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You must know, that all of my videos use tools of one sort or another.  You should watch them all! Learn what all those weird-looking tools are actually used for!!!  Have fun.

Updated:  1/28/17

Nancy LT Hamilton

Questions and Answers

What type of bench shears should I use to cut sheet metal?


“I have watched your tutorial that you have on bench shears to cut metal sheet, there are few sizes I could purchase, do you think the smallest size, “5″ bench shear” can cut 18 gauge sterling silver sheets easily? Since I’m a small size woman, I need to know what shear can cut it easily without the need to put much effort into it.”


Most of the shears with handles are pretty easy to use – if they are mounted to a sturdy workbench or table.  Mount the shear where you can use your body weight to help depress the handle (probably waist height or lower).  I mount my shears to wood and them firmly clamp them (with “C” clamps) to my work bench.

There are 3 basic types of shear to consider:

  1. The guillotine shear, also known as a squaring shear or power shear.  The guillotine shear has a table with which to line up the metal. The nice thing about the guillotine is that you can line up the metal, on the table and feed the metal into the throat.  This helps to create neat, square cuts.  With the bench shear or throatless shear, I draw a line with a Sharpie and then try to line up that line with the blade.  I am rarely successful – especially with larger pieces of metal. There are guillotines, usually called “Precision Guillotines” that have rulers marked on the table and a guide.  Examples:  Pepe at Otto Frei, Heavy Duty Precision Shears at Rio Grande.
  2. The bench or lever shear, which is used for rough cutting. It doesn’t have a table or guides (as far as I know). Generally, they are used for cutting heavier metal – like your 18 gauge. Examples: Otto Frei, Value Line at Otto Frei,Eastwood, Contenti Economy Bench Shear.
  3. The throatless shear which is useful for curved and straight cuts but, like the bench shear, is not a precision cutting tool. It is called a throatless shear because you don’t feed metal down its “throat” like with the guillotine shear and you can move the metal around to cut curves. Examples:  Harbor Freight, The Beverly Shear at Otto Frei.

***Note:  I don’t have personal experience with any of the above examples except for the Harbor Freight Throatless Sheer which does the job and is inexpensive.

Some shears have holes in the upper blade to cut rod and wire.

There are also electric shears but, the cutting swath is wide so, you waste a bit of metal – not great if the metal is a precious metal.  I’ve never tried these but, at Harbor Freight, they are pretty inexpensive and they supposedly cut 14g.

Many jewelers use both a bench shear or throatless shear and a guillotine.  But, it is not necessary to have two.  

Before purchasing a shear, you want to consider is:

  • the size, gauge and type of  metal you will be cutting
  • what you want to spend
  • how much space you have on your bench top
  • which type of shear you want to use and why

Do you want to cut with precision (a guillotine with an adjustable ruler and cutting guide) or is breaking down larger sheets of metal what you will be doing?  I buy 2’x3′ pieces of copper from our local metal refiner and the throatless shear is great for that.  But, if I’m making a box (for example), I want precision cuts and use my precision guillotine.

When purchasing a shear, I can’t stress this enough, be sure to check what gauge metal it cuts and what size metal you will be cutting. Quite a few of the guillotines, I researched, only cut 22 gauge and up.  If you will be cutting 18g or 20g, it won’t work for you.  That goes for wire too.  Here’s my drill bit chart for converting decimal inches to gauge (most of the non-jewelry suppliers post sizes in inches). Read on to hear about my purchasing “mistake”.

Most Precision Guillotine Shears, like the one that I stupidly purchased, will only fit certain sizes of metal.  The one I have, has a throat that is only
 4″ wide.
.  Inline image 1
(Pepe 4″ at Otto Frei) So, I have to pre-cut my metal with my throatless shear and then cut it with the guillotine.  They make wider throats but, the cost goes way up.
This shear from Pepe says that minimal force is needed.  I have not used this shear so can’t vouch for it.
Crazy idea here:  what about mounting the shear to a low, wooden box or board (heavy and sturdy) and using your feet to push down the handle?  I’ve never tried to do this but, out legs tend to be pretty strong.
Check out George Goehl’s YT video on using Grizzly Shears.  George has tons of great information at Youtube and his website.
Metal Cutting Bench Cutters

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What is Big Red Vice Grip that I saw in one of your videos?


“I have been eyeing a tool that is in one of your older videos – it looks like a “Big Red Vice Grip” that is some sort of “press”.   The tool looks like it is vice, gripped to a corner of a work space then has a horseshoe looking Vice with a rubber center.   Can you tell me what that is?”


