How Safe Are Your Beading Tools...Really?

Apr 22, 2012

Who would have thought that you need a first aid kit for beading?
True story: the other day, I was browsing in my local big-box craft store for some supplies I needed to finish a project before a deadline. Thinking ahead to some future blogs for Beading Daily, I started looking at some of the jewelry-making tools and beading tools. I selected some metal working tools and metal jewelry supplies, including a chasing hammer. There were two of them on the shelf, and one had a loose handle. I picked up the other one, which seemed to have its handle firmly attached to the head of the hammer.

When I got to the checkout, the cashier began ringing me up. When she got to the chasing hammer, she put it aside and told me that she couldn't sell it to me because it had been recalled for safety reasons.

Really? What were those reasons? I asked.

The handle comes loose from the head of the hammer, she said.

Well, after I bust out laughing, I started to think about the beading tools that we use every day. I was so excited to write about the safety of our beading tools that I rushed back to the car where I had stashed my notebook, threw open the notebook, and...gave myself a huge paper cut.

Bloody notebook pages aside, I wanted to take a look at how safe my beading tools actually are.

These innocent beading needles might once have been considered instruments of torture during the Cold War.
Beading needles.  Sure, I've seen people suggest using dental floss threaders or pieces of beading wire folded in half as a way to move their beading thread through their beads. But 99% of us use beading needles as the primary vehicle for stitching those teeny, tiny beads together. And those beading needles are SHARP!

My husband discovered just how sharp those beading needles are one morning when he woke up with a slight throbbing pain in his hand. Looking to see what was causing it, he noticed one of my size 11 beading needles inserted in the webbing between his fingers. Ouch. He said it reminded him of scenes from those Cold War movies where the Russians and Americans are trying to torture each other, and judging from the look on his face as he removed the beading needle from his hand, he probably wasn't far off.

Embroidery scissors in your carry-on bag: the quickest way to get a full-body pat down at the airport!

Scissors. If ever there were a contender for Most Dangerous Beading Tool of the Year, it would have to be my embroidery scissors. My favorite pair of Fiskars have tiny, wickedly sharp pointed tips that are great for snipping my nylon beading thread and getting into tight corners with my bead embroidery pieces.

I once accidentally snipped a piece of my finger tip along with my Ultrasuede, and I couldn't believe how bad my finger hurt. We couldn't decide whether or not I needed stitches, but in the end, my mother-in-law (who happens to be a retired surgical nurse) said that it would heal on its own.

Now, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says that you can't bring any scissors on an airplane with blades longer then four inches. I'd have to argue that bringing my favorite pair of Fiskars in my carry-on bag is probably the most likely way for me to get myself a pat-down when going through security!

Harmless jewelry making pliers, or jaws of death? You decide!
Jewelry making pliers. These don't sound like they'd be too dangerous, but as the mother of a four-year-old, I've seen what my jewelry making pliers are capable of in the wrong hands. Those round, pointed jaws on a pair of round nose pliers or chain nose pliers are enough to send my dog scrambling for cover when my son gets his hands on them. Somehow, I don't think the manufacturer intended on them to be used for yanking out dog fur.

And I don't even want to get into the time when my husband grabbed my good pair of German chain nose pliers and used them to remove the dead ticks from the hide of a deer he shot during hunting season. I don't have any problems with him providing us with a winter's worth of venison, I just want him to leave my jewelry making pliers out of it!

So, hey, now that you're prepared, why not throw a little caution to the wind and actually make something with those beading tools? Check out the amazing book Handcrafted Wire Findings by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson. You'll find over thirty projects for making your own jewelry findings with wire and all those dangerous beading tools we love so much! Making your own wire jewelry findings is a great way to save money and add a little personal touch to your beading and jewelry making projeects. Get your copy of Handcrafted Wire Findings now during the big Interweave Store sale and get some practice with your first aid skills! I mean, make some cool wire jewelry findings!

