8 New Metal Jewelry-Making Tips: Curing Resin, Metal Stamping, Wire Cutting, Tool Storage, and More
Plus how to create a resist under liver of sulfur, how to make natural pickle, and more!
I love you guys. Really, I do. I think about you all the time! Like the past few months, I think about you when I’m in the studio making jewelry. So I’ve been making notes and photos to share some handy new tips with you. I hope you find them helpful!
1. Repurpose scraps and findings: I’ve been melting down a lot of silver scrap lately–and then playing around with the organic shapes that result. I was just about to melt down some sterling bead caps that I’ve had for years and never found use for when it occurred to me that they might be more helpful if I didn’t melt them down. Probably inspired by Unexpected Findings, I decided to hammer the bead caps flat, just to see how it would work out. Nothing to lose, if they were going to be melted anyway, right? But I liked the result! Instead of caps for beads I rarely use, they’re now flower components with a handcrafted, hammered feel that I really like. Good save!
2. Use fewer chemicals in the studio: Make your own natural pickle with this recipe: Add 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of white vinegar. Like other pickle, it works best when warm. In addition to small CrockPots, I found another option for keeping pickle warm. I found a ceramic soup mug that comes with a plastic snap-on lid, and I use it on a mug warmer. I can seal it with the lid when I’m not using it, and it’s white on the inside, which was important to me for better visibility.
3. Stamp metal easily: Use painter’s tape to completely cover and secure a metal blank to your steel block, anvil, or whatever surface you’ll be stamping on. Rub over the blank well with your finger to secure it and to make the outline of your piece show clearly. You can mark on the tape to help with your placement. Stamp the entire word or message, and remove the tape. No slips, no misstamps, no scratches, no hammered fingers!
4. Cut carefully: Recently when I was quickly cutting a bunch of short lengths of wire, I noticed notches on many of them that were going to take a lot of work to smooth out. So I cut a piece while watching the wire cutters closely and realized that the cutters I was using had an opening near the axis that was pinching the wire every time I snipped it. Ugh! When using wire cutters with a wide jaw like these, be mindful of all their inner workings and where you’re cutting so you don’t ruin your wire!
5. Remove pink from silver: Does your silver come out of the pickle pot blushing? Remove the pink tint (which is actually copper) by dipping or soaking the piece in a small glass bowl in a solution of half pickle, half hydrogen peroxide.
6. Properly cure resin: If your resin is sticky, try mixing a small batch using slightly less hardener (often yellowish). I learned this tip from Jennie Milner in her bird earring video. Jennie also recommends stirring properly; sometimes we don’t stir resin as long as the packaging suggests because we fear creating bubbles in it, but it’s important to stir as long as indicated so the resin will be mixed properly and cure properly.
7. Recycle containers for the studio: Since I’ve started making metal jewelry, I’ve become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to small plastic containers, little bags, jars and such. I seem to need some kind of container in the studio pretty often to store this or that, and I find just the right thing in my box o’ packaging, like these old nail file sleeves (or maybe they were paint brush sleeves?) that I use to store and protect my good files when I’m not using them. Plus, all those containers stay out of a landfill.
8. Smart and easy resist: This tip came about from putting one and one together, with one coming from Jennie and one coming from Lexi Erickson. Alcohol swabs won’t remove liver of sulfur from silver, but they will remove Sharpie marker ink. So try using the marker as a resist, like this: Draw a design on silver metal with a Sharpie marker, and then apply LoS patina. When the patina is done and dry, use the alcohol swab to remove the Sharpie (it might take a bit of elbow grease) and reveal your design in the silver.
There’s just nothing like a good tip to save you time, money, and frustration–or to help you be more creative. If you’d like more great tips and advice from a jewelry expert, get two years’ worth of expert metalsmith and Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist senior editor Helen Driggs’ “Cool Tools & Hip Tips” articles in one convenient new digital collection when you download Cool Tools & Hip Tips Vol. 3 2011-2012. Benefit from Helen’s experience on metalsmithing and lapidary topics such texturing and stamping metal, proper use of jewelry-making tools, gemstone cutting and setting, and so much more.