For this installment of the Jewelry 101 series, I will talk about the tools that I have and what each is best used for. Spoiler alert, it’s tiny pliers.
Pliers are most often used with wire, so full disclosure, it’s been awhile since I have used some of mine because I don’t do much with wire jewelry anymore. That said, even if you don’t want to use wire to make your jewelry, pliers are still helpful tools to use with other materials. I’ll explain more with each one.
I will also note that this is just a small subset of the pliers that exist. These are what I consider the essentials, and as you continue to grow your interest in wire-based jewelry, you can explore more specialized pliers that are intended to help with specific techniques. These essential pliers that I have are multi-use, so you can do quite a bit with them until you want to invest more in your craft.
Wire cutters are self-explanatory – they’re used to cut lengths of wire and trim off trailing ends. You will also need these if you plan on incorporating chain into your jewelry as well so you can cut it to size.
Flat-nose pliers are primarily used to hold and flatten things because the inside of each prong is flat. The flat surface is perfect for smushing, flattening, and other manipulation techniques you may use to ensure that a loop isn’t twisted or curved in the wrong direction. These are also perfect for holding small findings. For example, I use these to hold one side of a jump ring while using the round-nose pliers on the other to open and close it.
Round-nose pliers are named as such because the end, or nose, of the pliers taper off to an extremely small and rounded tip. If flat-nose pliers are a hair straightener, round nose are a curling iron. These are primarily used for creating very tiny loops; because they are so tiny, you can get a tight and clean loop. They’re also great for making wire swirls. As I mentioned above, I like to use these in conjunction with flat-nose pliers to hold and manipulate findings, like jump rings, that are too small for fingers.
Wire-looping pliers have this stair-step look, which help to get an even loop or wire wrap. To be honest, even in my wire jewelry-making days, I didn’t use these as often as my round-nose – total personal preference. You may find these work better for you.
Okay, so which ones do I need?
The pliers that I suggest getting all depend on what type of jewelry you want to make. If you’re not going to use any wire at all (for instance, if you’re only going to use stretch cord and beads), then you don’t need any pliers. If you plan on doing a lot with wire, then I suggest picking up all 4 and exploring the other types of pliers out there.
In my case, I currently make bead bracelets with stretch cord, and I add tassels and charms to them. This means I don’t need to cut or wrap wire; I do need to open and close jump rings. For my current purposes, I only use round-nose and flat-nose.
So, in short, the pliers that you need totally depends on the kind of jewelry you want to make. You may want a bigger collection than mine, or you may not need any at all. And if you do need them, pliers are helpful tools and well worth the investment.