I suspect I’m not the only person out there who likes to read the Rio Grande tool and equipment catalogue from cover to cover. Or who leaves every class with at least one new specialty tool demonstrated by the instructor. Or who thinks an unexpected outing to Harbor Freight is romantic. (True story: my husband once surprised me with a stop at Harbor Freight one Sunday after church. I teared up and posted a photo of their sign on Instagram.)
I’m not sure what it is about tools and equipment that create such a sense of anticipation, but since getting involved in jewelry making I have become something of a magpie – I want to try and collect all the things. Just… all of them.
This can be a good and bad thing. I’ve found great tools in unexpected places, and tried to go the “cheap” route by getting less expensive versions of the things I really want. Two of my favorite bench tools are inexpensive Harbor Freight purchases that I reach for over and over again.
This deadblow mallet is great for flattening annealed metal and tightening and loosening my bench vise. I’ve also used it to form items on mandrels because I like the lack of bounce-back, although the head is a little on the large side for mandrel use. (I could solve that problem by purchasing the smaller version Harbor Freight carries but haven’t gotten around to it yet.)
I love this stubby ball pein hammer! It has a nice heavy head, and fits perfectly in my hand. I use it with my disc cutter and with my stamping and chasing tools, because it offers the right combination of weight and control. Best $3 I ever spent in the studio.
Less successful, on the other hand, were these “brass” brushes.
I bought these in two sizes, thinking I’d saved a ton of money over the wooden handled brushes in many studios. Not so much. These rusted and the bristles are so stiff they scratched the heck out of a number of pieces. I finally threw in the towel and bought good studio brushes and I haven’t regretted it. (I bought mine at Wired Designs in San Antonio
, where I work, but you can get them online at Contenti.
Worth every penny.)
For storage, I love using these inexpensive see-through scrapbook boxes.
Michael’s and Hobby Lobby both carry them, and when they’re on sale or there’s a coupon, it’s possible to get these for $5 each. They are very sturdy, stack easily, and hold tons of stuff. (And they come in clear, which isn’t pictured here.) I use them for metal sheet and scrap, small glass sheets and scrap, and some of my etching and stamping supplies, and stack them out of sight in one of my studio cupboards when they aren’t being used.
I love these Eurotool cutters.
I know people who swear on their Lindstroms or Tronex cutters, but honestly I’ve used the ones that friends own and am happy I chose these instead. You can get them from several places online, and they are almost always less than $30 or so – far less expensive than the big boys, and I think they cut better. I’ve had mine for over a year and the blades are as sharp and straight as when I took them out of the package.
Here are some of the (more expensive) things on my current wish list:
A portable air filter.
I hope everyone is working in a well-ventilated area!! Even so, an air filter of some sort is a good idea, especially if you are doing things like enameling and grinding that generate air-borne particulates. This HEPA air filter works in areas up to 300 square feet and neutralizes chemical vapors in addition to capturing tiny particles as small as .3 microns. It isn’t a substitute for wearing a good respirator, but it’s one more weapon in the arsenal designed to protect our lungs. This is my next studio purchase.
A rolling mill.
I have been drooling over this rolling mill for a couple of years now. I’ve come very close to purchasing other, less expensive models, but this Durston model is the one that stops me every time. I love that it has the extension rollers on the outside for wire, which makes changing out the rollers unnecessary, and I think the width is sufficient for a small studio jeweler like me. Some day…. some day.
I’m not going to lie: there’s a better than even chance I would have no idea what to do with these if I had them. But oh my goodness… aren’t they beautiful??! I’ve been longing for these about as long as I’ve been making jewelry – something about hammers in general really appeals to me, and these are especially sculptural and artistic looking. (A friend got one of their texture hammers recently as a gift, and was generous enough to let me use it. It felt just as wonderful as I thought it would, and the texture – raw silk – was terrific.) If I were ever to purchase these, I’d need to get the video series Bill Fretz did about how to raise and form metal
… and that would mean having to purchase some Fretz stakes too
. (And there are some very beautiful Fretz bench anvils
SEE??!! It’s a slippery slope, my friends. A slippery slope.
What about you? Are there tools you swear by? Tools you swear at? Things on your wishlist that you drool over in those quiet moments when you’re alone?
Glad to know I’m not alone!
Until next time –