What Unofficial Jewelry Tools Do You Use?
by Rena Klingenberg.
Most of us wind up acquiring a nice stash of various jewelry tools over time.
Some of the things we use are “real” tools – pliers, cutters, reamers, files, crimpers, etc.
But do you also have a variety of odds and ends that you use as jewelry tools?
A few of my favorite “unofficial” tools that I use in making my jewelry are:
- Colorful mini-clamps that I clip onto the far end of my beading wire to keep my beads from sliding off while I’m stringing.
- Wooden popsicle sticks, marked with a Sharpie pen, which I use as template guides for measuring and marking where to bind wire bundles for common cabochon sizes.
- Bone beads with various sizes of holes, which I pull leather cord through several times to soften, straighten and distress the cord.
- A knife-sharpening stone, which I rub across the cut ends of wire to file off any sharp edges; it’s especially handy for heavier gauges of wire.
- A leather-worker’s awl, for poking the holes in my earring cards (I used to use an icepick with equally good results).
- Sharpie markers, which can be used to mark metals, color stamped lettering, or serve as a mandrel.
- My grandmother’s knitting needles, which range from tiny to huge, are great as mandrels or for coiling wire.
There might be “official” jewelry tools that would do these jobs just as well as the odds and ends I use.
But I’m fond of these adapted devices, and I store them right alongside my pliers and other tools. They’ve become part of the gang.
And I’m interested to know –
What unofficial jewelry tools do you use?
Please share in the comments below!
Chris Rossi says
I like to do a lot of metal forming so I use a lot of mandrels, anvils, hammers etc. Been known to use everyday objects for forming too – cans, table edges….I’ll walk around the house looking for the right shape 🙂
John Atwell Rasmussen says
As an anvil, I use a cast iron clothing iron. This is the type that you placed on the wood/coal stove to heat up and then ironed the clothing until it was cool and had to placed back on the stove for reheating. It is light enough to be portable, so I don’t have to have a fixed location for it. I made a burnisher from an old electrical screwdriver with a bent tip. Both of these work very well.
I picked up some small anvils in the automotive body work dept that I use for forming. Wherever I can find something affordable and usable.
Marcy Bell says
I use my knitting needles for forming different sizes of jump rings, and I’ve found a small 4 way nail buffer to be indispensable for wireworking to round, smooth, buff and polish metal. The large size at home, the tiny size for my emergency travel kit. The bonus for me is that they only cost $1.29 at Sally Beauty Supply, lol.
Well, I guess I gotta start with something that gives away my age, but I can’t begin to do anything anymore without my very strong cheater glasses! Then there is my tape measure, and finally T-pins used for upholstery, emery boards, alligator clips, painters tape and fingernail polish. Teri
Matt Weld says
Well, let’s see. I use a Sharpie marker to not only mark wire, but as my favorite mandrel around which I bend my wire. I, too, use an awl for my earring cards. I use an old glass ashtray for my flux that gets dried out. I can crush it with the base of my file (and nevermind the expensive jewelers’ files – I use the cheap carpentry files from the flea market!) and add water. I put scotch tape at the end of my beading wire so beads don’t slip off, and various dowels and nails as mandrels for making split rings along with the power drill from my toolbox.
Stacie Florer says
LOL…I use a tent stake to make my earwires with…best mandrel I have!!
Thanks so much for posting about this! It’s always interesting to see what useful, unexpected purposes somethings can have. Reminds me that one doesn’t need the expensive tools for a certain job to get that job done – just look around your home, markets, hardware stores and the likes. Anything can be a potential for helping one create something 🙂
JoAnne Green says
I have 3 work surface trays. Two 18X28 inches and one 12.5X17.5 inches, all are heavy guage metal, proffessional baking sheets. I line them with a piece of microfiber to reduce bounce & roll. They allow me to work on my lap or any table I like and to set my work aside – with everything in place – and come back to it.
I also have a hole punch I bought in the wedding section of Walmart for putting holes in earring cards.
I have cutters for craft wire, but use a regular pair of cutters for memory wire and other heavier cutting.
I use crochet needles as mandrels for making jumprings.
I have a rotating kitchel tool holder that does just fine for all my “regular” and “special” tools.
I LOOOOVE reading these – I am new and learning – but found that regular push-pins make good hole sizes for my earring cards. For attaching my card to my drawstring gift pouches, I use a hole punch that makes a smaller hole than usual, but big enoughf for the cord. Thanks to the more experienced for sharing!
Beth Goss says
My favorite right now is a big nail. I use it to design my silver and copper pieces instead of using a purchased stamp.
I have mandrels, but I end up bending my ear wires on a papermate pen most of the time. I use wooden dowels to wind jump rings, and often cut them right on the dowel. A piece of tapered a wood chair leg that I found makes a great mid-sized mandrel, and small steel nut picks from the flea market are wonderful burnishers. My favorite – I buy old used cross peen hammers at the flea market, and reshape the heads with a belt sander before I polish them to make all kinds of hammer heads. I also cut the heads off old toothbrushes and shape the handle with saw and files to make no-marring tools – bezel pushers, light bezel punches, etc. Plastic head hammers from the flea market are a s good as rawhide hammers, and can be reshaped on the sander as well.
Probably my most-used unofficial tool is a pair of nail clippers! I have some with a slanted tip, and there is nothing better to cut the tail of a wire between small beads!
Janine G. says
I have a small tape measure I got as a prize in a Christmas cracker. I use it to measure not only the full length of my projects but it’s great to measure people too.
