It's back! We tried a *lot* of new tools this year, and now's when we unveil our favorites :)
This list is made for sharing (how else are your loved ones going to know what to get you?) so please do forward it along. You can also see these recommendations - along with those from previous years - on The Prepared's Tool Guide.
Happy holidays, all!
Planning & Strategy.
- Airtable! The Prepared is run fully off of Airtable now, and it's great. Probably the most general-purpose tool on this list.
- PartsBox, which is pretty much exactly the system I wanted for small parts management for years. I also transitioned all of my part storage to these cabinets, which are *way* better than the little plastic drawers that most of us start out with.
- Managing the Flow of Technology, which examines how communication pathways and organizational structures affect research & development.
- A Starrett 70A pocket scriber.
Making & Manufacturing.
- I tried a few different hex key (aka Allen wrench) sets this year, and these PB Swiss ones are just really, really nice. I also converted a handful of my fasteners to security Torx, for which Wera's keys are best.
- Kai scissors. These look, feel, and act like a *real* tool.
- A Wera 7000-series torque wrench, which is very user friendly and sized for bike-ish fasteners. Also, direct readings in both Nm and ft-lb!
- A legit heat gun, which will keep you from trying to use a cigarette lighter on shrink tubing ever again.
- Box folding jigs, which are just *magic* in a production environment.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Kaizen foam for all of your tool chests. I'll note here that I find the name to be incongruous - in my experience Kaizen foam makes continuous improvement *harder* rather than easier - but other than that it's clearly a superior tool storage system. I recommend an Olfa Cutter 300 for all of your layout.
- The best all-in-one toolkit I've owned, the Wera Tool-Check Plus.
- My favorite full-size multi-bit screwdriver, the Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25, and my favorite stubby-sized multi-bit screwdriver, the PB Swiss Insider Stubby.
- iFixit's electronics repair screwdriver kit. These are very well made, nicely packaged, and *really* handy.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Transit App. Clearly superior to Google Maps, mostly due to their multimodal approach.
- Ortlieb's Light-Pack 25. Having a waterproof backpack encourages me to bike & walk more, and this one is *really* lightweight.
- I've owned a number of different workshop service carts in my career, but I recently got my first plastic one and I gotta say, it's much better than the stamped steel that I'm used to.
- It'll never replace my all-time favorite pocket knife, but this Klein folding utility knife is much nicer than the no-name ones I've used in the past. Great for a shipping & receiving area, where blades get changed frequently.
- This 12-outlet Tripp-Lite power strip is great for workbenches and has a 15' cord. If you don't need the cord length, this 9-outlet Stanley one is a bit cheaper.
- Stretch wrap. If you're moving anytime soon, I can't recommend this enough.
- Some attached-lid plastic totes, which supposedly are for "storage and distribution" and are *way* more professional than old cardboard boxes.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- The Machine That Changed the World, the classic tome on lean production and Toyota's rise to dominance.
- The Studio Neat Glif is sturdy and well-made, and when combined with a decent tripod it makes your phone into a pretty nifty video setup. I also have a DSLR and recommend a) going with Arca-Swiss plates, which are much easier to manage with multiple cameras, and b) getting a Luma Loop strap, which is fantastic.
- A PLS180 laser plumb/level. I can't tell you how many hours this has saved me over the past 15 years.
Tangents, i.e. things that my daughter probably isn't old enough for.
- Koosh balls.
- When Thea LED the Way, a flex-circuit electronics education book.
- Bitsbox, a subscription coding & electronics service for kids.