Created By: JusticeZero on November 18, 2012 Last Edited By: acrobox on January 27, 2015
Troped

A Master Makes Their Own Tools

A skilled master is expected to scavenge and build their own tools

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Trope
In a world where resources are not especially scarce, and where manufactured technology is the norm, a practitioner of some skill is still expected to go out and scavenge the materials and parts to hand-make their own tools of the trade. This isn't merely a case of making do, but rather, the expected way to do things.

It may be implied that toolmakers have some inherent connection with the tools they make, or it could be a cultural expectation, or it could be a part of the testing process to demonstrate mastery, with a presumption that the master has to know how the tool works.

Nonetheless, if you see a master at using some tool or weapon pull out their tool/weapon of choice, they probably were the one to build it, and probably had to dig up all the materials and refine them too, no matter how easy it would be to just go down the street and order one.

By making an object, it is imagined that you know that one object more intimately than someone who merely purchased off the rack, and were also able to work whatever tiny adjustments you prefer into the manufacture; alternately, the naturalism of crafting a tool by hand appeals to the "Harmony" side of a Harmony Versus Discipline debate. Often a sign of being a True Craftsman as well.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • While Iron Man forging his first power armor in a cave with primitive tools does not count, Steel, one of the Superman types to appear immediately after The Death of Superman forged his suit of power armor in the very same way - however, he was a techie living in a major city and working out of his basement, and probably could have arranged some better tools than a hammer and anvil.

Film
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Tuco (The Ugly) built his own revolver by taking bit and pieces from a bunch of different guns in a gun store. None of that gun store's best ones was good enough for him.
  • The Natural: At the beginning of the movie, lightning strikes an oak tree outside the family home. Obviously, the thing to do is to turn the wood into a regulation baseball bat and use it to start a career as a professional baseball player.
  • Star Wars: Technology abounds everywhere, and yet the Jedi are asked to acquire all of the parts for and assemble their own lightsaber by hand from scavenged parts they find over their travels and are expected to have a personal connection with the crystal specifically. Played With by the Sith. While they may customize some parts, they use mass produced synthetic crystals (which also gives them their uniform red color).

Literature
  • Mentioned in a footnote in Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle when Agatha borrows someone's tools. The master craftsman in question objects strenuously, as he had made them himself as an apprentice. The Baron is trying to limit these types of practices in the interest of industrialization.
  • All The Weyrs Of Pern: AIVAS has each member of the team dissecting Thread make their own tools, despite the presence of a craft guild that could have easily provided enough tools for the team.
  • The Panserbjørne in His Dark Materials forge their own armour from "sky-iron". This is important, as they consider their personal suit of armour to house their soul.
  • In the book Iron Council, Judah becomes contemptuous of a military golem-creater when she unfolds and animates a pre-fabricated leather-and-metal golem to sic on his allies. Judah, himself, always makes golems from materials found on-site.
  • Two short stories by Richard Bach describe a hidden city which teaches the best pilots in the world. Initiates there, among other things, are required to build their own airplanes to train in, starting from primitive gliders and progressing upward through jet aircraft.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun. In early editions, "real" deckers built their own cyberdecks from scratch by creating their own deck components. Deckers that bought standard parts to create their deck (or, even worse, a commercial cyberdeck) were looked down upon.

Video Games
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, this is the point of Prestige Class-unlocking sidequests. In order to take a specific specialization, the Inquisitor first has to construct a set of tools specific to it: for instance, Assassins need to forge a special dagger, Artificers require a trap-making kit, etc.
  • Edge Master from the Soul Series creates all of his own weapons so they are suited to his technique.
  • Spellforce: The Elite unit of the dwarves is the culmination of a warrior's career, reached when he forges his own armour and weapons from the difficult to work Moonsilver.
  • Craftknights in the Summon Night: Swordcraft Story trilogy use weapons they have themselves have forged and consider it dishonorable to fight with a weapon crafted by someone else, even in life or death situations.
    Blaire: Have you already forgotten about the Spirit of the Craftknight?
    Aera: No, sir...
    Blaire: You have to make your own weapon! No Craftknight would go into battle with somebody else's sword! It'd be like... wearing their underwear! Yeurgh!

Web Original
  • In RWBY, Ruby made her giant scythe/sniper rifle hybrid weapon herself, as with all students from Signal Academy. Given how many characters have crazy and unique weapons, it seems this practice is common (but not universal, since Jaune got his weapon as a heirloom) among Huntsmen and Huntresses.

