9 Tips for Better Metal Jewelry Making: Metal Stamping, Texturing Metal, Riveting & More
It’s always a great day when I get to share a new jewelry-making book with you! Today it’s Tracy Stanley’s new book, Exploring Metal Jewelry. Ideal for beginners and intermediates at wire and metal jewelry making, this book is packed with loads of technique tutorials and more than a dozen projects in Tracy’s signature style, featuring a little bit of everything, which I love. Do you like to combine charms, beads, gems, metal components, and various other materials in your wire and metal jewelry making designs, too?
“Collecting bits and pieces is half the fun!” Tracy says. “Whether it is something found on the ground, on a beach, even in my local craft or bead store, I am always collecting for the next unknown project. I guess I am a bit of a scavenger. What happens next with these treasures is anyone’s guess. I often lay them out and let them tell me what direction to go. Riveting, wire wrapping, and metal forming are all skills you will learn in this book, so you, too, can take your treasures to amazing places.”
Those three techniques–riveting, wire wrapping, and metal forming–are essential metal jewelry making skills that every jewelry maker should know. Here are nine tips, including some new-to-me ideas, that I gathered from my first skim of Tracy’s book. I think they’ll be helpful to every jewelry maker, beginners and beyond!
- Doodads for riveting: I love it when I see a jewelry author write about doing something that I do–it’s so validating of my crazy ways! “Sometimes you need to look past what you think something is used for to see its potential! Bead caps are a perfect example,” Tracy says (and I couldn’t agree more). “Some bead caps work great for adding texture and design. These I flatten, and if the hole is too small, punch the hole larger. Some bead caps don’t flatten well, so you need to be willing to take a risk. Coins are another unique object you can rivet. These can make fun additions to your piece; just make sure you can punch through them without breaking your punch.” You might consider using a drill for creating holes in unknown or mixed hard metals like coins, rather than our sometimes-delicate metal hole punches.
- When coiling wire: “If you use wire as your mandrel, be sure the wire you use to make the coil is at least two gauges smaller than the wire you’re using as a mandrel. The mandrel will tend to bend too much if not,” Tracy says. And if you’re using copper wire, she notes that “Copper wire tends to stick to copper wire. So avoid using copper wire as a mandrel for copper coils. If it can’t be avoided, make sure you stop periodically as you wrap to be sure the coil can move on the wire.”
- “The metal for your jewelry pieces is far more interesting if it’s textured,” Tracy says. While a rolling mil is ideal for this, she prefers hand tools like hammers, hardware-store finds, and brass texture plates. “Most of the time, I texture 24-gauge sheet metal,” Tracy says. “I love to spend hours just texturing, antiquing, and polishing metal. Then, when I sit down to work, I have a huge palette of metals to pick from.” I love this idea! When I got Anna Griffin’s Cricut embossing machine a few years ago, the first thing I did was emboss every single piece of paper in my scrap box with her embossing design plates. When I was finished, I had a box full of textured paper craft embellishments instead of a box of scraps. Why didn’t I think of doing something similar for metal jewelry making? Great idea!
- Hole too large in your bead or bead-like object? All out of bead caps? Tracy shows how you can make your own spiral wire bead cap using the same wire you use to make a wrapped loop, just be sure to allow extra wire to form the cap after the loop is done.
- I’ve used brass texture plates to texture metal in a rolling mill and on metal clay, but did you know you can transfer their textures onto metal sheet using a hammer? Here’s Tracy’s method: “Tape a texture plate to the metal and place on the bench block with the texture plate down. Use a household hammer to firmly strike the metal, overlapping your strikes. You will be able to see the texture change on the metal where you hit. . . . You need to make contact over the whole piece in order to cover your piece with texture. Lift the plate without removing the tape and check the texture. If you are happy with it, remove the plate. If it needs more texturing, place back down and continue to hammer.” Tracy also points out that the texture on your metal won’t be as deep as it is on the texture plate, but when you antique the metal, the texture will pop. Also, if your metal curls during hammering, use a plastic mallet to flatten it.
- To make wire spirals, Tracy says, “Make sure the end of your wire is down deep in the pliers. You don’t want any part of the wire end sticking out of the groove of your pliers’ shafts when you start. This will give a good curl on the end. If the end is sticking out, it will make a tear shape instead of a round shape.” If you want to make an open spiral (below), “Grab the spiral with the tool only in the area that is already formed. If you grab in areas that are not formed, you will have angles in your finished piece.
- Tracy shares three great pointers for making sure your metal stamped words are spelled correctly with no backwards or upside-down letters: “If your stamps aren’t clearly marked as to the letter and orientation, tap the stamp on an ink pad and stamp on a piece of paper. Use a permanent marker to write the letter on the side of the stamp in the orientation that the letter stamps. Then put a line under the letter; this will tell you which direction the stamp should go.”
- Create a stamped word stash, like your textured metal stash in number 3. “The more you stamp, the better you get. When I stamp words or phrases, I do a bunch at once,” Tracy says. “Why stop after you start getting into a good rhythm? When doing this, make sure to leave enough space between the words and phrases so you can rivet them to your pieces!” Such wise timesavers!
- Consider copper tubing for stamping words and phrases. Why? “Well, the great thing about using tubing is . . . it’s strong, easy to cut, and has two edges that are smooth,” Tracy says. Two smooth edges are two less edges you have to cut, file, and finish! She also adds that flattening the tube will make it easier to cut; then you can stamp away or use the flattened tubing for other metal jewelry making projects. Plus, copper tubing is readily available at the hardware store, whereas copper sheet in the gauges you want might not be as easy to come by locally.
All of these tips were pulled from the metalworking, wireworking, and finishing techniques section of Exploring Metal Jewelry–which follows a section of metal jewelry making tools and materials information. The book wraps up with 18 inspiring jewelry-making projects that put your texturing, riveting, metal stamping, and other basic metalsmithing skills and no-heat techniques to use in metal jewelry making. Order Exploring Metal Jewelry, Tracy’s all-in-one resource for beginner and intermediate jewelry makers–or instantly download the digital version of Exploring Metal Jewelry if you can’t wait another minute to start learning! Learn more about Tracy and her new book.