Unlock the Secrets of Box Clasp Construction with Richard Sweetman

You’ve just poured your heart into a creating a beautiful piece of sophisticated jewelry, and you’re seeking the perfect clasp to bring it to fruition. Just any old clasp won’t do – in fact, you realize you don’t want a commercial clasp. Not for this. You want to make it yourself.

ABOVE: Learn how to make a box clasp step by step in Richard Sweetman’s online workshop.

Feeling that a hook clasp would be too simple for your piece, you’re thinking about a box clasp. There’s just one problem. You’ve heard that the engineering involved in making them is a bit complicated, requiring precise measuring, sawing, and soldering. What to do?

Using 20-gauge silver with nickel silver for the tongue is ideal for creating a strong box clasp.

Using 20-gauge silver with nickel silver for the tongue is ideal for creating a strong box clasp.

Richard Sweetman’s Box Clasps to the Rescue

An experienced metalsmith and teacher, Richard Sweetman is a pro at creating box clasps and so much more. His popular video is now available as an online workshop, Metalsmith Essentials: Make a Box Clasp. Richard will lead you through all the design considerations, tools and materials, and detailed construction phases you’ll need to succeed at fabricating your own box clasp.

What makes a box clasp a box clasp? This type of design consists of a metal tongue that has been folded over to form a compressible wedge, which in turn clicks into a notch in the box to lock the clasp. This type of construction can be very useful to know how to do.

how to make box clasps with Richard Sweetman

A successful box clasp requires several precise pieces to work together.

Let the Box Clasp Fit the Jewelry

The technical definition of a box clasp is purely mechanical, but Richard reminds us that you can infuse your clasp with as much design and personality as you want. As the master of your aesthetic, you decide the shape, size, directionality, and special effects you’ll impart to your clasp. You can even think outside the literal “box” and apply this type of construction to hollow rings or creative interlocking pendants. All this potential means you have the power to fashion a clasp that lends itself perfectly to the feel of your one-of-a-kind jewelry.

making rings hollow using box construction

Richard made these box-constructed hollow rings with the same techniques used for box clasps.

The process of making a box clasp is fascinating. There are so many intricate parts that need to work together seamlessly in order to function properly. On top of that, the artistic design of the piece has to be considered at every turn. Richard demonstrates each step thoroughly, offering useful explanations, showing how to test the mechanisms along the way, and offering variations you might want to consider. Check out these five key points from Richard to keep you focused along your box clasp journey.

making box clasps materials

Among the tools you’ll need are a jeweler’s saw, dividers, pliers, hammers, and a soldering set-up.

Box Clasp Tip #1: Plan for Longevity

You can use the metal of your choice for the box portion, but the locking mechanism must be nickel silver for strength. Another option that will stand the test of time is 14-karat gold, though that’s considerably more expensive. You definitely want your clasp to last as long as your piece of jewelry.

Put some time into planning your clasp design.

Put some time into planning your clasp design.

Your first chance to personalize your box clasp is in the shaping of the box walls. Richard uses a 3mm-wide strip of 20-gauge silver to create a freeform, organic shape. Of course, you can make any shape you want. He recommends spending some time thinking about the design of the clasp before just jumping in headfirst.

Once you solder the ends of your initial shaped strip, you’ll need to make the locking tongue. Making sure everything fits together properly is key, and the tongue will determine the size of the notch you’ll need to cut in your box.

Box Clasp Tip #2: Watch Your Tongue

Using a jeweler’s saw, pliers, and a hammer, Richard creates the locking tongue from nickel silver. Remember the “compressible wedge” part of the box clasp definition? When done correctly, the folded end of the tongue will spring back slightly when you press on it with tweezers.

Left: Make sure the tongue can fit inside your box design. Right: If your box design is large, create an inner box to make the tongue fit snugly.

Left: Make sure the tongue can fit inside your box design. Right: If your box design is large, create an inner box to make the tongue fit snugly.

The most important part of making the locking tongue is ensuring that it can fit inside your box design. Just as the box can’t be too small, it also can’t be so big that the tongue wiggles around. For a larger box design, add an inner box to keep the tongue constrained to the area you need.

Box Clasp Tip #3: Be Solder Smart

This workshop is full of useful soldering tips, since soldering is an essential part of creating a box clasp. Richard likes to use white flux because of the longer working time it provides. White flux is water-based, so it’s important to warm your piece slowly to evaporate the moisture before directing the flame onto the piece.

soldering a box clasp

Placing the clasp over a gap between firebricks allows you to heat it from beneath.

Here’s another cool tip I learned: When soldering, prop your piece on two firebricks with a gap between them. This set-up allows the heat from the torch to reach the piece from underneath, which is useful because solder moves toward heat. Another option is to lift your piece slightly with a soldering pick while heating.

And yet another key tip for soldering has to do with creating closed designs. Whenever you’re soldering together a closed container, you have to make absolutely sure that you have a vent hole for steam to escape, or your piece could explode. Richard shares two ideas on how to meet that challenge with your box clasp.

Richard shows exactly how to create the push-button for the locking tongue.

Richard shows exactly how to create the push-button for the locking tongue.

Box Clasp Tip #4: Follow the Proper Order

Make the process easier for yourself by creating the clasp in a logical order. The first side you solder should be the one where you plan to make the notch. This makes it easier to saw out the notch. If you follow along with Richard, you can’t go wrong. After creating the initial box and tongue – complete with push button – he’ll cover how to make the male side of the clasp.

Once the initial box is complete, Richard moves on to show the construction of the male side of the clasp.

Once the initial box is complete, Richard moves on to show the construction of the male side of the clasp.

Box Clasp Tip #5: Tap Into Your Creativity

Organic or geometric, traditional or modern, you can design your clasp to be truly unique. Richard enjoys using roller-printed metal for the top and bottom pieces of his clasps. And don’t forget your options for adding jump rings to the ends, buffing, tumble polishing, applying patinas, setting stones, and more!

Richard’s finished box clasp incorporates roller printed metal, jump rings, and a patina to bring out the contrast.

Richard’s finished box clasp incorporates roller printed metal, jump rings, and a patina to bring out the contrast.

Expand Your Artistic Capabilities

Just as Richard promises, the ability to fabricate your own box clasps will open artistic avenues for your jewelry. Start learning how in this workshop, Metalsmith Essentials: Make a Box Clasp.

Plus, don’t miss his other workshops with Interweave, including Metalsmith Essentials: Get the Most Out of Your Rolling Mill, Jewelry Basics for the Hydraulic Press, and Crushed Metal Cuff. If you’d like streaming access to all these at once plus dozens of other jewelry and beading workshops, simply subscribe to Interweave Online Workshops!

Go be creative!
Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group


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