Jacob Kaplan-Moss

DIY supplies

I wrote this post in 2011, more than 12 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

Since moving to the country a year ago my weekends and evenings have turned into project time. I’m a cheapskate, so I’ve been buying and repairing lots of used tools and making a lot of my own parts. This means I’m constantly looking for some random specific bolt, or a piece of plastic some particular size, or something similarly specific and esoteric.

So I starting maintaining a list of the places I go to when I need supplies. It’s really for my own reference, but I figured it might prove useful to someone, so why not put it online?

  • Amazon Of course. The biggest store on the internets, so Amazon’s the first place I look.

    However, their search kinda sucks for esoteric parts. You can’t, for example, filter bolts by length andthread size so finding the right part is very hard. But I’m generally amazed by what I find on Amazon, so like I said, it’s where I start.

  • Jamestown Distributors I first found these guys looking for boat repair supplies a few years ago. But they sell lots of things that’re nice for building/repairing anything that needs to live outside in nasty weather.

    A good source for varnishes and paints, and also things like stainless and brass fasteners and hardware. Like most things targeted towards boat owners prices can be very high.

  • Klingspor’s Where I go when I need sandpaper.

    I especially like their bargain boxes: boxes of sandpaper off-cuts, sold by the pound. I bought a 10 lb box a year ago and haven’t even come close to going through it.

  • McMaster-Carr The gold standard. Has the biggest catalog of hardware on earth, I think. Back when I worked for a company that actually built hardware we had a standing weekly order with McMaster and I loved being able to throw in orders for whatever I wanted.

    Very good for metal and plastic stock. Also lots of fasteners and hardware bits, especially in hard-to-find sizes. Prices tend to be extremely good, but shipping costs can be expensive.

  • Small Parts What it says on the tin.

    Similar scope to McMaster, but a bit smaller range. Especially good for fasteners, knobs, lab supplies (glassware, etc), and small pieces of metals and plastics. Prices on most items seem higher than McMaster. However, Small Parts is owned by Amazon and so Prime members get free shipping (even on absurdly small orders like a single bolt). Because of the Amazon thing, Small Parts is my usual first stop after Amazon itself.

  • SparkFun I’m starting (just barely) to use Arduinos to automate a few things around the farm; SparkFun’s been my main source for electronics.

    There may be better sources with bigger selections and lower prices, but SparkFun’s extremely accessible to to neophytes like me. They’ve also got amazing customer service: I’ve sent them a couple emails asking what are probably very silly noob-ish questions and have always gotten quick, helpful answers.

  • Reid Supply Company Especially good for things like knobs, handles, casters, small clamps, levelling feet, etc. Other than that, seems pretty similar to Small Parts, so I haven’t scoped Reid out that much.

  • K&J Magnetics Magnets! Rare earth magnets! NEODYMIUM!


    I haven’t done extensive research on online magnet stores, K&J seems pretty competetive. I especially like their magnets with countersunk holes – you can screw them onto non-metalic surfaces. Perfect for small jigs, hold- downs, etc.

Are there other places I should check out? Leave ’em in the comments!