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

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.


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?


11 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.

I probably shouldn't ask, but why "How to Shave, for women"? Are you suffering from stubble-rash? (no I shouldn't ask) L

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.

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.


9 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.

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" :-)

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?

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?

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 :-)

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....

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"

"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

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?

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.

A link added to Tim's rice cooker still. I'll look around for more stills - don't know what I'll find though.

Unpublished to be completely rewritten. I left a lot of things out and made a few mistakes -- not good when dealing with distillation.

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

Can we still make some instructables from the list? Or is the contest over?