Sunday, February 28, 2010


As you advance in your wire work you will be adding many more tools to your collection, but for beginners, these are the things that I think are basic necessities.  My first pliers set I got from a flea market and it served me well for years.  I then upgraded to a mid priced set of pliers.  I mostly look for ergonomic handles as this reduces the stress on your hands.  I would recommend starting off with an inexpensive set and use it for awhile to find out what qualities are important to you and upgrade as necessary.  Just be sure wherever you get your pliers that none of them have the gripping grooves in them, some of the hardware sets will have chain nose pliers with those grooves and they mark your wire terribly.  So look for a set specifically for jewelers and you should avoid this problem.  You can google them all day, and I hesitate to recommend one over another, but I have bought my tools from Urban Maille as Aislyn is a friend of mine, so I am linking you to her tool page.  I can say her prices are probably the lowest you will find for the brands, and that her standards are very high so I know even her cheapest tools are quality.

Round nosed pliers:
Chain nosed pliers:
Bent Nosed Pliers:
Flat Nosed Pliers

Chasing Hammer:  A new household hammer will work, I stress new because the hammering part will not be marked up thereby marking your wire.
Rubber Mallet:  Again, hardware store mallet will suffice.  However, my hubby picked up this set of mini hammer with changeable heads for me and I use it all the time!  And it's cheap!

Rawhide Hammer:  I did finally invest in one of these, but my dog got ahold of it and chewed it to shreds.  Although it is often recommended, I don't find it a necessity so it's up to you.

Anvil:  A lot of jewelers recommend a bench block, but I find my small jewelers anvil quite adequate for my purposes and cheaper as well.  Here is the one I have: 

Steel ring mandrel:  Not a necessity, again, it depends on how far you want to go with your wire work, but making simple rings is fun and expands your repertoire a little bit more.  I recommend steel as opposed to the cheaper aluminum or wooden ones, simply because you can hammer to harden your ring shanks on the steel without marking or denting it.

Tumbler with Stainless Steel Shot:  This is probably the most expensive beginner investment, but worthwhile.  It is amazing the amount of shine tumbling finished jewelry will give.  It really brings that finished piece to a whole new level.  I bought a Lortone single barrel tumbler and have used it for years with the same belt and no problems.  I do have a backup tumbler I got from HarborFreight which is cheaper but I've heard mixed reviews on it.  It is a good starter tumbler though.

I cannot stress enough about using stainless steel shot as opposed to just steel shot.  Stainless steel shot requires no upkeep, and will not rust, the steel shot is very high maintenance and will rust even with the best of care.  Oh, and I cannot forget the strainer.  I use an old tupperware strainer that is dedicated to my jewelry making, you can just dump the contents of your tumbler container right into it, rinse it and pick out your jewelry to lay it out to dry.

I will add tools to future posts for those who might want to move on in their wire working, but for now, I think this covers the basics.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I'm about 1/4 the way through this discussion.  My first thought is people really need to learn the art of discussion and debate and stop getting offended by someone elses opinion.  Why do so many people personalize any sort of criticism?  Granted, the original post could have been worded better, a little less critical and a little more helpful, but some of the responses would like to dismiss the whole subject because of the 'tone' rather than looking past it to actually find the message within.

A few other people have come along later in the thread to relay the message in a more pleasing tone, but it appears that some are still stuck on the original post and totally miss the points made.

What I got from it is that there are a few fonts that are overused and misused.  I have absolutely no graphic design background and couldn't tell the difference between  arial and zippedy doo da.  What I do know is that on a subconscious level I do associate certain attributes to certain fonts.  Just like the signage I see on brick and mortar stores gives certain impressions about the content within.  Not that a fancy sign necessarily means that the stuff inside is fancy or of good quality, but to put forward that impression might at least get a customer through the door and possibly purchase something.  I can't speak for anyone else, but if there were two dress shops with exactly the same merchandise inside and one had a fancy, professional looking sign and the other had a hand painted posterboard sign, I'd probably be more inclined to go into the first store because I would feel a little more confidence.

I think it's just another part of an overall look you are trying to achieve.  Like your photos.  Blurry pictures, poorly lit pictures, pictures taken at a distance and don't allow for any view of the details are usually a put off.  While it may not be a reflection of the quality of the merchandise, it gives the impression of poor quality.  What is that saying about first impressions?  When you go on a job interview, you try to present yourself in the best light possible.  If you are one of a hundred applicants, and your qualifications are all pretty much the same, then the choice will depend on other things.  Personality, presentation and someone who gives the impression of being a good fit for the position.  They can't really know for sure, so they go with the candidate that best fits their aesthetic.

Someone mentioned that anyone could buy a professional banner so it's not really a reflection of the quality of the merchandise in a shop.  A crappy crafter could buy a really impressive banner, but it doesn't improve the quality of their stuff.  Very true.  Just like a crappy crafter can hire a professional photographer to take their product shots and make them look like a million bucks.  But truth be told, which will you be more likely to look at, the poorly lit, blurry picture of something that could be of great quality or the fabulous, artful shot of something that is (not so obviously) poorly crafted?  the whole point about signage is to get people through the door.  The merchandise then has to meet the customer's satisfaction.  It's just window dressing, but it is a proven fact that the more attractive the outside, the better your chance of enticing the customer in through the door.

So, what does this mean on Etsy?  If the site was set up in such a way that storefronts were the first thing that was visible to a shopper, then this might be an extremely important aspect.  If you were able to meander down a virtual street lined with shops, the signage would probably be of utmost importance.  But Etsy is more focused on the product shots than anything else.  I know as a shopper on Etsy myself, I barely look at banners, much less notice what font they use.  If I am drawn into a shop by a product they carry, my next focus is to see what else they have that I might like as much or better, or if they carry (in the case of supplies) other things I can combine to stretch my shipping dollars.  Is this to say that banners aren't important?  Not at all.  They definitely have their place as a part of a cohesive, overall look, but I'm inclined to think that it's not on the top of the list when judging whether or not to purchase from a particular shop.

My ex-husband is a musician.  We couldn't go to a concert, whether it was a symphony orchestra or local bar band that he wouldn't at some point start critiquing the music.  It drove me nuts that he couldn't just sit and listen and enjoy (or not) in silence.  It dawned on me later that this type of behavior is inherent in one who is intimately familiar with a subject.  I, as a maker of jewelry, find myself looking at other makers of jewelry and noticing things that would probably not be on the layperson's radar.  Such is the case of banner fonts.  Those with graphic backgrounds or backgrounds where fonts play an integral part of their craft will always look at that aspect of a shop much closer and more critically than a layperson.  I believe any perspective they can offer should be considered, and assessed and used as readily as product photography advice, or any other advice offered as a way to improve your shop.

Does that mean that everyone should change their banner text because they are using Papyrus or Comic Sans?  Of course not.  But, if it got you thinking about whether or not your banner text is portraying the look you are trying to achieve, then that is a good thing.  If it expands your knowledge base on something you formerly had no clue about, that is also a good thing.  Push your delicate sensibilities aside for a few moments and actually look at the information presented.  You can take it or leave it, but do it based on the actual information presented and not the 'tone' you think it's presented in.