>Tools of My Trade

14 Aug

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There are tools to my trade. Some tools are specific to the jewelry making profession, others are just items that I have found to be helpful and may seem odd to use. The photo above is a range of hand held tools that I use everyday. They are color coded and I usually know which one I need to pick up by either the color of the handle or the location of the tool as I place and replace it onto the work table surface. I’d like to share what each tool is for and comment on them as well.

Starting from left to right:
Wire Cutter (green handle). A wire cutter can be purchased in many different types of stores, a jewelry/bead store, a floral supply store, a “do- it-yourself” home improvement store, a craft store, a tool store, even a dollar store. They are not very expensive and so they can be resharpened or replaced as needed. I cut wire often and the gage of wire is not always the same. My cutters go dull quickly but, it is a must to have one on hand to cut any type of wire, nylon string from packaging, or even cut the end of a metal charm off. It is the number one tool that I use and need often.

Flush Cutter (bright green handle). This is a type of wire cutter but, the cutting jaws are angled for a more accurate cut. This cutter gets “flush” to the wire you are cutting and it is easy to place and see exactly where you want to cut.

Chain Nose Pliers (red handle). The pliers’ jaws are flat on the inside and rounded on the outside. The flat surface creates right angle bends in wire. The rounded outside makes rounded bends. Their tapered point allows me to work in tight places. Pliers’ tips are strong and solid foundation to twist or hold wire on one end.

Crimp Pliers (blue handle). Crimping pliers are specialty pliers that have two grooves machined into the jaws and are made to crush and close (fold over) very small crimp beads or tubes. Crimp pliers come in a few different sizes based on the size of crimp beads or tubes used. The one above is a “micro crimper” that crimps or secures smaller crimp beads.

Round Nose Pliers ( lavender handle). The name refers to the shape of the pliers’ jaws. I use the round nose to create loops and creative curves in the wire. Most of the round nose pliers have a tapered point. That allows me to vary the size of any loop or bend, also making them consistent in size if looped or bent in the same location of the tip.

Round Nose Pliers (pink handle) is a smaller version of the lavender handle tool. The loops and curves formed with this are much more tight and smaller. Both tools are used interchangeably but they can also be used for a specific bend.

The tools that are not marketed specifically for the jewelry profession and are merely “invented” will be the topic of another post but, for now I did include one item (pictured) that I use on a regular basis that is not common on shelves of beads shops as a tool. I discovered it by playing a board game!

The board game of a jewelry artist’s choice should be SCRABBLE. Well…until there are a few missing wooden letter docks, that is! The length of the grooved wooden plank that usually holds the Scrabble game letters (first item left to right in photo) happens to also be the average length of a person’s wrist, for a bracelet. Thus, making for a great design shelf for planning and creating a bracelet. The beads can be placed in the desired order to be strung and it will end up measuring seven inches. You can adjust the length by ending the clasp at the end or just before it reaches the end of the mini shelf.
An Awl (second item left to right above) is used for making sure a hole in a bead is uniform and able to allow a wire or string to move completely through the entire bead. For snug fits, the awl makes sure that the pointed end helps ribbons and string move through a bead hole with out snags and smoothly.
Ruler The ruler is used at the beginning and at the end of my creations. In the beginning, I have an idea of the length I want the creation to end up being. Especially if it is a custom piece, the length is very important to get correct. It is always important to allow for extra wire in the beginning so that there is adequate wire for folding over at the ends. When I use links for a connection, it is sometimes good to incorporate extra or expendable options at the ends as well.
Needle Tool This is a tool with a very sharp metal end and the shaft is like a file. It is used to smooth out the inside of a bead hole and can also be used to poke a rough spot out of a metal charm, or make a hole bigger in a metal charm.
Flat Nose Pliers This is used like bent chain nose pliers (not pictured). The bent nose pliers have an end like a hook that grip wire and material in hard-to-reach-places. The flat nose pliers can also do that but, the jaws are entirely flat and smooth and can be sued to grip, bend, and flatten wire without marking it.
Determining your level of projects considers basic knowledge of some tools, materials and beads. The intermediate level person has skills that are working knowledge of basic techniques, tools, and materials. An advanced skill level has experience in technique or medium being used. An advanced skill level person accepts challenges and are looking to push beyond existing skills. Club Creative Studio finds that growth is evident and the moto: Be Creative Everyday is key.
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