Jewellery Making Tools for Beginners
If you are reading this for the first time chances are you have decided to embark on a new hobby.
You have scanned the internet, created boards on Pinterest and drooled over handmade jewellery designs on Instagram.
So many possibilities, so little time.
If this sounds familiar to you, then firstly – welcome to the exciting new world of jewellery making.
We want to make your entrance as smooth as possible.
Good news! It isn’t necessary to spend money on lots of fancy tools.
Invest in good quality basics and you’ll be surprised how far you can go.
There are an additional few items that will come in useful and we will cover them at the end; but they are not required for most techniques learned at beginner’s level.
1. Side Cutters and/or Flush Cutters.
‘But what is the difference between a side cutter & a flush cutter?’ I hear you cry!
Side cutters have a tapered tip that allows you to snip with precision, they tend to be slightly chunkier in thickness than a flush cutter.
A flush cutter has a thinner appearance allowing for even closer precision when cutting. If your designs are small and delicate or you need to get ‘right in there’ – a flush cutter will offer even greater accuracy.
*Never use them to cut hard metals such as memory wire or chain – they will go blunt & break.
2. Round Nose Pliers.
If you buy a good set of round nose pliers in the beginning, chances are you won’t need another pair for a long time.
The ‘round nose’ refers to its slender conical shaped pincers. They taper off towards the tip allowing you to choose the dimension of the loops you turn.
Loops are most commonly turned when creating drop ear rings, dangling beads from necklaces/bracelets or creating wire bails for pendants.
Top Tip: While you are learning, wrap a thin strip of craft tape around the pincers to mark the thickness you are working with. This encourages consistency when forming loops and guarantees a more professional finish.
3. Flat Nose Pliers.
This is another purchase that when used responsibly should last you a long time, they come in useful during almost every project. I kid you not!
Pick things up, grip, bend, squash, open & close things; an all-round good tool companion.
The pincers are smooth and flat with a 90 degree angle tip. This allows you to make sharp, clean bends in soft metals such as head-pins, eye-pins & craft wires.
They are great for picking up jump-rings. When paired with a similar plier in your opposite hand (see number 4) – they make opening jump rings very simple.
4. Chain nose and/or Bent-Chain Nose Pliers.
Very similar to the flat nose plier but with a fine tapered tip for extra precision. The chain nose plier gets into places that a flat nose just can’t reach.
As individuals, you will begin to rely on them for different tasks, but as a duo they complement each other – particularly when requiring double the amount of grip.
The bent chain nose is exactly the same plier but features an additional angle at the tip.
If a flat nose plier is general purpose and the chain nose plier gives you extra precision; then the bent chain nose gives you extra, extra precision.
That’s all you need to know.
(It happens to be a favourite of mine, but it seems to be personal preference.)
5. Memory Wire Cutters
Memory wire comes in a continuous loop/coil and is available in ring, bracelet & necklace sizes.
For anyone old enough to remember the ‘slinky toy’ – memory wire is basically the jewellery equivalent of that. For younger readers, give it a quick Google search. This was entertainment before the internet existed.
If you want to create a multi looped ring or bracelet without the hassle of too many cords; memory wire is a good option.
It is formed using hardened steel which enables the wire to hold its shape after stretching. But here is the important bit – hardened steel with destroy soft wire cutters.
Memory wire cutters are designed to cut through hard metals. One pair should (in theory) last you a lifetime. They are also great for cutting through jewellery chains.
For jobs that require extra muscle – memory wire cutters are your friend.
6. Crimping Pliers
The simple way to squash crimps is to use a flat nosed plier. The downside is a risk of sharp edges. A crimping plier squashes and moulds crimps into tighter balls, smoothing out any sharp edges in the process.
The crimping plier creates a fold in the crimp bead, then allows you to shape the squashed metal into a tighter formation. It is not essential to the jewellery making process, but shows that a little extra care has been taken.
Look for ‘spring loaded’ tools wherever possible – in simple terms, this means the handles bounce in and out when you open and close them. This little action prevents your work flow being interrupted and is a game changer when repeating the same hand action over and over. By now, you should be feeling more confident about your tool requirements. But we couldn’t let you go, without mentioning some personal tool box essentials:
Micro-fibre beading mat: Beads are little and roll everywhere – they can be quite unruly. Tame them with a micro fibre bead mat.
Bead Scoop: I repeat, beads are little and they roll everywhere. Pick them up using a metal bead scoop.
Why not use the practice sheet below to perfect your techniques. It will give you an opportunity to play around with various tools and get acquainted with their uses.