says had to get the two pilots into a
Oscar-nominated visual effects helicopter, and the helicopter had
supervisor Andrew Jackson. “It’s to have the camera mounted on
about filming as much as possible. the nose.” The camera presented
So the starting point is, What can its own problems: “We were
we shoot, what can we build, and working with IMAX cameras
how real can we make it?” that were very old and not very
In Nolan’s World War II drama reliable. We were pushing them
Dunkirk, Jackson and his crew quite hard, with all the vibra-
were able to make things very tions from being mounted on
real. Especially in the case of helicopters. We had to take mul-
the dogfights. In those aerial tiple breaks. The whole caravan
sequences, Jackson incorpo- of planes and helicopters would
rated actual Spitfire aircraft with have to land to fix the cameras.”
large-scale remote-control min- For shots inside the cockpit,
iatures with wingspans ranging the creative team used two-seat
from six to 18 feet. The smoke planes. They dressed the front
and spark effects in the fight were to look like a Spitfire and then
coordinated from the ground— positioned the actual pilot in
which is where the remote pilots the backseat. Background shots
were supposed to be as well. But came from a separate piece of
the range was too far, and they equipment—a cockpit mounted
couldn’t operate the miniatures on a gimbal and set on the edge
from land, which meant Jackson of a cliff just south of L.A. “That’s
had to take them up in the air. “In the real ocean and sky and hori-
order to capture one shot with zon behind them,” Jackson says.

62 MONTH _ 2017

Design Most
Worthy of an

Mother! director Darren Aronofsky’s

hallucinatory nightmare about a young,
imperiled wife (Jennifer Lawrence)
cycles through several metaphors,
including Biblical allegories and some
blunt commentary on environmen-
tal destruction. Her house cycles right
along with the movie, inexplicably mor-
phing into the setting for a riot, a rave,
and a ground war.
“We called this last part of the
movie the fever dream,” says produc-
tion designer Philip Messina. It takes
place in an actual house, not on a green
screen, so that the surreal environ-
ments would feel real to Lawrence. The
crew used the same house built on an
80-by-120-foot stage in Montreal for
many of the night scenes, which meant
they had to turn it over for each scene
as quickly as possible. “We worked in a
spiral,” Messina says. “As Aronofsky’s
team was shooting, we came in behind
them and redressed for the next thing.
By the time they got back to us, they had
a whole new backdrop to shoot in.”

AWARD Making a low-budget ghost costume for a movie is not as easy

as just throwing old bedding over an actor. Costume designer
Most Annell Brodeur found that out the first time she tested the king-
size sheet Casey Affleck wore for A Ghost Story, about a man
Convincing whose spirit is trapped on earth after he dies in a car crash. “If
you put your arms out straight, a king-size bed sheet doesn’t

Ghost cover an adult man,” says Brodeur. “Director David Lowery didn’t
want to see the person underneath. He wanted it to feel like an
abyss, so I had to figure out how to make it look like there was
just a smooth head underneath, and then...vacancy.” So she
made a ghost helmet (right). The soft-foam helmet has black eye
inserts shaped like eggs and tilted out so that the bottoms splay
A GHOST STORY outward to keep the eyeholes from falling in on themselves
when the sheet is on top. The only other addition was a couple
of tiny stitches over the eyes. Even ghosts can use eyebrows.

@PopularMechanics MARCH
MONTH _ 2018
2017 63

sor Dennis Berardi

chose not to film in
water at all. Instead jectors around the
he used a technique space played an
called “dry for wet,” animated loop to
AWARD in which the actors mimic the reflection
act in fog. That of sunlight through
Foggiest way, Berardi says,
they could be “fully
water. Finally, the
actors were filmed
Water clothed, articulate,
and very expres-
at a higher speed—
between 36 to 48
sive. Plus, there’s a frames per sec-
THE SHAPE safety concern: If we ond instead of
O F WAT E R shot this underwa- 24—so that their
ter, we’d have had to movements would
have respirators and appear to be slowed
When you fall in divers standing by.” down. “We talked
love with a fish man, In an empty studio about having them
as a mute clean- space, Berardi and act in slow motion,
ing woman does in his team attached but that didn’t work
Guillermo del Toro’s rigs to actors Sally at all,” Berardi says.
AWARD The Shape of Water, Hawkins and Doug “They couldn’t really

Best Use some of your court-

ship will probably
Jones, pumping in
smoke to help cre-
approximate the
resistance that water
take place under- ate the murky view would have on their
of Paint water. How to shoot
those scenes, how-
you get when you
open your eyes
limbs.” The last step
was the hair, which
FILM ever, is a little less underwater. Pro- fog doesn’t lift or
LOVING VINCENT obvious. For most wave around the way
of the underwater water would. A hair-
moments, visual simulation animation
In Loving Vincent, a film about the final effects supervi- software took care
days of Vincent van Gogh, every scene of that.
was painted—not digitally painted,
but actually painted, with brushes
and easels in the style of the one-eared
Dutch master. The movie has 65,000
individual paintings and took seven
years and 125 painters to create.
“It’s probably the slowest form of ani-
mation that anyone’s managed to come
up with yet,” says co-director Hugh
Welchman. He and co-director Dorota
Kobiela spent four weeks shooting tra-
ditional actors in green-screen studios
while recruiting potential animators.
“The production was conceived and
based in Poland, and our original idea
was that we would just have painters
from Poland, but we only got 65. So we
started advertising around the world to
find more,” Welchman says. Five thou-
sand applications came in.
Loving Vincent utilized a technique
similar to what Richard Linklater used
in Waking Life. The difference is that
Linklater’s artists traced their images.
Loving Vincent artists took live-action
footage, which appeared on a monitor
over their canvas, then painted it free-
hand. For every scene.

64 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


The seven-minute stairwell
battle performed by Charlize
Theron in Atomic Blonde

B I G G E ST D I S A ST E R ( t i e)
The firestorms, hailstorms, and
lightning storms that devastate
the world after the satellite
system that controls the weather
is weaponized in Geostorm
B I G G E ST D I S A ST E R ( t i e)

Best Driving, Baby USE OF A CAMERA
The flash that momentarily

or Otherwise
of scenes that used the pod car. “Unless it’s a
awakens the consciousness of
the people who’ve had their
brains replaced in Get Out
wider shot showing the whole car, it’s probably
not [the actor] driving.”

To pump up the authenticity in a movie that DRIVING TIP YOU CAN USE!
glamorizes getaway driving, there’s one easy Most drivers are not close enough to the steer-
trick: Have the actor do the driving. Some of it, ing wheel. To have more control, Fry says,
at least. Baby Driver stunt coordinator Jeremy “you don’t want to be right on top of it, with
Fry shared some insight. the wheel in your chest, but I like to sit a little
B Y A N O N - O LY M P I A N
closer than most people.” Margot Robbie, who
MOVIE SECRETS! performed the first minute
No matter how good the actors might get at AND ONE YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T! of Tonya Harding’s 1994
driving, there are always moments they hand Getting a vehicle to spin 180 degrees requires routine in I, Tonya
over to the professionals. For the most chal- coaching, but it’s not that hard to teach. “You
lenging scenes, Fry and his team would use can show someone how to lock the wheels, how
what’s called a pod car (above)—an appara- not to do it, and different ways to move the
tus attached to the top of a vehicle that allows steering wheel to get different results from
a stunt driver to control the car from above. the car,” Fry says. Head into your turn, then
“The steering wheel in the car is a dummy,” yank the E brake. Turning the wheel even the
Fry says. “Usually the pedals aren’t hooked slightest bit will cause the car to rotate, but if
up to anything either.” Although it took some you turn it too far the car won’t come all the
pushing to get him to shatter the illusion of way around. The toughest part is having the The introduction of porgs in
the film, Fry did admit that there were a lot confidence to trust yourself. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 65

When hurricanes Irma
and Maria destroyed
hundreds of homes and
displaced thousands of
people in the U.S. Virgin
Islands last fall, some
people sent money and
supplies. A smaller group
showed up. They left
their lives and families,

dealt with occasional

awkwardness and teta-
nus shots, to see what
they could do to help.
This is their story.