Do you have a somewhat humorous story about being injured by your beading tools? Leave a comment here and on the blog and share it with us!

Bead Happy,


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HeatherR@54 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 6:11 AM

While I agree that scissors are sometimes unavoidable - when all I'm doing is cutting threads - I prefer to use a thread cutter, most sewing stores sell these lovely little pendants that are really quite handy at just snipping thread.  I've not figured out a way to slice my skin with one yet. (Believe me - if you can get cut, poked or nicked by something - I've done it!)

on Apr 23, 2012 7:29 AM

I find I have to use my bead reamer quite often as some of the pearls I use have not been drilled properly, I have stabbed my fingers quite badly several times with this as it is very sharp, it should carry a health warning.

ScottishSue wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 8:32 AM

Those who teach classes need to be very safety conscious too.  I have taken lampwork classes where we were using a tank of oxygen and a tank of propane.  We got extensive safety discussions and handouts and rules like "Never take off your didymium glasses if even ONE person in the room still has their flame on."  Then I took another lampwork class at a different institution to find out if I would like to purchase a small torch that uses a single cylinder of MAPP gas. There was very little in the way of  safety instructions or even of how to safely use the equipment.  What I found interesting was that the instructors were complaining that they were unable to find many of the MAPP gas cylinders they liked.  Afterwards, I went on line to find out where I could purchase MAPP gas cylinders and how much they are.  I found out the ones we had been using were recalled in January 2012 because of a fault in the neck of cylinders that has split open during use resulting in MAJOR injury to the users.  I felt the instructors should have been more aware!!!


on Apr 23, 2012 9:38 AM

I think jamming one tip of my round nose pliers under my nail was the worst I've injured myself. That is to say in my studio. I dont think working on the car counts here.

on Apr 23, 2012 9:55 AM

When a needle wont go through a bead, I use a piece of rubber from

those jar openers for a better grip.    Works great and you can

avoid pushing and pulling that "dangerous" needle.

on Apr 23, 2012 9:56 AM

When a needle wont go through a bead, I use a piece of rubber from

those jar openers for a better grip.    Works great and you can

avoid pushing and pulling that "dangerous" needle.

SCB1 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 9:58 AM

Pricks from needle and nips from scissors. I find that to be a way of life with many of us. I have also smashed my thumb nail many times with either the chasing hammer or the anvil block.

I just always figured I was just a klutz,  so I always to keep a supply of first aid items near by.

Happy Beading!!

SherriC@10 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 11:21 AM

I actually make a really cute safety fob for my scissors. I use  a knitting needle cap.  Just pierce a hole through it push in a headpin, make a wrapped loop attach beads, charms and a small piece of chain. Attach to the loop of you scissors with a jumping or lanyard hook or even a large lobster claw they are super cute.  So now you won't poke yourself looking for your scissors at the bottom of your bag and they stay together. An added bonus is you know which scissors are yours in a group

NancyM@133 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 2:07 PM

Beading Needles - Years ago, my mother was doing some hand sewing at our house and dropped her needle box.  We thought we'd found them all, but obviously missed one in the carpet.  A few days later I stepped on it - it went through my slipper and into my toe.  When we pulled it out, the "eye" was missing.  I ended up in the emergency room with a surgeon to remove the eye of the needle from my toe.  So if you EVER break a needle, wrap all the pieces in tape and put in a closed trash can.

Karen0308 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 2:31 PM

Jennifer... I read your article and thought it was really good, but it sure gave me a little laugh.  Humorous and cute and oh so true... lol.  Thought the husband using the beading tool for "hunting purposes" was hilarious.  Just what the doc ordered on a miserable, grey, wet-snow turned to rain and back again day... lol.  A day where you just can't find the get-up-and-go ambition to do anything.  Love your articles.  Keep 'em comin'.  Luv Karen M.

nicewealth wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 2:46 PM

Tool issue - I was holding a needle just between my lips, and when I went to get it to thread it, I could not get it out. It got stuck in my tongue, and I could not get it out!!! Yuck, (stupid!).

