Tools and Supplies – Where to Be Economical and Where to Invest in Quality?

by Jessica.
(Chicago)

Tools and Supplies - Where to Be Economical and Where to Invest in Quality?  - Discussion on Jewelry Making Journal

Hi,

I’m not quite on everyone’s level, but this is such a fantastic site and I thought you may be able to help.

I have tinkered with jewelry making, very basic, for a while. I’ve signed up for a few workshops after the new year, to learn more, but I’d like to go ahead and purchase some tools and supplies I know I’d need (pliers, wire, findings, etc.).

I’m having difficulty figuring out costs. Specifically, where I can be more economical and where I should invest in better quality.

Any advice would be so helpful.

Thank you!

Jessica

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  • I would not skimp on tools, buy the best quality you can afford. Supplies, not sure what kind of jewelry you are making, but if you are doing wire work, I would buy “cheaper” wire for practice and save using sterling until you are confident in your ability. Beads and findings I use Jetbeads.com he gives you Fire Mountain Gem 100+ price no matter how much you buy. I have saved a lot of money over the years using his service. Have Fun!

  • Mary Anne says:

    Hi Jessica,

    This is an excellent question. I think you really want to make sure you will stay with jewelry making before investing with the more expensive tools (and they can get expensive). It’s ok to start with basic quality to see if you even love making/selling jewelry. I have made so many kinds of crafts over the decades, my house is filled with every kind of tool and it’s problematic. That being said, don’t ever buy the cheapest tools.

    Better tools mean easier to use, and better results.
    For myself, I found that buying the various small pliers in the hardware store to be better than buying those cheap jewelry making tools found in the craft stores. I bought them individually, rather then in sets. Look for a nice padded grip on the handles.

    I also bought the copper and other wire in the hardware stores. That way if something messes up I don’t feel bad like if I were using silver or gold. The colorful craft wires certainly can be bought in craft stores and bead shops.

    If you really love making jewelry, and produce a lot for sale, it’s good to upgrade the tools to ones like the Lindstrom brand. Rio Grande is an excellent professional source of all jewelry making supplies: tools, silver, gold, etc wires, sheet metals, etc. They sell tools in a wide variety of prices. Slowly over time, I have upgraded tools if I needed them….and only certain tools are used way more then others. If I rarely use a hand tool, I stay with cheaper versions, but never do I buy the cheapest. Read reviews of the tools online if you can, and keep asking questions like this.

    I think the caliber of tools really make a difference.
    Since I work in many different crafts, I will now spend more for a quality tool if I will use it more.

    In the beginning, you probably will use non-precious metals, and so findings are easy to find in craft stores, or online at sites like Fire Mountain Gems. One thing I found, is not to buy cheap chain that is light weight – I initially bought it in the craft store. Now, I go to a bead shop to physically handle the chains and make informed decisions that way. it’s all a learning process.

    I never took classes and am self taught. I think it’s great you are taking classes and why not ask the question of your teachers also.

  • LuElla says:

    Dear Mary Anne: I really appreciate your comment! It’s like reading about myself. I still use Fire Mountain Gems though not exclusively like I did in my early years. I have always loved shopping in hardware stores and I am self taught (except for that very first pair of earrings a coworker taught me to make one lunch hour in 1990, and I was hooked!) and have never attended a class. I do teach classes though. That being said, I cannot add any more advice for Jessica but I would like to stress not spending a large amount until you’re sure you want to stick with it! I always tell my students that and my normal class size is 5. I have taught up to 10 but prefer a small group because I always supply the tools for my first class. And only a small number actually stick with it. The others (those who preferred to purchase a set of tools from the craft store) just donate their tools to me and I use them for future classes.

