I am addicted to tools and am like a kid in a candy store when I find myself in a Hardware department. However, I have found that some of the utensils I use the most are simple tools I have fashioned myself.
When making raised floral lampwork beads I like to give each floral petal a crease down the centre to give that realistic touch. I have bought a tool with which to do this with but was never happy with it. I had several hobby knives laying around, so I cut a piece of brass sheet metal and sharpened the end on an electric grinding wheel to give a reasonably sharp edge, and replaced the knife cutter with the piece of brass. I've used this simple tool for years and it does a wonderful job.
If I'm working on a piece of sterling silver jewellery, I quite often like to add texture to the metal. I bought an inexpensive hammer from 'Cheap as Chips' for about $3.00 and then using an engraving bit in my dremmel, cut into the hammer head with a wavy design. I hammer the silver pieces with this to give a textured surface. Simple!
I need to add my silverwork to a pickle mixture after the soldering process to clean the silver. You don't need to buy a pickling pot specifically for this stage. I bought a second hand electric frying pan, place the pickling mixture into an old casserole dish, that then sits in the frypan and keeps the mixture hot.
I can also utilise the frying pan in my lampworking area. If I am working on a bead that requires elements to be made first and kept heated, I lay them in the warm frying pan in the lead up to attaching the pieces.
When making my woven pieces I need very few tools. I weave the piece held securely with u-pins, on a portion of foam board. Couldn't be any easier than that.
Not all my tools are made by myself, I have some really cute hammers I bought from Roma Zone on Ebay. When I received them I thought, wow they are so small what use will they be, and now I find I'm reaching for them more than my other regular hammers, I think they're great for working on silver wire.
This tool I must confess I don't have. Ever since I began silversmithing years ago I have lusted over a rolling mill, but alas they are far too expensive here in Australia and will remain on my wish list. I have read that a pasta machine can work with thin sterling silver to add texture. You just roll it through (obviously not through the shredding section), as you would with a rolling mill. I'm still on the lookout for one, and hopefully in the not so far future I will be able to test this idea out myself.
If you have any great tools to share, please feel free to do so.