Sometimes I use children’s baking sets to work with my clay. I especially like using the mini dough roller because it’s just the right size. I also use mini cookie cutters to cut out pendants from the clay. I like to put a piece of saran wrap over the clay before pressing down the cookie cutter to give it a beveled edge.
Charlene Anderson says
I use lots of improvised stuff in my jewelry making. Knitting needles are great for mandrels, poking things in place, etc. I use crochet hooks to thread things and place things. I use Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers to keep works in progress together. Of course zip lock bags are used for storing everything. I use a four sided nail buffer (it is on a sponge backing) to smooth things out.
Michelle B says
Wow, lots of us think alike! I also use the 4-way nail buffers when I do metal clay projects and I use different types of metal nail files to smooth my earwires and to add a brushed finish and texture to my hammered metal. (I have the nail files for my jewelry students to use and they think they’re funny at first – but love them after they try them!) I also have an old film canister (remember those?!) I use as a mandrel for certain wire wrapping projects that doubles as a scrap metal holder and a 15 year old brass ‘nail kit’ that has a hemostat, tiny sharp scissors, mini file, and large, heavy duty nail cutters that are super flush and great when I don’t want to damage my good cutters!
The “unofficial tool” I use most is a square glass tray from an old microwave. It is large enough to hold my bead board and still have room on both sides for supplies on one side and tools on the other. The sides are tall enough to keep everything from rolling off and I put a bandanna on the bottom to keep things from scooting around.
I also have nail clippers, dowels, hardware pliers and whatnot, but I also use a lot of automotive tools that my son has (well, when he isn’t looking anyway). But as much as I use “unofficial tools” for making jewelry, I also use jewelry supplies “unofficially. My favorite story is using accuflex wire and crimp beads to fix the throttle on a lawn mower. It worked so well that we never did fix it “right”. I love multi-use tools!
Erin Prais-Hintz says
I love reading all these tips. Many I use myself, and others were a perfect “aha”! To add a new “tool” to the list, would be a pearl head stick pin, the kind used for pinning a corsage on. The pearl head makes it easy to find, against the many pieces of wire and head pins floating around. I find that it is easy for me to hold the pearl and use the tip to align beads in a channel of a bead board. I also use it to pick up a few beads in a pattern to see how they lie together. I use it for all other things as well and I find myself frantic if I can’t find it!
Great ideas all!
Enjoy the day!
Great tips! I use a small baby spoon to pick up seed beads, binder clips for the end of the wire when stringing beads, also have an awl and small paper punch for earring cards.
Dottie Winn says
I use mini binder clips to prevent beads from slipping of the end of my beading wire. I have small plastic tape measures (2 / $.88 at Walmart) in all my pocketbooks and beading bags, you never know when there will be a wrist that needs measuring. I use an unfinished wood tray with sides that I line with a felt square to provide a work surface for stringing and making earrings etc. (available @ most craft shpps for < $5.00. Plastic watercolor trays make a great open container when working with seed beads. Cupcake tins are great containers to hold beads by color at a child’s birthday beading party. Reply Jean Menden says
OK- here is my idea of weird tools!
I am a silversmith not a wire worker so I have different ideas for tools.
The first thing is a big old set of knitting needles- they are all labeled on the flat end with their mm size and their inch size. They work great for making jump rings. They also can be clamped in my bench clamp and I can wrap silver wire around them for many inches. Since they are aluminum the wire coil slips right off no matter how tightly you wrap- this is not the case with wooden dowels. They are cheap!
My second thing I couldn’t live without is discarded playing cards from the casino. They are great for little pads when I stamp or when I lay a sheet of sterling out to work on. They make little risers that are nice for propping cabs in bezels for pendants and rings. They are thick enough to use for a straight edge to draw a line or scratch on sterling sheet with the edge of a caliper.
They are free.
And last- at the soldering bench I use old worn out dental tools to push solder and silver bits around with. They are free.
Just my 2 cents worth on tools. Unfortunately I have oodles of expensive tools I don’t use nearly as much.
arleta lynn says
Enjoyed the tips…some new and great ideas. I’m a wire wrapper. I use a plastic sheet cake carrier with a lid and handle from walmart as my portable work space. I covered the bottom with leather, drew measurements in ink on the leather so I can easily roll my cab and measure the circumference…etc. I can fit several clear rigid plastic bags for various wires and all my tools (tools fit on the edge when in use) and a tray of stones…and it works great in my lap traveling down the highway (as a passenger!) making jewelry..I use it at home too..and, you can close it up. I love it!
Rena Klingenberg says
I’ve picked up so many great tool ideas here from y’all – thanks so much for sharing!
Like Angela, I’ve also used jewelry supplies for unofficial purposes.
Once when our puppies kept wandering out through a hole in the chain-link fence, I used flat-nosed jewelry pliers to neatly weave 21-gauge square brass jewelry wire across the hole!
Hi, love the ideas above, a few of my own are dental diamond tip burs for drilling sea glass, nailclippers for getting right up to the edge of wire to cut it, disposable crudite plates with 6 sections..great for sorting beads at the end of the day into types, I use clear plastic take away boxes with snap on lids from our local Chinese restaurant..and keep all my beads in them stacked ten high..I have over 300 now…I use Blue Tack (the blue stuff used to hand up posters etc..think it’s called sticky tack in US?) for ends of wire instead of bead stoppers, a very ancient mustard spoon for scooping up tiny beads, a Victorain pearl topped hat pin for poking into bead holes when the wire just will not go through!
