This versatile hand tool, designed by first year student Chris Rand, is used for bending metal wire and ribbon into letters and numbers. By quickly changing the bending mandrills, and placing various dies into the matrix of holes, the integrated pliers-and-cutter tool can form anything in the alphabet.

"I wanted to stimulate the mind and hand alike with a creative activity that is authentically haptic," Chris offered. "The initial activity was centered around a customizable tool for hot branding letters and shapes into wood, leather, and a hamburger patty or bun. But without an understanding of how to bend wire, such a tool would be useless to a wider audience." So Chris focused on how to develop the ability to see a shape and translate it to metal wire.


The tool handle provides leverage to increase the mechanical advantage of the user while they form wire around the dies pinned into the matrix block. By squeezing the handle, a pin mounted on the left side of the jaw will pinch against a pin or a die on the right side, "much like our fingertips when grabbing a toothpick or pulling a shoelace," Chris says. This gripping action holds wire steady, and inherently adjusts to different width metal ribbon and wire—a particularly unique feature.

Chris created instructions and dies that are specifically scaled to various forms in the alphabet, often with multiple uses. For instance, one die can be used to make B, E, F, P, and R; another die is used for the N or Z.

"If the project were to go further," he submits, "the next step would be to produce a small quantity of the entire tool system in steel, and distribute them for user feedback." But Chris is quick to praise the design brief at the beginning: "Sinclair [Smith, the instructor] framed the goal of the assignment based on my past experience, reframing it for my current context. The objective was to emphasize the branding and presentation of the tool, rather than focusing on the craftsmanship required to making the tool. 'Your job is not to make the tool but to design and brand it in a compelling way for someone else to manufacture,' said Sinclair. 'Focus on the audience you want to attract and how it is packaged or advertised.' For me, this was a clear, inspiring, and very motivating."