Tronex Pliers and cutters
Tips and Advice on choosing the right ones.
Whatever your style of jewelry making, every jeweler needs pliers. But with so many to choose from it can be quite bewildering.
Dave Wilson is a silversmith of over 20 years, and a well-know Youtube presenter. A self confessed plier addict, he has worked closely with Tronex to test many of their pliers and cutters. He was even made a Tronex Ambassador for the brand. Here, Dave will guide you through ‘some’ of the Tronex range, explaining the popular models and offering some personal recommendations for the jeweler.
So, what makes a good set of pliers?
When I began in Jewelry making many years ago, every book and teacher said that I must avoid lap joints – This is where the two halves overlap (lap) and are attached with a hammered rivet, rather like a pair of basic scissors. The problem with these lap joints is that they can eventually wear loose, creating movement at the tips of the pliers. Lap joints where always considered inferior pliers. The advice was to buy “box joint” pliers. In box joints the joint is much more robust, with one handle threading through a “box” on the other. Because of this construction, a box joint is usually stronger and less inclined to work loose. Many of the better-quality pliers you will see have this box joint feature. However, if they do ever wear loose, there is no way to tighten or adjust them. You will always see different quality from different manufacturers. There are good and bad versions of both styles. But, for many years box joints were considered to be superior.
Above. Lap Joint (Left) and box joints (right)
However, in recent years this has all changed. Tronex has developed a new kind of joint. Whilst it may look like a lap joint, there the similarity ends. This is a whole new concept. The Tronex system uses multiple precision-engineered parts from specially chosen materials, to combine the mechanical properties of strength, smooth operation, and resilience. Instead of a central rivet, Tronex use a specially hardened steel sleeve. This greatly increases the size of the pivot and helps to spread the load placed upon it. Inside the sleeve, is a hardened steel bolt, which further increases strength and offers the ability to adjust the pliers should you need to (I have never had to do this). Between the joint, is a Delrin washer. Delrin is a tough polymer, which has a very high resistance to compression but also has very low surface friction. It provides the smooth action of the pliers. The Delrin also eliminates metal on metal contact and therefore reduces wear. The Tronex joint really is the latest in design and engineering to create a smooth precise joint, which is tough and long lasting.
The Tronex joint showing the different components.
Although Tronex were pioneers in developing this new system, it has been copied the world over, and variations of this new joint design can now be seen in most popular brands.
The handles are probably the most important yet overlooked part of any tool. Pliers are an extension of your own hands; a positive and comfortable grip is essential. The handles need to provide secure grip, even with dirty hands. They must be comfortable to use all day long without causing fatigue or blisters. They should also offer a good level of feedback, especially when performing delicate tasks. Once again, Tronex has combined different materials, each with specific properties, to create the optimum grip.
The distinctive two part cushioned grip
Firstly, the handles themselves are steel and form an integral part of the pliers. Like a quality knife, they are full tang with the steel extending all the way to the ends of the handle. No weak spots or joins. The steel handles are coated in not one but two layers of handle material. The first is a tough red plastic-type material, which provides the resilience and grip to the steel. With many pliers, this is sufficient. But with Tronex, you also get a second layer of the Blue ESD foam rubber. This blue outer layer has a spongy, slightly porous texture. And this has several important properties. The texture provides incredible grip. Even with soiled hands, sweat and grease. The grip is always sure and solid. The slightly compressible nature of this layer also provides cushioning. This means the pliers can be used repeatedly, without fatigue or blisters.
What is ESD? This stands for electrostatic dissipation. They will help to dissipate static electricity. This is an essential factor when working with static sensitive equipment such as electronics and computers. Hence why Tronex pliers and cutters have become the choice for electronics engineers and tech manufacturers the world over.
Most of the Tronex pliers and cutters have springs. One big advantage is that having return springs (which open the jaws), is that you can hold the pliers properly, with all four fingers around the handle. This gives better grip, and increased comfort. It also allows you to give more pressure when needed. Pliers without springs are typically used by hooking one or more fingers under the handle to open it (like a hairdresser may hold scissors). Which is not the ideal way to hold pliers. The Tronex return springs offer just enough spring to open the jaws, without creating extra work. They are also designed such that the jaws can be fully opened, and the springs will disengage allowing maximum opening.
