IEEE Spectrum put together a solid "DIY Essentials" list for a hardware/electronics workbench. From IEEE Spectrum:
Most of us start out using batteries or cannibalizing power adapters, but a good bench Power Supply lets you control voltages precisely as well as measure and limit the amperage flowing through the circuit. You can get a reasonable single-voltage supply for $120 or so, such as the 18-volt, 3-ampere supply made by Extech Instruments. More advanced ones will offer multiple controllable voltages, useful when projects have more than one input voltage."DIY Essentials" Discuss Next post
A bench supply goes well with a large Protoboard, one that supports multiple supply voltages and has lots of real estate to lay out chips. If you do a quick proof of concept on a protoboard first, you can save yourself a lot of grief when you try to set out a permanent version (or send it out to a printed-circuit-board fab).