Beading Block


I have been using a Swiss beading block to sharpen my bedding tools
and I can’t help thinking I am doing something wrong.

I put the tool in it’s handle and push hard, rotating etc. I can
brighten the cup on smaller beads, but I don’t get far with larger
beads (cups). I even tried a drill and ruined one of the balls.

I suppose I should soften the metal and harden it later. I tried it
once with no obvious improvements.

The tool works. It is already invaluable, and I’d like to know if
anybody knows some better methods especially where I can save old
worn out beading tools.



I suppose I should soften the metal and harden it later. I tried it
once with no obvious improvements. 

That is the process, I needed to sharpen and clean mine and I
learned it from one of posts on this site. Anneal, work the tip as
required and temper. It worked for me.


Philip, et al !

One of the most almost forgotten pieces steel ever seen in a tool
supplier shop is the beading-block. If used properly, it can be a
life-saver. So let me now explain what it is and how it is used. It
can transform any bur shaft of 3/16" into a Creative diamond-setting
“finishing tool”.

In my early days of yesteryear, I had to make a bead-burnishing tool
with such a block of steel. Let me just explain what it looks like,
has many rows of indentations of little inverted cups at all various
depths and widths. They have 4-5 rows of these indentations, this is
to allow if some of these ‘forming cup tips’ get worn down. These are
the “negative” for the finished cup design, as you then will need to
burnish a single bead after it’s raised OVER EACH DIAMOND.

So now lets get into how to MAKE one tool. You MUST ‘soften’ the
steel tapered point, so the steel is more maleable and easy to shape.
Soften the steel point back to a length of about one inch from the
tip. Heat it up to ORANGE colour and let it cool down. Flatten off
the sharp broken-off point with a Pillar or Triangular file so you
now have a flat surface to be hammered into the little opening on the
steel block. If the ‘flat’ is too large the point area won’t get INTO
the steel opening, get it? Round off the end edge so you can get a
point INTO the littel recess, trial and error at this time. Select a
bead size YOU need, I can’t do this for you now, only YOU have to
make this ‘corporate decision’!

Drop a little amount of oil on the whole flat surface to allow that
the little raised ‘balls’ are kept clean and very well lubricated for
hammering. With now the softened point, use now your hand-held
hammer, and with this bur shaft held perpendicular start the
hammering process. Keep in mind that you are making a recess INTO the
bur shaft now! This is going to be the ‘positive’ bead design!
Remember that ‘this size’ you selected must fit over your gold bead,
so you must select the appropriate size before the actual hammering
is to take place. When hammering, rotate and lean the point as to
have the this beading block make complete round indentation INTO the
steel shaft. Examine all the times with your 10X power loupe! Make
sure that the bead-recess is shiny, smooth and round!.:>) Afterwards
you can easily adjust the finished tip with a file, this steel is

When you ‘feel’ that all is done, now comes the hardening process.
NOW, raise the temperature of this finished bur shaft to the point
area is ALMOST READ-HOT! Then quickly drop it in to cold water. If
your file slides over the bead-burnisher (new name now), its ready
for constant use. I clean up the ‘burned area’ with emery paper as to
have no residual burs of steel cutting into your finger tips while
it’s being used.

If you find that this is too dificult to ‘master’. You can buy your
own beading tool at a local jewellery tool supplier and ask for
“Bead-Burnishing” set. They come in a large or a small set of 12
units per package/pallet! I had to make my own set of tools when I
was apprenticing so many decades ago…but times have changed, but its
still nice to know how this was accomplished! Remember one thing, the
‘bead-burnishing process’ locks down the bead ONTO, and OVER the
stone. This is just why the ‘round-ball-tip’ on the block, has to be
kept clean before hammering. I sincerely hope that this has
enlightened everyone reading this little essay.

Gerry Lewy!


