Local Hardware Store Tools

Do any of you have tools that you have found at your local hardware
store? I know that some items, such as jeweler’s pliers, wax, silk
string, etc., must be bought at jewelry store, but I have noticed
that others, such as dowels and vises, can be bought a hardware
store for a much, much cheaper price. Do any of you have advice
about tools that you have bought at a hardware store for jewelry
making? Thanks in advance.


Do any of you have tools that you have found at your local
hardware store? 

You can buy awls, scribes, small ball peen hammers, dividers, rules,
small L-squares, tiny screwdriver sets, vise grips, aviator shears,
wet-dry sandpapers, 3M sanding sponges, inexpensive hammers that can
be modified to be texturing hammers, plastic clamps to hold items
being glued under pressure, epoxy glues, brass tubing and sheet
strips (K&S), stainless steel rod, drill rod for tools, tool handles,
organizer cabinets, partitioned boxes for small parts,
copper/stainless/brass/steel/aluminum wire, bench grinders, small
belt/disc sanders, PH Minus (Sparex substitute), denatured alcohol
and other solvents, lacquers, rust retardants, polishes and waxes
(like Tarnex, Flitz, Simichrome, car wax, Renaissance Wax), propane
plumbers’ torches and tanks, disposable gas bottles, Teflon tape,
wooden dowels, cheap diagonal cutters. The list goes on and on. As
you might have guessed, I love hardware stores.

Donna Shimazu

Hi Annabel

the first tool I ever bought was a ball pein hammer from GLR Stores,
Great Western Road, Glasgow, Scotland about 10 years ago. It cost
very little - perhaps a quid or two. I use it every day and it
reminds me of the very happy years I spent there.


Hmmmm. Where to start?

#1—Fire Extinguishers
ballpein hammers
vises of all kinds
pliers of all kinds - you can grind off teeth, too
sandpaper and other abrasives (steel wool)
We don’t use pickle pots, we use mini-crock pots
shop towels and sponges
Many chemicals including acids, soaps, oils
Steel rules, dividers
wood chisels
drill bits
steel, brass and aluminum
pipe fittings, sometimes as raw materials (to lathe
turn, for instance)
punches and cold chisels
Light bulbs
Polishing filters unless yours take special size
Shop Vac
Cheap files (compared to Grobet) for what cheap files
are good for - rough steel work, dressing rubber
wheels, etc.
wire brushes

No doubt there’s stuff I’m forgetting…


I have many “tools” that I’ve bought at hardware stores, but you
have to have enough knowledge about what you are doing, more
precisely, what you are going to be doing with, the tools to know if
your getting a deal, or getting what you pay for.

Take your vise example. Hardware store vises are a lot cheaper than
what you can get from a jewelers supply house, but does your work
need more precise tolerance than the hardware store vise has? Will it
work on the scale you need, or be a hulking space waster on your
bench? Will the jaws be too large or too coarse for your work? A
cheap vise will not be made from superior materials. How much will
you be stressing your vise? These are only questions you can answer.
All that said, I have a hardware store vise and a jewelers vise.
Sometimes you need both.

Tools are an extension of you hands, and therefore an extension of
yourself. That tends to mean a lot to it’s practitioners. Plus
there’s just something about saving and getting just the right tool.
It means more and is a test of your business savvy. I mean, if your
business plan or your capitalization only allows you enough profit to
buy cheap tools, maybe you should reconsider parts of your business

Good hunting.


Long door springs and plumbers tube bending sets to help keep the
kinks out of tubing bends.

Hi, Donna,

What do you do with the teflon tape?


I think my favorite tool in this category would be a vise I bought
at Home Depot a few years ago. It says both “Wilton” and “Brinks &
Cotton” on the body, and was only about $15. It had a suction base
which I threw away and just bolted it down. It adjusts almost a full
360 degrees, and I like it much better than the Panavise it replaced.
However, I still look at the picture of the similar $130 Spannfix
vise in the Rio catalog and wonder if it could really be worth the
extra $$$.

Allan Mason

Tools from the hardware store? The local ACE hardware store asks me
what I’m looking for, I explain what I need, like 2 or 3 mm nuts and
bolts to build a fixture for my bench, brass, copper and steel rod
also for fixtures and tools, wooden knobs for tool handles or hanging
wire of tools on, wood glue, glue sticks, drill bits, occasionally
tripoli and rouge, emery discs for a dremel, dowels, plywood for my
booth, lumber from small to large, large packs of green scratchy pads
for a dollar, propane torch and tank for when I’m travelling, lights
for my new shop, glass for displays, plexiglass for shields and
supports, hammers, plumbing for the lapidary tools, chemicals of all
kinds shapes and sizes, axe handles for a bracelet mandrel, and a
couple of hundred other things. (not all at the same time or course)
The people than say, “Frank I think you should go look at aisle 22,
and if it’s not there, go see the manager on duty.” They never look
at me like I’m crazy or anything, because where I live, there are a
lot of do-it-yourselfers who would rather build what they need rather
than buy it. I tried for 2 years to make something similar to a
benchmate, failed on many occasions and wound up breaking down and
buying one. But most of the time, the local hardware store fixes me
up with what I need. We have a super-wal-mart that was just passed,
so I will probably keep going to Ace as long as their in business. I
usually shop locally and it drives my wife mad because i’ll spend
$3.00 on something she can get at the big stores for $1.49 and an
hour trip.

