Sep 042010

I love to stamp!  Letter stamps are a fun way to add character to a piece – you can make up a silly saying, or using something that’s inspirational.

It’s the pits, however, when you start stamping and either a) can’t read the letter on the stamp because it’s small, or b) accidently misspell or jumble your letters around (ever stamped a letter sideways?  doesn’t work!).  Well, here’s a quick and easy way to mark your stamps so you’ll never have that happen again!

I took some white nail polish, put a dab on the front (side that faces me when I stamp) of the stamp handle, and when the nail polish was dry, used a Sharpie to write the corresponding letter on the stamp.  When I go to stamp a name, phrase or word, I line up my stamps in the order I’ll be using them with the label face up.  This way, I can check my spelling, AND I know my letters will be going the right direction!

When you are stamping letters, use a medium tap with a hammer.  A dead blow hammer works best (no bounce back), but especially with single line letters (like “I” or “L”), if you whack it too hard, you risk cutting thru your piece.

Have fun!

Aug 292010

I’m starting a new venture with the Starving Jewelry Artists…a “blog carnival” where we will all discuss a specific topic each month.  This month’s topic/question was “How does texture play into your work?”

Obviously, texture is a metal-worker’s best friend.  Combining stamping, hammering, patinas, and other texturizing techniques is a basic component of working with metals.  But I’ll address another reason for using texture in my work.

Cover Up.

Yep…using texture is sometimes an easy way to “hide” those little imperfections and OOPS! moments one has with a tool that mars the surface of pretty, shiny metal.

It’s sort of like putting on make up, however…a little goes a long way.  Putting on a thick coat of foundation or powder makes my face look like a mask, while a light swipe will do a great job at covering up that tiny scar on my forehead or scratch on my nose.

While I have a plethora of fancy texturing hammers, sometimes I prefer to just use a small ballpeen hammer to create tiny dents that look great shiny OR with a nice patina (see my articles on patina for more details on how to add color and depth to your metal work).  Either way, if I’ve made a boo-boo while working on a piece, like a scratch or dent, the texture added by hammering lightly will help to disguise the flaw.

When I started adding texture to my pieces, I made a common mistake of whacking the tar out of my pieces.  Not always necessary!  Especially with lighter gauge wire or sheet metal, a modest tap is all that’s really needed.  And hammering on a softer surface (like wood or rubber) will create a different result from hammering on a steel block.  Remember, you can always add more texture…harder to smooth it out if you’ve done too much!!

Experiment with different surfaces and hammers, and remember…texture can be your friend, especially when “covering up” those flaws!


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 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!

Nov 202009

As I finished up a batch of my Holly Jolly earrings this morning, I thought “geez, if people really knew what goes into these things…” and had a brainflash. What if I took a photo of all the materials and tools used to make them? I started gathering…..

Wow…for a cute and seemingly simple little pair of earrings, it’s amazing what it takes to make them! After I took the photo, I realized that I forgot a couple of things – a round nosed pliers, a punch pliers, 22g wire, and I didn’t include my tumbler.

Starting with the copper sheet I punch out the discs, then stamp them using letter stamps.  After stamping, holes are punched for the ear wire and dangle, then I carefully file the edges to remove any messy little bits.   A Sharpie marker is used on the stamping to accent it, then I use one of the little white polishing squares to clean off the excess Sharpie.

The discs are then domed, using the dapping tools.  I make all of my own head pins and ear wires, so at some point, I use my butane torch and 22g wire to make the headpins that hang the crystals.  After the dangles are complete, I use 20g wire to make the ear wires, hammering them just lightly.

Last step is to toss the earrings into the tumbler for a last polish and remove any excess burrs.

I’d love to hear what goes into YOUR handmade products…and the next time someone stops to look at your work, or asks about it, be sure to tell them about all the details that go into making handmade!

Nov 132009

I love working with wire…the challenge to take something so ordinary as a simple piece of wire and turn it into something spectacular is so much fun!

I prefer using my pliers to a WigJig type tool, and had long ago graduated from using round-nosed pliers to make my loops to using stepped pliers.  My favorite pliers had three steps, and were terrific for making consistent loops, bends and curves!

About 6 months ago, I wanted to “step up” my stepped pliers, and ordered a pair that had SIX different sized jaws.  I instantly fell in love…I could go from teeny tiny loops to large loops just by flipping around a single pliers!

These guys are perfect for making ear wires, just use one of the two smaller sized jaws for the loop to hang your components from, and then the larger sized jaws for the shepherd’s hook that goes through your piercing.

I have to say that I love these pliers so much that I decided to become a distributor for a tool company (Euro Tool) that sells them.  I recommend these pliers to students in my Continuing Education classes, fellow jewelry makers, and jewelry forum friends.

Apr 152009

I love doing micro maille…little tiny chainmaille using little tiny rings. My regular Wubbers do the trick, but I’d been wanting to pick up some of the Baby Wubbers that I’d seen on

Working on a recent project, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and just order a set. (For the record, I ordered the “chainmaille” set – one flat nosed, one chain nose, one bent nose.) I did my normal “are they here yet” dance for a couple of days, stalked the UPS guy, and came home one day to find a nice sized box that I suspected contained my new pliers.

Opened the plain brown box (LOL, that way no one knows about my addiction to tools!) and found pretty teal, purple and white tissue paper (that I can recycle 😀 ) enveloping my purchase.

Baby Wubbers! Patti and Trudy even included a personal note and a freebie with my cute little pliers and their handy stand. Even though I didn’t really have a lot of time (I had an engagement that evening and barely had enough time to make dinner for the guys and run out the door), I went to the studio and worked on my project (Jens Pind Linkage using 20g 3/32″ rings…miniscule!!!) for a few minutes.

The Baby Wubs were perfect for getting those tiny rings open and shut, and getting them in the right position for the weave! I think I got more done in 15 minutes that night than I had in previous evenings and with considerably less frustration.

My only wish is that the handles were longer. I love the tiny tips and padded handles, but they are shorter than the regular sized Wubbers. Having longer handles might make them even more ergonomic.

But the Baby Wubs are getting some major loving from Beading Help Web. I still love my “grown up” Wubber pliers, but they will be reserved for “big wire” projects.

Sep 202008

Beadalon Pocket Crimp Tool is the New Travel Companion!

Beadalon is excited to be the exclusive supplier for the new Pocket Crimp Tool! It performs the same functions and features as the Standard size crimp tool, but in a compact and convenient travel size. Ideal for beading on the go! Close and secure Beadalon Crimp Beads and Crimp Tubes easily with the rubber grip handles. Use one firm squeeze to crimp with the inner-position grooves, the use the outer-position grooves to round off the crimp. Create smooth, professional results! Use with Beadalon #1 and #2 Crimp beads or #2 Crimp Tubes. The Pocket Crimp Tool is the perfect companion to your set of mini pliers and makes for a great gift idea.

Available January 2009, MSRP: $12.49.

What a great little tool! Perfect for traveling, taking to shows, just popping in your purse for quick fixes! I can’t wait to see and try the new mini-crimper!