Tool and Die Makers - What They Do

Tool and die makers make, repair and modify custom-made, prototype or special tools, dies, jigs, fixtures and gauges using various metals, alloys and plastics which require precise dimensions. They are employed primarily in manufacturing industries such as automobile, aircraft, metal fabrication, electrical machinery and plastics, and in tool and die, mould making and machine shops. This unit group also includes metal patternmakers and metal mould makers.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

Tool and die makers

  • Read and interpret engineering drawings and specifications of tools, dies, prototypes or models
  • Prepare templates and sketches, and determine work processes
  • Compute dimensions and tolerances and set up machine tools
  • Position, secure, measure and work metal stock or castings to lay out for machining
  • Set up, operate and maintain a variety of conventional and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools to cut, turn, mill, plane, drill, bore, grind or otherwise shape workpiece to prescribed dimensions and finish
  • Verify machined parts for conformance to specifications using precision measuring instruments such as verniers, callipers, micrometers, co-ordinate measuring machines (CMM) and electronic measuring devices
  • Fit and assemble or disassemble parts using hand tools
  • Test completed tools, dies, jigs or fixtures for proper operation
  • May program CNC machine tools.

Metal patternmakers

  • Machine, fit and assemble castings and other parts to make precision models of required shape such as metal patterns, core boxes and match plates
  • Lay out, shape and assemble patterns of metal, wood, plastic and other materials from blueprints, models or templates
  • May program CNC machine tools.

Metal mould makers

  • Machine, fit and assemble parts to make metal moulds and cores for plastic injection moulding, or other production processes
  • May program CNC machine tools.

Job titles

  • jig maker
  • die finisher
  • die maker
  • metal mould maker
  • metal patternmaker
  • mould maker - plastics processing
  • mould maker apprentice
  • metal patternmaker apprentice
  • tool and die maker
  • toolmaker
  • tool and die maker apprentice
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a four- or five-year tool and die making apprenticeship program or A combination of over five years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in tool and die making is usually required to be eligible for tool and die trade certification.
  • Tool and die making trade certification is available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified tool and die makers upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.
  • Mould makers usually require completion of a four-year apprenticeship or college program in mould making.
  • Trade certification for mould makers is available, but voluntary, in Quebec and Ontario.
  • Patternmakers usually require completion of an apprenticeship or college program in patternmaking.
  • Patternmaking trade certification is available, but voluntary, in Ontario.

Essential Skills


  • Read the instructions and safety warnings on product and equipment labels. They read signs in buildings to follow handling and safety procedures such as operating procedures for electrical discharge machines and emergency safety equipment. (1)
  • Read product descriptions and work instructions on work orders and job files, which provide brief details about the function of the product being produced by the tool and die sets. Reading and understanding this information ensures that what is fabricated matches what was ordered. (2)
  • Read e-mail and notes left by co-workers and supervisors. The e-mail cover a number of work-related topics such as requests for information, instructions for jobs, discussions of technical problems, additions to existing instructions and accounts of events from the previous shifts. (2)
  • Read memos, notices and bulletins to learn about upcoming events and changes such as new quality control procedures, training, health and safety concerns and new work practices. For example, they may read about training for computer-assisted machining or changes to shut down procedures. (2)
  • Read policies and procedures applicable to the work they carry out. For example, they interpret complex job procedures such as heating and finishing procedures for different metals. They scan safety policies and procedures to apply them to specific situations when fabricating new tools, dies and jigs. (3)
  • Read about new trends, technological developments, tooling practices and procedures in industry, trade and safety publications. For example, they read about new machining techniques in Canadian Machining and Metalworking. (3)
  • Read operating, safety and equipment manuals. They may initially read manuals cover-to-cover and then refer to them for specific information. For example, they refer to equipment manuals for troubleshooting and operating procedures. They read assembly procedures for tool and die sets and jig assemblies. They read about tooling, tool making and material testing procedures in the Machinery's Handbook. (3)