Frank A. Finley
Salish Silver
Handmade Indian Jewelry

I mean, if your business plan or your capitalization only allows
you enough profit to buy cheap tools, maybe you should reconsider
parts of your business plan

Yes, I agree with you that there is a difference between being
pennywise and pound foolish. That is why I sent out this email to
find out from people on the board about hardware products that had
worked for them. One of the largest killers of a company’s bottom
line is often wastefulness in the purchase or use of supplies. That
doesn’t mean that someone should be pennywise pound foolish, but,
when a saving can be had, why not go for it? If I can find items at
the hardware store that are just as good as those at the jewelry
supply store, I will do it. But, as the phrase goes, you say
to-ma-to, I say to-mah-to. I am one of those people who will buy the
generic brand at the supermarket if it tastes exactly the same as
the designer brand. To each their own.

the thing I am most happy I bought from a hardware (okay it was
actually a surplus store but you can get them at hardware stores) was
a drywall knife. Some people might call them saws but basically 8
inches of serrated joy. I use it to do rough cuts on large blocks of
wax, like when the pre-sliced bits are too small and the solid 1lb
block is laughing at you, the wide blade limits wandering and the
lack of saw frame means I can get a real stroke into a large block
and the only thing faster is a bandsaw.

Not a percision instrument, but for $2.00 worth every penny.

Norah Kerr

Hi Noel,

What do you do with the Teflon tape? 

I use it when attaching gas lines, torches, regulators, etc. I wrap
it on the threads of the couplers to improve the seal against leaks.
Just make sure that you don’t have Teflon tape going into the
airways, especially into a regulator.

The Teflon also makes for smoother connections on the threads of old
commercial gas tanks that you swap with the bottled gas supplier.
It’s almost like a grease-free lubricant in a way. You can also use
it on the plumbing of your steamer since Teflon can take boiling
water temperatures quite easily.


Hello everybody,

I figured this one out this morning - I sometimes end up setting
bezels in wierd places in my jewelry, and I always had a hard time
getting the bezel to look good. I remembered the paint can openers
they give you at Lowe’s when you buy paint - I dug one out of our
tool box, sanded it a little bit, and voila, it gets into tiny
spaces no prob.

The best part is these doohickeys are free.

Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations

The tools that use for my craft are generally the best tools for the
trade. The tools I use to build a work bench, to fix doors, etc., are
from the hardware store.


A drift. Rod with a sharp taper to a point. Great to get tube
riveting starting to flare, and makes the tube roll over evenly.
Finish with a hammer or round dap.

There was an interesting post about the writer who goes scrounging
around a harware store— We are fortunate in having a unique
hardware store nearby - they carry stainless steel, instrument
screws, silicone rubber pads, all sorts of hard to find things. They
are used to me going in saying, “I don’t know what I want, I just
need to build something, and I’ll know it when I see it.” So, I’ll
grab a pipe fitting, some castle nuts, and some threaded rod and go
build some fixture or such. It’s half the fun of the place.

One more important thing we get, though. When we wrap a flask to fill
it with investment for casting, we use sheet rock tape. It’s perfect
and cheap.


Donna Shimazu gave a great list - thanks. I’d add blue painter’s
tape for protecting fingertips during polishing, and a cruise through
the Dremel accessories.

Judy in Kansas, where triple digits have been the rule this week…
sweat city for us all. Relief will come, just don’t know when. My
butternut squash seem to be thriving though.

We have a small hardware store in our little town (8,000 people)
that is actually owned by the town mayor. When you walk in the store,
a clerk meets you at the door, asks what you’re looking for, and
takes you right to the item, which they usually have. Try that at
Lowe’s or Home Depot !

Brian Corll
Vassar Jewelers

The thing most people don’t stop and think about today is the Gobal
shopping store for the retailers. The way things work now is the
China,India ect suppliers will build an item for the quailty that you
want to pay for. Also Other than the color and or finishing quailty.
The same item is sold by any number of outlets. With the interest
expanding in the hobby related fields, there are more outlets for
tools and supplies. Most of the tools used in the metal/jewelry
smithing fields are also used by any number of trades or hobbies.
Locksmithing tools are probably the most over priced than any other
trade/craft That I have been involed in. And most are availible at
local stores for more then 75% price reduction. I have no
entanglement with any of the following web sites. And the usual
Disclaimers apply other than I am a customers and use the tools.

This is a tool supply company that imports and sells thier tools by
catalog, store and internet. They have over 200 stores in the US.
They also sell to other stores that retag the items. They have a
number of jewelry metal smithing tools at good prices. I own and use
alot of the items. The Rolling mill with two extra pattern rollers
is the same quailty of some of the $695.00 mills from India in the
catalogs. Only difference is It has been onsale for $159.00. It is
not made for heavy duty use. It does work well for somebody that
only has limited use for a rolling mill at any one time.


They are a model building tool supply many of tools are the same
with different names and lower prices.

They have a great number of tools for working metal, polishing,
coating bending and beating.

This is a site that has everything you could want or need other than
the noble metals and gem stones. I hope this will give some people a
new direction in the hunt for tools. Don’t forget to check out your
local phone book under tool and industrial supplies. most sell over
the counter. There are a number that sell over the internet.

Been there, done that and broke it !


If I can find items at the hardware store that are just as good as
those at the jewelry supply store, I will do it. 

I want to mention, just in case you haven’t noticed, that you cannot
assume that things from a jewelry supplier will cost more.
Sometimes, especially when buying specialty items from a wholesaler,
the hardware store will be more expensive. I assume this is because
most people wouldn’t generally have anywhere to buy, say, an alcohol
lamp, or a ring stretcher, at a discount. “FindingKing” sells
jewelry tools on eBay, and they are no bargain! Cheap crap from
India, at top prices. So it pays to pay attention.