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Projects For Old School Boy Fun (Part 1)

Posted by on June 14, 2011

(And Old School Dad Fun, Too!!)

The REAL Dangerous Book for Boys

In 2007 The Dangerous Book for Boys was a bestselling sensation.

File:Iggulden & Iggulden - The Dangerous Book for Boys coverart.jpgI feel it’s a great book, even with what you’re about to read. This book encouraged me to start (or more accurately, renew) my collection of this literary genre. The most dangerous thing in the book? Making a bow and arrow or shooting a rabbit with an air rifle. (I guess if you’re a rabbit it’s definitely the air rifle thing.) But dangerous? Compared to sitting on the couch playing videogames, yes. (Although in the long term picture sitting on the couch playing videogames is MUCH more dangerous.) Now compare it to what was in the same literary genre ninety-four years ago in The Boy Mechanic: 700 Things For Boys To Do. (Get a free ebook version here.)

A kid learns how to BUILD AND FLY A GLIDER!! See how far we’ve fallen?

OK, perhaps “fallen” isn’t the best word to use when describing a book that taught boys how to construct and fly a working glider. But something has fallen. What has fallen is the size of dreams and goals these books give their child readers. Look at another page from the 1913 book.

I think the 4th of July would be a lot more fun if dummies flew through the air!

A homemade cannon that hurls a life-size dummy all 100 feet through the air. Suddenly, Making a Paper Hat, Boat and Water Bomb on page 98 of The Dangerous Book for Boys just ain’t makin’ it.

Understand me, I am totally on board with the preface Project Gutenberg has added to this book.

Another class of projects illustrate the caviler attitude toward environment and health in 1913. These projects involve items such as gunpowder, acetylene, hydrogen, lead, mercury, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, cadmium, potassium sulfate, potassium cyanide, potassium ferrocyanide, copper sulfate, and hydrochloric acid. Several involve the construction of hazardous electrical devices. Please view these as snapshots of culture and attitude, not as suggestions for contemporary activity.

Much of this ninety-four year old book is worthless, dangerous, outdated, anachronistic or useless.

Paper airplanes? Good.
Sulfuric acid? Bad.
Skipping stones? Good.
Homemade scroll saw? Bad.

But building a big backyard cannon? Seriously, why not? If it’s safe, legal and sufficiently supervised, why the heck not? I’m not taking about a “as used by the military” cannon. I’m talking about “Hey, Junior! Look how high that potato went” cannon! When I was a young teenager, I safely built tennis ball mortars with my buddies Too Tall Greg, Fast Feet Billy and Three Fingers Tommy*.  There are ways to build cannons and mortars that use ingredients with less danger than a backyard barbecue. Am I recommending YOU try this? No way. My concerns regarding your safety and lawyers dictate I never make recommendations, period. (See here, last paragraph.) I’m simply saying such things have been safely done thousands of times by thousands of boys.

And what about the glider? That has to be nuts, right? Look at this thirteen year old kid.


This kid is doing something big. Very big. And doing big things begins with big inspiration. That’s why, despite the bad parts, I love that this book from 1913 has glider and cannon plans. Those specific glider and cannon plans? Not so much. The ideas that these kind of BIG projects book can plant? A resounding Old School YES!!

But here’s the challenge.

Books like the 1913 The Boy Mechanic: 700 Things For Boys To Do have projects that are big, but too too safe.

Books like the recent Dangerous Book for Boys have projects that are safe, but not too big.

So where can a safety-minded dad find these BIG & INSPIRING projects?

If you’ve never visited this site, click the link and go exploring. If you’ve been to it before, but never have thought of it as a father/son resource, go there now. I have a small pond on the homestead. I’ve wanted a small boat that my boys could build with me. I found the plans at this site. This site is a gold mine and very well maybe the modern and much better equivalent of The Boy Mechanic: 700 Things For Boys To Do.

Go-Karts. Magic Tricks. Tree houses. Paper Airplanes. Pocketknives. Hiking. Hunting. Blowguns. POTATO CANNONS!!!

All @

Sit down with your boys right now and start searching, dreaming & building.

Keep it Old School, my friend

The Old Man

PS:  Part 2 is coming soon!

See me and the boys build these projects & have some Old School fun!

See some projects at you’d like to see us try? Post them in the comments section.

*Just kidding about ol’ Three Fingers.

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