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Mixed Messages about tools

Originally Orchid was a safe location where serious, well trained
Jewelry “Smiths,” could post to share helpful normally
or traditionally not revealed publicly amongst one another. There
was appreciation, not challenges. I have long been an advocate for
well constructed Workshops given by noted experts happily exchanging
their methods with students paying a fee.

A new fad be it Wire or Metal Clay came along with new participants,
some eager to learn others eager to argue. Some long time member
simply left, others reduced the posts. This is an open Forum, so
most were welcomed.

Today, while reading an online Jewelry site I saw what I perceive to
be different opinions on the same tool, it amused me. One comes from
a highly trained and regarded Jeweler and Instructor, the other from
an Editor whose entry into Jewelry Making has been well publicized
along her journey to several well presented Workshops.

One expresses the need to totally feel the tool in the hand without
anything interfering with sensing the tool as it is working. Michael
David Sturlin is a wonderful example of this and he stresses the
value in every workshop I attended. The other the need for exactly
what the first suggests removing. Different strokes, different
folks. You decide for yourself.

This first statement is from Alan Revere and was well shared over
the years.

Alan says, "Many pliers come from suppliers with cutesy handles and
springs that diminish their function. Rubber or plastic handles make
it cheaper for manufacturers because they do not need to clean up
the handles. just cover them in plastic for the hobby market. Aside
from the garish and distracting colors they usually choose, the feel
of rubber or plastic is downright slimy, just not as nice as metal.
You lose the sense of what is going on by having the cushion. So
take a blade and strip off the handles. The metal below may be a
little rough, but it can be filed down. As long as it is
comfortable, that’s fine; it does not need to look pretty.
Ultimately you have greater control by holding metal handles.

"The other extra that manufacturers often add to pliers is a pair of
springs. These are even worse than the handles, because they reduce
your ability to get tactile feedback. You must squeeze to overcome
the spring and then gauge how much to squeeze further to hold the
item. The only advantage of these springs is that they open the
pliers. But anyone can figure that out by slipping a little finger
inside the handles to open them up. So take a blade and pop these
off, too. If there is an objectionable weld mark, use a grinding
wheel (wear goggles!) to remove it.

“Traditional high-quality European tools do not include these two
add-ons for good reason. Both diminish the quality and function of a
pair of pliers.”

This second statement is from Helen Driggs, Editor and student
turned into instructor.

As I gathered together the for this feature, I received
some brand new Ultra Ergo pliers by EuroTool. I was eager to give
them a try because I have a damaged right elbow tendon connection
caused by my death grip on the computer mouse. Because of this,
extensive looping can be rough for me sometimes. I used the pliers
for several evenings of wire-wrapping and really like the way the
spring-back feature of the grips kept hand and elbow fatigue at bay.
I’ve got big hands, and the grips on these pliers are long and
padded enough not to hurt. The tips are small, short, and strong,
and I was able to move 10-gauge wire easily. They are a good fit for
me, and you might like to give them a try if you have RSI
(repetitive stress injury) issues.

Alan’s opinion comes from his personal need to feel his tool as it
works. Helen’s opinion comes from her need to protect her hands and
joints from tool use injury.

Both speak from experience, I have my own take on this. What I can
say is I see these methods posted on the same page as confusing or
mixed. What is someone reading this able to take away positively
from this message?

Teresa Masters

Hello Teresa,

I think what one can take away from the messages you quoted, is that
there are always AT LEAST two different methods for achieving any
goal, and probably many more than just two.

It’s important to remember that, in spite of all the postings on
this forum that purport to be the ONLY way to approach tasks, the
multiplicity of procedures is what makes it possible for everyone on
this forum to make their work, THE WAY THEY WANT TO MAKE IT.

There is no right way to make our stuff, and the only wrong way is
the way that doesn’t achieve our goals.