  • I agree with the above comments about tools. Spend the $$ on good long lasting tools. I didn’t and really wish someone had given me this advice.
    Second, It’s really easy to get sucked into buying more beads than you need/use at first. You look at all the pretty colors and the “cheap” price and think – I can make something with that. Beware that is the best way to end up with lots of stuff that’s pretty but no jewelry.
    Come up with a few specific ideas of pieces you want to make and make a list of the beads & findings you’ll need. Then go shopping. Kinda like groceries but way more fun.
    Just my 2 cents after 10 years of making jewelry and making lots of mistakes.
    Cindi

  • Missy Rogers says:

    I’ll just say two things: a good looping tool (round nose pliers) has made my life so much easier but as far as wire cutters go—my favorite was a $3 wire cutter from a hardware store. I’d buy individual tools rather than a whole set. That’s just my take on it.

  • Lynda C says:

    Great advise on tools. Invest in the best quality you can afford. This will result in better quality work and better looking jewelry. An incentive for continuing your practice!
    Regarding practice wire…I highly recommend using real copper wire. First it’s soft and easy to manipulate. Second it is cheap! Look in your local hardware store for spools of 18 or 20 gauge to start with. Or go to a recycling center and buy copper electrical wire and strip off the insulation with a cheap tool for that purpose. Or my personal favorite. Go out to my garage and raid my hubbie’s left overs from projects. Or ask around your neighborhood for free copper wire.
    You might find that you prefer the look of copper wire work jewelry to those made from pricy precious metals.
    It’s gorgeous!

  • Roxanna says:

    I had to laugh while reading this—I have a whole large drawer of very pretty beads I never use.
    Now I buy my seed bead basics (bronze, hematite, gold, and silver) in bulk (50-250 gr) from Auntie’s Beads Direct, or from Fire Mtn if I am placing a big enough order to get the better prices. I recently learned about Beada Beada but have not ordered from them yet.

  • Becky Buchanan says:

    Well said, one more thing though. Know exactly what millimeter sizes really are. When I first started, I was never really sure just by reading descriptions. Even some stores do not have sizes listed on their beads. Chain links, jumprings , etc are in millimeters. Now I have small rulers everywhere, purse ,computer, and bead room.
    Fire Mountain catalogs have accurate pictures and guides you can print from website. Understand gauges in wire helps too. Have fun.

  • Thomas W. Lambert says:

    Always best buy the best you can afford. Your tools are your work.

  • Stacy says:

    My father said to buy cheap tools first. When they break or drive you crazy, you’ll know to replace them with the best ones you can get. He had a top of the line drill and a horrible electric saw. So my advice is to get a set of jewelry tools and up grade as you can afford to.

  • Christina says:

    Missy, what is your favorite round nose pliers? I have bought two, so far, not found “the one” yet.

  • Judith says:

    You asked where to spend for quality and where to economize. For me, chain nose pliers and round nose pliers are the ones I use almost every time I sit down at my work table. For those, I invested in Tronex tools and I am thankful for them every day. For tools I don’t use as much, I’ll often get cheaper versions. For example, some cheap no-name pliers that I can only call “my little yellows” from EBay, that a friend recommended, are my go to pliers for extremely tight spots, and I use them often, but only 1/10 or 1/20 as much as I use the Tronex pliers. I’ve found that for shears, Xuron is an excellent brand for quality at a low price. I suggest you keep asking questions here and in other forums, like Etsy’s, especially about specific types of tools. A question like “What is your favorite pair of flat nose pliers” will elicit plenty of useful tips and you may also make online friends that you can turn to later with all your questions.

  • Mary Anne says:

    Wow, that’s fantastic that they donate the tools back to you Luella. I too used to purchase from Fire Mountain. It’s a great starting point, but all too easy to overspend on all kinds of impulse beads and tools, that are not of the best quality. At least, for me, that is. 😁

  • Mary Anne says:

    Tronex are the Rolls Royce top of the line- ($65 pliers) lucky you. I sure would like to try them out. Lindstroms are half the price but also professionally excellent, and long lasting. That being said, I have cheap hardware store, and Beadalon tools in the studio. Sometimes, I know I am using rough recycled materials which will cause some tool damage, and then I don’t feel bad using the old cheap ones.

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