Follow TV Tropes


A Master Makes Their Own Tools

Go To

Master Piandao: You are ready for a real sword.
Sokka: Are you giving me one of yours?
Master Piandao: No. Your sword must be an extension of yourself. So tomorrow, you will make your own sword.
Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Sokka's Master"

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.

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.

While some masters will do this by choice, it could be a cultural requirement. Sometimes part of the testing process to demonstrate mastery includes demonstrating that you know how the tool functions at every level, not just how to use a finished model. Other times this custom stems from the belief that Handmade Is Better and a master shouldn't be using inferior equipment if they want to utilize their potential to the fullest.

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.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach offers an example of this trope in the form of Zanpakuto. Sure, the swords themselves are forged by someone else, but that blade is just a shell. Shinigami are encouraged to pour their souls into those swords, giving them their traits to shape an entirely unique weapon that can be released from the shell later.
  • Food Wars!: Many of the students are known to grow, prepare, or cultivate the ingredients related to their specialty dishes. For example Yuki specializes in wild game, and raises her own animals on the farm and in her dorm room. Shun specializes in smoked dishes, and has his own woodshop for fuel. Ikumi specializes in meat, and her family owns and operates a world class meat distribution company, etc. etc.
  • Generally averted in the Lyrical Nanoha, where the vast majority of combat mages prefer to use Devices (magical computers that double as weapons) made by professional Device engineers ("Meisters") over building them on their own. In fact, most characters who use self-made Devices are trained Meisters in the first place (e.g. Reinforce Zwei and Jail Scaglietti). However, two cases stand out:
    • Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: both Teana and Subaru start off with Devices they have made for themselves, because no off-the-shelf model fitted their unique combat styles (Subaru also inherited a second Device from her late mother). However, not even half-way through the season, they abandon their old Devices in favor of new ones custom-made for them by a professional Meister Shari.
    • Isis Egret from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force constructed her Perfume Glove and shows no indication of moving on to a professional-made alternative. This is likely because Perfume Glove is technically not a Device, but a tool for deploying Isis' combat chemicals, which she seems to use to replicate most effects of more traditional magic. In other words, no Meister could possibly manufacture the equipment she needs for her "magic".

    Comic Books 
  • While Iron Man forging his first power armor with primitive tools IN A CAVE WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS 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.
  • Doctor Strange: After the Last Days of Magic event, Doctor Strange was looking for ways to reignite magic on Earth, and restore his own sorcerous strength. His quest led him to the rescue of a dwarf blacksmith, who questioned why all the artifacts of power he used were named for other people. This led to Strange leveling up by taking an apprenticeship under the dwarf to forge his own mystical artifacts, getting an entirely new look in the process as well as a Cool Sword that could cut rifts in space to cross interstellar distances.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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. There is a practical point to this, however: The crafting of a lightsaber involves a lengthy Force meditation session, and if performed correctly the result will make the weapon more powerful than its components would normally allow. Played With by the Sith. While they may customize some parts, they use stolen Kyber crystals that they "bleed" by pouring their hatred and pain into them (which also gives them their uniform red color).

  • 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, though he does approve of the work ethic that this tradition implies and is working on making sure that doesn't get limited as well.
  • 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.
  • Bas-Lag Cycle: In Iron Council, Judah becomes contemptuous of a military golem-creator 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.
  • Discworld: On to the The Truth, all a dwarf ever needs is an axe and a way to make fire. That'll get him a forge (eventually), which will let him make the simple tools he needs to build more complex tools with which to make whatever it is he needs.
  • Dragonriders of Pern
    • Harpers make their own instruments (Kindan even becomes well-known for making his own brooms).
    • 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.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • It is typical of every level of wizardry to craft their own tools, equipment, even spells to their own personal use. The thought and personal beliefs of the mage affect and shape magic. Their foci, magical items of focus, can take the shape of staves, rods, bracelets, or even children toys. Even spells, which are used to keep a disconnect between the magic and the mind, so one doesn't launch fire by just thinking "fire". Wizards use either dead languages, or some mocked form, such as protagonist Harry Dresden using some Latin in the mix.
    • In terms of Ultimate Blacksmith, Captain of the Wardens Anastasia Luccio gets special note. She crafts for her Wardens powerful anti-magic swords able to cut through the enchantments enemy mages might craft. To get this result, she doesn't just enchant a blade, she works the ores into steel and from there makes the blade, and adds in a piece of the eventual user's own magic to sync them together so only the user can draw out the full potential of the blade. Given the above mention, it is likely she even made the tongs and other sword-making tools herself as well.
  • The Empyrium Trilogy: Human magicians in this setting need to forge their own castings, the objects through which they work their magic, or otherwise they can't use their power at all.
  • 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 third book of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon forges his own sword, with help from Rhunön, the elf who forged all the other Riders' swords (Rhunön couldn't do it herself because she'd sworn a magical oath to never make a sword again).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bones season 6 Jacob Broadsky the villain of the Half-Arc Season is an expert sniper who makes his own bullets.
  • Joe Garelli, the electrician from NewsRadio, prides himself in making all his equipment and components himself rather than buying "mass-produced crap". He even makes his own duct tape.

