Jewelry making is a popular hobby, and some people can turn the craft into a small side business or even their primary business. It is rewarding to see one’s beautiful designs purchased and worn by customers. For someone who is just getting started in jewelry making, it may seem that there is a great deal of initial expense in obtaining the necessary tools and equipment, not to mention wire, cord, beads, clasps, and other supplies. While it is a commitment, jewelry making does not need much more than the initial investment when it comes to tools, since most tools last for quite some time.
In order to select the right jewelry making tools, one must first decide what type of jewelry to start with: beadwork, metalwork, or some other type of jewelry. Because it is impossible to determine which tools are needed until a certain situation comes up, it is best to start with a small number of basic tools and purchase new tools as one goes. The following tools include basic and advanced tools so that buyers can become familiar with what is available.
Pliers and Cutters for Jewelry Making
The No. 1 tool in any jeweler’s toolbox is pliers. Pliers and cutters allow the craftsman to manipulate and shorten lengths of wire. Many different kinds are needed for different actions. Consult the following table to see the different kinds of jeweler’s pliers available and for what they are used.
For making wire loops and curves
To work with beads and stones or attach clasps
To flatten wire
To attach crimping beads or tubes to the ends of wires
To grip wire tightly or bend wire; working with jump rings
Cuts straight across, perpendicular to the item; used to cut wires, rings, and pins
Cuts on an angle
These pliers can often be found in sets of two, three, or more in basic jeweler’s pliers sets. Spring-action handles are generally considered ideal for pliers and wire cutters, as they greatly reduce fatigue in the hands.
Files for Jewelry Making
Metal files are used to smooth edges of cut metal, whether they be tiny jump rings or larger pieces of metalwork incorporated into the design itself. Like sandpaper, files come in many different grades, from coarse to fine. There are also specialized types of files, such as the cup bur.
A cup bur is a special tool that rounds, smooths, and polishes the end of wire, particularly ear wires. This allows earrings to be inserted without tearing the delicate flesh of the earlobe or injuring the pierced hole.
Hammers and Mallets for Jewelry Making
As one would guess, hammers and mallets are used to pound and flatten materials for jewelry making, especially when working primarily with metals. The following table describes three common types of hammers and mallets.
A chasing hammer is used to harden and flatten metal wire.
A nylon hammer is used to harden wire without flattening it.
Some jewelers find a rawhide mallet is useful because it allows them to work with metal without scratching or otherwise marring it.
There are many types of hammers and mallets, but these three are sufficient for the beginner.
Beading Tools for Jewelry Making
There are several jewelry making tools that are specific to beaded jewelry. A bead stopper is used to keep beads from falling off the wire while stringing them. A bead gauge helps to measure sizes of unmarked or unknown beads. A bead reamer is a long, thin tool that cleans out the hole in the center of a bead if it was not done correctly in the factory or if the opening is slightly too small. The reamer can also be used to make new holes in homemade clay or other types of beads. Bead knotters and beading needles are some other useful beading tools.
Miscellaneous Jewelry Making Tools
A jump ring maker creates the bendable jump rings that are used to attach charms to charm bracelets and clasps to necklaces. An awl is handy for undoing knots. Adhesives, such as craft glue, jeweler’s glue, cement, and epoxy resin come in handy for many things, such as adding embellishments to a pin or pendant.
Household Tools Useful for Jewelry Making
Many regular household items and tools come in handy when designing and making jewelry. Many beginners may already have these items. They include
- Paper and pencils: For sketching designs and making patterns, noting bead order, counting beads, making notes
- Permanent markers: For marking on metal or wire, especially cut points
- Ruler: For measuring lengths of material used for necklaces and bracelets, as well as measuring finished product dimensions
- Protractor: For measuring angles
- Scissors: For cutting paper patterns, string, leather, and ribbon
- Tweezers: For picking up and holding small items
- Compass: For drawing perfect circles
- Safety glasses: To protect eyes during metalworking or shaving
- Bright lamp: To increase visibility and reduce eye strain
- Magnifier: For working with very small beads, stones, and other jewelry findings
Organizers for Jewelry Tools
As a jeweler advances in the hobby, he or she is bound to accumulate a variety of tools that can cause clutter. There are many plastic trays and bins that keep a jeweler’s items organized.
A plastic toolbox or tackle box is sufficient for holding an assortment of pliers, cutters, rulers, and so on.
A beading tray lets the jeweler lay out beads to design a necklace or bracelet in a loop as it will actually look. Some trays are incorporated into a storage container, while other trays are sold separately and are used specifically for working.
Clear storage containers keep beads sorted and visible for quick and easy selection. While special plastic boxes are sold for this purpose, one may also use empty egg cartons, baby food jars, ice cube trays, pillboxes, or any other repurposed household item with small, individual compartments.
Advanced Jewelry Making Tools
Depending on the type of jewelry being made, there are many types of additional tools that can be acquired to assist in specific processes. These are generally not necessary until more advanced procedures are routinely used.
Special tools may be used on the workbench. An anvil or lead block is used for hammering in order to avoid damaging the bench itself. A vise is used to hold items in place while they are being worked with. C-clamps are also used to hold items in place or hold items to the workbench itself.
Many tools are useful for making specific types of jewelry. Ring sizers are used to create rings of a specific standard size. A ring sizer may also be called a mandrel. A jig is necessary if one is making multiple bends in one piece or multiple pieces that must be uniformly shaped. Jigs can be bought or made.
A soldering iron is used to fuse ends of metal together, such as when cutting and resizing a ring or making a bangle bracelet.
Where to Buy Jewelry Making Tools
You can find jewelry making tools at art supply stores, craft stores, and hobby shops, both large chain retailers and small independent businesses. Craft shows and fairs feature jewelry makers who are often willing to tell you who their suppliers are. Jewelry tools are also available online. Pre-owned items may be obtained at flea markets, craft shows, and yard sales. Online auction sites are another good source for jewelry making tools, both new and used.
How to Buy Jewelry Making Tools
To browse jewelry making tools on eBay, start at the home page and first visit the Home, Outdoors & Decor portal. Next, navigate to Crafts, then Beads & Jewelry Making, and then Tools, Boards & Trays. Finally, click on Bead Boards & Trays, Bead Tools, Pliers, Tool Kits, or Other. Individual keyword searches can be performed at any point to find specific tools within the selected category. Purchasing used items may be a good idea in the beginning if you are not sure that you will be sticking with jewelry making in the long term.
Making jewelry is a wonderfully relaxing and rewarding hobby, whether the jewelry is made for oneself, friends and family, or to sell for profit. The job is made easiest by using the correct tools, which also give the most professional look to finished jewelry pieces. There are many different types of tools that can be useful for jewelry making, including pliers and cutters, hammers, metal files, beading tools, miscellaneous tools, and so on. The first tools should be purchased with the specific type of jewelry in mind, whether it is beading, metalwork, or some other type of jewelry. Budding jewelry makers should be careful not to invest in too many tools until they find they are needed; otherwise, they may end up with a clutter of unnecessary and unused, expensive tools. Start with a few basics or a jewelry tool kit and move on from there.