A tool is a device
A gadget is a small technological object that has a particular function, but is often thought of as a novelty. Gadgets are invariably considered to be more unusually or cleverly designed than normal technological objects at the time of their invention...

 that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such as Instrument, Utensil, Implement, Machine, or Apparatus.


Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 believe that the use of tools was an important step in the evolution of mankind
Human evolution
Human evolution refers to the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species and as a unique category of hominids and mammals...

. Humans evolved an opposable thumb — useful in holding tools — and increased dramatically in intelligence, which aided in the use of tools. Because tools are used extensively by both humans and wild chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s, it is widely assumed that the first routine use of tools took place prior to the divergence between the two species. These early tools, however, were likely made of perishable materials such as sticks, or consisted of unmodified stones that cannot be distinguished from other stones as tools. The beginning of the Stone Age
Stone Age
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric period, lasting about 2.5 million years , during which humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus, widely used exclusively stone as their hard material in the...

 marks the era when hominin
The more anthropomorphic primates of the Hominini tribe are placed in the Hominina subtribe. Referred to as hominans, they are characterized by the evolution of an increasingly erect bipedal locomotion. The only extant species is Homo sapiens...

s first began manufacturing stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s, and evidence of these tools dates back at least 2.6 million years in Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. One of the earliest distinguishable stone tool forms is the hand axe
Hand axe
A hand axe is a bifacial Stone tool typical of the lower and middle Palaeolithic , and is the longest-used tool of human history.-Distribution:...


Tools are the most important items that the ancient humans used to climb to the top of the food chain
Food chain
A food web depicts feeding connections in an ecological community. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs...

; by inventing tools, they were able to accomplish tasks that human bodies could not, such as using a spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

 or bow and arrow
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

 to kill prey, since their teeth were not sharp enough to pierce many animals' skins.

The transition from stone to metal tools roughly coincided with the development of agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 around the 4th millennium BC. Mechanical
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

 devices experienced a major expansion in their use in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 with the systematic employment of new energy sources: water (waterwheels) and wind (windmill
A windmill is a machine which converts the energy of wind into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades. Originally windmills were developed for milling grain for food production. In the course of history the windmill was adapted to many other industrial uses. An important...


Machine tool
Machine tool
A machine tool is a machine, typically powered other than by human muscle , used to make manufactured parts in various ways that include cutting or certain other kinds of deformation...

s occasioned a surge in producing new tools in the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. Advocates of nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres...

 expect a similar surge as tools become microscopic in size.


One can classify tools according to their basic functions:
  • Cutting tools, such as the knife
    A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

    , scythe
    A scythe is an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass, or reaping crops. It was largely replaced by horse-drawn and then tractor machinery, but is still used in some areas of Europe and Asia. The Grim Reaper is often depicted carrying or wielding a scythe...

     or sickle
    A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a variously curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livestock . Sickles have also been used as weapons, either in their original form or in various derivations.The diversity of sickles that...

    , are wedge-shaped implements that produce a shearing force
    Shear stress
    A shear stress, denoted \tau\, , is defined as the component of stress coplanar with a material cross section. Shear stress arises from the force vector component parallel to the cross section...

     along a narrow face. Ideally, the edge of the tool needs to be harder than the material being cut or else the blade will become dulled with repeated use. But even resilient tools will require periodic sharpening
    Sharpening is the process of creating or refining a sharp edge of appropriate shape on a tool or implement designed for cutting. Sharpening is done by grinding away material on the implement with an abrasive substance harder than the material of the implement, followed sometimes by processes to...

    , which is the process of removing deformation wear from the edge. Other examples of cutting tools include gouges and drill bit
    Drill bit
    Drill bits are cutting tools used to create cylindrical holes. Bits are held in a tool called a drill, which rotates them and provides torque and axial force to create the hole. Specialized bits are also available for non-cylindrical-shaped holes....

  • Moving tools move huge and tiny things. For example, concentrating-force tools: the hammer
    A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses are for driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal and breaking up objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features are a handle and a head,...

     moves a nail, the maul
    A splitting maul also known as a block buster, or block splitter is a heavy, long-handled hammer used for splitting a piece of wood along its grain. One side of its head is like a sledgehammer, and the other side is like an axe.- Wedged mauls :...

     moves a stake, or a whip
    A whip is a tool traditionally used by humans to exert control over animals or other people, through pain compliance or fear of pain, although in some activities whips can be used without use of pain, such as an additional pressure aid in dressage...

     moves flesh on a horse. These operate by applying physical compression to a surface. In the case of the screwdriver
    A screwdriver is a tool for driving screws and often rotating other machine elements with the mating drive system. The screwdriver is made up of a head or tip, which engages with a screw, a mechanism to apply torque by rotating the tip, and some way to position and support the screwdriver...

    , the force is rotational and called torque
    Torque, moment or moment of force , is the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis, fulcrum, or pivot. Just as a force is a push or a pull, a torque can be thought of as a twist....