Across the
islands on Novem-
ber 9, 2017, blue
FEMA tarps serve
as temporary cov-
erage for roofs
blown off by the
hurricanes’ wind.
A DISEMBODIED VOICE blasts through tinny speakers in every
room of the seven-hundred-foot-long ship. “Hey everyone, this
is your cruise director, Mr. Chicago!—a.k.a. Christian—here to
tell you all about tonight’s big happenings!” The men and women
around me sigh—they hear this every night. I just got here. Mr.
Chicago reads through a list of activities, and he’s really putting
some va-voom into it: a cornhole tournament! bingo! half-price
spa sessions! The ship, the Grand Celebration, owned and oper-
ated by the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, is docked in Little
Krum Bay, on the island of St. Thomas, United States terri-
tory, under a sky that’s even bluer than on those travel-agent
It’s 4 p.m. Passengers wander the decks. After Mr. Chi-
cago is done, incongruous, anonymous electronic dance music
pulses through the ship. The staff wears pressed white jackets.
They smile. A woman pushes a cart of cleaning supplies from
room to room. A waiter carries a plate of hamburger buns.
To look at them, this could be any family-friendly cruise that
stopped by St. Thomas so Mom and Dad could sneak away for
some rum. of these groups to become All Hands and Hearts.
Overheating in my khakis, reasonable for New England in I’ll have to grab something to eat before the meeting, so I
November, I walk down hallways covered with plastic sheeting change into a shirt that I think will give off the “chill guy” and
and up cardboard-covered stairs, protected from the dirt and “hard worker” vibe all at once, something that doesn’t reveal
grime of work boots and unwashed hands. I walk past the pol- how weirded out I am by the fact that I was at JFK six hours ago
ished brass sconces and railings, and into my room. The two twin and now I’m on the Grand Celebration watching Avatar with a
beds are pushed close together beneath an overworked air-condi- stranger who works for FEMA while, all over this island, people
tioning vent—too close together, is my first thought—their sheets are apparently eating canned food and have no power.
and blankets pulled taut. A tiny TV in the corner plays Avatar, I go with threadbare and floral, then walk out as my room-
the James Cameron movie, with no sound, beside a porthole that mate rolls back over.
affords a view of the concrete dock below. Down there, National Like animals to the watering hole, through the dining hall
Guardsmen stand with rifles hanging off their shoulders. roam packs of workers wearing the same cargo shorts, graphic
In the far bed, a middle-aged man rolls over to face the door tees, and goatees: Army National Guard, Conservation Corps,
as I walk in. World Bank, Department of Energy, FEMA, electrical line-
“Hey,” he says. men, and people like me, who have no special skills but thought
“Hi,” I say. they might be able to help. I sidestep the darting waiters and
My new roommate works for FEMA, and he’s been down check out the salad bar and the individually plated squares of
here long enough that his scruff has moved firmly into beard blueberry cheesecake. There’s a Pepsi machine and a roast
territory—forty days of his forty-five-day stint. He tells me that station, where a chef in a white coat and an unreasonably tall
he and the rest of his crew arrived in St. Thomas from Loui- toque smiles at me. I linger at the all-you-can-eat chicken teri-
siana and some other southeastern states thinking they’d be yaki. The dance music throbs.
swinging hammers. Instead they sit behind desks helping It’s all as inspiring as it is strange. About eight weeks ago, in
locals get funding to clean and rebuild. I set my small pack September, two Category 5 hurricanes ripped through the U.S.
in the corner. There’s a meeting coming up for the volunteers Virgin Islands within two weeks—Irma, then Maria. They tore
who are here with All Hands, the organization I’ll be working the trees off the sides of mountains, washed the foundations
with. They have teams all over the world to help communities out from beneath steep roads, threw small boats and massive
rebuild. They help homeowners clear wreckage from the dark yachts alike high up on the shore, and blasted the everyday
corners of destroyed houses. They’re one of many such organiz- belongings of people’s lives into the backyards, into the streets,
ers of work—groups that try to coordinate and impose order on and into the water. The storms also knocked out most of the
the chaos of good intentions that hurricanes tend to produce. hotels, so when the people from faraway places like Miami and
By the time I leave they’ll formally combine with another one Oklahoma and Vermont and Alaska bought plane tickets and

68 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

wall dust, dark mud speckling their fronts, streaking past
the hem of worn-out shirts to the legs of ripped jeans, tan
November skin peering through holes. I listen to the names
of homeowners whose ruined houses we’ll work on tomorrow.
We’ll be muck-and-gutting.
As the meeting breaks up, I walk one level up to an outdoor
bar and order a beer from a bartender in a reflective rayon
Hawaiian shirt. As I sip from the cold can, I try to remember
the six rules of volunteering, which I just learned: 1. Don’t
die. 2. Never. Ever. Open the fridge. 3. Be flexible. 4. When in
doubt, smash it out. 5. Don’t lose the keys. 6. Don’t be a dick.

Volunteers demol-
SINCE THE STORMS, there are no traffic lights on St. Thomas.
ish the remains Wires and brackets swing from drooping lines like stems of
of a condemned
preschool, sort- plucked apples over the bedlam of intersections. Cars move past
ing recyclable one another, their drivers leaning out open windows or staring
metal, wood, build-
ing supplies, and through improvised windshields of Saran Wrap and duct tape,
children’s toys. punctuating their movements with short friendly blats of the
car horn. It’s neighborly, even elegant. What should be a road-
block operates more like a square roundabout of unstopping
showed up at the airport at Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. traffic, waves, thumbs-ups, and shouts of “Good afternoon!”
Thomas, carrying duffel bags of work clothes, there weren’t Power lines lay limp along the narrow shoulder. Pedes-
many beds. So FEMA rented a cruise ship. A floating hotel. trians step on them as they try to squeeze by on the tight
The help reflex is powerful. There was no formal request mountain roads. There hasn’t been power on most of the
from the people of St. Thomas for strangers to fly down and island for about two months now, and even in early November
clean up their island so they could try to put their lives back the rumors are that it won’t really be back until Christmas at
together; who would even know how to ask for help like that? But the earliest. (As of early January, more than 90 percent of the
people flew down anyway. We got ourselves here, to this cruise islands had power.) Our fifteen-passenger van slows down to
ship with seven bars and an all-you-can-eat buffet, so we could squeeze beneath a fallen power pole that crosses over the road
work. The question is, now what? at a steep angle. Its underside is splintered where vehicles have
scraped past. We make it by, only banging into it lightly. The
A FEW OF THE PEOPLE I talked with before leaving home were taxi sign that once topped the van was knocked off weeks ago.
surprised I was going to the Virgin Islands. They had mostly As we drive up a slope, our van’s engine sings a song of dis-
heard about the trouble in Puerto Rico. Some didn’t even real- content. Bright blue tarps cover the seats. Long strips of duct
ize the islands are part of the United States, which St. Croix, tape meant to keep those tarps in place peel off and stick to
St. John, and St. Thomas have been since 1917 when the U.S., our clothing. Around the tight corner of one narrow neigh-
concerned with naval positions in the years leading up to World borhood road, we pull up to the house of the day. It sits atop
War I, bought what were then known as the Danish West Indies spindly legs of cinder block, a loose pile of drywall and wood
for $25 million. trim in the front yard. We pour out, carrying hammers and
The USVI have a nonvoting member in the House of Rep- pry bars. I watch my coworkers, looking for the most confi-
resentatives. The more than a hundred thousand residents dent one. I follow her into the house.
are Americans. They fight in American wars and pay Amer- From the front door I can see straight through to the back
ican taxes in American dollars. Once a major stopping point wall of the house. Twisted metal studs, floating electrical
in the slave trade and a center for sugarcane and rum produc- boxes. Yesterday’s crew pulled out much of the drywall, its sur-
tion, the islands’ main industry now is tourism. Year-round, face a Jackson Pollock of dark-green mold. They had marked
people arrive on cruise ships and planes for the beautiful water, six feet up from the ground and dragged a box cutter across
the beaches, the national park, the drinks served in coconuts. the sheets, hoping the water hadn’t damaged any higher.
The All Hands volunteers meet every night to talk about Beneath that line, with hammers, fists, and crowbars, they
the day’s work and get their assignments for the coming day. tore through the walls and chipped the drywall to the ground.
On the Grand Celebration, we meet in the Regal Room, a bar Dust hangs in the air like a haze, settling on arm hair like con-
on the ninth deck. struction-grade dandruff.
From the height of the ship, the damage on shore doesn’t Our crew picks up where they left off. People climb ladders to
look so bad. A few overturned sailboats, some blue tarps on hack at drywall wedged behind door frames, pull screws from
roofs. From the Regal Room, it’s different. Some of my fifty studs, and push brooms to try to control the constant shower
new coworkers showered in time for the meeting and sit in the of debris. I stand in the middle of the room, covered in protec-
clustered leather chairs wearing Chacos and Birkenstocks, tive gear, trying to figure out what to do. About fifteen feet up
T-shirts advertising the locations of other disaster-response the wall of the living room, a foot from the arch of the ceiling,
projects. Others hadn’t had time. They come covered in dry- I see a piece of mail stuck to the wall, its envelope high on the