Document use

  • Observe hazard symbols and warning and caution signs on materials and equipment. (1)
  • Complete quality control tags and labels. For example, they complete 'hold' and 'defective part' tags by entering dates, part, serial and drawing numbers, codes and descriptions of defects and nonconformities. (2)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, they locate material compositions, properties, characteristics and handling procedures in material composition sheets. They locate measurement specifications, tolerances and values such as speed, feed, and temperature rates in specification tables. They also use conversion tables for a variety of measurement units and verify materials and parts against bill of material and parts lists. (2)
  • May complete process control and quality control checklists. For example, they complete fabrication checklists to record data and to indicate that procedures such as heat treatment were used during fabrication. They record the final dimensions of tool and die components and sets, operating specifications and prototype data on quality control forms and use check marks to signify that quality control procedures have been followed. Senior tool and die makers complete inspection checklists to verify that jigs, fixtures, and tool and die sets meet clients' specifications and to note defects and nonconformities. (2)
  • May follow diagnostic flowcharts and decision trees to troubleshoot the cause of defects and nonconformities in tool and die sets. (2)
  • Complete tracking and quality control forms. For example, they enter dimensions, part numbers, quantities and explanatory details onto certification records, requisition forms and inspection reports. They enter names, hours, job files and codes onto daily timesheets. They enter part and serial numbers, and record test results on final inspection forms. Senior tool and die makers may complete nonconformance forms to describe defects and nonconformities in parts and equipment and to outline recommended remedial actions. (2)
  • Take data from and interpret a variety of graphs and graphical displays. For example, they may examine line graphs of temperature readings to verify that heating procedures for hardening metals meet specifications. When testing the functioning of tool and die sets, tool and die makers may identify patterns such as ripples and waves in measurement data for prototypes, which identify design and construction faults of tool and die sets. (3)
  • Locate dimensions and other features on complex shop drawings to fabricate parts and assemble jigs, tools and dies. For example, they locate dimensions to complete material layouts. They find depths and widths for milling pockets on die sets. They locate dimensions and angles on drawings to verify the placement of and between parts and sub-units such as tools onto progressive dies. (3)
  • Examine perspective views and assembly drawings to understand the location, orientation and functioning of complex components and sub-assemblies. They need this understanding to plan tool usage and tooling sequences and to assemble tools, dies, and jigs and the products assembled with jigs. Senior tool and die makers may use assembly drawings to carry out inspections of tools and dies. They use information from pictures to identify design improvements for tool and die sets. (4)


  • Write brief notes on a variety of workplace forms. For example, they describe modifications to parts on work orders and tracking forms. They write short instructions for fabricating and assembling jigs, tools and dies on work orders and requisition forms. (1)
  • Write comments in daily logbooks to create records and inform supervisors and co-workers. For example, they write short notes about tool and equipment breakages. They write comments about ongoing fabrication such as grinding and milling of components and the set-up of machines, which are ready to start new jobs. They write brief instructions for co-workers on the next shift about fabricating parts and assembling jigs, tools and dies. (1)
  • May write brief e-mail to supervisors, engineers and technicians to provide and request information. For example, they express their concerns and request the resolution of discrepancies between specifications and drawings. They may include suggestions for modifications. (2)
  • Write a variety of short reports such as nonconformance, accident-incident and health and safety reports. For example, when prototypes fail to meet specifications, they may describe problems, deficiencies and proposed corrective actions in short product development reports. (3)


Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Schedule and monitor the sequence of events for tooling and die making projects ranging from one day to a year. For example, they establish timelines, set sequence of operations and may schedule small crews or a few apprentices. They calculate the time required to complete each sub-assembly, considering the availability of cutting tools and machines, the complexities of fabrication processes and the knowledge of apprentices. They determine project progress against timelines, report deviations in hours, days and weeks and adjust schedules as necessary. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Take a variety of measurements using rulers, tapes, protractors, meters and digital displays. For example, they measure the dimension of parts and the distance between them using rulers and tapes. They monitor and set speed, feed and temperature rates using digital displays. They use gauges to monitor readings such as the pressure exerted on fabricated metal as it passes through progressive dies. (1)
  • Calculate the dimensions of fabricated pieces using measurements from scale drawings when additional dimensions are required to complete material layouts and create reference points. (2)
  • Prepare solutions and mixtures. For example, to mix a diluted plastic compound they convert the required compound volume into a weight measurement. They convert the dilution percentage to a ratio and set up a proportional calculation to determine the quantity of solution to add to the plastic compound. (2)
  • Analyze the geometry of fabricated parts to verify dimensions, distances and angles. They analyze complex shapes and solids into constituent geometric shapes and solids to plan fabrication steps. They use geometric construction to draw and scribe geometric shapes, find centres and align parts. They use formulae to calculate areas and perimeters of plane figures and volumes of solids. They insert measurements into geometric formulae to confirm that parts and components are square, concentric or perpendicular. They calculate dimensions of sub-assemblies and parts using lines, circles and arcs. (4)
  • Calculate dimensions and angles of design features such as bevels, offsets, arc angles and tangent points using trigonometry. For example, they calculate arc and radius angles, and tangent points to transfer dimensions from drawings onto work pieces to prepare material layouts. They calculate bevel cut angles and offsets for tool lengths and cutter diameters. (5)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare instrument readings such as temperatures, pressure and amperage to specifications and adjust equipment and tools. They compare measurements to specified dimensions to ensure that jigs, frames, tools and dies have been fabricated properly. (1)
  • Interpret fabrication process data such as feed and speed rates on boring machines, drills and lathes. They use the results to troubleshoot the causes of poor quality fabrications. For example, they may find roughness on finished journal surfaces are caused by feed rates that are too high. (2)
  • May analyze performance data for tool and die sets under controlled and simulated conditions. They interpret the data to ensure specifications are met, as well as identify problems and performance trends over time that may affect the quality, efficiency and durability of tool and die sets. For example, they may interpret pressure patterns on prototypes to determine if pressure points are causing premature wear on tool and die sets. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate how much stock they require to make components for tools, jigs and dies. They consider the number and size of pieces to be produced and the machining, bending and other procedures required. (1)
  • Estimate the initial machine and equipment settings for testing tool and die sets and producing prototypes. For example, a senior tool and die maker estimates how much pressure to apply at certain temperatures to get even distributions of plastics or metals using settings for similar prototypes. (2)
  • Estimate the time required to complete jobs. For example, they estimate the time required to create parts and to complete repairs. They consider the complexity of fabrication tasks, the number of procedures and processes, the quantity of pieces being produced or replaced, their familiarity with the work and the availability and skill levels of apprentices. In addition, they use their experience with similar tool and die sets to make their estimates. (3)

