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This is a massive list. It is not sorted properly, partially because it is very difficult to sort suppliers appropriately. The best way to learn about all these suppliers is to visit them all in turn and get a feel for them. The only way a supplier makes it onto this list is because it was recommended by a friend of mine; they are all legit. I have tried to put the larger suppliers toward the top of every list but I have not entirely succeeded at that. Enjoy! - Lee

Other Resource Lists

A List of lists of suppliers

Recycled Bicycles / Bike Parts

Industrial Supply

They carry lots of items for various professions

Electrical, Electronics and Embedded Computer Stuff a good electronics dealer. On 1-20-12 SWARM bought 15 gently used Yuasa 7ah batteries from them for $10 each delivered. :-) Tammie at BG Micro went the extra mile and emailed Lee, nicely suggesting the cheapest shipping option after the order had been completed. USPS Priority was cheaper than UPS for these crazy-heavy items. - The RBBB is a fine Arduino. Many other fine Arduino-hobby-like items

How to get Free Samples, Surplus, Parts Distributors, Direct from Manufacturers from LadyAda... Excellent often has electronics like strips of LEDs

Electronics Local to San Francisco and the Bay Area

Jameco Electronics Large mail order supplier. They are in Belmont and can do Will-Call orders

Al Lasher Electronics in Berkeley. Old school nerd haven.

Torres Engineering 1136 El Camino Real San Carlos CA 94070 (650) 593 2200. Vacuum tube stuff and music

SMElectronics 16 West 42nd Ave. San Mateo, CA. Similar to e+ and Lashers

Electronics Plus 823 4th Street San Rafael, CA 94901 (415) 457-0466. a rather decent and rare real electronics store

Excess Solutions electronics surplus in Milpitas. 156 S Milpitas Blvd, Milpitas. 408-262-3900

Central Computer, downtown SF. They have lots of inexpensive general computing stuff.. hard drives and the like. in South San Francisco. "A supply store for people who want to build robots, electronic gadgets, kinetic art or anything else that moves, beeps or flashes."

Alameda County Computer Resource Center. Until 2010 this was a good place to hunt through e-waste in Berkeley. Now in 2011 the status isn't known. James Burgett is no longer involved with ACCRC, and the building in Berkeley once filled with stacks of awesome equipment is no longer rented by ACCRC, instead they only have a parking lot at 620 Page St staffed with hourlies accepting e-waste into shipping containers for the appropriate fee. ACCRC still has a larger facility in Marin, but I have never been there and can't say what it's like.

Ace Liquidators in Alameda - New, reconditioned and obsolete breakers. Motor control, push buttons, starters, contact kits, relays, heater elements, wire, lighting and fasteners (or) Surplus electronics in Sunnyvale

HSC Electronic Supply - retail parts with a surplus feel to the place. Open Mon-Sat at the intersection of Lawrence and Central expressways.

Universal Electric supply - 438 8th Street San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 621-1888. Mostly electrical stuff

HDB Electronics - great small electronics parts etc, 9a-5pm retail in Redwood City. Can get many catalog parts in 2 days. Very helpful staff. Closed Jan 2009

National Dealers

Digikey One of the big boys of electronics parts, hundreds of thousands of parts. Good online catalog, though can be hard to narrow down your choice.

Mouser One of the big boys of electronics parts, hundreds of thousands of parts

Newark Electronics One of the big boys of electronics parts, hundreds of thousands of parts.

Jameco A smaller catalog, designed to be easier to sort through at the expense of (mind boggling) selection.

Sparkfun great electronics parts store for hobbyists and then some! nice prebuilt motor controllers Alltronics -- Mail order place from Morgan Hill. Sometimes odd pricing ($5 for a blue LED? $25 for a Tek storage scope?) but seems to scavenge the semiconductor industry and you can find stuff there you won't find elsewhere.

Reynolds Electronics for RF Remote Control (Lynx RF units) and PIC Micro Controllers Surplus Sales is a great place to find older school electronic and mechanical components. They also sell lots of stuff from the vacuum tube days! They've got magnet wire perfect for tesla coils

Electronix Express: lots of electronics and supplies at good prices, specializes in supplying schools. Lee bought here April 2009 and was very happy and aggregate the catalogs of many electronics catalogs

Allied Electronics


Hosfelt Electronics - mail order parts, sometimes pretty cheap. In Ohio.

MPJA - mail order place in Florida. New and used. Inexpensive - we bought some electric outlet stuff in 2006 from them Electronic Goldmine - grab bag of surplus electronic stuff American Science and Surplus - grab bag of surplus stuff

PCB Design

See here: The_PC_Board_Page; also the Noisebridge Eagle CAD workshop wiki page [1]

Kits and Educational

LED and Lighting dealers

  • - Here is a resource that, while possibly overly technical, gives ALL the answers about electronic lighting. Check out the “Product Training Modules” on the page too!

