...and why all the Tronex?
We began seeing certain quality control issues with certain models of the Lindstroms we carried after Lindstrom moved manufacturing to another facility in another country. I'm sure they'll work out their problems and be fabulous again but since we can't just do without pliers in the meantime, I decided to look around and see what had come along since the last time I did any serious tool shopping... and that's when I fell in love with Tronex.
I've always found the Tronex line interesting so I decided to test them first. When they arrived, I was working on something in a heavy gauge ring size and I was shocked when I tried the new pliers on them. They seemed to take all the effort out of closing those big, stiff rings. I went back and forth between the new pliers and my much beloved Lindstrom Rx until I could tell what caused the difference. As you know, the ergonomic Lindstroms have those big, firm but pliable handles, which is what makes them feel so wonderful in the hands. The Tronex handles are completely rigid with a foam layer on the handles so they feel very solid in the hands, comfortable but not cushy by comparison. The absence of give in the handles makes all the difference in the world with stiff, heavy rings, in that none of the power you exert is lost. Since all your force goes to bending the ring, with none wasted on give in the grip, you don't have to exert as much force to manipulate the ring. That extra leverage allows you to handle the ring more gently, which means better closures and fewer marks. I knew right away that I would recommend these pliers for heavy gauges.
My next testing project used 24g rings and I went right for my Lindstroms. My feeling was that the slight slip in the grip that's such a drawback with heavy gauge rings is a kind of safety net with small rings because it dampens movement. As you know if you've ever used very tiny rings, all movement, including any tendency you might have toward shakiness in the hands, is magnified at that scale and it slows the pace. So I appreciated the dampening... right up until I started making a 24g/1.0mm 1-in-1 chain.
That chain is a story in itself (for a future newsletter, I think) but I want to tell you the part to do with pliers now. 24g/1.0mm rings have an outside diameter of only 2.0mm. Trying to firmly grip each half of something that small isn't easy. I was using the very tips of two pair of Lindstrom bentnose pliers but I was having trouble because I couldn't get the tips close enough to each other to clear when I moved the ring to open or close it, without grinding and catching the tips of the pliers against each other. The tips are rounded so I needed to push in closer to get a good grip, but then the rounded edges would bump each other when I opened the ring. My closures were not fabulous.
But then I noticed the Tronex bentnose are flat at the tips. When I sat down with two pair of them to have another shot at the tiny rings, I found that I could get a better grip on the rings with the tips close enough to touch, yet open the ring with no bumping because the tips are so precisely flat they glide right by one another. It's a beautiful thing to see. Of course, without the dampening of movement that comes with those cushy Lindstrom handles, I was all over the place at that tiny scale and at first, it seemed like I was almost having to grab the ring as it went by just to steady it so I could get a decent grip. It was very slow going and it took me an hour to weave the first inch of chain. It's a gorgeous chain but that is not a practical speed so I thought this chain might be a one off, the kind of thing you make for yourself but then never make another one.
I got a surprise, though. Over the next few days, while I worked on that tiny chain and got used to the new pliers, something changed. My movements became smaller and more controlled, I stopped dropping so many rings and I stopped seeing so much wobble in my hands. As that happened, I stopped needing the dampening effect of the cushy Lindstrom handles and began to develop a serious appreciation for the precision of movement I could get with pliers that don't dampen motion. And my tiny closures started looking really nice.
When I started this testing, my plan was to baby my Lindstroms and make them last forever so I'd never have to give them up. I love my Lindstroms and I always will... but they're gathering dust in my tool drawer now. The Tronex pliers are not as comfortable as the Lindstrom Rx and getting used to them was awkward and not very much fun. But in the process of adjusting to them, my weaving skills improved and it shows in my chains. I'm even getting invisible closures on square rings now... and, as you well know if you've tried them, that isn't so easy.
Since I was perfectly happy in the pliers department, I'd never have chosen to take on the challenge and struggle of this switch if circumstances hadn't applied some force... but now I'm so glad it happened. Remember how thrilled you were when you made your first chain, that you were actually able to make something so beautiful with your own two hands? I'm having that feeling all over again because I'm dazzled anew with how gorgeous everything looks at this new level of precision. I don't know that I'd suggest making this change if you're perfectly satisfied with your current tools and results, but if you use heavy gauge rings and they make you tired, or you use very small rings and you're a perfectionist, I would strongly suggest getting a pair or two of Tronex pliers and spending some serious time with them. The results are very, very nice.