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 69

opposite wall. The water definitely went higher than six feet. She’s never had rats in her house. Her house never looked like
An hour into our work, Ashley Midgette, the All Hands proj- this, never had holes in the floor, blown-out windows, doors
ect coordinator in charge of the five muck-and-gut crews, strides that don’t close. She looks toward the neat pile of things she’s
through the front door. Her long blond hair is pulled into a messy trying to save on the kitchen counter—a stack of plates, trash
bun behind her expressionless face. Volunteers pause mid-swing, bags full of dry clothing, their patterns pressing through the
hammers poised above crumbling drywall, when she enters. overstretched white plastic, kitchen appliances packed away
She greets the homeowner, and the two walk through the house. in their cardboard boxes. Then she looks over the tip of her
Ashley flashes a light between the sheets of plasterboard on nose at the squirming pile of flesh, leans away, and murmurs,
each wall, hoping for good news where there hasn’t been much. “Rats.” She doesn’t want them to come back.
It’s worse than she thought. Mold. She cuts a few small holes I step forward, tightening the work gloves around my wrists,
in previously untouched walls to look behind the boards, hoping and carefully lift the baby rats out of the drawer. I pile them
they might have escaped. But nothing did. Mold is what does together in a small plastic cup, and walk out to the driveway with
in so many of the houses. It can look innocent, a white powder one of our shovels, wishing I had ear plugs.
speckling all the way up the inside of the drywall, but you can’t
get it off. Every single wall has to come down, floor to ceiling. AFTERNOON. A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD BOY lifts a sledge ham-
The bathrooms will have to be ripped out. mer over his head again and again and again, letting its heavy
The homeowner stands in the living room, eyes wide, not head fall upon the things that once made up his life. His name
saying much. She goes back outside, sits on the porch and looks is Tyreek. His white T-shirt hangs off his broad shoulders, his
at the growing pile in her front yard, a house turned inside out cheeks are thick with the last of the baby fat that he’ll shed in his
like a salted slug. She pulls her Iowa ball cap down over her eyes. next growth spurt. He’s in eighth grade. We smash everything
Barbra, a mother from Santa Fe, starts pulling out drawers in into pieces small enough to stack in a corner of his front yard.
the bathroom, dumping the contents into a black trash bag: Tyreek takes a swing with all he’s got, and the hammer
brushes, soaps, toiletries. Suddenly a muffled scream whumps bounces off the corner of a living room end table. His palms sting
through her respirator. A rat lunges toward her from a bag of and he rubs his hands together, the sledge handle leaning against
clothespins. It’s bigger than a squirrel. It bounces off the floor his hip. Another volunteer walks over to hand Tyreek a pair of
beside her and scampers into a darker corner of the bathroom. leather work gloves, which he pulls on and raises the sledge over
The homeowner turns toward the door as Barbra rushes his head again. The corner of the table crumples beneath its fall.
out. Another volunteer carries the drawer In the small front yard, volunteers zip thick white Tyvek suits
behind her. The mother rat left a nest of over their shoulders so only a small moon of their face shows,
babies, each no bigger than a thumb, tan- then squeeze their feet into rubber boots that look like they’re for
In 2017, All
gled together. “Rats?” the owner says. Hands sent 4,300 clamming. The house is full of standing water and whatever lies
She sounds horrified and mortified. volunteers to beneath its surface. A litter of puppies runs around outside, dart-
communities around
the world. ing between rubberized legs. The father dog gives
chase with a bum foot. Tyreek and I swing our ham-
mers at a pair of mold-covered barstools. He’s not
very talkative, but he smiles a little after a good hit.
His father stands on the driveway, a luckless
smile on his face. He’s tall and thin. His face is
gaunt, cheeks sunken in, a look that his wander-
ing unfocused eyes only intensify. Every so often
he takes a pull from the bottle in his hands, the
green glass just poking out of the spiral of brown
paper held tight by condensation and sweat. “I’m
getting sentimental. It’s hard to watch everything
you own ripped out of your house,” he says. He tries
to smile while he says this, a smile he must have
plastered on weeks ago, something to help him
survive and be strong in front of his son. But as he
speaks he looks at memory after memory dragged
out of his house, his head shakes side to side. Tyreek
slams his hammer through a stack of four plastic
chairs. White shards fly through the air, pinging
off the hard hats of a pair of volunteers who wrestle

AM E RI CO RPS (nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps): Along with organizing regional Con-

servation Corps and Disaster Response Teams, AmeriCorps also offers long-term service programs
around the country. Volunteering comes with a housing stipend and, because it’s a government
group, you can defer your student loans and apply for education grants while in the program.

70 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

door bar, useful for visits to the dark bathroom.
A volunteer named Jeff, around fifty, sits
next to me on the high stools. He’s not wearing
the dark sunglasses and sleeveless shirt from
the worksite. I ask him how long he’s been here.
He’s not sure, he says. He counts time in houses,
not days, and he’s in the dozens. He’s big into
fishing and has the pulled, tawny skin of some-
a rain-heavy mattress to the top of the pile. Tyreek smiles, big. one who spends his time in the sun. He finished
A few volunteers sit down for a break and unzip the front of building his dream home on the Jersey Shore just before Hur-
their suits, overexertion on their faces. You always hope you ricane Sandy ripped it apart. He lived in FEMA housing for a
don’t have to put on the suit. The first time you pour out the while. That’s why he’s here. He knows what it’s like, he says.
sweat that collects in the bottom of the rubber boots is unnerv- Locals dance between the wooden picnic tables, and a few of
ing. Tyreek and I pull plastic water bottles from the bottom of them try to snag volunteers as they walk by. These are sweet and
a cooler. He drinks his quickly, silently. Like all eighth grad- awkward exchanges. The volunteers didn’t know how to help,
ers, he gives only a few short replies when asked about school. but they arrived anyway, and the residents don’t know how to
Dark clouds approach, running parallel to the ocean. It’ll be say thank you, so they invite them to future barbecues or grab
a warm rain, but more rain nonetheless. We rush to load power their elbows for a dance. There is gratitude on both sides. Thank
tools back into the van, unused saws and drills, then buckets you for helping. Thank you for letting us help.
and buckets of hand tools scrubbed with bleach to kill those “Remember everybody, the food up here is free and for
things we didn’t bring with us. Tyreek tells me not to worry, the everyone, so come up and get some,” the DJ says over the
real rains come up from the ocean. He walks under the eave of heavy beat, pointing to a folding table covered in metal trays
the garage next to his father. of chicken wings. Then he stops the music. “Everyone, where
We’ve done all we can for the day. A few volunteers walk are the All Hands volunteers?” The volunteers around me
over to Tyreek and shake his hand, then his father’s. The man let out a shout. “Well, this gentleman here wants to put $100
still smiles, because it looks like he doesn’t know what else to toward your tab for the good work you’re doing here, thank you!”
do or say to these good people, who came from the mainland to Beside him stands an enormous man, thick in the chest, a well-
demolish and haul away the walls that used to surround him as groomed beard pointing down to a pair of sunglasses hanging
he awoke each morning, dressed, made breakfast, sent Tyreek at his collar. He shakes hands with a few volunteers. You can’t
off to school. He looks at each of us, intensity in his eyes, search- hear what they’re saying, but everyone is smiling. Someone
ing for words, saying none. walks by carrying six beers to the cheering table. It feels like a
Then, as we turn to walk back toward the van, he says, “You neighborhood block party.
guys got to get back here sometime for a barbecue.”
AFTER MY THREE DAYS on the Grand Celebration, All Hands
YOU HAVE TO MEET EVERYONE T W ICE, once with all of the finds a new home for us, closer to our work. We leave Mr. Chi-
work gear on, and again when everyone looks human. You cago for the reception hall of the Holy Family Catholic Church
match each voice to the quarter of a face you interacted with in Tutu, a neighborhood that winds its way up the top of the
all day. These exchanges at the end of the day are initiated with mountain across from Little Krum Bay. The ship had its vir-
half nods and tentative smiles. tues—the room-cleaners, the drink-deliverers—but this suits
I am curious about these people. I am here on assignment, us better. Forest-green Red Cross cots are lined up in neat rows,
as a writer who has come to see what happens when, after the each in the middle of a duct-tape square beneath the glass chan-
destruction of a storm, people show up and try to be useful. But deliers on the high ceiling. Fifteen box fans hum throughout
these people left their lives, spent their own money to come the room. I hope they’ll drown out any snoring. A few volun-
down here to work eight hours a day, six days a week. Instead teers pull out bundles of paracord and throw them over the
of being content texting $10 to the Red Cross like the rest of high rafters to make laundry lines.
the country, they packed a bag. I wasn’t sure this much good- We keep our tools in the church’s basement, next to photos
will was left in the world. So I want to know them a little, and of priests in dark robes and silver crosses, on janky shelves
right now, they’re all going to a bar. made from two-by-twos and pallets. Hammers, sledges, a few
The volunteers call it Yellow Bar, for its offensive paint, different shovels, brooms, a pile of trash bags that reaches up
the color of a banana right before it gets its first brown spots. to my neck, box cutters, duct tape, reciprocating saws, circular
Reggaeton plays through a set of speakers, drowning out the saws, drills, screwdrivers, chainsaws, a massive demo saw with
hum of the generator that powers them and the halogen lights a great spinning wheel that looks like it came off a BattleBot.
near the grill. There are battery-powered lanterns on the out- Gumbs, a local police officer, patrols our campus all night,

HAB ITAT FO R H U MAN IT Y (habitat.org): You CO NVOY O F H O PE (convoyofhope.org): The organization

can always volunteer locally, but Habitat also offers sent groups of ten to 20 to help distribute goods and perform
home-building trips around the world. Just pay the set cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and continues to
donation amount. offer a range of service opportunities.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 71

