Guide to choosing the right flatback crystal applicator tools
Flatbacks or rhinestones as they are often called come in a wide range of shapes and sizes that vary greatly depending on the manufacturer and model/style of crystal. The most well known brand is Swarovski who manufacture a wide range of shapes and sizes that start from size ss3 which are just 1.4mm in diameter. Their most popular flatback style from the SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS range are the Xilion Rose 2058, which are round multi faceted crystals available in sizes ss5 (1.8mm) up to ss48 (11mm). Although the sizes may not sound that different ss5 crystals are used primarily for nail art and require multiple crystals to cover one nail, a single ss48 crystal on the other hand is as bigger if not bigger than many peoples finger nails.
To accommodate working with the various crystal sizes there are numerous applicator tools currently available on the market a number of which we will look at in this post. While some of these tools may pick up the full range of crystal sizes this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best tool for the job. This is especially true if crystallizing items if part of your business where time means money, you want a tool that will allow you to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. To accompany the post there is also a video showing how easy or difficult the selected tools make picking up the various crystal sizes.
Magic Pick Mini
Manufactured by the BeadSmith they come in a pack of 3 plastic wands with foam bud tips, each wand comes with a clear plastic sleeve for protecting the tool when not in use. The opposite end of the plastic pick is ideal for applying adhesive to small areas as it has a flat slanted face and pointed tip, which can be used for applying a tiny dot of glue for a single crystal placement. The Mini Pick as its size suggests is designed for picking up smaller size flatbacks without leaving any traces of sticky residue on the crystals. Unlike similar tools the buds stickiness does lessen after some use as it’s made of foam and not wax so you will continually have to recoat the tip when its stickiness goes. To rejuvenate the tip you simply roll the bud over one of the two adhesive strips supplied which re-coats the tip with a tacky coating. Although intended for smaller crystals a mini picks will pick up ss48 crystals comfortably and if its just one or two of these larger crystals you are applying it will work fine. However when applying large quantities of bigger crystals they do tend to drop quite frequently as the tacky coating gets used up quite quickly which can become very inconvenient. For working with larger crystals a more suitable tools will most definitely reduce application time and frustration considerably.
- Perfect for small crystals
- The tool end is suitable for ensuring crystals are firmly in place or applying adhesive
(If you are using this tool for nail art you will most likely be applying the crystals to gel, nail varnish or nail glue and therefore using a suitable brush to apply the surface the crystals will adhere to)
- A pack of 3 means you have enough tools for applying the crystals, the adhesive and ensuring any crystals are pressed firmly into place
- You have to re-coat the tip when the stickiness goes
- Not suitable for larger crystals (although it will pick them up)
Again Manufactured by the BeadSmith these come as a pack of 2 plastic wands with wax bud tips and are a very effective and inexpensive way for picking up flatback crystals. The opposite end of the jewel setter comes to a rounded point so can be use for applying adhesive with (alternatively you can use the spare jewel setter for this task keeping the one you are working with clean). When working with a jewel setter I always like to keep a wooden orange stick handy as it’s nice flat face makes it a much better tool for pressing crystals firmly into position than the end of the jewel setter. Crystals will look dull after they have been applied using a jewel setter because wax traces are left on the crystals. Don’t let this put you off as once the adhesive is dried a quick rub over with a dry cotton cloth and all the wax is very easily removed. When applying crystals with a jewel setter the wax can get soft after prolonged use if this happens just put the tool in the fridge for a few minutes and it’s good to go again (make sure there is no glue on the tool and keep it away from any food). You also need to be careful when picking up crystals not too press to firmly or the crystal can get embedded in the wax, if this happens just use an orange stick or the end of the other jewel setter to dislodge the crystal.
- Perfect for larger crystals
- Fast and easy to work with
- An effective inexpensive tool
- You get wax traces on the crystals
- Not suitable for smaller crystals
- If you press too hard the crystal gets embedded in the wax bud
There are many types of tweezers but the ones tested are fine tipped curved Stainless Steel tweezers which allow you to pick up the full range of crystals. Although this is the case my preference would be to use one of the other tools when applying crystals. The reason for this is that the other tools only require that you touch a crystal to pick it up, tweezers on the other hand require you to grip the crystal between two metal jaws to pick it up. The crystal can quite easily flip when being picked up (and quite often does) or drop if you release the tension or in extreme circumstances you can scratch or damage the crystal if you squeeze too firmly. Aside from these issues my biggest dislike of using tweezers is that when you place a crystal onto the adhesive the ends of the tweezers will often get glue on them. This can/will then get transferred onto the face of the crystal or the work surface when picking up the next crystal. The tweezers themselves are light weight have a nice fine sharp point so care needs to be taken and the curved tip lessens the strain on the wrist when repeatedly picking up crystals. A word of warning be wary using the ends of the tweezers to push down on the crystals to secure them firmly in the adhesive as doing so will likely smear the faceted face with adhesive that has collected on the tips. In the interest of giving a balanced opinion I will say that my Wife who has worked a lot with Crystallizing handmade cards, shoes etc will only use tweezers as she doesn’t like working with any of the other tools, so what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other.
