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Building a maker space can be as complex or barebones as you like. A simple spare corner of your kitchen table with a Raspberry Pi counts. What's important is maintaining a welcoming, positive environment and constantly creating. Amenities such as 3D printers lend ample opportunities, though are by no means requirements. While we tend to focus on tech for cultivating an awesome maker space, there's more to do-it-yourself (DIY) projects than single-board computers, microcontrollers, and 3D printers. You'll also need the proper tools of the trade. But tools for makers differ from general construction tools. Check out the best must-have maker tools for taking your hobbies to the next level!
1. Soldering Station
A soldering station is an excellent maker implement. Soldering iron kits include just about everything you need for soldering. Look for an on/off switch, temperature control, and a holder for the soldering iron itself. A built-in tray comes in handy as well for ensuring a clean iron. Though a soldering station may sound expensive, there are loads of cheap, high-quality models on the market. Premium soldering stations heat up fast, expediting the soldering process. If you solder at all, a station is a must-buy.
2. Pliers with Wire Cutter
Pliers for maker projects prove extremely handy. However, you'll want pliers with a wire cutter. Pliers themselves work wonders for fastening or unfastening bits here and there, or just maintaining a solid grip. Wire cutters are an essential maker tool for trimming wire pieces and cables to get the proper length or just clean up ends. No maker toolbox is complete without a set.
3. Wire Strippers
Similarly, wire strippers remain a staple of DIYing. Sure, we've all used out teeth at some point, but wire strippers are a bit more dental-friendly. Plus, unlike improvising with a utility knife or wire cutters, you won't risk slicing through the actual wire. Definitely sang a pair for your hobbyism.
4. Hot Glue Gun
Oh, hot glue guns. One of my earliest memories is of burning my wrist on a hot glue gun in my kindergarten art class, so quick PSA: use with caution. That goes for most maker tools, however. Thanks to an exhausting assignment in the sixth grade to recreate the Globe Theatre, a task which required an unthinkable number of popsicle sticks, hot glue sticks, a touch of pine straw for the roof, and more patience than I could muster, I know how to handle a hot glue gun. Whether you're simply using it for an adhesive or fixing something you broke, a hot glue gun deserves a spot in your maker holster.
5. Paint Scraper
You'll want a paint scraper for cleaning up paint daubs or 3D printer beds, or removing 3D prints from the workspace. An inexpesive implement, it's perfect for a variety of uses. If you're into painting and carpentry, most certainly maker projects, albeit of a different breed, it's functional for that as well.
6. Helping Hands
Need a third hand? No, we're not suggesting radical body modifications. Instead, snag a helping hands maker tool. One of these nifty offerings lets you create with the aid of extra hands. Generally, these feature soldering iron holders, magnifying glasses, and clips perfect for holding wires, cables, or whatever else you can think of. Now, you can stop using, or tryng to utilize, your toes.
7. Alcohol Wipes
Alcohol wipes remain a maker staple. Notably, they're great for dissolving tough substances such as PLA. Thus, it's essential for wiping down print beds. For tough to clean spots, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol or alcohol wipes works wonders.
8. Heat Gun
Bring the heat to your maker tool belt. A heat gun, that is. These are often pretty cheap, though they can get outrageously expensive as well. It's perfect for removing surface mount components, and desoldering for salvaging old circuit board parts. If you solder, you may need to desolder, and a heat gun accomplishes that well.
9. Ruler and Level
There's an old adage, measure twice, cut once. Enter a ruler and level. For measuring a flexible ruler or tape measure is best. This way, you'll be able to measure at odd angles and across uneven surfaces. Likewise, a level is an excellent addition to the maker tool kit for identifying level, and unlevel, surfaces.
10. Miter Saw
There are loads of saw varieties, but the miter saw is arguably the best for makers. Also known as a chop saw, it's great for a quick, easy, and painless (unless you're the wood) wood cutting. However, it's also great for chopping PVC pipes, and other suitable materials. Miter saws are easy to use, and incredibly versatile.
11. Screwdrivers and Hex Wrenches
You'll want a good set of hex wrenches, screwdrivers, and a drill with various bits. Manual screwdrivers, both Philips head and flat head, are ideal for a fast and simple job. But for more hardcore screws, you'll want to use a power drill with appropriate screw bits. Likewise, hex wrenches offer loads of utility. If you're like me, you're constantly fiddling with screws, whether to ceiling mount a projector or install a single-board computer in a case.
Must-have Maker Tools for Your Arsenal: Final Thoughts
Being a maker isn't all about servo motors, microcontrollers, single-board computers, and electronics. Rather, it's an all-encompassing space which includes woodworking, chainmail creation, and many more trades. For makers of every kind, these are the best tools to have on hand. But for various maker endeavors, you'll want specialized tools, such as accessories for 3D printing.
Moe Long is an editor, writer, and tech buff with a particular appreciation for Linux, Raspberry Pis, and retro gaming. When he's not hammering away at his keyboard, he enjoys running, reading, watching cinema, and listening to vinyl. You can read his writings on film and pop culture at CupOfMoe.com and check out his thoughts on movies on the Celluloid Fiends podcast.