5 Essential Jewelry Tools the Well-Equipped Studio Needs
|Sponsored| I often see jewelry makers and aspiring metalsmiths ask the same questions about jewelry tools on social media. “Which tools do I need to get started?” or “I have a gift card, what would you buy?” I have my opinions, of course. But after making jewelry, writing about making jewelry, and reviewing nearly every book and video about making jewelry for over 13 years, I have pretty great evidence, too! Here are five versatile jewelry tools essential to the well-equipped studio.
Essential Jewelry Tools: Flex Shaft
Until I used a flex shaft at Bead Fest a couple of months ago, I’d been on hiatus from mine for several years. Thank goodness I had this new reason to use a flex shaft, because I’m officially hooked again! I can’t begin to tell you all the essential tasks that this one jewelry tool can do for you or make easier on you. It cuts, drills, polishes—you knew that—but it can also carve gems, sand and texture metal, help with prongs for stone setting, remove burs from cast pieces, and so much more.
The Prodigy Flex Shaft System from Rio Grande features a key-type hand piece for easily changing out the dozens of attachments you’ll be using. I’m sure there’s an end to the list of what the flex shaft can do for you, but I don’t see it! Plus flex shafts are economical, because they can do the work of many other jewelry tools, like saws, a drill press, hammers, and files.
Plus Flex Shaft Essentials: Sunshine Cloth Buffs
Among the tasks that a flex shaft makes quicker and easier, allowing you to be more productive, is polishing and finishing jewelry. Whether you like a mirror-finish on your metal or just want a really clean, professional-quality finish, a flex shaft with Sunshine Cloth buff attachments will get you there the easy way. Plus, these Sunshine Cloth buffs from Rio Grande already have polishing compound in them, so there’s less mess and you don’t have to add your own compound. That saves time and money, right from the start!
Essential Jewelry Tools: Disc Cutter
When I first started making jewelry, my teacher gave me metal sheet and a saw and said to saw out a circle. Nearly 30 minutes later with tired, trembling arms, I was done. But it wasn’t a perfect circle and I still needed to clean up the wonky edges. “Why don’t they make tools that do this for you?” I asked. She laughed and said, “Oh, they do!” Enter the disc cutter, for perfect circles every time.
Ah, the circle. So many jewelry designs feature circles or some portion of a circle. They can be dapped and domed, too, for more versatile use in jewelry designs. If you cut two discs, dome them, and then solder them together, you can create lentil-shaped beads or components that really elevate your jewelry designs to a new level. This shape is an impressive way to add dimension to your designs, and a high-quality Swanstrom Round Disc Cutter Set from Rio Grande makes it oh-so-easy to get circles in a wide variety of sizes in mere minutes. No trembling arms!
Made of hardened and tempered shock-resistant tool steel, this disc cutter will last for years. It cuts clean-edged, metal-saving discs (in 10 sizes) that need less finishing–which saves you time and money. With a hammer, you can cut up to 16-gauge annealed metal with this disc cutter and up to 10 gauge when paired with a hydraulic press. Everyone says to buy the best tools you can afford, and I believe that is especially important with a disc cutter.
Essential Jewelry Tools: Bail-Forming Pliers
You work so hard on your pendants, forming the wire or metal, perhaps adding color with enamel, or really going big by adding gemstones. It would be a shame to hang these little masterpieces from a simple jump ring, wouldn’t it? Continue the design from the pendant to the chain with a bail befitting your pendant design. Bail-forming pliers help you do just that—but don’t be fooled by the name. These pliers can help you form jump rings, S-hook clasps, figure eights, loops, and just about anything with a loop. (There’s that ubiquitous circle again!)
The Swanstrom Parallel-Action Bail-Forming Pliers from Rio Grande have a fixed 9.5mm lower jaw and come with five interchangeable jaws ranging from 2.5 to 8.5mm, allowing you to make a nearly endless combination of loops to suit your wire and metal designs. These versatile pliers provide you with so many options for creating bails worthy of your pendants. But they’re also helpful in making earrings, ear wires, and any other jewelry that features circles or hoops. Imagine the handmade chain wire loops you could create with these! Bonus: The jaws are made of bronze, which reduces marring on your metal.
Bonus Jewelry Tools: PMC Kit and Kiln
A kiln for metal clay jewelry making has been on my wish list for Santa for years. I love torch-firing metal clay, but I can’t fire bronze or copper clay with a torch—and the bronze is so dreamy! And now that enameling on metal clay is a thing, it’s one more reason to have a kiln in the studio. I’ve been a very good girl, so Santa really should consider giving me the Advanced PMC Kit with Kiln from Rio Grande.
I can’t think of any metal clay jewelry tools this kit doesn’t have that a metal-clay artist could want or need, all in one tidy, convenient kit. With a nine-program controller, it can fire all kinds of metal clay—including my beloved bronze. It includes silver clay to get you started, plus molding compound and patina–there’s even a rotary tumbler for finishing your fired metal clay jewelry. What an amazing gift this would make for a metal clay enthusiast—like me and you!