Jewelry-Making Tools: Using the Right Pliers at the Right Time

Admit it, you do it too. Once in awhile, when you’re in a hurry or distracted or whatever, you’ll make a loop with chain-nose pliers instead of round-nose pliers, or coil a wire spiral with round-nose pliers instead of flat-nose pliers. Horrors!

Yes, occasionally I do it, and it’s not the end of the world–it’s just not using those tools to the best of their ability. Misusing jewelry tools or using the wrong tool for an activity could also damage your jewelry-making materials. But you might be thinking, “Pliers are pliers–they all look almost the same, so they could all do almost the same things, right?” Not quite.

The Well-Stocked Jewelry-Making Tool Box

Whether you do wire jewelry making, stringing, metalwork, or all of those and more, here are the basic pliers you need to have in your stash of jewelry-making tools–and details about their intended uses.

Round-nose pliers: These pliers have tapered jaws that are perfectly round and smooth. Your round-nose pliers are used for making loops in wire. Be careful when using them for other wire-wrapping tasks, as the jaws can leave marks and dings in your precious metal wire.
Chain-nose pliers: These pliers have tapered jaws with rounded outsides and flat insides. They are particularly useful for manipulating wire and other jewelry-making supplies like jump rings and crimp beads. (Chain-nose pliers are also your best bet for wiggling a beading needle or wire through a tight spot!)
Flat-nose pliers: These pliers have wide, slightly tapered jaws that are flat on both the outside and inside. If you need to get a good grip on your wire when making spirals and other wire shapes, these are the best tools for the job. Use them with a pair of chain-nose pliers for opening and closing jump rings.
Flat round-nose pliers: These pliers have one jaw that looks like it came from a pair of round-nose pliers and one jaw that looks like it came from a pair of flat-nose pliers. The added bonus with some of these pliers is that they have notches marked along the flat-nose jaw for consistently-sized loops.
Wire straighteners: To get wire curls under control when you’re taking wire off a spool, pull the wire through these nylon-jaw pliers a few times. And if you make a mistake when you’re working with wire, you can smooth out kinks in wire by pinching and pulling the wire straight with these pliers.
Flush cutters: Flush cutters are used for cutting wire. You can use flush cutters to cut either flat ends or angled ends on your wire. To cut a flat end, insert the wire into the cutters through the flat side. To get an angled cut on your wire, insert the wire through the concave side of the cutters.

Practice using your jewelry tools the right way with projects and tutorials found in instructional issues of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. Back issues are on sale now in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop, and with convenient digital back issues, you can stock up without cluttering up your workbench!

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