The best postings here that answer questions that have been asked,
and there are so many good and experienced voices who respond to
those questions, are those answers posted without prejudice or bias.
I can think of so many who respond with presented
generously, clearly and in depth (Peter, Gerald, Sessin, Andy,
Elaine, Charles, Alan, Cindy, and so many more), sharing expertise
gained through years and perhaps decades of working in our field.

As far as those voices that have been silent on the forum, that have
absented themselves from Orchid, perhaps they’re just still lurking,
receiving and reading the digest, without feeling the need to
participate actively. When the subjects that interest them come
around again, maybe they’ll jump right in again.

I am grateful for all those voices over the years that have shared
knowledge and I’m also grateful for those voices that have expressed
a lack of knowledge (that takes courage) and asked questions,
sometimes questions that I share with them. I’m grateful for those
voices that ask questions or answer questions re: new techniques,
materials, and skills. This is a community that knows that every new
or radical process or material eventually will prove itself useful
or useless and only time and practice will prove either. And I’m
especially grateful for Orchid, for the platform where all those
voices can be heard without fear of being ridiculed or silenced;
where can be shared that helps to keep our field alive.

Linda Kaye-Moses

Hi Terrie,

I’m not sure it really is a mixed message. If it were one person
saying both things, then yes. But two different people, with two
vastly different backgrounds, skill levels, and kinds of work to
be done, it’s just two different voices. Nobody said we all had to
agree. It’d be boring if we did. I know you’ve heard me joke about
"ask six jewelers, get seven answers".

Part of learning any skill is learning to sort through the
conflicting voices out there and figure out which ones you should
listen to.

Personally, I know why Alan feels the way he does, and for stone
I more-or-less agree with him. For that, it’s critical that
you really can feel everything. For basic wire coiling like what
Helen was doing? You could do that in mittens and it wouldn’t
matter. If it helps her keep her hands healthy, then more power to

That said, most of my pliers still have their rubber grips, and all
of them still have the springs. Because I prefer the springs. Just a
personal choice, not any sort of a message to anybody.

(What Alan leaves out is that for many stone setting jobs, the plier
legs are so far apart that the springs don’t bear anyway.complete
non issue.)

So, who would you listen to? Why? Once you can answer that question,
you’re several steps further down the path.


I think the one thing we can take away from these articles is that
what suits one doesn’t suit another. If you are having problems with
a method of any description it is ok to try something else, find
what suits you

Lynn McElwee

Hi all

I lean towards Alan’s view. Having used a variety of pliers for
decades I remove the “springs”. They are just for slow working hobby

My best quality pliers have no coating on the handles, they are
metal and have no “springs”. They are European or English made. And
are seriously expensive. My oldest pliers are 30 years old and as
good as knew.

If pliers have a “plastic” coating I leave it on.

Helen admits to not having a good knowledge of tool usage or the
sense to change work practices when physical problems arise.

I have a damaged right elbow tendon connection caused by my death
grip on the computer mouse. 

She seems to be promoting a product. Looking at Ergo pliers shows
standard quality pliers. No big deal. As for RSI it has disappeared
from the world. All those RSI injuries just are not there with good
work practices.

Good work practices stop RSI, that is a medical fact. If plier
handles hurt the tools are being used the wrong way.

And now Helen is an instructor, in what Silversmithing, I think not.

There of course will be comments on this but by how many people who
have used pliers to make many thousands of earrings and necklaces and
have trained others in the correct usage of pliers? Few I think. I

Just some observations after using pliers for 30 years without

All the best

I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice!

Helen Driggs quite openly says she prefers padded handles because
spongy handles on pliers etc help her to work with an old injury:
Alan Revere prefers all-metal handles, and even tells how to remove
the spongy parts and whatnot if you feel the need.

The tools we use - like everything else - are surely a personal
choice, with what is “right” for one person being quite “wrong” for
another. I would say an individual should be open to trying all sorts
of tools until he finds something that works for him.

Over the years I have found the spongy coverings eventually wear (or
fall) off, and the springs fail in some way. Well made tools
properly cared for last for ever!


I don’t see the messages as mixed, Terrie but maybe that is because
I am old now. At least a lot of people in society are telling me I am
old - and infirm - and decrepit - and some say I should get off the
road entirely.

All I can say is that I’m sorry I fell off the hearse and am still
and taking up room. In the meantime - about tools - my opinion is the
same here as it is about most of everything else – what is trash to
one person is treasure to another. Takes all sorts of tools, people,
food, jewelry etc to make a world.

Hugs to another treasure, Terrie Barbara on another grey day on the
island, hoping to get some wood in for the winter

Both speak from experience, I have my own take on this. What I can
say is I see these methods posted on the same page as confusing or
mixed. What is someone reading this able to take away positively
from this message? 

Terrie, a lot of life is about choosing among alternatives.
Personally, I am closer to Helen Driggs in my use of tools, even
though I do not have RSI issues. But Alan Revere’s suggestions gave
me alternatives to think about. I don’t have plans to take all of
Alan’s advice at the moment, probably because I’m too lazy to go to
all the trouble of removing things. I had, however, already ground
down the serrated inner faces of a pair of flat-jaw pliers, and I
find that useful. OTOH, where the cutesy rubber handles on my pliers
have come away, I find the bare metal painful to my grip. Alan’s
idea of grinding smooth the bare handles is one I may actually try.

Hugs to you, too, Terrie!
Judy Bjorkman

The different strokes from different folks quote pretty much sums it

We are all individuals. we all do things and tend to use certain
tools to do them, in our own particular ways. Do what works for you!

I’ve had the privilege of going through Alan Revere’s program. I
learned quite a lot from him and his insturctors. But that said, I
would not being doing what I do today if he had not pissed me off.
NEVER EVER!!! tell a woman, in particular a Danish born woman that
she “can’t” do something. It took me 6 months of searching archieves
and museums to find the beginning of my recreation work. I learned
what tools, and methods employed of those tools. Lastly I practiced
until I had the pieces perfected in my mind.

Today I’m one of two artists in residence at the Utah Shakespeare
Festival demonstrating old Renaissance metal techniques. I do very
well. So in summation, if Alan’s statements piss you off, use it as a
starting point to go further and prove him wrong. I turned the
humiliation of being told off in a lecture room full of other
students into a positive.

My three of my motto’s: “Pissed off is a good thing"and"Can’t is a
four letter word! “lastly” Turn a disadvantage into an advantage, it’s
just a matter of perspective.”

BTW if Alan hadn’t pissed me off I wouldn’t be having the time of my
life on stage! So really I should thank him.

Aggie Almost ready to head home to Fl.

I am a novice silversmith, and I’ve never posted an opinion before.
But, I think it’s very clear what these two different opinions are

Everybody is put together differently. I have been around horses and
horse trainers and instructors for years. While this has nothing to
do with making jewelry, there are parallels in all things physical.
When you study the movement of horses or animals or people, you come
to realize that everybody is put together differently (think Michael
Phelps or Secretariat, (neither average, physically). A Ferrier will
put different types of shoes and different types of padding for shoes
on different horses for different disciplines, sculpting the hoof to
compensate for different things. What works for one person will not
work for another. Nobody learns the same way and nobody moves the
same way. While I see the value in being a purist, some people like
sauce on their steak. If something is a difficult for you, you’re
just not going to love doing it as much as if there is something to
make the task easier. So I say whatever works for you in life and
task. I love hearing everybody’s opinion on here, but I modify
as I modify my tools, taking away and using what works
for me.

The last sentence asks a question? My answer, you wouldnt get
anywhere without tools.

Why? man is a tool maker and user, from the simplest pointed stick
to todays Cern’s latest atom smasher.

How you use tools is up to you. Some are simple to use, others take
yrs to master.

As for man’s oldest tool, has to be the hammer.

NEVER EVER!!! tell a woman, in particular a Danish born woman
that she “can’t” do something.

Right on Aggie! Doesn’t just apply to Danish born either - I’m
English, and by golly, if anyone tells me I can’t do something, then
I darn well WILL find a way to do it!


As for man’s oldest tool, has to be the hammer.

Or maybe the spear, but the more I think about it, it was most
likely a rock, hence, the hammer.

Dennis F

Not wanting to get into a mud slinging contest, I do feel that both
opinions are valid and can readily stand side by side on the same
page. Each viewpoint reflects the posters opinion (and they
represent just two of the several disparate groups of people that
use tools). Their opinions were clearly stated I can readily accept
both. As I age, I find that what was appropriate when I was younger
does not work as well, now that my finger strength is diminishing.

We live in a right handed dominant world, and only recently have the
left handed folks been able to purchase tools that are designed for
them. As a tool designer, I have to take all of the relevant
limitations into account when I produce a tool.

Like Alan, I have never hesitated to rework a tool that I felt was
incorrect for my needs. Helen is also correct as she copes with her
physical limitations. I deal with a large number of people that have
similar limits, including essential tremor (which in their case, led
to some of them using the precision saw guide).

There is not one answer (ever thought about how many religions there
are?), and thank heavens for the diversity of us that frequent this

Lee (the saw guy)

I haven’t thought much about the issue of springs and padded handles
on pliers much until following this discussion. I seem to have ended
up with a lot of assorted pliers, wire cutters, snips and a sprue
cutter no through any particular obsession on my part but because I
bought a collection of second hand jewellery tools after I already
thought I had an adequate sufficiency of pliers. Some of my pliers
and my wire cutters have return springs but most don’t. The mostly
have padded handles but this is quite thin and not particularly
spongy. When I think of the pliers I reach for by preference my
favourite chain nose pliers are in beautiful stainless steel with a
precise box joint and no padding and of unknown brand because I
obtained them second hand. They are the ones that most feel like an
extension of my hand. Similarly my English parallel jaw pliers have
no padding. However I appreciate the padding on sprue cutters where
some force has to be exerted. As for the other pliers the padding
doesn’t bother me sufficiently to want to remove it.

I have suffered and still occasionally suffer from carpal tunnel
problems, but this is more likely to come from the use of heavier
tools for gardening, woodwork etc.

All the best


What is it that Alan told you you “can’t” do??? :slight_smile:

Janet in Jerusalem

As for man's oldest tool, has to be the hammer. 

Ya think? Fingernails get my vote. Or teeth.

  • Lorraine

Hi Gang,

Teeth would be it, I think.

Insomnia and a web connection (and an Ipad) are a bad combo. Behold:

I flipped through that one night. Turns out that there’s evidence of
the use of the front teeth for grasping in early Neanderthal skulls.

Never, ever, play trivial pursuit with me.


Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a third hand tool for your jewelry projects? We recommend:

Hi Janet,

Humans in general, methinks.

At one point I was told that ‘you can’t raise reactives to any great
extent’. So I went out and raised a goblet out of niobium, just to
prove the point.

Took me 18 months to figure out how to actually make anything out
of it, since I couldn’t solder to it, but I had the goblet done in 2

I think bloody-minded, stubborn, cussedness is something of a
personality requirement for anybody doing what we do.


Hi all

my wife works with beads, ear rings and necklaces.

Her pliers all have plastic or soft grips. Cutters and crimping
pliers all have springs. Because she does lots of stringing she has
tools in use for much less time than me a bench jeweller.

Her hands are not as strong as a bench jeweller, I open the tough
jars not because I am male but because I use tools all day long. The
lady jewellers I know can also rip the top off any jar. And it is so
cool when all the guys in the kitchen can’t open the jar and a lady
bench jeweller just twists it open.

I guess it is where you are in the trade and what you do most that
determines the preference for tools. I know jewellers who form ring
shanks with pliers and others like me use ring benders.

all the best