Pliers are an essential tool in jewellery making and all jewellers, whether novice or experienced, should own a number of different essential pliers. Owning a quality set will reduce wasted time and improve the quality of your jewellery making. The range of pliers available is extensive which can make it confusing and difficult to pick the ones you will need. Before making a purchase, it is important to be aware of the different kinds of jewellery pliers available, along with the specific tasks each plier is designed for. All jewellery pliers are designed to firmly grasp small objects and wires and to bend and shape metal; however, each type of plier has its own unique characteristics.
Round nose pliers, chain nose pliers, flat nose pliers, bent nose pliers, crimping pliers and side cutters are considered to be the most essential pliers that all jewellers should own. Almost all jewellery-making techniques can be executed with these four pliers.
Side cutters are great all round cutters and have sharp jaws that come in a variety of shapes. These pliers will cut through most jewellery wires as well as sheet metals and threads.
The shape of the cutters affects how the cut face will appear; general side cutters will leave the cut edge smooth and even.
Side cutters are not to be used to cut memory wire and other very strong or thick wires as this will damage the blades and you will need to replace the cutters.
Round Nose Pliers
Considered the most essential plier, round nose pliers have rounded jaws that are used to hold, shape and bend jewellery wire. The shape of the pliers makes them useful for creating loops, curves and circles. These pliers are also essential for creating items such as earrings and adding bead charms to a bracelet.
They can be used to make a variety of different sized loops or the same sized loops. If you want to make your loops all the same size, make a mark on the jaws so it’s easy to find the right spot on the jaws for the size you want. Getting a pair with a short “nose” will allow you to make small, neat loops while maintaining good control of you work.
The jaws of round nose pliers are smooth with no crimps or jagged edges, leaving a neat and professional finish.
There are many different types of round nose pliers, particularly when it comes to size. These pliers are likely to be the most used so be careful to find a plier that feels the most comfortable in your hand.
Chain Nose Pliers
Chain nose pliers are often confused for flat nose pliers given their similarity however, differing from flat nose, chain nose pliers are flat on the inside and round on the outside. These pliers can be used for bending, holding, turning wire and also opening and closing jump rings and crimping beads. They are particularly ideal for gripping components, and reaching into tight places and difficult angles. Chain nose pliers are available in short and long nose varieties. Short nose offer more control where as long nose are better for reaching.
When using chain nose pliers make sure that the flat surface of the jaws are smooth or you will end up with little dents in your metal.
Flat Nose Pliers
As the name suggests, flat nose pliers have a slim flat surface. They are similar to chain nose pliers with the only difference is they do not taper towards the end giving them a greater surface area for holding the wire securely. They can be used for opening and closing jump rings, crimping beads, gripping wire, and to straighten unwanted kinks or bends out of your wire.
Flat nose pliers come in a variety of widths that are great for holding bigger pieces.
Crimping pliers are different from other pliers as they are designed to crush or flatten. Use these pliers to secure and crush metal crimp beads onto wire, round them and also to clamp on crimp covers. Crimping pliers leave neat, professional results.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including some designed to crimping beads and others designed for electrical wiring. Pay attention to selecting the correct type for jewellery making.
Bent nose pliers are flat on the inside with a 45 degree angle at the nose useful for wire wrapping and tucking the ends of the wire into beads. They are similar to chain nose pliers as they are brilliant for reaching into small spaces as well as gripping at difficult edges. The bent nose makes it easy to work with awkward angles and allows you to keep your wrist comfortably straight while working. The thinner the jaw tip on the bent nose plier, the better for very fine, detailed work.
While the style and set of pliers is an important characteristic to look for when making a purchase, there are other factors that should be considered also.
There are a range of handles ranging from PVC and foam grip to ergonomically designed handles. PVC is generally harder wearing than a foam grip but not as comfortable to use for long periods of time. When working on large projects, used ergonomically designed handles as they are far more comfortable, less fatiguing and will reduce the strain on your hands. More padded and wider shaped handles are also recommended for comfort.
Generally pliers are either made from stainless steel or toughened tempered steel. Stainless steel pliers have the benefit of resisting rust very well but are less hardwearing. Hardened and tempered carbon steel pliers are extremely tough and hard wearing but they do have a tendency to rust, so they need to be oiled regularly. The type of material suitable will depend on how often you are going to be using them.
Pliers come in sizes ranging from miniature to heavy weight. Miniature pliers are not suitable for prolonged use. Heavy weight pliers are more suitable for heavy duty work and are suitable for working with memory wire. Make sure the pliers you choose fit your hands. If they are too small, the handles can uncomfortably press into your palms making them difficult to work with for long periods of time.
The jaw on a set of pliers determines how much force can be used. Short jaw pliers are much stronger and can function well in doing fine work. Longer jaws lack power but can reach further.
It is also better to have pliers that have smooth inner jaws as the serrated ones could damage your work. Serrated jaws will however give you a much firmer grip.
Need to stock up on these essential pliers? Western Frontier Traders stocks quality pliers essential for jewellery making. Shop the range of pliers here.