Western Animation
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender "Sokka's Master": Master swordsman Piandao cites this trope as an explanation for why his protégé Sokka should forge his own sword out of materials he chooses.
  • The Simpsons spoofs The Natural in "Homer at the Bat" when Homer has a homemade bat he uses to play softball. "Something told me this was a very special, very magical piece of wood...that I could make a bat out of." Once the other members of his team see him hit homer after homer they make their own bats too, out of things such as piano legs and artificial legs.
  • This is how the retired legend Zeke "Big Z" Topanga teaches talented upstart Cody Maverick how to surf the big waves in Surf's Up. Zeke tells him to find some koa wood, then plane that stock into a surfboard using a clamshell. Cody's first effort looks horrible and works worse. After more coaching from Zeke, Cody's second effort is much improved.

Real Life

  • Some archers today prefer "Primitive" bows, which they make themself. This is said to be more rewarding and enjoyable than learning with the more predictable manufactured bows.
  • In the martial art Capoeira, teachers are expected to learn to build their own musical instruments. This only grows silly when taken to the point where they are expected to burn/cut the wires out of radial tires as strings, despite the fact that piano wire works just as well and lasts longer (the wires are often removed by burning, which makes the wire brittle and faster to break).
  • In PC gaming, custom gaming PCs are better regarded than off-the-shelf models, and putting together your own PC is something of a rite of passage (although in practise, it's cheaper and easier to buy a custom built PC off a manufacturer who specialises in them, since they can buy the parts in bulk and you don't need to worry about £200 mistakes). Especially in regards to case mods (which also appear, to a lesser degree, in console gaming) and over-clocked components.
  • Programmers are expected to code their own engines for anything serious. Developers using premade engines like Game Maker or RPG Maker are not considered as serious developers.


Community Feedback Replies: 57
  • November 19, 2012
    Arivne
  • November 19, 2012
    m8e
    I don't know if this one fits, but I don't se how the Highlander does either with the current description.

    • In The Good The Bad And The Ugly Tuco(The Ugly) built his own revolver by taking bit and pieces from a bunch of different guns in a gun store. None of that gun store's best ones was good enough for him.
  • November 20, 2012
    JusticeZero
    I remember a baseball movie once which started with an oak tree being destroyed by a lightning bolt - the obvious thing to do was, of course, to use the wood to make a baseball bat, which was later used professionally (it was apparently made to be regulation). Don't remember which one, though.
  • November 20, 2012
    bluebandana
    Of course, there's the old joke: A scientist visits God in heaven, and says, "We can now replicate the process you used to create Adam in the book of Genesis." God, bemused, says, "Show Me." But as the scientist reaches down to pick up some clay to mold into form, God stops him. "No," He says, "Make your own dirt."
  • November 20, 2012
    nielas
    ^^ That would be The Natural
  • November 20, 2012
    DracMonster
    • In Minecraft you start with nothing. You have to punch trees to acquire wood to make basic tools that let you acquire stone that let you make stone tools that let you acquire metal that...

    • Dwarf Fortress (which partly inspired Minecraft) also requires tools to be built, and a few are more or less mandatory to bring along with the initial expedition. If you don't have an anvil at the start, you won't be making anything metal until you buy one from a merchant, since you need an anvil to forge another one. This has led to players coming up with humorous mythological legends for how the first anvil came into being.

    • Some of World Of Warcraft's professions like engineering and blacksmithing make tools for their own and other crafters' uses.

    EDIT: Wait, maybe these dont apply now that I've reread the description. If I'm understanding it correctly then A True Master Makes His Own Tools or Only Uses What He Makes Himself might be a better title. (A bit long I know.)
  • November 26, 2012
    johnnye
  • November 27, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Shadowrun. In early editions, real deckers built their own cyberdecks from scratch by creating their own deck components. Deckers that bought standard parts to create their deck (or, even worse, a commercial cyberdeck) were looked down upon.
  • November 27, 2012
    Antigone3
    In All The Weyrs Of Pern, AIVAS has each member of the team dissecting Thread make their own tools, despite the presence of a craft guild that could have easily provided enough tools for the team.
  • November 27, 2012
    SharleeD
    In Iron Council, Judah becomes contemptuous of a military golem-crater when she unfolds and animates a pre-fabricated leather-and-metal golem to sic on his allies. Judah, himself, always makes golems from materials found on-site.
  • November 29, 2012
    JusticeZero
    ^^What is Iron Council? Literature, anime, film?
  • November 29, 2012
    SharleeD
    It's a book.
  • January 2, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Bones season 6 the Big Bad of the Half Arc Season is an expert sniper Booth knows, who makes his own bullets.
  • January 18, 2013
    JusticeZero
    I want to say that there is a homemade ball in that one comedy ball game thing movie with the South Park people. I dont recall who made the ball, but it might apply?
  • January 19, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Natural is spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons when Homer has a homemade bat he uses to play softball. "Something told me this was a very special, very magical piece of wood...that I could make a bat out of." Once the other members of his team see him hit homer after homer they make their own bats too, out of things such as piano legs and artificial legs.
  • January 19, 2013
    JusticeZero
    Are there any other related tropes that spring to mind that might be connected to this?
  • January 19, 2013
    henke37
    Real Life: Programmers tend to make their own useful programs.
  • January 20, 2013
    JusticeZero
    Do they go so far as to code their own text editors and suchlike? And do they get coder cred for booting up their own hex editors instead of the ones they can get elsewhere?
  • August 2, 2014
    dalek955
    • In Discworld, apparently most dwarfs can do this. They also consider using hand-me-down tools to be a gross invasion of privacy.
      All a dwarf really needed was his ax and some means of making fire. That'd eventually get him a forge, and with that he could make simple tools, and with those he could make complex tools, and with complex tools a dwarf could just about make anything.
  • August 2, 2014
    Bisected8
    ^^^ Actually the opposite is usually true; for actual programming, most programmers use libraries (basically pre-written code which can easily interface with newly written code; for example the Havok engine is a library of code which contains useful physics simulation functions) instead of doing everything from scratch. Building a proper library is basically a long term project unto itself, so....