With such a vast range, Tronex offer pliers for every situation. I have been fortunate to own and test most of them. Obviously, your own needs will vary depending on the style of Jewelry and the materials you work with. But let me share a few suggestions for the jeweler.
My Daily pliers.
For making chain mail designs, small chains, and general Jewelry work, I prefer to use a combination of straight chain nose 513 and a pair of bent chain nose 552 As mentioned, I prefer the shorter series 5 handles. But both are also available in the series 7 longer handles too. 713 and 752. I also have a second pair of bent nose but these are 551 almost identical just a little finer. Whilst I have many Tronex chain nose pliers in various lengths,, I prefer the short nose ones, as for me my fine chain mail is very tough on my pliers, but the shorter jaws have taken the punishment for years, without any issues.
Round nose pliers.
Tapered round jaws. Essential for working with earrings, wire working, jump rings and basically anything small and circular. Tronex make several options with long, medium, and short jaws with series 7 or 5 handles. They also make extra-long nosed versions. These are great for fine intricate detail, but the extra length comes as the cost of strength. If you bend and twist tough wire, then this action can be very punishing to pliers. So, my personal preference is the shorter jaw round nose pliers, 532 or 732 The shorter stubby jaws are tougher.
Wedge shaped with smooth flat contact surface. For many people, the workhorse of the bench are straight jaw pliers. Again, Tronex offer many versions some finer and more delicate, some tougher. But once again I would suggest that for daily use, look towards the heavier and shorter jaws. Such as the 545 / 745. These offer good solid jaws for bending and gripping. Note that unless states otherwise, most of the Tronex pliers shave smooth jaws.
Tronex 745 Flat Jaw Pliers
Tronex make a vast array or pliers for every possible task. But here are a few which may be worth considering adding to your bench…
For wire workers, Tronex recently made an option with stepped jaws allowing you to hold and bend wire 542 / 742. These where produced at the request of a customer who was a prolific wire worker, and suggested the design. The step also provided more power and grip right at the tips.
Tronex 542. Note step in the jaws,
Half Round / Half flat.
One of my personal favorites is the half round and flat pliers. 546 / 746 One jaw is half a circle, the other is a wide flat jaw. These are great for bending larger wire hoops, earrings, and for bending small to medium rings. The round jaw on the inside and the flat jaw outside allows you to exert pressure without indenting the outside of the ring. You may prefer the longer handles for a little more leverage.
Tronex Ring bending pliers, note the different shaped jaws.
Needle nose pliers.
There are several pliers available with very long needle noses. Such as 521 / 721 Some of these are rather delicate for bending and twisting metal. And the leverage is such that they do not produce as much force at the tips compared to the short nose pliers. However, they can be of great use as precision tweezers, in particular note the 522 / 722 which have serrated jaws. Perfect for holding small items, tying knots in cord and for working with micro chains. When working under my microscope welding small chains, these pliers become invaluable, finer than chain nose, but much stronger than tweezers.
Cutters are where Tronex really made their global reputation. The range available is staggering. Not only do they vary in size, but the shape of the head, the profile, the shape of the tip and even the sharpness. Many have been created for very specific jobs, especially in the electronics industry. But for the jeweler they offer some of the most precise cutters you can get. For most jewelers’, a couple of pairs will cover most your daily cutting needs.
As with the pliers the preceding number refers to the handle length 5 for the shorter handlers and 7 for the longer handles. Additionally, with the cutters the last number refers to the flushness of the cut. You may ask, why doesn’t everyone just buy the cleanest cut possible? You can, but the sharpness of the cutting edge is a tradeoff between creating the perfect flush cut and having tough cutters that will last. So Tronex offer three levels depending on your requirements. Note that in all cases, flush cutters only cut flush on the outside.
- Flush cut gives a superb cut, but the minute bevel on the edge of the cutting surfaces creates a tiny bevel on the end of the cut wire. They are still much finer than any standard DIY wire cutters you may have used. The Flush cut makes them much more robust and able to stay sharper for longer. So, for daily use these are great.
