Tools suggestions for newbies? calipers, etc.

I am in the USA. Bearing in mind the V1 ethic of cheap, but not too cheap I am wondering which tools I should invest it. Clearly a caliper is a good idea. The $10 Harbor Freight special not so much. What else should I consider? I plan to play with quite a few toys – 3d printing, laser burning and maybe cutting, vinyl cutting, carving with a spindle, etc.

I did not see anything in my initial look at the forums, if I missed a good post let me know and I will happy go read.

Good soldering iron.

Some crimpers for fixing stepper motor wires, or making new ones.

Marine grade heat shrink tube, it has a thin layer of hot melt glue on the inside of the tube, so when it shrinks down, it’s watertight. They also hold onto the wire better, so an accidental tug won’t pull it apart.


I like my Vinca calipers. For $20 (for the 6") a set I have bought several 6", some of the 8", and a set of 12". I’ve said it before but I’ve used them for a lot more precise work than these machines can produce, especially in wood.

I have also done a lot of reverse engineering at my job and at home, and one of my other favorite tools is my radius gages… they are cheap… also bolt gauges (to tell you what size/thread pitch a bolt is) and also a machinist’s protractor

Also a 1-2-3 block is a good thing to have around and you can get a cheapo set of 2 on amazon for $20. Opposite sides are parallel and adjacent sides are perpendicular and it has threaded/unthreaded holes you can use for using it to hold stuff at right angles etc.

I like measuring things if it wasn’t obvious… :slight_smile:

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I like these calipers:

They are good, and have big numbers. I made a tool mount for them on my tool wall.

I have a good soldering iron, but I also do my own electronics. Any one with temperature control and lots of replaceable tips would work.

When people say crimping pliers, they mean ones like these?


For that price I think you’d have better time with…

It has crimpers on the bottom of the tool. Not as good as the crimpers you linked since their main function is wire stripping, but it will certainly do both tasks… and they are good wire strippers.

It depends on what you want to do. The ones you linked are more for crimping pins, the ones I linked are for butt connectors and larger connectors like spade connectors. More general purpose.

Lemme pump the brakes here for a second, Calipers are awesome but if you build with a tape measure, don’t get calipers. We don’t need someone chasing several decimal point accuracy for no reason. A ruler is pretty good if you need better than a tape measure, Calipers are typically for small things. If you build tables or signs calipers will do you no good.

I am a huge fan of buying a tool when you need it. If you are unsure if you will ever need it again buy it from Harbor Freight (or similar). If you use them a lot and need better buy a good one, then you have a beater and a nice tool. Don’t spend money “just in case”. I have some fancy crimpers, I pray I don’t need them ever again!

If you want to invest…Sand paper you can use it with every material.

He did say he was interested in 3d printing and I believe calipers are necessary for having a 3d printer. Measuring filament diameter, calibrating printer, etc.

Yeah, I suspect a caliper will end up being hard to avoid. But I appreciate Ryan’s intent. We all know that person who gets into a hobby and buys everything “you are supposed to have” and at a higher quality than they need.

Just the way I am…Hence the low cost CNC I guess.

I remember a chemistry class in which we used a crazy accurate scale (“balance”) It was so good you could track water evaporating out of a petri dish.

I own 1 decent set of calipers, 3-4 cheapie’s, and a tattoo of an expensive set that I can’t bring myself to pay for. I feel my job depends on accuracy but I don’t need certified Mitutoyo’s.

I remember a chemistry class in which we used a crazy accurate scale (“balance”) It was so good you could track water evaporating out of a petri dish. At that level of accuracy things stopped being fun and lots of math was involved.

A good stiff putty knife, a good set of side cutters for cutting new belts, and one of those 4 in 1 nozzle changes. Also a small adjustable wrench to hold the heating block and combination square. I know I have been 3d printing for years and I just bought my first set of calipers with week. I have just used my square for everything. Bought at harbor freight, the square not the calipers.


I am of the philosophy of “mmm…close enough”

The sooner you buy calipers, the sooner you can learn when to ignore them.

I keep mine at my desk. I use them for CAD. I have others at my electronics workstation.