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Jewelers Share the Bench Tools They’ve ‘MacGyvered’ to Use for Something Else

Our readers know how to improvise.

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IN ADDITION TO his trusty Swiss Army Knife, the title character of the MacGyver TV series was rarely without a flattened roll of duct tape in his back pocket, a few paper clips, chewing gum, strike-anywhere matches and a flashlight. While the guy knew how to handle himself, thanks to his elite military training, spoke a dozen or so languages (fluently) and could relate to kids like a big brother, it was his knack for assembling tools from everyday items in the heat of the moment that made him a lasting cultural reference point. In our recent 2020 Big Survey, we asked jewelers, who we know from our years of covering the industry share this talent for inventiveness, to tell us about a single-purpose bench tool they had successfully “MacGyvered” to use for something else. They may not all share his Hollywood looks, but their answers show our readers know a thing or two about jury-rigging a viable solution when the clock is ticking.

FOR JEWELRY JOBS:
  • “Drilled a ‘channel/groove’ on the inside of tweezers so that they can easily hold earring posts while working on them. Regular tweezers/pliers have the grips inside that leave marks.”
  • “Washing-machine motor to mix casting investment.”
  • “Turned nail punches into bezel-setting tools.”
  • “Channel-lock pliers. We ground the teeth off, polished it flat, and use it for stone setting.”
  • “I use regular nail clippers to pull prongs away from stones to remove them from the mounting.”
  • “Turned a broken burr into a burnisher, a prong pusher, and a stone-pulling tool.”
  • “Spoons to curve pins.”
  • “Making a pair of parallel pliers open wider for large stones.”
  • “Reworked dental tools for wax carving.”
  • “My goldsmith turned a stone-setting burr into a porosity killer.”
  • “Rubber gloves to open antique pocket watches.”
  • “I took a pop bottle and cut it away to use as a shield when spraying Firescoff.”
  • “Epoxy: Use it to fill rings in instead of ring guards.”
  • “I am most proud of my files. I helped with the foundry to make the iron bloom, forged the bloom into wrought iron, made file blanks, cut the teeth myself. Yeah. That is truly geeky.”
  • “A nail from my toolbox, painted in glitter. It’s our ‘magic nail,’ used for those pesky customers who say, “My earring post still isn’t straight!’”
FOR NON-JEWELRY JOBS:
  • “I have used the plastic containers that laser solder wire is wrapped in for headphones.”
  • “Club soda is so much easier to open with a wrench.”
  • “A bench microscope to remove splinters.”
  • “I have found my torch makes an excellent fly killer if I can get the flies near enough to it.”
  • “Used a watch band hole punch for an extra belt loop.”
  • “Jeweler’s loupe to read labels.”
  • “I borrowed my shop’s ingot mold to hold a wire so I could ‘float’ earrings in a photo. It just became part of my tools, and when I cleaned my office during shut down, I gave it back (5 years later). The shop was thrilled. They thought they had lost it.”
  • “Diamond tweezers are great letter openers.”

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