This is gonna be pretty vague, but hopefully by listing examples, someone will understand what I'm grasping for. I'm searching for a metaphor to describe a tool, weapon, vehicle, set of techniques, environment - something that supports what you do, that you build yourself, or at least "make your own" over time.

Here are some examples I've considered, to give a sense of what I'm looking for. I guess the problem is that I don't know whether these are actually "things" - traditions that I can refer to. Or that I don't know whether there's a specific name you'd call them, or maybe a cultural reference that would best convey the idea.

  • Becoming a warrior by forging the sword you will use in battle.
  • Building a canoe or raft from materials you have gathered.
  • Science fiction trope where people build their own robotic armor or spaceship.
  • A souped up OS configuration that one has evolved over the years, with a specific set of utilities and modifications, e.g. a bash profile, or the kinds of things people would talk about on usesthis.com or thesweetsetup.com, or answer to a "The first things you install on a new Mac/PC" question.
  • An office or workplace that someone has arranged to facilitate their own productivity.
  • A hot rod car.
  • A musician's favorite guitar.
  • A knowledge management system, or "outboard brain" as I've heard people call it.
  • Your grandmother's cookbook with her "secret" customizations to recipes scribbled in.

Basically, things that feel like extensions of yourself. Inanimate things that you feel an emotional attachment to. Things that augment you, help you tackle life, that you'd feel naked without. The elements of a craft that aren't taught or handed down, but created and/or acquired.

Does this make sense? I hope it's not too broad. I have a feeling that there's not one specific answer to this that I'm looking for, but I don't really know how to define the category either (obviously). I'd love to hear as many ideas as people have to offer.


EDIT: Thanks for the answers so far. To be clear, I'm not only looking for suggestions about a general name for this category. I'm looking for a shorthand way to convey the sense of this. For example, if I said I'm "building my canoe" or "it's like my Iron Man suit".

For what it's worth, in the specific case, I'm trying to describe my new interest in designing a system/scaffolding/infrastructure for my own life - a collection of tools, automated scripts, habits and "lifehacks" - to help me overcome issues with chronic procrastination and ADHD.

And as I write that, I realize that it's comically typical of my ADHD that I've gotten hung up on this particular question. But hey, no point backing out now. ;)

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    I've worn the same watch almost every day for 40 years. In such contexts it's not uncommon to say My watch feels like part of me". Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


The best fit I can think of is 'trusty'.

"Joe picked up his trusty knife, his daily companion for many years."


While it is not an exact description, the examples you give might be considered to have totemic significance to the owner

  1. (anthropology) of or relating to an object, species of animal or plant, or natural phenomenon symbolizing a clan, family, etc, often having ritual associations (in some societies, esp among North American Indians)
  2. of symbolic importance

This would be especially true if there were some tradition associated with the crafting or adoption of the object.

Another term that approaches the concept is iconic, associated with this definition of icon

someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc


Try talisman, iconic object, vade mecum, signature object, crutch, drug of choice, go-to guy.

There is also the way one might typically approach the task of living, i.e. one's modus operandi (or m.o.), or one's habits of mind, customary approach, personal style, personal stamp, signature style, lifestyle or way of being.

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