Jewelry Tools: The Must-Have Items for Making Beautiful Designs
I’ll admit—I am a total tool junkie! One of my favorite things about being a jewelry designer is finding and using new tools for my trade. It doesn’t stop there either; I love learning about tools in general and am a big fan of the DIY network’s program “Cool Tools.” Seriously, I’m always looking for new projects to do just so I can use a cool tool!
So, as you can imagine, if I see a piece of equipment that I could use for my jewelry, I have to check it out. Having the right jewelry tools can make the creation process much easier. This is why I keep my toolbox stocked with the following tried-and-true and fancy and new tools.
A trusty set of hammers
There are a lot of ways to move metal and form it, but I get the best results with a hammer. Hammers are the most basic of the metalsmith’s tool. Since each type of hammer moves the metal in different way, I own quite a few types, including:
- Raising hammer: Used to raise the metal from a flat sheet into something like a bowl.
- Rawhide mallet: Used for forming the metal without leaving marks.
- Forming hammer: Similar to the mallet, this heavy hammer is also used to move and form metal.
- Planishing hammer: The concave and convex surfaces of this hammer are used to smooth out and move the metal evenly in all directions.
- Ball-peen hammer: This all-purpose hammer has one end that’s round and the other half that’s flat for smoothing out metals.
- Cross-peen hammer: Mainly used for forging and riveting. When you strike a piece of metal with a cross-peen hammer, the metal will spread perpendicular to the face of the hammer.
- Texturing hammer: The face of this hammer has a textured steel surface that can be used for striking texture into metalwork.
- Riveting hammer: Used for riveting and lightweight forming.
- Embossing hammer: Used to emboss metal.
- Chasing hammer: This hammer has one flat face for striking other tools, and one round face for forming and riveting.
Hammering is one of my favorite activities—while it can have a zen-like quality, it’s also a great way to work out stress!
A heavy-hitting hydraulic press
Another tool used for moving and forming metal is a hydraulic press. I own one of these granddaddies of all movers, but I rarely use it for shaping metal. Instead, I use it with a cutting die so I can repeat the same shape over and over again.
A rolling mill
Another one of my favorite jewelry tools is my rolling mill. This tool uses steel rollers and pressure to:
- Emboss textures in metal
- Thin metal out
- Change the size of wires
Usually, this is the very first tool I use when I start my work. Because I prefer to create matte, slightly textured surface for my jewelry, I’ll use my rolling mill and a piece of paper to add texture to the metal.
A reliable jeweler’s saw
I could not live without my jeweler’s saw. For years, companies have tried to update and improve the traditional jeweler’s saw, and I purchased every new frame they put on the market. Although these new frames would work well enough, I always ended up using my very first saw instead (the one I got way back in high school). I feel most comfortable and make the best creations with my original saw.
A scorching-hot blowtorch
A torch is another essential jeweler’s tool. There are many torches out there, from little butane torches to hydrogen torches and everything in between—acetylene-air, oxygen-acetylene, propane, oxygen-propane, natural gas, MAPP gas, as well as some newer gases.
Each type of gas has different characteristics, from the temperatures they burn at, to how cleanly they burn. I use oxy-acetylene for most soldering and fusing applications, but it is not the cleanest of gases and often leaves a sooty residue. I would not be able to use oxy-acetylene if my metal of choice was platinum.
A collection of pliers
Every jeweler has a whole collection of pliers and cutters to shape wire, and I am no exception. In my toolbox, you’ll find:
- Round pliers
- Oval pliers
- Square pliers
- Parallel pliers
- Prong pushing pliers
A solid set of hole-punchers
I’ll often need heavy-duty hole-punchers to forge different shapes through my metal work. While I do have round hole-punching tools, I use the small square hole-puncher to make the wave rings, the waterfall series, and the wave bracelet with czs.
A flex shaft
The flex shaft is another very versatile tool I couldn’t live without. A flex shaft is basically a jeweler’s version of the type of equipment dentists use when you’re in the chair. By changing out the bits, this tool can be used for texturing, sanding, polishing, cutting, and so much more.
If you want to learn more about the types of metals and gemstones I use these tools on, check out the following articles:
- Precious Metals 101: What’s in Your Fine Jewelry
- Semiprecious Gemstones: A Touch of Brilliance in Your Jewelry