Soldering, Sawing and More: 5 Essential Metalsmithing Tips & Advice Everyone Should Know
I can’t say enough good things about Lexi Erickson, my friend and first metalsmithing teacher. She taught me the jewelry-making basics and essentials that every metalworker must know–sawing, soldering, bezel making, and more–and I’ve continued to learn from her in the many jewelry-making videos, articles, and eBooks she has created since then (not to mention all the, “Hey Lexi, how do I . . . ?” emails!).
I figure it’s only fair that I share some of the most important things Lexi has taught me, so here are what I believe to be the five most important pieces of advice Lexi has given me (and all of us, really, through her videos and articles).
5 Metal Jewelry-Making Tips Everyone Should Know
1. Solder flows toward heat. Remembering this little catch phrase helps me remember where to aim my torch, especially when working on a large piece, as well as where to place my solder in relation to a seam before I begin.
2. “May your bezels never melt.” Granted, this is well wishes more than advice–but having read it many times now at the end of Lexi’s blogs and hearing her say it, I think of it every time I create a bezel and solder it to a back plate. Until recently, I didn’t create bezels very often, so this was a reminder for me to heat from the bottom. The back plate gets most of the heat that way, and the typically thin, more delicate bezel wire is protected from too much heat and melting.
3. Just do it. This can apply to a lot of things, but in this case, she’s talking about making sketches during the jewelry design process. And don’t bother saying that you can’t draw–Lexi will have none of that. “I start out with a series of soft triangles, circles or shield shapes, simple shapes that I use a lot. Maybe I will use a template and just draw circles, and then draw a dangle from that. It’s a great way to get started, and it gets rid of that intimidating whiteness of the blank page. Try it and see for yourself, or as my very precocious five-year-old grandson says, ‘Just do it!’ Really, what will it hurt? If you don’t like it, rip the page out. A sketchbook is not an endangered species.” Right?!
4. Lexi’s five rules or steps of soldering: Fit. Clean. Flux. Solder Placement. Heat. No matter what goes wrong in your soldering process, you can trace it back to one of these five steps. If your solder won’t flow? If your bezel melts? If your solder gets blown away by the torch? Seams come undone? Check one of these five things.
5. And the #1 best piece of advice from Lexi: “Have fun. You are doing this for fun. Don’t stress. . . . No one will see your [work] except you, or me, if I’m your teacher,” Lexi says, “and for a small fee, I won’t tell anyone!” Love her.
Priceless info, right? And yet there is so much more to learn. Join Lexi in her series of Southwest-inspired jewelry-making videos this year, each of which show how to make one in-depth project with multiple steps that build upon each other and combine for the finished product, including tasks like cold connections and metal stamping, multi-layer soldering domed shapes, setting domed and other uniquely shaped stones, and so much more.
In her latest video release, you’ll learn how to make multiples of shapes using a hydraulic press and pancake die, which you can use to create a bracelet with repeating shapes in her video, Bear and Cross Link Bracelet Using a Hydraulic Press and Pancake Die with Lexi Erickson. “Though forming with a hydraulic press seems intimidating, it is absolutely pure fun, easy, and the results are mind blowing,” Lexi says. “The hydraulic press can be one of the most versatile tools in your shop. I’m telling you, if you don’t know how to use a press, you need to learn, because this can be one of the most useful tools in your studio.”
Learn more from Lexi when you instantly download Bear and Cross Link Bracelet Using a Hydraulic Press and Pancake Die. Whether you make the project just like hers or make your own version, you’ll learn great metalsmithing techniques and jewelry-making tips from Lexi along the way.