WHAT TOOLS TO BUY TO GET STARTED MAKING JEWELRY

Posted by Corkie Bolton on

WHAT TOOLS TO BUY TO GET STARTED MAKING JEWELRY

Since Metalsmith Society's creation in early 2018 I have received regular messages from aspiring jewelers who want to know what tools they need to buy to get started. This is a challenging question to answer if I overthink it, so I won't! I will merely make some recommendations to help get your bench set up and hopefully it will help since there are an overwhelming amount of tools out there! These are just suggestions and for every tool I recommend another ten could also be appropriate. All jewelers acquire their tools over the years, so you can start with these basics and then order things as you need them!

You will need something to keep your pickle warm! I love this slow cooker because it has different heat settings and is a great size to accommodate a bunch of different sized projects. You will also need copper tongs to remove pieces.

While there are many surfaces you can solder on I like honeycomb soldering boards. They are lightweight and reflect heat. You will want to place this on top of a heat resistant table top, tiles or one of these soldering boards. I use the soldering board because it allows me a surface to place and pick up solder.

Having a solder pick is an essential. You can use it to pick up and place solder on your work.

You will also need a pair of cross locking tweezers, and a third hand to go along with them is an investment you won't regret. They are used to hold pieces when soldering.

White paste flux is a staple at every bench! You will need it when annealing and soldering. You will also need a brush to apply it!

You will need a bench pin! You can purchase a bench where you insert one or you can just use one of these mountable bench pins. I like this one because it comes with slots which are helpful when saw into sheet metal!

You will need a saw frame and saw blades. There are many brands, some with incredibly cool ergonomic handles, but the german frames work great and are a good value! Saw blades - 6/0 are the thinnest and 6 is the thickest. A size 1 works great when sawing 18-20 gauge sheet.

Using some sort of lubrication when sawing is critical! You can also use this lubricant on files and burs. It will help keep your tools in great condition!

You will need files. I like Grobet, they are quality and will last a lifetime. There are different cuts and shapes and lengths. Investing in a set of needle files is a great idea and a few larger files. Flat and half round will get a ton of use!

Sand paper is your best friend. This set includes grits from 120 to 3000. Essential!

If you are serious about jewelry making, you will ultimately want to invest in a flexshaft. Foredom makes an incredible product and the SR model is nice because it has a reverse feature (this is useful when using setting burs!) With proper maintenance they will last a long, long time. This set also comes with some bits that you can experiment with.

There are many, many torch options. I'm going to recommend getting an acetylene air "outfit" and then go to your local plumbing supply to get a b tank filled. You can solder almost anything as it comes with a variety of torch tips.

If you are just getting started its helpful to have pliers of various shapes but you don't necessarily need to go top shelf right away. In time you will know which shapes you use the most and then you can invest in nicer ones.

Accuracy is everything in jewelry making. I highly recommend getting a steel electronic caliper to measure!

A raw hide mallet will be used for forming, bending and flattening metal. If you were to start with buying one hammer I'd buy one of these.

A steel block of some sort is needed for a surface to hammer on. 

When you are creating rings a steel ring mandrel is a necessary tool. It will allow you to assess size and you can also hammer rings directly on it. This Pepetools one will last a lifetime and size your rings consistently and precisely. 

A 3m respirator mask can be used while soldering, sanding and polishing to protect against fumes and particles. You will also need filters. To read more about studio safety check out my other blog article.

Safety goggles are A MUST. I've had bits of metal fly at my face, tiny silicone particles and splashes of hot flux. Better safe than sorry!

A work apron will protect your clothing and body. Why not buy a Society apron? Your purchase supports this blog and the Society Instagram page.

If you want to be able to experiment with bezel settings you will need a bezel rocker and burnisher minimally. This set is cool because it includes those plus a ring clamp to securely hold your rings while setting, but you can start with the two tools and go from there.

Get the book Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight and read the whole thing. It will explain EVERYTHING you need to get going. The professional version is worth the extra $20!

You will need shop shears, they will cut bezel strip and sheet solder (if that's what you choose to use.)

When you get into hammering, using a disc cutter etc. you will definitely want to protect your ears! These ear muffs are amazing, and you can easily wear safety goggles with them!

If you are planning to do stonesetting you will likely want to invest in an OptiVISOR it helps you have a magnified view of your work when you need to see the details. Every time I flush set a stone I'm wearing this to be able to see if what I'm doing is correct. I like the 2.5x magnification.

3M Painters Tape is an awesome thing to have in your studio. When you get a fresh sheet of silver cover it with tape to protect from scratching, when you are setting stones you can cover your cabochons to help prevent a scratch if you accidentally slip with your burnisher. Very handy stuff.

I could keep going and going, however I think this is a decent list to get started! Each item I recommended is linked to Amazon, should you choose to purchase through the link I will get a little something, something. However these items are available at tons of retailers, and shopping local is always nice.

Now that you have some recommendations for tools to get your bench set up there may be follow up questions as to what raw materials are needed. The only recommendation I have here is experiment! Brass and copper are inexpensive metals that can allow you to try different things. Go to your local library and find books with projects and instructions. Watch instructional YouTube videos!

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5 comments


  • Thanks for the list! I am a beginner and I love all the stuff you post! I save so much of it!!!

    Kasey on

  • When I started someone gifted me old items from their studio and some great advice –
    I started with a dremel and hand torch and have slowly built up my stash of tools as I learn what I want.
    If low on funds and starting on a hobby basis (like myself) I have to suggest checking out auction houses and flea markets! I picked up a ton of dental tools for $5 once that have become a staple on my bench!

    Heather on

  • I’m just getting started and right now I do not have a flex shaft, tumbler or a polisher. I eventually want all three but which would you recommend starting with first? Btw I love Metalsmith Society. It is a huge help.
    Thanks

    Brandi on

  • Super duper list. I’ve spent some time trying to make lists of what to gather here and there and this pretty much nails it. Another thing I found helpful is .. rather than stressing over what to use for pickle — good old vinegar and salt has worked wonders for me in the shop.

    CYCLEBABE on

  • Great list!🤙🏼 I don’t have a dedicated studio and I rent so I only use a Blazer handheld torch for now. I also really love my tumbler, it’s not a necessity but it shines my metals up so nicely! 😍

    Holly on

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