Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tool Review - Conetastic Cone Mandrel Tool

Hello everyone!

Today I have another tool review for you. My last tool review featured Convex-Flat nose pliers. This time, I'm going to review the Conetastic Cone Mandrel tool from Artistic Wire.

This little tool was created by Sandra Lupo in order to more easily create custom bead cones/caps using wire. 

It could seem like a one trick pony, but because it includes cone mandrels in three different sizes it is somewhat more versatile.

Besides the three cone sizes, this tool also comes with a hex key, used to swap out the different sized mandrels. All the pieces are stored inside the tool which is a very nice feature (I'd have managed to lose all the parts after a day or so otherwise, so this design is very useful).

Swapping out mandrels is easy with the included hex key. Simply insert the hex key into the screw hole near the top of the tool. A few counter clockwise turns will loosen the screw and allow you to remove one of the mandrels to replace it with one of the other two; insert the mandrel you want to use into the hole on top, and use the hex key to tighten up the screw to secure the mandrel in place.

Each mandrel has a hole near its base in order to secure the wire in place while you use the tool. Just insert your wire into the hole, bend the tail end of the wire to anchor the wire, and then begin your coiling.

The tool isn't difficult to use at all, but I found it still does have a small learning curve. A little bit of practice on scrap wire is useful - in the photo above, you can see my first attempt; there are gaps in the coil which is not very attractive. However, after a bit of playing, I quickly got a feel for it. After inserting the end of the wire into the anchor hole, I found that it's easiest for me to hold the tool in my left hand (I'm right-handed, so lefties can reverse these instructions), guide the wire with my right thumb, and then with my left hand, steadily turn the tool clockwise. Getting the coil started can be a little tricky, as the wire tends to want to slide either up the cone, or down toward the anchor hole. Again, however, ten or so minutes of using it to practice with scrap wire quickly takes care of that problem.

Above are three cones I created with the tool using 20 gauge wire. The one on the left is with the largest mandrel, the medium mandrel in the middle, and the small mandrel on the right. The leftmost cone I'd modified a little bit- I added a small loop at the bottom of the coil to neatly end the wire, and I didn't wrap the wire the entire way up the mandrel. Once i reached the point where I wanted to stop coiling, I took the cone off the tool and then used my flat nose pliers to bend the topmost coil vertically, to create a loop that can be strung with chain or cord. The rightmost cone was the third one I made and you can see how with just a little bit of practice, my cone is neat and even.

In the end, I used the coil made on the largest mandrel to create a wire bead cap for this large glass drop. I added four weaves with 26 gauge wire around the cone- this is the first time I've used this technique but it wasn't too difficult. A little too many tool marks, but for practice, I'm happy with it. After some more practice I intend to replace this bead cap with another one with less marring on the wire.

I got my Conetastic tool from FireflyStudiosAtFDJ on Etsy for $13.50; this is the lowest price I've seen for this tool. This tool is somewhat specialized, but it is very good at what it's designed to do, and I think the price is reasonable for what you get. My only quibble would be that I wish it included a large mandrel component that's shorter and wider at the base- the included mandrels create kind of long-ish cones, but I think a squattier mandrel would be most useful for instances that you want a cone with a wide base but don't want it to be very long from base to tip.

I hope this review has been useful for you! Today I'll leave you with my mom's kitty Vinnie, who loves to curl up in your lap and cuddle and knead and nurse on his 'mommy blanket', purring away. :)

Til Next Time!