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We asked a few really smart makers of fashion, hardware, software and electronics to tell us what is on their wish list this holiday season (we like to call them intelligent designers) and boy did they come up with some good ones! Check out the dozens of ideas and gifts they put together that may just help you figure out what to give that special intelligent designer.

The coolest tool I bought this year was my vintage Singer Featherweight 222k –the best vintage sewing machine, it was my splurge tool. I still use an el cheapo soldering iron after all these years, so a really nice one with digital temperature meter would rock. Also, believe it or not I still don’t have a voltage generator; I use chopped off and resoldered wall warts for all my circuits and projects. I am going to agree with the oscilloscope suggestions (below) I would gladly receive one. As far as big tools, I was eyeing a compact table saw this summer and almost caved. Buying me that would make me a happy girl indeed! A roll of solid core wire, the kind for breadboard proto-ing is always welcome. Dream tool? rapid prototyping machine that can make resin or hard final pieces.

I would *love* to have an LPKF PCB Prototyping Machine. Drool. I’ve been oogling over these things for years. Also, something like a Tektronix DPO4034 digital phosphor oscilloscope.

I’ll leave the waterjet, laser-cutter, and 3D printer to Saul.

For me, a perfect gift is something I would never buy for myself and let’s me take more data or measurements:

  • Calipers
  • Digital tire pressure gauge
  • One of those point and measure gun-thermometers
  • Inclinometer for my bike
  • GPS travel-time measuring device
  • I was really excited about a body-fat measuring device for this Thanksgiving (who can put on the most fat during dinner!), but the one I got just plain sucks, so an accurate body-fat measuring tool would be great
  • A blood glucose monitor that didn’t require drawing blood would also be fun

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Dear Santa,

I have been very good this year. I have paid my taxes, voted, and am reporting a cell phone scam to the better business bureau so that my fellow consumers will not also be scammed. Thus for X-mas I would like the following:

Leaving out the cookies,

Vl-300 Big
Well, here are some things that I’d have fun with (or had fun with) as a christmas gift:

Laser cutter–I actually just got a ULSI laser cutter for myself (VL-300) as sort of a christmas gift (it was a long hard year this year…). I am really looking forward to having something in house this versatile and amazing. Yeah, it wasn’t cheap, but you said there was no price limit :)

I think a shopping spree at digikey would be awesome. Like, literally, if I could get a shopping cart and I could push it through the halls of digikey and just grab components and whatever I can fit in the cart I get. I know that’s probably not feasible, so a nice big gift card to digikey would do to :) and a tour of their facility, because I’d really like to know how they manage to go from a button click on their webpage to a box on their dock in 15 minutes, no matter how big that order is.

I’d never turn away a DPO4000 series oscilloscope. They are sexy. I recently got a TDS5000 series scope (the DPO4000’s are not
cheap…) as an uneasy compromise between features and cost…we’ll see if I regret that later on.

I’d love to get a big tub of solder flux, one that’s no-clean and actually works well. There’s a type of solder flux made by a German company (ERSA) that works like magic and I could never find again. I have a single syringe of it that I keep carefully stored in my refrigerator for those special operations where I need it to work the first time through. I think is the one.

Okay, so this list is probably a little weird and esoteric. Hm… something more practical…

More down to earth but still totally useful, I think a set of digital calipers. I don’t have a specific link to a particular brand but it’s one of those types of “I’d never buy it for myself but if I got it as a gift it’d be great” items, as an engineer. Being able to measure the diameter of my hair and compare it to my girlfriend’s is just one of things you’d never pay money for but somehow you get satisfaction out of doing it.

A set of bump keys is always fun. It’s a nice addition to any hobby locksmith’s toolkit.

While I’m tempted to list an optical microscope as an item on the list, I am trying to keep it more down to earth. So I’d say a jeweler’s loupe magnifier would be cool. You wouldn’t want to use it for soldering but its size makes it perfect for carrying around. Looking to buy LCD monitors? take one to the computer store and look at the pixels with it. You’d be surprised at how much difference you can see if you use a loupe to look at them–you can easily see the quality of the color gels, the fill factor, and even some of the timing and calibration accuracy of the circuitry based upon the flicker that you see on the pixels at that magnification.

As for the loupe, I plan on looking for some while I’m out here in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. They seem to have places that specialize in that
out here–although Tokyo is probably better for them, I bet I can find a nice one out here. The prices and quality seem to be all over the place. I’ll get an extra one for you if I find one. I was actually inspired to get a loupe because a vendor out here busted one out on me to show me details of circuit boards and displays and I thought it was just too handy to have a powerful pocket microscope.

