Every maker has an indispensable tool that makes their making possible. In artist Andrew Armstrong’s case, he’s got a whole shop full of them. But we asked him to pick a few of his favorites—tools to inspire you to create something with your hands.
Clockwise from top:
- Glue scraper: “Used for scraping excess glue that seeps out during the clamping process.”
- Adjustable square: “Used for making sure things are 90 degrees. It has a level and can move it back and forth. And it has a ruled edge that allows you to measure as well.” Planer: “Used to shave down wood. It scrapes the surface to flatten and smooth.”
- Mechanical pencil: “We use this a lot in the shop because it keeps a really sharp point all the time, unlike a regular pencil that will go dull and have an inaccurate marking.”
- Tape measure: “Used for making measurements. We all know what that is.”
- Combination square: “This stainless steel square has a 45 degree and a 90 degree, and can sit on the edge of the material. Used for marking and for making sure things are the right angle.”
- Marking gauge: “I can move the shoulder up and down, and lock in the relationship between the shoulder and the bladed rolling marker. So if I need to make a measurement that is two inches, I lockdown at two inches and scribe it and see a scribed mark at 2 inches.”
- Caliper: “Used to measure the thickness of materials. I can read the dimensions on the graduated piece.”
- Files: Used for filing wood or metal, for the shaping and forming and final fitting of material.
- Standard No. 2 Phillips bits: They go into a drill bit and are used for putting in screws.
“I always say I’m the dirtiest director on campus,” Andrew says with a laugh. As the Director of Technical Support Services, he oversees all of Otis College’s labs, from the printmaking and photo labs to the ceramic and sculpture studios.
"I’m happiest and calmest and feel most in the zone when I’m making stuff,” he says. “There’s also something about being self-sufficient that I think is important for the self.”
Andrew was already a maker when he came to Otis College where he received a BFA and MFA in fine arts. His work has since been exhibited in many Southern California venues and he's also served as a consultant and fabricator for notable Los Angeles based artists, designers, and institutions.