but either will work as long as your
robot is made of plastic or wood. Drill
bits are commonly sold in convenient
sets. Opt for the better quality
titanium oxide coated drill bits.
They cost more, but they’ll stay
sharp longer, which means you won’t
have to replace or resharpen them as
much. The typical set contains bits
with sizes from 1/16” to 1/4”. If and
when you need to replace a bit, you
can purchase them separately in just
the size you need.
You’ll want a tape measure if
you are building robots from scratch.
I prefer a six to 10 foot metal tape
measure with a spring-loaded
mechanism that automatically retracts
the tape. If most of your robots are
small though, a compact three to six
foot cloth or plastic tape measure may
be more appropriate. You can find
these at fabric and notions stores in
various sizes and types.
Last, but certainly not least is a
pair of safety glasses. As you cut,
hammer, or chisel your robot into
shape, bits of material are bound to
go airborne, and if you’re unlucky,
some of this debris may take a
bee-line into your eye. You obviously
want to avoid this, and a pair of good
safety glasses or goggles is your best
defense from a painful, costly, and
possibly debilitating eye injury. Be
sure they prevent material from
entering the eyes from the sides as
well. This requires a full wrap-around
I wear a pair of 1970’s industrial
safety glasses that provide a
wrap-around shield over the temples;
these are popular among machinists.
A really good pair can be fairly
expensive because of the plastic used
in the lens. A less costly approach
suitable for use in machine shops is
rubber safety goggles. These use a
nearly unbreakable, optically clear
rubber to form the lens and body.
They’re available at most any
hardware or tool store.
Word to the wise: Stay away from
the very cheap goggles and glasses.
Because of poor manufacturing, they
may distort your vision or fit poorly.
Where to Get
I always recommend that you buy
only the best tools you can, because
better tools not only last longer, they
perform better. But it’s not always
practical to buy the best. When
necessary, you can purchase low-cost
versions that don’t require accuracy
or heavy-duty construction. A $1
screwdriver will do the same basic job
as a $10 one, but it may not last as
long or feel as good in your hands.
Shop wisely, and you can better
afford all the tools you need while
still maintaining reasonable quality.
For basic, inexpensive tools, try the
selection at the local discount or
dollar store. I’ve found perfectly good
screwdrivers, utility knives, and other
basics at these locations.
I always prefer buying better
quality when buying wrenches and
pliers, because a cheap tool here
often results in ruined parts. You
don’t need mechanic’s grade tools,
but you want to stay away from the
mass-produced junk. Something
middle of the road will do. Quality
name-brand hand tools designed
for the do-it-yourselfer are available
at hardware stores, online, and
department stores. Craftsman
and Crescent are representative of
Of course, your local hardware
and home improvement stores are
good places to start when building
up your tool chest, however, there are
literally thousands of online sources
for tools. I’ve provided just a sampling
of them here. Remember that many
of the regular advertisers in SERVO
and Nuts & Volts carry hand tools so
check them out first.
Enco Manufacturing Co.
Enco is a premier mail order
source for shop tools, power tools,
hand tools, production tools (lathes,
mills, hydraulic presses, metal brakes,
you name it), bits, saws, casting
materials, plastics, hardware safety
equipment, and more.
FDJ On Time
For the jewelry maker, FDJ/On
Time is a “one-stop shop” for
miniature jewelry tools, casting
equipment, soldering supplies,
electroplating gear, cleaners, mold
making equipment, and wax working
tools. They offer an extensive list of
investment casting supplies (furnaces,
investment, etc.). A printed catalog
Harbor Freight Tools
Harbor Freight built a business
on selling value-priced tools, much
of it “off-brand,” but still perfectly
workable. They offer hand and
power tools, pneumatic tools, and
even metal mills and lathes. Retail
stores in selected areas of North
America; check the website for a
Irwin Industrial Tools
Irwin makes the famous Vise-Grip
locking hand tools, along with several
other well-known brands. This is a
good site for learning about common
shop tools and how they’re used.
precision and miniature tools of all
types, including desktop mills and
lathes, as well as hand tools, bits, and
other accessories, small hand-operated
motorized tools, casting supplies,
and raw metal, plastic, and wood.
Sellers of Minicraft precision
power tools (sanders, saws), as well
as quality hand tools.
Penn State Industries
Hand and motorized tools (mostly
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