Jewelry Tool Basics

7 Nov

So you are interested in making jewelry? Great! There are a few things that you will need to pull together in the way of tools and basic supplies first. There are many fun tools and of those tools there are several styles of many to choose from. How does one go about choosing? We will try to help out with this today so please read on and if you have any tips that we did not include feel free to post it in the comments section.

Make up bag with compartments (clear): This is handy for storing small items and with being clear you can see what is in it without having to do much digging. Tammy and I both use simular cases to transport small projects as well as out basic small tools so everything is pretty handy.

Chasing hammer: A chasing hammer is essential for forging wire links. It has a large, smooth face for flattinging wire and sheet metal, and a smaller, rounder, ball-peen end used for riveting and creating small dimples in wire and sheet metal. Look for one with a slightly convex surface on a large smooth face, as a perfectly flat hammer will not create a smooth transition between the forged wire and the round wire; it will instead create an unsightly ridge. Also make sure that the weight and handle feel good in your hand. Tina uses a hammer that she found in the family tool drawer from the 1950’s that still works great and everyone knows to leave it alone as she has claimed it as hers.

Hard plastic or rawhide mallet: This is useful for work hardeding wire and sheet metal and for hammering out kinks without flattening the wire. It is also helpful when making wire links that become crooked due to manipulation. Look for a hammer that is well balanced and lighweight in your hand.

Jeweler’s bench block or Anvil: Look for a black made of solid “tool” steel, ground smooth and flat, polished. and case hardened. Jeweler’s bench blocks are used for hammering wire and sheet metal with both styles of hammers mentioned. The typical size used is 2-1/2″ X 2-1/2″ or 4″ x 4″. We both also have small jewelry anvils that aide in shaping. Be sure to purchase one that is solid steel (anvil can also be old cast iron) and not wood.

Pillow for bench block: This is used to muffle the sound of hammering and to keep the bench block in place. It looks like a bean bag, but is filled instead with either jewelry shop or BB’s and typically is about 6″ around. These can be easly made with two pieces of suede leather or heavy denim that is stiched together and filled 2/3’s with shot or BB’s.

Ring mandrel: Rings in half-sizes from 1 – 16 are formed on ring mandrels, which are used to size and shape wire or metal. These mandrels come in different shapes: round and smooth-tapered, round and stepped, grooved, flat-sided, square and finger shaped. For most purposes, a round and smooth-tapered metal ring mandrel will suit your needs. We use them to make rings and hoop earrings.

Jeweler’s Saw frame with blades: Use a jeweler’s saw to cut through sheet metal and wire. Many different frames from different manyfactures around the worls are available. Buy the best frame you can afford. Steel saw blades are sold separately and are interechangeable; they are also very inexpensive.

Wire-guage measuring tool: A British standard wire gauge is used to measure sheet metal and wire in gauges from 0 to 36. The slots in the tool, not the holes, measure the gauge. The lower the number the larger/thicker the metal.

Pliers: When buying any kinf of jewelry pliers, always look for pliers made with top-grade steel, smooth jaws, a box joint and handles that FIT comfortably in your hand. Everyone has different hands and even here at Entwined Vines we have very different needs in pliers. Tina has very small hands and is partial to the Glitter Line where Tammy is thinking about Weber as they are a bit larger but has not decided yet as she has only found information online about then and has not actually tried them out yet.

Flat-nose pliers: used to grip wire for spiraling and other tasks, these pliers have a flat edge at the jaw tips. Use them to bend wire into sharp angles, to hold small links, to open and close jump rings, and for close work.

Chain-nose pliers: These pliers are simulare to the flat-nose pliers except that they come to a sharp point at the jaw tips and have a smooth, rounded outer surface on the jaws. Use them to grip wire, for spiraling wire and for other tasks requiring close work.

Small round-nosed pliers: These pliers are rounded with cone-shaped jaws that taper to points at the tips. Their short jaws give them maximum leverage for short work such as starting wire spirals. For working at the tip of the jaw, sharter round-nose pliers are best. These pliers are also useful for making small jump rings and rounded bends in wire for small liks and ear wires.

Extra-long round-nose pliers: These pliers are similare to small round-nose pliers, except that they are quite a bit longer in the jaw, making them ideal for bending rounded wire to make ear wires and large jump rings. They are not as useful for starting wire spirals because they don’t have the smae leverage in the tips of the jaws as small round-nosed pliers; also, they don’t taper to as fine a point. Extra-long round-nose pliers are very useful, however. for many bench tasks and are the ideal all-purpose tool.

Bent-nose pliers: These are similare to chain-nose pliers, but the jaw tips are bent at right angles to the tool.

Jewelry files: Files are used to remove tool marks from wire and to polish the surface to remove burrs and other unsightly marks. It’s most economical to purchase the best quality files you can, rather than buy cheap files that won’t last long. The files are designed to be used on direction only.

Flush Cutters: Suited for cutting wire, flush cutters create a nice flush cut necessare for making many jewelry components.

Nails, knitting needles, wooden dowels, and just about any other round object: These tools are usedul for making wirecoilds in various sizes, which can then be cut into jump rings, wire coils, to wrap viking knit around, to braid over, and many other wire working options.

Measuring tape and 6″ flexible ruler: It is best to have both of these on hand as you will find yourself measuring beads, wire, tools, where to make a bend, etc.

Sharpie: We use our pens to mark out pliers to make a bend at the same place every time, where on the wire you need to cut, and notes while working

Portable notebook and pen: You should keep a small notebook and pen with you at all times while designing new pieces. It’s important to keep notes while you work because, in the heat of the moment, you may forget essential information, such as how many inches of wire were required to make a new link you’ve disgned. This information will be of great use weeks or months later when you need to duplicate a piece and have forgoten how it was made. if you intend to sell your jewelry, record sources for beads, wire and tools, plus information on the length of time it took to create a piece and the cost of your materials.

Bead Reamer: You will find many beads need holes fixed and this will be used over and over again. Buy the best you can afford as the cheap ones tend to break easily.

Small pieces of rubber shelf liner: These are helpful when holding wire.

There are so many other tools that we use that we both recomend but this list will more than get you on your way and will be used over the next several months on our jewelry basics blog roll.  Happy crafting everyone

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