Over the last six months, some truly awe-inspiring engineers have talked to me about their favorite under-appreciated tools. I’ve collected them here, along with products they’ve created, in the first MachinePix Holiday Gift Guide.
Holiday Gift Guide 2020
Ian Rust, founding engineer at Cruise
You can’t buy an autonomous car from Cruise yet, but you can use one of Ian’s favorite hacks: threaded inserts ($19.88) that can be pressed into 3D printed objects with a soldering iron.
Richard Whitney, set designer for OK GO
Richard highly recommended surgical-style loupes ($42.00) for being “almost as good as having a dissection scope for electronics and a lot cheaper”.
Brian Ignaut, lead solar array designer at SpaceX
Brian used his mastery of origami to push the limits of solar arrays for spacecraft, but if you’re like me and want to understand the fundamentals, he recommended Twists, Tilings, and Tessellations ($47.42).
Brian also recommends any tape measure as “a beautiful demonstration of the parallel-axis theorem that tells you how area contributes to stiffness the further you are from the center”, and my personal favorite pocketable tape measure is the 10’ Powerlock Tape Rule ($10.00).
Chrissy Meyer, first engineering program manager on the Apple Watch
Chrissy’s shipped millions of devices, and swears by Pressure Sensitive Adhesive. Colloquially: double-sided tape. According to her, 3M is the good stuff ($6.33).
Sanjay Dastoor, founder of Boosted Boards and Skip
Sanjay’s done a lot of repairs in the field and you won’t catch him without a butane soldering iron ($39.88).
Jake Miller, founder of Fellow Products
When he’s not making coffee, Jake’s enjoying his Traeger Pellet Grill ($599.00) for its thoughtful dedication to usability design.
Mohit Bhoite, electronic sculptor
Mohit cuts a lot of wires and for his job at Particle.io and his sculpture work, and depends on his Xuron micro-shear flush cutter with retaining clip ($29.99) to stay sane.
Arthur Petron, technical staff at OpenAI
Arthur keeps surgical scalpels ($10.99) around the way some people keep pens around: “If you do anything you need hobby knives for, they’re better.”
Jeri Ellsworth, Valve hardware team founder
Jeri’s gone all-metric with her tools. And while you can get other dial calipers, why wouldn’t you get a proper Mitutoyo ($83.00)?
Ben Krasnow, Applied Science; senior staff engineer, Verily
Ben’s built his entire workshop around his Stereo Inspection Microscope ($316.99): “It’s the center of my shop, I do a lot of work under it.”
Carl Bass, former CEO of Autodesk
Like Jeri, Carl hates Imperial units. Unfortunately for Carl, a lot of his big machines use Imperial, so he’s moved to decimal inch tape measures ($11.99) around his shop.
Seamus Blackley, “Father of the Xbox”
Over a decade after launching the Original Xbox and getting food thrown at him for the controller design, Seamus re-released a licensed PC-compatible version of the Duke controller ($84.99).
David Möllerstedt, co-founder of Teenage Engineering
Teenage Engineering’s work could fill its own Gift Guide. From the endlessly giftable Pocket Operator ($59.00) to the timeless, SF-MoMA-Permanent-Collection, elegant OP-1 synth ($1299.00)—Teenage Engineering has something for everyone.