Free Video: Jewelry-Making Pliers by the Dozens, In the Studio

jewelry making pliers

I’m a jewelry maker and I have a lot of pliers. There. I said it. And, I bet most of us can hang this same sign above the door. That is, if we feel having more than a few pair on hand is a bad thing! Pliers are an extension of our hands and help us do things we otherwise couldn’t without the right tool. How can we not have a lot of them?

Please join me In the Studio for a look at different types of pliers and how they can help you.

jewelry making pliers
The basic 5: flat-nose, chain-nose, round-nose, bent chain-nose, and a good cutter. The sixth shown here on the left represents my preference of having two pair of flat-nose on hand.

The Basic Five Jewelry-Making Pliers

There are so many jewelry-making pliers on the market, it’s hard to know which way to turn. For those just staring out, there is a good “first set:” Round-nose, chain-nose, flat-nose, a good cutter (this one seems out of place, but it is often included in the pliers family), and, if you can swing it, bend chain-nose. I always recommend to buy the best you can afford.

As your skills progress and the types of projects you work on dictate, your family of pliers will grow. Keep in mind, this could mean purchasing the next best model of a type of plier you already have. And, that is okay! Each plier is made differently and is made for “their thing,” so it is important to understand these nuances as well as respect the tools for what they’re intended for.

Tammy Jones agrees and outlines a few key pliers and what they’re designed to do in Jewelry-Making Tools: Using the Right Pliers at the Right Time.

basic jewelry making pliers
The basic four (no cutter in this example) expanded by type to show different construction. These range top to bottom from expensive to economy. Please note: I use all my pliers, even the economical ones—they all have value!

In regard to construction and what sets tools and sometimes pricing apart:

  • Box-joint hinges are the most expensive and will not loosen over time.
  • Parallel-action jaw hinges keep your pliers’ jaws parallel to each other (as opposed to the pincer-like movement of other pliers’ jaws).
  • Riveted lap joint hinges are less expensive hinges and less durable than box joint hinges, but they provide greater leverage.
round mandrel pliers

Round Mandrel Pliers

Think round-nose pliers but rather than tapering the end to a point, the diameter is consistent tip to stern. Brilliant! Now you have the strength of pliers to help shape your metal around a “mandrel” instead of having to use your hands—game changer.

jewelry-making tools: Wubbers pliers and forming/mandrel pliers

Shaped Mandrel Pliers

Necessity is the mother of invention (I said it wrong in the video, did you catch that?). Not too long ago, Patti Bullard took the basic round mandrel plier concept and changed things up! You can now find jewelry-making pliers with shaped mandrels, including square, triangle, and cone. These shapes are also available in varying sizes and, now you can find some of the shapes in parallel action construction! Be still my heart.

jewelry making pliers specialty
Left to right row 1: hardware store pliers; row 2: hole punch pliers; row 3: top 3—dimpling pliers; lower 2—specialty forming pliers; row 4, top to bottom: split-ring pliers, loop-closing pliers, rosary pliers, combo chain-nose and round-nose pliers by Wyatt White; row 5: top—banding pliers by Wyatt White; lower 2—specialty forming pliers by Miland Seuss; upper right corner: variety of nylon-jaw pliers; lower right corner: refined round-nose pliers by Miland Seuss and gem setting pliers

Pliers and More Pliers

There comes a point when you break from the basics and you find a path that calls to you. Here is where you make choices to add specialty jewelry-making pliers to the mix. These are a sampling of what’s possible: Nylon jaw pliers offer similar function to the basics but don’t mar your metal. Hole punch pliers punch holes in metal and the right one will make your riveting that much easier! Dimpling pliers add dimples and texture to metal and flat wire. Gem setting pliers help close prongs to hold your stones in place.

Miland Seuss’ pliers are special, not just because they were made by Miland Seuss but special as they are made for very specific metal forming tasks. Wyatt White’s jewelry-making pliers are also special and not just because he’s a wonderful man but special as they’re made to solve problems and improve efficiency and proficiency.

I could go on . . .

Enjoy working with jewelry-making pliers and continuing your quest for finding the right tool for the right job.

Tammy Honaman
Director of Content, Interweave

For more on pliers, please enjoy the following articles:

Pliers We Love: Exploring One of the Most Essential Jewelry-Making Tools

Pliers: Jewelry-Making Tools That Hold, Cut and Form Metal

Metalsmithing: Tool Makers, Legends, and Insight on Pliers and Hammering, Part 1