Datavac Electric Duster

This is a “can” of compressed air that contains a very small compressor of sorts so you have a never ending supply of high pressure compressed air. As a hobbyist letterpress printer and a confirmed tinkerer, I use this all the time for everything from drying of type that is being cleaned to blowing dust out of old machinery to just helping clean up. The specs are a 500 watt motor, .75 HP, 4.5 amps, and 70 CFM air flow.

Lots of reviews mention how loud it is when operating (it is) as well as how powerful the stream of air is (as I think it should be), and it runs about the cost of 10-12 cans of air so you make back your initial investment quite quickly, cut down on waste (empty cans), and have access to a variety of nozzles to us (including an itty bitty computer keyboard nozzle). And, you avoid some of the chemicals that are in individual cans of compressed air.

-- Neil J. Salkind  

ED500 DataVac 500-Watt 0.75-HP Electric Duster
$55

Available from Amazon



Cuturi Air Hammers

I am a figurative marble sculptor. I have been using the Cuturi air hammer line for 20 years. I learned about it from the 70-year-old artisani in Italy who have been sculpting for major studios all their lives.* They use Cuturi because they stand up to 40 hour weeks, for decades. So, that’s what I got. I have tried some others, and they worked OK, but nothing was better and it has withstood the test of time since I have been using mine for a long time.

Cuturi air hammers come in different sizes (different size pistons) and two types. The roughing hammers take larger chisels shaft diameters. The finish hammers take smaller chisel shaft diameters. Depending on your needs, you will probably want a large, medium, and small hammer for roughing, and then a medium and small for finish work. If you don’t use a diamond bladed saw for the initial stage of the rough (getting rid of big chunks of stone), you may want the largest air hammer for your initial rough but it’s very heavy and exhausting to use.

Generally, I use carbide tipped chisels which can be purchased commercially. However, for finish work, the last two finishing stages are done with chisels made by a blacksmith out of steel. (The retired Italian blacksmith who made my set of steels complained that he has a hard time finding quality steel for chisels anymore.) The carbides are sharpened on a grinder. The steels are sharpened on a stone. (Nothing fancy, a nearby flat rock will do.) The roughing Cuturi hammers are best with carbide chisels. The larger finishing hammer can use both. The smaller finishing hammer is only used with steel.

You can see examples of my work.

sculpture

*Sadly, when you buy a marble sculpture by a famous artist, it is not unlikely that they have never touched the stone. They send a model to one of the major studios in Pietrasanta, Italy and the artisani there copy the model into stone, often enlarging it and adding important details. Sometimes they just get a hand sketch or a short description to work from. They get paid a fairly low hourly wage, then the sculpture gets crated by a guy who has been doing it all his life, shipped to a New York gallery, and someone pays six figures for it.

-- Chuck Clanton  

Cuturi Air Hammers
Prices vary



Liquitex Professional Pouring Effects Medium

This pouring medium is specifically for artists who use acrylic paint. You add 1/2 paint to 1/2 pouring medium and your paints will flow and create unique designs on a panel or canvas without making a muddy mess. The pouring medium is made only by Liquitex and hardly anyone knows about it. It creates fascinating patterns and swirly designs for abstract art that honestly anyone can do.

-- Shelly Leit  

Liquitex Professional Pouring Effects Medium
$30/32-oz

Available from Amazon



Addi Turbo Knitting Needles

I’ve been knitting for almost 50 years. Addi Turbo knitting needles are the best: smooth, sleek and well-made.They are made in Germany. I can’t buy them often, but when I need a new size for something, I am willing to pay their premium price. Quality and a size range that can’t be beat. Mostly they make (and I use) circular needles, but they also make 3″ glove needles that I have used for making tiny little finger puppets. No one else makes needles as short (that I know of).

-- Bonnie Phillips  

Addi Turbo Knitting Needles
Prices vary depending on size and type

Available from Amazon



Wagner DeckMate

I’ve used the Wagner Deck Mate for years. Its smart design really speeds up staining the planks in a deck. It has an aluminum handle, gravity-feed reservoir, control valve knob, and swiveling paint pad head. The long handle lets you stain the deck while standing up (and off your knees!)

Fill the reservoir with up to a ½ gallon of stain or sealant, and then twist the yellow knob to control the flow of stain down into the paint pad. As you glide the pad along the decking it both applies stain and back brushes for even and full coverage in one step.

