Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Tools for Makers

Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Tools for Makers


multiToolsSIP.jpgImage from “Knives & Multitools” section of Make: Ultimate Workshop and Tool Guide 2011

I don’t know about you, but I have an interest in tools that borders on the unnatural. I collect tools I rarely even use. If I gathered up all of the screwdrivers I own, for instance, it’d probably prove an alarming display. As I’ve commented here before, there’s something aspirational, hopeful, about tools, and acquiring them.Tools at least draw you a few inches closer to the task at hand. They’re you’re interface to making.

In this guide, we look at tools that are both fantasy wish list specials and practical tools that have stood the test of repeated use. Some are sexy and expensive, others more homely and affordable. We think every one of them is a winner as a potential gift for that active maker in your life — or for those who dream of more time for making, one acquired fetish object at a time.


Make: Ultimate Workshop and Tool Guide 2011, $9.99, Maker Shed
Buy and download the PDF version of the Guide here.

The first gift we want to encourage all of you to get for your maker family and friends (and for yourself) is our new Make: Ultimate Workshop and Tool Guide 2011. Yes, we’re shamelessly trying to sell this thing, but we’re genuinely proud of it and think it’s a no-brainer for any maker on your list. Being tool fanatics ourselves, this was a labor of love, filled with reviews of our own favorite tools and equipment, along with great ideas for outfitting a workshop, tours of some of our favorite makers’ shops (like covergeek Adam Savage), and plenty more. Here’s a video preview, if you need more convincing.


Make: Ultimate Workshop and Tool Guide 2011, $9.99, Maker Shed
And to give you a specific idea of what’s in Make: Ultimate Workshop, here’s an excerpt, from our four-page “Knives & Multitools” section. Here, Make: Online authors John Baichtal, Sean Ragan, myself, and MAKE contributor Jeremy Jackson, rave about our favorite knives and pocket tools. [Click on the image above to download the 580kb PDF]


Japanese Woodworking Saws, $86.70 – 99.90, Garrett Wade

I asked some of my maker pals in DC, members of HacDC and Dorkbot DC, what was on their holiday lists. Mark Adams didn’t hesitate to share his: “I’ve been looking at a set of Japanese woodworking saws. I would like to build that beautiful set of sawhorses in the Make: Ultimate Workshops book, and the mortise and tenon joints required in that project could use this type of handsaw.”


Yankee Push Drill, $59.95, Garrett Wade

This would be on my gift list. I can’t believe, with all the tool I have, I don’t have a classic push drill. When we offered one of these Garrett Wade drills in a giveaway here on MAKE, people went bananas over it. This one looks like a beauty.


TOOOL Emergency Lock-Pick Card, $29.99, Maker Shed

The lockpicking workshops at Maker Faire, HOPE, and other DIY/hacker conferences have been phenomenally successful. People love them. You get to feel like a spy, do something mildly transgressive, and you have a useful skill that can come in handy if you ever lock yourself out of the house. If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.

10-28 AWG Self-Adjusting Wire Cutter and Stripper One-Step Wire Strippers, $9.99, Fry’s
Here’s the kind of inexpensive gift that packs a big bang for the bucks. John Park turned me onto these. He writes: “I got mine from Fry’s (designed in Italy, made in China) and they’ve changed my life! You can strip a wire one-handed with them. The jaws grab your insulation and pull it across a little pair of blades. Stripping one handed in a deft move alters the entire project building landscape for me.” He was kind enough to gift me with a pair and I now love them as much as he does. But I need to replace mine. I recently loaned them to a friend and he too fell in love; I felt bad asking for them back, so I told him to keep them.


Gorillatorch Blade LED Light, $59.95, Maker Shed

A few years ago, a friend gave me an LED snake ight that wraps around things, can form its own stand, etc. I’m crazy about it. I want more. I want this one. The Gorillatorch sports 130-Lumen ultra bright CREE LEDs, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and even has magnets on the tips of the arms so it can stick to things.


