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Secrets of Beading Tools and Accessories - For Pleasure Not Pain.

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Hobbies
Generally, when you begin beading you use basic tools that may have been supplied in a starter set. At first you do not really understand what other tools you actually need for the work to be performed and there is the cost factor to consider. Also, you need to think about the longevity of your interest in beading (mind you, most beaders get interested almost to the point of obsession!) and the type of projects you want to create. Don't dive in the deep end and buy every gadget in sight. The recommendation is to start with an "all-in-one" pair of jewelry making pliers.

The "all-in-one" pliers will serve you well for while, until you better understand your specific needs. Another benefit is that you don't constantly need to search for the "right" pliers. Plus when you travel, you can pack these versatile pliers in your suitcase to take care of any light repairs or adjustments while you are away. Or make something new if you simply cannot wait to get back home.

When you have decided where your beading future lies consider investing in specific tools designed for specific purposes. These often come in sets. Better quality sets are usually some variation of the following:

Round Nose Pliers - (also called long nosed pliers) for making loops in wire and holding small components. Also used in wire wrapping techniques. This is probably the most versatile tool in general beading work.

Flat Nose Pliers - for bending wire at angles, closing jump rings.

Side Cutters - to cut close to the wire or cord you are using. However, these will leave a mark so only use them where this will not show on the finished project. These are also used for cutting head and eye pins to desired lengths.

End Cutters - cuts closer than side cutters.

Heavy Duty Cutters - use these cutters for cutting hardened materials like memory wire. Other cutters are permanently damaged by hard wire.

Chain Nose Pliers - for gripping or to bend angles in confined areas where tight precision is required.

Using the wrong tool for the job may cause you to grip the tool awkwardly and cause cramps in your hands. The right tools will give you comfort and will make for faster, easier working and improve the quality of your work and can save you hours of frustration and disappointment.

There are also more specialized tools available:

Crimp Pliers - a specially designed tool for closing crimp beads.

Loop Closing Pliers are designed to close up jump rings. A notch in each jaw holds each side of a jump ring. Essential for doing repetitive work with jump rings.

Other Tools

There is a plethora of tools and accessories available. Your selection depends on the type of beading work you intend to do. Some are listed below:

Beading Needles - long flexible twisted metal needles with large eyes, they are a valuable aid when threading small beads and pearls onto silk or other thread. This can be a very problematic task without this simple tool.

Knotting Tool - to create knots between pearls to give the professional finish we all aim to achieve.

Beading Looms - used to "weave" beaded patterns on multiple threads using seed beads.

Beat Mats - a cushioned work surface. For your comfort and to stop beads rolling away.

Diamond Bead Reamer - a thin metal "corer" coated with industrial diamond. Used to enlarge uneven holes. Sometimes even expensive beads have uneven holes and you want to prevent breakage.

Sorting Trays - metal or porcelain trays to keep your beads neat when working. You can use small bowls or saucers as substitutes. Avoid using plastic trays as these are too light and easily knocked over.

Bead Boards - grooved plastic boards, coated with flock to stop beads rolling around. Most good ones include compartments to hold the beads you are using in your design. Measurements are visible and they often have multiple grooves and are useful in design planning.

Wire Working Jigs - a board with pegs. Wind wire around the pegs to create small metal components of your own design. After shaping the design must be flattened and hardened by tapping with a hammer.

Storage Boxes - for storing your beads, findings, cords and wire neatly. A little organization ultimately saves you both time and frustration.

Zip Lock Bags - store almost anything in these. These are particularly useful for storing sterling silver items to slow down oxidization.

A Good Light - preferably on a flexible stand to allow you to bring it down to your work and not shining in your eyes and is important to reduce eyestrain.
Beeswax Block - a small natural beeswax block for running thread through when doing seed beadwork. The thin coating of was protects the thread from water damage and fraying. Also helps to stiffen the thread to give it "body."

Color Wheel - a small wheel showing complementary and contrasting colors. Takes the guesswork out of color selection for any combination, blending or contrasting. Take it with you when you shop for beads. Or use free online color wheels to see different colors side by side instantly. It's like trying before you buy.

Beaders Handy Hint

If you drop that tray of 2,000 seed beads on the floor you can use your vacuum cleaner to save most of them. IMPORTANT: Place a fine nylon mesh (like a knee high stocking) at the top end of your vacuum hose to collect most of the beads.

Beaders Comfort Hints

Your pliers should have easy grip, cushioned handles and a built in spring return action. They should not be either too big or too small for your hands, try several to get the right fit.

The most important tool of all is your own body, so look after it. Don't start work with cold hands, just like at the gym, you need a warm up session. Before you begin, flex your fingers to stretch them and rotate your wrists to encourage blood circulation. Remember to rest your hands if they start to ache, then exercise them again by repeating the flexing and rotating several times.

Take regular breaks, you will find that the time will have flown and you'll realize you have been concentrating very hard and need to loosen up. Stand up, take a stroll, stretch your arms and slowly rotate your shoulders to relax them.

Using the right tools for the purpose will make the process easy, comfortable, faster and will give your work that sought after professional finish.

Beading should always be a joy to do and not cause you any pain, physically, emotionally or financially.