Tool Tips: Pliers

October 15, 2012


Every jewellery maker needs pliers. Pliers are different from scissors or sheers in that their noses or jaws always meet each other.  Pliers come in a baffling array of shapes and sizes. You can buy sets of pliers and still find you need a variety of nose that you don’t have. However, a set that gives you round nose, chain nose, flat nose, crimping pliers and cutters will be enough for starters. Make sure that you choose pliers with stainless steel noses; they are harder to mark than those made with a softer metal and so will be more durable and less likely to mark your piece. Consider the length of the nose and the types of piece you want to make and also think about the size of the handle. It needs to fit comfortably in your hand and as hand sizes aren’t universal, neither are the handles of pliers! The handles should be covered in a softer material; this is to improve the handling and will also protect you from electrical conductivity when working with metal. Look for pliers with sprung handles as this will reduce the amount of work your hands will have to do.

Round nosed pliers are essential for making loops. They generally have a tapered nose meaning that the size of your loop will be determined by the position on your pliers’ nose that you make your turn, the nearer to the end, the smaller the loop. So when choosing a pair, it’s important to think about the sizes of loops you might want to be making. Small noses = smaller loops. They are also effective when opening loops and jump rings. Because of the round ends, they aren’t very useful for gripping.

Chain nosed pliers, sometimes known as snipe nosed pliers, they are flat on the inside of the nose and round on the outside and are often tapered. They are used for a variety of different functions in jewellery making so it is difficult to categorize them. They are often described as an extra pair of hands as they can be used to hold your piece whilst working on it or can be used for holding component parts of your piece, bending and manipulating wire, particularly where your fingers are too big for the job. They can be used to bend wire to a 90 degree angle and used for crimping. The tapered tip makes them very handy for getting into small spaces within a piece and for tucking in loose ends.

Flat nosed pliers are useful for gripping and finishing. Unlike chain nose pliers, they do not taper at the tip meaning that there is a greater surface area for holding your piece. They can be used to flatten kinked or out of shape wire and can be used to make deliberate bends in wire where you want to achieve a sharper angle. They can be used for crimping (squeezing ends together); the leverage created by the jaws amplifies the power of your hand and allows for greater force to be applied. Flat nose pliers can also be used help manoeuvre or manipulate objects too small to be done by hand such as stabilise jump rings and loops for opening.

Crimping Pliers, a tool specifically designed for securing crimp beads. Whilst flat and chain nosed pliers can be used for this purpose, for a more polished finish crimping pliers are essential. Take a look at the jaws; they have grooves in them which line up when you close them creating 2 holes in the nose. The second hole is used to curl the crimp bead and then the first one to compress the curl into a round shape.

Wire cutters are an indispensible tool for jewellery makers who work with wire. There is no household tool that can be used as a substitute. They cut the wire by indenting and wedging the wire apart. They are used to cut specific lengths when making a piece and for trimming excess from finished ends. There are 2 main types; Side Cutters and Flush Cutters. Side Cutters are usually used for cutting lengths and trimming excess. Flush cutters are then used finish off ends as they can be used flush to your piece in a way that side cutters cannot. They are usually more expensive but are essential to getting a good finish without sharp or protruding edges.

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