I Love Mandrels!

31 03 2011

Part of the “Tools that Delight” posts… As a wire worker, mandrels are some of my all time favorite tools. Since there are always lots of wraps and loops and coiling in my designs, it is important that there is consistency in the techniques used – sloppy wire work stands out, and makes a good design cheap.

Wire Wrap Stepped Mandrels

These are a new favorite tool of mine! I’ve been doing wire work for many years, and I’ve always used round nose pliers – I’m pretty good at it too! But there are some problems that folks have with pliers – most notably, it is difficult to repeat wire wraps with consistency, because the wire is easily moved up and down the pliers, resulting in loops that are not the same size.

Wire Wraps.... Step Style!

Using stepped mandrels ensures that the wraps are always consistent, because the mandrels are cylindrical (rather than cone shaped), and the wire actually rests on a “step” so it can be repeated over and over with no change.

Coils and Jump Rings

Look how nice this coil looks, perfect to make a few jump rings. I confess – I have a complete jump ringer power system to make jump rings in quantity. But often, I just need a few, and it’s easier to wrap up a coil and saw or cut them.

Easy Links - a "Figure 8"

And it’s simple to make links – these mandrels have a range of sizes between 1.5mm and 10mm, so it’s super simple to create whatever size you need for your project. I make a whole bunch of these at one sitting, so that I always have them ready when needed.

Hammered Link

This component (above) was made using a small wrap on one end, and a much larger wrap on the other. Then, the link was hammered flat to harden it so it doesn’t pull open, and also, because it looks cool hammered

I really really love these, and I now keep a set in my portable tool kit and bring them to class for my students to use.

Textured Padded Grip - Set of 2 Steel Stepped Mandrels

I also decided to sell them – if interested, they are available at my Etsy store in the Tools section. I include a tutorial on using the mandrels, as well as some practice wire, so it’s easy to get going… wire work is fun, and the ability to make your own jump rings and links and clasps is a great way to start adding handmade wire to your jewelry.

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Tools That Delight

13 02 2011

I’ve wanted to to post a review feature on tools for a while, so I decided it’s time to do it! This is the first in a series called “Tools that Delight” and they will be tagged for easy searching in the Categories menu to the right…

As a tool junkie, I mentally rate my tools into different categories depending on how much I want them. It is not unusual for tools to change the category they are in, especially when I learn new techniques:

  • Must Have: these are the tools I can’t work without
  • Gotta Get: these are the ones that I really want, that I will use alot
  • Cool Tool: usually very specific for one unique purpose
  • Next Level Tools: usually really expensive versions of tools I have
  • Big Boys: the tools that are really expensive, or take up alot of room!

First up… the nylon faced bracelet former pliers!

Cool Tool ----> Must Have

I considered these pliers a “cool tool” for many years, but over the years, they’ve become part of my “must have” toolset (yes – they are still really cool!). These pliers have nylon jaw pads that are shaped to easily bend thin metal and wire in a light consistent curve.

Smiling Jaws!

One side is convex, the other concave, so that they fit together when closed. Many of these pliers have replaceable nylon pads so that when you ding them up (and you will!) you can easily fix them – note the nylon screws that are holding them to the jaws.

Ready to Shape

These pliers are great for shaping both narrow strips of metal sheet, as well as wire. I can easily shape up to 12g – for reference, the copper strip above is 16g, and the wire is 14g. And using them is so simple – it doesn’t get any easier!

  • STEP 1: lay wire into nylon jaw
  • STEP 2: close pliers
  • STEP 3: repeat as needed

Shaping Wire

Shaping Wire from a Bend

So simple, and the results are so clean and nice and consistent! You can easily shape wire for a bangle, or to create a “frame” which can be hammered and wrapped.

Shaping Flat Stoc

For this piece, I had already finished the copper strip design with some letter stamping, texturing, and hole punching. I am going to use it as a link for a bracelet… look how easily it gets formed!

Curved Metal Strip

Doesn’t this look great?! Nice and even, with no warping or damage, and the nylon ensures that the strip doesn’t get scratched. I am planning on antiquing the copper to bring out the details, and will add some chain, or maybe attach some leather cord, to make up a bracelet.

Hopefully… I’ve shown reason why this pair of pliers has moved into my “Must Have” list – I have a few pairs with slightly different shapes – all of them are well loved!

I’ll be posting more photos of my favorite tools, as well as some info on how they are used – let me know if there’s anything is particular you’re interested in, and I’ll try to oblige!