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Choosing The Right Pliers For The Job

Mary Harvey
Custom Jewelry Supply

Editor's Note:  I consider myself extremely lucky to have found this article.  Mary had previously published this article on another online magazine Home Business Success Tips.  Rena Klingenberg, the editor of Home Business Success Tips, graciouosly received Mary's permission for us to reprint the article.  Rena will also be a guest author on the marketing page this month.

What kind of jewelry pliers do you use? If you're like me, you probably began your wire-working career with a starter set that you got at the craft store, or that came with a kit.

Now you've decided you're ready to upgrade to a better set of tools. You've paged through the catalogs and found a mind-boggling selection of all types of jewelry pliers.

Let's see . . . bent nose, chain nose, round nose, flat nose . . . what's the difference?

This article explains the different types of pliers, and how to go about choosing the right tools for what you want to do.


Types of Jewelry Pliers

First, the basics. There are four main types of pliers, each designed for specific uses:

flat nose pliers    Flat nose - Broad, flat jaws used for gripping and holding wire and creating angular bends. Also great for opening and closing jump rings.

round nose pliers    Round nose - Smooth, round jaws used for making loops and round bends in wire.

chain nose pliers    Chain nose - Pointed flat nose pliers, used for gripping and tucking in wire ends, and getting into tight places.

bent chain nose pliers    Bent chain nose - Chain nose pliers with a 45 degree bend for getting into tight places. Can also be used for picking up small parts, and opening and closing jump rings.


Which Pliers for the Job?

Now that you know the basic types of pliers, you need to make some choices depending on the type of work you want to do with them. Here's a checklist to help you decide which pliers are best for the task at hand:

1) Tip size - For very delicate work with finer wire, slimmer pliers with a fine tip will work the best. For heavier wire, you'll want wider, heavier jaws. Make sure to observe the tolerances of the pliers that you are using - don't use a fine tipped pliers on heavy wire or you'll damage the tips.

2) Tension springs - Some pliers have a spring to keep the jaws apart, while others have a single or double leaf spring, or no spring at all. These tension springs cut down on fatigue if you use your pliers a lot. Pliers without springs cause you to open and close the pliers manually, which may cause hand strain. If your hands tire easily or you do a lot of plier work, get jewelry pliers with springs.

3) Jaw length - Short jaw pliers are thicker and stronger. They are designed to work with the tip for fine work, and can bend heavier materials. Long jaw pliers have less taper per millimeter than short jaw pliers, and have a greater reach to make a longer bend. They have longer handles for better balance and greater leverage. Because of the length, the tips are not as strong as the short jaw pliers, and can be damaged more easily.

4) Metal - There are two types of metal pliers:

        a) Stainless steel is rust resistant. It is a tough metal that gives reasonable life and is a good value for the money. The jaws can nick with use, so they may require some maintenance.

        b) Hardened tool steel is the hardest, strongest, longest lasting material. The jaws are tough and resist nicking with normal use. The downside is that it has a tendency to rust in humid environments, so it should be treated periodically with Cosmoline or WD-40 to coat the metal.

5) Feel - The final determination of whether pliers will work for you is how they feel in your hand. They have to fit well so you have complete control of them. You can have the best pliers made, but if they don't feel good in your hand, you won't be happy with them - and you may wind up with an injury.


How to Prepare
Your Jewelry Pliers for Use

No matter which jewelry pliers you purchase, the first thing you want to do when you get them is to check the edges. Most pliers need to be filed before use to remove sharp edges that can mar the wire. For example, a flat nose plier has 6 surfaces - the tips on each jaw, and four edges. Check to see if these edges are sharp, and if they are, take a file and file them down. This will save you a lot of headaches later because you won't have to polish out tool marks on your finished jewelry piece.

There are hundreds of kinds of jewelry pliers on the market. In addition to the four basic types discussed here, there are all sorts of speciality pliers, each made to do a specific job. In future articles, we'll identify some of these and their uses.

Plier photos courtesy of Eurotool.


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