For long time, one of the best catalogs for inspiration to me was the catalog from Small Parts Inc. This was a great small catalog of the kind of stuff that you might need for making. The catalog had small bearings, gears, heat shrink tube, wire and small tubing, along with a ton of the little things that you might need for a project.
Unfortunately Small parts was sold to Amazon back in 2010 or so. Who, rather than maintaining a degree of separation, folded Small Parts into the general Amazon search pile.
Fortunately somebody has saved a copy of the Small Parts catalog on the internet, here.
Then the question is where do you get stuff.
For general hardware, McMaster Carr, no question.
Well for metals and some plastics, Online metals is a good source.
K&S metals is a good source for very small quantities.
For various wood sheets and plastics, Midwest Model supply.
For Gears and bearings, Stock Drive Products.
And Wm Berg.
For small tools
Victor Machinery Exchange.
For clamps and other fixturing parts, Carr Lane is a very good source.
For small fasteners.
New England Miniature ball.
For a lot of the stuff in the Small Parts Catalog, these people are what’s left after the Amazon sale.
Of course if all else fails use thomasnet to try to nail down your part.
Knowing what exists and how to find it can be a huge time saver in a project. Knowing how to buy thing in quantity is crucial to creating a successful product. Even though you can no longer use the Small Parts catalog to actually buy from, as a reference, it still remains a valuable resource.
The Let’s Build Series.