The only other thing that happened to me, (so far), was some beads fell off what I was making. One bounced up high and hit me in the eye. That one hurt.

Diddah wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 3:18 PM

Ohh I've had a few accidents. Mostly with clue. Once I glued my fingers together, to the dinning table and I have glued my wedding band to my finger, that one hurt.

Normally I take a nail file and file of the glue, that wasn't possible with my wedding band. The emergency room suggested I got the band cut of, but really that wouldn't do much since it was glued to my skin.

I held my hand i water and the skin soften so much that I could pull the ring of, some skin came with, no bleeding but very new and sore skin, gost it took some time before I could fit my ring again.

on Apr 23, 2012 3:21 PM

The MAPP gas was recalled and many of the stores did not know that. Lowes and Home Depot were totally aware of it but the smaller neighborhood hardware stores had not clue.

The MAPP gas cylinder you want to purchase has a black square stamped on the bottle close to the neck or top. That means it meets the new safety requirements. If you have any old cylinders return them where you bought it and they should replace or refund them, that is directly from the manufacturer of MAPP gas.

The situation arose when the cylinder fell and broke at the neck and exploded. They were using the torch head that comes with the cylinder, which is big and bulky, not a "Hot Head" used for flameworking which is smaller and lighter. Not to say it would not happen using a hot head, plus when ever you use a MAPP gas cylinder for torching it should be clamped down.

Stores have the new cylinders in stock now.

AllieMDA wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 3:49 PM

Hey, totally not criticizing you here but just for the future and for other really ought to have brought the broken hammer up to the front regardless of the fact that you found one that seemed sturdy. The next customer might come along and not notice that the product was defective. (Someone like my dad, say, who hates  shopping so much that he seems to just grab things randomly while running through a store! ;-) And not all cashiers would have been as quick on the uptake as in your situation...

As I said I really don't want to be a curmudgeon ( I hope I am too young to be called such a thing!) but I really do worry, at whatever kind of store, when it is clear that , oh, I don't know, a dented can or an expired item has clearly been pushed aside by who knows how many people, only to be picked up by someone who was less observant. Now _that_ is another way that tools  can end up being a very real danger.

When I do bring something damaged up to the front of a shop, or notify the appropriate person... the employees always seem surprised! I don't think it should be unusual to think of the customers that will be coming along after you have gone.

[Stepping off the soapbox] Thank you for your thoughtful post! I'm sorry you got injured in the process of writing it! Haha

on Apr 23, 2012 4:13 PM

While I appreciated reading this article about the safety of your beading tools, I read it from your newsletter, which is titled "Do You Have a First Aid Kit for Your Beading Tools?" and the title is misleading. I was hoping this was an article about caring for your tools, repairing them or proper cleaning techniques to keep them in working order. Do you have any such articles, and if not, perhaps that'd be a good suggestion. Thanks!

NatalieE@7 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 5:00 PM

Regarding sharp beading needles, I have found that I really like the John James tapestry-pointed or ball-pointed beading needles as they draw less blood.  You can still stab yourself with them, but they aren't nearly as sharp as a regular beading needle.  

kpmartin wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 5:34 PM

This so LOL funny, but true. :)

Kylie@6 wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 6:50 PM

SO FUNNY! I agree with everything.  Even the yelling at my husband after he decided to use my GOOD scissors to trim a bush.  I found out about this by the kids, who had stood there looking stunned as Dad used MUms GOOD scissors on a bush. THEY KNOW BETTER!

But the most damage that has been done in this house by beading, is to the vaccum cleaner.  Those beads are incredibly noisy when sucked up in the vaccum cleaner and I am sure that the inside of my vacuum has some serious scars!

bead-bug wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 9:41 PM

I do a lot of work with polymer clay and copper so I use things like sandpaper and my Dremel.