    . Writing implements deliver a fluid to a surface via compression to activate the ink cartridge. Also grabbing and twisting nuts and bolts with pliers
    Pliers are a hand tool used to hold objects firmly, for bending, or physical compression. Generally, pliers consist of a pair of metal first-class levers joined at a fulcrum positioned closer to one end of the levers, creating short jaws on one side of the fulcrum, and longer handles on the other...

    , a glove
    A glove is a garment covering the hand. Gloves have separate sheaths or openings for each finger and the thumb; if there is an opening but no covering sheath for each finger they are called "fingerless gloves". Fingerless gloves with one large opening rather than individual openings for each...

    , a wrench
    A wrench or spanner is a tool used to provide grip and mechanical advantage in applying torque to turn objects—usually rotary fasteners, such as nuts and bolts—or keep them from turning....

    , etc. All these tools move items by some kind of force. Also truck
    A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

    s, rocket
    A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

    s and airplanes move larger items and particle accelerators move very small items.
  • Tools that enact chemical changes, including temperature and ignition, such as lighter
    A lighter is a portable device used to generate a flame. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable fluid or pressurized liquid gas, a means of ignition, and some provision for extinguishing the flame.- History :...

    s and blowtorches.
  • Guiding, measuring and perception tools include the ruler
    A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is an instrument used in geometry, technical drawing, printing and engineering/building to measure distances and/or to rule straight lines...

    , glasses
    Glasses, also known as eyeglasses , spectacles or simply specs , are frames bearing lenses worn in front of the eyes. They are normally used for vision correction or eye protection. Safety glasses are a kind of eye protection against flying debris or against visible and near visible light or...

    , set square
    Set square
    A set square or triangle is an object used in engineering and technical drawing, with the aim of providing a straightedge at a right angle or other particular planar angle to a baseline....

    , sensors, straightedge
    A straightedge is a tool with an edge free from curves, or straight, used for transcribing straight lines, or checking the straightness of lines...

    , theodolite
    A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are mainly used for surveying applications, and have been adapted for specialized purposes in fields like metrology and rocket launch technology...

    , microscope
    A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy...

    , monitor
    -Computers:* Computer monitor, a screen that displays output from a computer.* Monitor , an approach to synchronize two or more computer tasks that use a shared resource...

    , clock
    A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument missing such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece...

    , phone
    Within phonetics, a phone is:* a speech sound or gesture considered a physical event without regard to its place in the phonology of a language* a speech segment that possesses distinct physical or perceptual properties...

    , printer
  • Shaping tools, such as moulds, jigs
    Jig (tool)
    In metalworking and woodworking, a jig is a type of tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool. A jig's primary purpose is to provide repeatability, accuracy, and interchangeability in the manufacturing of products. A jig is often confused with a fixture; a fixture holds the...

    , trowels.
  • Fastening tools, such as welder
    A welder is a tradesman who specializes in welding materials together. The materials to be joined can be metals or varieties of plastic or polymer...

    s, rivet gun
    Rivet gun
    A rivet gun, also known as a pneumatic hammer, is a type of tool used to drive rivets. Nearly all rivet guns are pneumatically powered. The rivet gun is used on the manufactured head side of the rivet and a bucking bar is used on the buck-tail side of the rivet...

    s, nail gun
    Nail gun
    A nail gun, nailgun or nailer is a type of tool used to drive nails into wood or some other kind of material. It is usually driven by electromagnetism, compressed air , highly flammable gases such as butane or propane, or, for powder-actuated tools, a small explosive charge...

    s, or glue guns.
  • Information and data manipulation tools, such as computers, middleware
    Middleware is computer software that connects software components or people and their applications. The software consists of a set of services that allows multiple processes running on one or more machines to interact...

    , IDE
    Integrated development environment
    An integrated development environment is a software application that provides comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development...

    , spreadsheets

Some tools may be combinations of other tools. An alarm-clock is for example a combination of a measuring tool (the clock) and a perception tool (the alarm). This enables the alarm-clock to be a tool that falls outside of all the categories mentioned above.

There is some debate on whether to consider protective gear items as tools, because they do not directly help perform work, just protect the worker like ordinary clothing. They do meet the general definition of tools and in many cases are necessary for the completion of the work.Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garment or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury by blunt impacts, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection, for job-related occupational safety and health purposes, and in...

 includes such items as gloves, safety glasses, ear defenders and biohazard
Biohazard may refer to:* Biological hazard* Biohazard , a book by Ken Alibek* Biohazard , a New York hardcore punk band** Biohazard , a self-titled album from Biohazard...


Tool substitution

Often, by design or coincidence, a tool may share key functional attributes with one or more other tools. In this case, some tools can substitute for other tools, either as a make-shift solution or as a matter of practical efficiency. "One tool does it all" is a motto of some importance for workers who cannot practically carry every specialized tool to the location of every work task; such as a carpenter who does not necessarily work in a shop all day and needs to do jobs in a customers house. Tool substitution may be divided broadly into two classes: substitution "by-design", or "multi-purpose" use, and substitution as make-shift. Substitution "by-design" would be tools that are designed specifically to accomplish multiple tasks using only that one tool. Substitution as make-shift is when human ingenuity comes into play and a tool is used for its unintended purpose such as a mechanic using a long screw driver to separate a cars control arm from a ball joint instead of using a tuning fork. In many cases, the designed secondary functions of tools are not widely known. As an example of the former, many wood-cutting hand saws integrate a carpenter's square by incorporating a specially shaped handle that allows 90° and 45° angles to be marked by aligning the appropriate part of the handle with an edge and scribing along the back edge of the saw. The latter is illustrated by the saying "All tools can be used as hammers." Nearly all tools can be used to function as a hammer, even though very few tools are intentionally designed for it and even fewer work as well as the original.

