My favorite YouTube channels

By | May 25, 2020

Since I wrote a long post listing my 50 favorite TV shows, I thought I’d follow that up with another source of my screen time: YouTube. While there are many other channels I turn to, this post lists the YouTube channels that I watch with some regularity.

Here’s a list of the topics in case you want to skip there:
Live-aboard Sailing, DIY & Maker Channels, Astronomy, Madcap Experimenters, Skilled Woodworking, Van Life

Live-aboard Sailing

I’m drawn to the sailing life for the sheer beauty of it, but not enough for me to actually ever have been on a boat, aside from a ferry or just a few brief attempts at kayaking. There are quite a few channels on YouTube that feature people living on their boats and sailing around the world, but there’s only one, so far, that has completely captured my fancy:

SV Delos

This is one of two channels that, after watching one or two videos, I scrolled all the way to the beginning to watch them all. This is the story of Brian Trautman, who quit his engineering job in Seattle and sold almost everything he owned to buy a sailboat. His plan was to spend about 18 months living on board and sailing while he figured out what to do next with his life. A few months later, his brother Brady joined him, and more than ten years later they were still sailing. They added others to the gang along the way, including a rotating crew of friends and Patreon patrons. In fact, Brian met his wife, Karin, on this adventure.

They began regularly vlogging their life on the seas in 2014, although they have a few videos older than that. By the time I discovered this channel, they had matured into experienced vloggers, with a lot of very good videography and drone footage of the exotic places they journeyed to. They also were accomplished divers, with the underwater videography gear they need to add great dive footage to their offering.

As with any group of people, the story has evolved as the years have gone by. Brady and his girlfriend are off crafting their own story, whether or not to return later. Brian and Karin took some months off from travel in 2019 to live for a short while in Sweden, returning with a new crew member, baby Sierra. This has certainly changed the flavor of the channel, but I trust that it will continue to be interesting.

DIY & Maker Channels

I am a Do-It-Yourself junkie. More precisely, if there’s a project to do around the house I do-it-myself by calling a handyman. However I love to watch others, especially experts, do-it-themselves. Okay, that sounded dirty… let me try again: I am the fool that slows traffic by construction sites because I rubberneck to see everything there is to see. Sometimes I wish I could bring a lawn chair and a picnic basket to construction sites so I can watch the build. And since I can’t do that, I watch DIY stuff on YouTube.

SailLife

This is hands-down my favorite thing on YouTube. It posts every Sunday, and I am always excited when it drops. This gem is created by Mads Dahlke, who bought a boat named Athena in the late twenty-teens, sailed it to his home town in Denmark, and has been overhauling it ever since.

He is not an expert boat builder, in fact, much of what he does is stuff he’s never done before. But he is an engineering type with a keen intellect and an obsession for perfection, so watching him precisely (and sometimes over) engineer the hell out of every single step is a pure delight. If I am working on something and going overboard on nitpicking it, my husband tells me “You’re being Mads” to snap me out of it. [… and if I am going too fast he’ll tell me I’m being Adam, which is a reference to Adam Savage, below.]

Mads has just one year left in this build before he and his fiance, Ava, will move onboard Athena to live fulltime. (I believe he met his fiance through some fans of his channel who thought he’d be perfect for a friend of theirs.) At that time it will turn into a sailing/live-aboard show as they sail around the northern seas, although I’m sure Mads will still find plenty of DIY to do. My prediction, though, is that once there’s nothing left to overhaul, fix, rebuild, or modify on Athena, Mads and Ava will look for the next big project. I hope.

 

Adam Savage’s Tested

Building craft meets nerddom, add in some sheer entertainment, and you get Adam Savage’s channel. Recognize the name? You may know him as the sidekick from Mythbusters, where he applied his many years of experience building movie sets and special effects to re-create stuff with Jamie Hyneman to prove whether things are real or a myth.

Adam’s channel shows him in his pirates-cave of a workshop (which he actually does refer to as his cave) doing a wide variety of things: building strange costumes and sci-fi gadgets, modding furniture, fixing tools, and generally just trying things out. It also shows him gleefully geeking out on the things he loves, much to my delight.

I think what I like most about this channel is more the opportunity to visit Adam than to watch him build stuff. He is an intensely cheery person, the very definition of upbeat, and a shining beacon of an example of embracing your child within. His building style is to move fast, perhaps too fast, deftly embodying the “good enough is good enough” philosophy. Sometimes as I watch him I think he’s for-sure going to cut a finger off on camera.

 

Simone Giertz

I don’t know how much fame she had before she gave this TED talk, but Simone “queen-of-shitty-robots” Giertz is a nerd superhero. Her momentum slowed a bit as she took some time out for health reasons (which she shares a bit with her YouTube followers), but she is back in her workshop making delightful stuff.

 

Luke Towan

Masterful maker of majestic miniatur-… okay, I’ll drop the alliteration. This guy makes buildings and scenery for model railroads that are jaw-droppingly realistic. I’ve not seen many of his videos that involve the actual railroads: just the other stuff that model railroaders need to bring realism to their miniature scenes.

While he sometimes buys a kit, he also just takes piles of raw materials and turns them into realistic-looking miniatures. And when he does use a kit, he mods them to make them more realistic.

