I own piles of pliers, and whenever I go to a trade show, there’s always an unnerving array of sexy new jewelry making pliers in every style, quality and price, and then I tell myself that maybe having 30 sets of pliers is invaluable and perhaps I do need every single pair.
After this happens, I try hard to think just a bit longer before I pull out the plastic, and remind myself that I started with just four sets of pliers, and they pretty much do almost everything I need.
Which four pliers you ask? Read on…
All pliers are designed to perform one of a few basic metalwork operations. They pull, hold, bend, compress, push and expand things — just like your fingers would if you reduced them down to jewelry size. Your pliers are strong little steel fingers and unlike most tools, I absolutely believe you must try them in person for a while before you buy them, because everybody has a different hand shape. What I like for my big hands may not work for you or your hands and really great pliers are all about comfort and fitting a specific task done with your own two hands — not mine.
The Pliers Fab Four
Despite the hundreds of pliers available on the market, there are really only four basics. I call them the must-haves — because you’ll reach for them every day, no matter what work you make. Look at the picture, buy these four first, and then collect more according to the work you do.
Chain Nose pliers typically have two D-shaped jaws that meet flat-to-flat. They are designed for grasping small parts and manipulating metal in tight places.
Flat nose pliers have two square or rectangular jaws, which may also be stepped or tapered. You will use them to create straight bends and/or sharp angles.
Round nose pliers have two round or oval jaws and may also be stepped or tapered. They are great for creating tight, rounded shapes.
Half-round pliers have one D-shaped jaw and one flat jaw, and meet curve to flat. These are used to create gentle curves or tapers and ring bands.
5 favorite pliers tips
• Smell the plastic grips. It’s weird, but I truly believe that if you don’t like the smell or feel of the grips you will not use the pliers.
• “Dress” your new pliers by sanding off any sharp edges before you use them the first time. Otherwise, you’ll have dents or nasty creases waiting to happen, and that will ruin your day.
• Modify old or inexpensive pliers using a grinding wheel or a file to create a “step.” These custom pliers are ideal for pulling soldered round rings into consistent ovals, because that step helps you consistently position a ring at the same location on the pliers every time.
• Personalize your pliers with an engraver and get your name on your tools.
• Small round nose pliers are great for forming circles made from twisted sterling wire, which can be fused or soldered to sheet for decorative elements.