- An inexpensive tool
- Long lasting
- Can be used with the full range of crystal sizes
- You get glue on the ends of the tweezers especially when working with smaller sizes
- Glue can get spread onto the crystals and work surface from tweezers tips
- You need to grip the crystal to pick it up
- Productivity can be slow
Is an applicator tool Manufactured by CrystalNinja it consists of a wooden sleeve with a pointed wax tip one end and a chrome effect tip on the opposite end which is designed for pressing crystals down firmly into the adhesive. Although the tip is made of wax it doesn’t leave wax traces on the crystals as its a lot harder than the jewel setter wax. The wax tip is also replaceable so that if it breaks or wears down through use you simply unscrew the chrome end and insert a new tip. Of all the tools this is the most comfortable to work with especially if you are crystallizing for long periods of time. The only downside of the tool is it’s cost, for someone who just wants to customise a pair of converse the jewel setter is a lot more economical being a fraction of the price. On the other hand if the tool is going to be used multiple times especially for long periods this would most definitely be my tool of choice : ) It’s recommended for working with crystal size ss12 and up but will quite easily pick up smaller crystals (down to ss3) when the tip is new and pointy. You will still need an orange stick or something similar to apply your adhesive with when using the Katana, but the up side is that the chrome end is better than any other tool I have tried for ensuring that crystals are firmly pressed into the adhesive (ss12 and up).
- Very comfortable to use for long periods
- Wax tip makes picking up crystals very easy
- Wax tip is replaceable
- Chrome effect end is perfect for securing crystals in adhesive
- Expensive if you are only using the once
- Wax tip can snap if you press too firmly (If this happens it can be repaired by warming the wax up in your fingers and moulding back into shape)
Pick-It-Up Vacuum Tool
Also Manufactured by the BeadSmith this is a mains powered vacuum unit that allows you to pick up beads, chattons and flatback crystals. The tool works by using suction to pick up a crystal, the level of vacuum or suction strength can be controlled via a rotating wheel on the main power unit. When working with smaller crystals you have to reduce the level of suction then as the crystal size your working with increases you simply increase the suction strength accordingly. The complete kit comprised of a mains vacum unit with a clear tube that connects to a metal rod with a hole in. On the end of the rod is a angled precision tip (which looks much like a craft syringe tip) with a rubber end. To use the tool you set the required suction strength, place the tip over the flatback and then cover the tube hole with a finger. This ensures that there is 100% suction and allows the crystal to be picked up. To release the crystal simply remove your finger from over the hole, the suction will drop and the crystal will be released (if the suction is turned up too high the crystal won’t be released). With a bit of practise its easy to get to grips with judging the level of suction required for picking up the various crystal sizes.
If you try and pick up a crystal that is smaller or the same size as the hole in the tip it will naturally get sucked up the end of the tool, so its not recommended for using with the smallest crystal sizes. The other thing to be aware of is that if the crystal is not the same size or larger than the end of the tip when you press the crystal into the adhesive it tends to get glue around the outer edge of the tip, which in turn gets onto the face of the next crystal being picked up. To prevent this from happening you have to drop the crystal when its a shade above the adhesive. The tool has a gentle hum when turned on but gets noisy when turned up to full suction, it also require a mains electrical supply to power the unit so you need to make sure there is one handy. When working with the tool you also need to ensure that there are no kinks or sharp bends in the plastic hose or the suction will drop considerable.
- Controllable suction levels for larger and smaller crystal sizes
- No mess or residue left on the crystals
- Tool is long lasting
- Very Expensive if you are only using the once
- Smaller crystals get sucked up the end of the tool
- Adhesive can get on the end of the tip if the crystal size being picked up isn’t as big as the tip end.
- Can be noisy
- Requires a mains power supply
Flatback Applicator Tool Suitability Chart
Thank you for reading our Guide to choosing the right flatback crystal applicator tool we hope you found it useful and welcome your comments.
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