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Under Tools Required

You produce your artificer spell effects through your tools. You must have a spellcasting focus – specifically tinker’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool – in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature. You must be proficient with the tool to use it in this way.

"Artisan's tool" is singular. But it can refer to a set of objects.

For example:

Weaver's tools include thread, needles, and scraps of cloth.

Weaver's tools are an artisan's tool but does an artificer proficient with them need to hold the needle, thread, and cloth in one hand to cast spells?

Or can an artificer cast spells using a single component from a set of artisan's tools?

For example the party has been striped of all their belongings but not their clothes. Can an artificer with proficiency in weaver's tools tear off a scrap of their clothing and begin casting? What if the rest of the set is on their person?

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Artisan tools are themselves a discrete game item.

Tools are described in the PHB:

A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock

And artisan tools:

These special tools include the items needed to pursue a craft or trade.

You cannot improvise a piece of special tools needed to pursue a craft and say you have a set of artisan’s tools. The set itself is considered a discrete item by the rules of the game.

In the example you give, no, ripping my shirt does not create weaver’s tools.

Most spell casting foci are intended to be one handed - think rod, wand, crystal ball etc. Having the full set on your person and “wielding” a piece of it is just fine.

In the specific scenario you give, as a DM I might permit an artificer to make an Intelligence (Stealth) check to try to hid all the components of their set of tools somewhere on their person. I'd contest with an Insight check from somebody doing a pat-down search.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How much of the set are you required to hold for "in hand"? Do they need to hold the needle, thread, and cloth ? \$\endgroup\$ – kent Oct 21 '20 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kent How to cast mending with Weaver's Tools \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Oct 21 '20 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn’t really matter. I’ll add a bit about that. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Oct 21 '20 at 10:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if this belongs in an answer, but various designer notes around the time of the Artificer's UA and production releases indicated that the concept is you are creating magical effects by quickly crafting short-lived magic effects by manipulating materials. Casting a spell with alchemy might mean mixing together a bunch of chemicals and then throwing the result before it explodes; using calligraphy tools might mean quickly writing a series of magic symbols on a paper and presenting it to your enemy; tinker's tools might mean you're tweaking a magic gauntlet to fire a lightning bolt. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Oct 21 '20 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kent Picture this: a small, round tin two inches tall or so, and several inches in diameter, and it says "Dutch Shortbread" on the top. Inside are some needles, thread, and cloth scraps. It would probably be easier to just hold the whole thing in your hand that fish out a particular piece. Plus, it's just a focus, you don't actually do anything with it besides hold it. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Oct 22 '20 at 12:55

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