These are great ideas! I have a small cafeteria-style plastic tray with sides. Half of it has a beading mat glued to it. I keep a large, 2-gallon zip-lock (slider style) handy, so that if I am in progress with a project, I can slide the tray into the bag. I figure, if the tray in the bag gets bumped, knocked to the ground, etc.. it would at least be easier to sort out pieces than if they all fell into my plush carpet. ????
Tool Guru says
There are some tools here that I am not familiar with. Looks like I have some more research to do!
Barbara Woodfin says
I use clear nail polish and glue for artificial nails as glue. Works best on light weight items, though. These go on and dry clear, so they work very well with flat back crystals.
Kimmie Blake says
Just this week I discovered that my deodorant makes a great oval mandrel for my sterling cuff bracelets!! (and I almost bought a $50 earlier this week- hahahahah take that economy!!!)
Lynn Huddleston says
For storing all my metal bead findings, I use tiny cork-stoppered glass bottles – the type that contain bath salts and come in sets of 6 or 12. I have them all laid flat in a large white melamine tray which has handles – easily portable, easily visible, looks attractive and very cheap! I get most of these bath salts from car boot sales!
I also use the little plastic boxes that business cards come in – useful for putting in assorted coloured odd beads.
JoAnne Green says
I store oversized beads and chain in those neat oval mayonnaise jars. The large flip top opening and the easily shelved size make it ideal. Smaller plastic jars, such as the ones that dried minced onions come in, are also great. My favorite storage, however, is my 15 drawer vintage library card catalog file. Each drawer holds a different color. Since the drawers are meant to pull out, I can pull a drawer of whatever color out and sort through it for the beads I want.
Pilar Cardona says
Thank you for all those ideas!! Loved it!
I read this tip on a web site: an old TV antenna to make jump rings of different sizes. Is lightweight and retractable, is portable. Also, I saw a You tube video of someone using a fork to open/ close medium and large size jump rings.
I use a scrapbooking basket that has many pockets, compartments and handles. I keep my favorite tools and supplies there and can carry them easily.
Sometimes I use safety pins to hold parts of a project and when I am beading it helps me stabilize my piece.
Masking tape. Those “paper” strips that come with garbage bags (used to close the bags) are also handy (to wrap wire for storage).
I also use an old fashion cast iron iron. I have a work bench that is a full length vise and I place the handle in it to use the face of the iron as a bench block. Then I use the handle as a mandrel. I also have a cast iron shoemakers last which gives me gently curved surfaces for shaping. I picked them up along with several hammers at a flea market.
Bryan Stagg says
I love the idea about the old iron. My favorite two “unofficial s” are Old looking bottles, pier one has a ton of ’em cheap! And Altoids tins for projects I am in the middle of or cool thing I wanna save. I think I have at least 50 of those.
Deborah Leon says
Well this topic is certainly hot!! It’s fun and so a part of us all. I’ve use wood buttons and sponges to set my sea glass on while drilling in water. I’ve used pens, markers, pencils and barbecue scewers for shaping wire..I’ve even gone as far as taking down a rod iron plant holder for shaping. Very fun post!
Fair Winds and Calm Seas, Deborah Leon
Not exactly a tool, but I found the cheapest sectioned plastic “bead” boxes in the fishing dept of our local farm store – Big R. They’re identical to what you pay big bucks for when labelled for craft projects. AND – the ones I buy even have a tarnish preventative incorporated in them. Fishing lures tarnish? How come this doesn’t come from craft storage boxes?
Angela Friesen says
I use a pair of nail clippers to cut my tigertail. I’ve found that nothing else gets through the plastic cover or cuts as closely.
Thanks for the tips! I couldn’t do anything without hemostats and alligator clips. Try those breakfast-in-bed trays for ergonomics (when sitting), with any kind of plastic tray, cork, pillow or hand towel on top. Use the cup holder for tools! Use old bulletin boards or pieces of cork board to pin each project in progress (they stack and protect!). Old ice cube trays to separate beads in. Old computer cable for copper wire. And I found it all in thrift shops or hardware stores! (And yes, fishing lures, especially flies, are so much like making jewelry it’s funny. My brother ties flies, and the whole process is very similar! You should see the fancy boxes they have for those!)
What a great topic! I appreciate the ideas. The main item I use is a worn out sewing machine needle. I have found that it is perfect for knotting between beads. It’s very strong and won’t bend when pulling the knot tight ( I work with glass pearls a lot) and I like the smaller size so that I can also use it as an awl if the bead hole needs to be widened.
I am probably too late since my Internet has been out all day but loved the hints, esoecially the egg carton use for beads, etc. I have a cat who does strange things with my beads, findings, etc. and the other day, I found some beads in her little secret place, all in a neat little pile under my bed! Large prescription bottles make good mandrels for shaping bracelets, although I have learned to make the wire bracelet slightly oval when finished as it fits the hand better. Thanks for all.
So many great ideas here! I use empty Chinese food containers (the kind used for soups) for my beads. These are sorted by color. I have a marble rolling pin for a bracelet mandrel and sometimes for light hammering, metal crochet hooks in every size for making loops and jump rings, old toothbrushes for cleaning small spaces in jewelry, tiny paint brushes for applying Liver of Sulfur on links and for applying patinas. I’m sure I have a lot of other unconventional “tools” I haven’t thought of. I repaired an iron patio table leg with brass wire where a screw had fallen off. Ah, we artists share so much ingenuity and resourcefulness!
Some great ideas here, that I am going to implement.
