Tech by VICE

A DIY-Minded Guide to Holiday Gift Giving

Here's 16 holiday gift ideas that'll let you ditch Black Friday lines by doing-it-yourself.

by Becky Chung
Nov 28 2014, 2:00pm


Depending on your level of festivity, holiday season either began way early this morning, or officially starts now. For us, this means futuristic christmas trees, synchronized lights, interactive gingerbread townsmistletoe drones, and most importantly, gifts, but why buy something ready-made when you can stay in, and instead, DI(4)Y? Whether you're a maker, hacker, artist, or just want to get something truly original for a loved one, here are our suggestions for DIY gift-giving this year. 

DIY Gaming Console

With the special edition Resistor Red DIY Gamer Kit from Technology Will Save Us, you can craft a gaming console from scratch and learn to program it with animations. Once you’re you're made it past level one, try one of their other kits for making conductive "electro dough" or creating sensors to measure your plants’ thirst. You can also build an Arduino-based Gambuino, a retro gaming console with a 84x48 px display, its own mini joypad, three command buttons, and a library of pre-written scripts.

Damien Hirst Skull

This miniature version of Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, a platinum human skull encrusted with diamonds, brings bling to your desk without breaking the bank. With the help of a simple how-to from IArtistLondon, creating like a world famous contemporary artist doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. After mastering Hirst’s work, take on Marc Quinn´s Self, Tracy Emin´s Everyone I have Ever slept with 1963-1995, and Banksy’s signature graffiti style.

LED Chameleon Jacket

What if you could give someone the powers of a chameleon? These LED jackets designed by Drap og Design, a Norwegian design group founded by four recent Oslo School of Architecture and Design grads, are exploring just that. The product isn't available just yet—the technology is still being tested for its fashion and design applications—so in the meantime take a look at their process for inspiration, and don't forget to add it to your future wishlist.

Kinetic Sculpture

Artist Theo Jansen build skeletal structures that “walk with the wind” on beaches, inspired by evolution. Now, you can recreate his original design of the Strandbeest at a much smaller scale.

Knitted Taxidermy

Noel Margaret learned how to knit while studying Sculpture at RISD. In her work, she blends her love for natural history with craftwork, creating knitted taxidermy-inspired animals. Margaret launched a Kickstarter for Mounted Knits, a knitting pattern and art book filled with tailored patterns, stories, photographs and illustrations. With her guidance, you could build your own cabinet of curiosities like the one she did, below.

Paper Friends

These open-source animated paper companions from ReaDIYmate can be linked to your digital life—from Twitter to Gmail—and controlled in real time, remotely from your iPhone. You can also design your own templates, program behaviors, and add your inputs and outputs.

Universal Connectors

What if you could connect Lego parts with Tinkertoys? With F.A,T. Lab’s Free Universal Construction Kit that includes 80 adapter bricks, you can connect 10 construction sets together, including Lego, K’Nex, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoobe. The adapters are available for free download on Thingiverse, and can be reproduced with open-hardware enabled desktop 3D printers.

Mars Rover

Using LittleBits, you can build a model of the Mars Rover, based on the design of NASA’s Opportunity. The remote-controlled robot can gather and display light information from its environment. Next: Build a paper model of Rosetta and Philae.

Potato Spaceships and Cucumber Birds

Open Toys consists of small 3D-printed accessories that can transform or “hack” any found vegetable or fruit into a plane, helicopter, submarine, bird, or car. Created by Le Fab Shop, the designs are available online for free on YouMagine, Thingiverse, and Cults3D.


It's not Easter Season quite yet—thankfully, Eggbot allows you to draw on eggs and on other spherical objects with precision. The software of this open-sourced art robot is completely hackable, and your source imagery can come from anywhere. Your Christmas ornaments will own everyone else’s, on account of their originality.

DIY Computer

With Kano, building a computer has perhaps never been more easy. You get to put together all the parts: a Raspberry Pi for a brain, a speaker you “snap together,” and a snazzy wireless keyboard.

Fiber Optic Sea Warrior Hat

Because, why not. It’s perfect for the Burning Man enthusiast, the rock star, or the bold fashionista. Find detailed instructions on how to make a headpiece, a chest harness, and a pair of pants at Instructables.

SLR Camera

In a digital era where the complexity behind inventions are often taken for granted, the Konstruktor, a DIY analogue camera, allows you to see the inner workings of a SLR camera. This fully functional 35mm camera allows you to learn the essence of photography while simultaneously shooting sharp, vibrant analogue photos.


This little guy loves to take selfies (like many humans). Built with Raspberry Pi, the bot takes a selfie, shows a preview, and then tweets it with random text. Here's how to make it

Architect's Studio

You can bring your dream buildings and structures to life with Lego Architecture Studio, a kit containing over 1200 monochromatic bricks and a guidebook written in collaboration with leading architects. Build an architectural creation for someone special or be the small-scale benefactor for a budding Frank Gehry.

Cardboard Virtual Reality

You can enter virtual reality with cardboard and your smart phone. The Google designers behind the Cardboard project wanted to create an inexpensive and easy way to experiment with VR. Instructions and design files to construct your own VR headset are available on the official site


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