Answer life's burning questions - win the thanks of many (and an Instructables t-shirt)

This is no longer the current Burning Questions Forum Topic. Please refer to The New and Official Burning Questions Instructable from now on for all matters related to the Burning Questions Contest, group, and discussion.

The original forum topic is preserved below for reference.

People search for stuff at Instructables all the time. Sometimes they find what they're looking for, sometimes they don't. But there are a few common how-tos that come up often enough for we stewards of Instructable-dom to wonder, "why don't we have an Instructable on that?"

The answer is of course, because no one has written one. But you, noble Instructable citizen, can change that. Below I've listed out a number of popular 'wanted' Intructables. The bounty: 1 Instructables t-shirt and the thanks of many (including our own.)

A regular Instructable about this has been posted, but keep your ideas, thoughts, and comments coming!

Instructables most wanted:

  • how to braid hair (your own)
  • how to braid hair (someone else's)
  • how to cut hair (someone else's - Steve Blair already did how to cut your own)
  • how to clean a mattress
  • How to snowboard
  • How to make wine
  • How to make soap
  • How to paint a car
  • How to make a pinata
  • How to cure a headache
  • How to do a donut
  • How to drift (Automotive drifting, not just wandering around aimlessly)
  • How to surf
  • How to paint (Like, art and stuff.)
  • How to Dance
  • Learn poker
  • How to make rubber molds (Suggested by Honus)
  • How to cast with resin (Suggested by Honus)

The only rules are:

  • The Instructables have to be of good quality. (Ie, they have to be detailed, contain pictures, and actually provide a good answer to the question.) If they're lousy (and you know damn well when they are), no t-shirt for you.
  • They have to be titled as above (or with very minor variation). Why? Because that's what people are looking for. If you write a great Instructable on how to build a hovercraft, but title it "poly-surface air powered vehicular lifting machine" no one is ever going to know you wrote it.
  • They have to be new Instructables. (We might be willing to make some exception to this, should have you *really* answered one of these questions in the past, but titled your Instructable poorly. However, new Instructables > old Instructables.)

Everything else is fair game. Generally, there's going to be only one winner, but if there's a good faith effort by two people at the same time, we'll call both of you winners. Really, we're not going to be sticklers on this. The idea is to help others, so if you can contribute, please do.

I've created a group to house everything, called Burning Questions. If you want to get the shirt, you've got to add it to the group.

When we've determined an Instructable is of high enough quality, we'll add a link to it below, in the "Answered Questions" section. Before that, the topic is still open!

Are there questions you want answered? Comments? Post them on the Burning Questions forum thread!

Answered Questions:
This is how to add an Instructable to a group.
And this is how to add a group or person as a collaborator.

Picture of Answer life's burning questions - win the thanks of many (and an Instructables t-shirt)
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Wow most all these post are a little dated. I was looking over " how to write a good instructable" ( which I should have read 14 instructables ago) and thought I would look here. So do any of these still need writing? I sort of covered soap making, and I could definitely do something on wine making and hair braiding. Pretty sure there are some great ones already done, but there are always more things to learn and to share on any subject so how would be a good way of figuring what to write that people would be interested in?
westfw9 years ago
How to Shave, for women, might be useful.

How to retire. (take that, you young whipper-snappers!)
This has sub-questions:
  • How to acquire private health insurance.
  • How to identify and evaluate volunteer opportunities.
  • What other "needs" are normally filled by an employer, that you'd need to do on your own after retirement.
lemonie westfw9 years ago
I probably shouldn't ask, but why "How to Shave, for women"? Are you suffering from stubble-rash? (no I shouldn't ask) L
westfw lemonie9 years ago
In particular, I can imagine that shaving an underarm is qualitatively different than smooth convex surfaces like a face (or legs, for that matter; I shaved my lower legs a couple times back when I was getting my ankle taped almost every day.) We need not get TOO personal.
wow how old are you anyway? if your as old as you r in the pic, and your a girl, you should have started shaving (your legs) at around age 10-12. you were to personal in your first sentance.
Please, be nice.
I'm 48 and male. I have a 13y-old daughter, though. She'll probably learn all she needs to know from her mom or by trial and error, but that doesn't mean that some online hints wouldn't be useful.
jeffreyf (author)  westfw9 years ago
Done and done.
isacco7 years ago
I propose a burning question

"How to charge batteries with kinetic energy"
"How to charge batteries with body movement"

This is a recent technical challenge. Many engineers are working on it, but the Instructable community has great resources!
I see there is a how to snowboard! But can i do a How to ski.
The idea is that the "burning questions" are things that visitors to the site have actually searched for on a fairly regular basis. Writing 'ibles that fit those search parameters increases traffic to the site, both directly (people stay if they find what they're looking for) and via search engines.