    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.
  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, inasmuch as they allowed for qualified player characters creating their own magical items at all, pretty much expected them to go on quests for the required exotic and often dangerous-to-acquire components in person.
  • Pathfinder:
    • You can do this in-game. Even with magic weapons. And even if you're the party barbarian. The feat Master Craftsman (available as soon as 5th level) 'qualifies' non-casters to get the actual crafting feats, so if your barbarian's been sinking points into Craft (weapon), she can forge her own sword or axe, and then eventually enchant it herself too. (And then the other party members subvert the trope by getting their new best friend to forge THEIR weapons at half cost!)
    • A possible gnomish trait allows them to wield any weapon they crafted themselves, even if they wouldn't normally be able to use it competently.
    • The inventor class from guns and gears gives you three potential innovations, being weapon, armor, and construct. 20 levels of modifications leads to a piece of custom gear that can rival anything you find or buy in a campaign.
  • The Salamanders in Warhammer 40,000 believe this. Their Primarch, Vulkan, was an Ultimate Blacksmith who preached that they should be self-reliant, and taught them all about smithing. As a result they can build, repair, and modify all of their own weapons and armour, whereas other chapters rely on others to do this for them.

    Video Games 
  • When one revisits The Hermit Gunsmith in Cave Story with the Polar Star in hand, he will rant about his belief in this trope. Then he sees the mileage you've put on the weapon and is so moved, he makes a complete 180 on his previous stance. He even upgrades the weapon for free!
  • 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. Additionally, you may want to craft custom weapons by the endgame to fit your personal combat style better than any looted or bought ones ever could.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series, there are many unique Legendary Weapons of immense power to be had. However, in almost all cases, the very best weapons are ones the player self-enchants out of the highest tier crafting material, with the strongest souls, and the most powerful magical effects. To note a few specific examples:
    • Statistically, the single most damaging weapon (per strike) available in vanilla Morrowind is a Daedric Battle-Axe enchanted with Damage Health on strike, using Almalexia's soul for the greatest number of strikes before the item is drained. Other similarly enchanted weapon types of Daedric quality (or Stalhrim in the Bloodmoon expansion) also surpass the strongest artifact weapons of the same type with few exceptions.
    • Skyrim adds the ability for the player to craft and improve weapons out of raw materials for the first time in the series, in addition to being able to enchant them. Dragonbone weapons crafted by a player with a maxed out Smithing skill and the right perks will rival the very best artifact weapons in the game, while also allowing you to customize the enchantment on them. Also Zig-Zagged, in that, with a high enough Smithing skill and the right perks, you can also improve the quality of said artifact weapons, making them even more powerful. (In many cases, these weapons were crafted by the hands of the gods themselves, and you're making them even stronger.)
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Platinum of PMEC, Gadgeteer Genius that she is, makes all her own weapons. She even has enough savvy to adopt new technology from her foes into one of her shoulder cannons.
  • In Fantasy Life, the player is given the most basic level of tool/weapon for each Life, but then has to make any more advanced versions he'd like. It's possible to simply buy them, but bought and found equipment is always of default quality, while player-made equipment can be much better.
  • Discussed in Final Fantasy XIV. Trainers for crafting or gathering will often encourage you to make your own tools, citing this trope. You don't get a bonus for crafting your own weapons and gear, But crafting is sometimes the most reliable way to get a High-Quality version of the weapon, item or gear. High-Quality gear has a small stat boost, usually just a little higher than the next level of its type.
  • Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong: Is0bel made her own deck, and also the crew's on-board computer systems. The latter is run entirely through "The Octopus", a gigantic piece of hardware made from hundreds of machine components scavenged and run together in parallel that occupies the ship's entire bridge. In a subversion of this trope, Is0bel's deck will always be a little below par of what can be bought on the market, and she'll never get the 4 AP of the Farlight Excalibur.
  • 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 Animation 
  • RWBY: All Signal Academy students are required to make their own weapons, and it's strongly implied that this is the norm for all Huntsmen institutions to ensure they have weapons that are tailored to their personalities and abilities. Ruby forged her hybrid scythe/sniper rifle weapon herself, and Qrow modelled his own weapon on that of the legendary Grimm Reaper. The exception is Jaune, who wields a family heirloom sword-and-shield set that is far simpler in design and function than most. Professor Ozpin's deceptively simple cane also functions as a legacy weapon that is now wielded by his successor, Oscar, having remained with him throughout his many incarnations.

