by Paul Overton
Since I started my blog a year ago, I have been amazed at how many guys have emailed me to say that they’ve enjoyed doing crafts for years but thought they were alone in the world. Me? I’ve been doing crafts since I was a kid. Both my parents are artists and my mom worked in the craft industry, so I always had a brush or a hook or a needle and thread in my hand. My craft-type interests are all over the map, and because of that, so is this guide. It’s mostly centered on things I own, know, love, and use for the majority of the crafting work that I do, and since crafting is such a wide category, prepare yourself to travel a considerable distance in the next few paragraphs. Also, while there are some relatively inexpensive items on the list, I’ll ask you to bear in mind that “cheap tools aren’t good and good tools aren’t cheap.” The same holds true for tattoos, by the way. Let’s get started…
Janome TB12 ($199.00)
If you have someone interested in sewing in your house, and you’re on the verge of your first machine purchase, I would definitely consider the Janome TB12 Threadbanger (named for those adorable kids over at threadbanger.com). This is a no-frills, 12-stitch machine that is a real workhorse. While it won’t do leatherwork, or industrial-type sewing, it’ll do most anything else. The motor is super-quiet, the light is good, and there’s not a lot of reading the manual that needs to happen before you start laying down some stitches.
Gingher scissors ($25.95)
Staying with fabric for the moment, I cannot overstate the importance of a good pair of scissors (or several). My favorites are the Gingher 8″ Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears. With the exception of the word “dressmaker,” they sound pretty bad ass, don’t they? Well, they are, as long as you can keep your grade-schoolers from cutting construction paper with them. I’ve had my pair for three years and they’re as good as new.
Jaquard screenprinting kit ($52.45)
For those who are itching to make their own band t-shirts, greeting cards, or tea towels, screenprinting is the obvious choice. There are some really cool machines on the market now that take all of the guesswork (and most of the fun) out of printing your own stuff, but for me, I’ll stick with the traditional. From inks to squeegee to screen, this Jaquard screenprinting kit has everything you need to get started.
Gocco ($ varies)
For those who want to do some printing on a smaller scale, and don’t want to deal with emulsions, transparencies, and the learning curve associated with screenprinting, there’s Gocco, the brilliant little Japanese machine that just keeps on going. Gocco is a little pricey to get into, but it’s both an easy and fun way to print your own stuff.
Vietnamese knitting needles ($18.85 to $27.35)
What does a pirate knit with? Yarrrrrn! These awesome Vietnamese knitting needles, made from hardwoods by Lantern Moon, are the sweetest bit of knitting gear I’ve ever owned. I bought several pairs of these babies when I was on vacation, and I gotta say, they are all they’re cracked up to be. Not only do they feel great to knit with, they can also be explained away as weapons if your dude friends spot you with them. Uh, unless they see you knitting.
Knit Kit ($19.95)
Once your knitter is rocking those sweet needles, he’s going to need some other pieces of kit to get started. You can buy them one by one, or you can just get The Knit Kit right from the Maker Shed. This from the description: “The front contains a durable locking row counter and a smooth retracting 5ft. tape measure. The left side has a fully removable crochet hook for picking up that dropped stitch or weaving in an end, and the right side has a folding in-and-out thread cutter in the event your scissors are not available. The back compartment of The Knit Kit nicely houses sturdy, TSA Compliant, collapsible scissors as well as point protectors and three different sized stitch markers.” See? Like I said…everything you need.
X-Acto X2000 ($4.68)
If you’re going to cut paper (and many other things), you’re going to need an X-Acto knife. I used to cut all my stuff with the cheapest hobby knife available. It worked fine, but my fingers paid the price. Then I discovered the X-Acto X2000, the most comfortable blade holder ever invented. I can work for hours with this thing and my fingers never get tired. Best four bucks I ever spent.
Bone folder ($5.54)
And speaking of working with paper, life is certainly a lot easier if you’ve got a bone folder to crease and burnish with. From bookmaking to greeting cards, a bone folder is a necessary addition to any paper-person’s tool kit. I prefer the Lineco 4 7/8″ bone folder made from real bone. Let me know when you stop laughing at the words “bone folder.”
Origami paper ($3.25 and up)
Lately, I’ve gotten back into folding because I’ve been involved in a couple of 1000 crane projects and I once spent six months folding origami shrimp (long story). While it’s true that you can use any paper you have lying around, there’s a big difference between a page you ripped out of a magazine and this stuff.
Montana spray paint ($5.25 for a 400ml can)
Anybody who’s ever made art with a spray can knows: there’s spray paint and then there’s Montana. This stuff has amazing coverage and comes in the coolest colors on the planet. Your little bomber will thank you from the bottom of his criminal heart if some cans of this stuff end up under the tree, especially if you stick some fat caps in his stocking to go along with them.
DeWalt 18V drill/driver ($279.00)
Now, into the shop! Certainly, the piece of equipment that gets the most use in the shop and at home is the cordless drill. I’ve owned a few cordless drills in my life, and for me, the DeWalt 18V drill/driver is the best out there. It’s easy to handle, it can bore and screw like there’s no tomorrow (stop laughing), and it has great battery life. I used to own a DeWalt hammer drill, but the imbalance was giving me wrist fatigue. The 18V driver/drill on the other hand is lightweight and perfectly balanced, making it perfect for hours of (ahem) effortless screwing.
Miter saw ($399)
I hate to play favorites here, but the DeWalt DW716 Heavy Duty 12″ (305mm) Double-Bevel Compound Miter Saw is good enough to warrant a second entry from the company with the big, yellow tools. It’s accurate, ergonomic, and rugged. This is the saw I put in the high school I worked in, and if it can stand up to teenagers, it’s pretty much unbreakable. On the pricey side, but definitely worth the green.
Craftsman 154 pc. Mechanics Tool Set (149.99)
Wrenches! I’d be lost without my Craftsman 154 pc. Mechanics Tool Set. It’s got everything. Sockets, nut drivers, hex keys, and box wrenches are all here, not to mention the lifetime warranty, which you will never need because these things are awesome! Sears offers both bigger and smaller kits than this, but the 154-piece is perfect for my needs.
Dremel 4000 series ($ varies)
Is there anything you can’t do with a Dremel tool? Well, yes, but not much. We use ours for carving, sanding, drilling, buffing, and even filing down the dog’s nails. I prefer the corded variety, and for my money the Dremel 4000 series does everything I need it to. This model comes in a bunch of kits with varying accessories and at varying prices. Shop around.
This guide is, of course, just a jumping off point for the crafty dudes on your list. Something important I missed? Please speak up in the comments. Happy Holidays!
Paul Overton runs DudeCraft, the crafting site geared towards guys.
In the Maker Shed:
Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.
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