Friday, January 24, 2014

Tool review: Split ring pliers (and gear and key necklace!)

As Steve said when he walked through the door, "It's Friday!"  It must be time for a review.  As I mentioned yesterday, I want to discuss split rings a bit more and show you split ring pliers.

The normal way to join components together is with jump rings.  They're easy to use, but if any of your components are thin, it doesn't take very much for the gap of the jump ring to work its way loose.  Next thing you know, your piece has fallen off, possibly never to be found again.  That's one reason I don't use jump rings in my strung pieces.

Sometimes, though, I don't have a choice, like when I wanted to join two components together in the earrings I made yesterday.  Here they are again:

Since the gear is so thin, I decided to use split rings instead of jump rings.  A split ring is just like a regular key ring.  Here's a 7mm split ring close up:

Just like when you're adding keys, you start at one end, wedge the component in the gap, and scootch it along until it reaches the other end.  They are clunkier than regular jump rings, but they're secure.  I know that it will take an explicit act to get the component loose from a split ring.  Normal wear won't do it.

You know how difficult it is sometimes to get a key or rewards card started in a key ring?  You dig your thumbnail in to separate the end, and sometimes it takes a few tries to get the key shoved in there.  I have scratched my fingernail, and sometimes my fingertips get sore.  Imagine doing the same thing with a 6mm or 7mm split ring.  It can be done, but it's difficult.

Fortunately, tool makers have come up with a solution: split ring pliers.  One end is straight and one end curves in to do the work of your thumbnail in separating the rings.

The one I bought is the Bead Buddy Split Ring Plier, and I bought it at a craft store (I don't remember if it was JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels) using my 40% off coupon.  Right now on the JoAnn website it's $9.99.  A number of manufacturers make them, including Craft & Jewelry (only $2.49 right now - usually $4.99 - on the JoAnn website) and Xuron ($12.47 right now on Amazon).  I'm sure there's a difference in quality between the brands.  If I was going to work with a ton of split rings, I'd probably look into the Xuron pliers.  I know Xuron makes quality tools (see my reviews for their Fireline scissors and 4 in 1 Crimper) and would want to spend the extra money.  Since I don't use split rings that often, I'm fine with my Bead Buddy brand.

Here's how it looks in action:

Once you get your component started, you can keep using the plier to help the piece around, or you can use another pair of pliers.  I like using my bent-nose pliers.  Either way, you'll probably need something when your component is at the end, because the split ring pliers don't grab.  They wedge and separate really well, but they don't grab.  You might be able to work it loose with your fingers, but I say just grab a pair of regular pliers.

The one thing I don't like about my Bead Buddy brand split nose pliers is that the black finish is coming off.  I would think that's natural because of the movement of metal on metal, but why would they put it on there in the first place?  It's unnecessary.  I'm just glad that the flaky finish isn't affecting performance.

A benefit of having these pliers around the house is that when you next need to add a key or something else to your key ring, these work perfectly.  No more scratched thumbnails!

One thing about working with split rings (with and without pliers) is that the rings can scratch, like it did on the right side of the yellow gear below:

On components without a coating like these gears have, you might not have any scratching problems.  It's something to keep an eye on.  Since I was unable to stop the scratching no matter what I tried, I decided it would be a "feature" of the necklace I made using those gears and keys:

I decided while working on this necklace that I'm happier stitching.  :)  I've heard that pieces with "movement" are good, but I keep having to turn things around to get the gears to lie flat.  This necklace is pretty, but it's not something I'll probably do again.  The best part is that I used all of the gears.  I've made a pair of simple earrings with the other blue and green keys, which leaves two purple (earrings for me!) and one yellow.  I'll find something to do with that yellow keys, I'm sure.


  1. What a cute necklace... love the colors.

  2. I was just recently using an awl to open a split ring (and poked myself) - these pliers look pretty handy!