Here are some of the tools in my shop that I use all the time.
1) My computer. I’d be lost without my computer.
2) A good soldering iron. If you solder more than once a month I strongly urge you to spend a few bucks and buy a decent quality soldering iron! I have a Weller WES51. It took me around 5 years of steady bending before I finally threw away my 15th radio shack iron and bought a Weller. Once I got it I felt like I had wasted the last 5 years of my life. It was $120 and worth every penny.
3) Tip tinner and soldering flux. Keeping your iron in good shape and prepping your surfaces makes all the difference.
4) Cordless drill. I use this every day for everything ranging from drilling Speak&Spell housings to building walls in my studio. I have a BOSCH 18volt. This thing has never let me down. The only drawback is that it is pretty heavy for fine work, which is why I have a dremel and drill press.
4A) Drill Press. NOT PICTURED. Great tool. A bench top model is cheap, relatively small, quiet and super useful. I use mine mostly for drilling PCBs and hardware holes in housings and faceplates
5) Label Printer. Labeling continues to be one of the bigger challenges in making instruments. I use a vinyl plotter for lots of my labeling but this thing comes in handy from time to time. Prints nice, waterproof labels. I have a BROTHER brand model PT-1750. The only big drawback to these is that the print tape is pretty expensive.
6) Small parts containers. You just can’t have enough of these. If I don’t keep my parts organized I start to go crazy. You can find them at any craft or hardware store
7) Large parts bins. I love these things. They’re great for holding larger parts like jacks and knobs. Every time I start a new project I pull out one of these containers to put all of the screws and other hardware in. You can buy these for cheap from industrial suppliers like McMaster-Carr.
8 ) Multi Meter. If you don’t have one, get one. I think I spent $50 on mine at RadioShack. Never had any problems with it. Make sure to get one with a continuity tester (the icon looks like a little speaker making noise). This is one of the most used features on mine.
9) Helping Hand. Great tool. cheap.
10) Solder Box. I’ll post details on building one of these soon. Simple but super useful tool.
11) Hand Tools. I would be nothing without a good set of wire strippers, nippy cutters and screw drivers. I have several sets of screw drivers, flat and phillips head, ranging from jewelry size to heavy industrial. Not pictured are flat nose pliers, these are an absolute necessity for tightening nuts on jacks and pots. You can do it without but it ends up being a scratched up mess, trust me… get em.
14) Dremel and lots of dremel bits. Great tool, TONS of uses. I have a cordless and corded. I use them both all the time. If I could only have one, I’d keep the cordless.
15) Digital Recorder. One of the fun parts about circuit bending is that the item you’re working on can make the craziest sounds when you least expect it. Having a recorder in the shop is great for capturing those surprises. I have a ZOOM H4. It does great room recordings and just sounds generally awesome. Highly recommended.
16) Digital Camera. Documenting your work is so important…. not just for yourself, but for others. Stop being selfish and take some pictures of what you build and HOW you built it!