June 06, 2015

Using your hands helps your brain and increases well-being

  • Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say
  • It may also ease stress, increase happiness by releasing neurotransmitter called dopamine
  • Leisure activities such as reading and crafting may protect brain from aging, study finds


I abandoned my blog over a year ago. In a sense I abandoned myself, because my self was in a weird downward spiral.

When you can't pull up out of a gnarly place, sometimes it's better to not pay attention to your own thought processes.

Knitting got me through the last 18 months, which featured abrupt changes of fortune and emotional lows.

Recent neurological research shows that creating something - anything - interrupts negative emotional loops that can keep us stuck. Knitting helped me release stress and I'm certain that it prevented me from crashing into depression. I didn't quite have the heart for woodworking, welding or more challenging hobbies. But the soft, cozy yarn and the quiet click of my needles seemed to be the perfect tonic.

The CNN article above documents how others have experienced emotional healing through crafting. Maybe you'd like to share your own experience in the comments below. Or maybe just read the article and take comfort in knowing that there's an inexpensive, gentle solution waiting for you if you're in a dark time.

Hand knit socks - ToolGirl Mag Ruffman
One pair of more than 40 sets of socks I've knitted in the last year

June 04, 2013


I've been caught up in a number of eyebrow-blowing-off experiences lately.  

First, my talk at TEDxWaterloo at the end of March.  It consumed me.  I've never worked harder on anything, yet I still made crucial mistakes, which have driven me crazy for more than 2 months. Until this morning, when I realized that our mistakes become our future strengths so I should respect my mistakes, not revile them.


I also started work on a new season of Lowe's Family Fun Projects.  This year we're working with Tweens. The kids have lots of cool design ideas (headboards, WarHammer terrains, treehouse upgrades). It's going to be amazing to watch them work with their hands. 

Zoe and Ella
Zoe (12) and Ella (9)

I've been experimenting with getting some cool finishes on furniture.  Here's one of them:

Textured marbled effect using Annie Sloan chalk paint
Marbling effect

And here's another:

A finish I call, "Layered as an old fishing boat"

I made sheers after the blinds fell apart (employing doorknobs from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore)

Daniel's leg-slinging ladder stylings

Kicked off the 2013 Habitat for Humanity WomenBuild. Want to join me in September?  

Mag Ruffman and Tina Holmes
With fellow WomenBuild ambassador Tina Holmes

Walked a lot.  (shades of Avonlea)


And traveled to Saskatoon and Vancouver for Skills Canada's provincial and national competitions.  More on that this week from Vancouver with the adorable Mike Holmes.

Mag Ruffman at Saskatchewan Skills Competition, 2013, photo by
Photo by Dave Stobbe,




September 18, 2012

Just got my 'nails' done for @HabitatToronto and @HomeShowsTO's #UpcycleChalllenge

ToolGirl Mag Ruffman's #UpcycleChallenge welded garden art
2,498 masonry nails, 3 wrenches, and 3 handsaw blades plus 11 pounds of MIG wire and 50 hours of welding!

The lovely folks at Habitat for Humanity Toronto and Toronto's Fall Home Show have come up with the most fantastic contest this year.  They asked 13 designer/DIYer/blogger types to go shopping at one of Toronto's 5 Habitat for Humanity ReStores (where they sell amazing building supplies and archtectural salvage for 50-80% less than retail).
We were each allowed to spend up to $100 to get something to repurpose into a household item.  The entries are fantastically creative. (You can vote for the project that you like best, or better yet, go to the Fall Home Show or place an online bid for your favourite piece.  All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity to build more great homes for great families.)
Re: the sculpture above:
The first panel (far left) is a plain rectangle and is the first geometric thing I've made since my math debacle in Grade 10 (I got 11 out of 100 on my geometry final).  So I've officially made peace with geometry.  
The middle panel strays into a more organic shape, and the third panel is full-on entropy in the shape of a female form (or two lovebirds according to my Facebook friend Moe).  
P.S. Here's the 'Before' shot!
I seriously love welding.  I bought a Hobart Handler 125 for about $300 a few years ago and it's become my favourite weapon of mass construction.  
Last week I taught Oli, my niece-in-law, to weld.
Mag Ruffman and her niece Oli; welding lessons
Welding, the most popular activity at Ruffman reunions (besides eating)
I also gave my sister a few lessons last week and she went straight home and bought her own welder - a classy Lincoln package that included a helmet emblazoned with red flames!  She's making sculptures out of farm implements. 
Gillian on her first day with her new Lincoln MIG welder
A metal artist at work


August 10, 2012

National Tradesperson Day is coming September 21!


