Improve Your Jewelry Loops with 6-Step Bail Pliers

Mark A. Carlson

 Are you ready to try a new round nose plier for your wire jewelry making?  

This is a comfortable, easy to use round nose plier that will:

  • improve the consistency of your loop size
  • provide nice circular shaped loops
  • allow you to make larger sized loops and curves.

 If that sounds good, then a pair of 6 step looping (aka bail making) pliers is just what you need.

I am a surprised by how long it took for me to use these round nose 6 step pliers for all my wire loop making. I guess old habits die hard, but now I rarely reach for my tapered round nose pliers to make loops. I think these looping pliers are great for beginner wire jewelry makers.

6 step looping bail pliers by BeadSmith

6 step pliers have 3 different sized round barrels on each
side of the jaw. There are several different ones available, but the ones I
have are from T
he BeadSmith and they have barrels that create loops 2mm, 3mm, 4mm,
5mm, 7mm and 9mm in size. 

And in case you are wondering, this is not a
sponsored post. The BeadSmith didn’t give me my pliers (although they are welcome
to send me tools or supplies anytime – I would be happy to review them). However, it does contain affiliate links to Amazon which might give me a small commission on your purchase without any additional cost to you.

Round nose and 6 step loop pliers

Round nose pliers are a necessity for wire jewelry making.
They are used for lots of tasks – from making loops for eye pins or links, to
bending curves for clasps and earring findings. The most common (i.e. standard)
round nose jewelry pliers have tapered cone-shaped jaws. They allow you to make
a range of loop sizes based on where you place the wire – small loops are made
using the jaw tips, larger loops are made at the base. Round nose pliers can vary
quite a bit in how round the barrel is, how steep the jaws taper, how well they
hold thin wire and if they can handle thicker wire. Their main similarity is
the tapered round barrels. My favorite round nose pliers are Tronex round nose, standard handle P531

In wire jewelry making, loops are a basic and essential
technique. It can also be one that people (especially beginners) struggle with
– for several reasons. Your loops may not be fully round (teardrop shapes are
common) and it can be hard to make the same sized loops consistently. It can
also be challenging to find a single pair of round nose pliers that gives the
full range of loop sizes that you need, or can work with the different sizes of
wire you need, so you will probably end up with multiple pairs of round nose pliers.

So, are the 6 step looping pliers better
than tapered round nose pliers – especially for beginners? 

First and foremost, I think the six step looping pliers are
the best pliers to make consistent sized loops. With standard, tapered round
nose pliers, the best way to get consistent sized loops is to mark a line on
the spot on the barrel you use and align with that spot for each loop. The marker
rubs off easily and even with the line there, it is easy for the wire to move
either higher or lower on the barrel, making the loop slightly larger or
smaller than you intended.

With step pliers, you don’t get as wide a range of loop sizes, but your loops will all be the same size as long as you use the
same size barrel. I find the smallest 2mm barrel is perfect for bead headpin
loops, the loop on hook earring findings and for wrapped loops on beaded
bracelets. I also sometimes use the 3mm barrel for these same purposes, but
with thicker wire. I don’t usually miss having the ability to make a loop smaller than
2mm or a size in between 2-3mm at all. 

As I mentioned, the 6 step looping pliers can only make six different
sized loops but it gives a greater range than any of the tapered round nose
pliers I have. In the picture above, the wires with 6 loops are from the 6 step pliers and the other wire
is a sample of the smallest loop size, the largest loop size and two more sizes
in between from my round nose pliers. The largest loop size from the step pliers is perfect
for making the curved hook for French hook earring wires. The other three sizes
in the middle work well for pendant bails, clasp hooks and links. I did the samples with two sizes of wire – 24 gauge (gold) and 18 gauge (copper) because I have read comments that the step pliers don’t always close properly to use smaller gauges of wire. I use 26 gauge wire frequently with them and don’t have any issues.

There are a few things you can do with 6 step looping
pliers that you can’t do with tapered round nose pliers. One of those is making
wire coils. Wire coils are used several ways in jewelry designs, including to
make jump rings. I sometimes like to stretch out coils to make wavy wire too. 

Or you can separate the wire coils to make flowers.

Another thing I really like about the 6 step pliers is that the barrels are long enough for me to bend two pieces of wire at the same
time. For example, you can make two earring hooks at once by starting with two pieces of wire the same size. Align the wires, and then work with both as one when bending
the loop and the hook. 

If there
is one thing that takes getting used to with the 6 step bail making pliers. It’s
making the right angle bend when you are making wrapped loops. It’s a little
bit tricky, especially when you want to make a smaller wrapped neck and you
want the bend to be close to the top of a bead. I just use the smallest barrel
to make the bend and then flip the pliers to make the loop using that same
barrel. Not a big deal, but my preference is to not have to re-position the
pliers. It’s a small issue for sure.

Of course, there is at least one thing you can do with
tapered round nose pliers that you can’t do with stepped pliers. That is making a
cone shaped finding. I haven’t often needed to make cones, so this isn’t an issue for me. Regardless of how great 6 step pliers are, you will still need to have round nose pliers in
your tool box. They are essential – but for me, I have made the 6 step pliers my primary round
nose pliers instead of a backup or specialty tool. 

One final thing I like about the 6 step pliers is that you can
keep the wire wrapped around a step of the barrel while you are wrapping the
loop. This keeps the shape of the loop and prevents the wrap from tightening
the loop and making it smaller while you are wrapping.

I hope you will buy a pair of the 6 step looping pliers and find them easy to use. I used them almost exclusively for the projects in my new wire jewelry for beginners book that will be available in November, 2022. Now I am totally hooked on using them for everything.  Also, they aren’t expensive.

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