I use medicine tube containers for bracelets, glue sticks ( instead of a mandrel) for making ear hooks, nail cutter for clipping wire – (this I learned from Rena’s site, where she discussed what tools can be taken/substituted when you are air traveling). What else?
Scotch tape to clean up small wire cuttings that can not be saved. A small magnet to do the same thing and be sure that those clippings are not silver!
That’s about all for now.
Marnie Ehlers says
Wow, what great “tool” tips I have found on this post! Thanks Rena for the great topic. As a metal clay artist I use so many unofficial tools for texture and shaping. Cardboard, toys, just about anything. You can check out these things that I used and made a pair of fine silver earrings on my blog at: http://marnieismymuse.com/aliens-landed-in-my-studio-had-a-p-a-r-t-y/
Hey I just read the post on using an ice pick or awl to poke through jewelry cards. You can use a small drill bit in your fordom or dremel and drill a dozen or more cards at once. I bought 500 cards and in a few minutes my 12 year old granddaughter had them all drilled for me!
Dawn Piepenburg says
Great ideas! I bought at a yardsale a set of 5 teak nesting trays that I use for active projects. (They look nice all stacked too!) I bought a full-size velour blanket ($10) and cut liners for each of the trays. I also cut a large piece for my work table so that the beads do not roll on the floor if I am not using one of my trays. And I cut a piece for my traveling bead box. All of these ‘work holders’ are different sizes so cutting up a blanket is really cost effective. Plus I still have 1/2 blanket left.
You know those dreaded instruments dental hygienists use when you’re having your teeth cleaned? Well, I use one for a much more pleasant task – bead knotting. I use clear canning jars for keeping bead soup in separate colour families, and the teeny containers some take-away places use for sauce become places to hold stray beads until I can sort them.
I use a dental pick to clean out the holes of beads or spacers that have debris left in them. If you ask your dentist he or she might give you an old one they don’t use any longer.
I used to make jewelry out of real rose beads and the dental pick is great for drilling out a hole in the center in order to place it on jewelry wire.
I love everyone’s ideas!
Pauline M. says
All these idea’s are great! I have used all kinds of antique kitchen tools, to old fridge shelves to hold ink stamps and such. Rolling pins, round light bulbs and metal pie tins adorn my craft room. If it’s not bolted down, it stands a good chance of being used at one time or another. My favorite tool however is a darling stuffed monkey my husband bought me years ago. I use it to display my newest jewelry creations. My family no longer wants to model for me. My monkey has never complained. Thanks Rena for all you do.
So many excellent tips listed above. I use the small parts bins sold at the hardware stores to store my beads and findings. I also use the weekly medicine containers to take extra findings (ear hooks/leverbacks, etc) to the shows so when someone likes a pair of earrings, but not the hook I can easily switch them out. Harbor Freight is my candy store. I can browse for hours. I have purchased their magnetic tool holder strip and attached it to my bench. Easily holds my pliers and other tools so I don’t lose them in my messy bench.
Mary Anne says
My favorite hammer is one of those triangular hammers the doctor bounceson knees to test for reflexes! Its a soft triangular rubber with a rounded tip…perfect for getting into small spaces – like the intricate crocheted wire rings I have been making lately. I got it at American Science Center for $2.00, and I have never seen anything like it sold in jewelry supplies catalogs.
I use a 7 day pill box to organize my jumprings, crimpbeads, earring hooks and other findings. compact way to carry them around (in my handbag too).
Leslie Schmidt says
I love to use the black plastic lids from the small ice cream containers (i.e. Ben & Jerry’s) to sort my beads (by size and color), and the spoon to scoop them around my bead board or putting the beads into small plastic baggies. I keep my beads in usually 3″ x 5″ baggies (or smaller or larger as needed) with the shipping label and manufacturer labels attached or inside with individual bead pricing right on the labels. Then these go into my Sterilite three-drawer containers I get at Target (I have at least 20 of these stacked up). I sort my beads by color and by type (glass, acrylic, silver, gold, copper colors). I keep my tools on/in a easy-carry wooden container that is meant for silverware and napkins for a table. My bead boards are placed in a one-inch baking sheet with sides that I also buy (a two-pack) at Target. I line them with shelf liner as the liner doesn’t slip around like a bead mat and the bead boards also don’t slip around. I have six of these made up and often with projects in progress stacked up on my table ready to work on whenever I have time.
Tina Jensen says
One great tool was recommended to me by my local bead store when I went looking for a bead reamer. They use a spark-plug file from the automotive supply store, which has multiple heads in different sizes. The heads all fold inside the handle, making it compact and travel-friendly. My darling husband got me one for my Christmas stocking so I don’t know how much it cost, but it must have been less than $10 and will have many uses for years to come.
alligator clips crazy glued to party stiks with color beads used to stop beads from falling off my bead wire….:)
I buy small pliers at flea markets for very little cost. I have a flat nose pair that I glued a piece of leather to on to the inside of each side of the pliers. I use this to straighten wire and it works great.
Kathie Condon says
Emery boards! I keep them to smooth down wire ends. My newest find is ice tube trays. They make long cylinical tubes of ice for bottles. They hold my pliers, cutters and anything else upright and easy to grab. I have several at my bench. Great for pens and pencils too. Found them at Wal Mart (I have no association to Wal Mart and receive no compensation from them).
The files are great! You might want to add another to your list; a fish hook sharpener. You can find them in almost any sporting goods store or the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart, or K-Mart. They’re small and easy to work with on sharp edges with limited working space.
