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So you’ve settled on becoming a silversmith. Congrats! You want to learn a new trade and have spent way too much time ogling the screen enamored by all the amazing handmade jewelry on Instagram and Etsy and said to yourself “I wish I could do that!” Well kudos, you’re one step closer to becoming a silversmith.
One of the more frustrating parts of learning a new skill or trade is figuring out what tools you’ll need and how much it’ll cost you to start it up. Well, never fear because I am here to shorten that process for you.
First and foremost ask yourself : “What do I want to make?” If you have a specific niche of jewelry or accessories you want to make you could start there. But for the majority of newbies I’d suggest learning how to make a simple sterling silver ring. From there you can add bezel cups and stones, or make your own. But, to start you need to learn the basics.
The Nitty Gritty
So what are the basic tools and where can I find them?
First understand what I mean by basic- these are the bare minimum tools you will need to start with. If you learn with these, you will acquire the skills needed to make basic sterling jewelry. From there you can sell the simple jewelry you make and use the profits to buy more tools so you can make the big $$$ stuff .
So where? You don’t need to go to a specialty shop or spend top dollar on tools to start with. You’ll acquire the good stuff later. You can get it all in one place you already shop – that’s right Amazon. Below I will individually list all the items with links so you can shop without wasting time!
You won’t need a huge torch to start out with. These micro torches are perfect for soldering jewelry. The smaller size is easier to hold and will teach you patience
2. Tripod or Charcoal block
Here you have the choice of either or. Both are useful. The charcoal block is cheaper and perhaps a little easier to work with. The tripod is better in my opinion because you can heat from underneath. However you will really need to have a flame retardant mat underneath the tripod or work on a metal table . You can learn to solder with either and eventually will need both. (buy both if you’ve got the cash!)
3. Third hand/ Tweezers
Third hands are an absolute must for soldering! These hold your piece so you can solder, and you can take out the tweezers and use in other applications. You will want to have a couple pairs of tweezers around as you will be picking up tiny pieces of metal and transporting them often!
4. Mallet / Hammer
Here is something you can go cheap on in the beginning. However, when you start getting more advanced you will want to buy a nicer mallet and will need multiple types of hammers. This mallet though is perfectly fine and won’t mark up your sterling silver. Do not be tempted to use a regular hammer!
You’re going to want to start out making rings so a mandrel is absolutely necessary. You will use it to shape and size your rings. A stainless steel mandrel is what you want- not wood or aluminum!
6. Steel Block
Sterling silver is delicate and can pick up marks from other metals and objects. So you will want to use a steel block so you can hammer things flat without the threat of scratches.
7. Flush Cutters
These will cut wire up to 10 gauge. You absolutely need these.
Once you cut the metal you will need something to take off all the burrs and smooth out ends so scrapes and snags won’t happen. That’s where files come into play. To start out, you can just buy a set of inexpensive jewelry files. You will want ones that have a good grip because you will be using these often (with a lot of motion). Eventually you’ll want to invest in better quality ones and some larger ones.
9. Pickle pot
After you solder your jewelry, you will need to clean it in a pickling solution. In order to keep the pickle hot you’ll need a mini crock pot. The small size is perfect for your jewelry pieces!
10. Polishing Cloth / Sand Paper
Finishing jewelry is the tedious part. There are many different finishes you can achieve and multiple ways of polishing your pieces. But, to start, the least you can do is get a silver polishing cloth and/or some sand paper in various grits. Eventually you may invest in a dremel so you can buff pieces, or maybe a buffer wheel or even a tumbler.
That’s It Folks
Now that you know the 10 basic tools you will need to become a metalsmith, what about the supplies you’ll need? What gauges should I get to make rings/earrings/bracelets? I will be answering these questions in my blog post next week (2/7/19)
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