It would seem, then that more visitors want to learn to snowboard than ski, but that doesn't stop you writing a How to Ski Instructable. Go for it.
yeah, the boarders are taking over the slopes in an evil spirit, there are more of them now than there ever was, but it won't mean i'll not do the how to ski, it will be a while though.
adidame8 years ago
What about "How to give an awesome gift that the recipient will love." Since it is the holiday gift giving time...
That would be highly subjective unless it included a way to "find out from the other person discretely what they really wanted" :-)
Sunbanks8 years ago
What about on on how to ask a guy out?
With most guys, it isn't too hard: "hey, want to go out?" So where's my t-shirt ? LOL
But then he goes and tells everyone.
guys don't really do that as much, do girls do that?
Sometimes we do...
Up until approx. 18-21 girls are a little ahead of "most" guys in the maturity dept. It would only be natural. And some guys just never grow up *whistles softly to self* or at least, refuse to ;-)
you need to turn it into an instructable first. geez... didnt you read the rules?
zachninme8 years ago
Lemonie's already done "Hoe to make plum wine"
Actually I have made wine a few times in the past. Made beer too once (it came out better then the wine), but it is a little more risky to get "fizz" into the bottles.
Patrik Goodhart8 years ago
I'm getting one of these for Xmas:

Mr. Beer

It's a commercial kit, but I figure it's a good way to get started. Plus it comes with a corny plastic 2 gallon "brew keg". ;-)

I might do an instructable on this one, as I follow along in the instruction booklet. Not a great "DIY" project, but it should be fairly easy to replicate using household equipment.
Goodhart Patrik8 years ago
Oh, the entire process, once set up, is mostly waiting and timing, except the bottling process. It depends on how they describe getting carbonation into the bottles. If they use seltzer, your beer will be a bit watered, but the bottles will be "safe". If they have to put a granule of yeast into the bottle and a few granules of sugar, anything could happen (I remember reading about one fellow that tried to sleep through the night while he heard bottles exploding in the back room; knowing that entering the room would be like entering a mine field with bombs that exploded randomly). Will you be corking, or do they supply a bottle capper (I still have one of those, but can't find a local store to get bottle caps anymore - Sears carried them at one time).
Patrik Goodhart8 years ago
Turns out I got the cheapest kit, the "Deluxe" version - heh. It only comes with 12 "Reusable Plastic Caps", which should fit any PET soda bottles. It does not with the nice brown plastic beer bottles shown on the back of the package. Sigh...

I assume plastic bottles are slightly safer than glass. If need be, you could always vent them a little, if you notice the bottles are getting rock-hard.
Goodhart Patrik8 years ago
Yeah, sounds like they don't want bottles exploding so they give you a cap that will probably blow if the pressure gets too great. A mess maybe but at least less dangerous then exploding glass bottles.
Goodhart Patrik8 years ago
Well, I lost my local supply of Hops and Barley syrup when Acme went belly up *sigh*
I know how to make a Plumb Line :-)
beastbunny9 years ago
Oh, I'd like to know how to bend spoons with your bare hands. Like magicians do!
Those that do it "without camera trickery" are normally using a bi-metal spoon. Holding and rubbing the spoon heats the metal and one side expands faster then the other, and the spoon bends. Oops, maybe I shouldn't have given that away....
CameronSS9 years ago
How to make a web page. Basic HTML, tables, DHTML, CSS, whatever. How to do JavaScript. I know some HTML coding, and absolutely no Java.
Java is not javascript! They are completely different! Javascript isn't even a scripting, its a full programming language!

