Essential Tools of the Jewelry Making Trade

I assembled my jewelry making toolbox as I went along. I would start to make something, realize I didn’t have what I needed or wanted, and would have to go to the store and pick it up. As my skills have gotten better and I’ve added to my collection of tools, this happens less and less often. So, I thought I’d share with you all the things that I use with the most frequency to maybe spare you a couple of trips to the store like I had to make.

Wire cutters. These babies let you cut most types of stringing and beading wire (not memory wire, I’ll get to that in a minute) and can cut eye or headpins. Get a separate memory wire cutter if you use memory wire. You’re going to dent and damage your regular cutters if you attempt to cut memory wire with it, so it will be cheaper in the long run just to get a separate tool for them.

Pliers. Pliers are going to end up being your go-to tool when you’re making jewelry. Your best bet is to have two—one to help you hold the wire and the other to do the shaping. There’s a couple of different types that jewelry makers use, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of what type you might need and what you’d do with it.

Round nose pliers are shaped perfectly to loop wire. The smaller the tip, the smaller the spaces you can get into and the more intricate the design you can make.

Chain nose pliers are another good purchase. They can help you grip your work and hold it steady when you need it, straighten loops or make right angle bends, close crimp covers and make flat crimping, and they can also open jump rings. Just don’t get the kind that has ridges inside, as it could make indentations on your wire.

Another good type of pliers to have are flat nose pliers. Remember earlier when I said that typically, you will need two sets of pliers? Well, the flat nose pliers are the ones you’ll use to hold the wire while you do work with the other.

Some people I know also swear by split ring pliers, but I have a cheaper alternative. I’ll get into that below.

Tweezers. Some beads are just small. Tweezers can really help you get a grip on them. You can also use tweezers if you use string or chain and it gets tangled. Tweezers with a flat edges will allow you to get into tight spaces or if you’re making a design with a flat back.

Crimp Tool. This can also be called crimping pliers. These are essential if you are working with crimp beads or tubes, and to secure clasps on the end of wire. You can also use them to crimp wire in between beads to keep them in place. I didn’t have one of these early on and figured I could just gently hit a crimp tube with a craft hammer. That went about as well as you would expect.

Ruler or measuring tape. Aside from dropping your work and all the beads coming off, there isn’t much worse than completing a project only to find out it is the wrong size. Having a ruler handy will ensure you have what you need to make the piece you want.

One last pro tip: I recommend working in a well-lit area, over a tray or a bead mat to catch any dropped beads before they bounce away.

Hope this list helps! If there’s anything you think I forgot, add it in the comments!