If you have ordered your first "test-kit" for making "Miniature Cabochon Earrings", you might wonder how you're supposed to hold the tiny bit of wire. Here are a few ideas:
I'm going to discuss these tools starting on the bottom left, moving clock-wise
1) Midget Locking Pliers:
These work great as long as you just use them to push the pin into the earring back. If you use a method where you MAKE the earring on the end of the pin by adding glass directly to the pin (I find this very difficult, but a lot of European beadmakers like this method) they are a little awkward to turn. Apart from that, they are cheap to buy and easy to release the pin (at Harbor Freight you can get a pack of two for $ 4.99. Let me know if you have problems locating them....) Verdict: slightly uncomfartable but it gets the job done
2) Pin Vise:
A lot of people who make stuff on wires (like bell-flowers) seem to like pin vises. They are inexpensive (around $ 4.00 on Amazon) and nice to use when you want to turn the glass...a little time consuming to unscrew the tip and release the wire when you're done. It's also a bit difficult to place the wire in straight into the tip...My verdict is: okay
3) The Italian Wire-holder:
This of course is the best, but it's very expensive ($ 80) and very hard to find. I bought mine in Murano. I am working with my "rod-holder" company on something with a similar function, but not a blatant copy. This will take another month or so to finish.
4) Mechanical Pencil
This was a brilliant idea of mine - but it's kind of hard to find the right one. I bought a Pentel 365, and David (Mr Mangobeads) cut the tip off for me. I used it happily for a while, but then it must have gotten too hot and the whole thing came apart, probably because some plastic melted inside. Maybe if you quench it after each use, it will be okay. Verdict: slick but iffy.
5) The Austrian Solution
This one is kind of complicated - it uses a Terminal Block of wire connectors ($ 4.23 at Amazon)
In order to use this, you have to cut away the plastic housing
Then screw (an old) 3/32nd mandrel in one end, and a surgical steel earring pin in the other end
In Europe, people prepare a bunch of these - make the earring at the end of the pin, and then pop the entire contraption into the kiln. Great idea! The only problem is that the material of the connector, which LOOKS like brass, seems to be made of some other material here in the States. I tried this, being very happy with the way the whole thing handled....only to discover the next day that the brass connector had melted into a small blob of oblivion. So much for that. If you like the idea of holding a mandrel, you CAN use this method, but you have to unscrew the pin before putting the earring into the kiln. Verdict: kind of cool, something for people who like to fiddle...
If you have some other idea or suggestion, please let me know!