18 Gifts for Makers, Tinkerers, Crafters & Hobbyists
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy...no wait, that's not it. Maker, Tinkerer, Crafter, Hobbyist. You're the subject of today's gift guide. And, unlike the aforementioned Gary Oldman film, it's a gift guide that has nothing to do with the Cold War. It is a thriller though, with 18 gifts handpicked by this dude to feed the craving you, or those on your gift list, regularly feel to build, design, and create.
Note: All 18 maker, tinkerer, crafter, and hobbyist gifts are priced as they were at printing on December 9, 2021. Pricing, and availability, are subject to change.
QuadHands Soldering Tool & Vise
Though less QuadHands and more QuadPincers, this soldering tool and vise drives home an important point: every now and then we could all use an extra
hand pincer. For makers and tinkerers, 4 pincers is even better.
Gallium Spoon Mold
Now that you know about the weird science of gallium, you're probably wondering what the WTF you can do with it once you've scored a nugget. My suggestion: spoon prank.
Slightly more sophisticated than "Pull my finger", yet slightly less hilarious than removing part of the assembly on your friend Cornelius' bedroom door and then setting it back on its hinges such that it falls on him when he opens it, a spoon made of gallium will melt into a pile of liquid metal at surprisingly low temperatures. Even body surface temperature should do it, as liquifying begins at 85.85 degrees F, and a bowl of soup will definitely do it.
This kit includes everything needed to make a gallium spoon, except the gallium, which you can buy separately here (at least 20 grams are required). In addition to the silicone spoon mold, Rotometals' gallium kit includes: bolts, screws, wing nuts, and washers; acrylic backing plates, a syringe, and a manual with how-tos and tips.
FlipBooKit Maker Kit - DIY Hand-Cranked Movie
FlipBookit began as a low-tech DIY gadget whose stark contrast to all the hi-tech amateur image / video devices and software available only made it more charming. The company ran a crowdfunding campaign several years ago, and its success has led to a full-blown flippin' business that's still thriving.
The FlipBookit Maker Kit allows crafty boys and girls to turn their own videos or images into a custom, hand-cranked movie machine. The kit comes with an easily assembled spindle module, labels, and a free online flip-maker tool you can use to upload and segment a video or set of images into a 24-frame animation. Your DIY analog GIF.
LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System
Complete with insertable Super Mario Bros. cartridge. Don't forget to blow first. LEGO's Nintendo Entertainment System debuted in August 2020, and even as someone who's not a Zack, Zack LEGO Maniac I gotta say, LEGO has done the NES right.
The set is equal parts nostalgic and modern, a LEGO display piece whose ultra-realistic console and campy companion TV with antenna analog controls levels up, if you will, typical LEGO takes on pop culture items. Unlike, say, LEGO Stranger Things or the Friends Central Perk LEGO set, the LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System gives builders a final product that's doesn't just look like a pile of bricks stacked into a trendy model or scene.
DIY Bionic Robot Lizard
Over 100 parts help this Bionic Robot Lizard take shape, and 3 servos help make it walk, but they can all do their job only if you do yours. The DIY kit from Sunfounder promotes STEM education for both beginning and advanced engineers, with all parts and tools needed to assemble the lizard, plus a visual programming language and Sunfounder nano board you'll use to get him moving.
Beginner Wood Carving Kit
Who wants a whittle hobby to have a whittle fun with this year? Chillin' in the garage, on the back patio, maybe even at an Air BnB cabin in the mountains, carving a birdie with your hook knife and chiseling blades. This beginner's kit is suitable for ages 14 and up, so great for adults just getting into whittling, as well as parents who want to give their kids something to do besides play video games, take selfies, and talk trash to one other on the internet.
Cut in Half: The Hidden World Inside Everyday Objects
Nothing like unscrewing the top, opening up the back, or cutting it clean in half to figure out how stuff is made. In Cut in Half: The Hidden World Inside Everyday Objects author Mike Warren takes his YouTube channel to the printed (and photographed!) word with a book of tech and tools, gear and gadgets all cut down the middle to teach you what makes them tick.
Cut in Half is able to take its exploratory trips through objects' insides thanks to a high-pressure waterjet cutter strong enough to slice through 4" of steel plate. In the book, it need only make it down the center of things like a boom box, laptop, golf ball, vacuum cleaner, and oil filter.
tinyTesla Musical Tesla Coil Kit
And now it's in me / always with me / tinyTesla in my hand... Master the tinyTesla Musical Tesla Coil Kit, and you'll make yourself a science project, a light show, and an Elton-John-MIDI-slaying machine all in one.
Like its papa version, the oneTeslaTS, tinyTesla is an SSTC kit - Solid State Tesla Coil for those out of the electrical acronym loop - that comes with all of the parts you'll need to assemble a palm-size coil that shoots sparks up to 4" long. The device also has USB connectivity for laptop plug-in so completed coils can play MIDI files using the sparks themselves.
