More Ideas for Making Jewelry Tools

Even though I have posted articles on making simple jewelry tools, there is always something more to learn.  Here are some of my recent efforts: You can make texturing hammers  out of cheap ball peen hammers. I filed the faces of the hammers  and used grinding tools on my flex shaft (you can also use a rotary tool) to get some interesting textures.  I didn’t have any instructions; I just made it up as I went.   If you try this, however,   wear safety goggles,  because  they hug your head with no gaps for tiny metal fragments to fly through.  When sanding and finishing metal, I also wear a dust mask because you can breathe in tiny metal particles.  You might want to go a step further and use a respirator.

You can also file and grind metal punches and chisels to get great texturing effects.

Here are examples of textures I achieved on annealed copper with the tools I made.  The upper left was made with the altered chisel.  The other three were made with the altered hammers.  I worked on a metal block.

Another tool I love is a gizmo to hold jump rings while you saw them.  I first saw a picture of this tool in Robert Dancik’s book Amulets and Talismans. He didn’t give any directions, but  it looked so simple to make and such a great idea that I made my own.  You can buy one at John Lewis’ Etsy Shop, and  you can find directions on how to use it on Barbara Lewis’ blog, Painting with Fire. If you want to try making one yourself, Art Jewelry Magazine published and article by Howard Siegel that subscribers can download here.

My V block tool.  Not pretty, but it gets  the job done.

It wasn’t until I saw Shailyn Miller’s DVD Rings of Beauty, that I realized how useful a ring mandrel holder could be.  I built a home made version from a wood box that held a bottle of wine.  If you are handy with hole saws or and spade drill bits, you could make one easily and clamp it to your table when you work on wire rings.



Last in my bag of tricks is a makeshift clamp for small jewelry pieces.  If you are trying to saw a small piece on your bench pin and can’t hold it still, try using a large metal binder clip with a piece of craft felt or other sturdy fabric.   Your piece won’t move and you can saw or file to your heart’s content.


Mixing It Up

This year, I’ve  gone from a metal and soldering frenzy to a  lamp working frenzy, to a  glass and ceramics tumbling frenzy, to a glass fusing frenzy, to a felting frenzy.  Every so often, I get in the torch enameling.  And there are always the seed beading designs I’m  working on.  Did I mention that I ruin a lot of stuff?  But some of the metal can be recycled and most of it started out as recycled anyway. (I used to have a lovely let of brass charger plates.)   The fused glass can be cut up and refused.  The lamp working failures can be turned into frit or  become elements in fused pieces so long as you keep the COE straight.  And you can use an ugly felted bead as a base for another bead.

I decided to combine the polymer beads and lamp work into a necklace and make a clasp. The polymer beads are interspersed with the lamp worked beads.  Many of the lamp worked beads are fumed with silver and the focal  bead is hollow .  For for the clasp. I made jump rings and soldered them to copper washers from Harbor Freight that I textured with my home made texturing hammers.  I’m not sure if I am happy with all of the polymer beads; I might make  some new polymer beads at Clayathon .    But here’s what I have so far.

Bargain Tool Sources

Here are some of my favorite sources for inexpensive tools.

We all know about Harbor Freight.   Their rotary tools are great bargains.  They sell a cordless rotary tool that comes with  a flex shaft attachment, collets, drill bits and a recharger.  They sell a corded model   I have been using for years.

When I first switched after my Dremel tools gave up the ghost, however, I found that my Dremel keyless chuck and some other accessories did  fit the Harbor Freight models.   Then I ordered a collet set made by Proxxon from the Amazon web site.    I found that the collet holder fit my Harbor Freight rotary tools perfectly.    I took a chance and ordered Proxxon’s keyless chuck. Guess what?   A perfect fit!  So now, I have an assortment of collets, collet holders and a keyless chuck     that works with all of my bargain basement Harbor Freight rotary tools.

Harbor Freight also sells a small bolt cutter  that works great for cutting heavy wire.

I discovered P and J Tool Supply at Interweave Bead Fest. They sell  rubber blocks for use under steel bench blocks with prices starting at $2.00. They have hammers, hemostats and other gadgets.  When you don’t need a top-of-the-line tool,  check them out.  They carry more expensive tools, but  I have no recommendations either way on these.  I don’t know anything about their hole punchers, for example.  For tools like that, I tend to stay with something tried and true, or recommended to me.

Hye On Beads sells jewelry tools in addition to stringing supplies.  I bought a pair of metal snips for $12.95  that are holding up well for my limited hobby use.  Prices are reasonable and shipping is free.

Finally, we all think of Etsy as a place to buy finished goods, but you know you can buy supplies there too?  And since you’re buying from crafters, they’re likely to be familiar with what they sell.   I have gotten great customer service from every seller, and shipping is reasonable.

One of my favorite vendors for collage jewelry supplies is   GlassSupplies.  If you are interested in trying to make collage jewelry, take a look at this site.  It has everything you’ll need, but you won’t be prodded into over buying, or spending a lot of money on a soldering iron that is more suited to doing a church window than a simple pendant.

If anyone has any other good sources for suppliers, please leave a comment.

Bargain Tool Discoveries

Harbor Freight sells a steel shot filled leather pouch used to repair dents in cars. It makes a great noise-deadening surface for your bench block and the price is right at  $2.59. They also sell a flint striker for $1.79  which is great for lighting torches. This cheap model works better than the “high quality” one I bought elsewhere. I also got a small bolt cutter that I use to cut cable and heavy wire, a  bargain at $3.99.    I plan to use their digital pocket scale for weighing resin and hardener. That way I won’t mix more than I need and I can pour out equal amounts more easily.

I confess, weighing resin is not my idea; I read the tip in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. But it makes sense.  Serious bakers weigh their ingredients because the measurements are more accurate.

And for all you tool lovers out there, Toolmonger is a blog you shouldn’t miss!

New Products and Old Favorites

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Pardo Clay and Precious Metal Paint from German Company Viva Decor. At the time, no one I knew of in the U.S. carried Precious Metal Paint. It looks like that is going to change. Poly Clay Play has limited quantities now and hopes to have more available for sale in the future.  Check the web site for more information.

Some Poly Clay Play shipments from Europe were delayed, but will be available as soon as they arrive. Trish Hodgens of Poly Clay Play is taking pre-orders on the large 480 gram (about 1.05 lb.) jars of Pardo Clay for $21.95 each and the small jars 75 gram (2.6 oz) for $4.95 each ($1.00 off the suggested retail price.) For more information, check out the web site or email Trish Hodgens.

No one sells brass or copper bezel wire. If you don’t have a rolling mill to make it, you can make your own from 28 or 30 gauge metal. Even that is hard to find unless you want to do a roof. But I found a supplier!!! The Whimsie Studio carries 6″ X 12″ sheets of 30 gauge copper and brass. The price and shipping were reasonable (even by my cheapskate standards). And the stuff comes pronto.

You don’t need a saw to cut the bezels. I use Fiskars Utility Scissors I bought at Polymer Clay Express. They work like a charm,


except I still can’t cut a straight line. That’s why God made files.

Speaking of files and all sorts of cheap metal working tools, if you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money, try Harbor Freight. Besides hammers, files, anvils, Helping Hands for $2.99 and other goodies, you can buy stuff, take it home and figure out what to do with it. I used their Body and Fender Set to make bracelets from spoon handles. If you want, but can’t afford a disk cutter, try their Hollow Punch Set and a sturdy hammer. It really works.