Our last Learning the Language blog post covered the absolutely essential tools of jewelry-making. This week, we would like to cover some of our favorite specialty tools — that is, tools you may not need for every project, but ones that truly come in handy for a variety of jewelry designs.
Flat Nose Pliers
When it comes to opening jump rings with ease, nothing beats a good, sturdy pair of flat nose pliers, especially ones with ergonomic handles. If you’ve ever had the little rings “jump” from your hands, it may be due to the fact that you don’t have a good grip on them. Flat nose pliers’ tips have a broader surface area than chain nose pliers, which make holding onto tiny things a bit easier. And, if you create chain maille jewelry, the combination of broader-nose pliers and ergonomic handles means you can work on projects twice as long without hand fatigue.
Uses: opening and closing jump rings, holding other items steady.
Nylon Jaw Pliers
We’re all guilty of letting our wire-by-the-spool or by-the-coil get a little unruly in our bead box, and this can sometimes result in a big, tangled-up mess of wire. Although nylon jaw pliers can’t help with severely kinked wire (that wire is pretty much a lost cause), they can help with wire that’s just a little bit bent. Simply hold one end of the wire between your thumb and forefinger, clamp the jaws of the pliers onto the wire with your other hand, and slowly draw the pliers down the length of the wire, and voilà — instantly smoothed-out wire! It’s OK if you have to do this twice, but beware of continuing to pull, pull, pull….the more times you smooth out the wire, the more you are hardening the wire, and the more brittle it becomes.
Uses: smoothing out wire, holding items steady without marring metal.
If you have ever wanted to create larger curves or bends in wire, and wanted the shapes to be consistent each time, we highly recommend either a pair of Wubbers, a pair of bail-making pliers, or both! Wubbers essentially serve the same purpose as bail-making pliers, but their jaw diameters come in a wider range of sizes and shapes (see above photo). Mandrels are helpful, too, but both Wubbers and bail-making pliers are typically easier to manipulate since they have handles. Keep in mind that ring mandrels and many bracelet mandrels are tapered, so creating a coil will result in one end being wider than the other. If you use Wubbers or other un-tapered pliers, you won’t have this problem.
These helpful tools are great for creating hoop earring findings, links for handmade chain, and much more! Check out this helpful tutorial from Rings & Things.
Uses: creating uniformly-shaped bends & loops, creating handmade findings.
Bent Nose Pliers
These can be used in much the same ways that chain nose pliers can be used, but since they have a slight angle to them, the pliers’ “elbow” has a broad surface area similar to flat nose pliers. The bent tip allows you to navigate tight nooks and crannies (say, within a very tight chain maille weave), and their smooth jaws will minimize how much you might dent your wire. Uses: holding items, opening and closing jump rings, tucking in wire ends, accessing hard-to-reach spots.
Hole-Punching Pliers or Screw-Down Hole Punch
These tools are pretty self-explanatory, but they are perfect when it comes to punching holes in metal! The pliers work best on sheet metal up to 24 gauge, and the screw-down punch works best on metal up to 16 gauge, including the thicker-gauge fine silver wire that Iris Sandkühler uses in her fusing classes here at Blue Door Beads.
Do not try to punch through anything too thick for your tool because your are liable to a) break the tool and b) hurt your hand. Punching additional holes in metal is really handy when you want to make earrings with multiple dangles, change a charm into a link for a necklace or bracelet, or create a riveted look for a pendant.
Uses: adding holes to metal blanks and charms to add dangles, charms, or rivets.
Are there more specialty tools you would like to know more about that we didn’t talk about here? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and we’ll do our best to provide answers. In the mean time, have fun playing with your new tools, and bead boldly!
Flat nose pliers photo courtesy of EuroTool.
Nylon jaw pliers photo courtesy of The Bead Smith. Nylon jaw pliers with wire photo courtesy of Rings & Things.
Wubbers photo courtesy of Rings & Things.
Bent nose pliers photo courtesy of EuroTool.
Hole-punching pliers photo courtesy of EuroTool. Screw-punch photo courtesy of ahbeads.com.