Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Dangerous Giving

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Dangerous Giving


Wow, where does the time go? The book will soon close on the first decade of the millennium, so let’s take a moment and contemplate life’s pace and direction. If your first read of the 21st century seemed a little humdrum, fear not! “The secret of reaping the greatest enjoyment from life,” Friedrich Nietzsche famously wrote, “is to live life dangerously.” True, and opportunities for doing so abound. 2011 might be the time to make a few interesting additions to your lifestyle, adding some thrills, and experiencing a few new sensations.

Here’s a list of gift suggestions especially designed to provide a wide range of new and edgy (or over that edge) experiences to your more adventurous gift recipients. —William Gurstelle, Contributing Editor, MAKE magazine

Editor’s Note: As the name of this guide implies, the items listed here are dangerous. All relevant cautions, required background expertise, safeties, and common sense should be applied here. The purpose of this guide is to give you some idea of what sorts of envelope-pushing products are available out there (and to have a little fun in the process), not to encourage thoughtless and reckless behavior.


Bring the Amazon home
Xingu River Black Piranha, Aquascape Online, $200 each
“They are the most ferocious fish in the world. The piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness. — Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, 1914.

Teddy may have overstated things a bit, but there’s little doubt that piranha can be some pretty ornery fishes. However, they are often bought and sold as pets after a fashion, and so, could make an exotic and interesting gift to aquarists who:

A. Have very large fish tanks
B. Live in northern states (piranha are illegal in states without cold winters lest they escape into local lakes and reproduce
C. Have a sense of high adventure or are simply unconcerned about retaining all ten fingers

Make a homemade rocket
Absinthe and Flamethrowers, Maker Shed, $15.95
In my book, Absinthe and Flamethrowers, you can find a great number of maker-friendly projects with just the right mix of technology, DIY, and danger. While the eponymous flamethrower project may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the section on making homemade rockets out of sugar and stump remover is so McGyver-like it’s hard not to get excited. Who knew what potential for science and mayhem lurked at the hardware store? Dangerous? Yeah. Irresponsible? Nope.


Hack your way through the jungle
Bolo style machete with sheath, Cold Steel, $24.99

If you were suddenly cast away on a desert island or stranded in the Brazilian jungle (perhaps on a piranha fishing expedition), what’s the one tool you would want at your side? The answer is simple: a good machete. A good machete is the ultimate outdoor survival tool. It will cut, chop, slash, hack, split, scrape, scoop, hammer, dig, crush, carve, whittle, crack or smash just about anything you can put in front of it. It can be used to kill both fish and game and will gut, scale, fillet, skin, quarter, and butcher them for the table as well. And if things go from bad to worse, it’s a pretty formidable weapon. According to those who specialize in such matters, if you seek a decorative piece, then look for a stainless steel model. But if you need your machete for real work, go for a carbon steel blade.


The fast and the furious
Nitrous oxide injection system, Holley NOS, $200 to $800
If you ever need a car to go fast: really, really, dangerously fast, high octane gasoline just isn’t going to cut it. What you need is a little chemical help. A NOS system increases horsepower by injecting a special chemical — nitrous oxide, along with extra fuel, into the engine intake manifold, providing a huge kick of extra power. While not exactly simple to install, cheap, or for that matter, street legal, what gearhead wouldn’t appreciate a red “go-baby-go” button on the gear shift with the ability to instantly add 175 horsepower down the straightaway?


If you think driving fast is dangerous ….
Wheelmate WM-01 Steering Wheel Desk, Autoexec, $36.99

The only thing more dangerous than driving an illegal 1967 nitrous-injected, fully-blown Ford Shelby GT too fast in rush hour traffic is doing it while texting! And even that reckless exercise can be made worse, as evidenced by the comments left by numerous (536 at last count) reviewers of the world famous AutoExec WM-1 Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray. The perfect dangerous gift for the busy (and foolhardy) multitasker. Here’s a sample review from Amazon:

My copilot and I both used these during our “daily grind” transcontinental flights from San Diego to Minneapolis. We had to modify them a bit to fit snug against the instrument panels (when we bought them we didn’t realize the planes we fly don’t have steering wheels!), but in the end it did the job. With our laptops firmly in place we were able to focus our attention on what really mattered, participating in raids with our WoW clan. During our last flight we were so immersed in trying to take down Eranikus that we overshot Minneapolis by a full hour and a half before some annoying flight attendant interrupted us, babbling something about “FAA and F16 fighters.”


Look cool while living hot
Floating Bomber Safety Glasses, Bomber, $14.95
Protective eyewear is a must for all sensible DIYers. But there’s no reason not to look cool while wearing them. There’s a great variety of looks and styles available, ranging from 50s retro to steampunk goggles to sleek and futuristic. Tommy “The Bomber” Bonacci (who describes himself on his website as a “Pro Personal Watercraft Racer”) has a nice selection of colorful, floating, safety standard compliant safety glasses that make it cool to wear safety gear. Check out the Time-Bomb Xtreme Style Safety Glasses in Orange Foam. Cool, cheap, and unsinkable. Not dangerous. Smart.


