We all know a guy who seems incredibly difficult to shop for. When the holidays roll around or his birthday comes up you draw a blank.
Maybe he’s picky. Maybe he just goes out and buys whatever he wants for himself.
I have to admit, I’m one of those guys. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly picky, but I generally just go get the thing, whatever it is.
So, this is a list written from the impossible-to-shop-for guy’s perspective. It’s a list of creative ideas that go a step beyond what’s available at the store.
17 DIY Gifts for Men
We carry them everywhere and handle them multiple times throughout the day. Why not add a meaningful trinket to it when he’s not looking; his favorite type of fishing lure, a shell from your vacation drilled to accommodate a keyring, a stamped metal plate or a flat washer from the hardware store that says “I love you” that you made with this awesome stamp set and a drill.
2. Photo/Graphic Novel Coasters
Print off copies of some of your favorite times together or search for images from his favorite graphic novels. Sin City and The Walking Dead were graphic novels first. If zombies and noir are a little too much, go with the classics: Batman, Aquaman, The Incredible Hulk, Thing, The Human Torch.
Once you have your pictures collected, take some blank coasters, trace the shape to be cut, cut away what you don’t want, and use mod podge to stick the pictures down and seal them.
3. The Almighty Gift Basket
This is great for presenting some of his mass-market favorite things that would be too small to wrap up individually. Things to throw in: his favorite coffee, BBQ Sauce (see below), pens (for The Writer), his favorite healthy snack, and that kind of expensive beer that he gazes at longingly every time you’re at the store, but never buys for himself.
4. Homemade BBQ Sauce
Lots of barbecue sauces start with a ketchup base. You can class it up a bit with something organic and wholesome like Portland Ketchup from Portlandia Foods. Here’s a sample mixture:
- 1/2 c. ketchup
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 T. Bragg’s cider vinegar
- 1 dash cayenne pepper (or as much as you want)
- 1 t. garlic powder (I like fresh garlic, too.)
- 1/4 t. mustard powder or mustard
- 1 dash salt
Mix it all together, tasting as you go. When it’s the best it can be, put it in one of these classic Ball jars.
5. Treasure Chest
My older brother and I have been dreaming about swashbuckling our way across the high seas searching for buried treasure since we were kids. A few years ago, he found an antique-looking box and started asking the bank teller to include a few dollar coins with his withdrawals.
I’m not sure what his treasure chest looks like these days, but I imagine it’s full of golden Sacagawea dollar coins.
You can do something similar for your guy. It doesn’t have to be golden doubloons. You could put in anything he treasures: photos, mementos from trips, tags from beloved pets.
Pronounced SHa-lay-lee, these are traditional fighting clubs common to Ireland and a symbol of Irish heritage. You can’t import the traditional and invasive sloe wood (Blackthorn) to the U.S., but you can fashion a shillelagh out of a branch of oak, hickory, or any other hardwood in your area.
It’s best to cut the branch while it’s green and cure it. This was historically done up the chimney over a period of days. You can also finish it with varnish, stain, or shellac once it’s completely dried.
Here’s how to make it:
- Find a recently downed green branch and, using a handsaw, cut it on either side of a smaller, off-shooting branch.
- The smaller branch will be the shaft of the cane/club.
- Smooth the head of the club with a knife and sand paper.
- Seal it with stain, shellac, or cure it up the chimney.
Or, you could just buy one: IrishShop.com has a serviceable one.
7. Monogrammed Anything
It may seem a little hoity-toity, but having your initials on your things gives you a sense of pride and ownership.
Take his dress shirts to a seamstress or break out the sewing machine yourself to do the monogramming.
Another classic choice is the monogrammed flask.
8. Birth Year National Geographic
A lot of guys have dreams of one day working for National Geographic. The photos and history the Society has provided over the years are unassailable.
My mom started a mini-tradition with us when we were young, going to used bookstores and thrift shops to find the issue of National Geographic that corresponded to our birth year and month.
It’s interesting to look back at what was going on in the world when you were just coming into it.
9. Knit Him a Scarf
Even if you don’t knit, scarves are an easy introduction to it. Sit down with mom or grandma and have them show you how to start and, more importantly, how to bind it off. You’ll end up with a scarf yards long otherwise!
How-to books abound on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and at your local used bookstore.
10. Secret Book Safe
This requires a cheap old hardcover book, an x-acto knife, and a little bit of time. Using the x-acto knife or box-cutter cut out a rectangle about 1/3 of the way in. Repeat your lines through the middle 1/3 of the book.
From the outside and even the inside cover it looks like an ordinary book. What it conceals is a secret stash spot for whatever he wants to keep private. (You could place it on his bookshelf with a surprise of your own inside).
Tip: Make sure you don’t cut too big of a hole. You want the pages to resist tearing when it’s opened.
11. Pegboard Tool Organizer
This is a flashback to my grandpa’s garage, but he knows a thing or two about organization. Look at your local craft or hardware store for these basic supplies:
- Pegboard with dimensions to fit over a workbench
- Screws or hooks to attach it to the wall
- Peg hooks to hang the tools on
- Sharpie to draw the tool outlines
Attach it to the wall with an extra pair of hands handy while he’s out and you’re set.
12. A Clue-themed Party
Grab four friends, relabel the rooms of your house or apartment, and surprise him with a real-life whodunit. The cast of characters, including the two of you, should include:
- Ms. Scarlet
- Col. Mustard
- Mrs. White
- Rev. Green
- Mrs. Peacock
- Prof. Plum
The rooms you’ll need are:
- Dining Room
- Billiard Room
It’s worth taking a look at the original game for more inspiration:
13. Thor’s Hammer
Mjolnir has become quite famous after the recent deluge of Marvel-themed movies. You can make a true Nordic hammer with a personal touch using a Cross Pein Nordic Blacksmith’s Hammer and some leather straps.
Securely wrap the handle with the leather straps and create a wrist loop. You can secure it with a few well-placed knots.
It won’t be nearly as big and heavy as Thor’s or do that boomerang trick if it’s thrown. It will still be very cool.
14. Handmade bottle openers
Whether it’s as simple as a bent nail in a block of wood or you opt for one made by an Etsy blacksmith, this little item will be invaluable.
This hand-forged belt buckle bottle opener has been a huge hit for me. He’s the cousin of my brother’s girlfriend and makes some awesome stuff.
15. Moleskine Notebooks
They come in a variety of colors and with some rubber stamps you can customize it for him. Put his initials in the lower right corner of the cover or just inside to personalize it.
Hemingway relied on similar little black notebooks to jot down notes and ideas.
16. An Extraordinary Outing
Sometimes the best diy gifts for men aren’t things. Surprising him with a unique experience you can share can turn into one of his favorite memories. Here are a few examples to build on to make an extraordinary outing:
- A hot air balloon ride – I’ve wanted to do this for years.
- A one-horse open sleigh ride
- Tour the countryside in a classic car
- Take the train down the coast or into the interior for the weekend – Amtrak still runs!
- Visit a small-time candy factory – Then watch Willy Wonka
17. Let Your Imagination Wander
You know him best. Use these tips and let it take you somewhere.
Best of luck and happy creating! If you have any thoughts or ideas to add, feel free to share them in the comments.
Want More? Check out the 12 DIYs of Christmas! They work year-round, I promise.