    • In PC gaming, custom gaming PCs are better regarded than off-the-shelf models, and putting together your own PC is something of a rite of passage (although in practise, it's cheaper and easier to buy a custom built PC off a manufacturer who specialises in them, since they can buy the parts in bulk and you don't need to worry about £200 mistakes). Especially in regards to case mods (which also appear, to a lesser degree, in console gaming) and over-clocked components.
  • August 2, 2014
    DAN004
  • August 2, 2014
    jormis29
    • Spellforce: The Elite unit of the dwarves is the culmination of a warrior's career, reached when he forges his own armour and weapons from the difficult to work Moonsilver.

  • August 2, 2014
    randomsurfer
    The comics example should remove Iron Man since by its own description he isn't an example. Maybe do one of those hidden notes ont he page proper when it launches to keep people from adding it. Also the comics example that does count ought to point to Comicbook.Steel, and should absofuckinglutely mention him by name.
  • August 3, 2014
    Synchronicity
    • Avatar The Last Airbender: Master swordsman Piandao cites this trope as an explanation for why his protege Sokka should forge his own sword out of materials he chooses.
  • August 3, 2014
    Bisected8
    ^^^^ That's about characters who prefer to us an Improvised Weapon, not this trope.
  • August 3, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Curse you Non Indicative Title! D:
  • August 3, 2014
    Someoneman
    Web Animation
    • In RWBY, Ruby made her giant scythe/sniper rifle hybrid weapon herself, as with all students from Signal Academy. Given how many characters have crazy and unique weapons, it seems this practice is common (but not universal, since Jaune got his weapon as a heirloom) among Huntsmen and Huntresses.
  • August 3, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • This is how the retired legend Zeke "Big Z" Topanga teaches talented upstart Cody Maverick how to surf the big waves in Surfs Up. Zeke tells him to find some koa wood, then plane that stock into a surfboard using a clamshell. Cody's first effort looks horrible and works worse. After more coaching from Zeke, Cody's second effort is much improved.
  • August 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Who's managing this anyway?
  • August 4, 2014
    jormis29

    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section titles(s).
    • Namespaced work name(s).
    • Added blank lines for readability.
  • August 4, 2014
    arbiter099
    may be the mark of a True Craftsman
  • August 4, 2014
    Bisected8
    Does anyone else want to grab this?
  • August 4, 2014
    AgProv
    Real life:
    • Up until comparatively recently, artists could not walk into supply jobs and buy their paints off-the-peg from a rack. All the Old Masters had to source pigments, carrying mediums, et c, and physically make their own paints - this was necessary before a single brush stroke could be applied to canvas! (They had to make their own canvases too, stretching linen over wooden frames... and very often make their own paintbrushes.)
  • January 15, 2015
    jormis29
    ^^ Well? Anyone?
  • January 15, 2015
    acrobox
    I got it if no one else will
  • January 16, 2015
    Koveras
    • In Dragon Age Inquisition, this is the point of Prestige Class-unlocking sidequests. In order to take a specific specialization, the Inquisitor first has to construct a set of tools specific to it: for instance, Assassins need to forge a special dagger, Artificers require a trap-making kit, etc.
  • January 16, 2015
    acrobox
    added examples.

    we only need three hats to launch and this is pretty old. Should I just fire it off.
  • January 16, 2015
    Bisected8
    Might as well wait for 5 hats. It's spend most of that time off the page.

