Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Your guide to the essential tools for making jewelry! This list includes all of the pliers and items you will need to get started, plus a quick explanation of their uses.
When I first started making jewelry, I remember being thoroughly confused as I stared at all of the tools at Michaels. I had no idea what each one was used for, and I couldn't find any online resources to help me out. Now that I have some experience, I have listed the tools I use most regularly to make jewelry with links to some great options for you to try out. Hopefully this guide benefits you on your jewelry making journey!
If you're going to be working with wire, you are going to need something to precisely cut your wire. Using scissors will likely smush the end of your wire, making a very unclean cut.
These wire cutters are sturdy, sharp, and precise. Click on the image to shop!
These are sturdy pliers, great for fitting into small areas with their slim triangle blade for a precise snip. They are also super light weight and easy to handle. Because of the precise tip, these pliers are great for thinner wire work.
Chain Nose and Flat Nose Pliers
The difference between these two pliers confused me during my first few months of making jewelry. They are used for similar purposes: to grab and manipulate wire. Chain nose pliers have a narrower nose, and therefore can fit into smaller areas better than flat nose pliers. The flat nose are a little more sturdy and better at grasping onto wire because of their wider nose. I tend to reach for my chain nose more frequently to shape and move around my wire because I usually work with lighter gauges and more dainty projects. For a beginner, I believe these two products are almost interchangeable.
These pliers hold up really well despite being quite lightweight. They are very sturdy and can handle heavier gauge wire, but are also very comfortable to maneuver and work with. The nose is small enough to make little adjustments, but can still get a good grip on the wire.
These pliers are great for beginners because they are a bit smaller and easier to maneuver. Because of this, they are not ideal for heavier gauge work (less than 18 gauge), but great for lighter gauges. They don't dent, bruise, or discolor the wire when gripping it.
Round Nose Pliers
These are different from the pliers above because each prong is a rounded piece of metal. This can be super helpful for certain designs to create loops or shapes with the wire. I've had the most trouble with my first round nose pliers because they would markup and scratch my wire. However, these pliers below are a really good option and won't mess up your projects like mine did!
These are smaller pliers, which I find better for beginners because they require less hand pressure and readjustment. These pliers don't dent or scar wire and they are nice and lightweight. They are great for making small loops and jump rings. The metal does arrive a little dirty, but a quick wipe with a cloth should fix that.
If you are interested in making rings of any kind, you will need a ring mandrel to measure and size your rings. Here is the best one I have used. This is an item that you should not need to replace because it is either made of a heavy metal or plastic. I suggest the metal one for everyone because it is more sturdy and you will always have the option of using a hammer on it to readjust the sizing.
If you are going to be using beads, especially small seed beads, I would recommend getting a pair of tweezers to pick up and thread the beads. Doing it with your hands takes a lot more time and patience.
There are also beading boards to lay out your designs, but I personally have never used one/needed one. I will link one here that I've heard good things about. It helps to organize your beads and keeps them from rolling off your surface. If you don't think you'll need a full board, a small dish works just as well to hold your beads!
I hope this beginner's guide to jewelry tools helped you figure out what is essential to your own toolkit - it differs for everyone! There are tons of other, more complex, tools out there for specific purposes that you will discover as you figure out what you enjoy doing, but these tools are a great baseline for any beginner. Thanks for reading!
*Disclaimer: all of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission if you decide to purchase. However, all opinions are my own and I believe each of these products is a great option for your jewelry making journey!