Mandrels are necessary in every jeweller’s toolbox. There are mandrels for bezels, rings, bracelets , coins and hoop earrings. All of these are used for forming metal evenly into the desired shape. When you first start working with metal, you may think that mandrels only came in the round shape. You can actually get them in all kinds of shapes. Classic round is used the most often for rings and bangles or bracelets, but there are also square, hexagonal mandrels and oval bracelet mandrels are used for forming cuffs. Bezel mandrels are handy for making, you guessed it, bezels for round, square and oval stones. Coin or Hoop earring mandrels are great for making consistent hoops for earrings or coins frames in a variety of sizes.
Rawhide mallets are used to hammer the metal on the mandrel so as not to scratch the metal. Metal hammers are used for texturing, usually before the ring is formed on the mandrel but sometimes afterward as well.
There are two things to remember when forming on mandrels. First, make sure your piece is annealed before you start hammering because it will work harden as it forms and the thicker it is, the more effort is required to form or bend it. Second, you need to have a good solder join before you put your piece on the mandrel to shape it. It is extremely frustrating to start hammering and have your ring or bangle pop open!
Another wonderful tool is the dapping block. This tool allows you to make your pieces come alive by giving flat metal depth and dimension with curves and domes. Dapping blocks and punches are available in metal or wood. Metal dapping blocks can dome your metal quickly– so use with care. Metal dapping punches are also used for stretching ring shanks into an anti-clastic shape for a sleeve ring design. Wooden dapping blocks and punches are great because forming with them gives your pieces new life without removing texture or stretching the metal.
Either of these tools can also be used to make bead caps or beads: texture it first (if you want), cut out your discs, drill a hole in the centre and dome! Use a single one for a bead cap or solder two of these together for a unique bead.
We don’t usually think of pliers as forming tools but they are used constantly to form and shape metal. Ring bending pliers are a prime example. They allow us to make a smooth bend when making ring shanks. Round nose pliers and multi-loop pliers are both used for making loops- also know as wrap and tap pliers. The multi-loop pliers are great for making consistently sized ear wires and clasps. Nylon jaw pliers are great for bending metal without scratching or marring your metal. If you are using metal pliers you can wrap them with masking tape to prevent scratches in your metal.
Don’t forget holders and vices to hold onto your pieces when you are shaping them with your pliers. The universal holder will hold onto almost anything! With this versatile hand tool, you can clamp or use the metal pins to keep a piece in one position while you file. If you want two hands free while you’re working on your piece use a tabletop vice. This tool swivels so you don’t need to move your piece to re-position it – just swivel around to get to the other side!