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· Rambles...
· Rambles...
· New tools and contracts
· Tool thoughts
· End caps
· Venetian glass bead necklace on leather cord, handmade clasp
· Aquamarine and labradorite bracelet
· Rambles Part Two...
· EZ Bracelet Sizer

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One woman's adventures in the wide, wonderful world of beading.
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posted by Colleen Shirazi, September 8, 2007 at 1:45 PM (Pacific)

I made my first ring today, and discovered something. You need a ring mandrel. lol...

Making the ring isn't difficult, but controlling the size is next to impossible without the mandrel. I kept grabbing it and trying to size it, but as you're working on it, it tends to slide apart and get bigger. Grabbing it and pulling it back tends to make it too small.

I did finish it and it was a tiny bit too big. Ugh.

People often ask what tools are absolutely necessary to make jewelry. Tools aren't cheap, so it is a good question.

Of course it depends what kind of jewelry you want to make, but even if you know what you want to make, there does seem to be a sort of endless array of tools.

For example, it's only recently I got a cup burr. It's not that cup burrs cost a lot, it's just it's on top of the bazillion other tools on my wishlist. All along, I'd been using a regular emery board to smooth the ends of my wires. So I wondered if the cup burr were absolutely necessary.

Since getting it though, I like it. It doesn't miraculously smooth the wire into a dome, exactly, but it does make the end smooth and nice, better than the emery board.

When I got that EZ Bracelet Sizer, I didn't use it at first. I was used to trying to measure the strand, putting it on a wrist, yadda yadda... Once I started using the sizer, my life suddenly got a whole lot easier.

I'm not saying you have to buy a bracelet sizer; you could make one. I saw some plastic drinking glasses at the dollar store that would work. They'd be horrible drinking glasses--besides being thin crappy plastic, they were too long, and narrow at the base--but that's also why they'd make good bracelet sizers. You need something that's too long, and narrow at the base.

I'm actually pretty happy with the ring; it looks nice, but I can see the necessity of the mandrel. Apparently you can hammer the ring right on the mandrel; check this out:

Free Form Ring - Jewelry Making at

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posted by Colleen Shirazi, August 15, 2007 at 9:44 AM (Pacific)

I take back whatever tepid words I've written about this:

ez bracelet sizer

It paid for itself yesterday. Mind you, you can make your own version, but a bracelet sizer of some sort is indispensable for making bracelets. There's almost no other way to avoid screwing up the length, since what you're after is the inner diameter of the bracelet.

I made one crystal bracelet yesterday to match the "world's tackiest strand of diamonds" crystal necklace. My plan is to make at least three crystal bracelets and wear them together. The concept is pure sparkle for the sake of sparkle, hence the pile o' crystals.

Now I really need to order wire, because the bracelet worked best with a handmade hook closure. I can't wait on the catalog. I'll put together an order soon.


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New tools and contracts
posted by Colleen Shirazi, June 5, 2007 at 5:25 PM (Pacific)

Sorry, couldn't

Been playing with my new tools. It was either, "Why did I wait so long to buy them?" or "What's all the fuss about?"

Thankfully, it's the former not the latter. I'm glad I didn't replace my chain-nose or bent-nose pliers...the original ones I got from the late(?) great Bead Biz of El Cerrito are wonderful.

But my new, teeny-cone round-nose pliers have already paid for themselves. I still have my original round-nose pliers, and they're great for tasks such as creating the loops in earring wires, where you need larger cones. If you're going to make the kind of headpins that have a tiny loop at the bottom, you might want to invest in pliers with teeny cones.


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Tool thoughts
posted by Colleen Shirazi, May 24, 2007 at 2:59 PM (Pacific)

I'm analyzing my tool set today. Basically deciding which tools to spend more $ on and which can be used inexpensively. I feel this is a personal decision and not something about which you can issue cookie-cutter advice.

Some people believe it's best to buy the best tools possible up front--which usually means the most expensive--because that way, you learn on good tools and cut your learning curve.

Some people believe that if you learn on tools that aren't top-of-the-line, you will be a stronger crafter, since you make the tools work for you.

I'm a bit in-between; I do think you should start out on tools that aren't top-of-the-line. Part of it will be to see how interested you are in the craft. If you drop it after a while, you won't be out that much $.

If you decide you like it, that's when you'll have a much more concrete idea which tools should be more expensive and which of your initial, less expensive tools will still work for you.

I should clarify...some "more expensive" tools are cheaper in the long run. I'm reminded of a pair of haircutting scissors I bought back in Virginia, when I was a teenager. I believe they were $15, which, in that time and place, was a lot of money for haircutting scissors. Exotically, they were made in Germany and for whatever reason, I bought them at that beauty supply shop in downtown Norfolk.

Those scissors stayed perfectly sharp for more than twenty years with no sharpening or other maintenance. They saw many a home haircut and trim. It's only now that they don't seem quite as sharp as before...I'm estimating 25 years because I'm not sure exactly how old I was when I bought them. Pretty darn good for $15.

So that's the kind of analysis I'm doing today:
  • How often do I use this tool?

  • What criticisms do I have of the tool I'm currently using?