Crafting with Cat Hair
The second part of this book's title is Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat. Now let's think about that for a second. It's preposterous to imagine you and your cat could team up on craft night to make some dog voodoo dolls and tuna fish-scented glitter balls for him to chase around the living room. Right?
But I'd rather think a book believes that's possible than the reality of the situation. Which is that when author Kaori Tsutaya says she has some cute handicrafts to make with your cat, she means she has some cute handicrafts to make out of your cat.
Mini Materials Mid-Century Modern Wood Furniture Kits
Here's a little mid-century modern - no, a Mini mid-century modern - to brighten your day. Mini Materials has added to their line a Mid-Century Modern Collection of 1:12 scale wood furniture kits highlighting the iconic American design movement. Each set arrives with rich chocolate walnut plywood pieces precision-cut for linking and super gluing together.
Adafruit Circuit Playground Express
At about the size of my wife's birth control pack, Adafruit's Circuit Playground Express brings a motherlode of possibility to budding makers, designers, and STEM students interested in electronics and programming.
The Circuit Playground Express (CPX) is a development and experimenting board condensed into a 2" disc. In addition to the myriad coding options you'll have when connecting it to a PC / Mac / Chromebook / Linux device, the CPX earns its schoolyard name from its collection of built-in sensors and interactive lights. These include: motion, temperature, light, and sound sensors; 10 x min NeoPixels, each of which can display any color; and a mini speaker with class D amplifier.
Paper Animal Head Trophy Kits
Rather than designer animal kills from sub-Saharan Africa, Tristan Sopp is into killer animal designs from his own head. The exotic head trophies Sopp has conceived and developed for his Resident Design Co. shop are all made of paper. But don't worry, when you mount the likes of Tim the Mammoth and Red the Dragon above your fireplace, you can still beam with pride over your accomplishment because Sopp sells all of his paper animal heads as kits you gotta put together yourself.
Dremel Versa Tip Butane Soldering Torch
Dremel knows that bigger isn't always better, and sometimes all you need is the tip. Their Versa Tip butane soldering torch kit is a portable tool for makers, craftsmen, and handymen that comes stocked with accessories for soldering, hot cutting, shrinking, wood burning, area heating, or any project that requires the power of the flame. Dremel says its Versa Tip's size, precision, and variable temperature settings make it the perfect tool for those doing detailed tasks or working with tiny parts.
Nymphaea 3D Wood Cutout Magic Eye Art
Nostalgic art meets contemporary techniques - and DIY - in the woodworking plans for the Nymphaea 3D Wood Cutout. Who remembers the Magic Eye craze of the 90s? (Sit down, Gen Z.) These books of 3D optical illusions, officially termed autostereograms, featured trippy, colorful 2D artwork that would reveal a 3D image if (and only if) you had the gift of uncovering it.
The Nymphaea is a Derek Hugger creation, and unique not only for its nod to the 90s, but also for its wood medium, cutout carving technique, and 3D-to-3D concept. That is, the Nymphaea produces a 3D image from an existing 3D, rather than a 2D, image.
Dude Crafts: The Man's Guide to Practical Projects, Backyard Ballistics, and Glorious Gags is author Mike Warren's collection of 50 "slightly twisted, but somehow useful" projects that will keep makers' fingers busy, and couch potatoes' fingers involved in something besides the game controller and the bowl of Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
TinyTV DIY Kit
Big screen? Flat screen? 8K UHD? Lame. Check out the TinyTV DIY Kit, a 3D print with - ready? - four push buttons, plus an ON / OFF switch! Now that's the cutting edge electronics gift for a kid I'm talkin' 'bout. Even better is the DIY part, meaning s/he's got to do a little physical and mental lifting if s/he wants to watch it.
Woodsum Functional DIY Pinhole Camera Kit
A picture is worth a thousand words, but it is worth a thousand hours of putting together one of Wooodsum's DIY Pinhole Cameras? OK, maybe a thousand is a bit of an exaggeration. The kit actually specifies 2 to 4 hours of "continuous work" to pop all 79 pieces of laser-cut wood out of their cards, and puzzle them together into the fully functional analog camera you see here.
InstaMorph Moldable Plastic
The next time you throw your hands to the sky and lament, "Argh! If only I had a doohickey with a flat lip on that end and a kind of hook-claw on the other that's small enough to fit in this slot here, and strong enough to hold up that bit of stuff there..." take a breath, go to the cupboard, and bust out your InstaMorph moldable plastic. These tiny beads of non-toxic, biodegradable polyester thermoplastic soften to a state of easy pliability at around 140 degrees F, and then harden again at room temperature.