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Bead and milgrain tools

I have just purchased a set of milgrain tools and a set of bead
tools and block. I am not sure on how to use these items and what
they are used for. I thought I knew but now I am not sure. If anyone
can help I would be grateful. If there are any books in this please
let me know.

George in Green Bay

i use both, prob. not so much their intended function. i use the
millgrain tool on the top edge of bezels…very carefully. french
beading tools, are used to round off the tops of prongs, but i use
them as texturing tools on flat sheet/wire. the block is used to keep
the tool, well rounded…iirc

Beading tools are used to bead set stones. Once you’ve seated a
stone and have raised beads over it with a graver, you put the
beading tool over it and press down, kind of rotate it a little. It’s
hardened steel, so it burnishes the ugly little v raised by the
graver into something nice, round, and shiny.

A beading block is used if you’ve damaged the concave depression of
a beading tool. I’ve never actually sharpened a beading tool this
way, but I assume you just put the beading tool over the
corresponding size bump on the beading block and give it a whack with
a hammer. I am not sure if you have to anneal the beading tool first.

A milgrain tool is used to put a milgrain finish on metal, often as
a border around bead set stones. It’s basically a little wheel with
depressions in it, so that as you roll it over the metal it leaves a
little trail of polished beads. It needs to ride on a track a little
smaller then itself, so to milgrain a border you would have an angle
left from bright cutting on the inner side, and then you would need
to sharpen the other side, with a file, graver, etc. so you’re left
with a little ^. Then it’s just a matter of riding the tip of the ^
around the border.

Milgrain tools don’t really like to cut turns, so you’ve got to be
careful, because if you slip off the edge, it will leave a nice long
scratch wherever it goes. It’s also best to cut in one pass, because
you’ve otherwise got to make sure you’ve got it lined up exactly with
its first track, otherwise it cuts the first beads in half and kind
of ruins the texture. It’s important to do this after you use any
cutting compounds in polishing, tripoli will rub the beads right off
an edge.


Willis, Let me correct one part of your interesting message. Do not
put the beading tool over the ‘bump’ on the sharpening tool and whack
it with a hammer!!! This will break the ‘bump’ and you will loose
that sharpening tool!! Simply lay the beading tool onto the 'bump’
and twist as you would form a bead on a setting. This should rarely
be needed if you have properly cared for the tool.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

but I assume you just put the beading tool over the corresponding
size bump on the beading block and give it a whack with a hammer. I
am not sure if you have to anneal the beading tool first. 

You must anneal it, correct the shape, and re-temper.

Leonid Surpin

  • Beading blocks are one of the most tedious of all tools to use. I
    heat up any 3/8 inch bur shaft to “red hot”. Let it air cool down.
    Now the steel is soft to apply for the shaping.*

  • Pick out a size on the block so the depression is slightly larger
    than the new pointed bead. What you will see are little “raised
    balls” in each depression of the block. Some blocks might have 12, or
    as many as 18 sizes.*

  • Hold your softened bur vertically with one hand and very carefully
    hit the hammer-hit the bur-shaft repeatedly. Check the shaft for the
    new hole being formed on the tip of this shaft…If you are satisfied
    with the results…STOP!*

  • Re-heat the shaft so the steel is almost red hot…then drop it
    into a container of cold water…The steel shaft will resume its
    tensile strength. This an idea I came across, to avoid forming each
    bead and chipping some of the facets on the this can be
    costly. I use a method of removing some of the new sharp edge. I lay
    the shaft against my oilstone and remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the new formed
    round edge. This done by drawing this shaft and carefully observing a
    little facet being formed. Now, as you are rounding off each bead,
    you can hold the bead burnisher vertically, right against the stone
    without any danger of chipping. *


1 Like

Milgrain tools are basically used with Diamond Setters. This little
rolling wheel set in the tip of a 3/8 inch post.*

When applied, it rolls with finger pressure only puts a little
gnurled edge on the wall of any “bright-cutting” wall beside the

When I used it in the past, it added a little creative
design/pattern. This makes the bright- cutting with the milgrain
effect, stand out and be more distinctive.

To see its effect, look at some of coins and you might observe its
pattern. BTW, keep the rolling-wheel very clean by using little dabs
of oil, so this wheel keeps working…Gerry!