Photo by keltickelton via

This just in from Irwin, makers of some of my favourite hand tools.  (I've upgraded the term 'Tradesmen' to Tradespeople in a few places and like it better!)

The second annual National Tradesmen Day will be held on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, and IRWIN® Tools encourages all Canadians to make plans to recognize Canada’s tradespeople – the men and women who are the backbone of our nation. The country’s skilled craftsmen should be proud of their incredible skills and talents.  And they deserve to be recognized for their hard work, which is often performed in difficult environments under stressful conditions. 

National Tradesmen Day, held each year on the third Friday in September, is a day when the nation pauses to thank skilled workers like auto mechanics, roofers, bricklayers, plumbers, woodworkers, electricians, carpenters, and others who help keep Canada running. During last year’s inaugural National Tradesmen Day festivities, many people found ways to show appreciation and gratitude for tradespeople by holding celebrations, recognition events and activities throughout the country. 

It’s vitally important that we say thanks and find ways to encourage skilled trades as valuable career choices for young people. Without these hard working men and women, Canada’s infrastructure and our way of life would come to a screeching halt. Despite the fact that these jobs are so important there is a looming skills shortage in Canada.  The Construction Sector Council projects that over the next 8 years there will be a shortfall of 156,000 skilled workers across the country.  This shortfall is driven primarily by expected retirements.  Between 2012 and 2020 there are 219,000 workers expected to retire and not all of these jobs will be filled through expected workforce growth.  The projected gap of 156,000 workers is a serious issue that could create project and service delays in many important areas of the economy.  

This year, IRWIN is coordinating multiple activities throughout the nation and is partnering with retailers and community groups for National Tradesmen Day celebrations. IRWIN offers some ideas Canadians can use to show their appreciation of skilled tradesmen:

  • Call your favorite handyperson and simply say “thanks for all you do.” 
  • Send this Video Link to tradespeople you know and say thanks.
  • Stop by a local jobsite where tradespeople are working and leave a box of donuts or cookies. 
  • Buy a tradesperson a cup of coffee.  
  • If your friend, husband, wife, daughter, or son is a tradesperson, make September 21 an extra special day for him/her. 
  • Support trade schools that train future trades workers, and urge governments to adopt workforce development policies for skilled trades. 
  • Talk with your children about the endless career opportunities in skilled trades, and visit Skills Canada ( to learn more about a national organization serving teachers, high school and college students preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations. 

For more information visit or


May 15, 2012

Not your average growth chart

Last week I built a cool growth chart with my 4-year-old friend Quintyn (with some help from his little brother, Kai).  The design has sandy beaches (made from sanded caulking), sea walls (made from pea gravel), tiny houses (made from 2x2 poplar scraps with sandpaper roofs) and the metal tape from a busted tape measure, which acts as the yellow line going up the middle of the road.  Magnetic cars slide up and down the tape to measure kids' heights. SO FUN! I'm learning so much from these little kids with their fearless approach to design and colour.  No hesitation, EVER!   A video and free plans for the growth chart are available now at Lowe's Family Fun Projects.


Growth Chart

May 07, 2012

Lowe's Canada invests in kids with new online building series


Here's our latest media release...

Lowe's Family Fun Projects pilot series features 20 kid-friendly building projects designed by Mag Ruffman ( for kids 3 and up.  The first 5 projects are now live online at

From chalkboard tables to hockey nets built with PVC pipe, Lowe's Family Fun Projects give families video instruction AND free downloadable plans.  

“The videos are shot with real kids, not actors, and the free plans are insanely detailed with tonnes of photos,” says Mag Ruffman (Ruffman Entertainment Inc.), series creator and producer, “because text without pictures makes learning frustrating, especially for kids.  We deliver an extremely graphical package to make it easy for anyone to make these projects.”

The kids' projects require simple hand tools along with a few beginner power tools.  Kids learn clamping, gluing, sanding, driving screws, painting and taping, while adults do most of the cutting.

