Friday, August 15, 2014

Tool Review: Jumbo Tapered Round Mandrel Pliers

I want to talk a little bit about this amazing new tool. The design is essentially a long, round-nose pair of pliers with fine tips that flare out to an extra-wide base: they're called “Jumbo Tapered Round Mandrel Pliers.” I’m super-excited about them, and soon I’ll be posting lots of FREE tutorials here on this blog with instructions on how you can make amazing jewelry with them.
But first, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a little back-story on this invention:
In 2001, when I was first learning how to work with wire to make fine-quality jewelry, I only had access to a few tools. On the recommendation of my instructor, I used the Lindstrom brand small round-nose, chain-nose, and flat-nose pliers to fashion my bead wraps, links, and jewelry pieces, from delicate earrings to bold pendants, from finely wrapped wire rings to big chunky bangles. Over the years I experimented with these tools and made lots and lots of jewelry, inventing many new designs of my own.
But I always felt limited by my tools. I envisioned huge wire links and wraps and clasps made with heavy-gauge wire such as 12ga or even 10ga (I dared to dream!). I saw in my mind’s eye big, bold wire links with a modern edge. I itched to create huge bead wraps with twisted and coil-wrapped wire, fanciful loops and swirls, fabulous fibula pins, wire pendants, and other designs made with big, fat wire that could be hammered out flat and textured with chasing tools and textured hammers.
All of these images came to naught, however, because I lacked the proper tools. I needed much stronger pliers, with more robust handles and better grips, to work with the heavy-gauge wire I longed to use.
When I was introduced to the Wubbers® brand of pliers a few years ago, it wasn’t long before I switched over to them. Just before I discovered the Wubbers®, two of my expensive Lindstrom pliers had broken to pieces in my hands while I was bending 16ga dead-soft wire. But, thankfully, as soon as I picked up my first pair of Wubbers®, I knew that I was back in business.
My new tools fit comfortably in my hands, with larger and longer handles encased in a soft rubber grip that made handling the tools perfectly natural. Best of all, these tools are very strong, making it so much easier to bend heavy wire and sheet metal without hurting myself. When the company came out with bail-making pliers in various sizes, I was in heaven! Finally, I could start making some nice, big fat loops—not only for bails, but for other wire and metal designs as well. I was thrilled with my new tools, but, in the back of my mind, I was still longing for something more.
You see, ever since 2001, I have had a vision in my mind for a tool. I wanted a big, huge, jumbo-size pair of extra-long round-nose pliers. Back in my early days of jewelry making, I assumed that such a tool must exist. I pored over every jewelry catalog I could lay my hands on. I searched the Internet. I haunted the hardware stores. I explored junk shops and antique stores, and I searched various online auction sites. And every time I took a jewelry workshop from a master teacher or taught one of my own, I asked if anyone had ever seen a big, huge pair of long round-nose pliers. No one had.
After more than a decade of looking, I had basically given up on ever finding my dream tool. Oh me of little faith! I hadn’t counted on my friendship with Patty Bullard, the inventor of Wubbers®.
Last year, I shared my dream with Patty. She asked me why it was so important to have a pair of long round-nose pliers that flared out to a wide base. I told her that it would open up worlds of design possibilities for me and for my students: whole new universes of creativity, in fact.
We could work bigger, use heavier wire, take traditional designs to a whole new level, and invent bold, robust jewelry pieces. Chainmaille designs could suddenly be made with huge links of heavy wire. Wire links and wraps that we’ve all been using for years could be made bigger and then embellished with finer gauges of wire and beads. I had lots of ideas and new jewelry designs sketched out on paper that I’d never been able to bring to fruition, simply for lack of my dream tool.
To my surprise, Patty took me seriously. She and I discussed my ideas, and I only asked for a few things: my round-nose pliers must have fine tips and very long cone-shaped jaws that flared out to a huge base. How big, she asked? “As big as possible,” was all I could say. A tall order!
Patty took it from there. It isn’t easy to design a workable tool that fits all of your expectations. Even the strongest steel has its limitations, and there were many design challenges to meet. Working with her team, Patty ultimately succeeded in designing and producing my dream tool, and I waited impatiently for it to arrive. I knew it would be great; Wubbers® pliers are now my very favorites, bar none. But when my new pair of Jumbo Tapered Round Mandrel Pliers arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I was over the moon!
Let me just say that these pliers have surpassed my highest expectations. They’re bigger than I had hoped they’d be—the jaws measure 1-1/2 inches in length with a ¾-inch diameter base—yet they taper down to very small points. The handles are over four inches long, giving you extra leverage as you bend your wire and metal. They’re made of high-quality steel and super strong. I know, because I’ve used them to bend 12ga copper and sterling silver wire with ease.
As you probably know, the thicker the wire, the harder it is to bend. Very heavy wire, such as 10ga, 8ga, 6ga, etc. often requires annealing (softening) with heat—usually from a torch—before it can be bent and shaped. But, even then, if you don’t have the very best quality tools to work with, you can do serious damage to your hands and wrists when trying to bend heavy-gauge wire and sheet metal. That is why I so highly recommend Wubbers® pliers to everyone in my classes and to other instructors as well. I believe every artist at every experience level ought to invest in the best quality jewelry tools they can afford because, by doing so, you’re really making an investment in your own health.
I also recommend that artists on a budget carefully consider the versatility as well as the quality of a tool before they acquire it. Let’s face it, there are lots of jewelry tools out there and most of us can’t afford to purchase them all. We have to pick and choose, difficult as that might be!
One way I gauge the usefulness of a particular tool is by assessing its versatility; in other words, how many different ways can it be used? In the case of the Jumbo Tapered Round Mandrel Pliers, I can foresee hundreds of applications, from shaping new wire links to fabricating sheet-metal components for jewelry. They can help you to make a wide variety of wire and metal beads, cone-shaped dangles for pendants and earrings, cool fibula pins, creative wire chains, bead caps and other components, rings, bracelets, and much more.
As for quality, Wubbers® pliers carry a lifetime guarantee. I think that says it all.
In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be posting lots of FREE tutorials to get you started along this new path of creativity. I hope you’ll join me! It’s going to be lots of fun.
Happy wrapping,


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