- Semi -Flush. These cutters have finer edges and will give a much neater end to your wire, requiring little of no cleanup. Great for working with precious metals where you don’t want too much filing. However, these finer edges aren’t quite as tough as the regular flush cutters, hence they are recommended for finer wire and softer materials. But for silver and gold they are offer the best combination of cut and longevity
- Razor cut When you want the best, then the Tronex Razor cut is the choice. These cutters will give an almost perfect straight end to your wire, requiring almost no cleanup. Perfect when you need ultimate accuracy. The neat cut is also important when working with valuable materials where you don’t want any wastage. The tradeoff here is that the very finely honed edges are only suitable for lighter gauge wire and softer materials. It’s great to have a pair when you need them.
7812 this pair is quite large and are great for general wire cutting. Despite their larger size the oval tips curve to a fine point, so they can cut in surprisingly tight areas. I use these daily for almost everything. Note this pair only come in one size handle, which is slightly different to the series 7.
Prior to owning the above, one of my first ever cutters where the Tronex 5512 These are small, rounded head cutters great for everyday Jewelry work. They have been sat on bench for years and are used daily, for the smaller jobs. Again, these are 2 flush cuts. A great clean cut, but also tough and have lasted for years.
note the image here is the razor flush version.
The oval head profiles above offer great strength as there is a lot of metal right at the tip. So, for daily use the large and small oval head cutters above will be ideal. And there are many oval head cutter sin between in different cuts and handles. However, there may be times when you need something more, perhaps something extra fine or with a very precise cut. Tronex also make tapered heads, distinguished by their angular profile, tapering to a sharp point. Additionally, they also make relieved heads, which are even more tapered and pointed at the tip. These will allow you to get into tight areas. Great for small chains and beading work. Obviously, these finer cutters aren’t quite as robust as the oval heads, and only suitable for light use on softer materials. but for very fine work look at small tapered relieved heads with No 3 razor flush edges. The most popular is the 5222 and 5223 models.
set back from the front and such narrower at the tip.
My Daily use tools...
- 513 Chain nose pliers. Short stubby and tough. My left-hand pliers
- 552 & 551 Bent nose pliers. Two pairs of these, but usually use one pair along with the above for making chain mail. These are my right hand.
- 7812 heavy duty large oval head cutters. Daily workhorse for cutting wire, making jump rings etc. tough and robust, but a great accurate cut.
- 5512 small oval head flush cutters. Great medium sizes cutters, lasted years.
- 5223 razor flush cutters, particularly when I’m working with gold wire. As mentioned, no cleanup and no wastage.
- 522 needle nose pliers. Use instead of tweezers for small accurate holding and placing.
- 746 round / flat pliers. Best suited to smaller tasks, and a great accompaniment to my Pepetools ring bender.
Finally, the Tronex range offer great value,. But for even better value check out the sets available at Pepetols.com. These sets offer a simple one stop selection of pliers and cutters either in series 5 handles or the longer ergonomic series 7 handles. There are also sets especially selected by jewellers. So all the hard work is done for you. These sets also offer extra great value and make ideal gifts. click the image to check them out !
The Tronex Kits offer great value and make excellent gifts.
Click above to see more.
The Tronex range are designed and made right in the USA. They offer great quality (Guaranteed). At a fraction of the cost compared to some premium brands. The Tronex brand has become known the world over and theres a reason for that. Check out the handpicked selection at Pepetools.com If you’ve got more suggestions or requests? Simply get in touch.
by Dave Wilson
© 2020 Pepetools.
Reference - Tronex Model Numbers
First Number = Handle Length
5 = standard handles
7 = long, ergonomic handles (1 “longer)
Second Number = Head Shape/Size
Third Number = The Profile of the Cutter
This applies for oval and taper head cutters. Relief cutters have a "lower profile" and can get into tight spots better than standard cutters. Standard cutters have more material in the head so are stronger and can cut heavier material.
1= standard profile
2= relief profile (thinner jaws front to back)
Fourth/Last number = Edge Finish
3 = Razor Flush®
First Number = Handle Length as above.
5 = standard handles
7 = long, ergonomic handles
Second and Third Numbers = Model Number
Each model has a unique two digit code.
The above reference kindly supplied by Tronex Tools.