Make Easy Metal Jewelry: 5 Tips and Encouragements to Help You Make the Leap

Just a few years ago, our most popular projects and blog posts were wire related, but now they're about metalsmithing–shaping and fold forming, texturing, patinating, soldering, riveting and other cold connections, and so on. This shift to metal jewelry making makes me happy and proud that so many of you are taking that leap! I think having transitional projects and tutorials has been a big catalyst for it, so I'm happy to tell you that we have just printed a new introductory metal jewelry making resource, Easy Metal Jewelry.

  Chaos Theory brooch/pin by Dia Daniels from Easy Metal Jewelry
Chaos Theory brooch/pin by Dia Daniels
from Easy Metal Jewelry

Here are five tips and bits of encouraging instruction I found just by skimming through the magazine–imagine what all you'll find when you really dig in!

1.       You don't need a big studio packed with expensive tools. "Learn how to cut metal sheet without a saw, and make holes without a drill or flex shaft. Use a butane micro torch to soften, patina, even fuse and solder wire and metal. You can do all that on a cookie sheet to protect your table," says Denise Peck, editor of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine, author of many of our most popular books, host of some of our most popular video workshops, and the editor of Easy Metal Jewelry. "Go right now to your local kitchen store and pick up a pair of Joyce Chen kitchen shears. Those nifty little shears can cut sheet metal up to 24-gauge. They're just about all I use these days. Get yourself an awl and a utility hammer to punch holes. And if you're so inclined, buy metal hole-punch pliers or a two-hole screw-down punch. One side of that tool makes the perfect size hole for 3/32" eyelets, available in your local craft store in the scrapbooking aisle. Eyelets end up looking like you've created fancy tube rivets!" And here's a tiny bonus tip: If you use scrapbooking eyelets or even brads in your metalsmithing designs, give them a little whack or two with a hammer to help them look more like cold connections that you've hand crafted.

Bronze Age cuff by Linda Larsen from Easy Metal Jewelry  
Bronze Age cuff by Linda Larsen
from Easy Metal Jewelry

2.       Never underestimate your local hardware store. "Buy some inexpensive raw copper sheet and copper wire there, and practice to your heart's content," Denise says. "While you're there, pick up some cool tools like a ball-peen hammer or dead-blow hammer." Since I've started metalsmithing, I seek out neat old hardware stores like I used to seek out bead stores or yarn shops. I love walking their aisles and seeing what I can use as a tool or supply for jewelry making. Same with the dirty old tool section of an antique store.

3.       Remember that wire is metal. If you're ready but intimidated to move from working with wire to working sheet metal, remember that while you've been working with wire, you've already been working with metal, it's just in a different form. "What you know about wire, you can transform to sheet metal," Kristi Zevenbergen says in "Exploring the World of Metals" by Ronna Sarvas Weltman in Easy Metal Jewelry. Kristi explains that you've already been hardening, stretching, bending, and shaping metal as wire. "Metal is a material, just like paint, dough, felt, fiber, clay, or wood. Just like any material it has its limitations and it has working characteristics. Once you understand how it behaves, you own it." That's right, own it!

  Beach Stone earrings by Kate Richbourg from Easy Metal Jewelry
Beach Stone earrings by Kate Richbourg
from Easy Metal Jewelry

4.       There's always another way–just keep looking. I've got the big torch, I've got the big studio–but I still don't have all the tools and supplies I want or need to make everything I'd like to make. A tumbler, for example, is one thing I haven't gotten around to buying yet, and I find myself needing to find creative ways to harden metal. "Work hardening can be achieved by bending the wire, by banging it with a hammer as you texture it, or by putting it into a tumbler to harden it back up," Ronna Sarvas Weltman writes in "Playing with Fire" in Easy Metal Jewelry. Here's another option I didn't know: "If your design is flat, you can also place it between two rubber or nylon blocks and hammer it to work-harden it without affecting the shape or texture."

5.       Don't forget patina as an easy-to-achieve design element. Whether you like darkened metal, colorful metal, or something in between, patinas can completely change the look and feel of a metal jewelry piece, easily and sometimes in mere minutes. A flame can create gorgeous colors on copper, and there are easy ways to ensure you get super colorful results, such as using flux. "I put on flux as if I'm going to solder and the flux will give you great colors," says Susan Digler in Ronna's "Playing with Fire" feature in Easy Metal Jewelry. "Initially I thought I'd clean it up, but it looked great, so I just take steel wool and gently clean it up. I say leave well enough alone when you've got it. If it looks great and knarly (sic), stick with it. You're going to have lots of experiences when you're making art. The real key is knowing what to keep and what to get rid of." In most cases, patina can be removed if you don't like it and you can try again, so don't be afraid to experiment with it.

The Interweaving earrings by Mary Jane Dodd from Easy Metal Jewelry  
The Interweaving earrings by Mary Jane Dodd
from Easy Metal Jewelry

I love working with metal so much, and I want all of you to be able to, as well. Don't let space or expense prevent you from doing it! There are workarounds for all of that, with some imagination and inspiration. And if the only fire you're comfortable with is the creative spark in your mind, that's OK too! You can still make stunning metal jewelry.

You can get that creative spark plus loads of inspiration from Easy Metal Jewelry, packed with 34 stylish but accessible metal jewelry-making projects and informative features created by experts like Kate Richbourg, Cassie Donlen, Connie Fox, Kim St. Jean, Ronna Sarvas Weltman, Scott David Plumlee, Linda Larsen, and Cindy Wimmer. Each project is perfect for beginning to intermediate metalsmiths or folks who simply prefer soldering with a micro torch. Ideal for "kitchen-table" metalsmiths, none of the projects require extensive (or expensive!) tools and supplies. So treat yourself to Easy Metal Jewelry and fuel your creativity with just enough challenge to keep things interesting!

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