Many Thanks to Menlo Park TechShop

Tech Shop

TechShop’s motto is ‘Build your dreams here’.

Although our standing policy is not to read or follow instructions and to be generally distrustful of mottos, TechShop really is a place to do just that.  Man Crates might not exist, or at least we wouldn’t be where we are today, without the incredible service that TechShop provides to builders, makers, dreamers, and aspiring entrepreneurs across the country. Here’s the freshly installed laser bay at Man Crates headquarters, just completed this week:

Laser Bay at Man Crates
You mean you don’t get to slice stuff up with a laser beam at your job?

Each of these lasers can run up to $30,000.  We won’t bore you with too many company financials, but suffice it to say that’s more than the combined Blue Book value of most of our cars.

Man Crates beaters
The men of Man Crates roll in style. Form a line, gold diggers.

If you’re a brand new company (read: two guys working out of a garage) that can be an impossible amount of cash to front for one piece of machinery. There is no way we could have offered our legendarily awesome, Personalized Laser-Etched Barware  Man Crate, or our distinguished Whiskey Lover’s Sets without the help of TechShop.

Because if you’re just one or two guys with an idea, TechShop provides the lasers. And the table-saws, plastic benders, 3D printers, emotional support and training to help you get up and running, no matter what your idea is. Instead of dropping an ungodly sum to own your own expensive, hard to operate hardware, you can pay a monthly membership fee, schedule time to use the shared equipment, and get all the help you need from TechShop.

TechShop is also and incredible community hub. It was through TechShop that we came to know Insanely Great Products (IGP)- world-class laser specialists and a flagship partner to Man Crates. During the early days when we needed expert help tuning laser settings to get the absolute best possible etch, for months of production support, and especially during all the crazy holiday spikes IGP has had our backs and made our success their mission. Without TechShop, we might never have met Richard Ford and the IGP team.

So, like a baby raptor finally leaving the nest, we’ve finally officially moved our lasers out of TechShop. It seemed like the perfect time to say a huge thank you to everyone at the Menlo Park TechShop– thank you for your hours of help, thanks for your patience and your expertise.  Thanks for helping us build our dreams.

-Team Man Crates

The Nastiest Player in Tecmo Super Bowl

The Deadliest Wayne

Wayne Haddix

You’ll never hear his name mentioned as one of the old greats on Monday Night Football, but his name is a shibboleth of the Tecmo Super Bowl (TSB) ardent- a passphrase to identify the most die-hard fans of the greatest 8-bit sports simulation ever created. Utter his name around anyone who grew up playing TSB and a mix of fear, reverence, and envy washes over their face.

In the real world, Wayne played only a few seasons of professional football and had precious few post-season appearances.  In the TSB world, Wayne Haddix is a god- an Olympian immortalized in a low-resolution,  frozen snapshot of terrifying physical prowess.

  • 44 Hitting Power
  • 69 Quickness
  • 75 Maximum Speed (Tied for highest)
  • 75 Interceptions (Highest)

Here’s a single game highlight video showing Wayne picking off Steve Walsh eight, yes eight (8!) times.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqs-H9lhVQo[/youtube]

Where’s Wayne?

How is the best defensive back in the best Nintendo game ever created totally unknown in real life?

Check out Wayne’s Wikipedia page.  It’s like a stub, there’s nothing there.  Scroll over to the history section however, and you can see the ongoing edit controversy. It’s a waging war between those of us that understand Tecmo Super Bowl’s importance in the history of humankind and the tight-pantsed dorks that refuse to acknowledge the value of Wayne’s impressive virtual accomplishments.

From what we can tell, Wayne had exactly one stellar season playing for Tampa Bay in 1990.  

  • He started every game
  • He had 7 interceptions
  • He returned them for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns

If Michael Lewis (The BlindsideMoneyball) was available he might do some digging into Tecmo Super Bowl’s programming and release history.  Could we back out the Japanese number-crunching formula that turned 1990 football stats into Tecmo Super Bowl player stats?

