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Hand Tools

Modern Technology

Simple hand tools, which cut or pound or assemble, may now be sold with attached metal or plastic handles, but their basic designs and operations have not changed over time. The plane and the file smooth down metal or wood surfaces. Drills and saws are now primarily electric, to save time and energy. Hammers come in all sizes, from the rock-breaking sledgehammer to the tiny jeweler's model, which is used to stamp insignias into soft metals like sterling or gold. Screwdrivers attach screws and wrenches tighten nuts and bolts together in areas where larger tools would not reach as easily. Measuring tools are also included under the category of hand tools, since they include tape or folding measures which may be carried on a tool belt. Squares and levels now measure inclines and angles with liquid crystal digital displays, but they otherwise look and feel like their old-fashioned counterparts.

Current research and development applies computeraided design (CAD) programs to simulate models as if under stress of actual use, in order to test possible innovations without the expense of building real prototypes. Lightweight alloys, plastics, and engineered woods are used to improve versatility and convenience. Poisonous heavy metals are being replaced with safer plating materials, and nickel-cadmium batteries may soon be replaced with rechargeable units that are easier to recycle.



Schick, Kathy D., and Nicholas Toth. Making Silent Stones Speak: Human Evolution and the Dawn of Technology. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.


"How Designs Evolve." Technology Review (January 1993). "Iceman's Stone Age Outfit Offers Clues to a Culture." New York Times (June 21, 1994): B7.

"Recreating Stone Tools to Learn Makers' Ways." New York Times (December 20, 1994): B5.

"The Technology of Tools." Popular Science (September 1993). "Tool Training at the Chimp Academy." New Scientist (May 11, 1991).

Jennifer Kramer


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—A term for the tools made by Homo erectus, which are recognizably standard designs. The name comes from a Paleolithic site discovered in St. Acheul, France during the 1800s.


—An old term for a shoemaker.


—An old term for a barrel maker.


—Chipped stones and flints made by humans, which give the Eolithic or Stone Age period its formal name. This period is further divided into the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age and the Neolithic or New Stone Age.


—The body of a Stone Age man dug up in the Tyrolean Alps, preserved in ice.


—A term for tools made during the earliest several hundred thousand years of the Stone Age by Homo habilis, items which follow no distinct patterns.


—Someone who works with metals or who makes things. A blacksmith uses iron primarily, while a gunsmith specializes in weaponry.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHand Tools - Earliest Stone And Metal Tools, Development Of Modern Tools, Modern Technology