A bracelet mandrel makes shaping and stretching bracelets a breeze. Most of my wire bracelets are formed by hand first then the final shaping is done on a bracelet mandrel with the help of a rawhide hammer.
The big question has always been round bracelet mandrel or oval. I look at it this way. My wrist is oval so go with the oval bracelet mandrel. I think some bracelets sell better when they are shaped with a round mandrel but for the most part oval bracelets fit better. And they don't twist around and end up with the clasp on top and the focal bead on the bottom of your wrist.
Steel mandrels will take more abuse than the wood mandrels. But how hard will you be hammering on your bracelets? No very hard I bet. So do you prefer hammering on steel or wood? And then there’s the issue of weight. Steel mandrels are heavy and cold.
I have never had a problem with scratched bracelets due to the steel mandrel but you don't have to worry about this with wood. Wood mandrels will prevent the marring of your bracelet when shaping and forming, but you will have more nicks and wear on the wood mandrel over time. I think it’s just a preference of the feel of wood versus steel.
I have a stepped bracelet mandrel because I wanted a flat surface and not a tapered surface for forming my bangles. I found that with a tapered surface I had to keep flipping my bracelet around because it wasn’t flat on the inside. It was...well...tapered. So I’m a little anal about this detail. I want a precision look to my jewelry. Most people will not notice this little detail but I do. And the stepped mandrel limits you to four sizes while the tapered mandrel allows you to make a lot of different sizes.
My mandrel has a tang on the end. The tang allows me to hold the mandrel in a bench vise, but to be honest with you, I have never done this. I usually just hold it between my legs or in my lap. What can I say I use my whole body sometimes to make my jewelry. Maybe it's more ergonomically correct to put it in a vise but that's not gonna happen. When I'm forming my bracelets I'm constantly turning the mandrel. I'm sure there are better ways to do this but it works for me. Don't get hung up on the tang feature unless you think you might use it.
So what's my conclusion to the debate over bracelet mandrels? I like my steel tapered mandrel but I'm thinking of buying a quality hardwood tapered mandrel. Oval or round? I'm going with the oval mandrel.