When it comes to starting a new project, having all the tools you need in one place is an essential piece of the puzzle. You can easily waste precious crafting time scrambling to collect what you need. In this article I will cover the six essential elements that need to be in your jewelry making tool kit and why they are so important.
Depending on what kind of jewelry you are making, your toolbox is going to adjust a bit to fit the tasks. However, for the purposes of this article I am going to cover a very general set of tools that are common in every kit from beginner to the most advanced. I have also added some great suggestions for more specialized tools that can come in handy in any projects that you may be tackling.
1.) Pliers, Pliers Everywhere
Let’s start with the most basic addition to your jewelry making tool kit. Pliers. There are so many types of pliers to choose from and they can get highly specialized. Often, you will need at least two pairs of pliers for opening and closing some of your findings, so don’t be shy about having multiple pairs. The following list are the ones that we, jewelry makers, use the most. You can typically find these in pre-assembled tool kits available at your local jewelry and bead supply store.
Chain Nose (or Needle Nose) Pliers – These are the handy dandy, go to pliers for your tool kit. With a long, thin, tapered end, these pliers are great for reaching into especially small spaces. They are also helpful for working with jump rings, grabbing and crimping beads, and bending and managing all kinds of findings. Chain Nose pliers can come with or without teeth on the inside of the jaw. If they have teeth, they will grab onto most items better, but they may leave unwanted teeth marks on your items if you grip too hard. On the other hand, having a smooth jaw is sometimes the more desirable. They typically leave little to no marks or marring on your project, but beware, with limited gripping capabilities, your item may launch itself from your workspace.
Bent Nose Pliers – These are just like chain nose or needle nose pliers, however the front end is bent which lets you reach into many places that a straight plier cannot.
Flat Nose Pliers – These pliers do not typically have a strong taper like chain nose pliers. They give you a better grip when pulling and the square edges of the jaw let you create sharp corners more easily. Flat Nose pliers are available with or without internal teeth inside the jaw.
Round Nose Pliers – Having a smooth, rounded jaw makes it hard to grab onto anything with these pliers, but they are an essential tool when making wire loops like jump rings or winding wire wrapping. Because of the curvature, your wire is smooth and free of any unnecessary crimping.
2.) Cutting Tools
A good pair of wire cutters can go a long way. Just like with pliers, there are a myriad of types of cutting utensils, but every tool kit needs a good pair of wire cutters and a good pair of scissors. Whether you are using wire, string, ribbons or chain you will need an implement that will consistently trim right where you need it. Helpful tip to remember when using wire cutters: try to keep the flat side close to your project, and cover the open end. This gives you the closest cut, and also prevents the cut bits from flying across the room.
3.) Assorted Findings
One can never have too many clips, clasps, head pins or ear wires when planning a new jewelry making project. Having an assortment of sizes, styles, and colors can prove to be invaluable when it comes to that point in the piece. Come by and check out out stock of findings. There is something for all of your projects.
4.) Beading Mat & Organizers
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to keep all your beads from rolling off the table. A beading mat is essential for your jewelry making tool kit to keep all your beads in place and to protect your surface if you happen to drop something. Some mats have a lip or an edge and come in a variety of fabrics. These little babies can keep your beads along with your sanity safe from harm.
There’s nothing like finishing a beautiful design, and then looking around in panic because you have nothing to ensure that your knots will stay put. Even though clear nail polish will sometimes do in a pinch, it is always a good idea to have a tube of GS Hypo Cement and/or E6000 on hand for the final touches.
6.) Tackle Box
Keeping all of your tools in one centralized place is a great organizational technique. When starting a new project, do a quick check of your tools, and you are off to the races. Tackle boxes or some cosmetics kit boxes are perfect for this job. They have a ton of compartments and easily accessible sections to keep all your tools sorted and at your fingertips, not to mention the ease of clean-up when the project is done (or done for now).
Extra tools and accessories that are helpful in your jewelry making tool kit:
Crimping Pliers – Specially designed pliers like crimping pliers are made to do a very specific task. These are shaped perfectly to be used with crimping beads and tubes, without accidentally cutting through your wire or threads. Also, using specialized tools can help prolong the life of your other tools.
Nylon Tip Pliers – Soft nylon jaws are extremely helpful when you are working with soft metals or delicate designs. The nylon leaves almost no marks on your sensitive surfaces.
Memory Wire Cutters – Yes, this is a thing. If you are using memory wire, it is not recommended to cut it with your normal wire cutters. This wire is tougher than most and will dent and dull ordinary cutters.
Tweezers – You probably have a spare pair of tweezers around the house somewhere that you can appropriate for your kit. Use these grooming glories for everything from picking up seed beads, threading needles, to pulling threads and tightening knots.
Now that you have built an all-purpose generalized jewelry making tool kit, you can easily add the specialty tools and materials you need for almost any project. Here at Austin Bead Gallery we offer tools, jewelry and bead making supplies. Also check out our jewelry making classes that will take your projects to a level of professionalism you can be proud of. Visit us for online for our full jewelry making class schedule. Let’s get beading.