Metal Jewelry Basics: 8 Essential Metalsmithing Tips from Kim St. Jean
I’ve learned so much watching Kim St. Jean’s series of metalsmithing videos. They’re basically about riveting, but they go way beyond riveting to cover sawing, hammering, dapping, texturing metal, and more. Plus, they’re packed with techniques that teach you how to use your jewelry tools, making them perfect for beginners.
It’s impossible to watch a jewelry-making expert like Kim create a project and not pick up some bonus helpful advice! Imagine how many tips and smart shortcuts an expert instructor picks up during years of teaching metalsmithing classes to dozens and ultimately hundreds of students!
Those little tips and pointers pop up throughout their demos, so even if I already know how to do something, I still like to watch to see what bonus info I can learn. On a recent blog, I shared seven essential metalsmithing tips that I gathered from watching just one of Kim’s riveting videos–and there are five more videos! So much more to learn.
Who doesn’t love a good tip? So here are eight more nuggets of wisdom from Kim’s video tutorials that go way beyond riveting to metal stamping, cutting and hammering metal, and more.
8 Metalsmithing Tips from Kim St. Jean
1. When metal stamping, hold the stamp with all fingers, not just your thumb and forefinger. This helps prevent shadow impressions that come from the slight movement of an unsteady hand.
2. Dip metal into and out of liver of sulfur repeatedly to create a dark patina more quickly than just leaving it in the solution. Sounds like it would be the opposite, doesn’t it?
3. Save your thumbs and your tools! A wooden clothespin (or a craft or Popsicle stick) is ideal for holding metal in place while you hammer. They’re affordable and easy to find; they’re rough enough that they won’t be slippery and allow the metal to slide out from under them. Plus, the wood is soft enough (as opposed to pliers or tweezers, etc.) that it won’t harm the face of your hammer or your steel block if you hit it.
4. If you are adamant about having perfect circles or other shapes in your work, remember to texture the metal first and then cut it out using disc cutters or shears. The texturing process will stretch and spread out the metal, distorting the shape.
5. Kim recommends hammering/texturing the outer edges of the metal first; this work hardens the metal and helps it maintain its shape as you texture the interior portions. If you start in the middle and work your way out toward the edges, the metal will stretch. This can be very important if you’re trying to layer or fit two pieces together.
6. When making ear wires, hammer along the front curve of the wire to work harden it and give some strength to the wire–but hammer only in that area, because it doesn’t enter the ear. If you hammer the center or end of the wire, you’ll flatten it and create sharp edges that can be painful to the wearer.
7. You can use rubber cement or a glue stick to adhere a pattern to metal before cutting. You can also draw directly on metal using a marker, but you run the risk of it rubbing off as you work.
8. Cut your sanding blocks into thirds. Then you’ll use more of the surface of each piece, roughly tripling their value, and you’ll clean your shears in the process.
Learn More From Kim St. Jean
If your metalsmithing skills need work, or if you’re new to the marvelous world of metal jewelry-making (or if you just love earring projects!), download Kim St. Jean’s digital videos. While you’re learning to make earrings, you’re also learning essential metalworking techniques that can apply to all the jewelry you want to make!
Throughout Kim’s tutorials, you’ll master essential metalsmithing skills like metal stamping, wire wrapping, hammering, texturing metal, sawing and cutting metal, creating patinas, filing and finishing–plus riveting of course!
Updated February 2019.