My Favorite Tools from Harbor Freight
There is a place my friends, a place that artisan jewelers speak about with excited whispers. A place of amazement and temptation. Where do I speak of? Harbor Freight! Yes, this national hardware chain is a store that every wirewrapped needs to visit at least once...but I can promise you, once you step through those doors, you'll be back! Over the years, I've spoken with many artisan jewelers about their favorite tools to purchase at Harbor Freight. This is a consensus of what those “must have” tools are. Many of these are in my own toolbox.
Foam gripped pilers: In chainmaile you need at least two flat nose pilers. These are the ones that I use for chainmaile to this day. You can get the pilers for only $2 each. You'll need to sand them a bit to smooth them out, but they are comfortable and fit well in small hands. Yes, they also carry chain nose and round nose pilers too. They are great pilers for beginners while you save up for the lindstroms.
Digital Calipers: I got mine for $14. In a jewelry supply catalog they usually go for $30+. HF has them in two sizes. I got the small one. Digital Calipers are used to measure AR in rings, but it is a good general purpose tool to have in your tool kit.
Hammers: Of all shapes and sizes. Get yourself an assortment at low cost. Ball peens, rawhide or plastic mallets and regular all purpose hammers.
Copper Washers: They have a box of these pure copper washers for $10. They are useful in all sorts of projects. If you want to try stamping or are getting into texturing metal sheet, these are great.
Chicago Tumbler: Rock Tumbers are a must need item for most wireworkers. You can get a basic single barrel one at HF for around $20. Wait for a sale day and go for it. I've had mine for three years and it keeps on chugging away like a little workhorse.
Transfer Punch Set: For $10 you get an assortment of calibrated mandrels to wrap rings around. It only comes in imperial measurements.
Letter Stamps: These basic letter stamps are a good starter kit for stamping words onto metal. They are around $10.
Dapping/Doming Set: This is a little more expensive at $39, but wait for a sale and see if you can get it for less. No, the quality of this set is not top of the line, but if you only do a moderate amount of doming it should get the job done.
Wire Twisters: There is a grip tool that is designed to twist wire. You can get it cheap here.
Rolling Mill: People are going back and forth about this one. Some say the quality is not there and get the more expensive ones, others say that since they only use the rolling mill occasionally that this $350 one is more than enough for them. I don't feel a rolling mill is a “must have” unless you are big on texturing metal, but HF is a place to consider purchasing one as a starter tool. I'm including it in the list for completeness.
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