7 Tools Every Manufacturer Should Own

In your journey as a maker, you will find indispensable tools. You will also find those who justify themselves by making life easier. And then there are tools that are completely useless for your specific needs.

Most seasoned makers populate their toolboxes through an expensive and careful process powered by first-hand experience gained over the years. But there needs to be a cheaper way to choose the most important tool right away, right? Read on to find out the absolutely indispensable tools for any budding maker.


1. Screwdriver set

You will definitely find fasteners no matter what hobby you do. Naturally, you won’t get far to manufacture without a decent set of screwdrivers. You don’t need more than basic Phillips, Robertson (if you’re Canadian), and slotted-head screwdrivers for woodworking and electrical work. The basic 8-piece screwdriver set is a good starting point.

However, RC/3D printing hobbies and precision electronics guarantee a confusing range of drivers covering hex, Torx, pentalobe, Pozidriv, and more. Therefore, it is wiser to buy screwdriver sets that include a universal handle that fits multiple drive bits. The iFixit Manta Driver Kit includes almost all the drive bits you will need in 1/4-inch and 4mm form factor.

If your application also requires a socket driver, Wera Tool-Check Plus includes a great selection of screwdriver bits and most common socket driver sizes. It even includes a nice ratcheting driver that acts as a socket wrench and screwdriver.

Finally, 3D printing and RC hobbyists who deal with large quantities of machine screws should consider reading our cordless screwdriver guide to find out how these special power tools can save you a lot of time and effort.

2. Soldering iron

If you are a cosplayer or quadcopter enthusiast, you will surely come to a conflict where soldering is the only solution to a particular problem. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a huge amount on a PACE ADS200 or JBC Tools soldering station. Just refer to our handy solder buying guide to find out what to look for in the perfect solder in your budget.

The PINECIL smart soldering iron costs a little over $ 25, but it has the power and precision to outperform more expensive soldering stations from the likes of Hakko and Weller. Be sure to refer to our guide to soldering basics to learn the importance of using high-quality solder, flux, and tip cleaner.

3. Digital Multimeter

From testing major home electronics components and electrical outlets to diagnosing vehicle problems, the digital multimeter is an indispensable tool for anything electrical or electronic. The Fluke-101 digital multimeter should work well for most hobbyists. It has auto-ranging functionality, and supports Fluke’s flawless track record for manufacturing quality and safety features.

Hardcore electronics enthusiasts may need additional features, such as current measuring or graphing and true-RMS capabilities. But at that point, you probably already own a basic multimeter and you know how to use it. For those who don’t, now is a good time to check out our great introduction to multimeters.

4. Drill Driver

Making holes is central to almost all DIY hobbies. While a regular corded drill has the power to handle everything from masonry to hard concrete, most makers are better able to use and carry a modern cordless drill driver. The brushless varieties are strong enough to drill through concrete, while also incorporating a clutch to double as a cordless screwdriver.

If that’s confusing, our cordless drill explainer is great for understanding these concepts. Cordless drills from brands like Makita, Milwaukee, and DeWalt are heavy-duty machines that will last you a long time. However, hobbyists looking for light-duty tools can save a little money by choosing alternatives from Ryobi and Bosch (green branding). Be sure to choose 18-volt drills for optimal performance.

You can’t do anything without first cutting the material to size. Owning a hand tool like a jigsaw is the minimum, but most DIY projects are nearly impossible without power tools. The powered variety comes in a variety of forms from jigsaw and reciprocating saws to angle grinder and miter saws. Choosing the right tool depends on your particular application.

Angle Grinder

Angle grinders, for example, are indispensable if your DIY project involves making metal. The high-speed cutting disc in this tool relies heavily on friction to cut the hardest metal.

Reciprocating Saw

A reciprocating saw, on the other hand, is ideal for home improvement and repair work. It can cut through metal, plastic, and wood, but the form factor is especially suitable for cutting through drywall and wall studs.


Woodworking, however, throws many tricky options at your disposal. A jigsaw, circular saw, and miter saw can do the same job of cutting wood, but they all have a different approach to the task.

For example, a jigsaw can cut curves and circles in plywood and MDF sheets, but it cannot cut thick hardwood. Cutting completely straight is also impossible with a jigsaw. It is a tool best reserved for cutting complex shapes.

Circular Saw

You better use a circular saw for cutting in straight lines. This tool not only has the power to slice into thick hardwood, but it can also slice into tile and marble using the appropriate blade. The ability of a circular saw to adhere to guides and clean cutting makes it ideal for dimensioning large plywood sheets and lumber.

Miter Saw

The miter saw is essentially an articulated version of the regular circular saw. It is ideal for dimensioning 2×4 lumber, or other repetitive cutting tasks encountered while making cabinetry and other furniture. The tool has the necessary clamping mechanism and provisions for making cuts that are both accurate and repeatable. That is why it is the chosen tool for making wall shelves and 3D printers aluminum frame.

6. Heat Gun

From installing heat shrink tubing and insulating cable terminals to softening glue applications to separate home appliances and furniture, the humble heat gun is an indispensable tool for anyone making. Its applications are quite diverse and cover several hobbies. In the PC building space, it is used for softening and bending acrylic tubes for custom liquid cooling setups. Custom cable makers also swear by its ability to shape coiled keyboard cables.

Even if you don’t need it now, the chance of being left without a heat gun is high. You also don’t have to buy the most expensive model. Be sure to choose one that can reach at least 350 ° C. With experience, you can control the temperature effectively by moving the nozzle to and away from the workpiece.

Buying pre-made cable harnesses will allow you to last a while, but eventually you will find yourself with no choice but to crimp your own cables. This is especially important for automotive, RC, and 3D printing hobbies — or rather, any equipment that is subject to vibration. Soldered joints tend to fail in such applications, so crimping all connections is a safety requirement.

There are three main crimping tools for most electronics, 3D printers, PC building, and automotive projects. Most important include crimping of JST, DuPont, and Molex connectors. The Engineer PA-09 precision crimping tool covers most standard terminal sizes.

Meanwhile, higher current applications are calling for larger spade, fork, and ring terminals. These require a separate crimping tool. This crimping tool is further broken down into insulated and non-insulated varieties, but almost all hobby projects use insulated terminals. IWISS makes an excellent ratcheting insulated crimping tool for this application.

Finally, current applications such as 3D printers and CNC routers involve power supplies that rely on screw terminals to make electrical connections. It is safer to crimp the bootlace ferrules to the wires that are for this application. The IWISS ferrule crimping tool is ideal for this task.

As you get older in your particular niche, you’ll find tools that suit your specific needs and style. But until then, the types of tools mentioned above were crucial to the success of most makers in various disciplines.

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