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Picture of Make Your Own Tools

Grade Levels: 6-8

Next Generation Science Standards:
MS-ETS1-4 Engineering Design - Developing and Using Models

  • Modeling in grade 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

  • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.
  • Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions.

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

  • The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.

The right tool for the job can make you life much easier. But, what if there isn't a 'right' tool for your particular job? You may be able to get away with using the wrong tool, however the real answer is to make your own tools. It might seem unusual to make your own tools, but sometimes it can make as much sense as reworking your entire project just to avoid being in a situation where you'd need to make your own tools.

I've chosen a custom wrench as the tool to make, which fits a need to have multiple sized openings in a single wrench, plus a few other custom goodies like a ruler, bottle opener, and thickness gauge.

The process of designing and making your own tools is the same as a lot of other problem solving: observe, measure, design, iterate. The aim of this Instructable is to walk through the process of how to approach the process of designing and then making your own tools (or any other fabrication problem solving effort).

3D printed socket attachment prototype. Note the the sloppy tolerances around the nut on the right.

When designing something new there are going to be mistakes, that's part of the process. he image above shows an early prototype I was working on, as you can see there is a lot of slop in the tolerance between the nut and the part I made. Design iterations are what take an ordinary design to something fantastic. To do this, we're going to have some help with computer software.

Ready? Let's make!

Step 1: Define Problem

Picture of Define Problem

This type of homemade tool is a bad idea.

There are a few approaches to making your own tools, from welding existing tools together to create a hideous mega-tool, to combining scrap pieces until it resembles something useful to solve your problem. However, a more elegant solution is to take some time to define the problem accurately, then take measurements and formulate a design solution.

Defining the problem takes observation and critical thinking. Though it may simple at first, you'll need to consider both the problem you are trying to solve, and the new problem of how to solve it.

What To Solve:
Defining the problem is a critical step. You need to be able to fully understand what is the issue you are trying to solve, and why it's not easily fixed by some other method. After determining what you are trying to solve, you should be able to explain it easily to another person and have it pass the common-sense test - meaning if after you've explained it and they say it doesn't make sense, it hasn't passed the common-sense test. For example: try explaining what pencil does and how it looks. Now, offer a design improvement for someone that can't hold onto a pencil. How would your design change? Try to simplify the problem or your approach to solving it.

How To Solve:
Once you know what the problem is, the real hard work starts. How do you fix it? Are you going to modify an existing tool, or make your own from scratch? How do you make the tool you want? Is strength a consideration?
These are all questions you'll need to address when figuring out how to make your own tool.

Though I can't help define what the problem you're trying to fix is, I can help in learning how to fix it :)

WannaDuino27 days ago
STRIKES AGAIN.................................. unbelievable skillset you got MR INSTRUCTABLE.

mikeasaurus (author)  WannaDuino22 days ago
Thank you!
M.C. Langer1 month ago
This is an awesome instructable, Mike! I think that wrench could be a fantastic addition to the Prize Packs.
In metal, of course :)
That would be just awesome !
stoppi711 month ago
Could someone tell me why this instructable has been accepted in the classroom science contest? It has absolutely nothing to do with classroom science...
mikeasaurus (author)  stoppi711 month ago
Borrowing from the definition scientific method "observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." While not a classic "science" experiment, I'd argue that there is plenty of science behind making design choices and engineering a tool.

Also, I can't win contests on Instructables since I work here :)
Hi! If you have designed a tool for example to measure lengths very exactly then I could understand your point of view. But sorry a tool for opening nuts?
Take a look at my instructables:
or at my youtube-channel:
There you can find some projects, which REALLY deal with science (in classroom)...
And if you then still think your piece has something to do with science in classroom come back and explain it to me once more please because i don't understand it...
mikeasaurus (author)  stoppi711 month ago
Thanks for the feedback. I definitely missed an explanation, which I've now included in the intro and tied back to NGSS.

I hope you aren't mad at me ;-)