Laura Castano says
My hand mixer for twisting wire. I play out about forty feet of wire – fold it in half, and fasten the center loop to a huge nail pounded into the end of my bench.I weave the wire ends around the center point of one paddle stick attach it to the mixer, hit the button and I’m in business – my husband has a drill with a chuck that I could do this with but my workspace is right next to the kitchen. I also bought a twisting plier but don’t really like it all that much, almost gave it away but figured hey -maybe sometime after the apocalypse I might want something without batteries or motors.
Linda Sinish says
I use a stick ripper, from my sewing box, to punch holes in my earring cards.
The Wristbandit says
I use old leather belts to make jewelry. Cutting a straight line on the end is difficult. So, I bought a wide wood chisel, one hit with a mallet and it’s done.
Tammy Witowski says
I found a way for sorting jewelry, We buy those little applesauce snacks in the little cups and use those for sorting my jewelry, or we buy these chicken dinners and use the trays for that cause they got 3 little compartments in them. Its easy and cheap.
Kellie Terrebonne says
I recycled a retangular shaped water bottle into a tool holder. I filled it with dry pinto beans for weight and to hold my tools upright. I cut rectangular holes into the top for the bigger tools and the mini tools I cut in “x” marks into the neck of the bottle. I use a decorative ducktape (pink zebra stripes in this case) to cover the lid and bottom and sides of bottle. mostly to hide the beans and make it look nicer. I put my sharp tools down into it..handles upright. It’s very handy. 🙂
Barbara Herndon says
I like working on my lap in front of the television, so a blanket thrown over the chair catches anything that falls, and a heavy platter with a towel holds my work in progress. I also keep a certain kind of pen handy as a jig for shaping the larger loop on ear wires – two at a time to assure they match ????
Laura Castano says
I love using sharpies to make ear wires!Depending on where and how tight you wrap your wire you can make 1/2 a dozen different styles and mark your packages all with one tool.
Candy Moore says
I use a suet bird feeder to stuff all of my tools in. You know, the one’s that are like wire cages. Lay it on its side, open up the cage and put my file package and needle packages inside and then sort my tools handle down into the cage and it holds about 25 different types of pliers, cutters, and more. It is small and sits on my desktop.
Disco Sorbet says
I was complaining that I couldn’t find a decently priced/sized jewelry anvil that I could clip to the side of my work table. My step-dad has always been a big fan of my jewelry. Without my knowing, he soldered two thick, flat pieces of stainless steel together (pulled from his scrapyard, cleaned and polished) to form a T shape, attached a metal clip in place that allows me to clip it onto my work table and engraved the back of it with the name of my jewelry shop. There’s even a little ring on the side of it where I can slide my jewelry hammer in for storage when it’s not being used. I just thought that was the best handmade/re-purposed gift ever.
I used to hand-make my earring cards, and used a canvas needle to punch holes for those.
Other unconventional tools I’ve been known to use: markers (for large jump rings, ear wires and chain links), hair sticks (for clasp loops), and jars filled with rice to support hair sticks at shows.
A friend has a patent for a lightweight, portable welding table and built me a wood-topped version that I use to support heavy glass items at shows; it’s also a nice, tall workspace if I have lots of hammering to do.
Jane Blancher says
Wow, so many good tips on here! Alot of them I’ve discovered on my own, but several others I’m sure to try. Right now I have a question, and it’s going to give away my inexperience: what does one use to thread stretch-cord (elastic) throught those tiny obnoxious holes in beads and/or seed beads? I’ve been using twist-tie wire stripped of it’s paper. It works, but I’m sure there’s something more commercial out there.
Okay now, the only tip that comes to mind to share is this: I have an old (western style) leather coat I use when I need a scrap of leather. It has an abundance of fringe that is great for making cuff or surfer bracelets with. Just add a few strands of coloured hemp and some wooden beads and the teenagers love them!
Keep those tips and ideas coming!
Jane Blancher says
Another tip: I use a large sectioned pencil holder at my work desk for my tools, but I put fibrefill in the bottom to protect the points of reamers and the sharp edges on my wire snips etc. Fill each section according to the tool’s size keeps them up within easy reach.
Nancy Vaughan says
Love all of the uncommon uses for common items found around the house, in the hardware departments, fishing tackle stores, Home Depot, etc. My favorite unusual tools are crochet hooks for making jump rings, lineman’s wire cutters for the heavy gauge wire I work with most of the time, a 6 inch mill file for rough shaping sheet copper and a smallish oval ceramic baking dish to hold water to cool down small hot metal pieces.
Ann Nolen says
Great ideas… I enjoy using a lot of these ideas too, we are a clever group. My latest great tool came from my husband. He saves the fabric softener sheets AFTER they have been used in the dryer. He uses them to clean the screen on his phone/tablets. They also clean glass and jewelry beautifully and are basically free.
Kathi Houston says
I have only been making jewelry for about 6-8 months but have started finding my own ways for sorting, packaging and creating too (and now have some more great tips, thanks to this topic and all the wonderful posts).
My favorite non-official tool is my medium sized thick plastic serving tray that I got a dollar store. It’s perfect for working in, no matter where I feel like creating at any moment. I have a bead mat lining the bottom so things don’t roll around and the sides are high (almost 2″ in depth) but they are slanted outward so it’s easy to rest my wrists on the sides while I work (I suffer from severe tendonitis). The tray is oval in shape so I can put different groupings of beads and such in the ends and then create my jewelry pieces in the middle. When I need to take a break I simply set the entire tray back on my desk or the table (or wherever the cat isn’t at). I even stack bags of beads in this tray for transporting from one room to another & then I can count beads for hours while still spending time with my family in the den or kitchen. It’s the best $1.00 I have spent for my jewelry and supplies business!!