This list lifted from the excellent Celestial Audio site on 4-11-10. Go to that site for a more updated list! Celestial Audio manufactures hardware for dimming control of LEDs through DMX.

Power supplies

High-current DC supplies typically needed for installations using the DMX32:

Low-current DC supplies for use with the DMX48 - either cube plugged into the wall style "wall-warts" or laptop-style "tabletop supplies" - can be obtained from many places. Note that inexpensive "wall warts" may have an unregulated output, the the output voltage can be several volts higher than specified. These are not recommended.

LED sources - LEDs are available in a fairly incredible variety of form factors and power levels. Creating LED lights from single LEDs requires a bit of knowledge of forward voltage drop range, current limiting, and series/parallel wiring. There are numerous pre-made LED lights that run directly from a specified voltage (often 12V), for these just hook them up and go. If you have a particular LED you'd like to use, email for advice.

LED technical

DMX equipment sources: computer interfaces, software, standalone DMX players, consoles, etc.

  • Enttec USB to DMX interfaces, Lightfactory software, standalone players
  • FreeStyler: free DMX sequencer and website has a long list of DMX interface manufacturers (under Download -> interfaces)
  • Doug Fleenor Design: all sorts of DMX stuff
  • Lanbox: Controllers and dimmer packs
  • Brookshire Software: inexpensive show control software and standalone DMX player, with CompactFlash media, audio out, and IR remote control
  • SunLite: Sequencing software and standalone DMX playback & interface
  • KissBox: DMX interface for Ethernet
  • ELC: Playback units with remote control, interfaces with Ethernet
  • BPE Solutions: all sorts of DMX to... you name it hardware
  • Swisson: DMX splitter, merger, show recorder
  • SIRS Electronics: an Enttec distributor, wireless DMX, a variety of stuff
  • Gilderfluke: a few DMX dimmer packs and show-control systems
  • Alcorn McBride: High-end show control systems
  • Interactive Technologies: More high-end show control gear; wireless DMX
  • Ebay (try searching for "DMX" and click on "DJ Gear & Lighting" category)

DMX technical : wiring, recommended practices, etc.

DMX setup howto/walkthroughs and D.I.Y. sources for the electronically / programatically inclined


General suppliers of mechanical parts

  • McMaster Carr Mail order. Has everything, expensive
  • Center Hardware in San Francisco, 999 Mariposa St. San Francisco, CA 94107 415-861-1800
  • Applied Industrial in South San Francisco, 187 Utah Ave, S San Francisco, CA 94080-6712, PH: (650) 873-6137
  • Halted in Santa Clara and Santa Rosa and mail order

Colson Caster Wheel company has every kind of high quality caster wheel imaginable. Used by Mecha-Catbot and other Combot competitors.

Power Transmission Specialists

gears, belts, pulleys, bearings etc


  • in San Carlos 650-654-1500. Sheet metal, bars, and the such. They'll deliver your metal to you inexpensively ($25 or so)
  • Small Parts "The hardware store for researchers and developers". Has fancy metals, tools, fittings and more
  • Alan Steel in Redwood City. 505 E Bayshore Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063, (650) 369-2526 8-4:30pm m-f
  • Good cheap place for 2" pipe among other things. It's a hardware store - Good View Roofing and Building 1320 Marin Street, SF CA 94124 282-9748
  • Bayshore Metals. All kinds of steel, aluminum etc. They have a fab shop and sell short bits too, 244 Napoleon St, San Francisco, CA 94124 415-647-7981

San Francisco, CA 94124 - Their selection is not incredible, but for typical round and square tube sizes in mild steel, they should be fine. Last I checked, they don't accept credit cards. They will deliver in SF. Not all of their staff speak English, but it usually doesn't take too long to find someone who does.

Welding and Metal Supplies

  • sells aluminum TIG electrodes and other items at 1/5 the price of Praxair and Airgas. Yeah, $5/lb instead of $25/lb. Lee is very happy with all his purchases there including The Box Shop's TIG welder in 2007. Note that it can take 10 days for products to arrive by mail.

Metal Patina Suppliers

Sculpt Nouveau is a defacto place to get lots of chemicals for metal patinas. Located in southern California.

Art Chemicals is the other defacto defacto place for metal patinas. Located in San Leandro, California.

