How to Make a Mobile - Part 1 - Mobile Making Tools
I've had a number of people email or call me over the years asking what tools I use to make my mobiles. My philosophy is share knowledge always, can't take it with me when I'm gone.
When I began my journey as a mobile maker I couldn't find any resources so I stumbled around and tried a ton of the wrong materials and tools before I found the ones I love. And of course, Amazon is kind enough to support me when I support them so all the links below are part of my affiliate store. They don't charge any more $$ to you, the customer for following my links and buying from them but they do give me a tiny stipend for sending you there.
Round Nose Pliers - While I started with my wubber jewelry making round nose pliers, which are wonderful, I soon found they were too small and hard on my hands to make use of them for long. After lots of research my husband found electricians round nose pliers. My favorites are Knipex ergonomic. Buy a good tool and you only have to buy it once. Buy cheap tools and you will have a drawer full of unused cheap tools. But, I know that budget, when starting out, is very important so I have found a less expensive alternative made by Wiha tools. They aren't as easy on the hands as the Knipex but work well:
Long Nose Pliers - I use long nose pliers to crimp my wire to a component in a handcrafted staple. Look for a blog post soon with instructions on creating a component group. I like the Irwin Vise Grip long nose pliers because the handles don't come off over time. I've bought more brands than you can count and the handles on so many of them slip off after 1 to 2 months of daily use. If you want a less expensive alternative a dipped grippy handle is another good option. I like the Irwin Vise Grip long nose pliers also due to the ergonomic feel to the handle and the handles stay on over time.
TIG Stainless Steel Welding Rod - .045 and 1/16 - These are the rods I use for mobiles under 6 ft in size. Any component/rod combo over 16 inches I will use the larger 1/16th inch size. I use these rods in 36" lengths instead of coils. I can always bend a curve in a straight rod but it's nearly impossible to make a spool of wire straight. I use the grade ER308 or ER309. The translation from decimal to wire gauge is roughly .045 is 18 gauge and 1/16th is 16 gauge.
Memory Wire Cutters - I use these to flush cut the rods. Occasionally, while working with the rods, your fingers or hands will slip and if you cut your rods with a pinch cutter like the ones on the long nose pliers you can end up on a trip to the emergency room for stitches. The flush cut of the memory wire cutters won't absolutely prevent you from cutting yourself but they cut down on the accidents (excuse the pun).
Hole Punch - While drooling over gemstone beads at a bead show in 2008, before I ever made a mobile, a seller gave me a demonstration of this amazing hole punch. She showed me how it could punch holes in pennies and dimes and I thought, hmm... maybe these would make cute penny earrings. So, I bought the hole punch and never used it. Not until I started making mobiles. Now I use it daily. This tool can punch holes in almost any thin material (except stainless steel). Well worth the investment.
Parallel Jaw Pliers - They are pricey! I found these about 5 years ago and while they aren't absolutely necessary to make mobiles I also use these daily. I purchased a few pairs of used ones on eBay because $99 for a pair of pliers is just out of my price range. I found them used for about $30-$45. When crimping your handcrafted staple to a component these come in handy keeping your round wire in place while crimping. I also use these on every mobile I make both large and small as they work well in adjusting the straightness of a rod after turning a loop (another day, another lesson).
Component Materials - These materials can vary greatly. From items that can be hung at the ends of your rods to pieces that can be attached to them the possibilities are endless. Kydex, mat board, and plexiglass are just a few suggestions:
These are my daily tools that make almost all of my mobiles. My next tool blog post will go over some of the tools I use to make mobiles over 6 ft in size and some component group connectors.