In fairness, there was no way to know at the time that Wayne’s stellar season was a fluke and not indicative of his future career. Michael Lewis would dig into the human story around Wayne’s 1990 season, culminating in a trip to the Pro Bowl.  When he was flying back from Hawaii, tanned, laughing and on top of the world, where was he in his contract with the Buccs? Did he have a Jerry McGuire-esque agent go to bat for him? Maybe he secured a lucrative 5 year, $40 million contract that the Bengals, his next team, had to negotiate him out of after his completely lackluster follow-on season?

The story is out there, but unfortunately we’re not professional journalists with that kind of time, so with the rest of the Tecmo Super Bowl world we’re left asking:

“Where’s Wayne?”

Awesome Gifts, Not Easy Gifts

Pry and Pry Again

We’ve seen a few shake-ups among gift giving services this year. Facebook dropped all the physical products from the catalog of gifts that they conveniently recommend I buy for each of my friends birthdays. Plastic Jungle pivoted away from their gift card exchange service. The gift selection service Wantful suspended operations after a strategic partnership with Nordstroms fell through.

Some people are putting these points in a line and asking if gifts are still relevant. Is buying goods for other people a dated, economically inefficient transaction that’s outlived it’s purpose? Are physical gifts the snail-mail of social pleasantries?

It’s Not About Easy

Maybe the focus has been on the wrong aspects of gift giving. Maybe people don’t want another safe option, another trusted recommendation for a store where your friend is likely to use a gift certificate. Sure, I might never snub a free Starbucks gift card, but getting a digital notification that someone’s put $10 towards my coffee-filled future doesn’t really deepen my relationship with whoever put that money there. The exchange of digital currencies and gift cards on our birthdays may never go away, but let’s never confuse those lazy social observances with giving great gifts.

Gifts aren’t about reminders, cash or convenience. Not if you’re doing it right.

People that understand gifts, that really love gifts, delight in finding and sending something unexpected, something that’s fun and memorable. Gift giving isn’t an obligation that we’re trying to fulfill as painlessly as possible, gift giving is an opportunity to share an experience with our friends and loved ones and ultimately be closer for it.

 

Exceeding Anticipations

Gift giving is, almost by definition, an emotional, sometimes challenging search for the right gift, and when you’ve taken the time to find and choose something you think that your friend will like, you’re taking a risk and putting yourself out there- will they actually like it? What if they don’t like it?

Taking a risk builds up your expectations. You picture them opening the gift and you imagine their response. You’re impatient for the gift to arrive and excited to see them open it, because when you’ve found the right gift that risk pays off. Great gifts create and then exceed anticipations.

Anyone can put money toward your Starbucks tab.

Only people that know you can find something that you love but maybe never knew you wanted.

 

Our Never Ending Mission

We are Man Crates, and we’re dedicated to delivering awesome gifts, not easy gifts. In fact our flagship product is a wooden crate chock-full of awesome gear and grub, fiendishly sealed shut and delivered with a crowbar.  It might be one of the most inconvenient gifts on the market, but since our launch in 2012 we’ve helped tens of thousands of customers send fun, unexpected gifts that bring people together. We’ve grown from a three man garage start-up into a profitable, 5,000 square foot operation- largely through the word of mouth recommendations from happy customers, one gift at a time.

So if you ask us if giving gifts is dead or dying, we say no.

We say awesome gifts now, and awesome gifts forever. Awesome gifts will never die.

If you’re as passionate about bringing people together through fun as we are and you’re looking for a job, we have lots of openings. Check them out at www.mancrates.com/jobs. And if you’re looking for an awesome gift for a guy, we’re always here to help- www.mancrates.com

A West Virginia Miracle

Man Crates and TroopSwap send personalized barware crates as prizes
Man Crates and TroopSwap sent prize crates to the Armed Forces Winter Salute

Going Above and Beyond

It was 5:28 PM on Friday, quittin’ time on a cold February day in the hills of West Virginia.  Randy was closing up Glade’s hardware supply when the phone rang one last time- all he had to do was let the machine get it and he’d be on his way into a relaxed weekend. He answers the phone, and an amazing chain of events begins to unfold…

Team Man Crates and TroopId were sponsoring the prize giveaways at the Armed Forces Winter Salute in Snowshoe that weekend.   We’d recently launched our streamlined military discounts page and were psyched to help out with an awesome event for the troops and their families.

wv_glades
Glade’s Hardware and Snowshoe Resort- a good 36 miles away

Somehow our packages got separated during shipping, and that fateful Friday we realized that the troops were going to get their crates without crowbars.  Have you ever tried to open a Man Crate without a crowbar? It’s like trying to tear clamshell plastic packaging with fingers covered in bacon grease. We were in a pickle.

