Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Methods: A Few More Tools of the Trade

On this installment of Monday's Methods, we're going to look at the rest of the tools I use most frequently in my jewelry making. The first photo is of a hammer and anvil. These are VERY useful in my jewelry making! When wanting to flatten, harden, or just plain "texturize" my work, these two tools come in very handy. Now let me be clear here: these are NOT "jewelry maker" anvil and hammer - I got them at (*GASP*) my hardware store! You can too, you just need to have a few goals in mind:
1. the anvil needs to be clean and flat - mine came with a layer of grease to protect it from rust, so I had a heck of a job cleaning it to get it ready. I still need to polish the metals after I hammer them on it, but as a plus, it is large (the flat area is about 5"x2-1/2" and the round area is about 4 inches, tapering down from wide to narrow), it is heavy (10 pounds) and it only cost me $10 (as opposed to $25-$30 for one 1/4 the size that says "for jewelry making" on the box)! I do recommend putting a flat cloth or heavy cardboard under it when hammering so that you don't mark the surface the anvil rests on.
2. Your hammer should be comfortable to hold and clean and flat on the hammering end. You can use a ball-paean hammer with a rounded hammering surface, but you'll get pock marks on your metals. While this can be useful for some applications, in general, you want it flat and even and clean of scratches and dents that come from hammering nails into things. I hunted for a while at the hardware store to find this one on sale for $5! It isn't too big and heavy, which means that for really flat wire I have to hammer more, but it also means that I can do more delicate hammering with a lighter touch and don't have to worry about a giant hammer coming down on a tiny piece of metal.
Now, certainly, if you have the money and want to get the jewelry making-specific tools, go ahead, but I have found these to be perfectly workable and VERY affordable - score!
Here we have a vise. This is great when you have finicky projects that require more than 2 hands. I don't know about you, but I only have 2 and when they are full, I can't do much of anything else but deal with what is currently in my hands. I now make my braided wire bracelets on this and I can't tell you how much easier it is to braid 9 strands of wire with a vise holding them together, than with just my own two hands. I found this one at my hardware store for $15, and again, I had to clean it, but it is great. I should also mention that the actual vise part that grips the metal has a bumpy surface, which is not at all desirable as it can really mar the jewelry. The solution: I simply put a small piece of plastic or folded up paper on the insides to protect my wire and voila! No more marks on my wire!
Here are some really dead-useful items. The small ring on the left is actually a jump ring opener and is incredibly handy when opening large numbers of jump rings (little rings for connecting jewelry pieces, or making chain mail). You simply slip this on whatever finger it fits on, slide part of the ring into the slot that fits the ring (there are different sized slots for different sized rings on this one), twist the jump ring slightly, and there you have it; the jump ring is opened properly and took less than a second!
The red handled items are step mandrels. These are useful for creating rings, or even just bends and curls in wire. What is great about these is that they are stepped- meaning each one starts out wide at the handle, and then reduces in measured increments (like steps) to another, smaller increment. These go from (on the left) 1.5mm to 5mm in 5 steps, to (on the right) 6 mm to 10 mm in 5 steps.
The next 2 items are ring mandrels. The first is a heavy, mountable, metal mandrel that is suitable for hammering on. It has all the rings sizes engraved on it so you can see the size of the ring you are making, and it is great for measuring finished rings on as well. The furthest right is a plastic mandrel, used for measuring rings with stones. It has the ring sizes engraved on the side not shown, but what is neat about this one is that it has a channel in it (shown) to measure rings with large stones. This is NOT made to be hammered on as it is breakable.
Finally we have plastic ring sizers which are (obviously) used to measure your fingers to see what size you are. Interesting to note is that these are not always 100% accurate: they are accurate if the ring band is the same width as the sizers, but rings with wide bands may actually need to be upped by 1/4 or even 1/2 of a ring size to accommodate for the width having to fit over knuckles. Just keep in mind that these are always approximate, though more accurate than not :-)
And last, but certainly not least is a jig. This is a most wonderful tool as you can make patterns in wire, as well as useful findings like ear wires. This one is a WigJig (tm) and is made of clear airplane window-grade acrylic. It is see-through, unlike most jigs, which means that if you draw a pattern, you can place it under the jig and see the pattern while you follow it with your wire. Also useful are the many different sized pegs that are sold separately, to give you different sized circles with your wire. This brand of jig is slightly more expensive than the non clear metal ones, but I really find it worth the price. Besides, I saved enough on the vise, anvil and hammer to pay for this jig!

That is all for today, tune in tomorrow for an update on the bracelet I'm (still) making!

Happy creating,


  1. I would never have thought of a hammer and anvil as jewelry making tools. Thanks so much for the post - it's so much fun finding out how people create their items! Can't wait to see the bracelet.

  2. This was very interesting Meghann! I wouldn't have thought to use any of those items - or else I hadn't heard of them before - so I learned a lot today. Thanks!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin