Artist, maker, electronics geek, DIY enthusiast, and builder are just some of the names we call ourselves, but whatever your moniker, we all share a love for creating, building, and the warm sense of accomplishment. Recent advances in technology, and price of the technology, have been a boon to the maker and DIY movement. Below we list the tools, technologies, supplies, and projects that inspired us this year.
If you’re interested in finally joining the smart home revolution but don’t quite know where to start, Kwikset’s Kevo Bluetooth-enabled deadbolt is the perfect onramp. It installs in minutes, can be effortlessly rekeyed with their SmartKey system, and uses your smartphone’s Bluetooth functionality (or the included key fob) to lock and unlock at the touch of your hand. If you’d care to expand its scope, the new Kevo Plus system adds remote access and monitoring from anywhere. A one-time fee upgrades your existing service, and Kwikset provides you with a Bluetooth Gateway that plugs directly into your router’s Ethernet port. In-app instructions lead you through the configuration process, and then you can check or change the status of all your Kevo locks remotely. And you can take that functionality even further with support for the Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Total Connect Comfort system. [Review materials provided by: Kwikset]
LEGO Architecture Studio
Not new this year, but still a fantastic gift for your favorite budding architect, the LEGO Architecture Studio is filled with 1210 pieces of architectural detail. The set has plenty of regular pieces, but where it shines is the hundreds of specialized pieces for creating houses, buildings, skyscrapers, and anything your heart desires. Most of the pieces are white with some clear pieces for windows. The set also includes organizational trays, a useful storage box, and a long book filled with inspiration for building, plus a few building lessons. You can always combine the set with your other LEGO pieces for more interesting designs.
Micro 8050 Rotary Tool Kit
Dremel is the first name in rotary tools, and their cordless Micro 8050 is just the thing for all your crafting, modding, and around-the-house tinkering needs. Its lightweight 8V Lithium-ion battery makes it perfectly portable, and the minimalist docking station means that it’s charged and at the ready whenever you need it. It’s great for cutting, grinding, sanding, and polishing, but its slim, ergonomic design and front-end LED lighting make it ideal for engraving and precision drilling. Whether your thing is woodcarving or case-modding electronics, the Micro 8050’s sleek design, variable speed controls, and overall versatility make it the must-have light duty rotary tool. [Review materials provided by: Dremel]
Field Notes Pitch Black Edition, 3-Pack Dot-Grid Memo Notebooks
Do you know a paper or notebook geek? If they are anything like me, they love finely crafted paper goods and things to write and draw in. If that’s the case, then look no further than Field Notes. Field Notes memo books are the perfect pocket-sized book. Their newest standard issue book, the Pitch Black Edition, is my current favorite, but they have plenty of variety for all of your notebook needs. They even have a subscription plan for the gift that keeps on giving. Check out my full review of Field Notes.
Made by: Field Notes
Available at: Field Notes Pitch Black Edition, 3-Pack Dot-Grid Memo Notebooks
Submitted by: Will James
Toyhax Labels for Devastator
I’ve been a fan of Reprolabels for a long time. Back when I restored old Generation 1 Transformers, they were the only game in town when it came to getting stickers that were the same as, or better than, the original ones that came in the box and on the toy. It’s been nearly ten years, and Reprolabels has stepped up their game considerably. Now Toyhax.com, they provide stickers that are more than just factory replacements. They enhance and improve the decos of your toys. Their Combiner Wars Devastator set is a prime example. Not only do you get expected stickers, like ones that replicate the factory stickers of their G1 counterparts. You also get extra-reflective visors, hubcaps for the wheels, stickers that replicate the purple glass for all of the vehicle-mode windows, headlights, brake lights, license plates, and a ton more! The caveat is that this is no afternoon project. You’ll need a couple of days and a steady hand, a good pair of tweezers, a heat gun, and possibly a magnifying glass to get everything in place. What I love, though, is that you really get to appreciate all the detail that the designers put into the toy that get unnoticed with the limited paint applications available on modern toys. And many of their other sets go even farther, replicating decos from the current IDW comics (which most of the modern Transformers toys are based on). Available for tons of toys at a wide range of prices, they’re great gifts for the person on your list that you can never shop for because they get every Transformer as soon as it hits the shelves.
Grids & Guides
For those who plan out their DIY on paper, Grids & Guides provides a variety of paper styles. Available in book form or in pads of paper (both 6″x9″), the book contains eight different kinds of paper, including Cartesian grid, isometric grid, ledger table, log-log plot, reticle grid, architectural plan grid, storyboard grid, and polar graph & unit circle. It also includes handy references pages with information such as orders of magnitude, classical mechanics, carpentry, alternative alphabets, and the human skeleton. The Grids & Guides notepads contain one each of 1/8-inch grid, isometric grid, and log-log plot pads. The pack also includes some scientific reference material as well. Both of these products are great to toss in your back with your favorite pencil/eraser combination for design-on-the-go. If you don’t have a favorite, they offer a Grids & Guides pencil set as well.
Dremel Idea Builder 3D Printer
If you’ve been wanting to get into 3D printing, the Dremel 3D Idea Builder is the perfect place to start. It’s relatively low price point and ease of setup and use make it great for makers of all skill levels! Within 15 minutes I had the printer unpacked, completely configured, and on my way to my first print. Check out my full review here.
littleBits Gizmos and Gadgets
This kit includes everything you need to get up and running with littleBits and start turning your ideas into reality. With magnetic, snap-together circuits, littleBits allow you to quickly rapid prototype an idea, tearing it down and building it back up over and over until your ideas take shape. Using the included wireless transmitter and receiver, DC stepper motor, two dimmers, a servo, a fan, and various other bits, you can create hundreds of projects from the littleBits website, or come up with your own and share them with the community.
Fort Boards Custom Fort Builder
Fort Boards Custom Fort Builder is a life-sized building toy that allows you to build forts of all shapes and sizes. What you can build is limited only by your imagination! We’ve built a house and a submarine so far. There are also design cards that allow you to make your forts look like wood, metal, or stone. These are a great way to build indoors and out! Check out my full review of Fort Boards for more details and photos.
Citadel Hobby Starter Set
If you’re a miniature gamer, one of the greatest parts of the hobby is testing your mettle against an unpainted mini. But as many paints as you can buy, it’s inevitable that the one you’re looking for is the one that you didn’t pick up last time you were at the store. There’s nothing worse than having to disengage when you’re in the zone to drive down for that missing shade. Citadel paint sets from Games Workshop help prevent this. They’re great for easing new painters into the hobby, getting a collection of paints going, or bolstering existing painters’ collections. In addition to the Starter Set, there are sets for Base Paints, Layers, Dry Brushing, and more. They come with a plethora of paints, enough to satisfy the pickiest painter. And each set comes with an appropriate brush for the detail level you’d use for each type of paint.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
The Raspberry Pi burst into the maker movement because of its size, simple power requirements, and decent processing power. With the GPIO header it is capable of a lot of what the Arduino is used for, but with the power of a full operating system behind it. The new RPi can run a number of operating systems including: Windows 10, Android, and Linux. Newark Element 14 has a great selection of Raspberry Pi models and accessories, though I recommend the Pi 2.
Weller 35 Watt Soldering Iron
If you’re buying for a new electronics geek, this little soldering station is a giant step up from the corroded and pitted Radio Shack soldering iron they may be using. Weller products can be expensive, but this budget priced soldering iron provides consistent temperatures. The tips are also easily replaced and Weller offers a wide variety of tips for every soldering need.
Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
The JWL-1015 by Jet is a powerful but quiet lathe. At 15.5″ between centers, this unit is great for making pens, chess pieces, spindles, and culinary accessories like small cups, chopsticks, and wooden silverware. This model is one of the best reviewed lathes on the market, and is the perfect gift for your do-it-yourself genius. Whether you’re just beginning, or want to be able to work on fine pieces, the JWL-1015 will find a place in your home. The .5 horsepower engine runs quietly, and uses minimal power compared to other industrial machines. Maintenance, cleaning, and tension adjustments are all very easy to take care of and work intuitively. Choose from six spindle speeds, from 500 to 3975, and get the right speed for any project.
TruePower 199 Mini Multi Purpose Bench Grinder and Polisher
The 199 Mini from TruePower is a great multipurpose tool for grinding, sharpening, and polishing metal. For your Fix-it-friend, this bench tool does everything but make breakfast. With a 3″ grinding stone, it is a great compliment to a collection, or the perfect piece to get started. The 199 is great for sharpening knives and blades, and can polish them to their brightest, keeping your knives and tools looking brand-new for their lifetime. The 199 makes a great gift for teens and adults interested in becoming independent craftspersons.
Made by: TruePower
Available at: TruePower 199 Mini Multi Purpose Bench Grinder and Polisher
Submitted by: Rory Bristol
Star Wars Crochet Kit
Have a crocheter on your list this holiday season? What better way to put those crochet skills to use than by making an adorable Wicket the Ewok? The Star Wars kit is just one of several kits put out by Thunder Bay Press, and they’re all adorable must-haves if you are/know a geeky crochet fanatic. (Be sure to check out the Peanuts and Disney kits.) Each kit comes with a crochet hook, stuffing, a yarn needle, and five yarn colors, which isn’t enough to make all of the designs but is enough to get started with at least two. The book includes step-by-step instructions to make a bunch of characters, but–fair warning–this is not for beginners. There’s little in the way of explanation for newbies, and crochet instructions are basically another language. Still, if you know what you’re doing, this kit is dang near perfect for the geeky crochet hobbyist.