Putting Together a Maker’s Gift Basket

Craft & Design Workshop
Putting Together a Maker’s Gift Basket

I have always had a fondness for kits and curated collections of things. Probably for this reason, I also like Christmas stockings when the person playing Santa has filled it with thoughtful and silly items that have meaning to the recipient. There’s something special about getting a bunch of thoughtful and whimsical small items instead of one big gift. For any DIYer on your holiday list, a great gift idea is to put together a tool stocking, toolbox, or bucket filled with useful tools, materials, and supplies. This year, a friend of mine (thanks, Rebecca Mordini!) suggested that I put together such a gift basket build around my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, and some of the tools recommended within it.

So, here is one suggestion for how to put together a maker’s gift basket. You can tailor your basket to fit the needs of your recipients. This collection is built around the tips and tools mentioned in my book or suggested by some of the book’s contributors.

Gift Basket Giveaway! See the end of this article for details on how you can win the gift basket seen here.

Tips and Tales from the Workshop – My bestselling book filled with indispensable shop tips, build techniques, tool tricks, and inspiring stories from dozens of makers about their favorite tips n’ tools and the how they came by them. I designed this book to appeal to all types of makers, crafters, handypersons, homeowners, anyone who makes, repairs, or maintains just about anything.

Parachute Bag – I write about these wonderful bags in Tips and Tales. They are cheap (as low as $8 when on sale), durable, and they hold lots of screws, nails, fasteners, other components in six compartments. There are also pockets all around the bag for small tools, pocket notebooks, and the like. Cinch it up, grab it, and go.

DiResta Mini Ice Pick – I have given full-sized DiResta ice picks as presents to a number of maker friends. This is the new smaller version and I like it even better. People always ask me: “But what is it good for, except for chopping ice?” I use mine nearly daily for all of my marking, scribing, cutting, poking, picking, awling, scratching, and stabbing needs. These tools, handmade by Jimmy himself, have been a big success and become a sort of maker status symbol. I think the smaller picks are even more practical and will do even better.

Component Lead Bending Tool – Having a neatly-populated circuit board goes a long way, especially if it’s a heavily populated board. This resistor bending tool from Evil Mad Scientist Labs helps give you perfect right angles at the desire width to fit your PCB layout. A tidy PCB is a happy PCB.

123 Blocks – These precision milled blocks, made of hardened tool steel, measure 1″ x 2″ x 3″. They are made for the machining industry, but are useful on any type of workbench. In Tips and Tales from the Workshop, I included several tips on the use of shop weights. There are perfect for that application. They include 23 holes, with 5 holes tapped with 3/8-16 threads for clamping and 18 untapped holes for tying or whatever else. I use my 123s all of the time. [Note: The 123 Blocks are not included in the gift bag giveaway. They’re heavy!)

PTFE Teflon Craft Mat – I have sung the praises of Teflon work mats here on Make:, on Cool Tools, Boing Boing, and in my book. I always have a stash of these on hand and always have my workbenches covered with them. NOTHING sticks! I glue, paint, epoxy right on them and then just peel the waste material off when it dries. [Note: The gift basket will include one 16″ x 20″ mat.)

Canary Knife – I found out about these wonderful box cutting knives from Donald Bell’s Maker Update show. I have now bought six of them to use and to give out to friends. Perfect for quickly breaking down cardboard for recycling or for cutting cardboard stock from trash card to use in crafting, modeling, projects, and prototyping.

Plastic Razor Blades and Scraper – Donald Bell also introduced me to plastic razor blades. I’m hooked. They can be used for a majority of scraping applications where you would normal use regular razors blades, but these don’t carry the risk of marring surfaces. After Halloween, I had wax drippings all over my hardwood floors. This scraper removed all of the wax in a jiffy. [Note: The giveaway gift basket includes one scraper handle and ten plastic blades.]

Poster Putty – In Tips and Tales, I have several entries on using poster putty, for holding down jars and other shop containers, for test-fitting parts, for using as a paint mask, for holding components for soldering, all sorts of uses. Poster putty has become one of my most used supplies in tabletop modeling.

Binder Clips – Binder clips also make frequent appearances in my book, for cable organizing, small-parts clamping, holding paint brushes over thinners, and more. If you put together a basket like this, include several sizes of clips.

Magnetic Key Ring – A retractable magnetic key ring can be used on a drill press or other tool that uses a chuck key or other adjustment tool that you always want to keep close to the tool and not lose.

Agitator Balls – Simply put: If you use acrylic paints in small bottles or pots, adding one or two stainless steel agitator balls is a game changer. They’re cheap. Do it. Trust me.

Cahiers Notebook – I have used these Moleskine Cahiers pocket notebooks for the past 12 years. I always keep one in my pocket. I now have something like 27 volumes of them, filled with ideas, drawings, project notes, and shop tips. If I ever woke up in a fire, the one thing I would grab from my desk as I scrambled out of the house would be these notebooks.

Pilot Varsity Pen – The Pilot Varsity is my favorite disposable fountain pen. I buy a box of a dozen every year and stash them all over my house and shop. I love the flow, the nib size, and the old-school feel of using a fountain pen.

Mini Maker’s Notebook – The Mini Maker’s Notebook has 128 9″ x 6.5″ gridded pages for project designs, circuit diagrams, and shop notes.

Artistic License – My gift basket includes some other goodies and surprises, such as one of my Artistic Licenses. I give these out whenever I do art- and creativity-related talks and workshops. I love the idea of people putting these in their wallets and getting a little tweak of creative empowerment whenever they encounter it. Face it, we all need a little artistic license now and again. [If you’re interested in acquiring one of these licenses yourself, please email me directly.

All total, I put together my gift basket for under $150. You can keep the cost down by choosing materials and supplies over tools, or level it up with more tools. If you put together a basket, I would love to see it. Tag it with #tipsandtalesfromtheworkshop.

Gift Basket Giveaway! I am giving away the gift basket used to illustrate this article (a $125 value). It includes everything seen here (except the 123 Blocks.) To be eligible, all you have to do is post an entry, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, mentioning my book, this article, and/or the idea of a tool gift bag, and include this link and hashtag: https://amzn.to/2DPaXAd #tipsandtalesfromtheworkshop. The only things you have to include are the link and the hashtag. You can post as many times as you like. On Dec 12th, I’ll do a random drawing from the hash-tagged entries and send out your gift basket. Note: This drawing is only available to those residing in the United States.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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