  • How would my work be improved by the new tool?

  • How long do I expect the new tool to last?


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End caps
posted by Colleen Shirazi, April 24, 2007 at 10:26 AM (Pacific)

So far, so good. I haven't glued them yet of course...have to see first if I have other things to glue, since some of the E-6000 remains in the applicator tip after you're done.

Here's what I was listening to while hammering the loops:

Blondie's "Shayla," 1979
Written by Chris Stein

Promise I won't put too much off-topic material in this blog, but I've been fascinated over the past several days by the sheer wealth of's like the original MTV (back when they had no commercials and played music videos 24 hours a day), The Midnight Special, Saturday Night Live, Fridays, and bootlegs, all rolled into one.

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Venetian glass bead necklace on leather cord, handmade clasp
posted by Colleen Shirazi, April 22, 2007 at 1:42 PM (Pacific)

venetian glass bead necklace on leather cord

venetian glass bead necklace on leather cord

handmade sterling silver hook clasp

I went ahead and glued the steel block back onto its base. It's still curing but that hardly means I can't use it. :D Thought I'd try my hand making a simple sterling hook and eye clasp.

Not sure if I'll keep this clasp on this piece...thinking it would make more sense to use a lobster clasp the way I did on the previous Venetian glass bead necklace. My reasoning is, these beads are expensive and they're glass. If the hook slips out for whatever reason, a chance the piece will fall and the beads crack.

That said...hammering wire is one of the most fun aspects of jewelry making ever. Even if you don't actually need to hammer something, I think you owe it to yourself to own a block or anvil and a hammer.

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Aquamarine and labradorite bracelet
posted by Colleen Shirazi, April 8, 2007 at 7:35 PM (Pacific)

aquamarine and labradorite bracelet

aquamarine and labradorite bracelet

aquamarine and labradorite bracelet

I'm pretty pleased with this piece even though these aren't the best pictures. I've found with my (older) digicam, the lighting has to be just right or else the pics get out of focus to a degree.

This is a bit more luxe than I usually make it, but it's a gift (note the gift bag!), and I wanted to do something with aquamarines. The strands are mainly faceted aquamarine rondelles, with some faceted labradorite rondelles and Bali silver beads. The clasp is also aquamarine and silver.

Got to try out that EZ Bracelet Sizer while making this piece. It does help actually. I started out with two strands, then decided to add the third strand with three aquamarine nugget beads in the center. It was too big with two strands but just right with the three.

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Rambles Part Two...
posted by Colleen Shirazi, April 3, 2007 at 11:13 AM (Pacific)

Oops, forgot to mention my EZ Bracelet Sizer came yesterday.

It's basically like a piece of laminated paper; you assemble it easily, by pulling a protective strip off the adhesive strip, and pressing the two edges together to make the cone shape. It doesn't stick and can get it apart if you stuck it wrong the first time, but it says the glue eventually becomes permanent.

It's a bit thinner than I'd somehow thought it would be. It seems sturdy enough though.

I put a bracelet on it and seemed to get a measurement of 6-3/4" where I was expecting 7". However, so what. Measuring the strand is not the same as measuring the inner diameter...and the actual measurement itself is not that important. What's important is that you figure out how big you want the inner diameter of your bracelets to be, find that line on the sizer, and use that.

Overall--worth $8? I think so, if only because it is not that easy finding an existing object with those dimensions. Most drinking glasses are too wide at the base. You could use some in a pinch...I saw some plastic ones at the Dollar Tree that looked unusually narrow at the base. But the EZ Sizer is still a bit more practical as the narrow part is narrower and longer...easier to dump a multi-strand bracelet on it.

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EZ Bracelet Sizer
posted by Colleen Shirazi, March 29, 2007 at 1:19 PM (Pacific)

I have one of these on order:

I got this tip from the forum...because I was at the point where I was trying to make a four-strand, twisted bracelet and I kept getting the length wrong. With the strands loosely twisted, the length was fine, but after wearing it for a bit, I realized it would look so much better were the strands twisted once more...and then, you guessed it, the whole piece became doll-sized.

There is no real way of measuring the strands, because the length is next to irrelevant unless you're talking about a single strand of beads. I contemplated making my own form and even started measuring plastic drinking glasses...but decided to go ahead and buy a readymade one, because it struck me as being practical. If it's as durable as it says it is, and accurate, it'll pay for itself because you need to use it every time you make a bracelet.

This one has 1/4" increments, meaning you would know exactly how much longer or shorter you need to make the piece.

Again you could make your own...looks like you could make it out of stiff paper actually. Hm. Interesting.

There's a bigger one that costs only a dollar more:

I decided on the "travel size" simply because carries it, and it would appear to serve the vast majority of my measuring needs. I don't make ankle bracelets too often and if I did, I could measure the strand (don't foresee making multi-strand anklets!). Likewise I could just measure really small pieces.

I'll post a review when I get the EZ Bracelet Sizer. I did Google it first of course--it is carried by several merchants as well as the inventor. And people have commented on it on beading forums. I got an overall impression of satisfaction with it, some people did say you had to play with it for a while to figure out exactly where you want your pieces to lie.

images courtesy


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