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Custom made tools

I am a Senior at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and i will
be graduating with a Bachelors in Jewelry /metals. I am able to
possibly be nominated for the Windgate Fellowship Award of $15,000.
I will need to give a presentation on my work and what I would do
with the money if I win. I have Muscular dystrophy and have struggled
using pretty much all of the tools used. Those who are aware of what
I have chose for my profession are fascinated and astonished with
what I have accomplished with so many obstacle in my way. If I win
the award I would want to use the money to have Custom tools made to
suit my own needs and fit my hands comfortable that way I’ll be able
to create jewelry for much longer without struggling as much in the
process. If anyone know of any to help me figure out a
budget that would be great. I want to be as specific and detailed as
possible for my presentation. Basically the money would fund for
several custom tools, pliers, saw frame, files, hammers and the main
difference would be the Handle shape and thickness.I would get as
many different tools that my budget will allow for. This would also
go towards a bench and work space that also suits my individual
needs. Names of people and websites to check out would be great, or
any rough estimate on how much per tool depending on the type of
tool if someone has had a custom tool made.

Kayla D.

Hi Kayla.

If the handles are the only modification you need for the hand tools
you’ve mentioned here, I would suggest using something like “Jett
Set”. It is a thermoplastic that when softened in hot water can be
molded by your very own hand and grip so it will fit you. If you
must hold tools at an awkward angle, the new handle could be shaped
to accommodate that as well. Though the material is not exactly
cheap, the cost would be much less than having someone create custom
tools to fit your needs. Leaving more money for your bench and other
needs. :slight_smile:

Jett Set is available through Rio Grande as well as other suppliers
to the trade.

Hope this helps.


in Mesa, Arizona where we finally are having some wonderful Fall
temperatures - mid 70’s today!!!

You can also try Aquaplast, a thermoplastic, used in the medical
industry to make splints etc. I would check with my physical
therapist, if you have one, or you can google Aquaplast. The cost
seems to me to be a lot less then jet set and the stuff works great
with just hot water. I also use it to make models for casting. It
burns out clean on the same cycle as wax… good luck.

Suggest you contact Michael Good. He is a master of anticlastic
raising. Received his MFA at Washington University in St. Louis.
Studied with the eminent Heikki Seppa, “Form Emphasis for
Metalsmiths.” His numbers are 207 236 9619, also 1 800 422 9623.
Email address Address: P.O. Box 788 325
Commercial Street, Route 1, Rockport. ME 04856.

You might also contact Joe Muench. He was also a student of Heikki
Seppa. I took several classes with him. One of them was “making
tools.” He might have some that would be helpful. His
contact is: Joe Muench, Associate Professor, Iowa State
Art & Design Dept. (515) 294 7634. Email jmuench at iastate dot edu.
Address Art6 & Design Dept., 158 College of Design, Ames IA 50011

Good luck!

these poepke have some custom tools cheap
the othe advice given you i would have also said so i do not need to
repeat it but i would add i very high priced piece only because i
have a friend with your condition safty will be a issue for ypu so
please i know this will be 1/3 of your award but it will allow you to
do almost any jewlery work you want on any metal and do it safly no
chance you will drop your torch.

Orion Master Jeweler Plus Welding System also from rio grande

I know thing will get harger but my friend is now 67 and only just
stopped driving only because he cant get in and ems is gwtting
pissed of having his next door resident from calling because he fell
on the ground. they told him 30 years ago to take care of all his
affaiars. never believe anything they say because only you can say
what you can do and how long you can go on.

best wishes qith all my heart

Look into and the power saw from Lee



I agree jett-sett is the most useful substance for tool
customization but it is nt permanent and is not cheap relative to the
length of time an application will stay perfect ( it is re-usable to
a point by reimmersing in hot water- ) but getting a good seal of the
material onto a tool may not be sufficient if your hands have
essential tremors, etc. and stabilization is an issue in which case a
more weighted tool handle may have to be cast. Look in your local
directory to find the closest foundrys. Call them and ask about the
costs involved in having a set of tools custom cast and the
turn-around time. You may want to have duplicates made of each as
you may never again have the opportunity to have the expenses
covered. The thing to do would be using the jett-set or utile-plast (
same thing different name and sources) to come up with a modification
that would work for you in the long term- getting that model right
will take time and perhaps the assistance of an occupational
therapist skilled in working with populations with your illness and
limitations, or similar hand, arm, body positioning issues as one
thing to keep in mind is the time you will spend at a bench or work
set-up if you are shooting for a professional career as a jeweler or
metalsmith. OT’s come in many specializations so be sure to find an
appropriate person to work with that has experience modifying things
to individual’s needs.Not everyone can do the same things- some deal
more with psychiatric patients and arts and crafts therapies whereas
others do adaptive processes all day every day- local research is the
key to getting exactly what you need.