One time, I was sanding a piece of clay flat  by rubbing it back and forth on a fine sandpaper while I watched TV.  At one point I looked down and there was blood everywhere.  I had sanded part of my thumbnail and the tip of my thumb off.  I couldn't feel a thing because of the constant motion taking out the nerves as they were exposed.  It took a few weeks to heal and you can bet it hurt later that day.

More fact, rather frequently, I hurt myself with my Dremel.  Usually when using either cutting discs that have a tendency to snap and go flying or using the stainless steel brushes.  I cannot emphasize using safety glasses with a Dremel enough.   The stainless steel brushes, for example, throw bristles (i.e., thin pieces of steel wire) when being used, even at lower speeds and even with goggles on you'll feel them hitting bits of uncovered skin.  I've found them days later splintered into my neck.  I wouldn't want those hitting my eyes.

I've hit my fingertips occasionally with cutting discs, stainless brush discs and sanding discs and probably tend to cut myself with my Dremel once or twice a week.

My students tend to be most afraid of the wire cutters.  I use a lot of thick wire and I dislike the tiny flush cutters and wire snips that go blunt so quickly so I tend to use the bigger hardware store cutters.  They don't wear down!

I teach my students that one of the easiest ways to make a loop is to make the right angle bend and then to cut the wire, using the width of your fingertip to gauge length.  You do this by pressing your fingertip up against the back of the angled wire cutters.  This makes many of my students nervous but because of the slight angle before the blades, it's actually rather difficult to cut yourself.

The tools much more likely to injure you are the ones that you don't give as much respect to because you don't see them as dangerous!

on Apr 23, 2012 9:46 PM

In the late '90's we had a German Shephard/Elkhound mix dog named Sam.  My beading project was laying on the living room coffee table with the needle & thread on top of the beads.  My husband threw Sam a milkbone which of course landed on the table. I noticed a little while later  a thread hanging from Sam's mouth,  when he got the milkbone he must have picked it up with the needle.  My husband took Sam to the emergency vet. The x-ray showed a very thin piece of metal in his stomach, luckily it went straight down without nicking anything.  Sam was OK, the needle passed naturally & since then I've been very careful where I leave my needle & thread!

Shaktipaj wrote
on Apr 23, 2012 10:40 PM

I can almost bet you that I have the most expensive beading/wire working tool story you ever heard. I needed beading needles and my personal preference is John James size 15. I generally buy them in packs of 25. My LBS carries them, so

one morning, I went in and grabbed an unmarked 25 ct package. While standing in line to pay, I started to open it. The package wasn't sealed - and the needles went everywhere! All over the silk skirt I had on. I stood stock still like a curly red-headed saguaro cactus while 3 ladies picked the needles off me.

Taking a deep breath and thinking the crisis had been averted, I sat down to start beading. Everything was great until I got up to go home - I experience the most searing pain in my thigh that you could imagine - I thought I had been stung by a wasp or bitten by a spider. I found the reality worse: we had missed one of the needles, and I sat on it..

Size 15 needles are so thin that I hadn't felt it pierce my skin and embed itself in my outer thigh muscle. It was completely underneath my skin. Long story short, I spent all the rest of the day in doctor's offices and emergency rooms trying to find a way to get it out that didn't involve major surgery. No such luck. The surgeon had to use an x-ray machine to remove it - it could not be seen with their naked eyes.

Funny, I can thread them, just fine...........LOL

Final cost of a 25 pack of size 15 beading needles: $12,000

I now have a beading battle scar about an inch and a half long in my leg.......and a really cool war story to tell. LOLOLOL

Aside from that, I regularly use a fat darning needle in a pin vise as an awl - I slip and jab myself with it every couple of weeks - it just happens...

on Apr 23, 2012 10:41 PM

I have a pair of bent-nose pliers that no matter how careful I am with them, they love to pinch the webbing between my thumb and pointer finger between the two little slivers of metal where the handles meet.