After assessing the
every night. He smiles as he does his rounds, a Yan- damage, volunteers Nathan stands out front beside bright purple
kees cap on his head, his handgun bulging out the begin collecting flowers that look too delicate to have withstood the
the wreckage of
side of a skin-tight T-shirt. The church feels safe, but homes into manage- storm. He points to the low houses that surround his
you have to be ready for everything. Outside on the able piles before father’s in the tight neighborhood. Some look bet-
carrying it all to
street, dark under the powerless streetlights, cars a waiting dumpster. ter than others. Some don’t even have tarps to cover
rattle past, rat rods and motorcycles barking out their open eaves. “They’re staying with that family
their exhaust, small cars with bass that cuts through over there,” he says. “And they’re staying with that
conversation. A group of kids, racing downhill on bicycles, family over there.” A car rolls by slowly, and the driver waves.
laughing and screaming, cutting between cars, leaves a wake “People are different here than on the mainland. They say
of long honks. Any street in any city. hello to each other, they don’t complain. You can complain all
you want, but the Home Depot isn’t going to get building sup-
D A R RY L I S T H E PA S T O R of another church, the Church of plies any faster.”
the Apostles’ Doctrine, in the neighborhood next to Tutu. He We save what we can. One volunteer walks toward Nathan
built this church. It took six years. After the storms, when the with a drawer full of dry papers, but before he gets to him Nathan
church was spared, he opened it up to other islanders, not just tells him to just throw it all away. In the wall-less back room, chil-
his parishioners. Everyone needs a place to stay. His wife cooks dren’s toys cover the bed and spill onto the floor beside it. I pick
for all the people—their son Nathan says she’s best at cook- up a small suitcase to take to the dumpster. Beneath it, I see a
ing in bulk. When her children came together, some from the single, undamaged, wallet-size photo. In it, a small boy leans
islands, others from the mainland, to help with the cleanup, against a young woman, unaware of the world in which they now
they decided to have Thanksgiving early. In addition to her find themselves. Their smiles are bright and easy. I carry it with
family, she fed the holiday dinner to most of the people staying care in open hands, like the Eucharist, across the yard, and offer
at the church, and some of the National Guard, too. She didn’t it to Darryl and Nathan. They hold it in their hands, together.
like seeing them eating MREs all the time.
At Darryl’s house, a giant truck tilts its bed upward and AT NIGHT, THE DAY’S EXHAUSTION spreads out onto the Holy
begins to slide a dumpster down onto the street. The dumpster Family’s balcony. Groups move and grow, loose cliques that flex
pauses midair, too big to be so high, and one of the workers runs and change. The volunteers are data analysts and students,
out to pull a power line out of the way. He grips it with both hands paralegals and retirees. One man says he was disgusted with
and leans back sharply, wrestling the unwieldy wires, thick as the government response to the hurricanes so he told his bosses
soup cans, out of the way. Dumpsters are hard to come by on that he was leaving for a couple of weeks. “Not asked, told,” he
the island, but Darryl has lived in the neighborhood for a long says. With a plastic cup of wine in his hand and Tevas on his
time, and he knows people. He waves as the truck drives away. feet, another volunteer complains about his job in insurance.
Darryl’s roof sits in his backyard. The back wall of his house He wonders how he can convince his wife to walk away from
is a hole. Wood veneer panels peel off the hallway walls like the the office with him. One woman says she knows the value of
husks of a giant coconut. We move into the house, Darryl walking life after seeing members of her family struggle with Hunting-
ahead of us with a white washcloth draped over his head against ton’s disease. All she wants is to leave a good mark on the world.
the light rain. As he makes his way gingerly down the hall, he Sherry Buresh leads the All Hands volunteers for all projects
points to a few things he hopes we can save—a pink bicycle, the in the U.S. She calls it the Traveling Disaster Circus, a circus
bed frame in the master bedroom, then a long pause followed she’s led for fifteen years. She sits on the balcony of the church,
by...nothing. By the end of the day the dumpster men will be smoking one long Virginia Slim after another. The mosqui-
back, twice, to take away a full dumpster and leave a new one. toes don’t bother her, even when she sleeps. When a disaster

NATI O NAL VO LU NTARY O RGAN I Z ATI O N S ACTIVE I N ALL HAN DS (hands.org): Pay for your flight, and
D I SASTE R (nvoad.org): Tell VOAD your skills and where you’d All Hands covers the rest. The organization looks for
like to go. The organization serves as a hub for other active vol- underserved individuals and communities and is flex-
unteer groups and can place you with one that needs help. ible with volunteer commitment lengths.

72 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

even a little difference to make their life better—it’s what keeps
me going.” She lights another cigarette, pulls it in deep, looks
up, and wanders off toward her cot.


a man named Gary a pole saw. He gives Judith, another team
member, an enormous chainsaw with “Big Willie” Sharpied
across its top. Judith and Gary are from the Texas Conserva-
tion Corps, a disaster-response team. They work in tandem
with All Hands. Noah picks up the smaller chainsaw, this one
scrawled “Short Stop.”
As we walk up the concrete steps to the back of the house,
Noah pulls out his vape, which smells like Cap’n Crunch. When
All Hands heard he wanted to come down and volunteer, they
hits, Sherry wants to be standing among the wreckage, near tried to get him on the next flight, because there are far more
the most underserved people, within twenty-four hours. In the downed trees than there are volunteer chainsaw experts. He’s
middle of chaos, she knows how to survey an area to figure out quiet, with an often-expressionless face made even more so by
what’s needed and how many people it’ll take. Then she finds sunglasses that cover half of it. We step over the gable that lies
a place for them to stay and finds people who can teach them across the stairs of the house. Nails stick up toward our boots.
the skills they’ll need. Gary moves nimbly through the mess of each worksite, his
Earlier in the day, a group of volunteers demolished a pre- black ponytail swinging behind him—he’s an avid rock climber
school that had been standing unconvincingly. They pulled back home. Judith recently got her master’s in German studies
out bag after bag of children’s toys, a mush of crayon draw- but signed up for a year of disaster response. A red bandanna
ings, and child-size furniture. They moved to the corners of keeps her hair back under her orange Stihl hard hat—I can’t
the roof, dumped out a spaghetti of yellow rope from a Home decide if the look is more Rosie the Riveter or Tupac. Noah stands
Depot bucket and tied it from the roof to the rear bumper of a in the backyard, saw at his side, a slight grimace on his face. The
van driven by a local cabbie named Sonny. One volunteer fell wind cleaved off the highest and thickest branches of a thirty-foot
and landed palm-first on an upturned nail. She had to go find tree, leaving jagged wooden spires, like the rack of a giant deer,
a National Guardsman for a tetanus shot and then kept going. pointing toward the sky. The massive branches, some as thick as
From beneath a Philadelphia Eagles hat that matched the fad- a man’s torso, didn’t fall far. Most rest on, or are tangled in, the
ing bumper stickers all over his van, Sonny slowly pushed on the canopy of lower limbs, each no thicker than my wrist. Hundreds
gas, engine revving, as the building leaned even further before of pounds, barely held in the air, jitter in the breeze.
lurching forward and collapsing. Dust rose up to take its place. I want to dive in, to grab a chainsaw and start ripping through
Later we tore into the pile of debris and timber, hoping to the green timber, which is probably why Noah, who wears bright
sort the recyclable metal from the reusable wood. One of the orange protective chaps, doesn’t give me one. “I like being more
volunteers, a United pilot, stopped for a moment to point up at scientist than cowboy,” he says. He steps toward the tangle,
passing planes, naming their make, model, the type of engines. shuffling small branches from beneath his feet until he finds
He has a nephew in preschool, he said. When he and I talk about sure footing. He raises the chainsaw and begins trimming one
the work that night, his voice catches. You work at these sites and branch at a time, watching how the rest of the wood reacts to each
you see yourself, your family, your parents, your kids. cut. The chain, sharpened by hand each night, whips around
“You can’t help everyone,” Sherry says under the darken- the bar. The engine screams, shaking slightly, as the bar pulls
ing sky. Long drag. “But you can help that one, and that one.” through the wood. Noah pauses and steps back to yank on one
Exhale. “Watching them go from tears of despair and not of the branches. Then he steps forward to cut again. Satisfied,
knowing what they’re going to do, and knowing you’ve made he shuts off the chainsaw and directs the worksite like a field

Chainsaw crews
work carefully to
untangle a fallen
tree from a resi-
dent’s otherwise
inaccessible home
and backyard.