    Plus I'm not too sure about the current title.
  • January 16, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    "Subverted by the Sith. While they may customize parts of the lightsaber such as the grip or blade length they use mass produced synthetic crystals (which also gives them their uniform red color). The crystal is the most important component for the Jedi. "

    Not A Subversion.
  • January 16, 2015
    henke37
    Real Life:
    • Programmers are expected to code their own engines for anything serious. Developers using premade engines like Game Maker or RPG Maker are not considered as serious developers.
  • January 16, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    The Conversation: Harry Caul mentions a couple of times throughout the movie that he makes his own surveillance and audio-editng equipment. AS he is considered the best surveillance expert on the West Coast, the ones he says this to act with awe (even if it hinders them a bit, like a surveillance gear salesman).
  • January 16, 2015
    MorningStar1337
    ^^ Guess that means Square Enix (which used the same graphics engine for Final Fantasy XIII (and maybe its two sequels) and XIV) don't count? Then again, they did make that engine, and in XIV's case, had to make another one when the MMO Gone Horribly Wrong and they had to start from scratch.

    Speaking of which, I think XIV subverts the trope. You can make your own weapons and armor and such but in most cases they aren't the Infinity Plus One Sword (That would be the loot from Binding Coil of Bahamut raids), on the other hand there is an upgradable weapon for each combat class, but you don't get to make it yourself.
  • January 16, 2015
    Bisected8
    ^^^ Game Maker software isn't the same thing as a Game Engine. Most companies license them rather than produce their own (even very large developers) since making a modern game engine's a fairly massive investment (Note how Valve became known for "Valve Time" and Epic's games tend to be showcases for their latest iteration of Unreal Engine). Even if a company makes its own engine, it might still licence other software to handle complicated (and specialised) things like physics, lighting or cloth animation.

    That isn't to say game devs don't modify the engines they license, but the idea that only non-serious developers don't make their own engines from scratch is incorrect (in fact, the opposite's true; a hobbyist is probably making a game simple enough to make from scratch and might not have the budget to license a "proper" engine).
  • January 17, 2015
    acrobox
    so nix the example or nah. i'm not a game maker/computer engineer/programmer of any kind so i'll agree with the majority.
  • January 17, 2015
    Chabal2
    It's mentioned in Discworld (with no mention of whether or not this is expected) that as long as a dwarf has an axe and a way to make fire, he's in business, as it's enough to get him a forge, which will let him get the tools he needs to make whatever else he needs.
  • January 17, 2015
    Bisected8
    ^^ It could be written to be more accurate, but it might still not be an example:

    • In game development a designer has the job of building the game using user-friendly (or not) tools made by the programmer and assets made by various artists (e.g. 3D models, textures, sprites, music, sound effects, etc). A designer who also produces some of the assets or does the programming for a game (or an artist or programmer who designs the game, if you look at it that way) can therefore be considered this.
  • January 21, 2015
    jormis29
    • Craftknights in the Summon Night: Swordcraft Story trilogy use weapons they have themselves have forged and consider it dishonorable to fight with a weapon crafted by someone else, even in life or death situations.
      Blaire: Have you already forgotten about the Spirit of the Craftknight?
      Aera: No, sir...
      Blaire: You have to make your own weapon! No Craftknight would go into battle with somebody else's sword! It'd be like... wearing their underwear! Yeurgh!
    • Edge Master from the Soul Series creates all of his own weapons so they are suited to his technique.
  • January 21, 2015
    Koveras
  • January 21, 2015
    Dalillama
    • Mentioned in a footnote in Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle when Agatha borrows someone's tools. The master craftsman in question objects strenuously, as he had made them himself as an apprentice. The Baron is trying to limit these types of practices in the interest of industrialization.
  • January 21, 2015
    jormis29
    • Examples section formatting
      • Changed Panzerbjorne to Panserbjorne
      • Removed  from £200 (though you might want to change to the word, costly to avoid dating the article)
  • January 21, 2015
    jormis29
    In the Iron Council example should it be golem-crater or golem-creator
  • January 24, 2015
    jormis29
    ^Anyone?
  • January 24, 2015
    acrobox
    no clue im guessing creator.
  • January 24, 2015
    jormis29
    • Examples section formatting
      • Agatha H And The Voice Of The Castle is a novelization of the webcomic and has it's own work page so I changed the link, moved the example to the proper section and italicized the title.
      • Deleted extra full stop from The Natural example.
  • January 24, 2015
    Arivne
    ^^^^ From the context of the sentence it has to be "golem creator".
  • January 25, 2015
    jormis29
    And now someone changed it to "golem-creater"
  • January 25, 2015
    garrisonskunk
    Parodied in the comedy News Radio in which Handyman Joe makes just about everything he uses up to and including homemade duct tape.
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