Welding and Metal sites from

lifted from [2] on 5-5-10


Action Metal Recycling
(aka Fass Metals)
(510) 236-2488 385 Pittsburg Ave
Richmond, CA 94801

Mo-Fr 8-4
Sa 8-11 Decent collection of sheet, tube, square, etc. But the pricing is quirky - they seem to charge whatever the guy running the scale feels like.
  M. Maselli & Sons, Inc.
(707) 763-1562
Fax: (707) 763-6964 519 Lakeville
Petaluma, CA 94952

Mo-Fr 7:30-5, Sa 7:30-12 Nearly 6 acres of scrap & hardware. Great place, well organized. Good source of hardware also. Open Saturdays until noon. Somewhat expensive for scrap, but perhaps worth it for the organization, help, cleanliness of the place.
  Albany Steel
(510) 525-8778
Fax: (510) 525-8209 536 Cleveland Ave
Albany, CA 94710-1007
(map) Big steel yard. They sell new steel only - most if it's in 20' lengths, so bring a big truck or a saw. They charge $7.50 a cut if you need it. They have a small selection of welding supplies also. They seem somewhat gruff dealing with non-trade, non-pro; so know what you want before you go there.
  Alco (They have a really good scrap metal bin according to Branly Cadet!)
(510) 562-1107
Fax: (510) 562-1354 1092 Doolittle Dr.
San Leandro, CA 94577

Mo-Fr 8-4:30
Sat 8-12 all metals new and used
  3-D Studios
(510) 535-1809 800 51st Ave
Oakland, CA 94601-5627
(map) short order shearing etc
  Bataeff Salvage
707-584-8401 244 Mountain View
Santa Rosa, CA
(map) odd & arcane scrap
  Bay Area Ironworks Suppliers
(415) 822-7844 1440 Egbert Ave
San Francisco, CA
(map) neighborhood of ornamental iron
  Bayshore Metals
(415) 647-7981
(800) 533-2493 244 Napoleon
San Francisco, CA 94124-1017
(map) all metals new
  Circosta Iron & Metal
(415) 282-8568 1801 Evans Ave
San Francisco, CA 94124
(map) good big scrapyard
[2007] no longer sells scrap metal to the general public.
  Flynn & Enslow
(415) 863-5340
(800) 726-9473
Fax: (415) 863-2635 1530 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(map) perforated and expanded metals
  J.C. Metal Specialists, Inc
(415) 822-3878
Fax: (415) 822-6132 2708 Ingalls Street
San Francisco, CA 94124
(map) over 25 years old
  Metal Supermarket
(510) 259-1005 2301 Industrial Parkway West
Hayward, CA
(map) Chain of franchise stores. Good source of specialty forms, sizes & alloys.
  Metal Supermarket
(650) 299-9856 2999 Spring Street
Redwood City
(map) Chain of franchise stores.
  Metal Supermarket
(408) 654-9177 705 Comstock Street
Santa Clara
(map) Chain of franchise stores.
  Van Bebber Brothers Inc.
(707) 762-4528 729 Petaluma Blvd. South
Petaluma, CA 94953
(map) major steel supplier, great prices


ACE Ellis Hardware
(510) 653-4365 5424 Martin Luther King
Oakland, CA 94609
(map) tell them what you want, they go get it
  Pagano's ACE hardware
(510) 522-1345 1100 Lincoln Ave
Alameda, CA 94501
(map) excellent selection
  Pastime ACE hardware
(510) 526-6615 10057 San Pablo Ave
El Cerrito
(map) excellent selection
(415) 861-8300
(877) 4HB-BOLT
Fax: (415) 552-0796 1122 Harrison
San Francisco, CA 94103
(map) designer & specialty fasteners
  California Caster & Handtruck Co
(415) 552-6750
(800) 950-8750
Fax: (415) 552-0463 1400 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
(map) casters, levelers, spring plungers
  Rockler Woodworking & Hardware
(925) 521-1800
Fax: (925) 521-1802 541 Contra Costa Blvd
Pleasant Hill
(map) specialty hinges, rollers, drawer sliders


Atlas Welding Supply Inc.
(510) 524-5117 1224 6th St
Berkeley, CA 94710
(map) helpful welding store with student discount
  Mavry Welding Supply
(510) 433-0240 2919 Union St
Oakland, CA
  Alliance Gas Products
(510) 663-9353 727 77th Ave
Oakland, CA 94621
  Alliance Gas Products
(510) 834-9353 2001 Peralta Street
Oakland, CA 94607
  Praxair Distribution Inc.
(510) 923-7025
(800) 660-2066
Fax: (510) 547-7512 1171 Ocean Ave
Oakland, CA 94608
  Airgas NCN
(510) 632-9464
Fax: (510) 632-7898 555 Julie Ann Way
Oakland, CA 94621
(510) 527-4080 635 Gilman
(510) 234-6716
Fax: (510) 234-0245 600 Hoffman Blvd.
Richmond, CA 94804