Some company who's name slips my mind right now started developing it, and it was called something else, until they joined with Java to try to be match Microsoft. In joining, they agreed to let Java name the product. They wanted to use their name in it, and I can only assume that back then, it was a scripting language.

They are really radically different languages.
Oops, replied and didn't see yours, my apologies...
I shall quote myself, "...and absolutely no Java." That's why I want an Instructable on it.
HTML is pretty static, it is much better to include JScripting / VBscripting to make it more DHTML (the D making it Dynamic) or maybe some XML. Programming in JAVA or Visual Basic (or C#, etc) is beyond an instructable I am afraid. Some pretty thick books and long classes are used to teach them. Scripting in Perl, Jscript, or PHP can be pretty intense too.
There is an entire world between "JavaScript" and "Java"
Kiteman8 years ago
"How to Make a Pinata" has been done by syribia
And "how not to open a Pinata" has been done by "America's Funniest Videos" numerous times LOL
royalestel9 years ago
How to understand Calculus without a bunch of abstract mumbo-jumbo would be a good one. Lots of pictures, or better yet, game programming to teach it.
Calculus is an abstract science, so the mumbo-jumbo is the entire basis of it.

You have 5 Apples and 6 Bananas, because every Can you buy has that many things in it. If you have 6 B, you have 1C and 5A. Logically, if you found you had 18B, you could work out how many A and C there were. You call the unknowns x and y. Mathematically, you would write:
5A = 6B = 1C
xA/5A = 18B/6B = yC/1C

Shift the x and y away. We will do the x first.
xA/5A * 5A = 18B/6B * 5A
xA = 18B/6B * 5A

We know B & A have a constant ratio, so we can be sure this is true. So,
18/6 = 3
3 * 5 = 15

so we have 15A's! Easy. We know that
5A = 6B = 1C
so we can now either do 15A/5A = yC/1C or, (and this is safer because we didn't work it out) 18B/6B = yC/1C

If you re-arrange, you will see that y = 3, so you have 3 boxes, with 15 Apples and 18 Bananas.

Yes, the example is quite trivial, but it shows the powerful technique that you get when you can put an unknown into an equation, and then solve it. It gets really fun when you have 7 unknowns and have to work each one out. You can find these in logic puzzle books around the world!
Isn't that really just basic algebra, though?
AdamK9 years ago
jeffreyf (author)  AdamK9 years ago
Excellent. I look forward to making fuel...

You might want to add a link to Tim's rice cooker still and be on the lookout for an additional still that's in the works.
AdamK jeffreyf9 years ago
A link added to Tim's rice cooker still. I'll look around for more stills - don't know what I'll find though.
AdamK AdamK9 years ago
Unpublished to be completely rewritten. I left a lot of things out and made a few mistakes -- not good when dealing with distillation.
Goodhart AdamK8 years ago
Wow that takes ME back. Anyone ever subscribe to the Mother Earth News (mag)? Back in the 70's , they had a LOT of articles on this subject
Easy Button8 years ago
Can we still make some instructables from the list? Or is the contest over?
i think so
but i can do the how to make soap one
poker one is added
it should have pictures though
my cameras not working
Metal4God8 years ago
I can do the poker one
I noticed one of the "burning questions" was something I just happened to fav the other day - How to make a diaper cake http://www.instructables.com/id/EFG74YFF3KRXJGA/

Hey shangrilarcadia, I've added it to the group - thanks!
I'm painting my room soon, would that count for how to paint? It's going to be a simple plaid, but i'll be able to cover painters tape, and such.
There's brackets - "like, art and stuff" - so I don't think it means decorating.
Yeah, I was just checking though.
Kiteman9 years ago
New question: How to Make Bread (without a breadmaking machine)
I can do that... I should write an instructable. :-)
jeffreyf (author)  drinkmorecoffee9 years ago
That would rule! I'll add it to the list.
Great! I'll write something up.
That is, if Kiteman doesn't want to do it.
Go for it, DMC. If I knew how to make bread, I wouldn't have asked! However, I do have a yeast-based project on the bck burner.
Done. Took me long enough...
How to hitch hike would be nice... I'm having to figure this stuff out on my own... XD
Well, if anyone else has experience PM me and I'll start a collaboration...
ll.139 years ago
I've done this instructable as I have noticed lots of people asking on forums how to do it.
tomonto9 years ago
I attempted the headache one. yay???
josh921769 years ago
Yay, Just ordered my t-shirt thanks guys :-)
Kiteman9 years ago
"How to make a robot" has been answered (at a starter level) by Robomaniac:

Kiteman Kiteman9 years ago
beastbunny9 years ago
I've added How to Clean Leather. I don't own a whole lot of leather (stopped buying leather items years ago) but I do have ancient leather leashes and shoes that I keep in good shape by cleaning and conditioning frequently. A childhood of horseback riding taught me the importance of keeping leather clean and well-oiled.
Bran9 years ago
I think maybe an Instructable on "How to Safely Ignite Fireworks" or "How not to blow up/burn your fingers/face using fireworks" would be good for kids my age (13-17). I've had a few close calls myself, and too many people I know have bottle rocket fights. The madness should stop. The Instructable itself might seem a bit, well, childish, but a lot of kids wandering the net come here.
its a lion Bran9 years ago
my friend could have used that one... he lit one, and went to throw it, and it went off right beside his ear. it didnt hurt him, he just couldnt hear for a while. it was still pretty stupid though, and i think it would be a good idea for an instructable.
Bran its a lion9 years ago
That's pretty much what happened to me - when I was 10 or so, my brother dared me to light one of those firecrackers that don't have the green wicks, yeah, the ones that have about a 1/4 second time from lit wick to "BOOM". Of course I did it, barely threw it, and basically deafened me temporarily. No long-lasting effects, though. Still really stupid. My friend also held a bottle rocket one time. He was only supposed to hold it until the wick lit the powder and the bottle rocket was trying to fly up. He forgot, and it exploded while he was still holding it. So what it was at the end of the stick, still really close.
Bran9 years ago
Learn Poker!

Learn Poker is up. If anyone has anything to add, be sure to let me know, and I'll collaborate.

Just wondering, is it (if it isn't I'll redo it, but..) up to Instructables' standards?
Kiteman9 years ago
@ How to retire, with three sub-questions: (Suggested by westfw) ..@ How to acquire private health insurance ..@ How to identify and evaluate volunteer opportunities ..@ How to take care of employer covered issues after retirement ..@ How to form sheetmetal (Suggested by Honus) ..@ How to work with fiberglass (Suggested by Honus) ..@ How to make rubber molds (Suggested by Honus) ..@ How to sculpt clay (Suggested by Honus) ..@ How to cast with resin (Suggested by Honus) ..@ How to work with foam (Suggested by Honus) I never knew retiredment was so involved!
jeffreyf (author)  Kiteman9 years ago
Damn it! Only 3 of those are supposed to be indented, and I have no idea why the rest of them are too...
Brennn109 years ago
jeffreyf (author)  Brennn109 years ago
What a well written and thorough Instructable!
zieak9 years ago
jeffreyf (author)  zieak9 years ago
Awesome job!
Easy Button9 years ago
hey are the t-shirts in yet??????
jeffreyf (author)  Easy Button9 years ago
Not yet, but should be this week or next.
sam noyoun9 years ago
I've tried to answer one of the questions (how to make money), but if I type these words in the search box, it refers me to 'how to make soap bacon'... and anything but... Is there a problem with the search function?
jeffreyf (author)  sam noyoun9 years ago
Did you recently change the title?
Yeah, I did, to reflect better what the instructable was about... But I didn't change the tags... Is the search function supposed to work from the title, or from the tags (or both)?
jeffreyf (author)  sam noyoun9 years ago
From both, but the title is more important. Something is up with search though, and it's being worked on...
jeffreyf (author)  sam noyoun9 years ago
Scratch that. I think there's an issue with search.
pyr0man1ac9 years ago
I just did How to play chess a few minutes ago lol it was harder than i thought! my first instructable
o yeah lol here is the link to How to Play Chess
jeffreyf (author)  pyr0man1ac9 years ago
You should try to collaborate with latobada and llama13 and put together an ultra-comprehensive chess Instructable. Divide and conquer!
blckleprd9 years ago
Here's a suggestion: How to get a six pack ..I could use that one..
kqrpnb9 years ago
How about the Burning Question, How to remove gum from clothes?