Many types of jewelry crafts involve quite a bit of metal bending. Whether you're doing light bending for projects like wire wraps or the heavy bending of sheet metal jewelry, it's impossible to get the right shapes without the right tools. A wide array of vises, pliers and tools both handheld and mounted bring professional-looking results to metal jewelry craft projects of all kinds.
The type of hammer you want to use in bending metal for jewelry depends on the type of bend you want and the type of metal. Most jewelry hammers are small and dense, designed for applications such as smoothing and flattening metal or changing the shape of the metal so that it keeps the bend you've placed in it; for example, after rolling up thin sheets of metal into a spiral, you might hammer the spiral to fuse the layers together. Most jewelry hammers resemble a ball-peen hammer on one side and have a wide, flat head on the other.
A standard metal vise is an essential part of many metal jewelry designs; not only can you use the vise to help make clean bends in thick metals, you can use it to secure thick pieces of metal while you make more intricate bends with smaller tools. Make sure that your vise is smooth to avoid scratching the jewelry metal, or protect the metal with something like a strip of soft leather on either side.
Use jewelry pliers for bending small pieces of metal, such as jewelry clasps or jewelry wire. Alternately, bring in the jewelry pliers for small detail work on jewelry made from larger sheet metal pieces. Tools such as needle-nosed pliers, wire snips and round-nosed pliers are just the ticket for delicate detail work.
Metal clamps work just like a vise, only more flexible. This means they don't have the advantage of holding the jewelry in place, but this is often a good thing when you want to be able to hold the piece in your hands and move it around while you're working with it. For some types of bends, use handheld clamps, or a tool like a vise grips, along with the mounted vise to create clean bends in large, thick pieces of metal.
Bending pliers are somewhere in between jewelry pliers and a vise in terms of both power and flexibility of use. Bending pliers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes ranging from wire bending pliers (these look like super thick needle-nosed pliers) to serial keel pliers, which have a wide, flat nose for gripping flat planes of sheet metal.
- "Making Metal Jewelry: Projects, Techniques, Inspiration"; Joanna Gollberg; 2003
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.