(samaritanspurse.org): This
Christian group responds to
disasters in the U.S. and abroad.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 73

commander, pausing occasionally to pull on his vape.
One of the biggest logs leans on the roof near the only unbro-
ken window. Noah moves around the backyard looking for any
angle that might give him insight into how it will fall once free.
He moves toward the tree, starts the chainsaw, and begins cut-
ting. The chain moves easily through the wood. The rest of us
are frozen, waiting for the great fall. When the log has only a few
inches left, Noah pauses to look over the branch. He puts the bar
back in for the last few inches and cleaves the branch in two. The
branch falls quickly, wood cracking beneath it, picking up speed, that straddles the high ridge of the island. Down either side,
until one end catches firmly on the overhanging eave and the the calm blue ocean meets the equally blue and cloudless sky at
other slows to a halt, caught by the soft hands of viny branches. the horizon. A pleasant breeze keeps us cool. Diana, the owner,
Unlike the rest of the demolished roof, the eaves are strong. stands on top of her bedroom door, its honeycombed core ooz-
The log is stuck. We have to go cowboy. The four of us arrange a ing onto the floor of what used to be her kitchen. A blue FEMA
rope around the branches and use it to pull the log down off the tarp stands in for the missing roof overhead. As the sun shines
roof in a lopsided tug of war. The window doesn’t even break. through it a haze of blue falls upon everything, even the roaches
The chainsaw crews are often the first to arrive at a site. the size of Almond Joys that scatter out of the piles of debris.
Heads pop out of windows and doorways as the two-stroke Diana moves about the house, too short to grab the broken
engines roar to life in each neighborhood. Near the end of our things she sees atop her cupboards from across the room. Her
job, there was a stir from the house next door, “Good afternoon!” frilly shirt, tights, and shoes with the heels stamped down
yelled a man in a white T-shirt on the second-floor balcony. We are all black. She looks at everything over the top of her small
waved up to him with our gloved hands. “Thanks for the work glasses. She and her roommate, Jane, painted the walls of
you guys are doing!” We weren’t even working on his house, but their house just a few months ago, covering up the “baby-poop”
before we could reply, he disappeared through a screen door and brown that the previous owner had all over the house. The paint
returned balancing four cold bottles in his hands. He tossed a flakes off now, great rubbery swatches falling, like everything
couple down to Judith and me, the other two up to the roof to else, to the sludge-covered floor.
Gary and Noah, then disappeared back into his home. “It’s almost so much you want to pack up and go away. But
this is our home,” Diana says as we fill trash bags. With her
ON MY L AST FULL DAY IN T U T U, I walk past a house like the hands on her hips and a wisp of hair sticking to her face as
others: blue tarp over the roof, a car with smashed windows it pokes out from a short-brimmed black cap, she scans the
parked out front. An American flag flutters on a pole at the cor- room: “Don’t go looking in the trash if you think you threw it
ner of the house. The bottom three stripes have torn free from out already, but if you see a black Croc that looks like this”—
the grommets. Each waves independently of the rest of the flag. she raises a single shoe above her shoulder.
“Good afternoon!” comes a call from the porch. I hadn’t I had seen that Croc. I remembered kicking it out of my way
seen the man sitting there—the owner, is my guess. It looks like as I looked over my shoulder, walking backward down slicked
he is melting into his chair, only the crop of thinning bleach- steps carrying a mildew-green couch out to a debris pile. I sneak
white hair atop his head differentiating him from the back and out of the kitchen and down to the trash heap. The Croc isn’t
arms of his seat. We both raise our hands in greeting before I near the couch anymore, so I start untying black trash bags,
move on to find a bite to eat. digging through waterlogged books whose covers peel off and
A folding tent on stilts, the kind you might find yourself stick to one another. Jane told me some of the books’ charac-
standing under at a tailgate, sits at the corner of the street. ters came to her in a dream, asking why she hadn’t saved them.
Two folding tables beneath it overflow with bananas, plan- I finally see it, under some palm fronds. I walk back into
tains, limes, a pile of gnarled ginger. “Good afternoon,” I say the kitchen, sidestepping another volunteer using a snow
to the woman sitting behind the tables. shovel to scoop up broken glass and mud. Triumphantly, I
“Are you from the cruise ship?” she asks. raise it overhead.
I’m confused for a quick minute. I stammer, almost saying Diana jumps into the air clapping. She holds both shoes
yes, then no, before I understand: A few days before, the first together in front of her, not seeing anything else. She actu-
actual tourist-filled cruise ship since the storms pulled into ally twirls around and says to no one and everyone, “I just feel
Havensight Pier near Charlotte Amalie. The return of the life- like there is a weight off my shoulders.” A long pause, and then:
blood. People to buy her plantains. “Before it seemed insurmountable, now it seems manageable.”
“No,” I tell her. “I’m staying with some friends.” She places both shoes on a modest pile of potentially sal-
I’ve seen this first wave of tourists roaming about, here to see vageable things in the corner—a few barstools, plastic bins
the island, to buy rum and dig their feet in the sand, to see if the that floated atop the rising water, a folded-up ab machine. She
beaches are still the same. To get stories and pictures of shock- walks into her bedroom and sits on the edge of her moldy bed
ing ruins to share with their friends. They buy gifts for the folks beside a few stretched-out dresses she hopes to save. She lets
back home, then rush back to the ship for cocktail hour, where out a long breath, one that’s been in there a while. She rises to
their own Mr. Chicago will announce the night’s activities. her feet, walks back out into the living room, picks up a fresh,
That afternoon, the team stands in what’s left of a house black trash bag, and shakes it open.

74 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

The number of natural IS SCARCE .
disasters has steadily Even if sewage and water-
delivery systems are down,
increased since the there’s often plenty of water
available. Look in build-
1940s, and quadrupled ings’ plumbing systems,
since 1980. Here are Hobel says. Potable water
will be trapped in the pipes,
some of the best ways to so see if you can locate the
release valve. If you can’t
keep yourself safe in life- find safe water, Hobel sug-
threatening situations. gests making the following
simple filter:

Burn a fire. When the

ashes are cool, grind
down the resulting
WILDFIRES AND HIGH WINDS. charcoal until it’s a
Before fire season, move combustibles powder. The grains
away from your house. Fences and dry vegeta- should feel like con-
tion give fires a place to grow, says Jonathan fectioners’ sugar.
Cox at Cal Fire, California’s Department of (Don’t use charcoal
from someone else’s
Forestry and Fire Protection. Hosing down
fire. You don’t know
your house won’t help much, either, he says: if they burned a poi-
“The way a lot of these homes burn is through sonous plant. They
something called ember cast, when embers also might have peed
from the fire fly over and drop little fires on it to put it out.)
everywhere. With a huge ember cast, hosing down your house doesn’t do much.”
If the fire is around you and you can’t escape, you don’t have many options, says Shane Find some sort of
Hobel of the Mountain Scout Survival School. If there’s a pool or a pond nearby, jump in and receptacle. An old
plastic water bottle
try to wait it out there. Otherwise, if you have time, dig a trench that’s two to three feet deep
will do. Cut off the
bottom of the bottle,
down in the trench. It’s risky, but at least you’ll have a chance. then use a nail to
poke a hole in the
cap and screw the
cap on the top of
the bottle. Turn the
bottle upside down.
Take off your shoes, put a plastic bag on Add a few inches of
each foot, and then put powdered charcoal
to the bottle, then
shoes, Hobel says. The BUT YOU FORGOT add water.
plastic will capture the A CAN OPENER.
heat your body generates. Most canned goods consist of a 1⁄16-inch The water will slowly
piece of tin sealed over the top of a thicker can. filter through the
charcoal and drip
Find a brick and aggressively rub it back and
out of the cap. Put a
forth on the rim of a can, Hobel says. The brick bandanna or another
But they’ll be warm. works like sandpaper, and the top will open. cloth over the hole
to filter out any bits
of charcoal. (If you’re
experiencing intesti-
nal distress—and you
very well might be,
According to Hobel, shelter is your first priority. Lay down cardboard and other materials to since your body goes
insulate yourself from the ground. (Even in summer, the ground can have temperatures that into different kinds
lead to hypothermic conditions.) Use tarps, blankets, pillows—whatever you can find—to build of shock in these sit-
the shelter on that layer. It should be as low to the ground as possible, and you shouldn’t be able uations—eat a little
to sit up when you’re inside, Hobel says. Other than the airflow you need to breathe, block all bit of the charcoal.
openings to keep cold air from coming in. It’s a matter of conserving heat. A lot of people don’t It’ll help bind you
back up.)
realize that their bodies are heat sources, Hobel says. You’re almost 100 degrees. Trap that heat
around you instead of letting it rise in a tall shelter, and you won’t need a fire to stay warm.

76 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

Every other Friday, be entertained and enlightened
by the editors of your favorite magazine.
Hosts Jacqueline Detwiler and
Kevin Dupzyk explore ideas,
products, hacks, tricks, projects, and
techniques that are guaranteed to
make your life easier. (Jacqueline is a
neuroscientist! Kevin is a great guy!)
The Most Useful Podcast Ever is an
entirely original, 25-minute, biweekly
audio program that’s perfect to
listen to while doing yardwork,
driving, washing dishes, running,
jogging, walking . . .



Go to the iTunes store Subscribe to Get automatic Enjoy

or popularmechanics. The Most downloads every time
com/podcast Useful Podcast Ever a new episode airs

Learn everything from lawn-care secrets to the best way to hang a TV

to the proper way to sear a steak. Also: On one episode, for reasons we now forget,
Jacqueline and Kevin had an on-air push-up contest. (She won.)
The earthquake in Iran, Hurri-
cane Irma in Puerto Rico, California
wildfires. As vital as food and clean
water, catastrophe response means
getting aid workers and civilians
back online. But could the tools
used to create emergency internet
be used to connect remote places?
It breathes, it
stretches, it keeps you
dry and warm. The
Reliance jacket applies
Filson’s rugged-as-hell
standards to the light
and packable Polar-
tec NeoShell material.

