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Setting Up Your Silversmithing Studio

Setting Up Your Silversmithing Studio

Get Your Studio Together!

Create a space where you can thrive and explore new techniques. 

The ancient art of silversmithing, of shaping and manipulating silver into being utensils, jewelry, vases and artistic items, dates back to 600 B.C. For centuries silversmiths have annealed, engraved, repoussed, chased, and soldered silver and other non ferrous metals to perfection while also manipulating and enhancing tools to be more effective and efficient. 

This ever so versatile art form offers enough techniques to keep one busy for a lifetime, yet you only need a few tools to get started! In this guide, I list essential hand tools, considerations for setting up your solder station, a brief polishing guide, and instructions on how to get exclusive discounts with Rio Grande, a jewelry supplier based out of Albuquerque, NM. 

First on the list is a stable workbench or table. Your workbench is the birthplace of all your projects, and where you will spend a lot of time pouring over new creations. The standard height of a workbench is 35” - 39” and it is advised that you have an adjustable chair. A few workbench alterations can be found here.
Next you will need decent lighting, ventilation for soldering, and an optivisor for eye assistance.

________

Hand Tools

***Links to items can be found in the second column.

Steel Block

R.G. - 111211

17.85

Mandrel (Acrylic or Raw hide)

R.G. - 112215

$19.15

Ball Pin Hammer

R.G. - 119335

$11.20

Assortment of Files

Jewelers Saw Frame

R.G. - 110131

$6.48

Saw Blades (0/2 is my favorite)

R.G. - 110306GR

$22.20 

Bench pin for sawing

Many Options! 

$5.00

Ring Mandrel 

R.G. - 112120

$16.25

Bracelet Mandrel

R.G. - 112917

$28.50

Flat Nose Pliers

R.G. - 111912

$5.65

Round Nose Pliers

R.G. - 111926

$5.50

Clippers

R.G. - 111931

$5.90

Brass bezel roller

R.G. - 113079

$3.75

Brass Mallet

R.G. - 112137

$19.65

Manual Drill Press

Amazon

$23.65

Electric Calipers

Amazon

$23.99

Jewelers Vice

R.G. - 113147

$17.60

Sanding Sticks 

Drill bits

Assortment

Stick glue,  super glue, graph paper

Deburring Tool Amazon $12.00

TOTAL COST

$240.00

 

Metal Stamps: Impress Art Letter Stamps or decorative stamps made by The Supply Guy, Metal Supply Chick, House of Stamps or handmade Navajo Stamps from Thunderbird Silver in Farmington, NM.

Solder Station 

You don’t have to have a professional jeweler’s studio to solder like the pros. The key is having a good ventilation system and ergonomics. First choose a nice open space in your home or studio that has a window or some sort of built in ventilation system. Next set up a fan near your work space to draw away any fumes away from you or instal a window vent. A walk-in closet or confined places are NOT good places to set up a soldering station. 

To cover a few safety measures, wear natural fiber clothing when soldering. Synthetic fabrics will melt if something hot lands on it. Protect your floor by covering it with an office mat or carpet remnant. Keep a small cup of water (also good for quenching) and a fire extinguisher close. Then make sure your hair is tied back and sleeves are rolled up. 

In regards to set up, lay ceramic tiles or a sheet of stainless steel over your work surface to protect it from heat and flame. Using a solderite block, charcoal block or honeycomb on top of your soldering board will boost the heat to make the torch more effective. Then keep your tools on the side of your dominant hand so you do not need to reach over flame or other hot stuff to get to what you need.

For more on how to set up your solder station - watch this Joe Silvera Tutorial.

 

EZ Torch from Otto Frei

O.F.

$124

Torch Striker

R.G. - 50302515

$7.75

Solderite Pad

R.G. - 502064

$8.75

Soldering Tweezer Assortment

R.G. - 115781

$16.00

Third Hands Base

R.G. - 502066

$8.95

Mini Crock Pot (for Pickle)

R.G. - 501021

$19.15

MyTFlux

R.G. - 504006

$10.25

Wire Solder (Hard, Med, Easy, X Easy)

Rio Grande

Stainless Steel Binding Wire

R.G. - 108000

$28.00

Citric Acid (for Pickle)

Amazon

$7.49

Pre Flux (½ Distilled h2o & Boric Acid)

Amazon

$13.99

TOTAL COST

$244.33

Additional options: Tri-Pod, cool guard, yellow ochre, white out

Polishing Metal

There are SO many ways to polish metal. Here are my top ways to polish my jewelry. 

  • Polish by hand using 3M sanding spongesbrass brush,  #4/0 steel wool, or a pro polishing pad.
      1. Clean your metal thoroughly. Scrub your piece with a cleaning agent (dawn soap, bar keepers friend, baking soda) and a hard toothbrush.
      2. Thoroughly rub down your silver using the 3M sanding sponges. If I have a decent amount of clean up I will use superfine. Otherwise I will start with ultrafine, then move to microfine. 
      3. **If you would like to oxidize your piece of jewelry, for example add oxidation in stamped areas or textured embossing, add an antiquing agent (liver of sulfur, black max, or silver blackener) to the desired areas. RINSE OFF THE AGENT & DRY. Then repeat step 2 & polish the higher areas, to add dimension to your piece. 
      4. **If you would like a brushed satin finish, go over your piece with 0000 steel wool.
      5. **If you would like a sheen finish, go over your piece with a fine brass brush. 
      6. **If you would like a mirror finish, go over your piece with a pro-polishing pad. 
      7. For a brief tutorial - watch here. 
  • Polish by hand first then use a rotary or vibratory tumbler. 
      1. Always clean your metal thoroughly! Scrub your piece with a cleaning agent (dawn soap, bar keepers friend, baking soda) and a hard toothbrush.
      2. Thoroughly rub down your silver using the 3M sanding sponges. If you need to clean up solder spots or blemishes, use a foredom or a superfine sanding sponge. If no cleanup is needed, scrub the piece with an ultrafine sanding sponge and then a microfine sanding sponge. 
      3. Next, apply antiquing agent in the desired parts. Rinse off the antiquing agent and repolish the high spots using sanding sponges. I get the piece completely polished up, to where once I put it in the tumbler
    1. Want to polish with powertools? Watch this FREE class with Beaducation. 

    Last but not least

    Rio Grande offers student discounts for those studying with registered instructors. It is their way of investing in future silversmiths and keeping the trade alive. And all of my students get access to this discount. If you have studied with me, reach out to get the access instructions! 

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