Make: Electronics Deluxe Toolkit, $110, Maker Shed

If you know anybody who’s just getting into electronics, this is a great way of getting them all of the basic tools they need in one purchase. And a lot of times, when you buy a kit like this, it’s a lot of cheap, unreliable parts. We don’t do cheap and unreliable. We took the time to source decent quality-for-price parts that will get your recipient off and running without the frustrations that can come when learning a new skill with inferior tools. This kit makes a perfect companion to our bestselling Make: Electronics book.


Saleae Logic Analyzer, $149, Saleae

Andy Walker of Hac DC recommends this USB-based logic analyzer from Saleae Logic. “It’s a really nifty and affordable tool (and it’s cross-platform!)” Here are some specs:

Speedy 24MHz — Logic samples each channel at up to 24M times per second. A large fraction of practical, real world applications run at less than 10MHz, and Logic is ideal for these.

8 Channels — Logic has 8 inputs — it can monitor 8 different digital signals at once. For many modern microcontroller-based designs, this is plenty.

10 billion samples — Logic can save as many as 10B samples, letting you capture even the most elusive events. No more dealing with frustratingly small sample buffers.


Fluke 289, $545, Fluke
Will Gibb has his heart set on this Cadillac of Digital Multimeters, the Fluke 289. “It has logging built in and a nice display to view things on.” For over 500 bones, it better. Read more about its impressive specs and features on the link above.


Hantek DSO8060, ~$620, eBay

My friend Tim Slagle has this lovely Tricorder-esque gadget in his sights: “The Hantek DSO8060 is a portable, battery-powered LCD oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, DMM, frequency counter, arbitrary function generator. This would be the ideal bit of equipment for my portable electronics toolkit (but I’d still bring a stand-alone DMM in addition). They go about $620 on eBay.”


Thing-O-Matic, $1,225, MakerBot

Nearly every self-respecting nerd I know has a Thing-O-Matic MakerBot on his or her want! list. When I started asking around for gift ideas, the Thing-O-Matic was the thing that got pinged back with the greatest frequency. It’s the latest in the phenomenally successful MakerBot line. There are performance improvements, with the newest MK5 plastruder and other updates, but the biggest deal is the addition of the MakerBot Automated Build Platform v2.0, which allows you to print multiples of things.

BTW: Look for a gift guide to 3D printing tools, by John Park, next week.


FireBall V90 CNC machine, $599, Probotix
TinyG Board, Not Yet Available, Synthetos Labs

Mark Adams also listed a FireBall CNC machine in his email to Father Christmas. And he wants to drive his with the forthcoming Synthetos Labs TinyG controller. This is a motion control board built by fellow DC dorks Alden Hart (also a MAKE contributor) and Riley Porter. It’s not available for sale yet. But stay tuned… Here’s more about the TinyG:

TinyG is a many-axis motion control system. TinyG components execute G code directly without the need for a general-purpose microcomputer. TinyG is meant to be a complete embedded solution for small motor control. The design goals are to build a board that can handle most motors up thru NEMA23 and be networked for multi-axis motion control well beyond just 3 or 4 axes. Full technical details here.


Lincoln Electric K2501-1 Century 80GL Wire Feed Welder, $250 at Home Depot, Lincoln

Learning welding seems to be on a slew of maker bucket lists. It’s on mine. And as Mark Adams says: “I keep seeing the price on wire-feed welders dropping, and I have become very tempted. I can think of a million things that I could do if I had a welder in the shop.” For $250 at Home Depot, I know I’m tempted. If you need some encouragement, check out our wire-feed welding primer on Make: Projects.


Self-Repair Manifesto, Free, iFixit

Here’s an awesome stocking-stuffer, and it’s free! Our comrades over at iFixit have created this lovely self-repair manifesto and poster, inspired by Mister Jalopy’s/MAKE’s Maker’s Bill of Rights and Platform 21’s Repair Manifesto. They’re on a mission to get this baby up in hackerspaces, workshops, bulletin boards, and garages the world over. They’ve even printed 1500 copies of the poster that they’re giving away, in exchange for a Tweet or FB mention (you have to register on iFixit). You can also download and print your own. They’ll also be including a free poster in the next 5,000 iFixIt parts orders.


In the Maker Shed:
Want more? Stop by the Make 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.

Last year’s Toolbox Gift Guide also has plenty of still-great tool suggestions

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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