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

Whether you do wirework, beadwork, or metalwork, pliers are essential to our work–perhaps more than any other jewelry-making tool. I know I have my favorites and I bet you do, too. I might even have duplicates of some of those favorites, just in case. Years ago, I never imagined that I’d get attached to some pliers–or any other jewelry-making tools, for that matter!

I’m not as bad as some, such as my dear friend Lexi Erickson, who admits she has dozens of pliers–even a couple dozen “someday” pliers. But I do have a couple dozen, some of which are specialty pliers (like wire-straightening pliers or large Wubbers forming pliers in fun shapes). For my everyday pliers, like needle-nose and chain-nose pliers, I only have a handful that I use regularly. And that’s not so bad, when we’re talking about jewelry-making tools. Right? (Nod with me. Thank you!)

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

Many metalsmiths and other jewelry makers say that our most important tools are our hands. Merle White, editorial director of the Interweave Jewelry team, reminded me recently that pliers are jewelry-making tools “for holding objects it’s difficult to hold directly with your hands.” So if our hands are our most important tool, and pliers help our hands hold and grip things that it would be hard to hold and grip without them, it stands to reason that pliers are The Most Important Jewelry-Making Tools. Right?

“With convenient handles that give you extra leverage and ends that give you extra dexterity, jewelry-making pliers are a natural for further development,” Merle writes. “Put a tapered cylinder at the working end and you have a mini mandrel. Put a sharp little blade at the working end and you have wire cutters. Keep refining the shape and size and adding notches and stake-like bands and you have an endless assortment of specialized holding, cutting, and forming jewelry-making tools that make certain tasks easier and faster with more dependable results.”

Oh, the cutters! Don’t even get me started on cutters. I guard my Xuron metal scissors like seamstresses guard their good fabric scissors. And yes, I have two pair!

jewelry-making tools: needlenose pliers, wire cutters, metal scissors, and more

Pliers: Essential Jewelry-Making Tools for Everyone

Pliers are truly essential jewelry-making tools for everyone, no matter what type of jewelry you make. Metalsmiths form metal with pliers, hold metal in a flame with what Lexi calls “burn ’em up” pliers, and even cut metal, if you consider pliers with blades to be pliers instead of cutters. Wireworkers open and close jump rings, curve and coil metal–and then straighten it out again if it gets kinked or too curvy–and grip wires for wire wrapping with pliers. Beaders need pliers for jump rings, crimps, and other stringing tasks. In addition to being essential, pliers are versatile little things.

With all of these options for using pliers, knowing which pliers are best for which tasks can get blurry. But is it really that important? It’s okay to make a loop with chain-nose pliers instead of round-nose pliers if they’re more handy, right? Well sure, but using the wrong jewelry-making tools for a technique can damage your materials. Learn when to use round-nose pliers, chain-nose pliers, and other pliers and jewelry-making tools for the best results.

After you learn which pliers to use for various tasks, make sure you know how to maintain your pliers for a long and happy relationship!

Finally, learn to customize your pliers into your truly most essential jewelry-making tools, like Alan Revere and other pros did with these “tricked out pliers” techniques.


By now, you’ve got your pliers all figured out. Fill out your stash of jewelry-making tools with these special value pliers collections!