Our first thought was to  overnight a package to the event, but when we told every courier service the West Virginia address we were trying to send the package to they laughed us off

“Saturday delivery? To the top of a mountain in West Virginia?  Sorry, we can’t offer that service.”

Time was running out and in desperation we started cold-calling every hardware store within a hundred miles of the resort thinking maybe we could arrange for a local courier to make a last minute pick-up and delivery on our behalf.

The Call Goes Through

We’d tried a few places with no luck before Randy answered the phone.  He was just closing the register for the day so I quickly explained the situation as best I could, but I must have sounded crazy- it’s not everyday that someone wants to buy out your crowbars and send them to the top of a mountain. Randy patiently waited while I started from the top- “We deliver awesome gifts that you open with a crowbar- yes, it really takes a crowbar- and we need replacements for the troops’ prize giveaway tomorrow.”  By this point it was well past closing time, but Randy took up our cause.

He searched the store for as many crowbars as we needed- scrounging a few different models together to make sure there was one for every crate we’d sent.  He then personally called the event coordinator, a friend of his, and arranged for his son to sacrifice his Friday night and do an immediate delivery up the mountain.

gladesbuilding
We send Randy and Cody some Man Crates swag for saving the day

  Randy refused every offer we could make to pay for the extra service, insisting over and over that:

“That’s just the way we do business around here.”

Thanks to Randy and Cody the The Bull Riding champion, the Wounded Warrior Slalom winner, the Zipline Divebomb champion, and all the others- each had crowbars to open their sweet, sweet victory Man Crate.  We were all reminded of our mission as a customer service team- take up the cause and stop at nothing to get the job done.

Thanks Randy and Cody.

Beers on us if you’re ever out our way.

Awesome New Gift Crates for 2013

One of the best parts of this job is working with our customers and the Man Crates Brain Trust to design new crates.  The internet connects you with all kinds of people, some who have awesome ideas.  Here’s a few of the crates queued up for release in 2013:

Tactical Dad Bag

The best diaper bag a man can get caught carrying.  Literally camouflaged, no one will be able to tell this bag contains a baby operator manual, earplugs, powders, wipes and other infant accouterments.  Ships with the Man Crates fist & crowbar onesie or beanie so you can start training your brood in the essentials of manly living right from the get-go.

The Golfer’s Crate

If there was one thing the people demanded to be heard on in 2012, it was the golfer crate.  No pros ourselves, we’ve been sneaking into private country clubs using plaid and British accents to observe the golfer in his natural habitat.  Several high-speed golf cart chases and many hours on the driving range and community course later, we’re close to announcing the perfect line up of golf essentials for the man that can wield both a crowbar and a 9-iron.

Hot & Spicy Crate

This crate was briefly spotted in early 2012, and a few were ordered.  It was unsuccessful.  We’d delivered a 3-Mile-Island level of spice, a complete failure.  We’ve scoured the earth and HotSauce.com for the most concentrated, lethal dose of Scoville rated pepper sauces, jerky and snacks that we could find.  Hot & Spicy Crate version 2.0 will be like Chernobyl on your gums, like a shock & awe campaign for your tongue, and a seven year plague on your throat and GI tract.  We’re still working with our insurance company to make sure we’re covered sending these, and some items may be considered weaponized liquids ineligible for export.

We’ve got our work cut out for us.  We love hearing when we got things right and when there’s an item that would be perfect in our crates.  So long as your suggestion is not one of the following ALREADY REJECTED ideas leave a comment and let us know what else we should be working on.

Crates which will never be made:

  • The Live Wolverine Crate – this chapter of Man Crates is closed.
  • The Bacon Haters Crate – Please stop emailing us, Cindy.  You’re a hostile vegan and we can’t help you.
  • Get Off My Lawn Crate – functional, but we’re not ready
  • Ninja Repellent Crate
  • Pet Sympathy Crate
  • Dancer’s Man Crate
  • Anything involving spiders

Happy new year and hope 2013 has lots of awesome gifts in store!

