2022-11-28 10 min read


I tend to look at the world through project-colored glasses. A thing is broken: fixing it is a project. A thing works well: it could work better, and that’s a project. Hiring a subcontractor is a project; finding the right person to get advice from is a project; running through my own tests so that I can determine the scope of work is a project.

Now that I think of it, the funny thing about this newsletter is that it has never really been a project. It was just something I started writing, and then people started reading it, and eventually it became an identifiable thing. All of its quirks, all of its rhythms and conventions – they developed not through planning and execution but through evolution, emerging on a particular Monday because they felt good when the newsletter was composed the previous Friday. In many ways the newsletter is about projects, but the newsletter itself is just an accumulation of reasonably good decisions, many of which were made by a person almost ten years younger than I am now.

I think I had been writing it for about three years when I realized I could use the newsletter as an excuse to take on more projects. “Doing this project will burnish my credibility with readers,” I would think to myself, “and anyway, I can try a new tool out and then tell people how it worked.” The end result – the “tool guides” we’ve published every fall since 2016 – were only ever a part of the story, though. A tool’s qualities are relative to the intentions of its user and the context in which it is used, and so this year I bring you not so much a tool guide as a record of the work I attempted in 2022 – and a catalog of the things that helped me complete (or at least advance) that work.

-Spencer Wright

Planning & Strategy.

With any luck I will turn forty in a few months, and in preparation I have spent much of the past year reconciling myself with the idea that this is what my life is like, and I may as well adapt myself to it. I now see a therapist weekly – a low-stakes routine that at minimum encourages me to bike into Manhattan once a week. I have also found meditation to be a good way to de-tension (I’ve mostly used these guides), and have finally, after about eight years of inactivity, begun exercising daily again – a habit which feels impossible when I’m not doing it, but which is probably the single most important mental health practice I’ve ever tried.

I’ve also made a few small but meaningful changes to the way I engage with the digital world: after years of checking Instagram and Twitter compulsively, I deleted both apps and found my compulsion to have vaporized basically overnight. My personal relationships are more rewarding when conducted via other means anyway, and for anything semi-professional it’s much more rewarding (and *way* less stressful) to engage with a defined interest group – a private, friendly, well-organized Slack instance, for example, which conveniently is just what we offer to Members of The Prepared.

Some semi-random stuff: Behind the scenes of the newsletter, we spent a bit of time using Miro for some user feedback & brand vision work (which I hope to share in more detail soon). While I’m trying to focus on writing, I’ll put away my wireless earbuds and plug in my Sony MDR-7506 monitors; they’re more comfortable over long periods of time, and don’t have any buttons or a microphone to distract me. This year I’ve spent a decent bit of weekend time in the workshop with my kids (who are 3 and almost 6), and this $40 set of goopy acrylic paints has gotten a ton of use.

My personal time in the workshop this year has been utilitarian. The things I’ve made have all been quick and straightforward, and their completion has been enabled by a tidy and reasonably well-organized space. To this end I’ve invested a bit of effort this year into basic workshop upgrades, adding a shelf and a second bin rail to my primary workbench and swapping its HDPE work surface for a Boos & Co maple countertop.

Making & Manufacturing.

Overall, the workshop has evolved a lot over the past year – but the changes have been more philosophical and organizational than tangible. For four years now I’ve worked in the same space, which had been dubbed “The Prepared’s Workshop” but is now all grown up, with its own LLC, its own management structure, and a name (The New York Industrial Collective) that is much more fitting for its long term goals. This was a Very Big Project, complete with (somewhat?) visionary writing and lots of back and forth with my lawyer; it made me very happy that I do, indeed, have a lawyer.

Nevertheless, I did manage to make a handful of tool upgrades to the wood shop this year: an air filter (similar to this one), a Sawstop Jobsite Saw Pro to replace a more dangerous and less user-friendly Bosch, and a Festool SYS-RB dolly to make our stack of systainers easier to store & transport. Possibly the nicest new tool I procured this year was a Festool hammer drill/impact driver kit, which includes the nicest right-angle drill attachment I’ve ever used. Of the few wood projects I took on this year, I believe every one got a coat of Osmo Polyx-Oil, which dries quickly, has a nice appearance and feel, and can be repaired/retouched without sanding.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

I spent more time, though, working on my bikes. I love working on bikes; simple repairs take only a few minutes, but I often find ways to leverage a larger bike “problem” into a detailed engineering & procurement challenge. On the complex end of the spectrum, I fired up my TIG welder to reinforce the cassette spline interface on a singlespeed belt drive cog. On the simple end, I upgraded from a Park Tools consumer-grade wheel dishing gauge up to an Abbey Harbor – which is much nicer for sure, though I would love to check out EVT’s option if it ever comes back in stock.

This year I went all-in on tubeless tires on my daily bike, which now runs Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass Endurance 44c tires with Stans Race sealant. It was a bit of a learning process, but I don’t think I’ll go back from it anytime soon. Part of my early struggle involved a rim that was never intended to be used tubeless; I eventually decided to rebuild the wheelset around HED Belgium R Disc rims. For these wheels – and for the one other wheelset I built this year – I used DT Swiss’s Squorx nipples, which can be trued from the tire side of the rim using DT Swiss’s matching Squorx driver. This process was, to me, a big improvement over traditional nipples, which have a square profile on the hub side of the rim and are driven with wrenches that engage three sides (or three corners) of their square profile – a setup that often results in rounded-over or crushed nipples, especially if they’re (ugh) aluminum ones. In the future, I think I’ll use Squorx brass nipples on basically every wheelset I build.