5.11 APE X BOOT 8"

A waterproof mem-
brane lining protects
your skin from nas-
ties in the water, and
a Vibram sole keeps
your footing sure.

Keep your life dry with
this rugged water-
proof duffel. Wear it
like a backpack when
you’re on the move, or
empty it and use it as
a last-resort flotation
device. $400

Afford yourself basic
comfort when the
world goes sideways.
This boxer brief is
antibacterial and fast
country outdoorsmen, hurricane relief drying so you can
wash and then wear it
workers, former military, and, in one
again quickly.
case, all of the above. $25

KUIU specializes in
hunting clothes and

works with SEAL

Team Six. These
durable all-season
waterproof pants
stretch and vent.

80 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

For reliable power, buy
Goal Zero, says former
Army Ranger Marty
Skovlund. “I took a
smaller unit to Afghani-
stan to stay charged
up.” This generator’s
1,045-watt-hour lithium
battery can charge your
phone 50 times, power
medical equipment, or
keep your refrigera-
tor running. Recharge it
with a 100-watt Boulder
panel. Get two for heavy
use. $250 and $1,300

It’s a hammer, pry
bar, and axe. Get into,
or out of, nearly any-
thing: cars, windows,
attics when there
are 20-foot flood
waters. Later, use it
to split firewood at
camp. $328

Block rain and sun—whichever is beat-

ing down—with this flexible ripstop
ENO FLE XFLY tarp. Collapsible poles are included to
make a lean-to and the set weighs just
U T IL I T Y TARP under three pounds. Before you pack
up, know how to tie the half-hitch, bow-
line, square, and slip knots so it doesn’t
collapse in the middle of a storm (learn
them at animatedknots.com). $135
the par
through acord
this ho
and aro le
a stick
to make
your hu
Currently used across Puerto Rico.
Sync a goTenna to your phone to send IN T H E A F T ER M AT H of natural disasters, contaminated drinking
messages and your location to another water is one of the biggest dangers. “There’s a ton of pathogens in water
goTenna via UHF and VHF frequencies. that cause moderate to life-threatening gastroenteritis,” says Bruce Gor-
The new Mesh network turns every don, coordinator of water, sanitation, hygiene, and health at the World
unit into an encrypted relay station to
Health Organization. Areas with on-site sanitation, such as septic tanks,
extend the range. $179
are most likely to put fecal matter into circulation in post-hurricane or
-tsunami floods. But the breakdown of infrastructure is also a threat. An earthquake or tor-
nado can destroy a pipe system and cut off delivery altogether, and even minor cracks can allow
MIDL AND ER310 E+RE ADY in contaminants. When quality is in question, Gordon recommends filtration and then chlo-
EMERGENCY CR ANK WE AT HER rine dioxide tablets. ¶ Microfilters are the easiest personal water treatments. Water passes
R ADIO through an ultra-thin membrane, whose pores are small enough to keep out dirt, bacteria,
This radio sold out last hurricane sea- and protozoan cysts. Viruses are too small for most filters, says Gordon, but chlorine dioxide
son. A crank provides backup manual
power (biceps not provided) for the
will knock them out. The filters we tested and picked are sturdy, portable, and intuitive—as
radio, flashlight, and USB outlets. $60 useful on long backpacking trips as they are after a hurricane hits. —Eleanor Hildebrandt

Aged ten years. Best served neat.
Good on cuts. $30


The BeFree’s 0.1-micron Hang the one-gallon bag 0.02-micron filter is
This shock-resistant watch can never among the only to block
get too dirty. It also measures baro- (0.0001mm) membrane and gravity forces the
catches all pathogens water down through tub- most viruses in addition
metric pressure to tell you if another to larger pathogens. The
storm is coming. If air pressure drops, except viruses. Sans water, ing and the Sawyer MINI
it’s a mere two ounces, filter, rated to 0.1 microns. floating prefilter and hand
head for shelter. $750 pump let you move more
and the bottle rolls up for The MINI filter can also be
compact storage between removed and screwed onto water, faster. And the self-
refills. $40 a standard-size disposable cleaning filter eliminates
CRK T T SR KNIFE water bottle. $40 maintenance. $350
“I always carry a fixed-blade knife,”
says Matthew Sanders, a retired Army
Ranger who worked the aftermath of
Irma and Harvey. “It’s good for a lot of
jobs, and I can tie it to a stick for a hunt-
ing spear.” His knife requirements are
simple: a stainless-steel blade around
four inches or less, to abide by most Disaster prep is a state of mind, so don’t lose yours.
state knife laws. The 4.4-inch TSR

has a compartment in the handle that
stores sewing needles, fishhooks, and hen I started putting together my water filter, lighters, and Millennium energy
line. The sheath holds a magnesium rod first survival kit, I just collected bars. It’s not the Four Seasons, but at least my
to spark a fire, a ceramic sharpening whatever weird stuff I could find— family will be able to survive 48 hours in our
edge, and a signaling mirror. $90 like tablets that would protect my thyroid from Honda Pilot.
nuclear fallout. My mindset changed when my One thing to consider: You need to be with
first daughter was born. I realized I needed a your gear when a disaster strikes. When Sandy
BL ACK DIAMOND S TORM more practical end-of-the-world plan, with hit in 2012, our whole family was in Connect-
HE ADL AMP equipment that would be useful for things that icut while all my gear was in Manhattan. My
Waterproof, dustproof, and shines might actually happen. Nuclear war is probably wife had a good laugh. These days, my every-
for 40 hours on the 350-lumen High not in store for 2018, and if it is, I’ll just open a day bag is a waterproof Showers Pass backpack
setting—half the brightness of a car window. I don’t want to live through that. where I stash a small set of screwdrivers, mul-
headlight. $50
There are two scenarios everyone—prep- titool, glass breaker, three flashlights that use
per or not—should count on: losing power and the same type of batteries, and a spool of Kev-
being stranded in your car. I’m a big believer lar thread, all sorted in plastic bags. There’s a
FIVE T EN ACCESS KNI T SHOE in backup power. I keep an emergency power spoon and fork in there, too, because if I have
Your clothes should keep you dry or
supply plugged into an outlet in my apart- to eat an MRE for dinner, I might as well look
dry fast, says Sanders. Built to move
over dry and wet land, this amphibious ment; it has a trickle charger so I can forget civilized while I do it.
shoe dries in as little as an hour on a about it until my block goes dark. In my car, —Wylie Dufresne, Michelin-starred chef,
hot day. $130 I keep extra blankets, a LifeStraw portable owner of Du’s Donuts, prepper

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 83


Although I’ve
played guitar for
decades, and I
can spend hours
admiring the
craftsmanship of
a Fender, I’d never
considered building
one. I didn’t even
know I could try.
Until I met Jeff.


84 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

“Please work,” I mutter.
Over the last three months senior home editor Roy Berendsohn and
I have been building a guitar in the Popular Mechanics workshop.
With so many roadblocks behind us, we can’t wait to finish this Fig. 1

damn thing. Now, perched against my knee are two halves of our
guitar body—a worn-down clarinet case—connected by a dangling BODY AND BRIDGE
wire. Despite the ragged appearance, the parts are all assembled,

