Editor’s Note: Want to know how to make a bench jeweler’s day? Send him a box full of new tools and tell him that if he plays with those tools for a month, you’ll let him keep ’em.
That’s just what we did. When planning this issue, we decided to feed the tool junkie in all of you by conducting independent product testings of some of the newest tools on the market. We sent three lucky jewelers the products listed here and gave them a pretty simple directive: Play! On the following pages, you’ll read their reviews of the products, and you can see for yourself if any of these tools deserves a spot on your bench.
Goldworks, Ft. Collins, Colorado
Tschetter Studio, Dallas
Designer, metalsmith, and sculptor
- Cosima Buffs
- Bonny Doon Urethane Heavy Forming Hammer
- Supra Cutters
- Supra Pliers
Developed to reduce by half the pressure needed while polishing, Cosima buffs are made with silicon-coated cotton fabric designed to produce nearly no dust during the polishing process. Suitable for polishing metals at low speeds (1,400 rpm), these 20-layer miniature buffs are available in diameters of 20, 22, and 24 mm. The buffs are sold individually or are available in packs of 12. Supplied by: Stuller Inc., 1-800-877-7777, stuller.com
- I’m accustomed to using a cotton buff. After working with this new buff, I thought it was okay. I didn’t seem to get quite as good of a final polish as I do with my traditional buffs, but there was one application for which I found the Cosima buffs suitable: removing ripples or irregularities on large flat surfaces. The buff acted like a soft lap in a way, smoothing out the surface nicely.
- I’m not known for high polish finishes, so this tool wasn’t something I would use on a regular basis. I tried it out on a few test pieces of metal and it seemed to do the job just fine, but it wasn’t really in my wheelhouse.
- The Cosima buff was impressive. It cut my polishing time in half! Testing both Greystar compound and Picasso blue compound, I achieved a beautiful polish in half the time it would take using my traditional buff. It worked well on 18k gold, copper, and alternative metals. It responds as a loose buff would, being flexible and polishing nicely around broad corners and curves. I would add that it seems to have the same shelf life as a standard buff; it probably won’t last much longer despite its unique properties.
Bonny Doon Urethane Heavy Forming Hammer
Created from two hardnesses of urethane, the faces on this heavy forming hammer deliver the power of hydraulic force to shape metal. Each head conforms to the surface being struck, spreads out across the metal, and then bounces back to its original shape. It delivers the force to more than 14 times the surface area as an ordinary plastic-face hammer, creating shapes with far fewer strikes than a traditional hammer. The cross-peen face is made of extra-hard 95-durometer urethane and tapers to a 32 by 1 mm tip. The flat face is made of 80-durometer urethane, 32 mm in diameter. The flat face can be unscrewed and replaced with different urethane hardnesses and shapes. The head of the hammer is anodized aluminum; the handle is made of tough, durable hickory wood. Additional inserts are available separately. Supplied by: Rio Grande, 1-800-545-6566, riogrande.com
- It’s immediately apparent when you pick up this hammer that the tool is built really well. The urethane faces offer a bounce that ensures you don’t leave any marks on the metal—a benefit for any jeweler who does a lot of hammer forming. Since I do not do much raising of metal or working with sheet, I don’t have much use for a tool like this in my shop, but I can see how it would be beneficial to a jeweler who does a lot of forming.
- I love this hammer! I have been forming very large cuff bracelets in Argentium silver and the Bonny Doon hammer is perfect for this application. After anticlastic raising the cuff forms, I apply 22k gold to the surface—but I’m not done with the form yet. A traditional hammer beats up the gold, but the urethane faces enable me to add more extreme curves to the cuff without marring the delicate 22k gold.
- My only criticism of this very well-made hammer is that the hickory wood handle isn’t very comfortable as-is. I’ll shim the handle myself to form it to my hand, but in its supplied state I didn’t find it very comfortable for repeated use.
- I wish I had had this hammer a few months ago! I was working on some metal sculptures using a traditional hammer and stake, which was leaving imprints in the metal. This hammer eliminated that problem entirely.
- I preferred the cross peen face, which is harder than the flat face. The softer end doesn’t move metal as efficiently. I will likely buy a harder face and replace the flat face.
- In addition, the handle is a bit coarse. But overall the tool is well balanced and appears to be very well made. The best aspect of this tool is the urethane heads; when you strike the metal surface, the urethane acts as a spring, moving the metal but bouncing back up. This results in much less stress for the user.
Made of ball bearing steel hardened to 45 Rockwell, these Supra flat-nose pliers feature a no-scratch/anti-glare satin finish, a lap joint with a fine-pitched screw for ideal joint adjustment and symmetry, and stainless steel dual leaf springs. The rounded ergonomic handles have a wide, soft, comfortable gripping surface. Overall length is 51/8 inch. Supplied by: Gesswein, 1-800-243-4466, gesswein.com
- I was really impressed with how these pliers were put together. There was no lateral movement and they were very comfortable in my hand. They tended to grab jump rings really well without the rings slipping out and popping away from me. Although I have only had them for a short time, the quality construction leads me to believe that they would last a long time.
- The fact that these pliers have a removable spring makes them ideal for me, as I like to remove the spring because it’s easier on my hands to use them that way. Often pliers have a heavy spring that can cause your hand to ache from all the repetitive motion. It’s nice to have the option to remove the spring.
- Also, the pliers are rounded on the corners, so if you are making a bend in metal you don’t mar it with the sharp corner of the pliers. And the jaws truly close from snout to tail. A lot of flat nose pliers only meet at the tip, so if you try to bend something with them it’s hard to be precise because you aren’t gripping the metal with the entire jaw. These grip the whole way, so you get a more consistent form through the width of metal.
- Due to the tendonitis I recently developed in my hand, these pliers were a welcome tool. They are easy to grip and comfortable. The handles are a bit sticky and tend to pick up some dirt and debris, but they are super comfy to use.
- Also, the anti-reflective finish comes in handy when you are using them under a microscope. When doing any delicate work under the microscope, direct light reflection back into the lens can be hard on your eyes. The finish on these pliers prevents that.
Made of high quality ball bearing steel at 63-65 Rockwell hardness, these 4.9 inch (125 mm) long cutters are available with semi-flush, flush, or full-flush blades. They feature a no-scratch/anti-glare satin finish, a hardened steel nut to resist high cutting load, and stainless steel dual leaf springs. The rounded ergonomic handles have a wide, soft, comfortable gripping surface. Supplied by: Gesswein, 1-800-243-4466, gesswein.com
- When I need to cut something quickly, I’m known to just grab something off my bench—fingernail clippers even—to do the job. But when you need to get into a tight area and make a flush cut, these cutters are perfect. They leave a nice flat, flush edge, better than traditional side cutters. I was really impressed with the cut as well as the high quality construction of the tool itself.
- These cutters were both powerful enough to get through a thick sheet of metal, and delicate enough to clip out an intricate shape in 22k gold. I make an intricate beaded earring cap that looks like a four-sided flower, and I have to cut around the metal. I use Joyce Chen scissors because my other flush cutters are too clunky, but these did the job just perfectly.
- Some flush cutters tend to be flush but leave a little bur; I didn’t have that problem with these. Also, I didn’t have to do too much filing or sanding after cutting because the cut was so precise—which also saves on wasted metal. I am picky about that!
- My favorite aspect of these cutters is the fact that they have a small head with a relief on top, instead of just having a straight top. This enables you to get into tight places and see what you are doing. I snipped a few prongs with these cutters and they worked really well with small settings. I also cut a few rivets and liked how nice and even the ends were.