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PLIERS & CUTTERS

There are dozens of different types of pliers and cutters available. Here's a brief guide to the sort of equipment that is likely to be useful to wireworkers.I've given my idea of a basic tool kit on the last page, but some wireworkers create amazing work with just one pair of pliers with an integral cutter. The fact is, everyone finds the tools that suit them best.Don't be fooled into thinking that you've got to go and buy a load of new tools. Sometimes new tools are great, but don't overlook secondhand tools. If you can get old tools, they're often inexpensive and in some cases are of a higher quality than modern equivalents.

     

Round Nose Pliers

These have conical jaws that taper gently to the tips. They're perfect for bending curves. Many suppliers stock these with a built in wire cutter - personally I prefer to use a separate pair of cutters, simply because it removes the danger of wire being cut accidentally while you're bending it.
     

Straight Nose Pliers

These have smooth flat jaws. They are great for straightening wire, for making sharp corners and for general work. If you are using them for straightening wire, don't forget that even copper wire can be straightened by stretching it.
     

Ring Bending Pliers

These have one flat jaw and one half-round jaw. They are ideal for bending gentle curves without leaving indentations in the wire. Be careful when buying these - there are a number of differently shaped pliers which are all referred to as ring bending pliers. A pair with one flat and one half-round jaw are ideal for ordinary wirework - they take the place of round nose pliers when you work with heavier gauges of wire.

       

Household Pliers

Household pliers can be useful for working with larger gauge wire. Usually they have at least one built in wirecutter, and many have a second shear-cutter (which is easy to overlook) built into the side of the pliers. Personally, I prefer to use a pair of mole grips (also known as locking pliers).

     

Wire Cutters

When buying wire cutters you have a choice between regular bevel-edge cutters and semi-flush cutters. Semi-flush cutters will cut fine wire to an almost flat face, which is usually preferable to sharp chisel-like ends but they are more easily damaged and are not really suitable for cutting steel wire. There are also flush cutters available which give a virtually sheer cut, but these tend to be very expensive, and the chances are you really don't need that level of precision.

If you are planning to work with iron, steel or other hard wires, you'll need a more substantial pair of cutters such as a pair of good heavy duty wirecutters or cheap boltcutters.

     

Bolt Cutters

I use a pair of small 8" bolt cutters which you should be able to buy for $20 or less. The quality is not great, but they're perfectly good enough to cut everything up to 4mm mild steel. You can easily spend a lot of money on boltcutters, but be sure you really need them before you spend your money - the expensive ones are designed to cut high-tensile steel, which you probably won't ever be working with if you're just planning to make wirework items for your home.
 
 

Mole Grips

Mole grips (also known as locking pliers and vice grips) are, whatever you choose to call them, one of the most useful and underrated pieces of wireworking equipment. Turning the knurled screw (on the end of of the right handle in the image to the left) adjusts the jaws. Squeeze the handles together to lock the jaws closed just as you would with a regular pair of pliers, then press the lever (on the end of the left handle) to release the jaws. Try to get hold of a small or medium sized pair if you can. The pair I use (which I found, years ago!) are about 7" long - large enough to handle heavy steel fencing wire, but small enough to fit comfortably in the hand.
       

Parallel Pliers

Parallel pliers use a different mechanism to regular pliers. The jaws of parallel pliers remain - you've guessed it - parallel to each other as they move. Parallel pliers are available with several different types of jaws, but the most common are straight nose. For more information about parallel pliers and other types of mechanisms, take a look at the next tool kit page which gives descriptions of some basic technical terms.
   

The tool kit section is in three parts:

   
   

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