There are more and more restaurant supply companies opening up to the public. In fact, some of the locals here have greatly increased their business over the past few years targeting the home baker and cook. If you are starting out, it might be in your best interest to see if any are available in your area. You can also get these products online, but usually through a distributor, so shopping around helps with pricing. It is far more wise to buy a good sturdy product and pay a few extra bucks. If you don't use something that is of quality you can always resell it.
I'm also not so sure you were'nt talking of their cake design books when you refered to designs. They are an inexpensive starter, but most of their material can be found online.
I always use the manufactures website for specifications and such, and then bee-line-it for ebay to see if it's up for auction.
Chicago Bears, oh sorry, Chicago Metallic
Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is To Short!!