Tools of the Trade: Part 4

If you’ve ever made, or built, or repaired something, you’ll know the importance of having the right tools to get the job done. So imagine their value to the craftsperson that spends much of their day making and creating things. The right tool can be priceless. We asked our makers to tell us about their favorite tool or tools for a series we’re calling “Tools of the Trade”. Here is the fourth installment of their responses.

Jay Morgan Handcraft

Jay Morgan crafts one-of-a-kind hand forged carbon steel knives, well-designed steel knives, and home goods in his West Oakland workshop. “Knife steel is heated in the forge to 2000 degrees then shaped on the anvil with hammers. Hammers move the steel in a different way, they vary in the shape of the face and the weight of the hammer. A blacksmith will have several different hammers to pull from depending on the job.”


Hathorway is a 
fashion accessories brand focused on quality, sustainability, and
 women’s empowerment. As advocates of sustainable and zero-waste fashion, owner Jessica Phan handcrafts all their pieces with up-cycled buffalo horns from Northern Vietnam. Buffalo horns are organic materials, a byproduct of waste, and created through a chemical-free process. “While quite simple, my two favorite tools are my Italian-made round-nose and flat-nose pliers by Italec. One of the reasons why I love these pliers to assemble our Hathorway jewelry and accessories is how ergonomic the handles are and comfortable the grip is compared to other pliers I’ve used in the past. The comfort and ease of use allows me to assemble a lot more without tiring out my hands, fingers, and wrists when wrangling our thick jump rings made of gold-plated brass.”

Botnia Skincare

Founder, formulator, and esthetician Justine Kahn crafted Botnia Skincare around the central philosophy that using organic whole ingredients will aid your skin in becoming its best self. With this approach, they have seen dramatic and long-lasting results. They grow and hand-make all their skincare in their Sausalito laboratory, ensuring the ultimate quality to match the results. Here Justine shares how their still works.

“The still is a copper alembic still that has been used for over a thousand years. What’s so powerful about this tool is that this technology hasn’t changed because it’s so effective at extracting specific flavonoids and terpenes from plants. Some people use stills to distill alcohol and they use grain or potatoes to distill. In our case, we’re distilling the immune system of plants to apply that to our own skin’s immune system.”

“The way it works is that steam is passed through the plant matter and pulls out the chemical constituents from the oil-soluble parts and water-soluble parts of the plant and condenses the steam using cool water that’s circulating along a copper coil which turns the steam into a liquid. On the surface, the oil-soluble part is the essential oil of the plant. The water that’s left is the chemical constituent called a hydrolate – which we call a hydrosol – and it has dispersed in it, the oil-soluble and water-soluble parts of the plant. We apply the hydrosol to heal the skin. Every plant has its different purposes and constituents depending on the plant, and we research which plants are the best to apply to skincare. We try to distill as many hydrosols as possible and run the still every week in our micro-farm in Sausalito.”


SKINNY is a modern craft and design studio specializing in uniquely woven ceramics. Founder Susan McKinney’s mission is to connect people to the wonders of the natural world. Her work is known for its organic style that is at once airy and structural. Objects range from baskets, lighting, jewelry to wall hangings. “My Cricut (Explore 2) machine – it helps me quickly prototype patterns. I first create in Illustrator, then use the Cricut to cut out paper patterns for testing. Once I mockup in paper, I feel more confident to try in clay.”

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