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Beading Tools

Pliers and Cutters Part 1

Pliers are among the handiest and most useful tools on a jeweler’s bench. There are many types and shapes of pliers, each with its own function. There are also many methods of manufacturing pliers, including different forms, constructions, compositions and ways to joint them.The first considerations are form and function. Form defines the shape of the jaws of the pliers. They may be round nosed or chain nosed or flat nosed. Round nose pliers have round tapering jaws from pivot to tip. They are used to make curved bends, loops and coils. Chain nose pliers taper from pivot to tip, but are flat where the jaws meet and are used to open and close jump rings. Flat nose pliers have wide flat jaws for making angled bends, flattening and forming metal. In addition to these basic forms there are many other specialty forms of pliers. Specialty pliers include crimpers that are used to squeeze crimp beads, or rosary pliers, which combine round nose jaws and a cutter in the same tool. There really is no end to the forms pliers come in and new ones are introduced into the marketplace every year.The next consideration is composition most pliers are made of some type of steel. This may be stainless steel, hardened tool steel, or high-carbon high chrome, alloy steel. Stainless steel is a good basic metal that resists rust and requires little maintenance. This is a good choice for beginners and occasional crafters. Hardened tool steel is more durable and requires little maintenance even under heavy usage. For very heavy usage, high-carbon high chrome alloy steel is preferred. This type of steel is the same metal used for ball bearings. These are the most durable type of pliers.Another consideration is construction. Pliers are either cast or forged. Casting means that the molten steel is poured into a mold. This type of tool is neither work-hardened nor tempered and it tends to be brittle. They also tend to break under hard usage. Forged tools, on the other hand, are compressed under great pressure. The metal is hardened and tempered for durability and strength.The next point of consideration is the "joint". The most common are types are lap joints and box joints. Lap joints mean that one side of the pliers overlaps the other side. Where they cross, they are joined with a rivet. The rivet will loosen with time and use, making the pliers loose and unreliable. The more they are used the more rickety they become. Box joints have a hidden rivet. Each half of the pliers surrounds the joint of the other half. In this way the pliers’ alignment is maintained throughout the life of the tool.This is only basic information on the construction of pliers. A good quality set will last a lifetime. Think about what you will be doing with your pliers and how often you use them. They can be a very important investment in your creative endeavors. If they are comfortable, they can become unconscious extensions of your hands.


Jewelry Concepts and Technology by Oppi UntrachtRio Grande Tools & Equipment Catalog 2005Notes from Jewelry Manufacturing Classes by Beverly Fernandes

Pliers and Cutters Part 2

Cutters are pliers with cutting edges and are specifically designed to "cut" wire or sheet metal while pliers are designed to hold and form metal. Most of the information from the previous article (Pliers and Cutters and their uses Part 1) applies to cutters with a few differences. Whereas "pliers" refers to nose shape, "cutters" refers to jaw length. First, we will consider jaw length and cutting capacity.

Jaw length determines the amount of cutting force that a cutter can exert, the amount of cutting force exerted decreases as the distance from the pivot point increases. This means a short- jawed cutter can exert relatively greater pressure at its tip than a long- jawed cutter. Force rather than reach is the main purpose of this type of these cutters. The long jawed cutter exerts less force and should not be used on thick or bulky metals. Long jawed cutters are more fragile and the purpose here is longer reach and a more delicate touch.

This does not mean that any cutter will cut any metal; cutters are given a rating called their "maximum cutting capacity". This refers to the ability of the cutter to pass through soft or nonferrous metals, which include yellow gold, silver, brass and copper. Nonferrous refers to the fact that most jewelry metals contain no iron and are therefore considered soft metals. Hard metals are denser than soft metals and include white gold, nickel, and steel. For working purposes they are considered ferrous metals. True ferrous metals must contain iron or steel.

The cutting capacity rating is measured from the pivot point to the center of the cutting edge. The cutting capacity from the center to the tip of the cutter is much less because force is exerted through a greater distance.

Cutting capacity is normally measured in wire gauge thickness. The "Brown and Sharpe" gauge measures standard thickness of wire from very thick (0 gauge) to very thin (34 gauge). Below is a conversion chart which includes gauge in both inches and millimeters.

Pliers and cutters are only two of the many types of jewelers’ tools. Most jewelers and crafters have a variety of these on their workbenches. Along with the common forms of pliers, you might find specialty pliers like crimpers, jumpring pliers or bent nose pliers as well as various cutters for different gauges of wire. These are some of the most useful tools on any jewelers’ bench.