These pliers are a staple item in any jeweler’s arsenal…
They feature a tapered jaw that has a flat surface inside that is used to hold small things – which covers a lot of items when you work with making jewelry. There are a lot of various features to consider when purchasing:
- Length of the handle – If you have larger hands, you probably want a longer handle so the ends don’t dig into your palm as you use them for any length of time. But conversely, if you have small hands, the shorter handles can be better so you don’t have to spread your hand as much to grip them.
- Spring/no spring – The spring is located between the handles. If the pliers have a spring, they will automatically want to open as you release your grip. If there is no spring, you have to spread them open using the handles. I personally prefer to have a spring, so that my grip eases slowly as I release my grasp.
- Ergonomic handles – There are many options with various styles of ergonomic handles to help ease hand fatigue. The most comfortable style can vary by person.
- Size of the tips – The various manufacturers all describe the size and shape of the tips differently; meaning one can call a tip extra-fine, yet when compared to another brand it may be on the larger end of the scale. The more delicate and narrow tips can be great for tiny little areas, but they won’t have the grasping strength that a larger tip has. So this could be a reason to have various pairs as you grow your tool collection. I personally like to work with 16ga jump rings and wire so I prefer a bulkier tool.
- The quality of the joint – The joint where the pliers pivot open and closed (the fulcrum) has a direct relationship to the life-span of the tool. Typically German-made pliers have a better joint and can last quite a bit longer before the tips don’t meet properly, but they are also more expensive.
- The “tooth” of the jaw – I do not mean that the jaw of the pliers should have actual teeth like the needle-nose pliers from the hardware store! I am referring to how polished the surface is. If you work on very fine items, you may desire a slightly more polished surface so that there is less possibility of marring the surface as you work. However if you work with heavier items that you need a strong grip for, a shiny surface in the jaw of the pliers can make the grasp slippery, which can cause more dings from the tool on your work than one that holds a stable grasp.
My choice: Beadsmith #PL310
I mainly create with 16ga or 18ga jump rings and I like to form with 16 or 14ga wire or even 20ga sheet, so I prefer to use pliers with a good grasp and enough thickness to the tip that they don’t want to flair at the tip over time. These pliers are very affordable, offer a comfortable handle for my larger hands and have proven to be a good work horse on my bench. Although I do own a wide array of chain-nose pliers, these are what I would recommend for your first pair to accomplish the projects that I teach.