Shop Rental and Instruction

(650) 521-9027 120 Independence Dr
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(map) Membership-based workshop with monthly/annual membership fee. Full access to all machines and facilities with membership. (As of 2009) Full metal and machine shop with two 175 amp MIG welders, one 200 amp TIG welder with two welding stations. Safety and basic use class required ($45) before you can use the equipment. Additional instruction is available for $80 for a two-hour class. Community focus in on "DIY" projects, shaped by "Make" magazine.
  The Crucible
(510) 444-0919 1260 7th Street
Oakland, CA 94607
(map) Course-based workshop space. Offers classes in MIG, TIG, Oxyacetylene welding & metal fabrication. You need to purchase a course to use the machines, after which you can purchase "lab time". Memberships available, which give you a discount on the classes. Classes are $375.00 for a 16-hour course, either two weekend days, or 5 week weekday evenings. Community focus is on metal and fire art, shaped by "Burning Man" projects.
  Laney College
(510) 834-5740 900 Fallon Street
Oakland, CA 94607
(map) Offers welding courses for $55 a credit hour. Open lab for current students. Best value in instruction. Community focus is on preparation for a professional welding career.


Apex Electronics north of Los Angeles. Gregory MacNicol says he can spend a whole day browsing there. Tiny to giant electro and mechanical junk.

Maselli's in Petaluma. Hardware store in front; huge surplus yard in back and metal shop in the middle.

Check valves - Have had problems with standard check valves (all ball/spring types), both for liquid and gas applications. Manufactures include parker, nibco, and cambell. Recommend looking at swing type check valves and non return valves. see the nibco T-453-B

Dynamixel AX-12+ Smart Serial Servo - It can be used to sense position too! As used in the MORAV Mech Telemetry suit!

Magnets / Skarface writes: If anyone ever has a need for large quantities of old propane cylinders from 10# to 100# (2.5 to 25 gallon) I have a place in Reno where I can get hundreds of them for free...

Coliseum Flea Market in Oakland - Thursday and Sunday. Used tools, lots of great junk, bicycles

Oakland Flea Market at Laney College - Weekends. better for houseware-type stuff than Coliseum Flea Market

Many Small shops on Mission between 19th and 24th - super cheap backpacks, electrical cords, socks, locks - the small tool specialists

CAL Overstock & Surplus Den surplus UC Berkeley Campus property. "Our sales include, but are not limited to office furniture, computers, laptops, vehicles, laboratory equipment, small machinery, vehicles

Recycled and Inexpensive Stuff

This list originally from BManUpdate:V11:#11:RESOURCES

These local organizations sell inexpensive donated materials for art projects:

The Build it Green Product and Service Directory also provides some useful information:

Even more sources for cheap and free stuff:

These online exchanges are FULL of people trading or selling useful used goods:

Plastics and Fiberglass

  • Douglas and Sturgess 730 Bryant st
  • Tap Plastics
  • Royal Plastics in oakland

Here's Gaspos Guide to Fiberglass (from a 3-19-09 post to Dorkbots-blabber)

Soldering Tools

Recommended Cheap Soldering Irons

Recommended Good Soldering Irons (you'll wish you had one of these as soon as you try it)

  • Weller WES51 $100
  • Sparkfun 936B $40 cheap! I haven't personally heard any reports about this iron but I'm intrigued about this Hakko-like iron

Hobby Shops

Franciscan Hobbies 1920 Ocean Ave, 415-584-3919 . Model planes, trains and cars, balsa wood, motors etc. In business since 1946.

Local Wood Suppliers

These folks supply premium wood like veneers, exotic, etc!

Stickers and T-Shirts

Sticker Giant has done all of our SWARM stickers and they have come out terrific!

Mitch Altman recommends Jak Prints for stickers. I see they do a groovy printed-all-over shirts too.

Picture Printing

Enlarged photos of our art are popular sellers at fundraisers

Lee used and was very happy with the quality, price and ease of using their web site. He found the web site hard to use (it'd probably be better for professional photographers). is on Market St. They can do quick turnaround (order online to get a discount). They cater to the "pro-sumer" market. Lee and Charlotte used them for the FLG photobook and the photos came out very well.

David Ellsworth writes: I've heard good things about and If you want cheap, and have low prices for big prints in their ads in the latest Pop. Photo magazine.

I've been happy with Costco, which has the advantage of 2 hour turnaround, but you need to be a member, and they only go up to 8x12 or so.

Don't forget to make small enlargements to sell, too. They sold well at the last fundraiser.

Calypso Imaging in San Jose does a good job, but they are pricey.

Picture frames from Ikea is good.

(keywords: fundraising, fundraisers, benefit, benefits)

Inexpensive Furniture and the like