What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing - Start With The Basics
by Judy Larson
We are always told to purchase the best you can afford. However, when the best quality can be very expensive. It is difficult to justify spending a great deal of money on tools not knowing if you will like the jewelry designing and making process. However, you still need tools that will do the job.
Jewelry making pliers are available in different quality levels from fair to good to better to best. Avoid the most inexpensive (fair) tools that can be found at hobby stores as they are considered replaceable, not meant to last. These tools may not stand up to some of the pressure and torque placed on them during the jewelry making process. Jaws, hinges, and springs can snap/break and go flying-ouch.

For the beginner or "weekend warrior" jewelry maker, inexpensive quality tools will be fine. A few pliers under $10 each and you will be set. As you become more involved in designing and making jewelry, you can "graduate" to more and better tools. In fact, you may become a "tool junkie"!
Your basic tools need to fit your hand comfortably and cause as little hand strain as possible during use. Of course, they need to be easy to hide from husbands and children because they should be dedicated to only jewelry making.

A basic set of tools should include a flat nose, round nose, bent nose, chain nose, and flat nose soft jaw pliers as well as a flush cutter.

The tips of flat nose pliers look like a duck bill. Two of these make opening and closing jump rings a snap, but in the beginning, one will be fine. Your first flat nose pliers should have fine tips that are no wider than ¼".

The round nose pliers is a must. Make sure that the tips are small and as close to the same size as possible.

The bent nose works well with flat nose pliers for opening and closing jump rings. Because the tips are bent, they can get into hard to reach areas.

Chain nose pliers have a fine pointed nose and make it possible to get into tight spaces. They are a must to make wire wrapped loops with short shanks.

Soft jaw flat nose pliers are the perfect tool for straightening smaller gauge wires as well as for holding items that can scratch easily during the jewelry making process. The surface of the soft jaws will get pretty gouged up over time so should be replaceable.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
A good flush cutter is a MUST HAVE if you do any wire work. The top of the jaw of a flush cutter is "V" shaped and the bottom is flat. This tool really proves the old adage "You get what you pay for." The inexpensive hobby store flush cutters will not last very long before they need to be replaced. Spend a little more, from $10 to $20, for a quality flush cutter. Used correctly, it should last for years instead of months for the cheaper model.

There is also another type of cutter that you can purchase but does not flush cut-a side cutter. Both the top and bottom of the jaw are "V" shaped so they will not make a flat cut on wire. In most cases, a flat cut is needed on wire ends, so a side cutter is an add-on item.
NEVER use flush or side cutters to cut memory wire as it will ruin them. Memory wire is so strong and dense that if you try to cut it with flush or side cutters, the jaws will be permanently damaged.

If planning to make jewelry with memory wire, memory wire cutters are a must. A bonus with memory wire cutters is that they can cut heavier gauge dead soft wires with ease.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
If you find you really love making jewelry, it is probably wiser to replace your less expensive tools when they start to wear out with higher end ones, or at the very least, try a tool a grade up from what you are using to see how the handle grip and the spring tension work for you. Take a class and look at the tools other students, as well as the instructor, are using. Most students and instructors will happily allow you to check out how they feel in you hand. But be aware, their tools may be expensive and they may not want you to work with them as they do not know how well you will take care of or handle them.
If you have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you may want to check out pliers in the next level up price range-closer to $15 each, as they have softer and/or more sculpted handles. There are many ergonomic pliers on the market in that price range.
Of course, if you KNOW without a doubt that making jewelry is something you will continue to do for years to come, or you will spend a great deal of time working with your tools, or money is no object, you may want to invest in a quality set of ergonomic tools right off the bat.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
6-step barrel Stepped pliers are especially useful for making coils for jump rings and bails on pendants. You will find these to be one of your most used tools in wire and metal work.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
A crimping tool is a must for stringing beads.

A standard crimping tool flattens and folds a crimp tube to permanently attach beading wire to closure findings. A crimp cover can be secured around the crimp tube for a more finished look.
A larger version of the standard crimper is available for use with larger crimp tubes that are needed when using multiple bead stringing wires.

After threading .018", .019" or .024" bead stringing wire through a 2x2mm crimp tube, the closure, and back through the crimp tube, a Magical Crimping Pliers is used to turn the tube into a small bead, securing the wire in place. Since the crimped tube looks exactly like a small bead, it does not need to be covered.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
One last thing to have in your toolbox is a metal ruler. Since you will go back and forth between metric and standard measurements, you should have both on the same measuring instrument.
Another item everyone will find useful, but is not a must have, is a bead board. It is inexpensive and keeps beads from rolling around while you are designing a piece to string. In a pinch, a hand towel will keep beads from rolling off the table as well, but findings can get stuck in the loops.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Tools From Around the House

There are several other incidental tools you will find useful for making jewelry.  You probably have these around your home already:

Ultra fine point retractable Sharpie marker

Rubbing Alcohol (for removing Sharpie marks)

"Mandrels" (for making coils to make jump rings) in various sizes, such as knitting needles, ink pens, colored pencils, lip balms, and so on.  Steel mandrels specifically made for jewelry making are available in standard U. S. sizes and metric sizes if you prefer.

Ultra fine nail file or Arkansas stone

Tweezers

Extra Tools That Are Nice To Have

These tools are useful tools to add to your collection when you can.

A flat and/or domed chasing hammer and a 4" square bench block are musts for the serious wire worker. Using these tools helps to harden the wire.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
A wire rounder or cup bur smooths and slightly rounds wire ends. If you plan on making a lot of ear wires, then you may consider investing in an electric one. One with multiple sized bits makes it more versatile.

A pin vise or an automatic wire twister can help twist multiple wires together. An electric drill will also work if the chuck will go down small enough to hold smaller wires.
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools
Judy Larson's What Tools Do I Need for Wirework and Bead Stringing -  Start With The Basics  - , Tools For Wire Jewelry, Tools, essential tools

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Tools

Premium Wire Jewelry Tool Kit
Y4-1
  • Y4-1
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WireJewelry - Essentials Jewelry Pliers Set with Case, Set of 5
G15-21
  • G15-21
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Lindstrom RX Pliers and Cutter Set, 4 Piece
G2-7000RX
  • G2-7000RX
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Premium Steel Bench Block 2 1/2 X 2 1/2
G17-9
  • G17-9
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  • Price: $15.97
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Wire Rounder Set, 3 pieces
G14-20
  • G14-20
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12 Inch Stainless Steel Ruler
G7-30
  • G7-30
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Chasing Hammer with Wooden Handle, 1 1/8 Inch Face
G3-27
  • G3-27
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6 Step Barrel Plier - Pack of 1
G2-503
  • G2-503
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C.H.P Milano Italian Flush Cutter, 5 1/2 Inches
PLR-487.00
  • PLR-487.00
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Memory Wire Cutters - Pack of 1
G2-36
  • G2-36
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Original Bead Crimper
PLR-585.00
  • PLR-585.00
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3.6 Volt Automatic Wire Twister (Cordless Screwdriver)
G5-15
  • G5-15
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  • Category: Tools
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