Basic Pliers

By on February 15, 2017
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by Judy Ellis,

Wire Jewelry Tool Tip for February 15th, 2017

Get to know your hand tools

Tool Tip 6 – Basic Pliers

Today we bring you another great tool tip from Helen Driggs: Basic Pliers

A little about Helen:


HELEN I. DRIGGS is an experienced metalsmith, lapidary and studio jewelry instructor and has appeared in 6 instructional jewelry technique videos. Her book, The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide was published in 2013.

Follow her blog:, Instagram: hdriggs_fabricationista and Twitter feed @fabricationista for news, her teaching schedule and for other jewelry-related information.

Helen Says:

Pliers 101:

Every set of pliers is designed to perform one of a few basic metalwork operations. They pull, hold, bend, compress, push and expand things — just like your fingers would if you reduced them down to jewelry size. Your pliers are strong little steel fingers and unlike most tools, I absolutely believe you must try them in person for a while before you buy them, because everybody has a different hand shape. What I like for my big hands may not work for you or your hands and really great pliers are all about comfort and fitting a specific task done with your own two hands — not mine.

The Fab Four:

Despite the hundreds of pliers available on the market, there are really only four basics. I call them the must-haves — because you’ll reach for them every day, no matter what work you make. Buy these first, and then collect more according to the work you do.

Chain Nose pliers typically have two D-shaped jaws that meet flat-to-flat. They are designed for grasping small parts and manipulating metal in tight places.


Flat nose pliers have two square or rectangular jaws, which may also be stepped or tapered. You will use them to create straight bends and/or sharp angles.


Round nose pliers have two round or oval jaws and may also be stepped or tapered. They are great for creating tight, rounded shapes.


Half-round pliers have one D-shaped jaw and one flat jaw, and meet curve to flat. These are used to create gentle curves or tapers and ring bands.


My 5 favorite pliers tips:

• Smell the plastic grips. It’s weird, but I truly believe that if you don’t like the smell or feel of the grips you will end up not using the pliers. An alternative approach is to strip off the plastic grips and if necessary, grind the exposed steel pliers handles smooth.

• “Dress” your new pliers by sanding off any sharp, sharp corners before you use them the first time. Otherwise, you’ll have dents or nasty creases waiting to happen, and that will ruin your day.

• I modify old or inexpensive pliers using a grinding wheel or a file to create a “step.” These custom pliers are ideal for pulling soldered round rings into consistent ovals, because that step helps you consistently position a ring at the same location on the pliers every time.

• Take workshops a lot? Personalize your pliers with an engraver and get your name on your tools.

• Small round nose pliers are great for forming circles made from twisted sterling wire, which can be fused or soldered to sterling sheet as decorative elements.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tool tip from Helen. For more of her tips CLICK HERE!

Happy Wrapping!

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