My favorite tool is a pipe wrench from my grandfather. Yesterday, while I was repairing my well and installing some pipe, the patina of wear in the red paint really struck me. That chip could have happened while he was running an irrigation pipe on his ranch, or fixing a sink with my mother. Because that wrench is so well-made, that tool is now intertwined with my family’s story—and I’d sooner give up my car than that red wrench.

I like to think about tools as extensions of ourselves, enabling us to accomplish things that we couldn’t without them. Great tools become treasured—partly because quality is hard to find, and partly because the more we use a tool, the more its story becomes enmeshed with our own.

I’ve spent a lot of time tinkering with electronics, and my view of the work has been changed by the tools I use. Just like a quality lens can improve the way you see the world, a quality tool can change the relationship you have with your stuff. A good tool can transform you from a consumer into a participant, connecting you to the things you own in a more dynamic, and more enduring, way.  

We adhere to that same philosophy when we design our tools at iFixit. Each tool is carefully engineered in San Luis Obispo, California, located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Our headquarters are just a short drive from the Pacific Ocean. And our oceanic roots helped inspire our tool design—you can see a subtle splash of our signature Blue in each tool that we create.

Reverse-engineered for quality

Value, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But, we have three standard quality measures that we strive for in every flagship Blue and Black tool.

  1. Well-engineered: Every member of our tool design team has a formal engineering background, and each of them started as a teardown engineer here at iFixit. They’ve seen the guts of more gadgets than anyone we know, making them best-suited for the task of designing how to get into them.
  2. Precision-crafted: Our journey to create a new bit starts and ends with a microscope. Each bit is CNC-machined to extreme tolerances. Our pentalobe drivers are just 0.9 mm in diameter at the tip, and each lobe is 0.18 mm. Crafting the testing-tooling alone to verify quality is expensive and time-consuming, but it’s that obsession with quality that truly sets our tools apart.  
  3. Designed by humans, for humans: When we first started teaching repair workshops, we’d watch people struggle to get enough force onto the screwhead, accidentally stripping screws. That’s a design problem—so we vowed to spend the extra time to test our designs with the people who would actually be wielding them. And we’ve forged our driver handles with them in mind.

But quality is only half the battle—our color palette is just as integral to our design process.

Behind the Blue and Black

Selecting Blue and Black to paint our tools was very intentional. Blue is a subtle nod to our oceanic roots, and Black symbolizes rebellion. Empowerment. We use our tools to open-source everyone’s hardware, whether they like it or not. When Apple started using the Pentalobe screw back in 2009, no one had a driver to get past it. So we made a driver of our own—and then we made it available to the masses. Because that’s what tinkerers do. We problem-solve. We fix. And we don’t take broken for an answer. That’s also why our logo is a Phillips screw—because it represents freedom. Together, Blue and Black are more than just two colors—they’re our identity.

Our color scheme pervades our product line, which includes Blue-capped Black driver handles nested in Blue-lined Black foam. Getting the exact shade of iFixit Blue out of anodized aluminum is a challenge (it’s Pantone 285 C, by the way). Doing it consistently is even harder. When we were looking for a manufacturer for our tools, we sent color-calibrated cards to all of our prospective factories to make sure they could match our brand. Because it’s imperative that when you see one of our tools, even at a distance, you recognize the iFixit Blue and Black.

Our latest toolkits, the Manta Driver Kit and the Mahi Driver Kit, along with the Mako 64-Bit Driver Kit and our Marlin Screwdriver Sets, draw on the imagery of the sea and the strength of its creatures. The Manta Ray adapted their winged anatomy for survival. The Mahi are now among the world’s fastest growing fish. Every iteration in gadget design has required us to change our approach to tool design. And that’s fine with us—because just like our friends in the sea, we love evolving.

You didn’t choose to be a fixer because it was easy—you’re a fixer because you believe that you should be able to fix, hack, mod, and do whatever you damn well please with your stuff. That’s why you should wield your Blue and Black tools with pride. Because they’re built with the same level of integrity we look for in the devices we take apart. So the next time you go to repair your favorite gadget, build out your PC mod, or tackle that tricky household project, look for Blue and Black—the colors of iFixit quality.

Image sources: Max Pixel and Wikipedia Commons.  

Cynthia is iFixit's lawyer and a thalassophile.

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