Ever spent way too much time trying to retrieve tiny jump rings, links, or other small parts out of a hot acid bath using too-large copper tongs? If you make a lot of chain or work with a lot of findings, the time you’ll save using these tools is well worth the time invested to create them. All it takes is a few common throwaway items and a couple of minutes at the bench.
To make these accessories, you’ll need a wine cork, 12 gauge copper wire (about 18 inches), flat nose pliers, looping pliers, a #30 drill bit, a steel block, a hammer or mallet, a perforated plastic spice or closet wire deodorizer lid, 18 gauge copper wire(two 9 inch lengths), a 1/8 inch wood dowel, and hole-punching pliers
A Pontoon Fibula
The morning after you’ve enjoyed a bottle of wine, use a #30 bit to drill all the way through the center of the dry wine cork.
Create a U-shaped bend at one end of the 12 gauge wire. Bend the remaining wire down at 90 degrees to the U. The second bend should be about an inch or more from the base of the U.
Run the wire through the hole in the cork. Grasp the unbent side of the wire in the looping pliers about 3/4 of an inch from the cork. You are going to create a fibula-style looped spring.
Coil at least three complete loops tightly around the pliers.
Trim the wire as needed, leaving enough to create a pin stem that will rest in the U-bend catch.
Work harden the pin stem by lightly tapping it with a hammer or mallet while simultaneously rolling it back and forth on a steel block.
Test the fit of the pin stem and catch.
Saw some jump rings to try out your new tool. (Tip: I thread the wire coil on the blade and saw from inside the coil and out.)
Thread the sawn rings onto the pin stem and close the catch.
Float the loaded pontoon in the acid bath. Your rings are easy to retrieve from the pickle and then rinse, flux, and solder with minimal touching. Just open the catch and slide them onto the charcoal block using a flux brush to move them into soldering position.
Small Parts Basket
Procure a plastic perforated lid. Mine came from a closet air freshener, but many spice jars and other food products feature plastic shaker lids with various sized holes. In a pinch, you can also drill holes in a plain plastic lid.
Punch two pairs of holes in the walls of the perforated lid with the hole-punching pliers at the 12-o’clock and 6-o’clock positions. Make sure you create holes of the same diameter as the 18 gauge wire. A snug fit means a secure and tip-proof parts basket.
Using the looping pliers, grasp a 9 inch length of wire in the middle and twist it to create a “handle,” leaving about an inch of untwisted wire at the end. Repeat the process with a second piece of wire to create another handle.
Bend the wire ends 90 degrees. Insert them into the punched holes in the plastic perforated lid from the outside in.
Bend the wire tails up and use flat nose pliers to press the wire tails tightly against the walls of the lid.
Insert the wood dowel into the top loops. Ensure the fit is tight and wobble free.
Raise and lower the basket as needed. Now, no more chain or parts fishing, and no risk of contamination from accidently dipping steel tweezers in the acid bath while trying to capture that one, tiny, stubborn jump ring.
Helen I. Driggs is an experienced metalsmith, lapidary, and studio jewelry instructor, and she has appeared in six instructional jewelry technique videos. Her book, The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide, was published in 2013.
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