Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday's Methods:Jewelry Making Basics

~Bent Chain Nose Pliers, Round Nose Pliers (Ergonomic), Flush Side Cutters~

For the first installment of Monday's Methods, we are going back to the basics: The very foundation, the tools of the trade as it were. This is a very BASIC list of tools (and you can be sure that I'll be adding to this list as we go on) that you can get at any jewelry supplier or bead store to start your own beading adventures! The biggest thing to keep in mind at any stage is to get the best you can afford. Never, ever get the cheapest pliers ($5 and under here in Canada, probably less in USA and abroad). They are uncomfortable (read: bruises and blisters), they don't have good construction, and they won't really last. A good starting point is about $10. From there, you can move up to more expensive ones (I am coveting a set of German ones, at about $40 per'll be awhile!), or resell them to a beading friend at a reasonable price if you don't think jewelry making is for you. A quick note: DO NOT use regular needle nose pliers that you would get at the hardware store. With very few exceptions, these all have ridges on the inside of them which will seriously mar your wire.

The first photo shows three sets of pliers: Bent Chain Nose Pliers, Round Nose Pliers (Ergonomic), and Flush Side Cutters.

Bent chain nose pliers are great for wire working when you need a bit of an angle on things. They are great for helping you get into tiny areas. If you look closely, or at the second photo, you'll see that mine taper to a fairly fine point. This is, again, to get into those tight spaces. The angle looks awkward, and feels awkward, at first, but after a little while working with these babies, you won't EVER want to go to back to straight chain nose pliers. When I teach classes, I always get my students to grab the bent chain nose over the straight. Try them and you'll see why!
~Tapered Bent Chain Nose Pliers~

Round Nose pliers are great for making wrapped loops, bends in wire, and so much more. They aren't as good for holding wire as the chain nose pliers, as the rounded sides may mar the wire if you press down too hard. Mine have more ergonomic handles which reduce stress and fatigue on your hands - always a plus if you are doing many hours at a time, or if you have arthritis.

Flush side cutters are great for cutting wire flat. You position the cutters perpendicular to the wire and it will cut at a ninety-degree angle, reducing the amount of filing time. They are a little more expensive than regular cutters, but worth it. A side note: do NOT cut thick wire or memory wire with these, as it will nick the blades. These are for regular wire only. I cut 18 gauge or less, though usually for 18 gauge, I'll use my big cutters, just to be safe.
~Nylon Jaw Pliers, Crimp Pliers, Heavy Duty Cutters~

The next photo shows Nylon Jaw Pliers, Crimp Pliers, and Heavy Duty Cutters. Though not strictly essential, they REALLY help move things along.

Nylon Jaw pliers are great for straightening curled wire, and work hardening wire (we'll get to that last technique another day). They are also great for holding soft wire without making dents in the wire. You can even make small pieces of wiredecoration (swirls, etc) and then hold and press them in the pliers to make them more sturdy (again, we'll get to that another day).

Crimp pliers are a wonderful invention for using the very finicky crimp beads. They help to make crimping and flattening the crimp beads as simple and painless as possible (this is again, for another lesson).

Heavy duty cutters are just that: cutters for cutting heavier gauges of wire, or memory wire. These are actually taken from a regular old hardware store set of pliers. They are inexpensive and effective. You can, of course, get the fancy heavy duty ones from bead stores, for a little more expense.
~Right Angle Bent Chain Nose Pliers, File, Tape Measure/Ruler~

Here is another set of bent chain nose pliers, a metal file and tape measure.

This, second pair of bent chain nose pliers, is less expensive (they were actually my first pair that I have retired to second duty, as their joint is starting to wiggle) and are used when two pairs of flat pliers are needed (usually in finicky wire work). If you look at the fifth photo, you'll see that these pliers have a near ninety degree bend and don't taper quite as much at the end as the other pair - there are many types and styles of pliers, so if at first you don't find a favorite, keep trying and you're sure to find some that you like.
~Ninety Degree Bent Chain Nose Pliers~

The file is an essential piece of equipment in my opinion - you don't have to buy expensive metal ones either, as a simple nail file will suffice for all but the most rare of projects. Use this to file the ends of your wires to prevent snags on clothing, or for filing the ends of ear wires to prevent them being uncomfortable when inserting them into ears.

The tape measure, or a ruler, is imperative. If you want to produce accurate replicas of your work (for ear wires, or other more particular pieces), you must be able to accurately measure your wire or other materials. I have both a rigid 6 and 12 inch ruler, as well as a standard fabric tape measure. They are all worth the money you'll save in wasted, improperly measured wire later on!
The second, forth and fifth (above) photos show how to correctly hold your pliers. You want to cradle your pliers in the natural depression of your hands (above). Gently curl your fingers around the pliers as you'll see in photos 2 and four, and you'll have your grip. Here is where trying a few different sizes and types of pliers will come in handy - my hands are long and so the "mini" or smaller type pliers are out for me, unless I want to induce fatigue on my hands. Also, pay attention to the handles - the smaller or narrower they are, the quicker they will hurt or fatigue your hands if you are doing anything remotely finicky.

That is all for today, I'm sorry this was a bit late - our internet kept dropping and then I had a doctor's appointment. Tune in tomorrow for a bit of the project I'm working on now.

See you tomorrow!

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