Jewelry pliers are absolute essentials for any aspiring jeweler (whether beginner or not!)
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The secret is in the jaw of the pliers.
Normally, pliers are serrated for better grabability. Jeweler's pliers are smooth. Wire is softer than your pliers (it would have to be, or else the pliers would bend before the wire!) This means that any serration on the pliers' jaws would mar your wire when you work with it.
You'll find that you wire will get marred enough using the smooth jeweler's pliers. You don't need serrated edges to help it along!
Have you ever been confused about what jewelry pliers to use when making your jewelry creation? I you have, you're not alone.
I mean, there's, round nose, chain nose, flat nose and even bent nose pliers to name a few. In fact, at one time, I had often wondered if these tools really do different things or is the jewelry-making industry just trying to sell us more tools?No Conspiracies Here. . .
Well, I'm here to set the record straight. Each tool does have a unique purpose.
Guys seem to understand this concept which is why the garage if filled with every millimeter-size available for just one particular tool.
But ladies, did you know we do the same thing. . . in our kitchens? Many of us probably have as many cooking utensils as our male counter parts have tools in their tool chests. Really, would you be caught dead frying your eggs in a deep pot instead of a frying pan?
Well, it's the same way with jewelry-making tools, especially pliers.
While there are a plethora of specialty pliers out there, I'll give you the low down on the 4 most commonly used pliers for making handcrafted jewelry.
Used heavily in wire work to make loops and wraps with wire. The jaws are cone shaped so that you can make loops of different sizes without needing another tool. Some even come with wire cutters near the joint and are called Rosary pliers allowing you to shape and cut wire with one tool.
These pliers have flat jaws but are rounded on the outside of jaw. They are primarily used to bend and grip just about anything, are useful for attaching findings and are a wise investment if you like to bounce back and forth making different types of jewelry like wire work, chain maille and basic strung jewelry.
Here's another work horse tool. . . these pliers have flat square tips, are great for griping. You'll often find the thinner-jawed version as a staple in a chain maille artist's toolbox for opening and closing jump rings. These pliers also make sharp bends in sheet metal and wire which make them ideal for wire artists as well.
These funky looking pliers, which have an angled curve in their jaws, are one of my personal favorites to use because is allows me to get into close areas to bend and grip, yet still do even finer bending or gripping with the tapered tips. While they do many of the same jobs as the flat and chain nose pliers, their bent tip allows my wrist to stay straight while working with them which cuts down on fatigue.
Not technically pliers, but in my mind they are in the "pliers" group"
Side Flush Cutters
These are an essential. They are for cutting wire (but NOT memory wire!). Flush cutters will leave a flat cut edge (a flush cut) on one side of the cut wire. I use the german cutters and they are great. You don't need to get the really expensive cutters to do great work.
As you begin to build your toolbox, remember that you don't need to break the bank. Instead, take a hard look at the type of jewelry you keep being drawn to make. If you're like most of us, one discipline won't cut it because we want to try them all!
However, if you can narrow down your choices, you may only need to buy one or two pliers for the moment since most of these pliers can do multiple jobs.
Nylon Jaw Pliers
Nylon jaw pliers are designed for shaping and sculpting craft wire and for wire wrapping. Nylon jaws protect the surface finish of wire or other materials. I use mine mostly for straightening wire. For a demonstration, click here to watch my wire straightening video.
For making your crimps look like and neat. Not an essential though - you can flatten the crimps with flat or chain-nosed pliers and they'll do their job
Split Ring Pliers
For opening split rings more easily
Ring Closing Pliers
For closing jump-rinks, chain links, and loops without marring the ring (I use mine to hold soldered rings while I try to loop cable through them. Keeps them from jumping away from me)
Bail-looping, Ring Looping, and Wrap n' Tap pliers
Make bigger sized loops easily with these jewelry pliers.
Fold Over Crimping Pliers For Leather & Suede Findings
These pliers are used to fold over the sides of fold-over ends.
Magic Crimping Pliers
These jewelry pliers turn sterling silver or gold-fill crimp tubes into round beads. They come in two sizes (based on the thickness of beading cable).
I have a set of these myself. I love them. They only work with precious metal crimp tubes. Base metal crimp tubes tend to be too thin to form the ball.
Micro Crimping Pliers
For Crimping Teeny Tiny Crimp Tubes
Remember, using the right tool will help you make that dream in your head become a beautiful reality. So buy the best quality of tool your budget will afford right now. Then, once you become more advanced in a technique, you can add more specialty pliers or upgrade the quality of your original collection of tools.