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homemade trimming tools

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I know this is an old post, but I (somewhat) recently had someone request I repost the pictures from my homemade trimming tools. 


So I blogged about it here and am putting it back up on the forum. Also, there are a couple more pictures on my blog as this forum wouldn't allow me to post all of them.


Here goes!


Make your own TRIMMING TOOLS!!!!



Have you ever wanted to fashion your own trimming tools for trimming your pots? There are many different things you can use to trim clay, but the loop tool design is one of my favorites. This post will show you how I made my own loop tools using some found steel strapping and some wood.





  • Steel strapping (I found mine in construction garbage from wood packing crates...keep your eyes peeled and you'll find some somewhere)
  • Wood dowel for handle - diameter as thick or slightly thicker than the strapping width
  • Wood dowel for in-handle anchors - get it the size of a drill bit you will use


  • Saw
  • Wood glue
  • Drill and bit
  • Pliers or something to help bend strapping


Let's do this!


Step 1: Bend your strapping to the shape you please.

  • I used a pliers to help bend my strap into different shapes. 
  • The simpler the better. I prefer triangular trimming tools.
  • Make sure you leave enough metal at the bottom of the strap shape so you can sandwich them together and fit them into the wood handle and drill two holes in to anchor the strap in place. 



Step 2: Saw a line down the top of the dowel and sandwich the two ends of the strapping into the cut mark. 

  • Cut deep enough to fully seat the strapping
  • Remember to leave enough metal and cut deep enough so you can drill two holes for the anchors



Step 3: Drill two holes through the wood handle and strapping

  • I found it was easier if you bound the handle with something like rope or a clamp. This makes it move less when drilling
  • Drill all the way through both the handle and the strapping inside.
  • I drilled my holes on top and below one another. If you have enough strapping, I bet three holes would anchor the trimming tool even better than two. Just sayin.



Step 4: Glue small dowel anchors into place

  • I found this easiest if the smaller anchor dowels were pre-cut to an already small length
  • I used Gorilla glue as that is what I had. Feel free to use any wood glue or epoxy, whatever you have on hand. Better make sure it is waterproof though.
  • If using Gorilla glue, don't forget the part about adding water to the surfaces for optimal bonding!



Step 5: Set time, sanding, and finishing

  • Allow the glue to set up and harden according to the package instructions
  • Cut off any large anchor dowels hanging out and sand the whole handle smooth to your liking.
  • If you want, apply a finish to your piece. I used a spray polyurethane, but you could use anything from mineral oil to paint. I happened to have poly on hand which made my choice easy. You can leave it raw if you want too, it will just get stained from clay and not look as nice. 
  • If you have a grinder or stone sharpener, feel free to grind away a bevel on the outside of the strapping on both edges. It's okay if you don't though, it will still trim clay, and will trim wetter clay better than drier clay. 






  • Easy to make and a lot of fun!
  • Leave enough space for cleaning the tool out with your fingers in the corners...
  • While you can make a bunch for around $15 total in glue, wood, and finish costs, these tools are not nearly as well made as something like a Dolan Tool which happens to be my favorite and they are only $10 each. 
  • The metal doesn't stay sharp for very long
  • The wide width of the metal strapping is annoying with clay build-up
  • Apart from these caveats, it is fun to make your own tools and I believe that the tools you make yourself can help add even more "you" flavor to your work.
  • I found a tree branch the thickness of the metal and made some gorgeous handles by carving them with a knife. Get creative! 


Good luck everyone and have a blast!

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I just made a few trimming tools from scrap metal found on a crate.


trim61-300x196.jpgI found some metal strapping on a crate at Harvard and I cut it up–I have recently wanted to make some nice trimming tools. I took Dolan tools as my mental guide and headed to Home Depot.


trim1-300x259.jpgHere are the basic necessities. I knew I’d need some type of bonding agent. Gorilla glue was waterproof and the most bang for my buck at $4 and some change. You’ll obviously need it to be waterproof. Next a small dowel. Mine was hardwood, but I just got the cheapest kind. It is a 1/4″ dowel that started at 3′ in length @ $.65. The thicker dowel on the right of that is the handle of the tool. this should be larger than the width of the metal strapping so you don’t have bothersome metal parts scraping your digits. This was about $3. for 3′ in length. I also bought a drill bit that was the same diameter as the small dowel, 1/4″ for $4. The bit is made for wood and metal both. And lastly there is a piece of the metal strap I had cut previously. Steel.


trim8-300x162.jpgOops, I forgot about the mason’s string. I wanted something to put on at the end to really hold the whole thing together tightly. I am not sure how well this part will work, but I did test it on one as a dry fit, and it worked well. Almost as well as glue, so maybe just choose one or the other. But mine are going to have bright pink accents and rock! They will definitely be easy to see. $4.


I think my total came to about $16 or $17. That is a Dolan tool and a half. Good reference point, Phill.


To make the tool, you will need a power drill, a hand saw, pliers, a 2×4 scrap piece of wood (optional), sand paper, some newspaper or old rags, and a bench vise is a nice addition.

Take the wood dowel and saw off a handle-sized piece. Just eyeball it you perfectionist. I sanded the handle’s ends and edges next. Then stand the handle straight up in the vise, and saw a vertical line through the center of the wood about 2″ down. Try to keep it straight Jimmy! Take your strapping and cut it to about 10″ in length. This is just trial and error with how you want to shape it. I used the end of a 2×4 and put it in the center of the strap. Then i bent the two wings of metal upward to the 2×4 walls. This center flat part between the two bends is the main cutting edge of the tool. Take the two end pieces and bend them equidistant the other direction from the center bends. Now take your two ends of the metal strap and push them together back-to-back pretending it is sitting in the trimming tool saw slot you just cut. You may need to cut a bit off of one end to make the ends match up. I used a heavy duty metal snips for that. Slide the metal strap now bent to how you want into the handle slot you sawed earlier. You want the metal to go down far enough so that there is no back-to-back metal neck sticking out of the tool. All I mean by that is the handle is choked up all the way to the triangle point of the metal trim shape. Put the tool in the vise grips horizontally and so you can drill two holes all the way through both the wood and metal. Drill the holes carefully trying not to enlarge them any. Saw off two small 1″ pieces of the 1/4″ dowel and stick it in the holes you just drilled out of the tool handle. Take the piece out of the vise. The tool is almost done. Take one dowel out at a time and wet it, then glue it (gorilla glue needs water to bond.) and stick it back in the slot. Repeat with the other small dowel piece.


Let the glue cure before you cut off the tabs of the dowels sticking out. Then cut them off, sand the piece, finish the wooden parts with a sealer of your choice, and there you have it!


trim4-300x168.jpgOnce you get the hang of making these, they go pretty fast. If I had more power tools I would have been really whippin’. Try to do a production-line style of making these as it helps with not wasting time. Have fun! These are a blast to make!




PS - Sorry, this was copied from my blog here if you want a little bit clearer way of reading this.



Way cool, thanks!

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Good job on the trim tools. I've made a couple without the wood handles and they work good. One suggestion if you put the mason's string on, I would put some polyurethane or something similar on the string to keep it tight against the handle.



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thanks for the compliments. they were a lot of fun to make and really quite easy.


One suggestion if you put the mason's string on, I would put some polyurethane or something similar on the string to keep it tight against the handle.


Thanks for the suggestion Bobg. I was considering perhaps melting the string in places. Haven't had time to really mess around with it yet though.

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  • 2 years later...


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