Daily Wire Tip Sept. 13: Investing in Jewelry Tools

By on September 13, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
September 13, 2011

Question:

Hi, I have been wire wrapping for about 3 years, love it, but I have been purchasing low to medium priced tools that need replacing quite often. Can you recommend a set of tools that are good, but won’t break the bank? Thank you.

-Julie in Canton, Ohio

Answer:

Hey Julie, thanks so much for asking this question! I have written a lot of tips with regards to tools, but your situation is the perfect example of something I tell folks all the time: “The quality of your work is reflected in the quality of your tools,” and how you work with them. Depending on the style of wire wrapping you execute most often (chain maille, traditional, coiling, sculpting, etc) your most important tools may be different from those I use, however you can apply my answer to any tools!!

You state that you have been using “medium-priced” tools that often need replacing. My question is, how many times do you have to replace a certain tool and at what cost?

Example: if a pair of flat nose pliers presently costs $12 and you have to replace it twice a year, after 2 years (and $48) you could have purchased a single pair of Swanstrom flats (retail $43.95, Gold Club $32.96)!  Seriously, purchased in 1993 for around $28, I have been continuously using the same pair of Swanstrom flats  for 18 years and they are still as good as new! (And like everything else, look how much their price has risen.)

Swanstrom Flat Nose Plier

Swanstrom Flat Nose Plier

That’s another positive point, prices are NOT going down, ever! Invest in good tools in the same manner as you invest in the beads and gemstones that you use in your jewelry designs. They (and you) are worth it!!

OK, now that I’ve had my little rant I would like to direct you to a recent tip where we spoke of tools and brands, Lindstrom or Swanstrom that might help you further with your decision.

Work smarter, not harder and save both your body and your wallet some stress. Explore Wire-Sculpture’s tools section as well as our sister site, JewelryTools.com, for some tools that will work for you.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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14 Comments

  1. avatar

    Mary

    September 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I have to agree with Dale on this one.

    When I started out, like you Julie, I bought tools that were “kinda adequate” and not wallet busters.
    We all have a tendency to want to save money on stuff, tools are no different. But, after taking classes with Dale and using better quality top of the line pliers, I immediately saw and felt the difference.
    I bit the bullet and ordered my set of tools roughly 12 years ago and it was well worth the investment on the Swanstrom set of pliers I purchased. Like Dale stated, they still work hard and look good and have held up to all I have put them through and I wouldn’t take anything for them. They have more than paid for themselves, believe me.

    Scrimshaw Mary

  2. avatar

    Robin

    September 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I have been designing and making jewelry for over thirty years and when I started I bought the best tools and I am still using these tools. If this is something you love to do or it is your business invest in the best and then you’ll probably never have to buy that same pliers again.the only thing I had to replace were my cutters because after all the years of use they got dull.

  3. avatar

    Cheryl

    September 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I am just starting out in twisting wire, but had purchased a low priced set of tools to get started from my local bead store. When I finally had the money I ordered much better quality tools, and to my utter surprise some of the techniques that I was having a lot of difficulty with turned out not to be a problem with me or my movements but with the tools- with the new tools I was able to complete things much easier, faster, and Way more consistently than I could with the cheaper tool “set” I had purchased. I’d really wished I’d done it much sooner, after all I could have purchased them one tool at a time and been way better off in learning and quality of work. I’d just thought it was because I have problems with using my hands… never even considered it could be the tool!

    I had decided to purchase the tools after receiving the beginners series in Dale’s DVD class line. She’s right- it makes a huge difference and I’m so glad I “listened” to her! Now I can make items that look professional from the start, just because I got better tools! (I’d have saved a lot of time, money and frustration if I would have ordered the DVD set before buying my tools!)

    Thanks Dale for the fantastic classes and wonderful advice!

    Cheryl

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Cool Cheryl! I am so pleased to hear your confirmation that “the right tools” DO make a major difference!! I see this all the time in my classrooms. You are very welcome—and thanks!!

