I was web-searching earlier when I came across this: http://kesher-tefillin.com/. This discusses a programme in which students make their own tefillin peshutim. I saw that they had a link for haskamot, however, when I visited it, I saw that you need to email them to get them. Does anyone know if this is actually kosher, who gives their hashgachot, and who gives them their haskamot?
First of all, not everyone is in a position to spend ~$1000 or more on a pair of tefilin nor does everyone understand why they would want to do so and many people would write tefilin off (no pun intended) as out of their price range if they thought that was the price range. Anyone keeping genuinely kosher peshutim in the market is, IMHO, doing a very good thing. That being said, one thing seems suspect to me.
He bills this as a pre- Bar Mitzvah project. Having people under bar mitzvah make tefilin enters into controversial territory. While RaMBaM holds that anyone can make the leather for battim because untouched rawhide would be just as good, and any ibbud is therefore not essential, others including the mechaber disagree (O"C 32). Furthermore, the kids are not making the leather, they are folding the parchment into battim, inserting the parshiyos, and sewing them up, all of which are essential so RaMBaM's argument would not apply. I recall a section in the Keset which touches on what pesulim can and can't do but I'm pretty sure inserting parshiyos and sewing battim is on the can't list (given that a qualified sofer is supposed to know Keset by heart, I should definitely start another chazara).
My semi-original design has the halachic approval of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz and his rabbinic court. Rabbi Karelitz is one of the pre-eminent rabbis and halachic decisors of this generation; In addition, the official rabbinical authority over the "Kesher Tefillin" project (as I am calling it) is Rabbi Saul Berman, a very prominent American Orthodox rabbi.
Here is the link: http://www.filedropper.com/letterskeshertefillin
This is the response from Vaad Mishmeres Stam of NY after I sent them a sample of the Tefillin made at our school which local Sofrim found problematic. There is also a retraction/ clarification by Rav Sriel Rosenberg, the son-in-law of Rav Nissim Korelitz. Vaad MishmeretStam of Israel wrote up the the minutes of their meeting with Rav Rosenberg who confirms their accuracy in his hand-writing at the bottom of the page. Aryeh Solomon SYDNEY Australia