There are a number of specialized jeweler’s tool makers- I think you
will find their costs higher than a foundry ( provided you are
thinking of stainless steel, carbon steel or brasses for tooling ) as
they appeal more to professionals as opposed to novices on a budget.
William Fretz, for instance produces high quality stakes and other
tools but the price of having him customize his castings would
probably be nowhere near what you would pay to have a foundry cast
the pieces for tools from your moulds even if you must haave moulds
created from tools you have modified with a thermoplastic material
like jett-sett, friendly plastic, utile-plast, wood,etc. ( pliers for
instance would have to be assembled after having the pieces cast and
would require your specifying and designing specific joint types from
standards like box joined or lap joined tooling, as opposed to 2
simply riveted pieces and knowing the properties of each style as it
relates to your needs or the length of tool life you expect for the
money). I have had hammers cast at a foundry near Chattanooga TN and
it wound up costing about $18 dollars per head for a run of twelve
pieces of each style, before finishing the castings ( polishing,
cleaning them up etc. which I did myself with a grinder/polisher as
it would have cost an additional 12 dollars each for finishing…i
could have bought top quality pre-made tools for that amount though
not available in exactly what i wanted in a weight I wanted for the
tasks i wanted them for. Most foundries will charge additional fees
for each step of the process from finishing to hardening if anything
you want has to be case hardened ( other than bench blocks) after
casting,etc. So think long and hard about exactly what you need, how
long a life you expect then design appropriately, and investigate a
number of foundries before signing any contracts!..rer

Hi Kayla,

I’m very impressed with your achievement and ambition.

I have an idea for you which might help save you hundreds of dollars
from having to purchase a contentional jewelers’ bench. I call it an
upper body rest and wrist support, and the design is so simple that I
am very willing to share it with you and everyone else. You will find
it extremely comfortable in comparison with having to sit up

The body rest relies on a conventional heavy wooden desk for

Bill of Materials:

  1. Parts A: Two planks of 2X4 wood approximately 4 to 5 feet long.
  2. Part B: A 6X6 beam approximately 3 to 4 feet long.
  3. Parts C: Two pieces of 2X4 wood approximately 6 inches long.
  4. Part D: A one-inch diameter piece of PVC pipe about 3 feet long.
  5. Corners braces and screws, as needed, for attaching parts.
  6. Part P, A 1X1 wooden peg

Top View:


Side View:



  1. Lay part B along the far side of the desk

  2. Cut parts A to fit somewhere between 2 to 3 feet longer than the
    length between your armpit and your elbow.

  3. Lay parts A on you desk so that the far ends rest on top of part B
    in such a way as they are separated just a couple inches larger than
    your body’s width. Attach to part B with corner braces.

  4. Parts C should be exactly the same height as Part B. Lay Parts A
    on top of each respective C, and attach with corner braces.

  5. Cut part D to fit between Parts A. Place part D where your wrists
    should be. Attach each end of part D to part A with straight mending

  6. Attach a peg so that you can barely reach the top of the peg with
    your finger tips at shoulder height. You can then use a vise to mount
    a bench pin on to of the peg which will be more comfortably close to

If you need a picture, please ask me. Enjoy!
Andrew Jonathan Fine

several custom tools, pliers, saw frame, files, hammers and the
main difference would be the Handle shape and thickness. 

kayla, could you could tell please what modifications you might
need on files and hammers, saw frame, pliers

RERs suggestion of having handles cast is good.

My main saw frame handle was carved in styrofoam, buried in dry sand
and aluminium poured. Near instant handle which was the shape I
wanted with some weight. That was 30+ years ago, school with a
foundry and a wood class project to make a handle. Wood was not
specified and I was learning to follow the letter or the rules :slight_smile:
I’ll bet they changed the rules least another metal type person came

Local foundry MIGHT help with a special project, a 5 min pour to
relieve a 9-5 job for fun. Be entertaining and bring donuts. Another
option if you don’t have a backyard aluminium foundry is that there
are people who do. Google a bit for them, Gingery works well. These
folks cast and build machine tools for recreation, starting with the
melting forge.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Hi Guys,

There are a few backyard casting groups on Yahoo!, I even run a
couple. We’re pretty much everywhere, so if you have a need I can
forward your details along to a caster close to you.

Lost foam is good at the moment, and if you want to DIY, make sure
you use the architectural foam, and if you want to do a really nice
job, cover with a good quality masking tape. I use architectural
foam, a fillet material, and casting sand. Loose sand is okay for
aluminium, but when you use denser metals such as bronze you have to
use casting sand, otherwise you get blow out due to head pressure.

Regards Charles A.


A huge favor had been done for me by the people of Ganoksin recently,
and I’d like so much to repay it forward.

I have a small computer controlled milling machine, and I would be
very happy to create for you at no charge to you some small parts out
of wood, aluminum, plastic, or mild steel, whatever you need…

I need the challenge. If you or others could draw out what was
needed, maybe I could make something for you.

Andrew Jonathan Fine