For those who need tools and components for projects, surplus goods, or scientific gifts for friends and family, Chicago’s own local American Science and Surplus store is a haven for the tinkerer and lover of science.
American Science and Surplus is located on 5216 Milwaukee Avenue in Jefferson Park, open from 10am to 7pm on Weekdays, 10am to 6pm on Saturdays, and 11am to 5pm on Sundays. The store is full of spare electronic parts, military surplus, science kits, and other components that can be used for different kinds of activities and experiments.
Customers often come to American Science and Surplus to get parts for all sorts of DIY projects, according to retail staff. Some, hobbyists and backyard inventors, get parts for home-madesolar panel chargers, speakers, electromagnets, and robots. Others are artists, buying devices and props for theatre performances, displays, and kinetic sculptures. All are determined to fashion things with their own hands, borne of their own creativity.
In the words of one employee, Lorie: “The whole DIY thing is more cost effective than going to normal stores. It’s about putting something together, the unique factor of making something that exists nowhere else.”
The store’s local authority on ‘Do It Yourself’, Bob, gave as an example a 70 year old artist, who for several years, has purchased supplies and components from American Science and Surplus for her sculptures and artwork. Her latest project, as Bob describes it, is a machine for an “Art Exhibit in San Franciso, that spews out a random amount of money every hour.”
Bob himself came up with a DIY project after he got into a bike/car accident and spent some time in a hospital. Inspired by the hospital food containers, he used surplus baby food jars to make custom bike lights for nighttime travel. Since then, he’s been improving his design, (creating a rotating battery switch after normal switches kept breaking, for example). He, and others, continually take inspiration from the new surplus goods that show up at the store, odd items that might just be the pieces needed to bring a good idea to life.
A good starting idea is the basis for good ‘DIY’ projects, according to many of the employees at American Science and Surplus when asked. If you then work hard on this good idea, they added, you always get something interesting in real life.
You can purchase American Science and Surplus items online with this catalogue, or learn more about the gifts and toys the store offers here.