Elsewhere in the shop: I splurged on a drawer workstation for the Tormek T-8, which felt a bit extravagant but finally gave this excellent tool a decent home. It’s a few years old now, but I also like this inexpensive, ziptie-mounted razor blade disposal container – it’s reassuring to have a proper home for used blades. This year we added an old HP/Agilent 34401A digital multimeter to the electronics workbench, which is much more convenient than dragging your Fluke over.

Elsewhere in my life: I had Gear re-Store repair an old parka, and used both waterproof Gorilla tape and a number of products from Gear Aid – Tenacious Tape, Down Cleaner, Pro Cleaner, and Aquaseal SR – to maintain and repair other old clothing and bags. I basically stopped using our clothes dryer this year, opting instead for hang drying – and I must sing the highest praises to the fantastic clothespins made by Lady and the Carpenter. They are really, *really* nice.

Distribution & Logistics.

I sold a bunch of old stuff – mostly bike parts – on eBay this year, and at some point I got sick of having a label printer sitting on my desk. I didn’t want to have a print server running on a networked Raspberry Pi anymore, so I ditched the Dymo 4XL and upgraded to a used Zebra GK420d. It’s faster (not that I care), a bit annoying to set up via CUPS (I’m pretty sure I’m still not printing at full resolution), doesn’t require Dymo’s always-running software (though, like I said, the CUPS setup isn’t perfect), and has an RJ45 jack on the back (so it can easily be run as a network printer 😌). Plus, it looks nice and industrial-ish on my workbench.

I really want to upgrade my shipping tape dispenser next year (I like the looks of the Better Pack 333CM), but this year I added my grandfather’s old, unmarked, lever-operated masking tape dispenser next to it; it’s lovely and totally useful.

I spent a fair amount of time messing with rack mount network gear this year, and even more time running cables around the house and into the rack. For access inside our sheetrock (and plaster 😔) walls, I got a Lenox folding jabsaw which conveniently uses sawzall blades. To get things around, I got a Klein fiberglass fish tape and some wire lube (which I’m glad I had). And inside my rack, I swapped the cage nuts (which are so annoying) for Rackstuds (which will be a must-have for any rack I set up in the future).

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

I spent more solo time at home this year than in past years, and a few of our house’s eccentricities received my renewed attention. I now have a submersible pump (it’s fine; I’m sure there are nicer ones) ready to go at a moment’s notice, and installed a YoLink Hub and Water Leak Sensor so that I’ll get push alerts and an audible alarm if the basement floods. I also purchased a Sense Energy Monitor, which has given some nice insights into our electricity consumption (and production!) and really hammered home a few of the points Saul Griffith made in Electrify.


Commensurate with my age, I’ve been getting a lot of use out of a used (and now discontinued) Orucase hip pack on family outings; it is one of four things I own that is made from X-Pac VX21. It’s typically loaded up with a Sky Bounce ball (which I won’t include a link for, as it is best purchased at a cornerstore/bodega), a handkerchief or bandana, a Ricoh GR IIIx point-and-shoot camera (which encourages me to keep my phone in my pocket), and a bottle of Doctor Bronner's hand sanitizer.

On afternoons early in the year, before I carved out personal time for exercise, I would bring a jump rope with me on trips to the playground with kids – a form exercise that was new to me, but which somehow stuck *hard.* I’ve now got maybe a hundred hours of rope-jumping under my belt, and the rope I most enjoy jumping with is a cheap plastic thing with a string-reinforced PVC cord. My keychain consists of a 4 mm x 35 mm stainless steel shoulder screw, a flanged stainless steel thumb nut, and a nylon coated stainless steel eye-to-eye lanyard; the whole thing is much more organized than a split ring.

I commute to work almost exclusively by bike, and this year I put a bit of energy into optimizing my gear setup. My laptop lives in a roll-top dyneema dry bag, which is then wrapped in a Hirbawi Kufiya for a bit of padding. The whole thing is transported (along with my lab notebook, which is where I organize my daily work using a Rotring 600 mechanical pencil) in a custom handlebar/hip bag made by Sew Alpine. I like my bike lights a lot: in the back I have an Exposure Blaze Mk3, and up front I have a pair of Cygolite Metros; I also put triangle/onigiri reflectors on most of the bikes in my family’s quiver. I’m also quite fond of my water bottle, an NYC Velo Purist, and recently ditched my phone as a navigation device and got a Hammerhead Karoo 2.

It seems likely that a suitable crop of new projects will emerge in 2023, and I already have a decent backlog. I hope to build a coffee table for our living room in the coming weeks. There are a few floorboards in our kitchen that need to be cut out and replaced, and after that’s done we’ll repaint our entire floor. I’d love to make the treewell in front of our house a bit larger, and put a little fence around it, and if time allows I’ve got plans for a fairly extensive rainwater storage system in our backyard.

But mostly, my plan for the coming year is to nudge this newsletter a bit closer towards being its own project. When I started writing The Prepared, the intention was to prepare myself for whatever my career might turn into; today, this newsletter is my career. It could stand to go deeper, and it would be good to further develop its voice and perspective. It needs a new brand identity; it needs a new publishing stack; its content schedule and business model will continue to evolve. Each of these is a bit daunting, but I think that each of them will help burnish my credibility with you – and I look forward to sharing them all with you over the coming year <3

Thanks as always to The Prepared's Members for supporting The Prepared. Thanks also to my friends at The New York Industrial Collective for helping to house my projects & subsidize my (our!) tools.

Love, Spencer.

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Spencer Wright
Spencer Wright
Spencer Wright is the (mostly accidental) founder of Scope of Work, which he started writing (as The Prepared) in 2013. Today he serves as its editor-in-chief and chief dilettante.
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