IMO every modders toolbox should include:
1. Proper Drivers, you can't open anything up without 'em. get yourself a good solid set of drivers, Phillips of various sizes, Allens, security torx etc. Specialized tools (like the security torx used on the 360 and wireless controller) have to be special ordered, you probably wont find them at your local hardware. I recommend a set of L wrenches over bits (or both if you can afford it) because the L wrenches can usually fit in tights spots where a bit set cannot (like the wireless controller handles). Gamebits are also useful if you're talking apart older Sega or Nintendo consoles.
2. Tweezers, never underestimate the usefulness of a good set of tweezers, especially when working with surface mount products like SMT LEDs and Resistors. make sure to get non-conductive ones so you don't burn your hands or short things out.
3. Pliers I personally prefer Robo-Grips, they've got a mechanical advantage such that they can apply 5x as much force as you're actually squeezing. these come in handy when you just need to rip something out with some force.
4. small adjustable wrench, good for adjusting/adding/removing wrench posts or stand-offs, more useful for PC applications but still a good tool to have around.
5. wire cutters/strippers. good to help cut wires to length and strip off the protective coating... also useful for other things.
6. A metal ruler, wood ruler chage size with the temperature and plastic rules break and melt, a metal ruler is always sharp and always accurate. good for clean straight lines.
1. A Dremel or other rotary too. Great for cutting or trilling detailed stuff. More serious drilling will still require a full fledged drill though. There are a number of attachments you can get, if you're using it a lot you can get the flex extender as that will allow you to do much more precise work. Also a flush mount cutting kit is beneficial for helping make straight cuts. There are a multitude of other accessories you could get too.
2. A Drill/screw-gun, useful for cutting larger holes, also useful for larger projects like building a MAME cabinet/custom arcade joystick or drilling holes in a metal case to add a fan. Make sure the speed is adjustable and that it's reversible, it can also be used to help tighten down or remove larger, more permanent screws.
3. Razor blades... can never have enoug of these laying around for general purpose cutting, best get a good sturdy handle for them too.
4. xacto knives... great for the detailed stuff that the razor blades can't get
5. A Nibbler, Nibblers allow you to make square cuts, great for if you're mounting USB or Ethernet ports. Basically you drill a hole in the area you want your cut out then use the nibbler to make small cuts in the exact shape you're looking for. I picked one up for $15 at best buy (in the PC section next to some window kits) it's a small hand held one but it can cut straight through 3mm steel without problem. If you're more serious you can get an air powered one but they can run a few hundred dollars for a pair.
1. A soldering iron, my personal favorite budget soldering iron is the $8 15Watt grounded pencil from the Shitty-Shack, pick up a good base with a sponge and you'll be all set, pick up a few extra "extra fine" tips for it, and some 22gague silver solder and you'll have no problems soldering most things. Also consider some de-soldering braid for removing solder and flux for things that are stubborn to take (though you shouldn't have much problem if you're using silver solder over lead). If you're doing a lot of soldering you might want to invest in a magnetic tip, adjustable temp Weller iron.
3. A de-soldering pump, the best tool for rapidly removing solder, it makes any re-work job much much quicker
4. Helping hands, no, it's not your buddy. Helping hands are a small set of adjustable alligator clips and a magnifying glass to help hold and enlarge the things you're trying to solder
5. "Contact Free Cleaner" and a Tooth Brush. If you're using flux you can get crap all over your board, spray on some CFC and scrub it off with a tooth brush and you'll have a shiny new area, it's great for cleaning off burn marks. CFC is completely non conductive so you can douse your electronics in it and not worry about shorts. it's designed for cleaning buttons and knobs that don't work well due to dust and grime build up. but it's great for cleaning chips sockets and connectors as well as dirty areas of PCBs. If you're going to do some soldering to an old board it's best to clean up the area before you start else you'll burn up the dust and grime and potentially damage your iron AND your board (just be sure to let it dry out before you start).
6. SMT removal compound... this stuff you pour on a SMT devices you want to remove heat it up and just pull it off, it goes back on just as easy... great for chips with 100s of pins that are a total pain to remove otherwise. one of the best is chipquick http://www.chipquik.com/
7. Hot Air Rework tool the best tool working on surface mount stuff. like a soldering iron but it blows a gentle bit of hot air on the device, this just melts the solder in the general area allowing surface mount devices to be removed with ease. It's also useful for heat-shrink tubing if you don't have a heat-gun. Full Fledged Hot air re-work stations can cost as much as $250 but you can build a cheap one if you're handy: http://www.usbmicro.com/odn/documents/ACC4...5FDFF29EA1.html
1. A Multi meter, allows you to test connectivity, resistors, capacitors, diodes, voltage levels, amperage. etc .etc. etc. one of the most useful tools you can own particularly if you're building any kind of circuits. The continuity tester is easily the best feature as it can help you find where traces go and if your solder joints are good.
2. A protoboard and a wire kit. A protoboard will allow you to prototype a complete circuit quickly and easily without soldering. it's a plastic board with holes that you just push wires and chips through to make connections. once you've got your circuit prototyped, tested and working you can easily transfer it to a bread board for a more permanent fixture.
3. Oscilloscope, if you're serious an "O-scope" can help you test data line and various other signals that are doing more then just providing a constant voltage. These can be very expensive so don't bother unless you're getting serious about what you're doing.
1. A small flashlight Sometimes it can be hard to see, keeping a mini mag-light or an LED click-on, click-off pen light is very helpful in trying to see what's going on in details
2. A Heat gun, heat guns are great for lots of things, you can use it to help bend and shape plexiglas, it's also useful for heat shrink tubing for creating clean wire connections. Also it can be used to create some unique paint effects. Also it can be used to help smooth cut plastic edges by literally melting the plastic into a smooth shape.
3. A hot Glue Gun, great for taking things down temporarily or holding down "floating" electronics devices so they don't rattle around after you re-assemble your project, it's much more professional then electrical tape. They're also beneficial for holding LEDs in place when you need them to point in a very specific direction. Also can be used to help defuse LED light if you need the light to be more ambient then direct.
1. Solder, Always have a good amount of solder, the smaller the better 22gauge silver solder is my personal favorite.
2. Wire, always have a spool of 30gauge wire. Also keep a spool of 22gauge solid core wire handy. Use the 30 gage for data wire (like modchips) and use the 22 gage for power wires (like LEDs and cathodes). if you can afford it it's beneficial to keep a variety of colors so you can color code your projects.
3. desoldering braid. "Chem-Wick" is easily the best brand but any braid is better then no braid if you have trouble getting it.
4. electrical tape. good for holding things together quickly during prototyping (never use in your final product). Also it can help shield things from one another. Like if you have a circuit sitting on top of another circuit you can cover the bottom of one with electrical tape to keep it from shorting out.
4. Bread boards. little empty circuit boards that you can build circuits on to after it's been prototyped. they have a grid of holes so you can use easy to solder through hole parts. Also the holes allow you to easily cut the board to size along the holes.
5. An assortment of resistors and capacitors, you can buy kits with a variety of parts in them, it's good to buy a kit or two if you're just starting out so you don't have to run to the store every time you need a 2cent part.
6. sand paper, always keep a variety of grades availbe... typically from 600 UP is the most useful lower grades are only really useful if you need it for something in particular. 600 and UP is ALWAYS useful though.
7. Masking tape, great for when you're laying out a cut, cover the area with masking tape then draw your lines right on it dark and easy to see. Your cuts will even be cleaner too because it will keep the cut edges from fraying.This post has been edited by twistedsymphony: Mar 21 2006, 11:29 PM