As Jewellery makers, one of the most common decisions we face is whether or not to buy more tools. If so, which ones? Often the choice comes down to "Should I buy another tool or should I buy more material?" For those relatively new to jewellery making, it's an especially daunting question and without proper guidance it can be a costly one as well.
To learn anything new we need three things; tools, materials, and instruction. This trinity is the foundation for developing any kind of skill or ability. Knowing we need some of each to get started, how do we know which, what, when and why? We could buy tools endlessly and still never have all of them.
I find it's better to buy fewer tools and more materials. It's not only the wisest approach to long-term development; it's also the best investment strategy for getting started.
It actually doesn't take many tools to make handmade jewellery. Most aspiring jewellery makers start off buying more tolls than they need. Often they are encouraged by tool makers and vendors that they must have a certain tool to make jewellery. They might also be influenced by others who have more tools than they know what to do with, and definitely have more than they need.
So, where to begin? First we have to have an idea of what we want to do. Let's assume that we want to learn to make jewellery by fabrication directly with metal. The best place to start is with solid foundation skills: forging, forming, bending, sawing, piercing, filing, and cold construction. Just these techniques alone allow us to make jewellery endlessly. They are certainly sufficient to develop and refine our skills and to learn our material.
If you're just starting to explore metal, you don't yet know which techniques you like. Buying many specialised tools will financially confine you to a particular technique before you've decided if you like it. I would suggest beginning with the bare minimum of tools and buying additional tools only if you determine that you want to continue. This will be particularly true for tools used in making handmade rings.
There is an adage that you should always buy the best tool that you can afford. This is sound advice, but not in every situation. I suggest good quality for specific items, especially pliers, but sometimes an adequate is sufficient to get started. Buying economical tools where acceptable allows us to buy a few extra items, invest in more material, or pay for instruction.