Category Archives: Invention & Innovation

Beer Can Boards: Skateboards Made in America with Recycled Materials

When I was a kid I had a skateboard;  probably the first mode of wheeled transportation I actually owned. Made from pressed wood with a sandpaper surface so your feet wouldn’t slip, it featured the worlds most unforgiving, rock-solid wheels that never seemed to miss a pebble.

Skateboards and longboards have come a long way since those days, both in design and materials. For a company called Beercan Boards the secret to success is using recycled plastic and aluminum cans and making the boards here in America. This small company out of Douglas, GA is trying, in their own words to “take over the world, one skateboarder at a time and we have just gotten started.”

Owner Joel Rawlins was a once-promising skateboarder who, at the age of 15, had a run-in with a car that made him rethink his direction in life.As an adult,  he got into the automotive aftermarket and had success supplying components for classic cars, some of them showing-up in movies like The Fast and Furious. In 2012, the idea struck him that he could use the recyclable aluminum and plastics from his business to fabricate skateboards, and suddenly, he was sharing an old pastime with his kids. There was a lot of work required to design, prototype and refine the boards while trying to maintain his  Made-in-America goal, but the end result was definitely worth it.The great thing about these boards ( besides the cool graphics and the company’s goal to be eco-friendly) is that you can recycle your old board and get a new one for a reasonable fee. If you want a different look, the deck of the board can be swapped out and you have the option to purchase bearings for life.

I wish I was a teenager again!



Oh No, NoNetz! USA Men’s Swimwear Maker Starts Chinese Production

I was sad to read that NoNetz, an American manufacturer of innovative, no-chafe men’s swimwear, has started to produce its products in China.  The news came in a disheartening article on CNN Money, entitled, “Trump is Pushing ‘Buy American’ But Customers (Mostly) Don’t Care.”

The sobering premise: after decades of buying cheap, foreign made merchandise, most Americans can’t bring themselves to shell out the extra money that comes along with the “Made in USA” label. This despite the fact that 85% of consumers say they want to buy American.

Regards, Kathy

Ruckus Over a Rolling Pin: What’s the Value of Made-in-USA?

Disclosure: If you buy through our links, we may get a small commission. Please do!

repast2I spotted something on The Grommet today that really deserves a discussion. For anyone unfamiliar with the site, The Grommet describes itself as a place to “discover products everyday by makers worth supporting.” We like it because they feature a lot of Made-in-America products (and frankly, because they give us anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars if you buy anything through our links). But that’s not why this post was written.REpast_5

It was written because of feedback I saw on one of the more recent launches: the hand-crafted Repast Ravioli Rolling Pin. Its claim-to-fame is that it can turn out perfect little pillows that are properly sealed and don’t burst open during cooking (evidently an issue with other ravioli-making techniques). I thought it was one of the more beautiful kitchen implements I’ve seen and immediately thought of two people who might like it as a gift. As a lifelong lover of craft shows, I have seen many, many types of well-made wooden objects, so the prices – $79 for the small roller, $99 for the large – did not strike me as out-of-line. The roller is not just American-made, but made from American-grown hardwood.


But when I went to read the “launch discussion,”  a question-and-answer event held on the first day a product appears on the site, I was surprised, not just by the griping about the price, but by the realization of how far we still have to go to educate the public about the value of American-Made products.

“Delphina” questioned why she should spend the extra bucks when she could buy a plastic roller for $25.

“Christopher” wanted to know why this item was any better than the $25 roller he could get at Jet.

And these are people who are shopping on a site that focuses on products from makers, artisans and entrepreneurs!repast_4The product creator, a woodworker and engineer named Michael Finizio, gamely answered the questions, telling Delphina, “Similar products are not only made in China from unsustainable woods, but they create ravioli that easily burst while cooking,” and reminding  Christopher that, “Your $79 is not only purchasing a functional piece of art that’s made in the USA but is helping to replant trees.” Repast works with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant more trees than it uses, 1500 so far.

By the time I finished reading, I was feeling a little down about the seemingly impossible task that our U.S. makers face in convincing Americans that quality and durability matter. That American jobs matter. That using beautifully handcrafted objects feeds the soul.

So I did the only two things I could do. I bought the ravioli roller. The big, honking $99 model. Then I wrote this post to tell you about it.

Pass it on.

Regards, Kathy


Which Grommets are American-Made? Gift-Givers Want to Know.

Disclosure: If you buy through our links, we’ll get a small commission. Please do!

If you’re not familiar with The Grommet, it’s time you got acquainted. This website is a wonderland for anybody who loves gadgets, problem solvers and clever products that make you say, “Dang, I wish I thought of that!”

They offer both domestic and foreign inventions, but you can see all of The Grommet’s Made-In-America products here. These are some of our favorites:imageIn our multiple-device household, cries of “Did you take my charger??” are all too common.  That problem is solved with the Whooz product line, a clever selection of decals that allow you to personalize your tech accessories. Not surprisingly, the idea for the product came about when two roommates had an argument over their phone chargers!imageFREEKeys are an easier alternative to those super-tight key rings that pinch your fingers and break your nails as you turn and turn (and TURN) your key until it comes off the ring. Just squeeze to snap the ring open, release to let it close. You still have to turn the ring, but now it’s a breeze! I have these and I think they’re great.imageimagePeople who live in small spaces can finally own kayaks, thanks to the Oru, nicknamed the Origami Kayak. It folds down into a suitcase when not in use. It’s not intended for shooting the rapids or battling ocean waves, but if you’re looking to explore a lake or river, this is the kayak to check out.imageimageThey’re colorful, they’re rugged and they let your kids assemble giant-sized dinosaur skeletons! What could be better? Check out these Boneyard Pets.

menJewelinxare a terrific idea for both men and women. These little gadgets connect to the top of your hanger, giving you a place to keep full outfits together: ties jewelry, cufflinks, scarves, socks, etc.