Jewelry Making Tools and Online Suppliers
Pliers and Cutters
One pair of pliers and one pair of cutters is the very minimum of tools that you will need to make jewelry. When I first started making jewelry all I had where one pair of cheap side cutters (<£2) and a pair of snipe nose un-serrated pliers (<£2), which served me fine for quite a while. Low cost pliers and cutters can be purchased from most online bead shops and some hardware/diy stores. For people who are more serious about jewelry making, there are more tools available. There are a few different types of pliers available, each of which are better at some jobs than the others.
The main types of pliers are; snipe nose, round nose, flat nose and angled snipe nose. Snipe nose, flat nose and angled snipe nose pliers all have flat/straight jaws. So that if you look at these types of pliers straight on, their jaws would look something like this;
The main difference between snipe nose and flat nose pliers is that the tips of the snipe nose pliers are pointy and the tips of the flat nose pliers are flat. The length of the snipe nose plier jaws also tend to be longer. The angled snipe nose pliers are the same as snipe nose ones, but the jaws are bent at an angle. Round nose plier jaws are exactly that: round. When viewed at straight on, the jaws look like little circles like this;
These are used for wire-wrapping.
Make sure you get pliers with smooth jaws and not serrated ones. Pliers with serrated jaws may mark or produce dents in wire.
If you make a lot of strung necklaces and/or bracelets, a pair of specialist crimping pliers is a must. They are used with the type of crimps that look like little smooth cylinders, not the ones with curved sides. More on these pliers can be found here.
The main type of cutter that you will need are called side cutters. The more flush the cut, the better it is.
Professional Quality Lindstrom Tools
For really serious jewelry makers or professionals there are Lindstrom pliers and cutters. Their ergonomic range is great if you make a lot of jewellery, though they cost around £30+ new. They are very pricey, but they do also last a long time. If you have limited funds and can only buy one Lindstrom tool, I would recommend buying a pair of cutters rather than pliers. Cheap cutters tend to blunt quite quickly, whilst more expensive cutters last for years and years so it would make a good investment.
Lindstrom pliers can be purchased online from the following websites;
Other Great Tools
This section will be about tumblers, the koil kutter and the jump ringer. These items are not as essential as the above tools, but are great to own. However they are pricey, especially if you don't live in the USA.
Rotary Tumblers (Rock)
First of all, this is about cleaning and polishing jewelry (sterling silver or otherwise) and not about rock tumbling. Though if you get a tumbler you could do both. The main merits of using a tumbler to clean jewelry are that there are no chemicals involved and not only does it clean, it also gets rid of any tiny scratches.
Though there are many good manufacturers out there, Lortone is considered one of the best. The cheapest place that I've found for a Lortone tumbler 3lb capacity is at www.therockshed.com (around £50 including UK shipping, depending on the exchange rate at the time). I only found one UK website that sells the 3lb Lortone tumbler - www.pmc.vpam.co.uk for £110 including postage costs, about double what it costs to get one from the USA. However, you may need to pay custom costs and also to buy an adapter for the US plug (I bought a new USA to UK voltage adapter from ebay for £7.50). Low cost (children's) rock tumblers are available in toy stores, but they tend to be noisy and may 'walk' across tables because of the vibrating. They also don't last so long.
Tumblers come in different sizes, but the 2lb or 3lb capacity tumblers will probably suit most people. When deciding on size, remember the barrel must be at least half full and no more than three-quarters full to work properly. More information on tumblers and how to use them can be found at www.artclayclub.co.uk and www.urbanmaille.com (Urban Maille also sells gorgeous chain maille kits and a large variety of jump rings)
Tumblers are available at:
- www.therockshed.com - low international shipping costs.
- www.lortone.com - find a Lortone supplier near you.
You will also need to buy stainless steel shot (or other media). Stainless steel shot is used with a tumbler to burnish metal for a shiny and clean finish. It is usually sold in a pack of assorted shapes. Assorted shapes are good because they will get into all the nooks and crannies of your jewelry, thus cleaning it thoroughly. For a 3lb tumbler you will need between 450 (1lb) and 900 (2lb) grams of shot. For a 2lb tumbler you will need between 350 and 600 grams. Mixed stainless steel shot can be purchased online from the following websites;
- www.manchesterminerals.co.uk - 1kg pack of assorted shapes at £25 + £6.64 UK shipping cost.
- www.ukge.co.uk - 500g pack of assorted shapes at £11.84 + £3.50 UK shipping cost.
Jump Ring Makers
A jump ring maker is a jig for easily making many jump rings at once. Basically, you get some wire, wrap it around a mandrel (creating a long coil), put it in the jig and cut through it using a rotary tool, thus creating many perfect jump rings. There are several available, though I don't think any of them are available in the UK, only the USA. Two of the main ones are the Jump Ringer and the much cheaper Koil Kutter. They both work pretty much the same. The main differences between the Jump Ringer (JR) and the Koil Kutter (KK) is that the JR looks much sleeker and that you are able to create differently shaped jump rings with the JR and only round jump rings with the KK. Also, you have to use a flex shaft and a more powerful (and more expensive) tool with the JR, whilst you can use a cheaper dremel or proxxon tool with the KK.
The Koil Kutter can only be purchased from the maker, Dave Arens (in the USA). He doesn't have a website, but can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He replies very promptly to enquiries and will email you back with some information and a price list. I purchased the Koil Kutter ($79.99) from him and an extra blade ($9.99). The total came to $100.40 (£51.53 with the exchange rate being £1=$1.94 at the time) including postage to the UK (Global Priority) and packaging. I also had to pay around £16 in custom charges. A tutorial on how to use the Koil Kutter can be found at www.desiredcreations.com.
Dave also sells and recommends a Proxxon rotary tool (FBS240/E) to be used with the KK. Dremel tools can also be used (which are cheaper), but they are not as good. Proxxon tools are available to buy in the UK from:
- www.powertooldirect.co.uk - £39.53 including postage and VAT.
- www.tool-shop.co.uk - £46.50 including postage and VAT.
- www.diytools.co.uk - £46.60 including postage and VAT.
Always use a lubricant with a rotary tool. BurLife is a good lubricant (£5.30 from www.manchesterminerals.co.uk), but you can also use washing-up liquid.
A tutorial on how to use the Jump Ringer can be found at: http://www.creativespill.com. It costs around $255 (not including postage) for a standard Jump Ringer System. This price includes a winder, and three mandrels. It can be purchased at www.jatayu.com.