Top Tools for Working with Wire

I love playing with wire, don't you? The design possibilities and colors are endless. Denise Peck is editor in chief of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine, senior editor of Jewelry Artist, and author of  Wire Style has been considered one of the wonderful wire women influencing wire popularity, trends, and techniques for many moons. I asked her to share one of her fave techniques with my Beading Daily peeps. Here's what I learned from Denise….

Denise: It wasn't too long ago that I knew nothing about making jewelry with wire. I started as a beader, for a long time, then dove headfirst into metalsmithing. But wire . . . that was a step I'd missed along the way. I have to admit that even the fundamentals of making a simple S-clasp eluded me. When the teacher in my first wire class showed how to make an S-clasp, she made it look so easy! But when I tried it . . . I didn't know which way was up.

Sometimes now, a few years later, I look at wire jewelry and think it looks so crystal clear how it's done. But then remember that class and I know–it is not as intuitive as I think it is.

One thing I've found, on my journey into wire work, is that good tools really do make all the difference. And by "good" I don't mean expensive. You needn’t spend $50 for a single pair of pliers. But I've worked with a lot of tools in the past few years, and I've definitely learned some important things you wouldn't know as a novice.

Chain-nose pliers (2) – these pliers (along with your round nose) are the backbone of working with wire. And I would be remiss if I didn't urge you to have two pairs. Chain-nose pliers look just like your basic toolbox needle nose pliers, except they have no teeth on the jaws. They are smooth steel, so as not to mar your wire. They're used for everything you do. And when you open and close jump rings, or make wrapped loops, you will need two pairs

Round-nose pliers – The other pair of essential pliers in wire work. With conical jaws, they can make perfect loops and rings. Something that took me a while to realize is that round-nose pliers with a bit of a fatter conical jaw are stronger and less likely to bend or become misaligned. Some of the most expensive round nose pliers have such fine jaws that I've actually ruined them! If you need a tiny loop, the very tip of almost any round-nose pliers will do.

Wire flush cutters (2) – This is a tool that you will want a nice fine point on. The smaller and finer the cutters, the closer you can get into your work for a nice neat cut. However, you can ruin them on heavy gauge wire. Always buy yourself one fine flush cutter and one heavier duty cutter.

Bench Block with wooden back – I'm going to tell you about my most prized tool, and I can't even remember where I got it. But should you see it in your travels, buy it! Alternatively, have a small block of wood handy at your work space. My bench block has one side that is steel and one side that is wood. This gives me a nice steel surface for serious hammering, and softer surface for less aggressive tasks. Most important, I use the wood with my awl for piercing, which saves my tabletops.

Ball peen hammer – I bought my small-ish ball peen hammer over 10 years ago. It still has the $3.50 price tag on it. Sure, there are a lot of expensive, beautiful hammers out there, but this one does everything I need it to do. It flattens and it textures!

Awl – My secret hole puncher. Sometimes I just don't want to connect elements with loops. Sometimes I want a simple hole with a jump ring. Once I've flattened an end of wire, it takes just my awl and my hammer to put a hole through it. No drill necessary.

Metal file – Lastly, and I lived without using one of these for a long time, if your cutters are not the best, a metal file is indispensable for quickly smoothing out unevenness or sharp ends. 


Thanks Denise! If you want more wire basics, or just need to brush up on your wire skills, Best of Step by Step Wire Jewelry offers you 35 of our favorite wire jewelry projects. Learn, practice, and hone your wire skills with some expert tips in our favorite techniques!


Come bead with me.



Want to learn more about jewelry making tools? Jewelry Making Daily (one of our sister sites) has a fantastic free eBook available called The Illustrated Guide to Jewelry Making Tools. Best of all, as a Beading Daily member, you simply use the same login information to download your free copy right away!

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Kristal Wick

About Kristal Wick


Residing in breathtaking Colorado, Beading Daily Editor, award winning designer and one of 33 worldwide official Swarovski Ambassadors teaches for CRYSTALLIZED™ - Swarovski Elements. Kristal’s creations have been represented in galleries spanning the globe including Canyon Rd. - Santa Fe, Alaska, Cayman Islands, Italy, Germany & the Virgin Islands.

Kristal’s other fashion projects include designing & creating jewelry for the Jimmy Buffet Band backup singers & dancers.  Kristal also teaches worldwide and on cruise ships.

Kristal released her first self published book in 2005, Sassy Silky Savvy and her latest Interweave Press release, Fabulous Fabric Beads, fall 2008 and has been a best seller in 5 categories on since its release.

Kristal’s latest achievements:

2010 1st place in the K. Gottfried, Inc. Worldwide Design Contest

2009 3rd place in the K. Gottfried, Inc. Worldwide Design Contest

2009 CHA’s Indie Craft Contest

2008 Bead & Button’s Bead Dreams competition

2008 Interweave’s Bead Star competition

2008 3rd place in the international design competition sponsored by the Washington DC Bead Museum, Celebrating Beads.

Kristal has also appeared on HGTV and the PBS shows, Beads Baubles and Jewels and Quilting Arts numerous times. Her designs have been featured in over 35 magazines.

Check out her website:





6 thoughts on “Top Tools for Working with Wire

  1. Denise,

    Thank you so much for sharing this info. I wish I had this list when I started playing with wire.
    Checking my tool box against your list, I’m still missing an awl:-(
    Additionally, a ring clamp (or any clamp that clamps well and easily) would be nice too. I don’t have one either, but am finding more and more times where a ring clamp would have saved me lots of grief.


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