“Pliers and files and hammers and bench blocks,
Flush cutters, torches and wood doming blocks,
Tumbling ear wires and the joy that it brings,
These are a few of my favourite things”
( With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein! )
Like most of us, I use a lot of different tools to create jewellery. Some are used every day while some are used once in a while. I thought I would share which tools are my favourites and why.
I probably use my chain nose pliers more than any other tool. And, of course, as with all pliers, these come in various qualities and sizes. They are useful for so many tasks – opening and closing jump rings, ( I use two pairs for this ) holding small pieces, wire wrapping – the list could go on indefinitely. I love them because they give me extra dexterity for working with small bits that I simply don’t have with just my fingers. The other pliers I use a lot are the multi-head looping pliers. These are indispensable for making consistently sized ear wires and S hooks, and they make working with wire so much easier.
Flush cutters are another tool that I use on a daily basis. I love the nice, clean end that they give which is important for cutting wire and bezel prior to soldering. Those, along with my pliers are kept in a plier stand within easy reach of my work table. Keeping them there assures that I always know where they are and that they are not banging against each other or other tools and getting nicks that transfer to marks onto whatever piece I am working on.
I love the classic hammered texture on silver and copper, so a steel bench block and a ball-peen hammer, or other texturing hammers are also favourite tools that I keep close to hand. There is also nothing more therapeutic than a good texturing after a frustrating day! Of course, a rubber bench block underneath and a rawhide mallet are also important, the rubber bench block for under the steel one and the rawhide mallet for gently pounding the metal flat again. Don’t forget to anneal as required! The Big Buddy Butane Torch is great for this – easy to light and handle.
Dapping Sets (with block and punches) are also among my favourite tools. I use a lot of round shapes in my jewellery, and doming them adds another layer of interest to the design. My dapping block is kept next to my pliers in a box with all its punches. I use a brass hammer with it which is in the same drawer as, ( you guessed it! ) my bench block and ball peen hammer. Wooden dapping blocks should be used for pieces that have been textured. If you want a smooth, shiny surface, use a metal dapping block. You will achieve better results with both if you anneal the metal before – time for the butane torch again!
I also have a soft spot for Files. For me, there is something soothing about filing the ends of wire into a smooth roundness. The repetitive motion becomes a meditation as I focus on filing away the rough edges. Okay, that sounds pretty deep, but it is true. I have several hand files in different cuts and a box of needle files in all kinds of shapes for getting into teeny weeny spots.
Lastly, I want to say how much I love Tumblers! The first time I was told to put my silver ring that I had laboured over into a tumbler with steel shot, no less, I thought it was the most insane thing I had ever heard. Once I saw the end result, I was converted! They are like a kind of magic box that transforms your jewellery into beautiful shiny things! They also work-harden your pieces at the same time, giving them durability.
So the next time you go to your bench and pick up your favourite tool, don’t forget to tell it how much you appreciate all that it does for you. Show it some love!!