6 Tips for Easy Metalsmithing: Make Metal Jewelry Without Soldering or Sawing

It's festival season down here in Acadiana, with food, art, and music events happening every weekend. Between all those festivals and our weekly farmers and artisans market, I get regular doses of handmade jewelry, and seeing all of the jewelry artists selling their wares has made something very clear to me: there's a lot of metalworking going on!

Pink Petal aluminum textured copper earrings by Denise Peck  
Pink Petal Earrings by Denise Peck

A few years ago, most of the handmade jewelry I saw being sold at local events and markets was all strung or wire-wrapped jewelry and little or no metal. But now, with the growth of beginner-friendly techniques like micro torch soldering and torch-fired enameling (and sites like ours!), more and more jewelry makers are moving into metal, or at least adding metalwork to their strung and wire pieces.

Another big step into metalwork is coming with Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson's new book, Wire + Metal: 30 Easy Metalsmithing Designs. Without a jeweler's saw (they use metal shears) and without soldering or a big torch (they use cold connections and a micro torch for annealing, etc.)–and without fear or costly tools–Denise and Jane have built a bridge from wirework to metalwork.

  Blue Moon painted pendant by Jane Dickerson
Blue Moon Pendant by Jane Dickerson

Here are six tips taken from the dozens of helpful hints and suggestions found throughout the book–in addition to all of the technique articles and 30 how-to projects.

1.       If you don't want to quench heated metal in water to cool it, you can place it on a steel anvil or bench block to draw the heat out of it. Cooling takes longer this way than quenching but it is faster than simply air cooling. (Quenching copper can change the patina you've achieved with a torch, which is less likely with air drying. Also, not using water helps cut down on the chances that you'll end up with rusted steel tools.)

2.       Hole-punch pliers are used throughout the book, eliminating the need for drilling. To keep the punch from marring the metal, place a Pro-Polish pad or a scrap piece of thin leather between the tool and the metal before punching.

tape down small pieces to metal stamp  

3.       If you're using metal stamps to add texture to small metal pieces or wire, use transparent packing tape to affix the metal to your steel bench block. Then stamp onto the metal as usual without risking your fingers to hold the piece in place. If you're using a detailed stamp, you might have to hit a little harder than usual. (There's also a great tutorial in the book for metal stamping with coins!)

4.       Pickle is an acid solution (sodium bisulfate) used to remove oxidation and fire scale from metal. You can make an organic pickling solution with 1 cup white vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt, which should be kept hot, just like standard jewelry pickle.

  handmade no-solder chain by Denise Peck
Bubbles handmade no-solder chain by Denise Peck

5.       If you use standard pickle, always add acid to water-NOT the other way around. So put water in your pickle pot first and then add the pickling compound to it. Keep baking soda handy to neutralize pickle (just add baking soda until it stops foaming and bubbling), and always neutralize pickle before discarding.

6.       After using a micro screw and nut to cold-connect two or more pieces of metal, you typically trim the screw flush with the nut and add a drop of super glue to the back to help secure it. Another option is to leave a bit of the screw remaining beyond the nut and then hammer it to rivet the end of the screw flush with the nut.

metal stamped I Can Only Imagine spinner pendant by Kristi Evenson  
Spinner pendant by Kristi Evenson

In addition to these great tips, many others, and the 30 designer project tutorials in Wire + Metal: 30 Easy Metalsmithing Designs, you'll learn a variety of metalsmithing techniques along the way, including texturing and forming metal, cold connections, annealing, creating patinas on metal, and properly finishing your designs. There's also a great Metal 101 primer about various kinds of metal you might use in your designs and info on how metals are measured and cut with a variety of tools. It's a must-have resource for anyone ready to learn and add metalworking techniques to their jewelry repertoire–as well as for those of you who enjoy working with metal but already know how, who'll be inspired by the 30 great projects by Denise, Jane, and other talented jewelry designers.

Don't miss this exclusive chance to order the Wire + Metal: 30 Easy Metalsmithing Designs book and get the eBook free to enjoy right away!

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