With this, you’re ready for anything
Make: Bomb Defuser Leatherman ES4, Maker Shed, $36.00
It may not be a complete substitute for a remote-controlled robot or a Kevlar aramid blast suit, but the limited edition Make: Bomb Defuser Leatherman ES4 is small, cheap, and versatile. This gadget features a great number of handy technical tools in a small, stainless steel, laser-etched package. Can it cut wire? Yes. Can it strip wire? Sure. Does it have a pliers, a screw driver, a file, and a scissors? Natch. And if the bomb doesn’t go off, the ES4 even has a bottle opener for impromptu celebrations.


Just don’t shoot your eye out, Ralphie!
Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle, Beeman, $650

Air rifles are pretty cool. Quiet and light, as compared to a gunpowder firearm, the good ones are also accurate, expensive, and quite capable as sporting arms. Air guns are becoming very popular, and with the increasing interest, manufacturers from Europe and Asia are competing with well known American brands such as Daisy, Crosman, and Beeman. The Red Ryder BB gun, featured so proximately in the classic movie, A Christmas Story, shoots a BB about 280 feet per second, more than adequate to raise a welt or perhaps even shoot an eye out, under rare circumstances. But that’s a weak sister compared to the power of the Beeman R1 Supermagnum air rifle. The R1 has a bunch of stopping power, shoots with extreme accuracy, and with four times the RR muzzle velocity, it’s an expensive gun that deserves a lot of respect.


Powered exoskeleton, pre-Tony Stark
Extreme Air Trekker Jumping Stilts, Air-Trekker, $359

While a full-blown Iron Man suit would be a great gift, it is probably is too great a stretch on the budget for most people. But it might be possible to at least get a taste of it. Jumping stilts look cool, at least in the ten ba-zillion videos posted on YouTube by newly invested jumping stilt owners.

Jumping stilts, for the uninitiated, are 3 foot long, space-age, leg attached carbon-fiber springs. When the wearer hops around on them, the springs accumulate, store, and return a large portion of the energy put into it. So, the harder the stilter jumps up and down, the more energy gets accumulated. The result? Jumps of incredible height and duration.

These reviews are sponsored by Garrett Wade


Pictures for Pyros
Pyro-Master Woodburning Tool Kit, Garrett Wade, $39.95
Pyrography is the art of decorating wood and leather by carefully burning it. There are a number of ways to do that, ranging from an iron poker heated in a campfire to repurposing an old soldering iron. But a versatile and inexpensive burning tool such as the Pyro-Master is the best way to go. Complete with 19 interchangeable burning tips that screw into a 25 watt heating pen, the Pyro-Master allows the nascent pyrographer to easily sketch, decorate, illustrate, and generally enfabulate carbon-based burnables with nuance and style. Dangerous? Nah, but do remember that the tip is hot enough to brand cattle, so always use care and wait for the instrument to cool before changing tips.


The sharpest knife in the drawer
Japanese Saw Set, Garrett Wade, $129.00
The thinnest, sharpest blades in the world of hand tools are those of the Nokogiri or Japanese pull saw. They’re perfect in situations where thin, accurate saw cuts are required. But take heed before plunging forward — the thin blades are as sharp as a brain surgeon’s scalpel and because they cut on the pull stroke, Japanese saws have a different feel then what most woodworkers are familiar with. While they may take a while to get use to, for precise cuts and in situations where a thin kerf is required, they are worth their weight in gold, or at least, in chromium alloy steel.

This Holiday Gift Guide was sponsored by Garrett Wade. The editorial decisions about what to include where MAKE’s and MAKE is solely responsible for its contents. We also chose the tools in the “sponsored review” section ourselves.


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.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

15 (Wed) – Postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – Ground shipping deadline
18 (Sat) – 3-day shipping deadline
20 (Mon) – 2-day shipping deadline
21 (Tue) – Overnight shipping deadline
*Orders placed after these dates using these shipping methods may arrive on time; however, the dates listed are what we consider likely “safe dates.”

United States Postal Service (USPS):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, please order by Dec 15 if you intend to select this method. However, we have had increased reports of packages sent via USPS lost or delayed in transit during this high-volume period. Since we do not replace or refund any order placed using this shipping method, we strongly encourage you not to use this method in December.

2 thoughts on “Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Dangerous Giving

  1. RichT says:

    My latest woodworking effort is building a timber frame addition to the house, and a lot of pegs are crying out, “Cut me! Oh yeah, baby, use that Japanese pull saw!” And when I make furniture and boxes, these kinds of saws are awesome for dovetails, cutting shims and splines, making that last little final fitting cut, and tuning up joints and little parts. They give me joy and inspiration!

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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

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