All of the balance tweaks that you mentioned are 100% intentional on the part of the mod pack maker, GregoriousT. He designed this mod pack and coded GregTech, the mod which implements many of the balance changes. You can probably modify this if you're willing to delve into Greg's lengthy and under-documented config files; good luck with that, though :/
To make any metal tools, you will require a Hammer and a File. You will also require plates of whichever particular ingot type you are using to make the tool, which can be made with Hammers at a 2:1 ratio or with a Plate Bending Machine at a 1:1 ratio. To make a Pickaxe, it would require two ingots, a plate and two sticks. Hammers and Files are not used up in the crafting and have different durabilities depending on what material you create them out of, with 8 durability being used per tool, plate or rod crafting.
To make a pickaxe, I believe it's:
P I I
H S F
X S X
where P is a plate of any ingot type
I is an ingot of the same ingot type as the plate
H is a hammer of any type, excepting Rubber
F is a file of any type
S is a wooden stick
and X is an empty slot.
I'm not 100% sure on the exact recipe, so you'll probably want to use NEI to figure that out. However, I am certain that you will need hammers, files and plates to make all tools in the Unhinged pack; there's no way around this, unfortunately, so you will have to continually make hammers and files if you need to continually make metal pickaxes.
My advice? Make a drill, add TConstruct, or be very, very conservative of your metal pickaxes.