  4. avatar

    Tammy

    September 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Hi,
    I have a set of needle nose pliers I bought in a hardware store ten years ago and I am still using them and they weren’t expensive either. I think I spent 15 dollars or less I can’t remember what the brand was, could have been craftsmen, I don’t know, but they they work just fine.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Right Tammy, 10 years ago, $15 bought was more like $23 or more today! You obviously got a good pair of pliers and that is why they are still good today :)

  5. avatar

    Cindy Albers

    September 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I attended a class in Dallas, TX given by Dale. I was allowed to try the Swanstrom tools out, a sort of test drive. I loved them. They fit my hands more comfortably. It has been a year & I am happy to report they still look & perform like new. I am also happy to read from this blog that they will continue to serve me well.

    I throw my vote in for Swanstrom, as well. Very much worth the cost.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Yeah Cindy!! I am so glad to hear that you still love your Swanstroms! Stay twisted!!

  6. avatar

    Virginie

    September 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I am not sure to understand why a good pair of pliers makes the work better, as Shery says. Is it the shape of the tool ? The metallic end of the wire ? I seem to be doing fine with my old cheap ones. What really makes the difference ? (You need to convince me so I can buy the tools from Wire Sculpture :))

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Hi Virginie, I am not here to “convince” you to buy things, only to suggest help when asked. A lot of folks have difficulty “learning” wire techniques while using certain tools, most of which are inexpensive. The cost of the tool is not important, the shape, size and functionality is! Sometimes tools are not consistent in their shape; one side is wider than the other in places, the end is not even, etc, or a jaw breaks due to improper casting. If you are doing well with what you have, then stick with them! When you need to replace a tool often (as the original question posed) you might give a different brand a try :)

  7. avatar

    Wiilford Bickel

    August 9, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Dale,

    Fighting an inherited joint disease and now severe arthritis I differ some in what I believe you should do on tools. I believe in buying the best tools that FIT YOUR HAND AND ARE COMFORTABLE! Yes buy good tools but I find it more important to buy comfortable tools that I can work with for more then a few minutes without severe pain. I would prefer to buy 4 copies of a cheaper tool that allows me to work with limited pain then one expensive “name” tool that is so painful to use I just want to quit making jewelry. We all have different hands and hand problems with age – my being a man makes my hands different from most women but it seems the tool manufacturers get set on putting one style of handle on their tools and telling you “that is what you get if you want our tools”. I have never understood the high quality tool manufacturers not giving some choices in handles, I am sure they could work this out in their manufacturing where it would not increase the pricing substantially and the price increase would be offset in the increase in their sales. Like I say, name means nothing to me, comfort means it all!!!! The other problem is finding dealers (especially online) that will let you try tools and return them if they are painful or for some reason don’t work for you.

  8. avatar

    Linda Launders

    October 14, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I first found out about Wire Jewelry.com at the Bead Fest in Philadelphia in August of this year. I sampled a lot of tools at the Jewelry Tools Booth. I have to say that the more expensive tools fit my hands better and seemed to do everything I needed. I have not purchased yet, but will in the future. I am currently a student at the New York Institute of Art and Design. They provided me with professional tools and I am using those currently. I enjoy your daily tips and info. Thanks

  9. avatar

    Marilyn Shuman

    October 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I attended the First 2 days of Dale’s seminar in Dallas. I tried the Swanson tools, I loved them. Alas I spent most of my money attending classes and trip. I bought the wire twister because I didn’t have one. ( more even twist than by my hands!) I eventually did buy the Swanson tools one at a time, and enjoy using them still.

  10. avatar

    Terry Lone

    March 5, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Hi,
    I’m fairly new to wire wrapping and have been trying to improve my skills, but am wondering if my tools are a problem, or I am the problem. I find that in using german style wire, I tend to mar the wire with my tools and peel some of the coating off the wire. Am I just being too aggressive with the tools or using the wrong ones, or using the wrong kind of wire? Or is it just the user of the tools that’s the problem? It’s frustrating, but I hate to give up! Is one supposed to sand the edges on cheaper tools? Please advise.

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