Tools are a required part of beading and jewelry making. Whether you use seed beads and do off loom work or you design multi-strand necklaces – at some point you will need a tool, or two. Here is a list of the most useful tools to get you started.
A couple of caveats before the list. Always buy the best tools you can afford. The reasons are straight forward – you get what you pay for. Remember, these are essential elements and you will be using them with every piece you create. You want them to be comfortable in your hand as well as work properly. So pay attention to how the jaws close; look at where the jaws meet to make sure there aren’t any gaps; and open and close the tool to check how smooth the action of the tool is going to be; and lastly look at the composition of the tool. Tools can be either cast or forged. Forged tools are stronger and will last longer.
Ok – on with the list.
The top three are the must have basics for beginning jewelry making. If you decide you love this and want to go forward with your jewelry designing then consider investing in the others.
1. CHAIN NOSE PLIERS
These pliers have a tapered end which allows you to get into tight spaces. You can use these tools to do flat crimping, open and close jump rings and to hold a piece when you do wire work. Make sure when you purchase these pliers that the inside of the jaws are smooth and do not have any teeth otherwise it will leave marks on your piece. Generally if you purchase jewelry chain nose pliers this will not be a problem as the tool is made specifically for jewelry design. You tend to run into the problem if you raid your husband’s tool box for the chain nose pliers as hardware pliers have teeth in the jaws for a better grip. Don’t use your husband’s pliers.
2. ROUND NOSE PLIERS
These pliers are used to make wire loops. Now you can certainly try to do it with other tools or a dowel or even your finger – yes, I have actually attempted that and it was not pretty. The point being you can certainly improvise but this tool takes all the difficulty out of making perfect loops every time. A great tip – if you want to make your loops a consistent size, mark your tool with a sharpie or marker at the spot you are using. It will give you a visual reference point for the sizing of your loops. The nice thing is the mark is not permanent. Just use some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and wipe away the mark. Good as new!
3. FLUSH CUTTERS
There are many, many cutters out there and each one does have its merits. Flush cutters are, in my humble opinion, the greatest thing for jewelers since dark chocolate M&Ms. Flush cutters have one side that cuts a smooth, flat edge allowing you to cut your beading wire or craft wire nice and close to the crimp or end of a loop. The top photo shows the flat side and the bottom photo shows the beveled side of the cutter. When you go to cut your excess wire make sure the flat side is perpendicular to the wire being cut. Practice on a piece of wire to see the difference in the two cut ends for yourself. One cut will be very flat the other will be quite sharp and pointy. The reason you want the flat cut edge on your finished piece is to avoid snags or pokes from that sharp edge of the wire.
A couple of safety tips when using cutters:
When cutting wire hold both ends of the wire being cut. This is because when you cut wire the loose end tends to fly off and can be a hazard to your eyes as it is flying or your feet later as you walk over that sharp, pointy piece of wire. Not so much fun.
A nice habit to get into when you are cutting wire from a spool is to cut the wire so that the flat cut remains on the spool. It isn’t necessary to do this but it does help prevent any unwanted finger pricks when you reach into to retrieve your spool of wire.
The last tip is to keep your cutters away from small children as the tips of these cutters are quite sharp and can harm those little hands.
Those are the basic tools all jewelry artist should have in their tool kit. To take your craft to a more professional look, here are some more tools to help you get the job done.
4. CRIMPING TOOL
This tool is used to finish your piece. Instead of doing a flat crimp to end your piece this tool gives you a very secure and polished, professional look to your design. It is a bit more challenging to learn how to use but the time and effort is well worth it. This tool is specifically designed to close crimp beads and secure your ends when you are using beading wire. Let’s take a closer look at the tool. If you look at the jaws of the tool you will see there are two distinct areas – it may be easier to see if you close the pliers. You will see that towards the handle of the tool is a heart shape or a U-shape opening. Towards the front of the tool is an oval or football shape. In order to properly close your crimp you use both of these openings using the U-shape first followed by the oval shape. For a more detailed lesson in crimping see the video here.
5. FLAT NOSE PLIERS
These pliers are very versatile. They can be used to create sharp angles in wire, straightening wire, or as an extra “hand”. I tend to use mine to hold my main piece when I am wire wrapping. I also like to use them when I am doing anything with jumprings whether it is chainmaille or just adding charms to a bracelet. I like them because they have a large surface area on the jaws so they provide a secure hold to the piece. Look at the jaws of the flat nose compared to the chain nose pliers and you will see how each of these tools is intended for different usages. Just like the chain nose pliers make sure that the inside of the jaws are smooth so you don’t leave any tool marks on your finished piece.
So there you have it. My list of the most practical and useful tools to have in your jewelry making kit. Of course there are plenty of other specialty tools for jewelry making out there and to comment on all of them would turn this post into a novel.
Have fun and get creative!