Years ago I took up SCUBA diving, and in the course, the instructor described SCUBA as “an equipment-intensive sport”. Oh, how true. And I find myself drawn to these kinds of sports or hobbies, unfortunately. Jewelry creation doesn’t have to include lots of complicated equipment – you can just string beads or wrap wire, no biggie. But as I learn more about technique and take on new challenges, I seem to also acquire new tools. Here are two of the newest items in my arsenal – The big one is a bracelet mandrel and the smaller one is a hoop earring mandrel. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Well, I’ve been working metal to make big hoop earrings, and I shape the earrings using this kind of round tool. You wrap the wire around it with your fingers, to start, then gently hammer on the wire with a plastic or rawhide mallet so that the wire begins to take on the shape of the mandrel. In this way, the wire goes from flat to a lovely round hoop. The bracelet mandrel works the same way, and I’ve already used it to create sterling silver bangle bracelets.
I just keep adding tools to my studio. I’ve got two butane torches for heating wire and soldering. I’ve got a tumbler with stainless steel shot that I use to shine silver jewelry. I’ve got hammers with textured heads for pounding textures into metal. I’ve got a zillion stamps for cute little designs that I use on bead caps or charms. I’ve got cutters for wire and sheet metal. I’ve got pliers in all shapes and sizes to help me work wire. And yet… and yet, I could still make a wish list longer than your arm.
Why so many tools? Because I’ve found that to stay excited about creativity, I have to keep learning and trying new things. I’m not satisfied making the same thing, over and over – I have to learn new techniques and experiment with results. Some things are simple – hammering texture is quick and just takes physical energy. Other things take longer or have more complicated steps, but I’m always willing to try a technique. And when I’ve tried it and liked it… well, I obviously need tools to help me do it better!