Tool Envy & the “Tale of the Dremel Accessories”
One of the first questions I’m often asked by those beginning a wire-work journey is “What sort of tools should I buy?” And my response is this:
“Buy? Who said anything about buying?” I began my own journey with a mortgage to pay, a child on each hip, a single income household with a craft budget of exactly zero, and tools were a luxury I couldn’t afford. Luckily, I married into the life of a man and his toolbox, and he loved me enough to ignore the travesty when he spied me using his Craftsman pliers to wrap river rocks.
Don’t get me wrong. I love tools. I salivate over them. In my crafting fantasies, I wander into a room full of them, curtains billowing in a cool afternoon breeze, a soft candlelight haze settling like a whisper on the sloping curves of plier handles and those sexy Dremel flex-shaft attachments. The disembodied voice of Lionel Richie sings “Hello” to the hypnotizing hum of a tumbler in the shadows. And all is right in the world.
Then I wake up.
But really, it’s not as sad as it seems. I had wire cutters, pliers and a skill for improvising, and my hands did the rest. Even today, several years into my journey, my tools consist of cutters and three pairs of pliers. Throw in a Dremel, butane torch, ring mandrel and tape measure and I have all the tools I need (and some I definitely don’t). I have a single drawer of beads and stones, a drawer of wire, and I’ve proven to myself wearable art can be born from a state of “tool poverty”. Of course, this proclamation is not inclusive of every jewelry artisan, each with a unique creative perspective, and especially not for those whose interests extend into fields far more involved than my own. And I certainly don’t mean to imply you can’t enjoy the opportunity to experiment with new tools and supplies if you have the means to do so.
But I will say this: there is limitless creative possibilities attached to the bare necessities. I have no need for table-top kilns or tumblers. I have no need for files. I only have two hands, and lack ambidexterity, so a collection of pliers made to me little sense. In fact, my Dremel has been so mistreated I should be stripped of my right to own it. Just last week while working with metal blanks (a medium with which I have little experience), I thought “Oh Dremel, I’ve finally found for you a use! I’ll smooth these edges with your adorable bits and we’ll make a beautiful metal love child together”. Ten minutes later, shamed by my complete inability to operate that irritating contraption, I took the bit off and used it to sand the metal by hand! That’s right. By hand. And ironically, the results were cleaner. I’ve been so tool-denied, my hands are, in many instances, the superior tool. Go me!
And though that is an accomplishment in which I should find immense satisfaction, I still… well… want. I have a Dremel I don’t use, a torch I’ve used twice (both instances having involved burnt hair), and I still want more. This is tool envy at its ugliest, folks. And I will… not… cave! I will not buy that tumbler I’ll never use. I will not buy that dapping set or that looping kit or that thing that does that thing that I’ll never do but it looks cute so I must have it! And okay, maybe I’ll buy those files and that hammer and that bench block, but first I will prove to myself I don’t need to buy it.
I don’t need any of it.
What I do need is a bead and some wire, maybe a glass of wine, and definitely Lionel Richie chanting “Hello” from the darkness, and all will be right with the world.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t want. Just create. It simplifies things, I promise.