I’m a tinkerer, a Maker, and a parent. This means I am always taking something apart and, often, trying to put it back together. As the mechanical packaging and layout of consumer electronics is shrinking while also becoming more complex, this simple act of repair is becoming harder to execute with your standard toolkit. Specialized screw heads, complex interconnects, and enough tiny screws to lose a few without even knowing they are gone make the job even more challenging. A favorite website of mine to find instructions on how to strip something down and repair it offers a great toolkit that really helps you overcome those difficulties.
My go-to website for working through a stripdown and repair job is iFixIt. They have comprehensive guides for repairing a number of consumer electronics products and some cars as well. I have used their guides a number of times for upgrades and repairs to Apple products and fixing other family devices. I had the opportunity to meet some of the iFixIt team at the Bay Area Maker Faire last month and they were kind enough to provide a couple of items in their tools line that help make the repair jobs featured on their website even easier.
The Pro Tech Base Toolkit is a 70-piece tool set that provides some great standard tools and some of those very useful and specialized tools. Most of the 70 pieces are found in a 54-bit driver kit. In addition to some standard slot, Phillips, and hex bit heads, the kit also includes some of those harder to find and more unique bits including pentalobe, JIS, torx, square, triangle, and tri-wing bits. The driver itself is pretty rugged with a couple of adapters. I found that the driver could use a little more grip for those bits that were driven in with a machine by the last person putting your device together but otherwise it is a very useful driver set.
The kit also includes several opening tools and spudgers. These are the tools you want to use when you are working things open or prying parts apart. I’ve gone to town on repairs that require that kind of opening with a screwdriver and neither the device or the screwdriver was very happy about being a part of the act. The spudgers, both metal and plastic in the kit, provide the leverage you need with the surface area and materials to help avoid damage. Rounding out the kit are a set of tweezers, a small suction cup for lifting recessed flat panels, an anti-static wrist strap, and a ruler. All together, the kit provides most, if not all, of the tools you will need for many repairs.
In addition to the toolkit, I also received one of their Magnetic Project Mats. This simple addition to my workbench is proving to be extremely valuable. It looks like a whiteboard with a grid on it and that is exactly what you’ll find. What makes it unique is the addition of magnetization. This allows you to mark the grid for specific part types, or parts associated with a particular tear-down step, so you can work back through the repair and all of the parts are clustered by step. You write down the association and the magnetized surface helps keep the small screws and other parts you set down right where you want. The variant that includes a special pen actually takes a little elbow grease to erase — that’s on purpose so that you don’t accidentally smudge it as you are working. If you need to take a break or get called away from your repair, you can move the whole mat with the annotations and the magnetic surface securely holding pieces in place and bring it back out later ready to use.
Both products are available on the iFixIt website under parts & tools. The Magnetic Project Mat will set you back between $9.95 and $22.95 depending on size options and if you include the pen or not. The Pro Tech Base Toolkit goes for $59.95. I have not only already used both of these items for repairs, I found the toolkit extremely useful for stripping down an old electronic typewriter to harvest some stepper motors for a project. I have to say these have been useful tools and if you are in the market for something to make repairs easier, or perhaps a GeekDad Day gift for that tinkering father-figure in your life, checkout the iFixIt Toolkits!