Susan Theron wrote
on Apr 24, 2012 1:57 AM

I got a tip somewhere to cut off the tip of a beading needle and file it down. Then you cannot *** yourself and splitting of the thread is minimised.

on Apr 24, 2012 9:45 AM

It was far from humorous but I was doing something with my pliers when I caught my finger and gave myself a good pinch. Had a tiny blister for several days as a reminder to be more careful with my tools.

SLaPie31 wrote
on Apr 24, 2012 10:49 AM

My husband has found a couple of my beading needles in the webbing between his toes.  I tease him about "finding" my lost needles for me!

My four year old son, who is not wimpy at all, actually passed out when he gave himself a hairline cut with my Fiskars!

jgm3 wrote
on Apr 24, 2012 11:08 AM

I was devastated when I looked at the x-rays of our sick dog, and saw at least 3 pieces of metal - probably the copper I use for making jewelry.  There was at least one washer, and I know we don't use copper washers at our house for anything else.  I hadn't been diligent about retrieving them when they shot off my beading table and under the craft room furniture, figuring that if I couldn't find them, what was there to worry about?

Fortunately, the vet reassured me that those things had likely been in there quite a while, and it was doubtful that they were making the dog sick.  Good grief; if I couldn't find them, how did he???

tkohara13 wrote
on Apr 24, 2012 10:50 PM

When I was starting to learn to make closed loops and wrapped loops, I was using my round nose pliers.  What I was doing was twisting my wrist around so much with out shift positions.  When I woke up the next morning, my wrist was so sore!  It took me a couple of minutes reviewing my previous day to realize what I had done, I had given myself a wrist strain not using the tools correctly!  Now I don't over extend my wrists or hands.

Tameena wrote
on Apr 25, 2012 3:53 PM


Love your articals they are humorous thanks.

LeslieA@24 wrote
on Apr 28, 2012 5:03 PM

A tip and a story...

Every first aid kit should have a tube of super glue to close paper and other small cuts painlessly.  I don't know it works to eliminate the pain, but it does.  You might need to re-apply it a couple of times before the cut heals completely.

About a week after our son and his way-too-curious cat moved in, the cat swallowed about an inch of tubular peyote, 5 feet of fireline and a beading needle.  I had no idea until he began vomiting clear liquid a couple of days later.  The x-ray showed the needle and beads in the small intestine.  Total cost for emergency surgery plus our vet--$1500.  The cat survived and is still as curious as ever.  He and the others are now locked out of the room if I am beading and all supplies are put away before they can enter

Anna_Gray wrote
on Apr 29, 2012 2:53 AM

I am a polymer clay artist. Consequently, I work with tissue blades and disposable scalpels to slice my clay. These things are made to cut off hands and fingers, and they do just that. I have at least 10 scars on every finger from working with them. Oftentimes, when I'm tired, I'll turn a tissue blade the wrong way and start pressing on the sharp edge, while trying to cut the clay with the dull one, being angry that blade "doesn't cut". Why, it cuts just fine, right through my fingers!

forestheart wrote
on Apr 30, 2012 6:04 PM

an opportunity was missed here- there are real safety issues with beading, especially in groups or as a teacher.

A needle stick is a needle stick! Don't share needles. Seriously. If a teacher or friend needs to pick up someone else's beadwork (with their needle on it), swipe the needle through a little jar of bleach before using it.then swipe it again before handing it back. Or take the needle off and put your own on, then switch back to the original needle.

You know how often there's a little needle poke. That's a needle stick.

Because of my work with beads and glass beadmaking, and because I teach, I have gotten the three step hepatitis vaccine.

You DO need a first aid kit: all puncture wounds should be soaked (as long as you can stand it- 15 minutes if possible) in peroxide and covered. Bleach for needles and for wiping up any blood.