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The Work Room is the Creative Journal of Wendy Sue where she shares her creative journey in all things handmade. The Work Room also offers an alternative to your typical jewelry making workshops. Scroll down to the end of the page to see how you can learn to make your unique piece of artisan jewelry online.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Battle of the tools: Part I

When I buy tools. Apart from what they are made of, eg. stainless steel or hardened tool steel, the other two things that I look for is a) size of the pliers, b) the grip of the pliers and c) the precision of the jaws.

Let's talk about the size first.

Since these are tools used to make such dainty jewellery pieces, I would rather for them to be smaller in size. The following picture is a comparison in sizes of the tools that I have.



No.(1) is the nylon jaw pliers that I purchased from Findingbeads4u.com.au recently. You can see how 'roughly' made it is compared to the other pliers. This is is the biggest dissapointment.

No.(2) is the longest one among them all. Despite its length, I think it is still pretty acceptable since you can see that it is pretty em, what should be the word used here,.... 'dainty'?

No.(3) is the stainless steel pliers I got early this year. As you can see, it's the smallest one among them all.

No.(4) would be the standard size of most of the budget range pliers that is sold in the market. Size wise, it's on the average side. Not too big nor too small.

No.(5) is the one that I got from Beading.com.my. Well, it isn't the smallest one of them all but it is still relatively small compared to the rest. I'm quite satisfied with the size.

Next, on the grip.

Now, the grip is important because you would want comfort while working on your jewellery pieces. Granted, you migh be working long hours bending and twisting on the wires. So, it is important that the pliers give you a comfortable grip. Pliers that makes you exert too much pressure might cause your fingers to cramp and it just defeat the purpose of jewellery making if you should suffer from discomfort even for the least, during the process. Jewellery making should be an enjoyable process, and therapeutic even for me when I am truly living for the moment, creating beautiful pieces of adornment. LOL.... I know, a bit of new age talk here. :)

The hand grip should fit you comfortably in your palms to reduce hand strain.

That is the size of the grip. If you have ever noticed, the hand grip is usually wrapped with a layer of rubber. Then there's usually some metal plate placed inside the rubber which will act as some kind of stopper controlling the opening and closing of the plier jaws.

The following picture would be the kind of aforementioned mechanism which you would see in most of the pliers.


Notice how theres a 'bump' at the tip of the metal plate acting as a 'stopper' controlling the opening and closing of the jaws?



This is when the plier is relaxed. Jaws are open.



When the handles are pressed together. Jaws are closed.


But then and again. That is not the ONLY mechanism available for use to create that function.


This is the one from the new set of stainless steel ones that I got from Beading.com.my. As you can see from the picture, it's similar to the one above but without the 'bump'. Instead, both sides are similarly flat but with a bended curve at the tip, creating a similar effect.


Why is the rubber grip so important?

I'm not sure how many of you actually experienced this before but as the rubber grip loosen over time with use, it displaces the metal plate and this opening and closing of jaw becomes less effective to the point of annoying, well, for me at least it was so.


This is what I meant.


Other mechanism which in might opinion might be more effective in not affecting the workings of the opening and closing of the jaws might be these few.


This uses a spring board kinda mechanism. I've had these since I first started making jewelleries which brings to two years already. So far, they have never failed me.


The other that I've come accross is this.


This is from the set of stainless steel ones that I got early this year. I don't know how to explain this mechanism but to say that the control for the opening and closing mechanism of the jaw is not largely affected despite the loosening of the rubber grip.


But......


It nevertheless still irks me when the rubber grip slips!


By far, this is the one with the tightest rubber grip and the jaw mechanism works in a more 'mechanical' way.

I'm not very good with all these technical descriptions but I do however noticed these differences and would like to point them out. I don't know how large of a difference do they make but suffice to say that within the two years working on them to make jewelleries, I do feel a difference in grip.


This is a 3-step round nose plier from Bead Smith


The opening and closing of the jaws is not as tight as the rest and to some extent, even felt 'loose'. But that's in respects of the jaws opening and closing. Nevertheless, it doesn't anyhow affects the jaw grip. As far as the rubber grip is concerned, it is still very tight and I'm not sure if I'll be experiencing all the 'bumps and kinks' that I've experienced with the rest with this one since I don't see how the loosening of the rubber grip will affect the jaw grip.

The jaws for this one, by contrast, are closed when relaxed but you would need to use your finger to push in between the handles to open and close the jaws, since there is no metal plate 'stopper' or spring to control the jaw's opening and closing mechanism. Well, that is if you get what I'm trying to say here.

Finally, the precision.

This I'll talk about in the other parts of the 'battle' ;) when I have nothing better to do compare and contrast it among the tools that I have. Basically, when I talk about precision, I'm looking at the precision of the jaws. How precise of a job can they do. How close to the edge can it cut? How clean of a line can it cut? How narrow of a space can it reach? How small of a loop can it make?

Well, I'm a sucker for details. I bother myself with what would perhaps need not to be bothered with in the first place. And that's why I'm a sucker. LOL.....

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Postscripts:
One of my favourite piece of jewelry is the ring and I love to wear chunky rings especially the cluster ones with lots of small sparkling crystal beads. How can you resist the 'blings' in them? ;) Found this awesome tutorial to make this type of ring from Lytha Studios. I think they're pretty simple and straightforward. Pun intended. :)

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4 hollers:

Wendy said...

Hie Wendy,
Wendy here again. Simply love to read your articles.. Yeap i totally agree with the irking part when the rubber grip just keeps slipping from the handle. I'm still using the same old tools from the basic kit I got.. you know which comes in a box where they have instruction booklets and stuff. They are pretty reliable despite being quite affordable but ever since that rubber incident i've been looking for a good brand but they are super costly. So i'm still searching.. hehe :)

Wendy Sue said...

Hi Wendy,

You were lucky to have been able to get the starter kit and with instruction booklets some more! :)
I didn't know anything like that and didn't even know what were the essential tools and bought everything separately. Some were not even THAT essential. I pretty much ran around like a headless chicken but since it was something I wanted to do so much, I took it all in my stride.

The new set of stainless steel pliers I got from beading.com.my weren't too bad. Well, for now it seems. :) Only time will tell if the rubber grip will fail me.

Of course the really good ones like Lindstrom is probably going to set you back at more than RM100 per plier. Not something to look at right now but who knows in future, right? ;)

Jenny Pong said...

Hey Wendy,

Cant believe you bought so many pliers and things... I have a similar black stainless steel plier but it the rubber grip doesnt come out at all.... my only problem is the spring broke but i can still use it. Have to control the tension and my grip....

I have the entire set of stainless steel pliers from beading.com.my too.... but i got them sometime back so the price is RM20 more.
=( and my cutter doesnt work.... yes, Steven's packaging is really awful...cant agree more!

I was thinking of getting nylon plier too but now after reading your blog, not sure i should. LOL

Wendy Sue said...

Jenny,

Yeah, I'm a tool freak! LOL And that's not even all that I have AND I recently just got myself a stainless steel block and chase hammer from Beading.com.my (but not before going through another nightmare of unwrapping them!:P)

Yeap, the stainless steel pliers from Beading.com.my are pretty good apart from their cutter. I have some reservations about them too but more on that later and so are about those nylon jawed pliers. ;)

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