Jewellery Making & Beadwork: The Tools
If you’d like to create your own jewellery like these lovely pieces, but are not quite sure where to start, here’s an introduction to get you underway. As with all crafts, jewellery making has a range of tools needed to get you going. Below is a list of the basic tools required for general jewellery making, touching on some of the more specific items used for more advanced techniques.
Written by Bobbi O’Riley of Eureka! Beads
Crimping Pliers (serrated edge needle nose pliers)
These pliers are most commonly used when working with tigertail wire and small hollow metal tubes known as ‘crimps’. Crimping pliers are used to press these crimps down, locking components such as clasps, rings and beads into place. They can also be used for opening and closing chain and rings – use two sets of crimping pliers to get a strong hold on thicker components. If you’re worried about the pliers scratching your rings etc, use non-serrated pliers, or try wrapping a little electrical tape around the jaws. Budget crimping pliers often have small blades on the inside of the jaws – although not great for long term usage, these blades could potentially cut your wire, so ensure you use the tips of the jaws to crimp, away from the blades. Some people prefer specialised ‘rounding’ crimping pliers – see below for more information on these.
Wire Cutters (side cutters and end cutters)
There are two main cutters used in jewellery making – side cutters and end cutters (also known as memory wire cutters). Side cutters are the most commonly used – with a tapered blade, they are useful for cutting in nice and close to clasps etc. These cutters will work with most stringing materials (tigertail, copper wire, elastic) and soft metals, however not with memory wire. Memory wire is a hardened wire which holds its shape, and requires stronger cutters such as end cutters to get a cleaner cut.
Twirly Wirlie Pliers (round nose pliers)
Renamed by one of my kid’s classes, ‘twirly wirlies’ are round nose pliers with a completely round tip. These pliers are predominantly used to make loops in pins and wire, allowing the components to be connected. Most useful for making earrings and doing wirework.
Bead Mats/ Bead Boards/ Bead Trays
When working with a selection of materials to make a project, it can be handy to have a way of keeping all your components in place – this is where a mat, board or tray comes into its own. In our classes, we use beading trays – a metal tray with small compartments useful for keeping everything separate. The advantage of these trays is that they are solid, meaning you can sit them on your lap whilst doing a bit of beading in front of the TV. Bead boards are normally a flocked plastic tray with the outline of a necklace on the outer edge and small compartments in the centre. These boards have the advantage of being able to lay out a necklace before stringing it, planning the length and design in advance. Bead mats are a heavy velvet-like mat, normally available in softer colours, that stop round beads and the like from rolling around. They are particularly useful when working with small seed beads and needles.
Prices: As with most craft tools, these tools are available in a selection of different price ranges, from the budget through to the more expensive. My personal recommendation when beginning is to start with the budget tools – get a feel for which tools you work with more and which tools you only use occasionally. Brand name tools often feature high quality stainless steel jaws and colourful grip handles, which can be handy for more prolonged usage.
Other Tools: As your jewellery making progresses, there are endless other tools and equipment that you may encounter, including:
Do you have a favourite tool that you use in your jewellery making, or a great tip to share? Let us know below!
Eureka! Beads are a regular exhibitor at our craft events and will be coming to Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair and Melbourne Craft and Sewing Show. You can also view their website which has a great range of projects and products at www.eurekabeads.com.au
Thank you to Bobbi O’Riley of Eureka! Beads for this article.