Oral communication

  • Communicate with supervisors and co-workers such as other tool and die makers, machinists and welders during fabrication, assembling, testing and moving of tools, dies and jigs. They maintain ongoing communications to coordinate tasks and carry out activities correctly, safely and efficiently. For example, they discuss sequences of operations, material layouts, assembly and testing procedures when working on joint tasks. They speak with co-workers during shift changes and also discuss solutions to fabrication problems such as ripples in car body panel prototypes. (2)
  • Discuss design modifications with engineers and request missing measurements and technical information from them. (2)
  • Discuss work assignments with supervisors and receive instructions about unfamiliar equipment and tools. They discuss sequences of operations needed and other fabrication details for new tool and die sets, jigs and fixtures. (2)
  • May give instructions, provide directions and offer explanations to apprentices and helpers. They explain fabrication procedures in such a way that apprentices are able to transfer the information to future jobs. For example, they give apprentices instructions for sequences of operations, workstation set-ups and tool and tooling path selections. They give reasons for choosing particular materials, operations, tools and tool set-ups. As their apprentices and helpers begin the work, they provide ongoing direction for the set-up and operation of machines, equipment and testing tools. (3)
  • May participate in design, development and problem solving meetings. They are experts in tool, die and jig fabrication methods and materials. They offer suggestions and advice on design features, materials, and tooling procedures to improve quality and production efficiency. For example, they give opinions about what materials to use for different parts of proposed tools, dies and jigs. They make suggestions such as changing designs from a single component to two or more parts. (3)
  • May interact with clients on the phone or in person. For example, they explain repair needs and costs for equipment brought in for maintenance. They discuss modifications such as the use of different materials and changes to dimensions, and seek approval from clients to proceed. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Discover that specifications are incorrect or need modifications. They request revised specifications and drawings from engineers and technicians or they make changes and then seek approval to proceed. For example, a tool fitter discovers during test runs that folds in metal expand by two degrees during machining. The fitter modifies the fold angle specifications to compensate for the change and requests approval from engineers to modify the specification on drawings. (2)
  • Encounter problems with fabrication processes. For example, they find that impractical fabrication task sequences, measurement errors and tooling faults prevent them from proceeding. They ask their supervisors and more experienced tool and die makers for advice and suggestions for alternative procedures. (2)
  • Find that malfunctioning equipment makes further fabrication impossible. For example, when the computer numerical control machines (CNC) malfunction, they locate faults such as broken parts and correct them. They install replacement parts and resume fabrication as quickly as possible. (2)
  • May receive complaints from customers about the size, finish and operation of finished tool and die sets and jigs. They work with supervisors and engineers to identify why the failures are occurring, what modifications are required, and what protocols to use to test the effectiveness of changes they make. They may need to perform major overhauls or redesign the tools, dies and jigs to correct the faults. For example, a tool and die maker discovers wrinkles and thin spots in a test prototype. After a review of tooling design and operating data, the tool and die maker discovers that the defects are the result of improper feed speeds and process temperatures. (4)

