Lexi’s Top 10: Books, Videos, Tools and Other Gifts for Jewelry Makers

What is your favorite jewelry-making tool? I love my various hammers and metal cutters/shears, but lately my go-to “tool” has been steel wool. Like a really good makeup, steel wool can reveal or conceal, prepare and finish, highlight features. It cleans metal before enameling and it finishes metal after cutting and forming. Plus a pinch of steel wool in a pot of very green pickle will facilitate copper plating. I find myself reaching for steel wool more often than any other tool in my studio these days.

Of course, if I had the studio that our friend Lexi has, I’d probably never be able to pick a favorite. With every hand- and machine-finishing tool known to man, a literal wall full of Fretz hammers, and dozens of other cool jewelry-making tools and supplies, her studio is a jewelry maker’s dream come true. So what are her favorites?

Lexi’s Top 10 Tools and Gifts for Jewelry Makers
By Lexi Erickson

Here in the Rocky Mountains, we’ve just had our first snow. That means it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming gift-giving season, so I sat down last week and started thinking of tools I have that have changed my life as a jewelry artist. What surprised me was that “tools” are not always the actual physical hard, metal tools we all lust over. Tools can be books and DVDs, too, anything that ignites our imagination and creativity. I thought of the things that have impacted me and worked best for me, so here’s my Top 10 Jewelry Tools and Gifts for Jewelry Makers.

1.       Absolutely the best gift you can get or give for jewelry making is a yearly subscription to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. LJJA is definitely a “tool.” I’ve been reading Lapidary Journal all my life, since I was a wee, little kid, and I grew up to be a jewelry artist who loves stones. Never underestimate the power of the printed word to inspire, teach, and create dreams. Each issue is packed with photos, projects, and trends to ignite your creative abilities.

jewelry making tools and supplies

2.       Because I love making jewelry, I would place a new hand tool (or seven or eight) very high on my list. Since you already own my DVD Artisan Bails (don’t you?), you need tools to help you bend metal sheet and heavy wire for the bails. I highly recommend Wubbers bail-making pliers for moving metal. I always thought Wubbers were just for wire wrappers and chain maille, but was I wrong! I use mine for bending sterling and copper sheet all the time, and I get consistent results for every bail I make. You won’t ever regret the purchase of Wubbers!

3. and 4.       Jim Lawson’s DVD series on learning to photograph your own jewelry designs is a must have if you apply to shows and galleries or sell your jewelry online. I promise on a stack of Lapidary Journal back issues, I have never, I mean never, been turned down for a show or gallery when I have submitted the images Jim Lawson has shot of my work. And now you can learn to do your own photography, and he shares every trick with you. So learn from the best. I suggest How to Photograph Your Jewelry to get you started; then go Beyond the Basics, and don’t forget Shoot, Share, Sell, so you can use your smartphone to take great pics, too.

5.       Bracelets are HOT! So in order to rationalize my enormous collection of fabulous Bill Fretz hammers, I ordered all of his DVDs. I sat down one rainy Saturday afternoon with a bowl of lemon and lime Jelly Bellys and my favorite #1 Fretz hammer for inspiration, and watched Basic Jewelry Hammering and Forming for three hours straight. Then I spent the next nine hours in my studio making cuff bracelets. (Whoops! Now everyone knows what I’m giving for Christmas.) So if you aren’t on my list, get all his videos and start making your own holiday gifts. And along with this, comes my #5 favorite jewelry-making tool. . . .

Fretz jewelry making hammers
Photo by Jim Lawson.

6.       Fretz Hammers. I teach metal jewelry making, and I let my students use my tools . . . except for my Fretz hammers. Is it fair to say I’m obsessed with them? Uh, probably. I have my favorites. But I have to say, the #1 hammer is my favorite for gently planishing and creating an elegant texture. My second favorite is the #14 sharp texturing hammer . . . no, it’s the #413, which gives me the texture on flat wire I love so much . . . no wait, I love the #403 because it leaves such pretty hammer marks . . . nooo, the raw silk hammer is my true love. . . . Oh, just go get your own, and let me know your favorite ’cause I’m not sharing mine!

7.       Since I learned to make mokume gane in my university jewelry classes, I learned a different–and not exactly correct–technique. Needless to say, my piece did not turn out very pretty, so later I used a fusing technique, but I’m ready for a refresher course. So I bought Mokume Gane with Chris Ploof. It corrected my “evil ways”! If making unusual patterns with beautiful metals is your dream, get Chris’s DVD on mokume. Step up your jewelry-making skills with exotic patterns!

8.       I haven’t gotten a preview copy of this book yet (hint, hint), but I love love, love textures and color on metal. So on my Christmas list is the new Patina: 300 Surface Effects for Jewelers and Metalsmiths. OOH I want this really BAD! Even if just 299 of them work for me, I can’t wait to read it. You know how much I love texture, and “texture is life”–so the more texture and color I can add to my jewelry, the happier I am. Oh, please Santa, I’ve been verrrry good!

soldering a silver flower

9.       Well, this list can’t be complete without some mention of my favorite technique, soldering. Great stocking stuffers would be any of my soldering DVDs (shameless promotion here). To have my entire written series upon which the DVDs are based, and everything in the world you would ever possibly want to know about soldering, plus articles on all types of torches and techniques and 10 projects (wow!), tell Santa you want the new How to Solder Jewelry magazine. What a deal, its only $14.99, so get two–one for reading in bed and one for the studio.

10.       I love hand finishing, as you know. I love the Zen of the Process, as I call it. It’s really soothing to file and sand your jewelry, so this would be a multiple gift–a Grobet #2 six-inch hand file, and a #4, and a #6 for finishing up. Then the 3M Finishing Film will give you the perfect finish every time. If you look on my bench, you see my collection of Grobet hand files, which is approximately the same size of my Wubbers pliers and Fretz hammer collection. What????? Oh stop laughing. A girl can never have too many tools! You could get my Hand Finishing DVD, too.

You’ve got my faves here, so I hope they will help you and excite your creativity. Of course, your best tool is your own creativity, but these choices will certainly expand your creative ideas and push your limits. Have fun!

–Lexi

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