I will be the first to admit that it wasn't that long ago that my knowledge of tools was very limited. Sure, I could use a screwdriver or pound with a hammer, but that was about it. Tools were something manly men used to build houses and work on cars, certainly not something I had any use for as I went about my days.
Then jewelry making entered my life. I started out with a basic set of tools, needle nosed pliers, round nose pliers and cutters. It wasn't long and I was feeling pretty comfortable with my tools. Of course, with practice and knowledge came boredom. I wanted to branch out and try other types of jewelry design besides stringing beads.
But, tools are expensive and I really didn't know what I needed. So, the first thing I did was raid hubby's toolbox. I found a rubber mallet, a tool that punches various size holes in metal, tin snips for cutting copper sheet and a piece of thick, slightly rusty steel to use for pounding on metal with a hammer. I was in hog heaven!
One of the things I wanted to try with my copper sheet was shaping round pieces into a slight bowl shape. To do that, I needed a dapping block which is a block of metal or wood that has bowl shaped indentations. Round shapes cut from metal sheet are placed on one of the indentations and hammered until it takes on a bowl shape.
Looking around the house to see how I could improvise, I came across a melon baller that had never been used. It worked perfectly until it took so much pounding that it lost it's round shape. It is no longer suitable for pounding copper sheet into bowl shapes or making melon balls!
My first "real" tool purchase was something I'd been coveting for a long time and it was a Dremel. But, they were expensive for someone who was trying to only fund her jewelry hobby with proceeds from sales of jewelry and not dip into household funds. One winter day, I noticed they were on super sale at my local hardware store - they were practically giving them away. The next morning I got up planning to head over to the store and pick one up only to find that I was snowed in. There would be no trips to town on this day. I was so bummed out. Thank goodness for my brilliant idea to call the hardware store and ask if I could purchase one over the phone. "Yes!" they said! That was one happy day.
The Dremel opened up new worlds of creativity. I could now drill holes, cut metal, buff and polish, sand and a gazillion other things that weren't possible previously. I love my Dremel!
Next up, I decided I just had to have a tumbler - another expensive purchase. In cases like this, when I'm not sure how much I will really use something and when cost is a consideration, I turn to Harbor Freight. They have relatively cheap tools and all sorts of unexpected products. It's fun just to spend a day browsing in one of their stores. Despite warnings that the quality of a tumbler from them might be suspect, I went ahead and purchased a tumbler and it has worked like a champ. I use it all the time to clean dirty metal and harden components such as ear wires and hand made chain.
Just recently, I decided that I was really tired of pounding metal on that rusty piece of steel mentioned earlier. Back to Harbor Freight for an anvil which I find myself using more and more.
While I was there and looking around, I also decided to buy a mini-dremel type tool. Sometimes the Dremel is bigger than what I need for the job and this mini will also fit my hand better.
And, I found this cool third hand too! It's not something I really had to have, but it was only $4.00 so I figured I might as well. Just yesterday I used to for the first time to hold a ring for a resin pouring project. I needed the ring to remain level overnight and it worked perfectly!
There are a few other tools on my list that I would like to have, so I am currently looking around doing some pricing and seeing what's available. Who would have ever thought that this mechanically challenged, tool ignorant girl would become a tool junkie!?
To see what other members of the Jewelry Artisans Community have to say about tools, please click on the links below.