If you are just starting out in the jewelry making game, the vast array of beading tools available can be overwhelming. There are hundreds, even thousands of tools to choose from. There are countless variations of even the most basic tools and it can be difficult to know which are essential, which are nice to have and which you simply don’t need until you become a more advanced beader.
In this article I will list and describe the most important tools necessary to make bracelets, necklaces, earrings and complete other beginner jewelry projects.
1. A Work Surface
You may gather all of your jewelry making supplies and sit down at your computer desk with the best intentions, but if you pour out a bag of beads onto a flat wooden surface, you’re going to be very sorry. You need a work surface that provides some padding, prevents rolling of round beads and otherwise encourages your supplies to stay put. A bead mat is designed to do just that, while also providing a soft cushion for your hands while you work. They are very affordably priced (pick up a pack of 3 for around 3 dollars) and come in both light colors (to better see your darker beads) and dark colors (to better see your lighter beads).
Another option is a bead board. These are more structured than bead mats. They have grooves which allow you to lay your beads out in order and get an idea of what they will look like when they are strung on wire or thread. They also have pockets included on them, which act like little bowls for you to pour your beads in. Most have several different pockets so that you can keep your different varieties of beads separated. Many bead boards are also marked with inch measurements to allow you to measure your beadwork as you go.
2. A Cutting Tool
Ordinary scissors just won’t “cut it” when it comes to jewelry making. You will need a nipper tool, or another cutting tool specifically designed for jewelry making, to trim excess wire when bead stringing. A nipper tool will allow you to trim more closely than scissors and will not damage your wire. They are also perfect for neatly trimming off excess wire when doing any kind of wire wrapping or when trimming an eyepin or headpin.
**Be aware that heavy gauges of wire will require a more heavy duty cutting tool. If you plan to work with wires heavier than 18 gauge, you should purchase a tool designed to cut heavy wire to avoid damaging both your cutting tool and the ends of you wire.
3. Chain Nose Pliers
Chain nose pliers are a multi-use tool. You can use them to flatten crimp tube beads to finish a piece strung on jewelry making wire, you can use them to open and close jump rings and they are useful as a “second hand” while doing wire wrapping work. Chain nose pliers are specifically made for jewelry making so they are unlikely to damage your wires. They are useful for getting into small nooks and crannies while jewelry making. If you plan to do basic bead stringing (making necklaces, bracelets, etc.) and light wire work (attaching clasps with jump rings, making earrings, drop beading) then you must have a pair of these versatile pliers.
**Note that there are a variety of other tools available which are made specifically for crimping, such as the Designer Crimper Tool or the Magical Crimp Forming Tool. As you become a more experienced beader, you will discover which crimping method you prefer, but all are valid and acceptable.
4. Round Nose Pliers
If you plan to start out doing only basic bead stringing, then you can get by without these pliers. However, if you plan to do anything that requires making a loop in wire, you’re going to need these. Imagine, for example, that you want to hang a bead from an earring finding. You’ll need to place the bead onto a headpin and make a loop above it to hang it from the finding. Round nose pliers provide a smooth, rounded tip to help you guide your wire into the neatest loop possible. They are also graduated in size so that you can make loops of varying diameter.