A Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools

From the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® Collection

Using the right tool for the job will give you more secure crimps, tighter and neater loops and perfect coils. Here's a guide to the most commonly used jewelry-making hand tools, the work they are designed to do and tips on when to use each tool.

Curved chain-nose pliers are used to reach into tight places to grip components, close jumprings, bend wire and stabilize a design while working. The bent tip allows access into difficult areas without blocking your line of vision.
Chain-nose pliers are used to reach into tight places, at difficult angles, to grip components, close jumprings, bend wire and stabilize a design while working. They are available in both long-nose and short-nose varieties. Short-nose pliers offer more strength and stability while long-nose pliers give more reach.
Crimping pliers are an invaluable tool for stringing beads, as they easily secure crimp tubes to your beading wire. The jaws have two notches (when closed, one notch forms an ''O'' shape, the other a ''U'' shape). To crimp, first squeeze the crimp tube or bead in the ''U'' shaped notch to lock it into place. Then squeeze the crimped tube in the ''O'' notch to further secure and round it.
End-cutting nippers are ideal for conquering problems such as cutting the post off an earstud or trimming the peg on a flat pad. The highest quality nippers are constructed with lap joints and polished heads to prevent marking the surface of soft metals.
Flush-cutters trim headpins, eyepins and beading wire such as Accu-Flex® professional-quality beading wire, as well as fine wire used in wireworking. Flush-cutters allow a flat, even cut even in the tightest of places (hence the name), making for less filing and cleanup time. The tiny jaws camouflage their incredible accuracy and power. After cutting the end of a piece of metal wire, check out the cutting surfaces and see how one side makes a "V" shape and the other is flat. For a perfectly flush cut, always keep the waste end of the wire toward the concave side of the cutters.
Flat-nose pliers are used to bend wire and hold beads and components without marring or scratching. The flat inside surface of the jaws help stabilize jumprings, flatten wire and create sharp corners for wireworking. Available in both long-nose and short-nose varieties. Short-nose pliers give you increased strength and stability while long-nose pliers give you more reach.
Gem setting pliers are used for setting or tightening the prongs on gemstone settings. They have great leverage and are designed with parallel action jaws which can be adjusted to the exact width you need. By adjusting the jaws to the width of your setting, you can be sure you're not applying too much force on the setting or your stone.

View the how-to video and step-by-step illustrated instructions to see this tool in action.
Loop-closing pliers smoothly close loops, jumprings, bracelet links and more. The jaws have a groove which allows for the curvature of different sized loops, and the smooth finish prevents distortion or scratching.

View the how-to video and step-by-step illustrated instructions to see this tool in action.
Memory wire shears are made specifically to easily cut hard wires such as memory wire (steel) and precious metals. These shears will create a straight (flat) cut, so they work wonderfully for headpins too. Rubber coated, spring return handles are easy to use.
Nylon-jaw pliers are designed to prevent marring the surface of round and square profile, precious and base metal wires. They are used like flat-nose pliers when forming wire and wire wrapping. They are also great for straightening bends and some kinks in wire.
Rosary pliers are a perfect two-in-one tool--round-nose pliers and side-cutting pliers in one handy tool. Round-nose pliers create loops and curves. Side-cutting pliers trim metal or beading wire. This is a great tool for highly repetitive work such as making rosaries (hence the name) or handmade chain.
Round-nose pliers are an essential tool in a jewelry maker's tool box. Use them to create multi-diameter loops when wire wrapping and forming headpins and eyepins.

Jewelry Maker's Tip: When creating a curve or loop in a repeated pattern, use a permanent marker or small bit of masking tape to mark the point on the jaws where the original curve or loop has been made to ensure the pattern remains the same.
Scissors, Precision are designed to cut into tiny places with ultra-sharp precision. For left-handed or right-handed people. Great for trimming excess bead cord from those tiny bead tips. Stainless steel blades, polypropylene handles.
Scissors, classically forged embroidery and beading are professional-quality Mundial brand scissors that are great for getting into small areas and for cutting small or fine materials. Made of fine forged carbon steel and carry a lifetime warranty. Scissors have extra-fine double sharp points.
Split ring pliers are designed to open the split rings just enough to slide them onto the end of your finding and then have them close right back up without distorting the ring.

View the how-to video and step-by-step illustrated instructions to see this tool in action.
Stringing wire nippers cut Accu-Flex, Acculon® or other steel reinforced thread flush with a crimp bead. Plastic-covered handles for easy grip. Hardened jaws are ground flush on one side.
Thread Clippers, for quick snipping work, these easy-to-use clippers are designed with no finger holes. Spring action handles and sharp blades make these a handy tool.
Wire-Wrapping pliers are designed to create three-different sizes (4mm, 6mm and 8mm) of consistently perfect loops. They are used like round-nose pliers for wire-wrapping, forming simple or wrapped loops and for creating your own jumprings.

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "A Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools" as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

''Loved your "Guide to Jewelry Making Hand Tools". I keep a scrapbook of learning and teaching ideas and this is a perfect addition - one of the first things we need to know about when learning to make jewelry. Using the right tool is so important."
- Jeanne

"This article was extremely helpful. Thank you very much."
- Pat

"I appreciate the jewelry tool article for its brief synopsis of the tools and a good entry level intro to them and their use, all in a brief format. From this I can research more about the ones that seem appropriate to what I hope to use and learn. Thanks so much. I also enjoyed the MOHS chart I believe you all presented a while back. Nice to read it in one short concise paper." - Jeanne

"The article about pliers was very good, well written and interesting."
- Martha

"From the newsletter-Great article on pliers: cleared up several questions I had and taught me a few things I didn't know."
- Jamie

"Just a moment for feedback on your recent article on tools. I found it to be very helpful. Even though I have been making jewelry for many, many years, one forgets just exactly what a specific tool was created for sometimes or finds a new tool. This article is very good for beginners especially."
- Mary

"I just finished reading the article on A Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools. I thought it was very helpful. It is certainly a keeper in my book of notes. Thank you for the interesting articles."
- Linda

"Subject Tool Article was very helpful. How do you use the split ring pliers? I have the tool, however cannot find a way to use it. I use a lot of split rings and it would be great to have a working tool. It doesn't do my tool box any good."
- Beverly

Dear Beverly,
Thank you for your question. You can watch a how-to video on how to use split ring pliers here.

"Great article on beading tools, I am saving it. It would be improved with a little larger font."
- Darlene

"Excellent "how to" article on jewelry hand tools was in my daily email. Being a beginner I find these types of articles highly valuable resources as I can see ways to improve my craft and expand the limits."
- Charlie

"The article on uses of various tools was most helpful. Thank you."
- Nancy

"I found your Guide to Jewelry Making Hand Tools to be extremely informative. Thanks for providing this info."
- Sue

"Good and timely article on explanation of tools. Things I never knew about. Thank you."
- Heidi

"Your "Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools" was wonderful. I tend to use my favorite tools without exploring the possibilities of the others. I'll keep this article as my own personal "training tool.""
- Paula

"I was really excited to see the newsletter about "A Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools" but I was disappointed when I saw how brief it was. I was expecting a more detailed description and some hints for how to use the tools at the least and hopefully a video. There was not enough information in the guide to be of much use."
- Laura