 

Woodness Goodness

Watch this guy build a grand cabin in the woods from start to finish. He’s definitely not a master craftsman, but he pretty much knows what he’s doing. Mostly. And he’s not afraid to laugh at his mistakes and admit when he’s just making things up.

The guy loves to talk, and when he’s doing his post-processing and realizes he’s going on too long, he’ll just speed it up so we can get past it. Usually. Not always. Sometimes I need to fast-forward.

 

Evan and Katelyn

This young couple lives in Houston, Texas, with their cat, Joob, whom they affectionately call “The Supervisor” and for whom they occasionally devote great energy building entertaining stuff. They mostly build silly things which frequently involve resin.

Honestly this channel is not at the top of my favorites list, but I have to include them in this post because I am drawn to their contrasting personalities and the sheer fun they seem to have. And I genuinely love it when they use a Siri voice to say things for their cat.

Astronomy

I’m not quite a science nerd: let’s say I’m  nerd-adjacent. But nerddom isn’t necessary to be amazed by the sheer wonderment of space, let alone the beauty of the night sky.

Astronomy Cast

This weekly show is a conversation on and around a set topic between Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today, and astronomer Pamela Gay. I always learn something new, but beyond that, this channel is like listening in on smart friends talking about a fascinating subject! They take a break every summer, so if you look for them then, you might have to catch up on older episodes until they return in the fall.

 

Weekly Space Hangout

This show, also hosted by Fraser Cain (try not to think about Frasier Crane), features 2 to 4 guests for a lengthy conversations about the latest news about space: the research, the astronomical events, and more.

 

Dr. Becky

Dr. Becky Smethurst is an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford. She talks with quite a lot of “smitten with the wonder of things” enthusiasm about the universe — especially about her favorite topic: black holes.

She explains things in a way that usually us merely mortal laypeople can understand and, importantly, without making you feel stupid. She also has a segment in which she tells you where to look and when to see interesting events in the night sky.

 

Astrobiscuit

Adjacent to the astronomy channels, this channel is more about astrophotography. This is a new find for me: an clever, unassuming guy in the UK who loves astrophotography, is quite good at explaining it, and takes us along as he experiments with getting good shots. His editing is awesome, with the occasional cameo by a plastic bunny and great (sometimes comical) use of music by a musician buddy.

Unlike some of the other astrophotography channels I’ve sampled, this guy realizes that we don’t all have expensive DSLRs, telescopes, and trackers. While he does cover how to get good photos with this higher-end equipment he will also show you how to use a smartphone and binoculars to get you started.

 

Madcap Experimenters

These channels deserved their own category. In a way I’d call these guys Makers, but they are more in it for the experimentation, for trying out wild things, and prove their theories about how things will work.

Mark Rober

Mark Rober is a former NASA engineer who makes vastly entertaining videos. One variety of video shows him demonstrating and explaining the answers to questions, like whether a shark can really smell a single drop of blood or what would happen if every toilet in an area was flushed at the same time. Another variety shows him using his knowledge of science and engineering to make and explain ingenious gadgets that solve life’s little problems, like harassing porch thieves or keeping squirrels out of the bird feeder. Or sometimes just cool hacks, like how to skin a watermelon.

He’s charming and entertaining, with a side of smart.

 

Slow-Mo Guys

This is a fun channel where two guys seek out cool things at which to aim their incredibly fast camera, usually making a huge mess while they’re at it. Things like: Popping a human-sized water balloon… with a human inside of it. Shooting a gun at fruit. Setting off mousetraps. A cat twisting as it falls so it will land on its feet.

Skilled Woodworking

Continuing on my theme of construction and building, I watch a handful of channels that show woodworking projects from start to finish. Actually, I watch quite a lot of these channels, but there are only these few that stand out.

Frank Howarth

I believe Frank was an architect who discovered his love for woodworking later in life. He has an impressive workshop at his home in Portland, Oregon, including a sophisticated lathe and an impressively massive CNC machine.

He narrates what he’s doing in a way that makes you feel like you’re there figuring it out with him. And his self-deprecating manner and his occasional stop-motion adds charm.

Chris Salomone

Watch a quiet guy build modern and contemporary furniture in his workshop. I’m sure there are quite a few similar channels, but many of his videos are done in a quiet way that seems almost like a meditation. I’m also a big fan for the style of the furniture he makes: contemporary meets modern with a twist of mid-century.

Van Living

Selling almost everything and living full-time in a tiny home, a boat, or a tricked-out van has become “a thing” in the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe. My favorite episodes are all about the van builds, but the actual adventuring and day-to-day living episodes can be entertaining as well. Here are just two of the handful of such channels that I keep up with.

Eamon and Beck

This young Canadian couple operates a Chai business, which they leave in the hands of Eamon’s dad, Bob, as they travel around the world adventuring and promoting their products. Their videos are in the style of following them along as they go through their days, but they are adept at managing this informality while keeping the videos entertaining.

 

Rolling Vistas

Another young couple, this one American, living the mobile tiny life with two dogs. At first they lived in a converted school bus, but they decided to downsize even more and move into a van. While living on the road he maintains his professional photography business while she continues working with clients (and on her Etsy store, Kudzu Monster) as a graphic designer.

 

 

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