Today I'd like to talk a little about tools. Well, perhaps not tools *plural*, but A tool. And perhaps not talk- more like gush enthusiastically.
Most jewelry artisans, and wireworkers in particular, have the traditional complement of jewelry-making tools, and of those tools, the many different varieties of pliers take center stage. There are the essentials- the general-purpose chain-nose and the loop-creating round-nose pliers perhaps getting the most use of all, and the nylon-jaw pliers that are indispensable for straightening out kinks and bends in our wire. While perhaps not true pliers, our flush-cutting wire snips are most certainly not optional no matter what you're creating. Still useful, but slightly more specialized are our flat-nosed pliers that are perfect for flattening uniform coils and pressing wire ends flush so they don't stick out and scratch or snag, but also ideal for making sharp, precise bends in wire. Some of us may even have a pair of bent chain-nose pliers, a useful general purpose tool that is particularly handy paired with regular chain-nose pliers for opening and closing jump rings smoothly and easily. Here and there you may find an artisan with a pair or two of bail-making pliers in different sizes (I personally find them to be not much more than a waste of money, but to each his/her own.)
We all know and love these familiar pliers, so I'm not going to spend any more time talking about them. This post is about a specialty type of pliers that (if you're anything like I was) you don't even know you need! These are the pliers I'm speaking of:
...Convex-Flat Nose Pliers!
You're thinking "These just look like the flat-nose pliers I already have." But take a closer look at the tips of these and you'll see what makes them very unique.
Check that out- one side of the pliers is straight and flat, just like your flat-nose pliers. The other side though is what makes these special- instead of being flat, it sports a wide, curved surface down its length.
Now perhaps you've seen these before and they're nothing new to you, but if you're anything like I was the first time I saw a pair, right now you're ooh-ing and ahh-ing and wondering where you can get your own pair (and I'm happy to tell you that you can get a nice sturdy pair for less than $9 on Amazon.)
These are something of a specialty tool- I don't use them as often as my chain-nose, round-nose, and flat-nose pliers- but when the situation arises that I do need them (usually about once per project, although occasionally there'll be a project I'll do where I'll use them extensively), they are well worth the modest price (my sweet husband got me my pair and I'm very grateful because they have become such an essential tool in my little apple box!)
Convex-Flat nose pliers allow for making beautiful, graceful curves in wire. While your round-noses make for great little curls and coils, convex-flats allow you to not only make larger diameter curves, but also smooth out any unsightly but minor kinks in a curve easily and quickly as well.
Convex-flats have a bit of a learning curve when you first get your hands on them. They take a tiny bit of practice before you get a feel for them and realize their full potential. But, they quickly prove themselves to be a valuable addition to your toolbox. They do their best work when you use them in small increments along the length of the wire you're trying to curve. Using them to make small incremental bends along the wire gives you incredible control over the shape of the curve you want to make.
The convex side of the pliers goes on the inside of the curve you're making, and the flat side goes on the outside of the curve of wire. When using them this way, you'll notice that the wire makes contact with most of the convex side of the pliers but only touches the flat side of the pliers at one point. The bend in the wire in each increment occurs at the outside edge of the curved side of the jaws. It's this configuration that allows for making such a wide variety of shapes and curves, and this is the pliers' main and most obvious use.
However, to get the most out of your convex-flats, you'll want to experiment with working with them positioned the other way around, with the flat side on the inside curve of the wire and the convex side on the outside curve of the wire. This configuration allows for straightening out curves or kinks in your wire; and just like when you're using the pliers to put a curve in some wire, you can use them in small incremental motions down your already curved wire to straighten out a bend that bends too far or a minor kink in the wire you might come across.
I hear you. "Hey, Jet!" you're saying. "I have flat-nose and nylon-jaw pliers for straightening kinks and curves!" And you're right! Those two tools are great for those purposes. But just think of the wire-straightening ability of the convex-flats as a kind of bonus. There you are, working with your convex-flats and making a curve, and damn! you bent your wire a little too far and now you've gotta straighten it out a bit. Not to worry! You've already got a tool that can fix your little error in your hands! No need to put the pliers down and grab a different pair; you just flip them over confidently like the skilled artisan you are and you take care of that little boo-boo in the blink of an eye. Then, you just flip them back over again and continue working on your curve.
Convex-flat nose pliers are not one of the immediate essentials when first starting out with wireworking. You can make damn near whatever you want with a pair of chain-nose, a pair of round-nose, a pair of flat-nose (and I'd argue even flat-noses aren't immediately essential, although they should eventually end up in every wire artisan's toolbox), a pair of nylon-jaws, and a good quality flush cutter in your collection. But I'd recommend to all wire artisans who work with their wire with any sort of regularity to consider investing in a pair of convex-flats and taking an hour or so with some scrap wire to just play with them and discover all that they can do for your work. They've become one of my most favorite tools; they improve the quality of my work while simultaneously making the work of creating large graceful curves and very round shapes without a mandrel faster and easier. All of that benefit for under nine bucks? I say that's money well spent. :)
And with that, I'll end today, but not without leaving you a bit of kitty-love; this time, my mom's silly cat Vinnie, lounging comfortably in the bathroom sink as though it's a perfectly normal place to curl up and relax :)
'Til Next Time!