Every year around this time my wife agonizes on what to get me for Christmas. This year I decided to help her by writing what to buy for the engineer in your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hard to shop for but my wife and I live in two different worlds. Her world revolves around animals, history, plants and BBC movies. My world revolves around computers, technology, 3D graphics and very specialized software including the odd game or two.

Sounds like a lot of possibilities doesn’t it?

I’ll use my 3D printer as an example because I already know the problems but almost any hobby has similar complications. Before I bought it, I did a lot of research and read a lot of reviews. Selecting the printer was something I had to do for myself.

How about supplies then? Go to Amazon and search on 3D printer supplies. Last time I looked there were at least four suppliers of filament, not to mention several different types of material. Read a few reviews on the filaments and you see very mixed results. What are the odds of her selecting a filament that works well in my printer?

Given the extensive research I do before buying something for myself, what chance does she have of buying me anything that meets my criteria? It doesn’t help that once I make my selection I watch prices until it goes on sale and buy it then. Somehow I never understood why she should pay an additional 20% because she wanted to surprise me.

If you’re lucky enough to get an exact part number, do not deviate from that part number. I don’t care what the salesman says about more features or price matching, the Ford salesman will always tell you his truck is better but it’s still not a Dodge truck. There’s a lot of research behind that number.

Yes, we could exchange gift cards but that reminds me of something Sheldon said in The Big Bang Theory. It’s a draw until one of us dies early and stiffs the other.

So, what to buy for the engineer in your life?

Wish lists:

I’m sure other websites do it too but Amazon allows you to create a wish list that you can share with specific people. If I want a Samsung 850 Pro 1 TB SSD, I click the add to wish list and she knows the exact make and model. I don’t have to do the fake smile when she gives me a 1TB spinning drive made by some company I’ve never heard from.



Sea Salt Caramels. Mine disappeared quickly

Almost every engineer I know loves food. Last year my wife found a Sticky Toffee Cake Kit and made it for me. I liked it so well, she had to repeat it for my birthday. If you don’t cook, try Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies. I can personally vouch for them.


We love to read about new ideas. A subscription to Make Magazine is about $32 and reminds them of you every two months. Of course, you’ll lose them a few days while they read and try a few of the projects. Make Magazine is the reason I have a 3D printer.



Martian Notifier

We love gadgets. They don’t have to be useful. They only need the appearance of being useful so we can show them off. My Martian Notifier is a great example of a gadget that I frequently get to show off. Shop carefully here though. What might be cute the first time can get very annoying the hundredth time you hear that marble drop, bird sing, or robot telling you “beware”



Stanley Fubar

We always need tools. The trick here is to find something different. A good friend of mine knew I live on a ranch and found a Stanley demolition tool for me. It’s a great tool and falls into the gadget category. You can’t go wrong with flashlights or screwdriver sets. Especially when they have unusual features such as every security bit known to mankind.


See gadgets. You’d be amazed at what will entertain us, especially if we can modify it.

A final word of caution. Engineers are trained to be observant and make valid guesses from way too little data. If you want it to be a surprise, give no hints. Don’t give a weight, a size or a price range. We see the identification of the present as a puzzle and we’re great at solving puzzles.

Remember that your engineer is just as confused about what you want. Unless you want a 128GB flash drive with full crypto capability, I would use the wish list method. It takes a lot of stress out of the holidays for both of you.

Engineer Christmas

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