I also love my crabbing cage for when I am doing shows. It is supposed to be for catching crabs but it is perfect for hanging jewelry from…the spaces in the wire are just the right size for earrings cards to hang from and then I can loop necklaces and bracelets through the spaces too. Plus it’s not too heavy to hang from my tent when I am doing outside shows; I simply lower the 4 sides and it creates a half wall on one side of my tent. My family thought I was crazy when I first came home with it but they now see the pure genius of it and I get all sorts of compliments from other vendors too!!
Kathy Reading says
My unofficial jewelry tool is a dissecting needle with wooden handles. I purchased 12 of them on eBay, so I have them in all of my beading kits. They are great for getting knots out of thread and elastic, poking holes for earring cards, and also opening holes in beads.
I enjoy making paper beads and find that bamboo skewers (for cooking on the grill) make great paper bead rollers. Unlike metal rollers, the bamboo “holds” the paper better, I can roll several beads on one skewer so drying takes up less space, and when the skewers get sticky with glue they are cheap enough to throw away.
What a great thread! I love all the ideas for tools..I’m going to get knitting needles for sure and I never thought about using old leather belts for jewelry projects!
Rolene Johnson says
All of these ideas are great! One of my personal favorites is a scrapbook tote (bought on sale) that I use at shows. It holds paper bags, zip bags, business cards, tape, a small assortment of tools, gum, drink mixes, canera, phone, and anything else I might need!
Karen Watson says
I have a plastic clipboard with a shallow receptacle made for forms, that I used for that purpose in my last business. It is the perfect size for a bead mat I bought from Beadaholique, and it snaps shut, so unfinished projects are contained, and my Kitty can’t steal them to play with. The clip on the front is perfect for use when doing macrame bracelets. A piece of laminated graph paper kept inside helps with measurements.
Lee Brigham says
These are fantastic new tips and can’t wait to try some of them out.
I can’t live without steel wool, size 0000. It’s great to take the shine out of base metals when I want an antiqued-looking finish. Just a quick polish can really transform anything from ear wires to chain. Definitely my go-to tool.
Carol M says
When I was starting out I couldn’t afford the various special pliers etc. that we use in jewelry making. I went to our local hardware store and bought a selection of small electrical pliers in various shapes. These were perfect for starting out. I eventually replaced them all with ‘proper’ jewelrymaking pliers but I still have my original set, which I would never part with.
I also use those chocolate boxes with clear plastic lids and individual spaces for storing earrings, small findings etc. And the dishes our local store sell houmous in are perfect for putting beads in during a project!
Mary Wenger says
I actually make jewelry and repair vintage jewelry. I do a ton of replacement rhinestone work. I actually went to my dentist and asked for some of his old dental tools. He was more than happy to give me several different shaped items that I use for all kinds of purposes.
Sue T says
I use a large parmesan cheese container to place my spools of wire. I take off the plastic guard off of each spool, place the spools inside and then fish the wires through the large holes in the top. I usually use three different colors per container. It takes away the tangles and all you have to do is pull on the wire when you need more wire while working on your project.
Karen Watson says
My very favorite unofficial tool is a plastic clipboard that has a compartment under it for papers, etc. I got it years ago when I was doing case management, to carry forms to clients for them to sign. It is just the right size for beading mats , and closes so things don’t get away or used as kitty toys. The clip on top is great when doing a macrame type tied bracelet, too. When I was trying to find a place to get more of them, I found something called a “project box” which is a little larger and deeper, and has dividers. It’s all acid free, the intention of working with paper arts, but it also seems to have a plus of tarnish prevention. I use mine with non-slip shelf liner from the Dollar Store, to put finished pieces in. When one is full, I set up my little photo studio and take pictures.
I also have a lot of forceps, which are great for a “third hand”. They are indispensable to me when I am using crimp tubes. They can keep the tube from escaping into a larger hole bead, as well as keeping the flex wire in position for an effective crimp. Also, with the forceps, if you are using them with fine wire, put a little piece of the non slip shelf liner between the jaws and the piece to avoid tool marks.
I could go on and on, but many of the things I have come up with, others have too.
Alice Ryan says
Great ideas from everyone! I got this idea from a Snapguide contributor. We like to buy muffins in the three pack which is clear plastic. This holds several reels of beading wire and I can have an end sticking out which I pull out to the desired length without disturbing the adjacent reels. Keeps everything neat and I can see the colors easily, too.
Karen Watson says
to Pauline M.:
I’d love to see your work, and your “model” ! I sometimes use a ceramic cat in my pictures, and I have a hard time getting anyone to model for pictures; I have lots of teddy bears, so maybe I’ll try using some of them.
Karen Watson says
Another unofficial tool I use is a plastic lap table I got on Amazon.com. The top has a slight lip on it, and there are “pockets” on either side, where some of my tools go, and I often drop seed beads or little wire ends in there, then from time to time will clean them out and resort any beads that happen to go in the pockets. Since I don’t have a workshop as yet, I do most of my work in a recliner, and since I got my lap tray, I have found less detritus from my work in and around my chair. It sits on the floor when I’m not using it, and I have a small bead locker, some tools, and my favorite bead containers underneath it. Also my favorite tools in cases fit under it.
