Jewelry-Making Supplies and Essentials, Part Two: 23 Everyday Items For Your Jewelry Workshop

Ah, January. Resolutions have everyone on their best behavior, eating better, learning new skills, saving money, being earth friendly. . . . My friend Chocolate and I can’t help you with the “eating better” part, but I’m happy to say I do have some ideas that will help you learn new (jewelry-making) skills, save money, and be earth friendly, all at the same time

Shop Smarter = Save More

I love finding new and unexpected uses for items I already have, and spending a few days with master metalsmith Lexi Erickson in her studio recently brought to my attention how many everyday items we jewelry makers repurpose as jewelry-making supplies for use in our craft. Shopping “outside the genre” is a great way to save money (try buying white ribbon both in a fabric/craft store and in a wedding shop, and you’ll see what I mean), but it also cuts down on having to buy more stuff, which most of us already have way too much of as it is.

Lexi recently shared her jewelry-making essential tools, and while watching her work some magic in her workshop, I made note of these everyday, unexpected, essential jewelry-making supplies she used while making handcrafted sterling silver jewelry:

Lexi's saw with her sparkly bike-grip saw handle.

Lexi’s saw with her sparkly bike-grip saw handle.

1. Keep pickle hot and ready for your jewelry in a Crock-Pot.

2. Cute bicycle grips make a perfect hand-friendly topper for your tool handles. Get a cute sparkly one with ribbon streamers like Lexi’s, and no one will mistake your tool for theirs in a class—they’ll just wish it was theirs!

3. Sharpie markers: Draw designs on your silver or copper sheet or wire with a Sharpie—the ink will rub off when you’re ready for it to. Sharpies also double as a mandrel and are the perfect size for forming ear wires.

4. Bar Keeper’s Friend is a pumice that teams up with (5) Dawn dish detergent and (6) a kitchen scrubber or (7) a toothbrush to clean and finish sterling silver jewelry after soldering, pickling, and liver-of-sulfuring.

8. Baking soda works well as a pumice and cleaner, too.

9. A plastic sandwich bag is always handy for jewelry-making supplies; use it to keep scraps of metal types separate, to store different gauges of wire (write the gauge on the back with a Sharpie), to keep different size saw blades separated (again, label the bag), to store and label polishing wheels, solder, as a backup container around liquids that might spill, even over your hand as a makeshift glove for dirty jobs like painting on liver of sulfur.

10. Milky Way mini candy bars: Lexi never really explained why these were necessary, but she’s the expert, so I’m taking her word for it. ;o)

11. Use old paintbrushes to apply liver of sulfur, yellow ochre, flux, barrier flux, Renaissance wax, etc.

repurpose mint and candy tins, use old paint brushes

12. Ammonia, used with Dawn, dissolves oily, greasy buffing compounds from metal. If you’re removing Tripoli, use a toothbrush or a brass brush. Adding a drop of ammonia to liver of sulfur makes a more colorful patina on silver, or you can use ammonia and salt to create bright blue patinas on copper and brass.

13. Cotton swabs and (14) toothpicks make great removers and applicators, too. Use them in your flex shaft with Tripoli and rouge to get into hard-to-reach places and then use clean ones to remove stubborn buffing compounds from high-polish metals.

15. A pencil makes a good solder pick in a pinch—just be careful not to catch it on fire! A pencil can also be a mandrel to coil wire and make jump rings.

16. Boiled eggs: Slice one in half and store it with silver in a plastic bag to darken silver without using liver of sulfur.

17. Just like the bags from #9, mini candy or mint tins can be used to store any little bits and pieces you need to keep track of without investing in expensive storage pieces, such as metal scraps, findings, solder, Dremel attachments, etc. Lexi keeps various solder types in color-coded Altoids tins, but I’m a Godiva Chocolate Pearl girl (of course). These tins are vertical and taller, making them good for wire, saw blades, needles, etc.

18. Wad up toilet tissue and send it through a rolling mill with sheet metal for a beautifully unique texture.

19. Fabric scraps also impart great texture on metal when passed through a rolling mill. Coarse fabric doubles as very fine sandpaper or polishing cloth. Crocus cloth from auto-supply shops can be torn in strips and used for sanding or thrumming.

20. Textured-paper greeting cards, gift wrap, wallpaper samples—all of these can transfer beautiful textures to your metals when you run them through a rolling mill.

21. Window screening/mesh: You can use metal screening for its textural qualities in a rolling mill (make sure it doesn’t touch the rollers), and plastic screen doubles as a strainer for holding small parts when pickling, liver of sulfur, enameling, and more. Don’t use metal screen in pickle.

22. WD-40 is good to keep tools oiled and whirring along smoothly.

23. Beeswax makes a perfect lube for saw blades.

jewelry-making supplies storage

If you’re a tool junkie, don’t miss our Cool Tools & Hip Tips eBooks dedicated to jewelry-making tools and how to use them. Get the newest Cool Tools & Hip Tips eBook now–and if you missed the first three, catch up and get the first three Cool Tools & Hip Tips eBooks in our Jewelry Making Tools, Tips and More bundle (it’s like buying two and getting one free!).

What’s your favorite everyday essential for jewelry making? I’d love to read about it in the comments below! You can find a few more here, and don’t miss part one of this article from Lexi, about essential jewelry-making tools!

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