Recomended tools

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Some frequent questions around Makers Local 256 involve "what tool(s) should I buy", or "what's the best X". While we don't really need to get into "Mac vs PC" debates, or paid brand endorsements, it' still a nice idea to compile the short lists, and a few tl:dr experiences our members may have with "maker-stuff"

Getting Started

So you want to be a maker. You are just starting out in the vast maker movement. It's all about getting your hands dirty, and jumping in on some fun projects. But what basic supplies might every maker need? Let's start with the kid-friendly and inexpensive, but you can of course spend as much as you like on some very dangerous (and fun) things.

A space to work
This might seem silly to add to the list, and most people will have this part taken care of. However, if you haven't thought of it yet, having a designated space for "Making" is great! From your very own workshop, to a small desk in the corner. Your work will be easier and more fun when there is a designated and organized space to do it.
Work bench
The sturdier the better, but it doesn't have to be anything fancy. You could run out to Ikea or Home Depot, or just buy a bunch of 2x4s and GO NUTS!
  • My own first desk was just a flat-pack thing from a big-box store that my parent's bought me for a 12th or 13th birthday. Lucked out though. Metal legs, and a surprisingly flame-resistant pressboard surface... I have it to this very day. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Computer / Laptop 
Doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive. Just something to surf the web, read data sheets, write code, and maybe even keep a lab journal.
  • Today, I would recommend laptops from Lenovo, Acer, or Dell. In that order. Get one lightly used and install GNU/Linux. Or don't.--CrashCart (talk) 23:25, 24 August 2016 (CDT)
Raspberry Pi
It's become a very "maker" thing, BUT it also could be a second computer for the young makers of the family. Just need a keyboard, mouse, monitor to go with it. Go ahead and look for a kit that comes with accessories and pre-installed SD card.
  • There are a lot of alternative "single board computers" that are actually cheaper or faster or whatever, but Raspberry Pi has a huge community. You'll want something well documented with a broad array of compatible accessories when starting out. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Microcontroller, specifically Arduino.
You'll be able to write code that effects real electronics, and interface with a million other things. One of those 100-in-1 style kits that includes an Arduino is even better. You can build small projects just out of that kit.
  • There are alternatives but Arduino is inexpensive, easy, and has a huge community. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
FLUKE is the gold standard here, but most anything is good enough for home projects
Soldering Iron
Even the cheap 30 watt stick irons will work fine. Doesn't have to be hakko, but again, it's a well respected brand
Don't forget the solder.
Get a spool, it'll last a good long while.
Solder wick or a de-soldering iron
For taking stuff apart!
Self-assembled electronic kit(s).
Most any kind will do. They will give you practice with your new tools, and usually learn how these things work in the process.
Desk lamp + Magnifier
Good lighting can be essential, and the magnifier can help look at tiny parts.
Assorted hand tools
Screw drivers, wrenches, sockets and such. harder to build a full list at that granularity. maybe just throw in a gift card to Harbor Freight.
Space organizers
  • I don't actually have a suggesting here, except that I know people find it SUPER helpful. I'm terrible at it myself and can't wait to see other folks recommendations. --CrashCart (talk) 11:45, 25 August 2016 (CDT)

Going Further

Leatherman Wave
multi-tools make for great "every day cary." They don't quite replace all the above hand tools, but complement them well. failing that exact multi-tool, anything analogous would be recommended. If it's got a knife, you can't bring it on planes or government buildings, but everywhere else it can be an invaluable tool to have.
  • Remember when kids carried pocket knives? I've carried one most every day since I was 17. Guess this might be a hard sell for kids today, but I've already put a self-heating pointy stick on this list. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Robot kits
  • I recommend anything Arduino based, for compatibility with the rest of the list. Never "Basic Stamp" stuff. It's dead. Let it die. )
Power tools
drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, sander, etc...
  • If your just starting out, go ahead and pick up "disposable" tools at Harbor Freight. You can break them or never use them, and you wont be out much. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
  • For cordless, I'd recommend a set that share the same battery across a line of tools, like the Ryobi ONE line. --CrashCart (talk) 11:54, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
  • Cordless power tools are great, but corded ones are also usually higher torque, and never run out of juice (if you're near an outlet) --CrashCart (talk) 11:54, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
3D Printer
This is a huge topic all by itself, but it's hard to resist the magic of designing, downloading an object on the computer, and then seeing it come to life in the real world.
Some recommended printers
Printrbot Simple Metal:
Wan Hao Duplicator i3:
Malyan M150 i3 from hobbyking:
  • 3d printer actually isn't the first thing on my list to recommend, but if you've looked over everything above and still want something extra. Go 3d printer. --CrashCart (talk) 11:32, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Don't forget a spool or two of filament for your printer.
you'll have to check compatibility with your particular printer, but the common starter these days is 1.75mm PLA.

The full Fab-Lab

The bigger machines that most makers will dream of in their home workshop. The "basics" for deeper pockets perhaps.

3D printer
(see above)
  • at this level it'd be kinda silly not to have a 3D printer in your shop. They're down around $300 total cost of ownership now, for something basic. --CrashCart (talk) 11:45, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Laser Engraver / Cutter
You can find some nice 40W desktop models, just for home etching and wood or acrylic cutting.
  • Once you start using a laser cutter, you'll want to use it for everything. --CrashCart (talk) 11:45, 25 August 2016 (CDT)
Drill Press
Bench Sander
Radial Arm Saw and/or Table saw and/or Band saw
  • A professional would tell you there is a specific use for different saws. I say that most any of them can cut off a finger. --CrashCart (talk) 11:54, 25 August 2016 (CDT)


Books are a a tool for the mind! Makers often promote a hands-on approach to learning. But a good book will help guide much of that experimentation and work on projects.

Getting Started with Electronics by Forest Mims
Forest Mims is a MUST ( )
JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels
Little "BEAM" robots are great projects for kids, but this book also does a great job talking about how to use and care for your tools, what resistors and capacitors do, and even tips on how to source parts from the trash. ( )
MAKE Getting Started with Raspberry Pi
How to utilize that fancy RaspberyPI, plus some intro to python and linux ( )
MAKE Getting Started with Sensors
Shows more practicle examples of what can be done with the above Arduino and/or RaspberyPI ( )
Python Crash Corse from No Starch Press
Fast paced and hands on. The Python language has that great position as a language for beginners and graduate students alike. ( )
Dangerous book for Boys by Conn Iggulden
Included for shear pluck, breadth of knowledge, and projects that aren't just in front of the computer screen. ( )