All of our great minds are thinking alike! I use a magnet on a stick for runaway beads, pill bottles for headpins, little snak bags for finished project storage waiting for sales, those eyeglass case/boxes that snap shut for carrying around projects in my purse. My favorite biggie is using a standing jewelry chest to keep mini projects, hand tools, wire, etc in the living room. Kinda blends in and looks better in the room i hafta keep clean.
I realize that I’m late with my response, but – better late than never. I read a lot of wonderful ideas on this thread, and will be implementing some of them as soon as possible.
I mainly work with seed beads, so I require a lot of needles and thread in my work. No matter what the project is I am working on, I tend to string my needles in advance. And as you could guess, there are times when the threads get tangled with one another. I also have three cats who love to hop on my desk and toss the pin cushion around as if it were their toy, never mind the fact that I’ve lost more needles than I can count this way. So, one day when I was in my pantry cleaning out the junk drawer, I came across an old cutlery set I had since replaced. AH HA!!! I reached to the back of the deep drawer and there it was… a magnetic strip that one would screw into the wall in order to hold the knives in an upward fashion in order not to dull the blades, and to avoid getting cuts. I now have this magnetic strip screwed into my wall in my craft room, where I can comfortable attach twenty threaded, or not threaded, needles, without having to worry about the cats harming themselves, lost needles, or stepping on them any more. Plus – it keeps my threads neat and straight…
Loved all of these tips. Great post.
So i’m new to doing jewelry but i think that using a white-out pen does the trick for marking tiger tail.
dawn piepenburg says
I use the zippered hanging jewelry bags, at places like Marshalls for $7-$10, to store and display findings, specific vendor pieces such as Vintaj or Via Murano, sterling silver, Swarovski, etc. I can hang them up so that they are visible, which I need when creating. When my husband and I take road trips, I just fold up the bags, put them in one of those beautiful Marshalls plastic shopping bag ($.99) and I am ready to create on the go. I put it on the floor next to the console, and just pull out the one I need.
I also use a 2″ thin covered box (the cover comes off) to work in while on the road. Years ago I bought one of those velour blankets and I cut pieces the size of any box or tray I need. And since I carry a small pillow to sleep on, I put the pillow on my lap, the tray on top and I start making jewelry. When we stop, I just put the cover back on and set it on the seat and leave it.
This is one of the most entertaining post I have read in ages. So many great ideas… so little time. Trays were mentioned frequently and I have one I use that is perfect for my needs. It’s a barmaid’s serving tray. The inside has a cork lining, and it has sides to corral those wayward beads. Some of my unconventional tools are different diameters of bamboo taken from an old bamboo curtain used for mandrels, a bronze ordinance hammer my husband used in the Navy, lineman’s pliers to cut 12 gauge wire and larger sizes, a section of metal fence post for a round mandrel, pill bottles and twist ties. The twist tie are perfect for holding sections of wire together on the wire cuffs I make.
Now we need someone to compile all of the suggestions and put them in a book. It could be called: Odd, Strange and Curious Jewelry Tools.
Beth Bernard says
I love all the great ideas, some of which I’ve used myself, and some I’d never thought of. One of the most “untooly” tools I’ve used is a cheap desk organizer I bought at a garage sale. It has 2 slots on one side for envelopes, another envelope slot on the other side, with 2 smaller compartments for writing instruments. It’s on a lazy susan type base with a handle in the middle. I just stack my pliers, cutters, hole punches on the ledges separating the slots. I can fit about 12 to 14 pliers on it, and carry it around with me.
I also use a small metal 1/4 tsp measuring spoon. And some small glass finger bowls to keep my beads separated. The concave shape made it easy to slide the beads out.
I bought a small fishing line case from Wal-Mart which would stack line rolls vertically, and had little holes in the front to run the line out of and kept my beading thread nice and tidy.
I’ve saved some POM and Naked bottles of various sizes to use as mandrels for larger work (hoops for earrings, even bracelets!!) because the plastic is much harder and doesn’t give when you wrap tight.
MaElena Rodriguez says
I also use knitting needles, in all sizes in a variety of ways, when perfecting jewelry. Sometimes when I make a bail and its not quite round, I ease one of these needles (depending on the size needed) and the bail comes out perfectly round. Also, when I glue something on top of something else, I use different size clothespins and these hold rather nicely. There are some modern larger novelty ones that have ridges where the clothespin closes, and these hold the items together rather nicely while they dry. Also, when I bring home leftovers from Olive Garden, most of the boxes (round, square, etc. ) can really be used for storage of different components or beads. I also have a small extension curtain rod that I’ve stretched out in front of my worktable (between two filing cabinets) and I put my spools of wire on it, in order of gauges, then I just reach up and pull what I need. This also facilitates me being able to see exactly what I have available and if I need to restock.
MaElena Rodriguez says
I just thought of something else I use a lot of the time. I like mushrooms and they come in blue foam square containers of different sizes. I place in these, components that I will be using for a certain project, (each one is put in a plastic bag), so that when I have an idea for a project, I don’t forget about it later. I review these containers and make the project which I would have forgotten otherwise. Also, I use wooden popsicle sticks to press down flatback crystals or other things I’ve glued, to secure them and make sure they are fast.
Robyn P says
Great thread! I repurposed some tea tins (the ones from David’s Tea have clear plastic lids) to hold beads, and use all kinds of random things as mandrels. My favourite is using an old lip gloss pot as a mandrel for making my Tree of Life pendant frames.