eff uses clarinet cases because
the guitar is strung, and it’s time for a sound check. With sweaty
they’re roughly the same size as a
hands I connect a quarter-inch cable from the guitar’s output jack guitar body. But not just any clarinet
to my amp, flip the on switch, wait a minute for the amp’s tubes to case will do. Many aren’t long and wide
heat up, and flick the standby. I strum out a big open G chord, Pete enough to span our scale length and
hold the frame, or short and narrow
Townshend–style, throwing my whole arm into it. enough that they would be comfortable
to play. I found a decrepit 1970s clari-
Nothing. Just the muffled scratch guitars, a 1960 Gibson ES-125 and a net case, shipped from France, for $41.
of strings resonating against synthetic 1963 Gibson LG-0, were gone. Rather The first thing we did was gut the velvet
leather. Did we solder to the wrong than wallow in his loss, or buy expen- interior with a crowbar, and then we
post? We couldn’t have. We consulted sive replacements, Jeff tinkered with a added 2x3 support beams on the top
experts, watched videos, sent pictures junk guitar for a couple of weeks before and bottom of the case (Fig. 1).
to the pickup manufacturer. Was our getting the courage to build his own. For a guitar to function, the strings
humbucker too low to pick up an audio Jeff doesn’t really work from a plan. need to be the proper length, called the
signal? We’ll have to check everything. Since these aren’t standard guitars, scale length, and the distance from the
Again. there’s no blueprint to follow. Even on inner edge of the nut (where the strings
Guitar has been my passion since his tenth guitar build, he says, he still start to run down the neck below the
I was 12 years old. As part of my quest made mistakes. “It’s a lot of trial and a tuning pegs) to the center of the 12th
to grow as a musician, I’ve analyzed whole shitload of error,” he says. fret has to be the same as the distance
and broken down pieces of music on My first step was to enlist help. I between the center of the 12th fret
a molecular level, exploring note for don’t have much woodworking experi- and where the strings meet the sad-
note why something sounds good, how ence, but I do have Roy. And although dles in the bridge. Using my Gibson
musicians choose the notes they do, he’s never built a guitar, he has built ES-339 as a reference, we cut an open-
and how they achieve desired tones nearly everything else. ing in the body with an oscillating tool
and textures. Why not break a physi- For a week, all we did was plan. We and joined the neck to the body near
cal guitar down the same way? While drew diagrams, only to spot an issue, the 17th fret. That gave us enough over-
I’ve developed a deep appreciation start over, and draw more diagrams. lap for the neck to grip the body, but
for guitar craftsmanship, I had never I scoured eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy not so much that we ran out of room to
even done any of my own repairs. I was for suitable guitar bodies. Everything mount the bridge when we accounted
too afraid I’d mess something up. But seemed to have a problem: too short, for scale length. After that, position-
then one of our writers, Chad Stokes, too narrow, too many huge cracks. ing the humbucker—a type of pickup,
mentioned a guy he knew named Jeff Each time I felt close to buying some- the part that converts string vibrations
Conley. Jeff’s a designer at Google and thing, we’d convince ourselves that it to an electrical signal—would be sim-
a singer-songwriter who, for the past wasn’t perfect. It wouldn’t work. What ple. Specific placement affects timbre
ten years, has been building his own I eventually realized is that there is rather than functionality. Even if we
guitars—mostly out of clarinet cases a big difference between perfect and weren’t perfect, it would still work. The
but also salad bowls and Yeti bottles. I workable. We were never going to find closer you put the pickup to the bridge,
asked Jeff to teach me. the perfect pieces. If we kept looking the more trebly your tone will be.
Jeff’s foray into guitar building was for them, we’d be stuck in the plan- The guitar didn’t look like much
forced on him, in a way. After playing a ning phase forever. What we needed to at this point. After all that theorizing
club gig in Cape Cod he came out to his do was find something close. And then and planning I was starting to feel dis-
car to discover that his most precious make it work. We needed to start. heartened. Especially when people

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 85


metal-sheathed wire
ferent pieces of scrap from the shop
until he found one that filled the gap,
then crosscut it to a length wider than
the support so that we could screw the
bridge through the case and into solid stripped wire
wood (Fig. 2). On the pickup, though,
soldering point grounding fins
instead of the support bar being too low,
it was now too high. We had to cut out post/contact
a notch in the support with a circular
saw, then cut it again (and again) when
it wasn’t quite deep enough (Fig. 3). It
wasn’t until a couple days later that I
guitar cable
realized the pickup came with adjust-
Fig. 2
able springs, allowing you to control
its height (Fig. 4). Like Jeff says, a lot of
would ask me how things were coming. trial, and even more error. If I ever want
Without something to show them, I felt to adjust my pickup height to alter the trol—in his guitars, and we wanted to
like we hadn’t accomplished much. loudness of the strings, I can’t do it with- follow his stripped-down model. But
out significant work, but thankfully we I couldn’t find any wiring schematics
have it at a good spot. online that didn’t use at least a volume
BRIDGE ATTACHMENT If we had had a planer and bigger pot. This made me nervous enough
AND PICKUP pieces of lumber, I would have pre- that we stopped working for a few days

round the office, we see Roy as ferred to fill out the whole case with while I searched for an appropriate dia-
this infallible guru. But even wood. That would mean routing cav- gram. When I found nothing, I called
he gets frustrated. The differ- ities for our pickup and electronic Jeff. Like Roy, he doesn’t get hung up
ence is, he doesn’t let it stop him. When connection, but it would also have for long. He also doesn’t complicate
I couldn’t see past the problem, Roy improved the guitar’s sturdiness and things. All we had to do was solder one
didn’t just give the solution to me; he sustain. But I wasn’t so worried about point to connect the output jack to the
led me to it, so it felt like I was building perfect anymore. I just wanted some- pickup, then create a ground path back
the guitar with his help, instead of the thing that worked. I could adapt to the to the amplifier by crimping the wire to
other way around. imperfections. the fitting post (above).
With the upper support bar mounted
to the neck on the front of the body,
we had to deal with the airspace in the WIRING STRINGS
back of the body, between the support

and the top of the case. Roy grabbed dif- was most anxious about the elec- eff had warned me that you don’t
tronics. I’d never soldered and I know what these guitars are going
was scared I’d create a short, shock- to do until you string them up. The
ing myself if I messed up. The first part neck could bend under the tension,
was easy enough: We drilled a hole rendering it unplayable, or the intona-
with a bit the size of the output jack tion could be off. So after we’d added
and screwed the jack in place from out- the tuning pegs and went to string the
Fig. 4
side the case. Jeff doesn’t use volume guitar up, I was already a little nervous.
or tone pots—the little knobs on the On top of that, despite Jeff’s advice
guitar body that give you precise con- to use a floating bridge and tailpiece,

Fig. 3

86 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

nut support
2x3 upper block
support I’m a tone snob, so the prospect of building
bridge a guitar out of a clarinet case—not exactly a
block coveted tone wood—was nerve-racking.
I made up for that by buying good parts.

strap PICK UP The Seymour Duncan SH-1b

fitting ’59 humbucker reduces
feedback and gives a little
oomph to the sound, com-
jack pared to a single-coil pickup.
support It also retains a vintage flair
block and dynamic response from
lower the guitar.
2x3 lower case
BR IDGE I like the Fender hardtail
Strat bridge because you
I’d opted for a Fender hardtail. With above the fret board—with minimal can adjust the saddles
a floating setup, nothing is screwed fret buzz and surprisingly decent sus- about half an inch, giv-
ing you wiggle room to
down. The tension of the strings keeps tain. It was time to plug in. And then,
ensure proper intonation.
the bridge in place. This lets you adjust well, you know. Nothing. It’s ruggedly constructed
intonation at any time. But I wanted a from steel and nickel, really
hardtail bridge because I’m typically a anchors the strings, and
lead guitarist, and I wanted something WIRING (AGAIN) won’t fall apart on you.
that could take the tension of intense

string bends and aggressive picking. was crushed. Roy suggested check- T UNING Never skimp on tuners,
Of course the intonation was off. At ing with his brother, Paul, who has
M ACHINE unless you want to go hor-
HE A DS ribly out of tune every five
the 12th fret every note was too sharp. a background in electrical engi-
minutes. I went for a set of
Apparently we’d placed the bridge too neering and has repaired a lot of amps time-tested Grovers, which
far back on the body. You do have about over the years. After looking at a few have a 18:1 gear ratio for
a half-inch of wiggle room to change the pictures, Paul noticed that our solder precise control.
scale length if you adjust the saddles, wasn’t sticking properly. He posited
but even after screwing them as far for- that the contacts were plated with STRAP Dunlop Dual-Design Strap-
ward as they could go, the notes were chrome and nickel. Their surfaces BU T T ONS loks come with locks so
still sharp. When we measured the were too smooth and dense to bond. We your strap won’t fall off mid-
song—and you won’t break
scale length, I’d mistakenly measured roughed them up a bit with sandpaper
the guitar you spent months
from the front of the saddle instead of and tried again. The solder stuck. building.
the middle. Even so, the intonation is This time, the guitar worked. Elec-
not horrendous, so I decided to keep it trified myself, I hammered out the Instead of a genuine
as is. At some point, I’d like to fix it. I’ll intro to “Johnny B. Goode.” With only NECK Fender, which can run
have to unscrew the bridge, fill the holes one pickup and no tone controls, the more than $200, I bought
with wood glue, bore new holes slightly guitar isn’t super-versatile, but the a Strat-esque neck. It’s
forward on the body, and, if the piece sound is rounder and less tinny than fine. The two-way truss
rod helps prevent warping
of wood filling the gap under the case I expected. It’s sturdy. I can wail on
and can be adjusted with
isn’t long enough, open up the case and it, holding out long notes, and pluck an Allen wrench. I’m also a
adjust it, too. It was an easy mistake, out choppy percussive licks. I can play fan of the bright, reso-
but that doesn’t mean I’m not disap- it soft or hard. The synthetic leather nant sound quality of the
pointed in myself for making it. didn’t even deaden the dynamics the maple fingerboard, and the
Slightly sharp or not, I finally had way I thought it would. Obviously my way the dimensions of the
22-fret neck feel similar
a playable instrument. I strummed guitar doesn’t have the fat, rich sus-
to a classic Strat. Plus, the
it a few times unplugged. I was pretty tain of a Les Paul, but it does have a square heel made for an
pumped to find that it played at a com- raw, grainy dynamism, and that’s pure easier connection between
fortable action—the string height rock ’n’ roll. the neck and body.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 87


Quality work starts with careful
measurement, accurately marked.
These tips will help, as will a No. 2
pencil, whose medium-hard lead
leaves a readily visible line.