Decision Making

  • May choose work assignments for junior tool and die makers and apprentices. They consider individual strengths and weaknesses, skill level, work experience and the availability of suitable supervision. In addition, they consider apprentices' training plans, previous tasks assignments and skill levels acquired. (2)
  • Decide the sequence of operations such as assembly sequence and the machining order of parts to fabricate tools, dies, jigs and fixtures. They consider what tasks can be completed together, the number and location of parts, parts requiring extra operations such as heat treatments, and the availability of materials. For example, they may decide to drill holes before cutting angles to ensure they can firmly secure parts as they drill holes. (3)
  • Select the types of materials, supplies, tools, tooling paths and machines to use when completing tool, die and jig fabrication tasks. They consider the properties and characteristics of materials, capabilities of machines, types and complexity of processes, and the degree of precision required in measurements. They use their expertise in conjunction with procedures and precedents to inform their decisions, as each new piece presents a unique challenge. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • May assess the capabilities of apprentices when assigning job tasks. They consider skill levels, experience, strengths and attitudes as assessment criteria. They also read training plans and records to review what work they have completed, skill levels achieved and tasks they still need to learn. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality and acceptability of fabricated tools, dies and jigs. They use their technical knowledge and established criteria such as safety and shop standards, and customers' specifications to assess compliance. For example, they evaluate conformity of dimensions and operational readings to specifications. They analyze simulated test results and data from tool and die sets, jigs, and prototypes to evaluate functionality, quality, stability, and safety. They recommend repairs and adjustments because of their evaluations. (3)
  • May assess the suitability of specified materials such as metals, gluing compounds and lubricants. They look at materials' characteristics and properties, including flexibility, hardness and corrosion resistance. They analyze data and measurements and compare them to requirements and the function of parts or components to which the materials are applied. They use their assessment to recommend alternate materials better matched to performance requirements and design modifications to stay within the characteristic and property limits of materials. They are usually required to justify their recommendations to their supervisors and sometimes to customers. (3)
  • May work with teams of experts to evaluate the feasibility and technical soundness of tool, die and jig designs from both fabrication and quality perspectives. They evaluate the extent to which the designs meet customers' specifications and exploit efficient fabrication procedures and processes. They compare measurements to specifications, complete tests and test reports and examine quality assurance data. They consider the complexity and number of tasks, and the effects operations such as cutting, milling and forming materials will have on subsequent drilling and finishing. They may make recommendations for design and fabrication process modifications. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Tool and die makers receive their daily assignments from their supervisors but they are responsible for setting the sequence of tasks for the projects they are assigned. Most job tasks are repetitive, but they often work on several projects concurrently, so the ability to manage priorities is critical to their jobs. Changing priorities and lack of materials sometimes complicate their daily job task planning. They may plan their own activities and prioritize tasks to meet scheduled deadlines. They take into account fabrication timelines and activities, which involve other departments and operations. They interact and integrate tasks with a wide range of co-workers and supervisors. (2)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Tool and die makers may be responsible for planning machine and task rotations for junior and apprentice tool and die makers. As such, they plan apprentices' tasks to ensure they get experience working on projects which use a wide range of machines and skills suited to their knowledge levels and capacities. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Recall safety procedures for common fabrication procedures.
  • Remember details of successful sequences of operation and assembly sequences.
  • Remember colour codes on raw materials to increase efficiency.
  • Remember job details such as fit between parts and how the parts were adjusted so that they can describe them on work orders and modification reports.

Finding Information

  • Draw on information from sequencing checklists and job files to determine sequences of operations when starting fabrication of new tool, die and jigs. (2)

Digital technology

  • Use databases. For example, they enter and retrieve information about current and past fabrication jobs from their companies' databases. (2)
  • Use communication software. For example, they may exchange e-mail with co-workers and supervisors. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, they create a variety of shop drawings for fabrication projects. They set options for the appearance of lines; type and format of dimensioning; and perspectives, lighting and textures for modelling. They use computer-assisted machining programs such as Master Cam to control fabrication operations and computer-linked theodolites to plot x, y, and z coordinates of jigs and fabrications. They transfer data files to computer numeric control programs. They use laser tracking programs and coordinate measuring machines to take precise measurements. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Tool and die makers work independently and with helpers, apprentices and co-workers depending on the jobs and tasks underway. They work independently to assess work orders, plan sequence of operations and complete fabrication tasks. They may work with partners when creating prototypes and conducting simulation testing to verify the conformity of tool, dies and jigs. They work as team members with engineers, quality control supervisors and co-workers when completing larger jobs and troubleshooting faults in equipment, tools, dies and jigs and other products produced with them. They may work with other tool and die makers to coordinate fabrication and assembly of parts and access to machines. They may demonstrate and assign tasks to junior workers and apprentices. (2)

Continuous Learning

Tool and die makers generally identify their own skills development and learning needs, but they may be guided by their supervisors. They learn new skills through training provided by their employers, daily work experiences and private study. Their employers offer training for skills development, new equipment, health and safety and mandatory certification and recertification. However, much of their learning occurs day-to-day through the challenges and problems that arise during the course of each project and from discussions with more senior tool and die makers, supervisors and other co-workers. They also read manuals to increase their trade knowledge, and industry publications such as Canadian Machining and Metalworking to stay current on trends and new technologies. (2)