Friday, February 27, 2015

Jewellery Maker's Basic Tool Kit

5 essential jewellery making tools for beginners

If you're new to jewellery making, it's easy to feel intimidated by the array of tools available. It can be a daunting feeling trying to work out which tools you need and what are they all used for. After all, you've never made jewellery before! But there's no need to buy every tool available - you only need to make a small investment to get started and then you can add to it as you go along. Here's my selection of basic tools you'll need as you start out on your jewellery making journey.

Chain nose pliers

This is my number one "must have" pair of pliers in your tool kit. They have a flat surface on the inner side of each jaw giving you good purchase when you grip things with them. Look for pliers that have a fine tapered point so that you can get into tight spots easily. They should also have a spring mechanism to minimise the amount of effort you need to exert when you use them and they should fit your hand size - i.e. not too large and not too small. I use Beadalon Slim Chain Nose Pliers

Round nose pliers

Round nose pliers are my go-to tool for making loops - these are indespensable when working with eye pins and head pins. They have two round jaws which taper from the base to the tip. Once again, you want to look for comfort in the grip and a spring mechanism to minimise fatigue when you use them for extended periods of time. I also like my pliers to have only a small gap between the base of the two jaws. If the gap is too large, you will find it difficult to grip the wire. My choice is the Beadsmith round nose pliers which are included in the Ergo 4 piece set.

Flat Nose Pliers
Not everyone agrees that flat nose pliers need to be included in the basic jewelry making tool kit but I find them essential for making a sharp bend prior to forming loops. Flat nose pliers have two broad, flat jaws designed for gripping larger surfaces. Look for pliers with a well defined edge on the jaws. I like the Beadsmith flat nose pliers from their Ergo 4 piece set

Flush Cutters, Wire Cutters, Side Cutters and Nippers
You'll use cutters all the time to trim away excess wire and to cut stringing materials to length and there is an array of different types of cutters to choose from. But I prefer flush cutters because they cut the wire with one flush side (desirable) and one pointed side, whereas regular cutters leave a  bevel (point) on both sides. Look for flush cutters with a tapered point so you can nip in difficult to reach places. A spring mechanism is essental to give you more control and to minimise hand strain. My choice for flush cutters is the Beadalon Flush Cutter.

A point to note about cutters is that they are NOT designed to be used with memory wire. Cutting memory wire with your wire cutters will permanently damage the cutting edge of the blades. Use memory wire shears if you intend to work with memory wire.

Beading Mat
This useful mat provides a cushioned surface to work on and prevents beads from rolling around your work space or onto the floor. Select one in a light shade for general use and one in a dark shade for working with light coloured beads - it's much easier on the eyes! This 3-piece set of beading mats gives you a selection of colours.

As you grow in skill and want to move on to different jewellery making techniques, like most of us, you will probably expand your collection to include more specialised tools but this basic set will still be your most-used tools.

Just remember, that your work will only ever be as good as the tools you use. Invest wisely in the basic tools and they will last you for years, but there is no need to spend a small fortune - there are many well-priced tools on the market, like those suggested, that will do a perfectly good job.

If you found this information helpful, you might also like these posts:
Basic Jewellery Making Techniques

Pin this for Later!
5 Basic jewellery making tools guide

Happy jewellery-making!

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tool Review - Xuron 4 in 1 Crimper Tool

I've been teaching jewellery-making techniques for many years now and one of the things students find most difficult to accomplish is well-formed, secure crimps. The crimping technique takes practice to perfect but once you've got the knack, your jewellery will be strong and will be able to withstand the tug test.

Whilst at CHA in January, I came across Xuron who manufacturer jewellery-making tools and they were were kind enough to give me a pair of their crimping pliers to test out.

Now this is not just an ordinary crimping tool: Xuron 4 In 1 Crimper Tool crimps 1mm, 2mm and 3mm crimp tubes and in addition, it is also has a chain nose tip to get into very tight spaces.

So let's test it out and see how well it performs.

The first thing you'll notice is that the crimping station (the notch closest to the handle) is shaped like a "V". This "V" is the feature that sets the 4 in 1 Crimper Tool apart from standard crimping pliers.

