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The Basic Tools For Making Jewelry From Beads And Wire

Updated on April 20, 2009

What Will You Need?

Making Jewelry has become a hobby that can become quite involved but there are just a few basic tools needed to get started. Some of the basics are probably already laying around your house. If you purchase just a few other items you too can be on your way to making your own jewelry. I will cover the primary items needed in this hub and expand in to some of the more specialty tools that you might consider picking up for your jewelry making projects. First let's take a look at the things you might have on hand and then get in to other, more specialized tools of the jewelry making trade.

Tools You Can Use When Crafting Jewelry

an assortment of small pliers and wire cutters
an assortment of small pliers and wire cutters
various kinds of small files
various kinds of small files
hammers with smaller heads
hammers with smaller heads

Basic Tools You May Have Around The House

Things You Might Already Have

  • scissors
  • ruler
  • small containers
  • paper and pencil
  • work light
  • work surface

The items above are often used to begin making jewelry. They do not have to be purchased but will come in handy for many of the projects associated with this hobby. I will tell you what I use these items for in order to give you a better understanding of each item in relation to the craft.

Scissors are used to cut threads, paper patterns, lengths of leather, tread and other material you might use to make your adornments. I suggest having a good sturdy pair on hand at all times.

Rulers are needed to measure the lengths of threads, wires, strings and cords, when making necklaces, bracelets, and other items such as a string of beads. I also use a soft tape measure like the ones used in sewing. This is really handy to have on any jewelry makers workbench. It is usually necessary to know the required lengths of finished pieces to insure proper fit.

Small Containers are essential to keep your materials sorted. When you start working with items such as beads and gems there never seems to be enough storage containers. I use almost any container I have around the house. Containers with multiple compartments are always in demand when it comes to making jewelry. The findings, fittings, and multiple elements you will be using can seem endless when you get busy. The containers will help keep your work space organized and also protect your material supplies until you are ready for them.

Paper and Pencil areused to keep track of what you are doing when designing pieces that you want to keep track of measurements, or the number of beads used and so on. I also make preliminary drawings for design purposes and the paper and pencil would be needed for this. There are several things you could need to make notes on as you work with making your jewelry so keep some sort of paper and writing tools at hand.

Work Light should be an important item to ensure that you can see what you are doing and not straining your eyes. The craft of jewelry making can be rather taxing on your eyes. It is best for your healthy, well being, to work under a good light. This items strength is based on the individual enthusiasts personal needs but do take care to have adequate lighting.

Work Surface is also important. You need a place where you can lay your project out and have ample room to get the projects finished. I think the kitchen table could work to start but you might rather work from a bench. The craft does require at least a small amount of work surface to make your projects on.

A Closer Look At The Tool Noses

round nose pliers
round nose pliers
curved nose pliers with smooth flat grip
curved nose pliers with smooth flat grip
long, needle nosed pliers with smooth flat grip
long, needle nosed pliers with smooth flat grip
needle nosed pliers with teeth grip and combo/cutters
needle nosed pliers with teeth grip and combo/cutters
side cutters you will use alot
side cutters you will use alot
end cutters used for nipping wire ends for a clean cut
end cutters used for nipping wire ends for a clean cut

Some Of The Most Common Tools For Jewelry Making

Pliers, wire cutters, files, and  hammers are the basic tools needed to make your hobby come to life when attempting the jewelry crafting experience. There are a variety of styles in each of these categories that you will want to have when you are working. The different kinds of tools for each of these categories will allow you to do different actions with each. It would be best to get to know the functional adaptation for each style of tool. Let's take a closer look at all of them.

Pliers are used to hold, squeeze, pinch and pull on wire, sheet metal, jewelry findings and, many other materials used when making jewelry. There are many styles of pliers to choose from but certain ones are best adapted to this craft. The smaller ones work well because most of the time the item you are working on tends to be very small. There are sets available in most art and craft stores as well as hobby shops so be sure to check around before you purchase. The prices seem to run about the same no matter where you buy them.

The quality is what you need to pay the most attention to. I suggest you make sure that the handle grips are comfortable. I also highly recommend that the handles have a spring action. This is relatively important when you are using a hand tool for extended periods of time. The handles will spring open and that is a big help when considering the wear and tear on your hands. This eliminates the need for you to manually open and close the handles. Believe me when I tell you that spring action is the only way to go with these small tools. You might not think it relevant but all it takes is trying a pair of pliers that are not spring action to realize what I am talking about when I say they are hard on your hands.

