Feb 162010

I’ll admit it.  I have a thing for tools.

I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve spent on tools in the last 10 years since getting serious about my beading and jewelry making habit, but sometimes I think I have more tools than my husband.  (Not really…the man has an entire shed of them!)

So, what are my favorite every day tools?  In no particular order:

1. Ball peen hammer.  A nice little ball peen hammer works wonders on texturing my metal clasps, hardening them right along a slinky curve.  An economy model from Contenti has worked just fine for me for years.  Remember, if your hammer head is hitting your metal work, you want to keep it as shiny and scratch free as possible.  All those nicks and dents will transfer right into your work!

2. 16oz hammer.  This one is just a simple claw-hammer from Sears, but it’s great for smacking anything that really needs a smack.  When I’m stamping or cutting discs, this baby can’t be beat.  And at under $10, it will last a lifetime (provided your spouse or children don’t use it and never put it back!)

3. Crimping pliers.  A stringers staple, crimping pliers crimp beautifully and make your stringing projects look as professional as they can.  Plus, crimpers are great for picking up and closing those pesky little crimp covers…AND they are great for tucking the end of a wire in a wrapped loop right up against the stem you wrapped.

4. Smooth jawed pliers.  I prefer Wubbers brand pliers, but any smooth jawed pliers are a must when you are working with any kind of wire or metal.  Any teeth on the inside jaw of your pliers will instantly mar your metal and chew up your wire.  My favorites are bent nosed, chain nose, flat nose and round nose.  Okay, I love all of them. ;=)

5. Cutters.  True flush cut pliers are impossible to find (and expensive!), but you can’t beat a nice sturdy “flush” cutter for nipping beading wire or metal wire.  Don’t use anything but cutters designed for memory wire on memory wire or you’ll ruin them!

6. Polishing cloth.  I do consider this a tool!  I love Sunshine cloths…they are inexpensive (buy them at FireMountainGems.com) and last forever!  I like to include one as a freebie when I sell a piece of jewelry, or include in the package when I give jewelry as a gift.  Polishing cloths are also excellent for work hardening wire – if you need your wire a little harder, just run it through the cloth a few times!

7. Beading mat.  Probably didn’t expect to see anything this basic in here, did you?!  But beading mats, made of plush velour material, are essential for beaders, maillers, and metal workers.  Putting a beading mat down on your work surface will save you hours of chasing loose beads or jump rings, and it’s actually easier to pick up rings with a pliers off a beading mat!

8. Ruler.  Another obvious, but essential tool…I have almost as many rulers as pliers!  A large metal 18″ ruler sits on my work area so I can quickly measure wire, necklace/bracelet length, beading wire, etc.,  I keep a smaller ruler in a drawer by my computer so I can measure the length of a pendant or clasp when I’m listing an item on Etsy, and I carry a tape measure in my purse to take down the wrist size of a co-worker who asks me to make them a custom item.

9. Sketch pad and writing utensil.  I have lots of these scattered around as well…I never know when I’m going to see or think of something inspiring, or hear about a cool web site on the radio.  My sketch pads are filled with doodles and notes…sometimes they make sense, sometimes I scratch my head days later and wonder what I was thinking!

10. Tumbler.  My essential tool, now that I work primarily with metal.  I use my tumbler to finish pieces, to work harden pieces, to clean up pieces I wear.  Fill the barrel with mixed stainless steel shot, water, and burnishing compound (a squirt of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid works well!) and tumble for anywhere from 30 minutes to several days.  Your work will come out scratch free, shiny, and gorgeous!

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