To use the tool, string a crimp tube onto a length of beading wire and then thread the end back through the tube, forming a loop. You can see in the photo below that the beading wire wants to cross over itself inside the tube. This is a definite "No-No"!

 Separate those wires out so that they sit flat alongside each other.

Now that the wires are flat, place the crimp tube in the crimping station.....

and squeeze the handles firmly to press the notch into the centre of the tube. Make sure that one wire sits on either side of the channel as you form it.

It should look like this, with one wire in each channel.

Remove the crimp tube from the crimping station, hold the crimp tube and give each of the wires a tug to make sure your crimp is secure. If not, check that you're using the right size crimp tube for the diameter of the beading wire you've chosen.

Place the tube into the folding station corresponding to the size of your crimp tube - I used a 2mm crimp tube so I'm using the second notch from the top. Position it so that the bottom of the "V" is closest to the handles and squeeze to fold the wings of the crimp in.

And this is what it should look like.

If you wish, you can flatten the crimp further for extra security by placing it into the chain nose tip of the crimper and squeeze a little more, but this step is optional!

So, what's the verdict?

I really like this tool! It will make crimping a lot easier for beginners and more experienced jewellery-makers alike. Because the notching station produces a pronounced "V", the crimp tube doesn't roll around when placed in the folding station as is prone to happen in standard crimping tools, so it is easy to create a perfectly formed, even crimp.

I mentioned that this tool also has a chain nose plier tip. Being such a fine tip, it's ideal for getting into tight spaces, adding to the tool's versatility. The bonus is that it also reduces the number of tools you need to have on hand to complete a project.

My verdict? I give the Xuron 4 In 1 Crimper Tool the thumbs up!

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

Monday, February 2, 2015

Resin and Bezels with Uneven Backs

If you've ever poured resin in bezels before, you're sure to have come across bezels that don't sit flat. Perhaps they have a pendant bail that protrudes past the bezel, or perhaps it has a snap on the back like the popular "Klik" bezels. Or maybe it's even slightly warped. No matter what the issue, you need to find a way of keeping the bezel level whilst you're working on it and also whilst it's curing.
Klik bezels have a built in snap on the back so they don't sit flat.

Here's a couple of my favourite tricks to make things just a little bit easier.

Place the bezel on a bed of rice or sand so that it sits level. The bezel will easily press into the grains surrounding it for support.
Klik bezel supported on a bed of rice grains

Place the bezel over a cavity. Here I'm using a plastic mould tray with deep cavities. Make sure the bezel is supported on the flat surface. This one will slide around a little bit but it's still a good solution if you have nothing else around.
Klik bezel supported in a mould cavity

But I've kept the best until last - my favourite tip for working with the Klik bezels is.....
Off cut of compressed foam
compressed foam!

I'm using an offcut from an interlocking foam mat which is thick enough to accommodate the snap base.

Here's how to turn it into a really stable support for your resin bezel.

Press the snap into the foam so that it leaves an impression.
Pressing a bezel back into compressed foam to leave an impressiom

Press the points of scissors into the foam (to the depth of the snap) at the edge of the impression and cut 2 slits diagonally across the impression.
Using scissor to cut an "X" from the impression left in the foam by the Klik bezel

It should look like this.
"X" cut into the foam

Trim away the area between the corners holding the blades at about a 45° angle.
Scissors trimming away the excess foam around the "X"

It will be a little bit messy but that's OK.
Foam with a hole to accommodate the snap on the back of the Klik bezel

Insert the snap into the hole......
Klik bezel sitting flat on the foam with the snap pressed into the hole

......and test it for fit.  I like it to be snug enough that you can hold it upside down without the Klik snap falling out.
Even when the foam is turned upside down, the bezel will not fall out.

And now you have a really stable platform for holding that bezel in place whilst you work on it.

You can use polystyrene foam or florists foam in place of the compressed foam and you may not even have to do any trimming. But for me, the re-useability of the compressed foam wins hands down.

See this related post:
How to keep the dome level in post back earrings

If you found these ideas useful, PIN IT!
3 ways to help bezels lie flat cheat sheet

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs