Powell's 2 store in Portland: Maker heaven

Bob Knetzger, who writes the Toy Inventor's Notebook column for MAKE says:

In Portland yesterday I wandered in to Powell's Books. No, not the big, main Powell's Books, but the small satellite Powell's 2 store across the street. Ever been? It's just the technical book selection and, boy, is it Maker heaven in there!

Computer and electronic books, sure, but a fantastic offering of new and used books and technical manuals hard to find elsewhere: vacuum tube amp design schematics, pyrotechnic journals, every Chilton's ever, machinist's handbooks, scientific theory, statistics, explosives, evolution, kinematics, manufacturing, prototyping, aircraft design, plastics and material science..it goes on and on. Where else can you peruse books like "Anvils in America," " "Moving Heavy Things" or "Keep Your Lathe in Trim?" It passes the acid test by having a vintage copy of my favorite, Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors. Oh, yeah, and a nice offering of individual back issues of MAKE!

Skip the crowds in the main store and instead go to Powell's Books 2, pull up a Eames chair and geek out in the lounge with your fave tech books!







  1. Well yeah.  I don’t know why someone would live in California when they could move to Portland. 
    Did you happen to see  Fup?

    1. Fup died before the store move. They would not have been allowed to have him at the new location anyways due to the city rules on cats in retail locations.

      1. Alan, Katrina, thanks.  I’d blame on my short term memory if the event hadn’t occurred years ago. 

  2. Ahhhha!

    Last I’d heard, the technical bookstore had closed down. It used to be down the street and around the corner from the main store, in a storefront across the street from one of the park blocks. I’m glad to hear it has just moved. To judge from the photos it is about the same size.

    I’ll have to check it out next time I’m downtown. 

  3. @Stefan: Its actually quite a bit smaller than the old store – quite a bit fewer computer related books which I assume is due to poor sales in that subject area. Not a big fan of the new store…

    1. Parking around the new store is especially bad.  Look out for the parking areas that are permit only before something like noon. (The section of street just around the corner.) I got bit by a big parking ticket there. Not obvious unless you read ALL the signs. (And the parking meters still take your money even though it is not a valid parking place at that time.)

      The old store was MUCH bigger and had a lot more cool and obscure books.

      1. I always take MAX downtown for just this reason.

        Hmmm. Well. Come to think of it, I did take the car to Powell’s once, to bring in books to sell.  I found a meter spot in front of the Technical store, and had to hustle to the main store with a cart and two armfuls of books before my time ran out.

      2. You really shouldn’t even try to bring a car downtown. I know it’s a pain in the ass, but taking public transit or something if you plan to spend time downtown is best. I live downtown and don’t own a car, because it’d be impractical and crazy expensive to do so.

    2. Not liking it because it’s smaller, liking it because I agree, the old one was better, but I’m guessing that they couldn’t keep supporting it. A shame, that.

  4. Gaaar!!! I lived in Portland for several years before moving back East and never once walked into Powells Technical books. Makes me nostalgic for Roccos. Not that Roccos actually makes good pizza or anything.

    1. There is a replacement pizza place at the Rocco’s location.  I haven’t set foot inside to be able to comment on quality.

  5. Quite new to Portland having moved here about 4 months ago so never saw the old store. So cannot compare. But I do love this new location. Great place to go and just get lost. Amazing what you just happen to find that is cool beyond words.

  6. My son heard about Powell’s last summer.  We made a four day road trip down from Vancouver, BC specifically for Powell’s.  He was in hog-heaven – and so was I when I found the tech section. (And I became a convert to Oregon beer in the process.)

  7. I loved the old tech store, and I moved away before Powell’s 2. It sounds like I have another reason to make a trip back to the old neighborhood!

  8. Really, they should just rename the city to Powell’s, because Portland is such a boring name. Port…land? Really? Why not just call it Pier…area? Powell’s, on the other hand, THAT is a name you can say with pride!

  9. So we’ve got a good technical bookstore… not to threadjack here, but are there any good electronics surplus stores for project parts, then?  I liked Wacky Willy’s…  where else could you find bins full of gutted Teddy Ruxpin dolls?  There’s still Surplus Gizmos, but it’s clear out in Beaverton.

    1. Cascade Surplus Electornics has been around for something like 40 years. It’s just open on weekends. I haven’t been there since it moved out to Gresham from Kenton about a year or so ago, but it’s been an interesting place to go for miscellaneous electronic parts.

  10. 1. I come from out of town on weekends and have never had to park more than 2 blocks from the store. I usually park east of the main store over by Pearl Bakery :) or toward the old technical store.

    2. Those chairs in the picture? I sat in one of them on Saturday.

  11. I’m deeply coveting those Eames chairs.  They bring back fond memories of my hometown library’s Eames chairs.

  12. Parking in downtown Portland is easy unless your vehicle is over 6′ 8″[1].  Go to one of the Smart Park garages.  For Powell’s that would be 10th and Yamhill.  It’s cheaper than street parking because you never get a ticket and only pay for what you use.  The small walk to destination will do you good.

    [1] If your vehicle is over 6’8″ then you need to be selective about which Smart Park you use.  Or go for the 3 hour unrestricted spots. 

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