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K-12 Makerspace Part 2: How to Outfit Your Space for about $1000

tools, makerspace, suppliesThis is part of a series of posts aiming to help librarians, teachers, home-school parents, and other groups launching a makerspace. In this series we wanted to share the small considerations and decisions that we’ve made, as well as higher-level thinking about our maker activities. This post is all about the hand tools and supplies that we use most often in our K-12 makerspace afterschool program. As you can see in the list below, these are not super advanced tools, and many are surprisingly affordable. Part of our goal in writing this post is also to dispel the myth that makerspaces require expensive tools and shop equipment. With the tools and supplies listed below you can do a wide range of beginner to advanced projects.

Tool Choice

While there are cheap, mini, and plastic versions of many tools out there, we prefer to use high quality tools made for adults as much as possible. Rather than get young makers started with plastic tools that don’t perform the way real ones do, we prefer to teach all participants to use and respect real tools. By getting comfortable with them, participants will be most likely to build confidence in their own abilities and to keep making.

Fine Motor Skills

The minimum age we set for our programs is around 6-8 years old. Age 7 or 8 is when children really start to develop fine motor skills. These skills include threading a needle, cutting a straight line with scissors, and being able to tape two materials together evenly. Children age 7 and below usually aren’t able to grasp the tools properly or use them without wobbling, which leads to frustration. Have seen 6-year-olds with great fine motor control? Yes. We’ve also seen adults severely lacking in fine motor skills. There’s a range of abilities out there, and fine motor skills can improve a great deal with practice. We just use this as a rule of thumb to ensure successful outcomes for our projects.

Safety

Using real tools for projects doesn’t mean all tools should be left in easy reach! Anything with sharp edges or corners should be kept in a separate bin or hung up high on a wall. Dangerous items like X-acto knives, box cutters, saws, and other blades should be used at a designated station with a grown-up supervisor for kids under the age of 13 (or older, use your best judgement based on the group). In some cases these tools are only used by our teachers to prep supplies. Items like fabric scissors also should be kept separate from the other scissors, and only be used to cut fabric.

Waiver Forms and Insurance

In any situation where you are performing these activities, you should verify with your insurance company that your policy covers them. You should also have a permission form/waiver for the parents of any children to use tools in your space, as well as one for adults.

Makerspace Organization

Keeping all of your supplies and projects organized with a makerspace is tough. Many makerspaces start out in a shared space, and all the supplies need to hauled out of a closet, and then put back after each activity. After trying many methods of organization, we recommend using stackable bins with hinged lids to organize and group supplies used for the same project. You can have one or two bins with general supplies like markers, rulers, tape, etc, sorted into metal buckets and then bring out project-specific bins. These bins are also easy to toss supplies in, close, and stack to make your space tidy in a hurry. You can see this method at work on a grand scale in this video from Tested of Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters in his workshop.

Specific Recommendations

Most of the tools on here can be swapped out for other versions you find in your local store or other providers. We do recommend a few specific models/items though, which are as follows:

Simple Pliers, Wire Snips/Side Cutters, and Wire Strippers. You will end up using these a lot. Don’t be tempted to go with lesser, cheaper versions which are probably made in China. Lower quality versions of these tools are plentiful, but they probably won’t last 6 months of even light use. Spare yourself the cost of replacing them and opt for the slightly more expensive ones now.

Quality Cordless Drill.This is the model I use myself. It comes with a second battery, so if your battery runs out you won’t get held up waiting for it to recharge. This drill offers good power and precision, and is built to last. You may want to keep this for only adults to use when you are drilling/screwing items. In any case, you will be thankful to have a reliable, quality tool to move through such tasks quickly.

Rulers. Rulers take a beating in our space. Some plastic ones we bought in the past cracked and chipped within the first month. We are replacing our supply with metal rulers now. We do limit access to them though, as their edges are quite sharp.

Copper Tape. Be aware that some versions of copper tape include conductive adhesive and some don’t. Understanding what parts of your tape are conductive and not is critical to making successful projects. We like Chibitronics’ Guides for becoming more comfortable using copper tape to make paper circuits.

Disclaimer: The links below go directly to products we like and use in our space. Some go directly to Amazon, in the hopes that this would make ordering supplies easier. We do get a small affiliate fee for any purchases made through these links on Amazon, which helps us keep the lights on in our space. Many of these items can also be found in your local craft, office supply, or department store.

Tool Price per Unit Qty for Group of 15 Price for Group
Simple Pliers $3.00 8 $45.00
Plier Variety Set $27.50 1 $27.50
9-Piece Mini Plier Set $19.99 1 $19.99
Wire Snips/Side Cutters $5.99 8 $47.92
Wire Strippers $6.95 8 $55.60
Screw Drivers $3.75 8 $30.00
Mini Screw Driver Set $13.99 1 $13.99
Quality Cordless Drill $135.00 1 $135.00
Cheap Cordless Drill $58.02 1 $58.02
Drill Bit Set $25.97 1 $25.97
Hammers $6.51 8 $52.08
Rubber Mallet $9.72 1 $9.72
Kid Scissors (12-pack) $12.98 1 $12.98
Sharp Scissors (5-pack) $3.50 1 $36.37
Fabric Scissors $12.80 1 $12.80
X-Acto Blades (Set of 6) $18.54 1 $18.54
Box Cutters $6.47 1 $18.54
Cutting Mat $9.65 2 $19.84
Total $404.90 $619.22
Supplies Price per Unit Qty for Group of 15 Price for Group
Scotch Tape $10.39 1 $10.39
Masking Tape (6-pack) $16.99 1 $16.99
Colored Duct Tape $19.44 1 $19.44
Blue Painter’s Tape $3.24 1 $3.24
Clear Packing Tape (3-pack) $9.35 1 $9.35
12 Gal. Storage Bins $6.97 6 $41.82
4 Gal. Storage Bins $3.97 6 $23.82
Gold Glitter $2.29 1 $2.29
Silver Glitter $2.10 1 $2.10
Googly Eyes $4.88 1 $4.88
Pony Beads $7.26 1 $7.26
Assorted Beads $4.99 1 $4.99
Key Chain Rings (100-pack) $5.72 1 $5.72
Jewelry Findings Kit $8.99 1 $8.99
Rulers (2-pack) $4.86 4 $19.44
Elmer’s Glue – Jug $13.95 1 $13.95
Glue Sticks (2-pack) $1.57 3 $4.71
Hot Glue Guns + Sticks $9.99 2 $19.98
String $6.59 1 $6.59
AA Batteries (48-pack) $12.49 1 $12.49
AAA Batteries (36-pack) $10.00 1 $10.00
Coin Cell Batteries (20-pack) $8.00 1 $8.00
Copper Tape $6.79 1 $6.79
Zip Ties $4.99 1 $4.99
Pencils (Box of 72) $12.98 1 $12.98
Perler Bead Kit $12.42 1 $12.42
Iron $14.99 1 $14.99
Butcher Paper Roll $27.98 1 $27.98
Butcher Paper Holder $35.80 1 $35.80
Marker Set $14.98 1 $14.98
Metal Pots $0.99 6 $5.94
Total $319.66 $398.93

Grand Total

In conclusion, if you’re just buying supplies for one or two participants, the grand total is $724.56. The total for buying enough for a group of 15 is $1018.15. This doesn’t include shipping or any taxes, but hopefully it’s helpful in determining what you’ll need to get your space up and running.

With just these tools and supplies, and access to a printer, you can do a wide range of projects, which we will share details about in a future post.

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