Metal tool necessities….part 1

I came up with the bright idea that I wanted to add some top ten lists here.  Books, materials, sources, tools, etc.  But I’m already wondering if maybe I have TOO many favorites….at least when it comes to my metal working tools

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m kind of a tool junkie.  Will I need it?  Who cares!  Its all about WANT, right?  😉  But the purpose of this series is really to get down to the bare bones of what you need to get started.  With the glass tools, making a top ten list wasn’t that hard.  I have my favorites (some cheap, some not so cheap) that are my go-to tools for almost all the beads I make.  But when it came time to narrow down the metalworking list, I REALLY struggled.  So to compromise, I broke them into two lists….”necessities” and “you’re really gonna want one of these if you get into metal working much at all”  (or “extras” for short 😀 )

So, in part one of the necessities list, we’re going to start with the basics.  First things first.  If you’re going to do any sheet metal work at all, you’re going to need an assortment of hammers.

Multi-use hammers

This photo shows the hammers I constantly find in my hand.  First is a regular 1 pound Stanley hammer from the hardware store.  Uses are limitless….everything from punching out discs to dapping and doming.  The second, is a two-headed hammer with a nylon head on one end, and brass on the other.  I don’t use the brass end a lot, but I have to change that nylon head quite often.  Its used anytime you need to flatten or move your metal slightly without distorting any pattern you’ve applied.  The third is my new favorite, and the most expensive of any of the hammers I own.  Its a Fretz mini-hammer number 7 with 9 interchangeable plastic heads.  I’d tell you what this hammer is intended to do, but it would take up a lot less space to tell you what it won’t do, because it has a head for every job!  LOL!  The fourth is my rawhide mallet.  Again, it won’t mar or distort your metal, but its perfect for forming and workhardening your project.

Specialty hammers

The first hammer shown in this picture is a 3 pound deadblow, again from the hardware store.  Its overkill for most of my work, but when it comes time to punch out large discs….say anything over an inch….its what you want to do the job.  (Unless of course you’re luckier than me and have your own hydraulic press!)  The center hammer is a standard chasing hammer.  I don’t use mine much anymore since I upgraded to my Fretz hammers, but the one shown is a good entry level hammer that can be purchased for around $17.  The flat side will flatten and harden your wire or sheet, while the “peen” end is used for texturing.  The last hammer I show might not even warrant a spot on the necessities list, but it was one of those “just can’t live without it” tools.  Tiny, cute, lightweight….perfect if I’m just banging out a few little odds and ends on my dining room table instead of pounding on the workbench.  Told you I was a junkie, didn’t I??  😀

Number two on the necessites list is a light-duty torch.

Blazer butane torch and fire brick

The torch I’ve shown is a Blazer butane torch from Rio Grande.  There are cheaper torches….even a butane creme brulee torch will work for small projects.  And I should also interject here that I don’t solder a lot.  I can, but I just don’t really enjoy the stress of it, and I also prefer the look of cold connections when I can get away with them.  BUT…. if you are going to work with metal with any regularity, eventually you are going to get into a project where you have to anneal your work.  After pounding, twisting, and shaping, metal gets work hardened and brittle.  But firing up your trusty torch and annealling it to just the right temperature makes it soft and pliable again.  So even if you don’t ever want to learn soldering, don’t fool yourself and think you won’t need a torch.

Third on my necessities list is a good hand punch.

Hand Punch

And when I say good, I don’t necessarily mean expensive.  You can buy these from Eurotools for around $35, or you can go someplace like Harbor Freight or Northern Tool supply and pick up one like mine for less than half that price.  And the cheapies work just as well!  There are a lot of corners you can cut on tools, and some that you shouldn’t.  This is one of those instances where you want to go the inexpensive route.  My hand punch (and most that I’ve seen) have seven interchangeable bit sets that will punch holes from 1/8 inch up to 9/32.  If you ever want to make your own fancy washers or bead caps from textured or etched metal sheet, you’re definitely going to want one of these!

Number four on the list is a bench block.

Rubber based bench block

Now I have a regular 4×4 inch steel bench block, but I’m showing you this one instead because I’m absolutely in love with it.  (Obviously….you can see the wear and tear)  That rubber base significantly lowers the decibels of noise when you are pounding metal!  I also love that it comes with an interchangeable nylon insert that you can use if you have delicate patterns to protect.  You can pick these up at several different metal supply places online and last time I checked, they were only about $10 more than the standard bench blocks.  Believe me….you’re hearing is worth that extra ten bucks.  😉

Number five (and the last for this post…thanks for sticking around so long) is a jeweler’s saw.

KnewConcepts 5 inch jewelers saw

The saw I’m showing is the Knew Concepts saw.  Pricey?  Yes.  Worth it?  To me, definitely yes!  You see, I never really liked sawing.  Well, truth be told, I never liked changing saw blades.  I started out with one of the economy saw frames and the standard clamp-style bench pin.  But when I was learning to saw, I was breaking blades right and left, and the economy frames can be a little tricky to load.  This new style of saw has a tension lever.  Just flip it, turn one screw and your old blade pops right out.  Insert the new one, screw and flip that tension lever back in place and its perfect every time.  Now I can honestly say I’ve turned into someone who doesn’t look at sawing as a chore anymore.

Necessities part 2, to be continued….. 😀

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8 thoughts on “Metal tool necessities….part 1

  1. You’ve got a couple hammers I’m missing and my Knew saw is being delivered tomorrow, but otherwise, it looks like my workbench…and now I’ve got a new hammer on my list…thanks!

  2. @Kathy….glad you’re finding some useful info! I wanted to post things like this because I could have used a similar resource when I got started. 😀

    @Carol….wait until we get to the “extras” portion. That’s when the pocketbook starts hurting! LOL!

  3. Pingback: Metal Tool Necessities….part 2 | beadaddicts

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