Tools are also often used to substitute for many mechanical apparatuses, especially in older mechanical devices. In many cases a cheap tool could be used to occupy the place of a missing mechanical part. A window roller in a car could easily be replaced with a pair of vice grips or regular pliers. A transmission shifter or ignition switch would be able to be replaced with a screw-driver. Again, these would be considered tools that are being used for their unintended purposes, substitution as make-shift. Tools such as a Dremel would be considered the substitution "by-design", or "multi-purpose". This class of tools allows the use of one tool that has at least two different capabilities. "Multi-purpose" tools are basically multiple tools in one device/tool. Tools such as this are often power tools that come with many different attachments like a Dremel does, so you could say that a power drill is a "multi-purpose" tool because you can do more then just one thing with a power drill.

Multi-use tools

A Multi-tool
A multi-tool is any one of a range of portable, versatile hand tools that combines several individual functions in a single unit...

 is a hand tool that incorporates several tools into a single, portable device; the Swiss army knife
Swiss Army knife
The Swiss Army knife is a brand of pocket knife or multi-tool manufactured by Victorinox AG and Wenger SA. The term "Swiss Army knife" was coined by US soldiers after World War II due to the difficulty they had in pronouncing the German name....

 represents one of the earliest examples. Other tools have a primary purpose but also incorporate other functionality - for example, lineman's pliers
Lineman's pliers
Lineman's pliers , also called combination pliers are a type of pliers used by electricians and other tradesmen primarily for gripping, twisting, bending and cutting wire and cable. Linemen's pliers owe their effectiveness to their plier design, which multiplies force through leverage...

 incorporate a gripper and cutter, and are often used as a hammer; and some hand saw
Hand saw
In woodworking and carpentry, hand saws, also known as "panel saws", "fish saws", are used to cut pieces of wood into different shapes. This is usually done in order to join the pieces together and create a wooden object. They usually operate by having a series of sharp points of some substance...

s incorporate a carpenter's square
Set square
A set square or triangle is an object used in engineering and technical drawing, with the aim of providing a straightedge at a right angle or other particular planar angle to a baseline....

 in the right-angle between the blade's dull edge and the saw's handle. This would also be the category in which the "multi-purpose" tools since they are also multiple tools in one (multi-use and multi-purpose can be used interchangeably). These types of tools were specifically made to catch the eye of many different craftsman who traveled to do their work. To these workers these types of tools were revolutionary because they were one tool or one device that could do several different things. With this knew revolution of tools the traveling craftsman would not have to carry so many tools with them to job sites, being that their space would be limited to the vehicle they were driving. The problem of having to deal with so many different tools was solved with the overtaking of multi-use tools.

Tool metaphors

A telephone is a communication tool that interfaces between two people engaged in conversation at one level. And between each user and the communication network at another. It is in the domain of media and communications technology that a counter-intuitive aspect of our relationships with our tools first began to gain popular recognition. Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist...

 famously said "We shape our tools. And then our tools shape us." McLuhan was referring to the fact that our social practices co-evolve with our use of new tools and the refinements we make to existing tools.

In North American colloquialism, the word "tool" may be loosely used to describe an individual of low mental capacity (essentially, an "idiot") or someone who fails to realise that they are being taken advantage of by others. This metaphor is drawn from the understanding that tools (as understood by most of society) are objects that are used for specific tasks.

Use by animals

Observation has confirmed that multiple species can use tools
Tool use by animals
Tools are used by some animals, particularly primates, to perform simple tasks such as the acquisition of food, or grooming. Originally thought to be a skill only possessed by humans, tool use requires some level of intelligence. Primates have been observed exploiting sticks and stones to...

 including monkey
A monkey is a primate, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys...

s, apes, several bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, and sea otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

s. Philosophers originally thought that only humans had the ability to make tools, until zoologists observed birds and monkeys making tools. Now the unique relationship of humans with tools is considered to be that we are the only species that uses tools to make other tools.

See also

  • Device paradigm
    Device paradigm
    - Concept :The term is meant to signify or distinguish between technological devices and "focal things and practices." The term, Device Paradigm, was introduced into the literature of philosophy of technology by Albert Borgmann in his 1984 book, Technology and the Character of Contemporary...

  • Toolmaker
    Tool and die maker
    Tool and die makers are workers in the manufacturing industry who make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools , gauges, and other tools used in manufacturing processes...

  • List of tool-lending libraries
  • Toolbank
    ToolBank is a registered term used to identify the nonprofit tool lending program model created by the . A ToolBank amplifies the impact of its local charitable sector by lending tools to organizations for use in volunteer service projects and facility maintenance/repair projects...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.