“We’ve shot 12 episodes so far,” says Ruffman, “and every one of the kids has asked to come back again.  They love building, they love using their hands, they love being free to make some of their own design decisions, and they love taking home what they built!”

Ruffman and partner Daniel Hunter (executive producer) pitched the series to several television networks last year, but the liability issues around kids using tools became a barrier.  

So they turned to Lowe’s Canada.  “Lowe’s already conducts regular Saturday workshops for kids. They were quick to respond to our proposal and I’m really proud of this partnership.” says Ruffman, whose previous television series taught women and beginners to attempt home repairs and build their own furniture.

Ruffman is on a mission to help children develop their 3D aptitude and design cognition. “We’re at a turning point in history.  There have been 2 generations now of kids who receive little or no encouragement to use their hands.  They’re directed into professions and discouraged from entering trades or becoming artists or artisans.  There will be a shortfall of 1,000,000 skilled tradespeople by 2020 in Canada.  After 4 million years of evolution, today’s kids have the potential to be the best tool-users of all time.  But they’ve got to get it early or key brain development is lost, eye-hand coordination doesn’t develop, and you get students at MIT who have to be hauled out of class and put in practicum courses because they have no idea how to use a hammer or which way to turn a screwdriver.  Human brilliance isn’t only in the mind; it’s in the hands.”

Family Fun Projects will launch officially in mid-June when all 20 pilot videos are online.



March 06, 2012

Standing room only in Halifax for free samples of @sugru




It was standing room only at the Real Home Show in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I had 5 packed shows and we gave away more than 500 free packs of Sugru (not an affiliate link), the silicon putty that fixes, improves and customizes just about anything. Lots of people brought busted stuff for me to fix, and we had some great laughs. Thanks to Herald Homes for inviting me to speak, and to Sugru for supplying the free samples for all of our show visitors. And it was great to meet some of you there!

One of my favourite repairs was Margie's hose reel, which had a cracked housing.  




We reinforced and buttressed the bejeez out of the plastic base, which had split around one of the screws.  Naturally we did our best to complement Margie's colourful personality using orange, blue, green and marbled black and white Sugru!




Plus, I learned (well, sort of) to step dance at the opening night party, courtesy of Herald Homes editor Claudia White! Toe, heel, toe, hop, bang bang...




November 30, 2011

How-to for Kids, Coming Soon to Lowe's Canada

Thanks to my friends over at Road to Avonlea for the update on my latest producing venture! 


February 24, 2011

Women Building 4 Townhomes in Toronto this May for @HabitatToronto


We've got hammers, steel-toed boots and great lunches - consider joining us for a day or two in May! You'll make forever friendships and learn how to use tools (no experience required - we'll teach you!). Hope to see you there.

We had our kick-off party last night and there are already more than 100 women signed up (you must be at least 16 years old - sorry Georgia!)

Jennifer Valentyne, Georgia (Jenn's daughter), me and supermodel Monika Schnarre (who is a kickass carpenter by the way!)

February 22, 2011

Want to learn new skills? Help us build a house this summer for @HabitatToronto!

Screen shot 2011-02-22 at 11.48.09 AM

Tomorrow night is our kick-off party for the Habitat for Humanity 2011 WomenBuild!  Please join me, Jennifer Valentyne and Monika Schnarre Wednesday February 23rd at 5:00 if you're available and want to help create a hand-built house for a family in need.

Quick factoids:

  • The Women Build will be held for 4 days, May 5th to 8th ending on Mother’s Day
  • This is the 2nd Women Build event in Toronto
  • Women Builds are held in over 30 countries around the world
  • We expect over 400 women to build with us during the 4-day build
  • The build site is at 4572 Kingston Road, a 29 townhome development
  • We hope to dedicate 2 blocks of homes (12 townhomes) on May 8th immediately after the build (key presenting ceremony to the families)
  • No build experience is necessary to build with us!  Volunteers will be led by experienced crew leaders who will provide instruction and guidance.  Hard hats, boots, tools etc will be provided on-site.
  • Women must be 16 years of age or older to participate in the build
  • The Women Build is a fundraising event where each participant is asked to raise a minimum of $500 pp to build during the Women Build.  Fundraising goal including sponsorships = $400,000

Really hope to see you at the kick-off party and on the build!


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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie