An Introduction to Jewelry and Metalsmithing Tools
Manufacturing jewelry is a great way to tap into your creative side along with having something cool and original to wear. Don’t like what you see in the stores? Make what you DO like. Wear it, make it for others, or sell it.
Before you can make jewelry, though – you need to get the appropriate tools. Some tools you will have to buy and some you could potentially make (see the articles below). We have included a list of the basic things you’ll need to get started along with a link to an explanation of the item and where to purchase it.
Not having the proper tools won’t inhibit your creativity, but it may cause you problems in constructing your designs. In the long run, spending money on cheap tools will cause you frustration. Look for well-made tools, maybe not top of the line, but close. Take the time to carefully choose your tools. Even if you never use them for making jewelry again, they can be used for plenty of other projects.
- Magnifying visor: to work under magnification.
- Prong pusher, Burnisher, Bezel roller: for setting stones.
- Metal stamps: SS, 925, Sterling, Karat, etc. for marking jewelry.
- Needle files
- Saw frame, blades, and beeswax
- Bench pin
- Flex shaft
- Wire cutters
- Ring mandrel: for making rings to size or measuring existing rings.
- Ring gauges: for measuring fingers for ring size.
- Ring clamp
- Metal ruler, Scribe, Compass, Dividers: for layout, design and measuring.
- Hand drill and small drill bits: for drilling.
- Containers: for holding filings and scrap.
If you want to get a little more advanced, you could turn up the heat and try soldering.
- Pickle pot
- Flux brush: for applying flux. Or a small model paint brush works just fine.
- Soldering surfaces
- Third hand
- Solder pick
- Yellow ocher: stops solder from flowing in a previous joint.
- Straight and T pins: for holding parts in place during soldering.
- Binding wire: for holding pieces together while soldering.
- Tweezers: for locking on to and regularly picking up small pieces and hot metal.
- Shears: for cutting sheet metal and large parts.
This article is about getting started in metalsmithing (the key skill required to make jewelry). The general procedures for working with the different precious metals are pretty much the same, so most of the tools I list above are fairly universal. There are variations in the characteristics of the metals, but the tools are largely the same.
As you get started, one thing I do want to mention is SAFETY! You will be working with chemicals, sharp cutting edges, and heat. Soldering temperatures for silver range from 1325 degrees F to 1490 degrees F. The best safety tips I can pass on to you are to take your time and to become familiar with the tools, materials, and procedures you will be using. If you feel uncomfortable using or doing something, research it and ask questions.
I know from personal experience , how easy it is to get lost in the joy of creating a trinket and start rushing. That’s when I usually get burned or cut with a saw blade. If nothing else, taking your time might save you some rework on your project. Please work safely.
A good reference book is The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. This book has a lot of good information in it. The text and drawings are clear and easy to understand. It is divided into 8 major sections including; materials, surfaces, shaping, joining, casting, stones, mechanisms, and tools. The quotations are great, as is the reference section.
One thing you are going to need that is not a tool is metal. Silver and gold are available in sheets of different thickness, round, square, triangular, and oval wire in different gauges, patterned wire and patterned bezel material. Silver bezel is made out of .999 pure silver, this is very soft and makes it easy to push it over a stone. I suggest that your first project be done in sterling silver as it is less expensive than gold.