Try not to use tapping with the wooden handle, the wood dampens the
hammering and you just get now where ‘fast’. For any minor
adjusments, YOU MUST SOFTEN THE STEEL FIRST! Using a smaller round
bur might be good, but you will loose the round bur teeth in this
process. Stick with the beading-block at all times!..gerry!

Heat the beading tools to red hot and let them air cool. Then put one
on the right sized bead on the beading block and hammer it into the
bead - not too hard, just tap, tap, tap, until the bead is nice and
neat and deep. Heat the tools to red hot again, one at a time, this
time quench them in water. You can temper them if you want, but I
don’t bother. Wire brush to remove the oxide, and them grind or sand
around the tip to remove the lip that you formed when you deformed
the steel. New beading tools!!!

I had the same experience, softening and hardening didn’t seem to
make any difference. I just buy a new set of beading tools now and

Slightly off topic… I’d like to find a set with deeper holes. I
wonder if sometimes I have difficulty because the tool is bottoming
out at the center while the sides don’t burnish as much as I’d like.
I modified a tool that way and it seemed to be much better at
’massaging’ the circumference of the bead. Especially when your
setting brittle stones, any advantage is welcome.

Hi Phillip;

You won’t get much result unless yo soften, re-shape, then re-temper
the tools. Even then, it’s not been very effective for me. Since
these beading tools only cost about $0.75 each, I’ve taken to just
buying new ones and, using a sanding disk, making smaller ones out of
the worn ones by tapering the tips down.

David L. Huffman

Neil-> Here is MY response

For brittle stones, I shave off or make a facet on ONE side of the
bead-burnisher so the round wall on the tip is only 3/4 in
circumference. This will allow you to verticaly burnish down with no
loss of facets or that might lead to stone breakage. That “modified
area” of the tool is facing the facets on the stone…at all times!
In essence, you are now dealing with only a partial bead-coverage as
the forward section is being totally removed, and now no steel will
now come incontact with the Crown Facets. As for wanting a new and
deeper recess, soften the steel pusher and by using a round bur #005
or a #006 drill into the burnisher yourself to ANY depth you desire.
These ‘beading blocks’ don’t have this capability for depth! WE
gotta improvise as best as we can…:>)…

Gerry Lewy!

You won't get much result unless yo soften, re-shape, then
re-temper the tools. Even then, it's not been very effective for
me. Since these beading tools only cost about $0.75 each, I've
taken to just buying new ones and, using a sanding disk, making
smaller ones out of the worn ones by tapering the tips down. 

When I was apprenticing so many decades (5) ago, we had one fellow
who used to reharden his bead burnishers in a home oven till very
HOT…then he would again temper them over an alcohol bunsen burner
till a “straw-colour”, then dunk them into an oil container for the
rapid cooling.

He made all of his burnishers from broken, or worn down burs. David
you are right, for a meesly.75 cents buy newer ones…but takes the
‘fun’ out of making newer ones…:>) BTW, I also use this method. I
sometimes find that the older way the metal chips or breaks at the
worst times and that is when you need to finish off a setting job…



Neat TIP! pun intended. Thanks.

I’ll try that 3/4 thingie soon, as I got a reorder for the eternity
ring that caused me consternation.

Thanks Gerry and everyone else who gave advice. I did not know that I
could tap them with a hammer. Now the tool makes more sense. I tried
softening the steal again. It worked better then I thought.

Interesting ideas about fashioning the cups for the job. I have about
20 shanks I have fashioned for setting, but never a cup.

It is worth while re-using old shanks because I would be throwing a
lot away when they stop doing a perfect job. In small stuff with
diamonds I can easily use 2-3 new shanks on one ring, but they take
seconds to burnish back to new. Now I can save the boxes of older
(bigger) ones too by annealing, taping, tempering and burnishing. I
hate waste, so I will wear that.


Hi, I have been following the beading block thread and would like to
know if I could see a picture of it, I went to and was
not able to find but beading tools.

Thor Hedderich

Hi Thor. Here’s a picture of two different kinds, just a little down
the page:


Try here