Every year, dozens of new jewelry-making plier styles hit the market and much like seasonal fashions, it’s always so tempting to buy a few new trendy or different pieces to hopefully augment the classics you’ve already got in your wardrobe. Like fashion, there are also pliers classics I consider to be must-have staples, and I always recommend those same four types to my students, regardless of the season.
Pliers are one of the largest categories of hand tools, and many studio jewelers own dozens of them. With myriad styles designed to open, close, twist, pull, push, bend, grip, join and compress it’s so tempting to go overboard, but there really are just four basic pliers jaw designs that should be purchased early on because they are universally useful: round nose, flat nose, chain nose, and half-round.
Never scrimp on the basic four, because you will use them almost every time you work. Add a good set of nippers, and you will have all the pliers you’ll likely need for many happy hours of basic fabrication tasks. Then, after you spend some time at the bench deciding what direction your work will take, that’s the time to go for those more specialized pliers models.
Jewelry tool manufacturers always carry one or more basic pliers sets in several different budget categories, so I was delighted to try Gesswein’s German Standard-Weight Pliers (1801225). I’m so smitten with them, and as soon as I picked a pair up, I could tell they were well-made, sturdy and strong – just want you want in your “use them every day” pliers set. The hard steel jaws are beautifully finished, and the overall size is great for my larger hands. I am typically a “gripless” pliers person, and I am happy to report that if you are too, the handles are fully finished under the grips if you should decide to remove them. So far, I haven’t, but it’s nice to know I have the option.
Two more add-on pliers styles are also available in the same line when you are ready to branch out: Round/Flat nose and Diagonal Nippers. The entire grouping is everything you would expect from quality, German-made tools that will last a lifetime.
Helen is an experienced metalsmith, lapidary and studio jewelry instructor who has appeared in 6 instructional jewelry technique videos. Her latest book, Metal Jewelry Workshop, was published in 2017.
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