I think you are talking about this tool:  Inline image 1.  It’s called a pipe or yoke vise. Here’s a link to Amazon. For my teaching studio, I bought the cheaper Woodstock version (also Amazon link) and it’s great too.  Wish I had bought the cheaper one first!  I love it for ring mandrel holding, bracelet mandrels, etc.  Cheap and very, very sturdy. Back to Table of Contents

What Dremel Attachments Do I Need?


“I am about to purchase my first Dremel tool 3000 series and wanted advice on the attachments I might need. I want to start working with coconut shells which is why I need a cutting, sanding, buffing and polishing system.  Do you have any advice on the bits I might need?”


I think that the bits/drills, etc., should probably be purchased as the need arises.  There are soooooo many different types of bits available and they are all very specific to a task. Have you perused Rio Grande’s online catalog?  They have 7 pages on burs and drills alone. They have many different types of attachments and explain (somewhat) the uses.

Obviously, drills will be important as will buffing, sanding and polishing implements. Something for cutting like cut-off discs or a metal cutting blade. I love the Wolf Belt Sander for sanding and finishing but, any belt sander would work.  I also love sanding discs which are found on my sanding webpage .  I would imagine that woodworker related tools would work well with coconut but, I don’t know, as I’ve never worked with it before.  Because of my lack of knowledge in that area, I couldn’t recommend specific tools to finish coconuts. Have you been to my website? Please see “Related Web Pages” at the top of this page for more information. I have a bunch of information that may help you.   Don’t forget to wear a mask and goggles! Back to Table of Contents

Questions about Riveting – Hole Punches Vs. A Drill/Flex Shaft


“I am trying to use my money “effectively” and would like to know how best to set myself up to rivet at home. I purchased a 2-hole punch ( but wonder if getting a drill makes better sense as it provides more flexibility? If a drill, which one? I have seen some piercing/riveting systems but I would rather use rivets and eyelets with a hammer the way I saw you do (using the plumb bob and those other handheld tools). I do own a chasing hammer, a riveting hammer, and an anvil.” BTW, my husband has a Dremel.


Since your husband owns a Dremel, that would be the cheapest way to go.  Those hole punching pliers and presses are well and good but they are, as you said, not very versatile and they are more expensive than drill bits – you are also limited in how many different size holes you can drill.

Generally, when setting up a shop, there are initial expenses that might be steep.  What needs to be remembered is that these tools will last for a very long time.  But, you can start small and buy tools as the need(s) arise.  Junk stores, garage sales, ebay, etc. are all great places to find gently used tools.

The simplest setup for riveting is a Dremel or flex shaft or even a hand drill, a piece of wood to drill on, some drill bits, lubricant (any oil or beeswax product will do – it preserves the life of the bits).  For the actual riveting:  a jewelers saw for cutting wire and tubing or a wire cutter that can cut the wire you will be using (like these power max cutters), something like the plumb bob – to spread tubing – or a nail set like this from Amazon , a chasing hammer or any hammer with a small ball peen on one end and a steel block or steel sheet.  Old irons or other steel odds and ends work fine.  You just need a piece of steel that is flat.  It also helps to have small things to rivet on (when you can’t place the piece on a flat surface without marring the details) like a dapping set.  This one from harbor freight is really inexpensive and works great.

You’ll want drill bits that are either the same size as or slightly smaller than the tubing or wire you will be riveting.  It also helps – to make perfect holes, when fit is imperative – to have a drill press like this one at Amazon.  The nice thing about this press is that is also accommodates Dremels that have a flex shaft attachment. The drill press keeps the bit from wobbling while drilling which can cause uneven or larger holes. But, you don’t HAVE to have a drill press.

Harbor Freight High Speed Tool Steel Drill Bits – gauges start at a size slightly smaller than 14g and goes to a little less than 3 gauge.  These are larger drill bits but, do have their uses especially when drilling holes for tubing.

Smaller drill bits are available.  I buy sizes that I use often like for 14G, 12G, 16G and 18G. See my Drill Bit Chart for conversions to bit numbers.

Tubing is probably cheaper in the long run than pre-made rivets or eyelets.  You can get tubing at Home Depot or Rio Grande Jewelry, Metalliferous, etc.

Down the road, a tubing cutter might come in handy.  They have them in plier form or you can purchase the miter cutting vise – which is also useful for making straight edges on sheet, tubing and wire. Having this type of tool makes cutting tubing easier and saves time because the edges are straight and even. Back to Table of Contents