Jewellery tools - how much do you need to spend for something good?
December 4, 2014 1:43 PM   Subscribe

So I asked a question recently about making jewellery. I would now like to ask how much of a difference there is between buying a cheap kit of four types of jewellery pliers (for about ten quid) and buying individual items. Is it worthwhile looking hard for the good quality ones, or will the ten quid variety pack suffice?
posted by sockpim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have, over the years, spent $7 on a pack of 3 different sorts of pliers, or gotten similarly priced pliers at garage sales or whatever, and spent $35-$65 on diagonal cutters ($35 for the big ones, $65 for the little ones).

I still muddle along with the cheap pliers, but mostly they're an impediment: I have pliers that mostly work, why would I pay more for nice ones? I mean, how nice can the nicer pliers be, really? Besides, I'm almost done with this project and...

Yeah: I don't know how you quantify that, everyone's different, but I will think long and hard before ever spending less than $35 on a pair of pliers, ever again.
posted by straw at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about jewelry tools in particular, but I've put some time in with both cheap and expensive needlenose pliers for other sorts of work. On cheap ones the metal tends to be softer and weaker (cheaper alloys, inferior heat-treating). To compensate they make the tips thicker, which impedes fine work, and they still bend and break more easily, the hinges get sloppy, serrations wear sooner, etc. It's not a trivial difference. If you only ever use the cheap ones you may just accept their limitations and not mind, but once you've used good ones the cheapies are forever disappointing.
posted by jon1270 at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cheap pliers are fine in my experience (I was a professional jewelry maker for years), as long as they aren't SO cheap that they dent when you use them, or twist out of shape while you're trying to bend something. Cutters, and the other hand...that's worth investing a bit more, as the blades will stay sharp much longer and give you a cleaner edge. Nothing is worse than getting halfway through a project and having your cutters get too dull to use. The little ones in the cheap sets seem to only stand up to a month of use, less if you try to cut anything substantial.

Also, for jewelry, you will generally want to avoid serrated jaws on your pliers, as they can gouge or take the finish off the wire or metal you are working with. If you have a pair you like that does have serration, wrap a bit of electrical tape around that part.
posted by ananci at 2:53 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the U.S. I've seen three ranges of pliers: the really inexpensive ones (less than $10 each), the middle style ($12 - $20), and the high end, which tops out around $60 near me. I would only buy cheap ones if I was passing time working at a stall and didn't care if someone stole them.

It depends on how plier intensive your work is going to be. If you're wire wrapping or doing chain mail, you will appreciate the glory of those high end pliers within a week. I agree that cutters get the most wear, and should definitely be the first high end tool you purchase. The higher end long nose (aka needle nose) pliers are 8mm wide for the high end, 11mm for the middle, and perhaps 15mm for the cheapest. When you're wrapping wire every mm matters. On the other hand, if you're not working with small wire or sheet, you may be able to get by with the less expensive ones. I've seen people make beautiful art with tweezers and nail clippers.

My fave high ends are Swedish (Lindstrom); middle are German (Ohm); cheapies don't have a brand name, general made in Taiwan or Pakistan.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:10 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't spend a ton on pliers, but definitely shell out more for good cutters. I got one of those starter packs and the cutter could barely cut thread, much less the wire I was using to string bracelets. Now I have a nice sharp fancy cutter and I could probably cut my thumb right off with it (do not do that).
posted by bedhead at 3:44 PM on December 4, 2014

Best answer: Hi.

I make chainmaille. I know a bit about pliers. :)

Start out with an affordable set. Better to invest in supplies to make things than expensive pliers at first. Once you start making money or decide you really want to get into things then upgrade.

I use mainly Wubbers and Xuron pliers in various sizes and types.
posted by PlutoniumX at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2014

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