I’m lucky to have a handyman in my life so I have tons of tools made out of his man scraps and hardware store finds. If you don’t have someone to do these projects for you then trust me when I say they were a piece of cake… I could have done them myself…. Don’t tell him okay?!? I mean come on each project was under $10s and only took him 30 mis or so…
Metal hammering block: He took a six inch piece of 2X4, used a hand power held sander to make a 2 inch square indention and glued a metal plate in the indention. I don’t do a lot of hammering, so it’s lightweight and out of the way.
Chain stabilizer: I add drops to chain all the time so when I saw the nifty doodad that held the chain flat for you I had to have it. They are like $30 so I asked for a DYI. He took again a six inch piece of 2×4, drilled a hole at each end, and glued dowel pieces that are the perfect height for me and then attached those tiny alligator clamps to tops of the dowel rods with tiny screws. He cut a metal ruler and glued it in the middle. So great!!
Tool Holder: Nothing but three rectangle pieces at my length specification of plywood glued together in a open triangle. Pliers stand up on the top, ruler, wire conditioner, files, tiny nails (I use those for knotting too) sharpies, whatever other small tools I’m using go inside the triangle and out of the way.
I have other handyman DYIs but those are the best. I must add a few what should have been obvious tips. 1: Lightly sand any edges of the wood. After a few splinters I finally got it. 2: If you create on a nice surface glue some kind of cloth (I used felt that I had from something) on the bottom of the DYI made of wood. Luckily for my nice darkly finished wood desk I thought of that one before I used it on the desk, but my handyman thought I was nuts until I proved my point on his workstation in the garage.
(Sorry that was windy!!)
Hey Jane Blancher:
I haven’t found or made anything that works better for stringing seed bead than the spinner kit that I bought at Michaels. It comes with the type of needle you need and the spinner. I like small one because they work best when you have the spinner half full. That way I can switch colors of beads easier. It does take some getting use to, but the instructions are easy to follow.
Stephanie little says
Love the egg carton idea! I use these mini ice cube trays for sorting, I also starting saving the little trays from lunchables that my kids eat once in awhile. After sanitizing of course, lol. And my favorite is empty food jars, there great holders for my tools, pens, paint brushes. Thanks so much for the other great idea’s all!
I can’t believe that no one has mentioned toothpicks. I have used them in every medium I have ever worked in. The newest thing I found was round plastic discs they use for cross stitch as a center finder. My husband made me a soldering station out of metal drip pans for under cars. These are all great ideas.
Lisa Carroll says
Another tip from the fishing department. The boxes to hold spools of fishing line work great for holding wire spools. You can store 3 of the large spools per box.
Virginia Vivier says
Tree Stump for forming shapes!
My tip is to scrounge a heavy, flat-top, tree stump, (free from a landscaper’s clean-up.) You can carve round, half dome shapes, into the top of the stump and use them to shape metal. Hammer on it like crazy and it doesn’t bounce.
I save large Yogurt plastic lids for mixing 2 part Epoxy and Resin. – Any size plastic lids are a great throw away for mixing small amounts of Epoxy or Resin. No mess to clean up.
I have a collection of cut crystal shot glasses (garage sale finds). When I am going to be creating ear rings I use one for head pins one for eye pins and others for the fine gauge head pins etc. I have a small cut glass bowl in which I collect my waste wire bits. I also use a pretty china bowl for my jump ring assortment It dresses up my work table pretty. And I get to enjoy items that could be sitting in the china cabinet.
Sandee Jene says
My favorite tool is large shells. They make perfect trays for holding small beads. They have smooth edges where beads roll right off the side onto your needle and don’t move around too much. I like a lot of the other tools mentioned in other comments as well. Thanks for all of the ideas.
I have really enjoyed reading all the post for every ones different out there tools. I have to take several medications and I have been using the empty bottles to put what beads I have in them. They are just sorted by color right now. I travel by wheel chair so i have a nice big bag on the back of my chair that I can use to carry my things around.
barbell weights for hammering metal
crochet hooks for pulling wire
clipped q-tip for punching holes in clay
bicycle headlamp for extra light
bicycle wax lube to keep pliers loose
q-tips for painting/applying lacquer
Styrofoam bowls to hang earrings on
Love all the ideas. Don’t know if the following qualify as “tools” but they are recycled items that support my jewelry making. The first is from my used ultrasonic toothbrush heads. Yes, I still use the old bristles for housecleaning but I also harvest the magnets off the opposite end that goes into the handle. They work great for making your own magnetic clasps. They’re strong, small and free!
In addition to being a jewelry maker, I’m also a computer nerd with far too many CD (DVD) spindles. These work great for taming certain brands of beading wire and craft ribbon. Last suggestion is for those of you who do repouse. Silicone pot holders from the dollar store work great for “air” (non pitch) repouse. They also work great as general noise absorbers under a steel block while texturing.
I buy clear plastic trays at the $ store and microfiber cloths to work on. They stack easily and are cheap! Different sized clear plastic cups are great to display beads in, too. When Aldi has their plastic containers assortment with lids for sale, they are awesome & cheaper than the $ store.
Marie Davis says
I haven’t read all of the ideas (yet), but I like to use Chinet plates to corral whatever I’m working on at the time. I have regular (undivided) dinner plates and some small square dessert plates. The square ones make good holders for WIPs (works in progress). I’m thinking I should get some of the divided plates as well. I like that the surface of these paper plates has a slight nap to it, so items don’t go zinging off the plate when I slip up!
So many great ideas! I like to reuse tic tac containers for small beads. They are see through, easy to move around and the top closes tight!