A really clever feature is the center brush: a brush-within-a-brush that protrudes down and rides along inside the space between the decking slats. The stiff bristles both keep the paint pad in position as you go and get stain down along the side edges of the decking. Genius!

To clean, just place the Deck Mate in the sink and run water thru it.

-- Bob Knetzger  

Wagner DeckMate
$20

Available from Amazon



Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun

Over the years I’ve owned half a dozen glue guns, ranging from $6 craft guns up to $120 semi pro guns. They dribbled glue, took forever to heat up, and couldn’t output much glue.

That last issue is a big problem for big projects – you have to use the glue while it’s hot and if the gun can’t quickly output all the glue you need then you can’t stick the parts together.

I was skeptical that the DeWalt could possibly be as good as the package claimed: “heats up 50% faster,” “outputs 50 4-inch glue sticks per hour.” That’s 1.2 pounds of glue per hour, which is far more than any of the previous guns I’ve used. It’s not in the realm of professional glue guns but those cost hundreds of dollars while the DeWalt is $19.95.

Everything on the package is true. I’ve been using this gun for a month and it heats up very quickly, doesn’t dribble glue when you aren’t pressing the trigger, and outputs a phenomenal amount of glue.

Unless you are sealing cardboard boxes all day long this should have enough capacity for any DIY project. It’s better than guns costing 5 times as much.

-- Hank Thomas  

Dewalt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun
$20

Available from Amazon



Plastic Bone Folder

“Bone folders” made of real bone are classic, but I prefer a plastic one. The one I use for making crisp folds in origami, for bookmaking, folding cards, and paper construction is molded to the hand for extended ergonomic use. It slides super easy with no trace on paper. Sharp point, makes a really crisp fold. Lasts forever. Inexpensive. If you work with paper, you’ll want one of these.

-- KK  

EK tools Bone Folder
$4

Available from Amazon



Golden Mean Calipers

I absolutely love these things and have used them for a couple of years. Aside from just wandering around with my kids and having them put it up to just about everything (“Dad! this has a golden mean in it as well!” — I’ll never get tired hearing that) you can also use them to bring some simple relational beauty and balance into anything physical that you make.

You can go to this website for some very well made ones (and a little pricey) or just download some plans for a few bucks and make your own.

-- Eric Warner  

Available from Amazon



Rubber Stamps Unlimited, Inc.

Back in the 90s, I did a lot of mail art (small scale and one-of-a-kind artworks, letters, collages, and post cards exchanged through the mail). I’ve recently gotten back into it (and believe it’s making a comeback).

Part of the fun of mail art is creating your own custom rubber stamps to embellish your artwork. In the 90s, stamps were expensive and took weeks of production and turnaround time. Today, sites like Rubber Stamps Unlimited make it quick and easy. And cheap (averaging around $10-$20/stamp). To get a stamp produced, all you do is upload your art (up to 3.75” x 6”), choose the stamp type you want (rubber or self-inking), and place your order. Stamps arrive in just a few days. I’m also using rubber stamp artwork for packaging on some limited-run product kits, something other professional makers/kitchen table business moguls should consider.

-- Gareth Branwyn  



15 x 18 Craft Sheet

From online discussions and reviews, it seems that nearly everyone who buys one of these non-stick, heat-resistant worksheets has the same initial reaction: “I paid $14 for THIS?” Quickly, that skepticism turns to appreciation, if not outright tool evangelism. I am one such skeptic. For too long, I’ve taken the “self-healing” billing of my cutting mat far too literally, subjecting it to paints, glues, epoxies, clay, heat — all sorts of indignities from which it never heals. Besides cutting, every other crafting/hobby activity should happen on some other surface, and for me, I now don’t want to use anything but one of these heavy duty (5 mil) PTFE (Teflon) sheets.

The Craft Sheet first seems rather fragile and insubstantial, but it’s virtually indestructible. Almost nothing sticks to it. And besides it acting as a protective surface, you can also use it for techniques like low-brow paper marbling (mix some paints on the sheet and swirl paper through it). To clean the sheet, you just wipe with a rag – good as new. You can buy direct from sealersupply.com for cheaper (and larger sizes), but you’ll have to pay for shipping.

-- Gareth Branwyn  

Available from Amazon