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A Guide to Jewelry-Making Hand Tools

What are the best pliers for jewelry making? What are jewelry pliers used for? Our guide answers questions like these by showing you the most commonly used hand tools for jewelry-making, the work they are designed to do and tips on when to use each tool. You'll discover how using the right tool for the job will give you more secure crimps, tighter and neater loops and perfect coils.

Standard Pliers

Chain-Nose Pliers Chain-nose pliers have jaws that are flat on the inside and round on the outside. The jaw tapers from the joint to the tip. The flat inside of the jaw allows for a secure grip on small findings and pieces, such as when opening a jumpring. The curved outside is helpful in making small loops and curves on wire.
Curved chain-nose pliers have all the features of standard chain-nose pliers and can be used for the same techniques. The bend in the jaw lets you reach into tight places without blocking your line of vision. Bent-Nose Pliers
Flat-Nose Pliers Flat-nose pliers are flat on the inside and outside of the jaws and don't generally taper as much as chain-nose pliers. Use these to securely hold findings, such as when opening a jumpring. Because of the strong grip without marring or scratching these are useful when drawing or pulling wire. The rectangle shape of the jaw lets you create sharp corners more easily than when using chain-nose pliers.
Needle-nose pliers are quite similar to chain-nose styles, as they have flat inner jaws and curved outer jaws. These pliers have a longer and thinner jaw that tapers to more of a point at the end. We've classified needle nose pliers at Fire Mountain Gems as those that have a tip of 1.5mm or thinner. This shape difference makes them useful for gripping items in especially small spaces. Needle-Nose Pliers
Round-nose pliers have smooth conical jaws. The shape doesn't grip items well, but these are an essential tool for making wire loops. The length and diameter of the jaws vary from brand to brand.

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.

Specialty Forming Pliers

Mandrel pliers, sometimes called bail-making pliers, have jaws that are not tapered. An exception to this is Wubbers coil-making mandrel pliers, as they have cone-shaped jaws. This type of tool allows you make bails, jumprings, links and loops in consistent shapes and sizes. The variety of options in size and shape means you can make your own findings for almost any project. Wubbers Bail-Making Pliers
Banding Pliers Banding pliers are used to create precise double right angle bends in square and half-round wire. This tool is essential for a professional look when wrapping multiple wires together; such as in wire bangle designs. Each set of banding pliers is designed to work with a specific range of wire gauge.
Bending pliers gently shape wire and sheet metal into a uniform curve or bend. The shape the metal takes is predetermined by the shape/style of the pliers. This type of tool is especially helpful when shaping cuff bracelets and similar designs. Bending Pliers
Dimple Pliers Dimple pliers provide a way to add texture, patterns and decorative marks on sheet metal without breaking out your hammer and dapping tool. These pliers can also be used to create a guide for your drill bit or punch pliers.
Shape pliers that have two different shapes in the jaws are used to form wire in more specific ways than standard pliers. The shape that is created is dependent on the combination of jaws. Examples are concave/half-round, round/flat, round/concave and more. Use these types of pliers to create your own findings, in intricate wire-wrapping projects, and when you find you need a better grip while making loops. Mixed Shapes

Specialty Task Pliers

1-Step Looper Pliers 1-step looper pliers: This amazing tool creates a simple loop and trims the extra wire in one fell swoop. You will be able to create consistent loops on wire, eyepins and headpins without having to switch between round-nose, chain-nose, and cutting pliers.
Crimping pliers are specifically used to create rounded and secure crimps, instead of just flattening the crimp bead with standard pliers. This tool uses a two-step process; the first separates the beading wires and the second securely closes the crimp with a professional finish. Crimping Pliers Crimping Pliers
Cutting Tools Cutting tools are an essential tool for almost every type of jewelry-making project. There are cutters for wire, metal sheet, thread, beading wire and more. Checkout ''Everything You Need to Know About Jewelry-Making Cutters'' for more information on the options you have.
Gem setting, or stone-setting, pliers are specifically designed to apply pressure to setting prongs at just the correct angle. Using this tool when setting or tightening your stone helps to prevent damage to the stone, damage to the setting and crooked stones.

View the ''Using Gem Setting Pliers'' how-to video and step-by-step illustrated instructions to see this tool in action.
Gem Setting Pliers
Loop Closing Pliers Loop-closing pliers smoothly close loops, jumprings, bracelet links and more without causing a shape change. The jaws have a groove which allows for the curvature of differently sized loops and prevents distortion and scratching.

View the ''Using Loop-Closing Pliers'' how-to video and step-by-step illustrated instructions to see this tool in action.
Punching pliers are used to create holes in jewelry materials. Different pliers can be used on sheet metal, blanks, leather, and more. Using hole punch tools can help with consistency of shape and placement when creating connection, riveting or decorative holes.

View the Hole Punch Tool how-to video and instructions to see these tools in action.
Hole Punch Tools
Split Ring Pliers Split ring pliers are designed to more easily open split rings without distortion. Use this tool to save your fingernails and the shape of the split ring.

View the ''Using Split Ring Pliers'' how-to video and instructions to see this tool in action.
Multipurpose Tools

The Beader's Delight line of pliers lets you perform up to four different actions without switching out your tool. This can save you time, frustration and dropped tool and materials. Beader's Delight Pliers
Rosary Tools 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.

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



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