Tools of the Trade
Whatever your hobby is, I feel certain that you have a couple of special tools that you cannot imagine being crafty without their utilization. A special pair of knitting needles, perhaps? What about a particular brush for painting because its made of horse hair? Good crafting tools may be worth their weight in gold, but it is these multitasker tools that I argue are worth their weight in platinum... or Gold-Pressed Latinum, if you prefer. Below are a series of utility items that I believe that all crafters should have in their collection, as they are some of the most versatile and useful tools of the trade.
Ultra-Fine Permanent Marker - This crafting tool may appear redundant or easy to overlook, but I assure you that it is an element of your arsenal that you will find more and more uses for over time. Many of us crafters are also pen collectors, or at least, are very particular about our favorite pens and pencils. As you too may already have your own favorite make and model of pen for writing and drawing, there is another item to consider having at your disposal for many different crafts: an ultra-fine permanent marker.
As opposed to your ink pen, the permanent ink marks on paper, plastic, metal, and most other surfaces, drying quickly and holding strong. In most cases and for most projects, you will be using a simple black ultra-fine tipped marker. Do not get this gauge of marker confused with retractable, chisel, or regular fine tipped markers, as they will still be way too wide and cumbersome.
Always look for a marker with a BLACK based ink, as opposed to a BLUE based ink. Different manufacturers may use different base colors for their inks such as blue blacks, gray blacks, purple blacks, black blacks; all types! Otherwise, you may end up with a softer color, one that will likely fade over time. Think of it like an old tattoo, which may begin to look blue or even green over the years. As the body absorbs that ink and there becomes less densely packed deposits of ink, the hue may shift. The same can be true of your work projects that may become exposed to sunlight, heat from other sources (hot glue gun, candlewax, etc), moisture in the air, or even continuous friction from use.
Sharpie® offers a large variety of colors, which may feel like an overkill in other uses but comes in very handy for craft projects. You can more closely match color-to-color and adjust your piece to fill in areas that would be too difficult or messy to reach with paint. Care to add depth to the joints of your newest Gundam model? Want to add shadow to the underside of a painted figurine? Does your miniature map need additional details filled in once play has begun? Think of these tools as functionally the same as paint pens, which you can use to add definition and detail wherever you need it! Buy them individually for less than $2, in boxes of 12 for $10, or get a multicolored pack of 24 for about $20.
Metal Carpenter Square - Most crafts require the measuring of lengths of materials, be they strips of wood, lengths of wire, sheets of fabric, and so on. Of course, you may need specialized tools for some of those measurements, especially if they require exacting fine measurements or the ability to hug tight around curves. However, one tool that you will find yourself going back to again and again for more than you would expect will be a carpenter’s square.
Often times referred to as a steel square, this tool was invented for carpentry purposes to accurately measure right angles, but it is useful in so many other craft mediums. Whenever you are looking to ensure a piece is set perfectly perpendicular, whenever you need to draw lines on cardboard, whenever you want to align multiple items in a display, all of these would benefit from a specialized ruler such as the carpenter’s square. Having ruled edges on all sides, down the blade and the tongue, you can also make quicker measurements, two at a time!
Going the extra mile, the rigidity and durability of the carpenter’s square is what makes this tool so dang handy! I have used it as a brace to keep items aligned as they set overnight. I have used it to move or spread hot glue that would have burned my figures, only to peel the cooled glue off with no damage to the square. I have used it as a bridge between pieces to allow a third central piece to harden and set when a regular plastic ruler would have been to flexible.
The Carpenter’s Square (or Steel Square, or Framing Square, or L Square Ruler) can be found in all home improvement stores, craft stores, and many online outlets for around $6-$20. They are sold in smaller sizes as well, so I recommend the 8 inch x 12 inch size at it retains the versatility, but is compact enough to be stowed away with your other supplies.
A Multi-Tool - This one feels too obvious, but the epitome of a handy multitasking tool would be a multi-tool. Sometimes referred to by their brand name such as a Gerber or a Leatherman, these super tools embed a series of different flat tools within the handle of a pair of pliers. Some of these handles are locked in place with the nose of the pliers, some of them fold into an even more compact form. Plus, different manufacturers will outfit their tools with a wide variety of implements to suit their intended function and the form of the overall piece.
You commonly have within each tool a small knife, a serrated blade, a bottle opener, a flat head and a Phillips head screwdriver. Some multitools will have more unique gadgets like a wire stripper, awl, file, scissors, hole puncher, and a fish hook remover. Your miles may vary depending on the make and model you purchase, but you will find this tool to be very handy at any workbench and crafting space.
Firstly, the pliers function of the tool will get used more than you think. While other small crafting pliers may work for their intended purposes, they are often too small to have any strength for when you need to apply some major torque to something such as wire and thin metals. They are super crucial of you are deconstruction anything, really allowing you to get a grip and put the pressure where you need it. Then also, they often have needle nose tips so they can be used for more delicate work to a degree.
The other tools will get used here and there before you are even aware that you are relying on your multi-tool for so much of the workload. For example, just using the sanding file on the tool may be preferable to digging through your supplies for any other files or sandpaper to soften a rough edge. The knife tool will certainly not be the sharpest blade that you have, but for cutting thread, slicing through thin plastic, or shaving off sprues, it is a quick alternative. Whatever bonus tools your personal multi-tool offers can very quickly go from optional accessory to a toolbox necessity! They can be purchased for as low as $10 for a generic one, around $45 for a good all-purpose model that will last a lifetime, or over $120 for fancier models. Really, the cheaper model is all you need but I recommend the quality of a Gerber between $25 and $45.
Silicone mat - Are you working with resin? Hot glue? Mod Podge? Paint? Embossing gel? Do you do any sort of craft or hobby in your home or workshop? Then you need to have a silicone mat in your arsenal. The more you use it, the more ways you figure out how to use it for something else!The silicone mat serves as a durable, heat resistant surface, that is fantastic for all craft and mixed media needs. They are ideal to protect your workspace from resin, epoxy, glue, glitter, paint, ink, oil, and scratches during craft projects. I like having them as my primary protective layer because the silicone has enough of a texture that items placed on it will not slide around like they would on paper or glass, plus it feels comfortable when resting your hands on it.
What makes it so much of a game changer is that it can serve as an intentional platform on which to purposefully dollop resin and especially hot glue for inventive crafty concepts. If you refer back to the first few videos on my YouTube channel, I demonstrated how to use your silicone mats to create things such as spell templates, spider webs, and gelatinous slimes! As my silicone mate is translucent, I could draw up a template on paper of whatever I desired, and then I could slowly pipe out hot glue of various colors to achieve the desired effect. Once finished, I could add an additional layer of clear acrylic or enamel to give it more of a shine and a little more structure at any weak points.
You could try to use wax or parchment paper to achieve a similar result, but you are risking heat transfer through to whatever your workspace is below, and the waxy surface may get a little melty on you or your project. The silicone mat can also be washed and reused again and again, instead of having to use paper or plastic drops that just adds to more garbage. I highly recommend you get one of these, as they are fairly cheap if you source it correctly and use a coupon, for as little as $8, but you might end up topping off around $25 for the bigger ones. Even then, this multitasking worksurface is a must have for any serious crafter!