Jewelry-Making Essentials, Part One: Confessions of a Jewelry-Making Tools Junkie

Lexi Erickson is a contributing
author to Jewelry Making Daily.
Lexi’s beloved jewelry-making hammers

Okay, I admit it: I love jewelry-making tools. Even if I don’t use them all, I love having them in my studio. I’m perfectly happy hanging out with my steel and wooden buddies.

Nothing upsets me more than to be happily working on a project and then realize I don’t have the proper tool to finish, so I’ve taken care of that little problem by purchasing the best-quality tools I can afford and taking good care of them. I clean them after each use and keep them oiled.

Every studio has its everyday tools—pliers, files, saws, hammers, etc.—but I thought I’d give you a look into my studio and show you my babies.

Basic Jewelry-Making Tools
My basic tools are the ones in my bench I use daily, such as:

  • Pliers: Allcraft German Ergonomic pliers are my favorite; they do the down-and-dirty bending that is needed when using 18-gauge sheet or 6-gauge wire.
  • Saw: My favorite jeweler’s saw is the Knew Concepts saw designed by Lee Marshall. It’s more expensive, but with this saw I was able to use one saw blade for over a month. No kidding. You will save in saw blades what the saw costs in the first few months.
  • Cutters: My favorite cutters are Xuron; I have a blue-handled pair for solder and orange ones for wire.
  • Files: There is only one file for me—any of the Grobet files are lifetime files. Clean and brush them and they will take care of you. I’m still using my original #2 and #0 6-inch files I bought twenty-five years ago.
  • Hammers: I’m addicted to Fretz hammers for the delightful textures, and for planishing, Allcraft makes the best hammers and stakes.

That takes care of jewelry-making basics, but what do I use for fun? That’s the best part!

Lexi’s custom jeweler’s bench

The Jeweler’s Bench
Though not always considered a tool, my favorite thing is my jeweler’s bench. Mine was specially made for me in South America, with drawers on one side, bookcases on the other side, and just the right height. Because we travel a lot and move around the world, this one breaks down into five sturdy parts. It has a place for everything. It’s good to have a jeweler’s bench or special table for jewelry where you can reach what you need quickly and where, if you don’t finish a project at one sitting, you can leave things, and they’ll be there when you get back (unless you have a cat like mine).

To get a jeweler’s bench custom made for you, check with your local high school woodworking class. There might be an advanced student who just needs a project.

Lexi’s guillotine shear

Specialty Jewelry Tools
Probably the second-most used tool in my studio is my guillotine shear. It cuts perfectly straight lines, doesn’t crimp the metal, and is a lifesaver for cutting metal squares and 6-inch strips for cuff bracelets.

Another tool I couldn’t live without is a rolling mill. I have a Pepe 90mm and an old Polish mill that’s probably forty years old. I chose to get the flat rollers instead of the wire rollers because wire is cheap, and I usually have a good supply of wire on hand. A rolling mill can reduce the thickness of a 16-gauge piece of metal down to a 24-gauge thickness in just a short time. I keep a supply of thicker silver on hand, usually 18-gauge sheet, and just roll down what I need. It’s also the best way to impart texture onto the metal, so I also keep a big Rubbermaid box on hand full of interesting papers, screen, netting, fabric, etc.

Lexi’s torch and soldering setup

For soldering, my favorite torch is the Smith Silversmith, also known as the HandyHeet acetylene/ambient air. I have a variety of torch heads, from #00 for soldering jump rings to #2 for annealing. For consistency, ease, and safety, I think a Smith torch can’t be beat.

The Fretz stake set from Santa

I’ve probably sold a bunch of bezel scissors to our readers after mentioning them in my Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist articles. They cut a perfect bezel each time and have saved me countless hours of filing and fitting. I can’t recommend them enough.

I was really good last year and Santa brought me the Fretz mini stakes. Oh happy, happy, joy, joy! They are wonderful for forming small shapes. I haven’t worked with them much–I just sit and drool over them right now–but stay tuned.

Best New Jewelry-Making Tools: Tube-Setting Burnishing Tool
The best new tool is a tube-setting burnishing tool. I like the elegant sparkle that a tiny diamond or sapphire adds to a piece. With this tool, you just drop the tiny little faceted stone into the tube, level it, and then run the corresponding size tool over the top of the tube, which will fold and burnish the metal over the stone. Voila! It cuts time and aggravation, and it’s available from Allcraft Tools.

The tube-setting burnishing tool makes
quick work of setting small stones.

Regardless of the jewelry-making tools and all the booms, bangs, and whistles you have, the most important tools to bring into your studio are common sense and creativity. It’s also important to have a good collection of jewelry-making instruction and inspiration, all of which you can find in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop now in the form of books, magazines, CDs and DVDs to teach you what you want to learn and inspire you to do what you love.

What’s your favorite jewelry-making tool? Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. Check out our free eBook about jewelry-making tools! And don’t miss part two of our tool fest, Jewelry Making Essentials, Part Two: 23 Everyday Items for Your Jewelry Workshop.

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