By popular demand - and because it was one of my own favorite issues of 2016 - I present to you The Prepared's 2017 tool guide. The items below have all made a notable effect on my work this year; I recommend them wholeheartedly.
Enjoy! And head over to the website to see last year's picks and see photos of all of these tools in action :)
Planning & Strategy.
- The Mythical Man Month, which should be required reading for anyone who manages people.
- Working Alone, which has a bunch of clever tricks for lightly staffed construction projects.
- Mistake-Proofing, a short little book describing simple methods of improving quality and decreasing failures.
- A good desk reference on manufacturing techniques, because sometimes browsing a book is a better way to learn than Google is.
Making & Manufacturing.
- More than any other manufacturing tool I used this year, the one that I could not have done without (and the one I get the most questions about) is Tulip. If you're making PDF work instructions or trying to keep track of your CM's cycle times, I really can't recommend their digital training & process management tools enough.
- One of the few pieces of power equipment I've never owned is a bandsaw, mostly because of the fact that this Bahco hacksaw (plus a good bench vise, which you need to have anyway) is such a pleasure to use.
- A good EZ-RJ45 crimp tool for making your own ethernet cables. You'll curse yourself for cheaping out on this - and once you have one it'll get plenty of use to justify itself.
- A legitimately nice pair of diagonal cutters for fine electronic work. The cheap ones are definitely appealing, but having invested in a nice set this year I really can't see going back.
- Starrett tap handles.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- My most anticipated tool purchase this year: A Tormek T8 sharpening system, which I've ogled fo years and which immediately went into use making my kitchen *way* sharper.
- A Gerstner machinist's tool chest, which is arguably the most attractive piece of furniture I own. I keep mine, which I bought used, next to my computer workstation; I have a comparable metal chest in my shop.
- For project work, hanging/stacking parts bins and some louvered panels to mount them on.
- For deep storage, some proper small parts cabinets.
Distribution & Logistics.
- A Pelican 1510 case. When you need one you *need* one, and then you remember all the trips you took with tools wrapped in socks and whatnot.
- I know it seems silly, but having an industrial grade handheld packing tape dispenser (as opposed to the crappy dispensers that come packaged with retail quantities of packing tape) has made my life notably better. The ones Uline gives you are fine, but the one I got from McMaster-Carr years ago is more comfortable, sturdier, and nicely unbranded.
- A bit to my own surprise, I've gotten a bunch of utility out of the Molded Fiber Glass Tray Company this year - in particular their stack & nest ESD trays. If you're moving parts around more than a few times I'd definitely recommend investing in some kind of container, and fiberglass (with some ESD foam taped inside for padding) has worked really well for me.
Inspection & Testing.
- Unless you're working on construction projects that require inch/foot measurements, having a nice metric tape measure makes projects around the house *much* easier.
- After struggling with misreads and inconsistent performance on cheaper models, I can't say how nice it is to use this (pricey) Honeywell 1D/2D barcode scanner.
- A PCB ruler.
- A 4" Starrett combination square.
- A torque measuring screwdriver. Absolutely necessary if you're going to be using a drill's clutch (which is hacky but okay for low quantities) to set torque, and just generally useful for specifying torque on anything you design (which you should be doing).
- A Higonokami knife, which are cheap and perfect.
- A Luma Labs Arca Loop. Really a superior camera strap.
- The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, which is possibly the most memorable book I read in high school. Think of this as a counterpoint to The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, and as a somewhat hopeful perspective on the value of mindless work - totally valuable to a modern product designer.
- As a new parent and as someone who appreciates design, I was really impressed with how much more effective Spuni is than the other baby spoons we've used.