Top Tools for Working with Wire
I love playing with wire, don't you? The design possibilities and colors are endless. Denise Peck is editor in chief of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine, senior editor of Jewelry Artist, and author of Wire Style has been considered one of the wonderful wire women influencing wire popularity, trends, and techniques for many moons. I asked her to share one of her fave techniques with my Beading Daily peeps. Here's what I learned from Denise….
Denise: It wasn't too long ago that I knew nothing about making jewelry with wire. I started as a beader, for a long time, then dove headfirst into metalsmithing. But wire . . . that was a step I'd missed along the way. I have to admit that even the fundamentals of making a simple S-clasp eluded me. When the teacher in my first wire class showed how to make an S-clasp, she made it look so easy! But when I tried it . . . I didn't know which way was up.
Sometimes now, a few years later, I look at wire jewelry and think it looks so crystal clear how it's done. But then remember that class and I know–it is not as intuitive as I think it is.
One thing I've found, on my journey into wire work, is that good tools really do make all the difference. And by "good" I don't mean expensive. You needn’t spend $50 for a single pair of pliers. But I've worked with a lot of tools in the past few years, and I've definitely learned some important things you wouldn't know as a novice.
Chain-nose pliers (2) – these pliers (along with your round nose) are the backbone of working with wire. And I would be remiss if I didn't urge you to have two pairs. Chain-nose pliers look just like your basic toolbox needle nose pliers, except they have no teeth on the jaws. They are smooth steel, so as not to mar your wire. They're used for everything you do. And when you open and close jump rings, or make wrapped loops, you will need two pairs
Round-nose pliers – The other pair of essential pliers in wire work. With conical jaws, they can make perfect loops and rings. Something that took me a while to realize is that round-nose pliers with a bit of a fatter conical jaw are stronger and less likely to bend or become misaligned. Some of the most expensive round nose pliers have such fine jaws that I've actually ruined them! If you need a tiny loop, the very tip of almost any round-nose pliers will do.
Wire flush cutters (2) – This is a tool that you will want a nice fine point on. The smaller and finer the cutters, the closer you can get into your work for a nice neat cut. However, you can ruin them on heavy gauge wire. Always buy yourself one fine flush cutter and one heavier duty cutter.
Bench Block with wooden back – I'm going to tell you about my most prized tool, and I can't even remember where I got it. But should you see it in your travels, buy it! Alternatively, have a small block of wood handy at your work space. My bench block has one side that is steel and one side that is wood. This gives me a nice steel surface for serious hammering, and softer surface for less aggressive tasks. Most important, I use the wood with my awl for piercing, which saves my tabletops.
Ball peen hammer – I bought my small-ish ball peen hammer over 10 years ago. It still has the $3.50 price tag on it. Sure, there are a lot of expensive, beautiful hammers out there, but this one does everything I need it to do. It flattens and it textures!
Awl – My secret hole puncher. Sometimes I just don't want to connect elements with loops. Sometimes I want a simple hole with a jump ring. Once I've flattened an end of wire, it takes just my awl and my hammer to put a hole through it. No drill necessary.
Metal file – Lastly, and I lived without using one of these for a long time, if your cutters are not the best, a metal file is indispensable for quickly smoothing out unevenness or sharp ends.
Thanks Denise! If you want more wire basics, or just need to brush up on your wire skills, Best of Step by Step Wire Jewelry offers you 35 of our favorite wire jewelry projects. Learn, practice, and hone your wire skills with some expert tips in our favorite techniques!
Come bead with me.
Want to learn more about jewelry making tools? Jewelry Making Daily (one of our sister sites) has a fantastic free eBook available called The Illustrated Guide to Jewelry Making Tools. Best of all, as a Beading Daily member, you simply use the same login information to download your free copy right away!