Holiday Traditions

Fezziwig's Warehouse Ball

Bear with me on this- we’re going to hit family Christmas traditions, Dickens, Warehouse Parties, and one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever seen.

Mom Owns Christmas

Mom owned Christmas at our house growing up.  There were four of us- intensely competitive, bickering brothers,  but we knew not to mess with Mom during Christmas.  If the holiday music was playing there was an unspoken truce, and no talking back to Mom.

In what some might consider an abuse of this seasonal respite Mom established many a Christmas Tradition, with the most notorious being a full reading of Dicken’s Christmas Carol around the tree on Christmas Eve.   There would always be hot chocolate, a lit tree, and depending on where we lived each year a fire in the fireplace- pure Normal Rockwell for two hours of reading.

This went on for years, to the point where we could recite whole passages of Dicken’s original work.  It became tedious, but none of the brothers could break the Christmas truce.

A Welcome Interloper

When the eldest brother married and brought his new wife home for her first Christmas with the family she was eager to participate in the family traditions.  A few years of the same.  As the cherished daughter that Mom never had, the daughter-in-law finally realized that she was the only one exempt from the Christmas truce, and our only chance.

Finally we assembled one Christmas eve to find the daughter-in-law had made a short stack of gifts for every family member.  At the top was Dicken’s Christmas Carol- the Abridged and Illustrated version.  Then there was Dicken’s Christmas Carol- Cliff’s Notes.  Then there was Dicken’s Christmas Carol- the one page executive summary.  Then there was Dicken’s Christmas Carol- the bumper sticker version, which she had written herself.

Marley was dead.  Scrooge kept Christmas.  God bless us, every one.

In a brilliant win-win, she’d gracefully preserved Mom’s tradition and freed an extra hour of everyone’s Christmas eve for the other traditions, like unwrapping presents early.

Warehouse Parties?

The bumper sticker version leaves out Fezziwig’s Warehouse party, which if you’ve read the book or watched the muppet version, you know is epic.  Team Man Crates first Christmas Tradition, in the spirit of Dickens, the holiday season, and wonderful Moms, was an epic warehouse party- I told you we’d make it back.

Whatever your Holiday Traditions- we wish you safe travels and good times with your friends and loved ones.

Merry Christmas, from Team Man Crates.

Man Crates Christmas

 

Let Them Flug!

#LetThemFlug

@RedBull #LetThemFlug!

The RedBull Flugtag came to San Francisco last weekend.  It’s a terrific event, Redbull does a fantastic job, and the winners this year worked hard and deserved their title. We’re just saying we would have liked a chance to compete.

There’s a competitive registration process which happens months before the actual event.  You might say ‘well you should have registered.’  That’s procrastination discrimination.  Seriously.

Just let me Flug, breh.

While we weren’t able to jump, we did revel in the spirit of flight with other Flugtag attendees, pose for tons of pictures (more on our Facebook page), and exercise our constitutional right to make posters and assemble peacefully-ish.

We’ll be back next time. Give us a shout if you saw us there.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcMaiP7JanM[/youtube]

 

Field Report: The Retro Gamer Crate

Play Testing the Atari 10 in 1

People often ask “How do you guys choose which things go into each Man Crate?”

I’d be lying if I said we had a scientific process- it’s more like a third-world parliamentary session where fisticuffs and blackmail are on even footing with polite debate and rational reasoning.  We’re opinionated and stubborn, and we don’t always agree on what will make the most awesome crate.    However in the case of the Retro Gamer crate, Jon and I play-tested the Atari 10-in-1 set against two competing retro-gaming systems on the market and hours later, with calloused thumbs and reddened eyes, we both knew that this was the set for us.

Atari 10-in-1 Review

On any album there are some singles and some filler tracks.  The 10-in-1 is no different.  Some of these games provide interesting anthropological  insights into the origin and evolution of video games rather than enjoyable replay-ability (Adventure, Realsports Volleyball.)  The best games stand the test of time, and casual and serious gamers alike will enjoy the top 3 titles below.

1. Missile Command

Missile Command Screenshot

Sam (high score: 52,465): Obviously we skipped the instructions and started playing all the games immediately.  This game was my early favorite because it’s an easy concept to grasp and the controls are intuitive.  The bad guys are attacking America with missiles and UFOs, you’re the fearless commander of the STAR-WARS defense shield responsible for shooting down all the incoming ordnance.