To draw an accurate line with a

ruler, hold a freshly sharpened pen-
cil at an angle, so the point meets
the work surface precisely where
the ruler does.

The Multifarious
Usefulness of Sugru
Here are a few household chores I’ve accomplished with Sugru, the moldable silicone-
rubber glue: reinsulated an exposed low-voltage wire on a gadget charger, recoated a rusty
part in the dishwasher, created two “locking nuts” that keep a floor mat in my car from
sliding around, replaced a knob on my wife’s KitchenAid, plugged a hole in a rubber boot. Ensure the accuracy of a mea-
surement from an edge by abutting
Sugru comes in ten colors, in five-gram packets. It feels slightly tarry when you first roll the edge with a stop block, then
it around in your hands, but it’s easy to shape and it isn’t messy. It remains workable for holding the ruler against it.
half an hour, then hardens in a day, and once cured stays permanently stuck to whatever
you’ve stuck it to. (A knife can remove it, though.) The retail price works out to something
like $250 a pound, but it’s infinitely useful. And unused packets last for several years if you
store them in your refrigerator. But you’ll find uses long before that. —David Owen

Sandpaper Prevents

Level Slippage FRO Holding a ruler on edge, so its
graduations meet the work sur-
When you’re holding a long level
face, improves accuracy. With a
tape measure, hook the end over
one side of the workpiece, then roll
its blade to meet the surface.



per in half and putting it—grain side don’t just throw them away. They’re perfect
out—between the level and the wall.
Friction keeps the level still.

88 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M



With ten big-brand cigars and a premium, Spanish

cedar-lined humidor, this irresistible special offer allows
you to save a massive 85% off MSRP! Take home favorites
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Enter the full web address for offer
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1911 Spillman Drive | Dept. #26 | Bethlehem, PA 18015

Belt Kits!
plete Timing
Learn woodworking
skills, basic electronics, OU R BU I LD E R
and soldering as you Eleven-year-old
Oliver Stifel from
build a machine Pennsylvania.
that draws on its
own using markers
and vibration.



Time: 25 minutes Ages: 8+


1 1-inch x 6-inch cedar

1 1-inch x 2-inch scrap
1 Uxcell mini-vibra-
tion vibrating motor
2,750 rpm DC
1 CR-2032 battery
1 CR-2032 battery*
Hot-melt glue
2 Rubber bands
Wood glue
120-grit sandpaper
Crayola Super Tips
washable markers
*Available on Amazon


• 3½-inch holesaw
• drill
scribbler with
• compass
your hand or
• miter saw, jigsaw, or
let it go and
handsaw and miter box
see what it
• clamps creates.
• 13⁄64-inch twist drill bit
• soldering iron
• hot-glue gun

90 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


21⁄2" holder
31⁄2" disc




Fig. A

rubber band

31⁄2" disc

Fig. B

on the perimeter of the

2½-inch circle you drew.
AND KID Space the marks about
13⁄16 inches apart, but there’s
no need to be exact.
Use a 3½-inch hole-
1 Use a drill with a
saw in a drill press or a 6
13⁄64-inch twist drill bit

cordless drill to cut out two

to make a hole on each mark,
wood discs (Fig. A) from the
passing the bit through the
1x6 cedar.
upper and lower discs.
Draw a centered
2 Solder the leads from Fig. C
2½ -inch circle on each 7
the vibrating motor to
disc with a compass. This
the battery holder. Glue the
will help you align the holes
battery holder and motor to
for the markers.
the upper disc with hot glue
(Fig. C).
Sand the edges of the
cut discs smooth using
Install the battery, then
120-grit sandpaper. 8
slip a piece of paper
between the battery and
Using a miter saw, the contacts to break the
jigsaw, or a handsaw connection.
and miter box, crosscut the
scrap block to 1½ inches Insert colored markers
long. Spread wood glue on 9
in the holes and hold
the end-grain of the block, them in place by looping
center it between the two two rubber bands around Fig. D
discs, and clamp the pieces them (Fig. D). Remove the
together to dry (Fig. B). paper from under the bat- Start a child you know on a lifetime of projects
On the top disc, make
tery holder and set the bot G IV E ! with a gift subscription to Popular Mechanics.
5 down on a piece of paper to Go to popularmechanics.com/gift.
six equidistant marks create your masterpiece.

@PopularMechanics MARCH _ 2018 91

A / C.H. Hanson 10CJ

The clamp mechanism is a

marvel of design. A small
machine screw with very
fine threading allows for
minute adjustments. You
can get the exact amount of
pressure on whatever it is
you want to clamp. Even at
maximum force, these pliers
were the easiest to release
of the products we tested.

B / Knipex 40 14 250

This beautifully made Ger-

man tool has a unique
pivoting lower jaw that
makes it much easier to
clamp around pipes and
nonstandard shapes. It’s
more expensive than
the competition, but
that’s because it’s made
of chrome vanadium,
an extremely tough and
fracture-resistant material.

C / Milwaukee

The Milwaukee has a hefty

eyebolt threaded into its
handle. Insert a screwdriver
and twist, and you can really
clamp down with some
force. The chrome molyb-
denum construction makes
it corrosion resistant.

D / Irwin Vise-Grip

The original locking plier is

simple, well-built, and still
great in all respects. The
new model has built-in wire
cutters and a recess in its
adjusting knob to accept a
3⁄16-inch Allen wrench that
lets you more easily and
precisely adjust and release
the tightening force.

92 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M


Famous Volcano
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In the future, will self-driving cars

be our designated drivers?

O THOSE OF US who enjoy a spirited spin along mode. “Do not drink and automated-drive your car right
a twisty back road, an off-road adventure in a now,” cautions Stanford Ph.D. candidate and self-driving-
4x4, or even a good old-fashioned stoplight drag car researcher David Miller. “That’s a very bad idea.” Tesla,
race, a self-driving car has all the appeal of a Cadillac, Mercedes, and Volvo declined to comment for this
self-eating cheeseburger or a self-kissing girl- article, but based on driving laws we think they’d agree. As
friend. Unless, of course, we’re able to throw a Miller explains, today’s automated vehicles are good when
rolling interstate cocktail party, simultane- they know where they’re going—but sometimes they don’t. “I
ously toasting the marvels of technology and lamenting the took a Tesla for a test drive and the road curved and the com-
obsolescence of the human race. Or at least peacefully sleep it puter was like ‘that curve’s too sharp for me, I’m just going to
off on the way home from Cousin Jethro’s bachelor bash. Then, go straight,’” Miller says. “If you don’t realize the car is driv-
maybe, you’re on to something. ing into the bushes, you’re going to end
All joking aside, Popular Mechan- up in the bushes.” And likely in hand-
ics does not advocate, condone, or cuffs, if you’ve been indulging.
encourage drinking and driving of Google-spinoff Waymo’s technol-
any kind, at any time. But will we one ogy seeks to cut the need for human
day strap safely into diesel-powered input altogether. The startup has part-
drunk tanks with backseat barstools? nered with Mothers Against Drunk
Or legally crack a cold one to pass the Driving and other organizations to
time during a traffic jam? “Long term, advocate for safer driving through fully
you will be able to do everything in a autonomous cars. But that technology
self-driving car that you could do as a has a way to go. While tests of driverless
passenger in a car today,” says Bryant Waymo cars are promising, the prov-
Walker Smith, an assistant profes- ing ground for the latest model was a
sor of law at the University of South senior living community with pristine
Carolina who specializes in emerging roads and a preprogrammed map of
technologies. “So just like if you were potential roadblocks—including, one
sitting in the passenger seat of your imagines, power-walking grannies,
friend’s car, you probably won’t be able wild-eyed oldsters chasing shuffle-
to drink.” Meanwhile, Edmond Awad, a postdoctoral associate board pucks, and the occasional unfortunate who has fallen
at the MIT Media Lab who researches the ethics of artificial and can’t get up. Try having the thing drive you to JFK at rush
intelligence, argues that “the answer hinges on whether the hour and you’ll be SOL, beer or no beer.
person driving the car will be considered the driver or a pas- Let’s suppose, however, that eventually the day arrives—
senger. And this, basically, would depend on the type of car and it probably will—when cars will drive us around 100
we end up with.” percent autonomously. There won’t even be steering wheels.
There are two basic types of self-driving car. There’s what Any human intervention will actually render your journey
might be termed the “semi-autonomous” model, in which less safe. What then? While you may or may not be able legally
the car more or less drives itself, but a sentient organism— to imbibe en route, considering you’ll still be riding around in
you—may be called upon to intervene. This is the type in cars some kind of large, heavy, complicated computerized machine,
today, including Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise we’re going to go on the record advising against it.

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 greatunknowns@popularmechanics.com.

100 MARCH _ 2018 P O P U L A R M E C H A N I C S.CO M

Sources: Simmons Research, Multi-Media Engagement Study, Spring 2016; GfK MRI, Spring 2016.

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