I think all engineers should get a subscription to Nature magazine. Sure sure, it’s not as cool as Make, but it reminds us that there’s life beyond the workbench, and it’s basically going to the source on important issues like global warming, avian flu, cloning, and bioethics. It’s the fiber in my intellectual diet–it has nothing to do with nourishing my engineering brain but everything to do with keeping me from being intellectually constipated.

Okay, this list is getting long, but just a couple more things. I think a touchless thermometer like this is just too much fun to play with.

You go around for hours just pointing it at stuff and realizing just how hot or cold these things are around the office…like damn, so that laptop really *is* frying my nuts.

The other thing I think would be neat to have is a laser range-finder / level, so I can replace my measuring tape and bubble-level that I use for my woodworking projects.

My list is a bit simple…

  • Hot glue gun – seriously, I didn’t get one of those until last year
  • Every color sharpie pen – think of all the permanent fun!
  • Entire roll of bubble wrap
  • Really nice metal ruler or yardstick, sharp scissors – I lose these all the time
  • Small changeable screwdriver – I have one with 10 attachments and it’s super handy
  • Screen printing supplies


  • A Phil Woods bicycle spoke cutter / threader. Personally nothing says Christmas more than esoteric tools….
  • An Engel hot knife. A MUST have.
  • I love my 18V XRP De Walt cordless drill. Tasty.
  • A 2nd hand copy of “Masterman Ready” by Captain Marryat.
  • Feeler gauges. Not enough people have a good set of feeler gauges. They have a great name too…

I’d like to be given a really nice piece of antique hawser rope to make a cool ass rope swing with…

Air Hogs make awesome little remote control planes now, real smart, better than video games…. differential power to twin props. $30 !!!!

And I want a 14 speed Rohloff internal gear hub.

As two of you listed calipers or micrometers, here are the best in my opinion:

Tempting as it is to get the solar powered ones, the battery ones work in low light – eg most workshops, just get spare batteries as well. as with everything, the larger (8inch) ones are beautiful.

Everyone should have an optical microscope, though the loupe is a cool idea. Can i have one of them? Lasercutter for sure.

Other surprisingly useful esoteric handtools:

And actually a really good free christmas gift are the best catalogues of their type:

  • Mcmaster carr catalog (engineer porn)
  • Digikey catalog (electronics porn)
  • Melles griot optics catalog (optics porn)

They are free, and all of them are kind of mini text books in their own way. They should make a leather bound set. There are probably others that would
really round out the series.

I love Bunnie’s description of Nature. We just got Nature and Science subscriptions at Squid, and they are beautiful items to keep long term perspective in the frantic deadline driven engineering world.

I just got a dewalt 18V angle grinder, it’s awesome too.

Here are the things I’d love to have with me at all times and what I think would be a great gift.

Math, Science and Nature are beautiful. Challenge your ideas of art and get inspired by patterns from nature and with The Pattern Book: Fractals, Art, and Nature or Computers, Pattern Chaos and Beauty both by Clifford A. Pickover.

Hats are in this year, so show off your skills with one you make yourself. Eugenia Kim has a book out called Saturday Night Hat. The hats are smart and stylish with some sass with doable directions.

No one has made Felt look so good. Carol Huber Cypher’s book “hand felted jewelry and beads” is inspirational and completely original.

Electronic Fabrics:
Made for people who are afraid of electronic waves and how they may affect their brain, but perfect for the technologist turned fashionista or vise versa. If your making something that lights up, changes color or vibrates why not send the power through electronic thread or fabrics instead of wire? It works basically the same and you can sew it like anything else.

Don’t let the weird interface and technical jargon fool you, these are great fabrics.

Thermocrhomic Inks:
These are a luxury item to any maker. Made popular in the 80’s with Hypercolor shirts which made your armpits change color when you got hot or liked someone. These inks change color when warmth or cold is near or applied. But instead of showing off your sweaty pits, you can screen print them or paint them onto any type of material and control when and how they change color. Think of how many different ways you could wear the same shirt or design if the color changed with just a change in temperature or the addition of electronic energy! You could be wearing blue paisley in the morning and yellow dots by night. Check out Matsui Chromicolor® Ink.

Fashion and technology have been good friends for decades. In fact, the punch card of jacquards loom inspired computational machines. Why not go back to the basics and get a beautiful punch card weaving machine. It may take a little manual reading, but you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment and pride when you whip out a new scarf with patterns you generated in just one day!

Check out the Silver Reed Punchard 280. Another fun machine is Brothers’ garment printing machines.

Many techno fashion and crafters may wonder why I am giving away our secrets, well its not the materials that matter. Materials are just tools and the ideas are what change the world.

Ok Makers, got others? Post’em!

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