Pliers for jewelry making come in an assortment of nose styles. There are needle nosed, round, curved nosed and combinations of pliers and cutters in the same tool. The most common ones will suite your needs but, if you purchase a set there will be a combination of pliers and cutters in the assortment. I would suggest buying a set and adding to it as you find the need for more specialized styles. You will come to realize exactly what works best for you as you practice the craft.

Wire Cutters are used often in making jewelry so I will say to follow the same guidelines as I have suggested for the pliers. Buy a good quality and make sure the handles are spring action. There will be a couple different kinds of wire cutters in the set if you decide to purchase one. Make sure you have at least one good pair of side cutters because those are the ones you will use the most.

When using wire cutters never try to twist the wire with the cutters but always use a straight cutting action like you would use with a pair of scissors. This is the way they are designed to use and any other twisting or turning action as you try to cut could result in damaging the cutter blades.

Files are used to remove sharp edges, small burs and for rough finishing when working with metal. There are small sets that come in an assortment of styles for working with jewelry. These are designed to fit the job at hand. Sometimes you might need to file a certain shape and so they have invented files for all different shapes to be worked. You will grow accustomed to what file will perform the function you need with practice.

Hammers and Mallets are used to shape and sometimes to mark metal. You can purchase specialty hammers just for jewelry making but, I think it is best to try using some of the smaller, less expensive hammers until you grow in to this craft. It might turn out that the materials you are crafting with will never find the need for a hammer.

Tools You Might Want To Consider Having In Your Jewelry Making Array

A small table top vise is sometimes helpful when working on small jewelry items.
A small table top vise is sometimes helpful when working on small jewelry items.
This is a generic anvil but serves the purpose when first starting in the craft
This is a generic anvil but serves the purpose when first starting in the craft
Helping Hands are one of my favorite tools and used on a regular basis
Helping Hands are one of my favorite tools and used on a regular basis
A Bead Reamer will keep you from pulling your hair out in frustration
A Bead Reamer will keep you from pulling your hair out in frustration

A Few More Tools You Might Want To Think About

A Vise, Helping Hands and An Anvil might also be things that you will want to incorporate in to your collection of tools for your jewelry making experience. These items are not absolutely necessary but, they can make your work effort, a little less cumbersome from time to time. The need for each will totally depend on your choices of jewelry design and application of various techniques.

You can pick up relatively inexpensive items like this by looking around places like The Tool Shed And Sears on sale. I paid less than half price for all of my starter tools by watching the sales ads and picking up what I needed over a period of a few weeks. You do not have to have items sold by jewelry tool manufacturers and specialty stores. I got all of my tools by carefully shopping around before purchasing. The more you save on tools the more money you will have to use for materials to make your jewelry.

These tools and equipment are also made on a small scale in order to accommodate the small craft pieces made into jewelry. I especially like using the helping hands to give me the added advantage of having a third and fourth hand just to hold on to the ends of cords and wires. It is great for keeping the beads and other elements on your wire the first time you put them there.

Anyone who has ever strung a necklace probably knows how easy it is to slide the beads on one end only to have them fall off the other end when you "FORGET" and make a sudden move. The alligator clips are adjustable and quick to grip and open. I know I use my helping hands tool often. The clips are mounted on ball joints so they can be positioned in all kinds of ways to give a holding hand.

Bead Reamer

This is one of the best tools I have come across. It really does not do much. It is a special file designed to smooth out the irregular holes we often encounter when stringing beads. I absolutely would not be without one or two for that matter. It can be very annoying to try to be adding beads to a strand and come across the beads that just DO NOT want to thread. That is when you place the bead on the tip of the Bead Reamer and give it a few twists. Presto! Using the bead reamer will almost always produce a nice smooth hole to thread your cord and strings. This little tool can save time and much frustration. They only cost a couple bucks and are worth the time and money spent to always have one at your work station.

Tools To Grow With Your Jewelry Making Craft

There are so many kinds of tools used that I have hardly scratched the surface with this information.The tools I covered here should give you a good array of tools to get you started. You will most likely, add to your tool collection as your experience with jewelry making becomes more involved. Try to always buy a good quality of tool and shop around to find the best prices. The more you save on quality tools the more tools you will be able to purchase for your money. Have fun and enjoy the craft of making jewelry.


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