Studio Notes: How to Make a Better Booger and Other Jewelry-Making Tips from Students

The best thing about teaching is learning from students. Especially when we experiment or work on solving a design problem together. In my classes, this is part of my teaching method. I help students to master a technique; then we experiment and push ourselves creatively. Some great jewelry-making tips come up along the way.

ABOVE: Among the student jewelry-making tips Betsy has encountered lately is to use Scotch or Locktite Fun-Tak for picking up and holding tiny objects.

Jewelry-Making Tips from Students

Here are just a few things I’ve picked up this year:

  • To place tiny stones in settings, make a “booger” out of removable mounting putty by Scotch or Locktite Fun-Tak (above), instead of traditional sticky wax. The putty is easy to form into a point and doesn’t leave any residue. A whole strip of the stuff also is great for sticking drill bits and burs within easy reach, when piercing metal or setting stones.
  • Got a farm supply store nearby? A chick feeder is a perfect tray for holding pliers at about $4.
jewelry-making tips: Christy Gorrow demonstrates how she uses a chick feeder to hold pliers.

Christy Gorrow demonstrates how she uses a chick feeder to hold pliers.

  • Consider Daler-Rowney FW acrylic inks for non-metal jewelry projects, such as leather, polymer clay, fiber, and other porous materials. We tried them on carved pearls. Unlike dyes, FW inks are made of super fine pigments and resist fading. Here’s the bonus jewelry-making tip: The secret, student Jeffrey Lee says, is to drop a couple large round BBs into each container and shake well before each use. Go to this site for more information.
  • Rockler Woodworking and Hardware offers a great 15” x 30” silicone project mat, especially for those times when you are working with glue and other sticky substances. Once dry, spilled glue peels right off. At $29.99, it’s probably handy for filing and sanding, too, and keeping tiny gems or beads from bouncing off the hard surface of your bench or work table.
  • 3M makes an ultra-flexible, stretchy sandpaper that’s great for getting into tight spaces and curved surfaces. Crack resistant, you can stretch it around inside curves, roll it into a fine straw, twist it, wad it up. Available in 100- to 320-grit. It could be a little tricky to find, though. Try this site.
  • Coffee filters are handy for wiping off gemstones and eye glasses.
  • Need really sturdy but soft, reusable paper towels? Try the blue rolls sold at auto parts stores.
  • Need to file a piece of metal so that it’s flush or has a straight edge? Some nail-salon style sanding sticks are made so you can peel the sand paper off and stick it onto a hard surface. Then rub the metal surface back and forth over the strip until you’ve got a flat edge or surface.
jewelry-making tips: Georgette Sahm shows off a Meco task light.

Georgette Sahm shows off a Meco task light.

  • If a student shows something in class, like the perfect lightweight rechargeable Meco LED task light that folds up into a cute little bracelet you can carry on your wrist, buy it right away. Georgette Sahm says she got it from Amazon. Four months later, I can’t find it anywhere. Same for the stretchy sandpaper. In today’s manufacturing environment, some of these great products come and go quickly.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at


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