Jon (high score:19,380): The game gets hard pretty fast, the key to staying alive is naming your six cities. San Francisco.  Houston.  Chicago.  Washington.  New York.  Boston. It makes the mistakes real.  You just lost the Giants and the Smithsonian.  Nut up and aim better.  Enforcing drinking penalties also takes this game up a notch.

Continue reading Field Report: The Retro Gamer Crate

How to properly dispose of your Man Crate

How to properly decommission your Man Crate

Many people use their Man Crates as time capsules, to store tools, socks & video games, or as packaging for future gifts.    There’s no higher calling for a crate than being put out to pasture through purposeful recycling.  However in other cases- when you’re on the trail and can’t carry the weight, or when your crate has otherwise out-survived it’s mission and purpose, there’s a respectful way to dispose of it.

Man Crate Decommissioning Ceremony

Set a date and invite people who were a part of the Man Crate’s life.  The gathering should be set for dusk, in a place where you can build a small ceremonial fire.  Attendees should be dressed appropriately.

  • Begin the ceremony with the lighting of the fire- the Man Crate should not be in the initial fire
  • The crowbar should be present
  • Present the crate to the group
  • If you were given the crate as a gift, say a few words about the person who sent you the crate
  • Recount the crate opening- where were you?  How long did you struggle to pry the lid off?

Conclude the ceremony by placing the crate in the fire.  Open beers.  Toast the bonds between us that transcend the physical  and give us our humanity.

 

Tell Us More

What did you do with your Man Crate once the chow was gone and the gear was put to use?  Take a minute and write in to let us know how you’ve recycled your Man Crate.

Survival Crate field test- Making fire

It’s impossible to fully appreciate the goods in the Outdoor Survival Crate without the right setting.  We just finished a 3 day field test of the Man Crates survival gear in Desolation Sound Marine Park, British Columbia, which was the perfect setting.

Flint and steel fire

For all the gadgets and advanced technology we have in our daily lives, it’s extremely gratifying to master man’s first technology- fire.  The Bear Grylls fire starter is the coolest thing in this crate, but you’d never know it until you needed it.  As part of our field test we lit all our fires using the flint and steel key and by the end of the trip we had it down to a science.  Let’s break it down.

1. The Set-Up

We saved the packing paper from our survival crate and rationed out a few small strips for each fire.  Find  grass, bark, and soft woods you can strip down- the important things are that the pieces be completely dry and as thin as possible.

The set up

2. The Secret Weapon

It’s hard to get the spark from the flint to catch, even with perfectly dry tinder and paper.  The Bear Grylls  kit includes a small ball of cotton.  Take a pinch of the cotton and spread it out in the center of your tinder.

Cotton is the perfect material to catch flint sparks

3. Striking the Flint

This takes some practice, but the gear is excellent.  Hold the flint key pointing down towards your cotton and tinder, then push down against it with the steel teeth like peeling a potato.  Get the pressure and speed on the key right and the steel will throw off a small shower of sparks.

Point the flint towards the tinder and peel it with the steel

4. Catch the Spark

As soon as the spark comes in contact with the cotton it will light.  If you’ve surrounded it with paper strips or dry grass, the spark will set off a chain reaction and you’ll see flame.  If you don’t have perfect materials for tinder you’ll get smoldering embers and smoke.  In either case the next step is to nurse the flame.

The spark catches

5. Nurse the Flame

Nurse the flame by blowing firmly and evenly on the base of the fire and feeding it your best tinder.  Make sure you have plenty of dry material available and nearby so you can stay close and tend the flame.  Once you have twigs and bark burning you can light progressively larger kindling.

Nurse the flame

After you’ve mastered flint and steel you’ll want to start carrying the fire key everywhere, even if you never have cause to use it in your normal day to day.  You might say carrying a book of matches or a lighter would accomplish the same thing and be more convenient.  Maybe.  Knowing you have the power to make a fire the old fashioned way is much more satisfying.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS7Og1zvdy8[/youtube]

Tom Hanks – Castaway

 Know a guy that loves camping?  He’ll love the Outdoor Survival Crate.