    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. Sokka then rejects Piandao's selection of ores and goes out to find some Thunderbolt Iron to forge with, creating a black sword unlike any in the world.
  • 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 
  • Oboists who have studied their instrument for many years are typically taught how to carve their own reeds, since store-bought ones aren't necessarily designed for an advanced player's embouchure.
  • Some archers today prefer "Primitive" bows, which they make themselves. 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. Contrary to popular belief, this often works out cheaper -or at least better value for money- than going for a prebuilt, at least if you want really high-end performance: A lot of prebuilt "gaming PCs" out there have specs that sound good to the newcomer but will turn out to be underwhelming in practice, or cut corners on any component that isn't mentioned in a game's system requirements, which can come back to bite its proud owner later on. Even the few reputable suppliers of prebuilt gaming rigs tend to charge a rather hefty markup for assembling it to your exact specifications, and unlike pretty much every example in this section putting a PC together is not actually all that hard. Doing so also saves money in the long run, as self-built machines are, by their very nature, far easier to upgrade specific components of, allowing the machine to stay relevant longer.
    • This is not limited to gamers, either. Among IT professionals, it's quite common to have one or more custom-built machines at home. (Granted, many of them today likely became interested in the profession by way of gaming and built their first rig as a teen.)
  • Among blacksmiths being able to forge a hammer and tongs is considered a Rite of Passage. Also, many specialized smiths have to make their own tools, since the things they need aren't commercially available.
  • This also goes for engravers. Basic engraving equipment can be bought, but by the time you can start making money off your work, you really need more specialized tools.
  • Calligraphers like to customize pens, pen holders, & nibs, and many make their own. Which can mean anything from making a fountain pen from a kit and a wood blank, to making a folded nib from scrap metal, to buying whole goose feathers and preparing/shaping them into usable quills.
  • Among some cosplay circles, the mark of a good cosplayer is someone who not only looks great in cosplay but also makes their own costumes. Making one's own cosplay is Difficult, but Awesome: Someone who's bad with their materials will have a worse costume than one that's ordered off of a store that specializes in selling pre-made cosplays or commissioned from someone who can make them, but mastering the art of making cosplay means one can finely tweak how their cosplays will turn out and can make cosplays of obscure characters and cosplays that are too difficult for cosplay shops to make.
  • Even digital artists get in on this.
    • Digital painters tend to gradually build a collection of self-created brushes, patterns, and vector shapes that suit their particular style, workflow, and technique- one brush may lay down color in a way that "feels right", another may generate a favorite pattern of noise that they use for everything from leaves to clouds, still another might create a "perfect" fog effect, and another may mimic the artist's favorite type of ink pen. One thing beginning digital painters quickly learn is that because brushes are so personal, its rare that a digital brush won't require at least a little tinkering to "fix" before it works well in another artist's hands. In some cases, an artist trying someone else's favorite brush might find themselves completely baffled at how anyone can work with it.
    • 3d artists tend develop complex toolkits like custom digital sculpting tools, intricate animation skeleton systems, prefabricated props that can be assembled and carved down to create more elaborate models, lighting and camera systems for constructing shots or animations and texture templates that can create a range of surfaces with a little tinkering.
  • In the outlaw biker subculture, building one's own Cool Bike from scratch or at least customizing an off-the-line model until it's no longer recognizable (usually by removing everything that it doesn't need to run — hence the term "chopper") is a sort of a rite of passage. Those who ride barely modified production models are regarded as amateurs.
  • Pervasive in programming. It is much more prestigious and educational to create something from scratch that solves your problem than to simply use tools someone else developed, even moreso to develop a new algorithm than to implement a known one. In fact the ingrained idea that not making everything yourself makes one a "script kiddie" is a problem. Professional programmers, regardless of skill, are invariably served better by finding the correct tools (libraries, modules, etc) to use since these will have been carefully optimized and checked for correctness.
  • In psychology this can lead to a logical fallacy dubbed The IKEA Effect, which postulates the reason why everyone love the eponymous flat-packed furniture designer despite the old joke that they're impossible to put together, and in turn part of why IKEA themselves keep the business model. The IKEA Effect postulates that a person will inherently find more value in a good that is identifiably hand-made, and especially if it was made by one's own two hands.

Alternative Title(s): A Master Makes Their Own Weapons